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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Keeping the Heat Out of the Kitchen

Frugal Kitchens 101
With today's trying economic times more people are turning to cooking their meals at home. This time of year with higher temperatures and/or humidity presents the challenge of being able to cook without adding a lot of extra heat in the kitchen. If you have your air conditioning on, cooking adds both moisture and heat to the house so savings made by cooking the meal at home could be eaten up by increased air conditioning costs. If you don't have air conditioning adding any heat and moisture to the house can make it uncomfortable. Today's Frugal Kitchens 101 will highlight some effective ways to keep the heat out of the kitchen while still enjoying home cooked meals.

There are three main ways to keep the heat out of the kitchen during the hot summer months. The first method involves changing your cooking style. The second method involves changing your eating habits. The third method is to change the actual cooking method.

Cooking Style

Your cooking style is determined by both where, when and how you cook. Simply modifying one or more of the factors will help keep heat out of the kitchen.

  1. where - During the summer months, cook outdoors as much as possible. A gas grill with a side burner will give you plenty of cooking possibilities. The grill can also be used as an oven or large surface griddle. If you have a sunporch, covered porch or balcony you can set up a temporary cooking station where foods could cook in a crockpot or countertop roaster or on an electric grill. If you have a basement, set up a summer kitchen. Basements are naturally cooler in the summer so are ideal for cooking. In fact my kitchen is located on the lower level of an earth bermed house so is essentially in a walk-out basement. This was a real buying feature for us.
  2. when - Plan your cooking so you are not cooking during the heat of the day especially during the hottest part of the day. The best times to cook are early morning and late evening.
  3. how - Plan ahead so that if you are making something like rice, pasta, potatoes or even meats that you will have enough for two or three meals. For example you are making a hot pasta dish for dinner make enough pasta that you can make a cold pasta side for the next night's dinner. Grill several boneless, skinless chicken breasts then cool and slice for salads and wraps. Package into convenient size freezer bags then use as needed. Brown 10 lb lean ground beef then divide it into thirds. Season three different ways then package into family sized packages and freeze. To use just re-heat in the microwave. These meal quick starts will help curb the urge to get take-out on hot, humid days.

Cooking Method

Choose the most efficient appliance and least heat producing method for the food you are cooking. During the hot summer months instead of using your oven use a countertop roaster or outside grill. Instead of boiling vegetables, steam them. This uses less water. Set the steaming water outside to cool for watering plants. My list of useful summer cooking appliances is:
  • countertop roaster
  • crockpot
  • outdoor grill (gas preferably to double as an oven)
  • rice maker
  • electric fry pan or griddle
Other useful appliances for summer cooking: blender, toaster and coffee maker.

Eating Habits

Changing your eating habits to reflect the seasons is a natural thing to do. During the winter months we need a bit of extra fats and hot foods to help keep us warm but during hot summer months the opposite is true. Work as many raw foods into your summer diet as possible. Raw foods provide much needed hydration. Substitute beef dishes for those made with lighter chicken or fish. Change out that heavy and expensive soda for homemade ice tea, homemade iced coffees or water. Instead of a hot breakfast start your morning with yogurt and fresh fruit or a fruit smoothie. Instead of the heavier type deserts go for the sherbets and iced deserts. Power sandwiches (here), BLT's, wraps, dinner salads, pasta salads and stir fry are all wonder summery type meals. Unless you grill year round this is the time to get as much grilling in as possible!

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