I'd like to say that I let cooking slip by the way-side in the summer months. The hot days and chaotic lack of schedule certainly call for languishing evenings by the pool (or in front of the television). In truth, however, to give up dinner means grumpy kids and a skyrocketing rate of snacking. Plus, the kitchen is NEVER clean because people are NEVER finished eating. In short, I cook to defend myself -- and my right to a clean kitchen for at least 27 minutes out of each day. That's all I ask. Here's what's working at our house:
- Grilled Bruschetta Chicken. One summer, years ago, I got a free Kraft recipe magazine in the mail featuring this recipe. Turned out it's is simple and tastes fresh and summer-y. It also works to use whatever ingredients you have on hand -- the other night I sauteed some yellow squash and zucchini and tossed it with a bit and oil and vinegar in lieu of the tomato and Kraft dressing. FYI: PW also has a bruschetta chicken recipe I can personally vouch for. It's lovely.
- One evening last week I made homemade pizza. I worked up the dough in the morning and let it sit in the refrigerator until late afternoon. For some reason, when making my weekly menu, I thought to myself, "Sarah, you have plenty of time to make pizza in the evenings, so let's make things difficult." Seriously. I say this because I planned to make PW's Potato, Leek, and Bacon Pizza AND her Tomato Basil Pizza. Also, because I'm a martyr. Actually, I had myself a fine time constructing those pizzas and they were tasty. Tasty. Especially the potato, bacon, leek. It's Food Network worthy. Note to self: must get a mandolin.
- Heidi Swanson's Weeknight Curry. I know that cooking over a hot pot isn't quintessentially 'summer,' but it's the seasonal vegetable part of this recipe that makes me like it. You can add anything really -- squash, zucchini, asparagus, peas, leeks . . . whatever is left in the fridge. My kids love it. I have to double the recipe or someone's going hungry.
- PW's Summer Stir Fry. I'm not going to lie. I've long wanted to make this recipe, but Jordan claims she's allergic to shrimp. And, in all fairness, she did once test positive for shellfish. But . . . she's living it up in the south of France, so we had shrimp for dinner. Is that okay? Cuz it was good and relatively easy.
- Mexican Chef Salad. I got this recipe when I was just a young mom at a church recipe swap (thanks Andrea!). Now I'm old and it's STILL a family favorite. This recipe is before the days of fancy Interwebs and such, so I'm just going to have to type it out for you. Bear with me.
Mexican Chef Salad:
1 head lettuce, torn (I use romaine, but do as you wish).
2 tomatoes cut up
1/2 cup onion (I like red)
12 oz cheddar cheese grated (get the good Tillamook cheese and grate it yourself. You won't be sorry!)
2 cans dark red kidney beans, one drained
1.5 lbs hamburger, browned
1 bag tortilla chips, crushed
3/4 c Light Miracle Whip (I know this sounds weird, but stick with me.)
1/8 - 1/4 c sugar (See? Sugar makes everything better.)
1/8 - 1/4 c vinegar
To make the dressing mix Light Miracle Whip, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl. You can adjust the sugar and vinegar to your liking. I use 1/8 c sugar and 1/4 vinegar because I want the dressing to be smooth and attain maximum coverage (as all good dressings should).
In a skillet, brown the hamburger. Drain excess grease, add both cans of kidney beans and heat thoroughly.
In a large bowl combine lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cheese, and tortilla chips.
When everything is ready, add the (hot) meat and beans AND the dressing to the lettuce and toss like crazy. Serve it up quickly because it is best eaten warm. (Note: Often, if I have people eating at different times, I leave the three elements separate and let folks toss their own.)