Summer’s sweltering days call for lighter cooking

posted July 9, 2018 8:11 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Janelle Thomas | Food Columnist

I had just finished the column on cooking delicious foil packet meals outside on the grill or over the campfire to not only make summer meals fun but to keep the heat out of the house when Mother Nature reminded me that sometimes it’s too hot to even cook outside.

Nothing like a heat index of 105 and above to inspire me to share no-cook recipe ideas! Summer’s hottest days often mean a dip in appetites, so lighter cooking is often in order. The slow cooker and the oven are getting a well-earned vacation currently.

Sandwiches and salads are good, easy meals that can quickly come together after working hours in the hot sun.

Of course, liquids, preferably water, are a must to stay healthy, too. Dehydration and heat exhaustion can hit the fittest and healthiest of us if we don’t consciously and continuously replenish our bodies with water when out in the heat.

We found that out during a recent high school softball tournament. A trip to the emergency room for an IV is not something any of us want to do.

Summer also means meals on the go, so I am always on the lookout for foods that will pack well into a cooler and survive a weekend trip to the county fair or the ballfields. My go-to cooler foods are wraps, cheese sticks, ham or beef sticks, lots of cut, fresh fruit and maybe a pasta salad if appropriate.

Always remember food safety by keeping cold food cold and hot food hot to avoid foodborne illnesses. Cold, perishable food should be kept in the cooler at 40 degrees or below until serving. Once served, it should not sit out for more than an hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 degrees. If it does, throw it away.

Foods like chicken salad and desserts in individual serving dishes can sit directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as the ice melts and replace it frequently.

Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140 degrees. Wrap it well and place it in an insulated container until serving. Just as with cold food, hot food should not sit out more than an hour in outside temperatures above 90 degrees. If it’s left out longer, throw it away to be safe.

Stay safe and stay nourished during these warm summer days. It won’t be long before the slow cooker and oven are back in use, but until then, enjoy a lighter menu using summer’s freshest offerings.

Janelle Thomas can be reached at

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