Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Question: Simple Summer Meals


Summer here has been busy, but not too crazy to enjoy. Or maybe we haven't hit the crazy time yet.

My goal of keeping the garden simpler this season seems to be working. I've done very little garden preserving since my beans are not doing well, we only grew enough corn to eat fresh, and my tomatoes are only beginning. I have peaches ordered for later this month and also plan to can some pears and applesauce in September.

We started school a month ago (since we have a July to April homeschool schedule) which is going far better than I expected (or maybe it is just in contrast to last year which was Hard.) Even though we've been having extremely hot weather the children are spending hours in the pasture building huts and teepees. I'm still working on some room painting as the mood hits and enjoying the fresh look.

But even when summer is going well, I still struggle with the question, "What should I make for supper?" Somehow cooking in the winter seems easier when I can stir together a big pot of soup or a comfortable casserole. But whether it is the heat or the number of activities, I often lack meal inspiration in the summer.

Maybe one problem is that I don't want to meal plan in the summer. I want to eat fresh produce from our garden but at the beginning of the week I don't know when the corn will be ready to pick or if I'll have an abundance of zucchini on Friday. I should at least come up with a general plan for meals, but I don't. So maybe my problem is laziness. Or lack of planning.

My ideal summer meals will be simple (of course), utilize lots of fresh veggies, adapt to various veggies, and not heat up the kitchen too badly.

Several years ago, Stephanie asked me to do a post on simple summer meals. I love post suggestions and fully intended to write on the topic. But, well, it was summer and the words got no further than my head. And each summer since then, though I scrawled a few notes, the post wasn't written.

But this is the summer it is going to happen.

Because - though I have a few ideas myself - I know you all have many more.

So before I tell you what works for me for simple summer menus, I'm going to open up the question for your input. Can you share in the comments your favorite summer meal ideas or any handy hints or shortcuts?

Because we all want to spend less time in our kitchen and more time enjoying these last weeks of summer.

Can't wait to hear from you.

37 comments :

  1. One of our yummy summer variations is called "tacorice" You'll just need to make some taco-seasoned hamburger and serve it in the top of rice with a lot of fresh vegetables, salsa, cheese, avocado, fresh corn and mayonaisse. We love eating a cold version of this where we let the rice and the hamburger to cool before serving. It's very good for hot days and even the kids will like it :)
    -Alisa

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    1. In northern Indiana, we have something similar that the Amish, and everybody else, call "Haystack". There are fundraiser suppers here serving haystack. It is always similar to the above with rice, seasoned hamburger, then lots of toppings, like chopped fresh onions, green peppers, cheese, tomatoes or salsa, crushed saltines or chips, etc. I have also seen a recipe for "Hawaiian Vocano" using chicken and pineapple, etc. Then each person can add what they want. If you have a rice cooker it makes it especially easy! You can aso throw the left overs in a dish and make it as a casserole. I have also seen the same ides for breakfast with potatoes, eggs, meat, etc layered.

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    2. We do this at our church, 1st Sunday of the month, once a year in August after morning service and Sunday school. Teen boys seem to be very competitive as to how high they can build their haystack.

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  2. Since I am married to a 60 yr. old meat and taters man..I usually cook some sort of meat! He doesn't care what veggies, because he likes them all. today, it's pork chops and corn on the cob..along with some sliced cukes and tomatoes. Whatever the garden is doing suits him. I vary the way I prepare the meat..crockpot meat can get old! Today, it's in the oven. I know a lot of you don't like to use the oven when it's hot, but I can most everyday so it's hot anyways! Oh yeah, I also baked 2 apple pies this morning. The apples are from the yellow transparent tree. They make the best pies and sauce! I guess I'm too old to change my ways to keep the kitchen cool!

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  3. Meat is optional when we have plenty of garden food during the summer. We also have chickens, which means a steady supply of eggs. Often, I will chop up whatever vegetables we have for a satisfying omelet and top with tomatoes and maybe a spoon of sour cream. If you fry bacon or sausage, make extra to refrigerate and later crumble in the omelet. You can chop extra onion and pepper for a quick omelet later as well. This is a nice, quick meal for after a day full of canning or working in the garden.
    Yesterday, I canned tomatoes. There were two quarts left over that I didn't want to hot water bath alone, so I refrigerated them and used them for today's supper. Using our last two pounds of ground deer, bell pepper, garlic, onion, banana peppers, jalapeño, okra, and spices, I added the tomatoes, brought them to a boil, and threw in a couple handfuls of egg noodles. This was an easy meal that I could make and keep warm for when my husband gets home, but doesn't tie me up in the kitchen.
    Some days we chop up all the vegetables we have, add an egg and some cornmeal, fry it in a skillet, and call it hash.
    Our all time favorite summer meal is green beans, tomatoes, sweet onion, sauerkraut, and cornbread.

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  4. We love taco salad, blts, and eggplant casserole. It is a casserole but it uses garden veggies and it is delish!

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  5. Quesadillas! I keep tortillas on hand in the freezer and then I just saute whatever veggies are available. Layer some cooked meat, grated cheese and the veggies on the tortilla and top with another tortilla and cook on both sides until browned and the ingredients are warm and the cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa. A family favorite!
    Charlene

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  6. Shredded pork or beef in crockpot served on salad, wraps, or sandwiches with lots of veggies. Easy shredded beef: Shake on raw meat garlic and onion powder, pour one tablespoon soy sauce and add 1/4 cup water. Cook 4-5 hours on high.

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  7. We like bacon grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in pizza sauce. Or a corn chip salad. Right now its corn fritters and sausage gravy. :) Rosene

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    1. I remember my mom making bacon grilled cheese when I was little thanks for sharing I know what is for supper tonight

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    2. Did you ever try using pepperjack cheese, a slice of tomato, then bacon and another slice of pepperjack cheese to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I use provolone for the kids since they don't like the spicy cheese and it's good with whatever cheese you like. Takes tommato sandwiches to another level! :)

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  8. We love eating fresh out of the garden too. I usually plan my meals around what's available for veggies winter and summer. We are able to pick up fresh veggies from the wholesale place for our chickens and often time there are many things available that we can use for ourselves. I often think of the prodigal son when we are eating these, but when you get cases of red peppers or orange peppers, or bags of green beans and the temperature is -20 F outside it's too hard to resist. We are also able to share with others and this has become an evangelistic tool to our neighbors who also appreciate a few oranges or bananas or whatever we happen to get. Meal planning just goes out the window at times like this and I use what I have. We butcher our own meat as you also do, so there's plenty of stuff to choose from. My only limiting factor is time. If that becomes a problem there's always leftovers and because there's only two of us here now that can be an easy and quick meal.

    I just made a veggie lasagna by thinly slicing zucchini and layering that with ricotta laced with chopped peppers, mushrooms, onion (I'm all for stretching the cheese), and pouring over that a little sauce... not a lot... and topping with a little shredded mozzarella cheese. It does need to be baked, but you can bake it in the outside grill, which I often do in the summer. We took this to potluck at church on Sunday and everyone said it was great. I've done the same thing with squash blossoms before... just have to watch out for the bees that might still be in there.

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  9. Taco salad was my first thought. And when I don't have lettuce, it becomes "nachos" with cheese (or a cheese sauce) and all the fresh veggies on top.
    My husband's favorite foods are hamburgers and hot dogs, so that is another top-of-the-list meal around here.

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  10. My mother in law introduced me to "cold soup", an ideal summer meal. It's more on the sweet/special side so I prefer to serve it Saturday evenings. Cube fresh whole wheat bread and place in large bowl. Add fresh or frozen fruit (one of my favorite combinations is blueberries, peaches and bananas) Add cold milk to cover other ingredients. And a few ice cubes to keep it all nicely chilled. My mother in law usually adds some brown sugar or other sweetener. Serve soon after adding the milk. It may sound weird, but I think it's yummy! Leftovers aren't very stellar though.

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    1. We had blueberry "soup" when I was growing up. A great way to stretch blueberries for a family of 9. It was refreshing on a hot summer day.

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    2. My family's version of cold soup was blueberries, strawberries, and whatever fresh fruit mom had on hand, added to canned pears and milk. We used dry cereal as our "crackers".

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  11. A favorite of ours is a pot of sausage (any kind), potatoes, and green beans cooked together. I usually fry the sausage, then add a little water with the potatoes and beans and pressure cook it for a few minutes. Delicious, simple, and very quick. Another variation is to use cabbage instead of beans.

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  12. I love all the ideas here and we too often use the crockpot, grill, and make egg dishes... Another dish we make frequently throughout the summer is salmon pasta salad - whatever chopped vegetables we have(usually at least spinach, peppers, tomatoes, onions, olives) get mixed in with some cooked pasta and salmon (I bake it, but you could probably even used canned) and some kind of Italian type oil and vinegar dressing. Oh and we add some cheese too, usually feta or bleu. A little salmon can get spread out that way, and a lot of vegetables can get included!

    P.S. Thanks to Mrs. Doug for reminding me of the zucchini lasagna; my grandmother used to make it and I loved it; I'll put that on my list! - Suz

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  13. Our favorite is tomato sandwiches. Fresh bread with mayo, cheese, and garden tomatoes. Jalapeños on the side are good also. Super simple! We live in Alaska, so we don't have corn on the cob. :{ Love your sourdough info, Gina!

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  14. Main-dish salads are always my go-to idea for summer meals. This summer I have often been making a Greek quinoa salad and a chicken taco salad. But I have many others that I make such as a chef's salad; a warm potato salad with either smoked sausage or ham in the mix; a tuna and white bean salad; a tuna macaroni salad; a chicken rice salad; a mandarin chicken salad; a southern fried chicken salad; and more. I can share links or specific recipes if anyone would like.

    On the side, if you have biscuits or bread in the freezer that you can warm up, you are all set. Or you could do sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, or cook green or wax beans or summer squash to have on the side.

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  15. Tonight we had one of our favorite summer meals...open-faced tomato, bacon, and cheese sandwiches under the broiler. For each sandwich, place a piece of bread on a cookie sheet, and on top of the bread, place one or two piece of American cheese (we like Clearfield American best), tomato slices, and two or three half-strips of bacon. (Sometimes I partially fry or bake the bacon to be sure it gets done the same time as the cheese and tomato.) Just cook the sandwiches under the broiler until the cheese is melted and the bacon is done. This is our family's summertime tradition. :)

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  16. I like to use my crock pot in the summer. I can then go outside and enjoy the nice day or go on an outing or do a project or work in the garden etc. Also it doesn't heat up the already hot house!

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  17. One of our favorite cool meals is chicken salad wraps with fresh salsa and tortilla chips. I try to buy boneless skinless chicken thighs on sale in the spring/winter and can them to use for quick soups or salads. One of my favorite chicken salad recipes is Rachel's cranberry chicken salad on All Recipes.com.

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  18. Hi Gina, I am new to your blog. I have just started working with a sourdough starter, and have found your section on sourdough very helpful. Here is a family favorite summer meal. You combine the ingredients early in the day, then toss with the pasta when ready to serve.
    It makes good use of fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden.
    In a large serving bowl, combine:
    4 large, ripe tomatoes, cubed
    8 oz brie cheese (or other soft cheese), cubed
    1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
    3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
    1/2 cup good olive oil
    2 1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp ground pepper
    Let stand, covered, at room temperature at least 2 hours
    Boil 1 to 1 1/2 lbs linguine al dente, and drain. Immediately add pasta to the tomato mixture and toss. The heat from the pasta melts the cheese. Serve warm. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

    Thanks for your uplifting blog! p.s. We have the same name, too!

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  19. we like to cook zucchini and summer squash together in olive oil and butter when almost done add cooked chicken breast. Super easy and fast and good meal

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  20. Hands down, our family's favorite summer supper is tomato-bacon-cheese sandwiches. It goes like this...
    Broil bacon on one side. Set aside. Toast bread on one side. Turn the untoasted side up, spread with mayo, then layer sliced tomatoes, a slice of cheese, and half a strip of bacon, uncooked side up. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, and dinner is served!

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  21. Something I like to do is use the grill to make a lot of food at once. Monday evening I grilled steaks, veggies (in a grill basket), and a large pack of boneless skinless chicken thighs. Then we ate leftover chicken on salads, and made fajitas with some of the leftover meat as well (except I was out of tortillas so we just ate the mixture over rice with lots of fixings). We love doing chicken salads like that with grilled or panfried meat.

    Another huge favorite here is a casserole that uses up LOTS of zucchini. 10-12 cups of it, chunked, and cooked till tender with or without onion. Place in a 9x13 and top with two pounds of seasoned browned hamburger. Make a white sauce with broth or milk, stir in some cheese and pour over top. Bake until heated through. My children love this, even the ones who aren't big squash eaters.

    One more idea: stroganoff sandwiches. Brown hamburger with onion, add sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic, salt n pepper. Slice a loaf of French bread horizontally, top with beef mixture, sliced fresh tomatoes and sliced bell or jalapeño peppers. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes. So good!

    Looking forward to your ideas!
    ~Deborah H

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  22. Today my daughter and I enjoyed a homemade ham sub using a fresh garden tomato. Yum! No cooking for that!

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  23. Scrub, dry and butter as many baking potatoes as will stand upright in your slow-cooker. Put on the lid and cook on low for about eight hours. Serve with an assortment (large or small, according to what you have on hand) of toppings and a salad, relish tray or other raw vegetable which your family likes. If pressed for time, you could microwave the potatoes.
    from Philippa

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  24. One of our favorites is to saute a pan-full of whatever veggies we have (bell pepper, green beans, zucchini, squash, peas, snap peas, basil, spinach, eggplant, anything really!) in olive oil & butter. Meanwhile, boil some spaghetti noodles. If it is for lunch, we add no meat; for dinner, I may add a chopped chicken breast. At the end, I toss it all together and add halved cherry tomatoes, more olive oil/butter, garlic powder, etc. & top with parmesan.

    We also make a pasta salad (usually for lunch) using cooked rotini, various fresh chopped veggies, cubed mozzarella, with oil, vinegar, mayo, seasonings, topped with parmesan.

    Tonight, we had a veggie "buffet", with various uncooked sliced & whole vegetables, baked potatoes, and a plate of cheese.

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  25. BLTs with garden ripened tomatoes are delicious. I fry a lb. or two of bacon in a pan on the bbq outside, then freeze it. Really shortens the prep time and keeps down the mess of frying bacon on the stove when we want a quick lunch.
    Also, something we call "hurry-up burrito". Mix cooked brown rice with cooked beans - kidney or black, and some cooked corn, with salsa. Heat briefly in a fry pan on the stove - serve in tortillas, adding additional salsa, some grated cheese and some lettuce.
    Fresh garden stew is another favorite. Cook chopped potato, carrots, onion in chicken stock with a few sprigs of summer savory. When these vegetables are almost done, add some green beans, cook a few more minutes. Top with some fresh peas. Thicken with a paste made of cream and flour. Season with salt and pepper.

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  26. One more thought ... when I was a child, in summer we would occasionally have a meal of only fresh veggies. We would usually do this after stopping at a farm stand on the way to our little summer cottage, so it felt like a great treat to all of us. My mother would cook corn on the cob, green beans, and summer squash, and on the side we would have sliced, red ripe tomatoes with a blob of Miracle Whip.

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  27. One of my most common summer meals at our house is what we called "Straw-hats" where I come from. You start with tortilla chips, then stack taco seasoned hamburger with black beans, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, black olives, sour cream, salsa, and avocado, if you have it.
    A slightly different version that my family loves which we call taco salad is especially good on a hot summer night. Fry your hamburger and season it with taco seasoning, then let it cool and refrigerate. When you are ready to eat, mix crushed nacho cheese Doritos chips, your cooked and cooled hamburger, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and chopped tomatoes. Put western dressing on it right before serving and mix it together. You have to eat it all up, as the leftovers are soggy, but that usually isn't a problem at our house. My favorite western dressing recipe is the one in the basics and more cookbook. I add onion to that recipe and put it all in the blender.

    Another variation of that recipe is to use Ranch Doritos chips, grilled chicken, and ranch dressing instead of the western dressing.

    And one more idea, is chicken fajitas. You can grill your chicken or cook it over the stove, then slice it into strips and add sautéed onions and peppers. Eat it in a tortilla with shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream.
    Sloppy Joe's are a quick meal and you can add veggies and dip to it.

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  28. Pasta salads are a summer tradition at our home! When we know things are going to be busy or company is coming I'll chop up lots of fresh veggies, add pasta, hard salami and cheese chunks and a light Italian dressing. I'll do this early and by the time dinner time comes everything is delicious and it's not on my mind "What's for dinner?". It frees me more to use the kitchen for canning and just enjoy being outdoors in my flower gardens!

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  29. Love all these ideas! I find summer cooking very hard. I have a blog category for this because I need these ideas and i don't want to forget what I've done in the past.

    Tonight we had corn on the cob, caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil), and open-face cucumber sandwiches. Yesterday we had sloppy joes, green beans, sliced tomatoes, and broccoli salad. We often eat pasta and pesto in the summer - just add some broccoli to the boiling pasta or slice some tomatoes for the side.

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  30. When the large tomatoes are ripe in the garden we have BLTs with a twist.....I fry up an egg and add that into the layers of bacon, lettuce, tomato to boost the protein and make the sandwich more filling. Yum!

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  31. I am seriously behind reading because of, well, it's summer and canning etc. I didn't notice anyone mention tabouleh. Have you made that before? It is just soaked bulgar wheat, then add chopped parsley, diced cucumbers, chopped tomatoes, mint, cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Served chilled on lettuce. Very cheap to make especially with your own garden vegetables. It is good served with hummus (garbanzo bean based, or a new one I just learned, made from zucchini instead). Top with plain yogurt, crumbled feta cheese, olives, either Greek or black or even green.

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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