Summer is for slowing down and relaxing, not for sweltering in a hot kitchen while everyone else has fun. Take some time now to plan ahead and you’ll be able to get dinner ready quickly, and without heating up your kitchen. Even better, you’ll have fewer pots and pans to scrub when dinner is done. See, you’ll save time twice!
Brown ground beef in bulk: When ground beef goes on sale, buy as much as you can afford then bring it home and cook it immediately. Separate it into plastic freezer bags in quantities sufficient to feed your family, and defrost as needed. Simply reheat on the stove and mix in taco seasoning, spaghetti sauce, or Sloppy Joe mix and serve.
Grill once, eat twice (or more): Next time you’re grilling burgers, throw on a few extra patties. Freeze them individually on a baking sheet then transfer to a freezer bag for future dinners that’ll still have that yummy grilled taste. Extra grilled steaks, pork chops and chicken breasts freeze well, too and can be reheated in a low oven or sliced into stir-fries. While you’re at it, slice zucchini, onions and bell peppers in half, brush with olive oil, and grill them, too. Keep in your fridge and use that week as a side dish for dinner, or freeze and use in pasta salads.
Use your noodle: Make extra-large batches of pasta when you’re cooking noodles and remove some at the “al dente” stage when they’re still a bit hard. Drain these well, then transfer appropriate serving sizes to air-tight containers and freeze. Defrost in the morning and dunk it in boiling water to finish cooking. Serve in a cold pasta salad, or toss with leftover grilled vegetables, previously cooked meat and your favorite sauce. Top with cheese and bake for a casserole.
Quick kebab prep: Cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs) into 1 1/2 inch chunks and put into a freezer bag. Add thickly sliced zucchini, onions and bell peppers and whole mushrooms, then pour in half a bottle of Italian salad dressing. Remove as much air as you can and freeze. When you’re ready for kebabs, simply defrost and skewer. The meat and veggies will have marinated as they defrosted, saving you time and clean-up.
Plan for pizza night: Homemade pizza dough is very easy to make, and you can find recipes all over the internet. (We love Mark Bittman’s recipe because it’s so easy.) Double, if not triple, the recipe and keep balls of dough in your freezer. Just defrost the dough at room temperature, divide into balls and let rise under a towel on a floured surface for 20 minutes before shaping into a pie. Top with your favorite ingredients, heat a cookie sheet in a 425F oven and slide your pizza on to it. Bake 10-12 minutes, until crust is golden, and enjoy! (You can even shape and top the unbaked dough then wrap it tightly for future cooking, too.)
A little extra effort when you’re already cooking can save yourself hours of sweltering in the kitchen this summer, and who wouldn’t rather be sitting on their deck with a frosty beverage when the weather is so grand?