“Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” Whoever wrote that lyric is my new best friend. They have captured, in just a few words, my main goal in life, which is to make things as easy as possible – especially during the summer!
And cooking dinner is no exception. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want while I am in the sun reading a book weeding the garden is to have to stop to go inside and make dinner.
So today I want to share several ideas for easy meals that are also nice and CHEAP! They are quick to throw together at practically the last minute, so you can enjoy the summer weather and lazy lifestyle as long as possible each afternoon. Not to mention they don’t require an oven, so they won’t heat up the kitchen when it’s already hot enough in the house to wilt a cactus, lol. I don’t do rare and strange ingredients, so this is not gourmet fare — but it is tasty! I’ve used all of these with great success.
1) Salad Bar – Just chop up a bunch of salad ingredients and put them in individual bowls. These can be as involved as hard-boiled eggs or as simple as raisins. Include some protein sources like chopped up deli meat, leftover cooked chicken, or bacon. Have dressing handy or even just olive oil and some type of vinegar. Then let everyone walk through and make their own salad. Light, flexible, cool, healthy. And it’s great for getting rid of leftovers from the fridge – have you ever tried cold leftover green beans in a salad? Yummo!
2) Tostadas – Heat up a couple cans of pinto beans in a saucepan. Chop up some lettuce and tomatoes, and grate some cheese. The only other thing you need is tostada “shells” (you can either buy these at the store or make them yourself by frying tortillas in a little bit of oil). Have everyone make their own tostada by putting beans on the tostada shell and then topping with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and maybe some sour cream or guacamole. Kids love these!
3) Pasta Salad – The worst part is cooking the pasta and then running cold water over it to cool it down. You can use any kind of pasta you have handy. Then throw in whatever you have in the fridge. You can go Italian, with some chopped salami, pepperoni, black olives, green pepper, and Italian dressing (or just plain olive oil). Or you can go creamy, with leftover cooked broccoli, chopped ham, tomato, and onion, with mayonnaise to coat. We especially like a tuna pasta salad that also includes some chopped onion and thawed frozen peas, with mayonnaise as the dressing. The possibilities are endless, really.
4) Hamburgers or hot dogs – OK, I know this one is fairly obvious. But who doesn’t love hamburgers on the grill served with all the fixins? The real kapow comes when you take a few minutes to make homemade potato salad or cole slaw. (I admit I do cole slaw more often, because it can be made while the burgers are grilling.) We do this at least once a week over the summer. It’s fun to eat outside with this one, so you can get your hot dog off the grill and sit right down.
5) Easy chicken with sauce – This is IQF chicken thrown in a pot with whatever sauce you want poured on top. On Annie and Everything I give several options for sauce. In summertime, though, a bottle of barbecue sauce goes down really well. And then you can have rice or mashed potatoes on the side, and a crisp, cool salad. Mmm…
6) Cowboy beans – Just take a large can of baked beans and add a pound of browned ground beef and a small can of chopped green chilies, then heat the mixture up on the stovetop. This yummy stuff is reminiscent of cooking on the trail; we like to make it when camping, too. If you want to make corn bread, you can; but chips will serve just as well and don’t involve an oven.
7) Sloppy joes – Browned ground beef with onions and green pepper and some ketchup, brown sugar, and a tiny bit of vinegar thrown in. If you don’t have buns handy, you can use two pieces of bread or toast. Baby carrots work well on the side.
8) Tortilla roll-ups – Take a tortilla and spread cream cheese all over it. Then place a slice of deli meat and maybe a couple leaves of baby spinach (optional) on top. Roll the whole thing up and place it seam side down on a plate, or spear it with a toothpick. Adults might need 2 – 3 of these, but kids will be fine with one. Some apple slices would go good as a side item. Or applesauce, or fruit salad — whatever is handy! These are also great, incidentally, for taking in the car when you need to be out and about.
No, these are not formal dinners. It’s summertime, y’all! Casual is the way to go. Flip-flops and cut-off jeans. Hair in a messy bun. Fun and laughter. And easy meals that you aren’t too stressed to appreciate when you sit down to eat them. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite summer meal?