by Tammy Taylor
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Living in the hot and humid environment of North Texas, keeping our home cool in the summertime is an expensive endeavor – the AC really really has to work overtime! In the heat of summer we often opt for cooler summertime menu options but cooking still needs to be done. To keep the house more comfortable and to keep our utility bills low I’ve learned a few tricks to cooking without adding unnecessary strain to our AC system or our budget during the summer heat.
First is my go-to method of cooking – cook-once-eat-twice. This simply means that if you’re going to fire up that oven for, say, meatloaf – go ahead and cook an oven-full of them. You’ll enjoy your meatloaf for dinner that night and after the remaining meatloaves are cool simply section them off in meal-sized servings, label and freeze. That way when you’re in the mood for meatloaf again you just pull one of your meal-sized servings out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. When it’s time for supper a quick heat in the microwave, a couple of added side dishes and not only has a home-cooked supper arrived at the table in record time, but precious little additional heat has been added to your home. That’s a budget saver in two different ways!
Another idea is to actually cook outside. I really love using my slow cooker to slowly cook my main dishes like Slow Cooker Spicy Sticky Chicken to savory perfection. Even though a slow cooker doesn’t put out as much heat as an oven, I still don’t want to add unnecessary heat inside when it’s so hot. Easy fix: I fill my slow cooker with all the ingredients needed for my recipe and take it out to my back porch, set it on my outside table and plug it in. Voila – no extra heat in the house! I also use this outside table when using my toaster oven for smaller dishes like individual chicken pot pies and when using my * Baby George Rotisserie for grilled veggies, fish or of course rotisserie chicken.
How about using the sun’s energy to cook? It’s easy to make sun tea with a teabag in a large jar with a lid. You don’t need to buy a special container for your sun tea, I use this large picante bottle – the hourglass shape makes it easier to securely carry and it’s large enough to hold several cups of water. When the tea is brewed I bring it in, pour it into my tea pitcher, top off the pitcher with water and I’m done – no purchased energy necessary and no extra heat in the house!
You can also use the sun to dehydrate foods – RancherMan built a solar dehydrator for me a couple of years ago using inexpensive materials we already had around the house. These apple slices were dehydrated without any energy being paid for. Genius!
Then last year I finally made the leap and purchased a * solar oven so I’ll be able to not only dehydrate things but also actually cook outside using just the energy from the sun.
So far I’ve cooked Boneless Pork chops, Baked Potatoes, Homemade Marinara Sauce using fresh garden tomatoes, BBQ Pork for sandwiches & even baked our own Fresh Bread! I look forward to expanding my solar cooking experience this year.
And finally, grilling is always a good option for keeping cooking heat out of the house. Go ahead and combine the grilling with the cook-once-eat-twice cooking and fill that grill surface up with different kinds of foods. After supper just section off meal-sized servings, label and freeze.
Hopefully I’ve gotten your gears turning, these are easy ideas to incorporate in almost any household. Let’s learn from each other – what are some of your favorite ways to keep cooking heat out of the house in the heat of summer?
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