Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cheap Eats to Beat the Summer Heat

So here is the plan...crack a few eggs on your sidewalk and voila you've got dinner!

In short, it is inefficient to heat an oven while cooling with your air conditioner.

To run an electric oven at 350 degree for one hour on average cost approximately 16 cents (according to the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings).  This is not a large chunk of change (however, when cooking I try to make my oven work more efficiently but that is another blog)--the inefficiency of course comes from your air conditioner working overtime to cool the heat created by the oven.  There are multiple variables to determine the cost of air conditioning but my issue with air conditioners is their high levels of carbon emissions...they do not tread lightly on the earth with their carbon footprint. We use our system only when necessary and hope to install an attic fan in the upcoming year (in a previous home an attic fan took care of all of our cooling needs--in another home we were saved from heat by our beloved trees).  Needless to say my oven has not been on this week (my stove top has) and I've still managed dinner without resorting to fast-food or microwave dinners.

Minimal Heat Dinner Eats Menu-

Day 1 - Egg Salad Sandwiches (I joke about the egg, but it has been our incredible edible friend.)

*8 eggs hard boiled, cooled, peeled, and then diced
1 C of mayo
1 tsp mustard
salt to taste
(get creative with herbs and spices garlic, dill, etc.)
Combined ingredients and serve on your thrift store bread or "homemade" bread-maker bread (made in a garage or basement to avoid heating the house)

*Energy saving hard boiled eggs--bring eggs to boil; shut off stove and let eggs sit lidded in boil water for 20 minutes.  Take eggs out and allow to cool.  Save the water from your boiled eggs and let it cool to room temperature--water your plants--they love the calcium the egg shells have provided.

Day 2 - Spaghetti and No Cook Tomato Sauce (Enjoy the local seasonal harvest with this dish.)

2 to 3 C chopped ripe tomatoes
4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut up in cubes or shredded (your choice)
1/3 C of basil leaves (this can be substituted for 1/2 tsp of dry basil but not nearly as good)
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Cook spaghetti as directed.  Meanwhile mix ingredients. Drain past well and add to sauce--toss and mix.

Day 3 - Szechuan Tofu & Green Bean Stir-Fry 

Now many of you are totally turned off by tofu but it takes very little to heat it (most especially compared to its mooing protein counterparts and it takes of 1/3 of the energy to produce compared to Bessie).  My husband, a raised on the farm meat and potatoes man, actually likes this one and both my 5-year-old and one-year-old ate the tofu (they skipped most of the green beans but you can't win em' all).  I used rice vinegar for this one and changed the sugar to honey and added another tsp to sweeten up the vinegar.  I put the tofu and beans on a bed of brown rice.

Eating Well Szechuan Tofu and Green Beans

Day 4 - Cereal Night

This is a common Thursday night tradition in my home--as a full-time working mom I was too pooped by Thursday to make dinner.  I actually learned this trick from a remarkable lady named Eunice Kennedy Shriver, she was the sister of John F. Kennedy and the mother of Maria Shriver.  During an interview with her daughter, they talked about cereal night and how their family's children loved it--the money saved from not having a traditional meal was donated to charity.  I previously used the money to purchase loss-leaders and donate to my local food pantry (just an idea for any of you reading).  My family loves cereal night (or in the winter it often is oatmeal night).  I love it too!  Of course I'm thrifty with my cereal purchases and snag most of my boxes on sale, from a wholesale company, or I make my own granola.   Other options on this night can be yogurt (on sale) and seasonal fruit or perhaps clearing out the leftovers and having a "buffet."

Day 5 - Taco Salad or Chef Salad

My little garden is currently producing a lovely bit of lettuce that will soon be my meal.  Let me warn you  though, if you grow your own lettuce (which by the way can be done in an apartment window) or buy from your local farmer's market... you'll never go back to that bitter store stuff again!  

Taco Salad
Layer tortilla chips (bulk purchased);  add lettuce bed;  add*chili or black beans, shredded cheese, seasonal salsa, and sour cream if desired.  

*chili or black beans-in order to cook your own beans and avoid buying canned use your crock pot.  Soak a pound of beans overnight as directed, rinse, and put in the crock pot and cover with water (add a chili pepper--or a Tbs of chili powder--and one garlic clove for seasoning--salt to taste).  Cook on low for 6-8 hours add water if needed.  Make sure your beans are fresh or they will never get soft.  This of course can be done overnight and refrigerated in the morning--I like my beans cool for a summer salad.

Chef salad
Create lettuce bed, add shredded cheese, peas (more protein), tomato and other seasonal veggies or fruit (berries are nice) and top with dressing or vinegar.  Enjoy a side of "homemade" bread-maker bread and butter or flavored olive oil.

Honey Mustard Dressing made @ home
2 Tbs Mayonnaise
1-2 tsp honey
1 tsp prepared mustard
1- 11/2 Tbs milk or soy milk
put in an air-tight container and shake

Other options:
Cheese or veggie sandwiches
Pancakes or waffles for dinner
Omelets (that egg is handy)
Cucumber or melon soups
Use your imagination...a hunk of cheese, a bit of bread and some veggies can be a great meal on a hot night.

Don't forget to add the solar/sun herbal teas to wet your whistle after these summer meals.  

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