If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen

It’s not so completely selfless of me, the staying in New Orleans this summer. I was really looking forward to being in Cordova, but to be perfectly honest, I was not enjoying the part where we have to move our family again, second time in one year. I was packing boxes with a restrained grimace. Looking for subletters here, after a winter of dealing with tenants in our Cordova house was not exactly blowing my skirt up. So, although I will miss a summer of wilderness out the back door, and good friends gathered round, I’m not as heartbroken as you (or I) might have thought.

What I’m perhaps most disappointed about is missing the opportunity to share the parenting duties. It’s just not very realistic to think that My Man might find a part time job fighting the good fight. Not at this point. There is surely an explosion of stuff to be done, and I have no doubt he will work as hard this summer as he did during the school year.

Sigh.

But, of course as the Babe gets older, he gets easier. So hopefully I’ll survive, as many many mamas have before me, a seemingly endless spell of full time mothering.

After that, my main concern is the heat. We arrived here last August, so we did get a chance to see quite a heavy dose of it (August is usually the worst month of all, so we hear. And it really didn’t cool off till late October!) but now we have a full six months of uncomfortable to unbearable heat stretching before us.

Yes, starting now. We’ve been running the AC every afternoon for awhile now. It has been getting hot for months, but it just now got to where it doesn’t cool off at night. That’s when it starts to bug me. I don’t mind hiding in the house during the hot afternoons, but when it’s just a relentless press of hot non-stop hot, I wilt.

Of course, it’s not the heat alone that’s doing me in. It’s the wet too. Yesterday was only 84 degrees, but the air was thick. It was like swimming through warm chocolate pudding. Without the benefit of the occasional slurps. Yu-uck. I don’t want to do a damn thing when it’s like that. Sit on my ass, and maybe read some blogs. I hardly want to snuggle my sticky babies. I certainly don’t want to get up, go into the kitchen and turn on the stove to cook my family dinner!!!

So, planner-girl has been busy making some lists. I do love me a list.

How to Cook Dinner with as Little Actual Cooking as Possible

(This is a work in progress, and I would appreciate help. That means you, you hot Ozzie housewives!)

cook in big batches for freezer:

  • rice, plain beans of all kinds, dahl, refried black beans, hummus

salads, big batches to eat throughout the week for lunches:

  • potato, pasta, rice, quinoa
  • chick pea, lentil, 5 bean
  • grated carrot, coleslaw, beet

spreads for sandwiches:

  • hummus, eggplant, walnut

other cool goodies:

  • sushi
  • Vietnamese summer rolls
  • gazpacho and other cold soups

Of course, you may notice that most of these things do require cooking. Well, the strategy for whatever cooking can’t be avoided is my new toy– the Fagor 3-In-One Electric Cooker. Slow cooker, pressure cooker and rice cooker in one convenient appliance! I have so much to say about this fancy pants appliance, that I’m gonna save it for the next post.

One of the sadnesses of the heat for me is not being able to bake. I love baking, and love eating yummy home baked treats. I am in the process of figuring out solar baking, but apparently I’ve got a lot left to learn. I actually did make a cardboard box solar oven, but the two times I’ve tried it were pretty unimpressive (read: failures). The first time I tried brown rice. That is so typically me. Way to start out with failure!

the brown rice failure. it got about half cooked, in four hours. note I hadn't gotten the reflector around yet though.

Then just the other day I was inspired by one of y’alls frabjuous blogs (sorry, can’t remember who, please feel free to pipe up in the comments) to try baking cookies. Not having been smart enough to make my box sized to a cookie sheet, I had to make “bars” in a smaller baking dish instead. After quite some time they had puffed, and looked half done, but then the sun was gone from our yard and I had to finish them off in the toaster oven.

Surely I can figure this out. The sun here gets hot! Like the back yard is completely uninhabitable mid-day. The sidewalks can burn bare feet. Whoever’s lovely blog just reinspired me was baking her cookies on a cold day, and they cooked! WTF?

I have moved the toaster oven out to the laundry shed, which is good. It’s perched atop the unused dryer. If I hadn’t just blown my wad on the fancy Fagor cooker, I would spring for a fancy new toaster oven. Instead I’ll have to make do with my really crappy thrifted dinosaur. Too bad for me.

Many things that are traditionally baked can actually be steam “baked” in the slow cooker. The results are not the same, but substitutable. You can bake bread in it, I did last week! It doesn’t brown, and there’s no crust to speak of, but it’s still bread. It’s a little on the moist/soft side for my taste right off, but then after a few days it’s great! Not dry at all like my homemade wheat bread usually is after two days. Perfect for sandwiches. More on this subject to come!

Lastly, I need to get a gas grill. We have used the resident charcoal grill a few times over the winter, and of course charcoal does produce far superior results, but it’s just not easy, and certainly not a cooling experience. I would use a gas grill lots more I think. I’m about to really be in the squash (just like I’ve always read about! So exciting for my Alaskan gardener spirit!) and I could get used to grilled squash as a regular part of my diet. Mmmmm….

Plus I could get creative, grilled pizza anyone? Barbecued peach pie?

I wish I could just come around to eating plain raw fruits and vegetables all the time. But although I enjoy a raw midday meal in the heat of the day, dinner to me needs to be cooked. Let alone My Man who honestly doesn’t understand why people waste their energy eating salad.

How do you all keep your families fed and happy in the heat of summer?

shushi yunch, a toddler fave

11 thoughts on “If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen

  1. Hey there cowgirl! Hope this heat doesn’t drive you to drink – I had both my babies in summer, so I was usually 15kg overwieght and in the heat for the summer!

    Ok, some tips from me to you, and it gets anywhere about 36-42degrees celcius where we are in the summer.

    – for treats start making icypoles instead of biscuits and cakes. If you do reeeeaaally want baked goods, bake at night! Jelly is a great treat, especially if you put in some fruit from cans or that you’ve poached yourself.

    – wash you clothes at night and if you can, put them on the line overnight or early in the morning.

    – kids are easily made happy, so here are a couple tricks: get a hold of a plastic clam shell pool/sandpit and use it for swimming. They can be easily filled and emptied by one person, and depending on your butt size, you might fit in too! Throw iceblocks in for that chilly feelin’ (albeit for about 2mins tops!). Use thrifted plasticware for toys and wet your babies all over. I don’t give a hoot about how much water the kids use in that little pool, it stops us from murdering each other so’s gotta be good! I’ll even fill the bathtub and let the little guy run around naked inside all day if it’s too hot. That said, I can lock the door so that the babe doesn’t wander in there unattended too.

    – make a ‘drawing time’ and set the toddler up with some supplies to use while you’re getting lunch put together. She’ll either draw or wanna help her mama. A friend of mine pre-washes and chops/slices all her lunch salad stuff at night and then lets each person make their own monstrosity.

    – make roast chicken your friend. Depending on the amount of greens we have, I can buy or roast a chicken and have it last us for about 3-4 days with salad, tortilla’s, rice, pasta and cheese. Any roasted meat will do, and you can happily and safely freeze half the cooked meat and mix it up – some days pork, some days beef, some days chicken. Roasting is hot, yep, but you’ll only have to do it once or twice a week to make enough meat to see you through a week’s menu.

    – turn your water heater off. Completely. You’ll not need it anyway, the heat from the sun makes the cold water hot enough!

    – Only put sheets and mattress protectors on beds. Every layer you add might add just that little too much heat.

    Anyway, I could go on, and on, but I won’t. Hope some of these help!

    1. GREAT tips, thanks! i did finally get some popsicle molds, harder to find than one would think in this tropical clime.
      we had a fancy little blow up pool, but it was a pain so i tossed it. need to get one of those plain jane ones like i remember from kidhood. easy to dump, yes important.

  2. And when you HAVE to cook, wet a teatowel (dishcloth), wring it out and drape it round your neck. As the water evaporates, it cools you down.

    Or cook naked, but wear an apron, hot oil splatters!

    I’m dragging out the heaters over here. Summer seems so far away…

  3. Oh, yeah, everything they said!

    Not sure how old your babes are but let them loose with little spray bottle full of water, my 2 love to see who can get the wettest.

    Cook up a big batch of sausages. Then eat them cold over the next 2 or 3 days. Minimum effort. (Grass fed of course, hehe)

    Make a big batch of meatballs in the slow cooker, they always taste good cold too. I put my slower cooker on the laundry floor by the open back door when it’s hot, so I don’t heat up the rest of the house. (Or are you vegetarian and I missed that part somehow?)

    Frozen fruits…grapes, pineapple, berries are great for keeping the kids cool. And great for choking too, actually.

    I’m keen to know more about making bread in the slow cooker when you get round to postimg about it.

    Brr, it’s cold enough here that the heater’s on, the ‘lectric blanket’s on, and my 2 yr old is zipped up to his chin in a footed sleepsuit.

  4. The BBQ is the quintessential Aussie solution to not cooking in the heat. The only cooking that needs to be done indoors is salad preparation (actually could be done outdoors I suppose) and the rest waits until evening approaches, fire up the “barbie” and gril. Watch out for mosquitos. If you can’t wrangle a BBQ somehow though, the alternative is steak (or marinated tofu) and salad. Same deal, leave the steaks (tofu or otherwise) till the very last minute then make the frypan as hot as possible and all the cooking is over and done with in about 10 minutes. You’d barely raise a sweat if you weren’t already dripping lol.
    Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezing here tonight – 4 degrees centigrade brrr!

  5. My aussie cohorts have already said a lot of the same things as I would have. I second the roast chicken and sausages you can funky up a whole lot of salad with these guys. I also add a roasted sweet potato to it and some nuts like walnuts, or pecans.
    Baby spinach, sweet potato, roasted chicken, walnuts, any other vegetable and a dressing. The meat and the roast sweet potato will keep for ages, just shift around the ingredients. It doesn’t look like a salad, your husband will never notice. Asian taste dressing, moroccan…
    Cous cous is another super quick easy one- toddler and baby friendly as so fine, and filling and versitile for adults without cooking for ages.
    When its stinking hot the boys might find an array of veges, fruit, cheese, sultanas and houmus, on their plate but placed in the shape of a face or something else funny. They couldn’t give a hoot what they are eating, its all about eating the ‘nose’, ‘ears’ etc.
    …And pizza- grill it! Bloody easy, we were doing it once a week in the grill, as long as its a really thin base its fine- much quicker and less heat.

  6. I second the couscous! I love making salads out of this in summer – NO cooking required (well, not counting boiling the kettle ;o)) Also, fried rice..great as a salad served cool and a good way to use up lots of bits and pieces from the garden. Ahh, what else..noodle/pasta salads..cook the pasta first thing, fridge it and then pull it all together at dinner time (feta, balsamic, cherry toms steamed vegies..you get my drift). We also eat lots of ‘eggy’ things over summer..quiches and frittatas – easy to cook and can eat them cold (also great for using garden harvests).

    Other things I try and make in the morning, before the house heats up. Our family love zucchini/vegie slice and tuna bake slice..really easy, only 40 mins in the oven (in the morning) and then serve cold with salad, can send recipes if you like. If you are desperate for some serious baking (bread, cookies), do that in the evenings.

    I also marinade a lot of meats over summer..just bung it all together in the morning, keep in the fridge all day and then throw it on the (gas) grill come dinner time, along with some char-grilled vegies..squash, capsicum, shrooms, pineapple etc…
    My kids also loved eating skewer type kebabs. Anything needing used up in the fridge can go on them and really easy to cook (again outside on the grill or in a hot frying pan), but be careful with the small ones..take it off the skewer first to be sure you don’t lose an eye. Wraps/burritos/fajitas are another option. When it’s REALLY hot, don’t feel guilty about going the totally uncooked meal..heck, it got so hot here 2 summers ago we all had bowls of cereal for dinner one night!

    Now, I really like your little solar oven cooker you have there…if it doesn’t live up to your baking expectations, could it be turned into a dehydrater? Great way to preserve your (soon to be!) abundant harvests!

    Best of luck keeping the family fed and content over the hotter months.

    1. oh my, there’s such thing as a solar dehydrator (homegrown evolution has plans) that I am thinking will be in dire need this summer as I’m coveting all the dozens of beautiful FIG trees in people’s yards all over!!!! surely they are not going to want to eat that many figs? if i could trade them fresh for a cut of the dried, it’d be win-win!

  7. You mentioned you have a plethora of citrus trees in your area? Not sure what their season is, but lime juice is great for “cooking” different kinds of meats, especially chicken and seafood. Add tomatoes, cilantro, and onion for yummy ceviche, and serve it with tortillas.

    A great steak recipe is to mix lime juice, a dash of olive oil and some garlic, and marinate it for 1/2 hour. The lime juice will cook it most of the way, and tenderize it as well, so you only have to grill the edges for a couple minutes. So flavorful and very minimal effort.

    Can’t help you with the baking…I guess just bake really early in the a.m. or really late at night when it’s a little cooler.

    Good luck!

    1. thanks for the reminder! i love ceviche-d anything. btw, salmon makes a fantastic ceviche, with lime, red onion, peppers and tomato and cilantro. i could eat this all the time, but of course we planned to run out of salmon just in time for our (supposed) return to cdv. boo hoo. i need to look into the local catches, before they’re all gone….

  8. We are planning a summer kitchen outside – temps go up to between 36-42C here Dec-Feb. Some nights it is 33C at 3am :( It will have a small bbq, a cob oven (for baking) and a place for a crockpot/slowcooker.

    we eat a lot more salads, I also do a cook up at the beginning of the week with things like potato salad, frittata, quiche etc, so we can eat it cold later in the week.

    I know it sounds odd, but I actually do our baking in the heat of the day. We don’t have AC, and the house gets up to the mid 30s in the middle of the day, so I may as well have the oven on when it is hot, and we all hang out outside. Then the house can cool down as usual in the evening. If I cooked in the evening, the house would *never* cool down lol!

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