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Cool cooking for hot days

Keep the kitchen comfy by turning off the stove.

Whether or not you use air conditioning in your home, using the stove or oven on a hot July day is not the brightest idea. Baked lasagna will have the family baking as well. Bacon on the griddle will have you sizzling. Steaming vegetables — well, you get the idea.

Walk away from the stove or at least minimize its use. If you have to cook some items, do so in the morning when outside temperatures are lower. Crockpots and rice cookers are kinder to kitchen temperatures and outdoor grilling doesn’t heat up the house. But why not try totally heat-free meal prep some days?

Revitalizing your food prep habits might have you venturing into fun and creative menu planning.

“Not using the stove or oven opens up a world of possibilities and can lead to some healthy choices,” points out Karima Samadi, nutrition educator at the Greene County Extension Office of The Ohio State University, located in Xenia. “For instance, no stove means no frying and no red meats. Instead of pancakes, try yogurt and fruit for breakfast. Instead of a meat entrée for dinner, try an inventive salad.”

Sandwiches can be a summer-perfect choice even for dinner if you have an array of fixings and fresh wholegrain bread.

Many international cuisines keep cooking to a minimum so take a look at what other nations offer.

When’s the last time you tried a new fruit salad, or prepared a family favorite in a new way? Many cookbooks, such as “Absolutely Avocados,” as well as web sites are brimming over with “plant-based” recipes, the new darling of menu planning.

Samadi suggests looking at available grocery items differently. “Canned salmon can be used in salads and for wraps,” she points out.

“Think cold soups!” recommends Christina Bender, healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods Market in Mason. “Chilled soups such as peach soup and melon soup made in a blender are a great refreshing addition to any summer meal.”

Bender also suggests rethinking protein and looking beyond traditional sources. “Canned beans are a great base for a bean salad, or a topping for a fresh salad to make a complete meal,” she says. “Chickpeas, cannellini beans and black beans are all great options.”

Nutritionist Cindy Guirino, with offices on Brandt Pike in Dayton, points out that frozen shrimp can be the beginning to many cool summer meals. “Select shrimp that is already peeled and deveined,” she says. “Use it on salads or to eat as shrimp cocktail.”

Bounty from your garden, the produce stand or your favorite grocery will jumpstart your creativity.

“For fun and nutritious meal planning, ‘Eat the Rainbow,’” recommends Bender. “Strive to eat each color of fruits and vegetables each day.”

Breakfast can be cereal and blueberries (blue/purple); lunch is a green salad with Romaine, Kale, carrots, tomatoes and yellow bell peppers (green, orange, red, and yellow); and dinner is Portobello mushrooms with asparagus and chilled melon soup (brown/white, green, and orange).

Salmon Wraps


4 ounces low-fat cream cheese

1 can (14.75 ounces) salmon

3 tablespoons light Italian dressing

¼ teaspoon black pepper

6 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas

rinsed lettuce or spinach leaves

1 cucumber

1 tomato


Soften cream cheese in medium bowl or microwave for 10 seconds.

Wipe top of salmon can before opening. Drain salmon in a colander and rinse with water.

Add salmon, dressing and pepper to cream cheese in medium bowl. Stir to blend.

Spread 1/3 cup filling on each tortilla. Spread to the edges.

Slice tomato thinly and cut slices in half.

Peel cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a spoon. Cut in half crosswise. Lay on flat side and cut into narrow strips.

Lay lettuce or spinach leaves in the center of the tortilla. Top with tomato and cucumber down the center of the tortilla.

Roll up tightly. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Makes 8 wraps.

Source: the Ohio State University Extension Office, a recipe of the Iowa State office

Chilled Melon Soup with Basil


6 cups chopped honeydew

1/2 cup roughly chopped basil, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup lime juice, plus more to taste


Put all ingredients into a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.

Serves 4.

Source: Whole Foods Market in Mason

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