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10 tips for eating healthy, affordable food despite the heat

You can endure record-setting heat and still eat healthy, delicious food. Just use quick-cook or no-cook ingredients and tweak your kitchen routine. Here's how to keep your cool and help power companies avoid brownouts.

  1. Eat fruit and vegetables as they are. Let simplicity reign in your food choices. Eat tomatoes, blueberries, melons, peppers, bok choy, and more tomatoes. Get in-season produce from local farms to avoid heating up the planet more by shipping and storing food raised far away and long ago.

    cherry tomatoes

  2. Give your blender a whirl. Make a big bowl of gazpacho or borscht. Buzz some basil with nuts, olive oil, and garlic for pesto, the queen of the no-cook pasta sauces. Get everyone, even kids, to eat raw greens by tucking them into a smoothie with blueberries, melon, and a banana. Start with mild Swiss chard, then try more assertive kale. If you like wasabi, try adding a handful of horse-radishy mustard greens.

    zucchini blender soup with mustard greens

  3. Eat summer salads. Lettuce is a spring and fall crop here in North Carolina, but plenty of other vegetables can take the heat. Cut sweet and crunchy corn kernels off the cob to mix in cold bean salads. Grate cabbage, carrots, summer squash, and even beets for slaws. Keep slaws light and crisp by tossing the shredded vegetables with a vinaigrette instead of a mayonnaise-based dressing.

    cabbage and carrot slaw with orange dressing

  4. Raid your freezer. If you followed my recommendation in Wildly Affordable Organic to freeze safety meals for emergencies, you're all set. (Forecasters are calling for a record-breaking 106°F high today here in Raleigh. That's an emergency.) In any case, this is the time to use up pre-cooked food that just needs to be thawed and reheated. The coolest cooks think ahead and thaw frozen items overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Put your slow cooker to work. Make a big pot of Cuban Black Beans or another bean and vegetable stew in the cool, dark hours. I particularly like the Cuban Black Beans, though, because they are good hot on couscous or with tortillas, cold in salads, and even mashed to create a passable version of refried black beans. My pal Kathy Hester, author of The Vegan Slow Cooker, even bakes bread in her slow cooker!

  6. Let your rice cooker make complete meals. Cook equal amounts of dried French green lentils with long-grain brown rice in a rice cooker. Cool and toss with chopped vegetables for a meal-strength salad.

    lentil and rice salad with summer vegetables made in a rice cooker

  7. Cook when it's coolest. Set your slow cooker or rice cooker up to cook at night. Run your dishwasher then too. Do other cooking early or late, not during the hottest, peak-use hours.
  8. Forgo your daily bread. The last thing you want to do in a heat wave is fire up the oven. Instead of homemade bread, enjoy couscous, tortillas, and microwaved sweet potatoes or yellow potatoes.
  9. Say hurray for sorbet! I'm looking forward to testing a new recipe for cocoa-avocado sorbet this weekend, perhaps over and over. If you already have the grill going, grill peaches for my Mexican Grilled Peach Sorbet.

    grilled mexican peach sorbet melts on a hot summer day

  10. Outsource. Sometimes it just makes more sense to let someone else do the cooking. Rather than firing up your own oven, buy bread made with a small number of real ingredients (organic whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and water). If using canned beans, frozen chopped greens, and bottled salsa means the difference between eating at home and going out for a Bucket o' Fried Fat, then use them.

 How are you keeping your cool in this wild weather? Share your summer cooking tips below.

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