Don’t Sweat It: Five Ways to Eat for the Heat
We’ve had our first taste of spring weather in Calgary and appetites are whet for a long, hot summer. While you prep for your well-deserved summer vacation, consider letting your stove take the summer off. Hot weather can make indoor cooking very challenging. It’s the kind of challenge that can resign even the most enthusiastic home cooks to repeat nights of takeaway or bad microwave dinners. While outdoor grilling may be the go-to choice for those with barbecues, it’s always good to have options! Get inspired and stay cool with these fast and easy meal ideas that you’ll want to eat all year round.
1. Couscous: Couscous is North African semolina (small granules of durum wheat) and is a great substitute for other grains such as rice or quinoa. While couscous is traditionally steamed, most of what you’ll find on grocery store shelves is pre-cooked and instant to prepare. Pour boiling water from a kettle (or a microwave) over couscous, pop a lid on it, wait a few minutes, and it’s ready to enjoy! Eat it hot like rice, or toss it with your favorite fresh herbs, veggies, lemon juice, and olive oil for a great cold salad.
2. Canned Beans: Canned baked beans are often a fixture as a barbecue season side dish, but don’t stop there! There are many varieties of these healthy legumes to create vibrant side dishes with, or to eat as the main event. Endless recipes for lively summer salads (think creamy chickpea, or Italian white bean) are only a “Google” away.
3. The Rotisserie Chicken: The humble, grocery store rotisserie chicken is one of summer’s best friends. Sure, it’s not nearly as alluring as a home-roasted or barbecued beer can chicken, but what this bird lacks in style it makes up for in utility. Keep it simple, pairing chicken with some instant couscous, toss it in a salad, or let your imagination run wild! Try bold flavor pairings like creamy curried chicken salad, spicy chicken tacos, or a garlicky chicken Caesar salad wrap.
4. Rice Vermicelli: Calgarians are well known for their love of Vietnamese food. While you might not be able to top your favorite local restaurant, you can easily make vermicelli at home. Cook the noodles in a bowl by pouring boiling water over to cover. Let the noodles soften and then rinse thoroughly under cold water. You can dress these noodles up by tossing them in your favorite store-bought or homemade Asian inspired vinaigrette, fresh crunchy vegetables, a few peanuts, and a no-fuss protein like smoked tofu, thawed pre-cooked frozen shrimp, or sliced deli roast beef.
5. DIY Mezze Platter: When the heat is on, committing to a heavy meal (or any time spent in the kitchen) can be difficult. Why sweat it out prepping elaborate meals that you’ll be too uncomfortable to enjoy when there are so many good (and prep-free) options available? Mezze is the Mediterranean or Middle Eastern equivalent of an appetizer buffet. Treat yourself to a gorgeous spread of easy and delicious finger foods! Ideas include: Pita chips or sliced pita bread, olives, hummus (store bought or make your own), baba ghanoush (a creamy eggplant dip), Greek yogurt spiced with paprika, dolmades (canned grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice), quartered tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, canned artichokes, feta cheese, sliced cucumber, raw nuts (cashews, almonds), grapes, feta cheese. The best part is: all of these exotic items are readily available at most major grocery stores.