Monday, July 18, 2011

Low Carb Meals to Beat the Heat!

Here in northern lower Michigan, we can usually count the 90°+ days on our fingers without even having to get toes involved. But the last couple of years have had more than our fair share of heat, and cooking is the LAST thing I want to do in my hot mobile home that doesn't have air conditioning! The GREAT thing about summer, though, is that there is plenty of food available - very cheaply! - that we don't even have to cook! Cold dishes are easy and tasty, and you can mix them up with just a few pre-cooked (before the heat wave hits, or in the cool of the early mornings or late evenings) foods to create complete meals!

Here are a few of my own ideas in the hope that they will trigger your imagination! Adapt these as you will, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping off point for your own creativity.

First, fill the fridge. Load up on raw veggies and dip, eggs, lunch meat/coldcuts (or whatever your diet allows), greens, cream, cheeses, berries, melon, torillas or wraps, pre-cut bagged cole slaw mix, etc. If it's cold, if it can be eaten without a standing at the counter doing a lot of prep work while your ankles swell, it's good! (A couple of other goodies I like to keep in the fridge are cottage cheese and yogurt, both of which mix with berries or top gelatin, as well as being good on their own.)

Second, prepare before the hot spell strikes, or pick an early-morning or late-evening that's a little cooler and commit to an hour of prep. During that time, hard-boil a couple dozen eggs, clean and wash your berries, slice and dice your veggies and melon, wrap some cream cheese with cold cuts, cook up some bacon, whip up some cream, mix your cole slaw, chop up a cooked rotisserie chicken or 2, clean, dry, and toss your greens & store them in a big zipper bag (or 2!), make up some SF gelatins, make up some tuna or chicken with mayo/celery/onion/pickes/whatever you use, and fill your ice cube trays. You will now be all set for your meals for several days!

With the above all ready to go, you can have some really great, filling meals! Here are some ideas:

- Chicken salad: peel, seed, and dice 2 cucumbers, half of a rotisserie chicken, 1/4 of an onion, and 2 HB eggs; toss with S&P, celery seed, mayo, and a short squirt of mustard

- Tuna unmelt: Flake 3 cans drained tuna into a bowl; add finely chopped onion and celery to taste; mix in 3T freshly-grated swiss cheese; toss with mayo. Serve in low carb wraps, or on a Sassy Sandwich Roll.

- Lay some greens on a Sassy Sandwich Roll, top with a scoop of tuna or chicken salad, and a slice of cheese.

- Toss chicken or tuna with your cole slaw, or apples (if your plan allows) and nuts, or cold cuts, chopped celery and mustard, or...? Cole slaw is a versatile starting point for several salad-type dishes, you can so many different things to it, and is also great to add with meats into wraps!

- Devil up some of those hard-boiled eggs. Just mash the yolks with mayo, a touch of mustard, S&P, and some onion powder. Then sprinkle with paprika and parsley for a festive look. Or fill your whites with your premade tuna or chicken salad and top with crumbled yolk! (You can use the rest of the yolks in other salads or add to the deviled eggs.)

- Use your greens, cold cuts, chicken, bacon, HB eggs, and veggies to make a Monster Salad on a big platter. Keep the salad bowls cold in the fridge so you can cool off and take care of your hunger at the same time.

- Serve your gelatin with berries and whipped cream as a snack or a dessert

- Toss together chopped raw cauli and broccoli florets, bacon, celery (or toasted walnuts!), and even an apple if your plan allows, and a dressing of mayo, cream, and your sweetener of choice - just enough so it doesn't taste mayonnaise-y.

- Toss together some cantaloupe, honeydew, and strawberries for a pretty summer salad.

Lastly, we are big coffee drinkers here, but iced coffee is easy and wonderful! Simply pour half a pot of cold coffee, 10 (or so) ice cubes, 1/2c cream, a couple tablespoons of your favorite SF syrup, and sweetener to taste to a blender. This makes enough for 6 servings for us, and stores for a day nicely in the fridge.

When it is hot out - and in! - I love to open my refrigerator door and see a slew of prepared dishes that I can just grab and serve - or eat on the spot. At suppertime, set out a combination of these dishes - such as your Monster Salad platter, a plate of deviled eggs, and some gelatin with berries and whipped cream - or a dish of chicken-cuke salad, some cream cheese roll-ups, and a bowl of melon-strawberry salad - and you can feast on summer's best, with very little effort! The whole point is to have a good stock on hand of cold foods, already prepared, that you can mix'n'match into various dishes for lunches, suppers, or snacks.