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July 27, 2013

Stay light, cool while cooking this summer

Staying completely out of the kitchen during the hot days of summer is not the best idea, because it’s where the refrigerator and freezer are. But when it comes to meal preparation, the less time spent there, the better. 

A little bit of planning ahead can make a big difference in creating no-sweat lunch and dinner dishes. Having some key ingredients on hand and taking advantage of all the fresh, locally grown/made edibles also helps.

When it comes to food, “light” often refers to reduced calories, but for summer meals, “light” has more to do with digestion. Light foods are those that don’t weigh you down, make you feel uncomfortably full or make you feel sleepy. 

If you are including meat, plan on serving it as part of a salad, or very thinly sliced — not in large quantities, but more as a flavor-adding accompaniment. Consider chilled grilled meats and vegetables with a sauce or salad dressing for dipping. Or wrap small pieces of meat in lettuce leaves, making an elegant presentation for an ordinary ingredient. 

Grilling evokes mouth-watering thoughts of burgers, chicken, steaks or hot dogs, but grills can do wonders for vegetables, too. Even the most reluctant veggie-eaters will have a change of heart when it comes to grilled corn on the cob, portabella mushrooms, eggplant and even the ever-abundant zucchini. 

The magic of grilled vegetables has to do with flavors, which are transformed from humdrum to fantastic in the searing heat of the grill. And the same marinades that transform meat into grilled treats can also work wonders on vegetables. 

One favorite base recipe from which many other barbecue sauces have been born is 1 cup of vinegar, ¼ cup of cooking oil, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of chicken bouillon, 1 tablespoon of crushed or dried garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Place these ingredients into a tightly sealed container along with your favorite minced herbs and shake vigorously. Coat meat and vegetables with the sauce before placing them on the grill, and brush with remaining sauce when flipping or rotating.

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