Many of us are in the habit of cooking dinner for our families. But, dinner doesn’t need to be a cooked meal, and summer’s the best time to avoid heating up the kitchen in already-high temperatures! Besides for the hot weather, here are other reasons not to slave over a hot stove: 1) it can be quicker and easier to prepare a meal, and 2) when you don’t cook, your food maintains most of its nutritional content.
So, here are some no-cook or (low-cook) ideas for filling and nutritious summer dinners:
I often like to base my non-cook meals around a hearty salad. Salads can be tasting and filling when they have a protein included, like canned beans. (I always buy the organic kind from a company that does not use BPA in their cans, such as Trader Joe’s and Eden Organic.) Other ideas for an easy protein to add to your salad: sprouts (you can grow your own!), baked tofu, tuna, canned salmon, nuts (slivered almonds, crushed walnuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), and cheese (goat, feta). Some easy-cook protein options are hard-boiled eggs and quinoa (it’s a grain, but it’s also a complete protein!). To fill out the meal, you can always add a side: a piece of whole-grain bread, a chilled soup. Easy and super healthy!
An alternative to salad is making a slaw! When people think of “slaw,” they usually think “cole slaw,” or shredded cabbage with a mayo- or buttermilk-based dressing. Cabbage is super healthy, but slaws can also be made from all sorts of other shredded veggies and fruits, including broccoli, carrots, and kale. Further, the dressing does not have to be a heavy, dairy-based sort. Actually, lots of Asian dressings based on soy or peanuts work really well with slaws, as do tahini-based ones and different kinds of vinaigrettes. Like an entree salad, a slaw can be a meal in and of itself, or add some soup and another side if you desire.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, then I will now: slaws are super easy because you can already buy the ingredients shredded. Shredded cabbage, carrots, and broccoli are available in most supermarkets, and I’ve seen shredded kale, too.
Here’s a quick and easy slaw primer: combine shredded vegetable of your choice, with favorite nut or seed (pumpkin, sunflower, slivered almonds, and/or sesame), with favorite dried or fresh fruit (craisins, raisins, dried apricots, grapes, etc.), and an optional pungent (like scallions). Top with your favorite dressing.
Below is a dressing I found in a Moosewood cookbook (Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day) that I like to use to make a tasty broccoli slaw (gets compliments every time).
1 bag broccoli slaw (store-bought, approx. 12 oz)
Seed or nut of choice (sunflower seeds, slivered almonds)
1-2 cups Craisins, raisins, or fresh grapes
Optional: sesame seeds, scallions
2 tbs toasted sesame oil
2 tbs soy sauce
4 tsp honey
6 tbs lime juice (fresh, about 2 limes; or use store-bought)
salt, pepper to taste
1. Combine sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and lime juice in a container with lid; add salt and pepper. Close lid and shake to mix ingredients.
2. Put shredded broccoli in bowl. Add ingredients from step 1 to shredded broccoli.
3. Top with chosen dried or fresh fruit, nuts, sesame seeds and scallions, to your taste. Mix together. Preferably, let sit for 20 minutes before serving.
Need more inspiration? I found a bunch of yummy slaw recipes on the kitchn.
Yum. Summer is the season for my favorite soups. I love gazpacho (there are so many kinds!), and other chilled soups, like chilled strawberry soup, cucumber, or pea. Some soups you usually eat hot can be tasty when chilled, such as a corn-based, zucchini, or butternut-squash soup. Serve with a side of multi-grain bread with a spread of chumus or canned salmon salad and you are on your way to a filling meal!
Fresh Veggies and dips:
Why not? Cut up carrots, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, and/or pepper and offer it all up with a variety of dips: chumus, guacamole, tahini, nut butter (I like almond and cashew), or whatever floats your boat. Such dips are high in protein and very filling. Offering up a variety of dips makes it more fun and will likely increase the amount of veggies your kids/partner will consume.
Ok, this one involves cooking, but you can plan ahead. Bake a few butternut squash halves drizzled in olive oil in advance (say, on a Sunday evening), and then serve squash for a couple of dinners over the next few days. Basically, I love butternut squash topped with a protein. Top with tuna/salmon salad or egg salad; sprinkle with some feta or goat cheese; and/or add some nuts/seeds and dried fruit. You can eat it cold or heat it up a little before serving.
I hope these ideas can get you started on the no-cook bandwagon. What are some of your favorite no-cook dinners?