When the thermometer rises, it’s time to turn to recipes which keep the heat out of the kitchen. Using kitchen tools like your microwave, pressure cooker, air fryer, and crockpot will help eliminate sources of excess heat.
Thankfully, there is a huge assortment of seasonal produce, which aligns perfectly with the goal of creating meals without creating a lot of heat. We’ll look at each method of cooking individually, list advantages and disadvantages, and give you recipe ideas appropriate for each appliance.
This post is sponsored by Garden Spot Vegetable Farm. Located in Princeville, Illinois, owner, Jim Buckley and his family, cultivate 34 acres of vegetables and 375 fruit trees. Garden Spot is a no-spray farm, offering a variety of CSA packages. Check their Facebook page for current programs and options for available produce.
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I own four of them. That’s right! Some days, especially on bulk cooking days, you can find my countertop lined with them, a separate recipe in each. I have one of the small 1.5 quart units, designed for sauces or dips, a medium (4 quart), and two large (6-quart) cookers. Each of models features three temperature settings: warm, low, and, high.
The 1.5 quart models are absolutely perfect for college students! My son had one at school and just gave it back to me since he has graduated.
Not only do crockpots create very little heat, they also sip electricity, using less than a traditional oven. Additionally, the long, slow cooking time can tenderize items which can be tough when cooked using another method. Finally, they offer you the convenience of setting the heat function and then walking away (or leaving for work) knowing that your dinner will be piping hot and ready to eat when you return.
Drawbacks include the fact that some recipes just don’t adapt well to a crockpot and the fact that you can’t prepare more than one item or recipe at a time as you can with an oven or stovetop. Additionally, the cover works as a steam condenser, dripping water back into your ingredients all day long. Consequently, if you have added the same amount of liquid that you would have had you been preparing the same recipe using another cooking method, your finished product may be soggier than usual.
- Easy and Inexpensive Layered Cabbage and Rice Casserole
- Crockpot Madras Lentils
- Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes (3 Ways)
- Slow Cooker Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Butternut Squash
- Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chia Steel Cut Oats
- One Pan Mexican Quinoa Casserole in the Slow Cooker
- Slow Cooker Curried Tomato Soup
- Slow Cooker Potato Curry Chili
The Pressure Cooker
I have vivid memories of hearing the persistent and steady click of the gauge on my mother’s stovetop pressure cooker. You had to keep the pressure exact to get the desired results and the fact that you had stove burner on under the unit took away all possibility of actually keeping the kitchen cooler in summer. However, modern pressure cookers have made a huge comeback in the past decade, are now electric, and come with much-improved safety features . Simple buttons allow you to do everything from make yogurt to cook rice in record time. This ain’t your mama’s pressure cooker!
I fell in love with my sister’s Instant Pot when she visited last summer. It’s certainly the best-known of the new line up of pressure cookers. Although fully programmable, it also comes with an amazing number of preset buttons. The stainless steel pot eliminates cancer concerns associated with the flaking of non-stick coatings common in other pressure cooker models. She made homemade yogurt in her Instant Pot while she was visiting. It was easy and delicious! You can see all the specs and reviews at Amazon.
You can cook food in 2/3 less time than stovetop methods. Cooking dry beans can be accomplished in 30 minutes flat – with no presoaking! Aromas and juices are locked in, allowing you to create complex flavor profiles and enhanced nutrition with little effort. Since you are using less time, you also use less energy and don’t heat up the kitchen (especially if you allow for a natural release of steam pressure). Finally, newer units have an automatic “keep warm” function, maintaining a temperature of 150 degrees and allowing you to program it and walk out the door to find dinner ready when you return.
As with the slow cooker, you are limited to cooking one item at a time (unless you invest in multiple units). Because of the higher heat, it is much easier to burn food than with the slow cooker. Also, once you have shut the lid and the pressure has built, it’s impossible to check the progress of the contents without releasing the pressure and then programming to unit to begin, once more.
Pressure Cooker Recipes
*Although some of these recipes are designed for an Instant Pot, you can easily adapt them to another brand of pressure cooker. I do it all the time, since I don’t own an Instant Pot (yet).
- Cheap and Easy Vegetable Broth from Scraps
- Smoky White Bean Soup
- Instant Pot Pad Thai Stir Fry
- Instant Pot Burrito Bowls
- Garlic Cauliflower Potato Mash
- Pressure Cooker “Baked” Apples
- Apple Berry Crisp (two ways)
- Using Leftover Veggies to Create a Meal in the Pressure Cooker
The Air Fryer
Air fryers are the new kid on the block and they are definitely growing on me! I actually won an air fryer last year and I’m getting better and trying new things in it. The 15 year old sous chef is actually quite visionary at suggesting we try new air fryer techniques and recipes.
Prices range from under $100 to several hundred. The best versatility comes in the Cadillac model known as the Breville Smart Oven. A combination air fryer, dehydrator, and convection oven, it could, literally take the place of your larger oven.
They use very little energy, heating food incredibly fast. Food is healthier, because you really don’t need any oil to fry with this amazing invention. The non-stick interior makes clean up a breeze and the controls are very intuitive and easy to use.
If you have a large family, you are going to either be frying multiple batches or investing in a Breville oven. Although expensive, the Breville will feed an army and if you gauge its track record by my friends’ positive experiences, they are well worth looking into.
Air Fryer Recipes
- Zucchini Chips in the Air Fryer
- Stuffed Squash Blossoms in the Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Cauliflower Chickpea Tacos
- Crispy Potato Wedges
- Air Fryer Buffalo Cauliflower
- Air Fryer Potato Chips
- Air Fryer Thai Veggie Bites
Some of us love microwaves, while others – not so much. Whichever side of the fence you choose, it’s super important to know how to use a microwave if you are traveling. Nearly all hotel rooms are now stocked with a mini-fridge and a microwave. I can tell you from experience that even if you are traveling with kids, you can bring along some healthy food options and cook meals in your room, using that microwave. You’ll save money and eat better.
I remember when my grandfather paid $700 for his first microwave, which seemed unable to do much more than cook potatoes quickly and somehow create a soggy version of a grilled cheese sandwich.
Nowadays, we can’t imagine our lives with a microwave stuck on the kitchen counter. The AmazonBasics microwave uses 700 watts and boasts an average 4 stars with over 7000 reviews! Priced at about $60, it’s a good buy, too and comes with free shipping.
Microwaves are fast, cutting cooking time significantly. They also don’t heat up the kitchen and newer models take up less space. Finally, you can steam foods very quickly, thus preserving more natural color and nutrients.
You must use microwave-safe containers and plates and larger casserole dishes don’t fit at all. There is also conflicting scientific evidence about the safety of microwaves and the connection between their use and an increase in cancer risk. I’ve read several articles and we’ve decided to adopt a middle-of-the-road approach. We rely on our microwave to re-heat food or coffee in small bursts, never heat in plastic, and use more traditional appliances for any actual cooking. The wonder of packaged, microwave-ready meals of any sort is lost on me. I find them too expensive, too salty, and generally unappealing in pretty much every way.