No-Cook Summer Meals And Salad Recipes
Spend time at the pool, not in the kitchen.
By Amy Landsman
We all need someone like Jessica Cooper on speed dial. Ask this Stevenson mother of two for some ideas for summer-friendly, make-ahead or no-cook meals and she’s off and running.
“We try to do a lot ahead of time,” Cooper, an administrator at Sinai Hospital and mom to 11-year-old Levi and 7-year-old Reed, says.
“We will grill all kinds of vegetables, usually a protein, chicken that can be sliced. Both of my boys like salads.”
Since transitioning from part-time to full-time four years ago, Cooper has mastered the art of advance planning.
“I’ll take ground turkey and cook it with taco seasoning and onions and put it in a large container. It can be reheated and made into turkey taco salad,” she says.
Cooper credits her husband Matthew with being a full partner in the kitchen.
“We may whip something up on Sunday that we know will be possibly two meals during the week. We also often pack our lunches,” she adds.
The Coopers also have a place in Bethany Beach, Del. and Jessica often prepares meals at home and totes them along to the beach.
“I’ll take cheese tortellini, marinate them in Italian vinaigrette, and skewer them. The kids love it. If we’re going on a picnic it’s really easy to have in the fridge,” she says.
Luda Hiekin of Reisterstown is another mom who plans everything ahead. Hiekin, who moved to the U.S. from Russia at 15, honed her skills at an early age.
“I always had an interest (in cooking) because as a young girl I was not allowed to go play with my friends until I learned something new in the kitchen. First it was a huge task and then I loved to do it for my family.”
Hiekin, a nurse, believes in the power of food to prevent illness. She buys organic products for her husband, Vadam, and their kids, Stefan, 7, and 4-year-old Mia.
“It’s expensive but I want to prevent… illness,” she explains.
Hiekin saves time by preparing a chopped salad the night before.
“I mix lettuce, cucumbers, garlic, radishes, dill, avocadoes,” says Hiekin, who prepares and adds the dressing just before serving. She also preps chicken in advance. She covers chicken pieces in mayonnaise, adds some garlic, salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne and cumin. The chicken goes into a rectangular glass dish, covered in foil and refrigerated, until she’s ready to cook.
“The moment I come in, I put it in the stove,” Hiekin says. (Cook at 400 or 425 degrees, depending on your oven, for 45 minutes. Uncover the last 10 -15 minutes to brown.)
Greenspring Valley resident Stacey Taule is also a nurse who works two 12-hour shifts a week. She tries to make mealtimes special for her husband, Jason, and their two kids, 11-year-old Aliyah and 9-year-old Aaron. “If I am home we all sit down as a family and eat. If not, I leave something for them, either leftovers or something new,” Taule says.
In winter, many home cooks rely on easy-to-freeze casseroles. In summer, the trick is coming up with lighter, more seasonal meals that can also be made in advance.
“In summer I try to do salads,” says Taule. “Those are easy to make ahead as long as you have time for prep work and chopping. I also do a lot of salmon in the summer. I could not live in the summer without my grill.”
She says her Asian chicken salad is always a hit.
“I use bottled dressing. It’s a lot less work…You make the entire thing in advance if you want to serve the chicken cold. Or you can put the chicken on the grill.”
Taule also speeds things up by keeping good quality crusty bread in the freezer. It tastes great warm from the oven and is faster than potatoes or rice with dinner.