The sun is out, the mercury is rising and the threat of summer is well…
I love cooking and I love the fact that as the seasons change, so too do our cooking methods and the type of fresh produce that’s available to use.
Summer cooking represents an opportunity in our lives when we can whip up something quick and easy and still eat remarkably well. Summer cooking should be simple, fresh and full of flavour. No one wants to be slaving over a hot stove in 30-degree weather or have the oven on for hours during the day.
Here are some ways that you can make the most of summer and cook up fresh, tasty, seasonal meals for your family that are bursting with both flavour and nutrition.
I’m pretty sure that the humble Australian BBQ is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of summer cooking and I know that the outdoor BBQ in the Freeman household receives a pretty good workout most nights of the week.
Now there’s nothing wrong with a beef sausage or two on your plate every now and then.
However, two standard beef sausages contain 1681kJ (403 calories), 30g of fat and add a whopping 819mg of sodium (salt) to your daily intake.
The adequate intake for sodium for an adult is 460-920mg per day and for a child 200-600mg per day. Way too much salt and energy—not enough nutrition!
There are so many wonderful, healthy foods you can cook on the BBQ to ensure your summer meals never get boring.
Fresh vegetable ideas
- Mixed vegetables: Chop up some capsicum, zucchini, onion, eggplant, mushrooms and chuck them on the chargrill with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some crushed garlic. Only cook them for a few minutes to preserve a bit of ‘crunch’ and then drizzle with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar or toss through some freshly chopped basil or flat-leaf parsley.
- Sweet potato: Microwave to start the cooking process for 2-3 minutes and then toss them in olive oil, salt and paprika. Grill on the BBQ for a couple of minutes each side until crisp. Healthy, tasty BBQ chips!
- Corn: Beautiful fresh sweet corn is lovely on the BBQ. Cook for a few minutes and then enjoy with an olive oil drizzles and a sprinkle of dried herbs.
- Mushrooms: Slice up button mushrooms and toss on the BBQ with crushed garlic and olive oil. Remove from the BBQ and toss with some chopped fresh basil. It’s also fantastic on wholegrain toast for breakfast – just for a change!
- Coleslaw – Create a fresh salad side dish with shredded silverbeet, grated carrot, finely sliced celery and a dollop of aioli.
Meat & poultry ideas
- Chicken breast: Marinate it in lemon juice and oregano or honey and soy, or chilli, ginger and lime. So many possibilities.
- Kanga bangas: They are lean, low calorie and contain much less salt than the beef variety. Kangaroo sausages are a great addition to the Aussie BBQ.
- Steak: A piece of lean steak with the fat removed is a great addition to a BBQ. Serve it topped with sliced avocado and a herbed yoghurt dressing.
Summer produce highlight
- Asparagus: Rich in vitamin C, fibre and folate. Delicious! Buy Aussie!
- Capsicum: Grill in on the BBQ, add it to kebabs with chicken or red meat or toss it through a salad
- Mushrooms: BBQ, sauté, pop into a quiche or frittata, add to a salad. It’s fab paired with garlic and basil or tossed in fresh basil pesto and served on top of crusty sourdough toast
- Green beans: Sauté in olive or coconut oil, crushed garlic and pine nuts! Season with a touch of salt!
I love salads. In summer, it’s almost the only way I eat vegetables.
To ensure a wide variety of different vegetables and so you don’t get bored, make your salads as exciting as possible.
Here are some of my favourite combinations:
- Baby rocket, Spanish onion, roasted sweet potato, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and feta. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.
- Baby spinach, thinly sliced red or yellow capsicum, thinly sliced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and thinly sliced cooked chicken breast (marinate in tandoori before cooking). Drizzle with a yoghurt mixture of natural yoghurt, lemon juice, finely chopped chives and flat-leaf parsley.
- Baby rocket, Spanish onion, crushed walnuts, halved red or green grapes, grated parmesan and shredded BBQ chicken. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
Summer produce highlights
- Spinach: Rich in vitamin C and other phytochemicals (even better than kale), throw it into wraps, sandwiches and salads
- Cucumber: Mostly water and hydrating, cucumber is amazing finely sliced and mixed with plain greek yoghurt. Sprinkle with ground cumin and serve with spicy chicken or fish
- Asian greens: A great source of vitamin C and fibre, wilt bok choy and other asian greens by lightly steaming. Drizzle with a little oyster sauce mixed with sesame oil and serve with BBQ’d fish or chicken breast
- Peas: Another nutritious powerhouse with a touch os sweetness, fresh peas are delicious thrown into a salad or coleslaw, adding some extra crunch
Summer desserts are so easy to make and there’s nothing quite like a cold, icy treat to end the day.
Make the most of fruit this summer and get into the habit of serving this for dessert instead of chocolate, biscuits and cakes.
It’s ok every now and then to sit down to a slice of continental cheesecake but too often may make our weight loss efforts or other health goals difficult to achieve.
Try these easy ideas for serving fruit for dessert this summer
- Fruit salad topped with yoghurt and honey or a small spoonful of ice-cream.
- Chopped fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries topped with a small dollop of Philadelphia cream (1 tbsp of original Philadelphia spreadable cream cheese mixed with 1 tbsp double thick cream and 1/2 tsp sugar – mix until smooth). This Summer Berry Tart uses the Philadelphia cream and is a really lovely end to a beautiful summers day.
- Blend one mango with 50-100g yoghurt, pour into icy pole moulds and freeze for a delicious ice-cold dessert.
- Smoothies: Skim milk, yoghurt, bananas, strawberries, mangoes all in a blender. Blend until smooth and frothy and serve.
- A fruit and vegetable tasting plate – also great for afternoon tea or nibbling on throughout the day.
Summer produce highlight