Everyone knows that the best summer cooking is done outdoors.Â Keeping the house cool is much easier if you take advantage of cooking outdoors when the heat won’t stop.Â The traditional barbeque is tried and true.Â Hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks or chicken – they’re all great on the grill.
But have you ever thought of using your crockpot?Â Â What?!?Â The crockpot in the summer?Â Yes, you read me right.
I don’t know about you, but my summer days are busy. And it stays light so late that my days are long, too.Â If you are going to be out in the garden all day, you’ll come in hot and dirty.Â The last thing you want to do is cook.
I don’t mean to make soups, chili or stews.Â Save those for when the snow is flying.Â For easy summer cooking, use the crock pot for easy main and side dishes.Â Better yet, keeping to the cooking outside theme, use the crock pot outside.Â Â Plug it in out on the porch, in the garage or in the carport.
Putting it outside keeps the heat from warming up the kitchen.Â Now I fully realize that the crock pot is not going to warm up your kitchen as much as the oven will… but hey, every bit helps.Â Less heat means not running an air conditioner.
My only caution is this: be sure to put the crockpot where the family dog can’t reach it…. trust me on this one.Â I’ve got experience.Â
Here are a few quick easy ideas for dinners ready to go:
Crockpot BBQ Chicken -Â Place skinless chicken pieces in the crockpot.Â Cover it all with your favorite barbeque sauce and plug it in. Cook on low 5 to 6 hours.Â Serve with a veggie salad. Could it be any easier? A home-cooked meal yet summery and easy!
How about a ham?Â Simply place the ham in the crockpot and add about a cup of water.Â Plug it in and cook on low for the day.Â Serve sliced with a salad (can you tell we eat a lot of salad in the summer?) and some pineapple chunks. Cook a big one and you’ll have leftover ham for sandwiches.Â Real ham is so much better than deli ham and much healthier.
Crockpot Salsa Chicken– Place 3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts in your crockpot.Â Sprinkle with some taco seasoning.Â Use about a half a package if you don’t have a homemade mix.Â Stir together 1 can cream of mushroom soup (or your own white sauce) and a cup of salsa.Â Pour over the chicken and cook on low 5 to 6 hours.Â Mix in 1/2 cup sour cream just before serving.Â Â Serve with tortilla chips and corn on the cob.
Summery Sweet Potatoes– Use the crockpot to have side dishes ready, too.Â Sweet potatoes are good any time of the year.Â Try this: Peel and cube 3 sweet potatoes.Â Place in your crock with 1 tsp vanilla, Â¼ cup brown sugar, Â¼ tsp salt and Â¼ cup orange juice.Â Cook all day on low.Â Serve with grilled steaks, chicken or pork chops.
Have a great summer!
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Country Life on July 21, 2011.