Is the very thought of preparing tonight's dinner in the sweltering heat causing you to break into a sweat? Chill out! You don't have to heat up your kitchen to fix a satisfying meal.
In fact, you don't have to turn on your oven or stove for any of the summer menu ideas featured here. Many of them call for time-saving convenience items from the grocery store, so it'll be a breeze to get dinner on the table.
The next time the mercury rises, keep these swift summer meal ideas in mind.
Summer Recipes >
Take the Refreshing Route
Warmer temperatures often call for lighter, cooler fare. Skip the four-course menu and head to the produce section for a main dish salad.
- Top a bagged lettuce blend with grape tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, shredded cheese and leftover grilled chicken, steak or pork.
- Toss together a marinated veggie salad. Combine a bagged medley of broccoli and cauliflower with a can of olives and a jar of artichoke hearts. Pour Italian dressing over it all before chilling for an hour. Beef things up with cheese cubes and sliced pepperoni.
- Round out the meal with bakery rolls or foccacia.
Shake Up a Salad
Let family members create their own salads by creating an ingredient station with lots of themed choices.
For example, if you choose Southwestern, have tomatoes, black beans, corn chips, cilantro, leftover chicken or taco meat, cheddar cheese, sour cream and taco sauce. Fill a plastic storage container with enough lettuce for a single serving, then add your ingredients of choice. Close with a tight-fitting lid and shake that salad!
Give this idea a try with Mediterranean or Asian flavors as well.
Dinner's in Hand
Sandwiches are a great meal when meat-and-potatoes fare seems too heavy.
- Roll crab salad from the deli into soft flour tortillas. Add refreshing crunch by tucking in some coleslaw mix or sliced red onions from the produce section.
- Stuff a pita with your favorite cold cuts and vegetables, then pour a creamy salad dressing over the filling for a tasty boost of flavor.
- Complete the meal with a cool summer soup. Stir up a quick batch of gazpacho using salsa or spicy V-8 juice and diced cucumber. Or, use your blender to make a smooth fruit soup.
Turn to Your Microwave
Most supermarkets carry a variety of cooked entrees and meals that can be heated in the microwave in minutes.
- In the refrigerated section, look for a chicken fajita kit, shrimp primavera or chicken stir-fry that microwave in 10 minutes or less.
- From the frozen food aisle, follow the microwave directions to make a complete meal from a bag, including teriyaki beef and vegetables, Alfredo chicken and shrimp stir-fry.
- Zap frozen meatballs and jarred spaghetti sauce, then tuck it into sub rolls and top with mozzarella cheese for a quick hot sandwich.
Switch on a Slow Cooker
If your family likes a hearty meal in the summer, take advantage of your slow cooker for a simple supper.
- Look in the freezer section for a complete meal in a bag made specifically for the slow cooker. Dump the contents in and flip the switch. It's assembled in 5 minutes, then slowly simmers until dinnertime.
- Or try one of the new seasoning packets on the market found in the condiment aisle. Just add fresh meat and slow-cook until ready.
Slow Cooker Recipes & Tips >
Top 10 Slow Cooker Recipes >
Head Out to the Grill
When it gets too hot indoors, sometimes it's best to just get outside and fire up the backyard barbecue.
- Turn everyday chicken, pork or steak into a new taste sensation with a bottle of 10-minute marinade. Try lemon herb-peppercorn, Southwestern-with-smoked-chipotle or garlic-lime varieties.
- For breezy cleanup, look for a 30-minute marinade in a bag…just add meat and throw out the bag when you're ready to grill.
- For a down-home meal, toss a rack of already cooked barbecue, pork or honey-barbecue ribs on the grill to heat them up. They're usually available in the meat section.
Grilling Recipes >
How to Grill >