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Chillax! Summer Heat Hacks For A Cool Kitchen


Well the heat is on! And not just in Phoenix. It's hot all over, so, lots of ice is in order, of any kind. Ice cube trays, even if you have an ice maker, are a great thing to have, to freeze any kind of delicious liquid refreshment; juice, wine, coffee, tea, then throw it in a blender with fruit, herbs, a little water for an icy snack, cocktail or mocktail, to stay cool in the heat of the day. Talking to guides on the San Juan River this week, we all agreed that the best breakfast these days is a smoothie - all types of fruit with coconut water and protein powder and whatever else gets your motor running at the beginning of the day. I serve fresh watermelon juice with lime, most mornings, often diluted with mineral water. These guys like theirs frozen and put into a double walled stainless steel vessel that stays extra cold for 12 hours, even in the sun all day. I first found out about these super cool steel coolers, at Steamworks in Durango. Interestingly enough, you can buy a "tap" for the vacuum sealing lid. Now I see them everywhere, but frozen smoothie on tap is the way to go. Hot coffee is taking a seasonal backseat to cold pressed coffee, iced coffee, frozen lattes, and even café-mocha-maca-banana-protein smoothies. Bananas, cocoa powder, maca powder, vanilla protein powder, raw honey and stevia, ice cold coffee or frozen coffee cubes, in a blender. Your entire breakfast, with coffee. I add raw greens or spirulina to mine, so it's a green coffee shake. Not for everyone, but it's great for energy and starting the day a little lighter and a little cooler.

I agree that it's a great time to cook outdoors, make ice cream with one of the many "toss around" ice cream apparatus available now, and basically do anything you can to stay cool and be comfortable. Let's face it though, grilling over an open flame outside when it's nearing or over 100 degrees is not exactly comfortable. One of the many things I love about living here, is that each evening, it cools off significantly, and stays cool until about 9:00 a.m. I was in Phoenix last summer. I'm still recovering. Not that it doesn't cool down at night. One night, after a sweltering 122 degree day, it actually cooled to 117. Whew! Imagine my relief. My point is that in San Juan County, the heat is always followed by a beautiful breeze and a sigh of relief in the evening and we can sleep comfortably and arise refreshed. If you're an early riser, you have an advantage for staying cool, because you can cook in the morning. Granted, the thought of firing up the oven in summer seems highly contradictory to the "stay cool" advice floating around, but please trust me on this, getting up at 4:00 a.m., one morning a week can make your summer easy, your meals delicious and you will be the hero of your home. This week I "trayed" bacon, (just lie it flat on a sheet pan) chicken breasts, and dinner sausages, and set them in the fridge before bed. In the morning, I placed them in the oven, and boiled some pasta, and by 6:00, I had sandwich, salad and dinner fixin's for the week. You can substitute potatoes, quinoa, rice or other grains, just remember to use salt and oil, both of which are natural preservatives, on your starch, before refrigerating. If you're watching your fats, you can always rinse them before preparing your dish. Personally, I use oils that have some good flavor too, avocado, sesame, and walnut oils are good for you, add flavor and a little shelf life to your starch.

Another monthly morning hack is to roast a turkey. I know, I know, "it's not November!" Hey, have a little faith. I thaw the turkey then cut it into halves or quarters, season it with a light rub of sunflower oil, salt and pepper on the skin side and set it, flesh side down, on a bed of freshly chopped herbs, onions and garlic, and throw it in the oven. Your house is going to smell so good, you may have to eat it for breakfast. It cooks faster because it's not stuffed and it's in smaller pieces. I roast it like I do everything: a hot oven (450) sear for 15 minutes then moderately low oven (335-340) til done. Use a thermometer and don't be afraid to slightly undercook some of it as it may be reheated with other foods. Turn on the swamp cooler and cool your turkey pieces for about 20 minutes before storing. Always leave food unwrapped and unpacked until completely cooled off. I make chipotle mayo for BLT-spinach wraps, curry mayo for turkey salad with grapes and pecans, green chili mustard, and cider vinaigrette for salads and tossed meals. Coupled with all the farmers' market vegetables and fruit in our county, you are headed for a healthy, happy, relaxing summer of no-sweat meals and refreshments. I'm totally "Chill."

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