This is my second Twin Cities summer surviving with only a small AC unit in my living room. I’m usually an avid home cook. I’ll spend at least 30 minutes every day cooking myself a meal. But in this heat, I can barely tolerate standing next to a boiling pot of water.
I’ve made many meals that don’t heat up the kitchen, but I don’t think I can’t bear to spend my entire summer subsisting on turkey sandwiches and strawberry smoothies. When I’m looking for general cooking advice, I like to turn to my Aldi Facebook group, Aldi Aisle of Shame Community. As a 21-year-old, I’ve only been cooking for myself for two years. The moms in the groups always have helpful advice.
After posting about suffering through a heat wave that could be the entire summer, more than 100 people gave words of advice. Here are some of the best tips I’ve received.
Right now, turning on the oven is a hard no, and grilling outside sounds like the perfect recipe for heatstroke. The stove, which I prefer under normal circumstances, is a maybe. My Facebook group mates told me about kitchen appliances that will help me survive without turning on any burners.
Crockpots can be thrifted or bought at Walmart for relatively cheap and can cook a whole meal without making a chef sweat. It can cook chicken, rice, beef, vegetables, and even pasta. Although it requires patience with how long it takes the food to cook, it provides a warm meal without heating up the kitchen.
Everyone’s number-one suggestion was the air fryer. I did not go out and buy one, though I did heavily consider it. I already own a toaster oven, and they work relatively similarly. But the commenters made me realize how great an air fryer is in the summer. You can cook basically any frozen food in it and reheat leftovers to their original crunch. As a faithful Aldi fan, I do have to say that the Red Bag Chicken would be great in an air fryer.
I’ve been missing the Instant Pot my mom bought me a couple of years ago. (I gave it back because I had hardly used it.) The Instant Pot can act as a crockpot, an oven, a rice cooker, a pressure cooker, really whatever you need it to be. Like the previous appliances, it doesn’t heat up the house like an oven and doesn’t require you to stand over it like the stove.
As someone who cooks, I generally stray away from quick meals that take no time to put together. But those meals also keep me the coolest. Here are the best meals I’ve been making.
Flatbread Pizzas are changing my life. I’ll make a mini pepperoni pizza, plain cheese, or a chipotle chicken flatbread. They heat up well in the toaster oven and serve as a filling and cool meal.
Rotisserie Chicken is the best multi-use food I’ve ever bought. I can eat plain chicken, I can shred it to put on a flatbread, I can make BBQ chicken sandwiches, and it goes great with rice. Since it’s a versatile food, it can be put into anything and taste good.
Charcuterie Boards have become a staple in my house. I know it’s only fancy cheese and crackers, but it works wonderfully as a meal. It is filling with protein, dairy, and grain. I typically have a side salad. If you’re in Minneapolis, Surdyk’s in Northeast is a great place to pick up charcuterie supplies.
Snack night started off as a quarantine date idea with my girlfriend but has transformed into Tuesday night. I’ve given up on meals and sometimes snack on whatever I want instead. Crackers, fruit, a couple of almonds, yogurt, and a piece of bread all fill me up as I rummage through my kitchen and eat whatever I can throw on a plate.
Pasta salad is not something that I’ve eaten yet but has been recommended many times. It’s personally not food I like, but it’s an easy and cool meal. You can create a balanced pasta salad by adding meat, cheese, veggies, and vinaigrette.