A 30-day burn ban ordered July 24 by Cherokee County commissioners has put the kibosh on charcoal grilling, and triple-digit temperatures have sent local residents looking for alternatives to heating up the kitchen.
While gas grills can still be used for outdoor cooking, those who fuel fires with charcoal or hard wood are risking hefty fines. So Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Educator Heather Winn is recommending fresh produce as a healthy and economical solution.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ‘Choose My Plate’ guidelines, we should really work to make at least 50 percent of our plate fruits and vegetables,” said Winn. “Buying fresh vegetables in season, like at a farmers’ market, often costs less, and they are likely to be at their peak flavor.”
Winn likes salads and grilled foods in the summer. She has a gas grill outside, as well as an indoor grill.
“We like to grill, and we also eat lots of salads in the summer,” she said.
Like Winn, local resident Carlye Parkes is serving her family more produce.
“We do a lot of salads and fruit,” said Parkes. “We also use the crock pot a lot more in summer, trying to avoid the oven.”
Peggy Trowbridge, food service industry professional and contributor to Home Cooking at about.com, offers several alternatives to oven cooking.
“If you have to use your kitchen, a pressure cooker can dramatically reduce cooking times on top of the stove, and a clay cooker can handle an entire meal in about an hour in the oven,” said Trowbridge. “And remember, many of your oven recipes can be converted to the crock pot. A fondue party can everyone involved in the cooking, while keeping the heat out of the kitchen.”
Local resident Jim Masters Jr. often posts photos of his grilled dinner fare on Facebook, but his “friends” may have noticed a change, thanks to the 100-plus degree heat index. One of his most recent posts raved about homemade peach ice cream.
“I have not done very much outside, giving the wood and charcoal cookers a rest,” said Masters. “[Right now, I’m making] mostly cooler things. I’ve made ice cream, [and have been] working with fresh fruits and veggies. What grilling I have done has been inside with my cast-iron griddle. Really, [I] think we all have had enough summer.”
Dana Waters, also a Tahlequah resident, uses an electric hot plate outside for some recipes, but for the most part, she sticks to items that require minimal cooking.
“[We’re eating] lots more pasta salads, summer sausages, fruits and smoothies, cold plates, watermelon, crepes instead of pancakes and waffles,” said Waters. “[I have a] hot plate outside for frying veggies, and a nearby sprinkler to run through during the process. [We’re] making sure to hydrate rather than eat. [I’m opting for] wraps instead of sandwiches. We are also making our own lemonade and limeade, and only eat one thing at a time, rather than a meal.”
According to Derek Halstead, contributor to coolwriteups.com, many vegetables and fruits can provide necessary hydration in searing weather.
“Obviously, water is a must for us humans, but there are fruit and veggies in high water content that will [help] keep you feeling cool, fresh and hydrated,” wrote Halstead. “Cucumber, a cool summer food idea, contains a high level of potassium – almost 450 milligrams in one cup, which helps maintain the mineral balance in the body when it’s losing fluids. They are also rich in a lipid component called ‘sterol’ that can help bring down cholesterol levels. Sterol is found mostly in the skin of the cucumber, so think twice before you peel away valuable nutrition.”
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