As someone who only got central AC in her house two years ago, I know how it is to not want to cook when it’s hot. Many of my peeps in the Pacific Northwest know what I’m talking about. Fellow Northwesterners, I got you. And folx everywhere else? I think these little tips and easy recipes will help all y’all out as well.
Even with AC now, this serious foodie doesn’t like to cook in the summers. It’s the season for chilling, not toiling over the stove. The other problem is, I get tired of ready-made salads and deli items and takeout too.
Quick, Easy + Kid-Friendly Dinner Recipes I Love All Summer Long
Over the past few years I’ve collected some easy dinners that tend to get me through these hot months pretty well. Many of these I make during the rest of the year for lunches too. I cover this stuff a lot on my Instagram if you want to follow me over there for continual ideas (mixed with fashion and my cute pets too, of course.)
First up, a few tips for that keep me sane while feeding my peeps this time of year.
A Few Summer Cooking Tips To Get Us Started
- Cook extra protein anytime you grill. Seems like a no-brainer, but we always forget to do this.
- Roast, bake or boil in early hours in prep for dinnertime later when it’s hot (store in my new fave containers).
- Toaster ovens are life. Smaller oven to heat up = less time and less heat, but still delicious roasty-ness.
- Smoked salmon is so versatile. Put it on toast, salads, rice, noodles, eggs…
- Rice cookers are the best. Rice cookers (my fave — thanks, Em!) don’t heat up the house, and you can plop any leftovers in with a sauce and call it a meal.
- Salads don’t have to be boring. (Trust me, I’m not really a salad girl.) Have things on hand like pickled red onions to make them way better.
- Sauces + spreads are your friends. My faves are pesto, romesco, lemon hummus, tali sauce, chili crisp, olive tapenade, sun-dried-tomato paste and Dijon mustard.
5 Recipes For Light, Simple Summer Meals
Because we do not have extra brain power this time of year for fussy recipes, these below will be very basic ideas of what I use and how I put them together. Nothing is super-specific here, and my main tip is to just taste as you go — that will make you the best cook. You probably know this.
I think Shana calls these recipe-ish. So, we’re going with that.
My other tip is just use the closest thing you have on hand to the ingredients listed. And I’ll say it again, sauces and spreads are your friend and make everything elevated with an easy flick of the wrist, haha. Kitchen magic.
I often buy my pesto (in the refrigerated section, please), hummus, olive tapenade and romesco sauces, and make my dressings and pickled onions or cabbage myself. One batch of both of those lasts through multiple meals!
1. Seared Salmon Over White-Bean Dijon Salad + Fingerling Potatoes
Quick ingredient list: salmon, fingerling potatoes, white beans, arugula, lemon, Dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, S and P
Directions: Roast fingerling potatoes (or boil during cool hours and refrigerate until needed). Pat salmon fillets dry (1 per person), season with salt and pepper, and place in an oiled pan over medium-high heat, skin side down. Fry until cooked mostly through, then flip to finish for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Drain and rinse 1 can of white beans (we like cannellini) and mix with salt and pepper, about 2 tablespoons EVOO, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard to taste. Add in a pinch of sugar for sweetness, if needed. To plate, top arugula with a scoop of bean salad, potatoes and the salmon. Finish with a bit more salt and pepper, a drizzle of good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Yum.
easy hacks + substitutions: Use leftover/store-bought bean or orzo salad, and roast potatoes in your toaster oven — or boil potatoes at night or early in the day + serve cold with the salad. Use smoked salmon on top instead of seared salmon. Use canned potatoes (hey, Nadiya Hussain does it, so it’s good enough for me.)
2. Spicy Ham + Pesto Griddled Wrap (As Seen On TikTok)
Quick ingredient list: tortillas (large soft-taco- or burrito-size), pesto, spicy chili crisp, ham (or any deli slices, including vegan), mayo, spinach and cheese (optional)
Directions: Cut a slit from the center to one edge of the tortillas. Spread 1/4 of the tortilla with pesto, place deli slices on the second 1/4, mayo and baby spinach on the third, and spicy chili crisp (or sub mustard or Dijon) on the fourth. Starting with the final quarter, fold 1/4 of the tortilla over the previous section, then repeat two more times. You have a folded triangle of yumminess now. Put a skillet on over medium heat, and add a bit of oil to the pan and grill each side of the wrap for a couple of minutes, until golden brown. Cool slightly, then serve.
Yummy variations: Of course, any kind of shredded cheese you have on hand + salsa + spinach. Cheese + tomato sauce + spinach + pepperoni (or any of your favorite pizza toppings). Turkey + sauerkraut + Swiss cheese + Thousand Island dressing. The possibilities are endless.
Vegetarian/vegan subs: Trader Joe’s vegan kale pesto + any vegan deli slices + vegan mayo.
3. Whipped-Feta Tomato Toasts (Vegetarian)
Quick ingredient list: sourdough bread (sliced), Greek yogurt, feta cheese, mint, harissa (spice or paste, to taste), sliced tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives (or tapenade), olive oil, cherry tomatoes (optional)
Directions: Toast sourdough bread. Combine yogurt, feta, chopped mint and harissa and whip in a blender or food processor for a few seconds. (If you’re being lazy which is fine here, you can just mix it together instead, but trust me the whipped is worth it!) Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread mixture on the toasts, top with sliced tomatoes and Kalamata olives/tapenade. Drizzle with a good-quality olive oil (look for olive oils with dates on them for best quality), and top with a bit more chopped mint. SO yummy, even for breakfast!
4. Chickpea + Tali Sauce Salad With Pickled Red Onions (Vegan)
Directions: Once you’ve made the vegan tali sauce (even if you’re not vegan, you gotta try this stuff) and pickled red onions, it’s just all about assembly. Use your favorite lettuce greens, top with the rinsed chickpeas (roasted chickpeas would be so yummy!), tali sauce, pickled red onions, and salt and pepper. If you’re not vegetarian or vegan, add a grated hard-boiled egg, tuna, smoked salmon or leftover chicken on top.
5. Pickled Cabbage + Grated Egg Roll-Ups
Quick ingredient list: tortillas, hard-boiled eggs, pesto, mayo, Dijon mustard, pickled cabbage (or pickled onions or sauerkraut), salt and pepper
Directions: For the full video, head to my Instagram Reel here (this guy is tricky to photograph well). But the gist of this yummy meal is to spread pesto, a bit of mayo and Dijon on a tortilla. Grate a hard-boiled egg (yep, my FAVE trick) on top. Top with salt and pepper and pickled cabbage or red onions (if you think onions are too strong, try the cabbage!).
Another trick I love is using Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning on all my salads and sandwiches for a ton of flavor. Fold the bottom up an inch or so, roll the rest up into a wrap, and enjoy!
Pro tip: Buy or make some hard-boiled eggs on your cooking/prep day, and you’ll have them throughout the week to add to wraps like this one and salads. No shame in buying peeled hard-boiled eggs, friends.
Bonus Idea: Snacky Dinner
And this last one is not a recipe, but just a reminder…snacky dinner is the best! For us, snacky dinner is anything we have in the fridge put out in a pretty, organized — or maybe not at all — fashion.
Emily inspired this arrangement last summer, and it’s so freaking great and much less fussy than a charcuterie board. Stack up all your favorite cheese, crackers, spreads, meats and veggies in a baking dish (I love this one), and it’s ready to carry outside for a picnic dinner or even to the table. I just pre-slice anything to keep it super-simple to serve…no need for fancy cheese knives.
And there we have it friends…some easy dinner ideas for late summer when we don’t feel like doing anything but chilling and enjoying this season. I say just add rosé, a yummy watermelon granita or your fave sparkling bubbly water, and dig in!
Would love for you to say hi over on my Instagram @laurajansenstyle where there are mostly odes to snacks, OOTDs, travel and everyday mom-life-stuff in Portland, Oregon. xoxo
This one’s for the pinners…