Be cool Baby, think ahead to beat that Northern California heat

I was surprised to see our PG&E bill was not so bad this month, despite night after night with windows closed and air conditioner running into the wee hours. “Not so bad” compared to my neighbors and friends who have been reporting bills as high as $800.  I don’t know what their habits are, but conservation pays. Right now, it’s 5:46 am, and I can hear air conditioners on all over my neighborhood. 

There’s a sweet breeze sliding in through my windows right now.  I can also hear the dam-ned freeway – people seem to be getting out earlier, trying to beat those triple digits. Somewhere I can hear the back-up dinger on a big truck or bulldozer or something – sure, I know, these people have to work outside in this heat, so they get out early.  Me too. But, I’ll tell you what – sometimes I wish I knew where their bedroom window was, so I could come over and annoy the hell out of them for an hour or so in the wee hours. I mean, I get up early, but I try to keep down the obnoxious behaviors until at least 7:05.

The other day I stayed in all day and cooked. I figured, if the air conditioner is going to start running at 10am, I might as well be in there doing something hot. But I kept it to a minimum. First I put a couple of boneless chicken breasts in a frying pan with a lid and simmered them on low, about 10 minutes per side. When they feel done to the touch I turn them off and let them sit in the pan to finish up and then cool off. 

Then I dice up a Fuji apple and a stick of celery, throw in a mashed clove of garlic.  To this I add about a cup of mayonnaise/yogurt, about two tablespoons of honey, two teaspoons of curry, and some salt and pepper, stir that all up in a big salad bowl. Then I dice up and add the chicken. I make sure all the chicken is good and covered, add more dressing if necessary, put it in a dish with a tight cover and into the fridge.

I wanted to have plenty of cold stuff to snack on during this hot streak, so I made another simple dish – black bean dip. I use canned black beans, so it’s easy as heck. One thing – you need lime juice, it’s just a must. I got a bag of limes for cheap at Safeway, they’re nice to have for a lot of dishes, or just to add a section to a glass of water. I also like to have some roasted garlic with this recipe, so I bought a bag of garlic pretty cheap too. I didn’t have time to grow garlic this year, just forgot, but it’s so cheap at the store who cares.

I buy my canned black beans already cooked because I’ve had the worst time trying to learn how to cook black beans. I just dump them out of the can into a big wide bowl and mash them with a potato masher. I add at least two tablespoons of lime juice, a few cloves of roasted garlic, salt and pepper, and a little onion powder, and Boy Howdy, there it is. 

It’s been so hot, I have to get up in the wee hours to make a loaf of bread, so some days I just make a couple of flat breads, they’re quicker, 10 minutes cooking as opposed to 40 minutes. Sometimes I drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle on some parmesan cheese – this makes a very flat crispy bread. The other bread I just stretch and put on the pizza stone – this one turns out bready and rubbery, and can be loaded with tasty items and put back into the oven long enough to bake a topping. 

All this work certainly paid off.

Put it all together, and you have a nice cold treat waiting for dinner.

Put it all together, and you have a nice cold treat waiting for dinner, or just an afternoon sampler. That’s a real, vine ripened tomato there. 

Cold food is so good right now. We had that salad and bean dip for a couple of days, now I’ll have to think of something else. It will involve tomatoes for sure.

Even now I can imagine these tomatoes with a drizzle of homemade Ranch dressing.

Even now I can imagine these tomatoes with a drizzle of homemade Ranch dressing.

I like to make a dressing with yogurt/mayonnaise, buttermilk, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, and a squirt of “wooster” sauce – I call it buttermilk Ranch. Don’t be afraid to use alot of parmesan – for a cup of mayonnaise/yogurt I use a half cup finely grated cheese. And the lemon juice and fresh garlic are important, but be careful with that garlic!

Roasted garlic is way more mellow – just rub a whole bulb with olive oil and wrap it in foil, put it in the oven with something else you’re cooking maybe – it’s done in about 20 minutes at 350, when you can squeeze it between your fingers it’s done.  I would roast a couple at a time, keep them in the fridge for recipes, or spread on crackers or bread. My kids even like roasted garlic, it’s not so sharp.

When I get really hot, I don’t think so straight.  I have to think ahead, while that sweet breeze is blowing across my shoulders. 




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