Turn Off the Oven: 25 No-Cook Meals
Making a meal in the summer doesn’t mean you have to cook. For many delicious meals, you need only “assemble.” Below are 25 cool, easy options. A few of the recipes below require just a little bit of cooking: boiling some pasta, making hard-boiled eggs, or frying bacon. Don't let that scare you off! It's maybe 15 minutes of range cooking at most, with no turning on the oven required. (See also: 25 Great, Cheap, and Easy Crock Pot Recipes)
1. Cold Avocado Soup With Sweet Corn and Bacon
This cold avocado soup with sweet corn and bacon from Joy the Baker is absolutely delicious. You can cheat a little and use frozen, defrosted corn, or canned corn and bacon bits, if that tiny bit of cooking is daunting. We liked it with some tortilla chips on the side.
Fire up your blender for this classic cold soup recipe.
3. Cold Russian Beet Soup
This is a very refreshing, pretty soup. The author suggests serving this cold beet soup with pumpernickel bread, and I agree — that’s the perfect thing.
4. Simple Mexican Salad
I have already made this salad four times this summer. I am completely hooked on it! I also made the main recipe (the corn cakes with eggs), which was fabulous. Check out, though, the simple side salad (scroll down). Not only is this a very pretty salad, but it can be made “main dish” with the simple addition of bacon, ham, chicken or shrimp.
5. California Wrap
Wrap it up! This California wrap sandwich from the Food Network is made extra-delicious with the homemade ranch dressing. The possibilities for wraps are pretty much endless.
6. Cool Veggie Pizza
When my friend Nancy Jo makes this veggie pizza, it is a work of art. Me...not so much, but it still tastes great. My modification, because either you love Miracle Whip or you don’t — leave out the Miracle Whip. (Apologies to those of you who love it.)
7. Spring Rolls
A little more labor intensive are spring rolls. I must confess that mine never come out looking very pretty, although they taste good. Just about the time I get the hang of rolling them, I am out of ingredients! If you are good with your hands, these are really popular at potlucks. I love that I don’t feel guilty for eating them, because they are so packed with healthy goodies. We especially like the peanut sauce for dipping.
8. Red Pepper Hummus
This is one of my daughter’s favorites. She doesn’t really enjoy cooking and complains about the heat, so it’s red pepper hummus and crackers to the rescue. Hummus is very healthy, cool, and easy to make. It’s also very inexpensive!
Also from my daughter — CEREAL! Yes, it's easy. It’s cool. It's nutritious. She isn’t the only one I know who eats cereal for dinner occasionally, so I had to include it. I am too much the traditionalist to eat cereal for dinner, but I know folks who will defend it.
Inexpensive, protein-rich, easy. Try rinsed black beans with canned corn, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, a dash of olive oil and salt. I like the fat-free refried beans with chips, a little fat-free sour cream, and salsa. Rinsed cannellini beans, cold pre-cooked shrimp, and canned green beans sprinkled with feta — YUM!
11. Speedy Salade Nicoise
This Salade Nicoise is so delicious that I have taken to cooking extra red potatoes whenever I cook potatoes, just to have some on hand for this salad.
12. Cobb Salad
The best Cobb salad I ever had was at Bob’s Ranch House, in tiny Etna, California. I hope it’s still on the menu. Fortunately, they are easy to make at home.
13. Chef's Salad
Another popular no-cook salad that really has it all is the chef's salad. I like this very traditional version. You can dress a chef's salad up or down, and give it an Italian flair with deli meats and cheeses.
14. Salmon Spread
Salmon spread is something I could devour all by myself. I really have to watch it! Serve with crackers and grapes.
15. Chicken Pesto Croissant
I usually reserve sandwiches for lunch, but I will make an exception for delicious sandwiches like this chicken pesto croissant.
16. Curried Tofu Salad
I have admitted it before — I am not a big fan of tofu. Add curry, though, as with this curried tofu salad, and I’m in!
17. Pasta Salad
Pasta salads are another area where you can have endless combinations, especially if you have cooked ham, chicken, roast beef, shrimp, and beans around. Pick up some herbs to add in. Yes, you have to boil the noodles and chill them, but it’s worth the steam. I like to double the recipes and then we have lunch ready to go, too. Here is a good pasta salad recipe.
18. Sardines or Oysters
Chill, and then open, a can of sardines or smoked oysters. This makes a refreshing dinner with some crackers, cheese, and fruit. Enjoy a glass of white wine and feel elegant.
19. Asian Noodle Salad
20. Curried Rice Salad
Curried Rice-a-Roni salad, in fact. Again, a minimum of cooking is needed, and this salad needs to chill. When I was a kid, my mother made it, and I just LOVED it.
21. Stuffed Tomatoes
We cannot end this without the stuffed tomato! Scoop out a large, chilled tomato and fill with tuna salad, chicken salad, or ham salad. (Beginner cooks — to make these salads, add a little mayo to chopped, cooked meat. Add some sliced green onions, pickle relish if you like it, and a little chopped celery.) Serve with Triscuits.
22. Cheese Board
I love a cheese board with fruit and crackers. You don’t have to buy gourmet cheeses — just buy whatever is on sale, and slice. Serve with grapes, apples, and a little Dijon mustard.
23. Smashed Chickpea Sandwich
If you follow food blogs on Pinterest or Twitter, you would have definitely seen Two Peas & Their Pod’s smashed chickpea sandwich. This recipe went viral, and WOW is it delicious!
24. Cottage Cheese
Talk about lazy, but it’s cold and it’s satisfying — cottage cheese. Toss it into a big scooped-out tomato, pour salsa over, add fruit, top with hard-boiled eggs...whatever. I love cottage cheese, and it is a good source of low-fat protein. My mom used to slather cottage cheese over a Rye-Krisp cracker, top with sliced tomatoes, and liberally salt and pepper. It is very cool and delicious.
25. Chicken With Tarragon Caper Sauce
I saved my favorite no-cook meal for last — chicken with tarragon caper sauce. As you can see, this recipe was published by Bon Appetit in August, 2003. I bet I have made it three or four times a year, since. If you cannot get fresh tarragon, you can use dried. This is also a fantastic use for a cold rotisserie chicken. Serve with French bread, because you will want to get every bit of sauce off of your plate (as long as Letitia Baldridge isn’t at the table).
There you are — 25 easy ways to stay cool at mealtime, with a minimum of fuss. Readers, any easy ideas to add?