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Water cooler: Cold meals to fill up on when the weather gets warm

When Mother Nature turns up the heat, chilled dinners – such as pasta salad – are a perfect go-to meal.  (Associated Press)
When Mother Nature turns up the heat, chilled dinners – such as pasta salad – are a perfect go-to meal. (Associated Press)

It seems a little counterintuitive to cook up a warm meal after you’ve spent all day trying to cool yourself and your home down, but alas dinner must be made. In the pandemic era, cooking from home became a trend born of necessity.

Now that restaurants are more available than before, the need to cook at home isn’t as dire, but it is still the most budget-friendly and often healthiest way to eat. So before this heat wave makes you call quits on eating at home, check out these cold meal ideas to bring into your culinary repertoire this summer.


This might seem like an obvious one, but smoothies are a fantastic way to incorporate a lot of nutrients in your meal without heating up a single thing . There are infinite varieties, but the overall idea is simple.

First you’ll need a liquid base. This could be milk or a milk alternative, yogurt, fruit juice, water or a combination. Choose your fruit and vegetable ingredients – they can be frozen or fresh. Get these soft ingredients blended first, then add some ice and sweetener to taste if you like.

For an extra boost of nutrition add ground flax seed, chia seed, hemp hearts, your favorite protein powder, bee pollen, maca powder or nutritional yeast – the possibilities are endless.

A few ideas:

Blueberry, cucumber with lemon zest and juice. Blended with yogurt and sweetened to taste.

Banana, almond and oats. Blended with almond, oat or hemp milk. Sweeten with agave to taste.

Strawberry, spinach and peanut butter for a PB&J inspired flavor. Blend with almond milk. Sweeten with agave to taste.

Mango, pineapple and banana. Blended with coconut milk. Sweeten with pineapple juice if desired.

Antipasto platters

Paired with a nice loaf of bread, an antipasto platter is more filling than you might think. It’s also a really easy way to incorporate a lot of fresh fruits and veggies into your meal.

The main staples of most platters are cold meats and cheeses. Popular meat choices are salami, prosciutto, pancetta, pepperoni or other deli meats. Choose your favorite cheeses, anything from gouda to sharp cheddar, feta, mozzarella – you name it.

Add some color and sweetness with berries, grapes, stone fruit and maybe even some melons. Pickled vegetables like olives, artichoke hearts or asparagus spears add in the salty tang. Mix in some fresh vegetables too like radish, carrots and cherry tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic and roasted peppers add a rustic flavor. Hummus and pesto are classic accompanying dips, and they can be done a thousand ways – customize them to your favorite flavors. Nuts will be great to incorporate some more protein. Choose your preference of roasted, fresh, salted or unsalted. Don’t forget a little jam for a sweet spread, some mustards if you like and of course some decadent bread. Pita bread or a baguette are classic choices.

Pasta salad

OK, so you still have to cook the pasta, but do that in the early morning or evening hours while it’s cool, then let the pasta cool and store in the fridge for when you’re ready to make your pasta salad.

You can use any type of pasta – macaroni, bow-tie, rotini, shells, even spaghetti. The idea is simple. You need your pasta, a dressing and whatever vegetables, herbs, meats or cheeses you’d like to use as ingredients.

A few ideas:

Macaroni salad – Red onion, bell pepper and celery for crunch. Green onions and parsley for fresh, zesty flavor. The dressing is a mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Add paprika for some smokiness and color. Mix in with cooked macaroni pasta.

Italian salad – Salami, mozzarella balls or chunks and olives for the staples. Cherry tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes for color and flavor. Add parsley, oregano and sliced pepperoncini for some spice. Mix in with bow-tie pasta, Italian vinaigrette and shredded parmesan.

Broccoli cheddar salad – Keep the broccoli raw, or blanch it in boiling water until the broccoli is bright green and slightly tender. Transfer blanched broccoli to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Add cubed cheddar, crispy bacon crumbles and red onion. The dressing requires mayonnaise, red wine vinegar (about ¼ cup to every cup of mayonnaise), salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Toss with rotini pasta.

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