An idea swap for summertime cooking

So I have an idea and the idea that I have is this.

Let’s each say what we cook All The Time… the booooring stuff. And if we want, let’s say what we do when we want to make it special. Because to somebody reading this blog, it won’t be boring, it’ll be delightfully fresh: an idea swap for summertime cooking.

If you want to tell me something you cook but NOT all the time (big sigh. do you have to be so difficult?) that’s okay too. Let’s get some ideas rolling; I need them.

I’ll go first. Yes, I can tell you would like to go first too, but you see I have the prerogative because it’s my blog. Shh.

When I can’t think of what else to cook, guess what I make?

Eggs and beans.

WHAT?? You already KNEW? Who’s been tattling??

When I want to make them special, I refry chili beans with garlic salt and onion powder and taco seasoning, then layer them in a tortilla with scrambled eggs and salsa—and a side of fresh pineapple. (See? I told you I could tell yesterday’s menu in a way that didn’t make it sound so terrible.)

For lunch I like to make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. If I want to make the tomato soup special, I sauté onions and mushrooms and basil, then add the soup, using half milk in place of water. You have to add the milk to the hot soup slowly or it will curdle.

For supper on cool days like this one, I like to make meatloaf and baked potatoes. They are very plain Jane but a nice Caesar salad helps.

So—tell me what food you cook when you’re bored. Extra points for nutrition, simplicity, economy, and seasonality. (Whoa. I didn’t know seasonality was a word, I was waiting for my spell checker to honk at me.)


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Ruth Byler
10 years ago

My can’t think of anything else to cook thing is tacos, or hamburgers (preferably on the grill) served with a can of baked beans. If i’m really not in the mood to cook like on sunday evenings it’s cereal 🙂 A twist on baked potatoes we like is cubing them up into a pan, dabbing them with butter and seasoning with salt, pepper, greek seasoning,and garlic powder, then roasting them in the oven.

10 years ago

We love eating breakfast food around here; sausage gravy and biscuits is one of our favorite go-to meals when nothing else is planned or prepared ahead.

Want to make consistently good sausage gravy? Measure your ingredients every time. Every. Time. Adjust if needed, but always start with the same “core” amount.

Need a bunch of sausage gravy? Make multiple batches, and dump them into a crockpot to keep hot. I don’t make more than two pounds (meat) in a single batch. Use the widest skillet that you can (you really need a 12″ skillet for 2 lbs sausage). If you dump a bunch of sausage into a stock pot, you aren’t making sausage gravy anymore; more like sausage soup.

Want to kick it up a notch? Fry the sausage, then put it in a food processor and make it really fine. Back into the skillet, and continue as normal. The gravy will have a whole new texture (much smoother), and a much richer sausage flavor.

Don’t have biscuits in a can? Make pancakes instead.

Fun flavor variations: Fix yourself a portion of gravy and biscuits, then sprinkle with a little hot sauce (Franks Red Hot is great). Or, drizzle on a little maple syrup. Or, insert an egg-over-medium between your biscuit and gravy.

Did I mention that we eat a lot of sausage gravy?

10 years ago

My go-to Saturday supper, after working hard all day and usually cooking for the next day, is hotdogs sauteed with onions, mac-n-cheese out of a box, bread, and some veggie from the freezer as a lame attempt at balance.

Then we eat the leftovers for Sunday morning breakfast. Isn’t that gross? But we like it, and it’s more filling than cereal.

10 years ago

easy over eggs served with a vegetable or leafy greens.

10 years ago

We eat a lot of rice. Sweet n sour pineapple chicken over rice, stewed beef chunks over rice, and spanish rice with black beans and tortillas. My family also loves mock ham balls with mashed potatoes, so that a regular. Another favorite is to brown sausage, then add cubed potatoes until they are soft, and then about 4 cups of diced cabbage. Cook until the cabbage is lightly fried, and add seasonings. Yummy!

10 years ago

Right now it’s definitely seasonal. My 11 year old wrote to her grandparents yesterday, “We have been eating squash and cucumbers, and cucumbers and squash.” Our favorite way to eat yellow squash ( besides fried) is to slice ’em up, add a little diced onion if you like, and dump a cup or so of pizza sauce on them. Cover and cook until tender, then toss in a little grated cheese- mozzarella is our favorite. Serve. Even the 19 mo. old eats them this way (but the 5 yr. old whines a little). And if you’ve never eaten cucumber salad over fresh green beans, please give it a try. Cucumbers, onion, tomatoes if you have them, a generous amount of mayo, sugar, vinegar dressing with salt and pepper. Put it right on top of your green beans and dig in. Add a few new potatoes, and some meat for your man, and you have a meal.

10 years ago

My easy go-to meal is chili, especially if I have the hamburger fried and in the freezer already. I make it a lot. I keep tomato juice and red beans on hand, dump it in a pan with the hamburger, and add chili powder, onion flakes, brown sugar, and salt. I just guess the amounts, and taste and adjust. That’s how my mom made it. 🙂 It might look about like this:
1 big can tomato juice, or 1 1/2 quarts homemade
1 15.5 oz can red beans
1/2 to 1 lb hamburger, fried (I don’t skimp on the meat. That makes it good. I don’t think I put a whole pound in, though.)
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder? However much you like.
Lots of onion flakes- 3 Tbsp.? I also put them in my meat when frying it.
1/2 cup brown sugar? However much it takes to cut the tomato taste. I like my chili a bit sweet. Then the salt contrasts with the sweet and really brings out the flavor. Not healthy, I know… did I lose points? I know, you can use sucanat! I think I have before.
Salt to taste

If you want to make the chili soup really filling and super-yummy, add sour cream, shredded cheese, and tortilla chips as toppings.

Another go-to meal is haystack potatoes: a baked potato base, then taco meat, cheese, lettuce, and whatever toppings you like layered on top. We use the same fillings to make tacos, or sometimes we just layer it on top of tortilla chips instead of potatoes. I season my own taco meat instead of using a seasoning mix, with some of the same chili-soup ingredients: ketchup, mustard, chili powder, onion flakes or powder, salt, brown sugar.

I use sea salt instead of regular salt… does that get me more points? 😉

My I-have-had-a-terrible-day-and-have-no-time-to-make-supper meal is toast with hot pork ‘n’ beans on top, and shredded cheese. I never feel like it’s very healthy, but at least there’s protein there! And my husband loves it.

10 years ago
Reply to  Treva

And one more: Quesadillas. Healthy and easy. Here’s the combination that got rave reviews recently:

Layer a tortilla, shredded cheese, black and great northern beans, and corn (I roasted frozen corn on a cookie sheet in the oven first).

Sprinkle salt, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and fresh cilantro (optional).

I like to layer a little shredded cheese on top too, so it melts and sticks together in the pan – it makes it easier to flip! Then add another tortilla.

Crisp and brown the quesadilla on both sides in a skillet over medium heat. No need to spray the skillet. Cut quesadillas with pizza cutter.

You can add toppings like sour cream and salsa, but it really doesn’t need it.

I love this with fresh fruit on the side. You could also add a green salad.

Kim Glenn
10 years ago

Gladys, Regina Z and I used to do a cooking swap. One day a week one of us cooked the main dish for all three families. Two other nights we had a meal ready to go. It was fun…challenging at times but also gave me ideas. We did this in tbe winter though when we had ” more time” 🙂

Go to meals for us in tbe summer…BLT’s. Or any kind of sandwich. Big salads with chicken.

Mama Zook
10 years ago

chicken stir fry is a favorite, and doesn’t take long, I use frozen skinless boneless chicken breasts, and just cube when they are icy yet. Fry quickly in olive oil or butter, just until they lose their pink inside. The vegis can be cauliflower, broccoli, celery, carrots, onions cabbage, zucchini (small sliced), peppers, etc, Fry in olive oil only until they are crisp tender. I sprinkle a little Johnnys season salt (this comes from Washington state so I’m not sure you’ll find it in the east, but use your favorite season) This can be served with rice. Thanks, Shari for the idea of summer cooking sharing!

10 years ago

Spaghetti! Want to make it more special? Put it in a 9×13, sprinkle moz. cheese on top and bake a bit. Cooked potatoes and hamburger gravy is another favorite. Yesterday I took a small batch of bread dough, rolled out a rectangle shape, then cut into squares. The boys put some ham, pepperoni, moz cheese and a little pizza sauce on, then fold in corners and bake. they loved them. I’ve already used ham and cheese for a meal on the road. It’s a new favorite!

Janelle Glick
10 years ago

greek omlet: eggs, chopped spinach, feta cheese all mixed and scrambled in a frying pan – topped with feta cheese – usually steamed broccoli on the side.

OR my husband’s favorite, passed down from his father: fry or bbq hotdogs, slice them down the middle, put in a piece of cheese and top with baked beans in tomato or molasses (straight from tin).

OR scrambled eggs with chopped ham and cheese, served with side of toast
(we like eggs 🙂

10 years ago

We’ve been stuck on taco salad, the kind where everything is tossed together in a big bowl with the dressing.

Soup is often my “I don’t know what to make” meal. It’s not always all that quick, but it’s supper in one dish. Cornbread helps to make it more exciting. For the last half year we’ve usually eaten soup for Sunday lunch. It heats in the crock pot while we’re in church.

Kim Wilson has an ebook, Good and Easy Eats, that has been a staple for me this winter. It features many easy recipes. Her blog url is

Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Florentine Pasta is another tasty, quick dish.

This recipe swap is a great idea! You all have given me several great variations for eggs. I can’t wait to try your chili eggs.

10 years ago

We love baliadas – a Honduran recipe. Ingredients are: flour tortillas, scrambled eggs, refried beans, bacon or ham, cheese, salsa and sour cream. Lay as many flour tortillas as you need for your family on your counter top. Spread refried beans over most of the tortilla. Scramble eggs to put on next. (If I’m using 12 small tortillas, I’ll scramble 6-8 eggs). Put on a slice of bacon or a small piece of ham. Sprinkle with cheese. Fold in half and heat on a dry frying pan till golden on both sides. Serve with salsa and sour cream on the side. Serve with fruit and you have a balanced meal and high in protein. Baliadas are great for breakfast or any meal. Homemade flour tortillas are obviously the best but bought ones are really quick!

10 years ago
Reply to  peteneros

I have been following and enjoying all these ideas…. but quite amazed to see our family favorite here- Honduran baleadas! Having lived in Honduras for 8 years, this is true comfort food for my five children! 🙂

10 years ago

Ok, I love this sharing business, because I feel like I’m always running dry, so I figure I better stop being a free-loader and share mine. Chicken Rotini Alfredo. It’s only half as fancy as it sounds and twice as delicious. Cut up chicken breast (or seasoned chicken souvlaki) and fry. Steam fresh or mixed frozen veggies (I use broccoli, Cauliflower, carrots) Cook pasta of your choice. (I like the tri-coloured rotini ’cause it’s attractive and easy to eat) Alfredo sauce: Opening a jar is easiest, but I make my own by melting 1/2 cup butter, whisk in 8 oz. cream cheese, add 1 cup half and half or milk and parmasan cheese, garlic powder and pepper to taste. Toss with chicken, pasta and veggies. Add a Caesar salad on the side, and cheesy garlic bread to top it off. My picky two almost 3 year old loves this. My 16 mth old prefers the tomato sauce. (Go figure) 🙂

Marlene Stoltzfus
10 years ago

When I don’t know what to make for supper and am in need of cheer, we have breakfast food: pancakes, meat, fruit and yogurt. It always comes out feeling special with little prep. Otherwise, when it’s chilly or gloomy outside (a great portion of the year in NW PA), I make soups and breads. The options of both are endless…potato, lentil with chard, wild rice, smoked sausage bean with cornbread, focaccia, cheese toasts, biscuits. During the summer, it’ll be chicken and black bean or cobb salads, grilled hobos (meat and lots of veggies with butter and seasonings in foil packets), spinach feta pizza, or pasta with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella chunks. I also love my base recipe for stir fry that I use with available ingredients throughout the year.

For lunch, I like quesadillas (refried beans, deli meat and cheese on tortillas), grilled cheese and tomato soup, and lentils and rice.

I like to cook. 🙂 What works well for me is to have some categories to fall back on that can be changed up in the specifics.

Rachel S
10 years ago

For my quick go-to meal, we’ll often eat eggs & scrapple or eggs & gallo pinto (my fav Costa Rican mix of rice & black beans and Lizano sauce) on corn tortillas.Another quickie is taco salads.

10 years ago

Bacon-Ranch Potato Wedges are one of my quickie dishes. Cut precooked baking potatoes (about 6 large ones) into wedges and put them into a 13×9 pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add about half a pound of fried, cut-up bacon. Drizzle generously with ranch dressing. Bake covered at 350 for 30 min. Uncover, sprinkle the top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake 10 minutes longer. Add a salad or vegetable and you have a meal.

Some more of our fast faves are subs, BLTs, fajitas, chips and cheese, and quesadillas. I like making omelets, too, with ham or bacon, cheese, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and black olives tucked into a fluffy egg blanket. Add smoothies to any meal if you’re hungry for something cold and sweet.

10 years ago

This is a great idea! I’m always looking for some simple, but tasty ideas. We like to do alot of grilling in the summer just so not to turn the oven on when its warm. but our everyday staples are…
eggs (custom made to everyone’s order, a few go over-easy, a few omelets w/ bacon bits and cheese, and a few plain scrambled.)
pancakes when I’m in a hurry.
burritos where I just fry taco-seasoned burger and ea. puts on their own toppings wrapped in a tortilla. (lettuce,cheese,tomato,sour cream, and taco sauce)
and anything w/ rice is a favorite, lots of rice. With Stir-fry, haystack, canned chicken fried till a lil crispy w/ taco seasoning then drizzeled w/ sweet chili sauce.
chicken fingers w/ sweet & sour sauce w/ mashed potatoes is also a hit at our house.
I’m not very good at planning ahead w/ meals so an idea I’m currently trying is….. I made a list that looks something like this…
Mon. – pasta night (an easy alfredo over angel hair is our favorite, or spaghetti)
Tues- taco night (which is anything mexican flavored)
Wed. – breakfast (eggs or pancakes, baked oatmeal etc.)
Thurs.-meat & potatos (usually chicken, meatloaf or meatballs w/ mashed potatos)
Fri. – pizza or stromboli
Sat. – sandwiches
With this as a base plan it allows me to pick within the category what ingred. I have on hand, but gets me started on a category…

All that said, I need to share our latest favorite tho….. I’ve given the recipe out, i don’t know how many times.
Chicken Chipotle-Fast version (there’s a recipe to marinade your own chicken breast strips)

frozen seasoned grilled or pre-cooked chicken fajita strips (amt your family eats in a meal)
Saute 2 cups rice w/ chopped onion (amt to family’s liking) in 2 T oil.
Add 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 t. salt, 4 t. chicken base, 1 t cumin, 1 t oregano, 1 t garlic powdr, 4 c water & simmer for 20 min. (or put it into rice cooker) I like to add fresh cilantro for a great taste!

2 15oz cans black beans, drained (or just one if your children aren’t for beans)
add 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 T. chili pwdr, 3/4 tsp lemon pepper, 1/2 t. salt, and 1/2 T cilantro

Put cooked rice in bottom of 9×13 pan top with seasoned beans, then chicken strips. Put 1 1/2 c sour cream, and 2-3 c. shredded cheddar cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 30 min. or less if ingred. are warm. Serve w/ lettuce, tomatos, salsa and ranch. Serves 15 (or in our family only about 8:)
There are fun variations to this: you can put the rice, beans and chicken separate and make a bar out of it for parties (was a great success for Kevin’s 40th!) with the option of making a stack or wrapping in tortilla’s w/ fresh guacamole YUMMMY!
For those not wanting to spend on the frozen chicken strips (can get a lil’ pricey) the recipe to marinade your own overnight is: 2T lemon juice, 1 1/2 t seasoning salt, 1 1/2 t oregano, 1 1/2 t.cumin,1 t. garlic salt, 1/2 tsp chili pwdr, 1/2 tsp paprika. fry in oil till done.

Sorry to be so long-winded:)

10 years ago
Reply to  Lori

I’m glad you were long-winded! Thank you for the recipe!

10 years ago

Here’s my most recent favorite summertime supper: loaded baked potato salad served with yellow squash as a side. To cook the squash, wash and cube and place in a kettle with a small amount of butter and salt (no water) and cook on low for longer than you think it should take until it’s tender. For the potato salad cube and cook until tender as many potatoes as you think your family will eat. Make a dressing of sour cream and milk (lots of milk you don’t want it dry) seasoned with chives and garlic powder and salt. Stir it all together with minced onions and bacon and shredded cheese. Garnish with cheese and chives. Chill and serve. The best part is that you can make it ahead and simply pull it out and set it on the table at supper time, unless you’re running behind in which case you simply eat it warm. Sorry that I can’t give amounts; I’ve made it only a few times and so far I just dump and stir and taste until it’s good.

10 years ago
Reply to  Bethany

Mmmm, yummy. That sounds good. I’m trying this.

9 years ago

I absolutely love refried beans and eggs, when we lived in Guatemala it was a common supper for the natives, and it became somewhat of a habit for us too.

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