Favorite summer recipes

It’s probably hot where you are, and if you’re like me, your motivation to cook is low when the temperature is high. Below is a collection of some of my favorite summer recipes — all easy, quick, and light. Some don’t even require heat from a stove! (And yes, many of them are pasta, but it’s a good variety of types of sauces!)

Light meals

Sides and sweets

Smoky tempeh chili (4-5 servings)

I love smoky flavors. The deep, toasty scent and aroma of smoked foods transport me to chilly evenings when the breeze is heavy with the scent of woodsmoke and fallen leaves. Last week’s heat wave in Durham could be the reason I’ve found myself craving smoky dishes lately!

Today’s chili recipe, which is very loosely based on this one from Connisseurus Veg, is a snap to put together. If you’ve been curious about tempeh but haven’t taken the plunge yet, this is a great starting point. This chili is dairy-free and can be made gluten-free if you buy wheat-free tempeh and make sure your broth doesn’t contain gluten.

If you want the recipe only slightly smoky, use the first version of each ingredient listed. If you want a deeper smoky flavor, use some or all of the ingredient versions in parentheses below.

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1 8-oz package tempeh, cut or crumbled into chunks [I used Lightlife three-grain tempeh]

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 16-oz jar salsa (use chipotle salsa for smokiness)

  • 1 tsp onion powder (toasted onion powder)

  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted)

  • 1 15-oz can pinto, kidney, or black beans, drained [I used a mixed can of all three types]

  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes, minced

  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

  • 3/4 cup corn kernels (roasted corn)

  • 1 cup water or vegetable broth

Steps:

  1. Add vegetable oil to a stockpot and turn heat to medium. Once the oil is hot, add the tempeh pieces and saute for about 5 minutes, trying to brown it on all sides.

  2. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.

  3. Stir in all the remaining ingredients (If your corn is frozen, don’t bother to thaw it first) and increase the heat to medium-high. Once the mixture boils, lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the chili is nice and thick.

  4. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite chili toppings: Cheese (vegan or not), avocado, cilantro, scallions, or crushed tortilla chips!

This chili is very filling, and it freezes well too!

Smoky-spicy bar mix (~3.5 cups)

I don't know about all of you, but if I'm ever going to be caught off guard by a social event or expectation, it's going to happen in November or December. Between thoughts of, "That party is this week?" and, "I thought you were getting the hostess gift," I find myself scrambling at least once a week from now until after New Year's.

And yes, I do recognize the irony of working part-time as an executive functioning coach while I struggle with time management and organization myself.

But anyway, whether you're fumbling to figure out what to serve as an appetizer for Thanksgiving, bring to a friend's holiday housewarming, give to your coworker for a Secret Santa gift, or present to that tough-to-shop-for relative, I've got the solution: A jar of crunchy, salty, smoky, spicy nuts and seeds from Oh She Glows. The recipe is dairy-free and vegan, and it can be made gluten-free by swapping out the soy sauce for coconut aminos. And it takes almost no time to put together!

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 1/4 cups raw unsalted cashews
  • 1 1/4 cups raw unsalted almonds
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or chips (Something like this -- not traditional sweetened, shredded coconut)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or hot sauce (I used chipotle-flavored hot sauce)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
  2. Mix the cashews, almonds, coconut, and sesame seeds in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl (or even a mug), mix the remaining ingredients with a fork or small whisk.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the nuts mixture and toss to coat evenly.
  5. Spread the mixture out on the baking sheet in a thin layer.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes; stir, and then bake for another 10 minutes, or until the coconut flakes are golden brown.
  7. Allow to cool; store in an airtight container (if it makes it that far).

I made a few tiny changes to the original recipe; I increased the cashews and almonds and decreased the liquid smoke slightly. The original author recommended running the range fan and opening a window, so that made me a little leery of using the full liquid smoke amount. Even with the smaller amount, it was still pleasantly smoky, especially since I used chipotle hot sauce in addition to the smoked paprika.

By the way, if you're on the fence about the coconut, don't skip it! Yes, it's unusual, but in the oven, it becomes crispy and golden, and it lends a beautiful flavor without being too assertive. I wouldn't say it tastes coconut-y at all, really!

Brownie in a mug (1 serving)

Like many people, I have a note-saving app on my phone. The things I save there tend to fall into one of two categories: Items I plan to refer to again eventually (a collection of must-see places in Scotland, quotations I pull out of books I read, a list of pun Halloween costumes I'll probably never make or wear) and information I might need in a hurry (the combination of my gym lock, a list of repair companies for various household items). This brownie recipe fits the latter category. If you claim you've never had a moment where all you needed in this world was an emergency brownie, then you are a liar. We've all been there at some point.

I've been referring to this recipe from time to time (ahem) for several years now, and I don't even remember where I found it originally. It's quick and convenient and produces a brownie that's crumblier and less fudgy than what I'd cut out of a pan of traditional brownies, but in a pinch, it's better than decent. It's dense and warm with a rich chocolate flavor that can be enhanced with any number of add-ins, from dried cherries to peanut butter. The only thing healthy about the recipe is that the single serving size keeps me from eating half a pan of brownies on my own. And that counts for something, right?

Click here for a printable recipe.    

You will need:   

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp chocolate chips

Steps:

  1. Melt butter in mug.
  2. Stir sugar and vanilla into butter.
  3. Add salt and yolk.
  4. Add flour and cocoa powder and mix.
  5. Stir in chips.
  6. Microwave for 45 seconds on high. Enjoy your piping hot brownie!

Again, this brownie isn't as satisfying as your grandma's, but it's WAY better than the "omg these low-fat microwave brownies are ahhh-mazing and they're made with only unsweetened applesauce, mashed organic black beans, and unbridled despair!" recipes that are all over Pinterest. I promise.

Vegan raspberry crumble bars

I don't think of myself as a particularly wise person. In general, I have more questions than I have answers, which I think is a perfectly acceptable way to live. (How boring would life be if we had all the answers already?) However, there are two things I'm totally sure about. First, life is all about collecting opportunities -- trying new things, taking risks, learning from each other, and making mistakes. Second, almost any dish can be enhanced by a sprinkling of buttery crumbs on top. Life is just sweeter with crumbs.

Love & Lemons' raspberry crumble bars are no exception. Coconut oil, walnuts, and sugar make rich, soft-yet-crunchy clusters that cover a gooey, glossy raspberry layer.

You will need:

  • 4 Tbsp coconut oil, hardened in the fridge
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup brown or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup raspberry jam (preferably juice-sweetened)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a small baking dish with parchment paper or spray it with non-stick spray.
  2. Use a food processor to blend the coconut oil, flour, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt until the mixture is the consistency of wet sand. (Add a tiny bit of water if you need to make it hold together better.)
  3. Press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the bottom crust for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are just barely golden brown. (It took longer for me than the original recipe said.) Remove from the pan and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
  4. Once the bottom crust has cooled, spread the raspberry jam on top.
  5. Add a little water to the remaining crumb mix until it holds well enough to form clusters. Sprinkle the crumb clusters on top of the jam and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the top crumbs are golden brown. Remove from oven.
  6. Allow the pan to cool most of the way on the counter, and then put the pan in the fridge to cool completely. These bars are much easier to slice and remove from the pan when they're chilled!

Between the walnuts and the coconut oil, these bars are certainly not low-fat. However, they do have the potential to be fairly healthy, depending on what type of flour and sugar you use. In fact, I think that next time I make them, I might cut down on the sugar, as they were pretty darn sweet!