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When the heat of summer is upon us, we don't want to be stuck cooking in the heat of the kitchen, yet everyone must eat, of course. While summer is also a great time to barbecue, many times its simply too hot and humid to start up the coals. Here are some quick and easy tips for eating healthy, but staying cool.

First of all, plan ahead. Try watching the extended weather forecast when planning your meals: if it's going to be rainy and cool on Wednesday, then save Wednesday for a meat loaf and baked potato. However, if the heat is on and there's no end in sight, the best thing to do is use the crock pot. The crock pot is the most underused appliance in the kitchen, and one of the most inexpensive, too! Not only is it great for cold winter nights, but a full course meal without the heat of the stove is perfect for summer. Virtually anything can be cooked in a crock pot: a pot roast with potatoes and carrots, meat balls and sausage in tomato sauce, and pork and sauerkraut. Also, a cheaper cut of beef, such as flank steak, can be simmered all day until it's juicy and tender. Crock pot meals are also quick and easy to prepare: just toss everything in the pot and turn it on! All you have to do is add a salad and you have a perfect meal.

Getting back to the weather forecast, plan around a rainy Sunday. A leisurely, damp Sunday afternoon is the best time to prepare all your meals in advance: from French toast you can freeze and have the kids pop in the toaster in the morning to pans of lasagna, which can be frozen or cooked and separated and frozen into individual servings that only need to be heated in the microwave.

Another helpful appliance is a bread machine. Although a bit more expensive than a crock pot and not as practical, it does add the feeling of warmth to the kitchen without the heat! There's nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread as you walk in from a day at work.

A loaf of bread, a pot roast, and a salad can all be prepared quickly, inexpensively, and without raising the temperature of your kitchen. Who could ask for a better meal?