Cooking during different seasons creates different results. In the winter, an oven full of casseroles, meats or cookies is a great way to warm up the house. In July, you only need to step outside to feel like you are in an oven. I have been looking for ways to cook without warming up my house. I love to grill hamburgers and brats, but I like to have a little bit more variety and flexibility. I hate having to keep a close eye on flare ups and burnt steaks.  
    I tried these three recipes, and they are going in my collection of favorites. I will grab a couple of rotisserie chickens from the grocery story to create quick summer meals and salads. Because I am not going to the store as much and I had a couple of birds in my freezer, I thought I could make them at home while keeping my house on the cooler side. I found this recipe online, and it is perfect. The slow cooker keeps the kitchen cool while providing a low temperature to completely cook the dark meat and not dry out the breast meat.  

Slow cooker rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika
    Coat slow cooker with cooking spray. Roll a piece of aluminum foil into a rope to ring around the bottom to serve as a rack for the chicken. Place whole chicken (neck and giblets removed) on top of ring. Mix spices together and rub all over the bird. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or until temperature is 165 degrees. Transfer to a baking sheet and place under broiler 4-5 minutes until skin is crispy brown.  

    I found this dip recipe in the “Simply in Season Cookbook.” My spinach is in full production, and I needed something to do with it. This dip is great with veggies or pita bread. I love to spread it on hamburger buns when I am making hamburgers for supper. It is the easiest way to dress up a plain old burger. It is also good on leftover chicken sandwiches. I added bacon bits to the recipe and the flavors just popped.

Garlic spinach dip “Simply in Season Cookbook”
2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 cups fresh spinach, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup bacon bits
Salt
Tabasco pepper sauce to taste
    Sauté the garlic in 1 teaspoon oil until soft in fry pan. Add the spinach to the fry pan one handful at a time as it wilts, adding a little water as needed to prevent sticking. Place cooked spinach and garlic in blender or food processor. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender, cover and blend until smooth. Place in covered bowl in refrigerator for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend.  

    I have found the perfect cookie recipe. These cookies have now become our family favorite. You can freeze the dough to bake later or freeze the baked cookies to eat later. They never get hard and will thaw enough to eat by the time you reach the front door of the barn.

Almond Joy cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups chocolate chips
2 cups sweetened coconut
2 cups chopped almonds, toasted
    Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs one at time while mixing. Add vanilla extract. Mix flour, baking soda and salt together. Slowly add to creamed mixture. Add coconut, chips and nuts. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Let cool five minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Makes six dozen. Freezes perfectly. I know 5 cups of chips might seem like overkill, but try mixing different types of chips: semi-sweet, milk, butterscotch or vanilla. If you love the taste of coconut, add 1 teaspoon coconut extract and cut back the vanilla to 2 teaspoons. Chopped walnuts or pecans work too. If you do not want to heat up the kitchen but want to have some cookies on hand, make the dough. Roll into balls. Place on cookie sheet and freeze. Place frozen cookie dough balls in sealed bag until you cannot resist the temptation to have fresh cookies. They may take a bit longer to bake so keep an eye on them. These have become my new go-to cookie.
    Enjoy these recipes while you try to stay cool.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.