10 Ways to Prepare Your Kitchen for Summer Cooking

Summer is finally here for many of us! The sun is shining, gardens have been planted, outdoor parties are booked and ice cream trucks are chiming their sweet little ditty. A change of season means a few changes in your kitchen. Here are some tips to get you going for this beloved time of year.

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1. Swap your Plates. For summer, you may be changing up your bedding and going with a lighter-colored duvet cover for the season (I've gone with blue stripes this year and love it!). Doing a similar swap in the kitchen with plates also ushers in that summer palette of bright lightness. Trade out your darker-colored plates for pastel and white shades.

2. De-clutter your counters and use fruit as a decoration. I had Kahlua and cassis liqueur hanging around for ages on my counter (don't ask me why!); putting them in a proper cabinet and showcasing local, fresh produce on a pretty platter is a much better look for summer.

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3. Start an herb garden. For roughly ten dollars, you can buy several herb starts that will pay off all summer long. Basil, thyme, rosemary, mint and lavender are all easy to grow and are quite economical considering how many clippings I use during my summer season. Plus, tending an herb garden is a great project for a beginner green thumb. That's me! My husband is in charge of the garden; I'm in charge of the herbs.
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4. Place summer appliances where you can reach them. Dust off the cobwebs and pull the following towards the front of your cabinets: blender, waffle iron, food processor, ice cream maker, rice cooker. All of these appliances make food easy to assemble without having to turn on the oven — so key in summer heat!

5. Stock up on some inexpensive wines for summer. I love Prosecco and many varieties are very reasonably priced and complement grilled, summer foods beautifully. Besides, who doesn't love some bubbly!? You'll set a festive mood instantly. Throw a handful of fresh berries into each glass for a lovely look and delicate flavor.

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6. Create a ready-to-go picnic basket. A picnic basket already prepared with linens and silverware makes impromptu park gatherings and picnics a breeze! Just add bread, cheese, and some fresh fruit and your self!
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7. Pick up a few extra ice trays. Nothing is sadder than getting ice for a cocktail and realizing you're fresh out. I've gotten my priorities straight this summer and bought a few extra ice trays.

8. Clean your stove top. Just do it, you'll be glad you did!

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9. Find a pitcher for summertime ice teas, lemonades or spiked punches. Estate sales, thrift shops and garage sales are all good resources for this type of purchase. The more variety in shape and size (I have quite a few I also use as flower vases in the summer), the better.
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10. Flip through old cookbooks and mark a few new, summery recipes you'd like to try. It still amazes me how my old cookbooks surprise me with new ideas, which change from season to season. A more pointed, seasonal search may steer you into creating dishes you've never tried!

Will you try any of these tips? Do you have your own way of ushering in summer to your kitchen? I'd love to hear about it and add to the list!

Related: My Top 10 Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)

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