Summer meals should be easy to prepare and full of fresh flavors. Light meals that cook quickly won’t weigh your family down on a hot day or keep you in the kitchen instead of enjoying your favorite summer activities. Whether shopping at the supermarket or farmers’ market, take advantage of the bounty of summer produce to help create easy summer meals for your family.
Perfectly ripe, tender produce, minimally prepared, is the essence of easy summer cooking. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are best eaten raw in the summertime with no cooking at all. Summer is the best time to eat berries, melons, cherries, peaches, plums and nectarines. Add a side of fresh fruit to your meals or serve them for an easy dessert. Showcase the best of summer vegetables by including fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and sweet corn in quick, easy meals.
An easy summer breakfast incorporates fresh fruit, whole grains and dairy or protein. Smoothies made with frozen bananas, peanut butter, and milk or yogurt and berries are cool and quick. Add a slice of whole-grain toast or an English muffin on the side. Blend a big batch of smoothies and freeze in individual containers; let them thaw for a nearly instant breakfast. Top your kids' favorite whole-grain cereal or oatmeal with fresh berries or fresh sliced peaches. Bake a batch of muffins, packed with summer fruit, when you have extra time and keep them in the freezer. Hard-boiled eggs, kept in the fridge, are a cool and quick way to add a serving of protein. They are also highly portable for mornings on the go. Add summer veggies to breakfast by scrambling eggs with minced green onions and tiny cherry tomatoes, cut in half. Add a pop of flavor your kids will enjoy by sprinkling dry ranch seasoning mix into the eggs while they're cooking.
It's not always easy to get kids to sit down for lunch on a sunny, summer day. Keep it light, fresh and fun, and they'll be ready to sit down and refuel. Cold sandwiches filled with ham, turkey, tuna or egg salad are tasty but can get a little boring. Jazz up a typical sandwich lunch by serving it with a thawed smoothie from the freezer. For hot days when nobody wants to eat a big lunch, make a meal of healthy snacks. Serve slices of low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers and fresh fruit or try peanut butter on whole grain crackers with fresh veggie sticks and creamy dip. Add rolled-up slices of lean deli ham or turkey for extra protein.
Keep dinner fast and fresh by pairing quick-cooking proteins with lots of fresh veggies. Fish, chicken and tender cuts of meat cook quickly on the grill. Grill vegetables alongside, and dinner is ready without heating up your kitchen. You can even grill fresh peach halves or pineapple rings for dessert. Toss lightly sauteed vegetables with pasta and grilled chicken; top with Parmesan for a light pasta primavera. Assemble a pasta or potato salad, chock full of fresh vegetables, ahead of time to get dinner on the table fast. Add cooked shrimp or diced chicken for a one-dish meal. Green salads become a complete meal when topped with grilled chicken, shrimp or steak and served with whole-grain bread.
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