I loved having my kids home in the summer; it was the perfect time to get them involved in the kitchen and get them interested in food — from growing it in the garden to preparing it in the kitchen, so they could see that a fair amount of work went into planning and cooking meals. They also had the leisure to practice simple, age-appropriate kitchen skills so they could make their own snacks and sandwiches at a fairly early age.
I also found that summer was the perfect time to get my kids to eat more fruits and veggies and to let them experiment with foods to see what they liked and did not like. We often used the alphabet to explore foods; artichokes were a bust, but avocados were OK, and Japanese eggplant and zucchini still remain favorites.
I remember how surprised they were when they were very little, watching me make zucchini bread they were sure they would hate. It was gone in a few hours. I got them to eat baby spinach, Chinese pea pods, sugar snap peas, and raw broccoli as we picked it from the garden and ate it right there. Tomatoes were also introduced in the summer; there is NO sense in trying to get anyone to love tomatoes if you give them a winter tomato. My daughter ate her first tomato as a toddler while she was “helping” my dad pick some from his garden. We often went berry picking, and one (enthusiastic) summer made about 40 jars of raspberry and strawberry jam.
If your kids are home, even if they are in day camp as mine were, you can use the longer days to explore foods, learn kitchen safety, prepare some simple dishes, and love the fresh fruits and veggies of summer. If you don’t have your own garden, farm stands are open in many communities. Visit one with your kids, if you can. Visit one even if you don’t have kids; the produce is so fresh and delicious it’s a shame to miss the very short opportunity.
Salads Kids Love (Pareve)
1/2 lb. baby spinach leaves
1/4 lb. other lettuces such as baby romaine
1 to 2 peaches, seeded and diced
1 cup strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
2 Tbsp. all-fruit seedless raspberry jam
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup mild olive oil
2 to 4 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
Wash and dry the spinach and lettuces and place in a large bowl. Toss with the shredded carrots. Add berries and toss gently with lettuces.
Mix the dressing ingredients together and adjust to taste. Add as much dressing as you like and toss. Top with sliced peaches and add sliced or whole berries to each plate. Serves 5 to 8.
Cheesy Muffins (Dairy)
2 cups flour (you can use half whole wheat and half unbleached)
3 Tbsp. toasted wheat germ
3 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 to 2/3 cup grated cheese — cheddar, Monterey Jack, American, or a mix
1 extra-large egg
1 cup milk (2% is fine)
3 Tbsp. Canola oil
Sift dry ingredients (except the wheat germ) into a large bowl. Add the wheat germ and the cheese, mix well and set aside.
Beat the milk and the egg together with a fork. Add the oil and mix well. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix just until well moistened. Grease a muffin pan and spoon into the pan, filling each muffin 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve warm. Great alone or with strawberry jam.
Better than Restaurant Chicken Fingers (Meat)
2 double chicken breasts, boned, skinned, and pounded to even thickness
1/2 cup Canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. paprika
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Other herbs/spices your family members like
1-1/2 cups cornflake or panko crumbs
Cut the lightly pounded chicken into finger size strips. (This is easier when the chicken is slightly frozen.) Pour the oil into a small saucepan. Crush the garlic into the oil and add the paprika and salt. Heat the oil for just a minute on a low heat and stir to mix all the flavors. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove.
Pour the cornflake crumbs into a Ziplock bag. Dip each piece of chicken into the oil, let the excess drip off, and drop the chicken into the bag of crumbs. When there are several pieces in the bag, close the bag and shake gently to cover the chicken pieces completely. Carefully remove the chicken and place on a foil-lined baking pan. Repeat until all the chicken is on the pan.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked. It should be all white inside and should give off some steam when cut in half. Makes 16 to 20 fingers.
Peanut Butter Spread with Fruit and Berries (Pareve)
1/4 cup natural-style peanut butter
3 thinly sliced strawberries
1/2 thinly sliced peach, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 thinly sliced banana, cut slices in half
1 tsp. honey
Optional: chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds
Mix the peanut butter and two or three different fruits together. Add honey and spread over whole-wheat toast. Adjust sweetness and fruit amounts as you like. Makes 1/3 to 1/2 cup.
Sorbet and Frozen Yogurt Terrine with Fresh Berries (Dairy)
You can also make this with ice cream, frozen yogurt or sherbet. You can even add fudge sauce drizzled over the berries! Choose your favorite flavors and get creative.
1 pint raspberry (or other flavor) sorbet
1 pint frozen fat-free vanilla yogurt
1 pint strawberry sorbet
1 pint boysenberry sorbet
1 pint frozen strawberry yogurt
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
1 pint fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
Line a bread baking pan with two layers of plastic wrap, extending over the edges.
Let the sorbets and yogurts soften. Place the boysenberry sorbet in a bowl and stir to soften. When spreadable, spread the boysenberry sorbet over the bottom and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Follow the above directions with the vanilla yogurt, then the strawberry sorbet, the strawberry yogurt, and finally the raspberry yogurt. Cover with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and freeze for several hours or overnight.
Slice the strawberries and add the raspberries and blueberries. Add the sugar and lemon juice and let sit for about 30 minutes to macerate. Add the jam, mix and serve over slices of the terrine. Serves 6 to 10.
Cream Cheese Fruit Tart Cups (Dairy)
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter melted
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 lb. cream cheese or low-fat cream cheese
Fresh strawberries or raspberries
Fresh black or blueberries
Fresh peeled and cut peaches, nectarines or apricots
Red currant jelly
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
For the crust: Line two muffin tins with cupcake papers, using two papers per cup. Melt the butter in a microwave-proof dish, 10 or 15 seconds at a time until melted. Combine the crumbs with the melted butter and mix with a fork. Press some crumbs into each cup and press down with clean fingers or a spoon.
For the filling: Beat the cream cheese in a mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Fill each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool.
Wash the strawberries and cut the stem off enough to allow one for each tart. Melt the jelly in a small pan on low heat just until melted. Cool for a few minutes. Place a berry on each tart. Spoon a little of the jelly over each berry and refrigerate. Follow the same directions for the other fruit. Use more currant jelly if needed. Remove the tarts from the pan before serving. Makes 12 tarts.