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 nutritious food — from growing it in the garden to preparing it in the kitchen — so they could see that a fair amount of work went in to planning and cooking meals. They also had the leisure to practice simple age-appropriate kitchen skills, so they could grab their own snacks and even make their own 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 and they watched me make zucchini bread that they were sure they would hate; it was gone in a few hours. I also 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 with far less sugar than found in commercial jars.
If your kids are home, even if they are in day camp as mine often were, you can take the longer hours to explore foods and learn kitchen safety, to prepare some simple dishes and learn to 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.
Summer Salad Kids Love (Pareve)
KIds can make this with any fruits they like. Older kids may like grape tomatoes, cucumber or other veggies including avocado. The sweet dressing is a nice introduction to salads for younger children.
1/2 pound baby spinach leaves
1/4 pound other lettuces such as baby romaine, etc.
1 cup, strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1 to 2 peaches, seeded and diced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. all-fruit seedless raspberry jam
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup mild olive oil
2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
Wash and dry the spinach and lettuces and place in a large bowl. Toss with the shredded carrots. Add the blueberries and raspberries and toss gently with the lettuces.
Mix the dressing ingredients together and adjust to taste.
Cut up the peaches and add to the bowl. Add as much dressing as you like and toss. Place some on plates and add some sliced strawberries 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, or American or a mix
1 extra-large egg
1 cup milk (2% is fine)
3 Tbsp. Canola oil
Sift the dry ingredients (except the wheat germ) into a large bowl. Add the wheat germ and the cheese (either grate it yourself or buy already shredded), 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 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, semi-frozen (30 minutes in freezer)
1/2 cup Canola or Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Salt
1-1/2 cups cornflake crumbs, Panko or bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.
Have a grown-up cut the chicken into finger size strips. It 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 zipper type plastic 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 it gently to cover the chicken pieces completely. Carefully remove the chicken and place on the prepared 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 about 16 to 20 fingers.
Peanut Butter Spread with Fruit and Berries (Pareve)
We came up with this one spring when I ran out of strawberry jam. After this, we gave up jams and jellies and the sugar they contain. You can use any berries and any fruit to create a new treat.
1/4 cup Natural Style peanut butter
3 to 6 thinly sliced strawberries
1/2 thinly sliced peach, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 thinly sliced banana, cut slices in half
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp. honey
Mix the peanut butter and two or three different fruits together. Add the honey, if you need a sweeter spread, and spread over whole wheat toast for a great breakfast treat or as filling for a sandwich. Adjust sweetness and fruit amounts as you like. Makes about 1/3 to 1/2 cup.
Sorbet and Frozen Yogurt Terrine with Fresh Berries (Dairy)
This is a beautiful dessert that kids can help design and create. It’s great to make while the kids are also busy with something else so that they can do each layer as needed. You can also make this with several flavors of ice cream or 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
1/3 cup sugar, more or less, to taste
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup seedless all-fruit raspberry jam
Line a bread loaf pan with two layers of plastic wrap which extend over the four edges. Set aside.
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 Tarts (Dairy)
You need cupcake papers for this easy- for- kids- to -make recipe which is delicious for everyone to eat. Kids need adult help with the electric mixer.
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter melted
OPTIONAL: 1 tbsp. sugar
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 lb cream cheese or low-fat cream cheese, softened at room temperature
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.
CRUST: Line two muffin tins with the 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.
FILLING: Beat the cream cheese in a mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and the 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 curant jelly if needed.
Remove the tarts from the pan before serving. Makes 12 large tarts or more, smaller ones.