Summer Fun and Summer Meals
by Charlotte Siems
Summertime and the livin’ is easy….or not. Many families have a distinct summer schedule that differs from the school year, with a myriad of new activities. Even if there are no children at home, life takes on a different feel when warm weather rolls around. Summer affects just about everything, from laundry and meals to your at-home work schedule.
Accepting and planning for the reality of summer variations in your meals and your schedule can make the transition easier and the days more productive.
A hectic schedule makes it even more crucial to plan ahead. Even though it’s tempting to hit the drive-thru for most dinner meals on the way to the baseball field, you’ll save time, money and much-needed family connection if you take a bit of time to plan some meals. Replacing even a couple of take-out meals with home cooking during a busy week can save your food budget.
Summer is the time to serve lighter versions of favorite dishes:
White chili (which is more like bean soup) rather than old-fashioned chili
Potato salad instead of mashed potatoes and gravy
Rice-based side dishes
Stir-fried tender veggies instead of baked vegetable recipes
It’s also the season to take advantage of fresh vegetables and fruits:
Corn on the cob
And many more
In addition, salads can pinch hit for many meals. Adding chicken, beef, cheese and other proteins can turn a salad into a main dish in a hurry. You can even use ground beef in a taco-type salad.
Leftover grilled burgers and chicken can be popped into a baggie and reheated throughout the week for sandwiches, salads and recipes. They will retain their great grilled flavor but you don’t have to drag out the grill every time if you cook them in quantity.
If you don’t have time to grill burgers, substitute Sloppy Joes. A pound of ground beef, a can of tomato sauce, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and a teaspoon of garlic powder, some buns, pickles and chips and you’re good to go!
Rather than heating up the kitchen by turning on the oven, choose recipes that use the stovetop, microwave and crock pot. Using leftovers and fresh ingredients, you can even whip up meals that don’t require cooking at all.
Instead of getting stuck in a summer sandwich rut, observe your favorite local sandwich shop. Mimic them by buying a variety of ingredients. Instead of a boring loaf of bread, get some crusty artisan rolls or a loaf of flavored French bread. Lay out a choice of sliced meats and cheese, along with varied condiments, and your family will enjoy their cool sandwich meal.
Hot summer days have a charm of their own, especially if you are fortunate to live in a place with four distinct seasons. Whether you live near a beach or you just have a wading pool on the back patio, it’s a time to soak up the sun and enjoy a change of pace, hectic though it may be. Take some time to think through how summer changes your life. You’ll be ready to handle any challenge, including summertime meals!