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Real Parents On: Family Friendly Summer Meals

It has been far, far too long since I wrote a post, but friends it has been an altogether crazy past two or three weeks! No worries, though. Vacation is just around the corner. { le sigh }

Tonight I whipped up some crabcakes and sweet potato fries for a quick dinner, but having to turn on the oven was a real drag. Our thermostat read 89 degrees in the room next door. Is that wrong? Yes, it's terribly, terribly wrong.

Which brings me to tonight's Real Parents topic: family-friendly summer meals. I don't know about you, but not only do I NOT want to cook when it's 120 degrees outside, but the very thought of turning on the oven makes me break out in hives.

Never fear, dear friends! Our incredible panel of parents is to the rescue with enough new tried-and-true favorites to fill up your menu planner for a week or more. Do you have any summer favorites? Be sure to leave me a comment and tell me some of your faves. After all, there's still a whole lot of summer left (and hallelujah for that!).

Kelly H. says:

Grill Grill Grill, from Start to Finish

When it comes to summer meals, we always like to try to grill out when possible so it doesn’t heat up the kitchen.  One of our favorites (healthy and kid friendly too) is a Teriyaki Chicken shish-kabob.  I take the easy way out and use the Lawry’s 30 min. marinade, and marinate the chucks of chicken.  We have the long metal skewers, so I make two skewers of chicken, and two skewers of veggies/fruit.  Our favorite fruit/veggie combo is chunks of red onion and chunks of fresh pineapple.   But you can get really creative and choose all kinds of veggies and fruit.

If you feel the need to add a side dish or some carbs, I usually make seasoned brown rice.  Typically I add one packet of Lipton Onion Soup mix to the boiling water before adding the rice.  It turns out pretty good.  Unfortunately, my family doesn’t like “fruity” rice, but if yours does, don’t use the Lipton Soup and instead try adding some coconut milk, toasted flaked coconut and some golden raisins and dried cranberries.  Just a tiny bit of green onion, salt, pepper and ground ginger also taste good with the fruity rice.

For dessert, we just cut some larger slices of pineapple and grill them, served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  You can also drizzle a little honey on top and it’s awesome!!!

Elizabeth says:

Two Words: Salads + Grilling

One that we all like is chicken salads. I cut up some romaine, boil some eggs, shred some carrots and add cheddar and either put the breaded chicken tenderloins from Tyson or their buffalo chicken strips on top.

Another we liked is chicken breasted marinated in Italian dressing and grilled. We'll have some steamed broccoli with that and fruit or maybe potato salad.

And the all time favorite is grilled hamburgers and hotdogs with baked beans and carrot sticks.

Jennifer T. says:

Make-It-Yourself Mexican + Fresh Fruit

My family eats just about anything, but we just came back from a large family vacation where we had to make dinner for 21 people, including kids 3 yrs old and up. We love Mexican, so we made tacos.  We set out guacamole and salsa for appetizers. We also set out bowls of watermelon and sliced peaches with blackberries. For dessert, we all had s’mores. The thing about this meal, is that each person could customize their taco it and it involved very little prep work. We had large and soft taco shells, bag lettuce for efficiency sake, tomatoes, ground beef, shredded cheddar, sour cream, and various sauces. I like mango and peach salsa, as well as the normal variety.

Kelly W. says:

Yeah, We Love Summer!

For a foodie like me, summer is the most wonderful time of the year!!!!  An afternoon at the farmer's market, an evening digging in the garden, grilled corn on the cob, the sound of an ice cream maker churning, an armful of basil for pesto, picking strawberries in the hot sun, a half-melted popsicle, too many zucchinis, canning fridge pickles and fruit jams, an ice cold mojito, the smell of a ripe summer peach......ahhhhhh.......it just doesn't get any better than THAT!

We have lots of summer favorites, and we take the opportunity while life is a little bit slower to try some new things and to get the kids involved. It's a good time to wean them off of school junk food, educate them about where their food comes from (urban child recent discovery: eggs come from GIRL chickens! LOL), and let them have fun in the kitchen.

In the past we have made things like chocolate-covered frozen bananas, popsicles from pureed ripe fruit, make-your-own-pizzas, and various desserts from the berries we picked at a local farm.

As far as dinner, we definitely have some summer family favorites.

  • We tend to a lot of grilling (gets Dad involved too) and my guys LOVE sausage and peppers!  It's a quick and easy meal: A pack of turkey sausage links, 4 or 5 bell peppers (any color) cut in chunks, onions, and a pile of couscous or quinoa to rest it all on. Get fancy and top it with a sprinkle of goat cheese if you want.  Yum!
  • Grilled chicken salads are also a fave: Just grilled chicken breasts sliced up on tossed greens and fresh tomatoes, with a little light Ranch and cheddar cheese.  And in a twist on the Pittsburgh fries-in-the-salad, my guys like to top their salads off with tater tots :-)
  • Another regular in our dinner rotation is basil, tomato, and mozzarella salad. We sprinkle it with a little italian dressing or a sprinkle of balsamic vinaigrette.  It's a great use of our garden goodies.

Roasted red potatoes with minced garlic, olive oil, and fresh snipped rosemary... Anything with pesto:  pesto tossed pasta, pesto-crusted chicken breasts, homemade sauce with pesto...grilled zukes...lemon tea...yeah, we love summer!

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