Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer Family Meals

I found this piece by Ann Douglas, and just wanted to pass it along. It's full of some very good tips, and I can certainly use all the help that I can get with my cooking and meals. I was going to try and share it in my own words, but she does a great job already:). Read on and enjoy!

Summer Family Meals

10 Real-World Summer Mealtime Solutions

All bets are off when it comes to feeding kids during the summer months: who knows what foods will be appealing on super-hot days and who will even be at the dinner-table at a time of year when schedules tend to get tossed out the window on a regular basis. Here are some suggestions on zeroing in on meals that are high in kid-appeal and ways of taking the stress out of mealtimes during what should be a fun and low-stress time of year.

1. Keep it fresh. Take advantage of the wide availability of farm-fresh produce while it's in season. Foods like blueberries aren't just delicious: they're also rich in nutrients and high in kid-appeal.
2. Get your kids in on the meal-planning act. They'll be less likely to gripe about what shows up on the dinner-table or go into great theatrics about how there's "nothing to eat" in the house if they had a role to play in planning meals, drawing up the grocery list, or-better yet-helping you choose some fresher-than-fresh produce at the local farmer's market.
3. Stock up. It can be hard to predict ahead of time how many extra kids will show up at your dinner-table during the summer months. And be sure to stock up on foods that can be enjoyed on the run: cheese cubes, hard-boiled eggs, bagels, homemade muffins, and the like.
4. Get ahead of the game. Do some food preparation ahead of time or look for items in the grocery store that can save you time on the food preparation front (e.g., salad in a bag, mini-carrots, etc.). Prepare foods as soon as possible after arriving home from the grocery store or the farmer's market. That way, your kids will have plenty of healthy foods to snack on when the munchies strike.
5. Plan meals that require minimal preparation and very little clean up. Think grilled meat or fish or vegetarian protein; a baked potato; some fresh vegetables (grilled, raw, or made into a salad); and some fresh fruit. Hint: If you throw a few extra pieces of meat on the grill, you'll end up with some tempting leftovers for meals and snacks the next day.
6. Go for quick and easy menus. Load up on cookbooks that feature menus that can be whipped up quickly and easily, and that are both healthy and kid-friendly. (Ask other parents and your local bookseller for recommendations.)
7. Beat the heat. Aim for no-cook meals at this time of year or meals that avoid very little oven time preparation (to avoid heating up the kitchen) .
8. Batch cook. Make at least one extra meal on the weekends, either by cooking that meal all by itself and popping in the freezer, or by making "doubles" of one of your family's weekend meals (e.g., a double batch of spaghetti sauce or lasagna) so that you can have leftovers during the week.
9. Have "leftover night" or "make your own dinner night" at least once a week. It's a great way to clean out the refrigerator, give yourself a break from cooking, and allow your kids to make themselves something they'll really enjoy. It's a win-win situation all around.
10. Schedule family picnics on a regular basis. Even if your kids try to convince you that they're too old for picnics, encourage them to join in the fun anyway. Summer tends to whiz by in a flash: who wants to spend it being holed up in a kitchen?

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