Summer gets us mommas and daddies off our usual schedule, which is SO FUN! And also challenging! It is difficult to be consistent with our feeding schedule and with changing up our dinner options. Here is a short list of main courses (and suggested side dishes) that are summer-friendly. My suggestion is to pull these together at noon or 1 pm while the kids are eating lunch or going down for nap, so that they will be ready by the time dinner rolls around between 6:00-7:00 pm. After nap, our family likes to head to the park or the beach for some afternoon fun and sometimes get home at 5:30 or later, so these dinners are super quick and easy.
Crock Pot! We don’t usually associate slow cookers with summer meals, but here are a few that work really well for summer, matching the main protein with fresh summer vegetables and fruits:
- Salsa chicken – build your own burrito or taco bar. Simply take frozen chicken (1/2 and ½ thigh meat and breast meat—kids benefit from the extra vitamins and fat in the thigh meat) and pour a jar or container of mild salsa over the top. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Shred and serve with tortillas, cheese, shredded cabbage salad, tomato & cucumber salad and watermelon with the rind.
- Barbeque chicken – with green beans, summer squash, and red grapes. Put frozen chicken (1/2 thigh, ½ breast meat) in slow cooker and cover with your favorite barbeque sauce. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Shred for sandwiches or keep in large pieces to serve.
Marinate! Set these items to marinate at noon and then cook and serve dinner within 30 minutes.
- Tofu tacos – Cube a container of calcium-set tofu with a dollop of olive oil, apple cider vinegar and a packet of taco seasoning mix from Trader Joe’s. Serve with tortillas, shredded romaine, cheese, diced heirlooms, beans and rice, and blackberries.
- Pork tenderloin – Use Ellie Krieger’s Roasted Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin with Grapes marinade recipe using items in your kitchen. Make it with grapes or without. Find it here. She suggests a green salad, and bread and butter as perfect side dishes and I agree.
- Sirloin – grill a bunch and slice it thinly. Leftovers can hang in the fridge for easy poolside sandwiches.
- Turkey burgers – so quick, and infinitely customizable as to flavors. Classic combined with lettuce, tomato, cheese and onion. Or spice it up with buffalo hot sauce and blue cheese, lettuce and tomato. Serve with cole slaw and baked beans.
- Chicken – pull it out of the freezer in the morning, put it in a plastic bag with your favorite Italian dressing and let it marinate all day. Slice up some zucchini and summer squash long-ways, as well as some onions and throw those on the grill at the same time.
Dinner meals are rounded out with the addition of raw vegetables and fresh fruit. Make the same meal for everyone in the family, have enough options, and let children choose if and how much they will eat. If you provide bread and butter and milk at each dinner, most children will have a chance at taking in some nutrition, and you can relax knowing that exposing them to a variety of food over time will increase their preferences for different types of foods.
Here’s to enjoying summer dinners with your family! Cheers!