Overheard at the supermarket: “I’m sick and tired of planning meals. I’m just going to kick the shelf and cook whatever falls down.” Almost every homemaker feels this way occasionally. Particularly during the summer, meal planning and cooking can become a drag. In fact, hot weather can make it difficult to gather up even enough energy to kick the shelf!
To make summer foods fun for everyone, keep a constant lookout for new ideas.
For the best results with the least effort, be organized. In other words, work smart instead of hard!
Once a week or less often, sit down with the recipe file and cookbook and plot your menus. Then complete your shopping list and you’re ready for the market. Try organizing your list according to departments: meat, produce, canned goods, miscellaneous, etc.
During the summer, prepare as much food as possible during the early hours before the heat becomes intense. An added advantage of early preparation is that you can take the children swimming at 4:00 and still have dinner ready by 6:00 if everything can be ready to serve within 20 minutes. And something in the freezer for a tightly scheduled day is a helpful reward to the plan-ahead homemaker.
Dinner on a Stick, Meal in a Bowl
Try kabobs of various meat combinations—beef, pork, seafood—coupled with complementary vegetables or fruits. Best yet, line up the makings in a “kabob cafeteria” and invite everyone to spear and grill his own. Complete the meal with salad, breads, and a beverage.
Another summer treat is a meal in a bowl—salads of many varieties. If there’s a Scout in the family, let him help you prepare a meal-in-foil for an eating adventure, or check barbecue cookbooks and camping manuals for instructions.
No Camping in the Kitchen
Every once in a while, the family becomes guilty of “camping in the kitchen”—grabbing and dashing. When this happens, snacks replace meals, nutrition suffers, and family routine, organization, and cohesiveness dissolve.
There are untold benefits from gathering the family around the table at least once a day for prayer, a leisurely balanced meal, a bit of positive parental influence and direction, and some plain old family congeniality.
Summer months may be the time to read a chapter a day around the table, or at least a short article, a thought, or a cartoon. Share items of special interest from the newspaper or magazines, a quote from a favorite speaker, a thought from a book or class, or a scripture.
The old routine of “What was your lesson in Sunday School?” or “What did you do today?” usually limps along miserably, especially in the summer. A better approach is for Dad or Mother to enthusiastically relate some special event. The children will almost invariably be eager to add their contributions. A novel conversation-starter is to place a slip of paper under each person’s plate with a note on it: “Relate the most interesting thing that happened between 10 and 12 this morning,” or “Tell about someone you met today whom you’ve never seen before,” or “Relate two things you did this afternoon that begin with your initials.” Then, at given intervals during the meal, each person reads his slip and responds.
Summer foods and picnics are almost synonymous. Picnics can be as close as your backyard or miles away from home. They come in two varieties: the planned picnic (with a bulging picnic basket and stocked ice chest), and the unplanned one (Dad descends on the sweltering kitchen, switches off the stove, rounds up Mother and the children, and the family heads for the cool hills).
The Eye Feasts First
During the hot-weather appetite slump, attractively served food helps guarantee good nutrition. Pretty, colorful tablecloths or place mats can be made by children for the occasion. Dress up your table with a small basket for breads, a crock for baked beans, a big wooden bowl for salads, and a charming centerpiece. Garnish foods with mint leaves, fresh parsley sprigs, orange slices, celery and carrot curls, radish roses, croutons, pineapple slices or crowns, olives, pickles, tomato wedges, green pepper rings, grated cheese, bacon chips, or egg slices.
From the Junior Chef
Often a summer’s day can bring too much for Mother to do and not enough for the children. Use those extra hands in meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.
The most willing helper in the house is actually the two-year-old. Work fascinates him, especially if it involves water! Let him help stir, sift, measure, and pour. You’ll have some spills, but if you want a child to help cook when he is 12, you’ll have to let him “work” with you at ages two and three. The idea is to encourage a lot and gradually teach him how to really cook. And he’ll love it, because skills bring thrills!
Include your sons as well as your daughters. It’s even more exciting for them if they can develop a few specialities such as “Bob’s Burgers” or “Steve’s Pizza.”
And the next time you feel the impulse to kick the supermarket shelf, look for a new recipe instead. Here are a few for starters. …
Toss in salad bowl:
lettuce, torn in bite-size pieces
shrimp: fresh, frozen, or canned
Serve with dressing:
1 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. cream, whipped
1/4 c. chili sauce
1/4 c. green pepper, chopped fine
1/4 c. green onions, chopped fine
1 T. lemon juice
hard-cooked egg, shredded
asparagus tips, cooked
Quarter hot dog buns, roll in melted butter, roll in grated Parmesan cheese, broil until slightly browned.
Reconstitute one can frozen orange juice with two cans water, sugar to taste (optional), blend slowly with vanilla ice cream, serve immediately as a beverage-dessert.
1 onion, chopped fine
1 green pepper, chopped fine
3 stalks celery, chopped fine
Add and brown:
1 lb. ground beef
Simmer 30 minutes with:
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 t. (or more, according to taste) Mexican seasoning (available on spice shelves of grocery stores)
Serve this over a handful of corn chips. Top with grated cheese and finely shredded lettuce. Yield: 4 servings.
Molded Lime Gelatin Salad
1 3-oz. pkg. lime gelatin, creamed with
1 3-oz. pkg. creamed cheese
1 c. hot water
1 c. pear juice (reserve 2 T.) Chill until syrupy, then whip and combine with:
1 c. cream, whipped
2 T. pear juice
1 c. mashed pears
Allow to set up in refrigerator before serving over crisp salad greens. Yield: 4–6 servings.
Other “Fun-to-Try” Treats Bar-B-Qued Beef
4 lbs. rump roast; roast in oven for 2 hours at 325°. Slice finely and pour this sauce over it:
1 pint chili sauce
1 c. catsup
2 c. water
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. onion salt
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. allspice
chili powder to taste
1 large onion, diced and sautéed in a bit of cooking oil
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
4 T. vinegar
Simmer three hours at 250°–275°. Serve on fresh rolls or buns. Yield: Approximately 12 servings.
3 large cans pork and beans
1 lg. onion, diced
1 c. brown sugar (lightly packed)
1 pint chili sauce
Combine and bake for three hours at 250°–275°. Top with bacon chips for the last half hour.
Hawaiian Bar-B-Qued Chicken
Marinade chicken pieces two hours in sauce of:
3 c. soy sauce
3 c. sugar
1 T. ginger
garlic powder to taste
Boil chicken in sauce for 10–15 minutes. Broil over hot coals and serve.
Popsicles—for little people to make and enjoy
1 pkg. Kool Aid
1 pkg. Jello (same flavor as Kool Aid)
1 c. sugar
2 c. boiling water
2 c. cold water
Pour into popsicle forms and place in freezer. When partially frozen, insert wooden sticks, obtainable at hobby stores.