Easy Summer Meals & Snacks

By Kari Hartel, RD, LD

Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

With summer in full swing, the warmer temps and sticky St. Louis humidity can discourage people from getting in the kitchen to cook up healthy, affordable, made-from-scratch meals and snacks. However, rather than reaching for convenience foods, let’s look at some ideas for tasty, delicious meals you can throw together in a snap without spending too much time over a hot oven or stove.

What better way to enjoy the summer garden bounty than by throwing together a quick salad. To boost nutrition, be sure to choose dark leafy greens, such as spinach or kale, and add in a lot of fresh chopped vegetables, lean protein, and a homemade dressing. To banish boredom, switch up the salad components—use difference types of lettuces or greens, various vegetables, and different sources of protein (grilled chicken, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, beans, lentils, tofu). Also, get creative by sprucing up your salad with fruit—berries, apples, grapes, pears, and peaches all pack a flavor punch and taste delicious in a salad tossed with a vinegar-based dressing.

Wraps are quick, easy, and delicious. Start off with a whole-wheat tortilla, pita bread, or flatbread and spread on some hummus. Then, layer on your favorite vegetables and calcium-rich cheese and roll it up. Radishes, bell peppers, spinach, onions, cucumbers and shredded carrots work nicely in a wrap. If you’re not a fan of hummus, pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and shred the chicken up to be used in the wrap.

Stir-Fry Dishes
Ok, this one does involve firing up the stove, but stir-fries cook up so quickly that it won’t get too hot in your kitchen. In a large skillet or wok over high heat, sear some lean meat or extra-firm tofu in some sesame oil. After the protein is cooked, toss in some chopped vegetables, using what is in season right now. Season with your favorite herbs and spices. Cook just briefly until the vegetables are cooked but still crisp. Add a little reduced-sodium soy sauce and serve over brown rice or whole wheat noodles and you’ve got a scrumptious, well-balanced meal in minutes.

Microwave Magic
Your microwave can do so much more than just reheat leftovers. You can steam summer veggies you just picked up at your local farmers’ market or out of your own garden. Fish fillets and chicken breast can easily be cooked in your microwave (cover with plastic wrap). Love baked potatoes? Keep the oven turned off and instead zap them in the microwave. Top these “baked” potatoes or sweet potatoes with broccoli, reduced-fat cheese or blacks beans and salsa for an instant snack.

School is out for the summer
– a time when most kids think of playing and being outdoors. But there are also kids who worry about getting enough food to eat. Nearly 173,000 children are at-risk for hunger in our region. Operation Food Search is helping to make sure that food insecure children are well-fed in a safe environment by connecting them to free nutritious summer meals programs.

Please support Operation Food Search’s No Kid Hungry initiative. By helping kids get the good nutrition they need, we are one step closer to our goal of making No Kid Hungry a reality! Please donate online at www.OperationFoodSearch.org; by mail at Operation Food Search, 6282 Olive, St. Louis, MO 63130, or by phone at (314) 726-5355.