Unless you have a secret calling as a short order cook, chances are you would rather not spend one half of every summer day in the kitchen. It is disheartening to hear voices trumpet the starvation alarm "I'm hungry - there's nothing to eat - when DO we eat?" when it is still two hours before lunch or supper.
Why do kids seem to get hungrier in the summer? Do they think about snacks because they are bored? Maybe it is because they are more active with swimming, running around, riding bikes. Consider the mother of all reasons; most kids have big growth spurts in the summer. This growing sneaks up on us. It is when they trade shorts for long pants and sandals for shoes that we realize how much they have sprouted!
What is the key to surviving summer snack attacks? Plan ahead. That's tough when summer is supposed to be relaxing and schedule free. Before the press is on, think outside the snacking box. Gather new "make ahead" snack recipes, create a snack making plan; and, so that your strategy will work smoothly, be consistent.
To save time and last-minute trips to the store, as you prepare your regular grocery list, include the list of snack ingredients for the week. Another time saver is to set aside 20 or 30 minutes early each morning to prepare and organize snacks for the day. Of course, the good old stand-bys of fresh fruit, cut-up veggies or popcorn are always good, but they are eventually deemed boring in the fast-paced snacker world.
A decent alternative to chips and crackers is homemade pita chips. You can get 96 tasty triangles from a 12-ounce package of whole grain pita bread. Don't open the pockets until after you stack and cut them into eighths. Lay the wedges on a baking sheet and spray lightly with canola oil spray. Sprinkle with grated parmesan or a parmesan blend for savory triangles. For a sweet treat, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake the chips at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until crisp. After the chips cool, store them in an airtight zipper bag or container. The chips will stay crisp for several days.
Prepare a fruit salsa as a surprise dip with the cinnamon sugar chips.
To make a Minted Two Grape Salsa: Coarsely chop 2 cups of green grapes and 2 cups of red grapes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh chives, 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh spearmint or peppermint and 3 teaspoons of fresh lime juice. If you want a little zing, add 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced. This takes about 15 minutes to make. Then cover and chill it for at least an hour.
Another refreshing and quick-to-fix fruit salsa for the cinnamon sugar chips or the parmesan chips is made with crushed pineapple. You will need 2 cups of crushed pineapple. Drain the pineapple and save the juice to add to a fruit juice drink.
Blend pineapple, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped peppermint, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 garlic clove finely minced, and a pinch of cumin. Store in a covered container. This also takes at least an hour for the flavors to blend. It will stay tasty for several days.
Because dips containing dairy are worrisome in the summer heat, try a Garlic-Rosemary White Bean dip for the parmesan pita chips. Unless you tell them, the kids will never guess that they are eating beans.
To make this quick dip, put 2 cups of any type white beans in the blender, add 2 cloves of garlic, 4 tablespoons of extra light olive oil and puree until it is a paste. Spoon into a container and stir in 2 teaspoons minced rosemary, 3 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. This is ready to eat and will store well for 2-3 days in a covered container.
Still looking for crunch? Bake up a batch of crunchy kale. Remove the ribs from 1/2 pound of washed and dried curly kale. Tear into 2 inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss kale with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bake without stirring on a rack on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. The kale stays dark green. Cool before eating. After one bite, everyone will find it difficult to stop eating the crunchy kale. If there is any left, keep in an airtight container.
Make it yourself lemonade, limeade and mixed fruitade is a way to control sugar and preservative intake as well as to save time and money. This simple syrup recipe will sweeten at least 2 quarts of lemonade or limeade. In a sauce pan, dissolve 1 cup of granulated sugar in 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.
To make fruit drink by the glass combine 1 tablespoon syrup, 2 tablespoons of fresh juice with 6 ounces of water. Add ice. Soon you will know the proportions for the desired degree of sweetness. For 2 quarts, increase the fresh juice to 1 cup, 1/2 cup of sugar syrup and 5-6 cups of cold water. For variety you can mix the juices; add fresh fruit for garnish. You can also freeze blueberries, strawberries, etc., into ice cubes to celebrate Fourth of July.
It is more economical to purchase lemons or limes by the bag. Although it may seem like a big chore, you will be happy with the time saved, if you squeeze all the fruit at one time. Pre-measure and freeze the extra juice in zipper bags.
With a little of time and preparation, you will see it is possible to survive and even enjoy the summer snack attacks.