Whew. Life has been busy. How does any mom find time to blog? I don’t know how I used to do it so regularly. I really don’t. This has been one crazy summer. Summer break? Ha. More like the summer of stressful situations. But enough about that. I might vent one of these days but not right now. Let’s talk about food today because I love to eat, and I’m in the thick of meal planning as I prepare for another busy soccer season coupled with our first experience with sending the kids to school-school (as opposed to homeschooling). Speaking of school, my 8-year-old sighed heavily the other day and said, “Only three more days until captivity.” So I guess she equates homeschooling with running wild and free and school with imprisonment. Sigh. I’ve had butterflies all week and am 34 years old, so it’s not surprising that she’s approaching this new chapter with some trepidation. My 6-year-old, on the other hand, is thrilled doing the school thing. We all did have fun back-to-school shopping. It brought me back to my school days. Oh, how I loved collecting my new pencils, a fresh box of crayons with pretty points, and a super-cool Trapper Keeper (anyone else remember those?) each year.
But, anyway, I thought I’d share what I’ve been eating during these hot, humid, and rainy days here in Georgia. Although I love the freshness of produce during the summer, I don’t enjoy cooking as much because I hate to turn on the oven when it’s 90 degrees outside. We eat a lot of cold salads during the summer. I take advantage of nature’s bounty but avoid making the kitchen any hotter than it already is.
Not too long ago I made some Greek chicken wraps that everyone seemed to like. My girls are crazy about olives (Kalamata are their favorite variety), and they’re also very fond of feta. This might make them odd. I don’t know but if your kids aren’t as in to strong flavors like feta and olives, this might not be as much of a crowd-pleaser. I adapted the recipe from a recent Family Fun article. The photo below is actually the leftovers, which I turned into a delicious salad. I topped the leftover fillings for the wraps with some of tzatziki sauce. Delish!
Greek Salad Chicken Wraps
Adapted from Family Fun magazine, June/July 2013
For the chicken:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds chicken tenders or chicken breasts cut into strips
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
For the tzatsiki:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cucumber, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of freshly ground pepper
For the salad:
4 cups of romaine salad, torn into bite-size pieces
2 tomatoes, diced or 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with oregano, salt, and pepper. Saute in olive oil. Cool chicken on plate.
Mix tzatsiki ingredients in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Combine ingredients for salad in a large bowl. Toss together and season with more salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice if necessary. (NOTE: The original recipe called for mint and scallions, but my kids haven’t liked the strong taste of mint in other recipes, and I have an extreme onion-hater in the family so I typically stay away from scallions or add them to my meal after I served the rest of the family.)
Drizzle tzatsiki sauce over each tortilla. Then top with salad mixture and then chicken. Roll wraps and cut in half before serving.
I also recently made a salad from one of my favorite cookbooks called Saving Dinner: The Menus, Recipes, and Shopping Lists to Bring Your Family Back to the Table. I’ve recommended this book to several friends who want to get started meal planning but aren’t sure where to start. The book is divided by season – winter, spring, summer, and fall and shares weekly meal plans, including the recipes and shopping lists. I’ve never tried to follow the book exactly or even adopt a whole week’s worth of meals, but I frequently use recipes from the book and love how it’s divided by season and uses ingredients that are cheaper and fresher during the particular season. I made a delicious and filling layered salad recently that no one complained terribly about and that I personally loved. Picky kids can pick out what they like from the salad. There’s something for everyone. Best of all, I got to gobble up the leftovers along with a side of watermelon and homemade whole wheat bread for lunch after a long run (pictured below).
Mega Layered Salad
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped (I actually used some romaine and some spinach leaves)
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
1 ½ cups frozen green peas (don’t thaw; they added a delightful crunch. Next time I think I’ll use frozen shelled edmame since my kids like it better than peas.)
2 eggs, cooked, peeled, and quartered
2 cups, canola, omega mayo*
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon curry powder
A few handfuls of grated cheddar cheese
A few handfuls of sliced almonds
*A friend asked me if I thought I really needed 2 cups mayo. I did end up using almost 2 full cups of the healthy-ish omega mayo, but I kept tasting it to be sure since I’m not a huge fan of mayonnaise. I also plan on substituting some Greek yogurt for the mayo the next time I make the salad.
I also had leftover shredded chicken, which I tossed into the salad.
Layer ½ of the lettuce. Follow with a layer of celery, bell pepper, green onion, mushrooms, peas and egg, and then top with remaining lettuce.
Whisk mayo, brown sugar, garlic powder, and curry powder together to make dressing. Spread evenly over salad. Top with cheese and almonds. Cover and refrigerated until ready to serve.
We also recently made Chewy Energy Circles from Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up. This is a new cookbook my 6-year-old received from her “awesomest” pen pal for her birthday. The cookbook is associated with Moosewood Restaurant folks. Another one of my favorite cookbooks is the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day. My husband went to Cornell for undergrad, and I’m so jealous that he’s actually eaten at the Moosewood Restaurant. I really want to make it there one of these days.
The oven was required for this one, but the added heat was worth it. I adapted the recipe slightly (replaced some of the white flour with whole wheat flour to make it even more wholesome), and the circles were a big hit for my kids and some friends we had over for an afternoon water balloon party. They were easy for little hands to help make and delicious. I’m always on the lookout for snacks that can replace processed foods like packaged granola bars, and these hit the spot.
Chewy Energy Circles Recipes
Adapted from Salad People
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup Spiru-Tein Vanilla Spirutein (original recipe called for any soy protein powder blend; Spirutein has been my favorite since college)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped dates (original called for raisins, but I had dates on hand)
1 ½ cups vanilla yogurt (I think next time I’ll try plain Greek yogurt; I think they will be sweet enough without the added sugar in the yogurt)
¼ cup canola oil
Add a dash of love (notice those sparkly hearts floating around the Energy Circles?)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 24 standard-size muffin tins with nonstick spray or use cupcake liners. Combine flour, Spirutein, and salt in large bowl. Add oats, cinnamon, brown sugar, and raising. Let the kids mix dry ingredients together with their eager (and clean!) hands.
Blend yogurt and oil together. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture. Either use an electric mixer or little hands to completely combine the ingredients.
Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter in each muffin cup and pat into place. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until brown around the edges. Transfer to a rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
I’d love to hear some of your favorite summer recipes. I’m particularly interested in creative, healthy, and less processed food from those of you who pack lunches for your kids. We’ve come up with ideas like hummus and veggie wraps, cold pasta salad, and Greek yogurt and honey dip. We usually mix plain yogurt with peanut butter for a delicious dip for apple slices and carrot sticks, but no peanut products are allowed in my first grader’s class.