My Summer Time Dinner Strategy :: Less Time in the Kitchen, More Time Making Memories

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The kids are home for summer and that means a break from morning alarms, relaxed days, no homework, visits to playgrounds, all of the water activities, lots of fun and–if I’m being honest–lots of chaos (because I have 3 young boys and dirt, noise and fights happen). We don’t do camps or formal summer activities in our house so summer means a lot of time with me and my littles. With the increased togetherness and lots of outdoor activities I find myself slipping into a more relaxed approach to pretty much everything–wear the same clothes for 2 days straight? Why not! Does playing in the sprinkler count as a bath? Absolutely! With this in mind, going into this summer I decided I wanted to carry this laid-back approach into dinner preparation. I want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time making memories with my people.

And so, my summer dinner strategy was born.

Do as little hands-on cooking as possible.

Who wants to sweat it out in front of the stove when every time we step outside it feels like we are inside a giant oven?

I’m planning to serve lots of salads, bowl meals and lettuce wraps consisting largely of prepped raw veggies and quick cooking proteins. I’ll also supplement with some go-to slow cooker and pressure cooker recipes which don’t require much hands-on effort from me.

I’ll gladly take some help from store-bought short-cuts. I’m normally a make it from scratch kind of gal, but in the spirit of summer I’m planning to embrace store bought sauces and dips. I’m also planning to buy a rotisserie chicken on my shopping day each week and serve it in one form or another for dinner that evening–I’m looking at you Curried Chicken Salad, Cobb Salad and Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers.

One additional component of minimizing my cooking is during summer I serve as many no-cook side dishes as possible–enter all of the salads, slaws and vegetable platters.

Eat healthy.

No momma wants to feel overly full and bloated as she slides into a swimsuit!

Summer is prime season for a variety of fruits and vegetables. Capitalizing on seasonal produce will save money, as sales revolve around items that are currently in abundance, and be tastier as the foods currently in season will have more flavor (hello watermelon, sweet corn, tomatoes and basil).

Keep it simple.

All of my summer recipes will be quick and easy. Less time spent on food preparation means more time relaxing, playing and connecting with my people.

My goal is for everything I cook to be prepped and cooked in less than 30 minutes total. This is not the season to experiment with fancy French techniques and recipes that require a 100 steps or ingredients.

I also plan to choose a few favorite recipes and serve them over and over this summer. Making the same things over and over will conserve brain space and overall effort as buying the same ingredients and cooking the same dishes becomes second nature and requires less thought and energy as you continue to do it.

By choosing mostly recipes that our whole family enjoys I plan to reduce dinner battles because I spend enough time refereeing toy disputes on summer days, and don’t have the desire to fight about food at the end of the day.

Now that you know my strategy, here are a few of my favorite minimal-cooking yet healthful recipes that will be showing up on repeat this summer.

Main Dishes

Cheeseburger Salad

California Roll Bowl

Vietnamese Noodle Bowls

Curried Chicken Salad in lettuce wraps or on a bed of greens

Fish Taco Bowls

Smoked Salmon Platter

Cobb Salad

Red Curry Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Bruschetta Chicken 

Roasted Shrimp with Feta and Tomatoes

Breakfast for Dinner

Quinoa Bowl

Side Dishes

Watermelon, Feta, and Cucumber Salad

Crudite Platter

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Cilantro Lime Slaw

Japanese Cucumber Salad

Sesame Noodles

Israeli Chopped Salad

With these trusty recipes in your back pocket, you will feel like you are winning at summer dinners!

About Shannon

Shannon lives in Central City New Orleans with her husband and 3 boys. She is passionate about food, faith, fitness, family, and friends, and blogs about these things on her blog Dinner Done by 9am. Most days you can find her at the park with her kids or in the kitchen getting #dinnerdoneby9am.

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