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In the Kitchen: Summer lunches, dinners and snacks

Can you believe school is about to be out for the summer? That means children will be home more and there will be more snacking going on. This is the time to make a plan to accommodate both and keep little ones from eating things that are not good for them.

 Here are some tips for keeping things “healthyish” around the house, as well as some recipes your children are sure to love.

 • Stock the refrigerator with plenty of cut up veggies and ranch dip. If these are on the ready, the more likely they will be eaten. I used to set out a bowl of cut up veggies and dip while I was preparing lunch or dinner. Inevitably somebody would eat a few.

• If you don’t buy it, they can’t eat or drink it. I remember when I was a little girl, asking my mother why we never had certain cookies in the house. Her response? “Because you all would just eat them.” Truer words were never spoken.

• Cut out fruit juice which is usually loaded with sugar and other bad additives. Opt instead for water or sparkling mineral water.

• Get creative with snacks. Spread peanut butter or almond butter on apple slices, bananas or celery. Spread cream cheese on pretzels and sprinkle with cinnamon. Set out various items and let the children come up with their own creations.

• Try to cut out processed food. Anything that comes in a box or a bag is usually processed and loaded with chemicals, additives, preservatives and sodium. Don’t believe me? Check the label. Summer is the perfect time to encourage your children to eat real food. Get the whole family in on the act.

• Make healthy popsicles. Instead of the store-bought kind that are full of artificial dyes and sugar, make popsicles out of fresh fruit juice. Choose juices that are naturally sugar free.

• Make popcorn. Instead of using the kind you buy and microwave, just put some popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag, fold it a few times and microwave until the popping stops. No oil is necessary. Now you can add melted butter or coconut oil, salt, etc.

• Keep a bowl of boiled eggs in the refrigerator. A boiled egg makes a healthy snack that fills you up quick.

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I am pretty sure all children like chicken nuggets. If you routinely buy the frozen kind, thinking how convenient they are, making homemade chicken nuggets takes only a few minutes and they are so much better for your young ones. As far as a honey mustard dipping sauce goes, I like to say, there should be only two ingredients in honey mustard: honey and mustard. No need to buy a bottle of it with lots of added, unnecessary ingredients.


Chicken nuggets with honey mustard sauce

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup breadcrumbs

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Honey mustard (recipe follows)


Cut chicken breasts into small, bite-size pieces. On a plate, stir together bread crumbs, parmesan, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Dip chicken pieces in egg and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook chicken nuggets on both sides until golden brown and cooked through.

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Honey mustard

1/3 cup yellow mustard

1/3 cup honey


Combine mustard and honey until smooth.

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These are a great alternative to the boring sandwich. You can add a variety of fillings to the wraps. This recipe is just a guide to get you started.


Turkey pinwheels

 2 large whole wheat tortillas

4 tablespoons cream cheese

2 teaspoons mustard

Handful of fresh baby spinach

4 slices turkey or ham (or roast beef)

4 slices favorite cheese


Spread the tortillas with cream cheese and mustard. 

Layer on the baby spinach, turkey and cheese. Roll up the tortillas. 

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Unwrap and slice into pinwheels.

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Ranch dressing is a staple among most children — and I would be remiss if I didn’t say how much I love it still. While bottled ranch dressing/dip might taste delicious, most brands are loaded with additives you would not find in your kitchen. 

Here are two simple and quick ranch dressing recipes — they only take minutes to put together and both are infinitely better than the bottled kind.

Ranch dressing/dip

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 ½ teaspoon dried dill (or use fresh)

1/4 cup chives, finely minced

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Dash hot sauce


Whisk together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerator for an hour or so. Will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

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Dry ranch dressing mix

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried dill

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon pepper


Combine all ingredients. Mix 1 tablespoon of the ranch mix with ½ cup sour cream.