Summertime and the Prepping Is Easy


Check out these ways to eat home-cooked, healthy meals and snacks while spending less time in the kitchen.

Well, folks, we’ve officially entered the sweet spot of summer. It’s that carefree time between July 4 and Labor Day where many of us like to escape from the everyday routine. Whether you’re still on your regular schedule or spending your days down the shore, one thing is certain: it’s hot outside.

When the temperatures rise, I try every trick in the book to avoid turning on my oven and adding heat to the house. Those recipes are exactly what I’m sharing with you this week. These are excellent ways to eat home-cooked healthy meals and snacks, while spending less time in the kitchen.

For those of you with gluten allergies, there’s no need to feel left out: All of the recipes in this segment are gluten-free.

If you didn’t have a chance to check out my first article in the June 12 issue, I’ll give you a quick recap. This column focuses on healthy and creative ways to spend time in the kitchen with your youngsters.

I strongly believe that teaching children about cooking and adopting healthy eating behaviors has lots of benefits such as sensory skill practice, math help, portion control, science, imagination and creativity.

Let’s get started!

Not Your Bubby’s Brisket:
Brisket is a very tender cut of meat, loaded with lots of natural flavor so you don’t have to mask it in a thick stew or sauce. This dish is excellent to take along to summer barbecues or picnics.
The lesson for the youngsters here focuses on kitchen safety and sanitary guidelines.

     21⁄2-3 lbs. of brisket
     salt and pepper (to season the meat)
    1 Spanish onion
    1⁄4 cup packed brown sugar
    1 cup apple juice
    1 can (7 oz.) chipotle peppers in adobe sauce (I promise it won’t be too spicy for the kids. It offers just the right kick to enhance their flavor palate.)
    1 can (16 oz.) crushed or peeled tomatoes
        spritz of cooking spray or olive oil

Spray the bottom of a crock pot with cooking spray or a tablespoon of olive oil.

Place the meat on your cutting board and carefully trim the fat with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife.This is something for the adults to do. You can take the chance here to explain about sanitary cooking when using meat and perhaps explain about some of the kosher customs, too. (Or you can ask your butcher to do this ahead of time.)

Sprinkle the meat on one side with salt and pepper. You’ll sprinkle the other side when you flip it in the skillet.
Place in a skillet on medium to high heat and sear for 1 to 2 minutes on both sides until a thin brown crust or glaze forms. Turn off the heat and let your meat rest while you prepare the other ingredients.

On a second cutting board (or perhaps the one you use for dairy) cut up the onion. It does not have to be diced into small pieces, just a few thick slices.

Place half of the onion in the bottom of the Crock-Pot and set the meat directly on top.
Mix the brown sugar into the apple juice and pour over the meat/onion mixture. Make sure the bottom of the crock pot is filled with at least 3⁄4-inches of liquid.

Add the can of tomatoes, can of peppers and the second half of the onion.

Set on low heat for 8 hours or until the meat is tender. You can leave your house. It’s safe to walk away or even sleep during the slow-cooking process.

When the brisket is fully cooked (175˚) and your kitchen is awash in a meaty aroma, dump the liquid out and shred your brisket with two forks. This is a good practice for fine motor skills — no knife necessary!

Enjoy this dish on a bun with barbecue sauce, or make tacos with avocado and corn salsa.

Summer Salad

This salad can be enjoyed as a pareve meal if you omit the chicken. Our family likes it on a hot summer night because it’s the perfect one-bowl complete meal. It combines multiple healthy food groups, tons of natural flavor and lots of complementary textures. Kids can help by measuring, stirring and shaking the dressing. It’s fun to prepare as a family but also not too time consuming. And, if the ingredients aren’t measured out precisely, or some are store- bought to cut corners, it certainly won’t spoil the dish.

Dressing Ingredients:

    1⁄2  cup olive oil
    1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
    1 Tbsp. white sugar
    1⁄2  tsp. salt
    1⁄4 tsp. pepper
    1⁄4 tsp. mustard
    1⁄4 tsp. lemon juice
    1⁄2 tsp. low-fat mayonnaise (optional)

Salad Ingredients:

    1 cup boneless/skinless grilled chicken breast, cut into cubes
    5 slices of cut-up pineapple, from a can packed in juice not syrup
    4-5 cups spinach or romaine lettuce
    3⁄4 cup strawberries, sliced
    1⁄2 cup black olives, halved and pitted
    1⁄4 cup almonds, chopped
    2 hard boiled eggs, diced
    3 Tbsps flax seeds or sesame seeds

Make the dressing first so the flavors can marinate while you prepare the salad.

Mix the dressing ingredients in order into a large bowl with a whisk. When combined, transfer to a container with a lid and let the kids go crazy shaking it up. I like to put the container in a plastic baggie for extra protection avoiding spills.

Next grill the pineapple slices for 11⁄2 to 2 minutes on both sides until you get nice char or grill marks. Trust me, this really brings out the sweet flavor.
Add the rest of the ingredients to a large bowl and toss everything lightly to combine.

Pour on the dressing and give it another toss.

Note: If you don’t want to eat the salad immediately, or if you want to save the leftovers, place a dry paper towel over the top and cover in an air-tight container. The paper towel will absorb the moisture and keep the salad from getting soggy.


Chia seeds are the stars of this decadent and rich little dessert. With just two small tablespoons, you’re packing in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. I recommend soaking them in a few ounces of liquid before you start: juice or almond milk are great. When moistened, chia seeds double in size and form a gelatin-like substance. During the digestion process, this expansion in your belly will help you stay full for longer. The kids will be “amazed” to see their chemical reaction, too. These little balls help kick a sweet tooth craving, but instead of the sugar crash, you stay energized for hours.

3 Tbsps. coconut oil
21⁄2 cups marshmallows
1 tsp. vanilla
1⁄8 tsp. salt
1⁄8 tsp. cinnamon
1⁄4 cup carob chips (Chocolate chips are fine, too)
1⁄2 tsp. natural peanut butter
 1⁄4 cup almonds, chopped (optional)
 2 Tbsps. chia seeds
 4 cups low-sugar cereal

In a large saucepan, heat the coconut oil on low to medium heat.

Add half the marshmallows and stir. Once they’ve started to melt add the other half.

Next add the vanilla, salt and cinnamon and stir until smooth.

Incorporate the carob chips. Stir until fully melted. You may have to add in two segments to ensure nothing burns.

Add the peanut butter, almonds and chia seeds.

Mix until everything is smooth.

Turn off the burner and add the cereal. Combine together until the cereal is evenly coated.

Wait 15 to 20 minutes for the mixture to cool off and congeal. If you want to speed up this process, place in the fridge.
Now comes the fun part for the kids. Put a little bit of oil on your hands so the batter doesn’t stick and take a spoonful of the mixture and roll it into balls.
Set balls on an ungreased cookie sheet in the fridge for at least 1 hour. They can stay in the fridge for up to three days.

Taylor Orlin, an account executive for the Jewish Exponent, is a lifelong foodie. She has spent years developing and modifying recipes to adapt for specific dietary needs, including her own Crohn’s Disease. She also believes in instilling healthy eating habits at a young age.


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