Summer Dinners Made Easy


summer dinner made easy

Summer temps are here and that’s fine by me! (I REALLY don’t like winter!!) And, now that it’s warm outside it’s time to catch up on fresh air, sunshine and balmy breezes. No more winter-imposed, nature deprivation!

Playing hard in warm weather requires good fuel, powerful nutrition and, of course, time. But, finding extra minutes to cook healthy meals during busy summer months (or any time) challenges even the most organized human. You don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen because you have better things to do, but you also don’t want to settle for pizza or fast food burgers every night, right?

No worries! What you need are some great "How To’s" for planning summer meals and a few new menus to refresh your dinner repertoire.

So here you go! These quick and easy summer menus will create happiness at your dinner table and free up loads of time to do the things you love - like hiking, biking, golfing, paddleboarding, walking, running, playing with your grandkids, attending ball games and swim meets.........Now, gotta run, summertime’s calling me!!

Click here for the summer theme song of the Carolinas. Thank you, Catalinas!

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach, NC

5 Summer Menu Planning Tips

  • When planning your meals, include a protein, a healthy starch (sweet potatoes, beans, winter squash, intact grains - quinoa, wild rice, wheat berries, millet) and two vegetables or a vegetable plus a fruit.

Volumetric Plate

  • Balance the work load of meal prep by including 1-2 cooked dishes with 1-2 fresh, raw foods requiring minimum prep time.
  • Think ROY G BIV: Add the bright colors of the rainbow to your meals. Each color group has its own set of powerful health benefits. (Super easy dinner hint: it's berry season so include a different berry at each dinner meal.)

And wow, is this the season for color! The farmers market looks like an artist’s palette.

Famers Market Produce
I snapped these pics with my daughter at the Farmer’s Market in Union Square Park in NYC.

  • When cooking meats, cook double the amount you need and use the 2nd batch for another night’s meal. Ex. Grill 2 whole chickens - eat 1 the first night and make chicken salad or chicken fajitas with the 2nd one the next night.
  • On weekends and Wednesday nights, cook healthy starches in large quantities (i.e. baked sweet potatoes, winter squash, beans, wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, millet) and reheat on subsequent nights. These starches freeze well for later use.

Summer Meals Your Family Will Love

Menu 1

baked shrimp meal

Lemon Baked Shrimp
Wild Rice
Salad with Yellow Pepper, Tomatoes and Carrots tossed with Vinaigrette
Strawberries and Blackberries

Lemon Baked Shrimp
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes 6 servings


lemon baked shrimp_ingredients

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter or ghee, melted
1 lemon, sliced
1 ½ tsp fresh chopped dill or ¾ tsp dried
½ tsp Old Bay Seasoning
½ tsp lemon pepper
1 ½ pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined


  1. Pour olive oil and melted butter into a Pyrex baking dish.
  2. Place sliced lemons on top of the oils.
  3. Place shrimp on top of the lemon slices.
  4. Sprinkle with dill, Old Bay and lemon pepper.
  5. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. You can turn the oven to broil for the last 3 minutes if you want the shrimp to get a little golden.

lemon baked shrimp

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories: 145, Protein: 15gm, Carbs: 1gm, Fiber: 0gm, Total Fat: 8gm, Saturated Fat: 2gm, Trans Fat: 0gm, Cholesterol: 147mg, Sodium: 660 mg (most of the sodium occurs naturally in the fresh shrimp)

Menu 2

montreal pork chop meal

Montreal Pork Chops
New Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Sautéed Spinach
Watermelon, Blueberries and Cherries

Montreal Pork Chops
Prep time: 1 minute
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes 4 servings


montreal pork chops_ingredients

1 pound boneless fat-trimmed pork loin chops (preferably pastured)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¾ tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning


  1. Sprinkle both sides of chops with Montreal Steak Seasoning.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet.
  3. Sauté chops for 5-8 minutes per side on medium heat.

montreal pork chops_directions

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories: 214, Protein: 26gm, Carbs: 0gm, Fiber: 0gm, Total Fat: 11.5gm, Saturated Fat: 2.5gm, Trans Fat: 0gm, Cholesterol: 71mg, Sodium: 199 mg

Microwave New Potatoes
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Makes 4 servings


new potatoes_ingredients

12 small red new potatoes
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Scrub potatoes with a vegetable brush. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Pierce each potato 3-4 times with a fork (this keeps them from exploding in the microwave).
  3. Place potatoes on a clean paper towel in the microwave.
  4. Cook on high for 3 minutes.
  5. Flip potatoes and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  6. Let them steam in the microwave for a few minutes.
  7. Then, slice and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. (You can also toss in some fresh or dried dill and rosemary if you want more flavor.)

Nutrition Information per Serving (3 small potatoes without added salt): Calories: 111, Protein: 2gm, Carbs: 18gm, Fiber: 2gm, Total Fat: 3.5gm, Saturated Fat: 0.5gm, Trans Fat: 0gm, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 20 mg

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About Author

Cathy Greer Mazanec, MPH, RDN, LDN

Cathy is the Senior Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs at SAS Institute Inc in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, functional medicine nutritionist, blogger and food photographer. Cathy's specialties include integrative and functional nutrition, gut health, food allergies and intolerances and culinary nutrition. She is also a Certified Biofeedback instructor. An avid lover of the outdoors, Cathy spends her free time biking, golfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, sitting under the stars and spending time with her grandson. Follow @CmazanecRD on Twitter.

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