By MaryBeth Hornbeck, Rockdale County FACS Agent, UGA Extension         

My strongest childhood memories involve my family and food. Summer nights, holidays, and vacations all created reasons to try new foods, prep dishes together, and enjoy each other’s company around the table. It’s no wonder that I ended up in a job that combines nutrition, family, and community!

Even in families where both parents work full time, like mine growing up, there’s something about summer that creates more margin for family fun. Even twenty years later, I distinctly remember my mom taking extra time when school was out to make a normal sandwich lunch special by cutting it in a different shape and arranging my baby carrots and grapes around it. I also remember picking recipes with red, white and blue ingredients for Memorial Day, Labor Day and the4th of July.

There’s nothing like berries bursting with flavor, juicy watermelon and sweet corn in abundance. In addition to superior taste, eating what’s in season is usually much cheaper! Whether it’s a normal day or a special occasion, there are lots of opportunities for affordable family fun and entertainment with food.

Making meals and snacks together also encourages children to be more willing to try new foods. Other tactics for adventurous eaters include using dipping sauces, making foods in different shapes, giving dishes a fun name, and putting it on a stick (never underestimate the power of a kabob!).

Read on for healthy and tasty treats to beat boredom and the heat with UGA Extension:

Firecracker Fruit Kabobs: Let kids place a mixture of strawberries, blueberries, watermelon (cut into stars or chunks) and banana on a bamboo or metal skewer. Serve with vanilla yogurt for a dipping sauce.

Homemade Popsicles: Reusable popsicle molds are in many stores for $5 or less. Fill with your favorite 100% juice for a serving of fruit that will keep you cool! Consider adding blueberries or other fruits to the mold first for more color and bursts of flavor!

Yogurt Bark: Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread vanilla yogurt over the sheet. Let kids place fresh fruits like strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and blueberries over the surface. Place in freezer until solid. Cut and serve. If you have leftovers, store in the freezer until ready to eat.

Watermelon Granita: Make healthy snow cones with just watermelon, lime juice and sugar! For each ½ seedless watermelon (about 8 cups), you’ll need the juice of 2 limes (about 4 Tbsp) and ⅓ cup sugar. Place half your ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour juice in 9×13 cake pan and freezer for 2-3 hours. Begin scraping the frozen layer to make shaved ice. Put back in the freezer for a few hours and scrape; repeat the process until you have a whole pan of shaved ice. Cover with plastic wrap until serving.

Want more ideas? You can find me at the Nancy Guinn Library right here in Olde Town Conyers. I’ll be in the outside amphitheater (11:00-11:45 am) right after the Thrilling Thursday programs. Join me for cooking demos, food tastings, and giveaways. Bring the whole family and learn how to incorporate fresh produce into your daily diets. Visit www.conyersrockdalelibrary.org and click on the calendar to find dates for this free activity.