Back-to-school means it’s time to start thinking about packing your kids lunchbox. Every day. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to get in a rut of sandwich-fruit-chip/pretzels, but with a little bit of planning and thinking – dare I say it? – outside the box, we can get out of the rut and create a bit of lunchbox fun!
With that in mind, I’ve searched the Mom Advice archives for some of my kids favorite lunchbox foods, visited our lunchbox Pinterest Board (lots more ideas there, by the way!) for ideas, and then searched for even more creative and healthy ways to bring a little lunchbox fun to the school year!
Since we’ve been having a run of rainy weather where we live, I thought it would be a great idea to pull together some fun rainy day summertime activities (and even one outdoor project that uses rain!) to help get you through those inevitable wet, summer days.
You’ll find a few kid-friendly recipes, some projects to give to others, and fun classic indoor games and activities to inspire you to take advantage of summer’s rainy days.
The best part? This is only the tip of the iceberg of summertime activities – both indoor and outdoor! You’ll find oh, so much more on our 100 Days of Summer Pinterest Board – 2013 edition. And if that weren’t enough, there’s the 2012 and the 2011 editions of 100 Days of Summer boards, too. So, no excuses – take some time to have fun with your kids and make some memories!
If you have been a reader of mine or have checked out my book, “The Good Life for Less,” I am sure you are familiar with our easy homemade slushies recipe that we use throughout the summer months. Making your own slushies is fun, frugal, and a sweet summertime pastime for my kids. In fact, as soon as school got out, they asked if they could have mom’s infamous homemade slushies to celebrate their last day of school.
The great thing about our easy KOOL-AID slushies is that you can make a different batch every time. We love trying new flavors and now you can find fun ones like watermelon, mixed berry, and even strawberry kiwi.
I am always tweaking my recipes and have tried everything from sugar-free Kool-Aid to make slushies (they did not turn out for us) to reducing the sugar in our slushies to see if the kids notice a taste difference. We decided to drop the sugar to a 1/2 cup in our batch (originally 2/3 cup) and we found that we didn’t notice a big taste difference, but I felt better about sharing this treat with my kids with the lower sugar content.
Do You Have a KOOL-AID Creation To Share?
KOOL AID is working with the Nickelodeon boy band, Big Time Rush (BTR) during their 2013 summer concert tour and would love if you uploaded a unique “KOOL AID Creation” to participate in their fun summertime contest! Perhaps, you can create your very own slushie creation or other fun project with KOOL-AID?
Walmart shoppers who purchase $6 worth of KOOL AID products can upload an image of their Walmart receipt to the free Shoparoo app on their smart phone or to Shoparoo.com. You will receive a unique code for an exclusive ticket price of $50 for (4) four on Big Time Rush tickets. The ticket purchase can be made at Walmart Ticket Master kiosks, Ticket Master online or through Ticket Master phone orders.
Winners will receive (2) VIP tickets to one of the 37 BTR concerts this summer and an autographed BTR KOOL AID tee , Meet & Greet including photo with the Band.
How fun is that?
We don’t just love our slushies though, I had to showcase these adorable double-insulated mason travel mugs that Walmart has over in their seasonal section of their store. Our slushies stayed super cold and there were no worries about slushie spills. I ended up buying four of them for myself, so I could sip a little iced cold iced tea or iced coffee on my patio this summer!
As my kids get older, I am beginning to learn more the importance of cooking with them. Today I am sharing our family’s favorite summer pasta recipe of Rotini With Turkey Meatballs and I wanted to share with you a fun way to involve your kids in the cooking process.
Walmart wanted to give us the chance to share about the Gourmet Garden herb line that you can find at your store. We are no strangers to the beauty of Gourmet Garden though and I guarantee if you open my fridge on any given day, you will find a tube of herbs in there.
There are several reason why I genuinely love these handy herbs in a tube. For us, it offers a little money-savings for seldom used herbs that need to be added to dishes. I hate throwing out herbs that go bad within a week where I simply need a pinch or so to create a dish. Garden Gourmet herbs last for up to three months, giving me the chance to make that dish many times over before I have to give my tube a toss.
The second reason I really love these herbs is because it is an easy way to bring your kids into the kitchen with you and get them cooking and spicing dishes with you, without ever getting out that knife and cutting board.
The bonus in all of this though is that these herbs are organically-grown and gluten-free; two things that we know are important to many of our readers!
Basically, we love them and have been true Garden Gourmet enthusiasts for a long time!
Throw on your mom’s apron, should you so choose, and let’s get cooking in the kitchen this summer with your favorite helpers. Both of my kids were very excited about getting to help make this dish since it just so happens to be our Dad’s favorite dish.
Meatballs are fun to mix, to shape, and…of course, to eat! We made our meatballs with Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage (we just remove the meat from the casing for preparation) and mix it up with breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, a little squeeze of ketchup, lightly beaten eggs, and the Garlic and Italian Herbs from the Garden Gourmet herb line.
Roll out the meatballs into roughly the same size shape and place them gently on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake these at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. The size pictured above were ready in about 12 minutes.
Rinse four cups of cherry tomatoes and then (with mom or dad’s help) cut the tomatoes in half for the sauce.
Let the kids shape those meatballs while you prepare the sauce for the dish. I used the Garden Gourmet Chunky Garlic paste, the fresh tomatoes, and a little chicken broth to make a light summer sauce. If your kids aren’t a fan of the big tomatoes in the sauce, utilize an immersion blender or carefully pour the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the sauce back to the pan and slide your meatballs into the sauce until they are warm.
Prepare the pasta as directed on the packaging and drain.
Finish by tossing all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and add fresh Garden Gourmet basil in the dish and lightly toss until everything is incorporated.
Sometimes I forget how much fun it really is to cook with my kids in the kitchen and just how proud they are when they contribute to the dish. They couldn’t wait to show their Dad their meatballs they made and we all agreed that they were far more delicious than the ones I make by myself.
I hope you can get in the kitchen and mix up something delicious with your family and that our recipe offers some inspiration for your family cooking time together!
Father’s Day is just around the corner & today we wanted to share a monster of a Father’s Day gift with a cute spin on the monster theme with easy monster cookie bars and printable monster cards for a special Dad in your life.
This week’s challenge from Walmart was to create an inexpensive Father’s Day gift that would wow your Dad. Well, if your dad is anything like our Dad, he is certainly wowed with homemade treats and funny cards with a great sense of humor. Our idea was to mix up a batch of thick and delicious Monster Cookie Bars made with rolled oats, peanut butter, mini M&M’s (found over in their candy aisle), and chocolate chips.
Monster Cookies can be a bit of a monster to create as a drop cookie because of their monster size. I choose to echo the words of an amazing woman I once heard speak these wise words…
“Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Bar cookies get a big fist pump from this busy mom and if a celebration requires a cookie, I often rely on these chocolate chip cookie bars to get us through whatever baking requirements are made for those occasions. These Monster Cookie Bars are equally delicious and offer that crusty exterior with that soft interior that makes, in my humble opinion, the perfect cookie.
What Father’s Day would be complete without a card to accompany your sweet gift? We are so excited to debut these adorable Monster cards that you can print out to attach with your Monster Cookie Bars for your favorite Dad. We have included three fun printable cards for Father’s Day and then 1 that could be used for any occasion to accompany your sweet treat. Print these printables out on white card stock and you will be all set for this Father’s Day!
I can admit that this family has had Monsters on our brain after getting a sneak peek at the Monsters University movie that is set to hit theaters on June 21st. While our family was at the Disney Social Media Moms conference, we got an exclusive sneak peek at the film. It is FANTASTIC, and dare I say it, even funnier than the first one. I have no doubt that your family will love it!
Our Monster Cookie Bars would really pull together a fun family night out to see this fantastic film and you can find loads of fun Monsters supplies in the party favors aisle of your Walmart store including fun cups, plates, and other party favors for an inexpensive night to enjoy while tackling your summer bucket list or our 100 Days of Summer Pinterest Board.
Now that you have the printables, here is the deliciously easy and tasty recipe for these Monster Cookie Bars. We recommend preparing these in a metal 9×13 pan for best results!
Monster cookies made easy in a bar cookie. Be sure to pair these easy cookies with our free Monster printables.
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups creamy peanut buter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mini M&M's (approximately half a bag)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until blended. Add the vanilla and eggs and mix until light and fluffy.
Gradually add the flour mixture until just combined.
Mix in oats until well combined.
Stir in chocolate chips and mini M&M's
Press dough evenly into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown and set in the middle. Let cool completely in baking dish then cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.
Happy Father’s Day to all of our Dad readers (I know you’re out there!) and here’s hoping you get spoiled by a few of your favorite monsters!
Be sure to check back this week for more great Father’s Day gifts on a budget!
Summer is just around the corner and I am so excited to share with you that I have gathered another 100 Days of Summer activities for you to do with your kids in the summer months. These are 100 activities that are all low to no cost, screen-free, and a fun way to build truly memorable moments with your kids in the summer months.
I am looking forward to tackling our own summer list and will be documenting our projects through mobile pictures.You can catch me on Instagram, where I am documenting our summer. Just search for the username momadvice and you will find me there. Just as a side note, I try to always answer all the comments on my pictures if I can. If you have questions about projects we are doing or just want to say hello, I will do my best to respond!
If you are on Instagram, you can join in on the fun by taking pictures and sharing all of your summer adventures through there. Let’s use the hashtag #100summerdays again like we did last year.
By tagging your photos, it will make it easy to find each other in the group and share the projects we are tackling together. You can add the tags to your caption or you can add them as a comment later. In either scenario, the tag will pull it into our summer group.
I still will be sharing our apron full of giveaways and our notebook of inspiration each week. I will also have fresh content through my freelance writing jobs this summer with Kenmore, Goodwill, Jack’s Pizza, & Walmart that will keep our site fully loaded with great ideas for your summer.
For the rest of my entries, I will be sharing what we are working on from our summer list through mobile pictures and quick notes on what fun activities we are doing at our house. I am hoping it will be an inspiration to you to get out and enjoy the summer with your children. I can’t say we will tackle a hundred activities, but I will be awfully proud if we do one cool activity a week.
This year’s list is AMAZING and my favorite so far from making chevron friendship bracelets, to building race tracks, to painting techniques on rain days, to creating popsicle light sabers. There really is something for EVERY age group this year.
Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for inspiration for your meal planning, home, reading, wardrobe and more! I am one happy little pinner!
If there is one thing this family loves it is baked doughnuts. Today we baked up a bath of baked strawberry doughnuts that would be perfect to enjoy during the summer months. Walmart challenged me to share a fresh new take on a strawberry recipe and I couldn’t wait to share this doughnut recipe with you!
Picking the perfect strawberries for your dishes is relatively easy compared to other fruits where the flesh is hidden from view. I always pick the package up and examine underneath since bad berries can be nestled on the underside of the package. Be sure to select berries that are not overly ripe, mushy, or are starting to mold. Since berries have such a short shelf life, you want to make sure you are really off to a good start with the best berries from the store.
Did you know strawberries taste best at room temperature? If you are eating them whole, pull them out of the fridge one hour before eating to eat them at their peak flavor.
I found a great recipe for beautifully baked strawberry doughnuts from Cooking Classy that I couldn’t wait to try. To really heighten the berry flavor of these doughnuts, the glaze incorporates both fresh and freeze dried berries. You can find freeze-dried strawberries over in the same aisle as the nuts, granola bars, and dried fruits. When these freeze-dried berries are broken, it creates the pretty color and adds a burst of berry flavor to the glaze that would be mild in comparison with the fresh berries.
The flavor of these is surprisingly light thanks to the buttermilk and fresh berries that are thrown into the batter. The glaze adds that bright berry flavor to the coating and makes these baked doughnuts feel truly indulgent.
⅔ cup finely chopped strawberries (I use my hand chopper to chop these)
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup finely chopped strawberries
½ cup (6 g) freeze dried strawberries, finely crushed to powder (place in a Ziploc bag, crush with rolling pin)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease doughnut pans well by spraying with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
Make a well in center of mixture and set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla and eggs and then pour into well in flour.
Using a wooden spoon, stir mixture just until combined, then fold in ⅔ cup finely chopped strawberries. Spoon 2½ Tbsp batter evenly into each well of the doughnut pans.
Bake in preheated oven 11-13 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of doughnut comes out clean.
Prepare glaze just before dipping cooled doughnuts. In a mixing bowl, combine ½ cup finely chopped strawberries and half of the powdered sugar. Stir until mixture starts to become moistened, then allow to rest 1 minute.
Add in remaining powdered sugar and freeze dried strawberry powder and stir until well combined . Use glaze immediately. If glaze is too thick, thin with 1 tablespoon of milk.
Allow to cool several minutes in doughnut pan then invert onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Once cool dip top halves of doughnuts into glaze and allow some of excess to run off, then return to wire rack, glazed side facing upward.
Transfer doughnuts to freezer to allow glaze to set, about 5 minutes.
Ever wanted to tackle making a family cookbook with your kids? I’m so excited to show you how we made a scrapbook of our favorite foods and food traditions together. Making a cookbook with your kids is a fun activity that any family can do together and we are so excited to show you how we created ours.
If you know us, one thing that our family is big on is traditions created around the dinner table. Whether it is our pizza night on Fridays, our waffle tradition on Sundays, or the way we commemorate every little occasion in life, we somehow find a fun food tradition to surround the event. Today I want to showcase a way to truly document those food traditions by creating a family cookbook with your kids that can be a fun project to create together as well as a legacy of your family traditions to pass down to future generations.
I love crunchy breaded chicken and these Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders fit the bill perfectly with a healthy and wholesome breading that you will love. These pecan-crusted chicken tenders have a pecan coating made from pecans, a little whole wheat flour, and panko.
I made a triple batch of these for our family. If you have the food processor out, you might as well make a large batch of coating so that you can enjoy these all week long.These can be wrapped in tortillas with a smear of the yogurt dill sauce or they can be placed on top of a delicious salad with homemade dressing.
Lining the pan with parchment paper makes for easy clean-up and still browns the bottom of the tenders beautifully!
There are two things that really make these tenders a standout. One is the incorporation of spices in the coating. Dry mustard, the smokiness of the paprika, the rich flavor of garlic and onion powder all add to the flavorful coating and make the coating as delicious as the tender chicken inside. The second thing that really makes these is the yogurt-dill sauce for dipping your tenders in. I used Chobani Greek Yogurt which, thanks to the thickness and flavor, it makes this sauce feel as indulgent as Ranch dressing.
My kids were happy little dippers and this was a great way for them to get a little dairy in their diet without them knowing.
I love, love, love breakfast tarts and today I wanted to share with you a cute homemade whole wheat toasted tart version of this delicious treat that you can make right in your own kitchen. This recipe for whole wheat toasted tarts is so delicious that you won’t believe how much yum can be packed into one little treat.
These whole wheat toasted tarts incorporate a little whole wheat flour and in lieu of a frosting topping, I have mixed raw sugar & wheat germ for a sweet and toasty combination of deliciousness that is a little bit healthier than sprinkles and frosting (although we do love sprinkles and frosting around here too!).
I had never eaten a homemade toasted tart before and can I say…holy yum?! These are flaky, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and just the right balance of filling and crust.
I hit my local Walmart store to grab supplies for this yummy treat. They offer absolutely delicious gourmet Bonne Maman fruit preserves that have become a special treat in our house for everything from waffle topping to my kid’s peanut butter & jellies. They retail for $3.95 each and come in delicious berry combinations, strawberry, cherry, and wild blueberry. One of these days I will get the hang of canning, but for now, these are my go-to preserves and make a delicious filling for homemade toasted tarts.
Just like my all butter pie crust (you can check out a picture tutorial over there), I employ the use of my food processor to create an easy crust without the kneading. To make sure I don’t overwork the dough, I only use the Pulse on my food processor so I can make sure that I have a very tender dough. This is really essential for a flaky crust especially since we are creating this dough with whole wheat flour incorporated in it.
You can roll your dough out on a well-floured surface or roll it between two pieces of parchment paper. I highly recommend the parchment paper since this dough is a sticky one!
Did I mention sticky? This dough is a tricky little beast for a novice chef. Refrigeration of your crust is really essential for nice crisp edges and workable dough. The experts advise chilling your dough before using it and then chilling your tarts before you bake them to retain their shape. I do the same tactic with my sugar cookies and it yields crisp results. This will be doubly important if you live somewhere with a humid climate or are working in a hot kitchen.
My advice, chill out!
Seriously, just chill out for as long as you can!
My crunchy & sweet topping is raw sugar mixed with wheat germ. A generous sprinkle of this adds another layer of deliciousness. Although the dough is chock-full of butter (as all good crusts are!), there is very little sugar in the dough itself and the raw sugar adds a crunchy texture as well as a little sweetness to this homemade delight.
These little toasty tarts were meant to be cut in perfect measurements with crisp corners.
I am no baker though, so these are imperfect…
Just like me!
The kids never noticed the difference and busy moms don’t have time for perfection when it comes to snacks.
Can I get an, “Amen?”
Toasted Tart Filling Ideas
Fruit Preserve Filling: 3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam, 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water. Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use to fill the pastry tarts.
Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Filling: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, & 4 teaspoons flour. Whisk together.
Chocolate Filling: 9 tablespoons mini chocolate chips or 9 tablespoons Nutella. Spread or sprinkle chocolate filling.
Surprise the kids with a homemade version of this favorite breakfast treat. Be sure to visit the post for filling ideas for your homemade whole wheat toasted tarts.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 quarter-pound sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
1 additional large egg (for brushing on the pastry)
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon wheat germ
Process flour, sugar, and salt together until combined.
Add butter and pulse until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible.
Mix the egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive.
Divide the dough in half. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days or for 30 minutes.
Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes.
Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about ⅛" thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9" x 12". Laying a 9" x 13" pan atop the dough will give you an idea if you’ve rolled it large enough. Trim off the edges; place the scraps on a baking sheet, and set them aside, along with the 9" x 12" rectangle of dough.
Roll the second piece of dough just as you did the first. Press the edge of a ruler into the dough you’ve just rolled, to gently score it in thirds lengthwise and widthwise; you’ll see nine 3" x 4" rectangles.
Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each marked rectangle.
Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around each pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides.
Brush the tops of the pastry with the remainder of the egg and then sprinkle the wheat germ and raw sugar topping on top of your tart.
Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Cut the dough evenly in between the filling mounds to make nine tarts. Press the cut edges with your fingers to seal, then press with a fork, to seal again.
Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.
Remove the tarts form the fridge, and bake them for 25-28 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.