Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Crafting Fun: Marbleized Easter Eggs

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

One of our favorite Easter activities is decorating Easter eggs. Every year we try to do something new with our eggs. The first year I ditched the boxes of Easter egg dyes and created our own out of pantry ingredients. Last year we had a blast trying Kool-Aid egg dying which really made beautiful and vibrant eggs without any effort.

This year I ran across a fun idea for creating marbleized eggs from common items in the pantry. If you have food coloring, vinegar, and olive oil…you have the makings for beautifully marbled eggs. Pictured above are the eggs that my children created this year. This was a lot of fun because each egg could be so different and unique!

1. Hard boil your eggs as desired. In shallow bowls, mix together three cups of warm water with two tablespoons of vinegar and ten drops of food coloring. I used the Betty Crocker Neon Food Coloring that I found in the baking aisle. Whisk the ingredients together well.

2. Submerge your eggs and leave them in there until they reach the desired color. One thing we learned is that it is better to have a lighter color as the base color so the second layer of color will take well on your eggs.

3. Dry your eggs with a paper towel.

4. Repeat the process with the rest of the eggs. Rest them gently on your inverted egg carton to allow them to dry.

5. To the dye that you have already prepared, add one tablespoon of olive oil and then, using a fork, run your fork through the oil to break the oil into pieces to create the solution to roll your eggs. As the oil swirls, roll your egg once through a contrasting color. Allow the oil to pick up & create another round of color on your eggs. Blot gently with paper towels. (Editor’s Note: Many apologies for the lack of pictures after this point. We just really got into it and it was getting a little crazy with eggs dropping rolling)

6. Admire your beautiful eggs!

Don’t forget to turn those eggs into delicious deviled eggs for a fun addition to your family dinner!

What is your favorite Easter tradition?  Are you trying anything new and exciting with egg dying this year? Would love to hear what Easter crafts you are working on!

Family Meal Planning Ideas & a Fun New Appetizer

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

One New Year’s resolution that I hear many families are making is to get back to eating around the dinner table together as a family and developing menu plans that really work for them. Meal planning happens to be one of my most favorite things to do in the world so I was excited to share my thoughts and ideas on menu planning this month with Snackpicks.

In this post, I detail five easy ways to make menu planning simpler and cost-effective for your family. One of my favorite ideas in this list is to incorporate a theme night into your routine or even for planning all seven days of the week. It definitely doesn’t need to be fancy, in fact, my favorite night is Sunday when it is a Seek-And-Ye-Shall-Find night (also known as eating the leftovers from the week’s meals).

Another fun theme night that we love to do is an Appetizer night. Who can resist a table full of fun small bite foods for a new take on the family meal? Luckily, Chef John is creating a Deviled Shrimp Bite appetizer that would be a fun new way to try a little seafood on your appetizer night or for your next get together. This spread incorporates the flavors of  delicious shrimp, roasted red peppers,
anise-like-flavored tarragon and pungent paprika. You definitely don’t want to miss this fun video tutorial on how to make this simple and quick appetizer for your family! Paired with my favorite spinach dip and honey barbecue wings, you would have the makings for the perfect fun food night or get together with your friends.

How often do you meal plan for your family and what tips/tricks can you offer on streamlining the menu planning process? Please share!

New Year’s Goals: Embracing a New Workout Routine

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Over the next few weeks, I will be republishing a few of the posts that I did last year on goals for the New Year.  This year I decided to take the plunge and get a gym membership in town, now that my daughter is a little older and enjoys going with mommy so she can exercise. A recent writing gig is paying for my gym membership and has afforded me the luxury of indulging in new classes and ways to stay fit.   You can learn more about my fitness confessions and how staying healthy has transformed my own life here.

I have great motivation to keep a healthy lifestyle which is what fuels me to continue to exercise and keep up with my active lifestyle. My motivators might be different from yours, but I am sure there is something that motivates you. For me, I find myself less depressed when I exercise, the aches and pains that I have seem to subside with regular exercise, I am trying to avoid the health problems that have plagued my family,  but most of all… I have the energy to keep up with my two energetic children.

I used to attend the gym regularly before I had children. On my lunch hours, I would head to the gym and take difficult kickboxing classes, pilates, power yoga, and aerobics classes. I had college weight to lose and the time to think about just me. The longer and the harder the class, the more I loved it! I would spend my afternoons at the gym and the evenings doing community theater and just thinking about me. It was just all about me all the time and it was glorious.

Those days seem a lifetime ago. My workouts have to be quick and effective,  crammed between two kid’s extracurricular activities, homework, laundry, and daily life.  I find myself trying to figure out how I can just find twenty minutes to myself. In fact, my workout routines are mixed in with children trying to exercise rightwithme and a cat that insists on rubbing against me while I am doing my ab work. Kids are crying for computer time or needing help in the bathroom and I am pausing the DVD and running back, hoping to continue my little burst in energy. What a far cry from an hour at the gym for just me.

That being said, I wouldn’t have it any other way and as the kids see me exercise, I know that I am modeling for them the importance of taking care of the body that God gave you. I could join a gym, but I have found that driving over to a gym takes more time and more energy than popping in a DVD or using the workout equipment we own at home. That being said, it requires a great deal of discipline to maintain a workout routine on your own. Thankfully, interacting online with my real life friends and internet friends keeps me motivated enough to do it all on my own.

What I have discovered is that moms need to find a solution that works best for them. The gym might be for some, but it might not be for you. Workout equipment at home might not be helpful to you, but for others they find motivation in having what they need right at their fingertips. Realize that as long as you are moving, you are doing exactly what your body is intended to do.

1.    Make it quick and convenient. Try aiming for just twenty minute sessions and do what fits best with your schedule. If going to the gym doesn’t work for you right now, stick to a workout DVD. If you can’t manage either, try a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, make it something that is easily doable and can be done in a short period of time.

2.    Make an appointment with yourself. Find the times that work best for you and do it every single day. If something gets in your time slot, push it back, but do not push it off.

3.    Schedule your workouts when it is best for you, not when you think you should workout. I can admit it; I am not a morning person. I have tried being a morning person and I just can’t do it. I will no longer apologize for not being a morning person and will understand that maybe I will come to a stage in my life where morning workouts work better for me, but for now I am content on being groggy in the morning and doing afternoon workouts instead.

4.    Get pumped up. Find what motivates you to get moving and incorporate that. Music is a powerful motivator for me and I love to get music from the local library and play that or load fresh music into my iPod for working out.

Others are pumped by community sites that help them track and login their workout times. SparkPeople is one resource where you can track your caloric content and exercise schedule while chatting with others through forums. Others are motivated by having a workout buddy or making a daily date with a girlfriend at the gym. Whatever it is, find what motivates you and get your body moving.

5. Challenge your spouse. My husband and I decided to challenge each other one month to an exercise challenge. I did a workout routine for 30 days straight and he did did sit-ups every single day. Both of our bodies were transformed by the experience and so was our mindset. Adding an element of competition encouraged me that I could totally take him on and added another level to my workout routine. Adding a little trash-talking in our dinner conversation also helped with our friendly competition that not only ended up rewarding ourselves with a more active lifestyle, but even added a little bit of spark back into our relationship!


5.    Get some workout gear. I don’t know why, but I have a hard time spending money on workout gear. The year 1997 called though and they wanted their workout clothes back so I knew it was time to make an investment. Buy a few good workout pieces for yourself and try washing your tennis shoes to freshen them up. Just slip off the laces and throw the shoes in the washer. Wash them on a warm setting with a little laundry detergent. After they are done, stuff the interior of the shoes with newspaper (to help hold its shape and also to absorb any lingering odors) and let them dry outside in the sunshine. Fresh workout gear can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself and can help you commit more to making exercise a priority.

6. Reward yourself. Rewards to myself are exactly what keep me motivated and what you might find keeps you motivated too. It could be something simple like a glass of wine in the evening, a bubble bath with a good book, a new pair of jeans after reaching a certain weight, a new DVD that will keep inspiring you to workout,  or a protein-packed smoothie that can only be drank if a workout is complete.

7. Switch it up. I need new routines each day to keep things fresh and keep myself motivated. I love to visit our local library and check out workout DVD’s for free and add variety to my workout routines without spending any money. If your library doesn’t offer a great selection, try pooling your workout DVD’s with friends and trading with one another to add different elements to your workout routine. If you have a movie membership, use that for a workout DVD instead of another couch potato night.

Dust off that old treadmill, use the Wii Fit that you told your hubby you would use regularly, but quickly gathered dust in your family room, grab those DVD’s that you just had to have to keep your workouts fresh, and put those five pound weights and mat that are still wrapped in their packages to work.

Do it for you, do it for your kids, do it for your spouse, do it for your body,  do it because YOU DESERVE TO BE HEALTHY! Do it for whatever motives you, but DO IT!

This is my motivation. I want to see them go to high school. I want to watch them at graduation. I want to meet the loves of their life. I want to watch them walk down the aisle. I want to hold my grandchildren.  I want to hold my great-grandchildren. I don’t want to miss a moment of any of it. I know I can do all of that if  I take care of myself and the body that God gave me.

(I am continuing to work on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin I recommend you read it too!)

What motivates you to exercise? What routines have you found to be effective for your busy lifestyle?

On a Little Winter Break

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

The winter has already been so wonderful for our family! We have made snow angels, indulged in a thousand batches of gingerbread waffles, warmed our hands with mugs of cocoa, took a trip to the theater to catch a movie, saw the amazing Santa and put in our gift requests, visited the neighborhood of holiday lights, and got to see The Nutcracker that was performed at our theater downtown. We will be doing lots more of that while the children are on Winter Break.

MomAdvice will be back in the New Year with many more ideas for simple family celebrations, great dishes to share around your kitchen table, craft ideas to keep your family under budget, and ways to manage your home simply and easily!

Many blessings to you and your family this Christmas and I hope you have a happy and safe New Year!

How to Create an Advent Calendar Out of Common Household Items

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

It is that time of year again and that means another Advent season. Today I wanted to share with you a “use what you have” Advent calendar that we created last year. It was such a hit that I plan to make another one for this year! This requires no pricey materials and is based around what the holiday season should be all about… being together!

In the years past, we have always had a Christmas Jar of activities. Each day we would randomly draw from a set number of activities and enjoy a holiday activity together as a family. This year, our life with our two children has become increasingly busy and scheduled. We have two school schedules, extracurricular activities, homework, holiday programs, holiday family events, and so much more going on. Our life of leisure seems to have taken a detour and I have had to be more thoughtful in our approach towards carving time out for what we would hope to accomplish this year.

I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and wanted to share with you what we created!

Homemade Advent Calendar

Supplies needed:

A large circle punch (in scrapbook supplies at craft store) or a jar or glass for tracing
Tape
Scrapbook or festive holiday gift wrap
Ribbon
Marker
2 Muffin Tins
A picture frame stand or a place to prop your finished tins

I began this project by punching out 48 circles. On half of these write the numbers 1-24 and on the other half you can write fun activities to do with your children in anticipation of the big day.


Stick your holiday activity folded up inside of each muffin tin and then attach the numbered circles to each individual muffin tin. Secure with tape on both sides to hold your activities in securely.


Break out your trusty calendar and jot down the activities for each day to remind yourself what you need to plan for and what supplies will need to be purchased to accomplish the activities.

Add a little festive ribbon to the top of your muffin tin. Display the muffin tin by using a picture frame stand or finding a sturdy wall to prop it up with. Have your child draw an activity each morning to complete as a family.

Our Activity List

1. Decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Big bubble baths with holiday music playing.
3. Going to the library to pick out holiday books.
4. Special popcorn and hot cocoa snack (possible visit for the tree lighting ceremony in town).
5. Going to a Christmas Concert.
6. Decorating gingerbread houses.
7. Make Christmas cards for our special friends.
8. Watch a holiday movie.
9. Color a holiday coloring page.
10. Bake Christmas cookies.
11. Go see holiday lights.
12. Go see Santa and a trolley ride through downtown.
13. Write a letter to Santa.
14. Pop popcorn & play a board game together.
15. Host an ornament decorating party.
16. Color a holiday picture.
17. Holiday party to attend.
18. Go to the dollar theater and see a movie.
19. Go see the Christmas lights.
20. Deliver holiday treats to our friends & the firefighters in town.
21. Big bubble bath with holiday music.
22. Open one gift early.
23. Watch a holiday movie.
24. Celebrate our family Christmas.

Total cost for this project was zero and very little money will be spent to do these activities together. The memories I hope to create with my children though, I hope those will be priceless!

Do you do an Advent calendar or have a special way your family celebrates the countdown to Christmas? I would love to hear your ideas!

Happy Holidays from the Clark Family

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Well, sweet friends, for the first time ever…I am taking a little vacation from the blog.  In almost seven years, I have never purposefully taken a week off unless it was because of technical difficulties.  This week will be a crazy one as I have a film crew moving in for the day to shoot a webisode for my spokesperson job with Cheer and I am hosting both sides of our fabulous family for Thanksgiving. Vacation timing, for me,  could not be more perfect.

I leave you with these beautiful portraits of our family that my wildly talented and awesome friend Nancy took of our family. I must be the luckiest girl in the world because I have, like, ten close friends that are all wildly talented photographers in town. We never have a shortage of wonderful people to take our picture here. We were so excited to do a portrait session with Nancy. If you live here, you should too.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with laughter, love, great food, and family. I will be back in a week as we gear up with holiday crafts, traditions, and food to create this holiday season.

With much love and thanksgiving for you,

Amy

Family Holiday Activity: Fighting Hunger Together Today!

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

In the busy chaos of trying to prepare for the holidays, it is often overlooked that so many people will not get the beauty of sitting around  a table and indulging in a Thanksgiving feast. In fact, 1 out of 6 people will not even know where their next meal will come from. It truly breaks my heart when I hear that so many are in need and I often feel helpless in how I can possibly help.  As someone who desires to live a frugal and simple life, I am always looking for those “scraps of life” ways that I can give back to others.  This is just another way that I want to share with you that you can give back to others, both simply and within your own budget.

You may not have noticed the food barrels at your local Walmart store as you are hurrying off to do your holiday shopping. Well, I am excited to share that Walmart is running a Fighting Hunger Together Campaign and providing barrels where you can make a food donation to help support food pantries that are desperately in need right now. These barrels are conveniently located near the entrance of the store (mine was located right outside of the grocery side of our local store) where you can drop off your donations as you are entering or leaving to do your shopping.

If you’re thinking about giving to a food drive, here are a few of the items currently needed:

  • Canned Meats (tuna, chicken, stews)
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Spaghetti Sauce & Noodles
  • Canned Beans (baked, garbanzo, kidney)
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Fruits (in light syrup)
  • Juice Boxes (100% juice)
  • Cereals (boxed, oatmeal)

The food pantries can also use basic household items and toiletries, like toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant and diapers (sizes larger than newborn). If you’re thinking about donating to a food drive, Walmart is conducting an in-store food drive through Monday (11/22), so please head out there this weekend and lend your support.

I encourage you to take a moment to visit the Fighting Hunger Together site and learn more about these efforts to feed the hungry. When you visit, be sure to “Like” your own community. Votes will be tallied to see where the donations will be going.

Below is a video of our family taking our own trip to do a donation. With just fifty dollars, we were able to donate 49 items for the cause. We gathered up many of the items for just a mere fifty cents or so each! The kids were thrilled to help and we were proud that we were able to contribute to such a worthwhile cause.

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

A Family Day at the Pumpkin Patch

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

It is my favorite family day of the entire year. Pure and unadulterated pumpkin loving and picking for the entire family. My heart practically bursts every year that we get to do this together and this year was no exception. This year though my heart was just bursting and my eyes were all welling up as I saw my kids in the same exact spots as just two years ago. Yes, they looked completely different than they did before. They had to duck in places that used to easily slide under. They reached spots that they couldn’t reach before. Taking them was a whole heck of a lot easier. We all seemed to enjoy it more than the time before.  Family fun was even more fun this year.

It is bittersweet to watch them grow.

Happy and a little sad all at the same time.

Apple Picking & Apple Potpourri

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

It is that time of year again and I couldn’t wait for fall to arrive. This year we took a trip to Jollay Orchards to go apple picking as family for the first time and the kids absolutely loved it! What a beautiful day it was! We splurged for the admission into the petting zoo and rides for a fun family day together. We also picked a ton of apples this year and I will be creating a lot of apple dishes in our kitchen to use up the apples we have on hand! The kids enjoyed every minute of this activity and we all enjoyed our cider and donuts treat at the end of the day.

Some ideas of fun were better than others. Apple picking, hay rides, and corn mazes…a blast. Haunted house… super bad idea. Poor kids-  that picture speaks a thousand words!

We also can’t wait to do a little pumpkin picking next month. I have to say,  personally, the pumpkin picking is my favorite kind of picking. You know why? No obligation to do kitchen duty with a pumpkin and I get to just enjoy the pumpkin out on my front step and time spent with my husband & kids. A lot of the other picking translates into lots of work for me!

With apples though, there is a no apples go to waste policy in our house! While I have been creating those apple dishes in the kitchen, I throw all of the cores, peel, and leftover apple bits into a pot. With a generous sprinkle of  cinnamon and filled to the top with water, I simmer these leftovers on the stove. This creates a delicious apple pie smell throughout the house with items that would go in the trash.

What fall activity do you look forward to with your family? Please share!

Back-to-School Celebration Feasts With Recipes

Monday, August 30th, 2010

I hope you will allow me the beauty of indulging in my endless brag book of photos of my children. There is nothing like the freshness of a new year, a new opportunity to do better, a new opportunity to be better, new teachers, new friends, and the same old sappy mom who won’t stop taking your picture. Ah, some things just will never change!

Emily is all tutus, ballet shoes, and anything purple, pink, or sparkly. She is wildly dramatic, has the sweetest little voice in the world, and is fiercely independent. She plays pretend for hours with her Little People and in her little doll house.

This year she was off for her last year of preschool. My heart just aches when I think that next year my little baby will be going off to kindergarten. I am savoring this last year together more than I can say.

Ethan & Emily started on two different days this year and so we  had two fun-filled celebrations for each of them. I have never cooked so much in my life, but they each got to request their favorite main dish and a favorite dessert to celebrate their big day at school. I look forward to having one giant celebration next year to celebrate them both at once, but I might have to make an investment into another celebration plate to make that happen!

Emily’s celebration request was a taco bar and chocolate cupcakes with pink icing. I have a feeling you are going to really love this celebration dinner because it is thrifty and absolutely delicious!

This taco meat is the best taco meat in the world- truly! The mixture of tomato sauce and chicken broth take away the beefy taste and give it just the right hint of flavoring. Since my kids can’t handle the heavy spices, we modified the chili powder to 1 teaspoon and skipped the cayenne pepper.

Beef Tacos (Courtesy of  The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced (I use a tablespoon of the bottled minced garlic)
2 tablespoons chili powder (adjust to your personal taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt
1 pound (90 percent lean) ground beef (or use a higher fat beef and rinse the meat)
1/2 cup smooth canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
8 taco shells

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant about thirty seconds. Stir in the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until no longer pink, about five minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, and sugar until thickened, about ten minutes. Season with salt to taste. Divide the filling evenly among the taco shells and serve passing any desired accompaniments separately.

Make-Ahead Version: The filling can be fully prepared, cooled, covered tightly and refrigerated for up to three days. Reheat over medium-low heat, adding additional water to adjust the consistency.

These cupcakes. These cupcakes. No words. The cake is moist  and gets its beautiful texture from a few pantry ingredients and a little boiling water. The batter looks like a watery-looking mess and turns  out to be the most delicious cupcake I have ever made in my life! The cake was moist and flavorful. Use a batter bowl or a ladle to scoop the watery batter into the lined cupcake pan.

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes (Courtesy of The Farm Chicks)

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners.  Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.  (I recommend a batter bowl to easily pour the batter into the cupcake liners).  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat with a mixer for about two minutes, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the boiling water, and beat, just until blended.  (Don’t be alarmed – the batter appears watery).  Evenly ladle (or pour) the batter into the liners.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center of the cupcakes springs back when lightly touched.  Cool and frost.

I am not a fan of heavy frostings, in fact, I don’t even really like buttercream frosting. That being said, this frosting is my favorite frosting in the world. It is light, delicious, and reminds me a little of marshmallow fluff. It is not a decorator frosting, but decorating isn’t important if the frosting tastes like heaven. For the perfect little swirls on top of your cupcakes,  you can use a Ziploc bag and cut the corner to pipe the frosting on top or use a 2D tip that is gathering dust in your baking supplies and hasn’t been used since that last batch of Snickerdoodle Cupcakes. Get ready for a good old-fashioned mind-blowing frosting perfect for the frosting-haters.

PS- Be sure to break out your stand mixer for this or be like me and forget to do it and update your Facebook profile, tweet a bit, watch a You Tube video, secure a new freelance job, and do this all while simultaneously beating the crud out of those egg whites. Yeah, that really happened.

No Cook 7 Minute Frosting (Courtesy of Food.com)

3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 unbeaten egg whites
food coloring

Mix sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and egg whites. Add boiling water. Beat on high til mixture forms peaks (like meringue) approx 5-7 minutes.

My sweet boy was ready to head off to second grade. I know many of you have read my site for many years. I still can’t believe that I have been doing this since he was only a year old. For many of you, this kid has been growing up right before your very eyes!

This year it is all Pokemon and Bakugan and, more recently, a lot of the magical Harry Potter. We started the tradition of reading the series together at night before he goes to bed. When he bursts through the door he begs for another chapter. One of the naughtiest thing he does is hide books under his pillow to indulge until the wee hours of the night. He reminds me so much of my bookworm self.

Ethan’s celebration feast was my homemade spaghetti and meatballs, homemade bread sticks, with the new family favorite…peanut butter balls.

Homemade Spaghetti & Meatballs

For Sauce (sauce recipe adapted from AllRecipes Dinner Tonight Cookbook):

3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For Meatballs (this recipe will make enough for a double batch, half to eat and half to freeze):

1/2  cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 cups grated Romano (or Parmesan)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Italian turkey sausages (remove the casings)
1 pound ground beef

To make sauce: Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Five to ten minutes before serving, add in your meatballs and then serve over a big bowl of your favorite pasta.

To make meatballs: In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the turkey & ground beef, then gently stir to combine. Make your meatballs the standard size and put them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes. When done cooking, drop in the baked meatballs for a few minutes. This will be just as delicious with a lot less mess and fewer calories.

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I add a 1/4 cup of extra flour to make sure  the dough is sticky, but not too sticky. I cover the whole cookie sheet with plastic wrap and pop it in my fridge until our dinner hour. About a half hour before our dinner, I pull it out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter while our oven preheated.

Homemade Bread Sticks (Courtesy of Chocolate on My Cranium)

Dissolve:
2 TBSP sugar and 1 TBSP yeast in 1 1/2 cups warm water

Add:
3 cups flour and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix and knead for 5 minutes with your stand mixer (using the dough hook)

Let rest for 10 minutes. Melt 1/2 cube (4 TBSP) of butter in a bowl in the microwave and pour into a 11×17 pan (jelly roll pan). Place dough into pan then lift and turn over so that both sides of the dough are covered in the melted butter. Press dough into pan. Sprinkle with desired seasonings (I love the Italian Cheese Blend cheeses and a sprinkle of garlic salt all over). Let rest 15 minutes. Cut into strips with pizza cutter. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Recut with a pizza cutter and serve.

Our dessert was courtesy of last week’s notebook at The Southern Plate. I halved the recipe just to see if my kids would love these. The results were delicious and satisfying. The oats combined with the peanut butter and the dried milk create a dense stick-to-your ribs treat perfect for after-school or as a yummy snack before bed. My husband said they reminded him of cookie dough. I will definitely be making these again!

In fact, the bread sticks and chocolate cupcakes were both featured in our notebooks (and were notebook experiments) which is why notebook day is my favorite day of the week. We have gained so many family traditions and meal ideas from it. I love experimenting and being inspired daily by bloggers.  You all are wonderful!

After all of that, I collapsed into a puddle of endless dishes combined with a puddle of pure exhaustion. It didn’t matter though because I am so proud that we have these moments to cherish forever!

Do you have any special traditions for celebrating the back-to-school season? I would love to hear them!