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Family Matters: What’s in your Kid’s Lunch?


Kids Lunch

What do you pack in a kid’s lunch box when they will not eat a sandwich? That’s right; my 12-year-old daughter, Grace, does not eat sandwiches. Not only will she not eat sandwiches but she also does not eat cheese, peanut butter, bread, pasta, nuts and very few. It gets really tough to make her lunch every day for school!

The best way to influence your child’s lunchtime habits, of course, is to pack it yourself. How do you pack a healthier lunch and end up with something they’ll actually eat and not toss in the trash so that they’re ready for an afternoon of learning, playing and growing? Get started here:

Get kids involved in planning: If your children go along when you do the grocery shopping, let them select some or all of their lunch components. (This works best, obviously, if you narrow down their choices first to just a few choices, so you don’t spend all day in the store.) If they don’t accompany you, ask for their requests before you head to the store. Again, this works best if you have a list of good choices to start from.

Get the proper packaging: Since kids don’t have access to microwaves or refrigerators, a small investment in thermal containers and cold packs is worth it. It will allow much more creativity in lunch packing – soups, pastas, cool desserts – and more importantly, it will keep cold and hot foods safe and appetizing to eat.

Pack ahead: Mornings are a rush job in most households. If you only have two minutes to throw lunch together, it’s far too easy to rely on leftover pizza and a bag of chips. Instead, pack the night before right after dinner and before you’ve cleaned up the kitchen. Make it a family project; older kids can make their own lunches while you load the dishwasher, or younger ones can help pull out lunch components with your supervision.

Make simple substitutions and phase them in gradually: You don’t have to make drastic changes, at least not right away. A few small substitutions will get you on the way to healthier lunches fast. For instance, substitute yogurt-covered raisins, trail mix or plain dried fruit for candy. Use mustard or fat-free mayo instead of full-fat mayonnaise or sandwich spread. Send pretzels or carrots with ranch dressing instead of chips and lean turkey instead of fatty pepperoni or bologna on a sandwich.

Experiment a little: We all tend to end up in a lunch rut. Get away from the sandwich-chips-fruit combo. Why not hummus and pita chips, bean dips and baked tortilla chips, or even a container of edamame? Make that sandwich on pita bread, a whole-wheat bagel or a tortilla. Try a Greek yogurt cup instead of pudding.

Allow the occasional surprise treat: Nobody can be perfect all the time, so it’s fun for kids to discover the occasional unexpected treat. A fun-size candy bar, a small bag of chips, a cookie – anything that’s school-approved should be included at least once in a while to mix things up and remind kids that moderation is the goal.

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Family Matters: Running Buddies


Running Buddies“Mom, will you go running with me?” These were the words I had been waiting to hear from my 16-year-old son Luke! I had been asking him for some time if he wanted to go running with me, but his answer was always “no.”

I’ve been running for almost a year now, and one thing I know for sure is that I enjoy running with a buddy any day over running by myself. When running with a buddy, you can talk and fellowship to take your mind off actually running. Most importantly, you have someone else to help hold you accountable for reaching your goals.

Of course, I said YES to Luke asking me to run. This was the day I had been waiting for. I could just see us running together, Mom and son talking, laughing and bonding. We got on our running gear and headed to the running path. Once at the path, Luke said “Are you ready?” Before I could even say “yes,” he was gone, leaving me eating his dust! This was not what I had envisioned; this is not what I had planned for. We were supposed to be running together and bonding. He should know I hate running by myself!

We met back up at the high school football field where he wanted to work out with me next. Oh, I knew where this was going—he would be leaving me in the dust again. To my surprise, we ran bleachers together, pulled the weight sled together, did lunges together and even did some sprints together. We had a great workout together. Luke loves physical activity and enjoys someone either watching him or participating with him. Without Luke really knowing it, this is how he likes to bond with others.

After our workout, we lay in the middle of the football field. I lay there exhausted while he told me of all his athletic dreams he hoped to achieve. Now, this was my kind of mother and son bonding time. That day was another day that I decided to seize the moment with my son. It mattered not that we didn’t actually run “together” or the fact that he made me run bleachers. The point is we were together doing something we both enjoyed.

After our long talk, it was time to run back home. I’m sure you can guess that he beat me back home!



Family Matters: It’s Good to Unplug


Family MattersLast week on our summer family vacation, just a few miles from the Canadian border, I told everyone in the car to turn off their cellphones and give them to me. For the next 24 hours while in Canada, there would be no cellphones or iPads. You should have heard all the whining from the kids, “I’m going to be bored; there’s nothing to do; this is not fair!” Our time in Canada, with no electronics, turned out to be the best part of our trip!

It’s surprising how creative you can be when you do not have electronics taking up your time. The kids learned how to play road trip games like name five cities that begin with the letter “A,” name five things that begin with the letter “B” that you can get from a fast food drive-through and name all the things that begin with the letter “P” at a rest stop. They also showed their creative talent by making up drawing games as we traveled.

One of the funniest things we did while in Canada was seeing who could have the thickest Texas drawl while speaking with the local Canadians. I don’t think we have laughed that hard in a long time. My son, Luke, was by far the winner at “Texas drawl!”

Once we arrived at our cabin, we found out it did not have Wi-Fi as promised and the TV satellite was out! Once again, we had to entertain ourselves. Luckily, the cabin had lots of board games. Some of the best nights of our vacation were spent playing Charades, Outburst and Scrabble.

Sometimes in life, it’s just good to unplug. Turn off the electronics and seize the moments with your family!

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Family Matters: Brownie Cake Pops


Brownie Cake PopsKids Love Cake Pops! 

It’s 7PM Saturday night before Easter Sunday, and I’m in the kitchen finishing up my cooking and baking for Easter lunch when my 12-year-old daughter, Grace, comes into the kitchen. She asked me if she could make cake pops. She went on to tell me that she would make them herself, and they would be in the shape of Easter eggs and would be all different colors with sprinkles and decorations. I explained to Grace that cake pops are not easy to make and that it takes a lot of time to bake, cool the cake and decorate, not to mention it is 7PM on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Grace did not really care what time it was; she had her mind made up that she was going to make cake pops!

One of my platforms in life is “seize the moment.” I already knew I had on hand: brownie mix, a can of frosting, almond bark, cake pop sticks and tons of decorations. So, there was no excuse not to seize the moment with my daughter except for that time was not on our side. I gave into her begging to make cake pops, but I told her this was her project and that she needed to do most of the work.

Grace worked all night on her cake pops and even made a step-by- step YouTube video of her baking adventure! I tried to get in the video a couple of times, but I’m sure she edited me out!

Come Easter Sunday lunch, when everyone was sitting around the table, Grace proudly placed her decorated jar of cake pops on the table. She beamed with pride and told everyone that she baked these all by herself! This was a special time in the kitchen with my daughter and one that I am going to cherish. Don’t miss out on opportunities to seize the moment with your family. Count your blessings and give thanks for those special moments.

Grace’s Brownie Cake Pops

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Decorating Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 12 Pops

Ingredients:
1 box brownie mix
1 can cake frosting
1 pkg almond bark
sprinkles
cake pop sticks

Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake brownies as directed. Cool completely.

Directions:
In a large bowl, crush cooled brownies and mix in cake frosting. Mix all together well to form dough – it will be a sticky mess!

Shape the dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Place balls on wax paper and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to decorate, place the cake balls on the cake pop sticks and dip in melted almond bark. Place each ball on wax paper and immediately cover with sprinkles. Allow at least 30 minutes for almond bark to harden.

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Family Matters: Don’t Run Out of Time


RunningI’m sitting at my desk; it’s 5:45 p.m. and I have no idea what I need to do next. My email is 12 inches deep. Do I need to stay at work and finish returning emails? Do I need to go home and cook dinner for my family? I missed my workout earlier this week, and I would really like to go work out tonight. My son, Luke, has a track meet tonight. Should I go to his meet since I have not been able to attend one this season? I have no idea what I need to do, but I need to make up my mind right now!

I chose to go to my son’s track meet. Thank the Lord I did because he placed first in both of his races! Had I not gone, yes, he would have been disappointed, but I would have been heartbroken that I did not get to share that experience with him. 

Life is about finding balance every day. We have to learn to put our lives into compartments. We get up in the morning and focus on our families, making the most of the morning rush. Then, we get to our jobs, and we need to do the very best we can to be successful in our careers. At the end of the day, we should turn the office lights out, go home and focus on what’s really important: our family, our personal life and our health. 

The benefits we will gain from finding daily balance in our lives is so rewarding. Picture my son down on the starting block about to run his race. He turns around and waves at me saying, “Mom!” He was making sure I was watching. After he won the race, he runs to the stands and calls me down to the track — me, his MOM! We high-five each other and cherish the moment. 

In twenty years, I will not remember all those work emails, but I will never forget my son turning around on the starting block and waving at me, his MOM! Don’t miss out on opportunities to seize the moment with your family. Count your blessings and give thanks for those special moments.

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Family Matters: Never Too Old for Story Time


ReadingMom, will you read me a bedtime story? Cherish these words spoken from your child because they will not say them forever. My daughter Grace is now twelve and we are long past the bedtime stories.

The other day I was reading an article (nothing I haven’t really read before) about the more you read to your children, the more they will enjoy reading and the better readers they will be. I thought about Grace and how reading and spelling are not her favorite subjects in school and thought for a moment, maybe I should go back to reading her bedtime stories. I finished reading the article and didn’t think too much about this anymore.

Later that same night, I tucked Grace in bed like I usually do, kissed her on the forehead and said good night. As I was walking out of her bedroom, I heard those familiar words once again. Mom, will you read me a bedtime story? Did she just say what I think she said? My 12-year-old just asked me to read her a bedtime story! I am a woman of faith, so I believe the Lord was looking down at me with a wink in his eye and saying here is your opportunity. What are you going to do with it?

We have been reading together every night for the past two weeks. This is a special time that we both look forward to and one that I am going to cherish. Don’t miss out on opportunities to seize the moment with your family. Count your blessings and give thanks for those special moments.

 



Family Matters: Pizza and a Movie


Pizza Movie

Friday night at our house has always been a traditional pizza and movie night. When the kids were younger, we would take them to the video store every Friday night. First, we would order our pizza. Then, the kids would pick out a movie for them, and my husband and I would pick out a grown-up movie for us. By the time we made our video selections, our pizza was ready to take home.

Times have changed over the past 16 years. We no longer go to the video store, and we can now download or stream the movie of our choice. We no longer need to get a kids’ movie and an adult movie. Now, it’s usually a guys’ movie and a girls’ movie. However, one thing remains the same; Friday night is always pizza night!

Over the years, I have tried all kinds of pizzas: ordered in, homemade, frozen, cook it when you get home pizza, etc. This past Friday night, I wanted to change it up a bit and made a pizza casserole. My kiddos and husband were impressed that I made something new that kept with our traditional Friday pizza and movie night!

Pizza Casserole

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

1 (16 oz) bag rotini or penne pasta, cooked
1 (32 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
1 lb bulk Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
4 oz sliced pepperoni
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 cup sliced green bell pepper
1 cup sliced red bell pepper
1 cup sliced bottom mushrooms
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place cooked pasta in a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish.
Top with spaghetti sauce and all other ingredients except the cheese.
Top the entire dish with the shredded mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is slightly browned and bubbly.

BITS & PIECES
Many casseroles can be assembled ahead of time and chilled until baking.
Remove the dish from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before putting it
in the oven. You may need to add a few minutes to the baking time.

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Family Matters: Around the Dinner Table


Family DinnerYes, I’m one of those people who enjoy making New Year’s resolutions and then not keeping them. Some of my resolutions this year are to eat healthier, continue with my exercise program and participate in more race events. However, my number one resolution is to be committed to family dinnertime.

Family dinnertime does not have to be perfect. Don’t expect your meals to always turn out delicious where everyone is raving about your cooking. Also, don’t expect your kids to always be polite and on their best behavior. Let’s be real; good food is only as good as the people you enjoy eating it with. Dinnertime is about sitting down at the table for at least 30 minutes and catching up with everyone. Let the kids tell you what went on at school, open up to one another and share life’s events with each other.

As the kids are getting older and having plans of their own, it gets harder and harder to have that regular family dinnertime that I long for. However, my New Year’s resolution is to not stress over this but instead embrace the fact that they are growing up and that I need to start planning ahead for our family meals together. This is where my slow cooker is going to take action! I can throw everything in it before we leave out the door in the mornings, and it’s ready by the time we get home in the evenings. 

I’ve already started this week off pretty good with Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings. It’s easy enough to put together in the morning and finish up when you get home in the evening. This recipe is a winner and allows for more quality time around the dinner table!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours on Low

 Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
   or 1 rotisserie chicken from our deli (deboned and cut into pieces)
2 Tbsp butter
1 can Brookshire’s Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Brookshire’s Cream of Celery Soup
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 oz onions finely diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 (10 oz) can Brookshire’s Biscuits

Directions:
EXCLUDING THE BISCUITS: Put all ingredients in the slow cooker, cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours. About an hour before serving, remove chicken and pull into pieces (if you used chicken breasts) and then return chicken pieces to the soup mixture.

Place the torn biscuit dough into the slow cooker; cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.

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FAMILY MATTERS: HOLIDAY COOKING WITH YOUR KIDS


Cooking KidsChances are that you’re spending a lot of extra time in the kitchen during the holidays preparing for countless festive meals. What a great opportunity this is to get your kids in the kitchen side-by-side with you baking up some wonderful holiday treats. Your hours spent in the kitchen will also be great bonding time with you and your kiddos.

My daughter, Grace, loves apples and wanted to bake something using apples since we are in the heart of apple season! You can take advantage of the abundance of the tasty little treats by preparing this scrumptious baked apple dish. It is a deliciously simple recipe that your kids can make with just a little supervision from you.

May you all have a wonderful holiday season baking and making memories with your kids!

Baked Stuffed Apples

Ingredients:
4 medium baking apples
1/3 cup snipped dried figs or raisins
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp apple pie spice or ground cinnamon
3/4 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp butter, cut into four pieces

Directions:

Clean & core apples:
With a parent’s help, clean and core apples with a knife or apple corer. Make hole 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide
and within a 1/2 inch of the bottom of the apple, making sure to remove any seeds. 

Cut strip off top:
With a paring knife, cut a strip of peel from the top of each apple. Place apples top sides up in a baking pan. Preheat oven to 375° F. 

Mix & stuff ingredients:
In a small bowl, combine figs, brown sugar and apple pie spice. Spoon mixture into centers of apples. Pat mixture in with a knife or spoon. Pour apple juice around apples in pan.

Butter & cook apples:
Top each apple with a piece of butter. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until tender but not mushy. Using a large spoon, transfer apples to dessert dishes, then spoon pan juices over apples. Serve warm with Goldenbrook Farms Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream on the side.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 260, Fat: 8 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 8 mg, Sodium: 28 mg, Carbohydrates: 50 g, Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 1 g

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FAMILY MATTERS: APPLE PIE POPS


Apple Pie PopsWho can resist a hand-held treat? Apple Pie Pops are a perfect and fun way to introduce your kids to the joys of baking. Use Food Club Prepared Pie Crusts and Food Club Apple Pie Filling to cut out the more difficult steps so everyone can focus on having fun!

Apple Pie Pops 

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Food Club All Purpose Flour for dusting work surface
1 box Food Club Refrigerated Pie Crusts
1 (21 oz) can Food Club Apple Pie Filling
1 egg white, beaten
3 Tbsp raw sugar

Directions:
CUT OUT PIE DOUGH
On a lightly floured surface, roll out refrigerated pie crust dough. Using a 3-inch circular cookie cutter or the top of a glass, cut out pie dough circles for pops.

 PLACE DOUGH & FILLING
Line the back of a cookie sheet with baking parchment paper. Place pie dough circles on sheet about 1 inch apart. Place lollipop stick and a half teaspoon of apple pie filling on top and gently cover with another pie dough circle.

MAKE INDENTS TO SEAL
With an extra lollipop stick or a fork, press gently into the edge of the dough, meshing the two dough layers together and sealing in the filling. 

 
BRUSH WITH EGG WASH
Bake at 425° F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with egg wash made from fork-beaten egg white and 1 teaspoon of water. Sprinkle with sugar. Enjoy!
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The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

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