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Dine In: Camp-IN S’mores


Fall and spring weekends – even winter weekends here in the South, were made for camping. And when you’re camping, you MUST have S’mores.  I’m pretty sure it’s a rule.

Every time we went camping, one of the first things I’d pack in the cooler was the giant-sized Hershey bar and the marshmallows. The graham crackers went on top of the grocery sack so they wouldn’t be crushed.

Sitting around the campfire on a Friday night, after arriving, setting up camp, a hike or bike ride and a dinner cooked over the open flame, we’d break out the ingredients for S’mores.  We’d find sticks and clean them of their crusty bark and whittle the ends into points which could pierce the flesh of the marshmallow just perfectly. We’d roast our marshmallows over the flickering campfire until they were just browned outside and gooey inside. Someone, usually me, would always catch their marshmallow on fire (that’s OK, I ate them burned, too).  We’d pull the melty confection off the stick and quickly smush it on top of a graham cracker topped with Hershey bar rectangles. Pop another cracker on top and there was a little bit of heaven right out at the camp site.

Just because it’s summer time doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy S’mores. But I don’t often want to cozy up around a roaring fire on 100 degree nights. So this version is one you can make inside, in the comfort of your own, air-conditioned home, and pretend you’re spending a Friday night by the campfire.

S’mores Dip
Serves about 6

Ingredients:
1 (14 oz) can Food Club sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups Food Club chocolate chips
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
graham crackers, for serving

Directions:
In a small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and condensed milk on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring about every 30 seconds, until chips are melted. Mix well. Pour into 9-inch glass pie pan, spreading evenly. Drop marshmallow cream by tablespoonfuls randomly over chocolate mixture. Microwave on high about 30 seconds or until marshmallow cream is softened. Immediately make several swirls through marshmallow and chocolate, creating a marbled appearance. Serve immediately with graham crackers for dipping.

Nutritional Information for Dip: Calories: 640.3; Carbohydrates 100.83 g; Protein 9.7 g; Total Fat 22.71 g;  Cholesterol 32.01 g; Dietary Fiber3.82 g 

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In, Kids


Family Matters: Grace’s Garden


My daughter Grace, who is 10, is my outdoor, nature-loving, recycling type of girl. She wants to garden, save all the animals and recycle everything in the house. So it didn’t surprise me, in early spring, when she started saving all the seeds from the fruit she had eaten. She would dry the seeds out and then plant them, hoping they would grow into big fruit trees someday. Most of the time, she usually forgot where she’d planted her seeds.  

This year, she planted cantaloupe seeds from a cantaloupe I had bought at the store. She put up some fencing and made a scarecrow to decorate her little garden. She watered the seeds everyday, and would you believe they started growing?  At first, I thought they were weeds or bull-nettles and was thinking about pulling it all up. But instead, I let her keep watering them and continued to watch them grow.  

I’m so glad I didn’t pull her garden up because it produced a handful of cantaloupe. And may I say, the best tasting cantaloupe we’ve had all year. My daughter is so proud of her garden and already has plans for a bigger garden next year. 

So the next time your kiddo wants to plant a garden, love on nature or recycle everything in the house, let them do it and give them the tools to do it with. You may just reap the benefits! 



Family Matters: Lavender Baby Bath


As most parents know, multi-tasking becomes a way of life when you have small children, especially babies.

My boys are close together in age, about 18 months apart, so the ability to multi-task was critical to the smooth flow of our household.

Plus, as a new parent, I was tired. Did I mention, TIRED?  Luke, my younger son, needed to eat every 90 minutes, at most, for the first several months of life. I remember waking up to his hunger cries, incredulous that he was hungry again. But sure enough, he’d eat vigorously and fall back to sleep…until the next time his belly needed filling.

Needless to say, I was exhausted and more-than-a-bit stressed out those first months of both boys’ lives, but then I discovered a way to double up on a task and get much-needed-relaxation.

Enter Lavender Baby Wash – Brookshire’s carries several brands of the lavender scented-baby wash.

Each evening, I’d fill my large bath tub (it was such a blessing to have!) with warm water and add a capful of lavender-scented baby wash, which bubbled up just enough to entertain the babies.  I’d put the boys in the tub together and inhale the soothing, steamy scent of the lavender-scented bath water. Both boys were bathed at once and we’d take advantage of the comforting, tranquil properties of lavender at the same time.

Lavender, sometimes called the “Mothering Oil,” is known for its relaxing properties and is used to alleviate not only stress but also anxiety. The ancient Egyptians added it to their baths for extra relaxation. Lavender settles irritability and is gently sedating, restoring mind and body to a state in which healing – and rest – can take place.

In closing, I have a confession: my boys are now 8 and 10 years old and I will STILL buy lavender baby wash.

No, they don’t use it; it’s for me.



Family Matters: Summer Camp At Last


Summer has arrived and kids are packing up for summer camps. My oldest child, Luke, has always loved going to camp. He has never had a problem being away from home for a week’s time. On the other hand, my daughter Grace, who is 10, has never had the desire to attend an overnight camp….not until this year. Grace has decided to attend camp as long she can take a friend and they can be bunkmates. 

Packing a kid for camp can be a real challenge. Unpacking them from camp can be even more of a challenge. The last thing you want is your camper to come home with a sticky and wet suitcase. I am so thankful I had a good friend give me her tips to packing up little campers. 

Packing For Camp – What You’ll Need:

6 extra-large resalable plastic bags
Sticker labels
Permanent marker 

On each of five bags, or depending on how many days they are staying at camp, write the day of the week on the bag. Pack enough clothes for that day in each separate bag. You should include a T-shirt, a pair of shorts, and under clothes in each bag. On the sixth bag, write “Wet Clothes.” Tell your camper that this is the bag to put all their wet clothes in. This way their suitcase does not become a wet mess. 

I have packed up my son’s clothes this way for several years now and, for the most part, it works pretty well. However, there were years he came home with only two of the bags ever being opened. I guess he wore the same clothes all week. I’m sure this system will work out perfectly for my daughter on her first overnight camp experience.  Hopefully, she will not be like her older brother and come home with none of her clothes having been worn. 



Family Matters: School’s Out Celebration Picnic


My kids are home from school today, and we’re celebrating with three of their favorite summertime casual recipes! These are easy and delicious – and the pasta salad and lemon cookies pack nicely for summer picnics at the lake. If you want to take the sliders with you on a picnic, I suggest keeping the ingredients separate until you are ready to assemble and enjoy! 

My younger son likes lime more than lemon, so I tried the cookies with fresh lime and lime zest and they are just as delicious! 

Kids of all ages love picnics – even if you just throw down a blanket in your back yard and invite the neighbors over for food and an evening of flashlight tag! 

Enjoy! 

BBQ Meatball Sliders 

Ingredients:
24 purchased frozen meatballs
1 cup purchased barbecue sauce
3/4 cup sliced Mozzarella cheese
24 sliced dinner rolls, sized for one meatball
3/4 cup diced cooked bacon
24 bread and butter pickles (sliced)

Directions:

Place meatballs in 9×13-inch baking pan and cover with barbecue sauce. Bake according to package directions until cooked through (cooking times vary with different meatball brands).  When ready to serve, place one slice of cheese on bottom of each roll. Top with meatball, bacon and one pickle slice. Top with other half of roll and serve. Tastes just as great served cold as well.  

Picnic Pasta Salad 

Ingredients:
1 lb cooked rotini pasta
2 cups raw broccoli florets or diced zucchini
1 cup tomatoes, diced
6 oz sliced pepperoni, diced
1 (14 oz) can black olives, drained, sliced
1 1/2  cups Italian dressing
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

Directions:
Combine all ingredients with pasta. Refrigerate until cold. Tastes better over time. 

Glazed Lemon Cookies 

Ingredients:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice, plus more if necessary
1 tsp grated lemon zest 

Directions:
With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg yolks, vanilla and salt and beat to combine. Gradually add flour, mixing until just incorporated.  Divide dough in half and shape into 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350°. Slice logs into 3/8-inch-thick pieces and space them 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment-lined or greased baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, 16 to 20 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest until it forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more lemon juice if necessary). Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, about 15 minutes.



Healthy Living: Father’s Day Fun


With Father’s Day quickly approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. 

Growing up, my dad spent a lot of time playing with me and my brother. 

When my brother started getting serious about basketball, I can remember my dad and my brother playing basketball on the driveway almost every night. 

When I got serious about soccer in the third grade, my dad and I would always go running together. I remember the first race I did together was the Azalea 2-mile run in Tyler. I still have the T-shirt from that spring race. 

Later that fall, my dad and I did a 5K at UT Tyler. Up until my dad had his heart attack when I was a sophomore in high school, my dad and I would frequently run together. I would also enjoy running with my dad and I know my brother really cherished playing basketball with my dad. After my dad had quadruple bypass surgery, he could not play basketball with my brother for a long time and running was out of the question. 

Back in October, I decided to start running again and signed up for my “first” 5K. It was quite an emotional race. About a quarter of a mile into the race, it hit me like a bolt of lightning that my running partner, my dad, was not able to run with me. 

Shortly after that I saw him on the side of the road, cheering me on. In November, I started to see my mom and dad at the trails where I ran. My dad would tell me he was training for a 5K. He wanted to walk 3.1 miles in 45 minutes. Later in that month, my dad and I signed up for the Turkey Trot. As soon as I got done running the race, I turned around and ran back to finish the race with him. I do believe he did meet his goal of 45 minutes. In January, I started training for a 10K. My dad started telling me if I was going to run 6.2 miles, he was going to walk it. I was so happy that my running had really rubbed off on him and he started to get physically active again. 

Some of my favorite memories with my dad were running races, playing basketball on the driveway and kicking the soccer ball around in the backyard. 

Playing with your kids not only creates memories, but it also benefits you and your children’s health. 

This Father’s Day, instead of sitting around and letting dad watch T.V., get him outside. Organize a family or neighborhood game of kickball or basketball with all the dads.

Instead of eating at a restaurant, pack a picnic and after eating, kick a soccer ball around the park. There is nothing better than giving a gift that will benefit your dad’s health. 

Dads are important people in many of our lives, so we must try to keep them healthy!



Family Matters: Will Eat For A Snow Cone


Meat, corn, carrots and fruit are all the foods my daughter will eat. That’s it! She will not eat bread, sandwiches, peanut butter, cheese, pasta, nuts—nothing else! Oh, do we have a challenge packing her lunch everyday for school.  On the other hand, my teenager son will eat everything on his plate and in the house! 

Like other Moms, I come home from work and head straight to the kitchen to prepare dinner for that night. After slaving in the kitchen, I proudly sit dinner on the table thinking I have accomplished this grand task and that I’m truly an amazing Mom! Then out of her mouth comes the dreaded words, “I don’t like this, do I have to eat this, what is this stuff?” My self-accomplishment just went into the trash along with her dinner. 

I knew I had to devise a plan to get my picky eater to start trying new foods or she would be eating meat, fruit and those two vegetables for the rest of her life.  So she and I sat down and developed the “Will Eat For A Snow Cone” picky eater plan.

Here’s how it works. For every new food she tries, she gets to put a sticker on a chart, when she earns 10 stickers, she get a reward. When earning 10 stickers becomes to easy for her, then we’ll raise the bar to 20 stickers for a reward. Right now her reward is walking the dog 2.5 miles round trip to the snow cone stand. She looks forward to this every weekend and is working hard to earn her 10 stickers so she doesn’t miss out on her snow cone treat and walking the dog adventure. 

So in the future, I’ll keep preparing new foods for her to try. Hopefully she will find a few that she really likes. If not, I pray that when she becomes a teenager she’ll be somewhat like her older brother and eat everything on her plate too!



Hunting for the Golden Egg


I wish I could tell you that as a child I woke up on Easter morning thinking about my salvation and who gave it to me. Instead, the truth is this: I woke up wondering if I would be the lucky one to find the Golden Egg in our family’s 
Easter egg hunt.

My parents always bought one of those huge golden eggs that had pantyhose inside. I don’t think anyone wore the pantyhose, but my brother, sisters and I sure fought over the egg. Mama and Daddy always hid money inside, and then skillfully hid it in the yard among the other colorful plastic jelly bean eggs. I was six years younger than my older siblings, so I was rarely the one to find the golden egg before anyone else did.

I wonder if now is a good time to confess to my siblings that my father always snuck me $20 later that day.

After church and a roast beef lunch at Morrison’s cafeteria, it was time to investigate my basket. The Easter Bunny was nothing if not consistent, year after year: New Sunday dress, new white knee socks, a new book and a chocolate peanut butter egg.

I don’t know what it was about those eggs, but there was something different about them than any other time of the year I ate peanut butter and chocolate together. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a recipe that brought me right back to those childhood memories, and I finally figured out the secret ingredient that gave the eggs the perfect texture: graham cracker crumbs.

You get to use your hands, lick your fingers and use candy sprinkles. And best of all, you get to make sweet Easter memories with those you love.

View a video of the chocolate peanut butter egg preparation or view the recipe to print or add items to your Shopping List.

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Posted in: Kids


Family Matters: Packing a healthier lunch


What’s in your child’s school lunch? More people – including British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver – have been asking that question lately, hoping to encourage parents and schools to give children a more nutritious mid-day meal.

The best way to influence your child’s lunchtime habits, of course, is to pack it yourself. But how do you pack a healthier lunch and end up with something they’ll actually eat, and not toss in the trash, so 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 coldpacks 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, 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; 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, or 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.



Family Matters: National Children’s Dental Health Month


According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, as many as half of all children will be affected by tooth decay by the time they turn 5 years old. Tooth decay starts as soon as your baby’s teeth begin to appear – so it’s important to start proper dental hygiene as soon as your baby starts teething. 

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry encourages parents to have a “dental home” by their baby’s first birthday. But there are things you can do at home to maintain your baby’s beautiful, healthy smile. 

  • After feeding your baby, wipe his or her teeth with a soft damp towel or brush them with a soft toothbrush. When bacteria in your mouth comes in contact with sugar, it produces an acid that can produce tooth decay, so it’s especially important after any meal containing sugars, even “good” sugars like fruit. 
  • One of the biggest causes of tooth decay is putting your baby to bed with a bottle. Don’t do it! The peace and quiet now could result in dental problems later on. Also, avoid giving your toddler sugary drinks, like juice, lemonade and soda, in his or her sippy cup.  
  • Calcium, along with plenty of vitamin D, will help your children’s teeth stay strong and their gums stay healthy. The majority of Americans get most of their calcium from milk and milk products. Current dietary guidelines recommend consuming low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products to reach the proper levels of calcium. Children ages 2 to 4 should consume 2 cups of these products; children ages 4 to 8 should consume 2 1/2 cups; and children 8 and up should get 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Because our bodies need Vitamin D to properly absorb calcium, look for products that are Vitamin D enhanced, too. 
  • Fluoride plays an important role in keeping tooth enamel hard. Most Americans, including babies and toddlers, now get plenty of fluoride from fluoridated water. However, if your family’s water is not fluoridated, or you drink bottled water, talk with your pediatrician or dentist about fluoride treatments or supplements. 

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so there’s no better time than now to get on the right track with your baby’s dental care.



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