Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Leader Enterprise - Sept. 19, 2012 - Brown Bagging

With school starting and homework piling up, the structure and routine of the school year quickly replaces those relaxed summer days we've all enjoyed.I believe the school year can go smoother with a planned study space for students. Less stress..more success.

Any area where your child studies needs to be free of distractions: toys, phones, clutter, etc. It has always bothered to see or know of a child who studies with their books in their lap. Everyone needs a cleared flat surface to lay books and to be able to write. A bulletin board nearby gives them a place for a calendar, school papers and lists. Have a sturdy place for the student to sit giving good support and with feet touching the floor.

Studying, of course, needs to be somewhere away from the tv or loud music. Be sure there is sufficient lighting so the child doesn't get a headache from eye strain. Desk lighting is always the best, but overhead lighting is good also. The spot where they study doesn't need to be anything fancy, but having a good place to study will help your kids get a good start to their school year.

Whether or not your child takes their own lunch every day or just occasionally, try not to fall into the 'brown bag rut'. It's great to have more control over what your child is eating.Taking a lunch to school has taken plain ole peanut butter sandwiches to a whole new level. Now there are wraps, pitas and tortillas available to send. Be sure they are '100% whole grain" and the first ingredient listed is 'whole grain'. Try new foods in lunches - whether for school or work.Watch for what's in season and vary between fruits and veggies.

There's a real variety of 'cool' ice packs to keep lunches cold. You can use hard ice packs (wrap in a paper towel that can also be used as a napkin if need be) or the soft gel kind. If you include a juice box in the lunch, freeze it first and as it thaws it will keep the foodstuff chilled, and should be ready to drink by lunchtime. Gotta love those kinds of practical ideas huh?

You can pack healthier options, and most kids won't even know the difference. Replace chips with pretzels or goldfish. Place them in ziploc snack bags-a great way to have perfect single-serving sizes. Mix assorted snacks like dried cherries or apples, raisins, yogurt raisins, banana chips, goldfish, cheerios and raisins to make your own 'trail mix'. If your kids want chips, try a healthier baked version. Multigrain Pringles are great.

Purchase items like teddy grahams, granola or animal crackers to satisfy their sweet tooth. Instead of purchasing pre-sliced apples at the store, make your own! Toss apple slices in a mixture of lemon-lime soda for about 10 minutes, then drain. Store in snack size ziploc bags and be sure to squeeze all the air out.This will prevent the apple slices from browning.

No matter what the kids are taking in their lunch, a note from mom or dad can always brighten their day, so parents:don't forget to add a little love note to your child's lunch or backpack. Knowing you are thinking of them while they're gone helps boost their self-worth and aids them in their school progress in ways you may never know.

This is a healthy snack your family is sure to enjoy.
1 c. honey
1-1/4 c. natural creamy peanut butter
1-1/2 c. dry powdered milk
3 c. quick or old fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
1-2 Tb. wheat germ,optional
1-2 Tb. flax seed,optional
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips, optional

Mix all the ingredients together with a electric mixer. Form into balls with hands and freeze on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper until firm. Remove from freezer and store in a large zip lock bag in the refrigerator. Yield: 
about 30 peanut butter balls.

2-1/2 c. quick or old fashioned oats

1/2 c. crisp rice cereal

2 Tb. flax seed, optional
1 Tb. wheat germ, optional
1/2 c. semi-sweet, white chocolate or butterscotch chips
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c.coconut oil, melted(or butter)
1/3 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray.In large bowl, mix all ingredients except for chocolate chips; stir with spoon until well blended. If mixture seems too dry, add more honey or coconut oil. Add a little at a time until mixture sticks together (but will not be like cookie dough). Stir in chocolate chips. Using a small cookie scoop, place granola mixture in mounds; press mixture firmly with your fingers or back of a spoon. Bake 12-13 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand in pan for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from pan with knife and enjoy. Store in airtight container or place in ziploc bags and freeze to be tossed into lunches later.

Who doesn't love PB & J? These cookie bars are a delicious treat anytime of day. I once heard a lowfat cookbook author say if we eat healthy 80% of the time, we can splurge a little the other 20%. This is your splurge.

1 c.butter, softened
1-1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 lg. eggs
2 c. (18 ozs) creamy peanut butter
3 c.flour (I use half in white whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. (18 ozs) favorite jam
chopped peanuts, optional
Grease 9" X 13" pan and line with waxed paper. Grease and flour pan. Cream butter and sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes. On low speed add vanilla,eggs and peanut butter; beat until well combined. Sift together flour,baking powder and salt. On low speed add to creamed mixture just until combined. Spread 2/3 of dough into pan evenly. Spread jam over dough. Drop remaining dough on top and press lightly. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts if desired. Bake 30-40 minutes until golden brown. (Be careful not to overbake or they will be too dry).

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