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Monday, August 22, 2016

Chocolate Banana Bread

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StirImagination #CollectiveBias

Greet the kids after school with a slice of this soft and delicious Chocolate Banana Bread!  It's a snack they'll beg for time and time again!
My kiddos are back in school and for the most part are really liking it.  I can't say they're completely having a great time because of the homework that comes home each evening and with it the whines.  I'm not going to lie...I want to complain with them because I miss our free evenings.  Now they're occupied with reading, spelling, and math assignments, sight word quizzing and book reports.  My fourth grader is pretty independent about accomplishing it on her own, but my first grade son needs much more assistance.  It's all so worth it, though. I get a kick out of watching them progress in their education.

They're really enjoying reuniting with their friends again too.  I look forward to picking the kids up each day and seeing them beaming and then getting an earful about all the exciting things that happened on the playground and in the classroom.

My son even has his first crush, which he talks nonstop about. Does it seriously happen that early?  I need to meet this girl.  :)

He's apparently a "math superhero" in his class, which pretty much means he's the resident math expert. :)  Needless to say, he's a little too proud about that one.  He's pretty confident in his abilities in that area.  Too bad I can't take the credit for those genius genes...that's all his father.
As for my daughter, she's not so vocal about her day.  It's like pulling teeth to get out of her what went on for the last 6+ hours of her life.  So, even though she's naturally very reserved, as long as she's smiling, I take that as a sign that she's thriving there.

If there's one thing none of my kids are quiet about, though, it's their love of chocolate milk.
  
I can't get mad when they request it with their breakfast, because NESTLÉ® NESQUIK® Powder has 45% less sugar than the leading chocolate syrup brand, contains 7 essential vitamins and minerals and has no artificial colors or flavors.  Plus, it gives them 8g of protein when combined with 8 fluid ounces of low-fat milk!  Plus, it's got a cute bunny to stare at while drinking it!
I grabbed it at Target while I was doing some school shopping for the kids.  I love a good deal, so I'm going to let you in on this awesome one. Aug. 21st-27th, 2016 get 15% off 18.7oz Nesquik powder and 10 packs Nesquik Ready-to-Drink Bottles with THIS Cartwheel offer.

And you know how I'm a chocolate fanatic (I must've passed it on to my kids), so I incorporated our Nesquik into what I believe should be labeled the dessert of the century.  Today's sweet bread will bring endless praises.  Seriously, bring it to work, dinner with friends, playdates, or give it to the kids' teachers, and you will be stalked for the recipe!

The Nesquik really enhances the scrumptious chocolatey flavor.  This dessert gets even more moist and delicious the longer it sits. 
{CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD}
Adapted heavily from Allrecipes

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. light brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
3 mashed very ripe bananas (or about 1 heaping cup)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. sour cream (full fat)
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. baking cocoa
1/4 c. Chocolate NESTLÉ® NESQUIK® Powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips plus 1/2 c., divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar.  Add mashed bananas, vanilla, and sour cream and mix until incorporated.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking cocoa, Nesquik, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until incorporated.  Stir in 1 c. chocolate chips.  Divide mixture evenly between prepared loaf pans and sprinkle the tops with remaining 1/2 c. chocolate chips.  Bake for approximately 50 minutes to one hour, checking at about 50 minutes and every few minutes after that, just until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pans for about ten minutes before carefully removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Wrap in foil when all cool.
I sent a slice with each of the kids in their lunch boxes, and boy were they happy when they saw what awaited them.  

I must think we're a family of monkeys when I purchase bananas, because I seem to buy them in bulk but we never can eat all of them before they start browning.  So this is the perfect way to not let them go to waste!  The bananas lend a wonderful flavor that marries perfectly with the deep chocolate taste. 
Is there any woman out there who doesn't want to hear they're the "best mom ever" when their kid bites into that slice of chocolate banana flavored heaven? My kids were doting on me for hours after snack time was over.  And I was just soaking it all in.  Because with all the commotion that regularly occurs around here, I will savor those few sweet moments of bliss and triumph. :)

And by the way, I want you to take all the credit for today's dessert.  Just nod your head in agreement when they call you the god or goddess of baking.  

I hope your family enjoys this winner treat!

What is your kids' favorite way to enjoy Nesquik?
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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Southwest Tuna Pinwheels

After school snacking just got yummier with these Southwest Tuna Pinwheels! These will be a hit with the kids and the adults!  They're perfect for packing in lunch boxes too!

Growing up, we kids would jump off the big yellow school bus, burst through the door, and the first thing out of our mouths would be, "What's for the snack?" You might say we were hungry after a full day in the classroom and running around the playground. :)  My mom would always give us the look and say, "How about a "hello" first?!" 

My kids are no different than I was. All they care about when they first drop those backpacks to the floor and kick off the shoes is how they're going to fill their empty tummies and survive until dinnertime.  Yes, it's that dramatic at times around here.  Those growlings within will do that to you, I guess.
So I like to offer them one-of-a-kind tasty options that they won't soon forget like today's delicious tortilla roll-ups.  This is not your run-of-the-mill appetizer.  On the contrary, it's big on flavor and loaded with good-for-you ingredients like corn, black beans, tomatoes, and lots of Bumble Bee® Solid White Albacore Tuna.  
With a firm texture, light color and fresh taste - Bumble Bee® Solid White Albacore is the perfect ingredient to deliciously enhance most any recipe, adding a variety of nutrients - including lean protein, healthy fat and important vitamins and minerals.  It's quality you can see the moment you open the can! Go here for nutritional facts.

Bumble Bee® offers responsibly wild caught Albacore that is delicious, versatile, high in protein and absolutely perfect as the main ingredient in any meal or snack!  It's certainly the star of today's scrumptious concoction!
This is one of those satisfying handheld treasures that will make the kids want to go back to school, just so they can come home again to a plateful of this goodness.

The kids typically tackle their homework in between bites.  Because multi tasking is key when play time is limited. :)

I have to admit, I'm not quite ready to take on my role again as math tutor.  I've thoroughly enjoyed a summer free of the drama that comes when that story problem is "just too hard!" or "The teacher gave me way too many pages and it's not fair!"

But I am excited to watch my kiddos learn and grow as they are stretched and challenged in new ways.

And speaking of things that are difficult, these southwest style tuna pinwheels are NOT in the least! They are a cinch to throw together and the kids will surely give you a big bear hug for doing so!

Here's how to make them:
{SOUTHWEST TUNA PINWHEELS}
Makes about 18 pinwheels

12 oz. Bumble Bee® Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Pinch of Salt (or to taste)
3 Tbsp. Salsa Verde
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 oz. diced green chiles (about 1/4 c.)
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. diced fresh tomatoes
1/4 c. canned sweet corn, drained
1/4 c. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
Burrito size flour tortillas


Drain the Bumble Bee® Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water completely and add to a large bowl.  Use a fork to flake the chunks apart.  Add remaining ingredients (cream cheese, cumin, chili powder, salt, salsa verde, lime juice, green chiles, cilantro, diced tomatoes, corn, black beans and cheese) and stir to combine completely.  


Place a tortilla on a plate or cutting board and spread a big spoonful of the mixture out so it covers most of the tortilla (just leave about 1/2" around the sides).  Roll the tortilla up and slice into sections.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

I gave myself a nice pat on the back and an A+ for an after school snack well done.

Learn more about how you can incorporate this tasty tuna into your favorite recipes on the Only Bumble Bee Albacore Will Do™ landing page via the Bumble Bee® website.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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Monday, August 15, 2016

Rewards of Hard Work: Chocolate Pie and GREATER the Movie

This silky, indulgent Chocolate Pie with a handmade flaky crust is proof that the good things in life require effort and patience.  But your taste buds will applaud you in the end! Read on to see how this incredible pie fits into the story of Brandon Burlsworth, possibly the greatest walk-on in the history of college football.
Each summer, growing up, my siblings and I would help my dad plant and cultivate a large garden.  We beat the sun up every morning so we could hoe, weed, water and pick vegetables before it got too hot. There was lots of grumbling about the sleep we were missing, and how we wished we could just buy our vegetables at the store like every other normal person.  

But, when we popped those green peas in our mouth, straight out of the pod, or sat down to the dinner table to partake of that fresh corn on the cob, there was nothing more satisfying than knowing we played a part in it. The fruits (or you might say veggies) of our labors tasted extra sweet those times!

My parents were very intentional about teaching us first-hand the payoffs that follow hard work. My dad always said that the most worthwhile things in life are those that come at the highest price. 

We didn't always have the best attitudes as we accomplished our seemingly tedious tasks, but afterwards we really savored the results.  And now, I look back in appreciation for the lessons I learned in our garden.
There were no handouts at my house.  My siblings and I did assigned chores at home and took on odd jobs for neighbors, such as mowing lawns and babysitting, to earn spending money for outings with friends or special items we'd been eyeing at the store.

I pinched every penny so I could later purchase a full size violin when I outgrew my childhood beginner-size instrument. That violin is very dear to my heart because of all that went into acquiring it.

As a teenager, I got a job working at a local country store where I scooped ice cream cones, kept the fresh-picked orchard fruit in stock in the cooler room, served fudge, and kept the place looking nice and tidy. I carefully saved those funds and was able to pay my own way through college, with help from a scholarship and part time job, until I earned my degree four years later.  

I can hardly describe how much that very official, but nonetheless simple piece of paper means to me, knowing the countless hours of studying, the sleepless nights, the working on the side so I could make rent, and the many extra help sessions with T.A.'s and professors that all occurred, so I could make my future brighter.
These experiences are a little bit like this homemade pie, (that I teased you with on Instagram a few days ago) which came about after a great deal of patience and meticulous rolling and shaping, but the reward of the delightful result is unmatched!  I can't wait to share the recipe with you.
The hubby and I enjoyed a slice while watching GREATER the movie this past weekend.  It really hit home with both of us.

Brandon Burlsworth always wanted to play football, but athleticism didn't come naturally to him.  Nevertheless, with unbending determination on his side, even amidst the skepticism and relentless degrading remarks of others, he made the high school team, later walked onto a college team where he eventually became the most respected and driven player there.  
A coach who kindly took him under his wing gave him some wise counsel when he said that just because something doesn't come easy doesn't mean it's not worth working for.

Brandon took that to heart and was the first one to practice every day where he gave 110% and then was the last one to leave.  He overcame every obstacle that life dealt him and went on to gain the respect and utmost adoration from his once ridiculing teammates.

His mom was his greatest fan and urged him to keep going, even when the odds were stacked so high against him.  His brother never missed a game and was touched by Brandon's passion and perseverence.

Brandon's ability to put the naysayers out of his mind and to press on in the midst of difficult circumstances was admirable to say the least.
He won the hearts of everyone with his contagious optimism, straight-as-an-arrow ethics, and unwavering stamina, whether they were teammates, coaches, or onlookers in the stadium. 

I couldn't help but shed tears for him as he was bombarded by challenge after painstaking trial, but then I cried tears of joy when he constantly used his setbacks to fuel him forward and help his dreams come to fruition.  

His positive outlook on life and will to achieve the unlikely are an inspiration to all.  Watching him work so hard and never give up made me want to take on my own goals with renewed zeal.  
GREATER is a must-see movie.  I came out of it feeling uplifted and motivated to be better because of Brandon's stalwart example.  Brandon is proof that hard work pays off in big ways.

Have you watched the GREATER movie trailer yet?  If not, I really encourage you to do that below.  

This amazing movie hits theaters on August 26th, and believe me when I say that you don't want to miss it!  Be sure to check your local theaters for availability and show times. 

All this talk of toil leads me to today's dessert, this Chocolate Pie.  Homemade pies are always a labor of love (I've always believed they're a work of art), but this one will reward you a hundred fold for your efforts in making it!  You'll be so glad you did.
{CHOCOLATE PIE}

Crust:
1 1/8 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. shortening
Ice Water

Chocolate Filling:
4 oz. Baker's German Sweet Chocolate Bar
1/4 c. evaporated milk
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
8 oz. whipped topping

 **Go here for a tutorial for making a perfect pie crust.  For the crust, stir flour and salt together. Add shortening on top.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces.  Add a few Tbsp. ice water (ice water prevents the shortening from melting) and work into mixture with a fork, pushing aside the moistened portions.  Sprinkle ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time on dry areas, and continue working moistened parts to the side until all the dough is moist.

Form dough into a ball.  Press dough ball with the palm of your hand to flatten a bit.  Roll out on floured surface until about 2" wider than your pie plate. Scrape dough underneath with a metal spatula for a clean release from the counter top.  Fold dough in fourths to transfer easily to the pie plate.  Align dough so it overhangs by about 2", then unfold.

Trim dough so it hangs over the pie plate by about 1".  If some areas are scant, grab a piece of trimmed dough and use a few dabs of ice water to "glue" it to the area.  Fold dough under so a little of it sticks above the pie plate.  Now flute the edges using two of your fingers as support on one hand and your index finger on the other hand to press the dough between your fingers.  Be sure to press down so the dough will be right up against the pie plate.  This will prevent shrinking.

Prick the bottom and edges with a fork so the crust can breathe while baking.  Bake at 475 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Let cool completely, then make filling.

For the filling, melt chocolate with the evaporated milk in a small saucepan over the stovetop on a low heat.  You can use a double boiler, but I didn't.  Stir often.  When all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, allow it to cool a little bit while you make the other portion.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together the cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Pour in the chocolate mixture and mix until smooth.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spread into pie crust, top with chocolate shavings if desired and refrigerate until ready to serve.
 I'd love to hear your story of something wonderful you've achieved through hard work!  You're going to love GREATER the movie!  It's one of those "feel-good" films that leaves you with the warm fuzzies inside. Trust me, you'll want to be the first one in those cushiony seats to watch it on August 26th!

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and GREATER Productions. but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #GREATERMovie #GreaterTheMovie  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV
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Tips for Storing Baby Essentials, Plus an Over-the-Door Nursery Organizer!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SuperAbsorbent #CollectiveBias

I'm excited to share a great space-saving method of organizing all those baby essentials today!
If there's one thing I learned very early on in motherhood, it's that babies come with a lot of stuff! When we took our first vacation with my oldest daughter when she was teeny tiny, we weren't anticipating all the luggage we'd need to contain the items she required! :)

Up until my first child was one, we lived in a small one bedroom apartment while my husband was finishing graduate school.  Small is a serious understatement.  We didn't have a place to put a crib in our master bedroom, so we stuck her the only place we could, right next to the bathroom door in front of a coat closet.  I found myself scrambling to come up with ways to maintain a tidy apartment with very limited space to keep all her toys and diapers, lotions, bibs, clothes, shoes, blankets, washes, powders, and such.  

I wish I would have come up with this over-the-door organizer idea about nine years ago.  :) Because using a door with hanging storage compartments doesn't require any extra space and it keeps the items all in one very convenient place!  I'm kicking myself for not thinking of this sooner.
Even though space isn't so coveted now, we have four children, so every square inch is precious. 

I've learned a few things that I wanted to share with you as far as tips for keeping all the kid and baby stuff contained and looking orderly!

1. Designate a place for everything.  Whether it's a rubber ducky or that large stock of Huggies diapers you just purchased at Costco.  Pick a low profile place for it and keep it there consistently.
And speaking of diapers, with a busy baby who never holds still, I love keeping him in Huggies Little Movers Plus.  They're available only at Costco in sizes 3, 4, 5 and 6 and are perfect for babies like my little guy, who are always on the go. 

Valid 9/1 to 9/25, receive a $6 discount and Free shipping on Huggies Little Movers Plus at Costco.  They're regularly $42.99, so that brings them down to $36.99!

They're Huggies most absorbent* diapers – thus the "Plus".  They keep my little one dry and happy, and we all know that a happy baby equals a happy mommy!
My baby is 11 months old already!  He's crawling, standing on his own, and cruising along things, so walking is not far ahead!  I can't believe how fast the first year goes.  I wish I could make time stand still.  I love the baby phase.
Huggies Little Movers Plus allow him total comfort while he's crawling around making messes, exploring every nook and cranny of the house or discovering how toys work.

Which leads me to my second tip:

2.  Keep baskets or small containers in set places around the house for easy toy pick up throughout the day and then tuck them away at night. I've found that if we have a system in place for containing the clutter, it's much more manageable and doable with four cute little mess makers on the loose.
When this one's awake, he's always on the loose, because there's lots of trouble to cause when the world is your playground.  :)

Huggies Little Movers Plus have Double Grip strips for for the perfect fit and hold while baby is accomplishing his jam-packed "to do" list. :)  They offer Leak Lock® with up to 12 hour protection, which comes in very handy because this little guy doesn't want to stop for anything!

This is the phase when taking a non-blurry photo is extremely difficult! :)
They're easy to spot in the diaper section at Costco.  Find a location near you with this store locator.

Beginning in August Little Snugglers Plus will also be available in size Newborn starting - $29.99 available in select warehouses and online at Costco.com.

From 9/1 to 9/25 Little Snugglers Plus (Sizes 1 & 2) will be discounted $6 (they're normally $37.49, so they'll be $31.49) with Free shipping.  

This over-the-door baby essentials organizer keeps all the potentially clutter-y items in one tidy place where they are easily accessible!  

It's so easy to make.  You'll need an over-the-door shoe organizer with clear plastic pockets.  Mine has 24 compartments.   

I dressed mine up with 12 vinyl decals in keeping with my baby's nursery theme of "things that go".  
I cut out some truck, airplane, sailboat, tractor and train shapes using my Silhouette machine and some black vinyl.  Then I used clear Con-Tact paper to transfer the vinyl designs to every other pocket of the organizer for a fun decor piece that's also functional!  It really is that simple!
Now just fill those pockets and enjoy an orderly nursery! 

What are your best tips for organizing all the baby essentials?

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Watermelon Ring Toss Game

Let the kids line up and have some outdoor fun with this cute Watermelon Ring Toss Game!


I remember very vividly, growing up, spending most of my summer days outdoors with my siblings building huts, riding our bikes to the candy store downtown, playing tag, water games, kickball, dodgeball, and steal the flag until late until the evening.  We always dreading watching the sun go down and having to quit.

We rarely headed indoors, unless it was for a meal, because we drank water from the garden hose to quench our thirst.  We made so many memories in our yard with friends and neighbors.  

It was on our front lawn that my sisters and I taught ourselves to do cartwheels, backbend kick-overs, and front handsprings.  We spent hours out there on the grass practicing.  We were determined to master those gymnastic moves and we did!
My cousins lived across the street, so they'd come over early in the morning and we'd start the fun.  We loved having races around the house and playing kick the can with them.

With technology being such a prevalent part of our lives nowadays, kids in general are spending less time playing outside and much more time on the screen.  70% of moms played outside when they were kids and only 31% of their kids play outside today.  That's a pretty disheartening statistic!

I'm determined not to let my kids fall victim to this trend, so this summer I've been on their case often, encouraging them to "Go have an adventure!"
And I'm sure it's not just by chance that this summer has been the best yet!  Even they agree.  My kids have discovered the magic of a secret hideout and a newly-formed club that's accessible by invitation only to the outside kid world.  :)  And I know I can count on one or two fingers the amount of times I've heard the phrase, "I'm bored!"

 Creative, active play is always the kind that is remembered in the long run.  Plus, it lays the foundation for a healthy, resilient society.  I hope that my kids will look back on this time with fondness.  

I even put together a little Watermelon Ring Toss Game that they enjoyed playing together on the tennis court.  

Here's how to make it:
Grab some empty, clean glass soda bottles, because we're going to upcycle them in style! I used eight.  You'll need some green, white and pink craft paint, a foam brush, some masking tape, and a black permanent marker.

Tape off a small section of the bottom and give it a few coats of green paint, allowing it to dry between coats.  Next, use a thin brush to paint a white stripe right above the green.  I didn't tape it off this time, just painted carefully.  Allow that to dry completely.

Next, paint the remaining portion in pink, giving it a few coats as necessary, and then draw on some black seeds with your permanent marker after it's dried.  It really was an easy craft!
And of course outdoor adventures wouldn't be complete without a snack break!  So we made sure to have CLIF Kid Zbar®s on hand! They're made with organic ingredients and have important nutrients for active kids.
Plus, they're available in flavors kids LOVE like Chocolate Chip and Iced Oatmeal Cookie! And they have no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors (or synthetic preservatives). Now that's one content face!
CLIF Kid Zbar® is specially-crafted for kids’ developing taste buds like this little one of mine.  That smile says it all.
CLIF Kid is dedicated to reclaiming play.  Sometimes kids just need a little encouragement to get back outside, push their boundaries and feed their adventures.  Check out this CLIF Kid video for ways that you can help kids to run out that door and start making memories! 
 
What are your kids' favorite outdoor games and activities?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cheesy Pasta Shells with Ham and Broccoli

Hectic school nights call for easy and tasty, family-pleasing meals like these Cheesy Pasta Shells with Ham and Broccoli!
I'm truly sad to see the summer break go, but one thing I always look forward to about back-to-school time is a return to my normal routine.  I love being spontaneous and playing with the kids full time for a few months, but the inner planner in me just craves a schedule. 

I know I'll be eating those words soon.  I always underestimate just how busy and exhausting life turns once homework and after-school appointments take over our evenings.  

But, just because our calendar is full doesn't mean that our bellies can't be too when the evening rumblings begin.  You know how I take pride in serving up a warm and satisfying, made-with-love meal for my family, because gathering around the table has always ranked high on my "important" list.

But, that being said, I'm also a firm believer that dinners don't need to be complex or time-consuming to be delicious.  Easy is my middle name...well, it should be.  :) 
So, when the kids hit the books again, I take it as a personal challenge to come up with scrumptious meal solutions that can be prepared and cleaned up at lightning speed.  Today's dish totally fits the bill!

And speaking of challenge, my kids have this little competition going between them.  When I pull a food item from our pantry shelves, the child who spots the Box Top first on it is the one who gets to clip it and turn it into his or her teacher. With two kiddos in school and thus in the game too, they take it very seriously.  I'll admit, sometimes I have to become the referee and make the final call about who won a particular round.  

{CHEESY PASTA SHELLS WITH HAM AND BROCCOLI}

2 c. fresh broccoli, cut in small pieces
1 heaping cup sweet baked ham, cut into chunks
2 tsp. olive oil
3 boxes (6 oz. each) Annie's Shells & Real Aged Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese (plus ingredients required to prepare it as stated on the package)
1 crust of bread
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Cook broccoli (I boiled mine just until they weren't crisp).  In a skillet over the stove top, fry ham bits in olive oil until they start browning.  Cook macaroni and cheese and prepare it according to package directions.  Break up bread crust into little pieces or pop it in a blender for very fine crumbs.  Stir in parmesan cheese with bread crumbs in a small bowl.  Once the macaroni and cheese is prepared, stir in cooked broccoli and ham pieces.  Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with bread crumb/parmesan cheese mixture. Serve immediately.  Enjoy!
Do you participate in Box Tops for Education?

We just love helping the kids' school in any way we can and we know that Box Tops do just that! Every little bit can really add up!  We've seen that first hand, because my son's kindergarten class last year received new tablets thanks to funds earned from Box Tops.  
So now, when we grocery shop, we actually look for products that have Box Tops, in order to build our collection.  The kids get a kick out of turning the meticulously-gathered treasures into their teachers.  It makes them feel so good, knowing they've done their part to help their school.
So when we were at Sprouts the other day and saw these Annie's products that all included Box Tops, we were ecstatic, of course!  We really hit the jackpot!

My kids love the Annie's Cheddar Bunnies Baked Crackers and Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks, so I decided to throw them together to make a quick and fun after school snack mix!  We know those backpack-clad kids come through the door every afternoon just searching for sustenance.  And this is a very welcome sight!
And then I used Annie's Shells and Real-Aged Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese to put together the simplest and one of the tastiest meals we've had the pleasure of enjoying.  I'll definitely be making this Cheesy Pasta Shells with Ham and Broccoli again and again throughout the busy school year!  Especially since this particular recipe not only yields happy faces all around, but also three Box Tops to add to our stockpile!

Don't forget to enter the Sprouts Box Tops Giveaway where 4 lucky schools will win a bonus 25,000 eBoxTops!  How cool would that be if your child's school was the recipient of that award?  My kids would be on cloud nine!

**NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Begins 12:00 A.M. PST on July 27, 2016 and ends at 11:59 P.M. PST on August 17, 2016. Open to 50 US and DC residents (except FL & NY residents), 18 years of age or older who are members of BoxTops4Education.com and have designated a school to support at time of entry. Membership to BoxTops4Education.com is free and available at www.boxtops4education.com. Void in NY, FL and where prohibited. Subject to Official Sweepstakes Rules at www.btfe.com/SproutsBoxTopsGiveaway. Sponsored by General Mills Sales, Inc.
Happy new school year!  I hope it's one for the books!

This was a sponsored conversation on behalf of Acorn Influence.  All opinions and ideas are my own.
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