What 's A Kid To Do After School?

An after school snack and homework always come first. TV? Sometimes, but we have created theme days for each weekday after school. Mya Mondays for when her very young cousin visits for an hour or so and Alex helps babysit. Make It, Bake It, and Take It Tuesday when we help Alex prepare a food item to take home and share with her family. Grandpa Wednesday is a special outing with just the two of us finding a restaurant with a great dessert. Grandma takes over with Crafty Thursday as she and Alex work on a craft project. And since the weekend starts after school on Friday, Relaxing Friday tends to find cartoons or playing outside as the goal.

Scheduling regular events like this sets a pattern that everyone, including Alex, looks forward to and enjoys.


Favorite Lasagne

Lasagna is everyone’s Italian favorite, including Alex.  An authentic Italian recipe will start with homemade noodles and sauce, but our Americanized lasagna recipe uses store bought ingredients and still tastes great.

Our ingredients are:

 2 – 3 pounds of ground meat (one of the following or a mix that you prefer – ground beef or chuck, Italian sausage,  a mild breakfast sausage, or ground chicken)
1 package of Barilla no boil lasagna noodles
½ pound of cottage cheese
2 – 3 packages of shredded mozzarella or mozzarella / provolone mix
1 small package shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

2 – jars of your favorite pasta sauce (Wal Mart carries a sweet spaghetti sauce from Rinaldi that is both tasty and inexpensive)
1 – medium onion
1 – 9 X 13 baking dish

·       ·  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
·       ·  Chop the onion into small pieces
·       ·  Place the ground meat into a medium high pre-heated and lightly oiled skillet.  Add the chopped onion shortly before the meat is completely cooked.  When cooked just beyond pink, drain the grease (a little grease left behind is fine, it mixes well with the sauce).
After dumping the cheese into
 a large bowl, blending the 
cheeses by hand only adds to the fun.

·         Add one jar of sauce to the skillet with the meat, stir together and break up any large chunks of meat.  Lower the temperature to a simmer.  The meat sauce needs to have a slightly liquid consistency to cook the noodles and to be a juicy lasagna.  After simmering a few minutes will probably need to add  ½ to ¾ of the second jar of sauce.  If it is still too thick, add a little water but not enough to change the flavor of the sauce.  Reserve at least ¼ of the jar of sauce for later use in the recipe.
·         While the meat is browning, mix all of the cheeses, including the cottage cheese, in a large bowl.
·         Add ¼ jar of sauce to the bottom of the baking dish and spread it around so it covers most of the bottom surface.  It took me a long time to learn this trick, but it’s so much easier to scoop the lasagna out if you do this.
·         Add a layer of dry noodles to the bottom of the dish.  Add a layer of meat sauce and spread it around to cover the noodles.  Add a layer of cheese.  Add a second layer of noodles, meat sauce and cheese. Finish with a third layer of noodles and meat sauce.  Reserve a third layer of cheese for later.
·         Cover the baking disk with aluminum foil and place in the middle of the oven for 40 - 45 minutes.
·         Remove the dish from the oven.  Remove the aluminum foil and top the lasagna with the remaining cheese.  Place back into to the oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted or browned to you preference.
·         Remove from the oven and let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes.

·         Serve it.  Eat it.  Yummy

After preparing food  packets for Alex and I to deliver to my
 sons' families, there's not much left for Grandma and Grandpa..


Pottery for Kids

Alex isn't afraid of getting dirty so combining crafts and getting dirty is just a natural.  With a gift of a child's electric pottery wheel the game was on.  Preparing the clay by warming it and squishing it around is the first step.

 On to the pottery wheel and forming the pot takes a lot of concentration.

The pot starts to take shape when creativity pops up and . . .

. . . we have a volcano!


Rigatoni and Sweet Italian Sausage

Alex loves loves spaghetti and meatballs.  So is rigatoni with Italian sausage close enough?  You betcha!  I don't let her do the cooking on the stove top if there is a concern of hot spills or grease burns, but I make sure she experiences all of the prep work and cooking safely possible. With this recipe she was able to place the meat in the skillet, add the rigatoni to the water, mix the ingredients together and then dish up the end results.

Simple ingredients can make a great meal - boxed rigatoni, a pound of sweet Italian sausage, your favorite spaghetti sauce, and some shredded mozzarella or shredded parmesan cheese.

Cut the Italian sausage into thirds and sautee until cooked thoroughly.  Add the rigatoni to boiling water and cook until just tender (rigatoni takes quite a bit longer to cook than spaghetti due to the thickness of the pasta).  Drain the pasta and the sausage.  Add these two ingredients to a deep skillet or a large pan and pour most of a jar of spaghetti sauce on top.  Stir until lightly coated and leave on medium heat for a few minutes to let the sauce blend with the meat and pasta.  Make sure the kids get to do the mixing and stirring, that's their favorite part.

Once heated through, add to the plates. Some like to pour a little more sauce on top, but sprinkle on shredded cheese for a finisher.  This was a meal that Alex and I were delivering so the re-used plastic Chinese carry-out containers worked great.

Mya Mondays

Sometimes Mya Mondays are funny.

Sometimes they are sleepy.

And sometimes you get to play with Santa and his elves.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

For as long as I can remember my family has made a great snack cookie by filling two graham cracker halves with a generous layer of buttercream icing.  When Alex and I were talking about making some of these we decided to make them even better by replacing the icing with soft serve ice cream.

The ingredients are simple:
  • Red box graham crackers - yes, you can use other brands and varieties but the original Nabisco Grahams are my preference.
  • Soft ice cream.  For our first attempt we used Dairy Queen soft serve for its simplicity.

The directions are equally simple.
  • Break the graham crackers into halves.
  • Spread the ice cream on half of the crackers and top with the other half.
  • Place them on a cookie sheet and place into the freezer until hard set.
  • When hard frozen, place them into freezer bags and return to the freezer until ready to eat.

This took very little time for Alex to prepare and the results were as good as we hoped for.  An added boost to her cooking confidence was the fact that she helped develop the recipe.

Our next batch will also include a layer of chocolate ice cream topped with another graham cracker.


Don't worry about making the ice cream sandwiches look neat, they taste great no matter how they look.

The softer the ice cream the easier to spread on the crackers.


Wood Elves

This is a project gone bad, but it turned out well.  The intent was to make bowls made out of leaves.  Blow up some balloons, spread Mod Podge on the surface, and them cover with cloth leaves.  After drying, pop and remove the balloon and you have a clear leaf bowl.

That might work just fine, but Kathy and Alex decided to try real leaves instead of cloth ones. Upon bursting and removing the balloon, the now leaf covered clear mod podge looked cool but wasn't stiff enough to use as a bowl.

But since it so flexible it turned out to be great wood elf hats or even a pumpkin topper for a fall decoration.


Sweet and Sour Meatballs

This is a simple but tasty recipe that Alex enjoyed preparing.  Four ingredients, 1 mixing bowl, two pans, that's it.  The ingredients:

  1. Frozen meatballs - be careful, many brands taste rubbery, but the Great Value homestyle meatballs from Walmart are great.
  2. Instant rice
  3. Barbecue sauce - for the sweet and sour meatballs I prefer Famous Dave's Sweet and Zesty, 28 ounce size.
  4. 1 can jellied cranberry sauce


  1. Prepare 5 cups (dry) rice following the package instructions.
  2. Mix 3/4 of the barbecue sauce (all of the sauce if you want a juicier final sauce) and the cranberry sauce.  
  3. Place the meatballs in a single layer in a large skillet and cover with the sauce.  Cook until the meatballs are heated through, approximately 20 minutes.
  4. Place servings of rice on plates and cover with the hot meatballs and sauce.

  • The Famous Dave's Sweet and Zesty barbecue sauce is a little spicy. some kids may prefer a milder sauce.
  • Alex prefers her meatballs and sauce to the side of rice instead of on top of the rice.  Mixed or separate, this is a yummy recipe.


Halloween Fence

Some sticks from Alex's backyard and a quick trip to the dollar store yielded a front porch Halloween fence with a skeleton, bats, blackbirds, and cobwebs.  Pumpkins and more will add to this spooky look at night time.  Alex and Kathy found tying the sticks with twine proved to be the biggest challenge. 

Alex's Favorite Meatballs

Alex's favorite meal at our house always includes Porcupine Meatballs.  This is simple enough for kids to help prepare and they get to immerse their hands into the ingredients and play with their food.  

The ingredient list is simple:
2 - 3 lbs. ground beef or ground chuck (no more than 85% lean or the meatballs are too dry)
1 cup uncooked instant rice
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cups dried chopped onions (fresh finely chopped onions are fine but sautee until tender before adding to the mix)
2 cans tomato soup

Now the fun part begins.  Kids love the hands in the food stuff.  Break up the ground beef and toss into a large mixing bowl.  Add all of the dry ingredients and mix together with your hands until all ingredients are well distributed.  Now form into 1 - 2 inch balls.  Don't worry about trying to make perfectly round balls but do try to keep them approximately the same size.

Add the meatballs to a non-stick skillet.  Do not add oil and keep the meatballs in a single layer.  Spread the tomato soup on top of the meatballs until they are covered.  

Cook at medium to medium high for approximately 30 minutes. Turn the meatballs when they start to brown on the bottom  and add more tomato soup if they appear dry.  When done they should be some browning on the meatballs with some sauce remaining in the skillet.

Below is Alex's meal-to-go that we delivered to her uncle's family and to her house.


 Break up the ground beef into pieces and then let it come to near room temperature so your kids fingers don't get too cold when mixing the ingredients. 

This recipe is very forgiving - increase or decrease the quantities to suit your preferences and the end product will still be great.  

Scalloped potatoes and green beans are favorites accompaniments for these meatballs.


The First Mod Podge Project

Kathy and Alex talk all of the time about craft ideas.  Yes, pinterest.com is the mother of many of their ideas, but they have lots of creativity between them.  A little bit of decorative wrapping paper, an empty Pringles can, some pipe cleaners, some tissue paper, a container of that wonderful do-it-all ingredient mod podge was all it took for the two of them to make this really cute vase and flower arrangement.