I am totally flabbergasted that we are already into another school year. I'm not sure how it happened, but the summer flew by without me accomplishing more than one or two of the several things I intended to do. I never got that flower patch planted or put up the curtains. Nor did I paint the living room, dining room and porch. And what did I do? I watched my kids plant seeds, run around in sprinklers, climb trees, pick and eat their own weight in blueberries at the patch and blackberries in our yard, play volleyball over the fence by the barn, stalk rabbits, eat sweet corn with mouths missing many teeth, fish with their Daddy, and fall asleep in the hammock on the porch. In short, I saw my kids have the ideal summer vacation.
While driving back from the blueberry patch for our third visit early this week the boys and I were taking turns pointing out beautiful scenery. I pointed out the first color changes in the maple trees. "Nooooooo," wailed Liam. "That means we're starting school again! I was just getting relaxed!" I have a feeling that even if he had a half a year of summer vacation the response would've been the same. "Wahoo," screamed Aidan. "That means we'll get to have snowball fights. And my birthday is only five months away. Can I have a five-layer cake with polka dots?" That boy thinks ahead. "School's starting again?" asked Ty. "That means after-school snacks. I'm fine with that."
My three eldest boys had -- in one conversation -- - encompassed most of the feelings that I remember having about back-to-school time. Notably absent from the beginning of the school year preparations for my boys is the girly attention to details regarding wardrobe I always had. And for that I'm eternally grateful! I lost my freedom, looked forward to cold weather and anticipated upgraded snacks at the same time. Some things never change.
After-school snacks can be the balm to soothe a child who had a rough school day, the prize given for school goals that were met, or the fuel in the tank that get the kidlet through a pile of homework. You can feel good about serving your kids snacks when they're homemade: You know exactly what went into them. Try some of our favorite after school snacks. All of these serve double duty as late night snacks or quick desserts.
Slow-Cooker Vanilla Bean Tapioca
This pudding takes the perennial favorite tapioca pudding and dresses it up. Served warm, it'll heat you up from the inside out on chilly fall days. Using a real vanilla bean gives the pudding a sumptuous velvet-like texture and flavor. If you don't have access to vanilla beans, simply substitute 2 t. of real vanilla extract.
1/4 c. fine pearl tapioca (not granulated)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 of one vanilla bean
2 c. milk**
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, beaten in a medium bowl
nonstick cooking spray or butter for greasing the slow-cooker
**Low fat milk works fine in this, but it's silkier and richer if you use whole milk or a combination of whole milk and half&half.;
Spray slow cooker crock with nonstick cooking spray or butter generously. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and use the blunt spine of the knife to scrape the 'seeds' from the beanpod. Add the vanilla bean and 'seeds' into the crock along with the tapioca, sugar, and milk. Stir well, put cover on the slow cooker and cook for 2-3 hours on low, or until tapioca is soft.
Use a spoon to carefully break up any clumps that have formed in the crock. Slowly pour a ladle of the hot tapioca mixture into the eggs while beating vigorously with a wire whisk. When it is fully incorporated, pour the mixture slowly back into the crock while whisking. Recover and continue cooking on low for 30 minutes more. When the time is up, vent the lid, turn the heat off, and allow to sit for 30 minutes more. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled. If you choose to chill the pudding, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface before refrigerating. For ideas on turning this into a dessert pretty enough for company visit www.foodiewithfamily.com/blog
Nutella Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Freezer Sandwiches
There is nothing refined or pretty about these but they make incredibly satisfying after school snacks that come together in a flash. If you feel like something a little more delicate, substitute vanilla wafer cookies for the graham crackers.
One box graham crackers
Peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
Unwrap graham crackers and lay out on the countertop. Spread half of them with about 1/4" of Nutella and the other half with between 1/8" and 1/4" of peanut butter. Carefully overturn the peanut butter covered crackers on top of the Nutella ones. Place on a plate in the freezer until firm. These can be stored in the freezer for up to a week in a container with a tight fitting lid.
Chocolate Chip Studded Peanut Butter Balls
These sweet peanut buttery chocolate treats are a favorite around here year-round. When dipped in melted chocolate they also make a nice bake-sale or holiday cookie tray addition.
2 c. creamy or crunchy style peanut butter (preferably all natural)
1 c. sweetened condensed milk or honey
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (preferably mini-chip size)
Mix all ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Roll tablespoon-sized amounts into balls and set on a plate to firm up. Store in a lidded container in the fridge.
This afternoon snack will make your kitchen the place to be. My kids can't get enough of this.
16 c. popped popcorn (This is the amount yielded by 1/2 cup of unpopped popcorn.)
4 T. butter, melted
1/4 - 1/2 t. garlic powder (For the grown-ups, substitute a clove of finely minced garlic cooked in the butter as it melts)
3/4- 1 1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, to taste
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Place popcorn in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, toss together the garlic powder, grated cheese, salt and pepper until everything is evenly distributed. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the popcorn and toss everything with a large spoon or your clean hands. Serve immediately!
You can read more of Rebecca's recipes, kitchen tips and parenting adventures at www.foodiewithfamily.com .