5 Free Summer Activities for Kids

Summertime can get SO expensive with camps and activities, eating out and vacations. As a mom of three children, I am always looking for ways to save money, especially around this time of year. As my kids grow older, these budget-friendly, free summer activities for kids have stayed on the top of our list!

1. Geocaching: Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor, treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS enabled devices such as a smart phone. Check out Geocaching.com for more information.

2. Culture: Spend a half-day at your local museum exploring and learning about the scientific, artistic, cultural or historical importance of the artifacts and collections available in your city. This will be a great way for your young ones to learn about some of the unique facts and stories surrounding your hometown. If your local museums charge admission, check your local library as some allow you to “borrow” membership passes for free entry.

3. Biking: Plan a bike outing on the next warm, sunny day. This is a great way to get some exercise, while changing up your every day scenery. Pack food and enjoy a nice picnic midday.

4. Hiking: Find a local hiking trail or make a hiking path around your own neighborhood! It’s a great way to get outdoors and spend quality time with your family.

5. Cooking: Entertain your kids on a rainy day by getting them in the kitchen to bake their favorite recipes. Once you’ve worked together to choose a recipe, teach them how to measure, bake or customize the ingredients to make it their own. Some great summertime recipes to try include Better-for-You Blueberry Muffins!

For more ideas, read on at SC Johsnson

Homemade Caramel Corn

Homemade Caramel Corn anyone? This child (and adult) favorite is a great snack, dessert or even fun tailgating recipe. It also makes a great fall or Christmas food gift. I love this homemade Caramel Corn because it’s simple to prepare and uses a variety of almonds, pecans and walnuts, adding more protein. Make this even healthier by using my Saucepan Popcorn recipe to pop your popcorn. It’s so easy and uses no microwave. Be careful, this can get very addicting 🙂

Kids Cook it Up: Sausage-Vegetable Pizza

My kids are already out of school for the summer, and they are so excited. They love having friends over, of course, and I like to ask them if they want to help out in the kitchen. My kids (and their friends) love being in the kitchen. It’s the center of our home. Most of their friends know that I’m a Recipe Developer and Cookbook Author and that I’m always taking pictures in the kitchen. We made these Sausage-Vegetable Pizzas the other day, and they had a blast. Making pizzas is a fun kid’s activity. I love to set up an array of toppings, and I let them create their own. Try this for an awesome summer activity.


St. Patrick’s Day Herb Dip & Kid’s Cooking Class

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th, and I am so excited that I will be spending my Saint Patrick’s Day teaching a Kid’s Cooking Class at the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah. We we will be making kid-friendly apres ski snacks to make in the condo. See more information about this fun class on the“Snowmama” website. One of the recipes I’ll be making in the class is this healthy, easy and very simple Saint Patrick’s Day Fresh Herb Dip. It’s a great way to get the kids to try fresh herbs such as basil and dill and to eat fresh vegetables. I like to use reduced-fat Greek yogurt in this recipe because it has so may health benefits and is filled with protein which is perfect after a long day of skiing. Enjoy this recipe on Saint Patrick’s Day or any time of the year.

Mini Valentines Treats: Cookie Dough Truffles

I read a lot of food blogs, and I mean a lot! Since I am a consultant for a few food magazines and PR firms, I get paid to keep my eye on talented bloggers to possibly feature, new ideas in recipes as well as food trends. Many times, I come across a blog which I subscribe to and look forward to every day. In December, I was so excited when Carrots and Chocolate featured several variations of truffle recipes for Christmas. The Cookie Dough Truffles caught my eye, and the next thing I knew I was in the kitchen tinkering with her recipe. Recently, I served my variation at a party, and my friend, Andy, said, “I didn’t think cookie dough could get any better!” I thought that was testimony enough. These are really fun to serve on Valentine’s Day, and I can’t wait to make them later this week in Nashville working with the talented crew from Newschannel 5 on “Talk of the Town”.

Kid’s Halloween Cupcake Fun

I love doing fun cooking activities with the kids, and my daughter, Leigh, and I have been researching fun ideas on how to decorate Halloween cupcakes. We asked one of her very best (and very talented) friends, Eloise, to come join the fun and to spend the afternoon decorating Halloween cupcakes. We gathered some of our favorite Halloween ingredients, and the two of them went to work (with none of my help). This is so easy for anyone to do. Just start by baking your own favorite cupcake recipe, or save time by picking up store-bought ones that aren’t already iced. Then, purchase some of your favorite candy along with some Betty Crocker Icing.

The kids were very focused and worked carefully on each cupcake. They helped each other and researched designs on the internet before starting.

Leigh licked her fingers on just a few occasions. Eloise said, “Someone might actually eat these.” It was so funny and adorable.

Eloise has been one of Leigh’s best friends since preschool. She is so creative, methodical and precise (and quite photogenic, as well).

What a smile. This is what cooking with kids is truly all about.

For the skeleton (pictured below) Eloise took a regular size marshmallow for the head and Betty Crocker icing for the body. For the eyes, she used “Reese’s Pieces“. For the mouth, she used chocolate icing. If you have some Tic-Tacs, they work great for the legs and arms instead of icing.

For Rest in Peace Cupcake (below), Eloise used the vanilla half of a “Head and Tails Oreos” for the headstone and Betty Crocker Orange Decorating Gel for the lettering. The remainder was made with chocolate sprinkles on top of white icing.

For the Monster Mouth Cupcakes (see below), Leigh used white and yellow  Betty Crocker Icing and Reese’s Pieces for the eyes.

Leigh was very proud of this Candy Corn Cupcake (below). She used Betty Crocker yellow and white icing and candy corns for decoration. These were a hit for sure! My dog, Latte, even stole one when we weren’t looking, and he even ate the cupcake paper too…ooops.

What a fun afternoon with the kids. I hope we have given you some fun and creative ideas for Halloween.

Easy Salad with Strawberries, Mandarin Oranges and Pecans

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For my college student cooking class last week, I wanted to offer a wonderful salad that was simple as well as delicious. Easy Salad with Strawberries, Mandarin Oranges and Pecans is ideal anytime of the year and takes only 20 minutes to prepare. Feel free to add chicken, salmon or shrimp for to create a main-dish salad. Also, a lot of people have been asking about my college cookbooks. Contact me at alison@ingredientsinc.net for more information.

Easy Lemon Herbed Chicken

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I have 2 nieces in college who asked me to give them and their college friends some great easy recipes, starting with ideas using boneless chicken breasts. My niece, Meredith, has her own apartment this year. She loves to cook and gets tired of eating out. College students are really not so different from me and my friends (okay, maybe just in some ways). We are all busy, but we want to eat healthy, flavorful meals that are simple and fast. This recipe fits that bill so let me know what you think.

 

Lemon Herbed Chicken

This recipe is also fabulous when grilled.

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I like to use chicken cutlets)

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions

1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl, mixing well. Pour lemon marinade over the chicken in a zip-top resealable bag; marinate 1 to 4 hours, turning occasionally.

2. Place chicken on a lightly greased baking sheet (or cover baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray for easy cleanup). Broil 51/2 inches from heat (with electric oven door partially open) 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until tender; serve with the lemon slices.

 

For the Broccoli Stir-Fry pictured above:

Saute 1 (12-ounce) package broccoli slaw and 1 (12-ounce) package broccoli and carrots in a large saute pan coated with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce and saute over medium heat 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often.