Back To School – Lunch Time

Written By: Lisa Valentine

It’s that time of year again… Back to school! One of the hardest parts as a parent is figuring out what to pack our kids for lunch. If you’re like me, you want your kids to eat healthy so they can be fueled to work at their highest potential. First start by planning ahead and go food shopping on Friday or Saturday so you can prep on Sunday afternoon. If you have older kids, have them help! Studies show when they are involved in making their meals they are more likely to eat the foods prepared!

When planing try to incorporate a healthy protein (palm sized), fruit serving (1 cup) and veggie serving (1 cup). Using a small thermos for leftover dinners is also a great way to pack a healthy lunch. TIP* To keep food hot until lunch time you will have to prep the morning of. Heat some hot water in a tea kettle and poor it into the thermos and let it sit. Then heat the food you will be using in the microwave (make it hotter then normal when heating). Before you leave for school dump the hot water out and add the heated food.  Last year was my first year with a “school age child” and I experimented with various ideas from the school lunch box makeover group I was co hosting.  Below were a couple favorites.

Mac & Cheese Bites – 12 servings (12 minutes to make) from Autumn Calabrese Ingredients: 4 oz of whole wheat, quinoa or bean pasta, cooked 1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk drink) 1 1/4 cup + 1 TBS grated cheddar cheese 1 TBS corn starch 1 clove minced garlic 1/4 tsp sea salt


1. In a large skillet, combine milk, salt and garlic and bring to a simmer over low heat

2. Toss 1 1/4 cup cheese with cornstarch until coated

3. Gradually whisk cheese mixture into simmering milk until fully incorpated 

4. Turn off heat and stir pasta into cheese sauce until coated

5. Line muffin pan with 12 muffin inner and divide mad & chesese evenly between cups

6. Sprinkle remaining cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes until golden on top. school luch 1 Healthy Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins – 12 servings (35 minutes to make) from Well Plated Ingredients: 2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 small /medium zucchini) 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium or large) 1/4 cup melted and cooled coconut oil 1/4 cup honey 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 2 large eggs, at room temperature (I sub with unsweetened apple sauce because my youngest has an egg allergy) 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp kosher salt 2 cups whole wheat flour or favorite flour that fits your dietary needs 1/3 cup chocolate chips (mini or regular)


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

2. Grate the zucchini, then throughly squeeze it with a paper towel to remove as much excess water as possible. Repeat as needed. If you have not already, melt the coconut oil and let come to room temperature.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat together the banana, honey, brown sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the eggs (make sure they are room temperature or the coconut oil may resolidify), then beat again until combined.

4. Sprinkle the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the top of the batter, then mix to combine. Sprinkle in the flour, then mix on low speed, just until the flour disappears. By hand, fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips.

5. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them 3/4 of the way. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Remove the muffins from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully lift the muffins out of the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool completely (this will keep the muffins from becoming soggy).school lunch2

I will be hosting another group in August if you would like to be a part of it for more ideas and inspiration, e mail me at

Packing Allergy Friendly Lunches

If you’re anything like me, the thought of your kids going back to school makes you both excited and dreadful at the same time. While I’m jumping for joy that school starts again in the next couple weeks, I’m also dreading some of the things that go along with that…like early wake-up times, car line, and (dun dun dun) packing lunches. And if the task of coming up with interesting lunches your child will actually eat and enjoy wasn’t taxing enough, if you have an allergy child in the family it can be extra challenging.

One of my three children has food allergies including milk, eggs and peanuts/treenuts (excluding coconut). In the beginning I was mostly making him his own meals while I continued to cook normally for my other two that do not have any allergies. Over time I was able to find products that were not only allergy-friendly, but that my other children enjoyed as well. This has made cooking and preparing food for my family so much easier because 1) I’m only buying and preparing one “set” of groceries and 2) I am not worried about my allergy child accidentally eating something off one of his siblings plates that he is allergic to.

“Main Dishes”

  • Sandwiches (we use sprouted wheat bread, no particular brand but I ALWAYS check labels just to make sure):
    • Sunbutter (with or without jelly) – comes in creamy or crunchy – this is also great for peanut-free schools!
    • Lunchmeat (turkey and/or ham) and vegan mayo (we use Just Mayo) – you could also add vegan cheese (Chao brand is our favorite) and any toppings your kiddos like (mine love pickles)


  • Hummus – I will pack them either pretzels, pita chips or veggie straws to dip. Sabra also makes these awesome pre-packaged hummus kits (with hummus and pretzels or pita chips) which are great if you’re in a hurry or, let’s be honest, just looking for something easy!


  • Leftovers – This is really convenient and I actually do this a lot! If your kiddos are weirdos like mine, they’ll eat their food cold. If not, a thermos really comes in handy. You just heat the food in the morning and put it in the thermos before you leave. They work best in lunch boxes that have separate compartments, like a top and a bottom, so you can keep the warm thermos away from any ice packs and cold items.
    • Pasta – my kids love noodles with “red” sauce and noodles with “clear” sauce aka Kraft Italian Dressing – I switch up the type of pasta and that apparently keeps it interesting. Vegan mac n “cheese” is also an option (Annie’s brand makes a boxed one)3EE2730A-470D-45F4-8FE7-B7EBA64C2A0B
    • Chicken Nuggets – my kids are suckers for some dino nuggets (we buy the Yummy brand from Sam’s) and they will eat them cold, but you could also heat them and put them in a thermos. (Or if your child is in preschool they probably have a microwave) 0CA01E54-67EF-4C2E-B62C-473136809894
    • Hot dogs/kielbasa – same as above, but I cut it in half and wrap it in foil before putting it in the thermos
    • Rice & beans (my kids love yellow rice with black beans)


  • Oranges (halos/cuties are the best because they’re easy for kids to peel)
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Applesauce and/or some type of fruit pouch (beware of yogurt ingredients in some of these)


  • Cucumber Slices
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • Carrot Sticks



  • Yogurt (we use Silk or So Delicious Brands)
  • Graham Crackers (or Teddy Grahams/Scooby Snacks)
  • Chips (Mariquitas Plantain, Terra Sweet Potato, and Cape Cod BBQ are some of our favs)
  • Veggie Straws (or Veggie Chips – they make mickey shaped ones my kids love)
  • Original Chex Mix

Granola/Snack Bars


  • Nature’s Bakery Fig or Honey & Oat Bars
  • Quaker Oats Bakery Squares (Strawberry or Apple)
  • Cascadian Farm (Vanilla Chip)
  • Enjoy Life Chewy Bars
  • Clif Kid Z Bar (Iced Oatmeal Cookie, Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Chip, or S’mores)



  • Cookies
    • Annie’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
    • Back to Nature Classic Creme Cookies
    • Back to Natue Chocolate Chunk Cookies
    • Enjoy Life Soft Baked or Crunchy Cookies
  •  Quaker Apple Cinnamon Rice Crisps


  • Water (you can freeze the night before and it will double as an ice pack but should still be defrosted enough by lunch or recess time)
  • Juice Boxes/Pouches
  • Milk Alternatives (Silk or So Delicious brands)

For the most part, I pack the same lunches for all of my kids using food products I have found that cater to my child’s allergies. I always pack a main dish, a fruit, a vegetable, an applesauce/yogurt alternative, a drink, a couple snacks and a “treat”. I use items from these categories and just rotate them to create different lunch combos for each day and each week. If you have an allergy child, or even if  you don’t, these lunches can work for you. Or at least give you some ideas that hopefully help you in your lunch packing adventures!


**Disclaimer: Every child and every allergy is different. The products in this post are suggestions that work for my child’s specific allergies but I can not guarantee they will work for yours. Please always read labels thoroughly and use your own mom judgment before giving your child a new foods!**


Affiliate Links:

Soft Lunch Box

Dual Compartment Lunch Bag

10oz Thermos Food Jar

Rubbermaid Mini Pack

Sistema Split Container

Stackable Snack Cups

Easy rice dish!

So we were on vacation this week in the Blue Ridge mountains; there is literally no where to get food(that isn’t over priced) and we don’t really eat out anyway! We brought enough go food to cook for the week and were able to enjoy home cooked meals every night.


2-3 cups cooked brown rice

1 tbsp olive oil, margarine or butter

2 cups raw broccoli

1/3 a package of faux crab

1 xl egg or 1/2 a block of tofu, crumbled

1 tsp garlic(minced)

1 tsp honey

1 tsp onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat up a large frying pan and put the oil/margarine/butter in and add the minced garlic. As the margarine melts, add the rice. Stir and add the seasonings and honey. Next, add the egg/tofu and stir. The egg will cook pretty fast so keep your eye on it! At the last 3 minutes add the crab and broccoli.

Serve with sriracha and your favorite pink sauce.


Park Spotlight


On this months review of our local parks, I am highlighting my childhood favorite: Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park.


100 Alderman’s Ford Park Dr.

Plant City, FL, FL 33567
Spring/Summer: 8 AM – 7 PM
Fall/Winter: 8 AM – 6 PM
Contact (813) 757-3801
 Entrance Fee

$2 per vehicle. Up to 8 people per vehicle. Rentals are extra.


This county park is at the top of my list. It offers a playground with shade for all ages,  a boardwalk, canoe/kayak launch, a gorgeous 1.9 mile paved hiking trail, and CLEAN bathrooms!

It is one of the most well-rounded parks in the area. The paved loop is hiker, pet, and bicycle friendly. The Boardwalk is great for bird watching and possibly spotting an alligator. The boardwalk is currently being repaired. (see note below).

The last time we went I took my daughters bike. She loved riding the trails and even rode her bike on the boardwalk bridge. We had the best time. She also enjoyed taking a break at the workout equipment along the trail.

As a self-proclaimed hover mom, this park makes me comfortable. I was able to walk the trail as my daughter rode her bike. It was not too hard to keep up with her and I was able to see her even if she was ahead of me. There is also a side-walk all the way around the playground (off the main trail) that kids can ride on. I can sit on a bench and see her ride around and around. The park equipment is appropriate for all ages even the little ones. there is a nice rubber pad under both play areas. There is also a big open area for the kids to explore while you keep an eye on them. We love to print and bring scavenger hunt with us too.

This park is also perfect for parties and family gatherings. Pavilions need to be reserved in advance, but can be done online. The cost ranges from 42.00 to 75.00 for the day. They also have a 600 sq. ft. air-conditioned room you can rent with 12 banquet tables and 65 chairs. The room cost is 161.00 for the day. All of these areas are close to the restrooms.

A canoe launch is located in a separate entrance at 9625 Canoe Launch Loop Lithia, FL 33547. The launch entrance opens daily at 7 a.m.

Fellow Everyday Moms, Jennifer Dean and Courtney Fletcher have spent many hours with her families at Alderman’s Ford. So I asked the two of them a few questions to provide a little more perspective.

1)What are your key reasons for visiting the park?

Jennifer Dean: “We were introduced to Alderman’s Ford Park by my oldest son’s school. They had their cross-country meets there once a week. He would run and our other kids would play on the playground. After visiting a few times, we decided to see what else the park had to offer. We’ve gone canoeing, hiking, fishing, attended a birthday party at the pavilions and have even had a photo shoot there.”


Courtney Fletcher: “The main reason for visit the park is to let the kid(s) play on play ground and run around and go on the trail and explore nature.”

Do you feel safe when visiting this park?

Jennifer Dean: “I’ve always felt safe at Alderman’s Ford, though I’ve never been there after dark or without an abundance of other families.”

Courtney Fletcher: “I have felt safe with no issues at Alderman’s Ford, other than squirrels liking to steal food when are not watching it.”

What is your overall opinion of Alderman’s Ford?

Jennifer Dean: “Overall, the park has some great offerings for families. We enjoy spending time there as a family. The main downside is lots of bugs (more than other parks we’ve been to in the area) and few restrooms or drinking fountains. As long as one plans ahead for these, a fun day can be had.”

Courtney Fletcher “I do like Alderman’s Ford park but due to the river flooding the past year its been hard to go out and enjoy the trails.”



Overall Alderman’s Ford has much to offer the families in our community. As long as you protect your food and bring bug spray, you should have a wonderful time. Also, for those of us born and raised here this usually goes without saying, but BEWARE OF ALLIGATORS!


Gator on the bank while Canoeing at Alderman’s Ford. Photo by Jennifer Dean


Suzette Foister,

SAHM, Wife, Homeschooler, EM contributor, Owner/Artist of Bring Your Own Canvas




Unfortunately mother nature has caused the main trail to be closed during the weekdays this summer for repairs.

  • The canoe launch is temporarily closed (posted 7/3/18)
  • The paved trail at Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park will be closed during the weekdays from April 16, 2018 thru September 2018 for construction to the boardwalk. The trail will be open for use on the weekends.

For more details, please call the park at (813) 757-3801.


Oven “fried” chicken tenders and vegan ranch!

First let’s start with the vegan ranch!


1/2 cup Veganaise (I prefer soy free!)
1/4 cup Water
1/2 teaspoon Dried Parsley
1/2 teaspoon of Dill
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Celery Salt
1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Mix well! Refrigerate for at least an hour but the longer the better!

Chicken tenders


1-2 lb of boneless skinless chicken breast sliced into desired size

1 cup of flour

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Cayenne pepper (to taste)

2 cups panko

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Liberally grease a baking sheet with olive oil.

Put all dry ingredients in a gallon ziplock bag and shake to combine. Add chicken.

Once the chicken is coated, lay it on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 min.

We like ours served with steam fresh edamame!!



We have a book club here at Everyday moms that meets once a month. All are welcome and encouraged to join us! If you search in the events you can find our next meeting information. Here are 5 reasons why you should join a book club!

  • It’s adult interaction: I love sneaking away to book club and having a significant adult conversation! I don’t know about y’all but I need to get away from talk about all of my kids activities, school stuff, their fighting, just honestly my kids in general. I love that my book club meetings are a monthly event where I’m guaranteed to get out of the house and meet up with good friends have a few glasses of wine and discuss whichever book we chose the month before, well for however long the book discussion lasts.
  • It forces me to read: I know that I’m not the only Mom that might put down that book and put on Vanderpump Rules! Let’s face it VPR is just a little less intellectually demanding. I love that book club gives me a book to read and a deadline to read it by! It forces me to read and it forces me to read books that I wouldn’t usually know about or read. With our book club, I typically have our members bring suggestions and we just decide collectively. We recently chose a book that I wasn’t really excited about at all and I ended up LOVING IT!
  • You meet new people!: So for me meeting other moms hasn’t always been the easiest thing. I had my kids pretty young so most of my friends weren’t even considering starting a family and the other moms with kids my age were typically in their 40s. I have met some of my best friends through the book club and now we have a guaranteed reason to see each other at least once a month!
  • There’s usually wine. At least at my book club meetings, I make sure we go to a venue that serves some kind of libation!
  • Intellectual Discussion: Again as Moms a lot of our days revolve around food, and refereeing fights, and helping your 9 year old with math homework you can’t figure out. Book clubs give you a reason to have an intellectual discussion about the book. Which often times can lead into different discussions on current affairs or world happenings. It also gives to an interesting look into how perspective plays a part in how everyone sees the world and interacts with it!

Linked Below are some of the books that we’ve read if you’re interested! Our next book club meeting is on 8/1/18 at Stein and Vine. There’s still time to read our current book  and join us!


Big Little Lies:

The woman in cabin 10:

Orphan Train:

The Break Down:



Ginger Soy Lime Marinated Shrimp

I LOVE grilling in the summer. I cannot take credit for the recipe below, that goes to the talented Bobby Flay but this recipe is really easy to execute and is literally the best Shrimp I’ve ever had! We normally have corn on the cobb and an avocado, tomato, and onion salad with this for a really fresh yummy summer meal!


  • 2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce (gluten-free, if desired)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil*
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shells and tails on**

*I’ve used vegetable oil and olive oil and it comes out the same.

**You don’t need to leave the shells on but I think the flavor is a little better if you do.


Place shallots, ginger, garlic, soy, lime juice, and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the green onion and oil and blend until combined. Season with black pepper, to taste. Place shrimp in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes. (The longer you marinate it the better it will be I promise!)

Preheat a grill to high. Remove shrimp from the marinade and grill for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Serve on brown paper bags, if desired.

Original Recipe:

Sharktastic Crafts & Treats for Shark Week

Shark Week is next week! We just finished an “Ocean” study in our house and here’s how you can celebrate.

1) Shark gummies, obviously. You can get these at Bulk Nation or at Candy Barrel (in the mall). These are fun by themselves, or you can put them in popsicles!


2) Hammerhead Shark headbands. Just color, tape and/or staple and wear!


3) Shark Waffles. Eggos in the toaster + blue frosting=

IMG_5569 IMG_5568

4) Paper plate Great White Shark Jaws

IMG_5512 IMG_5513

5) Shark Teeth snacks- Bugels + melted white chocolate.

6) Attire. I have a hard time finding shark stuff for girls, but this year, Target came through!


Princess Awesome also has dresses for girls with awesome (get it) prints, including sharks.

7) Activities. Head over to your local aquarium to see sharks in person! The Florida Aquarium has some sand tiger sharks, The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has nurse sharks and Sea World.

8) READ! There are TONS of books about sharks. Two of our favorites were Clark the Shark and Hark, a Shark! (a Dr. Seuss book).

  • Book Shark also had a free 27-page printable for Shark Week, where you just have to enter your e-mail address to receive it.

9) Shark tooth cut & paste.

10) Go to your local beach & look for shark’s teeth. Some local favorites are: Manasota Beach, Venice Beach, Englewood, Peace River and Casperson Beach.

11) Sensory box- these are always on my list, because they are so fun! Just add Kinetic sand, sea animals, water beads or blue stones, etc. and you’ve got playtime for hours!


12) Popsicle holders- I ordered these babies on Etsy!




DIY Farm Table

So I’ve been watching a lot of Fixer Uppers, and have wanted a farm table for some time. After looking up the price points, it was pretty clear that I wasn’t getting one…

Or was I?
I took a look at my current dining room table. It was given to me used, and had been very loved. It was a sad looking table after it had been adopted by my family. Bubbles from spills, paint from crafts with my kids that would NOT wash off… So I had an epiphany! I’m gonna turn my own table into a farm table!
After looking up several posts on Pinterest, I kind of took a general idea of them all, came up with my own plan, and got to work. I did some measuring, made a list of all materials I would need, and we headed to Lowe’s.
My materials list consisted of:
Stainable wood filler
Liquid nail
The stain of my choice
Matte finish poly
Sand paper
We already had an electric sander, screws, white paint, and paint brushes.
I had my husband cut the wood long enough to have about an inch an a half-2 inches over hang and set them aside.
We sanded down the whole table.
Flipped it upside down, and pained the bottom white. I wasn’t super careful with the bottom because I was going to sand over the paint, anyway.
We let the paint dry, flipped the table back up, and glued down the boards with liquid nail to the sanded (and wiped Free of dust) table top.
We did run into a little issue here, as my husband put down WAY too much liquid nail on the table top. It took a long time to dry, and before it was fully dried, it caused the boards to sit funny. So, if I ever do one again, I will put a small amount of liquid nail on each board and apply instead of the liquid nail all over the table top. After a couple days, the boards sat flat as we wanted them to.
Once that was dry, we used stainable wood filler for the cracks between the boards. I had seen this on Pinterest, so assumed we wouldn’t have any issues.
We did.
The wetness of the wood filler expanded the wood in the cracks, raising them higher than the rest of the table.
When it was fully dry, I sanded it down even, and then it started cracking which defeated the entire purpose of using the stinkin wood filler.
So far I’m feeling like I’ve ruined our table…
I sanded down parts of the painted table bottom, and then got to staining the entire table. The table top, and over the painted legs. The stain gets into the sanded parts of the paint to give it a rustic look.
If you’ve never stained anything, the stain is applied and wiped off.
I did a couple coats of stain on the top to get it the color I liked.
I let the stain dry a couple days, and then decided I needed to do something about the cracked up wood filler. The only other thing I had, was some clear caulking by Gorilla Glue that was supposed to work with wood.
I applied one coat of Poly, let it dry and sanded it. Once it was wiped down, I put down painters tape on the edges of the boards and filled it with the clear caulk.
I forgot to pull up the tape when it was still wet. When I pulled the tape off, it had a little bit of an overhang which I was not happy about, but I used an exacto knife to carefully cut those off.
I let the caulking dry overnight.
Once it was dry, I put the remaining layers of poly on top and let it dry a couple of days before bringing in the house.
With all the road blocks I ran into, I was thinking it would turn out to be a disaster, but I am very happy with how the table came out, and have gotten several compliments on it!
Now I’m going to build a matching bench seat and refinish a couple of our chairs to match!
                       Becky Phillips
                          Mom of 2
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