I love making lunches for my kids to take to school.

Being able to make them healthy and tasty makes me feel good as a mama.

These are just a few of the simple and easy lunches we have had. So far, a sure winner that will be making more appearances in their boxes are the Martenelli's juices, Probugs, and the Bolthouse smoothies . They love them. 

Here in the South, we have a large number of people who do not eat healthy. Many blame it on the poverty level, and to an extent that is true. While it is better to eat healthy, it can be expensive for families to do so. That is why when I received the book Green Is Good by Elizabeth Gorcey, I was immediately impressed.

It came with a packet of seeds.

While so many families struggle to be able to afford healthy foods, this book immediately encourages healthy eating by way of growing some of your own foods. Yes, organic can be expensive, but there are ways to cut the cost and grow things on your own. Even space is not an issue when you take in account that there are many things that can be grown indoors and even outdoors in small places. Large cities have even started encouraging neighborhood gardens, where people can come together to grow fruits and vegetables.

Eating organic and 'green' can seem challenging, for us adults....but this book is perfect for introducing the concept and the healthy habit to young children....after all, we are a product of what we are exposed to as children...it either influences us positively or negatively, but either way, what we experience as kids shapes us as grownups.

This book is full of delightful illustrations. They draw us in to the fun and whimsy side of peeking into the life of Elizabeth's daughter, Liv and her dog, Bowie. What our kids get is the ability to relate to a character that is their age, with a pet who discovers the joy of going green. It helps that her cute boxer, Bowie is right there to tag along.

What I enjoy most about this book is the ability for us as parents to be able to open dialog with our children after reading it. Visit a market, the produce section of a grocery store and go over the differences you find there. Show your children the importance of avoiding unhealthy foods but show them also, that there are lots of fabulous treats found in nature.

I remember growing up eating sugar cane. Oh my. I have been on a mission to find it so that my kids could experience the sweet that was had before bubblegum and all the cookies and candies. Sugar Cane, grown in nature and a natural sweetness that is often unappreciated in our world of processed goodies.

After reading this book, my kids and I talked about eating healthy and we have grown our own herbs and small veggies. They have experienced things that allow them to appreciate food and nature. It is important to teach our children that life with food can not only be enjoyable, it can help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.

This amazing and easy to read book is available September 20th, 2015. This would be such an amazing gift for a budding young horticulturalist ...can you just imagine a cute basket in pink and green full of supplies and seeds to help get them started? I can!

After running around all afternoon paying bills, it can be easy to come home and make something quick. Microwave this, microwave that. It can be easy but easy is not always was I want. I have found that when you take a deep breath after a long day, woosah and slow down, you can pull together a dinner in less than two hours of total prep/make time.

That happened today. I paid bills, came home, cut my potatoes, snipped my green beans, prepped my meatloaf and kneaded dough for biscuits. It was really not that much, although it seems like it can be. But when you cut out canned and microwavable goods in your household, you kind of have no choice.

Dinner tonight consisted of homemade mashed potatoes.

Partially peel and cut into one inch pieces 4 large potatoes. Clean and add to a pot of boiling water (or half water/half chicken broth....or add in one chicken bouillon cube to the pot). Boil until tender. Pour liquid into a heat proof container and begin mashing your potatoes, adding in liquid until you get the consistency you want. Pour in 1/4 milk or sour cream, mix well.

Lemon and Garlic Green Beans

Snip the ends of your cleaned green beans and place in skillet with 1/4 cup of butter and 1 smashed and chopped garlic clove. Add in 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper and squeeze in one whole lemon. Cook on low until tender.

Buttermilk Gravy

In skillet on high, add in 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Add in 3 tbsp of flour and stir. It will begin to bubble and brown. Quickly add in 1 cup of buttermilk and stir well. Add in one half of a chicken bouillon cube. Stir in 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Turn off heat. Smash down on any lumps and stir until smooth.  If too thick, slowly add water 1/4 cup at a time while stirring.

I will be back with a more detailed recipe of how I make my meatloaf. My 16 year old told me tonight, "Mama you need to stop cooking so much good food! I want more" Mission accomplished.

When I was in college and after I became a newlywed, I never cooked greens. Not 'real' greens. I cheated and always bought the ones in the can. Then one Thanksgiving one of my friends brought over a plate of collard greens that her dad had made. I was instantly in love and from that moment on, canned greens that would not do.

Collard greens are my favorite. When cooked right, the pot liquour is amazing and you can 'sop' it up with a nice slice of cornbread.

How to Cook Collard Greens

You will need:
1 bunch for every  two people
Chicken Bouillon (1 per bunch)
1 Fresh Jalapeno (optional)
1 smoked turkey leg

In the kitchen sink, wash your leaves well. They are usually dirty so, make sure you rub them to get grit off.  After you have them clean, remove the large stem from the center and end. You only want the leafy part. Cut the leaf part into bite sized pieces.

Fill your pot with water, mix in your bouillon cube and slice in the optional pepper. My kids and I love a bit of spice, so we leave the seeds in. This is completely optional. Add in your smoked turkey leg and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook for two hours until the greens are very tender.

For the breakfast sandwich I made my homemade biscuits which can be found here and my homemade fried chicken you can find here. I cooked an egg seasoned with salt and pepper and placed it on top.

Paired with the collards and the biscuits, the chicken and egg are amazing together. We even drizzled a little honey on ours.

Today, for Labor Day, I invited over a couple friends and my uncle for a seafood boil.

It was my first time attempting this feat and I will say this:

Do not attempt to make inside.  I had everyone sneezing from the strong aroma of the seafood boil seasoning. 
This would be perfect for these warm game days. 
Have a  big pot. I mean, a really big pot. Like an army pot or turkey deep fryer type pot. You should have seen my stove, all burners working full blast with the four regular size pots I had.

Despite those things, everything was really good. I will attempt this again, but of course, I will not make the same mistakes twice.

What I like about seafood boils is that you prep, and you throw everything in a pot of boiling water and come back to some delicious goodness.

I added artichoke to my boil and I am so glad I did. Even though no one but my oldest and I ate it, if you love artichoke, it is really good and tender when boiled and paired with the other seafood. I made a simple remoulade sauce for it and yes, I tore it up. 

I used Zatarain's Extra Spicy Crawfish Shrimp and Crab Boil and trust me, a little of this goes a long way. It is super spicy but my family loves spicy. I did make a small batch of regular seafood and veggies without the extra spice, but we are hot heads here so it was perfect. When you squeeze lemon on everything and add a bit of melted butter, it brings the spice level down to a really enjoyable bit of heat and taste.

This is one of the most expensive meals I have made. I will be making it again, but it will be reserved for more special occasions as being a mama of four, this could be very pricey. 

I included:
Lobster claws
King Crab Legs
Crab Legs
Sausage Links
Smoked Turkey Wings
Lemon Halves

I served with crusty baguettes, lemon wedges, and melted butter for dipping.

This would be perfect for those warm game days. What about a little football and seafood?

I love chicken. I love sandwiches. Back when I was in college there was this chicken place that served nothing but wings and chicken tenders. They had my favorite which was the Professor Plum. That was fried chicken tenders topped with a tangy plum sauce and mozzarella.  It was the best ever. They also had a sandwich that was dusted with bbq rub, slathered in honey and then drizzled with bbq sauce. This is my attempt at that sandwich. Nothing is like the original but with this sandwich being a complete hit with everyone I served it to, I must say it is pretty dang good.

I made my own chicken tenders but you can use store bought or frozen.
If you make your own, you will need:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tbsp of Creole Seasoning or your favorite dry rub
1 cup of cold water  or buttermilk
Vegetable Oil for frying

Clean your chicken and slice them into tenders.  In a bowl mix your flour and seasoning. In a smaller bowl, fill with either cold water or buttermilk.  Dip your tenders in your flour and coat. Quickly dip into the liquid and then back into the flour mix. Make sure to coat by pressing down. You can do this one more time. I flour mine a total of three times for a nice crunchy coating.

Heat your oil on meduim and once oil is hot, place your tenders in. Remove when they are golden in color. Place on paper towel to drain grease.

The idea of this sandwich is more assembly then recipe. My mom made a batch of bbq sauce in preparation for Thanksgiving and I snagged a half a cup of her sauce. You can use your favorite bbq sauce or make your own.

For the Sandwich:

Texas Toast
BBQ Sauce
BBQ Dry Rub
Fried Chicken Tenders

In oven toast your bread, before it is completely toasted, add slices of mozzarella to the bottom slice of bread.  Allow it to melt in the ovena and remove.

Place your chicken tenders on top,  sprinkle with a bit of your BBQ dry rub, drizzle your honey on top and then add about a tablespoon of BBQ sauce on top of that. Top with the remaining slice of bread.

And there you have it, a big fat tex sandwich that is HUGE and so filling.

When  I am not cooking, I am a children's photographer.  I will be in Atlanta, Georgia September 26th and have two openings for either a portrait session or more editorial session. Email divianc @ gmail . com

For more of my photography check out my site www.divianphoto.com

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