Budget-Friendly Family Fun

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These days, enjoying one another’s company on a budget is even more important for families. So take a break from the ordinary and settle into the comforts of the best playground around — the home.

Remember that family time should be silly, lighthearted, and above all, about creating special bonding moments. Here are a few entertaining at-home activities the entire family can enjoy without dipping into savings.

• Explore the great indoors. Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt. Divide the family into teams and race to see who can find the most items on the list first. Don’t forget to have prizes for the winners. Better-for-you treats, such as Dark Chocolate Nestlé Raisinets, which provide real fruit antioxidants and 30 percent less fat than the leading chocolate brands, make for the perfect scavenger hunt prize or for snacking on-the-go.

• Switch it up with backwards day. Shake up the evening routine by doing everything backwards. Put on your comfy pajamas right after school and even flip them backwards or inside out. Get together for a board game with a twist and move the pieces from finish to start. Make your end of day meal more festive by serving breakfast for dinner or eating dessert as the first course. The kids will certainly get a kick out of bending the rules.

• Create a backyard obstacle course if the weather is suitable. Collect some old produce boxes from your local grocery store; they’re usually available free of charge. Then, stagger the boxes on your lawn for the kids to run through in different patterns. Set up a backyard bowling game with recycled empty bottles just before the finish line. You can add other obstacles such as a limbo stick, hopscotch with ropes or anything else you like from materials around the house — the sky is the limit.

• Make dinner a family affair. Research consistently shows that families who regularly eat together are closer and happier than those who don’t. Try a one-pot dish such as this White Chicken Chili made with fiber-rich beans, tender chicken and creamy Nestlé Carnation Evaporated Milk for a hearty dinner ready in 30 minutes or less.

For more budget-friendly family recipes and activities, visit www.Meals.com.

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Family Features photo

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

Makes 8 servings of about 1 cup each

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 to 1-1/2 cups mild salsa verde

1, 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained

1, 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained

1 cup water

1/2 cup loose-pack frozen corn

1, 12-ounce can Nestlé Carnation Evaporated Low-fat 2% Milk

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

Baked tortilla chips and light sour cream for serving (optional)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook on each side until golden. Transfer to plate; cover.

Add onion to same saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add garlic; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in cumin and coriander; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in salsa verde, cannellini beans, pinto beans, water and corn. Cook for 10 minutes or until hot.

Cut or shred chicken into bite-size pieces and add to saucepan along with any accumulated juices on plate. Stir in evaporated milk and spinach; cook for a few minutes just until heated through and spinach is slightly wilted. Serve topped with crumbled tortilla chips and dollop of sour cream.

Source: Nestlé

More budget fun — bring the family together in the kitchen

It’s not always easy to make healthy food choices, particularly if it involves changing your eating habits. Start by bringing your loved ones together in the kitchen — studies have proven that cooking together as a family not only strengthens the bond between parents and children, but encourages healthy eating habits.

Allowing kids to help in the kitchen and get their hands dirty by washing, measuring and mixing teaches them where their food comes from and builds a sense of accomplishment. Cooking healthy meals together is the perfect family activity to encourage healthy habits and reinforce family time. The trick is finding recipes that encourage participation from children of all ages and make parents happy with good healthful nutrients and flavor.

“Cooking recipes that include whole grain ingredients like rice can lead to better meal options for your family as it attracts healthier, more colorful foods such as vegetables and fruits,” says Chef Chris Skolmutch, culinary innovation manager for Mars Food USA and participant in the Chefs Move to Schools campaign.

“Rice serves as the perfect kitchen ingredient because kids enjoy making and eating meals that are simple yet tasty, while parents want to make sure they’re eating something full of proteins, fiber and vitamins.”

For families looking for ways to get together in the kitchen and start cooking, here are a few tips provided by Rachael Ray’s Yum-O, a non-profit, which empowers kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking:

• Measuring: Allow your kids to measure ingredients using traditional tools (i.e. cups and teaspoons), and nonconventional methods (i.e. pinch and dash), to build their own sense of taste.

• Knives and cutting: Instruct your children on how to use kitchen shears instead of knives to cut things like herbs and soft fruits and vegetables until they (and you) are comfortable with them using knives.

• Clean up time: Teach your children the importance of cleaning cutting utensils and cutting boards after finishing up, especially when handling raw meat or poultry.

For more recipe ideas and information, visit www.UncleBens.com or www.Facebook.com/UncleBens.

Chicken and Rice Pot Pie

Total cooking time: 1 hour, 50 minutes; makes 8 servings

1 cup Uncle Ben’s Converted Brand Rice, dry

3-1/2 cups frozen carrot, peas and corn blend

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2, 15-ounce cans cream of chicken condensed soup

2 cups water

1 cup milk

1/2 pound chicken breast, 1/2-inch dice

1 sheet puff pastry, commercially prepared

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix rice, vegetables, pepper, soup, water, milk and chicken in a casserole dish.

Cover in foil and bake in oven for 45 minutes.

Uncover and top with puff pastry dough, and bake for another 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Serve warm and enjoy together.

Source: Uncle Ben’s

From Family Features

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