5 Simple and Flavor Full Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Tis the season for long lists, errands and hosting parties. Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year, all that planning can be overwhelming, so I am making it my mantra this year to simplify things, giving me more time to enjoy the precious moments of family togetherness.

Here are five flavor FULL side dishes that are guaranteed to make a big impact without keeping you in the kitchen all day!

Birds Eye Flavor Full Ranch Broccoli

Ready in 6 minutes flat, Birds Eye Flavor Full Ranch Broccoli wins the prize for Easiest Side Dish with the Most Flavor. This comes in its own microwaveable steam pouch and is so tasty, even the pickiest eaters will go back for seconds. Find out where you can buy this in your area by using the Birds Eye product locator.

Here's a $1-off coupon to save a bit more dough.

Birds Eye Flavor Full Ranch Broccoli

Birds Eye Flavor Full BBQ Corn

This is one of the most versatile and flavorful side dishes to hit the frozen veggie isle in a long time. Use it to make a wide array of delicious recipes from corn salsa to corn chowder, vegetarian sliders or completely on its own, Birds Eye Flavor Full BBQ Corn is the perfect bold accompaniment to any beautiful Thanksgiving Day spread. Simplify your holiday shopping by using the Birds Eye product locator.

Use this $1-off coupon to SAVE!

Birds Eye Flavor Full BBQ Corn
Roasted Leeks and Carrots

Peel and quarter the carrots, lengthwise. Remove the tough, fibrous outer layers of the leeks, then slice them on the diagonal, about 3 inches thick. Peel the garlic, leaving them whole. Toss everything in the olive oil and bake for about an hour. That's IT! Simple and delicious!

Perfectly Crispy Kale

Wash and dry the kale. Making sure it's dry is the key to getting it crispy! Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pull or cut the leafy part of the kale from its hard spine. Break the tender leaves in to bite size pieces and place on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Pour a teaspoon of olive oil in to the palm of your clean hand and work the olive oil gently through the leaves with your fingers until all of the kale is lightly coated, then sparingly dust with sea salt. Spread the kale out so that it is just one thin even layer, not piled on top of each other and put it in the oven for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on it because it goes from crispy to burnt very quickly! If you leave it out overnight, uncovered it will be even more crispy, perfect for a healthy morning snack!

Roasted Balsamic Beets with Goat Cheese

To roast the beets, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove beet tops (the stalks and greens) and wrap the beets in aluminum foil. Place the beets in the oven for about an hour, making sure rotate them every 20 minutes. If they are really large beets, they might need more roasting time. I generally do the 'squeeze' test. If you squeeze them (with an oven mitt!) and they depress, they are ready! When the beets are done, take them out and set them on the counter and allow them to cool. When the beets are cooled, easily remove the skin with your hands or by gently rubbing them with a paper towel. Slice the beets a 1/4 inch in thickness, sprinkle a few dollops of goat cheese on top and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Enjoy!

Show Us What You're Thankful For and You Could Win BIG!

We are doing something BIG for you to show our thanks.
Enter to win the #ThankfulForFamilies #OutdoorFamilies giveaway!

Steps  to Enter:
  1. Post a NEW photo of your outdoor family on Instagram making sure to include both #ThankfulForFamilies AND #OutdoorFamilies and tell us why you love your family!
  2. Follow ALL of our awesome participating hosts to win! Tap on MY photo(@YOURINSTAGRAMNAME)  to see where to go next. Follow that host, and find THEIR awesome prize in their feed. Tap on their photo to see where to go next. Repeat until you have come full circle.
  3. Check out ALL the awesome giveaways and make a comment (one per photo) on the prize(s) you want to win!

Giveaway entry rules:
  • Contest will run from November 19-30, 2015.
  • Entrants must be a resident of US or Canada
  • Entrants’ Instagram account must be a public account.
  • Entrants must post a new, original, and taken by you photo (a re-posted photo or tagging an old photo will disqualify you) to Instagam of their family, or members of their family, outdoors.
  • All photos entered in the contest must be tagged with BOTH #OutdoorFamilies AND #ThankfulForFamilies.
  • Entrants must comment on Instagram on the specific prize they are entering to win. Photographs of prizes will be distributed among all the hosts’ Instagram feeds. Entrants need to only comment ONCE per prize. Additional comments DO NOT equal additional entries.
  • Entrants may post a photo once per day to their Instagram feeds for additional entries, up to  12 entries total. All photos must use the two contest hashtags.
  • All photo entries must be submitted by 10 pm MST on November 30th.
  • All winners will be chosen randomly from all submitted entries at the end of the week and announced on each of the blogs after December 1st. Notifying comments will also be left on the winning photos on Instagram.
  • Hosts will do their best to contact winners. If prizes are not claimed within 48 hours of notification, the prize will go to the next winner.
  • This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.
What you can win:
**PLEASE note prizes have various shipping capabilities which are described below**
Participating Bloggers (who worked hard to round up these great prizes!):
*Make sure you check out all of these great blogs!*
  1. The Adventures in Parenthood Project: http://www.AdventurousParents.com
  2. Outdoor Families Magazine: http://www.OutdoorFamiliesOnline.com
  3. Currently Wandering: http://www.CurrentlyWandering.com
  4. The Mommy Hiker: http://www.MommyHiker.com
  5. Rockies Family Adventures: http://www.RockiesFamilyAdventures.com
  6. The Kid Project: http://www.KidProject.org
  7. Rockieschick’s Adventures: http://www.Rockies-Chick.com
  8. Play Outside Guide: http://www.PlayOutsideGuide.com
  9. Tales of a Mountain Mama: http://www.TalesOfaMountainMama.com
  10. Val In Real Life: http://www.ValInRealLife.com
  11. Colorado Mountain Mom: http://www.ColoradoMountainMom.com
  12. Mountain Mom and Tots: http://www.MountainMomAndTots.com
19. Active Kids Club: http://www.activekidsclub.com/

The Importance of "Talk. Read. Sing." in the Outdoors and Stimulating Young Brains

On a crisp, Fall day in Los Angeles, the Mommy Hiker group sets out for a 2 mile loop hike, a half dozen toddlers donning their best play clothes. Wearing backpacks stuffed with books, crayons and enough snacks to feed an army, they navigated creek crossings, collected rocks and sang their favorite songs at the top of their lungs. At first glance, this outing may not seem significant, but these budding nature lovers are crystallizing crucial brain development they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

New research shows us that by the age of 5, our child’s brain will have grown to 90% of its adult size. But even earlier than that, by age 3, it’s already reached 82% of its size. These compelling statistics help us to understand the importance of activating our child's brain functions through talking, reading and singing from birth and beyond.

Voters in California took this information to heart and in 1998 approved an initiative that aims to improve the lives of young children and their families to ensure support and optimize early childhood development. Known as the California Children and Families Act (Proposition 10), First 5 California oversees the expenditure of tobacco tax revenues to implement coordinated programs that emphasize child health, parent education, child care, and other services to ensure California’s children receive the best possible start in life and thrive.

The First 5 California fundamentals of early learning are as easy as Talk, Read, Sing! These three basic principles for human interaction and brain stimulation can be applied to all sorts of activities, but consistency is key. Through supportive, positive relationship, repetitive, hands-on learning activities and exposure to interactive language can have dramatic impacts on a child's success in school and even carries through in to adulthood.

Here are a few incredibly simple ways to usher the next generation into a flourishing and nourishing life.


Reading Rainbow

Reading to your infant has many benefits including strengthening your relationship to your child, learning critical language and enunciation skills while also gaining valuable communication experience. 

Building blocks offer a wide variety of learning opportunities for little senses and has been found to be fundamental for instilling later cognitive success. An incredibly versatile learning tool, building blocks teach the basics of gravity, texture and colors and also hold the power to teach advance concepts like balance, spatial use and even self confidence.


A Hiking Sing-a-long

Music has a powerful effect on our emotions. From classical to jazz, rock to country, some scholars assert that the ability to make music is as much a basic life skill as walking or talking and therefore equally as important. Musical activities also help with developing fine and gross motor skills, rhythm, and listening and visual tracking skills.

A Disco Dance Party

Everyone loves a good dance party, no matter your age. Positively channeling a toddler's energy into a physical activity is a wonderful way to encourage gross motor skills while giving them the opportunity to improve hand-eye coordination and a healthy avenue to express their emotions.


Bubble Explosion

From blowing to popping and chasing after them, there's no question why bubbles are one of a preschooler's to-go activities. Wet, slimy, and sticky, bubbles are smashed full of opportunities for sensory discovery. They also react directly to your action, allowing kids countless chances to try and improve on their techniques teaching a valuable lesson in cause and effect.

The Guessing Game

For young preschoolers still developing their language skills, guessing games help them to grow intellectually, building confidence and fine tuning critical thinking skills. Allowing kids to guess by touch, smell or hearing also develops extra sensory ability and sparks their creativity and expands an ever-blossoming imagination.

For even more free activities including PDF downloads of the Harry Potter books and a plethora of resources from healthy recipes to how to stimulate your child's imagination and encourage a life-long love for discovery and exploration, visit the First 5 California website. There is an entire section dedicated to free, easy and accessible ways to engage with your kids. Learn how to establish a routine for early education which will set them up with the necessary tools for success that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

This Kid Saves Lives (Do I have your attention now? Good!)

I recently came to hear about a remarkable new product hitting the Target snack bar isle and what makes it remarkable may surprise you. Ready? It's simple. Buy This Kid Saves Lives snack bars and it quite literally helps to save a child, across the globe, from starvation. Wow. Sign. Us. UP!

Ryan Devlin, co-founder of This Bar Saves Lives set out to create a company that infuses philanthropy into everyday items to help save lives around the world. Devlin shares, “We believe in creating high-quality, healthy and delicious food for people here that gives back to others around the world, which is why for every box you buy, we send life-saving food to a child in need. We eat together.”

The founders of This Bar Saves Lives, Kristen Bell, Ryan Devlin, Todd Grinnell, and Ravi Patel started the company after witnessing the devastating affects of child malnutrition while traveling in Liberia. At the same time, they were inspired by the amazing impact that Plumpy’Nut and other therapeutic foods were making on the crisis. So they committed to creating a product that consumers would love and that would also help to save precious lives.

Their gourmet bars include 14 essential vitamins and minerals, is nut and gluten free and non-GMO with fair trade ingredients from the best farms around. We're talking wild blueberries from Maine, bee-friendly almonds from California, and organic honey from Wisconsin. Tasty, balanced, and made with care right here in America. And for each bar sold, they deliver a packet of Plumpy’Nut, a high-energy therapeutic food developed for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

Co-founder, Kristen Bell says "It's a perfect way to introduce to your child the idea of sharing and the concept of giving back." We couldn't agree more. As parents and as participant citizens of this great, big, beautiful world, we know it is our duty to impart to our kids the value of helping and caring for those who may need a little (or a lot of) support. We are mirrors for our children. They watch our every move, evaluate our every intention and discern every decision, so why not show them a mirror of love, sharing and laughter.

This Kid Saves Lives snack bars are available exclusively in select Target stores nationwide the first week of June and online at www.thisbarsaveslives.com shortly thereafter. This Kid Saves Lives snack bars retail in boxes of five for $4.99 per box beginning June 8, 2015. Find the store nearest you with their store locator and save a kid's life!
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