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Understanding the 4-H Project

4-H Projects are about developing blue ribbon youth rather than blue ribbon projects.

4-H Projects are about developing blue ribbon youth rather than blue ribbon projects.

Make a Difference Monday, our online volunteer training series, kicked off this past Monday night!  This year’s series focuses on helping youth develop a sense of Mastery, one of the Essential Elements of a positive youth development.  Mastery is all about building knowledge and skills and being able to demonstrate those skills and knowledge effectively. Mastery is developed over time through intentional 4-H project work, events and activities.  The main goal of the 4-H Project is to help youth develop life skills, regardless of the subject matter content.  Some of the important components of a project include:

  • The use of quality educational materials to guide youth through a planned sequence of learning activities (4-H curriculum and project guides)
  • Project work is guided and validated by supportive, trained, caring adult project mentors or leaders (4-H project leaders and resource leaders)
  • Youth have opportunities to share what they have learned with others through club or county demonstrations, exhibits, shows, and other contests.  (Hint: tune in October 19th for an overview of 4-H events and activities and how they can support the project work of your club members)
  • Provide youth with opportunities to self-evaluate and gain a sense of accomplishment through project reports and the Florida 4-H awards and recognition model (Hint: tune in November 16th for an overview of our awards and recognition system and how project reports can help members with their portfolios for scholarships).

Here are some additional resources about 4-H projects, and how to use experiential learning to help develop life skills through 4-H project work:

In case you missed our live session, it was recorded and can be viewed online at  You can also check out our entire series schedule and find out how to connect from the comfort of your own home.  We hope to “see you” online in October as we work together to “Make the best better!”


Time Saving Tips for the Kitchen

400My husband calls me the one-trip-wonder because of my stubborn refusal to make more than one trip in from the car regardless of the size or number of items needing to be carried in.  I know he thinks I’m crazy, but really, who has time to make 27 trips from the car to the house?  I guess it’s that same “who has time for this?” mentality that has also caused my friends to deem me the one-pot-wonder. Truly, if I can get it all in one pan, that’s less dishes I took the time to dig out, and certainly less to wash and put back. Love it!

So, perhaps that’s why I feel uniquely qualified to share a few recipes with you that should help you manage your time in the kitchen during this hectic time of year.  Don’t worry.  These are not one-pot-wonder recipes.  You will need to dig out an extra pot or two for veggies – canned, fresh, frozen – you’re choice.  But even with the extra dishes, the time these recipes save at the grocery and in the kitchen will totally be worth it.

  • Clam Linguine: I feed this to kids and they love it. Ingredients can be kept on hand at all times, so  it’s great for the “no time to hit the store” weeks.
  • Macaroni and Cheese Casserole: Another kid favorite. Brown the burger and throw it in the freezer in portioned out Ziploc bags. Now you have another dish on hand with ingredients that are always accessible.
  • Shell Macaroni Casserole: Again, kid approved. Given your already browned burger is frozen in the fridge, you’re golden for a night without stopping at the grocery AGAIN!
  • Crockpot Stroganoff: Easy peasy, but may require a grocery run if you don’t have some items frozen already.
  • Chicken Quesadillas: Another easy one to keep all ingredients on-hand. And… you guessed it: Kid favorite.

Bonus recipes: Great for potlucks, parties, and guests.

Printer Friendly Version: All Recipes Included

I hope you enjoy these recipes and their accompanying time-saving tips. But my greatest advice to you is to think of the dishes your family loves most and look for faster or easier ways to make them on busy nights. I don’t really cook like this all the time, but there are nights when I’m moving so fast I could leave Rachel Ray in the dust. When you have to, do it and don’t feel guilty. When you don’t, call the kids in and make meal prep a leisurely, family affair. It’s all about the ever-elusive balance we all seem to be looking for. Truthfully, we’re cooking like this because we care about our families. We want them to have hearty meals and time to enjoy them together. Sometimes, getting them turned out a little quicker is all that stands between us and letting that happen.  If you have other tips or recipes you’d like to share, please feel free to leave them in the comments.If you have a passion for culinary arts, consider sharing your love with the youth in your community. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent today, and see how you can help him/her make a difference in the lives of young people.376

Packing a Healthy School Lunch

Healthy school lunch

Packing the kids’ lunches for school means you know which nutritious foods they are eating. Here are some budget-friendly, creative ideas to keep kids happy and healthy at lunchtime.

Make a “Smarter” Sandwich:

While some kids prefer the same thing every day, others may be okay with a slight switch to their sandwich.

  • Use different breads like 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps (choose wraps low in saturated and made with no hydrogenated oils) or 100% whole wheat pita pockets.
  • Besides lettuce, try shredded carrots or avocado slices with a turkey sandwich.
  • Buy blocks of low fat, low-sodium cheeses. You save money when you slice it yourself. Or use a cookie cutter to cut into fun shapes.
  • Instead of lunch meat, try a leftover grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato.


Love Those Leftovers:

Try using the leftovers from the family dinner for the next day’s lunch. Invest in a thermos to keep foods hot or cold until lunchtime.

  • Low-sodium tomato, vegetable or bean soups
  • Chili made with lean or extra lean ground turkey
  • Whole wheat spaghetti with low sodium tomato sauce
  • Low-sodium baked beans, bean casserole or beans & rice


Let Them Dunk:

Sometimes it is okay to let your kids play with their food, especially when they are getting extra nutrition.

  • Apple and pear slices to dip into low-fat plain yogurt mixed with peanut butter.
  • Carrot, celery and sweet pepper strips to dip into hummus, fresh salsa or homemade bean dip.
  • Whole grain crackers (choose crackers low in sodium and saturated fat and made without hydrogenated oils) to dunk into low-sodium vegetable or tomato soup.
  • Unsalted sunflower seeds, crushed whole wheat cereal and sliced banana to mix into low fat vanilla yogurt (no added sugars) to eat with a spoon like a sundae.


Get Them Involved:

While letting kids in the kitchen might mean a bigger mess, if they help pack their own lunch, they are more likely to eat it! On nights you have a bit more time, like a Sunday night, have them choose which piece of fruit or what type of whole grain bread they want and let them assemble their lunch. Make this a weekly routine – it’s another great way to spend family time together.

For more heart healthy lunch tips visit:

Time Saving Technology- There’s an App for That!

Who doesn’t want a little more time? I am always looking for ways to help me get more done in the time I have. Over the years, I have found some great applications that I would like to share with busy 4-H parents and volunteers:

  • ANYLIST—this is a great application allowing you to create lists. I have a list I have named, “My Grocery List.” The neat thing about it is when I say to Suri, “add milk to my grocery list,” she does it! It makes it easy to compile a grocery list and I don’t even have to find a piece of paper.
  • MY FITNESSPAL—this application allows you to log everything you eat and helps you stay accountable. It will also talk to your exercise tracker to offset the amount of calories you can eat versus the calories your burn each day. The BODY TRACKER application can keep track of body measurements and how much muscle you gain and how much fat you lose.
  • COUNTDOWN—this application allows you to enter upcoming events from your calendar and keep track of how many weeks, days, hours, minutes and even seconds to deadlines! This allows you to prioritize based on what is due next, whether it be birthday shopping, a 4-H club meeting, or homework assignments.

It can be daunting for parents to keep track of work, family, church, sports, and school calendars. Sharing calendars can help see where everyone is at a glance. There are many applications that are free to help you get organized and save time- these are just a few great examples. Remember, not every application is for everyone. If I find that an application just doesn’t work for me, then I erase it. We all have different opinions on which applications will work best. For instance, my husband likes Weather Channel but I prefer AccuWeather. We both get the weather, just through different applications. Check out some of these applications to save time and stay organized this 4-H year!