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Updated on Aug 14, 2014

The joke between parents might be they are celebrating that vacation is over, but seriously, the first day of school is worthy of a fete. Instead of saying goodbye to summer, host a family dinner that says welcome to fall and the school year ahead.

Setting the Scene One week before school starts, send your children invitations, either through the mail or delivered to their rooms. Thinking about a party can help ease any back to school jitters, and if you’re looking for activities for the kids that last week of vacation, have them make decorations such as placemats and banners for the dinner.

What to Serve After a summer of barbecues, think about heartier dishes that your kids love, which you probably haven’t made since earlier in the year. If you’re uncertain of what to make, nothing beats homemade macaroni and cheese with a side of garlic bread to mop the sauce.

Mac and (Three!) Cheese

What You Need:

  • 1 pound large elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 8 ounces shredded mild cheddar
  • 4 ounces shredded Monterey Jack
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

What You Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the macaroni to a large pot of boiling water and cook for about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander.
  3. While the macaroni is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the milk. In a large pan over low heat, melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to cook the flour for about two to three minutes. Then slowly add the hot milk, whisking to incorporate. Raise the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce has thickened a little. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the macaroni with the sauce. Pour into a large baking dish and cook for 30 minutes. Note: Mac and Cheese is the ideal dish to sneak in some veggies, just cook them separately and add to the mixing bowl before it is poured into the baking dish.

Garlic Bread

What You Need:

  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 sourdough loaf
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

 

What You Do:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor add the garlic, parsley and salt and pulse several times until mixture is combined and minced.
  2. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Be careful as the oil can spatter. Add the garlic mixture and remove the pan from the heat.
  3. While the garlic mixture is cooling, slice your sourdough loaf in half with the bread knife. Spread the softened butter on the top half. Spread the garlic mixture on the other half of the bread, and put the halves together.
  4. Wrap the bread tightly in aluminum foil. Bake for ten minutes. If you prefer crisper bread, unwrap from the foil and bake for an additional minutes.

This back to school celebration is the perfect night to start a new annual tradition of creating School Year Memory Books. To make these memory books, give each child a binder which has a clear plastic sleeve cover so they can decorate the outside of the binder. Fill the binder with plastic protective sheets. The kids can use the sheets to hold mementos of the year ahead—recital programs, team photos, tests or papers they are proud of, ticket stubs to events, etc.

For tonight, provide scrapbook paper and a recent photo of each child so that she can decorate the outside of the binder. Also, consider creating a “my first day of school” page that can go in the first plastic sheet. This could be as simple as your child drawing a picture of herself with a sentence describing her day, or you can create your own questionnaire for your child to record her thoughts, feelings, names of friends, first impressions, etc.

Looking for something to munch on while working on the memory books? Here’s a recipe for itty bitty brownie bites—a perfect complement to milk and chatting around the kitchen table.

Itty Bitty Brownie Bites

What You Need:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup flour

 

What You Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Set up a bain marie (place a glass bowl snugly over a saucepan with an inch of water in it and turn the heat on to medium-low). Melt the butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  3. Stir in the sugar and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the vanilla and egg until well mixed. Gently fold the flour into the batter.
  4. Line a mini-muffin tin with mini-paper liners. Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon, scoop the batter to almost the top of the liner.
  5. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and serve that day (homemade brownie bites dry out much quicker than regular pan brownies).

 

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