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Sloppy Joe Tacos

Did you ever start to make sloppy joes and halfway through realize you didn’t have hamburger buns on hand? Yep. Totally happened to me you guys. (And, sadly I can’t say this is the first time either. Don’t get the sons started on how many nights we’ve had to have bunless hotdogs and hamburgers.) And so sloppy joe tacos (what??!) it was. I was weary that this would just end up tasting funky, but it didn’t. It is everything you love about a sloppy Joe along with the comfort of taco shells and all the fixins.

Now: calling all napkins!!! Who am I kidding?! Forget the napkins. I just need a hose. Especially with all four sons in the house eating these. For real! Seriously though… they rock. Grab a bib (and a hose) and dig in!

Sloppy Joe Tacos

Sloppy Joe Tacos

1 lb ground beef, or ground turkey
half a medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded cheddar cheese
shredded lettuce

Directions

1. Brown and drain ground beef (or turkey). Place cooked meat back into skillet and saute the onions and pepper until onions begin to turn clear. Add in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and garlic powder. Cook until heated through, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from heat.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Line taco shells in a 9×13 pan and evenly divide the meat mixture in the shells. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and place it in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and shells are warm.
Divide lettuce evenly between taco shells.

Sous Chef Sunday: Snickerdoodle Crescent Rolls

While I could go on and on about these perfect little pastries, I’ll get straight to the point for you guys. Today the sons and I are bringing you peanut butter, cinnamon, and sugar wrapped up in crescent rolls for an easy breakfast, snack, or even dessert. Be sure to sit down with a glass of milk, then pile up a gorgeous Snickerdoodle mountain of them. Eat your way to the top one crescent at a time!

Snickerdoodle Crescent Rolls

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Snickerdoodle Crescent Rolls 2

1 tube Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
4 teaspoons peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

4 Sons 'R' Us: Snickerdoodle Crescents

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl combine the cinnamon and sugar.
3. Unroll the crescent dough and carefully seperate into individual triangles along the perforated lines. Spread 1/2 teaspoon of peanut butter onto the top side of the crescents, starting at the wide end and leaving a little space along the edges. Sprinkle each with a pinch of cinnamon sugar. Roll into crescents.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes, until golden brown. While still hot carefully roll them in the cinnamon and sugar.  Roll again after they’ve cooled.
5. These can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Can also be frozen for up to one month. Then you’ve got a quick, on-the-go breakfast or snack for busy days!

Stuffed French Bread & Swiss Mushroom Stuffed French Bread

The sons love sub night. We have it at least once a month. They’re always putting their heads together to try and come up with new filling ideas and combos. We love hot or cold subs, but sometimes I just want to have an uber hearty, hot sandwich for my meal. This fit the bill perfectly. Literally, this giant twist on your average sub-sandwich is great. A quick & easy, ready-in-under-30-minutes meal, that’s every inch of sandwich perfection. Crisp on the outside, hearty and tender on the inside. I do love a good crunch to my bread. Both versions taste great, but if you get any ideas feel free to play around with your ingredients. Add in some extra veggies, change up the cheese. Heck, change up the meat. I seriously doubt you can go wrong with stuffed french bread.

Mmm, can’t you just picture it? Smell it?? Go ahead, try it and taste the delicious-ness.

Stuffed French Bread

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Stuffed French Bread

recipe adapted from Life In The Lofthouse

1 loaf french bread
1 pound lean ground beef
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 Tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

Directions

1. Slice the french bread in half, lengthwise, so you’re left with two equal pieces. Scoop out the bread in the center of each piece, making two bread ‘boats’. Place the extra bread in a large bowl and tear it into very tiny pieces. Trust me, you want them tiny. Place both halves of  bread onto a large baking sheet and set it aside.
2. In a skillet over medium high heat, brown both the beef and the onion until fully cooked. Strain the grease and return to the skillet. Next, add in the celery and garlic. Cook until the celery is tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the soup, milk and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Cook another 5 minutes, or until the meat mix is heated through, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the meat to the bread in the bowl, stirring to combine. Pour mixture into the center of one half of the french bread and spread out evenly. Spread out evenly. Sprinkle the meat mixture with the cheddar cheese. Top with the other half of bread to make it a sandwich.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. When done cooking, let your bread sit for 5 minutes so everything ‘sets’, before slicing and serving. Then, eat up!

Swiss Mushroom Stuffed French Bread

1 loaf french bread

1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp diced onion
1/4-1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 tsp minced garlic
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 tsp beef bouillon
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp Worcestershire
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Directions

1. Slice the french bread in half, lengthwise, so you’re left with two equal pieces. Scoop out the bread in the center of each piece, making two bread ‘boats’. Place the extra bread in a large bowl and tear it into very tiny pieces. Trust me, you want them tiny. Place both halves of bread onto a large baking sheet and set it aside.
2. In a skillet over medium high heat, brown both the beef and the onion until fully cooked. Strain the grease and return to the skillet. Next, add in the mushrooms and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the soup, milk and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Cook another 5 minutes, or until the meat mix is heated through, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the meat to the bread in the bowl, stirring to combine. Pour mixture into the center of one half of the french bread and spread out evenly. Spread out evenly. Sprinkle the meat mixture with the cheddar cheese. Top with the other half of bread to make it a sandwich.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. When done cooking, let your bread sit for 5 minutes so everything ‘sets’, before slicing and serving. Then, eat up!

The Best Meatballs

Meatball recipes are often challenged by chefs who claim, “Mine are the best!” Even though my meatballs ARE the best ( in my opinion of course), I won’t claim they’re the best in the world.  However, they are the best recipe I’ve ever found and they’re the best for me. Who would have guessed the secret ingredient would be stuffing mix? It gives it all the right flavors and leaves them incredibly moist. Try them for yourself! My Italian father in law makes meatballs, his family recipe, and I’ve watched him since I first got married. They’re good, but there are so many steps and so many ingredients. It’s a lengthy, day long process. Ain’t nobody got time for that, at least not in this house. These are so easy, I can have them mixed, shaped, and baked in well under 30 minutes. Everybody’s got at least 30 minutes at some point in the day, right? After they’re baked throw them in some sauce for delicious spaghetti and meatballs. We love using them to make Crockpot Hawaiian meatballs. They’re totally freezer-friendly, and the sons love taking a few out at lunch time for making meatball subs.

The Best Meatballs

 4 Sons 'R' Us: The Best Meatballs

recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes

2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 pkg. (6 oz.) chicken flavored stuffing mix
1 1/4 cups of water
2 eggs

Directions

1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Line two baking pans with foil (this makes for no-fuss cleanup later). Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
3. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients (I find by hand is best) until fully incorporated.
4. Shape the meat mixture into about 32, 1 1/2 inch, balls (about 1/4 cup meat per ball) and placing them in the prepared pans as you go.
5. Bake the meatballs for 16-18 minutes, or until completely cooked. No pink meat for us.
6. Remove from the oven and, if using immediately, add the meatballs into your recipe. Otherwise allow them to cool completely and follow freezing instructions.

To Freeze

Loosely pack meatballs in zip-locking freezer bags. When freezing, make sure to lay the bags flat so the meatballs freeze individually without sticking/clumping together. They can be stored frozen for up to 3 months. To use, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before hand.

Caprese-Style Italian Sausages

Things have been a little quiet around the dinner table here lately. So when I came across this idea I thought, why don’t you get a little conversation going, you conversation starter, you. They definitely did the trick. Everyone had something to say, and all opinion were unanimous. These were delicious, and a nice change up to our normal way of eating Italian sausages, which was smothered with caramelized onions and peppers.

Caprese salad makes the perfect topping for Italian sausage. The hubs and I prefer a more traditional Caprese salad (‘relish’) with chunks of creamy, melt in your mouth fresh mozzarella, but the sons like their cheese melted on top… so, melted it is! They make a great addition to any cook out or get together, and they’re great for an easy lunch, or even dinner.

Caprese-Style Italian Sausages

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Caprese-Style Italian Sausages

recipe adapted from Lemons For Lulu

5 Italian sausage links
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1-2 tsp dried basil
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Directions

1. Let your grill preheat on medium. Before putting the sausages on the grill, use a fork to poke a few holes in each one to allow steam to escape and a quicker cook time. When the grill’s ready, grill the sausages for about 10 minutes per side, or until cooked through.

2. When sausage is done, put them in buns and top with the shredded cheese and basil. Drizzle each sausage with a little oil and a little vinegar.
3. Place the assembled sausages on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven under a broiler until the cheese is nice and melted.
4. Top with tomatoes and serve!

 

If you’d prefer the more traditional Caprese style, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve had it both ways, but the sons prefer their cheese melted. To make a Caprese relish, use 1/4 cup diced fresh mozzarella in place of the shredded. And 2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh basil instead of the dried. When sausages are ready, sprinkle with the cheese, basil and tomatoes.Drizzle with the balsamic and oil and serve.

Sous Chef Sunday: DIY Pixie Sticks

 Pixie sticks… aka kiddie crack. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many of these sugary shots I downed as a kid. These little straw like sticks of powdered candy were a favorite of mine, and most every other kid I knew from elementary school. Can we say sugar high? I once knew a kid in middle school who took it a little too far. He had the bright idea to sniff one, acting as if he was cool in doing so. Yeah. That resulted in a horrible headache. Sugar highs aside (kids don’t care about crap like that) I know my own kids enjoy them just as much as I did. They would probably have lived off of them, and any other candied item if given the option. Balanced diet, right? When I saw a recipe for a make-it-myself version, my dormant sugar censors kicked into high gear. The sons were totally on board. And all this with ONLY two ingredients. That’s right, two.

 DIY Pixie Stix 2

I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make our very own little sugar shots. Seriously, like less than 10 minutes. We made them just for fun this time, but I’m definitely going to be whipping out a bunch as part of the spread for their next birthday celebrations. What table wouldn’t look just a tad more adorable with these? The sons did almost all of the work themselves, and being Mom I was the self appointed glue-gunslinger. I love when we can all get down and crafty will all our bad little selves.

DIY Pixie Stix

DIY Pixie Sticks

Kool-Aid packets (flavor of your choice)
sugar
paper straws
glue gun

Directions

1. Take a sandwich baggie and add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the Kool-Aid dry mix.
2. Shake well until evenly dispersed.
3. Hot glue the bottoms of the straws closed by adding one dot of glue and then firmly pressing both sides together. I used a pair o scissors to press them together against my counter top.
4. Cut a small hole in the corner of your baggie and fill the straw up until about a 1/2 inch from the top.  Then hot glue the other end.
5. Told you they were easy!  Each baggie will fill about 12 straws.  They aren’t quite as pretty as the ones you can fill up at the candy store but these taste better!

Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad

Don’t you just love a good pasta salad? They just seem so summery to me. Whether as a light side with dinner, or as a lunch. My favorite though are the heartier versions where I can dump everything in, give it a good solid stir, and after it’s cold… voila! Dinner is served. Pasta salad literally provides endless possibilities for new flavor combinations and ingredients. It makes me so happy, like kid on Christmas morning happy. This particular pasta is one of my personal favorites. It also happens to include one of our favorite ways to season/prepare chicken. It’s so simple too!

 Generously season your chicken breasts with taco or fajita seasoning, and then bake them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until cooked through. While having some on hand does give me an extra excuse to whip up one of our favorite pasta salads, we just genuinely like it that much. I love to dice it up and toss it in with some lettuce to make a nice hearty salad. The hubs uses it to make his own little protein packs to take to work. For the pasta salad though, you can make it all at once, or cook your chicken as much as a couple days ahead of time and have it ready to go.

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad

Seriously, just look at those juicy slices of perfectly cooked chicken.

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Eat your colors’? Fresh ingredients can be so vibrant, and I’m really starting to notice the burst of intense, natural flavor they add to our meals. My favorite chicken, vine-ripened tomatoes, bacon, and a Mexican blend of cheeses over a bed of pasta. Oh the intensity! They all combine beautifully with just a tiny bit of help from the special sauce.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad 2

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the recipe!

Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad 3

recipe adapted from Recipes for our Daily Bread

3 chicken breasts, seasoned with taco or fajita seasoning
1/2 pound of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
12 oz package of spiral pasta
1/2 cup Ranch dressing (not dry mix)
1/2 cup salsa, regular NOT a fruity blend
1 teaspoon taco or fajita seasoning
1 fresh tomato, chopped
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, or cheddar cheese

Directions

1. Generously season the chicken with either taco or fajita seasoning and bake for 30 minutes, or until cooked through, at 350 degrees.
2. Allow the cooked chicken to cool slightly and then dice.
3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Set aside to cool.
4. Cook the bacon until it’s nice and crispy. Allow grease to drain by putting the cooked bacon on some paper towels and when cool, crumble it.
5. Chop the tomato.
6. In a a large bowl combine all ingredients, stirring to mix everything together.

That’s it! Told ya, simple. While it’s great straight away, it tastes best when allowed to chill. It’s just as good if made the night before and left to refrigerate overnight.

This recipe was taken over to Fiesta Friday # 24 which is hosted every Friday by Angie on The Novice Gardener.

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