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Italian Garlic Butter

There is no doubt that garlic butter is magnificent on warm bread. Any biscuit, bun, piece of bread (you name it) we serve this stuff on is usually snapped up in no time as soon as it comes to the table. But this savory and heavenly smelling compound butter can be used for a lot more. I’m not kidding, don’t hold back. Just go with it. Spread it on top of hot steak and watch as it melts to make an incredibly flavorful sauce. Or toss it with fresh pasta, or even use it for stir-frying vegetables.

You’re gonna melt over this easy recipe for such a savory spread. Use it and give your meal a little razzle-dazzle!

 Italian Garlic Butter

recipe adapted from Kleinworth & Co

Italian Garlic Butter

2 cups salted butter (4 sticks), softened
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbsp dried or fresh parsley

Directions

1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix together until completely incorporated.
2. Use the spread immediately or transfer it to an airtight container and store refrigerated, as you would your regular butter. Allow it to soften slightly before spreading.

How to make a Big Mac burger cake

Son # 1 is a walking, talking teenage garbage disposal. He loves food. He’s obsessed with food. He’s a growing boy, for sure. I get that. There are certain foods he prefers to eat, like poptarts and hotpockets and generally anything that’s heavily processed or full of caloric garbage, but in a pinch will grab whatever is closest to his face in the refrigerator and just work his way down through the shelves and drawers. I’ve witnessed him eat droopy, on it’s last leg, I personally probably would have tossed it and sucked up the loss, celery, slathered in peanut butter, shoving it in his mouth while making a face and asking me why I buy such awful tasting stuff. Last weekend we went out for burgers; I stood there awestruck, and mildly horrified as he ordered two full-size meals, while the hubs and I issued the standard rule the sons are all familiar with, “if you order it, you have to eat it. ALL of it.” This didn’t deter him in the least and he smiled as he said he’d be good. We watched him scarf down his own food and then immediately begin eyeing his brother’s plates to see if there were any stragglers who’d need help cleaning their plates. To his disappointment, their weren’t.

 Big Mac Cake

The point of this story? Son # 1’s birthday was last week. His 16th birthday. The hubs and I don’t buy cakes, we make them. When the sons were younger they would inundate me with all kids of creative possibilities and decorative ideas for their birthday cakes. As they’ve gotten older, they pretty much leave it up to Mom. They just want to know that there will in fact be copious amounts of ice cream and frosting flowing. I always try to come up with something that either says something about them, or represents something they love. With Son # 1, that’s food of any kind, and in desperate times, in any capacity. What better cake for him, especially after his recent burger binge, than a Big Mac Burger birthday cake?!

Big Mac Birthday Cake 2

It’s super easy to make, even for a total beginner at cake decorating. The best part for us? Seeing his eyes light up when he saw the finished product. Those cool Mom moments may come a whole lot less often as he’s gotten older, but they’re still just as special when they do.

Also, have you ever seen a ‘pretty’ Big Mac? Be honest. No, you haven’t, because they’re kinda messy and never look that perfect way that they do in the commercials, relax and know that your cake doesn’t have to look ‘perfect’. In this case, messy is spot on.

 Big Mac Birthday Cake

2 boxes yellow cake mix
1 box (family size) fudgy brownie mix
frosting, homemade or store-bought
green, yellow, and orange food coloring

Directions

1. Cook each box of cake mix according to the package directions to make 2 circular cakes. In the end you should have 4 cakes total, although we’ll only be using 3 here.
2. Mix your brownie batter up and divide between two circular cake pans, the same size as the ones used to make the cakes. Cook according to package instructions.
3. Divide your frosting into 3 separate bowls. Use your food coloring and add into the frosting to make one bowl of each color, green, yellow, and orange.
4. Using a sharp knife, cut the crusty outer edges away from the cakes so they look for hamburger bun-like.
5. The bottom will obviously be a bun. So put one of your cakes down onto whatever surface you’ll be presenting the cake on. Top that with a brownie hamburger patty.
6. Spread/drizzle the different colored frosting’s over the ‘patty’, allowing some to run down the sides, to represent the lettuce, mustard, and secret sauce.
7. Top that with another cake ‘bun’ and another brownie ‘patty’. Repeat the frosting layer.
8. Top this with the last ‘bun’. Voila, you’ve got a cake-mac! I sprinkled on some sesame seeds for added effect, but that’s totally optional.

Crispy Asian Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Are you tempted to quit reading because of the name of this recipe? Because it contains the dreaded vegetable that could strike fear into the heart of children, and even some adults? Well, are you?

I know I would have been up until just a little earlier this year. Before then, I wouldn’t have touched a Brussels sprout.  You couldn’t have paid me to touch em. Growing up and well into my adult life, if it didn’t look delicious or wasn’t sweet, I wasn’t eating it. On the other hand, even if someone had tricked me into believing they were sweet, if it looked like cabbage I still wasn’t eating it. You couldn’t have paid me to touch them. And if by some wibbley wobbley timey wimey magic my future self managed to check in with my past self and told me that by 2014 I would love the little sprout-y lumps, I’d have known aliens had taken over and I was stuck in a bizarre time-warped version of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatcher.’

My past self is probably crying in a corner and denying our existence right now BUT, in 2014 I realized I love Brussels sprouts. LOVE em. Whew (wipes sweat off forehead)! Been sitting on that little secret for awhile. Feels so good to come clean. In 2014 I was able to admit I actually like them, but it was this recipe, this past week, that turned a little bit of like into a full-fledged ‘thing’.

If you’re on the fence, don’t worry. This recipe is a little love note from Brussels sprouts to your taste buds. Seriously, one bite and you’ll taste their transformation as they magically change from maligned Grandma’s gross-out fare to the new foodie favorite. I’m not even kidding, they’re like crispy green crack. They have a ton of flavor and are sweet, spicy and savory all in one.

Crispy Asian Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Asian Brussel Sprouts

recipe adapted from The Baker Mama

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
pinch of black pepper
Kosher salt

Directions

1.  Cut off the base of each sprout before slicing them in half lengthwise and then remove any excess or loose leaves from the outside.
2. Allow the prepared sprouts to soak in a bowl of water, for about a minute, to get them clean.
3. Drain the cleaned sprouts and pat them dry with paper towels, removing any excess moisture.
4. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread the sprouts out on the pan so that there’s just a single layer without them overlapping each other.
5. Liberally pour the oil over the sprouts, sprinkle with the salt, and then stir everything together with your hands making sure everything is well and evenly coated.
6. Bake in the oven, on the top rack, at 400 degrees for about 45-50 minutes. After 20 and 40 minutes, stir the sprouts to ensure that both sides of them all get nice and extra crispy.
7. During the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, in a small sauce pan, reduce remaining ingredients over medium-high heat, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
8. Remove from the oven and place in a heat-resistant bowl. Slowly add in the sauce and toss them, a little at a time, to ensure they stay nice and crispy.
9. Serve!

Fiesta Tuna Salad Sliders

So one day I reeeeeaaaaallllllly wanted Mexican food. Of the oh-so good tasting, but so-oh not good for your waist-line variety. Like an endless basket of tortilla chips with some of that authentic creamy, white queso for dipping, and maybe even some sour cream and quac on the side. (We want guac. We want guac. Thank you, Elmo for that little ditty that’s now stuck in my head) But that wasn’t on the menu. Going out to eat wasn’t in the cards, and clearly my pantry and fridge were letting me down. (Again, I griped about having no known Mexican restaurants that deliver in my vicinity. Because, well because… how is this not a thing already?!)

Then I remembered this fancy, schmancy recipe (except it’s totally not, but if tasty-ness was currency, it’d be golden). Fiesta tuna salad sandwiches may not have been sinfully delicious chips dipped in warm, gooey queso, but as my Mama always said, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” And it was Mexican food. Good Mexican-style food. Good for you too, to top it all off. My how my day had changed. While I got down to chopping the veggies I’d need, my mood gradually changed from “deprived of tortilla chips” and being lulled to “problem craving coming to it’s conclusion”. Mean Mami Mexican food crisis averted. At least for today. Seriously, you don’t want to get in my way when I’m craving Mexican food. It could escalate quickly and then we’d be in a full-on nuclear melt-down and that just isn’t gonna work for me. Now that I had a new idea, and some direction to go in other than to Old El Paso, I snagged some supporting ingredients from the pantry and salsa-ed my way through the rest of the recipe.  Olé!

Now I’m going to enjoy another delicious sandwich with this spread for lunch tomorrow too, but this time as a tuna melt! Gotta keep those taste buds on their toes. Trying to go light? This makes a great dip with either tortilla chips or crackers. (Hello, my next tailgating party!)

Fiesta Tuna Salad Sliders

 Fiesta Tuna Salad Sliders

recipe adapted from Taste of Home

6 cans, 5 oz each, water-packed white tuna or albacore, drained and flaked
1 large red onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup reduced fat mayo
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced (optional)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp black pepper
12 ciabatta sized slider buns, or more depending on how ‘stuffed’ your buns are
12 slices of pepper jack cheese
lettuce leaves

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients. Set the tuna salad in the refrigerator to ‘chill’.

2. Once the tuna salad is cold, spread it over the bun bottoms. Top each with a slice of cheese and some lettuce.

3. Put the tops back on, and serve!

Crockpot Lasagna

I love a good classic.

A classic novel. {i.e. Pride & Prejudice}

A classic movie. {i.e. Roman Holiday }

And I most definitely love a classic lasagna recipe. {i.e. this one!}

Let’s keep it real though. On top of it being an all-out yummy classic comfort food, lasagna is a busy mom’s secret dinner weapon. It’s such a great option, especially when we’re talking about a crockpot, not oven, version because it’s so easy to throw together and it’s really filling, so a little goes a long way. Plus, this recipe usually makes enough for leftovers, which is a bonus because lasagna is one of those foods that almost always tastes even better the next day. Lasagna also keeps well in the freezer, so if you have the carb-resisting strength, you can freeze the extra for another meal. Maybe a lunch or light dinner? It’s safe to say that given the sheer number of lasagna recipes out there, the secret to making great lasagna is finding a recipe with ingredients that you love. For us, the trick comes down to quality meats (that’s right, meats, plural), quality cheeses (again, plural), and a top notch sauce.

 crockpot lasagna 3

Just look at that? Does it get anymore perfect than this, cooked to bubbling perfection? I was always so tired of getting it wrong when I would bake them in the oven. We love a few crispy edges, but not throughout the whole thing! And, then… voila! This is a no-fail recipe that guarantees you won’t end up with hard, crusty noodles or a totally dry dish. Just layer the ingredients in the crockpot, sit back, and relax!

Crockpot Lasagna 2

Three different cheeses simmer right along with delicious ground meats and perfectly herbed pasta sauce in this easy, no fuss, delicious lasagna.

Dinner is serrrved!

Crockpot Lasagna

crockpot lasagna

recipe adapted from Creating Through Life

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
29 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese + 1/2 cup
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

Directions

1. Brown the ground beef and ground sausage. When they’re about half way done add in the garlic and onions. When the meat is browned drain and return to the pan or skillet.
2. Stir the tomato sauce in with the cooked meat.
3. Spread 1/4 of the meat sauce on the bottom of a prepared (sprayed well with non-stick cooking spray) crock-pot.
4. Arrange 1/3 of the uncooked noodles over the sauce, breaking them up to fit better as you go.
5. Combine the 4 cups of mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses in a bowl. Spoon 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles. Gently spread it out to form a layer that covers the noodles.
6. Repeat these layers twice.
7. Top with the remaining meat sauce.
8. Cover and cook on low for 4 hrs.
9. Let the lasagna stand in the crock-pot with the lid off for at least 10 minutes. 5 minutes before serving sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top.

Do you love these classic Italian flavors? Need some more easy meal inspiration? Check out these other similar recipes.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Italian Drunken Noodle

Italian Drunken Noodle

4 Sons 'R' Us: Baked Gnocchi

Baked Gnocchi with bacon, tomato, and mozzarella

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Creamy Bacon Horseradish Dip

I had planned to write this post about the delicious zucchini chips we’ve been making all week, but I really need to mention the delicious bacon horseradish dip we made yesterday to accompany them. At first I was concerned that I had made too much of it, but today, as I was eating fresh *healthy* chips dipped into this amazing, tangy sauce, I realized that there is no such thing as too much creamy bacon or horseradish anything.

This crowd-pleasing dip gets its smoky, creamy deliciousness from crumbled bacon and smooth sour cream. And its attitude? That’s the horseradish talking. If you’re having a party anytime soon, or anytime at all really, you’re definitely going to want it there. And you won’t have to worry a single moment wondering if you’ve made to much. You’ll have a had time getting guests away from it. But, don’t worry about that either, it’s one heck of a great conversation starter!

Creamy Bacon Horseradish Dip

 Creamy Bacon Horseradish Dip

8 oz. bacon strips, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp horseradish
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
sliced green onions, optional, for garnish

Directions

1. Combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the cooled bacon. Refrigerate until chilled. Top with green onions before serving.

Loaded Maple Bacon Doughnut Fries

Ohhhh, I’m going to be such a bad influence right now.  I mean, if you are trying to eat super healthy or stick to light salads for dinner you might want to look away.  Except don’t!  Because we all need a little cheat now and then, right?  And this one is totally (and I mean TOTALLY) worth the splurge.  Delicious, rich, doughnutty, sweet, and with just the right amount of crunchy bacon bits…. Loaded Maple Bacon Doughnut Fries.  On the stove top. In about 5 minutes.

This was our splurge breakfast to bid adieu to the boys summer break on the morning of their last day before the start of a new school year. I’m totally not a morning person, and with 3 babies getting dropped off in quick succession while trying to get the sons organized and out the door (not a single one of whom is a morning person either) there’s not much chance of a home-cooked, hot-meal. I keep make ahead’s on hand in the freezer, like breakfast biscuits, breakfast wraps, and even frozen omelet ‘cups’, but it’s not always the same as something Mom’s made fresh. Then there’s always the good ol’ fashioned bowl of cereal with milk. So, needless to say, we needed one last BIG hoo-rah before we’re all back in the land of re-heated breakfast bites. This was perfect. Full of decadence. Just a little bit naughty. Almost like sneaking dessert before the rest of the world had even had their first sip of coffee.

Thought you had to have a fancy doughnut pan to make homemade doughnuts? NOPE. Thought you’d have to make batter from scratch? NOPE. Thought it probably just had to be complicated to reach that level of pastry delight? NOPE.

One can of store-bought, refrigerated biscuits and 5 minutes and you’re in business.

Loaded Maple Bacon Doughnut Fries

Loaded Maple Bacon Doughnut Fries

recipe adapted from Beyond Frosting

vegetable oil, for frying
6-8 strips of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 large can of buttermilk or regular refrigerated biscuits (48oz)
 
For the glaze
 
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup unsalted butter, browned
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp milk
Hot Fudge sauce, or chocolate syrup, for drizzling
 
Directions
 
1. In a medium sized skillet, heat two inches of vegetable oil, over medium heat, to 350 degrees You can use a candy thermometer to monitor the temp. Turn your heat down slightly to prevent the oil from getting too hot.
2. While oil is heating, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove biscuits from container, press into flattened, wider circles and cut into strips lengthwise.  Now, using your hands, roll each cutting into a long string, about the thickness of a pencil. Cut in half if necessary.
3. Once the oil is ready, slowly drop biscuits into oil. Bake for about 20-30 second on each side until the dough has turned a golden brown. Using a pair of tongs, remove the ‘doughnut’ from the skillet and set on some paper towels to drain off the excess oil. When finished deep frying, leave your candy thermometer in the oil until it is completely cooled. When cooled it will be safe to dispose of the oil.
 
To make the glaze & Assembly

4. Sift the powered sugar (this will ensure a smoother glaze). It’s recommended, but not absolutely necessary. Set aside.
5. Melt the butter in a small pot. Once melted, stir continuously until it turns a golden brown. Immediately remove the pot from heat.
6. Pour the browned butter, maple syrup, and milk over the sifted powdered sugar.
7. Vigorously, whisk until smooth.
8. For a thicker glaze, add only 1 tablespoon of milk instead of two. Or add additional powered sugar. To make glaze thinner, add additional milk.
9. If using Hot Fudge sauce, heat it briefly in the microwave to make it easier to drizzle over the fries.
10. To assemble the fries, put a bottom layer of doughnut fries on a plate and drizzle maple glaze and chocolate syrup over-top of them. Sprinkle with some of the crumbled bacon. Repeat for as many layers, and/or plates as you want to make.

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