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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.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich

Today’s post is another episode of ‘things we actually eat all the time.’ I was stumped this weekend on what to share today and was about thisclose to throwing my hands up when I remembered that whole concept/thing about cooking with easily accessible ingredients I keep on hand all the time and quick fixin methods so that we can all be a bit healthier and happier, faster, especially during the meal time rush. That’s the thing that I love and grilled-chicken-Caesar-something is a dish that we eat weekly, in one form or another. When a recipe or ingredient combo repeats and cravings/excitement are still detectable, it’s time to share, no matter how simple it is. I’m excited to share more of those meals that are thrown together with regular pantry fare (and even some seasonal items), but still have an overall vibe of goodness too. Hope you can feel me on this. Big hugs and some fist bumps for everyday good eatin’.

Chicken Caesar Sandwich

So, what’s better than a chicken caesar salad? A grilled chicken Caesar sandwich on a fresh ciabatta, or torta, roll. These make a perfect lunch food without giving you food coma and it’s entirely customizable. Looking for a lighter dinner option? Grilled Chicken Caesar’s your guy. This recipe makes 4 solid-sized sandwiches. When we’re having it for dinner we double the recipe. Somehow, even when we’ve doubled it, there still aren’t ever any leftovers. But, if the sons are eating all their greens (with relish!) then that is fine by me.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich

 Grilled Chicken Caesar Sandwich

1 cup romaine lettuce leaves, roughly chopped
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
4 ciabatta/torta rolls, toasted, for serving
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated or shredded, for serving
red onion, sliced thin
Caesar dressing

Directions

1. In a small bowl, toss the romaine lettuce with 1 tablespoon of your caesar dressing, and set it aside.
2. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with the desired amount of salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat it  up over medium/high heat. Add the chicken and cook, flipping once, until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Let the fully cooked chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing across the grain. For a more authentic taste, season the breasts and then grill until completely cooked before cooling and slicing.
3. Serve sandwiches on ciabatta/torta bread with romaine lettuce, sliced chicken, red onion, Parmesan cheese and additional caesar dressing, each in your desired amount.

Do you love the strong, rich, and creamy taste that a good caesar dressing can bring to a recipe? Here’s some of our favorite caesar recipes: 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

4 Sons 'R' Us: Tortellini Caesar Salad

Tortellini Caesar Salad

4 Sons 'R' Us: Caesar Dressing

Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing

2 Ingredient Dog Treats

Dog treats can get expensive, but neither your budget or you pup have to suffer anymore. You can create your own on the cheap with a very simple recipe that only requires TWO ingredients: flour and baby food. This simple, two-ingredient recipe can also be customized like nobody’s business, so get creative and have a little fun (all while pampering your pooch)!

Our 4 year old pug, Bentley, goes nuts for these. Seriously, we’ve tried every trick in the book and he simply refuses to learn. Tell him to sit? He’s just gonna cock his head and look at your like you’re crazy. Hold a store bought treat up and his butt’s hit the floor before you’ve finished the command. Just using a batch of these DIY dog treats? The hubs had him laying down and rolling over for them in less than 10 minutes! He may look all clam, cool, and collected now… but, that’s only until he hears us opening up the paper bag. Then it’s all “Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme before I lose my ish.’ What’s a better alternative than something healthy disguised as a treat?! I love them even more because it helps me sneak some more protein into his diet without resorting to a wet food supplement. This batch I made two different versions– apple/pumpkin and spinach/quinoa. And he goes equally nuts for either one. :)

Don’t have baby food or not interested in buying any? These treats bake up just as well using 1 cup of homemade vegetable puree as well.

2 Ingredient Dog Treats

 2 Ingredient Dog Treats

recipe adapted from Daily Dish Recipes

 2 cups whole wheat flour
2 (4oz) jars of pureed baby food – beef, blueberry, sweet potato, chicken – whatever. Just make sure there are no onions/onion powder in it*.

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Mix the flour and puree together to form a stiff dough. Add extra flour or water as needed.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about a 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut into desired shape or a pizza cutter to make cubes or ‘sticks’.
4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat and place the treats about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before storing in a paper bag (storing in an air-tight container will make them soft, but they’re still edible).

Easy, right? Now this is where you can get creative. Consider including grated carrots or sweet potatoes, maybe a little bit of parsley (which supposedly helps with bad breath), some fresh fruit, or (for an added treat) some peanut butter! Got any other ideas? I’d love to hear them!

*Onions are toxic to dogs! If you’re unsure about what you can/cannot include, check out this list of toxic foods from the ASPCA. Techinically, not everything listed is toxic, but each one provides an explanation of why you may want to avoid it.

 

Shared at the Weekend Potluck Party

Our Minecraft Birthday Party

Anybody who has a young boy (or even girl) right now probably has heard of Minecraft. It is the thing. Literally, THE. THING. But if you’re like my husband, or our parents, you probably have no clue what it actually is other than a game the kids play that they’re crazy about. And even worse, if you’re trying to throw a Minecraft-themed party, you might not be able to find many decorations or idea at the main stores, or even Party City. Ahh! This could be time to panic. But rest assured it’s not. So what do you do? You make due and do the best you can.

With a little patience, and a little ingenuity, you can easily throw your own DIY Minecraft birthday party. Here’s how we did it.

minecraft party

But first, here’s son # 4 enjoying some of the frosting leftovers the night before his big day. He’s just a stud muffin looking for a cupcake. ;)

Minecraft party 2minecraft party 3

Ok, getting down to business now, Minecraft makes an excellent theme for a birthday party. The simple graphics make decorating easy, and there’s a ton of ideas around the internet for games and party food. For the cake, we use different color dots of several hues of green icing to give our ‘dirt block’ the pixel-ated Minecraft look. It dawned on me after the cake that I should have used a square baking dish instead of my regular circular cake pans to give it a truly authentic look. I found the toy set I used as toppers in Walmart. They had 3 different options. We crushed oreos in the food processor and pressed the crumbs into the side of the cake for our ‘dirt’.

minecraft party 4

Creeper. cupcakes. The sons were stoked! They couldn’t have been any easier and coordinated perfectly with our cake. Kudos to the hubs for decorating them while I was trying to get all the last minute details perfected and in place.

minecraft party collage

For drinks we had Minecraft water (not pictured) by adding a few drops of blue food coloring to 2 2-liters of diet Sprite. We also had ‘Creeper-ade’. Tape a cardstock kreeper face onto a clear drink dispenser and fill it with green Hawaiian Punch. Again, super easy. I found chocolate candy rocks online to represent the coal/iron ore. We had sourpatch candy watermelons for the ‘melon’ and used potato chips to represent the game’s ‘gold’. There were square jello cubes for water blocks. We served square sandwiches. Square crackers, several kinds. You get where we’re going? Everything in Minecraft is square. Serve square food. So simple, and oh-so impressive to the Minecraft fandom.

minecraft party 6

Son # 3 came up with the idea of using some balloons & crepe paper (again found at Walmart, for $1/ea) to make some Enderman decorations. In the end he decided they looked more like squids but, since there are in fact squids in Minecraft, it was all good. In the end the boys and their friends took turns playing Minecraft on our Play Station, ate, played some more Minecraft, opened presents, ate cake/cupcakes with scoops of ice cream and left. It was one of the best parties I’ve done for them yet. Fun, exciting and easy to do.

minecraft party 10

Best of all, both birthday boys felt super special on their special day. And that my friends, covers it. No muss, no fuss, simply a great Minecraft party that had just the right amount of themed items that impress the kids/guests without stressing the host/ess out!

minecraft party 11

Happy, happy birthday to two of our sweet, sweet boys. We love you and are so blessed to be your parents. We’ve loved every minute of being your parents and watching you grow into the compassionate, inquisitive, happy, and comedic souls that you are. We love you, honeynugget & little man!

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