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Baked Chili Lime Nacho Mozzarella Sticks

These make a perfect appetizer or (in the sons case) an after school pick me up. They have an awesome chip-like exterior courtesy of the baked egg roll wrappers, and they’re oozing, gooey, melted mozzarella from their middles. Thought nachos couldn’t get any better? Did you think a plain, fried mozzarella stick was where it was at? This fun, easy hybrid is going to take your tastes buds to a whole new world of flavor.

Chili Lime Nacho Mozzarella Sticks

 Baked Chili Lime Nacho Mozzarella Sticks

recipe originally from Carl’s Bad Cravings

24 mozzarella sticks
24 egg roll wrappers
1/4 cup water (you won’t use it all)

Chili Lime Olive Oil

1 tbsp lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Directions

1. Freeze unwrapped mozzarella sticks for 90 minutes.
2. Whisk together the Chili Lime Olive Oil ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Working with one at a time, place a mozzarella stick diagonally in the bottom third of the egg roll wrapper. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water. Fold the bottom of the wrapper up tightly over the cheese, then proceed to roll the up the cheese, folding in the edges of the wrapper as you roll. You want the edges to be tightly sealed so the cheese doesn’t spill out when cooked. Take care not to tear the wrapper. If you’re confused, no worries! The egg roll wrapper packaging should have pictures demonstrating the steps in order.
4. Place the wrapped mozzarella sticks on a baking rack on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush wrapped mozzarella sticks with the Chili Lime Olive Oil, stirring to make sure you get the spices that have settled. Note that the mixture will thicken as flour from the wrappers deposits into the oil.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until golden, then flip mozzarella sticks and continue to broil until other side is golden.
6. Serve with your favorite salsa and enjoy!

The Tooth Fairy Door

A few weeks ago son # 4 lost his first tooth. He got them all early, so I wasn’t at all surprised that he’d lose them early-ish too.

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 Two days after he first noticed one of his front teeth was loose, he bit into an apple and that was all she wrote. Tooth down! Repeat: TOOTH. DOWN. Once the blood had stopped, and the crocodile tears of terror had dried up, he was able to embrace his new smile and the funny feeling hole.

It was at this point that Son # 4 first learned about the tooth fairy. The magical little lady, pixie, we couldn’t settle on exactly what she was, but what was important was that she trades in teeth. Somewhere during our talk, the son wondered how exactly she was going to get into our home, and into his room, to sneak his tooth out from under him. And this is when we got out the tooth fairy door. The magic little portal that would grant her access to our world and the sons’ room. Made total sense to him.

tooth fairy door

We set up his ninja turtle nightlight to guard the door and make sure the tooth fairy wasn’t disturbed. We even found a trail of glitter the next morning marking her trail. Best of all? She’d taken his tooth and left a whole dollar bill! (This is the tooth fairy people, not the Nobel peace prize. We try to keep it realistic around here. After your first tooth, you only get a quarter for each one after. And the sons are perfectly content. They’re not suffering.)

I figure that fairy doors are more than just adorable accents for children. They’re for parents, too. After all, if your child still believes in fairies, they’re not growing up too fast, no matter how many baby teeth they lose and when, right? After all this is our youngest. The last one. I’m going to savor all of these final firsts. I mean how long is he going to keep letting me call him my honeynugget whenever, wherever. How much longer will he still insist on giving me a hug, a kiss, and a smug every night before bed? And how long until he’s grown and has lost this innocence that enables him to believe in wonderful things like magic and tooth fairies?! We’re already onto loose tooth # 2 …

Back to the tooth fairy door. It couldn’t be any simpler. It’s just a doll house door (you can find that at any craft store) that we painted. We used a LEGO piece for our door handle, but you can buy an actual doll house door knob from the craft store too for a more polished look. If you’ve ever seen any of the sons’ rooms after a single afternoon, you’ll know why I was ok with ours being a little ‘rough around the edges’. The sons helped me slap some paint on the trim and the door, and within 30 minutes we were ready to roll.

Something so simple, and so cheap, yet so magical to our little guy.

Well, maybe not as magical as the $1 he found under his pillow the next morning. And maybe not even as magical as the chocolate covered doughnut with sprinkles it bought him. But, still magical. ;)

Crockpot Chicken & Dumplings

Chicken & Dumplings. There’s something so Southern sounding about it. Just it’s name, aside from the fact that it is of course a Southern staple. For years though, the hubs and I only had it when we’d visit a restaraunt. Namely, Cracker Barrel who specializes in Southern style fare. This recipe takes all that old-fashioned taste, all that classic dumpling texture, and wraps it up nice and warm in an easy crockpot package.

You guys know all about my love affair with soups. The sons don’t think anything broth-based should be considered a ‘meal’ for a guy, and the hubs likes soup but really only in winter and only if it’s hearty with plenty of toppings, and served with a salad and a hunk of bread. All my guys are meat and potatoes kinda people. And I get that, and appreciate it when they suffer in silence for me.

Wanna know how I know this recipe’s got it going on? Not. one. single. complaint. And everyone came back for seconds. The hubs liked it SO much that he insisted we have it twice in one week, and then acted like a kid at Christmas when he came home one night the next week from work to find out I was making it for him again.

Let the crockpot do all the work, and you just sit back and soak it all in. We’ve even found a perfect dumpling shortcut, keeping the whole thing as simple as can be from start to finish. Refrigerated biscuits, cut into small pieces, plump up and cook in the soup creating yummy, fool-proof dumplings.

Chicken & Dumplings

Chicken & Dumplings

small white onion; diced
2-3 stalked celery, thinly sliced
2 cans cream of chicken soup
3 chicken breasts
2 tubes refrigerated biscuits (not butter flavored or flaky layered), 10 oz each
4 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp garlic salt
1 tbsp parsley
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1 cup milk
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp water
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

1. In a skillet over medium high heat, saute the onion and celery in a little bit of olive oil until tender, and then transfer them to the crockpot.
2. Lay your chicken breasts over top the cooked veggies and then season them with salt and pepper.
3. Place the soup, chicken broth, milk, and the additional seasonings in the crockpot. Give the liquids a gentle stir to combine.
4. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or on high heat for 4-6 hours. An hour before it’s done cooking, mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl until smooth. Add the mixture. Cut each of the biscuits into 4-6 small pieces and add them into the crockpot as well. At this point give everything a stir and return the lid to the pot to cook for the remaining hour.
5. When the soup’s done cooking, you can either break up the chicken in the crockpot with a spatula or remove the breasts and shred the chicken and then return the shredded chicken to the soup.

Nestle Buncha Crunch Cookies

I love the clearance aisle. It’s my little slice of grocery store heaven. Regardless of the fact that I’m a grocery list nazi, you can still bet it’s the first place I’m gonna go and I don’t care if it’s on the list or not. If it’s on clearance, we make exceptions. The sons know. “Mom’s got a grocery cart? Aww, snap! Do NOT get between her and the clearance aisle.” I wouldn’t really run them over.

The sons like our grocery store’s clearance aisle as much as I do because there’s always some sort of candy on clearance. Since we try really hard to stick to our one day a month stock-up, everybody usually gets $1-2 to spend on an item of their choice, and they always gets a quarter soda on the way out. Well, except for the time the machine was completely out of stock, but that’s a temper tantrum of epic proportions story for another day.

Anywho, back to the clearance aisle. Clearance. Candy. What kid wouldn’t dig that? As much as they dig it, I usually find something that I plan to incorporate into some re-vamped recipe. Most recently, it was several boxes of  Nestle’s Buncha Crunch candies marked down to 25 cents a box. The wheels were turning guys! I knew they could be used to make some recipe magic.

 Nestle Buncha Crunch Cookies

By now ya’ll know how much we like to shake things up. Well today we’ve brought our latest change-up to share. A new take on the traditional chocolate chip cookies. And they’re pretty friggin’ delicious if I do say so myself.

We love cookies with mix-ins and have used m & m’s, Reese’s Pieces, and even Peanut Butter cups in the past, but using Buncha Crunch pieces was just genius.  The great thing about using these candy pieces instead of chocolate chips? The chocolate doesn’t melt down when you bake them, leaving them intact with a tasty crunch!

Nestle Buncha Crunch Cookies

Nestle Buncha Crunch Cookies 2

1 cup butter softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup Crunch Bits

Directions

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together.
2. Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat until everything is evenly combined.
3. Add in the flour, baking soda, and salt and beat until well incorporated.
4. Use a sturdy spatula to gently stir in the candy pieces until evenly distributed throughout the dough.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Meatball Quesadillas

What can I say? The Sons love meatballs, son # 2 especially. For years and years, he asked for spaghetti and meatballs every single day. The sons also love quesadillas. So far, they’ve all loved all the different fillings I’ve come up with in the past. We’ve done cheeseburger, pizzadillas, and every type of tex mex version you can imagine. I’ve even gotten them to scarf down (AND ask for seconds) hickory smoked tuna filled quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas. While this beautiful hybrid treat was bound to happen eventually, it first occurred as an emergency dinner.

 Meatball Quesadillas

See there was this one night when Son # 4 suggested meatball subs for dinner. I thought that was a grand idea since I was already behind, and was totally un-inspired that day. It had nothing at all to do with the adorable way he said it into my shoulder in a rare moment of big boy snuggles. Nope, nothing at all. I thought it was perfect, especially since I knew I had some sub rolls in the chest freezer from our last grocery trip. I just knew I those suckers in there. Meatball subs were calling our names!

Those of your with teeneagers, teenage boys, boys know where this is going. Dinner time. Everything ready. No subs to be found, and everybody was all too ready to tell Mom it wasn’t them. They hadn’t had any hero sandwiches for snacks. Oh no. Wouldn’t that be too much for them to eat for snack? Let alone before Mom noticed?

Me thinks though doth protest too much!

Meatball Quesadillas 2

Luckily for me, and for them, I hadn’t opened (which meant they hadn’t yet gotten into or messed with) a pack of tortillas I’d grabbed. We’ve had spaghetti grilled cheese, and we all love spaghetti and meatball sub sandwiches, so I figured a quesadilla with an Italian filling couldn’t turn out too bad and went full steam ahead.

These little things were so good. Lip smackin, no talking cause you’re too busy chewing kinda good.

Whether you’re looking for a game day appetizer, or an entree, you can’t go wrong with a meatball stuffed quesadilla.

Just look at that crispy shell, oozing with melted mozzarella?!

Meatball Quesadillas

Meatball Quesadillas 3

1 14oz bag frozen meatballs, thawed and cut in half
1 24 oz jar spaghetti sauce, any flavor
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
10+ flour tortillas

Directions

1. Spray a skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Place a tortilla half-way into the pan. Just allow the other half to drape over the edge.
3. Sprinkle half of the tortilla with cheese, then place the meatball halves randomly all over the cheese.
4. Spoon the spaghetti sauce over top, maybe two tablespoons per quesadilla.
5. Sprinkle with more cheese.
6. Fold the second half of the tortilla over top of the filling, closing it.
7. Heat on medium until the bottom of the tortilla gets crispy and the cheese on the bottom layer is nice and melted.
8. Carefully, and using spatulas (I use two: one to hold it closed and another to flip) flip the quesadilla onto it’s other side, cooking (again) until the tortilla is nice and crisp on that side and the cheese is melted.
9. Remove the cooked quesadilla to a plate, and continue cooking more quesadillas as needed. Use a pizza cutter to cut it into slices (easier for little AND big hands to eat).
10. Repeat until everyone is fed and serve with a side of marinara sauce, or just enjoy them as is.

Crockpot Pork Carnitas

Got a bit of the blues? Like the it’s so cold outside you swear your eye lids are going to freeze open, and you can’t feel your fingers cold weather blues? If you’re on the Northern East coast tonight you probably do. But, we’re here to help warm you up with today’s delicious recipe. One sniff, one bite and you’ll immediately be re-living warmer memories with these fiesty Crockpot Pork Carnitas.

 Crockpot Pork Carnitas 3

OK. A confession. I love meat. Because … meat. Obviously, vegetarianism is not written in the stars for me. I know, I checked. (Aren’t astrological charts super helpful?!) I would die before giving up chicken, beef, or pork. Ok, ok, you’re right. I probably wouldn’t actually die, but it would feel like dying I’d imagine. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s just focus on pork alone for a minute …..

Hello! sausage, bacon, carnitas.

(Disclaimer: This is just me and my own little old opinion. I have several wonderful vegetarian friends who I love and adore and who cook like rock stars)

Crockpot Pork Carnitas

How would my life ever be the same again? Carnitas, aka Mexican style shredded meat, are among the most flavor-packed taco fillings in existence. I can’t imagine never having had a taste of them before, or never having the joy of another bite in my future. The amazing taste of these carnitas in particular is the result of slow cooking and the perfect blend of ingredients.

Crockpot Pork Carnitas 2

After several flavor melding, taste bud blowing hours cooking in the crockpot, the pork loin is cooked to perfection. You can easily pull them meat apart using two forks, or if you’re pressed for time give it a quick whirl in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Think that’s crazy? Check out the idea here.

Crockpot Pork Carnitas

Crockpot Pork Carnitas 3

1 1/2 – 2 lbs boneless pork loin
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed, chopped (optional)
1 orange, cut in half
3 tbsp vegetable oil

corn tortillas

Directions

1. Rinse and dry the pork loin. Salt and pepper it, liberally. In a small bowl combine the oregano, cumin, and olive oil. Generously rub the mixture all over the seasoned pork. Place the pork in the crockpot and top with the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and add in the two halves. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high 4-5 hours.

2. Once the meat is tender, remove from slow cooker and let cool slightly before pulling apart with a fork. In a large saute pan, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Press the corn tortillas into the oil and fry until crusty on one side. Serve the shredded pork over the carnitas with your desired toppings.

Sous Chef Sunday: Crockpot Ham & White Bean Soup

Do any of you other Moms & Dad’s make your kids cook? Because apparently that is listed under to ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ category on Friday nights. Ya know, the weekly fend fo yo-self night. Son # 2 acts like it’s just unconscionable that his mother wouldn’t want to slave over the stove or toil away in the kitchen for him for one evening a week. Because apparently that’s my job. Ha!

So, fend for youself night. Nothing new around these parts, but you’d never know it when listening to the complaining chorus. Anywho, it’s pretty simple make what you want, and leftovers are always divided evenly amongst the boys. Sometimes though, one son will decide that’s not sufficient, or maybe he’s just having a golden child moment, and decides he’s going make dinner for everyone. While years ago that would have been boxed mac and cheese (because that’s where they were at), it’s now an actual meal … something say, like Mom would make ;) While I’ve always been adamant that my boys know there way around the kitchen and be self sufficient, I wasn’t satisfied with knowing how to follow the directions on a packet of pasta, or scramble a few eggs. (Oh, and to make sure we all know/knew what we were doing we took it back to the stone age by deciding against owning a microwave) Within the past few months or so though, they’ve caught onto a little piece of meal magic though. The CROCKPOT. Turns out I’m not the only one who can throw a few ingredients in that sucker and have dinner ready in a few hours.

It’s Friday? You know where the family recipe books are. Pick one and work together, or there’s always grilled cheese and a can of tomato soup. Or Ramen noodles. I did say it was fend for yourself night, didn’t I?

Behold! The sons won’t did not in fact starve this week!! So we’re here to share their latest creation … crockpot ham and white bean soup. And it’s good you guys.

Want to know what’s even more ironic? I made this for them two weeks ago for supper, and you should have heard the resounding complaining chorus. Because, soup. Of any kind. For dinner.

My, my … how the tables have turned ;)

Crockpot Ham & White Bean Soup

1 lb of dried Great Northern Beans, rinsed and sorted through
about 1 lb of ham, large pieces
6 cups of chicken stock or broth
1 medium white onion, diced
salt and pepper, to taste
parsley, to taste
oregano, to taste

Directions

1. Place all ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.

See? So simple a child can do it. ;)

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