Loaded Baked Potato Salad

It’s that time of year again. Time for hot grills, good friends, picnic foods…it’s cookout time! I discovered this potato salad last summer, when I was searching for an alternative to my go-to mustard based recipe. I had been assigned to bring it as a dish, and I just wanted something a little different. Most likely due to the fact that I’d already been to two cookouts in the last 24 hours and didn’t want to eat the exact same thing again. I was a bit shocked, and saddened, to discover that there is such a thing as too much potato salad. I couldn’t have asked for more from this version. Although the recipe makes enough for roughly 4-6 people, depending on serving size, the ingredients easily doubled to make enough for a larger party. I was equally pleased to see that not only did my family love it, but so did everyone else. Who said change was a bad thing? Now, as you get ready to host or attend, a cookout (or cookouts) in the coming weeks of Summer, give this side a try. It’s a rich, creamy potato salad with all the tastes and textures of an actually loaded baked potato. This recipe is sure to be a hit at your next soiree, and I assure you that you will be asked for the recipe. Repeatedly.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

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  •  4-5 large Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonaise and sour cream until evenly combined.
  2. Stir in 1/2 of the green onions (1/4 cup), the cheese, salt, and pepper.
  3. Let this sit in the fridge to chill while you prepare the potatoes.
  4. Wash, peel, and then cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Put cut potatoes into a large pot, cover with water, and boil until just fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Don’t over boil, or potatoes with mush and become loaded mashed potatoes.
  6. When potatoes are done, drain, and let cool.
  7. Put potatoes in a large bowl and combine with the sour cream mixture.
  8. Stir, or fold, in about 3/4 of the crumbled bacon.
  9. Top with remaining green onions and crumbled bacon.
  10. Serve chilled.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

I grew up eating my Mom and Grandma’s meatloaf, and it was one of my absolute favorite dinners. All these years it’s remained one of my favorite ‘comfort foods’. When I began cooking for my own family, it took me 3 years of watching my Grandma lovingly prepare my favorite dish before I was able to properly ‘eyeball’ the ingredients to replicate that same great taste.  Now, every single one of my kids looks forward to that one night a month when meatloaf’s on the menu. However, recently I’ve really been trying to experiment with new twists on some of our old favorites, just to keep things interesting. A good friend swore by this cheeseburger-flavored version, so I decided to swap it with my traditional meatloaf in our monthly menu. Warning: This is not your Grandma’s meatloaf! This cheesy little monster of a meatloaf will leave you wanting to lick every last drop off your plate. While I still love, and will continue to make my more traditional version, this recipe is a new family favorite that has already been added to our rotating regular recipes.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

  •  1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup- 3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs, toasted
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 1/3 cup French fried onions
  • 2 slices of sandwich bread*

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef and the next 8 ingredients, mixing well. Don’t be afraid to get your hands ‘dirty’ and give everything a good squishing until evenly combined and a uniform consistency is reached.
  3. Place both pieces of bread into a meatloaf pan so that they evenly cover the bottom.
  4. Form meat mixture into a loaf shape and transfer to the meatloaf pan. You want it sitting directly on top of the bread.
  5. In a small bowl, combine mustard and ketchup.
  6. Evenly spread the ketchup mixture onto the top of the meatloaf.
  7. Bake 40 minutes. Top with the French fried onions and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the inside is no longer pink.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the pan and discard the grease ‘toast’. Slice the meatloaf and serve.

* This is the best meatloaf tip I’ve ever discovered. Instead of your meatloaf sitting and cooking in it’s own grease, or having to use a broiler pan, simply let the slices of bread absorb every last drop of fat that cooks out. It’s that simple. After cooking, simply discard and you’re left with a mess-free loaf that’s ready to be sliced and served.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

Grilling season, yes it IS a season, is my favorite time of the year. For those precious few months, I get to sit back at dinner time and take a break from cooking the family meal. Instead, my loving husband gets to slave away over the grill. It’s wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I’ve never bothered to learn how to operate the grill myself. I’m sure I could figure it out, but that might prove self-destructive to my seasonal dinner breaks. This recipe is incredibly simple, but the marinade gives the chicken an out-of-this-world flavor. The sun is shining, so pull out some chicken breasts, fire up that grill, and give these kabobs a try!

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

  • 5-6  bonesless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 large onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 4 sweet bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • skewers

Directions

  1.  In a large bowl, add oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper. Stir to combine evenly.
  2. Add chicken to the bowl. Make sure all chicken is submerged in the marinade.
  3. Let marinade in the refrigerator at least two hours. Keep in mind the longer it marinates the better.
  4. Preheat your grill to high heat.
  5. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade.
  6. Thread the chicken and the vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
  7. Lightly oil the grill grate.
  8. Place skewers onto the grill and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear.
  9. Remove from the grill and serve on the skewers or off.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

This recipe, from Budget Bytes, makes wonderfully fluffy, moist, and delicious sandwich bread. Serve it toasted for breakfast with some yummy cinnamon honey butter. Heck, just eat a slice when it’s still warm from baking in the oven. It’s addicting. It’s also cheaper, and tastier than it’s mass-produced counterparts. And the piece de resistance… it only costs about $1.34 per loaf, which breaks down to about 11 cents a slice! What better sandwich is there than the one that leaves both your stomach and wallet full?!

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

  •  1 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 whole wheat flour
  • 2-3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tbsp salt

Directions

  1.  Combine the water, yeast, and honey. Stir to combine and allow to sit until it becomes foamy. It may take up to ten minutes because of the honey.
  2. Stir in the olive oil and salt.
  3. Stir in the 1 1/2 cups of wheat flour. Once that’s mixed in add the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you can no longer stir it with a spoon.
  4. Turn the ball of dough out onto a floured surface and knead in the rest of the all purpose flour.
  5. Keep adding flour until you have a soft, elastic but not sticky ball. Knead for about 3 minutes.
  6. Loosely cover the ball of dough and let rise until it’s doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into the log about the length of your loaf pan.
  8. Coat the bread pan with non-stick spray or oil and place the dough inside.
  9. Allow the dough to rise again until doubled inside, about 45 minutes.
  10. Cut a long slit in the top of the dough to allow for expansion during cooking ( a serrated blade makes the smoothest cut).
  11. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the bread for 30 minutes, or until a deep golden brown on top.
  12. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool before slicing*.

*To make slicing easier, and to create prettier, more uniform slices, turn the bread loaf upside down before cutting.

BLT Mac N Cheese

I found this recipe several years ago, perusing magazines in a waiting room. It’s a Betty Crocker recipe, and it’s delicious. My family loves macaroni and cheese. They love it from a box, they love it from scratch, they even love it with cut up hotdogs in it. I figured, given their love of the classic side dish they’d happily eat as a meal any time, any day, that this could either be a beautiful thing or a risky gamble. This recipe had me at BLT. I love them. Mostly, I love them because I love,love, love tomatoes. So naturally, I dove in and made this meal the same night I had come across it’s recipe. Since then it’s become a staple and a regular meal appearing on our monthly rotations. The flavors blend spectacularly! Even the rest of the family, literally everyone else, who all detest tomatoes about as strongly as I love them, ate every bite.

BLT Mac N Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: BLT Mac N Cheese

  • 1 loaf, 32 oz, prepared cheese product, cubed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 cups skim milk
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bag, 9 oz, fresh spinach
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 cup plain, or Italian style, panko bread crumbs*

Directions

  1.  In a dutch oven, or other large pot, add butter, milk, and cubed cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wisk, until melted and evenly combined.
  2. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water 3 minutes less than indicated on the box in the directions. Drain.
  3. Pour the drained macaroni in with the cheese sauce. Mix well.
  4. Stir in the shredded cheese, spinach, and tomatoes.
  5. Transfer to a 15×10 inch (4 quart) baking dish. Cover with foil.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 30 minutes.
  7. Uncover. Spread bacon and bread crumbs evenly over the top.
  8. Bake 5 minutes longer or until the top is lightly browned.
  9. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

*To ensure nice browned, crisped breadcrumbs you can toss the breadcrumbs in 1-2 tbsp of melted butter before adding to the casserole.

Baby Cereal Pancakes

Why is it that every parent seems to find themselves inundated with baby food at some point, and it always seems to be at the point when the babies no longer want baby food? This was exactly my predicament with several unused boxes of baby cereal. I couldn’t just toss them, and at the time, I didn’t have any friends who could make use of them. When I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest, I thought it would be a perfect way to still use the cereal, but also to help my son continue getting used to ‘chewing’ with his new teeth. These were absolutely perfect for us. It’s a denser pancake than a traditional batter, but I found that just helped it cook quicker. Best of all, the recipe made a ton, and it’s freezer friendly so I didn’t have to do this every day. Just pull out however many you need for breakfast or morning snack, and let them thaw.

Baby Cereal Pancakes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Baby Cereal Pancakes

  •  1 cup whole wheat flour (or 1 1/2 all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup baby rice cereal (straight from the box)
  • 1/2 cup baby oatmeal cereal (straight from the box)
  • 1 cup formula, or milk, depending upon age
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana, or other mashed fruit of choice
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup apple juice, or water
  • dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Add the apple juice, and stir until evenly combined and pancake consistency is reached.
  2. Cook on the stove top in a frying pan just as you would ‘regular’ pancakes. I used a small spoon to drop small dollops of batter onto the pan. 
  3. Let cool and serve.

I originally made these for my littlest man when he was just starting to eat and be introduced to table foods. He loved them. At 3, he still prefers them to ‘normal’ pancakes. Also, it’s important to note that although this recipe will make a lot due to their miniature size, these freeze extremely well. To freeze, just place completely cooled pancakes into a freezer safe zip-locking bag. Seal and set in the freezer. When ready to use, just pull out the desired amount, place them on a plate, and allow them to thaw before serving.

One Pot Spaghetti

Do you ever have those days, or nights, where there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day? Here you were getting off work, helping with homework, tidying the house with hours to spare until dinner when all of a sudden you check the clock and it’s already almost time to sit down at the table? Happens to me all too often. Just for those nights I like to have a list of quick, easy meals that use ingredients I always have on time. Especially on those nights, rushing to get a hearty meal on the table, a meal that makes minimal mess is essential. One Pot Spaghetti, wish it’s special secret ingredient, is at the top of my list. It’s easy to throw together, and has a to die for taste that will impress even the most traditional spaghetti lovers. From the time you begin, you can be seated at the table with your family enjoying an un-rushed conversation over a hearty, hot meal in less than 30 minutes.

One Pot Spaghetti

4 Sons 'R' Us: One Pot Spaghetti

  •  1 lb ground beef (or sausage)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz spaghetti, whole or broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions

  1. In a Dutch Oven, or a large pot, brown the meat with the onion. Drain.
  2. Add garlic and let cook until fragrant, about one minute.
  3. Add broth, spaghetti sauce, and water. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add spaghetti and reduce heat.
  5. Cook covered 17-20 minutes, or until the noodles are al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed.
  6. Stir in parmesan cheese.

You will never want to cook spaghetti the old way again. It’s incredibly tasty, and one pot makes clean up a breeze.

4 Sons 'R' Us: One Pot Spaghetti

‘Velveeta’ Style American Cheese

Do you ever balk at the prices of those processed loaves of cheese? Do you buy them anyway, because sometimes a recipe (or a grilled cheese) demands their melty goodness and no substitute will do? This happens to me every time I purchase that cheese. Even worse, every time in the back of my mind is a nagging reminder of all the preservatives and other things in them that I should try to avoid feeding my family. So, finally I decided that somebody, somewhere, in an effort to be more frugal or in an effort to avoid all the chemicals, must have found a way to replicate this ooey, gooey cheese and would have shared their victorious recipe. After perusing Pinterest and the web for what seemed like forever, I finally found what appeared to be a winner. My boys had asked to have BLT Mac N Cheese this week and were afraid with my new REAL cheese that it wouldn’t live up to their high standards. They couldn’t have been more shocked themselves to discover this cheese made it even better. This recipe knocked the ball out of the park! It was spot on everything I was looking for and then some. It’s real food you can make at home quickly, with ingredients you can easily find (and pronounce), without sacrificing any of that heavenly meltiness. National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12th) just passed, but I will definitely be celebrating next year with the help of my own homemade cheese.

‘Velveeta’ Style American Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: 'Velveeta' Style American Cheese

  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 12 oz Colby Jack cheese, very finely shredded (think TINY grater holes)
  • 1 tbsp nonfat milk powder
  • generous 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp 2% milk

Directions

  1. Line a small 4×5 loaf pan (I only had a full size pan handy) with plastic wrap, letting the excess hang over the sides.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the water and gelatin. Stir. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine cheese, milk powder, salt, and tartar in the bowl of a food processor, pulsing a few times to combine.
  4. Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  5. When milk begins to simmer, remove from heat, transfer hot milk to a measuring cup (to make pouring easier) and slowly add milk into the food processor feed tube.
  6. As you slowly add the milk, pulse the food processor.
  7. Add prepared gelatin.
  8. Turn the food processor on, and continue to stir until the mixture becomes perfectly smooth. Scrap the sides if needed and whir again.
  9. Working quickly, transfer the mixture into the prepared mold, pressing the mixture down into the pan with a spatula to help eliminate any air bubbles.
  10. Smooth surface of cheese, and cover with the overlapping plastic.
  11. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight. (If pressed for time, a little over an hour and a half in the freezer will work too!)
  12. Slice, cube, or melt as needed and use as you would Velveeta or individually wrapped processed American cheese.