Sous Chef Sunday: Cheesy Garlic Sticks

We’re a family who loves good food and I want my sons to not only know their way around a kitchen and a recipe when they are grown, but to be at home in the kitchen. The sons are my biggest fans & biggest supporters with everything I do so, naturally, I’m really excited to be including them in this adventure. So, without further adieu…

This week we’re introducing Sous Chef Sundays! 2-3 Sundays a month we will be bringing you kid friendly recipes that one or more of my own 4 sous chefs have helped me create & prepare. Tried and true dishes that we’ve made sure are appropriate for getting your own kids in the kitchen and involved.

This week we’re introducing you to Cheesy Garlic Sticks. The sons love these! They know it’s going to be a great day if they see pizza dough thawing before they leave for school and ‘pizza’ isn’t on the dinner menu. That’s guaranteed to mean these oh-so-yummy breadsticks will be waiting for them when they walk in the door after school. These come out piping hot with that perfect amount of stretchy, melted mozzarella. Son # 4 (4) enjoyed using a rolling pix to stretch the dough out (by himself) into the pan and sprinkling cheese everywhere. And I do mean everywhere, but it was kind of freeing to just go with it and see his little face lit up with joy. I also reminded myself I could fix it to my satisfaction before we actually put it in the oven.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheesy Garlic Sticks

Son # 4 insisted I ‘hold on’ when it was time to start on this recipe. I patiently waited as he climbed up on his step stool and grabbed a white paper lunch bag. He then ran into his room. This is how he came back into the kitchen. Ready to rock!

4 Sons 'R' Us4 Sons 'R' Us

The little ‘chef’ had even found his own photo prop! All cuteness aside, let’s dig into this Sunday’s recipe.

Cheesy Garlic Sticks

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheesy Garlic Sticks

recipe adapted from Jam Hands

1 can of refrigerated pizza dough, or one loaf of homemade pizza dough
olive oil for brushing the dough
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup shredded provolone, optional
1 tbsp minced garlic
1-2 tsp Italian Seasoning

Directions

1. Roll out pizza dough on a baking pan.  Brush dough lightly all over with olive oil.
2. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella and provolone, if using, all over the dough.  Use your fingers and sprinkle minced garlic all over the dough.  Sprinkle Italian seasoning on the top, as desired.
3. Bake at 425 for 12-18 minutes.
4. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Use a pizza cutter to cut into breadstick-sized strips. Serve with marinara sauce, if desired.

Dill Pickle Chips

It’s that time again! Super Bowl Sunday is almost hear. The excitement in my house is palpable. Not only do the sons look forward to a good game, but they can’t wait to see what eats & treats Mom will make. I look forward to the commercials, they look forward to the food. A family favorite for game day, or really any gathering we have, is homemade dill pickle chips. I’ve never gone wrong serving them at a get-together whether it’s for a group of men sporting jerseys, high-fiving & belly-bumping in between plays, or even relatives visiting from out of town. My father loves these so much it’s the only thing he actually requests as part of his Father’s Day dinner. Best of all, these are sooo much cheaper than ordering them from a restaurant or buying them in the frozen food section and they taste better than both other options, too.

Dill Pickle Chips

4 Sons 'R' Us: Dill Pickle Chips

recipe originally from Paula Deen

1 24 oz jar Kosher dill pickle slices
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
peanut oil, for frying
2 cups Fry Mix (recipe listed below)

Fry Mix

6 cups self-rising flour, or 6 cups all purpose flour + 3 tbsp baking powder + 1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup self-rising cornmeal, or 3/4 cup & 3 tbsp white cornmeal + 1 tbsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Add Fry Mix ingredients to a large bowl and stir until evenly combined.

Directions

1. Drain the juice from the pickle jar and refill the jar with the garlic powder, hot sauce, and buttermilk. Marinate the pickles for at least 30 minutes.
2. In a large pot or fryer over medium-high heat, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Drain the pickles. Put the fry mix in a large mixing bowl, and toss the pickles to coat thoroughly. Shake off the excess mix by tossing lightly in a strainer and deep fry the pickles in small batches for 3 to 5 minutes.
3. When golden brown, remove the pickles from the oil with a clean strainer or slotted metal spoon and place on paper towels to drain off any excess oil. Serve immediately.

Cheesy Crockpot Risotto

A bowl of piping hot, creamy risotto is a heaping helping of comfort. It warms my soul. Sadly, for me, Risotto is known for taking a lot of time and attention to make. Both things I’m typically a little short on. When I found this recipe it was a game changer! Risotto… in my crockpot?! Where have you been all my life! I just about died and went to cheesy-risotto heaven. If you’re like me and craving a good homemade risotto, but that pesky thing called life keeps getting in the way, you’re going to love this.

Cheesy Crockpot Risotto

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy, Cheesy Crockpot Risotto

recipe originally from Love From The Oven

1 1/4 cups Arborio Rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white whine
2 cups chicken broth
1 3/4 cups water
1 tsp minced garlic
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded/grated cheese of your choice*, I used 1 cup cheddar and 1/2 colby jack

Directions

1. Pour olive oil into your slow cooker and turn it on high. Pour Simply Balanced Arborio Rice into slow cooker, and stir well to coat in olive oil. Allow to start cooking for a a few minutes while you gather up the remaining ingredients.
2. Pour white wine, chicken broth and water into slow cooker. Add in minced garlic and stir well. Let cook for 90 minutes.
3. At the 90 minute mark, open slow cooker, stir and see if any additional liquid is needed. If so, add a small amount of water (about 1/4 cup).
4. From this point forward, watch risotto closely, checking every ten minutes or so to see if it’s done. As soon as it is tender and soaked up most of the liquid, it is ready. Add cheese to slow cooker and stir gently to combine (putting the lid back on the slow cooker for a minute or two will help it melt if needed). Serve immediately.

*Feeding picky eaters? For kids replace the white wine with water, and stick with kid friendly cheeses like cheddar or even American. Mix and matches cheeses to fit your tastes. Also, full fat cheeses will melt and combine more easily than reduced fat varieties.

Snow Day Fun

Have you heard of snow cream before? If you have then you’re well aware of it’s magical transformation from plain old pretty white stuff into a deliciously sweet treat. If you haven’t, you simply have to try it One of our absolute favorite Snow Day traditions is making snow cream. The kids love to watch as the snow magically turns into ‘ice’ cream right before their eyes. Sometimes, to preserve the magic, we will even store some extra snow in the freezer to pull out in the summer heat for a cool treat. It’s fast and fun, and the kids love it, even though the texture is different from traditional ice cream.

Once you’ve made this for or with your kiddos, they will be asking for it as soon as the first flake falls whenever winter weather approaches.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Snow Cream

1 cup half and half or milk
1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (adjust to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 6 cups clean, freshly fallen snow

Directions

1. In a large bowl combine half and half, vanilla extract and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
2. Stir in snow, a cup at a time, until the ice cream magically forms! Freeze for several minutes if desired before serving.

We’re on Snow Day # 3 here, and I thought I’d share some of our other Snow Day activities that have been keeping us entertained. We made ice ‘marbles’. I thought these were pretty darn cool. Sons 1 & 2 just wanted to watch them explode into a million shards of colorful little ice daggers when dropped from the highest vantage point. We just filled some balloons with water, added in a few drops of food coloring, tied them off and left them outside to freeze.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ice Marbles

Son # 4 loves bubbles. The older sons wondered what would happen to his blown bubbles in the freezing temps. They had a hypothesis. A little experiment proved their theory to be true. Blown bubbles do in fact freeze when it is freezing outside.

4 Sons 'R' Us: frozen bubbles

And last, but not least, the sons opted out of a snowman this year. Instead, they made a snow car.

4 Sons 'R' Us: snow car

The World’s Easiest Cheeseburger Sliders

I’m definitely a foodie at heart. I come from a long ling of women who love good food, and I’m pretty sure I’ve done my job of instilling that same feeling in my boys. While normal sized food is always great, there’s just something about food in miniature that I just can’t help but adore. It’s just so cute and fun. Not to mention, with four growing boy, two growing teenage boys who inhale food like vacuums, it’s often a whole lot less messy. With those things combined, sliders are a huge hit with this mom. Still, it was a wee bit time consuming to have to shape each petite patty by hand. Then I stumbled on this genius kitchen life-hack, and BAM! Mind.Blown. This recipe, literally, is for making the easiest sliders ever. Ever.

Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

4 Sons 'R' Us: The World's Easiest Cheeseburger Sliders

1 1/2 pounds, 93% lean ground sirloin
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (12-count) Kings Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls (or slider buns)
6 slices cheddar or American cheese

Directions

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.   In a bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, onion, and salt.  Gently press mixture into a 9-by-13-inch pan so that it makes one large patty of even thickness.  Use the tines of a fork to poke holes throughout the meat.  Bake for 30 minutes.  As it bakes, the meat will shrink away from the sides and liquid will accumulate around the edges of pan.  2. When fully cooked, remove the pan from oven (keep oven turned on) and carefully drain off the liquid.
3. Top the meat with an even layer of sliced cheese; return pan to oven for about 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.
4. Cut into 2-inch squares (or the size of the buns used), making 12 mini- hamburgers.  Serve with dill pickle slices and ketchup.  Serves 6 at 2 sliders each.

Pepper Steak over Quinoa

I love the color and crunch this meal gets from the bell peppers. I also love stir-fried anything. It’s a weakness of mine. So an easy to make, at home version of Pepper Steak was right up my alley. I mean, come on, an easy Chinese(ish) recipe with big juicy slices of steak marinated in a yummy sauce and stir-fried with bell peppers and onions? I say, “Winner, Winner… that sounds like dinner!”

This has become a stand-by meal at our house for when weeknights get chaotic and I’ve got to throw the meal plan out the window for the night. An easy to follow recipe that is delicious and ready to eat in 30 minutes? Score. In less time than it would take you to order and receive (or pick-up) somebody else’s pepper steak, you can be seated at the table with your family, already enjoying your very own version, even on the busiest of nights.

Pepper Steak over Quinoa

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy Pepper Steak

recipe originally from Gimme Some Oven

For Marinade 

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1/8 tsp. coarsely-ground black pepper (or more/less to taste)

Pepper Steak Ingredients

1 lb. thinly sliced flank steak or sirloin, cut diagonally across the grain into thin strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil
12 mini sweet peppers, thinly sliced (or 2 regular-sized bell peppers, thinly sliced)
2 scallions, sliced diagonally into 1 inch pieces, white and green pieces separated
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced

Directions

To Make The Marinade:

Add all marinade ingredients to a large bowl or ziplock bag, and stir to combine. Add the sliced steak, and toss in the marinade. Cover/seal and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

To Make The Pepper Steak:

1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sweet peppers and white part of the scallions, ginger, garlic, and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate.
2. Remove half the steak from the marinade with a slotted spoon (reserving the marinade) and saute about 2-3 minutes until browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer steak to plate with the veggies. Saute the remaining steak, then transfer to plate.
3. Add the reserved marinade to the skillet and cook for 1 minute or until thickened. Add the steak, veggies and green parts of the scallions to the skillet, and stir to combine. Cook for an additional minute, then remove from heat.
4. Serve immediately over rice or quinoa.

Baked Gnocchi with bacon, tomato, and mozzarella

This is comfort food at it’s finest. It’s where it’s at and what it’s all about. Little pillows of happiness (gnocchi) are smothered in a delicious tomato based ‘sauce’ with bacon and topped with mozzarella cheese that’s baked to golden-brown perfection. And, let’s be honest, what doesn’t taste better with bacon? Mmm, bacon.

Comfort food for those who need comforting. Even if you’re not in need of copious amounts of comforting, it’s ok to splurge once in a while. Caloricaly speaking, of course.

Baked Gnocchi with bacon, tomato, and mozzarella

4 Sons 'R' Us: Baked Gnocchi

recipe adapted from Simply Delicious

1 16 oz pkg of gnocchi
8 slices of bacon, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 roma tomatoes; fleshy parts diced
1 tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp sour cream
2-3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and in the meantime, make the sauce.
3. In a large, hot frying pan, fry the bacon until starting to crisp with most of the fat rendered.
4. Pour off most of the fat then add the garlic and smoked paprika and fry for 30 seconds.
5. Add all of the tomatoes and the sugar and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream, parsley and seasoning.
7. Cook the gnocchi in the salted water until it starts floating to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce.
8. Transfer the gnocchi and sauce to an oven-proof dish and top with the sliced mozzarella.
9. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and golden.
10. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Soup

My family loves Chicken Parmesan. I was blown away after my first taste of this soup. It totally lives up to its name and tastes just. like. chicken. parmesan. In a soup! It’s the perfect pick me up, sit down dinner during all this cold, rainy weather we’re having here.

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Soup

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Soup

recipe adapted from Foxes Love Lemons

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy!)
1 cup farfalle pasta
Chopped fresh basil or parsley and/or croutons, for garnish

Directions

1. In slow cooker, stir together garlic, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, chicken, broth, onion, 1/3 cup cheese, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook on high 4 hours or on low 8 hours. 30 minutes before end of cooking time, transfer chicken breasts to cutting boardand coarsely shred; return to slow cooker. Stir in pasta.
2. Serve garnished with extra Parmesan cheese, chopped basil or parsley, and croutons.

Cinnamon Roll Caramel Popcorn

By popcorn experiment # 4, the sons and I had had enough spicy seasonings and were ready to venture back into sweeter waters. Obviously, ‘cinnamon roll’ popcorn was a must-try. The smells coming from my stopve-top and oven were incredible. With that first mouth-watering bite we discovered the finished product didn’t disappoint. It actually tasted like a cinnamon roll (but with crunch!). Who knew?! In fact, it was soooo good, that we bagged a second batch up and gave it out to family & friends as late Christmas gifts.

Sorry for my lack of picture planning. My camera battery died before I could nap a picture of the drizzled white chocolate topping. This second batch didn’t stick around long enough for me to get one afterwards either. Little popcorn monsters!

Seriously though, this is the next big thing (at least in the popcorn world).  It is completely amazing: buttery, crunchy, caramel popcorn with a burst of cinnamon and a drizzle of white chocolate.

Cinnamon Roll Caramel Popcorn

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cinnamon Roll Popcorn

recipe originally from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

18 cups popped popcorn (about 3/4 cup kernels)
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ounces white chocolate, melted

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Grease two large rimmed baking sheets and set aside.
2. Place the popcorn in a really large bowl (or two separate large bowls if you don’t have an extra big one).
3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When melted add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil while stirring. Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, for 3 minutes. The mixture will be slightly thickened. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. The mixture will bubble so be careful.
4. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and mix until the popcorn is evenly coated.
5. Turn the popcorn out onto the baking sheets, spreading into an even layer on each sheet. Bake the popcorn for one hour*, stirring and tossing every 20 minutes. Move the bottom tray to the upper rack and vice versa each time you stir. The popcorn will deepen in color and harden a bit as the caramel bakes and sets.
6. When the popcorn comes out of the oven, scrape it onto an even layer of parchment or wax paper.
7. Drizzle the white chocolate over the top (using the tines of a fork to drizzle it across or pour the melted chocolate into a freezer quart-size ziploc bag and snip a corner to drizzle).
8. Let the popcorn sit until white chocolate is set, 30 minutes or so. Break into pieces. Try not to eat the entire batch. I’m not kidding.

* If you like a bit of chewiness to your toffee-like popcorn, bake it for 40 minutes instead of the full hour.

Buttery Cajun Popcorn

Calling all popcorn lovers! If you, or someone you know, loves the crunchy little snack you’ve got to check out this easy seasoning recipe. This gem was popcorn experiment # 3. And might I say, it was well worth the wait. It does have a nice kick to it, but lessen the Cajun seasoning to create a more mild version. Make a batch, grab a bowl, and dig in while you enjoy some qt with the family.  A handful of popcorn can make any thing more memorable.

Buttery Cajun Popcorn

4 Sons 'R' Us: Buttery Cajun Popcorn

recipe adapted from Taste of Home

12 cups popped popcorn
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
4 tsp Cajun seasoning
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Pop popcorn according to package directions, and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Combine the melted butter with either the lemon or lime juice. Slowly pour them evenly over the popcorn and then stir to completely coat.
3. Combine the Cajun seasoning and grated cheese. Sprinkle them evenly over the popcorn and again, give it a good stir to completely coat.
4. Enjoy!