Caprese Grilled Cheese

Cheese. Cheeeeeeeese. Glorious cheese. Let’s take a moment to reflect on that. A moment of silence for cheese.

Our family loves cheese. In all it’s types, colors, flavors. In all it’s cheesy glory. We might even have a mild case of cheese addiction. Ok, we do, and ‘mild’ is probably an understatement. But, can there really be such a thing as too much cheese? Definitely not.

That being said, we all love a good, crisp, slightly crunchy grilled cheese with an ooey, gooey melty center. You know that part where you cut it in two, or in quarters, and pull out strings of cheese that could stretch forever when you try to take that first bite? Yeah, that’s my favorite part. My kids’, too.

As I’ve grown, you know into a ‘responsible adult’, there are some things from my childhood I’ve never been able to let go of. Despite all the changes of adulthood & parenthood, my love for a grilled cheese has not abated or been diminished. Luckily for me, my kids have inherited that same affinity. However, in an effort to appear grown up when I devour one, I’ve tried very hard to create and make ‘grown up’ grilled cheese sandwiches. I couldn’t leave them behind, but I did have to make sure they, at least some of the time, appeared to evolve with me.

Caprese Grilled Cheese is one of my favorite ‘grown-up’ versions to date. Everything I love about the original, but heartier. The butter, parmesan crust creates the perfect ‘crunch’ when bitten into. This sandwich offers everything a grilled cheese purist would expect, but has the power to convert all new fans with it’s fancy, shmancy new style. What’s the fun in being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes too? Here’s the perfect cheesy compromise. Eat like an adult, enjoy it like a kid.

The recipe below is for 2 sandwiches, but it easily doubles, or even triples. So don’t let that hold you back!

Caprese Grilled Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: Caprese Grilled Cheese

  • 4 thick slices of french bread
  • 2-3 tomatoes, sliced
  • 6 oz. mozzarella, sliced or shredded
  • 8-10 fresh, large basil leaves
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • balsamic vinegar, optional

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet to medium heat.
  2. Spread butter on one side of all four slices of bread. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the butter.
  3. Put all four pieces of bread, buttered side down into the skillet.
  4. Lay, or spread, mozzarella on all pieces of bread.
  5. Cover with a lid to keep the heat in and melt the cheese.
  6. Once the cheese is melted, lay the basil and sliced tomatoes on top of the cheese.
  7. If using vinegar, drizzle a tiny bit ( I use 1/2 tbsp) over top of the tomatoes now.
  8. Assemble the sandwiches by putting the tops on.
  9. Enjoy!

4 Sons 'R' Us: Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Copy-Cat Wendy’s Frosty

I scream. You scream. We all scream for Ice Cream! Well, in this case, for Frostys!

My guys all go absolutely ga-ga for the cold, creamy concoction. Just mention it around them and their eyes glaze over. The excitement is just too much for them to handle. It overrides all higher functioning brain activity. They’re like little ice cream zombies at that point. Instead of watching them aimlessly shuffle around, waiting for their dessert but not knowing what to do, or how to function until they get it, I get them involved in the process.

All ice-cream induced zombie-ism aside, we don’t use an actual ice cream ‘machine’. Instead I prefer using our ice cream ‘ball’. You can find them here. Amazon carries them in a variety of colors and sizes. I use the quart sized one to make enough for our entire family at once.

This is what my boys do for fun on a Friday night. I enjoy it because it gets them working together: laughing, joking, and playing. At the end of their teamwork? A sweet treat to share and enjoy. You’ve gotta love the little things in life.

Speaking of it being a Friday night, did I mention that I’m really not trying to drag all four kids out into a fast food line? Or even a grocery store check out line? Friday is for peace & quiet. For Mommy. I think I’ve earned a little time to relax by Friday night. Making  our own Frostys at home helps buy some extra little moments for me, and the zombies still get dessert. It’s a win-win, right?!

Copy-Cat Wendy’s Frosty

4 Sons 'R' Us: Copy-Cat Wendy's Frosty

  • 1/2 gallon chocolate milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tub of cool whip, 8 oz

Directions

  1. In a blender combine all ingredients.
  2. Pour into ice cream maker, and follow the machine’s instructions.
  3. Enjoy!

The 5 Minute, No Sew, Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort

I often hear the saying ‘Boys And Their Toys’, but after having four of my own, I feel like it should really be ‘Boys And Their Forts’. It seems boys, or at least all four of mine, are biologically programmed to build forts. Almost like clock work, their first fort seemed to signify their ‘christening’ into Toddler-dom. After that, the building never stopped. Without fail, anytime I step foot into one of their bedrooms I find sheets strung up, taped up, tacked up. Up! Bins have been used as room dividers, with blankets for doors, and pillows inside serving as child-sized divans for lounging and comfort.

While I love the little kingdoms they create for themselves in their world of blankets and imagination, sometimes we just don’t have time for all the construction, and eventual clean-up, that that kind of creativity requires. When that happens, I go from being the beautiful ‘Mom Princess’, as the littlest son has dubbed me, to the mean old ogre storming the gates. I hate ruining harmless fun. Then I really feel like a giant grouchy, green ogre.

Stumbling upon Laura’s idea for an easy, DIY Bunk Bed Fort was a Godsend. It’s fast, easy, and there’s not a single thing to cut or sew! You can literally throw it up in 5 minutes. There’s not even a mess to clean up afterwards, and it’s always ready and waiting to play. Perfect for any ‘Mom Princess’ or ‘Queen of the Castle’, whether you’re raising young lords or little ladies, who wants to keep letting the good times roll, even when you’re running out of time.

The 5 Minute, No Sew, Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort

4 Sons 'R' Us: The 5 Minute No Sew Bottom Bunk Bed Fort

  • flat sheet, twin sized
  • 12-14 curtain rings with clips
  • tension rod

Directions

  1. Slide your curtain rings onto the tension rod.
  2. Mount the tension rod to the bunk bed.
  3. Fold your twin-sized, flat sheet in half, lengthwise.
  4. Attach the clips on the fold, spacing them as evenly as possible so the whole sheet is evenly held up.
  5. You’re ready for playtime!

Look how it works.  The curtain can be all tucked away when not in use, but just slide it closed for your very own Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort. The sheet easily un-clips for washing, and the tension rod is equally easy to remove whenever desired.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bottom Bunk Bed Fort

Delicious Dill Dip

Over the years, I’ve come to find that, in the summer, there’s nothing better for a light lunch or snack than some garden-fresh veggies. This Delicious Dill Dip is the perfect refreshing compliment for them. Even better, I like the sneaky little way it has of getting my kids to eat every last nutritious bite of good-for-them ‘green-stuff.’ I’m not sure who is more surprised, myself or my boys, when we discover a veggie plate can be emptied, and left without even a stray crumb of broccoli, quite that quickly. Never ceases to amaze us. However, even if you’re on the fence about how tasty raw, fresh veggies actually might be, could be… they do make the perfect edible spoon to get dip from bowl to mouth. Technically, you don’t even have to eat the veggies, but it might be more ‘socially acceptable’ than just digging into said dip with a spoon. And it’s that good. You’ll consider it. I’ve just got to make sure I keep that tid-bit under-wraps. You know, in the interest of trying to teach good-manners, and all those other sorts of life-lessons Moms must met out.

Delicious Dill Dip

4 Sons 'R' Us: Delicious Dill Dip

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well.
  2. Chill for at least one hour before serving.
  3. Serve with fresh veggies, slices of crusty bread, crackers, or pretzels.

Ranch Chicken Enchilada ‘Lasagna’

There’s just something about ranch dressing and Mexican spices/flavors, that spells perfection in our house. I love an easy alternative to our beloved, more traditional, heavy ‘lasagna’. This recipe offers all the flavors of regular enchiladas, but with less prep work and an easier clean up. It makes a perfect meal for a summer evening when I’d rather spend more time playing with the boys, or enjoying some pool time. It’s summer, so allow this meal to help you kick back and relax while your crockpot and oven do (almost) all of the work for you.

Ranch Chicken Enchilada ‘Lasagna’

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ranch Chicken Enchilada Lasagna

  •  4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix
  • 4 flour tortillas (burrito size)
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • cilantro or parsley to garnish, if desired

Directions

  1. Place chicken in the crockpot and sprinkle seasoning mixes over top. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  2. Shred chicken with two forks and stir to evenly distribute juices and seasonings.
  3. In the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, cover the bottom with two tortillas. Spread half of shredded chicken on tortillas, then 1/2 cup ranchdressing drizzled, and top with 1 cup shredded cheese.
  4. Repeat layers once more.
  5. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lasagna is heated through.
  6. Serve with additional ranch dressing as desired.

Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts

In the rush of everyday life with a large family, and four children, there isn’t always time for a lot of relaxation. Usually just stolen moments. Even my showers have had to become ‘efficient’. However, on the weekends when the kids are in bed, I love to enjoy a nice, long soak in the tub. One of my creature comforts, despite budget constraints, has always been expensive bath products. I frequently use scented ones to create my own little atmosphere of peace and tranquility. It’s this wonderful little private bubble, where for a chunk of time, I don’t have any obligations or demands to meet. Something about the scented steam, just does it for me in the ‘reclaim a piece of my sanity’ department after a chaotic week. While I used to frequent kitschy stores and purchase the latest fragrant combinations to induce my ‘me time’. I’ve gradually shifted to making more and more of my own bath products. As I’ve found to be true with the majority of things, I like the results from this homemade version better than other’s I’ve purchased over the years toting the same ingredients. These bath salts are a breeze to mix up, and are heavenly to use. Just a few ingredients, and you can easily, and cheaply, produce your own affordable, quality bath salts. Make your reservations today for a little ‘spa’ treatment in the comfort of your own home.

Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts

4 Sons 'R' Us: lemon rosemary bath salts

  • 2 cups epsom salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh rosemary; finely chopped
  • 6-8 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon zest (optional)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine epsom salt and baking soda.
  2. Add in half of the essential oil drops, mix, then add in the remaining drops.
  3. Mix in the chopped rosemary and lemon zest if you decide to use it until fully combined.
  4. Store in an airtight container. 
  5. To use, add as much, or as little, as you’d like to hot bath water and stir around until dissolved.

D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

Last month we went to watch my middle sister graduate from college. This was one of her ‘gifts’, also doubling as the centerpiece for the food table at her graduation party. My sister happens to have a soft spot for anything sweet and sugary so this was a perfect treat for her. The candy bouquet had originally been my mom’s idea, but the finished product was my youngest sister’s labor of love. All of the graduate’s favorite treats were featured. Recently, I’ve seen these in all the stores as a ‘sweet’ and trendy gift to give, but the mark-up on them is insane. With just a few items, several of which you probably already have in your home, you can make a beautiful ‘arrangement’ for a special someone with something to celebrate. I absolutely love this fun, new twist on the more traditional floral arrangement. Customizable, fun, and most importantly, edible! What more could you ask for from a ‘bouquet’?! Help celebrate someone ‘sweet’ in your life, and commemorate a special day, with a personalized candy bouquet.

D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

4 Sons 'R' Us: D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

  • assorted full-size candy bars (6 were used here)
  • wooden skewers
  • strong tape
  • economy-sized bag of m&ms
  • clean, empty clear vase
  • ribbon (optional)

Directions

  1. Tape a wooden skewer to the back of each candy bar. Make sure enough tapes is used so that it’s securely attached.
  2. Add m&m’s to the bottom of a clean vase.
  3. Stick skewers into the m&m’s, adding more if necessary to hold the skewers in place.
  4. If using, tie decorative ribbon around the outside of the vase and tie a bow for the finishing touch. 

Oatmeal Pull-Apart Rolls

My husband grew up in a home where bread was a staple of every meal. Don’t get me wrong, I like bread, but I can’t do it with every meal. However, we try to compromise and I try to make sure there’s some sort of loaf or rolls, at least for him, as part of his dinner. When Money Saving Mom originally posted this recipe, I tried it that very night and it’s been a regular part of the cast of characters for dinner ever since. I love these because they’re very little work, especially while I’m preparing the rest of the meal, yet they’re incredibly moist and fluffy. The oatmeal also adds an extra boost of nutrients to fortify my guys. Besides, nothing beats rolls fresh from your own oven. That I can get behind at any meal!

Oatmeal Pull-Apart Rolls

4 Sons 'R' Us: oatmeal pull apart rolls

  •  2 ¼ cups hot water
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ cups quick oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages instant active yeast (1 ½ Tablespoons)
  • Melted butter for tops of baked rolls

Directions

  1. Combine the hot water, honey, butter, brown sugar and salt in one bowl.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine together the yeast, oats, whole wheat  flour, and about one cup of white flour.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and mix for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the additional white flour until the dough forms a ball.
  5. Knead, by hand or in the mixer using a dough hook, for 5-7 minutes.
  6. Let the dough rise for about an hour.
  7. Roll into 24 balls (if dough is too sticky, flour your hands and/or add extra flour as needed) and place in a greased 9″x13″ pan. Let rise another 30-45 minutes.
  8. Bake 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown (cover with foil if necessary the last few minutes to prevent over-browning).
  9. Brush tops of warm rolls with melted butter immediately. Serve warm with butter.