Monster Munch

I love making spooky treats for the boys to enjoy and get them in the ‘mood’ for Halloween. When I came across this recipe for Monster Munch I made it immediately. It was a huge hit and has already become a new tradition. It made the perfect snack to enjoy while watching a Halloween movie marathon, including two of my personal favorites: Hocus Pocus & ParaNorman. Sweet & spooky, this Monster Munch is a Halloween must have.

P.S. Check out the cute little cardboard cartons I found to serve the monster munch in! Wilton makes and sells them in a four pack and they were just too adorable not to buy. Not pictured, but also included, was a mummy and a skeleton. They were on sale in the Halloween section of Kroger for $1! In hind sight I probably should have snagged a couple of packs. That settles it, back to Kroger I go!

Monster Munch

4 Sons 'R' Us: Monster Munch

recipe from A Pumpkin and a Princess

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup Wilton orange candy melts
  • 1/2 cup Wilton black candy melts
  • 1/2 cups candy corn M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup candy corn
  • edible monster eyes

Directions

  1. Cover a 9X13 baking sheet with waxed paper. Make popcorn and lay a single layer on covered baking sheet.
  2. Melt the candy melts in separate bowls over a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir frequently until completely melted.
  3. Pour the candy melts into disposable piping bags or thick ziploc bags. Use a napkin or towel to hold the bag if it’s too hot. Snip off the tip of the bags. Drizzle black candy melts evenly onto popcorn.
  4. Add the candy, except the edible eyes, spreading evenly over the drizzled popcorn. Drizzle the orange candy melts over the candy. Gently place eyes where you want them to go. Allow to cool then break apart and enjoy!

4 Sons 'R' Us: Monster Munch

Dessert Kabobs

Every year the football team the boys play for hosts a homecoming game. The entire association goes out of it’s way to make the night memorable for the kids. There’s moon-bounces. There’s cotton candy and giant popcorn machines. All the Moms are decked out in team colors, and proudly sporting their players’ number and pictures on pins for the whole world to see. There’s even a parade. All the Dads get together and they bring their big trucks. The bigger the better. The trucks are covered in excessive amounts of crepe paper, streamers and posters. You could probably see the team colors from space at that point, but just in case there was any uncertainty the posters clarify which team they represent and which age group. All the kids climb up into the backs of the trucks and are ferried around the field, on the track, several times. The team gets to watch as all the younger kids (and parents too) scramble to catch the candy they’re tossing out, and every Mom takes at least 1,385 pictures of the entire event. The whole night everyone is feeling pretty special. It’s definitely a huge confidence boosting event for the kids. It’s pretty awesome stuff. Best of all,  the proceeds from everything gets funneled back into the association to pay for new equipment, uniforms, field maintenance, etc.

Every year there’s also the biggest bale sale I’ve ever seen. The parents of every player either make or buy something to be sold to help earn money towards whatever the goal is. At the end of the night the players are allowed to ransack the table and enjoy as many sweat treats as they’re allowed. This is my contribution, Dessert Kabobs.

Dessert Kabobs

Dessert Kabobs

  • wooden skewers
  • large marshmallows
  • fresh blueberries
  • fresh strawberries
  • 1 box brownie mix, cooked according to package directions, cooled, and cute into bite sized squares

Directions

  1. It’s super simple. Alternate threading fruit, marshmallows, and brownies onto your skewers until you’ve achieved the desired look and amount.
  2. Serve as is, or wrap in cellophane if packaging for an event.

Who Loves Apples? We love apples! Our Annual Orchard Trip

October typically means two things for our family, lots of Halloween candy and apples. Every October we make an annual trip, and this past weekend we loaded all the kids up in the car and headed off to Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville. It was an absolutely beautiful weekend. Perfect time to enjoy the breath taking views and sit back and just enjoy some quality family time. Something about my boys’ smiles as fresh apple juices run down their chins and those sweet, sticky fingers just melts my heart. I love seeing them so care-free as they run through the rows and rows of trees with reckless abandon in search of the most perfect of apples to claim as their own. I savor the whole day. The beautiful scenery, the smells, the sounds, and of course the sweet taste of biting into my own freshly picked, crisp apple. By the end of the day everybody had a tote full of fall ‘treasures’. After a picnic lunch, and of course sampling and loading  up on our favorite apple-y treats, we headed home. Before I move on, I’ve just got to say that there’s nothing quite like an apple cider slushy, fresh, hot apple cider doughnuts, or homemade sweet/spicy apple salsa. If you haven’t tried it, add it to your bucket list!

Of course, once we get home and unload our two bushels of apples that’s when I get busy. I’ve got apples coming out of my ears, but I’m not complaining. My house is gently perfumed by the sweet scents of Crispin, Jonah Gold, and Golden Delicious. It doesn’t get any better than when you walk in the door after a long day and feel like you’re walking back into the apple orchard. Bonus: The kids have an apple a day for quite some time, and I get to make some of our favorite fall treats, and try out some new apple-inspired dishes and desserts. That being said…you can expect quite a few apple-based recipes in the next few weeks.

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My primary pickers in action. I’ve learned that some of the best bonding occurs when savoring that sweet, crispy morsel in your mouth.

Always plenty to do & see at the orchard. Stumbling onto the old truck was pretty cool and the boys couldn’t believe we’d never found it before.

truckpicking

See you again next year, Carter Mountain!

apple

If you’re thinking about visiting Carter Mountain and want to make a full day of it, there’s plenty to do in the immediate vicinity for both a family oriented day or for an adult get away. Check out historic Michies Tavern next door to the mountain, or Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. There are also several fantastic local vineyards to tour. Skyline Drive is just a hop, skip, and a jump away with its breath-taking scenic views and trails. The changing leaves make it almost irresistible side-trip!

The Mummy Pumpkin

Son # 4 lovingly referred to this as his ‘Mommy’ pumpkin. I, of course, was tickled pink. It took some practice, but this year he’s having no trouble pronouncing the word ‘mummy’. I’m thinking to celebrate we will be seeing multiple Mommy, err Mummy, themed crafts this October.

When I found this easy, fun pumpkin craft on Martha Stewart’s website I knew we had to do it. I love carving pumpkins with the older boys (I spend a shameless amount of time scouring the web for the lates and greatest pumpkin template for them to choose from), but I wanted something different to do with the youngest son. Let’s save carving, you know pumpkin guts, tools, knives and all that, for at least a few more years. Please? That and if he needs a quick sensory lesson he can always stick his hand in his brothers’ pumpkins. Which he did…repeatedly.

While my version may not be as pristine, or authentic looking as Martha’s, it did the trick. I used what I had on hand in the house so it was budget friendly, and it was a quick craft to fit in before nap time.

The Mummy Pumpkin

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Mummy Pumpkin

  • roll of gauze
  • googly eyes
  • black cardstock
  • glue gun

Directions

  1. Starting at any point on the pumpkin glue a starting edge to the pumpkin.
  2. From their wrap the gauze around the pumpkin, continuing until you feel like it’s sufficiently covered.
  3. When satisfied with the ‘look’, cut the gauze and hot glue down the end piece.
  4. Glue two googly eyes on.
  5. Cut a mouth out of the black cardstock and glue on.
  6. Voila, you now have a pumpkin mummy.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Bars

Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of our favorite cereals. I even remember how cool it was when I was a kid and they came in bar form for breakfast or snacks on the go. One weekday morning after pouring everyone’s bowls, I had an epiphany. Why not make my own cereal bars?! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. The boys LOVED these. This recipe alone probably won me the coveted ‘Mom of the Year’ award. Include them in lunches for an extra special treat, but be careful because you just might start a cafeteria riot as all the kids vie for a taste.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Bars

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Bars

  • 4 1/2 cups cinnamon toast crunch cereal
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. Spray a 9×13 or 9×9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot melt better over low heat. Add marshmallows and cook over medium-low heat until marshmallows are completely melted.
  3. Once marshmallows are melted, remove pot from heat and add cereal to the pot, stirring to coat.
  4. Press into the prepared pan and let cool completely. When set, cut into bars and serve.

Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread

Fall is finally here in Virginia and I’m loving it. The windows are open and the air conditioning is off, baby! It’s so nice out, that I don’t even care that I haven’t yet put the screens back in the windows. You know, I’m just enjoying the moment, living life on the wild side.

With fall temps here and the official start of fall right around the corner, I’ve already begun pulling out the coordinating recipes. Beer Bread is one of my favorite things for Fall. I know I coudl make it all year round, but something about the yeasty taste or beer or a good lager just aren’t as appealing in the Summer months. This year I decided we’d try playing with the recipe and see if we could make our bread even better. This is what I lovingly refer to as Beer Bread 2.0, and let me tell you it is simply divine!

For those of you who aren’t confident in the kitchen, who don’t consider yourselves ‘bakers’, or are simply overwhelmed at the thought of attempting homemade bread… Do NOT be afraid! Beer Bread is your friend. It’s fool proof. You can’t mess it up.

Now I give you ‘Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread’. The name says it all.

Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread

recipe adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar, divided
  • 1 12 oz bottle, or can, of unflavored beer/lager
  • 6-8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and roughly chopped, divided (or 1/2 cup REAL bacon bits)
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir with a whisk to combine ingredients. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients.
  2. Add beer, half the bacon and half of the cheddar cheese. Stir until combined.
  3. Pour the batter/dough into a greased loaf pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining bacon over top and drizzle with the remaining butter. Bake for an additional 25 minutes or until browned.
  6. Remove and allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Famous Football Party Stromboli

Football season is underway again, and for our house, that means so are the game-time snacks and treats.  All of my guys love the game. They also ALL love food. So this is the perfect union of two of their favorite things. The amount of testosterone in my house on game-day is scary. However, on game day, I’m just ‘one of the guys’.

One of the easiest, and tastiest things we enjoy chowing down on between downs is homemade stromboli. What game-day experience would be complete without man-food? This is MAN-FOOD at it’s finest. It’s also ‘Mom’ food. It’s easy and quick to prepare so I don’t have to miss the game to slave away in the kitchen. It’s even easy to serve and eat, which is another plus since it means all four boys are allowed to eat on the couch. No griping about missing parts of the game? No giant mess to clean up after four boys? Famous Football Party Stromboli for the win!

This is literally the perfect party food. Make a little, make a ton. It’s simple, and totally satisfying. Feel free to chase it with a swig of beer in between bouts of screaming at the tv.

Famous Football Party Stromboli

4 Sons 'R' Us: Famous Football Party Stromboli

recipe adapted from Liv Life Too

  • 1 16 oz loaf of bread dough, thawed according to package directions or homemade pizza dough
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced ham
  • 1/4 lb pepperoni (hard salami)
  • 1/4 lb salami (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, divided
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced provolone cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cornmeal (optional)

Directions

  1. Place bread dough on lightly greased baking sheet.  Pat into a 15 x 10” rectangle.
  2. Arrange ham slices lengthwise down center; place pepperoni on top, then salami.  Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon basil and ¼ teaspoon oregano.
  3. Arrange provolone cheese over herbs and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with remaining herbs.
  4. Moisten all edges of dough with water; bring each long edge of dough to center. Press edges together securely to seal.  Seal ends.
  5. Brush dough with 1 Tablespoon butter; sprinkle with cornmeal and carefully invert so that the seam side is down.  Brush top with remaining butter.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until browned.
  7. Remove from oven and place on a cutting board.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
  8. Cut horizontally into slices with a serrated (bread) knife.  For smaller portions, first cut vertically down the center, them into horizontal slices.

Cheeseburger Buns

I know I’m a day late (such is life when you have kids, sometimes anyway), but yesterday was National Cheeseburger Day. In honor of that, and also because my family loves that cheesy, meaty concoction, I’m bringing you this delicious recipe. Instead of a traditional burger, we opted for a new twist on the classic favorite. Can I just say that burgers inside of a bun are the new way to go?! These things are amazing. They could totally revolutionize the entire cheeseburger industry. Give them a try for yourself and see. Savor the amazement.

These are easy to make, they freeze great, and as leftovers they’re still fantastic. Like something versatile? You aren’t obligated to stuff these with a cheeseburger filling. Try ham and cheese, or broccoli, chicken, and cheddar. Sloppy Joes in a bun, anyone?

Cheeseburger Buns

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheeseburger Buns

recipe from Taste of Home magazine

  • 2 packages (1/4 oz each) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 -4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 8 slices American cheese, quartered

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, sugar, shortening, egg, salt and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in tomato sauce. Remove from the heat; set aside.
  4. Punch dough down; divide into 16 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out and stretch each piece into a 5-in. circle. Top each circle with two pieces of cheese and about 3 tablespoons beef mixture. Bring dough over filling to center; pinch edges to seal.
  5. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 20 minutes. Bake at 400° for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Copy-Cat Vick’s Vapor Shower Disks

It’s that time of year again. The kids clamber up onto the big yellow bus. I do a little dance of joy. Then the kids come home…

Not only do they always manage to come home with homework for me, as well as for themselves, they also always manage to bring home some sort of cold. And of course, as the natural laws of the mommy-verse state. If one child gets it, every child gets it. And Mom.

These little babies are kept in my illness arsenal. Along with our cold medicine. And when your head is stopped up and you feel like banging it against a wall, or anything else equally painful just as long as it comes with some relief and the long-lost ability to breathe through your nose, these puppies are a God-send.

I used to buy them from the pharmacy down the street, and they cost me a pretty penny. However, they worked wonders and were worth it. I was sad to see when our local pharmacy stopped carrying them and they gradually disappeared from store shelves. I didn’t need to mourn their loss long because Sarah at Frugal By Choice, Cheap By Necessity provided me with a recipe for making my own batch.

When set they smell just like that familiar comforting aroma you’re used to apply under your nose and massaging into tiny little congested chests. While you’re enjoying a nice, hot shower these gradually melt away releasing the essential oils within and clearing out your congestion. Aside from congestion relief, these also help provide relief from similar allergy symptoms. The combined scents and steam help relax the cold (and symptoms) right out of you. It’s like watching your illness wash away down the drain. It’s positively glorious after a day filled with dragging yourself around from one sick bed to the next, all while being sick yourself.  I make these ahead, because I know getting sick is inevitable. So are son # 4’s allergies. I leave them in the wrappers until ready to use and store the whole batch in a large zip-locking bag. Low maintenance, and I don’t have to drag my derriere off to the drug-store when the sickies are storming the gates.

The moral of this tale? When showering sick, use a disk, especially before going to bed. You will actually find some relief and get a solid stretch of sleep.

Copy-Cat Vick’s Vapor Shower Disks

4 Sons 'R' Us: Copy-Cat Vick's Shower Disks

  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Essential Oils: Eucalyptus, Rosemary, and Lavender
  • Muffin/Cupcake Tin
  • Muffin/Cupcake Liners

Directions

  1. Add baking soda to a mixing bowl. I don’t really measure.  About 2-3 cups.
  2. Slowly add water, just a little at a time, until you’ve made a thick paste.  You’ll want the mix to feel like putty.
  3. Spoon in to a muffin tin, and let sit out for 12-18 hours overnight. Or, for a quicker set, you can bake them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  4. If using paper lines, as opposed to silicone, and baking make sure to remove the liners from the pan before it has completely cooled.
  5. Add 15 drops of each essential oil to every cooled, set puck.
  6. Remove from the liners and place in the bottom of the tub during shower. These typically last about 10-15 minutes in the shower, out of the direct spray of water.

Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

I’m always on the lookout for new things to do with ground beef. I buy two 6 lb packages of lean ground beef each month from Costco. One gets divided into 1lb packages to freeze and use for meals. The other gets divided and made into meatloaf and meatballs. My boys love meatballs with their spaghetti. They love meatball subs. But, that’s about as adventurous as they were willing to be when it came to the sacred ‘meatball’. That was until this recipe. They loved it. The sweet and sour sauce was rich and delicious. I love it when I can get fruit into any meal. They devoured it and asked for more.

These are by far, the BEST crock pot meatballs I’ve ever had. They’re simple. They’re easy. They’re filling. AND they’re budget friendly! All of which made this recipe a keeper for a busy Mom with a boat-load of growing boys to feed.

Really, this is a must try. No longer are meatballs only for Italian-style dishes. Or the typical, tried and true, bland crock pot ‘cocktail’ style recipes that have been done countless times before.

Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

 

recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff

  • 32 oz of pre-packaged frozen meatballs or about 2 lbs of frozen, homemade meatballs
  • 13.5 oz can of unsweetened pineapple chunks, drain and reserve juice
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Directions

  1. Place meatballs in crock pot and top with green pepper and drained pineapple chunks.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and soy sauce.
  3. Pour sauce over meatballs, pineapple and green peppers.
  4. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through.
  5. Serve over cooked white rice.