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.

Copy-Cat ‘Frosty Paws’ Frozen Dog Treats

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than a nice cold and frosty treat to help keep cool. Think of a glass of ice-cold lemonade, or a frosty popsicle fresh from the freezer. While we all have our own favorites and readily use them as part of our summer arsenal to stop the heat’s oppressive assault, pets are often left out of this kind of treat. ‘Frosty Paws’ offer an ‘ice cream’ type treat for your K-9 friend that’s perfectly safe for their consumption. However, even though our Bentley is very near and dear to my heart, I couldn’t bring myself to continue to pay the high costs just for a bag of frozen dog treats, especially when I read the ingredient list and realized how simple it would be to make my own. It was simple, easy peasy. Now Bentley is happy, healthy, and not nearly as hot after a romp outside. These are really versatile as well, and easily adaptable. While the recipe I’ve given you today is how I make them most often. I have made these with finely ground chicken & chicken broth, and I’ve also included pulverized egg shells as a calcium supplement with great success.

Copy-Cat ‘Frosty Paws’ Frozen Dog Treats

4 Sons 'R' Us: copy cat frosty paws

  •  32 oz yogurt (I’ve used plain, strawberry, and vanilla before)
  • 1 mashed ripe banana, or 1 babyfood jar of fruit
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ice cube tray

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a mixer or a blender until evenly combined. 
  2. Spoon the batter into the ice cube trays.
  3. Freeze.
  4. Pop out and store in a zip locking bag in your freezer.
  5. Give your fur-baby a treat!

All-Natural Flea And Tick Spray for Dogs

We have an almost 4 year old pug named Bentley. Bentley, ever the rebel, does not ever stop. Contrary to the accepted pug ‘stereotype’ he is not fat or lazy, but instead full of muscles and hyper-activity. He, literally, goes until he can’t go anymore, falling over in a heap of exhaustion for a cat-nap that, at most, will only last 5 minutes. While we all enjoy watching him frolic through the grass, chase bugs, fetch sticks and so on, all this play time outside meant he was a constant tick magnet. Literally, he set one paw outdoors, he had already attracted at least four of the little blood suckers. We used to buy over the counter products to help keep him bugger free, but aside from the expensive costs, we had another reason to seek out an alternative remedy. With our toddler, and other young children always in and out of our home, we just couldn’t risk the hazards of any one of them loving on the dog, and then ingesting harmful, toxic chemicals when those chubby baby hands went straight in their mouths. I tried several recipes, but this version was the immediate, and obvious winner. When applied to Bentley once a day and rubbed lightly into his coat, we haven’t seen a single tick. Not one! There’s also been no scratching that would indicate any other unwanted squatters trying to take up residence. I don’t have to worry about the little ones wanting to love on, and give kisses to, the dog. Make up your own batch today and serve an all natural, affordable eviction notice to the bugs.

All-Natural Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Natural Flea And Tick Spray

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 cups of distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable, or almond, oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice, citrus oil, or peppermint oil
  • spray bottle

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray onto your pet’s dry coat, staying away from sensitive areas including eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals.
  3. When outdoors for an extended period, spray this solution on two to three times per day. When pets are outdoors generally to use the restroom only, spray the solution onto the animal’s coat once per day.

Spinach And Cheddar Egg Bake

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about breakfast, and breakfast foods in general, that has all my guys (husband included) running for the table. They like breakfast for breakfast, for brunch, or even for ‘brinner’ (what they’ve dubbed breakfast for dinner). I, naturally, have to be the odd man out. I like breakfast as much as the next person, but I hate going all out, making multiple complicated things, etc. If I’m making breakfast, regardless of which meal time it’s for, I like to keep it simple. Most likely, because I spend half my life in the kitchen, but who knows. That’s why this breakfast-y bake is perfect for people like me. This egg-bake is easy to throw together, and delicious. I’ve found that sometimes simple just tastes better. Oh, and I also live for those little moments in life, those little victories, like successfully sneaking spinach into my boys’ bellies.

Spinach & Cheddar Egg Bake

4 Sons 'R' Us: Spinach and Cheddar Egg Casserole

  •  5 oz fresh spinach (4 cups packed), organic is best
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, a mexican blend or mozzarella are also delicious
  • 1/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced (or diced white onion)
  • 8 eggs, lightly beaten
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add all the spinach and stir until just wilted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Transfer the spinach to the casserole dish, spreading out so that the bottom is covered.
  4. Layer the shredded cheese and onion on top of the spinach.
  5. Beat the eggs with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the spinach, cheese, and onions.
  7. Use a fork to gently ‘stir’ so everything is evenly combined.
  8. Bake about 35 minutes or until the mixture is completely set and starting to slightly brown.
  9. Let cool about 5 minutes before cutting and serving to allow everything to settle.

Sweet Potato Chips

This Spring, and now this Summer, I’ve been taking full advantage of our local farmers market. Every week they run these amazing specials. In addition to the specials and the low prices on fresh, locally grown, organic produce, they also offer a buyer bonus. Usually if you spend anywhere between $6-10, you leave with 3-5 lbs of a featured product. For several weeks, that free product was sweet potatoes. It’s great because I always spend at least $20 stocking up on most of my months worth of produce, and instead of purchasing the sweet potatoes as part of my grocery list, I got them free for buying other things that I needed anyway. That being said, I had to come up with new ways to use them so they didn’t go bad and so that nobody got tired of them or burnt out on the same side dish. We love homemade chips, and they are a great easy snack. It dawned on me that the same would probably be true with a sweet potato version. Instead of just lightly salting them, like I would a regular chip, I opted for a sweet garnish. You however, are not bound by my choice of toppings and have full creative license to express yourself and impress with your own batch of delicious, homemade Sweet Potato Chips.

Sweet Potato Chips

4 Sons 'R' Us: Sweet Potato Chips

  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Wash and scrub sweet potatoes clean. Dry with paper towels.
  2. Using a sharp knife, or a mandolin, carefully slice potatoes into thin coins, as thin as you can get them.
  3. Place potato slices on a non stick baking sheet, or a baking sheet that has been lightly coated with non stick spray.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until extra crisp, but not burned.
  5. In a bowl, toss the sweet potato chips with the cinnamon and honey until evenly coated.
  6. Enjoy!

Monster Bars

Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids! And, as Kim, at Cravings of  Lunatic, so eloquently put it, “and moms…and teenagers…and hubbies…and demon spawn puppies! TRIX ARE FOR EVERYONE! Change your motto Trix, it’s a new era. Silly rabbit!” Keeping this in mind, the boys and I decided Trix were even for little monsters. My youngest’s last birthday party, his 3rd, was monster-themed and we made these ‘Monster Bars’ as one of the items for all the guests, and other little monsters, at his  party to enjoy. They were a huge hit. With Monster Inc. 2, Monsters University, hitting theaters this weekend, the boys and I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to celebrate seeing the new movie this evening, by ‘pre-gaming’ with some ‘Monster Bars.’ Whether you’re seeing the new movie soon, or have some little monsters of your own, you just can’t go wrong with a delicious Monster Bar.

Monster Bars 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Monster Bars

  • 1 14 oz bag of mini marshmallows
  • 10 cups Trix cereal
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a pot on the stove, melt butter and marshmallows, stirring constantly until both are melted and evenly combined.
  2. Meanwhile, add the Trix to a large bowl, gently coated in non-stick cooking spray.
  3. When the butter and marshmallows have melted and been evenly combined, remove from heat and pour them over the Trix cereal.
  4. Using a spatula, also coated in cooking spray, stir the Trix and marshmallows together until evenly combined.
  5. Pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish and press them down flat using your coated spatula.
  6. Let them sit for about 30 minutes to allow everything to set.
  7. Cut into squares and enjoy.