Banana Berry Breakfast Bake

How’s that for alliteration? Betcha can’t say that 5 times fast. Good thing it’s easier to throw together than it is to enunciate! I used to be able to get the sons’ to gobble up some oatmeal at breakfast time. Now, they take one look at it and you’d think I served them gruel. Well, I guess technically speaking I did, BUT we’re not in any kind of feudal conservation mode so it’s not a thin, runny mess and it’s usually pleasantly seasoned. Anyway, I blame the hubs for this irritating breakfast expectation since he’s spoils us all with 5 star, 4 course brunches on the weekends. He says he’s making up for all the cereal, fruit, and yogurt (grab and go style) breakfasts we eat during the week since I don’t ‘do’ breakfast. Sorry (not really), but I’d rather conserve my gusto, my get-up-and-go, for lunch and dinner. Still, every now and then I get an itch to do breakfast for actual breakfast, not for dinner, and surprise the hell out of everyone. Gotta keep em on their toes and all. This was my latest expedition into AM meal territory. Think oatmeal 2.0, or some equally revamped sounding name. The hubs has taken to calling it oatmeal pie (in his best Cartman from South Park accent) mostly just to annoy me, but if the name fits…

Oats done right with fresh strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and a hint of chocolate. What meal isn’t made better with the addition of chocolate?! Enjoy a healthy start to your day that’s full of nutrients and ready to keep you fueled til lunchtime, that’s scrumptious enough remind you of dessert.

Banana Berry Breakfast Bake

 Berry Banana Oatmeal Bake

 2 cups oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup strawberries
2/3 cup blueberries
1 ripe banana
2 cups milk
1 large egg
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla

Directions

1. Spray a 8×8 casserole dish generously with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mix oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, half the chocolate chips, & half the berries. Stir until evenly incorporated and pour into the prepared casserole dish. 3. Sprinkle the other half of the berries & chocolate chips on top of the mixture. Then, slice the banana & add to top.
4. In a separate bowl, combine milk, egg, butter, & vanilla. Whisk thoroughly. Pour this over top of the oatmeal mixture, making sure the all oats are soaked evenly.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Then, remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle a tablespoon of brown sugar over the top of the casserole for added sweetness. The extra sugar is optional. Bake for an additional 5 or 10 minutes or until the top of the casserole is golden brown.

Chili Dog Casserole with Cheese Fries

So as I’ve mentioned before Son # 1 made the JV football team. What I probably haven’t mentioned since then, and totally need to (ok, I’m gonna brag a bit) is that he kept getting promoted from position to position, and to starting each position, until half way through the season earning his Varsity letter. Go him! He is a pretty awesome guy, and I’m not at all surprised, but damn if I’m still not proud as hell. The parents will often get together, especially for a big game, and host a tail-gate/team meal for the players. And when it comes to tailgating the boys prefer some of the more traditional fair.

When it comes to tailgating foods, chili is a classic dish that is perfect for football weather.  You can make it ahead so you don’t miss any of the action, and I can make a big batch. Big enough to feed a team of athletic teen boys.      And speaking of chili, who doesn’t like a good chili dog? This casserole is great to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon or while watching weeknight sports on TV, or (in our case) to serve to a hungry crowd of rowdy teen football players.

 Chili Cheese Hot Dog French Fry Casserole

We’ve established that our family, and the son’s team, all love chili corn dogs, but this dish has truly taken that flavor to the next level. All the flavor of the two classic stadium treats, but in one tasty casserole. We can’t be alone either because Americans love hot dogs. We really do. We know this because, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (which is, yes, a thing), we bought $1.6 billion worth of them last year, just in grocery stores. But for me the hotdog — along with the slightly more grownup-sounding sausage — is always going to be most at home inside a stadium or at some nearby tailgate. Even better, there isn’t really any standard for how you should eat one, this recipe is a nice change up from the same old, same old.

Chili Dog Casserole with Cheese Fries

Chili Cheese Hot Dog French Fry Casserole 2

recipe adapted from The Weary Chef

5 hot dogs (your favorite brand) , sliced into ¼” rounds
15 oz can chili
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup shredded, or very thinly sliced, carrots
12 oz frozen shoestring, or crinkle cut, French fries
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

1. Spray a 9 x 13” baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a medium sized skillet, saute the sliced hot dogs until nice and fragrant and browned.
3. In a medium bowl, add the hot dogs, chili, tomatoes, and carrots. Stir until evenly combined. Pour this mixture into the prepared baking dish.
4. Evenly arrange French fries in a single layer on top of the hot dog mixture. Bake in the oven at 450 for 30 minutes.
5. Evenly, or as evenly as possible, sprinkle the cheese on top of the fries, and bake an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Zucchini & Squash Au Gratin

I may or may not have an … obsession. A zucchini obsession. It all started when I was inundated with bags and bags of free summer squash. I had to do something with them. I had to do something new too, since the sons wouldn’t stand for having one more zucchini muffin shoved down their throats. Instead, they got these harmless little zucchini fritters. Before them I really was only a casual zucchini user. Nothing much creative about it.   Then I got really creative with the cheesy zucchini rice. And then a couple of weeks ago I died and went to zucchini heaven with the glazed lemon zucchini bread. But today, it’s official. We’ve revolutionized their use with this zucchini and squash au gratin. Which is saying something since summer squash, especially zucchini, are pretty much one of the best, most versatile, veggies ever.

Move on over potatoes, there’s a new star in town.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Squash Au Gratin

recipe adapted from Dishin With Rebelle

2 tbsp butter
1 large zucchini, sliced
1 large squash, sliced
2 shallots, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup heavy cream, or half and half
Shredded Cheese (mozzarella or provolone works best)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
pinch of oregano
Parmesan cheese, to taste
 
Directions
 
1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When melted add in the shallots and garlic, and saute until they begin to turn clear.
2. Next, add the zucchini, squash and cream. Give it a stir and then add the salt, pepper, and Parmesan.
3. Cook the mixture 8 to 10 minutes over medium-medium low, stirring occasionally. You do not want it to boil, only lightly simmer.
4. Pour the mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the top with a little more Parmesan and evenly distribute the shredded cheese over top.
5. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes at 450 degrees, or until the casserole is bubbly and golden brown on top.

Buffalo Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

I love traditional foods with a twist such as (ironically) Buffalo Mac & Cheese and Buffalo Chicken Nachos .  They make classic favorites over and into something new and exciting without completely offending those that enjoy routine. The hubs is a creature of habit, and here’s another one of those types of recipes. A bit of a compromise for a kitchen aficionado who loves experimenting and my tried and true kind of guy. I don’t mention the sons since they learned long ago, A. It’s best to be nice to and not question the cook, and B. You get what you get and don’t throw a fit. Sorry, I’m not sorry. But they’re troopers anyway and if it involves food, they’re game.

This quintessential comfort food was an automatic winner! I love nights like that. It’s the only time there’s silence in the house, when everybody’s too busy politely chewing devouring their food to be bothered with things like actual words. The cheesy mashed potatoes scream creamy comfort while the filling is flavored with tangy, and in our case, slightly spicy buffalo wing sauce. I’ve also made this with ranch seasoning mixed into the sauce, about 2 tablespoons worth, because sometimes the two flavors (buffalo & ranch) seem inseparable to me. With the ranch, or just the basic recipe, this cozy casserole doesn’t disappoint.

Buffalo Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Buffalo Chicken Shepherds Pie

recipe adapted from Cupcakes and Kalechips

1 lb potatoes (russet, red, yukon, or sweet potato will all work), diced
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oil
half of a medium onion, chopped (about ½ c)
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
salt & pepper, to taste
1 lb ground chicken
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce (I used a mild version. Use more or less, depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp butter, cut into tiny pieces

Directions

1. After you’ve put your diced potatoes in a pot, fill with water until just covering the potatoes. Boil for 8-10 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain the potatoes. Put potatoes back in the pot (make sure it’s been removed from heat), add the milk & salt, and use a potato masher to mash and mix it all up.
2. While you’re boiling your potatoes, add the oil to a skillet and let it heat up over medium heat. Once heated, add in the onion, carrots, salt, and pepper.
3. Sautee for 5-6 minutes, or until the onions are starting to turn clear and the carrots are slightly tender.
4. Add in the chicken, crumbling it while it’s cooking.
5. Add the tomato sauce, hot sauce, and Worcestershire, stirring to combine, and let it simmer until everything is heated through.
6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and then transfer the chicken mixture to a lightly greased, 9 in square baking dish, and spread it out evenly.
7. Spread half of the cheddar cheese evenly over the buffalo chicken.
8. Top the chicken and cheese with the mashed potatoes, and carefully spread them out evenly over the mixture.
9. Spread them remaining half of cheese over top the mashed potatoes and dot with the cut up butter.
10. Bake it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until everything’s heated through and the top is nice and crispy.

Cheesy Ground Beef And Rice Casserole

I really have to give a nod to casseroles. I love them…not just because they’re easy, but because they were some of the first things I ever started cooking. Casseroles are wonderful if you’re on a budget. I also love them because they’re so easy to make “my own”, and typically I’ve always got to put my own spin on things. I’m a tweaker, and I can’t not tweak a new recipe. Casseroles are also a life-saver on busy weeknights. I’m trying to get everybody where they need to go, homework done, some gym time in, AND I’ve still got to get a hot, hearty meal on the table before bed time? <Enter, you guessed it, a casserole> Hello, friend.

If you have a pound of ground beef, you’ve got dinner. This dish is a perfect one stop shop for a weeknight meal. Shoot, it will still be good on a Saturday or Sunday. Dinner shouldn’t be stressful on the weekends either 🙂

Enjoy every last bite of this.

Cheesy Ground Beef And Rice Casserole

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheesy Ground Beef & Rice Casserole

recipe adapted from Hungry Little Girl

1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 14 oz can of tomato sauce
1 cup of rice, cooked
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup sour cream, or Greek yogurt
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
salt, pepper, oregano, to taste
1 cup frozen peas

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and turn on the heat to high.
3. Saute the onions for a few minutes.
4. Add the ground beef and garlic. Brown the ground beef completely and drain.
5. Turn the heat down to medium and spice the beef with salt, pepper, and oregano to taste.
6. Add the rice, peas, tomato sauce, broth, and 1 cup of cheese. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
7. Transfer everything to a 9×13 baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, combine the sour cream, or yogurt, with the remaining cup of cheese.
9. After 15 minutes, remove the casserole from the oven and spread the cream/cheese mixture evenly over top.
10. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

Lentils are such an understated legume. They’re cheap, tasty, and (don’t tell the kids) healthy! Previously, my favorite way to use them had been in a delicious, good-for-you soup. Buuut, a cheesy, skinny casserole?! Move on over soup, Mama’s got a new favorite in town.

Busy day, busy afternoon/evening? This casserole will come to your rescue! Casseroles are great like that, and this one’s no exception.

This recipe delivers a true Santa Fe-style experience straight to your taste buds with lots of cumin, a nice cayenne ‘kick’, and plenty of cilantro. That, combined with the lentils (which we can’t forget were cooked in, not water, but chicken broth!), tender pieces of chicken, and the perfect amount of melted cheese, you’ve got yourself an award winning combination. I promise!

Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

4 Sons 'R' Us: Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

recipe adapted from ifoodreal

Lentils
1 + 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed & drained
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1/8 tsp salt

Chicken
2 lbs boneless & skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Cooking spray

Vegetables
1 large onion, diced
5 large garlic cloves, crushed or 5 tsp minced garlic
2 large bell peppers, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix-Ins
14 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cups corn, frozen & unthawed
2 cups  Tex Mex or Colby Jacks cheese, shredded & divided
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 cup cilantro, chopped & divided, or 2 tbsp dried

4 Sons 'R' Us: Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole 2

Look at all those pretty little lentils. Can’t you just hear them calling to you. Eat meeeeeee….

Directions

1. In a medium pot, combine lentils, chicken broth and salt. Bring to a boil on high, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Do not drain excess liquid. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat large skillet on high and spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and draining any liquid if necessary. Add cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Return skillet to medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, bell peppers, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper and cook for 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
4. Transfer to the bowl with chicken along with cooked lentils, diced tomatoes, corn, 1 cup cheese, garlic powder, cumin and 1/2 cup cilantro (or 1 tbsp dried cilantro). Mix gently with spatula enough to combine. You may want to taste and adjust the spiciness/salt of the dish with extra cayenne/cumin or salt.
5. Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish and press gently with spatula to evenly distribute. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 50 mins. Remove casserole from the oven, cover with foil and let stand for half an hour before serving. Garnish with remaining cilantro, cut into 8 slices and serve hot.

Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole (aka Cookout Casserole)

Baked Beans. Burgers. Typical cookout staples, right? Once upon a time, I never had any idea that they could be improved upon. Then a little fairy Godmother served these at a get together on a silver platter. Ah-mazing! I savored every bite. It was an intense, but brief affair. The clock struck 12, and just like that they were gone. The magic faded, but even after the party I couldn’t forget about them. It took some tracking down, but I found the maker of the magical beans, and there was no going back. This became a dinner, and cookout staple. Obviously, our family lived happily ever after in the kingdom of Beef & Beans.

Debut this cookout season in style. Be the belle of the ball by bringing these babies.

P.S. I’ve gotta tell ya, that these are great slathered on a hamburger bun too!

Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole (aka Cookout Casserole)

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped, about 2 cups
1 pound ground beef
2 15-ounce cans Boston-style baked beans
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped, about 1 cup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
6 slices of your favorite bacon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion; cook about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the beef; cook about 10 minutes or until brown, breaking meat up with a fork as it cooks.
3. In a large bowl, combine the beef mixture with the remaining ingredients except the bacon; mix well. Pour beef mixture into the prepared casserole; arrange the bacon slices on top. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake about 45 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Uncover dish and preheat broiler. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bacon is nice and crisp.

Buffalo Mac N Cheese

Another Lenten Friday came and went, and I came up with another meatless meal for everyone to enjoy. I may have to lose the meat for a few weeks, but I’m not giving up anything in flavor.  This flavorful twist on a classic macaroni and cheese, complete with a crunchy panko topping, definitely delivered.

Buffalo Mac N Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: Buffalo Mac N Cheese

recipe originally from Creatively Domestic

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
salt, for pasta water
16 oz (1 pound) small pasta, elbows or shells
3/4 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 1/2 cups half and half (or milk)
16 oz (1 pound) sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles (optional)

4 Sons 'R' Us: buffalo mac n cheese

Come to Mama.

Are you sitting down?

Because you’ll want to grab a spoon and consume this entire casserole dish. BY YOURSELF.

Not in the neighborhood for a meatless meal? No worries. This recipe can still be your friend. Add in some cooked, shredded or chopped chicken, and carry on.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a large casserole dish (9×13 is recommended).
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook macaroni until al dente or the shortest amount of cooking time on the box or less.  Drain.
3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour and mustard and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the half and half, and the hot sauce.  Stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Add the cheeses and whisk in the sour cream.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from heat.
4. Spread macaroni in the baking dish.  Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top.
5. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave.  Stir in the panko and the blue cheese if using.  Sprinkle over top of macaroni.  Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole–Served Hot or Cold!

Every now and then I’m looking for a change from our typical chicken or beef-based meals. A lot of times I will just go meatless, but last week I was still craving something meaty. This hot tuna noodle casserole hit the spot at dinner time. Everyone liked it so much that we made it again, over the weekend, as a cold pasta salad for lunch.

I know everyone has their brands they prefer and remain loyal too, but tuna is one of those things where I will pay for quality. This meal deserves a quality tuna. I go with Costco’s solid white albacore. Less fishy flavor, more actual tuna meat, no oil or grease, and I haven’t come across a bone yet.

Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole

recipe adapted from Sugar Dish Me

12 ounces whole wheat egg noodles, cooked according to package instructions
1 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
12 ounces canned tuna, drained and flaked (tuna packed in water works best)
1/2 of a lemon, juiced
salt & black pepper to taste
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (use your favorite! I go with a sharp low fat white Cheddar)
2 teaspoons spicy mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, onion, celery, peas, and tuna. Squeeze the lemon juice over the contents of the bowl (being careful not to drop seeds in). Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, to taste.
2. In a smaller bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, Cheddar cheese, spicy mustard, red wine vinegar, parsley, and lemon pepper. Pour the sauce over the pasta/tuna mixture in the larger bowl and stir or toss to coat.
3. If you are serving this casserole cold, empty the contents into your serving dish, sprinkle the top with the Panko breadcrumbs, and refrigerate for at least an hour (to let the flavors meld).
4. If you are serving this hot, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 x 13 casserole with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil. Spread the noodle mixture evenly in the prepared pan and sprinkle the Panko bread crumbs over the top. You can also sprinkle with a little extra cheese if you like.
5. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, just until it’s heated through and the sauce begins to bubble a little.

{One Pot Wonder} Cheeseburger Casserole

I love a one pot meal. This recipe is so easy, quick to prepare, and the same great cheeseburger flavors we crave. I can’t stress this enough… it did in fact taste just like a cheeseburger! Less mess, less clean-up, but some very satisfied customers. Sprinkling on some of our favorite traditional cheeseburger toppings rounded out the truly authentic taste. While the rest of us opted for tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and pickles, I did have to draw the line for the oldest son at mayonnaise. What is it about teenage boys and mayonnaise? He puts it on everything. Eventually I caved at steak sauce, as long as it remained only on his plate. But, I digress. This meal really is outstanding. Shake things up, and step outside of the box, the next night you’re craving burgers by giving this a try!

{One Pot Wonder} Cheeseburger Casserole

4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Cheeseburger Casserole

recipe adapted from Number 2 Pencil

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 lb rotini pasta
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • freshly diced tomato
  • green onions, thinly sliced
  • pickles
  • shredded lettuce

Directions

  1. In a dutch oven, or large pot, add olive oil. Over medium heat, saute onions until softened.
  2. Increase heat to high and add ground beef. Brown ground beef. Drain.
  3. Return beef to pot and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add canned tomatoes, sauce, broth, water, pasta, ketchup, and mustard to the pot. Stir to evenly combine.
  5. Bring pot to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
  6. Once pasta is cooked, remove the pot from heat and stir in one cup of cheddar cheese.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over top the pasta and re-cover with lid until the cheese is melted.
  8. Serve. Add your choice of the traditional cheeseburger toppings to your serving and enjoy.