Crispy, Baked Italian Ranch Pork Chops

I try to stock up on meat when it goes on sale, and lucky for me, pork chops go on sale often. When I’ve forgotten to plan ahead and am wracking my brain for something simple to make, I know I’ve always got some pork chops handy. I love being able to just pull them out, let them thaw, and know that whatever recipe I choose to use, it will be relatively quick and easy. Originally, my favorite way to fix pork chops had always been to bread them, fry them, and serve them with gravy and caramelized onions. However, these tender, juicy chops have now been dubbed the ‘best ever’ in our house, and in many other houses. Give them a try for yourself and see what all the fuss is about.

Crispy, Baked Italian Ranch Pork Chops

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crispy, Baked Italian Ranch Pork Chops

  •  bottled Ranch dressing
  • 3 cups dry Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 package (0.6 oz) dry Italian dressing mix
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 6 pork chops

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with aluminum foil.
  3. In a shallow bowl, or plate, pour a layer of ranch dressing.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs, Italian dressing mix, Parmesan, and garlic powder.
  5. One at a time, dip a pork chop in the ranch dressing, turning to evenly coating both sides.
  6. Next, put the chop into the bread crumb mixture, coating well on both sides.
  7. Place coated chops onto the prepared pan.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the insides are no longer pink.

Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

My kids love spaghetti. Seriously, I have four spaghetti monsters. It’s a great quick, easy meal when we have a busy evening of activities ahead, or when I just don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. It’s also perfect for the evenings when my boys have dinner duty. That being said, as I’ve mentioned before, I love finding new ways to re-do our traditional favorites. This spaghetti offered all the ease of a traditional version, but with a nice Mexican feel and a little ‘kick’. Everybody, including my husband (the pickiest of the bunch) came back for seconds. My husband may, or may not, have had three helpings.

Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

4 Sons 'R' Us: Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

  • 8 oz angel hair, or thin spaghetti, pasta
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1, 10 oz, can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
  • 1 cup sour cream, or greek yogurt
  • 1 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the chicken, soups, tomatoes, and sour cream, stirring until evenly combined.
  4. Add in the cooked and drained pasta, stirring until evenly combined.
  5. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
  7. Sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, until melted.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

It’s that time of year again. Time for hot grills, good friends, picnic foods…it’s cookout time! I discovered this potato salad last summer, when I was searching for an alternative to my go-to mustard based recipe. I had been assigned to bring it as a dish, and I just wanted something a little different. Most likely due to the fact that I’d already been to two cookouts in the last 24 hours and didn’t want to eat the exact same thing again. I was a bit shocked, and saddened, to discover that there is such a thing as too much potato salad. I couldn’t have asked for more from this version. Although the recipe makes enough for roughly 4-6 people, depending on serving size, the ingredients easily doubled to make enough for a larger party. I was equally pleased to see that not only did my family love it, but so did everyone else. Who said change was a bad thing? Now, as you get ready to host or attend, a cookout (or cookouts) in the coming weeks of Summer, give this side a try. It’s a rich, creamy potato salad with all the tastes and textures of an actually loaded baked potato. This recipe is sure to be a hit at your next soiree, and I assure you that you will be asked for the recipe. Repeatedly.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

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  •  4-5 large Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonaise and sour cream until evenly combined.
  2. Stir in 1/2 of the green onions (1/4 cup), the cheese, salt, and pepper.
  3. Let this sit in the fridge to chill while you prepare the potatoes.
  4. Wash, peel, and then cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Put cut potatoes into a large pot, cover with water, and boil until just fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Don’t over boil, or potatoes with mush and become loaded mashed potatoes.
  6. When potatoes are done, drain, and let cool.
  7. Put potatoes in a large bowl and combine with the sour cream mixture.
  8. Stir, or fold, in about 3/4 of the crumbled bacon.
  9. Top with remaining green onions and crumbled bacon.
  10. Serve chilled.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

I grew up eating my Mom and Grandma’s meatloaf, and it was one of my absolute favorite dinners. All these years it’s remained one of my favorite ‘comfort foods’. When I began cooking for my own family, it took me 3 years of watching my Grandma lovingly prepare my favorite dish before I was able to properly ‘eyeball’ the ingredients to replicate that same great taste.  Now, every single one of my kids looks forward to that one night a month when meatloaf’s on the menu. However, recently I’ve really been trying to experiment with new twists on some of our old favorites, just to keep things interesting. A good friend swore by this cheeseburger-flavored version, so I decided to swap it with my traditional meatloaf in our monthly menu. Warning: This is not your Grandma’s meatloaf! This cheesy little monster of a meatloaf will leave you wanting to lick every last drop off your plate. While I still love, and will continue to make my more traditional version, this recipe is a new family favorite that has already been added to our rotating regular recipes.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

  •  1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup- 3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs, toasted
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 1/3 cup French fried onions
  • 2 slices of sandwich bread*

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef and the next 8 ingredients, mixing well. Don’t be afraid to get your hands ‘dirty’ and give everything a good squishing until evenly combined and a uniform consistency is reached.
  3. Place both pieces of bread into a meatloaf pan so that they evenly cover the bottom.
  4. Form meat mixture into a loaf shape and transfer to the meatloaf pan. You want it sitting directly on top of the bread.
  5. In a small bowl, combine mustard and ketchup.
  6. Evenly spread the ketchup mixture onto the top of the meatloaf.
  7. Bake 40 minutes. Top with the French fried onions and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the inside is no longer pink.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the pan and discard the grease ‘toast’. Slice the meatloaf and serve.

* This is the best meatloaf tip I’ve ever discovered. Instead of your meatloaf sitting and cooking in it’s own grease, or having to use a broiler pan, simply let the slices of bread absorb every last drop of fat that cooks out. It’s that simple. After cooking, simply discard and you’re left with a mess-free loaf that’s ready to be sliced and served.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

Grilling season, yes it IS a season, is my favorite time of the year. For those precious few months, I get to sit back at dinner time and take a break from cooking the family meal. Instead, my loving husband gets to slave away over the grill. It’s wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I’ve never bothered to learn how to operate the grill myself. I’m sure I could figure it out, but that might prove self-destructive to my seasonal dinner breaks. This recipe is incredibly simple, but the marinade gives the chicken an out-of-this-world flavor. The sun is shining, so pull out some chicken breasts, fire up that grill, and give these kabobs a try!

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

  • 5-6  bonesless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 large onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 4 sweet bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • skewers

Directions

  1.  In a large bowl, add oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper. Stir to combine evenly.
  2. Add chicken to the bowl. Make sure all chicken is submerged in the marinade.
  3. Let marinade in the refrigerator at least two hours. Keep in mind the longer it marinates the better.
  4. Preheat your grill to high heat.
  5. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade.
  6. Thread the chicken and the vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
  7. Lightly oil the grill grate.
  8. Place skewers onto the grill and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear.
  9. Remove from the grill and serve on the skewers or off.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

BLT Mac N Cheese

I found this recipe several years ago, perusing magazines in a waiting room. It’s a Betty Crocker recipe, and it’s delicious. My family loves macaroni and cheese. They love it from a box, they love it from scratch, they even love it with cut up hotdogs in it. I figured, given their love of the classic side dish they’d happily eat as a meal any time, any day, that this could either be a beautiful thing or a risky gamble. This recipe had me at BLT. I love them. Mostly, I love them because I love,love, love tomatoes. So naturally, I dove in and made this meal the same night I had come across it’s recipe. Since then it’s become a staple and a regular meal appearing on our monthly rotations. The flavors blend spectacularly! Even the rest of the family, literally everyone else, who all detest tomatoes about as strongly as I love them, ate every bite.

BLT Mac N Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: BLT Mac N Cheese

  • 1 loaf, 32 oz, prepared cheese product, cubed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 cups skim milk
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bag, 9 oz, fresh spinach
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 cup plain, or Italian style, panko bread crumbs*

Directions

  1.  In a dutch oven, or other large pot, add butter, milk, and cubed cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wisk, until melted and evenly combined.
  2. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water 3 minutes less than indicated on the box in the directions. Drain.
  3. Pour the drained macaroni in with the cheese sauce. Mix well.
  4. Stir in the shredded cheese, spinach, and tomatoes.
  5. Transfer to a 15×10 inch (4 quart) baking dish. Cover with foil.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 30 minutes.
  7. Uncover. Spread bacon and bread crumbs evenly over the top.
  8. Bake 5 minutes longer or until the top is lightly browned.
  9. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

*To ensure nice browned, crisped breadcrumbs you can toss the breadcrumbs in 1-2 tbsp of melted butter before adding to the casserole.

One Pot Spaghetti

Do you ever have those days, or nights, where there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day? Here you were getting off work, helping with homework, tidying the house with hours to spare until dinner when all of a sudden you check the clock and it’s already almost time to sit down at the table? Happens to me all too often. Just for those nights I like to have a list of quick, easy meals that use ingredients I always have on time. Especially on those nights, rushing to get a hearty meal on the table, a meal that makes minimal mess is essential. One Pot Spaghetti, wish it’s special secret ingredient, is at the top of my list. It’s easy to throw together, and has a to die for taste that will impress even the most traditional spaghetti lovers. From the time you begin, you can be seated at the table with your family enjoying an un-rushed conversation over a hearty, hot meal in less than 30 minutes.

One Pot Spaghetti

4 Sons 'R' Us: One Pot Spaghetti

  •  1 lb ground beef (or sausage)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz spaghetti, whole or broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions

  1. In a Dutch Oven, or a large pot, brown the meat with the onion. Drain.
  2. Add garlic and let cook until fragrant, about one minute.
  3. Add broth, spaghetti sauce, and water. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add spaghetti and reduce heat.
  5. Cook covered 17-20 minutes, or until the noodles are al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed.
  6. Stir in parmesan cheese.

You will never want to cook spaghetti the old way again. It’s incredibly tasty, and one pot makes clean up a breeze.

4 Sons 'R' Us: One Pot Spaghetti

Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup

Are you wondering what you’re going to do with the abundance of leftovers after Easter dinner Sunday? Ham sandwiches or biscuits can only go so far. Dice that ham up and save it! This soup is delicious and is a perfect way to make use of those saved leftovers. I loved that it gave us the chicken cordon bleu taste we were craving, in a cheaper and easier form. I served it with some oatmeal pull-apart rolls, and every one of my guys had two bowls. There were no leftovers!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup

4 Sons 'R' Us: Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup

  •  2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, about 1 cup diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 5 medium russet potatoes,washed, peeled, and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 1 cup shredded chicken, cooked
  • 1 cup ham, diced

Directions

  1. Place washed, peeled, and cubed potatoes into a large pot and add the chicken broth. Cover.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork tender.
  3. In a separate pot, or pan, melt butter. Add onions and saute until soft.
  4. Add garlic, and saute 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add flour to the pan and whisk together with the onions and garlic. Let the mixture cook about 1 minute.
  6. Slowly add the milk, a 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly. The only lumps you should see should be the onions.
  7. Continue adding milk and whisking constantly until all the milk has been evenly incorporated.
  8. Bring the roux to a simmer and let it heat until thickened, about 5 minutes, whisking often.
  9. Add the thickened roux to the potatoes and chicken broth in the large pot.
  10. Using a potato masher, mash potatoes in the pot until there’s minimal chunks.
  11.  Turn the heat to low, and add the chicken and ham.
  12. Add salt and pepper to soup to taste.
  13. When heated through, add the swiss and stir until melted and evenly incorporated.
  14. Serve.