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.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

I could not live without coffee. The morning that I awoke to discover the creamer was all gone, was a nightmare of epic proportions. I was in a daze, wondering who had sabotaged my morning routine. I mean, it must have been sabotage, because there was no way I would have forgotten to add creamer to the grocery list!

I had milk. I had sugar. I had vanilla.  I tried it, and it just wasn’t cutting it. I just had to have the smooth, creamy start to my day.

As Plato pointed out so long ago, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In a moment of inspiration I ran to my computer and immediately began Google-ing a homemade creamer recipe. Every recipe I found called for condensed milk. Crap! I was out of that too! I was saved by the bell when another search pointed out it was relatively easy to make that at home too.

Two hours later, I had fresh, homemade condensed milk and was finally on my way to enjoying my first cup of coffee.

Since then, I keep this in the fridge for creamer, and also for smoothies and baking. It works just as well as it’s store-bought counterparts, and with less than half the sugar. Store your own homemade condensed milk in an air tight refrigerator and it can be used up until the expiration date on the milk used to make it.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

recipe from Just As Delish

  • 1 liter of whole, or 2 %, milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter, optional, to thicken the milk

Directions

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the milk and the sugar to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer very gently for about 2 hours until the volume is reduced by half. The milk should be barely simmering and never boiling at any point.
  3. Use a timer, and stir every 15 minutes to keep the ‘skin’ from developing on top.
  4. After 2 hours, stir in the butter.
  5. Remove the pot from heat, and allow to cool. The milk will thicken as it cools.

When refrigerated, the homemade version has thicker consistency than the commercial one. You can add a few drops of water and whisk it lightly if desired to get a thinner mixture.

{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.

Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Lorax’ Themed Birthday Party

With four boys, you’d think that would mean A LOT of birthday parties. I used to have visions of perfectly planned out, whimsical themed parties. As the kids grew, they pretty much let me know I’d lost a marble or two. I’m lucky if the older boys let me comb their hair on their big day. All totally normal I’m told, but I still don’t have to like it. Do I?

That being said, I’m taking full advantage of the youngest son’s obsessive love of things and getting in as many themed birthday’s as I can before I’m stuck with just super heroes, and then nothing but cake, ice cream, pizza, and presents.

Since he first got it for Christmas, the youngest son has been in love with The ‘War-ax’. I had flirted with the idea of Toy Story, but as I watch his love of this famous Seuss’ character continue to thrive, logically I knew nothing else would do. That being said, while I enjoy having a ‘theme’ especially one so close to his little heart, I do have four kids and there’s only so much I can do. While I wish I had the time, and energy, and let’s be honest… motivation to throw the super elaborate parties some of my friends do where everything is planned out, coordinated, and theme-centric (virtually down to the tp in the bathroom), I just can’t.

Son # 4 walked in, took one look at the few simple treats in store for him, and his face literally lit up. Now, if only I could keep him thinking I’m that cool forever.

Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Lorax’ Themed Birthday Party

'The Lorax' Themed Birthday Party

The Lorax face was made using a pumpkin template that I traced onto construction paper. The pumpkin template can be found here. Orange Hawaiian Punch made his ‘body’.  I did have to explain that punch, in this instance, is something you drink and not something you do. The ‘UNLESS’ quote printable can be gotten from A Little Delightful. The I speak for the trees picture was made using lollipop sticks, a sharpie, sparkly pom poms, and a glue gun.

Since my son absolutely loves The Lorax movie, and it’s adorable cast of characters, I knew I wanted to have some themed goodies to snack on. We opted for Teddy Grahams ( as Barbaloots), Goldfish (representing the Humming Fish), Marshmallows (their most favorite treat), and yellow and orange Reese’s Pieces to represent The Lorax himself.

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Also, to note, when setting out snacks at a party, vases, bowls, glasses and jars all make cute serving dishes.

Of course, the youngest son had to have a ‘War-ax’ cake. Again I used the cut out pumpkin template to ‘trace’ the basic outline with a tooth pick. The eyes were made using life savers, smarties, and miniature chocolate chips. We also made him his very own Truffula tree forest.

Lorax Party

Lorax Party 2

'The Lorax' Themed Birthday Party 3

Again, these cupcakes were made using lollipop sticks that I had ‘sharpi-ed’ Truffula bark onto. Tufts of cotton candy made the ‘wooly’ bits. While I had seen these cupcakes in several party posts, there was on lesson they all failed to mention that I had to learn the hard way. Cotton candy melts, especially in a moist atmosphere. These were what the cupcakes looked like about an hour after being tufted.

Lorax Party 3

Pretty depressing, right? I felt a brief wave of panic when I checked on them before I went to bed the night before the party and originally discovered their sorry state. However, I was easily able to re-do the sticks and waited until just before I was ready to serve cake to re-tuft, and they stayed perfectly fluffy up until the moment they were greedily gobbled up.

So, son # 4 thought he was pretty much the luckiest little boy in the whole world when he saw his special cake and cupcakes. I know this because he told me so himself the next morning when he borrowed one of my rings and proposed to me.

Lorax Party 4

Chicken And Stuffing Stuffed Shells

With a new school year fast approaching in less than 3 weeks we’ve been gearing up for all the practices, homework, and after school activities that will be beating down our door. In anticipation of all that, and my candle burning at both ends until we reestablish a schedule, I’ve been stocking our deep freezer with some ready to heat and eat meals. I know there will be several nights, especially those first few weeks of September where I just won’t have the energy or the frame of mind left to cook in the evenings. However, the sons (and hubby too!) still need and deserve a hot and filling meal set on the table at dinner time. My freezer, my oven, and freezer-cooking in general will be my best friend and life-line that first month. Here’s to hoping I’m not being too ambitious in expecting us to be a well-oiled machine after only the first three weeks of school!

All that aside, if you’re just getting into freezer cooking or are an old pro at it, this meal is quick to prepare and tastes divine. Who wouldn’t want rich, comfort food after a busy day that had all the ‘work’ already done?! Pop these beauties in the oven, heat, and eat. These go great with a side salad, and a green veggie!

Chicken And Stuffing Stuffed Shells

4 Sons 'R' Us: Chicken & Stuffing Stuffed Shells

recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes

  • 2 boxes of chicken flavored stuffing, cooked
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, sauteed (optional)
  • 1 box of jumbo shells; cooked, drained, and cooled
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook stuffing following package directions.
  2. Add chicken breast, stirring to combine, and set aside.
  3. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray. Stuff shells with the stuffing mixture and place in prepared dish, open and facing down.
  4. Heat the soup, milk and water in a sauce pan, stirring until evenly combined. Pour over top of the stuffed shells.
  5. Bake 35 minutes.
  6. Take out of oven and sprinkle with Swiss cheese.
  7. Bake an additional 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.
  8. Let sit 5 min before serving. Enjoy!

For Freezer Cooking:

Stop after step 3, except instead of putting the stuffed shells into a prepared baking sheet, place them on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Place sheet in freezer. When the shells are frozen, transfer them to a ziplocking bag. Store in your freezer. When ready to eat, thaw the shells and proceed from Step 3, this time placing them in the prepared dish.

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

This is one of my new favorite summer soups! It has the perfect blend of light creaminess with the curry flavor I crave, without being too spicy. I am not a fan of coconut, but this is one of the rare instances where there’s an exception to that rule. The vague hint of coconut isn’t at all overpowering. This is my kind of ‘Thai’! While this may not appeal to an authentic Thai food enthusiast, it was everything I was looking for. This soup is perfect for someone who loves a good creamy chicken and rice soup and an Asian flair.

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

4 Sons 'R' Us: Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

recipe adapted from Foodtastic Mom

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp prepared Thai curry paste, green or red depending on preference
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups chicken breast, cooked and shredded
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot, or dutch oven, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the curry paste, stirring to combine evenly.
  2. Add all the vegetables and salt and saute for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  4.  Add stock, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes to allow rice to fully cook.
  5. Add the cooked chicken, coconut milk, lime juice, sugar and cilantro. Stir well and allow to heat through.
  6. Remove soup from heat, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary with more salt or sugar.
  7. Serve soup sprinkled with more fresh cilantro and a drizzle of Sirarcha sauce, if desired.

Broccoli & Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes

While I love all the flavors in a ‘loaded’ baked potato, I was craving something different. Any combination of broccoli and cheddar is always a hit here, especially when it’s accompanied by something extra crispy. In this case, the twice baked potato skin provided that perfect, accompanying crunch.

Did I mention that this is actually a relatively healthy side dish? I might have forgotten to share that with the boys. Accidentally, on purpose. Without that ‘it’s something good for you’ vegetable taint hanging over their heads, they dug in with relish and devoured every last bite.

As an added bonus, these lovely little potatoes can be frozen and pulled out as needed for meals or even for a light lunch. I just love freezer cooking. This potato recipe is definitely the whole kit and caboodle.

Broccoli & Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Broccoli & Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes

recipe adapted from SkinnyTaste

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, washed and dried
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Pierce the cleaned potatoes several times with a fork.  Bake for 1 hour in oven at 425 degrees. Optionally, you could instead place them in the microwave and use your baked potato setting until the potatoes are cooked through, turning half way. However, in my opinion, cooking them in the oven the entire time give them more a crispier skin when finished.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, add broccoli to a little salted water and cook, covered for about 3 minutes. Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Let the potatoes cool enough to comfortably handle them. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop the flesh out into a large bowl, leaving a ¼” shell. Place the potato shells on a baking sheet.
  4. Mash the flesh with a potato masher or puree with a hand blender. Add the milk, yogurt, and salt, mash until smooth. Fold in half of the shredded cheddar (and chives if desired).
  5. Spoon the potato mixture back into the shells. Top with the cooked broccoli and remaining cheese on top.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is melted. (You can also microwave it for a few minutes if you prefer not to use the oven)

To Freeze: Follow directions above but do not bake a second time. Instead, wrap in saran wrap and place in a gallon freezer bag. To serve: Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or microwave for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.