Tomato Bisque with Cheddar Bay Dumplings

This yummy Tomato Bisque with Cheddar Bay Dumplings is the soup lovers’ dream come true. A rich, creamy tomato bisque is studded with buttery Cheddar Bay style dumplings for a new twist on on a couple classics.

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Make-Ahead Homemade Oatmeal Muffin Mix

My family loves a good grab and go breakfast. A muffin fits right into that category, and into their small, yet capable hands. Something else they love? A snack to tide them over until dinner. Oh, the snacks. Luckily, a healthy, hearty muffin fits in there too. And with all these lean, lanky growing boys with limbs akimbo, a go-to muffin mix is something I make sure to keep on hand in the pantry

.Homemade Oatmeal Muffin Mix

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Re-purposing Coffee Grounds & A Homemade Exfoliating Scrub

Anybody else here live off of coffee? For the hubs and I, it’s just part of our morning routine, and as integral and necessary as say brushing our teeth or getting dressed. Don’t expect me to function if I haven’t had my coffee. But speaking of coffee, as you stumble your way into the kitchen, wiping the sleep from your eyes, how much thought have you given to the coffee grounds when you add them to your Keurig or coffee pot’s filter? If you’re like the hubs and I, of course you didn’t give them a second thought, before you used them OR after you threw them away. They’d served their only purpose in life, creating the lifeblood of our people. But if you’re also like us, one day you’re going to have a friend over and offer to make them coffee. Then you’re going to react with confusion and dismay when you toss the used coffee grounds out and they react like you’ve just thrown dollar bills down the disposal. And then you’ll be thanking the dear sweet Lord for the sweet sweet nectar of the gods while you’re lectured educated on the many, many, many used for coffee grounds. And then you’re not going to be able to forget. And then it’s going to click that you could be saving some money, and since you’re not above being cheap to do so, you’ll do some research and before you know it you’ll see coffee grounds floating down the drain as money washing away or it spilled on the counter as loose change to be scraped together. And pennies make dollars, people.

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Orange & Honey Vitamin C Supplement Gummies

 Shiver me timbers, matey. Have I got a tale ta tell ye. You like Pirates? o’ course you do. You’re a little guy and Pirates be cool. Possibly th’ coolest. They sail th’ seven seas in their big old pirate ships with their motley crew and be nigh on invincible. Or be they?

(glad I got that out of my system!)

I know it’s the 21st century and in the developed world you won’t see anyone sporting a nasty case of scurvy, but for Pirates (sorry with 4 boys I’ve learned a lot about pirates over the years) scurvy was a real plague upon their plundering. It was a serious scourge for anyone in the Maritime world pretty much up until the early 20th century when proper treatments were developed and fresh food and fruit was able to be safely stored for long periods of time. Food? Why food? Because food, especially your greens and citrus fruit contain Vitamin C, a must have for our bodies in collagen production. Remember all those times your Mom was haranguing you about eating your greens and pushing an extra serving of fruit on you? You should thank her, since it could be argued that she’s a life saver. Well, duh, she’s a Mom, but you catch my drift.

Flash forward 20 years and now it’s my turn to try anything (be it sneaking in, I’m not above forcing upon, or even the occasional bribe, I know how very pirate of me) to hoist those ‘good for yous’ onto, and into, my own guys’ growing bodies. They may not grow up to be bad ass Pirates in search of treasure, and I do hope there’s no pillaging or plundering in the cards for them, but you can’t beat staying healthy. And there’s no arguing that copious amounts of C are a definite plus.

So what do I do? I buy orange juice. You know, because I think that’s the most logical way to get this stuff into their little bodies in addition to their solid diet. And what do you know. I’ve got plenty of orange juice, orange juice that has an expiration date on it, and Son 4 refuses to drink the stuff. What’s a frugal mama to do? Well, I suppose I could have drank it all myself, and been sick. Or I could have forced it on the older sons and the hubs, but none of them were out of vitamins and I already force a supplement on them, so I’d feel kind of bad.

So I MADE some Vitamin C supplements for Son 4, ahoy! And he was gonna like em! Thankfully, he did. Otherwise there might have been a situation with a plank involved.

They’re pretty fun, especially if you have several different silicone molds to choose from. They’re also tasty, so for him it was closer to getting a fruit snack than taking a vitamin. Perception is everything guys. Wondering how we got them out of the molds so easily? With the silicon molds you just invert the shape and the set gummies pop right out. We’ve even used our molds to make crayons and side walk chalk and (of course) candy. So they’re really a fun and affordable investment.

Orange & Honey Vitamin C Supplement Gummies

orange & honey vitamin c supplement gummies

recipe adapted from Butter Believer

1 1/2 cups cold orange juice
7 tbsp gelatin powder
5 tbsp honey
4+ tsp of vitamin C powder
1/4 tsp orange extract (found in the baking aisle near the spices)
1/8 tsp vanilla
just a pinch of real sea salt

Directions

1. Add the orange juice to a small pot. Sprinkle the gelatin powder on top. Now, you’re going to let the gelatin “bloom”—this is key in getting good texture in your gummies and allowing the gelatin to fully dissolve. As the gelatin powder absorbs the liquid, it will cause the juice to swell up into a weird, wrinkled, brain-looking thing in your pot (kids always get a kick out of this). Let it do this for a couple minutes, and if the juice hasn’t totally absorbed the gelatin and you see white powder floating on top, stir it in. You can’t let any white powder on top stay there, or it will cause lumps of goo to remain (which are nearly impossible to dissolve) once you heat it up.
2. Now that all the powder has been absorbed, heat the mixture on low and let it liquify. As the juice gets warm and just a bit steamy, stir in the honey and the other remaining ingredients until everything is equally incorporated. Once the mixture is totally liquid (not thick and pudding-like), it’s ready to be poured into your molds.
3. You can use the different shaped silicon molds like we did, or you can simply pour the mixture into a small glass baking dish or baking pan, and then you can cut it into squares after it’s set or even let the kids use cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes.
4.  Place the filled molds or the baking dish in the fridge for about a half-hour, or until the gummies have completely set. The gummies should easily pop out when pushed from the bottom side.

Homemade Cheeze-Its

Sons # 4 is going through another phase. He has lots of phases, which I guess is normal as he grows and is constantly trying to figure himself out. It’s a big ide world out there and he’s got to find his place in it after all. I generally enjoy seeing where the next ‘phase’ will take us. Although, the temper tantrum ‘dance’ phase that arrives with his fourth birthday, I’m not real fond of. That is just a phase, right? Any way, his latest thing bringing me boxes and requesting I read off of the ingredients list. He finds it hysterical when I read the made-up words. The funnier they sound, or the more time I spend tripping over them trying to pronounce them, reduces him to side-stitching, doubled over fits of laughter. And, no, despite a pinky promise, complete with a cross my heart and hope to die, he still does not believe his ‘silly’ Mommy that the funny words are actual, real words.  Recently he brought me a cheez-it box and had a melt down in aisle 5 after listening to me stumble all around ‘Oleoresin’. Monosodium Glutemate is another particularly fun tongue twister to him. After surveying all these different prepackaged ingredients lists, I found I didn’t really want the cheez-its that bad, and removed them from our cart. Really, I just didn’t want anything I couldn’t pronounce, let alone recognize, going in the sons diet, if I could help it. But after I got home, I felt guilty and a little sad because I really did want a cheez-it, or something crunchy and cheesy. A family friend came to my rescue by sharing her simple recipe for homemade cheeze-it crackers.

After trying my friends recipe, I discovered that the perfect Cheez-It cracker has superior crunch, unmistakable cheese flavor that doesn’t devolve into pure saltiness, and just enough grease to leave a light sheen on your fingers. And, most importantly, it doesn’t even come from a box.

Homemade Cheeze-Its

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Cheez-Its

(of course, if we were making them the sons had to go with their own signature shape. No squares in this bunch!)

1 8-oz. block extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ice water

Directions

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cheddar, butter, and salt until soft and homogenous. Add the flour and mix on low speed; the dough will be dry and pebbly. Slowly add the water and continue to mix as the dough coalesces into a mass.
2. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375˚. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
4. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each into a very thin (1/8 inch or less) 10×12-inch rectangle.  Use small, possibly extra small, cookie cutters to cut out crackers in any desired shape. Or, if you want a more ‘authentic’ look, use a fluted pastry cutter, cut the rectangles into 1-inch squares, then transfer to the baking sheets. Use the tip of a chopstick to punch a hole into the center of each square.
5. Bake for 17 minutes or until puffed and browning at the edges. Watch carefully, as the high fat content of the crackers makes it a fine line between golden delicious and burnt. Immediately move the crackers to racks to cool.

Easy Eggnog Fudge

I love giving gifts at Christmas. There’s something so special about watching a persons face light up with joy when they first see the gift you’ve given them. Gifts from my kitchen are always nice, and typically a ‘sure-thing’. I absolutely love this recipe. The rich, creamy goodness of homemade fudge + the satisfying flavor of eggnog = a mouthful of magic. It’s the perfect gift to share with family and friends.

Easy Eggnog Fudge

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy Eggnog Fudge

recipe from Cindy at Skip to my Lou

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup eggnog
12 oz white baking chocolate
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow creme
1 tsp vanilla

Directions

1. Bring sugar, butter and eggnog to a full boil in a heavy medium-size saucepan. Continue to boiling over medium heat until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stir constantly to prevent scorching. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use a glass of cold water. Drop a few drops of the ‘syrup’ into the glass, if the syrup forms a doughy ball, it is done. If the syrup gets hard and brittle in the water, it has been over-cooked.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the white chocolate and nutmeg, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla extract. Beat until well blended.
3. Pour into a buttered 8 or 9-inch square pan. Cool, then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. May be frozen for up to three weeks.

*Copycat* Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken with Homemade Honey Mustard

In central Virginia we say, “Wait 15 minutes. The weather will change.” This storm has proven the saying to be true today. All day, every 15 minutes. So far we’ve had rain, sleet, snow, freezing rain, and hail. Now, it’s decided it would like to sleet, but threw in a pinch of thunder and a dash of lightening. Seriously?! Ice Lightning? Go home Weather, you’re drunk.

Really though, this wonky winter weather recipe has our family staying in doors for the rest of the afternoon and evening. That put the kibosh on my plans to pick up the carry-out I’d been craving for dinner. Bummer? Not anymore! I’m making my favorite restaurant chicken right at home. Delicious dinner, and staying safe and dry? Don’t mind if I do. Nobody’s going to ‘rain’ on this girl’s parade today.

Alice Springs Chicken has never tasted better than it does when made fresh in the comfort of your own home. This savory (and cheesy, we can’t forget cheesy) chicken is even better with our easy, homemade honey mustard sauce for dipping. If Alice Springs is your thing kind of chicken, don’t let a night indoors stop your from enjoying your favorite dish.

*Copycat* Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken with Homemade Honey Mustard

4 Sons 'R' Us: Alice Springs Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch in thickness (if they’re really thick it can be easier to just fillet them)
seasoning salt
6 slices bacon, halved
honey mustard (recipe below)
1 cup sliced, fresh mushrooms
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese (cheddar will work as a substitute)

Directions

1. Sprinkle and rub the chicken breasts with seasoning salt.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp.  Remove bacon.  ***Do not discard grease.*** Saute chicken in the bacon grease for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until browned.  Move chicken to a 9×13 pan.
3. Apply the honey mustard to each breast, then layer with mushrooms, bacon, and shredded cheese.
4. Bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and chicken is done.
5. Serve with extra honey mustard sauce for dipping.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Alice Springs Chicken & Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce

Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce

1. In a small bowl combine 1/2 cup mustard, 1/4 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, and 1/4 cup honey, mixing well. Add more honey if necessary, depending on how spicy/strong your base mustard is.
2. Refrigerate and allow to ‘chill’ before using.

{Easy} Homemade Baby Wipes

I’m convinced little boys are magnets. Pint-sized, powerful dirt magnets. I’m constantly going through wet wipes. In the house. In the car. In the store. Everywhere. There’s not a dust bunny, dirt speck, or food particle within a good mile radius that does not find it’s way onto their person. And by person, I meant their face, hands, shirt, etc. You name it, if they’ve been awake for 5 minutes, something has found them. Knowing this, I’m always armed with some handy-dandy wipes to scrub them down on the go. That leftover kool-aid mustache? Check. The hands that are now black from tracing every wall we’ve walked past for 5 minutes? Check.

About a year ago, I started to notice how many wipes we were going through and how the cost was really adding up. Being the fastidious penny-pincher that I am, I began to look for a way to make my own that were not only cheaper, but just as durable. Only a strong wipe can compete with my grubby boys and keep them as presentable as humanly possible until bath time. A friend of mine with a gaggle of her own children told me about this recipe that she swore by. I tried it, and from the very first swipe I was hooked!

As I’ve mentioned before, Son #4 struggles with eczema. We’re dealing with a very itchy bout of it now. These wipes are gentle enough to even use on his super-sensitive skin. Not only do they not cause any reaction or irritate his condition, they even seem to help soothe his itching. That alone would have sold me on these.

But there’s more…

One of the best things about these all-natural, homemade baby wipes is that they do not contain alcohol and are super gentle on those delicate areas, especially if you’re dealing with diaper rash. The tea tree oil, as well as the coconut oil have anti-microbial properties and protect against molding. Also, both the tea tree oil and coconut oil provide a multitude of skin benefits.

Start making your own wipes today. They blow all the store-bought competition out of the water. And, they’re cheaper! These, my friend, will totally ‘wipe’-out and reservations you may have.

{Easy} Homemade Baby Wipes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy Homemade Baby Wipes

  • 1 roll of Bounty paper towels (I found mine at the the Dollar Tree)
  • a very sharp knife, or an electric knife
  • 1 tbsp baby wash
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • tea tree oil
  • container to house the wipes in (the one pictured came from the Dollar Tree as well)

Directions

  1. Cut the roll of paper towels evenly in half. It will resemble two rolls of toilet paper at that point.
  2. Carefully remove the cardboard paper tube from inside the paper towels.
  3. In a bowl, mix the baby wash, oil, hot water, and 2-3 drops tea tree oil until evenly combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the wipes container.
  5. Add the cut paper towels and let sit, for about an hour, until all the mixture has been soaked up and saturated throughout the towels.
  6. To use, pull wipes from the center.

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.