Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake

Gah, kids grow so fast! I look at the sons at least ten different times on any given day and find myself taken aback. They look so… grown. When did that happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday even son # 1 still need his tears wiped away and boo boos kissed by Mom? I’m always surprised by how fast they grow. I’m thinking that won’t ever change, no matter how old they get or how much they eventually tower over their Dad & I. That being said, feeding said growing boys has proved quite the challenge over the past few years. When they enter the ‘hungry phase’ (although it’s really not a stage since the hubs hasn’t left it behind yet) it strike immediately. One day they will have been eating a nice normal portion of food, and the next, next, next, and so on after that…they’ve become walking, talking garbage disposals eating us out of house and home and peppering the rest of my days with hungry pleas for more. The only feasible solution that we’ve found is protein. Protein, protein, protein. The fuel my 5 hungry guys need to stay full and, incidentally, focused. I’ve gotten pretty creative at finding affordable ways to incorporate more of it into their meals snacks, and even desserts, to help keep their bellies and my bank account as full as possible.

Knowing the struggle, as I’m sure every other parent has juggled before, I knew this little ditty was going to be taking a test run. Packed with a whopping 28 grams of protein (yes, you read that right) I was fairly confident they’d guzzle it down without a second thought since all that protein was hidden under layers of chocolate and peanut butter. Two things the sons never turn down. And why would they when they combine so beautifully here. An easy, healthy peanut butter chocolate smoothie tasting just like a peanut butter cup. What’s a Mom, or anyone really, not to love about that?!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake

chocolate peanut butter protein shake 2

recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

1 large banana, peeled, sliced, and frozen
3 Tablespoons sweetened cocoa powder
6 oz Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt (or 2%, flavored or unflavored)
3/4 cup skim milk (or your favorite kind of nondairy or dairy milk)
1-2 tbsp honey, maple syrup, or agave
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter

4 Sons 'R' Us: chocolate peanut butter protein shake

Directions

1. Put all of the ingredients into the blender, in the order listed, and blend on high until thick and smooth. I would start with only 2 tbsp of cocoa powder, blend, and then add 1 more for a stronger chocolate taste.
2. You may need to stop and stir/scrape down the sides of the blender a few times. Drizzle glass with 1 tsp of chocolate syrup (optional), hold the glass up and let it swirl around inside for a bit, pour your shake in, and enjoy!
3. If you prefer a less sweet smoothie, you may leave out the honey. Add more peanut butter for a stronger peanut butter taste. Add more milk to make the smoothie thinner, if desired. Add 1 cup of your favorite greens for added nutrition.

Baked Bacon Cheeseburger Eggrolls

You guys are probably looking at these thinking, how did she dream up the combination of putting bacon cheeseburgers and egg rolls together? Well, its simple really. Egg rolls are good. Bacon cheeseburgers are good. Together they’d have to be double good, right!? Even better? Because these are baked, not fried, in moderation you can enjoy them without all the guilt one may, or may not, associate with enjoying one or more of their fried friends. While these egg rolls may seem more like a snack, they are so hearty they make a wonderful dinner as well. They were so incredibly good, they tasted just like the real thing, without all the traditional fat and calories. They are so simple to prepare as well, let the kids help and earn their keep. I mean…spend valuable time bonding with you in the kitchen!

The American version of the classic Chinese eggroll is a perfect quick & easy recipe for a busy weeknight, or an awesome party or game day appetizer.

Baked Bacon Cheeseburger Eggrolls

4 Sons 'R' Us: Baked Bacon Cheeseburger Eggrolls

recipe adapted from Spend With Pennies

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 1 /2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
20 egg roll wrappers (mine were 5″x5″)
cooking spray or olive oil

Directions

1. In a large pan, brown ground beef, bacon and onion until cooked. Drain any grease.
2. Add ketchup, barbecue sauce, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
3. Lay each egg roll wrapper out with a corner pointing towards you. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons beef filling in the center of each wrapper. Fold in the sides and roll the wrapper tightly. Use a dab of water to secure the tip of the wrapper. (If you don’t know how to roll an egg roll it usually shows on the package).m Place the wrapped eggrolls on a baking sheet.
4. Lightly spray the outsides of the egg rolls with cooking spray OR brush on a light coating of olive oil.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
6. Serve hot with ketchup & mustard.

*Healthy* Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Chocolate is a central part of my husband’s diet, a cornerstone to his livelihood. If there is chocolate nearby, he must have it. And it is one of the few things he finds really difficult to share (along with french fries and deodorant). But really. I always worry because he has no fuel gauge when it comes to the sugary sweet stuff. He would happily (and unknowingly) chocolate his way into a diabetic coma. This little recipe has become a staple. All the same great flavors he’s craving without all the calories and guilt?! Ok, well, it’s healthyish! It’s not an apple or a head of broccoli or anything, but the ingredients in this fudge are healthy. You shouldn’t eat a whole batch of it if you’re counting calories, but you’re better off eating a serving size of this fudge than a serving size of traditional fudge. Then again, what’s a serving size when it comes to chocolate? Your guess is as good as mine.

*Healthy* Chocolate Peanut ButterFudge

4 Sons 'R' Us: Healthy Chocolate Fudge

recipe originally from Creating Naturally

1/2 cup coconut oil (slightly melted, but not hot)
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup mild raw honey
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Prepare a muffin pan with 10 muffin liners.
2. Put all ingredients in the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse a few times until everything is smooth and nicely combined.  (It will be very liquid-y.)  Don’t over-mix.
3. Pour the liquid fudge into the prepared muffin liners dividing evenly between the ten of them.  There will be about a half inch of fudge in each muffin liner.
4. Place the muffin pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until the fudge has hardened. (Sometimes I use the freezer and it only takes about 10 minutes)
Remove the muffin liners from the pan and enjoy your delicious, healthy fudge!  Store in the refrigerator.

Greek-Style Oven Fries

We eat potatoes at least 2 times a week, sometimes three, so I’m always on the look out for new things to do with them. Although they probably wouldn’t want to readily admit to it, the sons like a little spice in their lives, or in this case, variety.  These are a different take on ‘traditional’ roasted potatoes. We shall call them oven fries. I have kids, which would yours choose? The fancy, shmancy roasted potatoes, or something with the word fries in it? The lemon juice gives them a little tang and they’re roasted to crispy perfection on the outside, leaving the inside nice and tender. These oven roasted, Greek-style fries are the perfect accompaniment to almost any meal. I highly recommend making sure to double the recipe though,  because you won’t have enough!! Yes, they are THAT GOOD!!!

Greek-Style Oven Fries

4 Sons 'R' Us: Greek-Style Oven Fries

recipe originally from Food.com

3 medium unpeeled baking potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
vegetable oil cooking spray

Directions

1. Cut each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.
2. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, pepper, salt, and garlic in a large bowl.
3. Add potatoes and toss well to coat.
4. Place potatoes, skin side down, on a baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and lightly browned.

If desired, you can sprinkle some Feta cheese crumbles over potatoes before serving.

Sous Chef Sunday: Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Bites

Who doesn’t remember eating these as a kid? They were always a huge treat for us. You could open the bag and just smell the mustardy, oniony addictive-ness. We’ve always got some sort of your basic pretzel on hand in the pantry. As a splurge purchase, I will occasionally buy a bag of our favorite seasoned pretzels. We are total total pretzel freaks, so I was delighted to find and try this recipe. I knew the sons & I had to give it a go ASAP. They were so excited about them,  they insisted on taking over and doing it themselves.

The result? These taste EXACTLY like the ones you know and love. And they’re perfect! Whip up your own from scratch batch whenever you get a craving. You will not be able to stop snackin’ on these lip-smacking hard pretzel bites.

Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Bites

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Bites

recipe adapted from Table For Two

12-16 oz. sourdough hard pretzels (the pounder)
⅔ cup vegetable oil
4 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. yellow mustard
2 tsp. onion powder

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Bites

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, honey, yellow mustard, and onion powder.
3. Smash the sourdough hard pretzels against your counter-top into bite-size pieces.
4. Pour the pretzels into the mixture and toss well to coat every piece.
5. Pour the pretzels onto the baking sheet and spread them out in an even layer.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing/turning the pieces halfway through baking.
7. Remove from oven, let cool, then store in an airtight container.

Sous Chef Sunday: Chicken & Waffle Sliders

Mmm. Chicken, and waffles. Two seemingly unrelated things, but when put together make a food-gasmic combination. The sons, yet again, were skeptical. Four identical sets of little arched eye-brows as I got out just 3 ingredients. When, oh when, will they learn to trust me in the kitchen?! The sons followed the super simple recipe all by themselves, although with supervision since they were using the oven. The older sons can handle it, but Son # 4 gets so excited to be involved in the process, I worry he might forget hot things lead to burned fingers. Each son, in turn, took one tentative bite, and then proceeded to scarf them down. They looked like squirrels packing away food for winter. There was even a brief skirmish over the last two and who deserved them MOST. A chicken and waffle combo may have sounded weird to the more traditional tastes of the Sons, but they all agreed UNANIMOUSLY (might I point out this almost never happens!), that these little suckers are finger-lickin’ good.

Chicken & Waffle Sliders

4 Sons 'R' Us: Chicken & Waffle Sliders

frozen mini waffles, fully toasted
chicken tenders, cooked
{real} maple syrup
toothpicks

Directions

1. Slice your cooked chicken tenders in half. Break your toasted waffles apart.
2. Sandwich one piece of chicken between two cooked waffles. Secure with a toothpick.
3. When all the tenders have been ‘sandwiched’, drizzle them with maple syrup and serve warm.

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.

Buttery Cajun Popcorn

Calling all popcorn lovers! If you, or someone you know, loves the crunchy little snack you’ve got to check out this easy seasoning recipe. This gem was popcorn experiment # 3. And might I say, it was well worth the wait. It does have a nice kick to it, but lessen the Cajun seasoning to create a more mild version. Make a batch, grab a bowl, and dig in while you enjoy some qt with the family.  A handful of popcorn can make any thing more memorable.

Buttery Cajun Popcorn

4 Sons 'R' Us: Buttery Cajun Popcorn

recipe adapted from Taste of Home

12 cups popped popcorn
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
4 tsp Cajun seasoning
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Pop popcorn according to package directions, and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Combine the melted butter with either the lemon or lime juice. Slowly pour them evenly over the popcorn and then stir to completely coat.
3. Combine the Cajun seasoning and grated cheese. Sprinkle them evenly over the popcorn and again, give it a good stir to completely coat.
4. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Popcorn

What is it about the combination of pb & j that kids loved so much. Seriously? I remember eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches every chance I got as as kid. Any meal, any time. I didn’t care. I’m pretty sure I o.d.ed  on it I ate it so much. As an adult the thought of eating it makes me feel slightly ill. Yep, definitely o.d.ed on the two as a kid. Thankfully, my own kids seem to have managed to avoid the same fate. They beg for the stuff. I’ve caught all of them at least once, ok maybe twice, hiding in the pantry and eating peanut butter by the spoonful out of the jar. They love it on celery sticks. Apple slices? You bet! Even tortillas. My crazy kids use peanut butter like it’s a condiment.

With that in mind, we decided to get creative with our next popcorn experiment. I hit the web and found this simple, but totally awesome, looking recipe for Peanut Butter & Jelly popcorn. The finished product knocked their little socks off. I’m talking toe-curlingly delicious level. It was snack time and dessert all rolled into one. Even I enjoyed the stuff.

Fix a batch for your own pb & j fans and rock their world.

PB & J Popcorn

4 Sons 'R' Us: PB & J Popcorn

recipe originally from Something Swanky

8 cups popped popcorn (about 1/4 cup kernels, popped)
1 cup white chocolate, divided
1 1/2 tbsp. grape jelly & 1 tbsp. peanut butter

Directions

1. Divide Popcorn as evenly as possible into two separate bowls.
2. Over medium low heat on the stove top, melt 1/2 cup white chocolate with 1 tbsp. peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Pour over 1 bowl of the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to mix well and coat thoroughly. Spread out on a silicon mat or parchment paper to let cool.
3. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1/2 cup white chocolate with 1 1/2 tbsp grape jelly over medium low heat on the stove top. Stir until smooth. Pour over the other bowl of popcorn, and stir with rubber spatula to coat well. Spread out on silicon mat or parchment paper to let cool.
4. Once both batches of popcorn are cooled enough that the coatings are set, mix them both together in a bowl and serve!