Crockpot Cinnamon Sugared Almonds

My kids love almonds. Come to think of it, they go ‘nuts’ for any type of nut really. I always keep almonds stocked in the pantry and they’re constantly sneaking handfuls here and there from the 3 lb bag. They think they’re being sneaky. Naturally, I don’t dissuade them of their ideas. I can’t have them thinking that I actually want them eating moderately healthy snacks, or worse that they like them. Plain-Jane almonds? How boring.  Imagine their surprise and delight when they came home from school to a batch of candied almonds to munch on during homework time. They loved these.

I usually get the eye roll whenever I mention the healthy benefits of anything to my boys. Like, really Mom? We just want to eat. Don’t ruin it by making it good for us! I refrained from mentioning that almonds are ‘good for them’ as the crunched away on ‘candy’. My house smelled like fall the entire day after making these. I just couldn’t resist the temptation to sample a few while they were still cooling and let me tell you, they were de-lish when still warm! Eat them out of a bag for a quick snack or sprinkle a few over a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a truly delicious dessert.

I ended up taking the leftovers on a trip out of town and sharing them with our entire family to rave reviews from all! It doesn’t get more tried and true than that from a family full of Italians.

Crockpot Cinnamon Sugared Almonds

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Cinnamon Sugared Almonds

recipe adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 3 cups of almonds
  • 1/8 cup water

Directions

  1. In a bowl, whisk egg and vanilla until it begins to get a little frothy. Stir in your almonds until the are all coated in the mixture.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add Almonds to cinnamon mixture and toss until completely coated.
  3. Spray your crock pot with non stick cooking spray. Cook the almonds on high for two hours stirring every 20 minutes.
  4. After 2 hours pour your water over the almonds and mix very well to make sure there are no clumps! Reduce heat to low and cook for one more hour, still stirring every 20 minutes.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread out the almonds to cool and dry on the paper.

P.S. Christmas is coming and these make delicious gifts for neighbors, teachers, even family dinners!

{Crockpot} Perfect Baked Potatoes

It may come as a surprise in 2013 when everyone has gadgets and gizmos, whose-its and what’s-its galore for everything, but we don’t use, own, and probably couldn’t even operate a microwave. While I love a hearty baked potato, I’ve never had good luck making them in the oven. They’re either overdone, or more often than not, underdone and then I’m left checking them every 10 minutes until they’re cooked through. Meanwhile, with burns on my fingers and a growling stomach, everyone else has already finished eating every other scrap of their dinner. Hopefully, by this time the potatoes would finally be done. When a friend mentioned making them in the crockpot, I believe I said, ‘No Way!’

Yes, way! Every single time, my baked potatoes come out perfect. Hence, the name. There’s no longer any guess work involved and I can easily plan ahead, get them going, and set to be finished and edible when I’m ready to serve dinner. Added bonus: 1. I save money since I no longer need to heat up the oven. The general rule of thumb is that 8 hours in the crockpot only uses half the heat of 1 hour in the oven. 2. This same technique works great for sweet potatoes too! Loaded sweet potatoes have now become a new fall favorite of mine.

{Crockpot} Perfect Baked Potatoes

4 Sons 'R' Us: {Crockpot} Perfect Baked Potatoes

  • russet, yukon gold, or sweet potatoes (you don’t want to fill your crock pot more than 3/4 of the way full to prevent under/over cooking between the potatoes on top and the ones on the bottom)
  • olive oil (optional)
  • salt & black pepper, to taste (optional)
  • aluminum foil

Directions

  1. Wash and scrub your potatoes thoroughly. Remove any eyes or bad spots if necessary. Let the skins dry before proceeding (only takes a few minutes).
  2. Prick each potato with a fork 6-8 times per potato. Do NOT skip this step! The holes allow steam to escape as they cook. Exploded baked potato isn’t fun to eat or clean up.
  3. Drizzle a little olive oil onto each potato. Using your hands, rub into the skin all over the potato. Repeat for each potato. You can omit this step, but I like the extra crunchy skins the olive oil creates.
  4. Salt and pepper, to taste, the skins of the potatoes.
  5. Wrap each potato individually in aluminum foil, sealing them up tightly.
  6. Place the wrapped potatoes in the slow cooker, foil seam side up. There’s no need to grease the crock pot or add any liquids. Cook them ‘dry’.
  7. Cook them on low for 8 hours, or until tender when pressed with fingers. Slow cooker times may vary a little.
  8. Remove the potatoes. Remove the foil. Cut a slit in the top along the center of each potato to open them up, and serve with topping of your choice.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Baked Potatoes4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Baked Potatoes 2

Green Bean Fries

My kids always count on fries with their burgers. I mean it’s like a burger staple for them. Serve them a burger without a side of fries and they’d probably look at me like I had just sprouted a second head, or antennae. They’re actually really good sports because burger night, which only falls once a month (maybe twice a month on a leap year) is the only night they get fries with dinner. Despite knowing that it was in fact burger night, I forgot to check to make sure I had potatoes. I also had a gaggle of kids at our house that day and no way to get to the store. What I did have? Several pounds of fresh green beans! Green bean fries came to my rescue. These were so good that it actually took me several minutes to convince my husband that I hadn’t gotten them carry-out from a restaurant or from the frozen food section of the grocery store. Every son raved about them. I mean a vegetable turned french fry? It was awe-inspiring. I’ve got to admit the way their jaws dropped and the awe-struck looks on their faces…it was pretty magical. Next time though I think I will try baking them instead of frying.

Green Bean Fries

Green Bean Fries

recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff

  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a few cups of vegetable oil in a deep pot or fryer over medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, pour chicken broth into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the green beans and let boil for 5 minutes.  Remove beans from broth with a slotted spoon and set in a bowl of cold water.
  3. After beans are cooled down, pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl.
  5. In another shallow bowl, combine flour, breadcrumbs, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  6. Dip the beans into the egg mixture, followed by the flour mixture and place in hot oil, a few beans at a time.  Cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Serve with ranch dressing or other dipping sauces. Add a few drops of wasabi to ranch dressing and mix thoroughly for a wasabi-ranch dipping sauce

Caramel Apple Blondies

I know, I know. Another apple post this week, but I just couldn’t help myself. I might need an apple intervention. However, as luck would have it I am almost through my bushel.

I really try not to overload the kids on sugary snacks, even for dessert. But again, I just couldn’t help myself. I reasoned that on a crisp, fall day nothing could taste better than some ooey, gooey blondies. Especially when they just scream fall. I also couldn’t wait until dessert to have the sons try them. So to celebrate hump day (I can’t every say that without hearing my kids, echoing that extremely annoying commercial) and good attitudes so far and to fortify them to finish the week out that way, we had them for an afternoon snack. Shh, don’t tell anyone. I don’t want the mommy-verse frowning upon me.

We enjoyed these with a cold glass of milk, but warmed up and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream they are to die for. We were in Fall Heaven!

Caramel Apple Blondies

4 Sons 'R' Us: Caramel Apple Blondies

 

recipe adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup apple, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Kraft caramel baking bits

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Add the brown sugar to the melted butter and stir until combined. Add the vanilla and the eggs to the brown sugar mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the brown sugar mixture and stir until all combined. Fold in the apple and caramel baking bits.
  4. Scrape the batter into the baking pan and smooth the top using a knife or spatula.
  5. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the blondies comes out clean.
  6. Let the blondies cool completely and then cut into large squares.

Caramel Apple Snickers Salad

A delicious, seasonal dessert salad- Caramel Apple Snickers Salad features crisp apples, diced candies and marshmallows tossed in a sweet, creamy whipped dressing. Topped with a drizzle of smooth caramel, it’s an easy treat that doesn’t skimp on Fall flavor and is perfect for a crowd, even potlucks or parties.

Caramel Apple Snickers Salad

Read more

Dessert Kabobs

Every year the football team the boys play for hosts a homecoming game. The entire association goes out of it’s way to make the night memorable for the kids. There’s moon-bounces. There’s cotton candy and giant popcorn machines. All the Moms are decked out in team colors, and proudly sporting their players’ number and pictures on pins for the whole world to see. There’s even a parade. All the Dads get together and they bring their big trucks. The bigger the better. The trucks are covered in excessive amounts of crepe paper, streamers and posters. You could probably see the team colors from space at that point, but just in case there was any uncertainty the posters clarify which team they represent and which age group. All the kids climb up into the backs of the trucks and are ferried around the field, on the track, several times. The team gets to watch as all the younger kids (and parents too) scramble to catch the candy they’re tossing out, and every Mom takes at least 1,385 pictures of the entire event. The whole night everyone is feeling pretty special. It’s definitely a huge confidence boosting event for the kids. It’s pretty awesome stuff. Best of all,  the proceeds from everything gets funneled back into the association to pay for new equipment, uniforms, field maintenance, etc.

Every year there’s also the biggest bale sale I’ve ever seen. The parents of every player either make or buy something to be sold to help earn money towards whatever the goal is. At the end of the night the players are allowed to ransack the table and enjoy as many sweat treats as they’re allowed. This is my contribution, Dessert Kabobs.

Dessert Kabobs

Dessert Kabobs

  • wooden skewers
  • large marshmallows
  • fresh blueberries
  • fresh strawberries
  • 1 box brownie mix, cooked according to package directions, cooled, and cute into bite sized squares

Directions

  1. It’s super simple. Alternate threading fruit, marshmallows, and brownies onto your skewers until you’ve achieved the desired look and amount.
  2. Serve as is, or wrap in cellophane if packaging for an event.

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.