{One Pot Wonder} Dirty Rice

For years, we bought the box mix and simply added ground beef to it. We were in heaven. It was divine. It tasted great and it was quick. Everything we ever needed or wanted in our dirty rice dinners. Or so I thought. Sometimes I have readers send me links to recipes they think will tickle my fancy or that they want an opinion on before venturing into uncharted territory. THAT’ is how this recipe fell into my lap, err inbox, late last year, and I can’t say thank you enough!

I wanted to share this with you all sooner. I really did. You see, I first made this late last year, and we loved it. But I don’t typically take pictures until the next time I make something. I mean, I’ve gotta make sure it’s son approve and all. So then there was the second time we made this, and all I had was a crappy picture that really didn’t do it justice, and this meal deserved better than that. So I used that as the perfect excuse to make it again. And it seemed that every time I got around to making it again, and again, we were all in so much of a hurry to dig into this dish that the only photo I could get was using the hub’s cell phone! Clearly you can see where our priorities lie. ūüėČ So this time around, about 9 months later, give or take a month or so, I didn’t tell anyone what was for dinner and wouldn’t let anyone near the kitchen until I’d managed to get at least one decent shot with my camera. Once I snapped it, that was it, the troops were all over it. It was a lot like what I’d imagine feeding a pack of ravenous wolves might be like. [End tangent]

So. Dirty Rice. If you’re from the South, especially the deep south and any ‘bayou’ regions, you’ve probably grown up on the stuff. For those of you not from the deep south, a fun fact about ‘dirty’ rice.¬†¬†The traditional Cajun dish get it’s name from the¬†white rice it calls for¬†that turns a ‘dirty’ color when cooked with small pieces of chicken livers. Yeah. I didn’t like liver when I was little, and it’s still a no-go now. I know, I know, your palette can change as you age, but I’m not chancing it. No liver for this Mama. I get my rice pleeeenty dirty using good ol’ ground beef. Don’t like beef? Chicken sausage or pork sausage both work great in this meal. If you’ve got one pot, and one 25-minute window of time, you’ve got this amazing dinner that will leave you with only ONE dish to clean. Priceless, right?!

Dirty Rice

Dirty Rice

recipe adapted from Southern Plate

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 small onion, diced
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 tbsp dried
1-3 tbsp creole seasoning, depending on how spicy you’d like it
5 cups cooked rice
1. In a large skillet, heat up the oil, over medium heat.
2. Add the ground beef, celery, pepper, garlic, and onion and cook, breaking up the beef while stirring, until the ground beef is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the parsley and creole seasoning, starting on the low end with 1 tbsp and tasting before leaving it or increasing the amount as desired, stirring to combine.
4. Then stir in the cooked rice, and saute for 5 minutes, or until heated through, over medium heat.
Like the idea of a one pot meal and a less-mess dinner? Check out these other one pot wonders:
4 Sons 'R' Us: Mexican Chicken & Rice
Mexican Chicken & Rice (Arroz con Pollo)
4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Pizza Pasta
Pizza Pasta
4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Chicken Lo Mein
Chicken Lo Mein

Sous Chef Sunday: Teddy Bear Toast

I didn’t think anything could shift son # 4’s love of eggs for breakfast. But, one morning of helping me with these and he was hooked. He’s asked for it again every morning for a week straight. I’m so glad we found a way to put a little fun back into our breakfast routine.¬†These adorable little teddies take less than two minutes to whip up, and make a perfect healthy and FUN breakfast option for the little ones. Don’t like peanut butter, or wanting more variety. Sub nutella!

Teddy Bear Toast

Teddy Bear Toast

a few slices of your favorite sandwich bread, toasted
banana, sliced
creamy peanut butter
1. Start by toasting the piece of bread in the toaster. Then spread the creamy peanut butter, or nutella, all over it.
2. Cut up the bananas into thin slices and put two at the top corners of the toast and one in the middle.  
3. Add three raisins making the bear’s eyes and nose.
4. Isn’t it just soooo cute?! This is a great way to sneak in some healthy options (bananas and raisins) without them complaining.

Sriracha Broccoli

Sriracha is an amazing sauce. We’re a little nuts for it over here. In fact, I have it on good authority one of the sons is even getting a bottle in his Easter basket this year. This hot sauce can literally make anything taste better. Add it to some broccoli and you’ve got yourself an epic combination. I realize it may not look quite as vibrant or delicious now, but that’s just what soy sauce does to broccoli. It turns it brown. This saucy side dish may not be all that much of a looker, but rest assured, she’s got it going on! While skinny on the calories, this Asian-style broccoli is full on flavor and packs just the right amount of spice.

Sriracha Broccoli 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Sriracha Broccoli

recipe adapted from Food and Other Things

3 heads of broccoli
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seed oil
3 tbsp Sriracha (your choice on how spicy you want it. Use 1 1/2 tbs for less spicy)
2 tsp minced garlic
small handful of crushed peanuts (~15)
salt & pepper, to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 400¬į.
2. Cut the broccoli from the stalk into small florets and wash & dry well.
3. In a large bowl, mix all the seasonings and diced garlic together.
4. Coat the broccoli evenly.
5. Put the seasoned broccoli onto a baking pan with a baking sheet, or parchment paper, under the broccoli.
6. Bake for 15 minutes, but remember to toss it half way through.
7. Serve with extra crushed peanuts on top!

A Birthday & A Review

Where the heck does all the time keep going?! Son # 2 just turned the big 1-4. He’s our sensitive one. For several years now he hasn’t been interested in big parties or too much ‘ado’ on his day. He’s a creature of habit and prefers to keep things simple, and the same. Birthday dinner is always Philly cheese-steak subs, Mom made of course. His party is usually just family and one friend, his closest. This year we followed all his request, except for one that never came. Each and every birthday we work together, brain-storming until we come up with some new, neat cake design for one of the coolest of kids on his ‘day’. This year, it was like pulling teeth. No ideas, no wants. None. I admit, I was stumped too. Finally, FINALLY, he decided he wanted a plain cake, but he wanted something a little different than what he normally had. For son # 2 to step out of his ‘box’ is huge.¬†A friend had recently told me about a new frosting made by cool whip. She said it was delicious, and had a lot less sugar than the regular stuff. The son heard and wanted to give the chocolate one a go. I was skeptical, but we bought a tub and went with it.


Cool Whip’s new frosting line is the real deal. Creamy, and oh-so sweet, but better for you too! It may be a ‘lighter’ option, but it’s still full of flavor. The best of both worlds! I was happy. The son was happy. And so was everyone at the party, who all wanted to know the secret of the incredible frosting. The secret was, this is perhaps the only store-bought frosting that tastes better (yes, you read that right), better than homemade. By a landslide. If you haven’t tried it yet, put it on your to-do list. Scratch that. You need to bake a cake. Today. While it cools, get to your local grocer’s and grab a tub of Cool Whip frosting. Reward yourself (we should get a reward for trying new things, right?) with a hearty slice of Cool Whip frosted cake. Or you could go the son’s route. He bought another tub with some of his birthday money. Over the next 24 hours he proceeded to eat the entire thing, from the tub, with a spoon. It’s that good. I think I’ve finally found his kryptanite. I’m thinking, ‘Will do chores, without complain, for more Cool Whip frosting.’ Thank you Cool Whip for taking the guess work out of good, quality whipped frosting.

Our big birthday boy

The b.b. was particularly pleased with the other ‘spread’ at his party, as well. Good food, the age-old way to any man’s heart. These chicken & waffle sliders were his absolute favorite. An entire platter disappeared in under 5 minutes. If only the queso dip would have gone that quickly!

Happy, Happy Birthday my sweet boy. We love you and the wonderful young man you’re growing into.

**I was not compensated for this post. These are my opinions and my opinions alone. I was not required to write a positive feature and was not influenced in any way.**

An Anniversay, forgotten.

To tell the truth it wasn’t really forgotten, but more forgone. We’ve just had a lot of things come up recently that put any kind of monetary gifts off the table. We had to get a new washing machine. All the sons needed new shoes. We signed son # 4 up for soccer and had to outfit son # 1 for track season when he made the team. We’ve always exchanged gifts, but I wasn’t really all that concerned with it. Afterall, I already have the 4 best gifts I could ever ask for. My boys. That being said, I do have to say that this giftless, stay-home, un-commercial anniversary has been one of the best yet.
All the sons remembered our anniversary though. Son # 2 tried to forcibly give his father his birthday money to take me out to dinner. Instead, the hubs (and sons) cooked and gave me a night off. I took over bedtime routines and baths so he could get to sleep a little earlier to prepare for a hard days work the next day. Sometimes it really is just the little things.
Also, we’ve been secretly ¬†dreading sending son # 4 off to kindergarten in the fall. Registration is next month. Today however, he was extra chatty and our random topics led to not one, but two, gems for the ‘Sh*t My Kids Say’ journal that I keep.

1. *looking through Sesame Street videos this morning*
Grayson: I want the ELMO song. It’s my favorite.
Me: Which one? There’s a lot.
Grayson: ‘A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,ELMO,P….’

2. And with son # 4’s innocent logic:
Me: Nanni IS your grandma. You just CALL her nanni, but she’s Daddy’s mama and that makes her your grandma.
Grayson: Nanni’s not a grandma.
Me: Why?
Grayson: She’s not old.
Me: You don’t have to be old to be a grandma.
Grayson: Good, because she’s not old. She’s just learning to be a grown-up.

Money can’t buy love. Money can’t buy true, lasting happiness, and in my frugal little family, I’m reminded everyday how abundantly blessed I am with both. Yes, we may have said I do on this date years ago, but every day we’re given cause to celebrate and no gift could compare to that of my husband, our children, or of any of our families’ accomplishments. In the end, I’d say it was a perfect day of remembering, celebrating, and honoring everything that’s grown from the day where we first said, ‘I do.’

The Liebster Blog Award

Food Gurly has nominated me for the Liebster blog award. Many thanks, Joanna!

A little background info on this award:

The word ‚ÄúLiebster‚ÄĚ originates from the¬†German word¬†‚Äúliebste‚ÄĚ which means ‚Äúdearest‚ÄĚ.¬†The origin of this award is unknown, although several posts have¬†suggested¬†a¬†German blog.¬†The rules of this award had changed over the years although theunderlying¬†goal remains the same: to bring attention to blogs that have not been discovered yet. In 2010, the rule was to pick 3-5 blogs that have less than 3,000 readers but recently, you list 10 blogs with less than 200 subscribers. It is quite a dramatic difference, but for the better. Wouldn‚Äôt a blog of 3,000 readers be¬†established¬†(or¬†discovered)¬†by then?

The basic idea behind this award is for existing bloggers to recognize new bloggers and help promote them! You will also benefit by because your nominee’s will link back to you, driving traffic to your blog…and frankly, a good blog is all about the traffic peeps!  ;)

And now for the ‚Äėrules‚Äô‚Ķ

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
2. Show off your award on your blog (in a post, widget, etc. like I did).
3. Answer 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.
4. Create 10 questions of your own. (Don’t worry, you can use mine if you want).
5. Nominate 5-10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
6. And of course, tell them about it and provide a link back to your website so that they can know more about the award!

To answer the questions Joanna had for me:

1. What was the driving force that led you to start your blog?
My boys and our budget. For years, we struggled to feed all of us and find fun things to do on less than $50/week. My husband never complained about how tight money was and worked hard so that I could stay home with our boys. At the time he did commercial flooring, which was literally back-breaking work on his hands and knees everyday. I began to search and scour food blogs and magazines looking for affordable recipes, but were the kind of quality I wanted to provide for them every day and that I felt they deserved. I discovered tons of fun food ideas and crafts or activities to do with my older boys for free or virtually nothing. I began to get asked repeatedly by friends and family to share the recipes and ideas I’d found. I loved being able to share with everyone and helping others who were struggling to get in the groove of their own budget. I started the blog as an outlet for others looking for the same things I was, and still continue to hunt down. Our home operates under several very basic tenets: family, fun, and food. The 4 Sons blog embraces that and shares posts and anecdotes with others who wish to find the same.
2. Chicken or Fish?
Definitely chicken. Not sure exactly why, but I’ve never been a big ‘fish’ person. I think it’s the smell. To this day the only cuts I can even think¬†about eating are Tilapia or Salmon.
3. If you could meet any famous person, recent or past, who would you want to meet?
Mary Magdalene. So much is either assumed or hypothesized about her, with little actual facts known about her life, or just how dramatic her impact was on Christ. I have a huge obsession with biblical myths and would love to know her life, her story in her words.
4. If you could know the exact moment you were going to die, would you want to? Why or Why not?
No. I can’t imagine actually trying to live¬†with the weight of that impending moment on my shoulders. My life would be more like a countdown to DDay instead of about embracing the moment and making memories today. I don’t t hink I could even handle living, let alone being happy, with the constant fear of that moment looming in the background.
5. What is your favorite thing to blog about?
Food. Ever since I first got started in the kitchen, I’ve never been able to stop talking about it. I have this compulsive need to share my culinary experiences, including opinions. Even when I think I don’t feel like talking anymore,¬†¬†I will end up continuing to word vomit my perspective all over a friend because I seem to have some sort of disease that won‚Äôt let me keep my over-boiling thoughts to myself.
6. Sweet or Savory?
Savory. My husband has the biggest sweet-tooth I’ve ever seen. All 4 sons inherited it. I love them, but watching 5 guys turn into one big and 4 little Tasmanian devils whenever the spot a sugar granule has turned me off the ‘sweet’ stuff. That and, if it’s savory, they might actually save me a bite!
7. If you had to choose one meal to eat, everyday for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I just can’t. There’s too many things that I love. I’ve never been good at making these kinds of decisions.
8. Chocolate or Vanilla?
Vanilla, for as long as I’ve been able to taste. I know, my mom thought I was a weird kid, and son # 4 still can’t handle the fact that Mama doesn’t like ‘chokkit’.
9. Tell me 5 random things about yourself.
1. My husband and I met on a random blind date, set up on a whim at the last minute by my co-worker, now FIL, 10 minutes before closing, and were engaged 3 months later. 2. I’ve passed out once in my life. I was 10 and my grandmother was jabbing trying to put my super sharp piercing earing back in my ear after a basketball game. I remember cringing at the pain, and that was all she wrote. Out. Cold. 3. I read A LOT. It’s like an obsession or something. An addiction maybe? And I like most characters better than the people I meet in real life. 4. I grew up Southern Baptist. My husband… a devout Catholic. They said it couldn’t be done, but we make it work. 5. I keep a leather-bound journal on my desk. The sons are aware of it, it’s no secret. It’s called ‘Sh*t My Kids Say’, where I record all the ridiculous things they say when they’re not looking. We always get a good laugh when one of them pulls it out and reads some of their infamous quotes.
10. Cake or Pie?
Neither, I don’t do dessert. Sugar isn’t really my friend, but starch and I are bff’s.

Great questions, and now for my own…

1. What prompted you to start your blog?
2. What is your favorite line from a movie and why?
3. If you were guaranteed to be returned unharmed, what risky thrill would you try? (i.e. swimming with sharks, bungee jumping, sky diving,etc)
4. How many other people’s blog post do you read on average, per day?
5. What’s your star sign? Are you familiar with the typical characteristics associated with it? If so, which ones apply to you?
6. Do you remember your first blog post? What was it about?
7. If you had a limit of 24 words to say to someone, what would you say? And to whom?
8. If you were given an opportunity to go anywhere on the planet, all expenses paid, where would you go?
9. What’s the best childhood memory that you have?
10. Name one song that will always be close to your heart and state why.

And now for my own nominees for the Liebster:

If You Give A Blonde A Kitchen  *  Kiss My Ingredients  *  Cooking With A Wallflower  *  Sinfully Tempting  *  Budget Loving Military Wife  *  Drake Farm Dream

These are my winners. You have all won the Liebster award!!! Congratulations!! Thank you for bringing quality writing and content to the blogosphere!!!

Ground Beef Stroganoff with Thyme and Red Wine

I’ve always loved a good beef stroganoff. Typically, I use stew beef, but a few months back we tried it using plain old ground beef (since it thaws and generally cooks quicker) and it was just as big a hit as the original. We’re no stranger to using wine, even beer, in our cooking. Here the red wine adds the ‘oomph’ that puts this beef stroganoff ahead of the rest. This recipe offers gourmet flavor on a budget.

Ground Beef Stroganoff with Thyme and Red Wine

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ground Beef Stroganoff with Thyme & Red Wine

recipe originally from Manilla Spoon

2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
4 tsp minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup chopped Bella mushrooms
2 tsp dried thyme
3/4 cup beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream
16 oz pasta (like penne) or wide egg noodles

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ground Beef with Thyme & Red Wine 2


1. Cook pasta according to package directions. While the water is boiling heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic for a minute. Crumble the beef and cook until it’s fully browned. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and Worcestershire. Stir occasionally.
2. Pour in the red wine. Let boil until it has evaporated.
3. Add in the dried thyme and mushrooms and let cook until the juices/liquid of the mushroom have been released. Pour in the beef broth and stir in the sour cream. Simmer until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes.
4. Either mix the ‘sauce’ with the pasta or serve on top of your pasta of choice. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top is the perfect piece de resistance.

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


  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.

Prayer Pail: Our Way of Branching Out Prayer with a Toddler

Every night before bed we say our prayers. We’ve watched our prayers with our sons evolve from a simple, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep…’ to specific prayers for people they know, things that worry them, and words of thanks and gratitude for the things in their lives. As I’ve had more children, I’ve realized the earlier I can get them acclimated to the idea as normal and second nature, the easier it becomes to connect to God and to really have a conversation with Him about the things that matter to you, and not always having the thing that matters to them most be themselves. When my youngest was 1, he’s almost 4 now, I decided to create a prayer pail. Each night before bed I let him pick out a stick, or two or three, if he feels so inclined and we say a prayer for whoever or whatever is listed on the stick. He has come to look forward to the surprise of who or what he will be praying for and excited about including others in our nightly prayers. Originally, we just did sticks for our immediate family. Now, we have sticks for everyone: extended family, the ‘lost’, and even our church. We also have a ‘thankful’ stick, so he can tell God what he is thankful for too. For us, this has been the perfect tool to teach our son a loose form for prayer in a way that even a toddler can understand.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Prayer Sticks

To make the prayer sticks I just wrote on¬†Popsicle¬†sticks with different color sharpies. I punched holes in them using my crop-a-dile and then threaded different ribbon into the holes and tied to give them a bit of¬†pizzazz. Our ‘pail’ is a metal Batman pail from Target’s $ bins.