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

Directions

  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.

Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

My kids love spaghetti. Seriously, I have four spaghetti monsters. It’s a great quick, easy meal when we have a busy evening of activities ahead, or when I just don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. It’s also perfect for the evenings when my boys have dinner duty. That being said, as I’ve mentioned before, I love finding new ways to re-do our traditional favorites. This spaghetti offered all the ease of a traditional version, but with a nice Mexican feel and a little ‘kick’. Everybody, including my husband (the pickiest of the bunch) came back for seconds. My husband may, or may not, have had three helpings.

Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

4 Sons 'R' Us: Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

  • 8 oz angel hair, or thin spaghetti, pasta
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1, 10 oz, can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
  • 1 cup sour cream, or greek yogurt
  • 1 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the chicken, soups, tomatoes, and sour cream, stirring until evenly combined.
  4. Add in the cooked and drained pasta, stirring until evenly combined.
  5. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
  7. Sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, until melted.

Emoto’s Rice Experiment: How much power do words truly have?

This experiment is easy to do and is not time consuming, but the message for children, and even for adults, is priceless. The results are eye-opening. These are pictures of an at-home version of Emoto’s Rice experiment.

I apologize for not taking any before pictures, but these pictures are after the rice has sat in it’s airtight container for 4 months. These started as two empty tupper ware containers. I cooked about a cup of white rice, and put about 1/2 cup in each. Filtered water was added to fill it to the top. Then the lids were secured and taped to ensure it would remain air tight. Both the jars contain rice from the exact same batch and went into their containers with the exact same water at the exact same time. Even the containers used and the tape is identical. The ONLY difference are the words written and taped on top of the containers. When I taped the ‘LOVE’ the boys were asked to think ‘I love you’ and picture anything that they identified with love. I had them each say it aloud once. The exact same thing, but this time utilizing the word ‘HATE’ was done with the second container.  Now, after 4 months the ‘love’ rice smells slightly sweet, and is still pure white. It looks and smells like it’s still fresh enough to eat. The ‘hate’ rice has turned completely brown and smells rancid. It just looks rotten. Everything was exactly the same about these two containers, yet there is clearly a HUGE difference in the rice in each.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Emoto's Rice Ecperiment-- How much power does a word truly have? 4 Sons 'R' Us: Emoto's Rice Experiment

4 Sons 'R' Us: Emoto's Rice Experiment

It was amazing to see the actual power of our words and thoughts, and their impact on the things around us. It was a powerful message for my kids! Again nothing was put into these other than rice, and sterilized water. The only other ingredient was the thought behind each word. Then they sat and let those thoughts work on them. Looking at our tangible evidence, the conclusion we drew is that there is real power in words. Use them carefully.

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

With all my boys, it’s hard to get out for a manicure or pedicure, but I still love how silky smooth my hands and feet feel afterwards. To get those same results, without always having to arrange for multiple sitters and leaving the house, I’ve turned to making my own scrubs at home. There’s no reason my hands and feet should suffer just because I’ve had four kids.  That being said, I love a good sugar scrub, especially in the Summer, for my flip flop feet. There’s nothing like smooth, scented feet as I sit poolside. I also enjoy experimenting with new scents and combinations, and when I stumbled upon this version  from The Idea Room, I knew I had to make it immediately! It sounded that refreshing, and I just couldn’t wait, literally. The results were everything I was hoping for in a light, refreshing scent, but with all the dead-skin exfoliating power I am used to. Give your feet and/or hands a good scrub down with this, and then rinse. Not only will the delicious scent linger, but everything will be so smooth. It’s perfect for letting those feet or hands make their official debut out in the summer sun!

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

4 Sons 'R' Us: Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 6-8 drops of Lime essential oil

Directions

  1. In a microwave, or on a stove-top, melt coconut oil.
  2. Remove from heat and mix in the sugar, stirring until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the coconut and the Lime oil.
  4. Mix together.
  5. Use! This recipe only makes 1 cup of sugar scrub, but could easily be doubled to stockpile some, or even to make to give as gifts.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

It’s that time of year again. Time for hot grills, good friends, picnic foods…it’s cookout time! I discovered this potato salad last summer, when I was searching for an alternative to my go-to mustard based recipe. I had been assigned to bring it as a dish, and I just wanted something a little different. Most likely due to the fact that I’d already been to two cookouts in the last 24 hours and didn’t want to eat the exact same thing again. I was a bit shocked, and saddened, to discover that there is such a thing as too much potato salad. I couldn’t have asked for more from this version. Although the recipe makes enough for roughly 4-6 people, depending on serving size, the ingredients easily doubled to make enough for a larger party. I was equally pleased to see that not only did my family love it, but so did everyone else. Who said change was a bad thing? Now, as you get ready to host or attend, a cookout (or cookouts) in the coming weeks of Summer, give this side a try. It’s a rich, creamy potato salad with all the tastes and textures of an actually loaded baked potato. This recipe is sure to be a hit at your next soiree, and I assure you that you will be asked for the recipe. Repeatedly.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

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  •  4-5 large Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonaise and sour cream until evenly combined.
  2. Stir in 1/2 of the green onions (1/4 cup), the cheese, salt, and pepper.
  3. Let this sit in the fridge to chill while you prepare the potatoes.
  4. Wash, peel, and then cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Put cut potatoes into a large pot, cover with water, and boil until just fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Don’t over boil, or potatoes with mush and become loaded mashed potatoes.
  6. When potatoes are done, drain, and let cool.
  7. Put potatoes in a large bowl and combine with the sour cream mixture.
  8. Stir, or fold, in about 3/4 of the crumbled bacon.
  9. Top with remaining green onions and crumbled bacon.
  10. Serve chilled.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

I grew up eating my Mom and Grandma’s meatloaf, and it was one of my absolute favorite dinners. All these years it’s remained one of my favorite ‘comfort foods’. When I began cooking for my own family, it took me 3 years of watching my Grandma lovingly prepare my favorite dish before I was able to properly ‘eyeball’ the ingredients to replicate that same great taste.  Now, every single one of my kids looks forward to that one night a month when meatloaf’s on the menu. However, recently I’ve really been trying to experiment with new twists on some of our old favorites, just to keep things interesting. A good friend swore by this cheeseburger-flavored version, so I decided to swap it with my traditional meatloaf in our monthly menu. Warning: This is not your Grandma’s meatloaf! This cheesy little monster of a meatloaf will leave you wanting to lick every last drop off your plate. While I still love, and will continue to make my more traditional version, this recipe is a new family favorite that has already been added to our rotating regular recipes.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

  •  1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup- 3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs, toasted
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 1/3 cup French fried onions
  • 2 slices of sandwich bread*

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef and the next 8 ingredients, mixing well. Don’t be afraid to get your hands ‘dirty’ and give everything a good squishing until evenly combined and a uniform consistency is reached.
  3. Place both pieces of bread into a meatloaf pan so that they evenly cover the bottom.
  4. Form meat mixture into a loaf shape and transfer to the meatloaf pan. You want it sitting directly on top of the bread.
  5. In a small bowl, combine mustard and ketchup.
  6. Evenly spread the ketchup mixture onto the top of the meatloaf.
  7. Bake 40 minutes. Top with the French fried onions and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the inside is no longer pink.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the pan and discard the grease ‘toast’. Slice the meatloaf and serve.

* This is the best meatloaf tip I’ve ever discovered. Instead of your meatloaf sitting and cooking in it’s own grease, or having to use a broiler pan, simply let the slices of bread absorb every last drop of fat that cooks out. It’s that simple. After cooking, simply discard and you’re left with a mess-free loaf that’s ready to be sliced and served.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

A Splash of Pink: Disney Princess Necklaces

Although I haven’t mentioned it before, in order to earn some extra money, usually for crafts, or fun money for the family, I babysit during the day. Even though I love my boys, and wouldn’t trade a single one, I do consider myself extremely blessed that during the week everyday is now filled with a splash of pink. The beautiful baby girl I watch has given me a wonderful opportunity to experiment with all things girly, which up until 9 months ago was foreign territory for me. I can’t believe how much she’s grown in the 10 months I’ve had her in my life. That being said, her 1st birthday is approaching fast, and with a ‘Princess’ theme for THE Birthday Princess, I knew these necklaces would make the perfect party favors for her special day. They couldn’t have been any easier, and I thought the results were just adorable. Each necklace represents a different Disney Princess, and in order they are: Snow White, Rapunzel, Merida, Cinderelle, Tianna, Aurora, and Ariel. I love the simplicity and the how the different colors capture the essence of each character’s unique color-scheme. I opted out of making necklaces representing Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Belle, but if those are your favorite Princesses, I have listed below the ideal colors to create necklaces for them.

Disney Princess Necklaces

4 Sons 'R' Us: Disney Princess Necklaces

  • 3/4 inch wooden beads
  • 5/8 inch wide white ribbon
  • wooden skewers
  • paint brush
  • acryllic paints

Directions

  1. Thread wooden beads onto skewer. I found up to four would work and allow enough room for drying without sticking to one another.
  2. Paint beads desired color. It helps if you use only one color on beads on the same skewer. While most colors only require one coat, lighter ones such as yellow and white, may require two coats.
  3. Set skewer on top of a bowl, with beads over the center of the bowl, and allow beads to dry. 
  4. Measure ribbon around neck and add 2 inches to the desired length. Cut. Repeat for the desired number of necklaces.
  5. To prevent fraying, use a match or candle, and very carefully melt each end of the ribbon.
  6. When the beads are dry, thread them onto the ribbon into the order shown above.

Pocahontas: 2 tan, 2 brown, 1 turqoise

Belle: 3 light yellow, 2 dark yellow

Mulan: 2 light blue, 2 dark pink, 1 purple

Jasmine: 3 turquoise, 2 gold

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

Grilling season, yes it IS a season, is my favorite time of the year. For those precious few months, I get to sit back at dinner time and take a break from cooking the family meal. Instead, my loving husband gets to slave away over the grill. It’s wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I’ve never bothered to learn how to operate the grill myself. I’m sure I could figure it out, but that might prove self-destructive to my seasonal dinner breaks. This recipe is incredibly simple, but the marinade gives the chicken an out-of-this-world flavor. The sun is shining, so pull out some chicken breasts, fire up that grill, and give these kabobs a try!

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

  • 5-6  bonesless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 large onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 4 sweet bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • skewers

Directions

  1.  In a large bowl, add oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper. Stir to combine evenly.
  2. Add chicken to the bowl. Make sure all chicken is submerged in the marinade.
  3. Let marinade in the refrigerator at least two hours. Keep in mind the longer it marinates the better.
  4. Preheat your grill to high heat.
  5. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade.
  6. Thread the chicken and the vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
  7. Lightly oil the grill grate.
  8. Place skewers onto the grill and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear.
  9. Remove from the grill and serve on the skewers or off.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

Easy Oatmeal Bath

I’m sure most of us Moms who have older children have had to deal with the Chicken Pox at least once. I’m sure, like me, when your child has gotten the pox, you’ve run out to the nearest pharmacy and paid a pretty penny for Aveeno’s oatmeal baths to help your painfully itchy little ones find some relief. Worrying about them and this one time illness, I never really paid attention to, or cared about, the expense. Now, years down the road, I have a 3 year old plagued by eczema. Especially in the summer, he gets horribly itchy, scabby patches. What’s even worse, at 3, he doesn’t understand why he get’s in trouble for scratching when it temporarily helps him feel better. He doesn’t think about the sores he will create or the potential for infection like his Daddy and I do. With a child who not constantly, but often needs a soothing oatmeal bath as a healthier form of relief, I was getting a bit frazzled by the prices I was forced to pay for name brand products. A friend of mine mentioned to me that she makes her own version with great success and I followed her advice and I immediately made my own batch of oatmeal bath that afternoon. Now, not only am I saving a ton of money, I don’t have to run out to the store at the last minute, or even clean up sludgy oatmeal out of the bottom of my tub. Do yourself a favor and give it a try for yourself. You will never go back to the name brands again!

Easy Oatmeal Bath

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy Oatmeal Bath

  • 3 cups plain, unflavored oats
  • empty bottle preferably with a shake/pour cap (I used an old Parmesan cheese container)
  • food processor or blender
  • a clear drinking glass
  • a tablespoon
  • old panty hose/stockings (optional)

 Directions

  1. Add oats into your food processor or blender and pulverize until it’s a fine powder and you don’t see any big pieces left.
  2. Test to make sure it’s fine enough by adding 1 tbsp of the oats to a glassful of water. If most dissolves and there’s not much left settling to the bottom you’re done*.
  3. Store oatmeal bath in a container until ready to use.
  4. When ready to use, add 1 cup of oatmeal to warm bathwater, stirring until combined. This will leave some oatmeal mess to be cleaned up afterward.
  5. To avoid any messy cleanup, put the 1 cup of oats into the foot of an old panty hose or stocking. Tie the panty hose around the faucet so the oatmeal is hanging directly under the water as it fills the tub. It will run through the oats, keeping the majority of the messy stuff in the ‘bag’, but still creating the soothing, milky ‘oatmeal’ bath.

*I skip this step, but if you want to be absolutely sure you’ve gotten all the big pieces out, you can sift your pulverized oatmeal before storing it. The more big pieces the less likely it is to all dissolve.

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

This recipe, from Budget Bytes, makes wonderfully fluffy, moist, and delicious sandwich bread. Serve it toasted for breakfast with some yummy cinnamon honey butter. Heck, just eat a slice when it’s still warm from baking in the oven. It’s addicting. It’s also cheaper, and tastier than it’s mass-produced counterparts. And the piece de resistance… it only costs about $1.34 per loaf, which breaks down to about 11 cents a slice! What better sandwich is there than the one that leaves both your stomach and wallet full?!

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

  •  1 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 whole wheat flour
  • 2-3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tbsp salt

Directions

  1.  Combine the water, yeast, and honey. Stir to combine and allow to sit until it becomes foamy. It may take up to ten minutes because of the honey.
  2. Stir in the olive oil and salt.
  3. Stir in the 1 1/2 cups of wheat flour. Once that’s mixed in add the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you can no longer stir it with a spoon.
  4. Turn the ball of dough out onto a floured surface and knead in the rest of the all purpose flour.
  5. Keep adding flour until you have a soft, elastic but not sticky ball. Knead for about 3 minutes.
  6. Loosely cover the ball of dough and let rise until it’s doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into the log about the length of your loaf pan.
  8. Coat the bread pan with non-stick spray or oil and place the dough inside.
  9. Allow the dough to rise again until doubled inside, about 45 minutes.
  10. Cut a long slit in the top of the dough to allow for expansion during cooking ( a serrated blade makes the smoothest cut).
  11. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the bread for 30 minutes, or until a deep golden brown on top.
  12. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool before slicing*.

*To make slicing easier, and to create prettier, more uniform slices, turn the bread loaf upside down before cutting.