Peanut Butter ‘Lo Mein’ Noodles

A quick & easy pasta dinner, don’t shy away at this seemingly odd combination of pasta & peanut butter. These loosely Asian Peanut Butter ‘Lo Mein’ Noodles are a fun food you can serve for lunch or supper, that’ll have the approval of both the kids and the adults.

Peanut Butter 'Lo Mein' Noodles

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Olympics Themed Party Ideas

Get ready for the Olympics, get the whole family excited, and learn a thing or two about other cultures with a couple fun Olympics Themed Party Ideas.

In honor of the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, here are two simple ideas to do with your kids to celebrate and help them feel connected to it all. And no, it’s not too late. You’ve still got another week to enjoy these sweet and simple treats. Shoot, does a party always have to be at the beginning anyway? Have a going away party for the Olympics to celebrate the great games and events over the last week and week to come. Go against the grain. You just might be creating a new tradition or find your snazzy ‘bid the Olympics adieu’ party idea suddenly trending.

I know I mentioned these are simple ideas. Just how simple? Two ingredients each. That’s it. Barely any assembly required. Lazy Mom status. That’s how I roll. At least today anyway.

The Olympics Themed Party Ideas

Gold Medals for your Champions

4 Sons 'R' Us: edible 'gold' medals

Adorbs. Totes McGoats.

Cut a fruit by the foot in half and gently bend until the ends are brought together. Slap an oreo onto said ends and there ya go. You’re ‘gold’en!

Olympic Torches

4 Sons 'R' Us: edible olympic torches

For quality control purposes, I would suggest not actually consuming ice cream cones and cheetos together, but the sons are weird and didn’t listen to my advice. No surprise there though. What could Mom possibly know that they don’t? Ok, rant over…

I, sophisticated as I am, ate my cheetos first and then (after making sure the inside wasn’t powdered orange) added a scoop of ice cream to polish off my cone. I didn’t tell them there was ice cream? They’d already eaten their cones? There aren’t anymore cones?! Oops. 😉

Back to the torches. These make the perfect edible, and adorable ‘toast’ to the Olympics. As son # 1 said, “It’s our ‘shout-out’ to Sochi.” So if you missed the boat like I did  and didn’t usher the Olympics in with style this year ((or even if you had your ducks in a row and had your Olympic party when things actually started on Friday), bid them a fond farewell with these fast, fun treats.

Sous Chef Sunday: Grilled Cheese Roll-Ups

These little grilled cheese ‘sticks’ are easy, delicious, and dippable. For all of you fellow double-dip offenders, you know exactly what I mean when I say, it’s ten times better if it’s dippable. Son # 3 dubbed these his favorite ‘eggrolls’. All the sons thoroughly enjoyed dunking them in their bowls of creamy tomato soup.These were so much more convenient than our old grilled cheese sandwich.   Son made, son tested, and son approved.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Grilled Cheese Roll-Ups

6 slices of your favorite sandwich bread, any kind will do
6 slices of American or Cheddar cheese
2 tbsp butter
tomato soup

Directions

1. Lay out pieces of sandwich bread on a flat surface. Use a rolling pin to flatten. Then, if you’re anti-crusts, use a knife to cut the crusts off of each piece of flattened bread.
2. Place a slice of cheese on top of each slice of bread, then roll up tightly to form a grilled cheese
3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat until melted. Place the grilled cheese rolls (about 3 at a time) seam-side down in the skillet, and cook on all sides until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. You can press the rolls down with a spatula to be sure that they do not unfold while cooking.
4. Remove and repeat with the remaining sandwiches, adding more melted butter if necessary. Serve immediately while the cheese is still warm and gooey with extra delicious dipping sauce tomato soup.

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

Directions

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.

Cherry Pie Bars

I’ve been holding out on you. I made these bad boys a little over a month a go. . . I’m sorry! I don’t know why but I’ve been ‘saving’ them. For what I’m not sure. I just kept thinking oh, I need a special occasion to share these. And a month has come and gone and I still have not shared them! So I decided I would create a special occasion. Happy Cherry Pie Bar Tuesday!

I love me some cherry pie. It’s always my first choice. A good pie isn’t something you can just throw together. It requires planning and time invested. I had plans to make cherry pie the other day. Life had other plans. Did I let that discourage me? Of course not. Instead, I opted for these simple, yet oh so special cherry pie bars. These sweet, flaky fruit bars are warm & cozy.

Short on time? Get your fix in a jiff using this easy recipe.

(Oh, and P.S., you’re not a fan of cherry pie? Not a problem, sub in the fruity-flavored pie filling of your choice.)

Cherry Pie Bars

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cherry Pie Bars

recipe originally from Six Sisters’ Stuff

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons milk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, ream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract and beat well. Add flour and salt to the creamed mixture and mix until combined.
3. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan and spread about 3/4 of the batter in the bottom (mine was a little sticky, so I sprayed my hands with non-stick cooking spray and used my hands to spread the dough to the edges of the pan). Spread with pie filling over the batter. Drop remaining batter on top of pie filling in teaspoonful amounts (I did about 35 small spoonfuls of batter over the cherry filling to make the top crust).
4. Bake for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes clean. Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over the bars.

Saucy, Italian “Drunken” Noodles with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

By far, the hubby’s favorite Thai dish is drunken noodle. I can’t stand the stuff. Too peanut-ty for me. When I saw this, a little light bulb lit up in my head. The perfect compromise! The same noodly texture he loves, drowning in a robust sauce. Plus, being Italian, he’s obligated to like anything with the ‘I’ word in it. Right? right.

The recipe ended up being a smashing success! Everybody loved this. Gourmet flavor for a budget price using ingredients I always keep on hand. Family & Mom approved. If you’re feeling risky, spice it up by adding more crushed red peppers, or try using spicy Italian sausage links. Don’t have sausage? Ground beef will work just fine. This meal is totally forgiving, so feel free to just ‘go with it.’ Don’t you just love a liberating recipe?!

Saucy, Italian “Drunken” Noodles with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

4 Sons 'R' Us: Italian Drunken Noodle

recipe adapted from The Cozy Apron

4 Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 orange bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
4 tsp minced garlic
½ cup white wine
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, julienned, divided use
8 ounces Pappardelle or lasagna noodles (broken up), uncooked

Directions

1. Place a large, heavy-bottom pan or braising pot over medium-high heat; add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, crumble the Italian sausage into the pan in small chunks (you want to keep the sausage fairly chunky), allowing it to brown in the oil for a few moments on each side; once the crumbled sausage is browned, remove it from the pan/pot with a slotted spoon and place into a small bowl to hold for a moment; next, add the sliced onion into the pan with the sausage drippings, and allow it to caramelize and become golden for roughly 5 minutes or so, stirring to keep it from burning (add a touch more olive oil, if necessary); once the onion starts to become golden, add the salt, Italian seasoning cracked black pepper and crushed red pepper, and stir to combine, then add in the sliced bell peppers, and allow those to saute with the onion for about 2 minutes until slightly tender and golden; next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the white wine and allow it to reduce for a few moments, until almost completely reduced; next, add in the diced tomatoes with their juice, and return the browned spicy Italian sausage back into the pan, and gently fold the mixture to combine; allow it to gently simmer for about 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors, then turn the heat off; to finish the sauce, drizzle in about 2-3 good tablespoons of the olive oil to create a silky, rich flavor, and add in the chopped parsley and about half of the julienned basil; stir, and keep warm while you prepare the noodles.
2. Prepare the pappardelle noodles according to instructions on package; then, drain the noodles very well, and add them directly into the sauce, using tongs to gently toss and combine the pappardelle noodles with the sauce and all of the ingredients in it; check the seasoning to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.
3. To serve, add equal portions of the “Drunken” noodles to bowls, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining julienned basil; you can even top with shaved Parmesan, if desired, and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Smoky Bacon & Cheddar Chowder

“Brace yourselves. Winter is coming.”

Seriously, Stark!

Though most of the snow has melted here, the cold weather is far from over. The wind is still whipping with biting wind chill temps, and more snow is forecast-ed to arrive tonight/tomorrow. We walked out the door this morning dressed like Eskimos ready to face the frozen tundra and it still felt like we had no clothes on. Even all bundled up, the freeze still found a way in. Days like this always call for something extra hearty AND warm to help us ‘thaw’ in the evening. This thick, creamy chowder is the perfect way to mentally and physically decompress on a cold, winter night. Smoky, bacon, cheddar? Music to my frozen earstastebuds.

Smoky Bacon & Cheddar Chowder

4 Sons 'R' Us: Smoky Bacon & Cheddar Chowder

recipe originally from Creme de la Crumb

½ pound red potatoes, chopped into ½ to 1 inch pieces
1 large russet potato, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 cup water
1 cup flour
½ cup red or white onion, diced
2 teaspoons chicken buillon
5 teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon onion salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1-2 cups corn, canned or frozen
½ cup shard cheddar cheese, shredded
8-10 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions

1. Add potatoes to a large pot with enough water to just cover the potatoes. Boil about 10-15 minutes until tender. Remove from heat, strain out water and put potatoes in a bowl, set aside.
2. Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add flour starting with ½ cup and adding up to ½ cup more *depending on how thick you like it. Stir until mixture thickens. Add water, chicken buillon, and garlic. Stir 1-2 minutes, then add potatoes. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes tip potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
3. Stir in diced onion, onion salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika. Cook about 5 minutes, then stir in corn, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, to thin to desired consistency. Top with additional bacon and cheddar cheese if desired.

I’m drooling just thinking about dinner now…

4 Sons 'R' Us: Smoky Bacon & Cheddar Chowder 2

Sous Chef Sunday: Cheesy Garlic Sticks

We’re a family who loves good food and I want my sons to not only know their way around a kitchen and a recipe when they are grown, but to be at home in the kitchen. The sons are my biggest fans & biggest supporters with everything I do so, naturally, I’m really excited to be including them in this adventure. So, without further adieu…

This week we’re introducing Sous Chef Sundays! 2-3 Sundays a month we will be bringing you kid friendly recipes that one or more of my own 4 sous chefs have helped me create & prepare. Tried and true dishes that we’ve made sure are appropriate for getting your own kids in the kitchen and involved.

This week we’re introducing you to Cheesy Garlic Sticks. The sons love these! They know it’s going to be a great day if they see pizza dough thawing before they leave for school and ‘pizza’ isn’t on the dinner menu. That’s guaranteed to mean these oh-so-yummy breadsticks will be waiting for them when they walk in the door after school. These come out piping hot with that perfect amount of stretchy, melted mozzarella. Son # 4 (4) enjoyed using a rolling pix to stretch the dough out (by himself) into the pan and sprinkling cheese everywhere. And I do mean everywhere, but it was kind of freeing to just go with it and see his little face lit up with joy. I also reminded myself I could fix it to my satisfaction before we actually put it in the oven.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheesy Garlic Sticks

Son # 4 insisted I ‘hold on’ when it was time to start on this recipe. I patiently waited as he climbed up on his step stool and grabbed a white paper lunch bag. He then ran into his room. This is how he came back into the kitchen. Ready to rock!

4 Sons 'R' Us4 Sons 'R' Us

The little ‘chef’ had even found his own photo prop! All cuteness aside, let’s dig into this Sunday’s recipe.

Cheesy Garlic Sticks

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheesy Garlic Sticks

recipe adapted from Jam Hands

1 can of refrigerated pizza dough, or one loaf of homemade pizza dough
olive oil for brushing the dough
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup shredded provolone, optional
1 tbsp minced garlic
1-2 tsp Italian Seasoning

Directions

1. Roll out pizza dough on a baking pan.  Brush dough lightly all over with olive oil.
2. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella and provolone, if using, all over the dough.  Use your fingers and sprinkle minced garlic all over the dough.  Sprinkle Italian seasoning on the top, as desired.
3. Bake at 425 for 12-18 minutes.
4. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Use a pizza cutter to cut into breadstick-sized strips. Serve with marinara sauce, if desired.

Dill Pickle Chips

It’s that time again! Super Bowl Sunday is almost hear. The excitement in my house is palpable. Not only do the sons look forward to a good game, but they can’t wait to see what eats & treats Mom will make. I look forward to the commercials, they look forward to the food. A family favorite for game day, or really any gathering we have, is homemade dill pickle chips. I’ve never gone wrong serving them at a get-together whether it’s for a group of men sporting jerseys, high-fiving & belly-bumping in between plays, or even relatives visiting from out of town. My father loves these so much it’s the only thing he actually requests as part of his Father’s Day dinner. Best of all, these are sooo much cheaper than ordering them from a restaurant or buying them in the frozen food section and they taste better than both other options, too.

Dill Pickle Chips

4 Sons 'R' Us: Dill Pickle Chips

recipe originally from Paula Deen

1 24 oz jar Kosher dill pickle slices
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
peanut oil, for frying
2 cups Fry Mix (recipe listed below)

Fry Mix

6 cups self-rising flour, or 6 cups all purpose flour + 3 tbsp baking powder + 1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup self-rising cornmeal, or 3/4 cup & 3 tbsp white cornmeal + 1 tbsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Add Fry Mix ingredients to a large bowl and stir until evenly combined.

Directions

1. Drain the juice from the pickle jar and refill the jar with the garlic powder, hot sauce, and buttermilk. Marinate the pickles for at least 30 minutes.
2. In a large pot or fryer over medium-high heat, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Drain the pickles. Put the fry mix in a large mixing bowl, and toss the pickles to coat thoroughly. Shake off the excess mix by tossing lightly in a strainer and deep fry the pickles in small batches for 3 to 5 minutes.
3. When golden brown, remove the pickles from the oil with a clean strainer or slotted metal spoon and place on paper towels to drain off any excess oil. Serve immediately.

Cheesy Crockpot Risotto

A bowl of piping hot, creamy risotto is a heaping helping of comfort. It warms my soul. Sadly, for me, Risotto is known for taking a lot of time and attention to make. Both things I’m typically a little short on. When I found this recipe it was a game changer! Risotto… in my crockpot?! Where have you been all my life! I just about died and went to cheesy-risotto heaven. If you’re like me and craving a good homemade risotto, but that pesky thing called life keeps getting in the way, you’re going to love this.

Cheesy Crockpot Risotto

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy, Cheesy Crockpot Risotto

recipe originally from Love From The Oven

1 1/4 cups Arborio Rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white whine
2 cups chicken broth
1 3/4 cups water
1 tsp minced garlic
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded/grated cheese of your choice*, I used 1 cup cheddar and 1/2 colby jack

Directions

1. Pour olive oil into your slow cooker and turn it on high. Pour Simply Balanced Arborio Rice into slow cooker, and stir well to coat in olive oil. Allow to start cooking for a a few minutes while you gather up the remaining ingredients.
2. Pour white wine, chicken broth and water into slow cooker. Add in minced garlic and stir well. Let cook for 90 minutes.
3. At the 90 minute mark, open slow cooker, stir and see if any additional liquid is needed. If so, add a small amount of water (about 1/4 cup).
4. From this point forward, watch risotto closely, checking every ten minutes or so to see if it’s done. As soon as it is tender and soaked up most of the liquid, it is ready. Add cheese to slow cooker and stir gently to combine (putting the lid back on the slow cooker for a minute or two will help it melt if needed). Serve immediately.

*Feeding picky eaters? For kids replace the white wine with water, and stick with kid friendly cheeses like cheddar or even American. Mix and matches cheeses to fit your tastes. Also, full fat cheeses will melt and combine more easily than reduced fat varieties.