Mummy Dogs

I love seeing the look on the littlest son’s face when I make him ‘fun’ food. Holidays provide the ultimate opportunity to surprise him. Still, sometimes I just don’t have the time, or the energy, but these Mummy dogs are so simple and quick. From start to finish it took less than 20 minutes. Add some fun to your Halloween lunch or dinner with this adorable idea.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Mummy Dogs

recipe adapted from Pillsbury

  • 1 can Pillsbury crescent rolls, or homemade crescent roll dough
  • 2 1/2 slices American cheese, quartered (optional)
  • 10 large hot dogs
  • cooking spray
  • mustard or ketchup

Directions

  1. If using Pillsbury crescent roll dough, unroll the dough sheet. Press together at the perforations to seal it into one large rectangle.
  2. Cut the rectangle into ten ‘bandages’. Stretch the bandages a bit to elongate them.
  3. Wrap one bandage around one hot dog and 1 quarter of cheese. Repeat for each hot dog.
  4. About 1/2 inch from one end of each hot dog, separate the ‘bandages’ so that the hot dog shows through for it’s ‘face.’ On an ungreased baking sheet, place wrapped hot dogs (cheese side down).
  5. Spray the dough lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 13 to 17 minutes or until the dough is light golden brown and the hot dogs are hot.
  6. With mustard, draw features on the ‘face.’

I’ve Got My Eye On You: The Eyeball Pumpkin

After over-seeing the cleaning and carving of the sons’ four huge pumpkins, I didn’t want to see anymore pumpkin guts. It looked like I’d been through a war, like I had personally massacred an entire pumpkin patch. It was a mess! But, we all had a blast, so all the debris was worth it. For my pumpkins, I decided to hit up Pinterest and find something equally creative, but less invasive, to do. When I saw the idea for the eyeball pumpkin, I knew I’d found ‘the one’.

This pumpkin is really easy to make and didn’t require any kind of template. I ‘eyeballed’ the different sections as I painted. All the neighbors have loved the giant ‘eye’, and the sons got a tickle out of it since I’m always reminding them that I do, in fact, have my eye on them!

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Eyeball Pumpkin

  • 1 medium-large pumpkin
  • acrylic paint: black, light blue, white, and red
  • paint brushes
  • paper plate or other flat disposable surface to squirt paint out onto

Directions

  1. Using warm,  soapy water thoroughly wash the outside of your pumpkin gently scrubbing to remove and dirt or mud.
  2. Begin by painting the outside of the pumpkin white. ‘Eyeball’ the top of your pumpkin and stop when you’ve reached the area where you’d like iris to start.
  3. Here is our pumpkin drying after its second coat of white paint. It’s upside down which is why you can’t see the iris/pupil area. I painted the bottom so that when I set it on our porch I could sit it on it’s side.

4 Sons 'R' Us

4. After your pumpkin has completely dried begin painting the blue iris. Again, stop painting when you reach the area where you’d like the pupil to begin. My iris was a little over 2 inches wide. Let dry. If needed apply a second coat and let dry.

5. Paint the remaining circle of unpainted pumpkin black for the pupil, including painting the stem. Allow to dry completely.

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Eyeball Pumpkin

6. Now you’re ready to get to the veins. Eew! But, man does it look cool. Paint red veins along the pumpkins natural segments. You can paint every segment, or alternate if your pumpkin has a ton of them, all close together.

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Eyeball Pumpkin

Voila! You now have a cool, creepy eyeball.

M&M Apple Caramel Cheese Ball

Fall is simply my favorite season. Winter is a close second though. That being said, I always look forward to the special limited edition seasonal candies that debut and/or return this time of year. I just love the Fall themed M&M’s. So much more fun to eat than regular ones. Needless to say when I went grocery shopping last, I stocked up (with several packs).

Yesterday was a crazy day that also included an impromtu visit from friends. I ended up making this delicious cheeseball to serve before dinner. While I was wrapped up in visiting, I didn’t get an immediate picture. FYI, the color on M&M’s runs when you let them sit for a few. Don’t let the looks fool you though. This was delicious. The perfect appetizer to serve for friends visiting in Fall. The perfect treat for any Fall occasion or event. Even an impromptu dessert.

Did I forget to mention how much I love the Fall themed M&M’s?!

M&M Apple Caramel Cheese Ball

4 Sons 'R' Us: M&M Apple Caramel Cheese Ball

recipe adapted from Will Cook For Smiles

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbs vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup of peeled, cored, and finely diced apples (we used sweet Crispins, but you could also use a tart Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup of Kraft caramel baking bits
  • 1 tbs light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • About a cup of fall M&Ms for rolling the cheese ball

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, yogurt, apple, caramel, brown sugar, and vanilla until evenly mixed.
  2. Using your hands (remember to wash first!), form the mixture into a nice round ball.
  3. Wrap the cheese ball in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Remember, the colors on the M&M’s will bleed so don’t roll your cheeseball in the candy until just before serving. If ready to serve roll the ball around in M&M’s until completely covered.
  5. Serve with pretzels, apple slices, or non-salted cracker crisps.

The Pumpkin Patch & Creepy Carvings

Sunday we took all the sons to the pumpkin patch. Can I just say how thrilled I am every year that the teen-itis my older two suffer from hasn’t whittled away at their love of Halloween?! They still get a rush picking their own perfect pumpkins and turning them into masterpieces. For a mere $30 we left with all the pumpkins our family could carry. In total it was only 8 pumpkins, but these were some big pumpkins. In fact, Sons 2 & 3 were after the biggest pumpkins they could find. They took on the patch, and won. Challenge complete.

pumpkin patch 2 pumpkin patch 3

It was Son # 4’s first time cleaning out his own pumpkin. It was all fun and games until he actually had to touch the pumpkin goop. He was not a fan.

pumpkin patch 4

Here’s what Sons 2 , 3, and 4 have done so far with their pumpkins. We’ve still got 1 more to carve. Two to paint, and one to use as a baking dish/serving bowl. Halloween makes me feel like a kid at Christmas. I get giddy just thinking about all the impending craftiness. I also can’t wait until all the carving is finally done because (once the mess is all cleaned up) then we get to the seeds!

pumpkin patch 5026 pumpkin patch 6

Both pumpkins were made using templates. The Cyberman from Doctor Who can be found here. Son # 3 drew King Boo from Super Mario World onto his pumpkin and then carved. The Thomas the Tank Engine is free-handed based off his profile. Son # 4 opted for a very petite pumpkin this year because it was ‘just so cute’, so we had a very petite Thomas.

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

Monster Munch

I love making spooky treats for the boys to enjoy and get them in the ‘mood’ for Halloween. When I came across this recipe for Monster Munch I made it immediately. It was a huge hit and has already become a new tradition. It made the perfect snack to enjoy while watching a Halloween movie marathon, including two of my personal favorites: Hocus Pocus & ParaNorman. Sweet & spooky, this Monster Munch is a Halloween must have.

P.S. Check out the cute little cardboard cartons I found to serve the monster munch in! Wilton makes and sells them in a four pack and they were just too adorable not to buy. Not pictured, but also included, was a mummy and a skeleton. They were on sale in the Halloween section of Kroger for $1! In hind sight I probably should have snagged a couple of packs. That settles it, back to Kroger I go!

Monster Munch

4 Sons 'R' Us: Monster Munch

recipe from A Pumpkin and a Princess

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup Wilton orange candy melts
  • 1/2 cup Wilton black candy melts
  • 1/2 cups candy corn M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup candy corn
  • edible monster eyes

Directions

  1. Cover a 9X13 baking sheet with waxed paper. Make popcorn and lay a single layer on covered baking sheet.
  2. Melt the candy melts in separate bowls over a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir frequently until completely melted.
  3. Pour the candy melts into disposable piping bags or thick ziploc bags. Use a napkin or towel to hold the bag if it’s too hot. Snip off the tip of the bags. Drizzle black candy melts evenly onto popcorn.
  4. Add the candy, except the edible eyes, spreading evenly over the drizzled popcorn. Drizzle the orange candy melts over the candy. Gently place eyes where you want them to go. Allow to cool then break apart and enjoy!

4 Sons 'R' Us: Monster Munch