Ranch Chicken Enchilada ‘Lasagna’

There’s just something about ranch dressing and Mexican spices/flavors, that spells perfection in our house. I love an easy alternative to our beloved, more traditional, heavy ‘lasagna’. This recipe offers all the flavors of regular enchiladas, but with less prep work and an easier clean up. It makes a perfect meal for a summer evening when I’d rather spend more time playing with the boys, or enjoying some pool time. It’s summer, so allow this meal to help you kick back and relax while your crockpot and oven do (almost) all of the work for you.

Ranch Chicken Enchilada ‘Lasagna’

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ranch Chicken Enchilada Lasagna

  •  4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix
  • 4 flour tortillas (burrito size)
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • cilantro or parsley to garnish, if desired

Directions

  1. Place chicken in the crockpot and sprinkle seasoning mixes over top. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  2. Shred chicken with two forks and stir to evenly distribute juices and seasonings.
  3. In the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, cover the bottom with two tortillas. Spread half of shredded chicken on tortillas, then 1/2 cup ranchdressing drizzled, and top with 1 cup shredded cheese.
  4. Repeat layers once more.
  5. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lasagna is heated through.
  6. Serve with additional ranch dressing as desired.

Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts

In the rush of everyday life with a large family, and four children, there isn’t always time for a lot of relaxation. Usually just stolen moments. Even my showers have had to become ‘efficient’. However, on the weekends when the kids are in bed, I love to enjoy a nice, long soak in the tub. One of my creature comforts, despite budget constraints, has always been expensive bath products. I frequently use scented ones to create my own little atmosphere of peace and tranquility. It’s this wonderful little private bubble, where for a chunk of time, I don’t have any obligations or demands to meet. Something about the scented steam, just does it for me in the ‘reclaim a piece of my sanity’ department after a chaotic week. While I used to frequent kitschy stores and purchase the latest fragrant combinations to induce my ‘me time’. I’ve gradually shifted to making more and more of my own bath products. As I’ve found to be true with the majority of things, I like the results from this homemade version better than other’s I’ve purchased over the years toting the same ingredients. These bath salts are a breeze to mix up, and are heavenly to use. Just a few ingredients, and you can easily, and cheaply, produce your own affordable, quality bath salts. Make your reservations today for a little ‘spa’ treatment in the comfort of your own home.

Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts

4 Sons 'R' Us: lemon rosemary bath salts

  • 2 cups epsom salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh rosemary; finely chopped
  • 6-8 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon zest (optional)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine epsom salt and baking soda.
  2. Add in half of the essential oil drops, mix, then add in the remaining drops.
  3. Mix in the chopped rosemary and lemon zest if you decide to use it until fully combined.
  4. Store in an airtight container. 
  5. To use, add as much, or as little, as you’d like to hot bath water and stir around until dissolved.

D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

Last month we went to watch my middle sister graduate from college. This was one of her ‘gifts’, also doubling as the centerpiece for the food table at her graduation party. My sister happens to have a soft spot for anything sweet and sugary so this was a perfect treat for her. The candy bouquet had originally been my mom’s idea, but the finished product was my youngest sister’s labor of love. All of the graduate’s favorite treats were featured. Recently, I’ve seen these in all the stores as a ‘sweet’ and trendy gift to give, but the mark-up on them is insane. With just a few items, several of which you probably already have in your home, you can make a beautiful ‘arrangement’ for a special someone with something to celebrate. I absolutely love this fun, new twist on the more traditional floral arrangement. Customizable, fun, and most importantly, edible! What more could you ask for from a ‘bouquet’?! Help celebrate someone ‘sweet’ in your life, and commemorate a special day, with a personalized candy bouquet.

D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

4 Sons 'R' Us: D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

  • assorted full-size candy bars (6 were used here)
  • wooden skewers
  • strong tape
  • economy-sized bag of m&ms
  • clean, empty clear vase
  • ribbon (optional)

Directions

  1. Tape a wooden skewer to the back of each candy bar. Make sure enough tapes is used so that it’s securely attached.
  2. Add m&m’s to the bottom of a clean vase.
  3. Stick skewers into the m&m’s, adding more if necessary to hold the skewers in place.
  4. If using, tie decorative ribbon around the outside of the vase and tie a bow for the finishing touch. 

Oatmeal Pull-Apart Rolls

My husband grew up in a home where bread was a staple of every meal. Don’t get me wrong, I like bread, but I can’t do it with every meal. However, we try to compromise and I try to make sure there’s some sort of loaf or rolls, at least for him, as part of his dinner. When Money Saving Mom originally posted this recipe, I tried it that very night and it’s been a regular part of the cast of characters for dinner ever since. I love these because they’re very little work, especially while I’m preparing the rest of the meal, yet they’re incredibly moist and fluffy. The oatmeal also adds an extra boost of nutrients to fortify my guys. Besides, nothing beats rolls fresh from your own oven. That I can get behind at any meal!

Oatmeal Pull-Apart Rolls

4 Sons 'R' Us: oatmeal pull apart rolls

  •  2 ¼ cups hot water
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ cups quick oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages instant active yeast (1 ½ Tablespoons)
  • Melted butter for tops of baked rolls

Directions

  1. Combine the hot water, honey, butter, brown sugar and salt in one bowl.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine together the yeast, oats, whole wheat  flour, and about one cup of white flour.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and mix for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the additional white flour until the dough forms a ball.
  5. Knead, by hand or in the mixer using a dough hook, for 5-7 minutes.
  6. Let the dough rise for about an hour.
  7. Roll into 24 balls (if dough is too sticky, flour your hands and/or add extra flour as needed) and place in a greased 9″x13″ pan. Let rise another 30-45 minutes.
  8. Bake 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown (cover with foil if necessary the last few minutes to prevent over-browning).
  9. Brush tops of warm rolls with melted butter immediately. Serve warm with butter.

Copy-Cat ‘Frosty Paws’ Frozen Dog Treats

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than a nice cold and frosty treat to help keep cool. Think of a glass of ice-cold lemonade, or a frosty popsicle fresh from the freezer. While we all have our own favorites and readily use them as part of our summer arsenal to stop the heat’s oppressive assault, pets are often left out of this kind of treat. ‘Frosty Paws’ offer an ‘ice cream’ type treat for your K-9 friend that’s perfectly safe for their consumption. However, even though our Bentley is very near and dear to my heart, I couldn’t bring myself to continue to pay the high costs just for a bag of frozen dog treats, especially when I read the ingredient list and realized how simple it would be to make my own. It was simple, easy peasy. Now Bentley is happy, healthy, and not nearly as hot after a romp outside. These are really versatile as well, and easily adaptable. While the recipe I’ve given you today is how I make them most often. I have made these with finely ground chicken & chicken broth, and I’ve also included pulverized egg shells as a calcium supplement with great success.

Copy-Cat ‘Frosty Paws’ Frozen Dog Treats

4 Sons 'R' Us: copy cat frosty paws

  •  32 oz yogurt (I’ve used plain, strawberry, and vanilla before)
  • 1 mashed ripe banana, or 1 babyfood jar of fruit
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ice cube tray

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a mixer or a blender until evenly combined. 
  2. Spoon the batter into the ice cube trays.
  3. Freeze.
  4. Pop out and store in a zip locking bag in your freezer.
  5. Give your fur-baby a treat!

All-Natural Flea And Tick Spray for Dogs

We have an almost 4 year old pug named Bentley. Bentley, ever the rebel, does not ever stop. Contrary to the accepted pug ‘stereotype’ he is not fat or lazy, but instead full of muscles and hyper-activity. He, literally, goes until he can’t go anymore, falling over in a heap of exhaustion for a cat-nap that, at most, will only last 5 minutes. While we all enjoy watching him frolic through the grass, chase bugs, fetch sticks and so on, all this play time outside meant he was a constant tick magnet. Literally, he set one paw outdoors, he had already attracted at least four of the little blood suckers. We used to buy over the counter products to help keep him bugger free, but aside from the expensive costs, we had another reason to seek out an alternative remedy. With our toddler, and other young children always in and out of our home, we just couldn’t risk the hazards of any one of them loving on the dog, and then ingesting harmful, toxic chemicals when those chubby baby hands went straight in their mouths. I tried several recipes, but this version was the immediate, and obvious winner. When applied to Bentley once a day and rubbed lightly into his coat, we haven’t seen a single tick. Not one! There’s also been no scratching that would indicate any other unwanted squatters trying to take up residence. I don’t have to worry about the little ones wanting to love on, and give kisses to, the dog. Make up your own batch today and serve an all natural, affordable eviction notice to the bugs.

All-Natural Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Natural Flea And Tick Spray

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 cups of distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable, or almond, oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice, citrus oil, or peppermint oil
  • spray bottle

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray onto your pet’s dry coat, staying away from sensitive areas including eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals.
  3. When outdoors for an extended period, spray this solution on two to three times per day. When pets are outdoors generally to use the restroom only, spray the solution onto the animal’s coat once per day.

Sweet Potato Chips

This Spring, and now this Summer, I’ve been taking full advantage of our local farmers market. Every week they run these amazing specials. In addition to the specials and the low prices on fresh, locally grown, organic produce, they also offer a buyer bonus. Usually if you spend anywhere between $6-10, you leave with 3-5 lbs of a featured product. For several weeks, that free product was sweet potatoes. It’s great because I always spend at least $20 stocking up on most of my months worth of produce, and instead of purchasing the sweet potatoes as part of my grocery list, I got them free for buying other things that I needed anyway. That being said, I had to come up with new ways to use them so they didn’t go bad and so that nobody got tired of them or burnt out on the same side dish. We love homemade chips, and they are a great easy snack. It dawned on me that the same would probably be true with a sweet potato version. Instead of just lightly salting them, like I would a regular chip, I opted for a sweet garnish. You however, are not bound by my choice of toppings and have full creative license to express yourself and impress with your own batch of delicious, homemade Sweet Potato Chips.

Sweet Potato Chips

4 Sons 'R' Us: Sweet Potato Chips

  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Wash and scrub sweet potatoes clean. Dry with paper towels.
  2. Using a sharp knife, or a mandolin, carefully slice potatoes into thin coins, as thin as you can get them.
  3. Place potato slices on a non stick baking sheet, or a baking sheet that has been lightly coated with non stick spray.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until extra crisp, but not burned.
  5. In a bowl, toss the sweet potato chips with the cinnamon and honey until evenly coated.
  6. Enjoy!

Monster Bars

Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids! And, as Kim, at Cravings of  Lunatic, so eloquently put it, “and moms…and teenagers…and hubbies…and demon spawn puppies! TRIX ARE FOR EVERYONE! Change your motto Trix, it’s a new era. Silly rabbit!” Keeping this in mind, the boys and I decided Trix were even for little monsters. My youngest’s last birthday party, his 3rd, was monster-themed and we made these ‘Monster Bars’ as one of the items for all the guests, and other little monsters, at his  party to enjoy. They were a huge hit. With Monster Inc. 2, Monsters University, hitting theaters this weekend, the boys and I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to celebrate seeing the new movie this evening, by ‘pre-gaming’ with some ‘Monster Bars.’ Whether you’re seeing the new movie soon, or have some little monsters of your own, you just can’t go wrong with a delicious Monster Bar.

Monster Bars 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Monster Bars

  • 1 14 oz bag of mini marshmallows
  • 10 cups Trix cereal
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a pot on the stove, melt butter and marshmallows, stirring constantly until both are melted and evenly combined.
  2. Meanwhile, add the Trix to a large bowl, gently coated in non-stick cooking spray.
  3. When the butter and marshmallows have melted and been evenly combined, remove from heat and pour them over the Trix cereal.
  4. Using a spatula, also coated in cooking spray, stir the Trix and marshmallows together until evenly combined.
  5. Pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish and press them down flat using your coated spatula.
  6. Let them sit for about 30 minutes to allow everything to set.
  7. Cut into squares and enjoy.

Easy Effective All-Natural Mosquito Repellent

With the beautiful days, and all this rain, the mosquitoes are in full swing on and around my porch. Bug Spray is a must! Being that my house is always filled with little ones who still put everything in their mouths, including their own hands with no concern over what they’ve touched, I desperately needed to find a mosquito spray that was effective, but also non-toxic. I researched and researched potential recipes, including spray, tinctures, creams. You name it, I perused it online and then tried it. Finally, I found a keeper. Eventually, I did modify it slightly to fit my personal preference and found it to be every bit as effective as the original, and with an enhanced, more refreshing scent. This has been a huge hit at my house since the littles can be protected without fear of poisoning, and there’s no greasy residue left on anyone’s skin like with DEET products. Furthermore, Witch Hazel, one of the main ingredients, is renowned for it’s skin benefits. It’s great at de-greasing oily skin, hydrating dehydrated skin, soothing inflammation, and disinfecting problem complexions. An effective bug spray that’s non-toxic with skin benefits? That’s what I call a winning combination.

Easy Effective All-Natural Mosquito Repellent 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy, Effective Mosquito Repellent

  • 1 14 oz bottle of witch hazel
  • citronella essential oil
  • eucalyptus essential oil
  • lavender essential oil
  • spray bottle(s)

Directions

  1. In a mason jar, or other glass jar of similar size with a lid, pour in the entire bottle of witch hazel.
  2. Now add your essential oils to the jar. 15 drops each of Citronella and Eucalyptus, and 10-12 drops of lavender.
  3. Put the lid on tightly, and shake vigorously until the mixture is evenly combined.
  4. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a spray bottle. You can either fill multiple spray bottles, depending on size, or fill one, leaving the remainder in the glass jar to refill as needed.
  5. Spray on areas of the skin commonly exposed to mosquitoes.

ImportantThis mosquito spray has not been tested nor confirmed to be effective at preventing mosquito-borne illnesses (such as West Nile Virus).  If you are concerned about you or your family contracting such an illness, please use a different product containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or IR3535.