Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

I’m always on the lookout for new things to do with ground beef. I buy two 6 lb packages of lean ground beef each month from Costco. One gets divided into 1lb packages to freeze and use for meals. The other gets divided and made into meatloaf and meatballs. My boys love meatballs with their spaghetti. They love meatball subs. But, that’s about as adventurous as they were willing to be when it came to the sacred ‘meatball’. That was until this recipe. They loved it. The sweet and sour sauce was rich and delicious. I love it when I can get fruit into any meal. They devoured it and asked for more.

These are by far, the BEST crock pot meatballs I’ve ever had. They’re simple. They’re easy. They’re filling. AND they’re budget friendly! All of which made this recipe a keeper for a busy Mom with a boat-load of growing boys to feed.

Really, this is a must try. No longer are meatballs only for Italian-style dishes. Or the typical, tried and true, bland crock pot ‘cocktail’ style recipes that have been done countless times before.

Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

 

recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff

  • 32 oz of pre-packaged frozen meatballs or about 2 lbs of frozen, homemade meatballs
  • 13.5 oz can of unsweetened pineapple chunks, drain and reserve juice
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Directions

  1. Place meatballs in crock pot and top with green pepper and drained pineapple chunks.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and soy sauce.
  3. Pour sauce over meatballs, pineapple and green peppers.
  4. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through.
  5. Serve over cooked white rice.

{Easy} Homemade Baby Wipes

I’m convinced little boys are magnets. Pint-sized, powerful dirt magnets. I’m constantly going through wet wipes. In the house. In the car. In the store. Everywhere. There’s not a dust bunny, dirt speck, or food particle within a good mile radius that does not find it’s way onto their person. And by person, I meant their face, hands, shirt, etc. You name it, if they’ve been awake for 5 minutes, something has found them. Knowing this, I’m always armed with some handy-dandy wipes to scrub them down on the go. That leftover kool-aid mustache? Check. The hands that are now black from tracing every wall we’ve walked past for 5 minutes? Check.

About a year ago, I started to notice how many wipes we were going through and how the cost was really adding up. Being the fastidious penny-pincher that I am, I began to look for a way to make my own that were not only cheaper, but just as durable. Only a strong wipe can compete with my grubby boys and keep them as presentable as humanly possible until bath time. A friend of mine with a gaggle of her own children told me about this recipe that she swore by. I tried it, and from the very first swipe I was hooked!

As I’ve mentioned before, Son #4 struggles with eczema. We’re dealing with a very itchy bout of it now. These wipes are gentle enough to even use on his super-sensitive skin. Not only do they not cause any reaction or irritate his condition, they even seem to help soothe his itching. That alone would have sold me on these.

But there’s more…

One of the best things about these all-natural, homemade baby wipes is that they do not contain alcohol and are super gentle on those delicate areas, especially if you’re dealing with diaper rash. The tea tree oil, as well as the coconut oil have anti-microbial properties and protect against molding. Also, both the tea tree oil and coconut oil provide a multitude of skin benefits.

Start making your own wipes today. They blow all the store-bought competition out of the water. And, they’re cheaper! These, my friend, will totally ‘wipe’-out and reservations you may have.

{Easy} Homemade Baby Wipes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy Homemade Baby Wipes

  • 1 roll of Bounty paper towels (I found mine at the the Dollar Tree)
  • a very sharp knife, or an electric knife
  • 1 tbsp baby wash
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • tea tree oil
  • container to house the wipes in (the one pictured came from the Dollar Tree as well)

Directions

  1. Cut the roll of paper towels evenly in half. It will resemble two rolls of toilet paper at that point.
  2. Carefully remove the cardboard paper tube from inside the paper towels.
  3. In a bowl, mix the baby wash, oil, hot water, and 2-3 drops tea tree oil until evenly combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the wipes container.
  5. Add the cut paper towels and let sit, for about an hour, until all the mixture has been soaked up and saturated throughout the towels.
  6. To use, pull wipes from the center.

Super Hero Birthday Cakes

Sons 1 & 3 have birthdays within a week of each other. Since the dates are so close together they typically have a combined celebration where all of their family and friends can get together at once. We almost always do a cake and coordinating cupcakes. This year, they opted for a combination of comic books (Son # 1 collects them) and some of their favorite Super Heroes (is any boy ever too old for them?). These were the results and they thought they were absolutely fantastic!

Comic Book Birthday

4 Sons 'R' Us: Comic Book Cupcakes 2 4 Sons 'R' Us: Comic Book Cupcakes

Holy Cupcakes, Batman! I loved, as did Sons 1 & 3, how these turned out! They were a huge hit. The cupcake toppers are from 3 separate printables. The first one, representing some of the boys favorite iconic comic book superheros was from Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss. Batman was present, but isn’t pictured. The Happy Birthday, Bang, Pow, and blank printables I found at Let’s Panic. Finally, the smaller ‘Boom’ & ‘Pow’ came from Simply Designing with Ashley. I just cut out the printed images and hot glued them to lollipop sticks. Last minute I decided to add some Pop Rocks as ‘sprinkles’ so the cupcakes matched their comic book captions.

A few months ago I had found Thor’s hammer on clearance at Target for less than $5. I purchased it immediately with this cake in mind. I used chocolate frosting to cover the cake. I gently pressed the hammer into the cake at an angle creating an indention. I removed the hammer and had my husband cut a rectangle into the indention, in the center, where the hammer would rest to make it stable and ensure it would remain upright. I then stuck the hammer on top and sprinkled crushed oreos around for ‘dirt’.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Thor Cake

While the older boys wanted things kept simple party-wise, both loved their cake and cupcakes. Seeing their eyes widen when I presented them with their birthday treats made me feel pretty darn ‘super’ myself. They can just call me Wonder Woman. Just Kidding.

I love my little ‘Supers’.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Comic Book Birthday 3

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad

I love, love, love this pasta salad. I can’t quite put into words all the love I have for. My family thinks it’s because it’s such a crowd pleaser. I’m leaning more towards it being the ranch dressing. It’s my sauce of choice. Also, it’s the versatility. I can easily make this as a side to dinner, or add extra lettuce to make it an all-in-one meal. The recipe easily feeds our family, but is simple to double to serve a larger group.

Originally, I was skeptical of the Swiss it called for. I’ve only ever included cheddar in any ranch-based pasta salads before, but my skepticism was unnecessary. The Swiss perfectly compliments the other flavors in the bunch. Simply put, it’s delicious. If you’re looking to branch out of your more traditional pasta salad comfort zone, looking for a dish to ‘wow’ family and/or friends, or simply trying to ditch the pre-packaged, processed box versions, this recipe is a must try.

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad

recipe adapted from Cinnamon, Spice, and Everything Nice

  • 1 lb radiatore pasta
  • 16 oz ranch dressing
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes, seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 cup cubed Swiss
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 2 cups finely chopped romaine or iceberg lettuce
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Cook the pasta, according to package directions, in salted water.
  2. Drain pasta. Toss with just enough dressing so that the pasta is lightly coated and won’t stick together. Refrigerate until cold.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the tomatoes, Swiss, onion, bacon, and lettuce.
  4. Add enough dressing to generously coat everything, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve. If not serving immediately, don’t mix the lettuce in until you’re ready to serve to prevent wilting.

Oven Baked Hot Dogs

For the best chili cheese dogs around, all you need is this easy Oven Baked Hot Dogs recipe. Loaded with chili, chopped onion, and melted cheddar, they’re crispy on the outside but soft and savory dogs tucked into fluffy buns. Lunch, dinner, pot lucks, even on Game Day- these are perfect for almost any occasion.

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The First Day of School

I’m thinking next year, I’m going to host a big brunch, with mimosas of course, so that all my fellow SAHM’s and myself can raise a glass and a toast to the fact that we all managed to retain our sanity throughout another entire summer, and of course that all children are still happy and healthy. While I love my boys, I’m always happy to see that first day of Summer Vacation, and I’m just as happy to see it go. Does it take anyone else an entire school year to recover?

First Day of School

No, I didn’t lose a son. Son # 1 was struggling to get out the door this morning and missed the group photo ops. It seems somebody was a little to used to secretly reading half the night, and didn’t realize how early 7am would come. The days of sleeping in until noon are over. At least until next Summer, or the weekend. Here are the bright eyed and bushy-tailed ones, ready to go. I found these free, printable grade signs, which I LOVE from Designs by Nicolina.

Now, let me introduce you to my latest idea. The Homework Caddy.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homework Caddy

In an effort to cut down on wasted time, misplaced assignments and supplies, and mismanaged time all 3 big boys will be doing homework at our very large, and accommodating kitchen table this year. The homework caddy will be on-hand each day, smack dab in the middle of the table with all the supplies each boy could possibly need to complete their assignments. Best of all? There will be no reason, or excuse, for any of our homework supplies to be ‘walking off’ this year. Here’s to hoping this also prevents the over-used, ‘But Moooooom, I can’t do my homework because I don’t have…’.

Inside the caddy, which I found at Jo-Ann’s craft store, are 3 pint-sized Mason jars containing markers, sharpened pencils, and colored pencils. There’s plenty of loose-leaf tucked in the back, and even a pad of construction paper. Pens have been included and tucked away in the bottom is a pair of scissors, manual pencil sharpener, and two glue sticks. Did I manage to forget anything?

Make homework time just a little bit easier this year by making your own homework caddy today.

Oh, and fellow parents? We made it! Happy 1st Day of School 2013.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

I could not live without coffee. The morning that I awoke to discover the creamer was all gone, was a nightmare of epic proportions. I was in a daze, wondering who had sabotaged my morning routine. I mean, it must have been sabotage, because there was no way I would have forgotten to add creamer to the grocery list!

I had milk. I had sugar. I had vanilla.  I tried it, and it just wasn’t cutting it. I just had to have the smooth, creamy start to my day.

As Plato pointed out so long ago, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In a moment of inspiration I ran to my computer and immediately began Google-ing a homemade creamer recipe. Every recipe I found called for condensed milk. Crap! I was out of that too! I was saved by the bell when another search pointed out it was relatively easy to make that at home too.

Two hours later, I had fresh, homemade condensed milk and was finally on my way to enjoying my first cup of coffee.

Since then, I keep this in the fridge for creamer, and also for smoothies and baking. It works just as well as it’s store-bought counterparts, and with less than half the sugar. Store your own homemade condensed milk in an air tight refrigerator and it can be used up until the expiration date on the milk used to make it.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

recipe from Just As Delish

  • 1 liter of whole, or 2 %, milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter, optional, to thicken the milk

Directions

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the milk and the sugar to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer very gently for about 2 hours until the volume is reduced by half. The milk should be barely simmering and never boiling at any point.
  3. Use a timer, and stir every 15 minutes to keep the ‘skin’ from developing on top.
  4. After 2 hours, stir in the butter.
  5. Remove the pot from heat, and allow to cool. The milk will thicken as it cools.

When refrigerated, the homemade version has thicker consistency than the commercial one. You can add a few drops of water and whisk it lightly if desired to get a thinner mixture.

1, 2, 3 … Lollipop Tree

I love my sisters completely, but years into adulthood, I still have vague recollections of us disagreeing, and possibly fighting, throughout our childhood. I’m still convinced I’m imagining most of the excessive bickering though. We couldn’t have possible argued all the time. Right?!

Now that I have four boys, the oldest three of who are extremely close in age, I am plagued by bickering, tattle-tailing, ‘he-said/’she-said’ disputes, etc. Just bickering, over everything. Over anything. Sometimes…even over nothing. I love my boys to death, but I just can’t deal with constant, and needless conflict. I’ve had to get creative to not simply ‘cope’ with this sibling issue, but to combat it head-on. While my husband and I are no strangers to ‘consequences’ I do like to try an incentive or reward-based program first. The lollipop tree was something I had stumbled upon on Pinterest, as a party decoration, but I had other things in mind for this adorable little ‘plant’.

Our lollipop tree is used as a reward system for acts of kindness. Every time we witness an unprompted act of generosity, helpfulness, compassion…you name it. The kids get a lollipop. While I hoped this practice would work when I began it, I have to admit I was more than a little skeptical. However, after almost a year in action, I can definitely see the successes. Of course, being realistic, it hasn’t weeded out all the bickering and combativeness, but it has gone a long way to serve as a permanent, visual reminder to think about their actions, and even the consequences that may result from them.

1, 2, 3 … Lollipop Tree

4 Sons 'R' Us: 1,2,3...Lollipop Tree

  • small plant pot of your color, size, and choice
  • a Styrofoam ball that fits into the opening of your pot, and is snugly supported by it
  • an economy size bag of Dum-Dum lollipops

Directions

  1. Place the styrofoam ball on top of the plant pot.
  2. Start sticking your Dum-Dum lollipops into the styrofoam ball, keeping the lollipops close together.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Lollipop Tree

3. Continue sticking the lollipops in until you’ve filled up the entire part of the ball that is showing outside the plant pot.

lollipop tree

You’re done! How easy was that?!

And, I have to add that if I did have a daughter or an opportunity to plan a girl’s birthday party, this would be the perfect table decoration for any Candyland, or candy ‘themed’ party!

Summer Car Crayons

I can’t get a single thing by my youngest. At four, hell hath no fury like him discovering me throwing anything away, ever. I have to smuggle out crayons like a Mexican drug lord. While I really hate throwing things away that I can re-purpose, I can’t stand to see his tiny little hands cramped up, struggling to make the tiny broken bits of crayons create the perfect little pictures he has in mind. So yes, me, the meanest Mommy in the world, takes them away. Contrary to his belief I don’t actually throw them in the garbage though. I have accumulated quite a stock-pile in my craft bins. When I saw heard about this idea, I just knew that this was the reason I had held onto them. Now, using nothing more than the summer heat as a power source, we now have a whole new batch of fun crayons to create with. At his age, he thought it was magical as we periodically checked on the melting crayons and how they ‘transformed’ from something old and broken into something brand spankin’ new.

For my older boys, I used this as a teaching point and science experiment to help explain how truly hot the inside of a car gets on a typical summer day. When we did this it was only about 85 degrees out, and pretty comfortable outside. However, our car was sitting in direct sunlight and I think they finally saw why their are always ads on tv and the radio about not leaving your children or pets in the car. While comfortable outside, they watched as our car was transformed into a virtual oven.

Before this experiment, especially with the oldest two sons, I would face a chorus of complaints, and ‘but why‘s’ when they had to come into stores with me while I was out running my errands. Since the car crayons, not a single issue. Instead of spending time wasting my breath lecturing them on the potential ‘dangers’ (the eye rolls suggest they typically think I’m just being an over-protective mother), it was so much easier to simply show them.

Summer Car Crayons

4 Sons 'R' Us: Summer Car Crayons

  • old crayons, papers removed and broken into pieces
  • silicone baking mold, or silicone ice tray
  • your car
  • a hot summer day

4 Sons 'R' Us: Summer Car Crayons

 

  1. Add a variety of broken crayon bits into the molds. You can combine similar colors, or a mix and see what combinations you end up with.
  2. Place mold on a cookie sheet for stability and sit on the dash board of your vehicle.
  3. It will take about 2 hours for the crayons to melt all the way. Periodically, come out to check on them and view their progress.
  4. When fully melted, use pot holders to carry the cookie tray back inside.
  5. You can leave them to cool on their own, or place in the refrigerator to help speed up the cooling process.
  6. When completely cool, pop out your new crayons and get coloring.

{One Pot Wonder} Cheeseburger Casserole

I love a one pot meal. This recipe is so easy, quick to prepare, and the same great cheeseburger flavors we crave. I can’t stress this enough… it did in fact taste just like a cheeseburger! Less mess, less clean-up, but some very satisfied customers. Sprinkling on some of our favorite traditional cheeseburger toppings rounded out the truly authentic taste. While the rest of us opted for tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and pickles, I did have to draw the line for the oldest son at mayonnaise. What is it about teenage boys and mayonnaise? He puts it on everything. Eventually I caved at steak sauce, as long as it remained only on his plate. But, I digress. This meal really is outstanding. Shake things up, and step outside of the box, the next night you’re craving burgers by giving this a try!

{One Pot Wonder} Cheeseburger Casserole

4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Cheeseburger Casserole

recipe adapted from Number 2 Pencil

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 lb rotini pasta
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • freshly diced tomato
  • green onions, thinly sliced
  • pickles
  • shredded lettuce

Directions

  1. In a dutch oven, or large pot, add olive oil. Over medium heat, saute onions until softened.
  2. Increase heat to high and add ground beef. Brown ground beef. Drain.
  3. Return beef to pot and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add canned tomatoes, sauce, broth, water, pasta, ketchup, and mustard to the pot. Stir to evenly combine.
  5. Bring pot to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
  6. Once pasta is cooked, remove the pot from heat and stir in one cup of cheddar cheese.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over top the pasta and re-cover with lid until the cheese is melted.
  8. Serve. Add your choice of the traditional cheeseburger toppings to your serving and enjoy.