Mickey Mania

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We did it.

Again.

We took the kids to Disney World.

The last time we made the journey to the “Happiest Place on Earth”, Christopher was 6.  He loved it, aside from the usual meltdowns associated with not being tall enough to ride various rides, and ignoring the middle of the day meltdowns from being tired, hot and sweaty. I enjoyed it because he enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel the need to go ever again.  I figured a kid should go once, and that was enough.

But then His Majesty was born, and with a 10 year gap between him and Christopher, there was a shrinking window of when we could go and have both kids enjoy themselves without making it too miserable on my husband and myself. Don’t get me wrong, Disney World is great, but we’re not exactly “Disney people”, and running through theme parks with a toddler in a stroller isn’t exactly our idea of relaxing, but as with most things, we’re willing to do it for our kids to enjoy it.  Plus, my Grandma had never been, so that added some extra incentive on my end.  Next to watching my kids experience something new, I absolutely love taking her on new adventures.

In preparation for our trip, I took the opportunity to make His Majesty a few Mouse themed t-shirts using a freezer paper stencil method I’d pinned from Urban Pioneer Story.  You won’t believe how easy this it was.

I started with two plain cotton t-shirts that I bought at Hobby Lobby for $6.  His Majesty chose the colors– he wanted a pink and a blue.  I printed the mouse ear profile on regular paper, and cut it out with scissors, and then traced it onto the dull side of a sheet of freezer paper (which I purchased at the grocery store in a huge roll for under $5), and cut it out with a razor knife, giving me an intact stencil. Then, I ironed it, shiny side DOWN, onto the shirt, resulting in this:

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You want to leave a little extra freezer paper around your stenciled shape, to allow you to easily paint while protecting the clean part of the shirt. Next, I put a sheet of cardboard inside the shirt (I used an empty cereal box folded down to be flat), and used a round sponge paint brush to apply black fabric paint to the inside of the stencil.  At the edges I pressed down with the brush, and brushed towards the inside of the shape, to keep from moving the edges of the stencil.  I painted two coats, letting it dry for about an hour in between coats. Image

The next day, I peeled the freezer paper off, leaving me with this.

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Oh boy.  I was excited.  And so was His Majesty.

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But for the pink shirt, I decided that I wanted to try something a little different, using spray paint, gaining inspiration from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom.  So this time, I used the shape of the ears as my stencil, and painted around them with spray paint (again, be sure you put a piece of cardboard inside of the shirt, as the paint will soak through). I held my hand about 10 inches away, and sprayed a light coat of paint, keeping my arm moving the whole time to avoid blotches and drips. Image

ImageWhen I pulled the stencil off, I basically did a happy dance. Image

His Majesty was pleased as well.

ImageI liked the results of the spray paint method so much that I decided to do it on the back of his blue shirt as well. You can only use each stencil once, so I cut another one out.  It’s so easy, though, that it’s hardly a big deal.

ImageAnd that’s how I made two shirts for Disney World in a breathable fabric (helpful, given that it was 90 degrees and all kinds of humid during our trip… I was melting, MELTING!!) for a fraction of the cost we’d pay at the park. And, these are one of a kind.  I’m proud of them, and His Majesty loves them.  For the record, I offered to make some for Christopher, but he deemed himself too cool for them.  He did, however, request that I make him a shirt with The Hunger Games symbol to go with his Halloween costume– He’s going as Peeta.

This method is amenable to any shape that you want to create.  You can do words, names, whatever your heart desires.  Once you have your paint and your freezer paper, you can probably even make a shirt for everyone in your family with supplies left to spare.  Birthday shirts for your little one?  Done.  Shirts to show support for your kid’s Little League team?  Done.  Bring it on, baby.  The sky is the limit with the freezer paper stencil shirts!

I made one other cool thing for our Disney trip, and also did some preplanning for our trip that saved me a little money and gave my kids some extra fun along the way.  Stay tuned for more on that this week 🙂

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The First Boo-Tiful Halloween Craft of 2012

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Oh my gosh, I am so excited to show off my friend Melissa’s handiwork today!  She’s been bitten by the Pinterest bug, and my Facebook newsfeed has been full of all sorts of treats and crafts that she’s created for herself and her sweetie up north in PA.  As soon as I saw her awesome Halloween Topiary, I begged her to let me feature it here, and she was kind enough to let me.  Thanks, Melissa!

She drew her (p)inspiration  from Courtney at A Diamond in the Stuff, which is a fantastic blog that is loaded with amazing DIY-able home decor creations.  Seriously, what this woman can do with Mod Podge and some thrifted furniture is unreal, you’ve got to check it out.

Pumpkin Topiary; Source: A Diamond in the Stuff

(Courtney also has an Etsy Store, just in case you’re running out of time to create your own awesomeness from time to time.)

Using faux pumpkins, Krylon Glitter Blast spray paint, a hot glue, a basket, wooden skewers, and craft letters, Melissa made her own version in under 3 hours (including time spent waiting on the paint to dry between coats:

To this:

Don’t you just love it?  What a great way to jazz up an entryway, or a porch, especially if you don’t want to decorate with anything that might be too scary for your little Trick or Treaters.  Melissa says: “From start to finish this was an easy craft and I recommend it for beginners! I used simple pumpkins from Walmart, glitter blast spray paint, and all of the accessories were from Michael’s! Simple, easy, fun & makes a great decoration!!”  The cost for her materials rang in at about $45, the bulk of which was in the cost of the Krylon Glitter Blast spray paint (which has an awesome color selection and just flat out rocks, but is a bit steeply priced if you are going to use more than one color for a project.  I wonder if there is a cheaper alternative out there that could still achieve the glittery finish?).

Great job, Melissa, and thanks for sharing your work!

You can see more of Melissa’s favorite (p)inspirations and follow her in all of her greatness to see what else she finds and creates here.

I can’t believe it’s time to actually start making some of the fantastic Halloween creations that I’ve been pinning all year! I’d better get it in gear!! Thanks for the push, Melissa!

I’d love to feature your creations, too, so if you make something you saw on Pinterest, take pictures, and let me know that you’d like some of the spotlight!  Email me at verypinteresting(AT)GMAIL(DOT)com, I’d love to see your masterpieces.

Getting Caught Up

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Whew, am I behind on blogging.  As life happens, sitting down to blog has taken the back burner for me.  Summer is just about over, our (home) school year is in full swing, and we have been packing our days full.  Christopher is involved in all sorts of activities, His Majesty is in play school a few mornings a weeks, and is able to tolerate being out and about for daily outings with friends, and my husband and I are enjoying the ride.  While I haven’t had time for much crafting, one thing that I have found time to do is to try a few new recipes that are worth talking about.

Pizza stuffed crescent rolls: Super easy appetizer, and a hit with kids and adults (don’t let make them ahead and then try to warm them up, they are definitely better a few minutes after they’ve come out of the oven).  Check out the recipe over at Plain Chicken.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies:  Salty and Sweet, these babies were a hit with my brother and his girlfriend when they visited us this summer.  I’d have taken a photo of them when they were finished baking, but they disappeared pretty quickly, and I didn’t get the chance!  Find out how to make them at Sugar Cooking (isn’t that such a great name for a blog?).  You know how after you drop regular chocolate chip cookie dough in rounded spoonfuls, it will kind of flatten out as it bakes?  I guess these won’t really do that, so I read the comments, and it was suggested that you flatten the dough out a little bit with your palm or a cup if you want them to have a thinner appearance.  It doesn’t really matter though.  People are going to eat in pretty much any form.

Chickpea and Tomato Basil Salad: Christopher is not a fan, but my husband, His Majesty, and I could eat our weight in it.  At least, His Majesty would eat his weight in the garbanzo beans (which is hilarious to hear him pronounce, by the way), as evidenced by this photo of him picking them out one by one and loading them onto his spoon.  The recipe is from Green Lite Bites, and it is a great summer salad, not to mention a good way to use up grape tomatoes, which, if you’ve ever grown them, you know can become an issue.

“P.F. Chang’s” Style Lettuce Wrap from Iowa Girl Eats:  Messy, and lots of prep work compared to my usual meals, plus you have to watch the skillet, which I’m definitely not used to doing, but oh boy, is it worth it.  These are incredible, and I mean incredible.

Make Ahead Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies: They are supposed to be a healthier recipe, and they don’t taste like a “real” cookie, which is why they are suggested as a breakfast cookie. I didn’t like the taste of them, personally, but His Majesty did, and they froze well, which made them very convenient to have on hand for quickie morning meals with very little effort or clean up.   You can read about how I made them at Parents Connect.

Peanut Butter Brownie Trifle from Taste of Home: This is sinfully delicious, and way too easy to make for as amazing as it is.  Chocolate brownie and peanut butter cups, how can you go wrong?  You could do them in small plastic tumblers for an easy party dessert, too!

Sneaking Zucchini into Everything (and freezing lots of zucchini bread for winter):  Our zucchini crop peaked early this year, and then died off rather suddenly, but not before we had picked almost 100 of them.  I had to get creative with how to use it, so I took a cue from a pin of The Daily Spark and shredded it up like noodles so that I could then sneak it into pretty much every sauce I made.  This allowed me to serve my family an extra veggie serving without altering the taste of the dishes themselves.  Christopher, who doesn’t like zucchini served by itself also apparently doesn’t pay too much attention to what I do in the kitchen, or what’s on his plate, because he went most of the summer without realizing what was going on, and I never got a complaint out of him.  I just popped the “noodles” in the slow cooker about 45 minutes before we ate, stirred it into the sauce, and let it go.  This worked with cream based/alfredo sauces and red sauces.  

Another way I used up zucchini was by making a bunch of blueberry zucchini bread (see the recipe here at All Recipes).  I had to make a bunch because it is so good that we ate a whole loaf in two days, then another loaf went at a game night we hosted, and my husband wanted to take some to work and… well, you get the point.  As fast as I could make it, they ate it, which makes it a great use for extra zucchini– or any zucchini for that matter!

So, as you can see, while I’ve been absent from the blogging world, I’ve been busy in the kitchen, and in the home caring for my family, which is my true love.  As things settle, I hope to be able to pop on for more than a check in, but you know how life is, and how quickly days pass.  Before we know it, it will be Thanksgiving!

I’m sure you have been busy over the past several weeks, too.  What have you been up to?  Trips?  Books?  Lessons?  Let’s catch up!

Smooth(ie) Mornings

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Breakfast is my least favorite meal of the day. Not because I don’t like to eat it, don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE to eat breakfast.  Eggs, bacon, sausage, and a few slices of a nice, ripe tomato picked straight from the garden.  Yum.  That would start my morning off right.

No, it’s definitely not my least favorite meal of the day because I don’t like to eat it.  It’s my least favorite meal of the day because it starts the morning off with a mess to clean up.  And since I clean the kitchen really thoroughly every night, I want to keep it reasonably clean at least through the mornings, which means that my kids get very simple breakfasts that are easy to clean up.  Cereal and fruit, oatmeal, or yogurt and peanut butter toast.  Things like that.  Unless my husband is home and feels like making breakfast, which he usually does on the weekends.

Recently, I was looking through my food pins and saw this smoothie recipe, from Sing for Your Supper, and I thought that smoothies would be a perfect quick, easy to clean up breakfast option.  And low and behold, I had everything I needed to try Sing for  Your Supper’s recipe:  Ice, honey, unsweetened vanilla soy milk (you can also use the sweetened variety, or even cow or almond milk), Greek yogurt (adds protein and gives it a creamy consistency), strawberries (I used frozen because it was what I had), blueberries, a peach, a banana, and raw spinach leaves.

Smoothies are pretty hard to mess up.  You basically just blend your ice with a little of each of the various fruit that you want to add, a squirt or two of honey, your milk, a few spoonfuls of yogurt, and a handful of spinach.  The spinach may sound like a strange addition to you, but it does nothing to the flavor and adds all sorts of vitamins and nutrients.  Just slop everything in your blender, put the lid on, and start blending.  It’s thick, so I stopped it periodically and stirred it to be sure everything got nice and uniformly chopped and blended.

he likes it A blender full of smoothie goodness will make about four 8-ounce servings.  His Majesty drinks portion of smoothie served in “his” “shot cup”.

Yep.  I serve my two year old smoothies in a shot glass.

 

It may sound strange, but it was too thick for him to drink from a straw cup, and he’s not quite ready to handle a larger cup (see above about how I don’t want to clean up a mess in the morning…), so the 2 ounce shot glass holds a perfect amount.  He devours it, and then asks for more.  We keep topping him off until we run out of smoothie, and in the end, he gets about an 8 ounce serving… well, maybe 7 ounces.  About an ounce ends up on his face and placemat, which is pretty minimal given the damage the boy can do with even something simple like a piece of toast.  He really likes smoothies, though, and now asks for one every morning.

Christopher was skeptical of the spinach addition until he tasted it.  Then he sucked his drink down, too.  You can’t taste the spinach at all, and it adds tons of vitamins and nutrients to the blend.  The more spinach you add to your mixture, the less pink your smoothie will be, but it will still taste good even if the color looks a bit funky.  He didn’t really care for smoothies until I started adding peaches to them, after having been inspired by this recipe.  Before that, I’d only made them with berries and bananas.  The peaches are a perfect addition.  The riper the better, too, so if you have a peach that is too squishy to eat, toss it in the blender.

If you don’t have everything in the recipe, no worries.  Smoothies are very forgiving.  Give it a try.  Clean up will consist of cleaning the blender and the cutting board.  Oh, and here’s an easy way to clean you blender.  Fill it up about 2/3 of the way with warm water, then put the lid on and turn it on.  Then dump the liquid off, and you won’t have to scrub your blender as much to get it all clean.

What is your favorite breakfast meal?

 

You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl

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How’s that for the title to a blog post?

I didn’t think of it.  It’s the title to the book I just read by the same name:  You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl, written by one of my favorite authors– who also happens to live in North Carolina– Celia Rivenbark.  She writes her books, which are a collection of essays, in such as way that they are a great blend of sarcasm, humor, and snark.  This is the 4th book of hers that I have read, and while it wasn’t my favorite of her collection (that recognition goes to her book entitled Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank), it was the perfect book to take with you to the beach or to read en route to your vacation destination or while waiting in the lobby at your dentist’s office… so long as you don’t mind being stared at for laughing out loud.

When I first started reading Celia Rivenbark’s books, I really needed to laugh.  It was early 2010, His Majesty had just been born, and I was spending hours– HOURS– sitting and nursing him.  HOURS.  Like most newborns, he occupied 90% of his waking time eating, but unlike most newborns, he occupied what little time he didn’t spend eating by crying.  If he wasn’t on the breast, he was wailing, and oh boy, it was an angry cry.  He had “colic” (or whatever they call it now, “PURPLE” crying), and we tried everything to sooth him, and finally just bucked up and endured it, and mercifully, it passed.  It was about as much fun to pass as a kidney stone, but it did pass.  If you’re dealing with a colicky newborn, hang in there, and please accept my heartfelt fist bump, Mom to Mom.  It’ll go away, and your baby will eventually act like the “normal” babies that you think all of your friends have. Anyway, I wasn’t doing a whole lot of laughing for several months after that little bundle of joy arrived.  To pass the time while he nursed, I started reading, and I’m not talking about Brown Bear or Dr. Seuss.  I started reading something that *I* wanted to read.  And somehow, I ended up with a copy of one of Celia’s books, and that’s what I started out reading.

And I pretty much instantly began laughing again.  So, during the next several weeks, while I racked up hours upon hours of chair time with His Majesty, I plowed through 3 of her books.  And I loved every one of them.  I loved them so much, that I wrote her fan mail.  Seriously.  I emailed her and told her that her books had livened up my endless breastfeeding sessions and brought a smile to my face when I thought that even my facial muscles were suffering from exhaustion.  I may have even said that if she lived closer to me, I’d try to force her to be my BFF… And do you know what?!  She wasn’t even freaked out by my fawning over her, and she actually wrote me back!  Her email was totally friendly and funny, and it made me love her books all the more.

She writes the kind of books that make you want to read them out loud to your husband, or your friends, or someone who can laugh with you– someone other than a 2 month old baby who doesn’t share in your gut splitting amusement.  They are just too funny not to share.  She’s raw, and walks the edge, and doesn’t sugar coat things.  She uses some profanity, and she’s no holds barred in that she is an equal opportunity offender, and not only is her family not exempt from being included in her books, she makes fun of herself.  Often.  Hence the title of the book.  She’s often the butt of her own jokes, and I love that about her.  She pokes fun at mostly pop culture trends and headlines, most of which are out of the proverbial spotlight faster than you can say “There goes their five minutes of fame”, and while many of the topics were no longer socially relevant by the time this book went to print, they are nonetheless fun to laugh about, even after the fact.

 

I can pretty much guarantee you’ll enjoy Celia’s book if you:

–  Loathe being asked for every bit of your personal identifying information, just short of a DNA sample, to check out at Sephora.

–  Have ever been accosted by salespeople running live infomercials at the mall kiosks.

–  Get a kick out of science fair parents, or, as I like to call them, “Parents who base their own self worth on their children’s achievements”.

–  Find that the word “asshat” describes so many, many people in an incredibly profound way, but without being terribly vile.

–  Think that politics, and government agencies, are always fair game for satire, if not only because if you don’t allow yourself to laugh at the travesty that defines our collective elected officials across all party lines, you would surely have to lock yourselves in your room and give in to permanent depression and social exile.

–  Can’t help but at least pause when you come across another trash reality TV show when flipping through channels.

–  Appreciate Southern recipes (she tosses some of her family’s tried and true goodies in each book at the end of a few chapters).

–  Would absolutely and without a doubt click a yahoo article headline telling about someone being cited for shaving while driving.

–  Own a Snuggie… and use it.

This book is an easy read.  The chapters are short, giving you have lots of logical stopping points if you get distracted by your husband, or your kids, or your bladder, and when you are able to come back to it later, you won’t have to reread pages to catch back up (although, if you enjoy it as much as I did, you’ll want to, simply to get a few extra laughs).   It will make you laugh.  It may even make you snort.  And I’m pretty sure you’ll want to go out and grab another one of her books when you’re finished.  You won’t want to be done with Celia Rivenbark.

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Pineapple Summer Salad

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This dish will get you an invite to everyone’s summer cookout!

It might sound strange at first: Strawberry Pretzel Salad.  But it is so good.  My Grandma makes a version of this that doesn’t have a cream cheese layer like this version, from Rebecca Crump at Ezra Pound Cake.  The cream cheese layer takes this dish over the top.  Does the inclusion of strawberries and pineapple qualify this dish as a side of fruit, rather than a dessert?  Hmmm…

Rebecca’s recipe uses all of the good stuff: butter, sugar, pretzels, cream cheese, cool whip, strawberry gelatin, frozen strawberries, crushed pineapple, and whipped cream.   Holy goodness.  (And speaking of Rebecca, her website has an amazing recipe index, including everything from crab dip and hot chocolate to sweet tea and couscous.  She also has easy to follow recipes for several classic cocktails.)  I modified Rebecca’s recipe to use generic Splenda, which measures 1:1 with sugar in baking recipes.

Here’s what I did to make Strawberry Pineapple Pretzel Salad (recipe from Rebecca Crumb at Ezra Pound Cake):

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish (I used real butter).

Make your crust.  Start by mixing 2 cups crushed pretzels (I added a cup at a time into a zip lock freezer bag, and pounded it with a cooking mallet to get the pieces nice and small without turning them into fine crumbs), 3/4 cups melted butter, and 3 tablespoons (generic) splenda in a bowl to coat all of the pieces evenly.  Then press the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan, and bake in preheated oven for 7 minutes.

Set your crust aside to cool.

While your crust is cooling, mix your cream cheese layer.  Combine 8 ounces of whipped cream cheese, and 3/4 cup of splenda, and whip until smooth.  Then fold in 8 ounces of Cool Whip (or, in my case, generic whipped topping).

Once the crust is cooled, spread the cream cheese mixture over your cooled crust. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to evenly chill. 

Combine 2- 3 ounce packages of sugar free strawberry gelatin with 2 cups of boiling water.  Stir to dissolve the gelatin, and let sit for 5 minutes to cool.  Add 2- 10 ounce packages of frozen strawberries and 8 ounces of crushed pineapple, and gently combine.  Then pour the fruit and gelatin mixture over your chilled cream cheese layer.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until serving time.

Look at this baby.  Nice and frosty and delicious.

I took Rebecca’s advice and serve it with whipped cream on top.

It was a hit with my taste tester, so I made it again for a cook out, where it was gone in a matter of minutes.  People loved this stuff.

It does take some advanced planning, since you have to chill it for a few hours, but it’s so easy that it’s worth planning ahead.

This would be a great recipe to keep on hand if you freeze fresh strawberries when you can’t eat them fast enough.  It’s fatty, and rich, and sweet and salty.  Perfect combination.

And there’s fruit.  It’s got to count as a serving of fruit…

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What’s your favorite dish to share at a cook out or summer party?

Cue-ing it Up in the Slow Cooker

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Any time of year is perfect for putting your slow cooker to use, but when temperatures are so hot that you don’t want to put on the oven, it’s even more perfect.   My favorite slow cooker recipes are those that allow me to put the ingredients in and turn it on– no messing up other pans, and minimal prep– AND has a long cook time, so that I can assemble everything in the morning and go about the rest of my day.  This one, by Hungry Girl, not only meets all of those criteria, but it’s also a perfect summer dish– Barbecue pulled pork.  Some baked beans and salad or coleslaw on the side, and you’ve got full meal.

You can see the original recipe here.  Hungry Girl is a great site for recipes, and doubly so if you want a caloric count, or if you’re tracking carb intake or following Weight Watchers.   She also makes a great foldable flat bread that you can buy in supermarkets.  I modified her recipe slightly by using less onions, Splenda brown sugar blend, and using only a pork tenderloin.

You’ll need:

1 cup canned tomato sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp Splenda Blend brown sugar

2 tbsp plus 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup chopped onion

1.5 lb. raw boneless pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat.

You start by making your own sauce from ketchup, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, brown sugar blend (if you use regular brown sugar, double the amount you add),  and, if you want to make clean up a breeze, a Reynold’s Slow Cooker Liner.

 

You just pop the sauce ingredients directly in your slow cooker.  Stir them together thoroughly.

 

 

 

After stirring to combine your sauce ingredients, add your chopped onion and whole pork loin.  The big old chunk of it.

 

 

Roll your pork loin around to coat it and the onions in sauce. You want the flavor to get into every bit of the meat.

Turn your slow cooker on for 3-4 hours on high or 7-8 hours on high.  You’ll smell everything cooking up nicely.  Your friends will comment on how delicious it smells.  Tell them how easy it was to make, they’ll love you for it.

When it’s cooked through (pork should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees), carefully remove the pork loin and place it in a large bowl.  Shred the pork using two forks.  Just drag the forks through the meat.  It will shred easily if it’s thoroughly cooked.  Shred it nice and fine. Then return it to the slow cooker and stir it into the sauce and juices.  Coat everything evenly.

I eat mine plain or on a bed of lettuce (I call it barbecue salad), which saves me a few carbs and calories.  My husband and boys eat it on hotdog or hamburger buns, depending on what’s handy.  It’s good on anything.  And it makes a lot, so you could even score lunch leftovers out of this minimal effort dish.

If pork is not your thing, try using the same sauce and substituting boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the pork tenderloin.  Just keep in mind that the internal temperature of chicken should be 165 degrees when it’s fully cooked.  I’ve used frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs in similar recipes, and set the slow cooker on high for an hour, then decreased the temperature to low for 6–8 hours.  The chicken will just fall apart when it’s done.

Little effort, no mess, and big taste.  What are your favorite no fuss summer dinners?