Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes


This cupcake recipe makes a simple batch of 6.  
You know for those times you don't need 24?  And they're delicious.


I love to eat cupcakes {who doesn't?} but they aren't my favorite thing to bake.  Something about making sure each one looks good.  They need to rise perfectly, release cleanly from the liner and don't even get me started about decorating them.

I don't care much for making them look pretty.  So much pressure!

So, enter in a few months back when my 4 year old daughter {she turned 4 yesterday!} got a cupcake kit for Christmas.  Just a simple one.  Six silicone liners, a few recipes and some decorating utensils. She was super stoked with this gift.  In fact, I'm pretty sure she asked me 763 times if we could make cupcakes right up until the day we finally got around to making them.

What I LOVE about this recipe is that it just makes six cupcakes.  The perfect amount in my opinion. We do not need two dozen cupcakes sitting around our house!  This way I got to sample one {for quality assurance} and the kids and the husband ate the rest.



Like I said it was this girl's birthday yesterday.  She asked to take cupcakes to school, but the thought of making a bunch of them {again....decorating!} upped my stress levels, so I talked her into these cookies instead.

She was fine with that.

But I'm sure she'll be asking me to bake again tomorrow.  Probably cupcakes.  Maybe she'll open her own bakery someday?



I also kept the frosting simple, just powdered sugar, almond extract and milk.  Nothing else is needed!

And here's the thing, if you are home alone and you want a sweet treat, make a batch of these.  I will not judge if you eat all six.

I understand.

Maybe your kid peed on you during church.  Maybe you spilled your coffee in the car.  Maybe you hit "reply all" on an email at work that should have just went to your friend in accounting.

I get it.  We all have those days.

Sometimes six cupcakes just make everything better.

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
Print this Recipe!
*makes 6

1 egg
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
4 T. melted butter
1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Line a six mold cupcake pan with liners.
3.  In a bowl combine the sugar, egg, milk, butter and extracts.
4.  Gently fold in the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt.
5.  Pour the batter into the cupcake liners, filling 3/4 full.
6.  Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.  They are done with they spring back to the touch.
7.  For a simple frosting combine 3/4 c. powdered sugar, 1 T. almond extract and 1 T. milk.  If the frosting is too thick, add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you've reached the desired consistency.

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And on a totally unrelated note...

If you have been looking for a fun, reasonable outside toy for your little ones {ages 3-6}, check out this see saw!  My sister got it for us and the kids are in love.  It assembled quickly, is light and can be drug around anywhere by my kids.  It goes up and down and spins.

Check out the details HERE.


Monday, March 23, 2015

15 Make-Ahead Breakfast Ideas + Muller Yogurt Coupon Giveaway

You've asked, now here it is!  15 easy, make-ahead breakfast ideas.  
No excuse for running out of the house hungry!


The #1 thing people ask me about are easy dinner ideas.  But, do you know what #2 is?  You guessed it.

Breakfast ideas.

Let me rewind that.

EASY breakfast ideas.

Whether you are a stay-at-home-working-mom like me or you have a steady 9-5, 40-hour work week, we are all the same.  We all need to eat breakfast!

Struggling stay-at-home-mom's complain about not finding time to eat between getting the kid's up and ready and heading out the door for school and working mom's complain about doing all of that plus heading straight into a meeting at 8 a.m.

I get it.  I've been there.  On both sides.  I've worked jobs that started promptly at 7 a.m. and I've worked jobs that gave me the leisure to come in whenever I got the kids to daycare and rolled my butt in the door. 

I'm hoping these 15 super yummy, easy and healthy breakfasts give you some ideas.  Most, if not all, can be prepped on the weekend and thrown in the fridge for the week or be wrapped up and put in the freezer for longer storage.

Whose excited???

1.  Blueberry Oat Breakfast Cookies
2.  Bacon and Cheese Tomato Tart
3.  Breakfast Burritos
4.  Overnight Buttermilk Cornbread Waffles








You know what else is easy for a quick breakfast bite?  At least something to tide you over until your next morning break?

Yogurt.


Muller Yogurt recently sent me some of their new ice cream inspired yogurts.  {I won't even tell you how fast my kids inhaled these...it was a bit comical}.  I had the pleasure of reviewing this brand of yogurt last year as well {they literally were delivered on my front step the day I was giving birth...but that is either here nor there}.  You can read that review here.

Muller is the leading yogurt brand in Europe and recently has been making waves here across the pond. These three new flavors, which honestly taste so very similar to our favorite ice cream flavors, are fun, creamy and could easily be a quick healthy breakfast when flying out the door.

How about some FREE coupons?

Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite quick and healthy run-out-the-door breakfasts are.  I will pick TWO random winners on Thursday to receive two coupons for FREE yogurt.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Baked Ravioli Lasagna + Our Journey to the Food Pantry #ranaraviolichallenge




I was recently contacted by Giovanni Rana pasta about participating in a pasta challenge for National Ravioli Day...which is TODAY!  Any excuse to make a dish out of pasta and I'm in!

They encouraged us to gather our family or friends and serve them a Giovanni Rana pasta meal and that is exactly what I did.  We kept it simple with our immediate family {shh...that gave us leftovers!} and it was super tasty.

What is great about this challenge is that for each reader that uses the hashtag #ranaraviolichallenge on ANY of their social media platforms today {up to 3x}, the company will donate 1 lb. of pasta to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

How cool is that?

So get to tweeting, posting and sharing!  #ranaraviolichallenge



I decided to do a spin on a lasagna, yet using ravioli instead of the typical lasagna sheets or noodles. It turned out to be a pretty fine idea.

This dish can be made with ANY store bought ravioli or sauce, but I used their Ravioli Cheese "Forte", a vibrant cheese blend including Parmigiano Reggiano and their Bolognese made of beef, pork and tomatoes.  I also added my own alfredo sauce so the lasagna could be "pink" when the sauces mixed together.

It worked!

Here's evidence of a good meal.  My 5 year old was definitely a fan.



The process was simple: layer in this order, alfredo sauce, ravioli, bolognese, ravioli, bolognese, parm, alfredo, parm and bake!

I baked this in a covered dish for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.  Really it just needs to heat through and get melty.  We served this with salad and breadsticks and it turned out to be a perfect meal.  And I had leftovers to freeze!  Double bonus.



So here is your challenge peeps.  Tweet this, pin this, share it on Facebook....whatever your little heart desires, just use the hashtag #ranaraviolichallenge, up to 3 times today.  For each time the hashtag is used they will donate 1 lb. of pasta to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.  Pretty great, huh?

And speaking of food banks, my kids and I, along with some of my girlfriends and their kids visited one last week.

Here is the back story.

Each year at Christmas my parents give the grand kids $10 each to pay it forward.  It is up to them to spend it how they want, they just need to do something for someone else.  This year was the first year my kids were involved {the two oldest}, as they are finally at an age where they understand the process.



As a family we decided to purchase some groceries for our local food pantry.  Our small town food pantry feeds 70-100 families twice a month.  No one is turned away and after these "open" times during the month their shelves are virtually bare.

They receive donations from churches, people like us and also rely heavily on local, larger food banks nearby.

We had our kids unpack the cars, bring in the donations and then unpack them again for the workers to sort and later shelve for the customers.  They were prompted with free chocolate, but all in all we think they understood what they were doing and why we were doing it.


It was humbling to see what people rely on month to month to feed their families.  Along with the rows of grocery store type shelving, they also have freezers full of frozen goods, meat, dairy and produce.

One of the volunteers told us a recent story that happened just this past winter.  He was one of the only volunteers to make it down during their open day, due to a snowstorm.  He ran into another guy on the street who had said he stopped a women walking in the snowstorm and asked her if she needed a ride, and frankly why she was out in the cold and snow.  She promptly answered, "I don't have any food to feed my kids".

She was walking to the food pantry.

That volunteer was so thankful he was able to get there that day to open it to customers.  If he hadn't her kids would have gone hungry, most likely for many days.



I guess the moral of this story is that when Giovanni Rana contacted me and told me about their challenge, I just knew I needed to take part.  At the very same time my family was partaking in a challenge of our very own.  To give back to our community in a simple way.

A few extra bucks at the store can mean the world to another family in need.

And so to celebrate National Ravioli Day, let us all take part in the Rana Ravioli Challenge. Do you have a few minutes to spare to share #ranaraviolichallenge via your social media channels?

I appreciate it, Giovanni Rana appreciates it, and the many families who will benefit from their donations will appreciate it.

#ranaraviolichallenge


I received free Giovanni Rana pasta samples for this post, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Crock Pot Beer BBQ Chicken Sandwiches


This easy, crock pot meal is a family pleaser!  
And dare I say, may become a new favorite?


Right behind pizza, anything with chocolate or an ice cold drink, one of my favorite things to consume are sandwiches.

I love sandwiches - of all kinds.  The classic lunch meat sandwich, a crispy B.L.T. with a garden tomato in the heat of the summer or a grilled reuben oozing and dripping with Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing.

I really do love them all.

I try and put some "form" of a sandwich on our weekly meal plan.  They are easy, the kids love them and more often than not they give us leftovers.  This meal gave us three leftovers! It makes quite a bit, but like our middle daughter said, "Mom, these are so good!".

I made these early last week, when we had a few days that had activities back to back - a play date, Kindergarten Round-Up {I may have shedded a tear}, my MOPS meeting and endless errands.  Honest to God, I put this in the crock pot at seven in the morning and didn't even look at it again till around 4:00 in the afternoon, at which point it shredded beautifully.  


I topped these with an easy vinegar based coleslaw {my new favorite}.  The husband turned up his nose at "putting the coleslaw on the bun", but eventually gave in, tried it, and liked it.  For some reason he didn't believe me that many barbecue sandwiches are topped with slaw.

I thought everyone had heard of this?

But he isn't a foodie....so I digress.

This leftover chicken can be eaten in wraps {tortilla, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato}, in a quesadilla {tortilla, additional barbecue sauce, diced onion, cheddar cheese} or simply stored in the freezer to eat as sandwiches a month later.  It all works!

Crock Pot Beer BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 oz. can or bottle of your favorite beer
24 oz. barbecue sauce
1 T. onion powder
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. smoked paprika
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. red chili flakes

1.  Place the chicken breasts in the crock pot and sprinkle with the seasonings.
2.  In a bowl whisk together the beer and barbecue sauce, then pour over the chicken.
3.  Set to LOW and cook for 6-8 hours.  
4.  And hour before eating, shred the chicken with tongs or two forks in the crock pot and allow the chicken to bathe in the juices until ready to eat.
5.  Serve on buns with additional barbecue sauce, topping with coleslaw if desired.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pizza


If you haven't had dessert pizza then you just aren't living!  
This rich, decadent dessert gives pizza a whole new meaning.


We've all been there.  Out to eat at a chain pizza joint, preferably one with a buffet, and just when you want that little bite of sweetness to end your meal, you realize their dessert pizza is either a) all gone, having been devoured by hungry teenagers or b) looks like a horrible, dried up, crusty piece of crap.

Its not fun, is it?

Most dessert pizzas are fruit centered {apple or cherry}, but being the rebel I am, I omitted the fruit and went straight for the chocolate and cookie dough.

You know, I couldn't fathom skipping a class in college {oh, so much guilt}, but I can take the fruit out of pizza and replace it with the most important food group...chocolate.  I have no problem with this folks.



Just like last week when I was making breakfast pizza and my kids claimed I COULDN'T PUT EGGS ON PIZZA, I screwed with their heads again and made a pizza without sauce, meat or cheese.

They really are confused by my cooking lately.

But, they are loving the results.  I may have given in and let them have a little slice after lunch and dinner.  I know, again...rebel.

I then PROMPTLY texted my girlfriend and told her she needed to come over and take this off my hands.  She did.  {She knows not to pass up my desserts}.  She did however sit down to eat a slice before taking home another three slices for her family, because well it needed to pass quality control. I still haven't asked her if she shared with her family.

{Sometimes we do that, take food peace offerings and pretend that we'll share with our family, but instead horde them in our closets and munch on them for the next three days in hiding}.

No guilt there.



The base for this pizza is again the trusty crescent roll {don't judge}.  It's easy and simple and I like that.  The cookie crumble is what makes it.  And well, does it really need the powdered sugar icing? Probably not.  It's pretty sweet.  But the glaze makes it look so pretty!

Make this at your next pizza party {do people still have those?}, surprise your kids with it {set aside time for explaining}, take it to a girl's night {it will be devoured, icing or not} or bake it up on a random Thursday like I did and make a friend come over and take half of it home with her.

I don't care what you do to get around the rules of "pizza" just try it, okay?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pizza
Print this Recipe!

1 tube Pillsbury crescent rolls
1/2 stick melted butter
1 t. almond extract
1 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/3 c. chocolate chips
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. sugar
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk, plus extra if needed

1.  Grease a pizza pan or baking stone.  Unroll and lay the crescent rolls down forming a circle.  Press the seams together and push into a nice circle.
2.  In a bowl combine the melted butter, almond extract, 1 c. sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.  It will form a crumbly dough.  Drop by handfuls over the crust.
3.  Sprinkle on the additional brown sugar, sugar and chocolate chips.
4.  Bake the pizza for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown.  While baking mix together the glaze, powdered sugar and milk.
5.  Remove the pizza from the oven and while still warm, drizzle on the frosting.
6.  Pizza is great still warm, but also room temperature.  


Friday, March 13, 2015

Veggie Chop Chop Salad


'Tis the season for spring time salads!  
This creamy, crunchy salad is the perfect side dish for lunch or dinner.  
Or just eat it as your meal!


The weather here in the Midwest has been absolutely gorgeous this past week.  And gorgeous for us is sunny and a high of 60 degrees.  After a long, cold winter there is nothing better than warmer temps and sunshine.

We've opened some windows, been on walks, letting the kids get dirty in the mud, sitting on the deck and lasty {and most importantly} have been staying outside until dinner and then again after dinner. Daylight Savings Time does screw up our schedules for a day or two, but the extra light is well worth it.

We aren't one of those families that grills year around, simply because the grill is usually buried in snow, but we did break it out a few weeks back for some inaugural burgers.  And with burgers I always have to whip up a side or two...or three.  This chop chop salad was perfect!


If you've been a reader for awhile, then you know nothing excites me more than prepping dinner during the morning, heck, sometimes even the day before.  Saving time in my life keeps me sane. That frantic run around hour from 4-5 p.m. isn't for me.  If dinner gets chaotic, then I tend to start barking orders and yelling.

And frankly that doesn't do anyone good.

So, this salad is perfect!  I made it in the morning, but it can easily be made the day prior, the taste only gets better with age.

Also, different veggies can be added to this salad or swapped out.  Broccoli would be great, or celery too.  Use whatever crunchy veggie your family likes.  I won't police you.



This recipe is kinda of "kicking off" my Spring recipes.  I am currently working on a HUGE Spring salad recipe round-up with recipes from food bloggers all over the U.S.  It really is one you don't want to miss.  Stayed tuned towards the end of this month.

Oh, and did I mention this has bacon in it?  Omit it if you like...but let me be honest, then I will start policing you.

Veggie Chop Chop Salad
Print this Recipe!

3 c. chopped cauliflower
1 large finely diced carrot
1 c. frozen peas
3 strips of bacon, chopped and cooked
1 c. mayo
1/8 c. sugar
2 T. Parmesan cheese
1 T. apple cider vinegar
salt
pepper

1.  Prep all vegetables, chopping into small bites.  Place chopped vegetables along with the peas in a bowl.  Add in cooked, crumbled bacon.
2.  In a small bowl combine dressing ingredients: mayo, sugar, ACV, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
3.  Pour dressing over the veggies and toss to combine.
4.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 24 hours before serving.
5.  Will stay fresh in the fridge for 3 days.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

3 Meat Breakfast Pizza


Yes, you can eat pizza for breakfast!  
And trust me, once you start you will never go back.


If you live in the Midwest, then you know of this convenience store called Casey's General Store. Otherwise known as Casey's to the locals.  It is, in my opinion the best of the best when it comes to gas stations.

We've all been there.  On the road having to PEE and stopping at whatever gas station you see first. You pray, hover and get out of there as fast as you can, hoping your car is still in the parking lot.

Well folks, Casey's is nothing like that.

Every small, medium and large sized town in our neck of the woods has a Casey's and we all thank god for them.  They are clean, good-sized, friendly and have some of the best pizza around.  Including breakfast pizza.

Okay...there is my shout out to Casey's!


Of the 1,384 slices of breakfast pizza I've eaten there in my lifetime, I have never made breakfast pizza of my own before.  I have no idea why.  I thought about it often, but never got around to it. When I announced to the kids the other night that I was making breakfast pizza, for dinner nonetheless, I got two blank stares looking back at me.

"So you mean we'll eat it in the morning?"

"No, tonight for dinner"

"Then why is it called breakfast pizza?"

"Because it has eggs on it"

"I DON'T WANT EGGS ON MY PIZZA!"

Sigh.


In the 25 minutes it took me to make this pizza, I somehow convinced this older child that eggs on the pizza would be okay, edible and delicious.  I may have talked of bacon quite a lot hoping to distract from the egg talk...and well, it seemed to work.

Once a slice hit their plate they were fans.  And so was I!  I took the simple route and used crescent rolls for my base.  I know, I know, I'm always preaching about how easy homemade pizza dough is.  I've linked to my recipe a million times, but I just wanted something simple. I wanted to make this in less than 30 minutes and be done with it.

So send the hate mail....I used CRESCENT ROLLS!

But, the super duper plus side is that they provide a buttery crust that goes perfect with the eggs, bacon, sausage, ham and cheese.

Of course you can use any toppings on this pizza, you certainly don't have to be as extreme as my three meat combo {but it is crazy good}.  This is perfect for dinner {like us} but would be even better as a weekend breakfast!

3 Meat Breakfast Pizza

1 tube Pillsbury crescent rolls
4 eggs
1/2 c. chopped bacon
1/2 c. ground cooked sausage
1/2 c. chopped ham
1 c. cheddar cheese
1 c. mozzarella cheese
1/8 c. Parmesan cheese
salt
pepper

1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Grease a pizza baking stone.  Or use a regular baking sheet if you don't have a pizza stone.
3.  Open crescent rolls, unroll and lay down flat making a circle.  Press seams together and spread with your fingers until a 9-inch circle is formed.
4.  In a small bowl combine the eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
5.  Layer on half of the toppings, making a "wall" of toppings towards the edge of the crust.  This will make a "hill" if you will, to prevent the eggs from running off the edge of the pizza.
6.  Gently pour the egg mixture over the pizza and then layer on the remaining toppings.
7.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.