Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats

Sunday, December 4, 2016

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Book Bundle Giveaway

Today marks Day 4 of my 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways!

If you are a reader, like me, then this is a post you'll read, share and love, enjoy.

Ever since I can remember I have been a reader.  I come from a family of readers.  There is just something about falling into a deep story, forgetting your cares and relaxing with a good book.  My library card is well worn and my friends and I swap and re-swap books like we drink wine. 

My good friend Amanda got me hooked on the Goodreads app recently and I love that I can keep a list of everything I have read, everything I want to read, look at reviews and see what my friends are reading.  It's like the new age version of a card catalog!

Since I'm a reader people often ask me, "read any good books lately?"  Well, of course I have! I look recommending books!  For Day 4 of my 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways I thought I'd step away from my first passion {food} and share my second passion {books} with the 10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016.

Then, of course, in Ally fashion give some away too.  

Because I like you.

And because you need to read.  It's knowledge people.

So here we go, in no particular order.  Please note that this post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  If intrigued buy any of these books, please order for you or a friend!

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was a definite 5 star for me.  I read it while on vacation sitting on the docks soaking up the sun.  It is about love and war in France in 1939. A shocking look into what families did to stay alive, care for their loved ones and during WWII.  It tells the stories of two sisters, separated by love and experience, passion and circumstance, while they each embark on their own path to survival.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid was a plow through the book kind of read, a definite page turner as you needed/wanted to see which life actually happened for Hannah.  At the age of 29 she is at a bit of a crossroads in her life and while visiting her old stomping grounds back home she runs into her old high school boyfriend.  When he offers to give her a ride home, she thinks, "do I go with him or do I stay?"  In concurrent story lines she lives out the effects of each decision and not until the end does the author reveal if Hannah did actually go home with him or not.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist is the book needed for anyone feeling like they are going 100 mph and that they might crash at any given moment {hello, every mom I know}.  Shauna tells her story of finding herself exhausted and isolated, both in body and soul.  She invites her readers on the journey that brought her life back showing us an entirely new way to live through grace, rest, silence, simplicity, prayer and deep connections to the people we love most.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes is a stay-up-all-night heartbreaking novel of a spellbinding love story that spans decades.  In 1960 Jennifer wakes in the hospital remember nothing - not the car accident that put her there, her wealthy husband or even her name.  Searching for clues she finds a love letter simply signed "B" from a a man she seemed willing to risk anything for.  Then in 2003, a journalist stumbled across the letter and tries to tie up the missing pieces of the puzzle and see how this love story ended.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

The One and Only by Emily Giffin tells the story of 33 year old Shea who lives and breaths football and family in her Texas hometown.  When tragedy strikes she wonders if this life is enough for her and when she finally gives up her safety net she discovers some unsettling truths about the people she has loved the most.  In the end, a true love story, but a definite out-of-the-box one.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell.  This can't-put-down memoir from cookbook author Mitchell, tells the story of her life, from working class Boston to the romantic streets of Rome.  Food was her babysitter, her confidant and provided a refuge from her broken family.  On her 20th birthday she stepped on the scale and weighed 268 pounds.  Her journey to get healthy and find herself again makes it a definite read.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton is from the author of the wildly popular blog Momastery.  Just when Glennon was thinking she had everything figured out, after a very rough teenager and college years, her husband revealed his infidelity.  A recovering alcoholic and bulumic, she found that rock bottom was a very familiar place.  This gorgeous and inspiring account shows how we all are warriors; strong, powerful and most of all brave.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a harrowing thriller about Rachel, a plain girl who rides the same commuter train every day to work, with the same schedule, until one day, she sees something with those familiar faces.  Unable to keep it to herself she goes to the police and sounds finds herself deeply entangled in the investigation.  A definite page turner that has now been turned into a major motion picture.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

Still Alice by Lisa Genova tells the story of Alice who finds herself being diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 50.  Being a world famous professor at Harvard she is determined to not let this disease stop her, but she soon finds out it has it's own path.  As she struggles to cope she realizes her worth is compromised much more than her ability to remember.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

The Lake House by Kate Morton tells the story of Alice, when she was an inquisitive 11 year old girl living at her families lakeside estate and then again, decades later when she is living in London as an accomplished novelist.  A young detective stumbles upon that old abandoned estate, her curiosity is sparked which embarks a series of events that brings her and Alice together untangling a shocking past.

10 Books I Couldn't Put Down in 2016 + Holiday Book Bundle Giveaway (

I sincerely hope you all find a few on this list that have sparked your interest.  A few thrillers, a little bit of romance, a couple of memoirs....something for everyone, right?

Because I love all of you, don't think I was going to send you away with out a little something!  One lucky reader will win this hand-picked Holiday Book Bundle from me! With a little help from B and H Publishing Group and Milkweed Editions, plus just a little chip in from me I've put together some fun reads that will hopefully appeal to almost anyone.

The bundle features The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines, Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson, In Winter's Kitchen by Beth Dooley and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.

You have many ways to enter below just follow the simple directions.  Enter from today until December 7th.  One random winner will be picked shortly after that.  Good luck!

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Taste of Home Holiday Package Giveaway

It's Day 3 of my 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways.
Today I'm sharing my love for one of my favorite magazines, 
Taste of Home, please read on!

Taste of Home Holiday Package Giveaway (

Are you guys having fun with the first two days of my giveaways?  It's been a load of fun and I've loved hearing from all my readers.

There is still time to enter!  Love to bake?  Then Day 1 is for you, it features my Gingerbread Trees + Doughmakers Cookie Sheet Giveaway.  Yogurt fanatic?  Well, my Lemon Glazed Baked Donuts are tart, sweet and fabulous and who doesn't want to win a case of Stonyfield yogurt?  Be sure to head on over.

I'm stoked about Day 3.  Here's the back story.

Over seven years ago, I was a stay-at-home-mom {for a short stint} with a 3 month old baby. I was living in my pajamas, full of baby spit up, in a brand new town with a husband who had a new job.  I needed something.  Anything to give me purpose beyond being a wife and a mom.

I was reading my Taste of Home magazine and they featured a story about a gal in Chicago with a food blog.  I had never heard of this new food bloggy thing, but I was intrigued.  I kid you not, I read the article and started my blog the next day.  The very next day.  I still keep in touch with that gal and she knows her article is what made my blog what it is today.  At the same time, I wouldn't be here without Taste of Home.

I jumped on their bandwagon and applied to be a volunteer Field Editor for the magazine, got accepted and still hold that position today.  I've become wonderful friends with a few of the editors and when I ask, they answer.  When I need a cookbook or magazine for friends, family or my blogging community I have a delivery on my doorstep within the week.  Those people are amazing, truly amazing.

Taste of Home Holiday Package Giveaway (

So needless to say I was not surprised when I asked them to join my holiday series and I heard a YES being shouted from Wisconsin before I hit send on the email.  A couple of weeks later I found this shipment on my doorstep!

I'm super excited to let you know that TWO lucky winners will win this cookbook bundle:

Taste of Home Most Requested Cookies
Taste of Home Holiday Cookies
Holidays and Celebrations
Birds and Blooms Adult Coloring Book
Taste of Home December Issue
Taste of Home Holiday Potluck

You have many ways to enter just follow the simple directions below.  Enter from today until December 6th.  Two random winners will be announced shortly after that.  Good luck!

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Glazed Lemon Baked Donuts + Stonyfield Yogurt Giveaway

It is Day 2 of my 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways.
These Glazed Lemon Baked Donuts will brighten your holidays right up!

glazed lemon baked donuts (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience and is in partnership with Stonyfield.

We are on Day 2 of my 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways and I'm head over heels in love with all of your responses!  Yesterday I showcased my Gingerbread Trees and I already had a reader send me a photo of them baking them at home.

Be sure to enter my giveaway for the Doughmakers Cookie Baking Sheet set.  You still have a couple days to win!

Today my folks, I have another delicious, sweet, tart recipe that is easy peasy and it features my favorite Stonyfield Greek Yogurt.  I became a fan of Stonyfield yogurt seven years ago when I had one baby at home and I had somehow acquired two free coupons.  I was basically hooked {the babe was too} from first bite.

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When Stonyfield jumped on board for this series I could not have been more happier.  They are a company that I strongly believe in and I know they love a great homemade dessert just as much as I do.

I first fell in love with homemade donuts a few years back when I purchased this donut pan for just under $10 while shopping with some friends.  They buy clothes I buy kitchen accessories.  Since then I have made some delicious batches.  My Baked Cherry Doughnuts calls for grenadine cherry syrup and my Chocolate Cake Donuts with Chocolate Ganache are pretty much like eating cake for breakfast.

So needless to say, what is there NOT to love about donuts?  Any flavor, any time?  I always says if someone tells me they 'don't eat donuts', well, I know they are lying and they are not my friend.

glazed lemon baked donuts (

There are two things I love about this recipe.  First it is easy.  Stir together a quick batter, bake for just over 10 minutes, dip in a glaze and breakfast is made.  Second, the recipe makes just six donuts.  Half a dozen and your day is made.  No need for a full dozen of those lovelies staring you down on day two.

See the sponginess in these donuts?  They aren't lying.  They are light, fluffy and full of spongy, lemony flavor.  I personally like to double dip them in the lemon glaze for extra flavor but that is just me.

Do as you please.

glazed lemon baked donuts (

My friends at Stonyfield have graciously agreed to host a spectacular giveaway in addition to me giving you this one of a kind donut recipe.

Two winners will receive a case of Stonyfield's new Organic Greek Individual Yogurt, a travel bag, an apron, water bottle and their Stonyfield Yogurt Cookbook {which is stellar!}.  I sat down with that cookbook and dog-eared about 40 recipes...I kid you not.  And that yogurt? My kids devoured it in less than two days.

Less than two days.

I was lucky to snag one to put in the batter for these donuts!

glazed lemon baked donuts (

Glazed Lemon Baked Donuts

1 container of Stonyfield Organic Greek Vanilla Bean Yogurt
1 egg
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. canola oil
zest of one lemon
2-3 drops of yellow food coloring
1 1/4 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

For the glaze:
1 c. powdered sugar
juice of one lemon

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 6 count donut pan with cooking spray.
2.  In a bowl combine the yogurt, egg, sugar, oil, lemon juice and food coloring.  Sift together the dry ingredients and fold into the wet ingredients.
3.  Fill the donut pan with the batter, about 3/4 full.  Bake for 13-15 minutes just until golden brown and springy to the touch.  Allow the donuts to cool in the pan.
4.  In a bowl make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, almond extract and enough lemon juice to make a thin glaze.
5.  Drip the cooled donuts into the glaze and place on a cooling rack to set.  Dip twice if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to two days, but donuts are best warm!

Now it's time for the fun part!  Two randoms winners will win a Stonyfield package for the holidays. You can use some of the yogurt to make these delicious donuts, hide it in the back of your fridge from your kids like I should have or even pass along the cookbook as a gift to a friend.  It's your gift, do as you want!

You have many ways to enter just follow the directions below.  Enter from today until December 5th. The winners will be announced shortly after that.  Good luck!

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glazed lemon baked donuts (

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Gingerbread Trees + Doughmakers Cookie Sheet Giveaway

Today I am kicking off my 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways series!
Be sure to follow me December 1-12 for new recipes and your chance to win some fabulous prizes.

gingerbread trees (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience and is in partnership with Doughmakers.

Woo-hoo!  My 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways is finally here!  Months of prep work with some of my favorite companies is finally coming to fruition and I'm elated you are here. Join the fun and stick with me for the next 12 days for your chance to win some great prizes.

And new recipes!  Don't forget those.  I've been baking and cooking behind the scenes {my family thinks I'm crazy} but it will all be worth it.

Today we have these super cool and fun Gingerbread Trees.  They are easy, much easier in my opinion than making a traditional gingerbread man or woman.  The icing is simple, yet elegant and not to mention they look pretty!

gingerbread trees (

I baked these Gingerbread Trees on my favorite, seriously all-time favorite, bake ware. Many, many moons ago I received a set of Doughmakers baking sheets and dishes from my mother-in-law.  I have no idea where she heard of them {she isn't a baker}, but after the first time I used them I didn't care as I loved them!

Each piece of Doughmakers bake ware has a unique textured surface {it looks a bit crackled}.  This surface isn't a coating, it is embossed right in it, therefore allowing air flow under baked goods for more even browning.  It helps give the pan non-stick characteristics without the problem coating.

Their Grand Cookie Sheet is the one I always reach for when I bake.  Always.  Heck, I use it so much that when I ask my 5 year old daughter to grab a pan and help me out, she grabs it too.

gingerbread trees (

So, let's chat about holiday baking.  Do you love it?  Do it because you have to?  I'm a fan {shocker, I know}.  This Saturday kicks off the season for me as my high school girlfriends and I are getting together for our annual baking day.

It often involves a LOT of laughter, swearing, drinking and eating.  Hey, that kitchen gets crowded! But we have fun and continue to plan it each year.

I distinctly remember one of my friends, she'll remain nameless, making Gingerbread Cookies one year and it was pretty much a disaster.  Not the baking them so much, but the decorating.  It takes a lot of time to frost on the pants, the shirts, the eyes....the everything. Frankly, I don't have time for that, so when I saw Gina over at Skinnytaste's version, I adapted it for my kitchen and that is how these Gingerbread Trees came to life.

gingerbread trees (

I'm sending most of these off to a charity event tomorrow, but I will be saving one each for the kid's when they get out of school today.  Think they'll be excited?

I had one two year old helper with these...she kept eating the raw dough scraps.  Who knew she liked Gingerbread?  I can't get the girl to eat many things, but cookies, well, that's a given.

She's a girl after my own heart.

gingerbread trees (

Gingerbread Trees

3 T. softened butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. canola oil
1 egg
1/3 c. dark molasses
3 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice

For the icing:
1 egg white
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
6-8 drops green food coloring

1.  In a stand mixer combine the butter, brown sugar and oil.
2.  Add in the egg and molasses.
3.  Sift together the flour and spices and add to the creamed mixtures.  It will form a soft dough.
4.  Remove the dough from the mixer and press into two flat balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
5.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6.  Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and on a floured surface roll into 3/4 of an inch thickness.  With a sharp knife cut around the edges making a square and cut dough into triangles. Place on the baking sheet.  Bake for 11 minutes.
7.  In another bowl mix together the egg white, lemon juice and vanilla.  Add in the powdered sugar and food coloring.  Pour the icing into a small Ziploc bag, pressing out the excess air.  Cut a very small corner of the bag.
8.  Drizzle the icing as slanted lines over the cookies and top with sprinkles.
9.  Keep in an airtight container or freezer for up to one month.

gingerbread trees (

Now it's time for the fun stuff!

Doughmakers has agreed to give TWO of my lovely readers a set of baking sheets.  Their Grand Cookie Sheet and their Great Grand Cookie Sheet.  Just in time for your holiday baking and then to enjoy the rest of the year.

I know whomever wins these sets will love them.  I've been using mine for years and they are still in great shape and you know I bake a lot!

You have many ways to enter, just follow the directions below.  Enter from today until December 4th. Two random winners will be announced shortly after that.  Good luck!

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gingerbread trees (

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Sometimes in life you just need a cookie.
A big, giant, soft, filled with chocolate chunks type of cookie.

giant chocolate chunk cookies (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Hey y'all!  I hope you had the loveliest of lovely Thanksgivings.  I sincerely hope you stuffed yourself with turkey {then later made this soup with the leftovers}, ate more pumpkin pie than you needed and then plopped on the couch for a day of napping or football watching.

That is pretty much what we did here!

Did you hit the malls the day after?  Or shop from the comforts of home?  I did not hit the malls, but I'm happy to report I am 80% done with ALL of my shopping, well on my way to my goal of being done December 1.  So close!

If you have young kids be sure to check out my post Gifts I'd Purchase My Kids This Christmas.  I purchased three off this list for my little devils, so I'm sure you can find something too.

giant chocolate chunk cookies (

Besides Thanksgiving prep and holiday shopping I've been knee deep in holiday baking. Yes, this early.  Kind of like how a magazine preps six months in advance for holiday issues, I'm about two months ahead.  It's a bit crazy, but it's needed!

This Thursday starts my 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways {so pumped!} and I'll be posting every day for 12 days in a row {bless me}, so it has definitely required some additional prep work.

One day while baking up a storm for these upcoming recipes the kids were begging for chocolate chip cookies.  My first thought was, really?  Could they not see I had my hands full?  But then I realized they don't really give a lick that Mom has a food blog and all they wanted was a darn cookie.

I get it.  Sometimes I just want a simple cookie too kids.

But, because I was busy I didn't want a whole batch so I whipped up this GIANT version that just gives you nine cookies, all done on one big cookie sheet and it's done.  Easy prep, easy clean up, everyone is happy.

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Now you can cut corners and simply put chocolate chips in these cookies or you can made them chunky by dicing up a couple Hershey chocolate bars and you'll hear angels singing.

I definitely think it's worth the time and effort.

These cookies were so good that I made another batch the next day and delivered them to my friend who let me borrow her daughter's Halloween costume {because you know I don't do that holiday very well and I'm cheap so I borrow everyone else's nice hand-sewn costumes}.  And since she has four kids ranging from about age 7 to 2 months old I'm really hoping she hid them in a closet and kept them all to herself.

Every single giant chocolate chunk cookie would be worth it.

Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
2 regular-sized Hershey bars, chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
2.  In a heat safe bowl microwave the butter until very soft, almost melted.  Add in the sugars, egg and vanilla and stir to combine.
3.  Sift in the flour, salt and baking soda.  Stirring gently just until combined with wet ingredients.
4.  Using a knife roughly chop the Hershey bars and fold into the batter.
5.  Roll dough into nine large balls, about the size of a golf ball, or slightly bigger.  Place on the cookie sheet.
6.  Bake for 11 minutes.  Do not over bake!  They will be slightly golden at the edges and soft in the middle.  Let them rest on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

giant chocolate chunk cookies (

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Warm Bacon Ale Cheese Dip

Onions, bacon, beer and cheese make this dish irresistible.
Perfect for football watching and big parties!

warm bacon ale cheese dip (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

You know what's fun?

Being a homeowner.

I spent one day last week completely without water as we had all of our pipes replaced in our crawl space, due to frequent leaks.  That was fun.  Gas station bathrooms are fun.  With a toddler who likes to announce things.  Lots of fun my friends.

I also love how us Americans have to live with a television {me included} as it is where we catch all our news, favorite shows and reality drama.  So when this mama goes to turn it on one night after dinner because all I want to do is zone out and all I get is a black screen....UGH.

Thankfully Black Friday deals are rampant right now so a new T.V. is in order.  They say things come in threes.  Let's hope they are wrong.

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But, you know what?  Give me a good cheese dip and I forget all our household issues.  Trust me when I say I am not above the classic Velveeta + Rotel cheese dip.  I'm pretty sure my mom made that dip famous.  But, I do like to change things up a bit when I can, because I'm a food blogger and I rarely make the same thing twice.

Also, in no particular order I also love these things {stay with me here}.

1.  Beer.

2.  Airport people watching.

3.  Leggings + a good book + a cappuccino.

4.  Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

5.  The first snowfall of the year {still waiting}.

6.  Bacon.

When I was brainstorming recipes and what I love, number one and number 6 kept coming up in my brain.  How could I combine the two?  And then it clicked, use the beer as the liquid in the dip, melt in my favorite cheese, add bacon, saute onion in the bacon grease {hallelujah} and gobble it up with tortilla chips.

Bless this dip.

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This dip is thin {not on the hips, but in consistency, just to clarify}, salty from the bacon, rich from the dark beer and a helluva good lunch when you're lazy and have no time.

I'm not the only one who eats chips and dips for lunch am I?


And let me just be clear on something.  Thanksgiving is this week and we all have turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie on the brain.  That's fine. No worries.  But what happens on Friday?  When we are football watching and shopping and not wanting a leftover turkey sandwich?

We eat dip people.

Put this on the menu for SOMETIME during the weekend, because I will bet you a dollar that from Friday to Sunday at some point you grab snacks and need to feed a crowd and no one will be interested in another big meal.

Warm Bacon Ale Cheese Dip

1/2 lb. bacon, diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 T. dijon mustard
12 oz. dark beer {I used Fat Tire}
8 oz. cream cheese
2 c. pepper jack cheese, shredded {I used Cabot Cheese}
10-15 dashes of hot sauce

1.  In a large, deep skillet cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon and set aside, but leave the drippings.
2.  Cook the diced onion in the bacon drippings until translucent and tender.  Stir in the mustard.
3.  Pour in the beer and bring it to a boil.
4.  Bring the heat down to low and add in the cream cheese, whisking until melted.
5.  Whisk in the pepper jack cheese and combine.  Add the bacon back in.
6.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

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Need more dip inspiration?

Well, you've come to the right place.  Feed your crowds with some of these favorites.

And stay tuned, guess what is coming!