Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Healthy Greek Yogurt Oatmeal Pancakes

Want to feel a little better about eating a pancake?  These are for you!  Light, fluffy and mouthwatering, they are perfect for a weekend breakfast.

I will never lie and be 'one of those girls' that says she doesn't like pancakes.  I mean, doesn't everyone like pancakes?  Kinda like everyone likes a warm, comfy bed at night?

We usually have pancakes once a weekend, often on Saturday or Sunday when we aren't rushing out the door.  Sometimes we eat them traditionally and sometimes the kids just want a smear of peanut butter on them to eat on the go.

Either way we all enjoy pancake morning.  This past weekend I made this version with Greek yogurt and oatmeal.  Here are some of my other takes {here, hereherehere, here, herehere, and here}.

Yes, my 9th pancake recipe on this here blog.  I knew I liked them, but that much?  Wow.

Not only is it a great weekend when we have pancakes, but it is a great weekend when I'm able to slip away for just a few hours to have some much needed time with friends.

On Friday night my mom came down to babysit and I was able drink Moscow mules with these ladies while eating at a new establishment {at least to me}, 30hop.  I cannot say enough about this place. The drinks were good, the food was great and the conversation was even better.

We like to complain about our husbands, cherish memories about our college days and of course talk about our kids {because you know, we hadn't seen them in over an hour}.

The three of us didn't grow up together, didn't go to high school together and {kind of?} didn't go to college together.  I say that because me, along with the other blonde, DID go to college together at the same university, graduated the same year, and never knew each other.  Small world.

Anyway, we are great friends.  We can talk about anything.  And I love that.

And, well...this little munchkin likes these pancakes too.  She is 9 months old and just so precious.  I snuck this photo of her sleeping this week.  She was OUT.  Catching flies as I like to say.  She is crawling all over, eating big girl food, squealing at her brother and sister, pulling herself up on her knees and really becoming quite the little personality.

And she likes pancakes.

So I think I'm going to keep her.

So, like I said.  These pancakes aren't THAT bad for you.  They contain healthy ingredients like plain Greek yogurt and oatmeal.

They fluff up like their other unhealthy pancake cousins.  The extras stay good in the fridge for days. And they look pretty in a photo.  Don't ya think?

Healthy Greek Yogurt Oatmeal Pancakes

1 3/4 c. unbleached flour
1 c. regular oatmeal
2 T. sugar
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. plain Greek yogurt
1 c. milk
4 T. melted coconut oil
2 eggs

1.  In a large bowl combing all dry ingredients.
2.  Add in wet ingredients stirring just until combined, do not over mix.
3.  Heat a griddle with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour 1/2 cup of batter onto the griddle, flipping when bubbles appear.  Cook another 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned.
4.  Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

10 Easy Freezer Meals

I'm often asked how I get meals onto the table each night without pulling my hair out in the process. With three kids under the age of 5, a husband who works odd hours, a dog and (sometimes) a life, it can be a challenge.

Children often have that “witching hour” from 4-6 p.m. when they want/need/whine about everything. Heck, sometimes husbands have that, too! During those tense hours the last thing us moms (or dads, or any care provider) need to worry about is what we’re serving for dinner.

With each child I've had, I've gotten smarter about meal planning. On top of my regular meal planning (you can see a sample here), I also try to prep freezer meals along the way. That way, when things get crazy in our house and my plan has gone awry or if I'm just feeling lazy, I can pull out an already-prepped meal from the freezer in the morning and think nothing more of dinner until we sit down that night.

After 5+ years of food blogging, I've created some killer meals that freeze well...and I've created some downright disgusting ones. You know, some things just don't freeze well! Lucky for you, I've only compiled the great ones. And you can always double the batch.

Here are some of our family favorites:

Chicken Pesto Meatballs

What meals do you freeze?  Which one of these are you wanting to try?

I'll be back in a few days with a healthy pancake recipe!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beer Bread Garlic Cheese Sticks

This quick mix dough makes the most easy and delicious garlic cheesy bread. 
It all comes together in less than 30 minutes!
The kids and I had a play date a week ago at a friend's house on a day that the kids didn't have school.  The munchkins played HARD and us mom's chatted the morning away.  We ate chili and monster cookies for lunch, then all came home and tucked the little devils into a nap.  And I think for once in a very long time, all three of my kids slept long and hard, with me having to wake them at 4:00 p.m.
I love days like that.  Days where they are worn out and we have a change of pace.  It really does everyone a bit of good.
And as I sit here typing away, with MORE snow falling outside {when does Spring actually come?} I'm already looking forward to another date with some friends on Friday.
Another great thing came out of that play date.  A recipe.  My friend Sarah gave me her beer bread pizza crust recipe.  And since we always have beer in the house, I figured this would definitely be one I should try.
But like everything else, I changed it up a little.

I'm pretty sure I made this that day {after the kid's long naps}.  The husband was working I didn't feel like putting much effort into dinner.  Ever have one of those days?
The kids and I are often content to eat something simple like this for dinner with a side of fruit or a salad.  Men always want meat.  Where's the meat?  I'm guessing I wouldn't have gotten away with this dinner if the husband was home.  Ha!
I cut the final product into strips, like you'd find at a restaurant and we enjoyed these by dipping them in my homemade marinara and ranch dressing.


Hey!  And if you are afraid of yeast {you know who you are} this is the perfect crust for you.  Put the ingredients in a bowl and mix it up.  Really, that is it.  Spread it quickly on a hot pizza stone, brush with olive oil, top with garlic powder and cheeses and you are done.

Well, you need to wait for it to bake, but that is easy.  I usually spend that time picking up toys, wiping butts and breaking up fights.  Feel lucky if you don't have small children, you could make relax while it bakes!

Beer Bread Garlic Cheese Sticks
Print this Recipe!

3 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 t. garlic powder
12 oz. can of beer
2 c. mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
olive oil

1.  Preheat your oven and pizza stone to 450 degrees.
2.  In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, 1 t. of the garlic powder and the beer to form a soft dough.
3.  Working quickly, remove the hot pizza stone, spray with cooking spray and turn out the dough onto the stone, pressing down and spreading with your fingers.
4.  Brush the dough with olive oil, sprinkle on remaining teaspoon of garlic powder and top with cheeses.
5.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
6.  Cut into strips and serve with marinara or ranch dressing.


In other news, if you have a praying bone in your body, today I have a request.  Our Iowa blog community lost a dear friend yesterday.  Amy of Modern Rural Living, died in a tragic, snowy, car crash.  She was so young.  Engaged to be married in May.  Just a true jem.

We are shocked, saddened and a bit overwhelmed.  Please pray for healing for her family and especially her fiancé.  Give all your loved ones an extra squeeze today.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Peanut Butter Pattie Fun Dip

The classic Girl Scout cookie in dip form.  Creamy, sweet, crunchy. 
Need I say more?

If you are on Facebook at all, I'm sure you've seen the posts that read something like this:
My daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies!  They are taking over my laundry room!  Please buy a box so I don't eat them all!
Yeah, I fell into that trap too.  But I meant too.  Each year I buy a box or two {or three}, mainly because I feel like it is my civic duty as an American.  But also because they are so damn good.  My favorites are the caramel delights {or samoa}, thin mints or the peanut butter delights {or tagalongs}.
i.e. they have different names depending on where in the country they are made.  I know, who knew right?  Thanks Michelle, for clarifying.
So when my friend Ellie, an editor at Taste of Home magazine, emailed me saying they were having a Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest.....well, you know me, I just HAD to take part.  Any excuse to make a dessert with cookies.
As I was photographing this dish and snacking on it {you know, to make sure it was edible} I keep telling myself a few things.
It's healthy!
I'm eating it with apples!
A few bites are just a couple Weight Watchers points!
I'm not sure any of that is true, but it made me feel better.  At least, I wasn't like the husband, who asked me the next morning "what was I 'supposed' to eat with that good dip in the fridge"?
Umm, apples darling.
"Whoops, I just ate it by the spoonful"

So, if you have a sleeve of these cookies lying around, make this dip.  In fact, any peanut butter cookie would do, but I am partial to the pattie.

And here is an embarrassing tidbit for ya.  When I was pregnant with our second child and had a long, tedious, boring desk job, I was known to eat an ENTIRE SLEEVE of thin mints in an afternoon.

The job was boring people.  I needed something to fill the time.

Peanut Butter Pattie Fun Dip
Print this Recipe!

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
7 oz. jar of marshmallow crème
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 t. vanilla
8 Peanut Butter Patties, chopped

1.  With a hand held or stand mixer combine the cream cheese, marshmallow crème, peanut butter and vanilla until smooth.
2.  Fold in all but 1/4 c. of the chopped cookies.
3.  Place dip in a serving bowl, top with remaining cookies and place in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.
4.  Serve with sliced apples.

Have a great week dear readers!  P.S. Happy Birthday to my OLDER sister!  {Just had to make sure she remembered I'm younger}

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bacon Cheeseburger Egg Rolls

Here is a take on everyone's favorite...a bacon cheeseburger! 
Using a special spice blend, these will be gobbled up by your family in no time.

A few weeks back I had the husband stop at the store for the makings for traditional egg rolls {ground pork, cabbage, egg roll wrappers, etc.}.  We love those darn things!  Well, he came home with two packages of egg roll wrappers {because according to him, you can't ever have enough}.  I thought about making another batch the next week, but, well, my hips didn't need that, so in the fridge they sat.
For 3 weeks.
Then out of no where Healthy Solutions Spice Blends, left a comment on my Facebook page encouraging me to enter their 2015 Blogger Recipe Challenge.
Being a food blogger I get a lot of these requests - recipe contests, product testing, etc., but I had worked with this company in the past, so I took a few minutes to check it out.  They have a wide range of spice mixes and all I needed to do after being accepted was to request the spice mix of my choice.

I instantly knew I wanted the Ultimate Burger spice mix, because if I have a favorite go-to meal to choose it'd be a burger.  Right behind pizza, it is one of my favorite foods.
After going back and forth between a Buffalo Bleu Cheese Turkey Burger and then a short thought about a Reuben Burger....I remembered I still had those darn egg roll wrappers.
Being they were on the verge of death and I didn't have any of the fixin's for traditional egg rolls, my mind started to wander.
What if I put all the makings of a great bacon cheeseburger and stuffed it into an egg roll?

Ding, ding, ding!
So that is what I did.  I made a stuffing that tastes just like a bacon cheeseburger and gave it a roll.  And what a fantastic idea it was!
Although I did confuse the husband a bit.  He came home very late from work, had a bite to eat and then the next morning said, "what did you do different with your egg rolls?"
Maybe next time I'll leave him a note.

So, like I said earlier, I'm entering these into the Healthy Solutions Spice Blends 2015 Blogger Recipe Challenge.  They wanted a unique creation, somewhat healthy {I used ground turkey}, yet super flavorful and at the same time family friendly.

I think I hit all of these categories...what do you think?

From what I've read the judges will try all 100 blogger recipes and determine the winner, based on taste, visual appeal, creativity and crowd appeal.  I would LOVE to win the $500 Grand Prize.  Wish me luck!

Until then, share this recipe with your friends {pin it!}, save in your recipe box and better yet make for your family!  Every once in awhile I make the family appetizers or finger foods for dinner.  They love it and we have fun.  These egg rolls would be perfect for a night like that.

Bacon Cheeseburger Egg Rolls
Print this Recipe!

1 package egg roll wrappers {20 count}
1 lb. ground turkey
4 strips of bacon, diced
1 dill pickle, finely diced
1/4 c. ketchup
1/8 c. mustard
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 1/2 T. Ultimate Burger seasoning
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
olive oil for pan frying

1.  In a large skillet cook the diced bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.  Remove from the pan, drain on paper towels and set aside.
2.  In the same skillet, drain off the bacon grease and cook the ground turkey until no longer pink and juices run clear.
3.  Add the cooked bacon, pickle, ketchup, mustard, cheese and seasonings to the cooked ground turkey.
4.  To assemble the egg rolls: lay an egg roll wrapper on a plate facing you like a triangle.  Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the meat mixture in the middle.  Take your finger, dip it in water and dampen all sides of the egg roll.  Fold in the two sides, then the bottom and roll up, sealing the edges with water.
5.  When all egg rolls are assembled, place seam-side down back into the hot skillet coated in olive oil.  Cook 1-2 minutes a side, allowing to get golden brown, until all sides are cooked.
6.  Serve warm with nacho cheese sauce, ketchup, mustard or salsa.

Now, I served these with the four different choices of dipping sauces.  BUT, our clear favorite was the nacho cheese sauce.  So judges - dip them in the NACHO CHEESE SAUCE.  You won't regret it.

Who is going to give these a try?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Crock Pot Caramel Pecan French Toast

The dish can be a breakfast treat or an end of the meal dessert! 
Either way the gooey caramel and crunchy pecans are bound to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Howdy folks!
How is your week treating ya?  Ours has been fairly uneventful minus the babe teething {hello, 4:45 a.m. wake up call!}.  She spend most of yesterday laying on me with a fever.  Her top four teeth are coming through AT THE SAME TIME and finally yesterday I noticed one of them popped through.  Here's to the rest following suite soon!
Poor baby.  She still is pretty darn happy.
In other life changing news {yes, it is life changing for me}, our new washer and dryer get delivered today.  This has been a long time coming.  I have been without a dryer since before Christmas.  Once the holidays were over it was fun for about a hot minute air-drying all our clothes.  Now two months in, I am OVER it, and so happy that my pioneer days are ending later today.  Seriously, laundry for five people is a joke.

One night last week, after hanging, folding and cussing out my last load of laundry I made breakfast for dinner for the kids and I.  Usually that involves eggs in various forms {scrambled, dippy's, etc.}, pancakes, homemade muffins or hash browns.

I had been dreaming up a crock pot French toast for quite awhile and earlier in the day planned to make it happen.  This recipe couldn't be easier!

What a great dish to make for a breakfast crowd or even serve for dessert - it really can go both ways.  My kids went a tad bonkers for this.  Maybe it was the ramekins I served it in?  Or maybe they were tired of my typical side pancake or muffin and relished in the change.  Not sure, but it was a hit!

What makes this dish easy is you can use whatever bread you have on hand.  A stale loaf of quality French bread is ideal, but I simply pulled out half a loaf of whole wheat bread we had in our fridge and used that.
You know the older, the better!  The egg custard mixture will soak up all the dryness and make it the most delicious French toast ever.  And, well, the caramel/pecan mixture just puts it over the top.
Do I dare say it tastes a BIT like monkey bread?

Feel free to double this recipe to make a larger batch, by simply putting it all in a larger crock pot.  I was only feeding I opted for this nice sized batch.

And as usual if you are not a pecan fan, try using slice almonds, or chopped walnuts, whatever you have on hand.  You won't offend me.  Or, if you want to omit the nuts all together, I guess that is fine too.

Crock Pot Caramel Pecan French Toast
Print this Recipe!

1/2 loaf of bread, cubed
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
1 t. cinnamon
3/4 stick of unsalted butter, cubed
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. chopped pecans

1.  In a large bowl mix together eggs, milk, vanilla, almond extract and cinnamon.  Drop in the cubed bread and mix together well.  Cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
2.  When ready to cook, spray the inside of a medium-sized crock pot with cooking spray.
3.  Sprinkle 3/4 c. of the brown sugar into the bottom of the crock pot, along with 1/2 stick of the cubed butter and 3/4 c. of the chopped pecans.
4.  Pour in the soaked bread mixture.
5.  Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar, pecans and butter on the top of the bread mixture.
6.  Cook on LOW for 3 hours or HIGH for 1.5 hours.
7.  French toast will be done when the mixture is pulling away from the sides of the crock pot and bubbly.  Do not over cook as the dish will burn fairly easily.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lasagna Soup

Ever want to make lasagna without all the fuss of assembling the dish?
Yeah, me too.  This soup is much easier!

Since the high today in Iowa is 8 degrees, I figured I'd share a nice, hearty bowl of warm soup with you.  It only makes sense, right?
I'm a bit over this winter.  Like most people I'm ready for warm days.  Days where we can all walk out of the house without coats, gloves, hats and boots.  Usually by the time I get everyone dressed {and sometimes undressed....someone always has to potty!} I'm sweating and don't even want to wear a coat outside.  I am SO ready to be able to walk out the door without a thought other than shoes and wear I am going.
Making soup in the winter is comforting to me.  Not only is it warm and delicious, but in our family we often eat out of it for a couple of days, as it makes great leftovers.  And you know what leftovers cooking for me on day #2!  I love to cook, but I love a break too.

I adapted a lasagna soup recipe from Biz, my blog friend in Chicago.  She recently lost her husband to liver disease and I am still amazed at how strong she has been through this process.  She is so positive and seems to have a wonderful attitude about life when I know many others would have just given up.  Hugs to you Biz!
I've lost track but I think she's made a version of this soup around 60 times?  I'm sure she'll read this and let me know the exact number.  Until then we'll call this batch #1.
If you are like me you love a baked lasagna, but frankly I'm not really fond of assembling it.  It can be a lot of work!  And time consuming.  With this soup it tastes like the real thing, but is so much easier to make.  Genius!
Speaking of lasagna dishes, have you seen the new Crock-Pot Casserole Slow Cooker?  I'm in love with this!  Maybe I'll put it in on my Christmas list for next year.  How cool would it be to made a traditional 9x13 pan of anything in the slow cooker?  I think it would be great for potlucks and traveling too.

The ideal way to make lasagna soup would be to use broken up lasagna noodles, but I didn't have any on hand so I used some orecchini {little ears} pasta I had gotten at Trader Joes.  And really, you could use anything you have, even the old stand by elbow noodle.  It all tastes the same.

And don't forget to top this soup with cheese, it really makes the soup.  I mean, what is lasagna without cheese?

Lasagna Soup
Print this Recipe!

1 lb. ground sausage
1/2 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. tomato paste
1 16 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
4 c. chicken stock
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. dried basil
2 t. dried parsley
8 oz. pasta
Parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese

1.  In a stock pot, brown the onion, garlic and sausage.  Drain off grease.
2.  Add in the tomato paste and cook over the heat for 3-4 minutes until it is a deep red color.
3.  Add in tomatoes, chicken stock and seasonings.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
4.  Meanwhile cook the pasta separately until al dente.  Drain and set aside to cool.
5.  When ready to eat, place a cup of pasta in a bowl, ladel in some soup and then top with a sprinkling of Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
6.  When storing, keep the pasta and soup separate in the fridge.  This will keep the pasta fresh and not mushy.