Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats

Friday, January 30, 2015

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread

Nothing beats a crunchy, sweet, hot piece of toast in the morning
with your cup of joe or tea. 
And why not make it homemade?
So my kids have been getting up early.  The baby likes to start her day at 6:00 a.m. {like clock work} and frankly I'm not liking it.  I shouldn't complain because she sleeps about 10-11 hours straight each night, but why can't she tag on another hour?
When I think back I used to get up earlier when I worked, but gosh staying home with three little bitties each day sure makes this mama tired.  I compare them to Vegas.  If you've ever visited Las Vegas do you notice how your eyes are darting each and every way about every 3 seconds?  The lights, the music, the never ending people watching?
Sometimes I feel like that is my house.  I usually have one singing, one crying and one chatting about something, all the while playing with a LOUD toy.  It's like Vegas!  {Minus the prostitutes.}
Anyway, where am I going with this?
Well, these early mornings have kind of put me into a routine.  Wake up with baby.  Feed baby.  Make myself some hot tea and have a piece of toast.  It just tastes good.

I grew up eating homemade English muffin bread from my mom.  It tastes just like a store bought English muffin but better.  We always {and still} slather it in butter and homemade strawberry jam.  Nothing beats the original.  But...I wanted to try another version.  A take on the classic cinnamon raisin toast.

Now I can buy a perfectly good cinnamon raisin bread at the store and throw it in the toaster, but you know me, I NEED to try and make it on my own.

And let me tell you it turned out fab.  I froze one loaf and sliced another, put it in a baggie and kept it in the fridge for over a week.  It is hearty from the whole wheat with just a tad of sweetness from the raisins.  Put a pad of butter on it and you're golden!

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread
Print this Recipe!

2 pkg. yeast
1 T. sugar
2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
2 T. cinnamon
3 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. milk
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. water
2 c. raisins

1.  In a large bowl combine the first 7 {dry} ingredients.
2.  In a glass measuring cup heat together the milk, honey and water in the microwave until very warm.
3.  Combine the wet and dry and mix well.  Fold in raisins.  Pour into two greased muffin loaf pans.
4.  Cover with a towel and let the loaves rise for 30-45 minutes in a warm area.
5.  Bake both loaves at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
6.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Take out of the pans.  Can be wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil and frozen for up to 3 months or eaten right away.  Keep wrapped and in the fridge when eating right away.
7.  To toast cut the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Toast dark {sometimes running it through twice}.  It is a very dense bread and tastes better pretty dark!  Spread with butter and jam to eat.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Epicurean Customized Cutting Board GIVEAWAY!

*I was sent a complimentary Epicurean cutting board and the following review and opinions are my own.

If there is one thing I use a LOT in my kitchen, besides the trusty KitchenAid mixer, it is a cutting board.

I am constantly chopping lettuce for a salad, fruit for the kid's lunch, cheese for a snack or meat for this recent stir-fry.  I always have one sitting in the sink, one in the drying rack or one in the dishwasher.  There is a constant rotation.

When Epicurean recently contacted me about their new custom designed State Shape boards I was hooked.  I love anything cooking related and I love it even more if it lets you show off your home state pride.

Epicurean a Duluth, MN company takes pride in these novelty boards.  They are heavy duty and can be used for both cutting, chopping and serving.  What is more impressive is that they manufacture all of their products here in the United States, using unique materials {think, excess skate park materials that would have gone to waste!}.  These cutting boards are eco-friendly, dishwasher safe and NSF approved.  I was hooked!

Epicurean sent me the Iowa cutting board and I quickly got to work this past week.  As a mom who cooks almost every meal at home it got some great use.  Take a look!

I would recommend these state cutting boards to anyone.  Not only are they durable and easy to clean, but they are darn cute!  The perfectly cut hole at the top allows someone to hang it as decoration or keep it on a peg in their kitchen for easy use.  And what a fun gift idea for a college student, a friend who has moved away or that little chef in your life.

Upon receiving my Iowa board I also asked if I could give one away to a reader of mine allowing them to pick their own state.  And those generous folks at Epicurean obliged.

So, here is your chance!  One lucky ready will win a custom State Shape cutting board for their kitchen.  Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.  I will choose one random winner this Saturday, January 31st.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Beef and Snow Pea Stir-Fry

Never be afraid to make your own Chinese take-out. 
 It is much easier than you think and so much cheaper!
I had been promising the husband my homemade egg rolls since Christmas Eve.  Well now we are nearing the end of January {what?} and I still had not made them.
I just kept forgetting to pick up egg roll wrappers at the store.  EverySingleTime.  Finally this week when he was running into town he asked if I needed anything.
Egg roll wrappers!
And miraculously he remembered them.
Now we have been known to make a meal out of those darn things, but in an effort to make it a bit more of a "meal" rather than one big "appetizer", I also made this stir-fry.
This deliciously, simple, I-will-be-making-it-again-stir-fry.
You start by slicing a steak against the grain, really, really thin.  This is the key to fake-out take-out folks.  Cut it super thin.  Flank steak or skirt steak work really well, but in my opinion use whatever steak you have or whichever one is on sale that week.
And when you cut it this thin one steak will do ya.  I bought two, then realized after cutting one I had this HUGE pile of meat, so we saved the remaining steak for the following night and grilled it.
And don't forget the snow peas.  Why are snow peas so delicious?  Gosh, they are basically nothing, but when stir-fried and tossed in the special sauce, they are just so flavorful!  And they stay nice and crisp as they aren't cooked long.  Just enough to heat up at the end.

I have a feeling once you make this one and realize you can make your own Chinese take-out at home, you'll be bookmarking this and making it again.

Every single person in our family liked this.  Including the kids {minus the baby - she's partial to sweet potatoes, carrots and oatmeal}.

Give this one a try.  You can do it!

Beef and Snow Pea Stir-Fry
Print this Recipe!

Meat Marinade:
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar
1 t. garlic powder
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. rice wine vinegar
1 t. worchestshire
1/2 t. sesame oil
1/8 t. baking soda

Cooking sauce:
2 T. soy sauce
1/4 c. beef stock
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. rice wine vinegar
3 T. olive oil
2 cloves of minced garlic

1 lb. thinly sliced steak
1 lb. snow peas

1.  Marinate the steak with the marinade for up to 6 hours in the fridge or at least one hour to prior cooking.
2.  In a very hot skillet or wok cook marinated steak, 1-2 minutes or just until browning.  Add in snow peas, stirring to combine.
3.  Mix together the cooking sauce and pour into the hot pan.  Stir to combine.  Mixture will thicken upon standing, another 1-2 minutes.
4.  Serve beef and snow peas over rice.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Day in the Life

No recipe today folks!  I often get asked how I juggle three little kids and still have time to develop recipes, photograph them and eventually churn out a blog post for the world to see.  So I thought...what the heck?  I'll just give them a 'day in the life' post and you, my dear readers, can really see what I do each day.

Each day is different in our house, as I'm sure yours is too.  Some days both kids are at school in the morning, sometimes just our oldest.  Some days the husband is working, some days he is home with us.  Some days I am focused strictly on parenting and keeping all my children alive and some days I'm a bit tuned out working on this blog and the husband jumps in and takes over.

But generally the week looks like this.

Very un-typical of the average family, as the husband doesn't have a normal 9-5, Monday-Friday job, so don't think I always have his help!  Although it is pretty nice when I do.

I decided to pick a typical Wednesday for us last week.  I'm just going to dive right in, here we go!

5:45 a.m.
Baby wakes up.  I rush in and try and stick a pacifier in her mouth, in the hopes she'd give me another hour of sleep, but to no avail.  I get her up, change her and quietly creep my way out to the kitchen in the dark to make her a bottle.  We get settled in the recliner.  She eats.  I watch the morning news.

6:30 a.m.
Baby is happy and full.  Our middle child, who has yet to learn how to sleep in, comes staggering out to start her day.  I turn on cartoons for her and make my way to the kitchen for some hot tea.

6:45 a.m.
I hop in the shower {baby is in her bouncy seat} as I have a MOPS meeting today.  Which means I need to look presentable.  I get ready while the husband and oldest are still sleeping.

7:15 a.m.
I wake up the oldest and try and get him moving.  Start breakfast for the two oldest.  Sit baby in her high chair and she munches on Cheerios.

8:00 a.m.
Dad is waking up {he tries to catch up on sleep on his days off}.  He gets ready to head to the gym to workout.  I finish getting kids ready for school {Wednesday's are a late start}.

8:45 a.m.
Dad loads up the older two and takes them to school.  I get myself and baby ready to head to MOPS.  Halfway there I realized I forgot a bottle.  Turn around.  Drop off baby in the nursery and head into my sanity meeting for the week.

9:00 a.m.
Load up on yummy breakfast treats {seriously, they have the BEST breakfasts} and settle in at my table.  I take a few minutes before the meeting starts to post a recipe on my social media sites from my phone on the blog.

9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
These two glorious hours are spent with other moms in a friendly chat and no one is pulling on my pant leg asking for something.  I enjoy great food, hot chocolate and fellowship.  Honestly, the best decision I made this year was joining this group.

11:30 a.m.
Arrive back home.  Dad has picked up the kids from school. I get lunches started {quesadillas, fresh fruit and chips}.  Everyone is at the table yelling, fighting and eating.

11:45 a.m.
I set out butter and bananas to make banana bread for later.  The oldest has the school snack bucket for the next day.

12:30 p.m.
Older two are put down for naps.  It's rare our oldest naps, but he has to have quiet time.  It's hit or miss.

1:00 p.m.
Feed the babe a bottle and put her down for a nap.  The husband settles into the recliner for some downtime.  THE HOUSE IS QUIET.

1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
I settle in on the computer and do some blog work with reality T.V. on in the background.  Downloading photos, editing photos, writing posts, posting on social media sites, commenting on other sites, brainstorming for an upcoming sponsored post, etc.  It never ends.

3:30 p.m.
Baby is up.  Feed her and set her down to play on the floor {she has since mastered the army crawl, so it has become more difficult containing her}.

4:00 p.m.
Make banana bread and prep dinner.  We had a turkey pot pie that was made ahead, so I pulled it out of the freezer that morning.  It was thawed by mid-afternoon, so I just needed to wash and cut up lettuce for a salad.

5:00 p.m.
Dad takes kids outside before it gets dark.  They fill up the bird feeders and take the dog for a quick jaunt around the block.

5:45 p.m.
Dinner.  It's a mix of chaos and fun.  Kids eat well and are allowed a "treat" after dinner.  Cookies!

6:30 p.m.
Dad does baths and hands them off to me soaking wet.  They get dressed and settle down for some T.V. time before bed.  I clean up the kitchen, entertain the baby and wish it was bedtime for myself.

7:30 p.m.
All kids to bed.  Oldest two to their room and I feed the baby.  She falls asleep eating and I put her down for the night.

8:00 - 10:00 p.m.
The husband and I enjoy the quiet.  We catch up on T.V. shows, watch college basketball and hang.  I work some more on the blog and finish up this book before bed {it was really good!}.

10:30 p.m.
Lights out.  I'm pooped!

This is just a typical day.  Our weekends look a bit different as it is mostly just the kids and I.  So needless to say I'm even more tired!

Follow me on Instagram!  You'll see a lot more of our "days" on there.

What is your typical day like?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sticky Fruit & Nut Bars #TheFeelGoodFruit #CG

We are now about three weeks into the New Year and either people are still gung-ho into their healthy resolutions or they've already fallen by the wayside.
Which side are you on?
I have to say I'm still on {the good side that is}.  I am trying to keep a better eye on what goes in my mouth, but at the same time still eating really, yummy food.  New Year's resolutions are hard to maintain, we all know that, but there are some fun, unique ways to keep your in-between-a-meal snacks fun and tasty.
I also have a confession to make.
I love prunes.  I always have.  Growing up, my hometown had a lot of Czech influence, and if you know Czech food at all their claim to fame dessert is the kolache.  It is a delicious yeast type pastry filled with fruit.  I would say most kids gravitated towards the cherry or peach filling, but I always, always grabbed the prune ones.  They are just so sweet and flavorful! 

Having recently been sent a variety of Sunsweet products with the intent of creating a healthy snack, I got to quick work.
PlumSmart® Light: This juice is made from a special variety of fresh, juicy plums and has only 60 calories and 15g of carbs, and helps you stay fit on the inside by providing a good source of fiber. PlumSmart Light is a great addition to a smoothie.

Amaz!n Prunes: These little gems are a good source of fiber for only 100 calories per serving. Amaz!n Prunes are nature's perfect way to feel good with nutrition and delicious taste. Prunes also have a low glycemic index, which means they keep you feeling fuller longer. They add a powerful boost of nutrition and fiber to snack time or your favorite recipe.

Amaz!n Diced Prunes: Grab a handful of these delicious diced prunes for nutritious snacking. Toss them in cereal, oatmeal, salad or your favorite recipes for added flavor and fiber. One serving of Amaz!n Diced Prunes is a good source of fiber for only 100 calories. Add to your favorite snacking recipe for extra fiber and a fruit flavor boost.
Prunes have a low glycemic index, which means they keep you feeling fuller longer. They also add a powerful boost of nutrition and fiber to any snack.  I knew that I wanted to sandwich these beauties into a bar, chock full of healthy whole wheat flour, almonds and just a bit of sugar to sweeten.
And it worked splendidly!
I knew if I pureed the prunes into a smooth paste it would make a perfect chewy center to this hearty, healthy snack bar.  And really it is just 8 easy steps {minus baking them in the oven} and these bars come together very easy.

Not only do Sunsweet prunes make an ideal grab-n-go snack, studies have also suggested the health benefits.
Bone Health: Prunes may promote healthy bones. Dr. Bahram H. Arjmandi of Florida State University says, "Dried plums (prunes) are the most bone-friendly fruit that I have seen in decades. They are nature's solution to maintaining good bone health." Dr. Arjmandi hypothesizes that the many compounds and nutrients contained in prunes, such as vitamin K, potassium, copper and boron, likely work synergistically to have this positive effect. Additional research is currently being conducted to learn more about prunes and bone health.

Potassium: Potassium may help prevent hypertension and stroke and play a role in helping support cell energy by regulating fluid balance, nerve impulses and muscle contraction to increase energy.

Fiber: A diet containing foods with fiber can replace fats and sweets, and contributes to heart health.

Regularity: A fiber rich diet may contribute to maintaining a consistent digestive tract which helps lead to improved digestive health.

Once these bars cooled, I cut them into small squares and laid them on a baking sheet.  I then froze them for an hour and placed them individually in a plastic freezer storage bag.  This way they will stay fresh and are easy to grab for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.
In fact, I think I may secretly be turning British {I'm probably watching too much Downton Abbey} as these are really good with an afternoon mug of hot tea.
If you are still on track in 2015 with your healthy eating or you need to get BACK on track, give these bars a try!
Sticky Fruit & Nut Bars
9 oz. bag Sunsweet Pitted Prunes
2 T. water
2 1/3 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1 t. salt
1 3/4 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. honey
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 baking dish and set aside.
2.  In a food processor combine the prunes and water.  Puree until smooth.  Set aside.
3.  In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar and honey over low heat, stirring until completely melted.
4.  In a bowl combine the flour, oatmeal, almonds and salt.  Add the melted butter mixture to this and combine.
5.  Spread half of this mixture into the bottom of the baking dish.  Carefully spread prune puree over the bottom layer.  Then press the rest of the flour mixture on top of the prune layer.
6.  Bake for 25-27 minutes or until the top is golden.
7.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Cut into bars and serve immediately or freeze for later.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Smoky Pan-Seared Paprika Chicken

Do you ever pull chicken out of the freezer to thaw in the morning and then sit and fret all day trying to figure out what to do with it?
Just me?
This happened the other day.  I remember fretting about the chicken during the morning, not knowing what I was going to make.  Then, per usual, I got busy with the kids and forgot about the chicken {which had been put back in the fridge} until around 4:00 p.m.  Then, I really started to fret AGAIN when I realized everyone would be hungry soon and I still had nothing planned with this damn chicken.
And then like a lightning bolt I had remembered seeing a recipe in a magazine where they had coated the chicken generously with paprika and other spices, pan-seared it and finished it with some nice butter and cream.  That my friends was the inspiration for this dish.
They served it over angel hair pasta, but since I only had elbow macaroni on hand, I opted for my roasted garlic mashed potatoes.  Which in my opinion offers a great counter balance to the smoky, spicy chicken.


This spice rub?


I think it would also be good on chicken wings, then drizzled with a swirl of honey.  Maybe an idea for Super Bowl Sunday?

Speaking of the Super Bowl....would you be interested is seeing a round-up of recipes for the big game?  Tell me in the comments if you do.

Anyway.  This chicken.  So good!

Smoky Pan-Seared Paprika Chicken
Print this Recipe!

*I use this smoked paprika from New Frontier.  If you can't find it in the store, you can order it here.

Rub seasoning:
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 t. parsley
1 t. chili powder
1 1/2 t. onion powder
2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. cayenne
1 t. smoked paprika {regular paprika is fine, but smoked paprika has a great flavor!}

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken, cut into strips
4 T. butter
1 c. heavy cream

1.  Clean, dry and cut chicken into strips.  Generously rub the seasoning onto both sides of the chicken.
2.  Preheat a skillet to medium-high heat.  Melt in 2 T. of the butter.
3.  Cook chicken in the skillet on both sides, about 4-5 minutes a side, depending on the thickness of your chicken.
4.  Once chicken is cooked through, turn the heat down and add in the heavy cream and remaining butter.  Scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pan.  Let the chicken simmer in this sauce until it starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.
5.  Serve chicken with angel hair pasta, mashed potatoes or rice.


Thank god it's Friday!  We've finally had a full week of school, the weather is in the 30's {balmy!} and we don't have much planned for the weekend other than meeting up with some family for lunch tomorrow.

My kind of weekend.

What are your plans?  Cooking anything I need to know about it?

Have a great weekend my dear readers!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chocolate Power Smoothies

Are you trying to eat healthier in 2015?
Here is a fun smoothie with a secret ingredient!
I made these smoothies a few days ago for the Little Miss and I.   She is a child that keeps me on my toes.  Quite honestly she never gives me a break.  It's exhausting at times.  One thing that helps to curb her enthusiasm towards life is to give her tasks in the kitchen.

These tasks keep her busy.  And I've found that if she helps me make something in the kitchen, that girl will eat anything.  For three years old she is a pretty darn adventurous eater.
The key to making this smoothie smooth and creamy {like a milkshake!} is the secret ingredient.
Avocados are a good, healthy fat and I've put them in everything from traditional guacamole to brownies.  {They can replace butter in many desserts}.

I would recommend having this smoothie as a little pick-me-up mid-mornings, especially if your mornings start early like mine.  They are also easy to take on the road in the car just slip in a few ice cubes to keep it cold and you are good to go!
Or you can just enjoy some down time with your little one, sit on the kitchen counter and slurp away.  Whatever floats your boat.
Chocolate Power Smoothies
Print this Recipe!
1 frozen banana
1/2 of avocado
1/4 c. peanut butter
1 c. milk
1 c. vanilla Greek yogurt
1 c. of ice
1 T. honey
2 t. cocoa
1.  Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until thick and creamy, adding more milk if too thick.
2.  Makes two 1 1/2 c. servings.
Here is a sneak peak at what is coming up!
Smoky Pan-Seared Paprika Chicken
Oatmeal Fruit & Nut Bars
Sticky Asian Meatballs
Some good eats folks!