Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats: 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cake


I am assuming most people who read this blog like chocolate right?

Any out there that don't?

What a shame.

Last week before Christmas, before the stomach flu, before traveling, before everything, I baked up a new recipe - Flourless Chocolate Cake. I combined a few recipes I found online and made up my own.

For a couple gifts I packaged up some holiday gift baskets full of this cake, banana bread, cake balls, and various other goodies. Who doesn't like an edible gift?

The little man and I tried a slice of this cake before we wrapped them all up and I will admit it is pretty darn good. Very chocolaty, dense, and has a deep flavor. It almost tastes like dark chocolate, although none was added.

Try this one out, especially if you are looking to omit white flour from your diet, are dieting, or need it for someone with gluten allergies. The only thing is, you HAVE to serve it with either powdered sugar, whipped topping or ice cream.

Or all three combined. Which, then defeats the purpose of omitting the flour, but oh well.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
1 c. cocoa
1 c. melted chocolate chips
1/2 c. almonds, ground (food processor works great!)
3 eggs
1/4 c. oil or applesauce
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4-1/2 c. yogurt (plain or vanilla)

Place all ingredients in a stand-up mixer or a bowl to mix by hand. Beat until all combined. Batter will be thick and a little lumpy, but that is okay.

Place in a greased large loaf pan, 4 small mini loaf pans or an 8x8 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool on baking rack, can either serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry

Did everyone recover from the holidays?

We had a couple Christmas' this weekend and still have another one this coming weekend, so it's not over yet! Unfortunately, the husband and I both came down with the stomach flu on Christmas, therefore that last thing I've thought about lately is food...but, we are one the mend!

I wanted to share an easy, delicious appetizer/side dish I shared with my husband's family on Christmas Eve. I first saw Ina Garten make it on the Food Network last year. This is my second time making it, and no doubt there will be a third and a fourth.

I even omitted the cheese this year (very unusual for me, as I love cheese) and it still tasted great! Don't be intimated by puff pastry - buy it frozen, let it thaw, roll it out and bake it up. It is that simple.


Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry

1 pkg. (two sheets) frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm)
2-3 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 lb. sliced ham
1/2 lb. sliced Gruyere cheese, sliced
1 egg beaten, plus 1 T. water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry out, and with floured rolling pin, flatten to 10x12 inches. Place it on baking sheet, top with mustard, ham and cheese, leaving a one inch border around the edges. Brush border with egg wash.

Roll out second piece of puff pastry and lay on top. Pinch edges together and seal with a fork. Brush entire puff pastry with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing (pizza cutter works great!) and serve.
I have the rest of the week off work (yea!), but the little man and I still have quite a few things to tackle. A trip to my parent's for a couple days, watching the Hawkeyes in their bowl game, various appointments for him and I, and installing my new camera on the computer. Yep, you heard right - I finally got a new camera! I'll be showing it off soon, along with some more delicious recipes.
Flourless Chocolate Cake anyone???
Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chicken in Wine Sauce

So I had a dream last night that I was Paula Deen's assistant. Cool, huh? She was as light hearted and funny in the dream as I'm sure she is in real life. I was helping her out on her latest book tour, controlling the crowds and keeping her happy.

If only I lived in Savannah.

Anyway, that dream was fitting as I'm sharing one of Paula's recipes today. One I shared way back when, when I first started this food blog. Probably when I had only a handful of readers - my mom and some friends!

So here it is again, as I'm sure most of you didn't see it the first time. It's a great one to throw together the night before, stick it in the fridge and pull it out for dinner the next night.


Chicken in Wine Sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 box Stove Top stuffing mix
salt/pepper to taste

Spray casserole dish with non-stick spray. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and lay in bottom of pan and cover with cheese. Mix together soup and wine and pour over chicken. Sprinkle stuffing mix on top.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size of chicken breasts) at 375 degrees.

I am now off to tackle my list of "to-do's" before we head out of town this afternoon. I got the rest of my baking finished this morning (flourless chocolate quick loaves!) and the best banana bread recipe ever. If you haven't made that one you need too!

Have a VERY Merry Christmas and I'll check back in later this weekend!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Mean Meat & Bean Taco Dip

I made this dip over the weekend to go alongside our two dishes of enchiladas. I will have to say I'll be making it again...even if enchiladas aren't on the menu. It is that good.

It's also a great side dish or appetizer to make to use up leftovers - taco meat, beans, cheese, salsa, shredded lettuce...you get the picture, right?



Mean Meat & Bean Taco Dip
*Photo courtesy of Kitchen Centsability*

2 cups of taco meat (beef or chicken)
1 cup refried beans
8 oz. sour cream
1 cup salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced black olives

Layer ingredients in an 8x8 baking dish in the order listed. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until melted. Serve with tortilla chips as a side, or with your favorite Mexican meal.

Well, two more days of work and then off 11 days for Christmas! Lucky me! Although, we will be busy traveling, spending time with both families, squeezing in appointments while I'm off work, and just hanging out!

I'm looking forward to a week one-on-one with the little man, maybe he and I will come up with some new recipes???

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Peanut Butter Balls

As promised, I wanted to share another (I know!) baked good from last weekend. More on that a little later...

The little man and I braved the mall this morning for some last minute holiday shopping. Wow. It. Was. Busy.

But I love it. Some people hate the hussle and bussle, but we made a morning out of it and then met his god momma at Panera for lunch. Can't beat Panera! I had my usual, Pick 2, Smokehouse Turkey Panini with a cup of Broccoli Cheddar Soup. The little man enjoyed macaroni and cheese with a side of blueberry yogurt.

He didn't complain.

Now we are home for the day. Last night I made up TWO pans of homemade enchiladas (one chicken, one beef) and a mean taco dip for dinner tonight. The in-laws are coming and I figured they are driving here, it's cold out, a nice hot mexi-dinner sounds good.

Maybe I'll share???

Enough of my day...bring on the peanut butter! These are like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, but homemade and much better. I give my props to Jenelle for the recipe:)


Peanut Butter Balls
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 T. butter
1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
melting chocolate

Cream butter and peanut butter together in a bowl. Slowly mix in powdered sugar. Form into small balls, place on wax paper and allow to dry (usually about 15-20 minutes). Dip in melted chocolate (white and chocolate almond bark is what we used), place on wax paper and let dry.

These freeze well, so make a batch today for your next holiday gathering...I mean, it's only 4 ingredients!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2nd Annual Holiday Baking Extravaganza

When I first started my food blog last year, I talked about my 1st Annual Holiday Baking Extravaganza. I'm happy to say we made it a second year.

I originally started this tradition with some old co-workers, but miles between us made it hard, so last year I started it up with my tried-and-true high school girlfriends. We go WAY BACK, and usually make any excuse to get together.

And that is what we did! We were buried deep in flour, sugar, frosting, and everything yummy in between.

I'll be featuring Cake Balls if you read further on...but take a look at some of our yummy goodies, many of which are being stored in our garage. #1 because our freezer is already full, and #2 the high today was 10 degrees, so who really needs a freezer?


Me, and my preggo self, decorating my heart out.



Cake Balls
1 box cake mix (any flavor)
1 can frosting (any flavor)
dipping chocolate (such as almond bark)


Bake cake as directed, allow to cool. In a large bowl crumble cake into fine crumbs. Mix in container of frosting. Take spoonful, roll into balls and place on cookie sheet. When all are rolled out, place in freezer (or outside) to harden. When frozen, dip in melted chocolate. Place on wax paper until set.

These keep for a long while, especially if kept frozen. It tastes like a mini cake explosion in your mouth, but better! They are so good, my mom and all her lady friends baked and dipped hundreds for my wedding favors back in 2006.
Yep, they really did.

In case you are wondering I baked up a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. Due whatever variation your heart desires...

I have a couple more baking recipes to share later this week for you, so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mini Beef Wellingtons

So last weekend my department at work gathered for a little holiday party at a co-worker's house. It was nice to get together outside of the "work" setting and just enjoy each others company.

And eat tons and tons of great food.

Just look at some of the samplings!
































I supplied the chocolate fondue (yell, if you'd like that easy recipe!) and my spinach artichoke dip with warm crusty bread. Yum.

The host outdid herself with a ooey, gooey, wonderful pan of lasagna and a new creation her fiance found - Mini Beef Wellingtons. She graciously gave me the recipe, so dig in! It's a great holiday appetizer for your next gathering.

Mini Beef Wellingtons
beef tenderloin
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 c. mushrooms, diced
1 T. garlic
1 pkg. puff pastry, thawed
egg wash


Cut up the beef tenderloin into bite size pieces, saute in skillet with oil until medium (or to your preferred liking). Remove beef from pan. Saute peppers, onion, garlic and mushrooms until tender. Add beef back into pan to mix, but turn off the heat.

Roll out puff pastry and cut into small squares. Drop one piece of beef, along with veggie mixture onto pastry and place another pastry square on top, then seal edges. Place on baking sheet and brush with egg wash mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

These were delicious. We ate them plain, but I'm also imagining a creamy horseradish dip or something of that sort to dunk them in.

What has been your favorite dish so far this year at any holiday gatherings?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mouthwatering Blueberry Pancakes

Can I just say my 15 month old little man is becoming a handful?

My husband and I have noticed in the last month he has turned into a wild man! No longer that sweet, little innocent boy - he is now testing our limits daily. Now, don't get me wrong he still is a great little guy, so very happy and loves everyone, but man, he makes this mama tired!

If he's not getting into one cupboard, he's shoving something (usually my cell phone) into another, all the while yelling at the tops of his lungs because he can't reach something he "wants" on the kitchen counter.

I often wonder how I'll handle TWO.

Okay, blueberry pancakes. The little man LOVES blueberries and LOVES pancakes, so why not put them together? Well, it was a good idea, but for some reason he insisted on eating them separately and not in the together form.

See what I mean?

Oh well, we enjoyed them.

This recipe is my basic pancake batter recipe that I've used for years, only with some blueberries thrown in!


Mouthwatering Blueberry Pancakes
3 T. butter, melted
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 T. sugar (or agave nectar)
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. flour
blueberries

Melt butter, then add in vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and eggs. Whisk until incorporated. Add milk, and sift in flour.

Pour into a hot griddle, placing a few blueberries onto the pancake, before flipping.

If you're like us, we sometimes eat pancakes for dinner, we did this night.

I won't tell.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Gift Package Winner

Congrats to #8, Biz! In honor of my 1 year food blogging anniversary, she won my holiday gift package (holiday baking cookbook, 3 copper cookie cutters, and a Christmas tree cookie spatula).

I have been reading Biz' food blog for many, many months now, and she just keeps drawing me back with her mouth-watering meals. And I guess you could say I'm paying her back, as I won a giveaway of hers earlier this year, and now she has won mine!

Biz, I hope you enjoy this holiday package!

Stayed tuned in the next day or so for recaps of my work holiday gathering we had this weekend. We had SO much food. Isn't that always the case?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday GIVEAWAY reminder!

As I'm sitting here tonight enjoying some peace and quiet - reading, browsing the internet, watching college football (yes, I watch LOTS of football), I wanted to remind everyone for my holiday gift package GIVEAWAY that ends tomorrow at noon.

Enter here.

Remember leave a comment here and tell me your favorite holiday food. By doing that you could win a cute holiday cookbook, a set of three copper cookie cutters and a Christmas tree cookie spatula.

Too cute to pass up! Just leave your comment here by noon tomorrow and then patiently wait and see if you're the lucky one.

Enjoy your Saturday night everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

1st Food Blogging Anniversary Holiday GIVEAWAY!

Can you believe it's been a year?

Check out my very first post, back on December 6th, 2009. Wow. I've come a long way! At that time I was staying home with the little man who was about 4 months old, and starting up this new little hobby!

I've learned a LOT, cooked a LOT, and made a LOT of wonderful friends. I hope each and everyone one of you still enjoy reading my food posts!

To celebrate I have a surprise Holiday gift package I'm giving away. An adorable little gathering of holiday "baking" items I found at Target last weekend (love that store!).
  • A Great Holiday Baking Cookbook
  • 3 copper Christmas cookie cutters
  • 1 very cute Christmas tree cookie spatula

All in time for your holiday baking!

Simply leave a comment telling me your favorite holiday meal, baked good, drink, etc. And if you don't bake, enter anyway, you have friends don't you? You have until Sunday, December 5th at 12:00pm CST to enter.

So get a crackin'! I can't wait to read all of your responses (don't be afraid to attach recipes, I'd love to try out your favorites!)

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Delicious Dip (yep, that is really what it is called...)

Happy Post Thanksgiving! Did everyone fill their gills with enough turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie?

I did. And I loved every minute of it.

And I vow to make a pumpkin pie sometime other than next November, why don't we do that?

I wanted to share this simple, quick and satisfying dip that made our appetizer list this Thanksgiving and pretty much is in the fridge every time our family gets together. In fact, if we all come home to my parent's house and it ISN'T made we are upset.

It's like water, it's a given.

It has no fancy name, no fancy ingredients, and in fact when you look at the recipe you'll probably think will this taste good? But, trust me, it does. And the longer it sits the better it tastes. Make this for your next gathering!


Delicious Dip
1 c. mayo (NOT Miracle Whip)
2 c. sour cream
1 t. Accent
1/2 t. garlic salt
generous amounts of parsley (at least a few tablespoons, enough to see it!)
1/2 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 bag of shredded cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients and let sit overnight, or at least a few hours before serving. Serve with carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers, crackers or potato chips.
***And in other news, my 1 year food blogging anniversary is coming up! Can you believe it's been a year? Stay tuned as I have a really cute GIVEAWAY coming!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cheeseburger in Paradise Soup

If you read my last post, you know that I promised you this soup. My good friend Erica made it for us last Friday night and I've been thinking about it every since!

It is one kids and adults will enjoy, great freshly made and great as leftovers. Who doesn't love soup?


Cheeseburger in Paradise Soup
6 medium potatoes (peeled), diced or shredded
1 small diced carrot
1 small diced onion
1 can Rotel green chilies and tomatoes
3 c. water
1 T. plus 2 t. beef bouillon granules
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs. ground beef
5 cups milk
6 T. flour
1 16 oz. package Velveeta cheese, cubed
crumbled cooked bacon (optional)
salt, pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, combine first seven ingredient, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook beef and drain. Add to soup, stir in 4 cups of milk, heat through.

In a small bowl, combine flour and remaining milk until smooth, gradually stir into soup. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes until thickened. Reduce heat and stir in cheese until melted. Garnish with bacon.

The healthiest soup? NO. But, does it taste good? YES.

And really, Thanksgiving is in less than two days, this week isn't really about healthy eating anyway.....turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie. Not so healthy!

But oh well, it is a time to enjoy with your family and friends and be THANKFUL for everything you have been given.

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday Night Supper Club - Cranberry Almond Spinach Salad

Last night a group of girlfriends and I got together for another annual Friday Night Supper Club. Gosh, I look forward to these. Great food, good laughs and no kids! It's a nice break since we all have little ones. I think we commented more than once that is was nice to eat a whole meal without being interrupted or having it cold by the time we finished.


A little highlight of last night's menu:
  • Cheeseburger soup
  • Chicken & Dumplings

  • Garlic Parmesan Toasted Bread

  • Cranberry Almond Spinach Salad

  • Brownies

  • Wine! (none for me...boo)

My good friend Erica had the soup idea since she was hosting and it hit the spot as it was a chilly night. Ugh...winter is coming!

The Cheeseburger soup is such an easy recipe, which I'll be posting soon, as it was my original recipe from back in the day. I promise you it is one that both kids and adults will enjoy!

Until then, here is my good friend Pam's Cranberry Almond Spinach Salad recipe...so good!

Cranberry Almond Spinach Salad

1 pre-washed bag spinach leaves

1 c. dried cranberries

1 c. sliced almonds

bottled raspberry vinaigrette

Toss all ingredients and coat with dressing if serving immediately, or keep salad and dressing separate for each to top later.

Enjoy - I hope everyone is having a great weekend! We are having the first of two Thanksgivings tomorrow, so I better rest up for the good food!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oatmeal Butterscotch Crispies


I know I've been favoring the "sweet" side of this Sweet & Savory blog lately. I apologize, but I'm blaming it on this girl I'm carrying. Unlike with the little man, who wanted salt, salt and more salt, she is saying, nearly everyday, "where's the sugar?".

So I'm bringing you more SUGAR.

I got in the baking mood yesterday and made a batch of oatmeal butterscotch cookies. Or "crispies" as I like to call them, as they get a little crispy on the edges, but still retain their softness in the middle.

They must have turned out good, as the husband made me take them to work this morning, just so he wouldn't eat anymore. No self control...

Oatmeal Butterscotch Crispies
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/4 c. flour
2 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
3 1/2 c. oatmeal
1/2 bag of butterscotch chips

Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs one at a time until mixed well. Mix in salt, vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda, then add flour to combine. Fold in oatmeal and butterscotch chips.

Place on greased baking sheet by the spoonful. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. They will spread quickly and look really thin, but this is what you want. Transfer immediately to a wire rack or parchment paper to cool.

Great cookies to stack up and give away as a gift!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bring on the Pink!

It's a GIRL!!!

Yep, we found out on Thursday there is a little girl in there. I had thought this all along, as this pregnancy felt just a little different, but honestly I figured "it will probably be another boy" and I'd be outnumbered!

Nope!

We do not have one shred of pink in this house, so it's time to get ready for this new addition. Many things to decide...should they share a room and then we can keep the guest bedroom? Do I split them up? Do I move little man to a "big bed" right before she comes? What colors do we pick out?

Lots of things to think about. Until then, here is my 19 week picture from earlier this week. Not looking the greatest that day, but you get the picture!

I'll be cooking up some yummy recipes this weekend as well, stay tuned!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ricotta Filled Chocolate Chip Bars

It's Monday! Ugh. Although I will admit my day went fast. Can't wait to get home to the little man these days, he is becoming such a ham!

Reminder, we find out if we are having another little man or girl on Thursday! I'll be sure to post the details...stay tuned.

Until then, bake up some of these bars. They won't last you till Thursday, but hey, it's the thought that counts. I found this recipe on the back of a bag of chocolate chips one day this summer, and substituted the ricotta cheese for the eggs, as I was out. I had NO idea if they would turn out, but oh....my....gosh.....they did.

I now feel like making a pan of lasagna, just so I'll have extra ricotta hanging out.


Ricotta Filled Chocolate Chip Bars
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. ricotta cheese
1 1/2 t. vanilla
chocolate chips

Mix all wet ingredients together, then add dry. Stir until just combined, fold in chocolate chips. Spread in an 8x8 sprayed baking pan. Bake for 18 minutes at 375 degrees.

The easiest bar ever!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup

So, yesterday my mom came and watched the little man while we were both at work, since our babysitter had to attend a funeral. And guess what she brought with her...

Homemade Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Yum.

I've made this version before for a soup cook-off held at a previous job a few years back, and if I'm recalling it did pretty darn good! May have even won, I can't remember...

So, I definitely wanted to share the recipe with all of you, as it is prime soup tasting weather. And like any other soup, it just tastes better the longer it sits!


Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 c. chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
2 T. oil

In a large pan saute the above ingredients on a low simmer until tender.

Add in:
4 oz. green chilies
12 oz. Italian style stewed tomatoes
4 c. chicken broth
1 t. lemon pepper
2 t. worchestershire sauce
1 t. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. hot sauce

Simmer for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl combine 4 T. flour with 1/2 c. water. Wisk into the soup and bring to a boil. Add in 1 pound of diced/shredded chicken and simmer another 5 minutes.

The best way to eat this soup in my opinion? Add a doll up of sour cream to your bowl and a handful of crushed tortilla chips...genius. If you want to go the healthy route, skip the sour cream and you still have a great bowl of goodness for very little calories.

Try this, you'll love it!
What is your favorite kind of soup?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bacon Puffs

I again stole/adapted this recipe from my sister-in-law. She usually makes them for family gatherings, and about a week ago I was craving them.

Don't judge, it had been since last Christmas, so I was due.

These are a great appetizer you can make ahead and then bake when needed. I'm thinking of even freezing a batch, to pull out and stick in the oven when this craving again hits.

And trust me, it will.

Bacon Puffs
1 pkg. crescent rolls
8 oz. cream cheese
bacon bits/crumbled cooked bacon
garlic powder
parsley

Like I said this is the adapted version from my sister-in-law, so I'm sure she makes them a little different, but mine turned out great!



Unroll crescent rolls and place on greased baking sheet. Mix together cream cheese, bacon and seasonings. I start with about a tablespoon each of the seasonings and then taste, if more is needed, I add a little more. Spread cheese mixture on crescent rolls and then cut into smaller squares and roll up.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. These are best eaten warm fresh out of the oven!


---------------------------------

In other news, we'll be finding out the sex of our little one mid-November, so stay tuned for that post! I'm still thinking a girl, but because of that I'm sure it will be a boy. Regardless, as long as he/she is healthy, we are happy with that!

Have a great weekend everyone, and for all you Iowa Hawkeye fans out there today, beat Michigan State! I don't know about you, but my eyes will be glued to the TV all afternoon...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Frugal and Filling: Oatmeal

*Today I am featuring a guest post from Maria Rainier, a freelance writer and blog junkie. She currently is a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online colleges and blogging about student life. In her spare time she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming and avoiding her laptop*

**On a side note, the appetite is back, flu is gone, and 16 week baby doc appointment went well today!**

Now, eat your oatmeal!
---------------------------


For those of us trying to squeeze by the recession, oatmeal - a veritable visual sludge - can be our knights in shining armor. Like many foods bland in and of themselves (like pasta and rice), oatmeal is versatile. I could go on and on about oatmeal cookies, muffins and pancakes, but this post will be about oatmeal and toppings you can find around the house that can be varied enough to make you feel like you've broken your fast in a different kitchen every morning.

Here are some basic tips:
  • Add fresh or frozen fruit. Bananas are great fresh (and with a little peanut butter) and frozen blueberries will add a wonderful temperature and texture contrast.

  • Add dried fruit like cranberries, dates, cherries, raisins and even shredded coconut for a trail mix taste. Add chocolate chips and granola bits if you want to take the theme all the way. Plus, the texture difference between the oatmeal and granola will keeps things interesting.

  • Chopped nuts (almonds are a great choice) will add not only texture but protein to your meal.

  • Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar and drizzle maple syrup for a fall-inspired breakfast. Add chopped apples - either fresh or cooked in a skillet with butter and a dash of cinnamon - for more variety.

  • You'll be surprised what a spoonful of yogurt does both for taste and texture in your oatmeal. The same can be said for jam or fruit preserves. If you have more than one type of jam in your house, you can add variety during your week.

If you are looking for easy, specific combinations, try these:

  • Banana Cream (thinly sliced bananas, cinnamon, and some non-fat sweetened condensed milk

  • Blueberry Almond (frozen blueberries, almonds, milk and flaxseed)

  • Coconut Banana (shredded coconut, light coconut milk, bananas and almonds)

  • Peaches and Cream (canned diced peaches, half and half and brown sugar)

  • Pumpkin Pie (canned pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and sliced almonds)

Try stopping by your local farmer's markets (if still in season) and see what fruits you can get your hands on. Many vendors also sell their own homemade fruit and jam preserves that don't have the unhealthy chemicals and fake-tasting high fructose corn syrup.

So, if you are ever at a loss of what to make for breakfast (quickly and cheaply, lest the kids wake up to a distinct lack of yummy smells from the kitchen), break out the oatmeal and your arsenal of toppings and mixtures for a healthy, filling and delicious meal.

Friday, October 22, 2010

2 Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cake

Oh...so...under the weather I have been. The stomach flu hit me smack in the face on Wednesday and finally today I feel a little better.

Wowsa. I think it wiped me out even more just being pregnant. Poor little bean inside probably wondered what in the &*^$! was going on!

Needless to say after talking to a co-worker, she was the only one left in our department yesterday as everyone else had the flu. Who spread these nasty flu germs all over our desks?

Enough of my sickness. How about a fall dessert?

I made this cake for a food day at work earlier this week, initially planning to make them into cookies, but time got the best of me, so I opted to dump all the batter in the cake pan instead. Still tasted great!


2 Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cake
1 box spice cake mix
1 can pumpkin

Mix the dry spice mix and canned pumpkin together until it is all incorporated. It takes a little longer to come together, since you aren't adding eggs, oil, etc. Pour into 9x13 baking pan and bake according to the boxed directions.

I frosted mine with some cream cheese frosting, but I'm imaging a good dusting of powdered sugar would be nice as well!

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trio Enchiladas

When I make Mexican food, it is usually just tacos or enchiladas, leaning more towards the enchilada as they get ooey, gooey and melty in the oven.

This recipe was my latest taken on a good 'ol enchilada.

And again, as always, I halved the recipe into two pans and stuck one in the freezer. Instant Mexican for one night to come when I'm short on time!


Trio Enchiladas (meaning bean, rice and beef...)
1 pkg. tortillas of choice
3 c. Mexican rice (store bought or homemade)
1 c. refried beans
1 lb. ground beef
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies
block cheeses of choice (I used muenster/cheddar)

Cook ground beef and drain. Mix in Mexican rice. Spread 1/4 can of Rotel on bottom on sprayed casserole dish. To assemble enchiladas, layer refried beans, 2 slices of thick cut cheese, and then meat mixture. Roll up and place seam side down in pan.

When all enchiladas are rolled up and placed in pan, pour remaining Rotel over and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Top with your favorites - shredded lettuce, tomato, salsa, black olives, crushed tortillas chips, etc.

This was a HUGE hit in our house, I hope it is in yours!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Guess What's Coming!

Sorry, for my lack of posts lately. Being a working mom has caused my used-to-be-ever-perfect schedule to be really thrown off lately - but I haven't forgotten about you!

Please don't leave me.

Here are two recipes that are coming up!
  • 2 Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cookies (yes...I said 2 ingredients!)
  • Crock pot Barbecue Meatballs

Can you tell we are having a food day at work? Ha!

I hope everyone has a great Friday tomorrow and enjoys their weekend...stay tuned for these easy-peasy recipes, plus a guest post later next week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches

This is one of our go-to meals. Especially now that I qualify as a "working mom". Throw in the crock pot and go...

I will say even though the last year I didn't have a "paying" job, I was still working. Raising a kid is hard work!

The husband had to stay home with the little man today as our daycare provider was sick, and let me just say I came home to a disaster. A tornado of sorts tore through the house, all while I was at work. Thank god, he goes back to work tomorrow and the little man heads to daycare. My house can't take it! Lets just say he got into a roll of toilet paper, and, well, you can just imagine the rest.

Make this easy meal soon, you'll be glad you did!
Crock pot French Dip Sandwiches
roast, of your choice
1 can of beer (or beef broth, even water, if you don't want to use alcohol)
2 T. minced garlic
1 T. Lawry's seasoning salt


Place roast in crock pot and sprinkle with seasonings and garlic. Pour in beer. Place on low anywhere from 4-8 hours, depending on the size of your roast. The last hour, shred with fork and let sit in the juice, it will soak up lots of flavor!


Serve on a bun and enjoy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Baby Bump


So, you've all been begging for a baby bump shot and here it is! A friend at work took this for me this week, I guess you could officially call it my 14 week bump.

I definitely think I look smaller than this some days, as this particular day I was wearing my belly band, which I think just enhances the fullness! For those that don't know belly bands hold up your pants, shorts, etc, when you just can't quite button or zip them anymore. I wore it a ton for the little man, so I imagine I'll be wearing it a lot again! They are comfy:)

I definitely was not this big at 14 weeks with the little man, but they do say the second one always pops out faster.

I have proved that to be true.

Ignore the bad hair - I won't even tell you how long it has been since I've gotten it cut or highlighted, but that is hopefully coming later next week!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

So earlier this week it was nice and chilly, perfect for soup. Tomorrow it is supposed to be 80 degrees. Go figure. The joys of living in the Midwest.

I got this recipe from my mom, who got it from a good friend, who as far back as I can remember has never made anything that tasted less than delicious (Hi, Maureen!).

Even the little man gobbled it up, which is pretty good these days considering his appetite has been par from the course while recovering from a cold and ear infection. See? Soup really does make you feel better!


Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
2 boxes wild rice
3 large diced carrots
3 stalks diced celery
2 cups cooked chicken
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. flour
8 c. chicken broth
1 c. half and half (or milk)
1 t. pepper

In a separate saucepan cook rice. In a stockpot saute chopped vegetables in butter. Once they are tender, sift in flour a little at a time and stir for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, chicken and rice. While keeping on very low heat, add in half and half, be sure to not boil.

Adjust seasonings as needed or when reheated. We like to serve with saltines and a good sandwich on the side!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Melt in Your Mouth Banana Muffins

I have a love/hate relationship with Sundays. I love them this time of year because they are usually spent at home, with family, watching football, eating a home cooked meal, etc. I hate them because the next day is Monday.

Anyone else feel the same way?

This weekend has been pretty low-key, but we've also had an under-the-weather little man. This morning he woke up with a temp of 100.6 and spent most of the morning just laying on my lap. Which for those of you that know him, never happens! He's usually running around, getting into everything, so that just shows you how bad he feels.

Regardless of the sick child, I do plan on doing some cooking today, and yesterday I baked up these delicious muffins. So delicious in fact, that there is only one left.


Melt in Your Mouth Banana Muffins (yields 12 muffins)
2 egg whites
1 c. yogurt (I used vanilla flavored)
1/4 c. canola oil or applesauce
1 large banana, mashed
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. flax seed
1 1/2 c. flour

Mix together egg whites, yogurt, oil, banana and brown sugar. Sift in all dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spray cupcake liners in muffin tins and fill 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Delicious straight from the oven and slathered with butter, but also store great in a container for many days!

*Stay tuned for Homemade Chicken & Wild Rice Soup!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Camera is Failing Me!

For the last few months, it takes me more time than I care to chat about downloading pictures off my camera. Time that in the last two weeks has become very precious to me.

Our one and only camera was purchased the day after our wedding back in 2006 right before we checked into the downtown Marriott in Des Moines that night and then bordered a plan the next morning for our honeymoon.

Needless to say, it has seen better days.

It sometimes takes me 10-15 tries of turning the camera on and off to get those damn pics off of it. Tonight I had zero success.

I meant to show you my "go to" rice casserole that I make at least once a month, because of it's simplicity, but that will have to be another night. I just can't give you a recipe without a picture.

It's like chocolate covered strawberries without the champagne.

A shame.

So bare with me and I'll keep trying. In the mean time, if you see any giveaways for a stellar camera please let me know!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Brown Sugar Zucchini Cookies

First off, thanks, thanks, thanks for all the kind comments about Announcement #1 and Announcement #2!

Like I said previously, we've had some serious changes in our household the last couple of months, so I appreciate still having some readers. Stick it out with me!

Half of this weekend was spent on the road visiting family, but Sunday we were back home and 7 loads of laundry greeted me when I walked in.

Never again will I let it get that backed up. Then the husband leaves for work this morning and destroys my neat, folded, clean pile. Ugh.

Besides laundry I did have time to throw some cookies in the oven, a variation of my brown sugar oatmeal cookies. This time I added some shredded zucchini so I could pretend I was eating a vegetable, and because it well, just needed to be used up.


Brown Sugar Zucchini Cookies
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar (I replaced this with 1/2 c. agave nectar)
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 c. shredded zucchini
3 c. oats

Cream together brown sugar, agave nectar and butter. Add egg one at a time and then vanilla. Stir all other dry ingredients in, oats and zucchini being last. Cover and chill the dough at least 1 hr.

Roll small pieces of the dough into balls and place on baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 min. Allow to cool and then place on cooling rack.

And since Halloween is just around the corner, a pic of the little man with his very first pumpkin...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Announcement #2

So, you've all been waiting for it....

I announced earlier in the week that I was going back to work. That started Wednesday, daycare started yesterday, and this weekend we are visiting the in-laws, therefore my blog has been neglected!

Sorry, folks. I do have some recipes on back order to share with you, including a rice casserole and zucchini cookies, but I just haven't had the time or energy to put them up. Hang in there, they are coming.

As for announcement #2...

Let's see if you can guess.
  • For the last two months I've been eating cereal, fruit, pizza and ice cream.
  • I've been going to bed around 8:00 p.m.
  • The couch has been my best friend.

Guessed yet?

You got it. We are expecting baby #2!!! Little man is going to big brother. I'm 12 weeks along and everything is going great. Not to say that weeks 6-11 were pleasant. Nothing like feeling nauseous 24/7. All you ladies out there with kids know what I'm talking about. That has since mostly passed, but I definitely still have some food aversions.

Due to those food issues, my posts have been lacking. I haven't been in the cooking/baking mood, and frankly I didn't think you like to see my endless cereal bowls that made my dinner table.

I promise I'll post a belly shot soon. And yes, there is a belly. No one tells you how much faster the second one pops out!

And I promise to share recipes soon! Just have been busy baby making, finding/starting work, finding daycares, and turning my nose up to most food.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Announcements

So, I've got two announcements, but you are only getting one today. Ha!

I've been a little absent from my daily blog posts lately and I apologize. There has been a lot going on at our house.

So...for the first announcement.

I'm going back to work.

Ugh. I know.

I'm taking a temp job with a local company at least for a couple of months, it may turn into more, maybe less, we'll see. Extra money is needed so this mama is going back to work. But, trust me, it's not my first choice!

We've also spent the last two days looking for daycare, and it has been found! Thank the lord. A very trusted in-home daycare was brought to our attention and she just happened to get an opening this week. Little man and I fell in love as soon as we walked in the door. He'll be doing 1/2 days this Thursday and Friday and then start full-time next week.

Please keep your fingers, toes, and legs crossed that this mama will do okay...

Now on to some weekend pics and food. We tailgated, watched lots and lots of football and ate a ton as well.

Little man all bundled up outside. It was cold and rainy on Saturday, but he was a trooper.


The best gumbo I've ever eaten. I'm patiently waiting for the recipe...


Look who got to walk around on the field after! Please ignore his mismatched outfit, it was getting close to bedtime and this little bugger was pooped.



And finally last night's dinner of a yummy spicy chicken and broccoli stir fry with brown rice. It definitely hit the spot. I took so help with a spice mix, but everything was chopped, diced and sauteed by me!


Hope everyone has a great Tuesday, almost mid-week!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

It's Friday!

This weekend we are on the move...the husband is hunting and little man and I are meeting family at my alma mater's football game tomorrow for a little tailgating and to watch Grandpa get inducted into their football Hall of Fame.

Should be a fun day of friends, family and football!

Since the husband was gone all week for work I decided I should have a hot meal waiting for him upon his return, right?

I'm not always this nice, but last night I guess I was feeling generous.

I remember eating this dish at my childhood friend (and great friend still today!) Jenelle's house growing up. I always thought it was a vast improvement from the frozen chicken cordon bleu we sometimes threw in the oven at our house.

This will be your new comfort casserole. Let's just say I made a 9x13 pan of this last night and it was gone within an hour. And I only had a helping and a half!


Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
4 1/2 c. diced chicken
4 1/2 c. diced ham
1 c. cheddar cheese
1/3 c. flour
1 t. dill
1/4 c. butter
2 c. cream
1/8 t. mustard

Topping: 1 box stuffing (or homemade croutons like I made), 1/4 c. cheese, 1/4 c. silvered almonds, 2 T. butter

In a pan saute onion in butter until tender. Add flour, stir to form a paste, about a minute. Gradually add cream, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, until thickened. (I took mine off the heat after that minute and it thickened pretty quickly). Add seasonings once thick.

Layer chicken, ham and 1 c. shredded cheddar in bottom of a 9x13 pan. Pour cream mixture over the meat. Add toppings and drizzle with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

*I didn't use a box of stuffing, so I simply cut up 1/2 loaf of french bread, mixed it with some canola oil, garlic and parsley and baked the croutons still just crispy, I also omitted the butter at the end, as I simply forgot!*


Like I said, this was a HIT. I am imagining leftover Thanksgiving turkey and ham going into this dish in a couple of months:)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mama Bosso Pizza


I have found, hands down, the best frozen pizza...EVER. And better yet, it is from a local company, made with fresh ingredients.

If you live in eastern Iowa or western Illinois, you need to check your grocery store for Mama Bosso pizza. I got ours at Hy-Vee, if you click here you'll find other store locations.

I'm not kidding, when I took it out of it's wrapper last night to stick in the oven, the crust was so doughy and fresh, nothing like the hard, cardboard crust you find on other frozen pizzas. I won't name names...

Now, don't get me wrong, the best pizza is homemade or from local restaurants who make it all fresh on the spot...but, if you are in a jam, don't feel like cooking, or are just craving pizza without the fuss of making it, try Mama Busso's!

And no, I'm not getting paid to talk about them, I just really like their pizza.

Do you have a favorite frozen pizza brand?