Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats: December 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Crock Pot Mac-n-Cheese

If you need a dish to throw together for a family meal, potluck or 
special event...this is the one!

crock pot mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

I teased about this recipe on social media a couple times last week and it was hit with a flood of emotions.

Holy cheese!

Cheese, much?

I want this, NOW!

It became certain that people are either a cheese lover or hater.  Obviously I am a cheese lover. Always have been, always will be.

Dear Lord, please don't ever let me become lactose intolerant.


crock pot mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Even though I made this last week, yesterday I wanted to make it again and dive head first into the crock pot with just a fork in tow.

I'm about up to my ears with sickness in this house and after Day 7 of the little one having a fever, snotty nose and temperament of a raging lion, I wanted to take a crock pot of this cheesy goodness and just hide in a closet.

As she was laying on my chest yesterday, twisting around, being restless, my mind was escaping to my pantry thinking if I had the ingredients for another batch.  Then I thought of how I could possibly throw the darn dish together with her pulling on my leg the whole time wanting to be held.

In the end I had a boring cheese quesadilla for dinner while the husband worked late. Boring!


crock pot mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Let me just say, if you've had a bad day this is the dish for you.  You can drain your sorrows in the cheese.  Yesterday I wanted this dish as bad as I wanted a new van last month {I got that, by the way}.

With count them, 4 CHEESES, plus other artery clogging ingredients, I think it is safe to say that any macaroni and cheese lovers in your house will faint and collapse for this one.  

And guess what?  It just takes a measly two hours in the crock pot!  I know, you are thinking, why use the crock pot for a dish that isn't an all day set-it-and-forget-it dish?  Well, sometimes you just need something different.

Throw everything together after the kids wake up from nap and it will be ready for dinner. Put it all in for a family gathering or potluck shortly before you leave.  Plug it in in the morning before work, set the timer on one of those fancy dancy crock pots {I need one} and it can be checked on by the kids or husband, whomever gets home first.

And if you don't have one of those fancy crock pots, HERE is the one I use faithfully, the Cook'N Carry 6 Quart Crock-Pot.  It's awesome and has never failed me.


crock pot mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

The creaminess of this macaroni and cheese is top notch.  I mean, really how could it not be? My kids went bonkers when I served it to them and I silently prayed that they would stop eating so much of it so we'd have extra leftovers the next day.

We did.

Thank god.

We ate it for lunch again the following day and it tasted fabulous, reheating up really well. Have I convinced you to give this a try?

One pointer.  Do not forget about this dish in the crock pot like you can some dishes.  It cooks fast {just at 2 hours}.  I would hate for you to have your heart set on it, get busy and come back to an overcooked, burnt mess.  Set a timer.  Then set a back-up timer. Okay?


crock pot mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)



Are you a 5 year old like me?

Here are some more of my favorite macaroni dishes I've served over the years.  All a bit different, but all incredibly delicious!



Yield: 10-12 servings

Crock Pot Mac-n-Cheese

prep time: 15 MINScook time: 2 hourtotal time: 2 hours and 15 mins
This is the mac-n-cheese recipe that all my friends request. And it's done in the crock pot! Super creamy with four different cheeses, it is defintely a dish you will not forget.

INGREDIENTS:


  • 2 c. cooked, al dente, elbow macaroni
  • 2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 c. provolone cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. mayo
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 14 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 1/2 t. dry mustard

INSTRUCTIONS:


  1. Spray a large 5-6 quart crock pot with cooking spray.
  2. In a pot cook the macaroni according to directions, leaving al dente, about 3-4 minutes shy of being done. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place the macaroni in the crock pot.
  3. Add in the cheeses, sour cream, cream cheese, mayo and seasonings, stirring to combine.
  4. Pour the evaporated milk over top the mixture.
  5. Cook on low for 2 hours, stirring once half way through.
  6. Serve hot.

notes

*I have also made this in the oven.  Place the macaroni mixture in a greased 9x13 pan and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring half way through or until all cheeses are melted.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Monday, December 28, 2015

From Scratch Creamy Tomato Soup

Homemade soups are the best!  You might ditch the canned stuff after trying this one.

from scratch creamy tomato soup (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Well the holidays are coming to an end {even though we still have another one this week} and I don't know about you but I feel like I've eaten a horse.

Between the cookies and the snacks and the heavy meals and the snacks and the drinks and did I mention the snacks?  I feel like we are completely off base and need to detox a bit before we have our last Christmas later this week.

If you need me, I'll be in a corner downing water and eating salads.

from scratch creamy tomato soup (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

A few weeks back before all the holiday grub consumed us, I made my first big batch of homemade tomato soup.  I had never in the history of my soup making {which is a lot, check out some of our favorites at the end of this post}, attempted tomato soup, which seems a bit ridiculous considering how easy it was.

The light bulb went off one morning when I knew I was going to be making simple grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner {hello, lazy day}....as what goes better with grilled cheese sandwiches than a creamy tomato soup?

Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

Sometimes dinner just needs to be simple and easy.  AND KID FRIENDLY.  That is a must in our house.  Kid's love dunking anything.  Heck, mine would have bobbed for apples in this stuff if I would have let them.

from scratch creamy tomato soup (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

This makes a hearty batch.  We ate it for dinner one night and lunch the next day and still had plenty of leftovers to freeze for another meal.  So I'd recommended feeding this to a crowd or cutting it in half.

And the husband, who tends to eat super strict during the week while at work, even devoured this knowing how healthy {for the most part, minus a BIT of whole milk} it is. You can feel pretty darn good feeding this to your family.

Now, when you crush up a million crackers and throw them in....it MAY not be as healthy, but what you do on your own time is on you.

So, do you think you can ditch the tin can version and try this?

From Scratch Creamy Tomato Soup


1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 T. tomato paste
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 28 oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes
2 c. chicken broth
2 c. beef broth
1 c. water
1/2 c. whole milk
1 T. dried basil
1 T. dried parsley
salt
pepper

1.  In a large pot heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.
2.  Add in the garlic, onion and carrots.  Saute for a few minutes until tender.
3.  Add in the tomato paste and stir to combine, letting it cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4.  Add in the tomatoes, broth and water.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
5.  Use an immersion blender to puree {I have this one}, leaving as smooth or chunky as you like.  We prefer ours pretty smooth.  If you do not have an immersion blender, use your regular blender in small batches once the soup has cooled down a bit.
6.  Add in milk, salt, pepper, basil and parsley and simmer another few minutes.  Serve warm, with grilled cheese sandwiches of course!


from scratch creamy tomato soup (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

I'm a bit of a soup freak in the colder months.  Thanks goodness to the high heavens my family is too. Here are a few of our favorites.  The first one I actually hope to make later today!


Happy Soup Making!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Best Recipes of 2015 + Celebrating 6 Years of Food Blogging

2015 is coming to a close and I've tallied up the points and found a few winners 
from the last 365 days.  Which one was your favorite?


I was getting my hair done last week and the hairdresser casually asked how long I had been food blogging.  I always have to stop and think when someone asks me that, it's not something I keep great track of....but at that moment I remembered my domain registration had come through the day prior and it had indeed been 6 YEARS.

Six years ago I had a milk sucking 3 month old baby boy and on a whim I started this venture.  I had absolutely no intentions of this becoming a "thing".  I thought I'd share a few recipes here and there and then move on to something else, but for whatever reason it stuck around.

A few recipes turned into opportunities.  I've met some incredible, talented people in this industry. I've traveled and visited with companies around the Midwest.  It has been a wild ride and I'm still loving it.

I bake, cook, take photos, write and pour my heart into this not only for me, but for you guys, my readers.  I hope you enjoy following as much as I enjoy connecting with you.  So, heres to 6 more years?  Who knows really, but I'll give it a whirl.

With all the mushy talk out of the way, I spent some time yesterday paging through Google Analytics {the tool that showcases every stat you could imagine about your website}.  I paged through and found my top 15 recipes from 2015.  At least the ones with the most page views.  Some were surprising {who knew you all were fans of baked oatmeal?} and others were not.

So let's get started.  You'll see everything from crock pot lifesavers to meal plans to one of my all-time favorite desserts.  I'd love to hear which one was your favorite in the comments or what you'd like to see more of next year.  I'm starting to plan!

#15


#14


#13


#12


#11


#10


#9


#8


#7


#6


#5


#4


#3


#2


#1


Well, folks, there it is.

The Top 15 from this past year.  Looking back at this list I see some things....

Clearly, you love meal plans.  I had another one just shy of the Top 15 as well.  I get it. Planning our meals makes our lives so much easier.  Expect more in 2016.

You also love a good crock pot meal.  But really, who doesn't?  I've had my fair share of crock pot fails, but trust me, if I have a good one I'll share it with you.  I love that little devil.

Desserts?  Crickets?  My favorite dessert of the year made the list, but nothing else.  I know you all love your sugar, where are you hiding?

Needless to say, I showcase my top recipes each year, not only to have a recap for you, but to do a little homework myself.  A report card if you will.  It shows me what's working and what isn't working.

If I have ONE WISH this holiday season, it is to keep spreading the love.  If you like a recipe of mine, share it.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, tag me.  If you are pinning my recipes, keep pinning.  All of that helps me, helps my blog and pushes it to grow.

With all of this being said, THANK YOU.  I appreciate each and every one of you and personally love that you like food.

Because if you didn't, we definitely would not be friends.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Shortbread

With just four ingredients you can't NOT make these during the holidays!
This Christmas Shortbread is perfect with hot cocoa or a mug of hot tea.

              christmas shortbread just four ingredients (sweetandsavoryfood.com)





This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

With less than a week until Christmas I am still running around like a mad woman trying to get items checked off my list.

I called up a babysitter on Friday to watch the girls so I could tackle some much needed shopping. {Three cheers to five hours to myself + lunch with a girlfriend!}.  I am now this close to being finished, with really only one gift yet to throw together.

The night prior I had a mini heart attack realizing I had nothing purchased or ready to give the kid's teachers...and since most years I give a homemade gift, I did some quick scrambling.  I almost never, ever tackle these kinds of things after dinner.  My kitchen is closed.  I'm tired and really just done with all things food and clean-up related.

So considering I went BACK into the kitchen late that night and baked cookies, you had better believe it was for a good reason.


                  christmas shortbread just four ingredients (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Our oldest is in Kindergarten and has two wonderful teachers, whom he adores.  To see where he has come since late August is a bit mind blowing.  Hello.....starting to read?

Our middle child is in preschool and also has two much beloved teachers.  She is 4.5 going on 10 and knows more than she should.  I promised her we would make these cookies together, but the day got away from us and when she woke up in the morning seeing them done I was clearly not her favorite person.

The struggle is real around here.


           christmas shortbread just four ingredients (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

In a mad dash scramble Friday morning we packaged these up in some holiday containers I ordered from a school fundraiser and called it good.  I watched both kids walk in with them to school, so let us all pray that they made it to the right spot?

There are two things I love about these cookies; their buttery soft texture and just how stinkin' cute they are!  I kept ours simple {remember, kitchen was closed} and used the end of my funnel {of all things} to keep them a nice circle shape.  Any cookie cut-out would work.  Christmas trees were a close second.

Shortbread stays soft for quite awhile if kept covered or in a container.  We munched on a couple this afternoon for snack.  I looked long and hard at the bag of baby carrots, but alas, the cookies won out.


           christmas shortbread just four ingredients (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Here is that preschooler of mine!  Did I also fail to mention that in a span of 6 days we have five different school or church events for these little munchkins?  It's been busy, but fun. This pretty lady played Mary in her school program Friday night.  She takes it all in ease and with such grace.  Being in front of a crowd doesn't seem to be a problem for her.

And that photo bomber back there?

Her older brother.  Making odd faces.  Because he that is what he does...annoys his sister.

And for those that know us, she'll be wearing that outfit again tomorrow.  She loves it and I'm not going to fight her on it.

Wear it again.  I've learned to pick my battles and her and outfit choosing is not one I'm willing to tackle just yet.

So, with less than a week till Christmas, how about some shortbread?  Make it!  If you can handle a traditional sugar cookie, you can do this one.  It's easier {no frosting} and come on, just four ingredients!

Christmas Shortbread


2 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
4 1/2 c. flour
sprinkles for decorating

1.  In a stand mixer cream together the butter and brown sugar.  Add in the almond extract.
2.  Add 3 1/2 cups of the flour to make a dough.
3.  On a clean surface sprinkle some of the remaining flour, place dough on it, sprinkling with a bit more flour and knead dough until it comes together a bit more, adding more flour if too sticky.
4.  Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.
6.  Using a rolling pin roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut out desired shapes and place on the cookie sheet.  Top with holiday sprinkles.  Bake for 15 minutes or until just slightly golden around the edges.
7.  Remove and place on a baking rack to cool.
8.  Keep stored in an airtight container for up to one week.  Freeze for up to 3 months.

Make these cookies for ANY holiday!  I love these sprinkles for Valentine's Day, these for Easter and these for the 4th of July!

christmas shortbread (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Peanut Butter Bars

I like to sometimes call these 'lunch lady' bars as they remind me of ones 
served back in elementary school.  I hope I make those ladies proud!

peanut butter bars (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

I spent all day last Saturday doing something I truly love...baking with my friends!  These girls, what can I not say about them?  We've been friends since before I can remember, 1st grade probably, and yes, all five of us have stayed friends ever since.

We all hail from the same small town, our parents know each other, we know every nook and crannie about each other, our families, our spouses, our kids...everything.  So to say these girls are important to me is an understatement.

Anyway, we also like to bake.

Well, some of us more than others.  Each year prior to Christmas we try and get together and make more Christmas junk food than we ever actually need.  There is always a miserable FAIL.  In fact I walked in the door that morning and one person who shall remain nameless was already utterly FAILING.

But we moved on and conquered.


Do you get together with family or friends to bake?  If you don't you should.  If anything for the laughs.  At one point I was crying over my frosted sugar cookies I was laughing so hard. The conversation took a turn that involved Thanksgiving and prostitutes.

Yes.  Thanksgiving AND prostitutes.

Don't you wish you would have been there?  A fly on the wall?  We think we are pretty hilarious.

I'm now wondering if anyone else thinks we are....

peanut butter bars (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Alright, let's talk about these bars!

Oh boy, I love these peanut butter bars.  First off, I love peanut butter.  Secondly, I love bars. They are much less cumbersome than cookies.  All the work is done in one pan.  God bless that lady {assuming it was a woman} who one day poured all her batter in a baking pan and said, "we'll see if this works".

These bars remind me of ones that I was served growing up in school.  Sometimes referred to as 'lunch lady' bars.  Bars that are baked in a large jelly roll pan and then frosted with something delicious.

Yeah.  These fit the bill.

This recipe makes a LOT.  I sent a third of the pan to a friend's house, put one third in the freezer and reluctantly we ate the final third.  One night we put a dollup of vanilla ice cream on them.  Which proved to be the best idea of the year....or at least that is what someone in the house said.

Be prepared to dream about these at night and then wake up thinking about them again the morning. They are that good!

Peanut Butter Bars


Batter:
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 c. water
1/2 c. half and half

Frosting:
3/4 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. butter, softened
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/8 c. half and half

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a large jelly roll pan or two 9x13 pans.
2.  In a stand mixer cream together the butter, sugar and peanut butter.  Add in eggs, beating well, then add in vanilla.  Sift in flour and baking powder, alternating it with the water and half and half, beating well.
3.  Pour batter into the jelly roll pan, spreading evenly.  Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
4.  In a large bowl beat peanut butter and butter to combine.  Beat in powdered sugar, with enough half and half to reach a spreading consistency.
5.  Frost the cake while still warm.  Allow to cool completely.  Keep covered for best storage.


peanut butter bars (sweetandsavoryfood.com)