Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maidrites & Chocolate Fondue (Not together)

That title sounds pretty gross doesn't it? Maidrite and chocolate fondue....thankfully they are being talked about separately and not together. Yuck.

So, if you read yesterday's post you saw I made homemade foccacia hamburger buns. They turned out great. And on them we had maidrites. I'm thinking many outside of Iowa or the Midwest have no idea what those are, as I have mentioned them to my non-Iowa friends before and they just stare at me having no idea what I'm talking about.

Does anyone remember the TV show Roseanne? Remember when her and her sister Jackie open up the "loose meat" sandwich shop? Well, basically that is what they are. Ground beef cooked down and eaten on hamburger buns. Now, I've seen a variety of ways it is cooked and/or seasoned...

  • Plain
  • Ketchup and mustard
  • Mixed with a can of Campbell's chicken gumbo soup
  • salt, pepper, ketchup, brown sugar
  • brown sugar, tomato sauce

In our house growing up they were always plain. Then we added what we wanted - ketchup, mustard, pickles, etc. We also grew up in a town that housed a Maid-Rite (the restaurant), yum! Today I usually add ketchup and mustard to the mix.

Also, you'll hear various names for these sandwiches - maidrites, taverns, loose meat sandwiches (how original, huh?), or sloppy joes. Although, I think technically a sloppy joe is one with a LOT more stuff in it....tomato sauce, peppers, onion, etc.

Have you had a maidrite?

Now, on to my chocolate fondue. We had people over to our house Saturday night and one of the desserts I made was almond flavored pound cake that we dipped in chocolate fondue. Well, guess what? I have this whole container of the fondue left over and I have no idea what to do with it. Ideas, please???

Would you guess all this fondue is, is a container of milk chocolate fudge frosting and one 8 oz. container of sour cream? I know, that combo doesn't sound the best, but it makes for some really creamy chocolate. Try it!

Now, what do I do with the rest? And do you think it would freeze well?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Foccacia Hamburger Bun Recipe

I tackled my worst fear yesterday. Baking with yeast. I'm not sure why I was so scared of it. After tackling this recipe, I would say it is very easy!

We planned on having "maidrites" for dinner last night. I'm thinking over half of you don't know what that is....any guesses? Answer will come tomorrow.

But, there was a problem, we had no hamburger buns to eat them on. I had already been out for the day and honestly had no ambition to go out again, so.....homemade it is. Which is better anyway!

I saw this recipe a few days ago on Sarah's Cucina Bella. She is a wonderful cook and made it look so easy, I couldn't NOT try.

Foccacia Hamburger Buns

yields 6 rolls
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
Parmesan cheese
parsley (I added a little of this to give it some color)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. Sift together the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting board and knead for 5-7 minutes, until it forms a cohesive ball. Place the ball (it’ll be about the size of a softball) into a greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for one hour in a warm place. It will double in size. Once it’s rise, punch down the dough several times. Then, divide it into six even-sized balls.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the six balls of dough on it, using your fingers to push down four times on each one (you are basically giving it dimples). Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with Parmesan and salt.

Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rise for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove towel and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Slice the rolls open and top with burgers and the fixings.
Verdict? Amazing! We only ate 3 of them, so I wrapped the other 3 up in plastic wrap and stuck in the freezer. Honestly, I don't really want to eat a store bought bun again. Burgers on the grill will be next!

Here's what else we did yesterday...sat in the sun! Little man and I enjoyed some time on the deck, even though he was SUPER crabby all day. A combo of teeth coming in and a long weekend, I believe. He's sportin' his Cubs gear!

Monday, March 29, 2010

How I Grocery Shop

Over the last few weeks, I've gotten random emails or comments asking how I grocery shop, where I buy our food, how I decide what meals to make, etc. Thanks to those inquiring minds, I thought I'd dedicate a WHOLE post to that topic.

I guess people are interested....and what you ask for, I will give you.

And if this topic sparks any other questions, shoot them my way at I'd be happy to answer them!

So, I've not always been into grocery shopping, but I now LOVE it. As long as I'm not rushed (i.e. I'm by myself). There is nothing worse that being rushed or forgetting your list, in my opinion that ruins a trip!

Some may find this hard to do, but I only do two big grocery runs a month, every two weeks, with little trips to our local store here in there for milk, bread, eggs, etc. This may not work for everyone, but it works for us.

A few days prior to the trip I start making a list on our fridge of what we are out of, what we need, what meals are floating around in my head, etc. Then the day before I get out my BIG stack of coupons (yes, I'm one of those people) and I see what's on sale and how those coupons can tie around the meals I'm planning.

I shoot to buy items for at least 10 meals during those two weeks. The other few days we'll eat leftovers, or if we are lucky go out to eat (which is rare!). I am also a big fan of doubling our meals. If I plan a pasta dish of stuffed shells I'll double the recipe, freeze half, so one meal automatically becomes two. Genius!

Once I have the list done, coupons sorted, I then list the meals on the fridge (an old tip from my good friend Lori), so that morning I'll look at the list and "pick" which meal we'll have that night. It's so nice to have a list of what you have in front of you, so you don't have to scan the cupboards and fridge and try to remember what items you bought for meals.

On the big shopping day, little man and I head out. I usually buy formula and diapers at one store (Target or Walmart) because they are cheaper. Trust me, it's worth the extra trip. Then I head to my grocery store of choice, either Hy-Vee (an Iowa chain), Walmart, the Iowa food co-op if I'm in the area, or a combination of the three. I head for the best deals....wherever that may be.

Here are some of the staples I pick up every two weeks, regardless of which store I'm heading to. These are the items we can't live without:
  • Milk
  • block cheese (it's cheaper, and you get more for your money)
  • yogurt
  • bread
  • tortilla chips
  • salsa (unless I have homemade at home)
  • fresh fruit (bananas, oranges, kiwi, apples, etc.)
  • eggs
  • veggies for us and the little man (carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, green beans, etc.)
  • meat (chicken, ground beef, ground turkey)

Now, the question that often gets we eat organic?

Answer - sometimes yes, sometimes no. Unfortunately, we don't have the budget to buy all organic, so I buy it when it's on sale, or if I feel strongly about it. It's much easier for us to eat healthy it seems in the summer, when the farmer's markets around here are in abundance. I LOVE going to farmer's markets! A perfect Saturday morning for me this summer will be taking little man in his stroller to various markets and just "strolling" about. Love it.

So that is how we do it. List making is big, coupon cutting is even bigger, and shopping around for the best deals is very important. It may take me longer than most, but I feel it is worth it. It's not uncommon for me to save at least $15 in coupons at one store. Oh, and I didn't even mention redeeming cans! That usually takes another $5 off. So right there that is $20 bucks!

Trust me, if you want to save money it can be done. Make lists, plan out your meals, cut coupons, limit your shopping to only a few times a month, and shop around. Since I'm not working right now, I feel it is my job to make my husband's paycheck stretch as far as it can go.

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Whew...what a weekend

I'm not really sure where the weekend has gone, but it is suddenly Sunday. Our friends from Michigan arrived Thursday afternoon and just headed off to the airport this morning. It was so great seeing them! Next time we have to return the favor and head their way....

Thursday was spent just hanging out, panini's for lunch and homemade pizza for dinner. No pics, sorry, I forgot almost all weekend! Bad blogger.

Friday we headed to the outlet mall, then another mall for lunch (Chick-fil-A!) and more shopping, and finally back home to rest before we headed to dinner at Granite City. They had never been, so we took them, as it is one of our favorite restaurants.

I tried a new dish, Bock and Cheese Pasta. It was heavenly. The cheese sauce had some of their brewed beer in it, along with grilled chicken. OMG, I would have loved to eat more the next day for lunch, but someone (husband) ate it. I know...shocking.

We did manage to get a group shot though!

Last night we invited friends over and oh my goodness the food was in abundance. Once again I forgot to take pictures but let's visualize - spinach artichoke dip, buffalo wing dip, barbecued little smokies, grilled deer loin (yuck, in my opinion, but all the boys loved it), almond flavored pound cake dipped in chocolate fondue, sour cream chocolate cake, sun dried tomato cheese ball, and oh so much more.

We were stuffed...but it was worth it.

All in all, a great weekend, full of food, friends and fun. Anyone else eat too much this weekend?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Best Banana Bread Recipe

A couple of years ago I received the cookbook Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood. One of the best cookbooks I've ever received.

If you are a simple cook, like me, you'll love this book. Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant, just simple, easy, yummy food. When I saw her banana bread recipe I thought I'd give it a try. I have NEVER found a banana bread recipe that worked for me. Either it was too dry, not enough banana flavor, or just blah.

This recipe changed my bad luck! I'm not sure what it is....but it is melt-in-your-mouth good. And so simple, just dump, stir and bake!

Ashley's Banana Bread (Trisha's niece)
from Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1 t. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 c. buttermilk (or regular milk)
1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans.

With an electric mixer or stand alone mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in the bananas and vanilla. Sift flour together with the baking soda and salt and add to the mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in nuts.

Pour the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 50 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan before turning the loaves out onto wire racks to cool completely.

This is just one of the things I'm making for our friends who are arriving today. Can you believe we met them on our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, over 3 years ago and haven't seen them since? We got married on the same day and have stayed in touch ever since!

We have a fun weekend planned of shopping, dining out, sight-seeing, and putting together a little party on Saturday at our house! So I will be MIA for a couple days, but please come back as yummy eats will be had!

And lastly, don't forget to vote for me in the Mom Blogging Contest - I am WAY behind! You can vote once a day up until April 26th.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pasta a la Blush

Happy Hump Day!

It's Wednesday and a very busy day for us. Little man and I are starting our weekly walks with a good friend and her little boy....who happens to have the same name and is only 3 weeks younger than my little man. What a small world! Then its off to run some errands and finally come home to cleaning, baking, and getting reading for company to arrive tomorrow!

So, two nights ago I made what I usually call a "pantry pasta". That simply means I throw whatever I have lying around in the cupboard in an attempt to get rid of some stuff. I changed the name from pantry pasta to Pasta a la Blush, because well it sounds fancy, and the tomatoes make the sauce have a pink hue, kind of like when you drink a blush wine? Yum.

Pasta a la Blush
1 lb. rigatoni pasta (or pasta of your choice)
2 c. broccoli
1 jar garlic alfredo sauce
1 can diced tomatoes

In a large saucepan, cook pasta until al dente. Add all other ingredients and stir until heated through. This dish is great hot, but also great cold like a pasta salad!

Do you ever make "pantry" meals?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Banana Soft Serve

Do you ever just want ice cream SO BAD, but you have none in the house? And you'd rather chew off your right arm (okay, maybe not) than get ready, head to the store, and get some?

I have a solution.

If you like bananas, that is.

I've seen this recipe on various sites, and to be honest it looked a little too good to be true. One frozen ingredient turns into ice cream? No way.

So Saturday night as we were watching our Northern Iowa Panthers pummel the Kansas Jayhawks (yea!), I had this ice cream craving. I wasn't about to leave the house during the game...but I wanted ice cream.....when suddenly I remembered my frozen bananas in the freezer. So frozen banana soft serve it became.

Banana Soft Serve
1 frozen banana (yep, that is it!)

Peel frozen banana. I found it easiest to take a sharp knife and simply cut away the peel. Cut into 1 in. chunks and place in a food processor. Pulse to break up the chunks. When broken into small bits, then puree on full speed.

This has the consistency of soft serve ice cream, and all it is, is a banana! How simple and healthy. Even little man liked it. He wasn't so sure about how cold it was, but we alternated bites and it was devoured quickly!

What's your favorite kind of ice cream? Mine is definitely vanilla. But I love it mixed with good stuff. You know - cookie dough, chocolate chips, caramel, hot fudge.....the healthy stuff:)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Broccoli, Carrot & Cheese Soup

I stole this recipe from Christina, over at Dinner at Christinas. I love when I read a recipe online and I miraculously have all the ingredients already in stock and no runs to the grocery store have to be made. This was one of those!

I tweaked it a little bit - adding carrots and doubling the recipe, but for the most part it is the same.

I will say though, this is the LAST soup we will eat until next fall. I just can't seem to eat soups when the weather is starting to get warmer. Can you? The next time I make this, I might add some potatoes or maybe leave the "pulp" a little chunkier. This batch came out very smooth, great flavor, but I wished I would have left it with just a little more texture. My bad!

All in all, a great soup. And one that gets a lot of veggies in without knowing it!

Broccoli, Carrot & Cheese Soup
4 T. unsalted butter
4 T. flour
pepper, onion powder, garlic powder to taste
6 c. skim milk
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 c. steamed broccoli
1 c. cooked carrots
5 T. cooking water

In large saucepan, melt butter, add flour to make a roux. Cook roux for a few minutes until bubbly and flour has cooked out. Meanwhile have the broccoli and carrots in large pot of boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes or until tender, drain, but save 5 T. of the cooking water. In the saucepan, add milk and heat through. Add seasonings to taste (about a teaspoon each). Stir in cheese and melt. This mixture will thicken on a low simmer. Place veggies and cooking water in a food processor and puree to desired consistency, add to soup. Stir and let simmer on low. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Also, here is a Happiness Award I received from Pam over at Pam's Midwest Kitchen Korner. Thanks Pam!
Here are the rules:
1. When you have received this award you must thank the person that awarded it to you.
2. Name the 10 things that make you happy.
3. Pass this award onto 10 other bloggers and inform the winners.

10 Things that Make Me Happy Today!

  1. The sunshine I woke up too.
  2. Little man smiling away when I walked into his room today.
  3. My in-laws coming down yesterday and talking us out for lunch - nice treat!
  4. Being able to stay-at-home with the little man.
  5. Only 4 more days until our friends from MI come to visit!
  6. Having great friends and family that I keep in touch with daily.
  7. My two hounds that always keep us on our toes, yet drive me nuts.
  8. Sitting outside on the deck and reading a good book.
  9. Getting ready to bake ump-teen loaves of banana bread.
  10. All my readers who take time out of their day to read my blog - thank you!

I'm passing this Happiness Award on to:

Sara's Sweets, The Brenden Family, Change of Pace, 365 In, Jessica's Garden, Peanut Butter Fingers, Slim Shoppin', The Houndstooth Apron, Dinner at Christinas, and Graze with Me.

I hope everyone has a (Happy) Monday!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stuffed-to-the-Max Quesadillas

As you know I'm the queen of turning leftovers into something else or different. I just can't bring myself to throw anything way lately. I'm turning into an 80 year-old. Have I also mentioned we've been eating dinner around 5:30? I think that puts me in the 90 year-old category.

Sadly, I'm only 28. I blame it on my husband's early work schedule. When he comes home he is HUNGRY. And when I say dinner is in 10 minutes, I still get a groan from the other room like he is going to waste away or something.

Luckily the other night, I had leftover burrito bowl filling to use up and this dinner required little preparation. Perfect to make when you are in a hurry, or when your family is groaning in the other room.

Stuffed-to-the-Max Quesadillas
leftover burrito bowl filling (brown rice, lean ground beef, salsa)
flour tortillas

Fold tortillas in half, and place in large skillet. Fill one side up with the leftover burrito filling, add more salsa, and top with cheese. Grill both sides until tortilla is browned and crispy and cheese has melted.

Plate with more salsa, sour cream, lettuce, crushed tortilla chips, etc.

Kids will love this one - who doesn't love a quesadilla? You can stuff it with whatever your heart desires, or whatever leftovers you have on hand. It'd be great with leftover fajita fillings - grilled chicken, steak, veggies, the list is endless!

On another note, can you believe we actually have someone coming to work on our air conditioner this morning? I haven't even uttered the word "air conditioner" since last September. And they are saying SNOW tomorrow. That is so hard to believe when yesterday was sunny and 65. Springtime can be so deceiving...

To leave you with a smile, little man covered in toys!

Happy Friday and congrats to my UNI Panthers for winning the 1st round in the NCAA tourney last night!

Vote For Sweet & Savory

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Peachy Keen

Am I the only one who didn't blog about St. Patrick's Day yesterday? I think I am. Well, you didn't miss anything....we didn't celebrate. The hubby still has memories of one of our friends getting sick off of green beer. (Jess, if you are reading this...yes it is you!)

First off, I want to tell you about an exciting giveaway over at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. She is giving away a Garden Patch Grow Box. Secretly, I hope I win. I don't feel like digging up my ever-so-small backyard for a garden, so this would be perfect. Check it out!

So at our house, we are lucky to have my husband's parents bring us frozen fresh fruit often. In the summer they freeze tons of peaches and apples. We love it. If it doesn't turn into applesauce, or a topping for ice cream, I usually turn it into some crisp or crumble.

The other day it was Peach Crisp. I put the servings into my trusty ramekins with the hope that it would get eaten slowly, hence, maybe one a day? Of course I was wrong, I don't even know why I try.

I had one, and the rest were devoured by the man in my life in a day in a half. I should have just put it all in one pan.

Peach Crisp
3 large peaches (or one bag frozen)
*Toss the peaches with 1 T. cinnamon, 1 t. vanilla and 1/3 c. brown sugar

Crumble topping:
1/2 c. sugar
2/3 c. oats
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted

Lay coated peaches in greased 8x8 pan or 4 ramekins. Combine all crumble ingredients and stir in melted butter. Sprinkle crumble on top of peaches. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 min.

Do you like fruit in your dessert?

I personally am not a huge pan of fruit pies (only apple or strawberry), and the occasional crisp. For some reason mushy fruit turns me OFF.

Vote For Sweet & Savory

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vote for me!

Hey, y'all!

So I entered this Mom Blogging Contest. I figured I'm a mom, and I blog, so why not. Check it out!

1. Mom Blogger Contest: Enter your blog to win a $1000 cash Grand Prize and/or other gifts described below. The 20 Mom Bloggers who receive the most votes from their Fans will win prizes and be featured on the Little Remedies® website blogroll (20 winners total).

2. Blog Fan Sweepstakes: Enter this sweepstakes to win a $1000 cash Grand Prize and/or other gifts described below. Each time you vote for your favorite Mom Blogger, you’ll get one sweepstakes entry for a random drawing. You may vote daily (20 winners total). for me if you want. You are allowed to do this once a day up until April 26th. Happy voting!

Vote For Sweet & Savory

Homemade Pumpkin Butter

We slept in today. And by sleeping in that is 7:45 a.m. We are usually up by 6:00 a.m. Maybe it has something to do with the time change?

Needless to say I didn't even hear my husband get up for work, shower, be LOUD in the kitchen, or anything. It feel good. Although, I did wake up in a panic - thinking what time is it, why is the house so quiet, why isn't little man up yet, etc.

But, all was well! Sure beats my old job when I was leaving the house each morning at 6:20 a.m. and not returning sometimes till after 6:00 p.m.

And thanks for your "spice rack" suggestions yesterday! I'm tackling that cupboard today (I promise).

Okay, so I first saw this recipe for Homemade Pumpkin Butter on Iowa Girl Eats last fall. It looked so easy, and since it was homemade it didn't contain all that other crap you get when you buy a jar of pumpkin butter.

Guess what? I had never even had pumpkin butter before, but it looked so good, I decided to make it.

Homemade Pumpkin Butter
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/4 c. apple juice
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
3/4 t. pumpkin pie spice
3/4 t. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small crock pot and stir to combine. Cook on high for 1 hour. Then turn down to low and cook for an additional 3-4 hours, stirring every hour, until the mixture is reduced by a 1/3 and it is dark brown in color. Allow to cool, store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge.

Mine stayed good for about 3 weeks, at which point I had eaten it all. Great spread on toast, bagels, fruit, in yogurt or oatmeal. I even mixed it one day with my peanut butter on my toast, which turned out to be a stupendous idea!

Does anyone else just love going to
homemade stands at farmer's
markets or craft shows?
I could browse the jams, jellies, butters, etc. all day long!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Cleanin' & A Perfect Side Dish

Spring is in the air!

We didn't do much this weekend (i.e. didn't leave town), so I made the most of it. With nice temps and winter semi-gone, I dug into my spring cleaning. I decided to tackle one thing at a time. No need to get overwhelmed!

Little man's room was first. Here's the history on his room. We moved to this house one month prior to his birth, so as you can imagine everything was put together in a whirlwind, and since then nothing has been done with it. Like, the closet. It honestly was a "catch all". The last few weeks I couldn't even open it without things toppling out on me. Even the husband said "something needs to be done".

When he says something, I know it's bad. But, I'm pretty sure he was just sick of me sending him in there for things because I didn't want to face it.

So Saturday morning, bright and early, I tackled his room. I think I finished around mid-afternoon. I rearranged, cleaned, organized, and even packed up on large Rubbermaid container of clothes he's already outgrown! Sad...

I also tackled our hall closet, the spare bedroom and a few kitchen cupboards, but I won't bore you with the details. Anyone have any good ideas of how to organize your spice cupboard? It seems like I can NEVER find the spice I need.

Does spring bring your cleaning side out?

If you read yesterday's post, you'll know not much cookin' was done this weekend. BUT....I did manage to make our ultimate side dish.

Garlic & Parsley Roasted Potatoes. Yum.

We have this probably once a week, and it never disappoints. It is basically like a homemade french fry, but baked, and so much healthier!

Garlic & Parsley Roasted Potatoes (serves 2)
2 large baking potatoes (or sweet potatoes)
garlic salt
olive oil

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Wash potatoes, leave skins on, and chop into bite size pieces. Sprinkle liberally with seasonings. Drizzle with olive oil and use hands to mix and coat all sides of the potatoes. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until browned and crispy.

I know...not a fancy side dish, but one that will make everyone cheer. Who doesn't like a good potato?

Off today to get little man's 6 month shots. Ugh, I hate these days.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Random Eats

Ah, Sundays. You either love 'em or hate 'em. Where do you fall?

I love 'em.

I'm glad Friday's post about Homemade Baby Food was exciting to all of you! I honestly thought, I'd only have a few moms comment, but I was wrong! The consensus seemed to be even if you didn't have children yet, you enjoyed the reading.

Okay, this post is going to contain some random eats at our house lately. Pizza and more pizza....some mac-n-cheese....a tostada of sorts....and the little man. We didn't eat him.

We had pizza twice in the last week and a half (I know!) First, I tried this California Pizza Kitchen version while my husband was out of town last week. I had never had this brand, and had a craving for something different, so Garlic Chicken it was. You know my love of garlic, and my love of pizza, so this was right up my alley (or Ally)!

Yum. It was so good, reminded me of my white pizza I make. Crispy, garlicky, and just plain good. Not something you'd want to eat everyday, but once in awhile is okay in my book.

Our other pizza came in the form of Papa Murphy's Take 'n Bake Friday night. I was out running errands, so I picked one up for dinner ($2.00 off coupon, so this HUGE pizza only cost me $7). I wish I would have invented this chain. You bake it at home, so their overhead costs are REALLY low. And it's freshly prepared right in front of you! We opted for sausage and extra mushrooms. Love them 'shrooms.

On the other night last week while hubby was gone, I threw together a tostada with the leftover taco meat from the night before. Simple - tortilla, meat, salsa, cheese, and then baked until crispy. Top with more salsa! In my opinion, a great way to use up leftovers.

And last night I whipped up (ha, more like boiled water, and poured in the ingredients) some of Annie's Organic Sharp Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese. The husband had eaten a late lunch of Hu Hot with his buddy as a late b-day gift, so he wasn't hungry (I can't imagine why...he ate 3 servings there!) So, this little box was all mine, even though I just ate half.

Verdict - extremely good! I would never buy another boxed mac-n-cheese. There are only about 6 ingredients in it, and it's whole wheat organic pasta which is even better. I honestly didn't feel bad about eating it. And better yet, it was on sale at the store Friday night...can't pass up a good deal.

So, needless to say this weekend was not "homemade". But, I believe you've gotta take a break every once in awhile.

Don't worry I walked off these calories with the little man. Here he is all bundled up and ready to go.

Doesn't he look pleased?

Tonight is a frozen dinner I made fresh a couple of weeks ago - Stuffed Shells! I just love pulling a frozen homemade entree out of the freezer and not having to do any work later. Perfect.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Homemade Baby Food 101

First off, I know this post will not pertain to many of you, as you either don't have children, or they are all grown and out of the bare with me. It's a Friday First here!

I received a new food processor from my in-laws this year, and my first thought was homemade baby food. Not because I'm a freak that will never feed my baby food out of the jar, but more because I enjoy it. I like making it, and in return I know he is getting healthy food in his tummy. I will be the first to tell you though....there will be times I use jarred food out of convenience, or just laziness, so please don't think I'm promoting making your own, or that it is better. To each is own!

After doing some research and reading my Top 100 Baby Purees book, this is what I've learned:

Stage 1: Foods that are highly pureed, thin, runny and low on the allergy scale (6-7 months)
  • Avocados
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Peaches
  • Rice cereal (mixed with breast milk or formula)

These are just a few, but mainly the ones I've tried out so far. I will tell you little man does not like avocados so far (which saddens me a little)! But, remember don't give up. Give it a week or two and try, try again. It takes a little baby awhile to develop a taste for something, so my little guy could very well end up liking them later on.

Carrots - From boil, to puree, to dish!

Stage 2: Foods that are more thick and textured (8-10 months)
  • Chopped up pieces of fruit (banana, apricot, pear, kiwi, etc.)
  • Pastas and meats that are cooked and mashed up
  • Chopped up pieces of veggies (carrots, green beans, peas, potatoes, broccoli, etc.)
  • Yogurt and soft cheeses

Obviously, since little man is just 6 months old we haven't gotten to Stage 2 yet. But these foods should be introduced when your baby has a few teeth and can easily start mashing food up with their gums.

A few more tips:

  • Cook veggies (if fresh, with a harder texture) in some boiling water to soften, put in food processor or blender with a little of the cooking water, this will help to get the mixture very smooth.
  • When pureeing a big batch, freeze food in ice cube trays. When they are completely frozen, remove from trays and store in a freezer bag in the freezer. When needed pop out a couple cubes and let thaw.
  • Many foods do not need to be cooked prior to blending - bananas, green beans, avocados, etc. These foods are already naturally soft.

Here's the thing - don't be afraid to try all foods for your baby, even if YOU don't like them. I think we often don't give our children certain foods because A) we didn't grow up eating them or B) we don't like them.

Trust me, the more you introduce your child, the less picky they will be. One of my pet peeves still today is when I hear a parent say, "Oh, don't eat that you won't like it", or "That will be too spicy for you". Let them try it for themselves! They could have a totally different palate than their parents.

Okay, enough of my soapbox....again, these are only my opinions, please don't feel offended in anyway, or feel that you NEED to make your own baby food. Like I said, each parent does it differently, and each kid seems to turn out just fine!

Happy pureeing!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Holy Yum...Best Cake Ever...Chocolate Bavarian Torte

If you are a follower of my blog (thanks, by the way!) you'll remember reading that last weekend my family gathered to celebrate various birthdays over the last couple of months.

And in true style, my mom made the birthday cake. It was heavenly. Chocolate upon chocolate, upon whipped cream, upon more chocolate. If you like chocolate (does anyone not?) you'll love this cake.

Best part? It's simple. While my mom was reading the recipe over the phone to me yesterday, I was actually shocked at how simple it is. The base is a devils food cake mix, which couldn't make it any easier.

And for all you gluten intolerant folks out there, this mix could easily be swapped out with your favorite gluten free or homemade mix, and it would be one in the same.
It is OK to indulge every once in awhile. Trust me, you'll be fine, one slice won't kill ya!

Chocolate Bavarian Torte
1 devil's food cake mix (w/o pudding)
8 oz. cream cheese
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
2 c. whipping cream
2 T. grated chocolate

Mix cake as directed. (For a healthier version, simply mix 1 can of pumpkin into the dry cake mix - trust me it works!). Bake in two round cake pans. Cool slightly, remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Using a mixer, beat whipping cream until fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla and salt until fluffy. Fold in whipped cream.

Slice each cake layer into two (totaling 4 layers). Spread 1/4 c. of whipped cream and shavings of chocolate in between each layer. Make sure to place the rounded part of the top layer facing up, this will help to prevent crumbs getting into the cream (you want it to look pretty on top, don't you?). Top with more shaved chocolate.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. Keep refrigerated while storing.

Unfortunately, this cake won't last long. Trust me, it tastes like a gourmet version of a Hostess Swiss Cake Roll. Except those have fake ingredients, this doesn't.

On a side note:

All you do is enter the bar code (next to the exp. date) on your milk carton, and this website will tell you where your milk came from. In some cases it will also tell you which farm/plant it came from, but mine just brought up the state.

Ours was from New Mexico! Considering I live in Iowa, that was a little disturbing. I should be buying local.

Do you buy local dairy products? Produce? Meat?

Personally, I cannot wait until May where our outdoor farmer's markets open around here!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

Does anyone remember those frozen pot pie dinners? You know, the ones that come in the tin pie plate, that you warm up in the oven?

I was never a fan. I think I remember my dad eating them every once in awhile, but for some reason they just didn't appeal to me.

I've really only become a pot pie fan in the last few years. I have been known to throw a can of Pillsbury reduced fat crescent rolls over the top and calling it good, but not anymore! I ventured out of my comfort zone and made the actual pie crust this time.

It was worth the effort. And to be honest, it wasn't much of an effort. So good! I'm thinking you could easily double this recipe and freeze one pie as well. You know I'm all about freezing meals. It gives me more time to read my gossip magazines. It is my guilty pleasure.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
veggies on hand (I used corn, carrots, peas and green beans)
1/2 can reduced sodium cream of celery soup (freeze other half in freezer bag for next time)
2 ladels of chicken broth
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 t. garlic salt

2 c. flour
1 t. salt
2/3 c. shortening
8 T. ice water

Place chicken breast in saucepan and fill with water. Add garlic salt. Bring water to a boil. Chicken breast should cook within 10-15 minutes, depending on size. When done, take out and let cool, then shred with fork. In a bowl mix chicken, two ladels of chicken broth/cooking water, soup, cheese, vegetables and dash of pepper. Lay in bottom of sprayed pie dish.

Mix the two cups of flour and salt with vegetable shortening. Cut with pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Mix in ice water slowly, until mixture forms a ball. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/4 in. thickness, large enough to cover the pie plate. (You may have extra dough, I did). Cover the chicken mixture with dough and pinch edges to form around the pie plate. Brush with skim milk and cut a few slits in dough allowing steam to escape.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until crust is brown and filling is bubbling through.

This was a hit at our house! (Please ignore the splatters it made on the dish) Unfortunately, there were no leftovers for the next day, as the hubby ate more than a normal person should.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Barbecue Chicken with Roasted Broccoli

What a dreary day. Fog, rain, blah. At least it isn't snowing! I'd be happy to not see another snowflake until next November, or December if I'm lucky.

Thanks for all your great comments yesterday regarding our BYOB adventure. If you are local and have the chance, check out Meyer's Grill in Williamsburg. It is definitely an experience.

And stay tuned - Bavarian Chocolate Torte recipe will be coming for all of you that asked!

So, this next meal is one we have often, as the husband is obsessed with barbecue sauce. Let me clarify, he's obsessed with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce. I sometimes make my own, which is much healthier, and I believe just as good, but he loves this kind, and that is what we had on hand, so that is what I used.

This chicken can sit in a plastic food storage bag up to a day prior and just thrown in the oven when you get home from work, so very easy! The roasted broccoli is something we just started having, as who doesn't like a little crunch to their veggies? I personally, don't like them when they are all mushy, and you can almost bet all their nutritional value has been sucked out of them.

Barbecue Chicken
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Lawry's seasoning salt
BBQ sauce of your choice

Roasted Broccoli
1 head of broccoli florets, or frozen (if using frozen, make sure to thaw and drain off excess water)
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. parmesan cheese
olive oil

Rub chicken breasts with Lawry's. Place in food storage bag and pour in desired amount of bbq sauce. Let set in fridge for up to a day. When ready to cook, cover baking sheet with tin foil, and place cooking rack on the sheet. Lay chicken breasts on cooking rack and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 min. Depending on thickness of chicken it may take shorter or longer.

Cover another baking sheet with tin foil. Place broccoli in bowl and mix with garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. When coated with seasonings, drizzle with olive oil. Spread on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 min at 400 degrees, or until broccoli is just turning slightly brown and crispy. You may want to turn the florets halfway through to cook both sides.

So a fairly healthy and yummy meal!

Do you have a favorite BBQ sauce?