Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: September 2010

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


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?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Thank you for all the birthday wishes for little man yesterday! If he understood the blog world I'm sure he's say "thank you".

We had a low-key day on his actual birthday, with the husband out of town for work, we spent time outside and I think I sang Happy Birthday to him about 10 times. He's probably thinking, "what is this song she keeps singing so loudly?"

Laura, commented that she was happy to see we had an actual "birthday cake" for him, not a store bought one. That is also something I'm a firm believer in...unless it's a wedding, a graduation, or a party that needs to feed over a 100, bake your own cake! I think your kids will appreciate it as they get older, and don't homemade cakes just taste better?

Although, I do have to give my mom credit for this one, she's the cake baking lady and does well decorating, therefore she usually volunteers. But, if she hadn't I would have made it!

Enough of birthdays...on to today's recipe.

I first got this recipe from my sister-in-law. To this day my brother and my husband aren't really fans of it, although they do love wings, so I can't really explain it. But, everyone else I know loves it!

Buffalo Chicken Dip (makes a large batch, can easily cut in half)
3 blocks cream cheese, softened
2 large cans shredded chicken (or your own shredded chicken)
2 cups wing sauce
1 cup ranch dressing (bottled or homemade)
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. celery salt
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and place in crock pot. Set on low for 4 hours until gooey and melty. Or place in a baking dish/ramekins and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Serve with a good quality toasted loaf of bread, crackers, celery, or tortilla chips.

I prefer the toasted bread. I know, shocker.

You can easily add more wing sauce or less depending on your wuss factor and hot foods. I personally don't think 2 cups is hot and could easily add more. This dip is definitely a crowd pleaser, but not on any diet menu!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

Roughly a year ago, I looked this this:

Yep, big as a house, ready to pop and swollen in all the wrong places.

We came home with this, all 9lbs 1oz. 22 in. of our little man. So very hard to believe he is a 1 year old today. The past year has gone so fast. He went from eating every 2 hours, sleeping a lot (mom, not so much), to rolling over, to crawling, and now walking up a storm.

Yesterday, he looked like this:

Little man enjoying his 1st Birthday Party with family and friends. He tore into that cake and ice cream like it was his last meal, and even started licking and biting the paper plate when it was all gone. Later he was thrown in the kitchen sick for a good wash down so he could open his gifts. For the next one, I'll remember to do gifts FIRST.

A good barbecue was had as well - brats, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans and fresh fruit. Typical summer entering into fall meal. The weather was beautiful and I'm pretty sure everyone enjoyed themselves.

It's sad to think my little man is growing up, but I am thankful for his good health, his wonderful personality, and the smiles he brings to my husband and I each and everyday. We couldn't have asked for a better boy.

Hug your little ones today!
Stayed tuned tomorrow for buffalo chicken dip...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Crockpot Italian Chicken

Crockpot Italian Chicken is back! I love using my crockpot, especially when I am lazy, which was yesterday.

I don't think it helped that the little man has a bad cold (heading to the doc this morning), which always just seems to turn your day upside down. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it is nothing serious, because he has his 1st Birthday Party to attend on Sunday!

Yep, he's turning #1. Hard to believe.

Anyway, back to the chicken. This is an easy, peasy, meal, and usually will satisfy anyone's dinner cravings. It's even gluten free if the correct pasta and sauce are used.

Crockpot Italian Chicken
boneless, skinless chicken breasts (use as many as you need, depending on your family size)
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce, or homemade
1 T. minced garlic
parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese
spaghetti noodles

Spray interior of crock pot with cooking spray. Pour some spaghetti sauce on the bottom, enough to cover the bottom of the pot. Lay chicken breasts in (I put mine in frozen). Sprinkle garlic over the chicken breasts, and pour more spaghetti sauce in, enough to cover the breasts. Cook on low for 6 hours, or high for 4 hours.

When chicken is done, pour the spaghetti sauce out of the crock pot and into a baking pan. Lay chicken breasts in pan, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cover with the sliced mozzarella cheese. This can then be baked right away, or put in the fridge if you are not eating until later (that is what I did!).

Broil for just a few minutes until cheese is golden.

Now, I LOVE the traditional chicken parmesan, but this is healthier and a little less time consuming, therefore it hit our plates last night!

Stay tuned for birthday festivities this weekend!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thin & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day the husband asked if I could make a dessert without peanut butter in it. I guess I was on a peanut butter craze lately. So, I gave in and made these cookies last night while I had the house to myself.

I know, I said I wasn't going to cook, but essentially this was baking.

I found this recipe on the back of a generic bag of chocolate chips a few months ago and I've come to love it. Unlike a regular chocolate chip cookie that requires both brown sugar and white sugar, this only calls for white sugar.

Somehow that makes me feel like I'm taking in less sugar and it is healthy.


But, they are still really good. I usually make them in bar form (who always has time for cookies?), but last night I took the time. Let me just say 4 were eaten at breakfast this morning and it wasn't by me.

Thin & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes about 12-15 large, thin cookies)
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c. flour
chocolate chips

Mix butter, egg, vanilla, sugar, baking soda and salt together. Fold in flour, then chocolate chips. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes, just until golden around the edges, you want these to stay soft in the middle.

I planned on taking some of these to our friend's house later tonight, but I have a feeling they won't make it:(

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ah...What To Do

Well, the husband and the little man just left for a short boys trip to Des Moines this afternoon. Amongst picking up some weight lifting equipment that we have been storing at his cousin's house since FOREVER, and catching part of his other cousin's football game, I think he was rather excited to spend some alone time with his little guy.

Of course, I packed the diaper bag full of every essential and am still worrying if they remembered everything, but I am also going to relish in some alone time. When is the last time I spent a good 8 hours by myself?

I can't remember.

Most 29 year olds would catch up with a girlfriend (too last minute to do that) or head out on the town, but I think my night will consist of this:
  • Cleaning
  • No Cooking (I refuse to go to the store until later this week, to stock up for the little man's 1st birthday party!)
  • Watching a movie (Marley & Me, bring on the tears...)
  • Grabbing a sandwich from Quizno's

Speaking of fast food...although I rarely eat it, every once in awhile I like a good sandwich. Tonight a toasted turkey and cheddar sub from Quizno's sounds like it might hit the spot.

What is your favorite fast food restaurant?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chili is in the Air

This Labor Day weekend has been full of cool temps, just perfect weather. When cool weather hits, my mind immediately goes to comfort food, and this weekend that comfort was chili.

Yeah, tomorrow is supposed to be back in the 80's, but I don't care.

And isn't chili the perfect football watching food? I may have curled up with a bowl last night as we watched endless games on TV.

As far as my chili recipe, it stems back from my mom's. I might make it a little different than her now, but trust me, I will never deviate. Don't send me your chili recipes, because honestly I won't make them.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

Ally's Chili
1 large bottle low sodium V-8 vegetable juice
2 cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 cans Mrs. Grimes chili beans
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
2 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. pepper

In a large stockpot, cook meat, onion, garlic and seasonings until brown (drain if desired). Transfer to a large crock pot. Add all other ingredients and stir. Set on low and cook as long as needed, the longer the better in my opinion.

A few hours after cooking, taste test, and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with crackers, shredded cheese, sour cream, etc.

That is it! It is so simple, and the best part is once you make this you do not have to make dinner for at least another night, maybe two, it makes that much.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tomato & Olive Tartlets

As promised I am sharing a yummy appetizer that my friend Erica brought to Friday Night Supper Club last week. She so graciously shared the recipe, I just had to pass it on!

I'm not a huge olive fan and our other friend Pam is not a huge tomato fan, but together we both still agree these were melt in your mouth good. Please try at your next gathering! This picture just doesn't do them justice, but trust me, they are delicious.

Tomato & Olive Tartlets
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/3 c. olive tapenade
1 c. shredded fontina cheese
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
6 basil leaves, chopped (optional)

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Using the tines of a fork, prick the pastry all over. Using a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 16 rounds of pastry. Place the pastry rounds on the prepared baking sheet. Lay a piece of parchment paper on top of the pastry rounds. Place another baking sheet directly on top of the parchment paper to keep the pastry even while baking. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden. Remove the top baking sheet and the top piece of parchment paper.

Spread 1 teaspoon of tapenade on each pastry round. Place about 1 tablespoon of cheese on top. Arrange 2 pieces of tomato on the cheese. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chopped basil on top. Transfer the tartlets to a platter and garnish with a pinch of salt.

On a side note - congrats to our good friends Andy and Shanna, as they had their baby boy last night, Colton! I'm excited as we'll be making a trip to the hospital later this afternoon to see the little bundle. Nothing like holding a newborn!