Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Buttermilk Cinnamon Coffee Cake

So my coffee cake is in loaf form.  I hope that is okay.  I have one bundt pan that I received for our wedding and oddly enough it is shaped as a castle, and it really annoys me, so I usually end up baking things in a loaf pan instead.

I should have put a new bundt pan on my Christmas list.

This coffee cake has been my breakfast all week.  I know, not enough protein, but it is easy to be wrapped up and taken to work.  Then once my sugar high plummets around 10am, I throw in a banana.  Hey, it works for me.

I've been making this since college.  My sister back in the day gave my mom and I a banker's cookbook one year from where she worked.  I still to this day find good recipes in there, and this was definitely one of them.  Easy and delicious.

Buttermilk Cinnamon Coffee Cake
1/2 c. canola oil or applesauce
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk
2 t. baking soda
4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Streusal Topping: 3/4 c. sugar and 2 1/2 t. cinnamon

Mix together all ingredients, except topping. Pour half of the batter into two greased loaf pans, or one bundt pan.  Sprinkle half of the streusal topping over the batter.  Pour in the remaining batter. Sprinkle the rest of the streusal topping on top of each loaf.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Can be much easier right?

Little Miss liked it as well, she got many, many crumbs.  Have I told you she is now on the move?  Crawling up a storm.  No, army crawl for this girl, straight on, full speed, getting into everything crawl.  And pulling herself up on almost anything! 

Her brother is just beside himself, as she now takes everything away from him.  They are constantly fighting over toys.

Our house is like a damn circus.

But, we love it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Daily Buzz Moms 9x9: Deck the Doors!

Is your front door looking a little dismal? Mine was. Nothing was on it, until recently. Yes, I created this. Our very own monogrammed initialed button plaque. Long description for such a cute piece, right?

I was recently chosen and selected to participate in the Daily Buzz Moms 9x9: Deck the Doors special.  On Thursday, December 22, my blog will be featured, along with 8 others, showcasing their front doors.  I wonder what everyone else made?

Fortunately, I work in the "Button Capital of the World".  Yes, that is their claim to fame.  Located right on the Mississippi River, it once made enough pearl buttons out of clam shells to clothe the world.  Today, there are two small factories left, one that I visited last week to get some buttons.  Free!

This monogrammed plaque is beyond easy.  Here is what you'll need:
  • A wooden board or plaque (got mine at Wal-Mart for 2.99)
  • Spray paint
  • Ribbon
  • Buttons
  • Glue gun
  • Drill (if needing to drill hole for ribbon)
Close-up of the buttons.
  • Drill hole in top of board for ribbon to be tied later (enlist your hubby, he'll be beyond excited).
  • Spray paint the board your desired color.  Let dry.
  • Trace your letter with pencil on the board.
  • Place buttons within that trace to see how it will look, before gluing.
  • Glue buttons one at a time, until filled in.
  • Tie ribbon in bow for hanging effect.
So, do you think you can do it?  I promise you can.  It's simple, easy and inexpensive.  Total cost for mine was well under $5.

I may even do some custom orders, if anyone is interested, but it will cost you more than $5!

If you're not into buttons, or cannot find any in surplus, try this hanging initialed frame.  Another great idea for your front door.  I featured it a few weeks ago on one of my DIY Sunday posts.  All directions and pictures for this frame can be found here.

Gosh, I promise I'll be back to chatting about food soon.  Next up is a great coffee cake like bread.  I've been baking it since college, from a bank cookbook my sister gave me years ago.  An oldie but a goodie!

Think buttermilk and cinnamon.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

DIY Sunday: How to Throw a Budget Friendly Holiday Dinner Party

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to help throw a holiday themed dinner party for a combined group of our friends.  After tons of planning, we were able to put on this fun-filled party with few expenses, but yet giving our guests a bucketload of goodies.  We fittingly named it Eat, Drink & Shop, because frankly that is what they did!

Here is how we did it.

We drank a lot of wine.
Mackenzie, Terrie and I got beautified and smiled even though we were tired!
We practiced our entertainment!
We baked our hearts out.
And drooled over what our guest could purchase.
We hit up the Dollar Store for guest party bins and filled them to the brim!
We gave away one huge door prize.
We decorated with thrifty finds.
I cooked up a menu that came out to be just around $2/person!
We sold our homemade gifts.
And in the end we marveled at our decorating skills and wished we were sitting at the table!

To recap, this is how the night went...

Our guests arrived, each paying $15 to attend the dinner party.  They got seated, we served drinks, played an opening game, served the first course, re-filled drinks, handed out a door prize, re-filled drinks, served the main course, played another game, re-filled drinks, handed out another door prize, re-filled drinks, served dessert, and re-filled drinks.

Thank god we got cheap wine!  These girls were thirsty!

Each of us that took part in the dinner was also selling our homemade items.  At this point we opened the shopping area for our guests to browse, mingle and you guessed it, drink more wine.  We had everything from jewelry, greeting cards, stocking stuffers, blankets, cookbooks, cupcakes, breads, cookies, clothes, hats, the list goes on and on.  All handmade.

In the end, we were exhausted, but it was so much fun we are already thinking of doing a spring dinner/show.  And we all came out ahead and made some money!  We shopped for deals, made items ourselves and in general just kept costs low.

So...would you come to our Eat, Drink & Shop party?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Grandma's Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Have a cold?  Craving a warm bowl of comfort food?
Then this Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup is for you!

grandma's slow cooker chicken noodle soup (

Let me start off by saying my grandmother has no affiliation with this soup.  It just sounds better saying Grandma's Chicken Noodle Soup.  Much cozier, don't you think?

I made a big batch of this a week ago when the whole house was sneezing, coughing and catching snot left and right.  Of course the hot soup made my nose run more, but it was worth it.  Even better, I baked up some of my No-Knead Artisan Bread to go along side for dunking purposes.

If you've been a reader for awhile you'll know I'm a lover of any and all things that cook in the slow cooker and require little work.  I'm happy to say this dish is one of them!  Low and slow.

Grandma's Chicken Noodle Soup

1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 c. chicken stock
1 c. water
1 t. lemon pepper seasoning
1 t. dill
1 t. salt
1 t. parsley
1/2 lb. dry egg noodles
4 c. shredded chicken

1.  Place all ingredients in a large slow cooker {minus the noodles} on low.  
2.  Cook for at least 6 hours, or all day if at work.  Stir in the uncooked noodles 30-45 minutes before serving.  Soup is ready when noodles are tender.
3.  Serve warm.

grandma's slow cooker chicken noodle soup (

Pretty heavenly looking, right?

This makes a hearty batch and easily feeds a crowd of hungry teenagers or if you are like us two dinners in a row.  One night I serve it with the homemade bread I talked about earlier and the next night I serve it with ooey, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches.

Because I've never found a person who can resist a grilled cheese sandwich!

And since I have soup on the brain and it's winter, here are a few of our many favorites.  Do me a favor and stick one on your meal plan each week!

Lasagna Soup
Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
Spicy Taco Soup
Aloha Chili
Cheesy Corn, Bacon and Potato Chowder
Buffalo Chicken Soup

grandma's slow cooker chicken noodle soup (

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Before I dive head first into this dip, can I talk about something really mind blowing?  In the past two weeks I've had two "fan" encounters.  I've never had anyone recognize me in public because of my blog, and here it happened twice in a row.

First, a friend and I were having lunch at a local cafe and this random man (yes, a man, not a woman!) came up and said, "I made your white lasagna, it was great!".  It took me a moment to figure out what in the heck he was talking about, but soon realized he must be reading my blog!  Crazy.

My next thought was how does he recognize me?  Do I show pictures of myself on here often?  Maybe I just had a distinguishable face?

Then yesterday, at a work luncheon, about good/bad sugars, nonetheless, the speaker, who happens to be a chiropractor in town recognized me.  We had a really nice chat about health, my aching back, and my daycare provider who she also will be using in the spring.  Small world.

Have you ever been recognized in public by a total stranger?

Back to this dip.  This heavenly, ooey, gooey, creamy, cheesy, dip.  My friend Jess, provided it for us to munch on this past Sunday when my high school friends and I got together to do our holiday baking.  We need our garbage food to make all those treats!

Jalapeno Popper Dip
2 - 8oz. packages cream cheese, room temp
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1 - 4 oz. can chopped green chilies
1 - 4 oz. can sliced jalapenos - double if you like heat (OR LESS!)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 stick butter, melted

Mix the first 6 ingredients and process until smooth. You do not need to drain either can of peppers. Spread the dip into a greased 2-quart casserole. In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter; mix well. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the dip and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. You want the top to get browned and the dip to be heated through and bubble gently on the edges.

Serve with Ritz crackers or tortilla chips.

This dip will knock your socks off.  Literally.  It's hot, but a good hot.  The combination of mild cheeses also mellows out the heat.  Try it for an appetizer at Christmas!

Well, I'm at home today with the whole family.  The daycare provider is sick, so I'll try and do some work from home, and then be back at it tomorrow.  I've got about a bazillion posts lined up for you guys, some yummy food and some really cute DIY decorations.  One in fact that was chosen as DailyBuzz Moms Top 9x9 for next week.

Cannot wait to share!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Honey Wheat Banana Muffins

She's so tired in this picture, recovering from a cold...but still all smiles!

I'm a lover of all things banana, and so is this little girl.  Who also happens to be taking her first "crawling" steps and pulling herself up on everything, this toy included.

My little baby is growing up:(

Instead of sulking around about her growing up, I guess I'll just eat more of these muffins.  They are healthy so why not!

Honey Wheat Banana Muffins
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. honey
3/4 t. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. allspice
1 egg white
1 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 T. canola oil
2 mashed bananas

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, mixing well.  In another bowl combine wet ingredients, adding to the dry until just combined.  Fill cups two-thirds full.  Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes.

Honestly, though, since I probably shouldn't eat all these muffins in one sitting (the kids got some), I put the rest wrapped individually in the freezer for later.  This makes them easy to grab when heading to work, car seat in one hand, toddler in the other, purse under an arm, and enough coats, hats, gloves between all of us to keep an army warm.

Who else has mornings like me?

Stay tuned this week for a recap of Eat, Drink & Shop, along with a delicious bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup.  You don't want to miss this easy recipe!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

DIY Sunday: Cookie Jars

It's my 2nd DIY Sunday - on a roll!  I had the choice of a few things to show you, but opted for these cute cookie jars.  Just in time for the holidays.

Do you have a baker friend, neighbor, daycare provider or family member?  I think these cute little jars are perfect for them.  It takes over half the hassle out of baking cookies and you are left with a full belly and neat jar to use later (found mine at the Dollar Tree for $1).

I'm giving these to four of my closest high school friends today as we are gathering for our 3rd Annual Holiday Baking Extravaganza.  I feel like all I've done this weekend is bake, cook and have flour up to my elbows.  A big thanks out to mom for watching the kids!

Here is how to make these cookie jars.  By all means use whatever cookie recipe you like, this is just an example.
  1. Layer ingredients into a clean jar, in the following order, pressing down on ingredients as you go.
  2. Flour (2 1/4 c.)
  3. Sugar (1/2 c.)
  4. Baking soda (1 t.)
  5. Salt (1/2 t.)
  6. Oatmeal (1 c.)
  7. Dark chocolate chips (1/2 c.)
  8. Mint chips (1/2 c.)
  9. Seal and attach with cute ribbon.
  10. Attach a "how-to" tag for baking instructions.  Mine said this: "Cream 2 sticks butter, 4 oz. cream cheese, 2 eggs and 1 t. vanilla.  Slowly pour in dry ingredients and mix well.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes."

Easy enough right?  Who doesn't have an old jar laying around, some ribbon, plus baking ingredients?  I'm guessing you can make this without having a big run to the grocery store.  Perfect last minute DIY Holiday gift this year.

Well, I'm off to bake, and fall into yet another sugar induced coma.  Wish me luck.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Beef Taco Bowls

Need a simple dinner?  This one is perfect.  We have these beef taco bowls quite a bit, as they are easy to throw together and filling.

Essentially a glorified taco salad!  Layer in lettuce, meat of your choice (in this case, ground beef), cheese, black beans, salsa and sour cream.

All together now.  Who else has to mix their salad up completely before eating like me?  A little bit OCD...

Today is crazy.  Last night was crazy.  I baked/cooked from 4-10pm getting ready for our Eat, Drink & Shop party tonight.

In case you missed it, two friends and I are hosting a dinner/shopping party.  Nice sit down dinner, drinks, games, door prizes and in the end opening up two of her bedrooms for shopping!  Each of us have prepared "homemade" gifts so to speak for our guests.  We have everything from jewelry, handmade scarves, hats, greeting cards, cupcakes, a zillon baked goods, my cookbook, the list goes on and on.

It should be a ton of fun.  Thankfully the kids are heading to daycare today so we can prepare and get ready!  Pictures and recap will be coming.

Have you ever been to a party like this?  I'd like to think I'm the first one to think of it...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homemade Twix Bars

Call the dentist.  You can just feel the sugar sinking in your teeth on these bars.  It might almost be worth the trip to the dentist or the insurance claim for the filling.

They are just that good.

I originally saw a version of these posted on Hey, What's For Dinner Mom?, and a year later still see variations of these using a shortbread or club cracker crust.  I was stuck at home all weekend with a sniffly, snotty baby and a crazy toddler, so I went the lazy route with the club crackers.

Clearly, I was not disappointed.  Made on Saturday and gone by Monday.  A large plate did get sent to daycare!  Don't judge.

Homemade Twix Bars
2 sleeves Club crackers
3/4 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 T. corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 bag milk chocolate chips

Spray an 8x8 pan and layer the bottom with crackers.  In a medium saucepan on medium high heat, add butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk.  Stir and bring to a boil, always stirring (don't walk away!).  When boiling, reduce heat and continue stirring and simmer for 7 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Pour some of the caramel mixture over the crackers and spread.  Add another layer of crackers, more caramel and spread.  Add a third layer of crackers, more caramel and spread.  Place chocolate chips over hot caramel, let them melt a little and spread.

Place in the fridge and let harden for at least 2 hours, best overnight.  Cut into bars and serve.  Keep in fridge.

While stuck at home, I did manage to put up this little tree while the little man was napping.  I caught him starring when he rounded the corner.  Seriously, he didn't move for about 2 minutes.

I also made a large crock pot full of Chicken Noodle Soup.  So good.  That recipe is coming.  The little man loved it, as did we and thankfully there is enough left over for a late supper tonight, which means no cooking.  This mama is tired!

My two-year blog anniversary is also this month (a lot to chat about today, sorry).  In fact, this week I think.  I'm thinking a cool giveaway, what about you?  Stay tuned.

On that note - how long have you been reading Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats?  The full two years?  One year?  One month?

Take the challenge and comment telling me how long you've been reading.  I dare all those people out there who have never commented!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

DIY Sundays: Homemade Initialed Frames

I've decided to start dedicating each and every Sunday post to a DIY project.  Something lately has triggered the inner Martha in me (maybe Pinterest?) and I keep thinking up ideas to do around the house whether it be organizational, crafty, a homemade version of a store bought item, or something that caught my eye saying 'I can do this'.

So I hope you start looking forward to DIY Sundays as much as I do.  This doesn't mean I actually do this activity on a Sunday (come on, I have two kids under the age of 2, nothing is ever really planned), but I will definitely post about it on Sunday.

Let's dig into my first project.

A few weeks back I posted on DIY Holiday Gifts.  I'm pretty sure that is what started this whole 'I can do everything' craze.  I featured a homemade initialed frame, that really caught my attention.

Well, over the weekend I made a couple of my own.  If you are a family member and reading this, and have figured out that one may be for you for Christmas, please act surprised when you open it...

For a young girl's room

For a front door or over the fireplace

Another one for a young girl's room
Honestly, I didn't even research this one.  I just took the bull by the horns and made them.  All you need is:
  • Picture frame
  • Spray paint
  • Wooden letters (some letters may require a hole to be drilled for the yarn)
  • Yarn
Use old picture frames if you have them, the more rustic looking the better.  Choose your color scheme and run with it.  Wrap yarn tightly around frame sides and use small slip knots on the back side to secure.  A great decorating piece for your front door, a kid's bedroom or above the mantle or fireplace.

Aren't they cute?

The husband even helped by drilling a hole in one of the letters for me.  And when I wasn't looking I'm sure he was rolling his eyes.

What DIY Projects have you tackled lately???

Friday, December 2, 2011

Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Biscuits

Paula Deen has a new cookbook out called Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible.  It's on my Christmas list.  If you get the Food Network magazine, she does give you a sneak peek with this recipe, her Fluffy Sweet Potato Biscuits.

I've never met a biscuit I didn't like, and our house really likes sweet potatoes, so it seemed like a win win in my book.

We had these over the course of a couple nights, once with our leftover turkey casserole and the other with our staple when I don't feel like cooking, scrambled eggs.  What is your staple when you don't feel like cooking?

Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Biscuits
3/4 c. cooked, mashed sweet potato
1/3 to 1/2 c. whole milk, as needed
1 1/2 c. flour, plus more for dusting
2 T. sugar (I used agave nectar)
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
6 T. cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sweet potato, 1/3 c. milk and agave nectar (if using), set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar (if using), baking powder and salt.  Cut in butter with pastry blender or hands, until it's crumbly.  Add sweet potato mixture and fold to combine.  Add remaining milk a little at a time until flour is moistened.

Sprinkle some flour on a work surface.  Turn the dough out and knead lightly 2 to 3 times with palm of hand until the mixture comes together.  Pat dough into a 1/2-inch thick round.  Using a biscuit cutter or circle cookie cutout, cut biscuits and place on baking sheet.  Brush with milk.  Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until a light golden brown.  

The kids and I are off to the library this morning for reading group and then back home to stay in out of the cold!  A light dusting of snow and frigid temps really just wants me to stay in, curl up on the couch with a book, watch trashy TV and drink hot cocoa.

Too bad I have children to tend to.

I am going to try and tackle my first DIY holiday craft of the season - pictures to come this weekend, stay tuned!  Let's "hope" it turns out.

And check out my Pin It tab on the bottom of each post next to the comment section.  Yes, I finally joined Pinterest!  Who knew I'd be put on a waiting list???  Regardless, start pinning my posts to your boards!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Leftover Turkey Casserole

It's not a secret that I'm a fan of casseroles.  Meat, starch and veggies are all taken care of in one dish.  Ideal in my opinion.

With this being said, they usually aren't healthy.  This one I'm showing you today definitely isn't healthy, but you'll be happy to know I had just a small portion.  Enough to get my fix of creamy, comforting casserole.  I can't say the same for my husband who polished off the remaining portions in two days, but his metabolism is beyond good and well, he works like a dog some days, so he can do it.

I cannot.  Therefore I limited myself to two scoops.

If you threw pieces of leftover turkey in the freezer after Thanksgiving this dish is perfect for it.  Otherwise substitute with chicken.  Chicken goes with everything.

Leftover Turkey Casserole
4 c. shredded turkey or chicken
1/2 c. mayo
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c. leftover gravy
1 c. frozen peas
1/4 c. dijon mustard
2 c. dry pasta
1 t. dill weed
1 t. pepper
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
dots of butter

In a large bowl combine all ingredients, except last two.  If too thick, thin out with a little milk.  Bake covered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove lid or foil, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and dots of butter.  Bake an additional 15 minutes until golden brown.

Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Biscuits were served with this meal.  Yeah, pretty good.  Recipe to come.

This is a great one to make a day or two ahead if you know you'll be having a busy night during the week.  Nothing makes me happier than dinner already made before I get home.

But, what is really making me happy this week is getting in the holiday spirit.  It's automatic, once I know December 1st is nearing, my head automatically turns to Christmas music, Christmas cookies, Christmas decorating, Christmas gift giving, on and on.

Too bad, I haven't done any of that yet.  This week (or weekend) I promise!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Deal Right Here!

I know, another shameless plug for my cookbook, but I just cannot NOT tell you about the Cyber Monday deal going on!

Through the end of today (28th), if you purchase 2 or more, you receive 25% off your order!  Enter the code: HURRY in the checkout.  And if you can't get around to it today, I'll still give you 15% off if you order one the 30th, enter the code: HOLIDAY in the checkout.  It is available in the following formats: ebook, softcover or hardcover.

To order, click here.

Again, this Christmas I am trying to take simpler approach to everything.  Making some homemade gifts, purchasing local gifts knowing they were made with love, and trying to not let the Christmas chaos take over.

This is were my cookbook comes into play.  I tried compiling my most requested recipes, my best looking photos, my most interesting I hope you enjoy.

Try and take the challenge of purchasing gifts this year that you know people enjoyed making.  Happy Cyber Monday!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

S'mores Cookie Bars

It doesn't need to be summer in my house, nestled next to the campfire, for us to have s'mores! Quite possibly one of the best bars I've made recently.  They come from Lovin' From The Oven.  Check out her blog, you won't be disappointed.

I took this along to Thanksgiving, as they travel easy, and desserts are always a happy hit at family gatherings, right?

Honestly, they taste almost exact to an actual s'more.  Minus the the smokiness from the fire.  Wish I didn't miss.

S'mores Cookie Bars
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/3 c. flour
3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 king sized milk chocolate bar
1 1/2 c. marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 8x8 square baking pan.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  In a small bowl whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt.  Add to butter mixture until combined.

Divide the dough in half, pressing half into bottom of pan.  Break apart chocolate and place over the dough.  Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme/fluff.  Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of marshmallow creme/fluff.  (Most easily achieved by pressing pieces of dough flat between hands and laying them together).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool completely and cut into bars.  Makes 16 bars.

After spending today with my parents and grandma, tomorrow is going to be all about getting myself in order.  Ever just feel unorganized?  That is how I feel right now.  I'm a list maker and and currently have no lists made, nor any checks next to those important items.

Sometimes I write something down on a list I already have done, just to place a check mark next to it, as it makes me feel better.

Insane, I know.

I need to make a Christmas gift list, an items-to-make-those gifts list, a to-do checklist for household areas I've been neglecting, a meal-planning list....hell, the list game could go on and on.  May sound crazy, but makes me feel better!

Who else is a list maker?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Crustless Spinach & Potato Quiche

As I am typing this, there is some crazy shopping going on.  Just checking Facebook quick, it seems like everyone I know is out there or already back home!

I do enjoy Black Friday shopping, but not this year.  Taking two kids out?  Are you crazy?  I personally cringe at those mothers that drag their little ones out and fill up the aisles with their strollers.  It just isn't a place for kids in my opinion - too nuts.  And this year, I vying to take a simpler approach to the holidays.  You can read about it here.

So, if you aren't out there, already back home or plan to tackle more shopping this weekend, come home to this quiche.  It can be made ahead and popped into the oven and eaten thirty minutes later.  Not to mention it's pretty darn healthy!

Crustless Spinach & Potato Quiche
6 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 large potato, diced into small chunks
1/2 box spinach, thawed and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. pepper
1 t. salt
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese

Spray a pie pan with cooking spray and preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Meanwhile in a skillet cook potatoes on medium high heat, turning edges brown.  Put in garlic when potatoes have cooked a bit.  (You do not have to cook the potatoes fully, just so they get a little crispy with some color, they will finish cooking in the oven).

In a bowl whisk eggs, milk, spinach, salt and pepper.  Combine with potatoes and garlic.  Pour into pie pan and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Letting it cool slightly before slicing.

In other news...

Don't forget about my cookbook this holiday shopping weekend!  A very nice deal is happening if you purchase before Monday, November 28.  Buy 2 or more and receive 25% off!  Just put in the code: HURRY in the checkout.  It comes in an ebook, softcover or hardcover version.

And by the way....Tami, from Nutmeg were the winner of my giveaway and I still haven't heard from you?  Please email me by Monday or I'll need to pick another winner.

Lastly, if you are going shopping this weekend, this Saturday is the nationally recognized day of Small Business Saturday.  Try and spend money at all the local, cute, ma and pa shops in your area.  Trust me, they will appreciate your business!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All Day Simmering Marinara Sauce

If you've been reading my blog for any period of time you know I'm a fan of easy, simple meals.  This one falls into that category.  Don't be fooled by the post title All Day Simmering Marinara Sauce.  I did not stand over the stove stirring this pot all day long.

Rather I went to work for a few hours, let the little miss sleep on my chest while I watched old episodes of Oprah, and basically did anything but tend to this sauce.  It is really, a no fuss dish.

I did ponder the many, many things going on between now and Christmas swirling around in my head while trying to focus on Oprah's wisdom, but that is entirely another post all together.  Think a holiday dinner/shopping party my friends and I are throwing, DIY holiday gift projects and our annual holiday baking extravaganza.  A lot going on!

Back to this sauce.  Pour it on everything.  Bread, pasta, veggies, grilled chicken, rubber tires, your morning coffee.  You get the idea, it makes everything taste good.

All Day Simmering Marinara Sauce
28 oz. can tomato sauce
8 oz. can tomato paste
15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
pinch of sugar

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker on low.  Cook all day or at least 4-5 hours.

Bookmark this one if you like red sauce!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Caramel Cream Sandwich Cookies

I typically am off work on Fridays, so it is my chance to catch up on everything that got shoved to the side Tuesday - Thursday.  Which is usually pretty much everything.

I try and make a dent in the laundry, run errands, hit up library reading group with the kiddos, and if I'm lucky bake something.  Honestly, I usually grab a cookbook, start flipping through, and try and find something that doesn't require a trip to the store.

There little beauties didn't require a trip to the store.

And are well worth it I might add.  I'm thinking of even adding them to my holiday baking round-up?  A little food coloring in the frosting would definitely make them a Christmas cookie.

Caramel Cream Sandwich Cookies
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter, softened
1 egg yolk
2 c. flour

Frosting: 2 T. butter, 1 1/4 c. powdered sugar, 1/2 t. vanilla, 4-5 T. milk

In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar and butter until light and creamy.  Beat in egg yolk.  On low speed, beat in flour until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes for easier handling.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Shape dough into 1 in. balls, place on ungreased cookie sheet.  With fork dipped in flour press down and flatten each ball to 1 1/2 in. round.  Bake 10-14 minutes until golden brown.  Place on cookie rack to cool.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, heat butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until light golden brown.  Remove from heat, add in remaining frosting ingredients, adding enough milk until smooth and spreadable.  Spread 1 t. of frosting between bottoms of cooled cookies and press together.

This little pumpkin slept through the whole baking experience.  Can't blame her, looks pretty comfy.

And now for the BIG news!  The winner of a soft copy of my cookbook is....drumroll....

Comment #32

Tami is a new follower, so I'm very happy to know she can get caught up on some of my recipes!  Tami, shoot me an email with your shipping information and I'll be in touch.

Have a great Saturday everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

DIY Holiday Gifts

I am pledging to live simple during the upcoming holidays.  Who wants to pledge with me?  Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner and everyone is making their lists, checking ads and preparing for a long shopping day.

I've been known to be at Target at 6 a.m. (this year they are opening at midnight!) and I really do love it.  I especially love making a day of it - early morning hot chocolate, shopping, lunch with family, more shopping, collapsing on the couch at night.

But, this year I have vowed to take simplier approach.  I recently read somewhere that one family was only giving homemade gifts to their kids this year.  Another family was going to implement the rule of only 3 gifts per child, like in the Bible, after years of giving them everything under the sun.  I truly like both of these ideas.  The Holidays are a time of giving and I think we need to remember that.

Luckily my kids are still very young and don't even understand Christmas yet, so hopefully we haven't ruined their life yet!

Since I already have one homemade gift done, I have been researching some other cute ideas.  I challenge all of you reading to really make something for a family member or friend this year that is truly from the heart that you know they will enjoy.

I've picked a few of my favorites. 

Homemade Initialed Frame
I think this one is absolutely adorable.  It would be perfect hanging on a front door, a mantle or even in a kid's room.  Frame, yarn, wooden initial, it doesn't take much!

I'm also pretty sure people would go crazy for these at upcoming Holiday craft shows.

Homemade Eco-Friendly Soy Candle
Candles!  Who doesn't love candle?  Especially in the winter, I love lighting them throughout the house for that cozy warmth.  These are homemade, eco-friendly, soy candles and not to mention super cute.

I've never made a candle before, but honestly the steps look very easy!

Meal in a Box
Last year I put together two huge food baskets for some gifts.  They were filled with quick breads, cookies, jam, etc.  I think both recipients really liked it.  They were able to freeze the breads for later eating and have good homemade snacks around during the holidays.

This idea takes it one step further and I love it.  Think of a meal that is easy to assemble, place all of the ingredients (minus the perishables, of course) in a cute container, attach a recipe with directions and give to a friend or family member who you know is often short on time and would appreciate dinner in a flash.

Magnet Board
Who doesn't have an old cookie sheet that is brown, cruddy and on its last leg?  If you do turn it into this magnet board, that can be hung in a home office, at work, or your kitchen for all those to-do lists, pictures, kid's artwork, etc. that usually clutters the refrigerator.

I hope one of these DIY Holiday Gifts called out to you and has put you on the path of a simplier holiday.  Remember, most people would just enjoy being around family, eating a good meal and maybe receiving something small as a token of the Holiday.

It doesn't have to be big, cost a fortune or state-of-the-art.  It just needs to come from the heart.

What DIY gifts have you made in the past?  I'd love to have more ideas!