Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: May 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Bars

Before I get to these yummy bars today, I thought I'd show you what we've been doing on this holiday.  A lot of lounging our p.j.'s...

Then we got our butts outside before the sweltering heat set in.  After a trip to our daycare provider (to drop off the little misses essentials for her first day tomorrow), both kiddos are happily tucked in for their afternoon naps.

Tomorrow starts the craziness, so I'm relishing in this moment.

I still need to figure out what I'm wearing my first day back.  And yes, that is an adventure considering I've had two babies in two years and I've mostly been wearing maternity clothes or sweats.  Not to mention, not all the baby weight is gone, so who knows what even fits.

And tomorrow officially starts my "unofficial" first day of Weight Watchers.  It worked for me well in the past, so I'm hoping it works again.

Ahem...ugh...these bars are NOT listed on any top healthy food lists.  I'm pretty sure one bar is probably a gazillion points.  Oh well, today is Memorial Day, and in my world holidays = no dieting.

I found this recipe on the back of my oatmeal container and low and behold I had all the ingredients on hand.  There is still time to whip up a batch for your Memorial Day barbecue tonight!

I have problems with waiting for baked goods to cool...

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Bars
1 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 T. milk
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
4 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. cinnamon chips
1 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, blend shortening with sugars, adding sugar gradually.  Add eggs, milk and vanilla; beat well.  Add flour, soda and salt; beat well.  Stir in oats, cinnamon chips and chocolate chips.

Spread batter in a greased 9x13 pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Let bars cool before cutting into squares (this I didn't do!).

P.S. - If making into cookies, it yields 42.

So, who wants to try these???

Saturday, May 28, 2011

2 Minute Chocolate Cake

We love visiting family, but I do not love coming back home to a house that needs cleaned - dishes in the sink, dogs going crazy, laundry to be washed, bags to be unpacked, and to top it off nothing in the fridge.  A major grocery haul needs to be done tomorrow.

I really wish before we left I would have tackled some of the above chores.  Now I'm kicking myself for it.

I have two days left of maternity leave and I do not want to spend it cleaning.  I'd rather enjoy my kiddos, cuddle on the couch with a good book, and enjoy the nice weather. 

And maybe a glass of wine.  Or two.

Or maybe this chocolate cake?

Ever need a chocolate fix and it's 10:30 at night?  Here is a go-to recipe that only requires a few ingredients and a microwave.  I found this in one of my Food Network magazines (great magazine by the way), so I thought I'd give it a try.  I didn't have any vanilla ice cream, otherwise it would have been doused in that, but luckily powdered sugar did the trick.

2 Minute Chocolate Cake

*Whisk 1/4 c. flour, 5 T. sugar, 2 T. cocoa powder, 1 egg, 3 T. milk, 3 T. vegetable oil and a dash of each of vanilla extract and salt in a large mug until smooth.  Microwave until puffed, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with more cocoa powder or powdered sugar.

Dig into that people!

Before I started typing up this post today, I noticed it was my 300th post.  Can you believe it?  I started this little food blog journey back in December of 2009, and here we are a year and a half later.  If I was a good food blogger, who had a little more time, I would have thought of a great giveaway for y'all.

Hmm...I'll have to think of something...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crockpot Beer Brats

I have a list of things to get done today - finish reading my book, go to the library to get Water For Elephants that they are holding for me, head to the post office, finish the laundry, and maybe, just maybe if there is time start working on my cookbook.

Yes, I found an online program that allows you to upload your pictures and recipes into a book.  Now, the problem is just finding time to work on it with two kids under the age of 2 underfoot.

And did I mention I go back to work next week?  Yeah, I'm fairly confident not much of it will get done.

But, enough of my to-do list and on to food.  My mom made this dish over the weekend while I was home.  You know how I love just throwing everything into a crockpot and walking away...this dish does just that.  I'm not sure if "brats" are as popular around the rest of the country as they are here in the Midwest.  We seem to devour them at every summer barbecue, they are just a staple along with the burger.

Crockpot Beer Brats
1 pkg. brats (4-6)
1 vidalia onion, sliced
1 can of beer

Forgive me for the blurry picture - it was the steam!

Shown about 3/4 done, onions are getting there!

Layer brats on the bottom of the crockpot, add in sliced onions (I think sliced green peppers could be a nice addition as well?), and pour in the can of beer.

Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until brats are done and onions have carmelized. Serve on your favorite bun with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, etc.

Do you eat brats in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Classic Egg Salad on Toast

We make this salad a lot in the summer.  It makes your house/refrigerator smell like the south end of a skunk, but it is worth it.  Eggs are a great way to get in a quick and easy protein, and great for work lunches (which I have to start thinking about again soon).  Ugh.

Classic Egg Salad
6 eggs, hard boiled, chopped
1/4 c. mayo
1/8 c. mustard
1 dill pickle spear, chopped
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and chill.  Serve on toast, lettuce, or crackers.

Check out the cupcakes I picked up from Scratch Bakery when I was back home this weekend!  In order of my preference (yes, I tried them all) - Peanut Butter Cup, Mint Chocolate Chip, Raspberry Love, Red Velvet.  Honestly, all were great, you just can't go wrong at Scratch Bakery in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  If you live in the area be sure to "like" their Facebook page, as they always have great deals and free cupcake giveaways!

Of course I requested my mom's Cinnamon Crescents for breakfast.  I've featured them before, so easy, it is almost like an open faced cinnamon roll?  But easier.

Much easier.

Make them soon.

And last, but certainly not least - the beloved Indian Taco.  While I was home this weekend, it was my hometown's annual celebration, which of course means carnies, rides, parades, and vendors galore.  We didn't get down there to check it out because of persistent rain, but my mom did go get us Indian Tacos for lunch.

Oh. My. God.

I haven't had one in probably 10 years, but it was SO worth the wait.  It is a classic Indian fry bread as the base, then layered with taco meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese and salsa.  I need to try and recreate this at home sometime, but I'm sure it would not turn out as good.  These ladies have been making these for years and definitely have the technique down to a science.

So, that was our weekend - great food, friends and family.  Now on to my last week of maternity leave....

Bring on the waterworks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Asparagus Stuffed Chicken

Tis the season for asparagus.  It's that time of year when it is in abundance.  Funny thing is I never grew up eating asparagus.  Like, never.  I asked my mom awhile back why and she said it was because my dad grew up on a farm and they had an asparagus patch.  Guess what they ate EVERYDAY.  And guess what he can no longer stand still this day?


Therefore my mom never made it.

Thankfully I didn't have to eat it everyday growing up, so I enjoy it.  We mainly eat it roasted in the oven with some garlic and olive oil, but I thought I'd give it a new spin with this dish.  Veggie and protein all rolled up into one.

Asparagus Stuffed Chicken
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
cheese of choice (I used mozzarella)
salt, pepper, another seasoning of choice (I used Lawry's)

Slice chicken breast in half, season, stuff with asparagus and cheese, secure with toothpicks, place on rack on top of baking sheet, bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until juices run clear.

Final result - juicy chicken oozing with cheese and crisp asparagus!  Served on a bed or brown rice.

And to leave you with the latest pics of the kiddos.  Little miss is growing so much and her big brother could not be more into her.  We do have issues with the pacifier being "shoved" into her mouth constantly and the bottle being taken from her, but all in all he loves her to death and immediately runs into the house to say hi when he gets home everyday.

Cannot believe she'll be 2 months old on Friday!  We are heading to my parents house for a few days of relaxation, and to give the rents a chance to babysit while I visit friends and old co-workers for a much needed catch-up of gossip and good food!
Happy baby girl!

See that pacifier in his hand?  It about to be shoved in her mouth!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mint Cookies

If you are not a baker, this one is for you.  No flour required.  Which in turn means no mess in the kitchen, only one dirty bowl that can be tossed in the dishwasher afterwards.

Really, how can you not make these?

But, first how was everyones weekend?  The husband and I had a semi-date on Friday - much needed!  We both couldn't remember the last time we went out to eat, which is just so sad.  After a nice plate of Mexican, tons of chips and salsa, buying a new recliner for our living room and getting groceries, we were once again home.

Now, it's Monday and I'm sad to say I only have two weeks of maternity leave left.  I don't even like thinking about it.  I was able to stay home for a year with the little man and now I have to give up my little miss at just 9 weeks.

Like any mother, I have tremendous motherly guilt taking her to daycare at 9 weeks.  Even though our in home daycare provider is more than just plain sucks.  No better way to put it.

Hopefully these cookies can put me in a better mood?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mint Cookies
1 c. peanut butter
1 egg
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 cups equal parts chocolate and mint chips

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, shape into balls and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, just until golden brown.  They will look a little doughy, but will harden up once cooled.

Perfect treat for someone needing a gluten free dessert option, or just for anyone who hates making a mess with flour!

And last, but not least...the winner of my Facebook giveaway on Friday was Melissa from Melissa Likes to Eat.  Congrats girl! Send an email to with your mailing address and I'll get your prize out right away!

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Eats, Plus Facebook Giveaway!

Finally Friday!

We often joke with my parents that "everyday is a Saturday" to them, as they are both retired and often forget what day it is.  I have to say I'm not much better lately.  Being off on maternity leave (only 2+ weeks, makes me forget what day it is most of the time.

When I woke up this morning, I was a little more excited as we got a babysitter for the little man tonight, so the husband and I can go to dinner and do some shopping.  Well, it's kinda a "date", the little miss is coming with us, but she doesn't throw food on the floor in restaurants or yell at the top of her lungs.

She really is a dream baby.

So it's Mexican for us tonight, a little furniture shopping and a grocery haul.  It's amazing how times have changed when a date used to consist of dinner, parties on the college "hill", and late night binges of pizza at 2 a.m.

Changing subjects - my food blog basically consists of recipes, while many other food blogs consist of daily eats, showcasing each and every meal they consume. I could never get the hang of that, too much picture taking for me.  I do love to read those types of blogs, but just couldn't do it myself.

But to honor those, I thought I'd show you what some of my daily lunches and snacks have been including lately.  When you have two little ones, I'm lucky to get lunch some days, so forgive me if they seem boring.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mint Cookies - recipe on my Facebook page!
Typical lunch - turkey, cheese, mustard on english muffin, apple slices
Homemade egg mcmuffin
Last but certainly not least - a GIVEAWAY!!!

Head on over to Sweet & Savory's Facebook page and enter to win a coupon for a FREE Organic Valley product and a copy of the Earth Dinner book.  A great guide to eating healthy, along with tons of quotes, tidbits, and just great information to make you think twice about where your food comes from.

All you have to do is become a fan and comment on my post - couldn't be simpler!  I'll announce the random winner on Sunday.

Have a fabulous weekend y'all!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

Holy hot.

Living in the Midwest is a bit of a challenge.  One day it can be 60 degrees out, then next day 90.  Yesterday the high was 93, in May!  Today it's in the mid-80's and I'm sweating in places I didn't know existed, as the little miss and I just got back from a few swoops around the block.

Yes, she had sunblock on, and was shaded...

But, I'm not complaining, it is just odd.  A planners nightmare!

I do not expect you to fire up your ovens if it is hot where you live, but this is a good recipe.  Maybe for a cooler day?

Since I grew up in Iowa and Chicago is just a short road trip away, Chicago Style pizzas are on most menus around these parts.  I love a thin crust pizza, but I also have a great love for the deep dish.  I do not judge.

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
pizza dough
toppings of your choice
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese
crushed tomatoes
olive oil

*No exact measurements on this we all know how to assemble a pizza, right?

Step 1:  Grease pan, spread dough in pan pushing some of the crust up the sides of the pan, drizzle crust with olive oil and fresh garlic, layer on mozzarella.

Step 2:  Layer on toppings of choice.

Step 3: Ladle on crushed tomatoes (I used 1/2 of a 28 oz. can - I like sauce!), sprinkle on oregano, basil and parmesan cheese.

Step 4:  Bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes (depending on how deep your dish is), remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

The little man loved this, but then again if he didn't like pizza I just might disown him.  The only thing that would have made it better was a nice cold frosty mug of beer.

Who doesn't love beer with pizza?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sugar Swaps

We all LOVE sugar, right?  There are people out there who say they don't, but we all know they really do.  The problem is, it isn't that good for us.  I am NOT preaching a bandwagon here about eliminating sugar out of your diet, as we all know I use a lot of it in my baking, just look at some of my dessert posts!  But, there are ways to swap out sugar and replace it with a healthier substitute.

Guest blogger Lisa Shoreland shows us how...

If Atkins has taught us nothing else, at least we all understand the impact that sugar has on our diets – and our waist lines. But who wants to give up carbs? Or sweet, decadent deserts, pastries, and chocolates? Fortunately, there are ways that you can limit your sugar intake without giving up the delicious treats that you love or being forced to buy franken-cookies that use sugar alcohols or other harmful chemicals.

One of the easiest ways to limit the harmful effects of sugar is to trade out white, processed sugar for more natural varieties of sweetener that have a lower impact on your insulin levels (which will help keep your blood sugar stable, and your weight in check). Here are a few of the best sugar swaps you can make, with suggestions for recipe substitutions:

Agave Nectar

The same plant that is used to create tequila provides the sweet syrup that becomes agave nectar. Similar in nature to honey, agave nectar has a concentrated flavor that allows you to use less of it to sweeten a dish – which, therefore, has fewer calories. This natural sweetener is also digested more slowly, which means that it won’t spike your blood sugar.

* To use agave nectar in baking, replace one cup of white sugar with 2/3 cup agave. Then reduce other liquids (such as milk) by about ¼ cup. You can make the same substitution for brown sugar without reducing the other liquids.

Date Sugar

Dates are like nature’s candy. These naturally sweet fruits are dried and ground into tiny crystals to make date sugar. The resulting sugar doesn’t mix as well with liquid (you won’t want to sprinkle it on your morning cereal), but it works great in baking and smoothies.

* Date sugar can be substituted on a one-to-one ratio in most recipes. If you find that the substitute is too sweet, reduce the date sugar to ¾ cup for every cup of regular sugar. You can also experiment with using whole dates – or even figs, prunes and dried apricots – to recipes to replace sugar. These are especially great in smoothies or homemade sherbet and ice cream recipes.


This wonder herb has gotten a lot of attention recently as an all-natural replacement for no-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine. Stevia has zero calories, but none of the harmful side effects of its chemical clones. This powerful sweetener packs a punch, and only a tiny amount is needed.

* The following conversions can be used for powdered Stevia: 1 teaspoon Stevia per cup of sugar, ½ teaspoon Stevia per tablespoon of sugar, and just a pinch for a teaspoon of sugar.

Some other substitutes worth considering include apple sauce, barley syrup, molasses, and even almond milk for regular milk (which can have as much as 13 grams of sugar per cup). Swapping out the unhealthy refined sugars for these natural alternatives will help add nutrients to your diet and to make your sweets all that much more enjoyable.

Bio: Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she's been finding college grants as well as government student loan programs. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Easy Ways to Jazz Up a Boxed Brownie Mix

Lets be honest.  Most people don't make brownies from scratch.  Even I take the help of a boxed mix now and then.  Between work, kids, a house, dogs, and, sometimes it is just easier to dump the boxed mix in a bowl and call it good.

But, there are ways to jazz them up a little.  People will think you slaved, when really you didn't.

Dark Chocolate Mint & Pecan Brownies

We had some family over mid-week to visit the little miss and little man.  Can't have company without a dessert right?

Oh wait, maybe that is just my rule.

The night before I took some help from my Facebook fans and asked what simple dessert ideas they had.  My good, long time friend, Maja, gave me some inspiration.  Like her, she tends to shy away from boxed mixes, but when in a pinch she said she adds Andes mints to a boxed brownie mix.


So I headed to the store and picked up a bag of dark chocolate and mint pieces (I know!) and some chopped pecans.  That in turn made these:

There is only one left.  The husband and I are both eyeing it.  Wonder who will in?

Here are some other genius ways to jazz up brownies:
  • Stir together 8 oz. cream cheese and 1/2 cup of jam.  Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan, then add cream cheese mixture and the remaining batter.  Bake.
  • Try my Rocky Road Brownies
  • Take a jar of your favorite caramel, again pour in between the layers of brownie batter and bake.
  • Bake brownies and remove from oven with 5 minutes remaining - top with shredded coconut, nuts and chocolate chips.  Bake remaining 5 minutes until done.
  • Bake brownies, once cooled, top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Which jazzed up brownie would you want to try?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Caramelized Onion & Bleu Cheese Burgers

Ever had one of those days where you'd like to just throw in the towel?

Today is that day for me.

The little man has challenged me in every aspect so far today and it's only 1 p.m.  Not sure if it is the cold he has, or just the onset of terrible twos, but I almost walked out of the house and didn't return.  Not really, but the thought did pass my mind.

We've taken a bite out of a candle (really, who does that?), pulled an almost gone bag of chips out of the kitchen island and threw them all over the floor, broke a drinking glass, threw a major tantrum because I wouldn't let him play with my hairspray bottle, and had many instances with the little miss and vying for mom's attention.


Here's to him sleeping soundly during his nap and waking up with a new attitude.  Please tell me I'm not the only one whose usually lovely, happy, and nice child turns evil for one morning???

Now, enough of my rant and on to food.

Who doesn't love a good burger?  Whether that be a hamburger, turkey burger, black bean burger...whatever, I love them all.  I got some bleu cheese at the store last week, as I plan on making inside out buffalo wings, but this idea for these burgers came to me first.

And let me explain, I'm not a huge onion person.  The husband can take a bite out of a raw onion and pretend like that is normal.  Yuck.  And then wonder why no one will come within 2 feet of him and his breath.  With that being said, I do eat them when they are cooked into things - sauces, casseroles, etc.  That doesn't bother me.  So this is what I came up with - it's a keeper!

Caramelized Onion & Bleu Cheese Burgers
1 lb. ground beef
 1 c. crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 onion, diced

In a small pan, combine onion with a little olive oil.  On medium high heat, cook onion.  They will get translucent, and eventually start turning a soft caramel color, about 10 minutes.  Cook until they are so soft it almost looks like brown mush.

Appealing, I know.

Combine bleu cheese, caramelized onion, salt and pepper with the ground beef.  Do not over mix.  Form into four patties and grill to your desired doneness.

These were delicious!  I totally recommend, even if you don't like onion, you'll never know they are there, other than the great flavor it gives the burger.

In other news, have you checked out the Carrots 'N' Cake page today?  Tina, is an amazing food blogger, who has built herself quite the business, which makes today a very special day for her.

Her book is officially out!  I will for sure be purchasing her book, Carrots 'N' Cake, Healthy Living One Carrot and Cupcake at a Time.  It's on the long list of books I want to read lately but have little time to do so - Water for Elephants, Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (did you see him on Oprah the other day?), Heaven is For Real, The Help, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, and many, many more.

What have you read lately that would be worth my time?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Slow Cooker General Tso's Chicken

It's Sunday and sunny.  Can't beat that.  It's me and the kiddos today, so I'm hoping we can make it outside and enjoy the beautiful sunshine!

We are still working on finding a double stroller.  My parents thought they had one at a local garage sale, but sadly got there too late and it was sold.  I just can't get myself to shell out a couple hundred dollars for a new one, when I know it's garage sale season around here.  I'm not at all ashamed to use someones leftovers!

Now, while the weather is FINALLY turning around, it isn't always "slow cooker" or "crockpot" season anymore.  Except in this house, I use it all year around.

If you haven't been to Stephanie's blog A Year of Slow Cooking yet, you should.  Can you believe she used it everyday in 2008?  Wow.  I snagged this recipe she put up the other day and made it that night.  I was craving stir-fry with lots of veggies after a weekend of Easter candy.

Please write that down.  I was craving lots of vegetables.

I also needed to use up the box of whole grain rice Foodbuzz sent me to try, as being part of their Tastemakers program.  Verdict?  It was okay...honestly I prefer brown rice, or nice fluffy white rice.  This turned out to be kinda mushy, even after following the directions to a T.  But, don't let that interfere with the stir-fry, it was great!

Slow Cooker General Tso's Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut in 1-inch chunks

4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (add more to taste at the table if you'd prefer more heat)
1 (16-ounce) package stir-fry vegetables (to add later)

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Put the chicken into the bottom of your crockpot and then add the garlic, brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Toss the chicken to fully coat with the sauce ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, then add the frozen vegetables. Re cover and cook on high for an hour, or until the veggies are fully hot and the chicken has reached desired tenderness.

Serve with white or brown rice.

The only thing I changed in this recipe was the cooking time.  I'm pretty sure I only let mine go 4 hours in the slow cooker.  It was ready and we were hungry.

What are you doing this beautiful Sunday afternoon?