Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: August 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Loaded Beer Brats

It's been awhile since I shared a photo of the Little Miss.  This is on my birthday a couple of weeks ago.  I have many saying she looks like me, but it's hard to tell when it is yourself.  A few have said her daddy...who knows?

The little man looks EXACTLY like his daddy in my opinion, so I hope I get at least one child resembling me.

Now on to these brats.  There is a brat under there, if you can't see it.  They are loaded.  Boiled in beer, layered with garlic, onions and peppers.  This was the husband's plate, as mine looked a little 'less loaded', but of course wanted to give my readers the full effect.

Loaded Beer Brats
5 bratwursts
1 can beer
1-2 c. water
1 white onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. oil

In a medium saucepan place brats with can of beer and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Place on the grill to finish cooking. 

Meanwhile saute peppers, onions, garlic and a little oil in pan on medium heat.  Once things start to caramelize, turn down the heat and keep warm until ready to serve. 

I'll be honest we grill hamburgers or brats at least once a week during the summer, so every now and then I need to change it up to keep things from getting boring.  I mean, the husband is a meat and potatoes man, and I don't fall that far behind him.

What do you grill the most of in the summer?

Stay tuned folks...guess what mouth watering dessert is coming next?  Nutella Cream Cheese Brownies.  Yep, you heard me right.  I found the recipe on a great blog today and couldn't print off the recipe quick enough.

Bring a big glass of cold milk with ya! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some Good Stuff

This post is going to be a little random today, but that is okay right?  I thought I'd share some 'good stuff' I've found lately circulating around on the web.

Good friends pass it on, I hope you enjoy!

Fall is certainly in the air (minus the 90 degree temps coming to Iowa this week), but if you are like me, once it hits September 1, regardless of the temperature, I think fall.

And when I think fall, I think pumpkin.  Check out the Starbucks competition to bring their popular Pumpkin Spice Lattes into a store near you earlier than expected.  I hear some in Iowa already have them.  Now, I am not a coffee lover, but I'd love to try this one!

Want a free Kashi sample?  I already signed up for mine.  Click here to receive either a free sample of either their Cinnamon Harvest cereal or their Peanutty Dark Chocolate granola bar.  I wanted both, but caved and opted for the bar.
And finally who here in the Midwest loves Hy-Vee?  I do.  For those not in the Midwest it is a great grocery chain that has wonderful produce, meat and health foods.  I make the trip there every Friday for our weekly grocery shopping.

They are offering a GREAT cereal deal this week.  Check out the coupon here.  Through August 31st, all lucky HyVee shoppers can score super cheap General Mills cereal using the $10/6 in-ad coupon found on page 11 of the weekly ad. Plus, you’ll snag a $6 Catalina coupon (the coupons that print out at the register during checkout) good for your next purchase, so this means you’ll save a whopping $16 which should make your cereal purchase FREE!!!

Who wants to stock up on cereal?  Me!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jungle Safari Cupcakes

I know you might find this hard to believe, but I made these.  Baked them, decorated them, served them.  I am NOT a decorater, so we do need to get that cleared up.  I can bake with the best of them, but my decorating skills usually stop past the one layer of frosting.

When my friend asked me to help with these cupcakes for her son's birthday party, I of course agreed, but let's be honest I was a little nervous once taking a look at the directions.

Zebras, monkeys, tigers and lions.  The zebras were a *#$%!, but the other jungle animals cooperated pretty good.  In fact, I just may go out on a limb and say I'd do this again!

Zebra - yeah, I know doesn't really look like one.

I think the monkey and the tiger are my favorites.  Maybe because they were the easiest?  Needless to say I think I ate three cupcakes Saturday afternoon.  Oh plus, a barbecue pork sandwich, beans, cheese dip, fruit, relishes, crackers/cheese, peanut butter M&M's, and I'm just ashamed to keep naming things so we'll stop there.

Not a good weekend for the diet!

If you are interested in making these cuties, the recipe can be found here.  Gotta give it up to Betty she really knows everything.

Do you make your own goodies for birthday parties?  You know how I feel on this one.....

Friday, August 26, 2011

7 Links

It's hard to believe that this little food blog is going on 100,000 page views.  Now, many blogs out there have about that many a DAY, while I average about 250 page views a day.

Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Honestly, though I'm not trying to win any race, I just enjoy sharing recipes and talking about food.  I hope you enjoy it too.

This little chain letter, if you call it that, is going around the food blog world, called 7 Links.  Basically picking out 7 links that for whatever reason either sparked interest with your readers, or none at all.  Here are mine:

"Best How-To" - Homemade Baby Food 101

"Post That Didn't Get as Much Attention That it Deserved" - Beef and Mushroom Ragu

"Most Hits" (9,734 and counting!) - Yeast Free Pizza Dough

"Second Most Hits" (1,017...) - Strawberry Yogurt Muffins

"Best Picture" - Nutella Peanut Butter Cups

"Most Popular" - anything Buffalo Sauce related - Inside Out Buffalo Wings, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

"What I Make Most Often" - Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies

I should say I'm lazy.  I should post pictures of all these goodies, but I'm short on time.  I'm heading out to work a golf tournament all day for work, really wish I was playing in it, versus working it!

I hope you take the time to look at some of these posts.  There is a reason they got chosen for my 7 Links.  Have a great Friday everyone!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Louisiana Chicken Pasta

I've never said this before.  I recreated a dish from a restaurant and it tasted EXACTLY the same.  This is the dish I order every time I go to The Cheesecake Factory.  It's creamy, spicy and totally worth all the fat and calories.

This is the reason I only go there maybe once a year.

I'm not kidding when I say this, but you NEED to make this dish.  Tonight.  And then eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Louisiana Chicken Pasta
Cajun Sauce:
1 small red bell pepper, sliced
1 small green bell pepper, sliced
1/4 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. butter
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. low sodium chicken broth
1 t. dried basil or 1/4 c. fresh
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. sliced mushrooms

1/2 c. Bisquick or panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 t. garlic salt
1 egg
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 lb. penne or bow ties

Hint: You can make the Cajun sauce up to a day ahead.  Saute peppers, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in butter.  Add in cream and chicken broth.  Bring to a quick boil, then lower the heat and simmer until reduced by one quarter.  Add in the basil, cheese, mushrooms, salt and pepper.  Simmer for another 5 minutes.  Let cool, set aside or refrigerate in a covered container, reheat sauce when ready to use.

To prepare the chicken combine breadcrumbs, cheese, and flour in a bowl.  Mix the egg in a separate bowl.  Cut chicken into strips.  Dip chicken in the egg, then the flour mixture, then repeat again, coating the chicken twice.  Spray a baking sheet, bake chicken for 35 minutes at 375 degrees flipping halfway through.

Cook pasta till al dente.  To serve, toss sauce with pasta and top with cooked chicken.

Divine, that is all I half to say.


Moving on.

Check out my Facebook page.  I'm giving away a few items in the next couple of days.  It is nearing the end of summer (well, at least August), so I felt it would be fitting for a little something.

Nothing huge, but some frivolous and fun.  Here's today's feature: a darling cupcake notebook and a package of reuseable drinking straws.  Yeah, I'm not in fourth grade, but I still think they are cute.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Impromptu Girls Night with White Wine Sangria

What started out as a normal Saturday, turned into a really fun night!  I casually asked a friend to come over for some drinks and it turned into 3 friends coming over for drinks and food!  Can't beat that.  I love impromptu gatherings.

A few yummy snacks included some of my old faves:

And this lovely put a smile on your face make the day so much better cocktail.  It was the first time I had ever made sangria.  I sent a tweet out to a few folks hinting for a good recipe and got a drink that is a cross between an Iowa Girl Eats and a Sunny Anderson concoction.

Lets just say I WILL be making it again.

White Wine Sangria
1 bottle wine
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 orange, cut into wedges
handful of blueberries
2 T. sugar
1 shot brandy or run
2-3 c. ginger ale or club soda

In a large pitcher, pour in wine.  Add in chopped lemon, oranges, sugar and shot of alcohol.  With a wooden spoon muddle the fruit together and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Chill for at least an hour.

Right before serving add in ginger ale or club soda.  Fill glasses with more fruit, including blueberries and ice.  Pour and serve.

I'm not going to lie there is a little of this left in the fridge and I may have had a glass with my lunch and I just might have a little later tonight.  Why not?

What is your favorite summer cocktail?  Alcohol or not, what quenches your thirst?

Hands down I'm a beer girl, but everyone once in awhile I try not to be a guy and drink something fruity:)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fresh Salsa in Under 5 Minutes

Last summer I grew to love Biz's baja fresh salsa.  And to this day it is my fresh salsa of choice.  But when I'm short on time or just plain lazy, I make this version instead.

Like I've said before, I'm a little bit of a salsa snob.  I'd prefer a fresh batch of salsa to go along with my never-ending bowl of tortilla chips any day over a jarred version.  To me the veggies in jarred salsa seem a little rubbery.

What usually happens is I whip up a batch of this salsa at night when the husband is working.  Then he proceeds to come home in the wee morning hours, eat half the bowl, and come to bed with dragon breath having inhaled enough chips and salsa for a few people.

It's a lovely smell to wake up to at 2 a.m.

Fresh Salsa
3-4 medium sized tomatoes, cored
2 Anaheim chili peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion (optional)
1 t. salt
2 T. lemon or lime juice

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to your desired consistency.  We like ours on the smoother side, versus chunky, but that is completely up to your tastes.

Serve with tortilla chips or pour over enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, omelets, baked potatoes, the list is endless.  Or just drink it.  It is that good.

Later today we have a lunch date at Happy Joe's with co-workers and then I HAVE to go grocery shopping.  We barely have milk in the fridge let alone anything else, it is pretty sad!  I'm pretty sure I've decided (thanks to my Facebook fans) to make a batch of sangria this weekend.  It won out over the margaritas.

Guess I'll be making more salsa too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Amish Friendship Bread, Part II

If you remember a couple of weeks ago I told you I made a starter of Amish Friendship Bread and approximately 10 days later I'd be back with some results.

Well, here it is.  Last night the little man and I (not much help from him) split the batch into a loaf and a dozen muffins.  The loaf got sent to daycare for the kiddos to enjoy and the muffins came to work with me.  Could you imagine if I kept it all at home?


The whole process of this bread came flooding back to me, reminding me of when the batter sat on my parent's kitchen counter and I'd squish the bag and add ingredients on the appropriate day.  It's a great thing to do with your kids, if you have the patience to stare at what looks like a bag of slop on your counter for 10 days...

Here is how it works.  Do not be intimidated by the long list of directions, it really is quite easy.

To create a stater bag:
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water.  Let stand 10 minutes.  In a glass, plastic, or ceramic container, combine flour and sugar.  Mix thoroughly.  Slowly add in milk and dissolved yeast mixture.  Cover loosely and let stand at room temperature until bubbly.  This is Day One of the ten-day cycle.

Note:  Do not refrigerate your starter.  It is normal for the batter to rise and ferment.  If air gets in the bag, let it out.  DO NOT use a metal spoon or bowl for mixing as it will interfere with the fermenting process.

Day 2: Mash the bag
Day 3: Mash the bag
Day 4: Mash the bag
Day 5: Mash the bag
Day 6: ADD to the bag: 1 c. flour, 1 c. sugar, 1 c. milk, Mash the bag
Day 7: Mash the bag
Day 8: Mash the bag
Day 9: Mash the bag
Day 10: Follow the directions below

1.  Pour entire contents into a nonmetal bowl.
2.  Add: 1 1/2 c. flour, 1 1/2 c. sugar, 1 1/2 c. milk
3.  Measure out four separate batters of 1 c. each into four one-gallon Ziploc bags.
4.  Keep one of the bags for yourself and give the other bags to three friends along with the recipe.

Remember: If you keep a starter for yourself, you will be baking again in 10 days.

After measuring out the batter into four separate Ziploc bags, the remaining batter is what you will bake with.  Baking instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2.  Put the remaining batter in a bowl and add the following:

3 eggs
1 c. oil (or applesauce)
1/2 c. milk
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
2 c. flour
1 box Jell-O instant pudding (any flavor - I used French Vanilla)
Optional: 1 c. nuts or raisins

3.  Grease two large loaf pans or muffin tins.
4.  In a bowl, mix an additional 1/2 c. sugar and 1 1/2 t. cinnamon.
5.  Dust the greased pans with sugar/cinnamon mixture.
6.  Pour batter evenly into the pans and sprinkle the remaining mixture on the top.

Bake for 1 hour (20-25 minutes for muffins), or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides of the pan, or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

So...what do you think?  Can you commit to 10 days worth of care for this delicious bread?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gooey Butter Cake Bars

There is a reason these are called butter bars.  One whole stick of butter for the entire pan.  Have your heart attack now, or just get over it and have one.

I made these for the fish fry we went to on Saturday night.  Even though there were about 10 desserts there I still only managed to come home with one row left of these bars.  Which is probably a good thing considering I'd like to have a "sweet bite" after every meal.  Like it is a rule or something.

Gooey Butter Cake Bars
Bottom layer:
1 yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1 stick butter, melted

Top layer:
4 oz. cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 lb. powdered sugar (1/2 of bag)

Mix bottom layer ingredients and spread on the bottom of a 9x13 greased baking dish.  With a mixer combine top layer ingredients and spread on top of bottom layer.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Allow to cool and cut into bars.

Since I'm pretty sure I had my allotted fat intake for the year, I am going on a walk with a friend and her boy this morning, and then will hopefully eat a healthy lunch.  Preferably something green, and not white and creamy resembling butter.

Do you indulge in desserts or shy away?

I definitely indulge.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beef and Mushroom Ragu

Some of you may have seen this yummy pot of sauce simmering away on my Facebook page the other day.  Were you drooling over it like me?

I no longer like to buy jarred sauces unless I'm in a pinch, lazy or a recipe specifically calls for it.  Homemade sauce just taste so much better.  Especially when they simmer on the stove all afternoon.  

I had two boxes of Barilla penne pasta in the cupboard, so I figured it was time to use some of it up.  Throw in tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic and a bit more and viola - you have ragu.

Beef and Mushroom Ragu
1 lb. ground chuck
2 c. button mushrooms, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 T. minced garlic (the more the better!)
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. pepper
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

In a medium sized pot, brown ground chuck and carrot, drain.  Add mushrooms and garlic, cook on low for 5 minutes.  Add in remaining ingredients and simmer on low for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.  Serve with your favorite pasta.

And of course with a nice hunk of garlic bread.  Or be like my husband and stand over the stove and just eat the ragu with a spoon and nothing else.  Nice.

Tomorrow we are headed to a relatives house for a fish fry - haven't been to one of those in a long while!  And, it's my birthday.  The big 3-0.  I've been trying to ignore it, but it's snuck up on me this summer.

What birthday did you least enjoy?  Most enjoy?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

bacon cheeseburger meatloaf (

I used to HATE meatloaf growing up.  I'm not sure why, heck I probably just said that to irritate my mom.  But, now I really like it.  Obviously, I missed out on many, many years of good meatloaf.

Each time I make it now, I change up the ingredients.  Last week it was this Bacon Cheeseburger version.  All the elements of a good burger thrown into a loaf pan.  I didn't have any pickles on hand otherwise those would have gone in as well!  A ketchup glaze was added for good measure.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

1 lb. ground chuck
2 strips of bacon, cooked and diced
1/2 c. crushed tortilla chips
1 egg
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. pepper
3 T. dijon mustard
3 T. ketchup, plus an additional for glaze
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

In a large bowl mix all ingredients until just combined, do not over mix.  Place in a greased loaf pan, leaving a little room on the sides of the pan.  Cover with foil, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove foil, spread ketchup on top and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered.

We served this with fresh Iowa sweet corn.  Can't beat this as a summer meal.  What is your go to summer meal?

In other news...

If you have yet to join me on Twitter you need to!  I'm officially addicted, and like Facebook love connecting with other food blogs out there.  You'd be amazed at all the good pointers, recipes, ideas, and humor you will find.

Are you on TwitterFacebook?  Instagram?  If so, please let me know in the comment section so I can become your friend or start following you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Amish Friendship Bread

I recently finished reading the book Friendship Bread.  An easy, but good read.  It tells how a small town comes together, amongst many different circumstances, all because of something called Amish Friendship Bread.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years, I think it's safe to assume you've probably heard of Amish Friendship Bread.  Rumor has it a Girl Scout Troop in Buffalo, NY started this little adventure, not the Amish.  You can read all about this bread here.  And even purchase a copy of the book here.

Basically, it is like a sourdough bread starter, and is often shared with friends and family in the sorts of a chain letter.  I know - you are probably running away right now!

There is a process to this bread, and I fondly remember receiving bags of starter growing up, and baking the bread 10 days later.  A common cycle is based on the addition of one cup each of sugar, flour, and milk every five days, with bread baked and extra starter shared every tenth day. The ten-day cycle produces five cups of starter, which must be either used to bake bread, given away, or used to start a new cycle. A common suggestion is to bake one loaf of bread, give away three cups of starter, and to save the remaining one for the next cycle.

Sound complicated?  It's not.  Here is my starter on Day 2.

I'll be back in 8 days with a much prettier picture.  And a stomach full of yummy bread.  If anyone local would like a bag of starter please leave a comment and I'll be happy to pass one along.

Don't leave me yet!  I do need to announce the winner of my Peeled Snacks Giveaway.  A big thanks to this neat company for hosting the giveaway and to all that entered.

Drum roll.....

Mellissa....from a A Fit and Spicy Life.  Shoot me an email Mellissa and I'll have the folks at Peeled Snacks get your prize out right away.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Peeled Snacks Giveaway

The lovely folks over at Peeled Snacks (Hi, Anna!) recently sent me three packs of their organic dried fruit to sample.  So far we've only dug into the apricot - but we are fans!  It didn't take the little man and I long to discover that these aren't like other varieties of dried fruit.

This is fruit and only fruit.  No sugar or preservatives are added, this is the real stuff!  I'm anxious to dig into the apple, grape, raisin package as those are some of my favorites...but one package at a time Ally!

Peeled Snacks can now be found in Starbucks and most recently Costco throughout the Midwest (including Des Moines!), or via their websiteWanna try some?

Peeled Snacks has agreed to send one lucky contest winner the same sampling I received this week.  Three bags for you and your family to enjoy.  I will randomly pick one winner Monday at Noon.  With my new comment section, this is easy!

How to enter:
(6 different ways to enter = 6 different chances to win, simple leave a comment for each!)

1.  Tell me your favorite dried fruit.
2.  Visit the Peeled Snacks website and tell me which of their flavors you'd like to get your hands on.
3.  Become a fan of Peeled Snacks on Facebook.
4.  Follow Peeled Snacks on Twitter.
5.  Become a fan of Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats on Facebook.
6.  Follow Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats on Twitter.  (Yes, I joined yesterday!)

Time's a wastin', get commenting!

Oh, and enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Fudge Sandwiches

Don't tell me these peanut butter fudge sandwiches aren't calling your name.  And guess what they are even better when you pop them in the freezer for a few hours.  They are the ultimate mid-afternoon snack for kids this summer.

Or adults.

Today was a productive day - busy day at work, signed up both kids for story hour at the library, picked up a bite for dinner, checked out The Help from the library, and successfully managed my way around the Twitter world.

Yes, Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats will be entering the Twitter world very soon.  I have been successfully ignoring Twitter for the last two years as I didn't want to add another "thing" into my life.  But, since my job requires me to manage their Facebook and now Twitter accounts, I figured I might as well shove it into my personal life as well.  Stay tuned.

And do you like the new design?  Give me a thumbs up or down below, I'd love to have your feedback.

Now on to what is most important.  Dessert.  Make these soon, your kids will love ya.

Peanut Butter Fudge Sandwiches
1 c. peanut butter
1 egg
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. sugar
frosting of your choice

Combine first 4 ingredients until it has a cookie batter consistency.  Drop by spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, just until lightly browned.

Remove cookies from baking sheet and place on a cooling rack.  Once cooled, spread the bottom of one cookie with your favorite frosting (homemade, canned, etc.).  Place another cookie on top and press down until flattened.  Keep in an airtight container or freeze in plastic wrap for an even better cool treat.

Who doesn't want one of these tonight?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Spicy Chicken Taquitos

Nothing puts me in a better mood than Mexican food.  I love it.  Crave it.  Adore it.  I had um-teen corn tortillas sitting in the fridge from a batch of enchiladas the week before that needed to be used taquitos they became.

I've never made these before, so I went to my good friend Google and found a simple recipe.  This is my version.

Spicy Chicken Taquitos
corn tortillas
shredded chicken
4 oz. cream cheese
2 jalapenos
3 oz. cheddar cheese
salsa, for dipping

In a shallow fry pan, heat 2 cups of oil over low heat.  While that is heating, put cream cheese, jalapenos and cheddar cheese in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Take a tortilla, place in oil for just a few seconds (this will make it ply able and less likely to tear).  Place a spoonful of the cheese mixture in center of tortilla, add a few shreds of chicken, roll up and secure with a toothpick.  Place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through.  This will make them crispy without having to fry them.  Serve with a side of your favorite salsa.  Or if you're like my husband, grab a container of sour cream, plop down and devour the whole plate.

Don't you just want to gobble these all up?  Perfect for an appetizer.  Yum.  What is your favorite Mexican dish?

Now - check out my new comments section.  If you are one of those out there who have complained that you can't comment on my posts (you know who you are), then today you'll have to try the new way.  You should now be able to talk freely and comment how you like.  I hope it is much more user friendly???