Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: June 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Healthy & Quick Strawberry Banana Muffins

I know my posts have contained a LOT of strawberries lately.  I can't help it.  Although, strawberry pickin' is done around here, I am still loving using them in recipes.

And of course eating them fresh, straight from fridge to mouth.

These muffins are so simple, and yet so yummy, it's kinda hard to believe that can be made start to finish in about 25 minutes.  Tops.  They never last too long in our house.  Often it ends with the husband saying "don't ever make these again!"

Not because he doesn't like them, but because he will just stand at the stove, hovering, and eat way too many.  Like, 5 more than he should have in the first place.  But that is his problem, not mine.

Whenever I put muffins in basket, it reminds me of 1) my mom, who growing up would even drape a napkin in a basket if Pillsbury crescent rolls were on the dinner table or 2) Bree VanDeKamp, from Desperate Housewives.  She was always carrying around her baked goods apologizing for sleeping with someone's husband or being an accompliance in a murder.

Thankfully, I'm not Bree.

But I can make a darn good muffin.  I use this base muffin recipe for almost all muffins we make in our house.  This time I threw in chopped strawberries and a mashed banana.  Other times it blueberries, fresh peaches or even melted peanut butter.

No combination has failed me so far.

Healthy & Quick Strawberry Banana Muffins
1 egg white
1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
3/4 c. plain or vanilla flavored yogurt
1 banana, mashed
1/2 c. finely chopped strawberries
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. wheat germ or flax seed
1 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray 12 muffin cups or use liners.  Combine all wet ingredients (including banana) in a bowl.  Gently stir in dry ingredients, don't over mix.  Fold in strawberries.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan to cool.

Now tell me.  If left stranded in a Starbucks, alone and hungry, what would you choose...a muffin, a scone or a fun pastry?

I'd choose all 3.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's Hot, So I Crave Things Cold

It's hotter than you know what here in Iowa.  Like sweat is dripping in places you didn't even know about, hot.

So, hot I am extremely thankful for air conditioning and ice cubes.  So, hot that I'd rather be inside looking OUT the window at the glorious sunshine.

With that being said, when it's hot I crave cold things.  Here are a few things in the food blog world I'm secretly eyeing (well, now that I'm telling you, it's no longer a secret), but nevertheless, these ingredients are going on my grocery list.


I love Katie and her posts.  Her daughter and her enjoyed these fudgy popicles while trying NOT to think about the Colorado wildfires (where they live).  Say an extra prayer for them tonight!

Strawberries are my summer fruit of choice.  I'd eat them until I get sores on my tongue.  I'm not kidding.  Robin Sue is telling folks to dip them in a fun cream and then dip in toasted coconut.  Okay, I'm in.

On that same note - more fruit!  The perfect summer cake for celebrations.  And guess what?  No oil in this cake, just yogurt.  Love that idea.  Liz, really bakes it up on this one.

And just so we don't fall into a diabetic coma with all the sugar and fruit, I've included veggies.  Christina receives a CSA bundly weekly (I'm jealous) and it just screams summer.  Look at all her glorious veggies.  Have I mentioned I have (very) small garden this year that is producing?

As you could see it was just too HOT today to bake, cook or even talk about one of my recipes, so I hope you enjoyed (and will try!) some of these.

Oh, and check out their blogs as well, they are pretty darn good cooks, bakers and writers.  Tell them I sent you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crispy Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries

I put the husband in charge of getting a few groceries yesterday as the kids and I ate at Dairy Queen, and after our trip to U.S. Cellular.  More on that to come...

He is of the belief to get ONLY what we eat.  Or what the kids eat a lot of - eggs, cottage cheese, fresh fruit, meat, cheese, yogurt, etc.  That is all fine and dandy, but for a gal who has a food blog, I sometimes need more.

He would not understand if I told him to get buffalo mozzarella, panko breadcrumbs, fresh basil or god-forbid puff pastry.

With all of that said, he did get sweet potatoes.  A whole bag of them.  Expect a lot of sweet potato dishes to come.  We love them and the kids, especially the little miss, can eat a whole one just steamed, with a dash of cinnamon.

But, since we were also grilling chicken last night, I took out the big guns and made these fries, which were absolutely delicious.  If you are hesitant about sweet potatoes or claim you don't like them, try them this way.  You may just convert.

Crispy Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries
1 large sweet potato
1/4 c. olive oil
1 t. paprika
1 t. pepper
1 t. sea salt
1 T. fresh parsley
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

Wash the sweet potato and dice into thick cut, steak fries.  Place in a bowl and pour in olive oil, toss to coat.  Sprinkle in seasonings (paprika, pepper and salt), tossing again to coat.  Place on a large baking sheet, making sure they do not touch (otherwise they will steam cook, instead of getting crispy).

Fire up your outdoor grill and place the baking sheet directly on a medium-high heat grill.  Heat should be set around 300-400 degrees.  Cook 15 minutes.  Flip all potatoes over to start crisping the other side.  Grill an additional 15 minutes, or until tender and crispy.

Place in a bowl and while hot sprinkle on Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

We've got leftovers of these for tonight's dinner and I'm stoaked.

So back to the U.S. Cellular story.  I went in thinking I'd come home with a new phone, but I didn't.  The prices are crazy, even though we both qualify for new phones for just one cent.  The problem is getting new phones with a data plan (internet).  That is a whooping $25 extra per month, per phone!  I personally think if you are on a family plan (like us) we shouldn't have to pay an extra $50 a month for internet on our phones.  Geesh.

That makes our monthly bill SO much higher.  Am I still the only one out there without a smartphone or internet on my phone?  I feel like everyone is in 2012, but I'm still stuck in 1993.

Anyway, enough of my soapbox, enjoy these fries.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Double Decker Brownie Pizza

So sorry I've been MIA for a few days.  Life got busy.  The kids and I visited my parents this weekend, so I could have a chance to meet up with my dear high school girl friends.  It had been awhile since we got together (we try and not go longer than 6 months!), so we met at my parent's house, headed out for a yummy Mexican supper, then came back to my parent's enclosed porch for cocktails and catching up.

Perfect evening.

While the kids napped on Saturday, I got to work on dessert for the girls.  I am not kidding when I say I woke up dreaming up this dessert on Saturday.  I often do that.  I wake up already thinking of what I'll make that day.

It's weird, I know.

This fancy pizza pie might look complicated but really, it is just so simple.  Do you need a dessert for 4th of July?  This one would be perfect!

In fact, my mom even mentioned doing it for the 4th instead of her star cake, fully decorated with red hots and little American flags, which I honestly was never fond of anyway.  Sorry, mom.

This one starts out with a simple boxed brownie mix, split and baked into two round cake pans.  Spray them well folks!  In fact, I buttered and dusted them with cocoa powder and still had a little trouble getting them out.

But, it worked out in the end.  Plus when its covered in frosting and fruit, not a soul can tell otherwise.

Let these babies cool, for at least one hour.  Meanwhile, mix together 2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, 2/3 cup of brown sugar and 1 T. of vanilla.  Cream together and set aside.  Prep your strawberries and blueberries by washing and drying, then slicing the strawberries into strips. we go.

Layer 1: Brownie
Layer 2: Half of cream cheese mixture and fruit
Layer 3: Brownie
Layer 4: Remaining cream cheese mixture and fruit

Keep in the fridge until ready to slice.

Then of course, have your mom whip up a batch of margaritas to go along with dessert.  And stay up until 11:30 p.m. talking with old friends.  Topics on hand?  Weddings, babies, pregnancies, old classmates, jobs, new friends and food.

It was great.

Make a point to get together with old friends this summer.  You'll be glad you did.  You can thank me later.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Southern Georgia Pound Cake

Oh, what a glorious summer treat.  Fresh pound cake, fresh berries, fresh whipped cream fresh Cool Whip.  It's doesn't get much better.  And do you like that little mug I served it in?  Garage sale find awhile back for 50 cents.

I cannot wait to curl up with a hot, steaming bowl of soup this fall.  Watching football.  Under the covers.  On the couch.

Stop me!  It's summer Ally, not winter.

You eat a bowl of this and you'll be full for hours.  This pound cake is rich, buttery and delicious.  Paula Deen knows her stuff.  She says to add butter, I add butter.  She says to add heavy cream, I add heavy cream. 

Feel free to change up the recipe to fit your needs - use milk instead of cream, swap out half of the white flour for whole wheat flour or substitute some honey for the sugar to make this a little less heavy.

But trust me, the heavy version tastes good.

Southern Georgia Pound Cake
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. heavy cream
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract (optional)

Generously grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan. Do not preheat the oven. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternately add flour mixture and heavy cream to butter-sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in flavoring.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Put into a cold oven and set the temperature to 325 degrees . Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes without opening the oven door. Bake for an additional 15 minutes if necessary. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto cake plate.

The kids ate up a piece with the whipped topping of course, and then promptly needed another snack about 30 minutes later.  Do your kids eat you out of the house?  Mine do.

Enter in the cheese stick, sippy cups, blanket, pillow and some cartoons.  Now they are happy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Homemade Hot Pockets

The little man and I had a hankering for pizza last night.  But of course, I just couldn't do regular pizza.  My first thought were calzones, but they are huge, and with a two year old you need something smaller, that can be held.

Enter in my own homemade version of the store-bought Hot Pockets.  Gosh, I remember eating a TON of Hot Pockets back in the day.  Why did I think those were so good?  Ugh.  I do my best to avoid them today.

I used my classic pizza dough recipe, that you can find here.  So simple, stir up flour, salt, yeast and water and let rise.  Pretty much how ever long you have time for.  I think this dough sat out covered for about 2 hours yesterday before the kids were screaming, asking for food.

I pre-assembled all of them and let them set on wax paper while my pizza stone got hot in the oven.  Usually a good 10-15 minutes in the oven at 450 degrees will do it.  Be sure to crimp the edges with a fork so all your stuffings and cheeses don't ooze out (mine kind of did anyway), lay them on the hot stone, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, salt and Italian seasoning and bake an additional 15 minutes or so, until golden brown.


And of course serve with a side of dipping sauce.  Because every kid will eat a lot better with dipping sauce.

These were so good!  And according to the husband pretty darn good heated up the next morning at 7:30 a.m. when we came home from work.

Can you eat pizza in the morning?

I had another wedding this weekend.  Gosh, I thought once you hit 30 your weddings started to fizzle out, but this year I've had two so far, with another one in August.  Here are a couple of the girls I used to work with.  We always have fun together, and of course wine, beer and excellent food just helps out the cause.

And the cake.  The girl in the middle, along with her mom, have a cake and cupcake business on the side.  They made the cake for the wedding and it was not only beautiful, but delicious.  I had two pieces.

I pick out the best friends.  Ones that know how to bake.

Please don't notice how I am one WHOLE head taller than both of these girls.

Over and out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Basil Pesto Baked Chicken

I think everyone, cook or no cook, has a less than stellar baked chicken dish in their repertoire.  Let's face it, chicken can be dreadfully boring.  Mind numbing, if you will.  Excessively dried out, rubbery, even grilled to a crisp leaving you unable the swallow the piece in your mouth without chewing it 87 times.

On both sides of your mouth.

This all happens when you do not properly cook the chicken.  Chicken doesn't like to be left by itself.  It loves to be marinated and slathered in sauces.

Recently (as in last night, but that is a whole 'nother story), Foodbuzz asked me to take part in their "do-over" stories and recipes continuing in their partnership with Frigidaire.  I of course said yes.  Because don't we all have a "do-over" story in cooking history?

It didn't take me long to think of my do-over dish.  Baked chicken.  I cannot even count the endless dried out chicken breasts I used to serve myself, then my boyfriend, then my fiance, then my husband.

It's a wonder he stuck around.

Honestly, I thought the only way to cook chicken was lying on a baking sheet in the oven, or placing on the grill, sans marinade or seasoning.  What was I thinking?  The trick to good, moist, flavorful chicken, is treating it like a baby.

Chicken wants to take baths, it wants to be swaddled in sauce, cream or herbs, it mostly definitely doesn't want to stand alone to its dying heat.

Enter in Basil Pesto Baked Chicken.  I got inspiration for this dish on Pinterest.  Imagine that, the dream center for all women ages 18-44.  I'm addicted like all of you, it's okay.  This recipe even claims to be fitting of the South Beach Diet.  Never have I, nor will I ever be on the South Beach Diet, but I guess this dish snuck in somehow.

So, here it is.  Step by step.

Basil Pesto Baked Chicken

Lightly coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread 1/2 c. of basil pesto (store bought or homemade) on the bottom of the dish.

Lay 1 lb. of chicken breast tenders onto the pesto.  Lightly season with onion powder, pepper and salt.

Generously, slather on another 1/2 c. of pesto onto each chicken breast.  Let them bathe in their glory.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil.  Top with 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese.  Return to oven baking another 5 minutes.  Then turn the oven to broil and bake until the top of the chicken gets golden and crispy.

I served this on a bed of quinoa.  Our first time having quinoa.  It most definitely will not be our last!  Delicious.  This chicken has SO much flavor.  It is not dry, mushy, or charred on bit.  It is perfect.  

It was treated like a baby.

This post was sponsored by Frigidaire. When you share your own do-over moment at, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children's U.S. programs. Plus, Frigidaire will help cover the costs for one lucky visitor to win the ultimate do-over.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If You Like Reading My Blog, You'll Love Reading These

Fishing and trying to avoid me.
Loving those tan lines and my un-showered self?  Yep, me too.

We've spent the last few days on the river, getting fried to a crisp (even with sunscreen) and working a little.  But, you know what else?  Catching up on some of my favorite food blogs and finding new ones I didn't even know existed.

There is a whole foodie world out there folks.  Tap into it.

So, I thought I'd share some of the ones I read weekly, sometimes daily and then maybe ask which ones you read?

Here are my Top 5, in no particular order.  Listed in fun categories.  Because I can.  And yes, I read many, many more, but the list would go on...forever.

And yes, our kids are with grandma and grandpa this week, so this is what my free time has resorted too.  Be jealous.

Newest Blog to Hit My Radar
Edible Perspective - I just found this blog last week and already love reading it.  She makes delicious, healthy food, which only inspires me to get "cleaner" in the kitchen.  And she has a kick-butt giveaway going on right now.  A double giveaway, pretty stellar.

Funniest Blog
My Bizzy Kitchen - I've been reading Biz' blog for a few years now and she still makes me laugh.  She's not afraid to cuss and tell ya like it is.  And she makes some killer food.  Especially salsa, I have her recipe.

Best I 'Want to Be Like Her' Blog
Yes, I Want Cake - I've grown to love reading Katie's posts and making her recipes.  She just seems like she has it all together and I just KNOW we'd be good friends in real life.  And our girls are about the same age, so if I lived in Colorado, play dates would definitely be in order.

Totally Should Have Thought of This Blog
Quad City Mom's Blog - another fairly new blog to me.  If you are local (or even IA, IL, WI area) and double bonus, a mom, this blog is for you.  It is their duty to hand out great recipes, inform of fun family events in the area and showcase interesting people you might not otherwise meet.  Love it.

Overall Best Pretty Blog
One Lovely Life - the title of Emily's blog, pretty much nails it.  Her blog is lovely.  And pretty.  I love the colors and her photography.  And her daughter is pretty cute too.

Now, tell which of your favorite blogs should I be reading?

Oh, and if you want another one on your list, my husband's cousin just started a mommy blog TODAY.  Read all about it here!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mid-Day Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

I tell you what, I am all out of sorts.  Both kids are with the grandparents for most of the week, I'm off work today, the husband is home, the house is quiet.  I really just don't know what to do with myself, other than show you this smoothie.

We had planned on being in Minneapolis this week, as the husband needed to be there for work, but that got postponed.  So, the grandparents decided to still take the kids so we can have some time to ourselves.  So far we've gone boating, visited LeClaire, Iowa and a fun Mexican restaurant, slept in, had dinner with two long-time friends last night in Iowa City and today we are taking the boat back out on the river.

He'll fish, I'll read.  We'll both soak in the sunshine and quiet.

Our kids have been with us since they were born, minus a day or two here and there.  I miss them like CRAZY, but I am also enjoying this "no schedule" life.  I actually slept in till 9 a.m. today.  9 AM!  Haven't done that in 3 years.

You know what else is funny?  We need to go to the store.  Badly.  But with no kids here with hungry mouths to feed, we've just been scraping by (and eating out...).  So yesterday, about 2 p.m. I realized I hadn't eaten hardly anything all day, so I whipped up this smoothie.

It was the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up I needed to hold me off till dinner later.  Try this, it is so refreshing and light.

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
4 ice cubes
1 large scoop peanut butter
1/2 banana
1 c. plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 c. milk

Place ice in the blender and crush into pieces.  Place remaining ingredients into the blender and combine until smooth.

Drink it with a straw, if you have one.  I didn't and was torked.  I like drinking through straws...makes it more fun.  You'd think with two kids I'd have straws!

Alright - I'm out.  Need to pack up the cooler, my book, swimsuit, sunglasses and sunscreen.  It's a day on the water for us!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Nutella Fluffernutters

These sugar-induced coma Nutella Fluffernutters were made way too late into the night this past week, which never does anyone any good.  Sugar was calling our name and we definitely hit the mark.  Soft, rich, chewy and utterly sinful.


Believe it or not the first time I heard of a fluffernutter sandwich was while watching Jon & Kate Plus 8 a few years back and Kate was saying how her kids loved them.  I obviously didn't grow up with them, or even know what it was, I'm more of a pb&j girl when it comes to quick sandwiches.

This crazy version I invented awhile back.  Let me tell you, it will cure your sugar craving in one small bite.  And as I'm typing this, I wonder if they'd be good frozen.  Oh yes, that would be good.  Anyone know if fluff freezes?

Anyway.  Make these.

Nutella Fluffernutters
1 c. peanut butter
1 egg
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda

marshmallow fluff

Mix all cookie ingredients and place by spoonfuls on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly golden and puffy.  Allow to cool.

Spread the bottom of one cookie with marshmallow fluff and another cookie with Nutella spread.  Join together and eat.

Slowly.  Savor this.  It's insane.  In a good way.

Have you ever made a creation you've regretted?  I'm regretting this one, because they are so easy to put together and so hard to put down.  What have I done?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bacon, Mushroom & Chive Egg Bake

I love eating breakfast for dinner.  I also love eating breakfast for breakfast.  Really, just any time of the day is fine.  Pancakes, eggs, french toast, omelets, even oatmeal.  I don't judge.

So with farm fresh eggs on hand, plus a carton of mushrooms and a fresh bunch of green chives, I knew what I had to do.  Make an egg casserole - or in this case - an egg bake.  One in the same.  Really, you can dump just about whatever you want in this dish.  That is the beauty of it, whatever is on hand (and tastes good in eggs, of course) can be layered into this dish.

Oh lordy, it was good! 

Bacon, Mushroom & Chive Egg Bake
4 strips bacon, cooked and diced
4-5 large button mushrooms, chopped
4-5 springs of chives, diced
1 small cooked potato, diced
8 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 t. dried mustard
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Spray an 8x8 baking dish and preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lay potatoes in bottom of dish.  In a bowl combine all other ingredients and pour over the potatoes.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes before cutting. 

If you have the time make this the day before and set in the fridge overnight, the taste will get even better and of course gives you more time the next night!

And like any good egg dish, I served this simply with toast and jam.  My homemade jam to be exact.  Satisfying and delicious.

Dig in!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Warning! Lot of Kids, Lots of Produce

If you don't like kids and don't like produce, you might as well click that little red box in the corner of your browser and say goodbye.  This post is full of them.

Them, being kids and produce.  But then again, if you read my blog you probably like kids and produce.


Remember we spent the weekend with family in Minnesota, which included a trip to Valley Fair, where the little man rode rides and the little miss threw tantrums.  She kinda has a mind of her own.  But, she did look pretty darn cute in her new summer swimsuit, don't you think?

Look at me!

Not so sure about Charlie Brown, but I'll stand next to him
because my mom made me.

Owning the amusement park...her cousin with the annoyed stance next to her.

Can you see me?  I'm the little guy on the left.

Probably the highlight of my day, getting Spiderman painted on my arm!

Chocolate Bavarian Torte, eaten by us all.  Amazing.

I'm ashamed to say today was the first time yet this year I made it to the Farmer's Market.  It's been open for a month and for whatever reason I haven't gone.

Today's yummy finds:

  • Carrots
  • Chives
  • Cookies
  • Strawberries
  • Eggs
  • Handmade tortillas

I've already got my mind set on putting together a Bacon, Mushroom & Chive Egg Bake later tonight for dinner tomorrow night.  Then moving on to prepping my carrots for stir-fry and some snacks.

And then I'll eat a cookie to reward myself.

Is there anyone out there that can go to the Farmer's Market and not buy a sweet?

I can't do it.  I just can't.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pulled Buffalo Chicken Sliders

The kids, my parents and I just got back from a weekend trip to Minneapolis to visit my sister, brother-in-law and their kids.  A four hour car trip.  With two little kids.  With my mom and I trading times being jammed between the car seats in the back.

And having a few stops on the interstate so the little guy can relieve himself.  Boys.

So tonight we are still at my parents and tomorrow we'll have the 1.5 hour drive home.  I just couldn't fathom another 1.5 hour drive, so we are stopping here for tonight.  With all of that said, we had a great time.  Ate lots of good eats, visited ValleyFair, watched our niece's dance recital and spent quality time with the family in their brand new home.  It's beautiful.  Like being on the beach, without the beach.  Splendid.

Oh, and did I mention these sliders?

My sister had these waiting for us when we arrived on Friday.  You know her and I are alike, when I had pulled (no pun intended), this same recipe out of the same magazine, hoping to give them a try.  She beat me to it.

They are delicious, simple and family friendly.  A keeper for sure!

Pulled Buffalo Chicken Sliders
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 c. buffalo wing sauce
3/4 c. water
slider buns (we used Hawaiian sweet rolls)
blue cheese dressing

Place chicken breasts in a large crock pot, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour in wing sauce and water.  Set on LOW and cook for 6-8 hours.  When done remove chicken, shred with a fork, and then return to the crock pot to soak up the wing juice.

Top chicken on a bun, with more wing sauce and bleu cheese dressing.

Who wants to give these a try?  I could just eat just about anything doused in buffalo sauce.  Wings, sandwiches, french fries, shoes....just kidding.