Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: September 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Caramel Apple Cookies

I'm breaking one of my own rules.  Do not post two desserts in a row.  Sorry.  Fall has taken me under her wing and I'm running with it.  I couldn't imagine you not seeing this super fun easy fall cookie on this beautiful fall Saturday.

At least it is beautiful here, I hope it is in your town too.

Speaking of fall, I thought I'd list my Top 10 favorite things about fall.  Feel free to tell me your favorite things about fall in the comments.
  • Cool weather - after a summer of extreme heat, it is welcomed by me.
  • Anything pumpkin - I cannot get enough of that darn stuff, and I have a really fun recipe using it coming up.
  • Sweatshirts, hoodies and sweatpants - there is nothing better than bundling up.
  • Homemade soups simmering in the crock pot all day - my ideal fall meal.
  • Pumpkin patches and apple orchards - a great way to get the family out in nature.
  • Hot chocolate - I feel like I can starting drinking it again.
  • Football - there is nothing better than a cool, crisp day and watching football.
  • Tailgating - on that same note, a great excuse to make cute finger food and eat ALL day long.
  • Leaves changing - I don't usually get too hung up on nature, but leaves changing colors gets me every time.
  • Time changes - I know!  I'm probably the only one who likes to hunker down inside when it gets dark at 5 p.m.

So, with fall clearly upon us, I decided to also send this recipe over to the local family website I have started contributing to, QC Family Focus.  It's a site in Eastern Iowa focused on what it  I am always looking for ways to do more freelancing or become a contributor to a site that I feel does a great job at what I enjoy - food and family.  My strawberry cake mix cookies are featured on their right now.

And sometimes you just have to have the guts to ask.  I did.  And they accepted me.  So each month I'll be sending some homemade recipes for their website.  Maybe now, I can also put "food writer" on my resume, right next to marketing professional?

We'll see.

Caramel Apple Cookies
{Printable Recipe}
3 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c. canola oil
2 apples, grated
4 T. butter
1/2 c.  brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
2 T. milk
1/4 t. vanilla
1 1 1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
In a stand mixer or hand mixer combine eggs and sugar until light in color and creamy.  Add in oil and vanilla.  Sift together dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Combine with wet ingredients.  Gently fold in grated apples (juice included).  Dough will be slightly running, compared to most cookie dough.  Place in the fridge to harden a bit, at least 1 hour, or in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a parchment paper lined cookie sheet or greased cookie sheet, drop cookie scoop sized balls of batter on sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from pan to cool on a wire rack.
To make the frosting: In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Add in brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, stirring until smooth.  Remove from the heat and sift in powdered sugar, stirring until desired consistency.  Add more powdered sugar if you like a thicker frosting.  When cookies are cool, frost.  Store in an airtight container.

What is your favorite fall recipe?

Mine?  Probably a toss up between chili, pumpkin pie and anything in the crock pot.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Toffee Bars

This post is sponsored by Nestlé® Toll House® Morsels, the perfect special ingredient for all of your family’s favorite treats!
So, I'm pretty sure our 3 year old has dog-like hearing.  I no longer pull the Kitchen Aid mixer out on the counter, put on the attachment and he comes running.  It's like a dog who perks up their ears in the middle of the night when all you hear is silence.
Creepy, really.
This little guy perches himself up on the counter any chance he can get, while I spend most of my time telling him to get his hands out of the dough or batter.  But, it can be so hard to say no to those gleaming blue eyes.  They get me every time.

Nestlé® asked a few food bloggers to Bake Some Love™ with their kids and I said yes please!  Knowing my kids are always underfoot anyway, this really wouldn't be any different from any other baking session.
As you can see...they have my sweet tooth. 

After thumbing through a cookbook that was recently sent to me by Steph, I came upon a bar recipe that is similar to my 7-layer bars, but had a toffee like goo (yes, I said goo), instead of the usual sweetened condensed milk goo.
Oh, and I had all of the ingredients on hand, so that sealed the deal.
When you bite into one of these bars it's has a shortbread crust and a crunchy topping.  Perfect with a cold glass of milk.  Or a date on the couch.  Or with your favorite trashy magazine.  Or....with your kiddos, who will gobble them up.
Ultimate Chocolate Toffee Bars
2 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. chopped nuts (I used almonds)
2 c. Nestlé® milk chocolate chips
3/4 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl combine flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar and 1/2 c. butter with a stand or electric mixer until fine crumbs form.  Press mixture firmly into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 baking pan.
Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned, remove from oven.  Sprinkle on nuts and chocolate chips.
In a small pan, melt 3/4 c. butter and 1/2 c. brown sugar over medium heat until bubbly.  Cook and stir one minute more.  Pour evenly over bars.  Bake for another 15 minutes or just until bubbly around the edges.  Cool on a wire rack, cut into bars.  Store in an airtight container.

Who wants to sink their teeth into this?  I do!  Well, I already did.  Thank god I gave a few away to a friend {who also delivered a bag of apples to me fresh from the orchard} and another friend came over that night and gobbled a few down as well.  We just cannot be trusted with these in the house!

A big thanks to the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker program and Nestlé® Toll House®Morsels for sponsoring this post.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spaghetti in Garlic Gravy + Toasted Breadcrumbs

Nothing in life gets much better than a bowl of pasta.  A bowl of creamy, garlicky, cheesy, crunchy pasta.  When the National Pasta Association contacted me about sending me some pasta samples and coming up with a recipe, I was game.

As part of their Pasta Fits campaign, I was sent 5 different boxes of pasta, everything from whole grain spaghetti, gluten free penne, tri-colored rotini, you name it, it was in that sample box.  And stay tuned, if you bare with me and read further down, you can win that pasta pack as well:)

So back to this dish.  It was just the kids and I at home for dinner one night, and frankly they'll eat up anything with a noodle, so I got creative in the kitchen.  Nothing fancy, although it may look fancy, just a simple creamy sauce, garnished with some over-the-top toasted breadcrumbs (seriously, they make the dish) and some fresh grape tomatoes.

Really, like heaven in a bowl, right?

The Pasta Fits campaign is all about not being afraid of pasta, in this carb crazed world, but realizing it can fit into your diet, your lifestyle and your budget.

I am a firm believer in that.

In fact, I made this big batch, then froze it into single servings to put in the freezer for a later date.  That way, when rushed at meal time, we have a go to dish already waiting for us.  I actually pulled one of those out last night for the kids - as well - getting home late, the husband working outside on some things, me running frantic with some errands, well I didn't even give dinner a think until it was 6 p.m. and the kids were whining for food.

Oh yeah, I need to feed them!  Some nights, like in all families, we are just running around like idiots.

Spaghetti in Garlic Gravy + Toasted Breadcrumbs
{Printable Recipe}
1/4 stick butter
2 T. flour
4 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 1/2 c. half and half
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. spaghetti
1 c. grape tomatoes, quartered

1 c. panko breadcrumbs
1 t. garlic powder

In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to directions, drain and set aside.  In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat, add in garlic and stir for 1 minute until fragrant.  Sprinkle in flour and whisk together, allowing the flour to cook out for at least 1 minute. Turn up the heat to medium high, pour in half and half, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Turn down the heat after a couple of minutes and let simmer until slightly thickened.  Grate in fresh Parmesan cheese.

In a separate small skillet, heat to medium and pour in panko breadcrumbs along with garlic powder, stir to combine.  Gently toast breadcrumbs until golden brown.

When sauce is ready, combine with spaghetti and add in chopped tomatoes.  Sprinkle with parsley for a garnish and top with toasted breadcrumbs.

Now, if you've made it this far, well you're in luck.  The nice folks at Pasta Fits want to give one of my readers the exact same Pasta Fits prize pack to one of my readers.  So leave a comment and I'll pick a random winner on Friday, September 28.  Just answer this question...

If given the choice of your one LAST meal, what would it be?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The World Needs More Pie

The world needs more pie.  Chocolate Chip Candy Bar Pie, if we want to get technical.  Who isn't happy when eating pie?

I recently finished reading the book Making Piece: A Story of Love, Loss and Pie.  The author being a fellow Iowan, helped make the sell, but honestly this book is a must read for all book lovers.  Could you imagine asking your husband for a divorce (yet, you still really love him) and then he dies 6 hours before he is to sign the divorce papers?

Then to conquer your grief, you continue making your favorite dessert.  Pie.  You start giving the slices away for free.  You hop into your RV (that your deceased husband left you) and travel around the country making a pie documentary.

Then find yourself back in your home state, living at the iconic American Gothic House (made famous by the Grant Wood painting), setting up your Pitchfork Pie Stand and writing your memoir?

Such a great story.  It goes to show that you just never know where your life with take you.  A must read.  In honor of Beth and her journey, I made pie.  Not just for us, but for a "thank you" for someone that I worked with recently and my other fellow co-workers.

As we all know, desserts left alone in this house, can make for a very tragic ending.

Now, this isn't your typical pie, but I consider anything is a pie as long as there is a pie crust - whether that be fruit, custard or chocolate filled.  It's all the same.

Chocolate Chip Candy Bar Pie
{Printable Recipe}
1 c. butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped candy bars (I used Rolos and peanut butter cups)
2 pie shells (homemade or pre-bought)

Combine first five ingredients until smooth.  Fold in chocolate chips and chopped up candy bars.  Pour into the two pie shells.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

What is your favorite kind of pie?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Waka Waka Wonton Salad

I've said this before, but I've never claimed to be a "salad person".  I don't crave salad like some people.  Gosh, I wish I did though.  Instead I usually crave pizza, cookies and cake.  Bad, bad, bad.

But, this salad?  Well, this salad is one that I crave.  It is the exception.  Its light, crisp and so very fresh.  When I saw Guy Fieri make a version of it in my Better Homes and Gardens magazine last month, I knew I had to try it.

And heck, it's a little more friendly on the waistline than your typical salad with creamy dressing.  But, you know, I love those too.

And this salad feeds a crowd.  If you aren't like me who hovered over the kitchen sink eating it straight out of the bowl.  I just couldn't get enough.  The tangy dressing from the red wine vinegar just did me in.  I was taken.

If you haven't started using red wine vinegar in salad dressing, toppings on veggies or dashed on your favorite sandwich you should.  It gives everything a tang, without the fat and calories.

That is of course if you like, tang.

Waka Waka Wonton Salad
{Printable Recipe}

1 bag pre-washed cabbage/coleslaw mix
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1/3 c. canola oil
2 t. minced garlic
1 pkg. Ramen noodles, crushed (Oriental flavored)
2 green onions, sliced
8 wonton wrappers, baked

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet and place wonton wrappers on the baking sheet.  Take a pizza cutter and cut into strips.  Spread out on the baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl mix together red wine vinegar, canola oil, garlic, 1 t. of the Ramen noodle Oriental seasoning packet, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a large bowl combine cabbage/coleslaw mix, crushed Ramen noodles and green onions.  Pour dressing over mix and toss to coat.  Top with crispy wonton wrappers.

*If taking to a potluck or party, do not pour on the dressing until 10 minutes before eating.  This will keep the salad nice and fresh.
**Wonton wrappers can be found in the refrigerated section, next to the produce.

So tell me, what is your favorite salad?

Do you crave salad?

And if you haven't done it yet, I'm needing your votes!  Click here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rum Chata Cupcakes

I have to give credit where credit is due.  My friend Angie made these cupcakes the other weekend and brought them to our house.  They were fabulous.  Divine.  Splendid.  There are so many words I could use to describe these little buggers.


The only problem with them, is that they contain alcohol, which meant us adults just HAD to polish them off so the kids wouldn't eat them.  Such a shame, having to eat cupcakes all day.

I'm not ashamed to admit I ate two after dinner that night in a matter of 24 seconds.  In my defense they were kinda small, but oh so heavenly.

Rum Chata alcohol has been making its rounds around these parts.  I was first introduced to it at a party earlier this summer and then low and behold I was taking a shot of it at a bachelorette party this past weekend (a whole 'nother story - I'm pretty sure we visited every po-dunk bar this side of the Mississippi, with many of them having "play areas" for the kids who come into the bars, high chairs included, yes, you can just imagine our faces when we saw that).


Rum Chata tastes like Cinnamon French Toast cereal.  Remember eating that as kids?  Well, if you liked it then, you'll like this now.

Make these.  Today.

Rum Chata Cupcakes
1/2 cup butter (1 stick, at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Rum Chata
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar and butter and beat until fluffy.  Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, set aside.  Mix the Rum Chata and vanilla together, set aside.  Alternating, add in the flour mixture and Rum Chata mixture in to the butter and sugar. Starting and ending with the flour mixture.

In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form (this will be easiest in an electric mixer).  Fold egg whites in to the batter – do not do this in an electric mixer, use a spatula.  Fill cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes.

Run Chata Cream Cheese Frosting
12 ounces of cream cheese (1 1/2 packages, at room temperature)
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick, at room temperature)
1/2 tsp of vanilla
5 tbsp of Rum Chata
1 package of confectioners’ sugar (2 lb. bag)

Combine butter and cream cheese until smooth, then add in the vanilla.  Slowly add in confectioners’ sugar, then mix in Rum Chata.  Frost the cupcakes.

Are you having a bad day today?  Well, then take 29 seconds to watch this video of our little ones when their dad discovered a big toad in our front yard last week.  Hearing them laugh, well, it will make your day better.

And for all that have been voting for my recipe in Mr. Food's Ultimate Weeknight Meal Contest - THANK YOU!  I've been getting emails like crazy saying you've voted and it is just making my heart swell.

Remember you can vote once per browser.  So that means once on your work computer, home computer, iPad, phone, etc. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm a Finalist In A Cooking Contest - I Need Your Votes!

I've just recently started entering some recipe contests.  When Jen, told me about Mr. Food's Ultimate Weeknight Meal Contest a few weeks back, I sent in this recipe and went on with life.

Low and behold I am now one of 10 finalists!  Quite exciting for a person who NEVER wins or gets to be a finalist in anything.  I'm still wondering if they made some mistake?

Regardless, voting starts today and I need your help.  Please take a moment to vote for me during the weeks of September 17-28th.  You can vote once per browser.  So, rally all your friends, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, co-workers and long lost rivals to vote for me.

I'm begging, I mean asking nicely.  Please?

Mr. Food asked for the Ultimate, Easy Weeknight Meal for families.  I entered my Bacon Buffalo Mac and Cheese.  From start to finish its done in 50 minutes.  Even quicker if you prep the night before.  Your family will love this one!  And better yet, its great re-heated to be eaten as leftovers.

To place your vote for my dish, click here.

Or here.

Or here.

Then forward or tweet this post on to all your friends to vote.  If I would be chosen as the winner I'll be heading to Florida (where I haven't been since college spring break circa 2002) to cook a live cooking segment with Mr. Food himself.  The ultimate dream come true.

And can you do me a favor?  If you vote, can you leave a comment here telling me you did so?  I want to make sure people are actually still reading this darn little blog...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

First off - the 2 winners of my last giveaway are...ladies, please email me so the books can be shipped!

  6 days ago
i tweeted the giveaway @allthingsyummy7


Steph  4 days ago
I also follow you on facebook

I got one of the greatest compliments the other day.  Someone told me, 'you are just so content with your life'.  She went on to say how she is always hoping, dreaming, and searching for things to do better in her life, but I seem just, well, content, yet happy with my contentment.

I agreed.

Some may not have taken this as a compliment, but I did.  Since I had kids, I find pure enjoyment in being a mom, a wife, a homemaker, a writer, a whatever...

I'm content.

I enjoy picking up and organizing my house so my family feels secure.  I enjoy cooking homemade meals for them, not just because it is cheaper, but because I know they and I love it.  I enjoy spending my free time deep in a novel, writing or sitting in the sun sipping a cocktail.  I enjoy sharing my latest foodie finds with all of you and getting comments and responses back from half way across the country.  I enjoy it all.

So, where am I going with this?  Last week the husband and I looked at each other and said lets invite some friends over for a day of football and food.  I almost peed my pants I was so excited.  This is my type of entertaining.  Good friends, good food, happy times.

I'm content with this.

I don't need fancy parties, country club gatherings, an iPad or iPhone (although, I would like love to have one), the latest car or unlimited funds to spend how I'd like.  We have what we have and I am now finally content with it.

I guess, the lesson here happy with what you have.  There are always people worse off than you.

And be happy, if you happen to be those lucky friends we invited over for these Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork Sandwiches.  This recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman, but I did change a few things up to suite us.  Like not cooking this in the oven.  Because, heck, I wanted to hang with my friends that day not hover over the oven checking meat every hour.

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork
2 onions, peeled and quartered
1 whole pork butt (pork shoulder roast)
1 8 oz. can chipotle chiles in adobo sacue
2 12 oz. cans Dr. Pepper
4 T. brown sugar

Get out your largest crockpot.  Lay peeled and quartered onions in the bottom.  Liberally season roast with salt and pepper, then place on top of the onions.  

Pour in canned chipotle chiles, brown sugar and Dr. Pepper.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Flip the roast halfway way through, around 4 hours in.

When done, shred meat with a fork and serve on kaiser rolls.  Add additional sauces or chopped pickles if you like.

*You can certainly omit the chipotle chiles if you are worried about the spice, but honestly they MAKE this sandwich.

Now, for my question of the day.

Are you content?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Delicious Dip {really, that is what it is called}

Do you have a go to snack or dip in your family that shows up at every family birthday, holiday or impromptu gathering?
This is THE dip in my family.  Delicious dip.  Creative name, right?  My mom, sister, cousins and I have probably made this dip more times than our husbands have plopped on the couch to watch a football game.
And that is saying a lot since football is big time in our family.  Even if we are heading home to visit for the weekend a bowl of this is in the fridge.  It's expected.  And if it isn't there?  We're mad.  Pissed off really.  Because sometimes we come home just for the dip, not the family.
Just kidding.

We snacked on this dip Sunday, when we celebrated the Little Man's 3rd birthday (his actual b-day is Thursday).  Don't worry, a recap of his day will be coming.
The husband told me in the kitchen while we were cleaning up that "the dip" leftovers needed to get sent home with someone, or else he'd spend his next two days off eating it.  I laughed.  And ignored him.
It's still in our fridge.
Delicious Dip
1 c. mayo
2 c. sour cream
1/2 bag shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 bag shredded mozzarella cheese
1 t. Accent seasoning
1t. garlic salt
generous amounts of parsley
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate.  Feel free to add more cheese and enough parsley until you see LOTS of green bits in this dip.  It is what makes it.  Let it chill overnight if possible or at least a few hours before serving.
Serve with relishes or potato chips.

On another note - I found out I am a finalist in Mr. Food's Ultimate Weeknight Meal Contest.  I entered my Bacon Buffalo Mac and Cheese.  They must have liked it.
Voting will start next week, so get your fingers ready, I will need your votes!  The winner receives an all-expense paid trip to the Mr. Food studios in Florida and gets to tape a cooking segment for a national audience.  I'm pretty sure you can imagine how much I want this.
Not just to cook with the Mr. Food staff...but for a vacation.  Details will be coming soon and I'm sure you'll be sick of me begging (ahem...asking) for your votes. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Strawberry Cake Mix Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh boy, do I have a good recipe for you today.  In fact, I've got about 5 backed-up from the weekend that you'll be seeing in the coming weeks.  Two of them being a dessert.

I saw this recipe over on Averie Cooks.  A new blog that I had never seen before, which isn't saying much as there are THOUSANDS out there.  Did you know that?  Like, thousands.  I'm not kidding.

The convenience factor of this recipe and just using your favorite cake mix is the best.  We don't always have time for scratch made dough, I certainly can understand that.  This batter whips up in a mini-second.  I even did it with one kid sitting on the kitchen counter watching and another in the booster sit by my feet.

It held their attention for that mini-second, so certainly you can do it?

Now, if you are not a strawberry fan, you can substitute any flavor - lemon, funfetti, chocolate or white.  Funfetti is on my list to make.  The kids will love those!

Strawberry Cake Mix Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 strawberry cake mix
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla

1 stick butter, softened
1 block cream cheese, softened
1 t. almond extract flavoring
4 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a stand or hand-held mixer combine cake mix, butter, eggs and vanilla.  Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.  (Also, keep dough in fridge between batches - this helps the cookies to keep their shape and not spread).

Round dough into 1 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet, baking 8-10 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

For frosting combine butter, cream cheese and almond extract in a mixer until smooth.  Slowly add powdered sugar one cup at a time until combined.  Frost the cooled cookies and top with sprinkles.  Keep in a container to keep fresh.

And with MANY, I mean MANY readers requests - I have now found a way to make my recipes "printable".  See the link right under the recipe title that says "Printable Recipe"?

Well, click there and you can print this recipe without the pictures, ads and other garbage that uses up all the ink in your printer.

You're welcome.

Friday, September 7, 2012

An Incredible Giveaway for all Moms, Soon-to-be-Moms, Aunts, Sisters and Grandmas! {What to Expect Books}

Let's face it.  Being a mom is hard work.  There are days of overwhelming joy and days of tears and frustration.  I have days when all I want to do is walk outside and not come back for a day.  But, fortunately those days seem to be few and far between, as when you see your children smile, hear their laugh and watch them reach milestones you've only heard all makes sense.

My cup runneth over.

Your love for them is so strong, that those horrible-pull-you-hair-out-tantrum-screaming-days really do get forgotten.

Really, they do.

When Dan, a Partnership Director, with, approached me, as a mom, and as a blogger about reading their books and giving them away on my site, I immediately said YES.

Yes.  Yes. Yes.

What Dan didn't know is that I was a faithful reader of their blog and comment site back in 2008 and 2009 when we were trying to start our family.  Unfortunately we suffered two miscarriages before we had our little man in September of 2009.  It was heart wrenchingly difficult, but those message boards really helped me.

Just listening to other moms going through the same thing, made me feel like I wasn't the only one out there going through tough times.  So for that, thanks Dan!

After I received the books from them, I immediately dove into the book What to Expect: The Second Year (12-24 months).  As that is what category the little miss falls into and she is my monkey.  It never fails I turn around for one second and she is ON something.

Yesterday, it was the kitchen table.

The folks over at have graciously offered these 3 books to TWO of my readers.  Now, you're thinking - I'm not expecting - why would I need these books?
Wait!  I can guarantee that you are either a mom, sister, aunt, dad, grandma, brother or friend of someone who is expecting or has little ones in their house.  They would love these books.  So if you can't use them for yourself, they would make a great gift.
To enter:
  • Mandatory entry: Tell me which book you would enjoy the most, or who you would gift the books too.
Additional entries {note in the comments that you are doing the following}:
  • Follow me on Facebook.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Follow What to Expect on Facebook.
  • Follow What to Expect on Twitter.
  • Tweet about this giveaway.
  • Mention this giveaway on your blog.
Holy moly, I just gave you 7 chances to win.  I must be feeling generous today!  Good luck!  I will be picking a random winner on Wednesday, September 12th at 5 p.m. CST.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pretzel-Crusted Baked Chicken

You know chicken and I...we have a tendancy to not get along.  I love it, but I get bored with it.  The husband has often said that we have never eaten the same chicken dish twice in our house.  Minus our basil pesto baked chicken and of course traditional barbecue chicken on the grill.

Other than those two, I'm always changing things up.

So when the kiddos where having an afternoon snack of pretzels the other day, a light blub went off.  Salty pretzels coating my baked chicken?  Why....yes!

I really just winged this recipe but it did turn out great.  After cutting these breasts into strips, the little man munched on it like he would a chicken finger.  With ranch dipping sauce, of course.  So it was kid approved!

And I had leftovers for lunch the next day.  Perfect.

Pretzel-Crusted Baked Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded to 1/2 in. thickness)
2 cups buttermilk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
2 cups pretzels (crushed)
1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. 

In a food processor (or good 'ol elbow grease) crush pretzels to fine crumbs, or leave a bit chunky like I did.  Mix together with the flour and pour onto a large plate to later coat.

In a bowl combine buttermilk, garlic, beaten egg, salt and pepper.  Take chicken and soak in buttermilk mixture for at least 10 minutes.  Then take each breast and coat in pretzel/flour mixture.  Lay on baking sheet.

Cook for 45 minutes, turning halfway through.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Whoo-who!  This one was a winner.  I will most definitely be making it again.  You know what else was a winner?  The book I just finished.  Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.  A powerful, page-turning memoir.  I read it in 4 days.

With two kids and a husband underfoot.  It was that good.

I need more good book suggestions - have any????

Monday, September 3, 2012

Butterscotch Brownie Bites

I've learned a few things over this Labor Day weekend.  Here we go.

1.  All desserts are better in mini form.  You will feel like you aren't really eating dessert.  Or you will feel like you are, but having just a bite.  Or you'll have 4 of them, which in turn equals a whole brownie and then this thing I learned really isn't anything I learned.

2.  Shopping with two kids isn't that bad, when they each have individual seats and are strapped in and cannot move.  The only problem is the shopping cart is about 50 ft. long and maneuvering the thing can be a challenge sometimes.  BUT, you do get an arm workout.  A plus, for sure.

3.  Baking with the little man keeps you on your toes.  If he's not snagging a bite, he's asking me a zillion questions, making me lose my concentration on how many scoops of flour I've already put into the bowl.  I must have counted right because these brownies tasted great.

4.  And lastly, having a Labor Day weekend with no plans doesn't make you a loser.  It actually makes you feel proud that you can enjoy your family, the weather, the football, the food, the whatever, without having to leave the comforts of your own home.  You should try it sometime.

Butterscotch Brownie Bites
1 boxed brownie mix (or homemade version)
1 c. butterscotch chips
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

Mix brownie batter according to directions.  Place half of the batter in a greased 8x8 baking pan.  Pour in all butterscotch and dark chocolate chips.  Spread on the remaining batter, making sure to cover all of the chips.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Which, can be a little misleading with all that melty butterscotch, chocolate chip goodness in the middle, but I'll let you be the judge.

Let cool and cut into mini-bites.  Serve on a platter at you next party or gathering.  Any leftovers (ha!) place in a Tupperware container and freeze.  Perfect "bite" for another day.