Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: April 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Italian Chicken Florentine

Sometimes you just need a meal that is clean, refreshing and super simple.  This meal is all of those until you dump on the cheese at the end.

But, it was the thought that counted, right?  In fact, if you are staying away from cheese or just don't feel like it, this dish is great without it too.  Just skip that final step of cheesy goodness.

If you want to indulge just a bit....add the cheese.

We have had a big 'ol tub of fresh spinach in the fridge this past week and like a manic woman I always feel like I need to use it in every single dish in a matter of about two days so it doesn't go bad.  It's never gone bad on me.  I'm not sure where this fear came from, but fear it or not, it helps us to get in our greens.

This dish is a great one to entertain with - easy ingredients, minimal prep work and just over an hour for it to finish in the oven.  Leaving ample time to do other things!

Serve it with pasta, rice, salad, or do like us and throw down a twice baked potato.

Italian Chicken Florentine
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 c. diced mushrooms
4 gloves garlic, minced
4 c. fresh spinach leaves
1 T. dried basil
1 t. Italian seasoning
1 t. onion flakes
1 T. salt
1 t. pepper
mozzarella cheese

In a large roasting pan, lay down chicken breasts and generously season with salt and pepper.  In a large bowl combine all remaining ingredients {except cheese}, stirring to combine.  Pour this mixture over the chicken.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven, top with liberal amounts of mozzarella cheese, place the oven on broil and return to the oven, just until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

We did lots of cleaning, sorting and this weekend.  All with the help of the in-laws.  They did a lot of it and also entertained the kiddos.  The weather could not have been better.  The kids had their moments, but for the most part were pretty good.

And look who we caught on top of the ladder!  

She has NO fear.

She actually skipped a nap this day and then later fell asleep during dinner.  It was hilarious.

Alright, lets get out and enjoy that Monday of ours!

I'm going to try and do as little as possible.

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's Friday. Lets Talk.

I've decided to save one post a week and dedicate it towards a conglomeration of things that are on my mind.  Food, books, quotes, restaurants, trends, my kids.....there will be no rhyme or reason to it all, other than to enjoy reading it.

So, what do you say?  Let's get started!

I'm making my own version of this dish tomorrow night when the in-laws come to visit.  It looks so simple and easy.  You already know my love for any marinara or tomato sauce, so this one reeled me right in.  Maybe it will help fuel us for the weekend.  They are coming to help us {or rather me, as I do most of the cleaning around this joint!}with some spring cleaning - washing windows, blinds, baseboards and cupboards,  weeding and raking out flower beds, sorting through closets, and pretty much every other cleaning "thing" you can imagine.

I'm repaying them in yummy food and grand kids.

I think my husband and I are the LAST people on the face of this earth without a smart phone {yet}.  Our old phones still work, so we're still using them.  We've both been driving our vehicles since 2007, because again they are still running and working.  The T.V in our living room isn't a flat screen, yet was pretty cool when we bought it in 2004.  Again, it's still working, so we haven't upgraded.  The house we bought in 2009 was small.  Guess what?  It's still small.  Yet, even smaller now that we've crowded two kids into it.  But, its efficient and works.

As this guy says "Live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later."

With summer on the horizon I am already dreaming of my perfect day.  This drink in hand, 75 degrees and sunny, a quiet house, a trashy magazine and me, on a deck....relaxing.

My sister has this perfect, DREAM house in Minnesota.  Their back porch makes you feel like you are sitting on a beautiful lake.  Their kitchen is like one in magazines.  Maybe my perfect day would just be at her house?

Angie Miller is my pick to win American Idol.  There is just something about her when she gets behind that piano.  You can view one of her latest songs here.

Am I the only one still watching Idol?

I'm about 30 words into this book and I already know I'm going to enjoy it.  Now I just need to get off the computer and get back to reading!  The kids and I spent about an hour in the library today.  Two bathroom stops and one fight later, we came out with two movies for the kids, some books and about 346 magazines for me.

P.S.  It is hip to check out ALL the magazines you are too cheap to subscribe to at the library.  They let you keep them for a week and it saves a ton of money.  Try it.

I got this awesome package in the mail yesterday.  You see, two cool people got married, one a being a chef, started cooking together and then wrote a cookbook.  And a few weeks back they held a giveaway on their blog for a new Cuisinart waffle maker and I won.

My old waffle maker cannot get thrown out quick enough.  It is not even worth salvaging.  It semi-smokes when I use it, plus I think creatures are living in between those grates.

You can check out their blog here.


Okay, I'll be back on Sunday.  If you want to see posts like this one, back once a week, let me know!

I aim to please.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

30-Minute Marinara

Lets talk about marinara sauce.

The simple kind.

The kind that allows you to dump some ingredients into a pot and then you walk away.

The kind that tastes slow cooked but really only took 30 minutes.

The kind that I crave.

The kind that I made last week.

Every grandma from Italy is probably frowning at this recipe, but you know, it works for me.  It's easy, budget friendly and can be used in various ways.

A bread stick dunker.

The base for a lasagna.

Sauce on a homemade pizza.

Should I keep going?

30-Minute Marinara
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 T. each of garlic powder, parsley, Italian seasoning and onion flakes

Place all ingredients into a small stockpot and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use immediately or freeze for later use.

We used this sauce for dippers with garlic bread know, to TEST it.  Make sure that it was edible.  The Little Miss was practically drinking the stuff.  She must take after me.  I did claim once that after hot water to bathe in, I'd pick marinara, followed closely by chocolate.

Will you try this easy, simple marinara sauce?


Okay.  Let's talk.  What do you want to see next on Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats?  Are you liking my every-other-day recipe posts?

Would you like to see a "Weekly Wednesday", "Thursday Things" or even a "Friday Follows"?  This would be where I wouldn't necessarily post a recipe, but rather talk about whatever is on my mind.  What I'm reading, what TV shows I'm watching, what food trends I'm following, etc.

Leave your thoughts by leaving a comment!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Churros

I'm back!

How was your weekend?  Ours?  Well, busy.  I don't think I've sat down since my desk at work on Friday, until right now at this very moment.  We traveled to a family wedding out of town - the kids are exhausted, I'm exhausted, even our washing machine is exhausted.

And before I dive into these churros {to.die.for. by the way}, I need to pick a winner of my little kitchen accessory giveaway I had last week.  Bernice?  Are you out there?  Reading this post?  If so, please email me with your mailing address.

Okay, so I saw a version of these online last week - and as soon as I read the recipe, I hopped up, went to the kitchen and had them made within 30 minutes.  What can I say?  Sometimes I see something and HAVE TO MAKE THEM NOW.

And I'm sure glad I did.  I've found that these are delicious hot and fresh from the oven, yet they are equally good straight from the freezer.  They are simple to make {something your kids would love to help with!} and more than likely you probably have all of the 6 ingredients already in your kitchen.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Churros
8 slices of whole wheat bread
4 oz. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
3/4 stick of butter, melted
1 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice crusts off bread.  Using a rolling pin, flatten each piece of bread, then set aside.  In a one bowl, melt butter.  In another bowl combine cream cheese and powdered sugar.  In another bowl stir together sugar and cinnamon.

To assemble: take flattened slice of bread, place two spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture, roll up, dip in melted butter and roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Place seam side down on a baking sheet.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown.  Eat hot, or cool and store in the freezer.  Makes 8.

Here are the kids and I this past weekend.  My cup runneth over.  They are so much fun.  A lot of work, but so much fun.  Even though these ages {3.5 & 2} are enough to make any person tired, I just love their conversations, their imaginations, their spunk, their silliness and their love for their mom.

I'm trying to take it all in and relish every moment.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Friday, April 19, 2013

20-Minute Skillet Stir Fry

Need a quick, easy and painless meal?  And not to mention, pretty darn friendly on your wallet?  I don't know about you but we live on a weekly food budget and finding meals that feed a lot, are relatively healthy and don't cost and arm and a leg is always a double win.

One of the goals of my weekly grocery hauls is stocking up on fresh produce.  It forces me to incorporate them into our meals.  It also helps us to get in our greens and fruit.

Our staples include: bananas, apples, berries {strawberries, blueberries, etc.}, spinach, carrots, broccoli, oranges, lemons and mushrooms.  We eat the bananas and apples with meals, use a lot of the berries and spinach in smoothies, throw carrots, broccoli and mushrooms in dishes like this one, garnish dishes with lemon or put in our ice water, etc, etc.

Other things we throw in the cart, but not on a weekly basis: kale, lettuce, fresh melons in the summer {cantaloupe, watermelon}, sweet potatoes, asparagus and corn.  The kale and lettuce are used for side salads, fruit again in smoothies or to eat fresh, sweet potatoes baked as "fries" and asparagus and corn as a side dish.

I've often said when I'm craving vegetables, I make a stir fry.  To me it is the easiest way to get in a lot of nutrients in one dish.  This is my go-to stir fry.  I have it down to a tee.  And all in under 20 minutes!

Now - let's clarify a bit.  Prepping can help a bit with this dish and getting it under 20 minutes.  If you are using white rice you are fine {cooks in 15 minutes}, but if you are using brown rice {cooks in 45 minutes} you will need to have it pre-cooked.

As for the veggies, having those washed, chopped and ready in the fridge will again save you precious time.  Make an effort to do this right when you get home from the grocery store.  It may be a pain in the butt then, but you'll thank yourself later.

Here we go!

Save this one for sure.  And feel free to swap in any veggies you want, use whatever you have on hand.  There are NO rules to this dish.

Zucchini?  Sure!  Celery?  Yes!  Apricots?  No.

I was just seeing if you were still with me.

20-Minute Skillet Stir Fry

{Print this Recipe!}
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 c. vegetables {I used 1 c. each of broccoli, kale, mushrooms and carrots}
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. brown sugar
1/3 c. soy sauce
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. pepper
1 T. olive oil
cooked rice

In a large hot skillet or wok, cook cubed/stripped chicken in 1 T. of olive oil.  In a small bowl combine garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce, red pepper flakes and pepper and set aside.  When chicken is done, add in the vegetables, continuing to stir until they are crisp tender.

Pour in sauce mixture, stirring to combine.  Serve the stir fry mixture over rice.

So, I'm going to let you all have a couple more days to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win some cute, spring kitchen plates and potholders.  Get commenting!

I don't know about where you live, but we still really haven't seen spring here in the Midwest yet.  Maybe these will brighten your day a bit?

Have a fantabulous Friday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know you've heard this statement before, not only from me, but probably from a zillion other recipe sites, but I really have "found the perfect chocolate chip cookie dough".

There, I said it.  It's off my chest.

We've all baked cookies before where they turned out flat, crispy and a bit tasteless.  Not these!  They are perfect.  They keep their shape {even with caramel stuffed inside}, they are chewy, soft, thick and loaded with chocolate chips.

When I first posted the collage photo above on Facebook, a ton of comments trailed after, everyone thinking I was stuffing cookie dough with cheese.

Cheese.  Really?

I would hope you would know me well enough by now, to know that I would never ruin a perfectly good batch of cookie dough with cheese.  Come on folks.

One other tip for great baking cookies?  I refrigerate my dough for at least one hour before baking, sometimes longer {overnight}.  I'm not sure of the science behind it, but it does something.....not sure what.....but it just makes them BETTER.

Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
{Print this Recipe!}
2 sticks softened unsalted butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla
3 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 10 oz. baking semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag individually wrapped caramels

In a stand-up mixer or large bowl combine butter and sugars, beating well until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until combined.  Add in flour, salt and baking soda, mixing to combine.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Cover and place this dough in the fridge for at least one hour or up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet or simply spray with cooking spray.  With a large cookie scoop, take one scoop and set aside.  Place caramel in the middle of the dough and slightly press into.  Take another scoop of cookie dough and place it on top of the caramel and press together, sealing the edges by pressing and cupping the dough in your hands.

Place the stuffed cookies on the baking sheet, 9 to a sheet and bake for 11 to 15 minutes, or until cookies are puffy and slightly browned along the edges.  Let cool 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

These cookies stayed soft and chewy for the 3 days they lasted in our house.  Thank god, we had some friends come over for dinner on Saturday night, so many got eaten for dessert.  And some were taken to daycare.

As usual, we cannot be trusted with 3 dozen caramel stuffed cookies in our house.

To tempting.

Today is a stay at home day for all of us - the husband included!  We need to check off some annoying things off the list today - closing one of our bank accounts, paying some bills, a trip to the grocery store, fixing some things around the house.......we'll see if it all gets done.

And it's been raining one and off for about a week, I'm praying it holds off today so we can get outside and take care of some things as well, along with a trip to the park for the kids, who've been asking every hour on the hour if they can go.

Have a great Monday!

Eat a cookie, will ya?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Shredded Beef Tostadas

I got a little arrogant on Facebook the other day when I bragged about making 4 meals out of one pot roast. Sorry.  I realize it may have come across a little "I'm so much better then you".  I didn't intend for that.  When scrolling through my posts today I realized, gosh that came across the wrong way!

Here's the thing.  I'm not always that great on planning meals.  I try my best, grocery shop accordingly, but life happens and it doesn't always work out.  So, when it REALLY worked this time, I bragged about it!  Hopefully you'll forgive me.

Because....well, I was pretty proud of this one.

Sorry, there I go again!

Okay, here we go.  Last Sunday I cooked a roast in the crock pot, low and slow with a ton of garlic and a can of beer.  That is my go-to way to cook a roast.  It gives it so much flavor and keeps the meat moist and tender.

After eating the initial pot roast meal {complete with this asparagus and these potatoes}, I then divided out the meat for future meals.  It was a fairly big roast, around 4 lbs, so we had quite a bit of meat leftover.  That meat then turned into french dip sandwiches, beef enchiladas and these shredded beef tostadas.

And I didn't even get sick of eating pot roast!

{Now, if you are one that cannot eat the same thing over and over, I would recommend freezing some of the meat for future use, or simply freezing the pan of enchiladas for a week or two down the road}.

Shredded Beef Tostadas
leftover pot roast
sour cream
shredded cheese
corn tortillas
additional toppings

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly spray tortillas with cooking spray and lay on a baking sheet.  Bake for 5-7 minutes or until tortillas are lightly brown and crispy.

Heat up the pot roast with a generous amount of salsa.  Top onto the tortilla and add on additional toppings.

Tomorrow I'm going to get the husband to pull out the grill so we can fire it up for a new recipe I've been eyeing.  We have some friends coming for dinner and of course I need to cook!

And maybe bake.

We'll see how the day goes.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Super Food Smoothie Packs

These pre-made packs are a lifesaver when time is short!  
Make up a few to have on hand for those busy mornings.

If you are struggling with getting in your daily fruits and veggies, boy oh boy, do I have a solution for you.  I've been drinking these "green smoothies" for quite sometime, but I definitely go in spurts with them.  Some weeks I'll have several, then I'll go a month without one at all.  Then I'll soon remember it's been awhile and I'll get right back on the bandwagon.

You see them all over the web, a thousand and one variations of them, but the great thing about them is that you can make them your own, put whatever you want in them.  And the true joy?  You can put things in them that you otherwise would turn your nose up at....and never even taste that otherwise "hated veggie".

But, I have to be honest, everything on this cutting board I actually love.  Would I eat it all separately in one sitting?  Probably not.  That would be a challenge.

That is why I choose to blend it all together.

So.  Much.  Easier.

This afternoon while working from home a bit and tending to a sick child {seriously, can we catch a break with all this sickness?} I whipped up a smoothie, drank most of it and gave some of it to the Little Miss.  She loved it.  And needed it.

I'm trying to pump her full of nutritious foods.

I mean, they are nature's natural drug, right?

When getting back from a store run, especially one that is full of produce, I will also put together what I call these "Super Food Smoothie Packs".  I pre-measure ingredients on hand for future smoothies, place them in a plastic baggie and throw them in the freezer.  That way when our days are a bit more hectic, I can just grab a bag from the freezer, throw it all in the blender, add a splash of milk, water or yogurt, blend it up and then be on my way.

My ingredients on hand this time were:
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Oatmeal
  • Chia Seeds
  • Lemon Juice
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe

When placing the produce in the baggie, I usually layer it as follows: fruit, greens, seeds/oatmeal, lemon juice.  I really have no idea if it matters or not, but that is the way I've always done it.

If you are worried about this tasting like grass, weeds or anything else less than stellar, don't.  You will not taste the greenery {although I do really like spinach and kale}, but in all honesty it will taste like any other smoothie you'd have in the past.  Fruity, sweet and smooth.

As you may suspect, as soon as I post something healthy like these smoothie packs, you can better bet I'll have a delicious dessert coming on deck.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Flautas

I'd be lying if I told you I had this perfectly good, dreamed about, planned blog post for these flautas.  Wrong.  They simply came out of necessity to feed the kids in a nano-second with what I had on hand.

Which was: flour tortillas, leftover shredded chicken, salsa, crumbled bacon, ranch dressing and cheese.  I threw it all together with the hopes that someone in our house deemed it edible and I could move on from serving lunch to thinking about dinner.

{Side note: do all other moms out there constantly have "the next meal" floating around in their brains?  As soon as one meal is finished, another one has to be prepared.}

Guess what?  For no planning and less than stellar expectations, these turned out really, really good.  We dipped them in my homemade ranch dressing and called it good.

Sometimes you just have make simple, easy, non-frilly lunches and move on with your day, you know?  Trust me, the kids won't know the difference.  Nor care.

Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Flautas
8 flour tortillas
2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 c. salsa
2 strips, crumbled cooked bacon
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. ranch dressing

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl combine chicken, salsa, bacon, cheese and ranch dressing.  Lay out tortillas and spread two spoonfuls of chicken mixture down the tortilla and roll up.  Place on a baking sheet, seam side down.

Bake for 15 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

If tortillas start to unroll, place another baking sheet on top of them to weigh it down.

So I got a call from daycare today saying the Little Miss was running a fever and not acting her and I have to stay home tomorrow as the husband is gone all week for work.  I will need to entertain her and try and get some work done.  Ha!

It's at times like these where I wish we lived closer to family {our closest, are 1.5 hrs away}, so we never have the option to just pick up the phone and call our parents, siblings, etc. for help with the kids when we need it.  It just isn't an option.

So, here's to sick kids and thrown together meals!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Balsamic Asparagus

This side dish is SO simple.  And easy.  And good.  In fact while I sat on the deck this afternoon basking in the sunshine, I even drifted off a bit and woke up thinking about making this for dinner.  So I did make it.  Along with pot roast that had been simmering all day in the crock pot with garlic and beer {yes, I am that girl who cooks with beer} and twice baked potatoes.  Needless to say this meal was on my mind and I just could not wait until dinner for us to dig in.

But as life goes, the kids woke up and were rambunctious, so we took them to the park to wear off some energy, then finally {FINALLY!} came home to dinner.

It was worth the wait.  

Asparagus is a hearty spring veggie and I love it.  In fact I have another bunch sitting in a mason jar in a bit of water in the fridge waiting for another meal yet this week.

I keep my prep for this super easy.  Wash, trim the ends and place on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, garlic salt and pepper and toss.  I usually roast mine at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Then to make this dish even better I reduced some balsamic vinegar to add a sweet drizzle of that syrup right before eating.  It's so good!  To do this, in a small saucepan, pour in 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar and place on medium-high heat.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced by three-fourth's.  This will leave you with a thick, sweet syrup.

Drizzle on the hot asparagus and eat away....

Okay, I've got my greens in today.  With that being said, I have a strong hankering to bake cookies.  Shocking.  I can't help it.  I have a very strong sweet tooth.

The kids and I have a play date tomorrow afternoon and well, that just calls for cookies, you know?  Plus, my friend that is coming over with her 4 year old is also 7 months pregnant with TWINS.  

I think she'll want a cookie.  Or two.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Open-Faced Reubens

During the past year I have become obsessed with Reuben's.  I'm not sure why I never ate them before, but now I just cannot get enough of them.  I think it's the sauerkraut.  The tangy taste and smell just gets me every time.

And I change it up too - using turkey, roast beef, whatever meat I have on hand.  It's all the same to me.  But, you know the traditional way is just soooooo goooooood.

I even made my own thousand island dressing this time.  Major.

Other than my Reuben-obsessed-thoughts, I think {think!} spring has finally arrived in Iowa.  The kids and I spent an hour at the park before dinner last night and it seemed like the whole town was out and about.  Kids riding bikes, other kids on the playground, people working in their lawns with almost all of us just wearing a light jacket or not one at all.

Aaaaahhhhh.  It feels so good.

It's no wonder people get a tad depressed in the winter without our precious sunshine.  I know my mood has improved wholeheartedly.

And as soon as the kids are up from their naps today?  Back outside we go.  I cannot get enough of it.

Open-Faced Reubens
*enough for 4 open-faced sammies

4 slices good, thick, crusty bread
8 sliced corned beef
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 c. sauerkraut
3/4 c. mayo
1/4 c. ketchup
2 T. dill pickle juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly butter both sides of bread and place on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes on each side until toasted.

Remove from the oven and layer homemade thousand island dressing {by mixing together mayo, ketchup and pickle juice}, sauerkraut, corned beef and cheese.  Place back into the oven until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with additional thousand island if desired.


Okay, this is my plan for the weekend.

1.  Start reading this book.
2.  Get a few meals prepped and froze for later {stuffed shells, taco meat, smoothie packs}
3.  Pick up the dog poop in the backyard {hey - I live a normal life, it has to be done.}
4.  Start my spring cleaning list.
5.  Start watching Call the Midwife online.  

Your weekend plans?