Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: August 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mozzarella & Zucchini Sticks

I'm not sure if it is a Midwest thing, but fried cheese and fried veggies seem to be on every menu in every restaurant.  

I clearly remember eating fried cheese balls after every Friday night football game at a restaurant called Fireside in my hometown.  My parents would meet their friends for a drink after the game and I'd tag along, bringing a friend.  We'd make our own table at the Pac-Man game and eat our cheese balls drenched in ketchup.

Fun times we had here in Iowa, right??!!

I then graduated to fried mozzarella sticks and later in life {much later, probably college}we ventured into fried veggies {mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.}  What was even better was if you found a "combo" basket on a menu with a little bit of everything.

All of these items were found in my kitchen when I got home from work yesterday.  Minus the panko that I picked up on the way home.  These don't take much - flour, egg {or oil}, panko breadcrumbs, string cheese and zucchini.

That's it.

Oh!  And marinara sauce to dip it in.  Because well, that is a MUST.

Mozzarella & Zucchini Sticks
8 pieces of string cheese, cut in half
1 zucchini, cut into strips/blocks
1 c. flour
2 eggs or 2 c. olive oil
2 c. seasoned panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease two large baking sheets.  Make a dredging station, place flour, eggs/oil and panko in three separate bowls.

Take each piece, rolling in flour, dipping in egg or oil and coating in panko.  Place on the cookie sheet.  

Bake the zucchini for 25 minutes.  Bake the cheese for 5 minutes {seriously, 5 minutes ONLY, otherwise you will have a melted cheese blob - trust me, I didn't follow directions on the first batch}.  Serve warm with marinara sauce.

And if you are worried about the zucchini being too watery - use this method.

Now you can fry these bad boys.  They'd probably be even better.  Not better for you, but extra crispy.  I'll leave that up to you.  I don't know your arteries on a personal level.


And for a little update on the future Iowa Food/Lifestyle Blogger Meet-up.  It certainly is a work IN progress.  These little bloggers keep coming out of the woodwork.  Who knew Iowa had so many bloggers? Just when I think my list is complete, someone emails me someone else.

It is going to FUN.  I want to make it FUN.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2 Zucchini Recipes for Breakfast....and Ways to Make Them Last!

People have been asking me for quick and easy breakfast recipes.  Easy grab-n-go items that you can literally carry out the door with you.

I'm a HUGE fan of these breakfast burritos, but there are times when I want something lighter to just get me through the first couple of hours.  Enter in two great sweet breads chocked full of zucchini, one with banana and both with limited sweeteners - but not low on taste!

If you have zucchini coming out of your ears, or you've had a co-worker or friend hand you a zucchini and then run {trust me, they give it away as fast as they can} use it in these breads - scones and muffins, equally. They will not disappoint!

And here is the trick to makes these things last - once they are cool, place on a cookie sheet and flash freeze.  After about an hour remove them from the freezer and throw them all in a big Ziploc bag.  Now they are ready and waiting for an easy grab-n-go breakfast.

Trust me, if you let this stuff sit on our counter or in your bread box, they will go like hotcakes and soon it will be gone.  But if you take the extra step and keep them frozen individually in the freezer, they stay a bit 'out of sight, out of mind' yet you are still reminded of them when opening the deep freeze.

Or when you are about to run out the door and realize you have packed nothing for breakfast.

And if you don't have zucchini on hand, trade it up with any summer squash, sweet potato or simply mashed banana. These can be changed around many different ways!

If you have a cup of shredded 'whatever'.....throw it in!

Zucchini Banana Walnut Muffins
*adapted from here
2 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/8 c. sugar
3/4 t. salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
2 ripe, mashed bananas
1 c. shredded zucchini
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.  Or pour into two greased loaf pans.

In a medium bowl combine all dry ingredients.  In another medium bowl, combine all wet ingredients, then beat with a mixer on medium for 1 minute.  Add wet to dry, making sure not to over mix.  Spoon batter 3/4 cup full into muffin tin.  Sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If using loaf pans, bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Skinny Zucchini Chocolate Chip Scones
3/4 c. cold buttermilk
1/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 c. shredded zucchini
1 cup all purpose flour 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3 T. chilled butter cut into small pieces
1 c. chocolate chips
cooking spray
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 1/2 T. sugar

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine the first five ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in chilled butter with a pastry blender, or you could use 2 knives, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gently fold in chocolate chips. Add milk mixture, stirring just until moist.

Place dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly with floured hands. Form dough into an 9-inch circle onto baking sheet, about 3/4" thick. Using a knife,cut dough into 12 wedges all the way through. Or make them mini like I did, and cut into 24 wedges.

Brush egg white over dough and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Bake until golden, about 18-20 minutes, depending on your oven.

Want some other ideas?

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Burrito Bowls with Cilantro Lime Rice

This is a dish everyone will love, they can make it their own!  And healthy to boot.

burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice (

I'm usually on top of the dinner game.  I plan things out and 80% of the time know what we are having for dinner.  I knew these burrito bowls were on the calendar for some time last week, I just failed to prep for them.  Normally I would have cooked the rice and chicken the night prior along with the fresh salsa and guacamole, so that the night we were eating this dish it would just be a 'heat and serve' kind of meal.

Well, I didn't do any of that.  So when I got home from work at 4 p.m., with two kids in tow and not a thing started, I was a bit worried.  I shipped the kids to the backyard with the husband and got to work.  I love cooking, but I don't particularly love cooking with kids underfoot.

It all ended up going fairly smooth, but next time I will prep ahead of time.  Lesson learned.

burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice (

When we finally did sit down to dinner.....IT.WAS.AWESOME.

I said to the husband, "this is almost as good as Chipolte".

He then said, "it is better than Chipolte".

The ultimate compliment.

burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice (

Could you stuff all this goodness into a tortilla?  Yes.  Wrap it up burrito style and bake it? Yes.  {Actually I really want to do that}.  But save the calories for one night and eat it in a bowl.  Like a salad.  Without the lettuce {or add lettuce if you want}.  Trust me, you will love this.

Also, take the time to make this salsa and homemade guacamole to go along with it.  It really makes the dish.

burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice (

Burrito Bowls with Cilantro Lime Rice

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c. uncooked brown rice
2 c. water
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
shredded Colby cheese
sour cream
1 c. chopped fresh cilantro
juice of one lime
1 t. salt
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cumin
olive oil

To prepare brown rice: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Pour in rice.  Stir and bring down to a low simmer. Let cook for 45 minutes or until all water has absorbed.  Mix in chopped cilantro, juice of the lime and 1 t. salt.  Stir, set aside and keep warm.  Or use a rice cooker, I have my eye on this one!

To prepare chicken:  Cut into strips.  Sprinkle with chili powder and cumin, toss to coat.  Drizzle olive oil into a hot skillet and cook chicken.  Set aside and keep warm.

To assemble bowls: Layer in rice, black beans, chicken, cheese, salsa, guacamole and sour cream.  

burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice (

God, I want this again.

Next time I need to make enough for two meals.

burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice (

Friday, August 23, 2013

French Bread Pizza Boats

I like to call this dinner as follows:

'I don't have any dinner planned, nor prepped, nor do I even want to be cooking dinner, as it's been a long day, but I still have mouths to feed, so I have to feed them something and everyone always likes pizza dinner'.

I'm hoping I'm not the only one who has ever thought this statement?

I can buy homemade loaves of french bread at Hy-Vee for around $1.  They are always fresh, HUGE and easily adaptable for at least two different meals.  One night I may use it as a side for pasta, the next for meatball subs and sometimes this pizza.  If I use half one night, I'll throw the other half in the freezer for the next time.

Lets not over talk this one.  It's just pizza.  But for the recipe guru's out there, here are the steps {you can also get a visual with the below photo}.

1.  Hollow out the french bread, removing a layer of the inner bread.
2.  Layer on cheese.
3.  Layer on sauce.
4.  Layer on your favorite toppings.
5.  Layer with more cheese and herbs.
6.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

Our kids loved this one {shocker}, but to be honest I probably loved it more because it was easy.  Yes, I love cooking.  Yes, I love baking.  Yes, I love creating recipes.  But with all of that, I'm human, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is cook.

So simple meals like this are my friend!

What is your go-to easy meal when you rather stub your toe multiple times in a row than step foot in the kitchen?

Feel free to link up your favorites in the comments section.  I'm always looking for new ideas!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Caramel Pecan Peach Crumble Bars

Peaches are all the rage right now.  I was lucky to receive a whole box of fresh, organic peaches for free last week from a co-worker.  Believe it or not peaches can grow well in Iowa. I never really believed it until my parents planted a peach tree a few years ago.  I thought they were a bit out of their mind, thinking peaches only grew well in the south, but they have proved me wrong.

Now peaches can be finicky.....especially in tricky Iowa weather where spring ventures back and forth between bone-chilling cold and unseasonably warm.  This year our weather was fairly normal, which is why I think they have done so well.

I'm not joking when I tell you that my dad has picked over 1,800 peaches off their ONE tree. It doesn't really seem possible......but if you know my dad, you know he was probably out there with his # 4 pencil behind his ear {yes, they do make # 4 pencils}, his notepad of paper, buckets and ladders.

It's crazy.  Because some years when the weather is wacko they may only get one.

Eating these bad boys was like eating candy.  Our kids gobbled them up, the Little Man wanting more and more peaches for every meal.  But for fear that we'd all end up in the bathroom on fruit overload I had to find other ways to preserve these guys.

I froze two trays worth - to be used up in smoothies and desserts at a later date and I made two pans of these bars.  I took one pan to a play date and froze the other pan.  All us moms agreed that they were a keeper, not too sweet, yet crunchy with the brown sugar crust and pecan topping.

You have to make these!

And if peaches aren't your thang.....or you just happen to have a surplus of other berries, feel free to swamp them out.  Any fruit would taste good!

Caramel Pecan Peach Crumble Bars
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
1 c. flour
1 large egg white
2 T. flour
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
pinch of salt
3-4 large peaches or 5-6 small peaches, pitted and thinly sliced
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 baking pan and set aside.  For the crust and topping combine 3/4 c. brown sugar, butter and pinch of salt until creamy.  Add flour and mix until combined.  Reserve 1 cup of this mixture.  Press the remaining into the bottom of the pan.  Bake until lightly browned around 13-15 minutes.  Allow crust to cool.

For the filling combine 2 T. flour, 1 T. brown sugar and cinnamon.  Add peaches and toss to coat.  Pour slices over the cooled crust, layer on pecans and crumble the reserved topping over the peaches.  Put egg white into a dish and stir with a fork until frothy.  Brush egg white over the crumbed topping.  Bake until lightly browned, around 45 minutes.  Cool completely and refrigerate to chill.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Speaking of produce coming out our ears....our tomatoes are once again out of control this summer.  The vines and plants are so thick and heavy with fruit, its hard for me to even find all of them to pick.

The Little Miss is my little garden assistant.  She helps me water, pick and tell me "the green ones aren't ready to pick yet mama, they need to grow".

We love her so.

And speaking of kids....I had one friend give birth yesterday {she got to the hospital with only minutes to spare!}, another family member gave birth this afternoon and another friend is in labor as we speak!  It's crazy. Must have been a busy November/December:)

I love babies!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers

So this one time I was watching Oprah.  It was her annual holiday 'Favorite Things' show. You know, her best episode ALL SEASON.  The episode I would sit at home watching, dreaming that I was in Chicago sitting in her audience.

So close I could taste it {Chicago is just a 3.5/4 hour drive from us}.

Oprah always threw in a few "foodie" items each year.  This year she invited Donald Trump on the stage, along with one of his chefs at his hotel to make their famous turkey burgers. Yes, Oprah was in LOVE with a turkey burger.

After they all tasted and raved about the burger, she claimed that the apple in the burger is what made it. Yes, grated apple.  It really is a fantastic idea - the apple gives it a bit of sweetness and the juice from the apple helps keep the burger moist.

So last week when the husband called me at work and asked the dreaded "what's for dinner?" question I promptly said turkey burgers.  Which he is always game for - anything grilled is a win/win in his book.  I did not tell him I'd be putting grated apple in the burgers.

We'll just keep that our little secret.

He'll never find out.

Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers
{Print this Recipe!}
2 lb. ground turkey
1 apple, finely grated, plus the juice
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 c. barbecue sauce
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. onion powder
1 t. onion flakes
generous amounts of salt and pepper

In a large bowl mix together all ingredients until just combined.  Form into large patties, 1 inch thick.  Mixture should make 8 patties.

Cook on a hot grill, 10 minutes a side, or until juices run clear.  Serve hot with your favorite toppings on a bun.

What's your favorite burger?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stuffed Red Pepper Bake


Its been busy around these parts.  Work, kids, blog stuff, play dates, appointments, school approaching for the Little Man {tear}'s a bit never ending.

Here's a little day in the life.  Or yesterdays-day-in-the-life.  Thought you might enjoy knowing what I do during the day.  Or maybe not?  Well I'm going to tell you anyway - and FYI, this is for a day when I'm home with the kids and not working.

5:30 AM - Rise and shine!
5:45 AM - Two mile walk with dog
6:45 AM - Shower
8:00 AM - Kids up, breakfast time, getting dressed & organized
9:00 AM - Errands to the bank, daycare and local farm {to pick up blackberries}
10:00 AM - Play date in town 30 minutes away
11:30 AM - Lunch
1:30 PM - Get home, lay kids down for a nap
2:00 PM - Check emails, work a bit on the blog
2:30 PM - Bake 4 loaves of banana bread
4:00 PM - Play with kids, laundry, prep dinner
5:30 PM - Dinner
6:00 PM - Baths
6:30 PM - Movie time for kids, kitchen time for me {clean, prep peaches for freezing and to bake into bars}
7:30 PM - Bedtime for Little Miss
8:30 PM - Bedtime for Little Man
8:30 PM - FINALLY sit down  - computer/TV time {write blog post, read blogs, research recipes, respond to blog emails, catch up on shows}
10:30 PM - Go to bed
10:33 PM - Dead to the world.

So when I have long days like the one above, I love relying on already prepped dinners.  This Stuffed Red Pepper Bake is one of our new favorites.  And what's better yet?  It makes two 8x8 pans.  Eat one the first night you make it and save the other for days like I had above.

I'm pretty sure I will never actually STUFF peppers again.  Personally I'd rather eat it in this casserole form. Easier and in my opinion - and tastier.

Stuffed Red Pepper Bake
*adapted from Been There, Baked That
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 lb. ground beef
2 red peppers, choppedf finely
1 jar spaghetti sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. Italian seasoning
drizzle of olive oil

Cook rice according to package directions and set aside. Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook hamburger and green peppers until meat is done and no longer pink; drain grease. Stir in rice and sauce, let cook until heated through.

Pour this mixture into two 8x8 casserole dishes.  Top with the two cheese.  In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, garlic salt and Italian seasoning with a drizzle of olive oil, toss to coat.  Sprinkle on bread crumbs.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and topping is crispy.  If freezing the other dish, allow mixture to cool completely.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil.  Label, date and freeze. Will stay fresh in the freezer for 3 months.

So....if you have an abundant amount of peppers coming from your garden, this is the dish for you!  Or if you just like tasty, easy meals for your family than this is for you too.

Peach, I mean peace out kids {so many darn  peaches around this place}.

Have a great weekend, I'll be back on Monday with more goodies!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pancake Dippers

So....sometimes I let the kids eat breakfast on the couch while watching their favorite cartoon.  

Ninety percent of the time we are strictly a 'eat-only-at-the-table' kind of family.  But occasionally there are weekend mornings when the husband is still sleeping {he works late hours}, I'm lazy and I let the kids eat pancakes on the couch.

Without syrup of course.

It's probably not a good habit to get into, but instead of fretting about it I just tell them we are having a pancake picnic and move on.

For all intents and purposes these pancakes started out just being plain jane.  No add-ins or frills, but when I opened up our kitchen cupboard an almost empty jar of peanut butter was staring back at me.

Hmm.....melted peanut butter.  One of God's greatest gifts.

And chocolate chips.

I was on to something.

So with my homemade batter, I added in melted peanut butter and then sprinkled in milk chocolate chips as they were cooking and we pretty much died and went to heaven.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pancake Dippers
{Print this Recipe!}
1 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 c. milk
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. melted peanut butter
chocolate chips

In a bowl combine wet ingredients - milk, egg, vanilla and melted peanut butter.  Sift together dry ingredients and combine with wet ingredients.  Batter will be thick.

Heat a hot griddle with butter.  Pour a small amount of batter onto the griddle - 1/8 cup. Place 3-4 chocolate chips onto the pancake.  Once pancake starts to bubble, flip and cook 30 seconds longer on the other side.  Remove to a pan and keep warm while finishing the pancakes.

These pancakes are great plain and can be eaten straight out of your hand.  But feel free to top with the traditional butter and syrup, jam or more peanut butter!

I made an extra two batches of these and yes - you called it - put them in my freezer.  They are easy to grab in the morning, nuke for a few seconds and eat on the go.

Or eat on the couch.

And they are great snacks too!  My kids asked for them for their afternoon snack one day and loved them just as much as they did 7 hours earlier for breakfast.  The best snack to give them?  Probably not.  But since I had already ruined our breakfast routine I didn't care.

I need to go make more of these.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Crock Pot Basil Marinara Sauce

I first started talking about this homemade sauce in 2013 and I still meet people who say they make it every year when their tomatoes are growing like gang busters in the summer.  It freezes well and keeps all year long!

crock pot basil marinara sauce (

Guess what.

Today is my birthday.  I am 32.  I'll own up to it.  For some reason 32 is hitting me harder than 30 or 31 did. I didn't really care about those.....but for some reason I'm really caring about 32.  I mean, it is technically mid-thirties.  I still feel young {maybe not 21, but pretty young}, am pretty sure I could pass for 28, but this 32 stuff is for the birds.

Happy Birthday to me.

Tonight I'll be headed to dinner with the husband {without kids!!!} and I could not be more excited.  It rarely happens for us.  I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Okay, enough about birthdays, lets talk red sauce.  You know I'm a fan.  I have about 10 recipes on the blog about it {sorry, I'm obsessed}.  This one is very easy, it cooks in the crock pot all day {or night} and will yield 2 quarts and 1 pint of sauce.  Yum!

crock pot basil marinara sauce (

Oh, and lets talk peeling tomatoes.  Instead of blanching in hot water, then an ice bath, or roasting them in the oven, I went the lazy route and took my vegetable peeler and starting hacking peeling away.  It was so easy!  I will do it this way from now on.

Slow Cooker Basil Marinara Sauce

10-12 large tomatoes - peeled and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
7-8 fresh basil leaves
1 t. parsley
generous amounts of salt and pepper

Throw all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on high for at least 6 hours or up to all day {I let mine go about 8 hours}.  The longer it cooks the more developed the taste.  If at the end of 8 hours the sauce seems to thin to you, take off the cover and keep cooking letting it reduce.  Or stir in a slurry of 2 T. cornstarch to enough water to make a paste.  This will help to thicken it a bit.

Ladel into mason jars and allow to cool.  Leave at least 1 inch of space towards the top of the jar to allow for expansion in the freezer.  Once cool, top with the seal and lid and freeze.  Will stay fresh in the freezer for 3-6 months.

Foods to use it in/on?  As a base sauce for lasagna or spaghetti, in minestrone soup, in pizza, calzones or a dipper for bread sticks.

I used one jar of it for dinner the next night - the sauce in an upcoming recipe - Stuffed Red Pepper Bake. It is very versatile!

crock pot basil marinara sauce (

Be sure to follow me on my social media channels!  I share tidbits into my life, my crazy kiddos, the husband and of course what I'm eating, reading and chatting about.
Until next time.....

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