Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: September 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Baked Pumpkin Apple Bread

This bread was not supposed to contain pumpkin, but after a grocery haul this weekend and canned pumpkin was in my cupboard, I could not resist.

It was a good decision.

My first pumpkin dessert of the season.  No doubt, it will not be the last.

Quick breads are the easiest desserts around.  No yeast required.  Mix together wet ingredients, add in dry, pour batter into a pan and bake.  Simple.  Easy.  Pretty much food proof.

The only problem?  In our house it is easy to see one loaf be gone in under 24 hours.  A little slice here, another one there, share some with the kids.....GONE.

I guess it could be worse.

Friday, September 27, 2013

3 Cheese Sausage Lasagna

It's about time for some hearty dishes don't ya think?

We've had hints of Fall here in the Midwest and I am loving it.  Everything about it.  Football Saturdays, early morning jacket weather and yes, even some leaves starting to change {gulp!}.

I remember at a couple's bridal shower that was given to the husband and I many years back....we played this game where we were each asked the same set of questions and then had to guess what each other would answer.

One question was, 'what is your favorite meal cooked by your fiance?'

I have no idea what I said but I do remember him saying his favorite was my lasagna.  To this day I think it is one of his favorite meals.  I'm not very good at making it the same way each time, but each times still turns out pretty good!

And since we are just a family of four, I remembered to cut down the recipe a bit and make it in an 8x8 baking dish.  We still ate off of it for three meals....can you imagine if I would have made a whole pan? Lasagna goes a long way people.

Or you could make two 8x8 pans and freeze one - great idea too!

3 Cheese Sausage Lasagna

1/2 box lasagna noodles
1 lb. ground sausage
1 1/2 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
8 ox. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce {I used my homemade}
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Boil lasagna noodles until al dente, rinse and set aside.
3.  In a bowl combine cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, 1 c. of the mozzarella cheese, garlic powder and pepper.
4.  Meanwhile cook sausage until juices run clear.  Pour in spaghetti sauce, mix and set aside. 
5.  Start layering - Sauce, 3 noodles, cheese mixture, sauce, 3 noodles, cheese mixture, sauce, 3 noodles, cheese mixture and remaining shredded mozzarella on the top.
6.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown.

Who wants to dig in?

And I keep forgetting to tell you who won my Diamond Candle Giveaway!  Lynn Bartenhagen you are the lucky winner.  And since I know you personally, I'll be in touch! Thanks to all who entered {a record number of entries!}

I am FINALLY going to get around to baking my Apple Bread this weekend, so stayed tuned!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

8 Easy Meals to Keep in Your Freezer

I often get asked what freezer meals or food items I keep on hand for those crazy nights when I either a) have nothing ready or prepared or b) I'm lazy.

Here are my Top 8!

And I'm curious what are your Top 8?

1.  Shredded Chicken

Whether its buying a rotisserie chicken or cooking up a large batch of chicken breasts when they go on sale, shredded chicken is super simple to keep on hand for easy dinners.  When the chicken is already shredded, it simply requires a bit of defrosting to make an easy meal.

I will use shredded chicken for taco salads, toppings on pizza {buffalo chicken is our favorite}, chicken salad and even to throw in a quick taco or chicken noodle soup.

2.  Pre-made Taco Meat

Ground beef goes on sale?  Cook up a large batch, add in some salsa, chili powder and cumin and you have instant taco meat.  As you might imagine I am NOT a fan of pre-packaged taco seasoning.  I don't like the taste and it is not good for you.  Have you checked out the ingredients?

Set this pre-made taco meat out to thaw during the day and its tacos that later that night for dinner.  Or if you really want to impress the kids and give them a bit of a treat, make walking tacos {small crushed bags of Doritos or Fritos, split open the side, add in the meat and toppings}.

3.  Soups

When making soup in the winter, make an extra batch.  Eat one that night and freeze the other batch for a few weeks out.  It may require a bit more work that day, but trust me you'll appreciate it later.

Some of our favorites to freeze are creamy chicken and wild rice soup and chili.

4.  Homemade Waffles, Pancakes and French Toast

If you have kids then I'm sure you know that most love waffles, pancakes and french toast. In fact, it might be their favorite breakfast - it sure is in my house!

When making a know the rule - double it.  Eat the first batch and throw the double batch in the freezer.  If you want to make sure all items freeze separately and do not stick together, freeze them individually on cookie sheets, then place them in plastic baggies. These will stay fresh for a few months and are easy to pull out on busy mornings, pop in the toaster or microwave and have breakfast ready in less than 5 minutes.

5.  Casseroles & Main Dishes

In the winter there is nothing better than a hearty casserole.  One that takes care of your meat, veggie and starch all in one dish.  Perfect in my opinion!

Some of our family favorites to freeze are: Chicken Pesto Penne, Chicken Pesto Meatballs, Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork and Firecracker Sloppy Joes.

6.  Homemade Frozen Pizzas

Yes, you can make your own frozen pizzas!  I explain the steps here.  It is really quite easy and in my opinion taste better than most frozen pizzas and of course have better ingredients!

These are also great to make for new moms and busy families if you are feeling generous. They will appreciate it and you will feel good about doing it.

7.  Flash Frozen Produce

When produce is in season - buy it.  Buy a LOT of it.  Then come home and prepare it for the freezer.  I do this each year with fresh sweet corn.  You can find my tutorial here.

This can also be done with green beans, peas, peppers, onions, etc.  That way when the dead of winter hits you can walk over to your deep freeze and find veggies that you know were picked fresh.  Better than eating ones out of the grocery store that have traveled thousands of miles, right?

8.  Leftovers

I really didn't put leftovers at #8 just because I couldn't think of an 8th freezer meal.  Trust me, I didn't.

Don't throw leftovers away!  Have leftover chili?  Throw it in the freezer and the next week make it into cheesy chili mac.  Leftover roasted veggies?  Throw them in the freezer and later defrost to layer into homemade lasagna.

But here is the key - label everything.  If you don't label an item it WILL become that mystery frozen bag in your freezer.  Better yet, keep a running list on your fridge of what is actually IN your freezer.  Then cross the items off as you use them.

So what do you think of my Top 8?

Is there anything your family does that should be included?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oven Baked Fajitas

Sorry, I've been a bit off my game lately.  My usual every-other-day posts have become about every 3 days. I've been a bit under the weather....and when you're under the weather your mind usually isn't on food. So bare with me!

I did manage to make these super simple fajitas a few nights ago and frankly I'm trying to figure out why I never made fajitas like this before.  Throw it all in a baking dish, let it cook and assemble.  Same great taste, but without hovering over a hot skillet or wok.

I used what we had on hand for these - which was about four zillion red peppers from the garden.  You can also throw in onion, other colored peppers, mushrooms, etc.  Make it how you like!

Even our kids loved them.  They each ate two.  And I learned the Little Miss likes red peppers.  Not sure how I went 2.5 years without knowing this, but I'm happy to report we now have a red pepper eater. The Little Guy?  He wouldn't touch one with a ten foot pole.

Oven Baked Fajitas

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced
3 red peppers, sliced
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
chili powder
garlic powder
flour tortillas
toppings of your choice

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Coat 9x13 baking dish with melted coconut oil.
3.  Place in chicken, peppers and generous amounts of each seasoning.
4.  Toss to coat.
5.  Bake for 35 minutes or until chicken juices run clear, stirring halfway through.
6.  Serve warm on flour tortillas with toppings of choice.

Put these in your dinner rotation!

Crowd pleaser!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cheesy Stuffed Hot Rolls

Homemade rolls?

All of you who are suddenly thinking "I'll exit out of this post" - hold on! These are easy. Yes, they are homemade but they are not difficult.  Nor do they take much time.

So before you say goodbye to this recipe {my sister, yes I am talking to you}, take a look at the photo again and ponder how good they taste.  

Yep, lets all reel ourselves back in.

And well, of course, paired next to homemade lasagna makes these rolls even better.  This three cheese sausage lasagna recipe is coming soon.  Hang on for that as well.

When you crack into one of these rolls, they will haphazardly break into uneven pieces and the gooey, melty cheese will string out. 

Seriously, what is better than that?

Here's the deal.  Use this recipe for my world's best bread dough.  Flatten dough into small pieces.  Place a small handful of mozzarella cheese in the middle, wrap up and place seam side down in a greased dish.

Take 1/2 stick of butter, 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1 T. parmesan cheese and melt in the microwave. Brush onto the rolls right before baking.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until just golden around the edges.

There can't possibly be any better roll currently in my recipe box.

I use this dough for everything lately - homemade pizza pockets, pizza dough, french bread and I'm sure I'll find more uses.  Give me some time.  The ideas will come.

Cheers to it being Thursday!

What do you like to pair a hot dinner roll with?

Soup?  Pasta?  Nothing at all?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Popable Energy Bites

I'm not going to lie.  I've made three batches of these in the past two weeks.

After I noticed that the first batch was literally gone one morning, I had to gently remind the husband that these are "energy bites".  They are designed for an in-between-meals-pick-me-up.  They are not designed to eat four after every meal.  Yeah, they've got lots of healthy stuff in them, but like anything you probably shouldn't eat a whole batch in a day.

He refrained and got better after I made the second batch.

Keep these babies in the fridge and they'll last up to a week!

Popable Energy Bites
1 c. dry oatmeal
1/2 c. dry barley
1 T. chia seeds
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. peanut butter
2 T. honey
2 T. pure maple syrup
1/4 c. chocolate chips

1.  In a large bowl combine all ingredients.
2.  Once combined, refrigerate for 1 hour.
3.  Remove from the fridge and roll into bite-sized balls.
4.  Keep refrigerated for up to a week in an airtight container.

This week was another big milestone.  The Little Man turned 4.  It's hard to believe its been four years since we brought home this 9 lb. 1 oz. baby boy.  He is our funny, shy, organized, playful and thrilled-to-finally-be-in-preschool BIG BOY.

He is such a blessing in our lives, we are thankful to be his parents.  Since he was such a good boy this summer he got his first bike.  He took off in it in the restaurant parking lot that night, with his little sister in awe watching him.  I'm equally as proud of her, as she hasn't once asked to get on it, nor squawk with he wants to ride it.  She is happy to walk along beside me.

Although, she will tell you daily that "when I stop peeing my bed, I can get a princess bike". {She is potty-trained, but sometimes like to playfully take her diaper off at night....when then of course makes for a wet bed in the morning.  TMI?  Sorry.}

I hope you all have a great week!

Oh....and that chocolate cake in the birthday photo?  It's beyond delicious and has become a staple on my side of the family.  But here's the secret.  It's the recipe for made from scratch chocolate cake on the side of the Hershey's cocoa container.

So, you are all welcome to make it yourself.  Hershey's has granted us all permission.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

Is your garden on tomato overload?
This easy sheet pan roasted tomato sauce is for you!

roasted tomato pasta sauce (

I'm a bit obsessed with this sauce.  It seems every few months I tell you about ***the best*** spaghetti or tomato sauce.  Sorry.  I just keep finding ones that are better than the last one.

But see, this one is not only really tasty, but really easy to make.  Five ingredients, two of those being salt and pepper, so really just three items to make this delicious sauce.  I used this sauce in lasagna this week and it was perfect.  Nice and thick and tasty.

roasted tomato pasta sauce (

Instead of cooking this down on the stove-top, you roast all of this in the oven.  The first time I made this it was literally the HOTTEST day of the year.  Not the wisest thing I've done. The husband was a bit annoyed.  But, what do you do?

He was thankful for the sauce later.

He hasn't had the lasagna I made yet, but I'm imagining when he tastes it, he'll be thankful for the sauce again.

roasted tomato pasta sauce (

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

Print this Recipe!

7-8 large tomatoes or 12-13 small tomatoes

6 cloves of garlic
dried or fresh basil
olive oil

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
3.  Quarter tomatoes and lay on the baking sheet.
4.  Place whole gloves on the baking sheet.
5.  Sprinkle everything liberally with basil, salt and pepper.
6.  Roast in the oven for 1 hour or until a bit charred and soft.
7.  Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool.
8.  Place cooled ingredients into a blender and puree.
9.  Eat immediately over pasta or freeze for later use.

roasted tomato pasta sauce (

You will find yourself making this sauce again and again and again.  I love it in my super stuffed green peppers, my garlic knot pizza casserole, our delicious pepperoni pizza lasagna roll-ups and in this little dish we like to call million dollar casserole.

That last one?  Yeah, it has been pinned close to 200,000 times.  By far the #1 recipe on my website.  And for good reason!

Throw this sauce in any one of your favorite family dishes, you'll soon love it just as much as we do!

roasted tomato pasta sauce (

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Hot Dip

It's tailgating season!

Whether you are a football household {like us} or not, I'm pretty sure most like to take part in football food, right?  In my opinion there is nothing better than gathering with friends and family to watch a game and munch of food, grazing all day long.  

No meals are prepared, you just snack.  Good for the waist line?  NO.  But, fun?  YES.

I took this dip over to a friend's house last weekend.  She has a week old newborn and it was about time I visited, soaked in that baby smell and delivered her some food!  Oh, and we did watch football too.

I took the dip over cold, then threw it in her oven to heat up.  {I hope you have friends that don't mind you using their oven like mine, makes a world of difference}.

We all sat around and watched the Hawkeyes win {finally} and cuddled with her little guy.  It was pretty much the perfect afternoon.

Chicken Enchilada Hot Dip

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. mayo
1 can diced green chilies
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1/2 c. bread crumbs
Fritos, for scooping

1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  On a baking sheet, lay down the chicken breasts and liberally sprinkle with chili powder and cumin.  Bake for 30 minutes or until juices run clear.  
2.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then shred the chicken.
3.  In a bowl combine all of the ingredients, including the cooled chicken.
4.  Refrigerate this mixture until ready to bake.
5.  Pour mixture into a greases 8x8 baking dish.
6.  Top with bread crumbs.
7.  Bake for 40 minutes or until bubbly.

You have to eat this dip with Fritos Scoops.  I'm sorry, but they are the perfect "scooper". No chip is better!

Even my friend who can't do the spicy thing to well, liked this dip.  I promise, it just has a hint of spice, nothing overpowering.  But, if you want hotter just add more jalapenos!

Will you make this for your next football party?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Crock Pot Fettuccine Alfredo

You guys asked for more crock pot meals....well here you go!  And this one is a KEEPER.  In the history of my kitchen endeavors I have never, ever made homemade alfredo sauce.  I was just a 'crack-open-a-jar' kind of girl.

But this recipe?  It requires very minimal ingredients.  And here I was thinking alfredo sauce was complicated, but that couldn't be further from the truth!

There is one very important rule to this dish though.  You have to use refrigerated or fresh fettuccine noodles. The dry stuff just doesn't work.  Trust me.  Follow the directions.

And if you don't like broccoli substitute any vegetable {peas or spinach would be good}, or be bad and omit any vegetable.  I have a feeling some of you may do that.

Slow Cooker Fettuccine Alfredo

Yield: 8 cups, serves 4

2 T. minced garlic
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 pint cream
1 c. milk
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1 t. pepper
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 c. broccoli florets
9 oz. refrigerated fresh pasta
1/4 c. water

1.  Turn the crock pot onto high.  Place in oil and minced garlic.  Cover and let it sit for 40 minutes or until the garlic starts to sizzle and brown.

2.  Add in the chicken, cream, milk, cheese and pepper.  Let cook for another 40 minutes.

3.  Add in the pasta, broccoli and water, tossing to coat.  Cook another 30-60 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.  Serve hot.

Our family loved this dish.  We had plenty of leftovers and it reheated really well the next day {you never know how pasta is going to reheat}.

I mean, lets think about this - pasta, cream, cheese....what could be better?  Well maybe, pasta, cream, cheese and a glass of wine.  I'll need to incorporate that next time.  Beginner's mistake.

Now taking a food break, have you entered my Diamond Candles Giveaway?  You still have quite a few days to enter, buy why wait?

You can enter here.

Until then - try out this dish!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Diamond Candles Giveaway!

Warning.  This post has nothing to do with food!

I rarely, if ever blog about something that isn't related to food, drinks, my kids, etc.  But when Diamond Candles approached me about trying out one of their candles, PLUS giving one away to my readers, I couldn't resist.

You see this isn't just any ole candle.

In each Diamond Candle there is a ring.

A ring whose worth could be anywhere from $10 to $5,000!  Kind of exciting, huh?  What woman doesn't like jewelry?

I tend to stick to just my wedding ring and an occasional necklace, but I love throwing in funky rings that match certain outfits now and then.  And here is your chance to win one!

You see after you burn your candle awhile you'll see a gold foil packet emerge.  Which is just crazy, isn't it? 

I mean why can I not think of these things?  Such a fun, unique concept.

After the packets emerges, take tweezers and remove the package {I felt a bit like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory here....only chocolate wasn't involved}.

Place on an area where you don't mind a bit of wax dripping.  Allow to cool just a bit, enough to handle.

After peeling off the gold wrapper you'll find a very small sealed plastic baggie.  Inside is your ring!  Hope and pray that it is a DIAMOND.

But still feel good when you realize it isn't, but yet a cool, funky yellow stone.

Then proceed to wear it to dinner with a friend, admiring it every time you look down.  I love it!  A unique cut of stone and color that I probably would have never picked out for myself, yet when I wear it, absolutely love.  

And have I mentioned how good these candles smell?  

I picked out Sunwashed, which reminds me of a clean laundry, clean house, fresh air scent. In other words, it masks any 'unclean' smell you have going on in your house.

So, who wants to win a Diamond Candle of their own?  Simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below and you'll be entered.  Be patient if the form takes some time to upload - it will come, be patient!

Send your friends and family over to this giveaway - trust me, you want one of these. Or visit the Diamond Candle website get one for yourself!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Life Lately via Instagram

1.  This killer roasted tomato sauce was brought to my attention via Michelle over at Simplify, Live, Love. Another food and lifestyle blogger who just happens to live in the same town as me.  We are finally going to meet this week and chat.

2.  We took the kids out for Mexican last weekend.  #1 because the chips and salsa keep them busy and entertained until their meal comes.  #2 we LOVE Mexican food.

3.  We had a birthday party for our friend's child over the weekend.  Our kids really do not understand that every party is NOT their birthday too.

4.  I also made a really good pasta salad.  You can find the recipe here.

5.  I forced myself to sit at the DMV and get my driver's license renewed.  It's painful sitting in that place.  I wondered if many sitting next to me had never ventured out of their home expect for this one day when they graced my presence.  Thankfully I survived and will not have to return until 2018.

6.  We've been making these individual deep dish chocolate chip cookies when we need a sweet treat. Which may or may not be a few times a week.

7.  The Little Man had his first day of preschool.  We are convinced he'd rather spend his time there than at home.

8.  I've been making a gallon of iced tea a day.  Honestly.  Even the kids drink it.

Just a little inside sneak peak into our lives.

Coming up!  Crock Pot Fettuccine Alfredo, Baked Apple Bread, Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce and Freezer Ready Roast Beef Cheddar Sandwiches.

Want more sneak peaks?  Follow me on Instragram here.