Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: November 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

{10 Minute} Blender Mini Muffins

Before I dive my belly into these muffins, I want to take the time to thank all of you for your kind words and congrats on my last post.  Baby #3 is going to make a great addition to our family.  We are beyond blessed.!  These mini muffins!

I had heard of "blender" muffins before, but after reading Averie's post a few days back, I knew I had to take her recipe and make it my own.  These are so simple and quick. Literally, start to finish, done in 10 minutes.

My kids helped and probably ate half the batch the morning I made these, with the husband and I eating the other half of the batch.  {Yes, if you are doing the math correctly, that means we ate the WHOLE batch in one sitting}.

But they are "mini" so that is okay.

And did I forget to mention these are gluten free?  No flour!

{10 Minute} Blender Mini Muffins

Print this Recipe!
1 ripe banana
1 egg
heaping 1/2 c. peanut butter
3 T. pure maple syrup
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
3/4 c. butterscotch chips

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease or spray a mini muffin tin {my recipe made 20 mini muffins}.
2.  In the blender add the first 7 ingredients.  Run on high speed until smooth.
3.  Add butterscotch chips and fold in by hand.
4.  Fill each mini muffin tin 3/4 full.
5.  Bake for 8-9 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out semi-clean and tops are spongy to the touch.  Do not over bake.

Monday, November 25, 2013

I've Been Keeping a Secret

We're pregnant!

With baby #3!

I feel like I can finally shout it from the rooftops after another successful doctor's appointment this morning and hearing that glorious heartbeat thumping away at 150 beats per minute.  That sound never gets old.

I'm 15.5 weeks along and feeling pretty darn good.  I won't lie and say it wasn't the worst trimester I've had was rough, brutal and pretty miserable.  The worst of the three.  Nauseous from about 11 a.m. everyday until the moment my head hit the pillow {or couch} at night.  All you ladies have been there - nothing sounds good to eat, smells make you run for the bathroom, one minute you are downing a plate of Mexican and the next minute you can't get far enough away from it.  The husband just shook his head.  He often said, "you were just going on and on about how this sounded so good and now you're not going to eat it?"

Yes, darling, I'll pass.

I do have to give a big thanks to my readers.  Before becoming pregnant this time I was a faithful every other day blog poster.  Then the sickness came and it was all I could do to make a meal {that didn't include cereal or toast}.  Sorry.  I just didn't have it in me.  But thankfully, the last few weeks have been MUCH better and I hope you have noticed me making a comeback.

This blog will NOT suffer - I enjoy it too much.  So I hope you continue to read and enjoy.

Just look!  Here are a few recipes I have coming up - Creamy Basil Pesto Pinwheels, 10-Minute Blender Muffins and Homemade Baked Burritos.

Some good stuff, right?

So please keep reading and I'll keep posting!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Scotty Marsh Bars

It's been awhile that I made a dessert.....just because.  Yesterday I came up with these bars, as a combination of two other kinds of bars.  A scotcharoo and a traditional rice krispie marshmallow bar.  And they turned out awesome!

I do have a party to go to tonight and I might take a few of these, but really I made them just because I wanted to experiment.  Its been a long while since I've done that!

Thank goodness I only made an 8x8 pan of these.  They are deadly.  But, you can easily double the ingredients if you need to make more for a 9x13 pan.  But watch out, they will stare you down every time you walk by them!

A creamy, yet crunchy, peanut buttery and marshmallow base, with a butterscotch and chocolate topping. What in life gets better?

Scotty Marsh Bars

3/4 c. light karo syrup
1/2 c. peanut butter
10 large marshmallows
4 c. Rice Chex cereal
1/2 bag butterscotch chips
1/2 bag chocolate chips
additional 1 T. karo syrup

1.  In a saucepan over medium heat combine the 3/4 c. karo syrup, peanut butter and marshmallows.
2.  Continue to stir this mixture until melted and combined.
3.  In a large bowl place the 4 c. of cereal.
4.  Pour the melted mixture over the cereal and stir immediately.  Toss to coat each piece of cereal.
5.  In a buttered 8x8 baking dish press cereal mixture down in the pan, pressing down with your hands.  Set aside.
6.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butterscotch and chocolate chips as well as the 1 T. karo syrup.
7.  Microwave this mixture in 25 second intervals, stirring between each.  After about 4-5 sessions, mixture will be melted and combined.
8.  Spread chocolate over the bars.
9.  Allow bars and topping to harden before cutting.  Putting the fridge, helps this process.
10. Store in a dry cool place, or in the fridge.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Classic Leftover Turkey Casserole

Do not pass this recipe by just because it has the word "leftovers" and "casserole" in it. Please do not pass it by.  Yes, it might be very 1975ish.  But I can assure you your family will love it.

I make this once a year.  Usually a day or two after Thanksgiving when we have leftover turkey, dressing, and gravy invading our fridge.  This year it came a bit early as we had an extra early Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws this past weekend.  And we still have one more to go!

I will admit there are times during the year that I want to take the effort to cook a whole Thanksgiving dinner just so I can have the leftovers for this dish.  Another plus?  It makes a lot.  We ate it for two dinners in a row with no complaints.  Both kids loved it and we loved it even reheated the second day.

I shared this photo on Instagram right before I put it in the oven and apparently you all have a little casserole love too.

By the way, follow me on Instagram.  Mmmm....k?

And yes, if you are really paying attention you'll see the first set of photos has peas in it. The second photos doesn't not.  This is called a case of "I-have-a-food-blog-and-a-trillion-photos-saved-so-I'm-using-photos-from-last-year-and-this-year-because-I-can."

Leftover Turkey Casserole

4 c. shredded turkey
1/2 c. mayo
1 can cream of mushroom soup or a homemade version
1 c. leftover gravy
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. frozen peas {optional}
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
2 c. dry pasta {I've used all kinds}
1 t. pepper
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
dots of butter

In a large bowl combine all ingredients, except for the chicken stock, Parmesan cheese and butter.  If too thick, thin out with the chicken stock {I always end up adding it}.  Bake covered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove lid or foil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and dots of butter.  Bake an additional 15 minutes until golden brown.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Baked Idaho Nachos

There is just something about watching endless hours of football {and now basketball as well} over the weekend and eating crap food.

And by crap I mean unhealthy food, yet still really tasty.

It's almost a right of passage that when sports consume our weekends you have to have a plate of greasy goodness sitting in front of you.  But wait!  These Baked Idaho Nachos are baked, not fried, so I've cut down on a LOT of the grease.  A little indulgence never hurt anyone.

Now I took the time to cut up a large baking potato and make my own fries, but I've also seen these nachos done with pre-cut frozen fries, even waffle fries.  I'll let you decide how you want to do it.

After getting the fries nice and crispy it is just a matter of frying up some bacon, melting some cheese and topping with a drizzle of ranch and hot sauce.

Sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Baked Idaho Nachos

*feeds two
1 large baking potato
2 strips of bacon, chopped and cooked
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
olive oil
garlic powder
ranch dressing
hot sauce

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.  Wash and cut potato into 1/2 in. slices {french fry style}.  Toss in olive oil.
3.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until crispy and brown, flipping halfway.
4.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven, arrange the fries in the middle and top with cheese.
5.  Place back in the oven just to melt the cheese.
6.  Remove from the oven, place fries on a plate, top with crumbled bacon, ranch and hot sauce.
7.  Serve hot.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Operation Fridge Clean-Out: 5 Easy Steps to a Clean Fridge & Not Wasting Food

Things are getting real around here.  I actually opened up our fridge and vowed to snap a photo without knowing exactly what it looked like inside.

At the time of this particular photo, it had been a busy week.  The two previous nights the husband had been in charge of dinner for the kids as work events kept me late.  So honestly I hadn't even looked in our fridge other than for the 5 seconds it took me to get milk out for my cereal in the morning.

I like things orderly, organized and mostly in their "place".  The husband?  Not so much.  I often admire him for that.  He can gently toss a plastic container of leftovers in the fridge on any shelf, not with an afterthought that it is only halfway sitting on the shelf and next to the milk.  When clearly in my head....nothing sits on the milk shelf but MILK.  {We buy 4 gallons at a time - it requires a whole shelf}.

After opening the fridge and snapping the photo I quickly realized we needed to clean up a bit.  We had also vowed to not go the grocery store on our usual Friday "grocery day" just to make a point to use up what we had.  To cleanse a bit....

So here was my plan.

I wanted to clean out the fridge, yet use up what was in there and put those ingredients towards future meals to get us through the week.  Easy right?  

This is what I found in the black hole taking over our fridge.
  • milk
  • cheddar cheese
  • bacon
  • cottage cheese
  • sour cream
  • yogurt
  • oranges
  • apples
  • carrots
  • bread
  • spaghetti sauce
  • lunch meat
  • eggs
  • beer
  • random condiments - ketchup, mustard, jam, salsa, mayo, butter, pickles, hot sauce, steak sauce, coffee, etc.
Here we go.

Step 1.
Take EVERYTHING out of your fridge.  This means everything.  Set it all on your kitchen table.

Step 2.
Clean the heck out of your fridge.  Get out the elbow grease and scrub it down.

Step 3.  
Take inventory of all items.  Write everything down, right down to that last drop of mustard.  While taking inventory be sure to take the time to wipe containers down as well.  Stuff like salsa jars and ketchup bottles had a tendency to get sticky and messy {especially if kids are in the house!}.

Step 4.
Put everything back in an organized fashion.  Items that are used daily keep up front and center.  Easy snack items like apples and carrots keep visible {pre-cut those carrots - much more tempting to have for a snack when they are already ready to go}.

Step 5.
Meal plan.  After you've put everything back....admire your work.  Then sit down when the house is quiet and look at those ingredients.  What do you have that can be put into meals? Get creative.  Use everything.

This is what I came up with.

Remember our fridge was pretty empty....we were challenging ourselves!

Breakfast Egg Casserole
{using up eggs, bacon, cheese, milk, hot sauce}

{using up cheese, milk, bacon}

Baked French Toast
{using up bread, eggs, milk}

Fruit Salad
{using up apples, oranges, mayo - yes, we have a family recipe that uses mayo in fruit salad!}

Chicken and Egg Salad
{using up pickles, mayo, carrots, eggs}

Baked Stuffed Shells
{using up cottage cheese, cheese, spaghetti sauce}

Panini Night
{using up lunch meat, bread, cheese and many condiments}


I came up with 7 meals out of this mess!  And here is where I should really add a sixth step.

Actually make these meals.  So far we've had two.  But the rest are there still waiting for me.

Stick to the plan and make these meals.  You will feel a bit proud when you use all of this up and it doesn't get thrown out.  And if you can take some extra time to prep a few of these at once it will also save time.  In 30 minutes I can easily have the fruit salad, egg salad and breakfast egg casserole prepped and ready to go {umm....make sure to put the kids to bed first}.

Who is going to tackle Operation Fridge Clean-Out?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Brown Butter Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have I got a cookie for ya!

I baked these little beauties up the night before our Iowa Food & Lifestyle Blogger Meet-up.  Each attendee got one in their swag bag and I heard compliments throughout the day, so they must have liked them!

The texture of this cookie is a bit different, unique, yet crazy good.  They are dense, yet filled with a nutty flavor topped with a ton of crushed pretzels and chocolate chips.  Quite the mouthful, but a delicious one indeed.  The perfect salty/sweet combo.

I will say though....I did have a certain someone in the house {I won't name names} who asked "why, don't you ever just make a regular chocolate chip cookie?"

Good question.  I think for my next batch I might go back to the basics.  Some people just don't like change.

The little man was stealing these left and right the night I made them and the little miss wouldn't touch them. Let me remind you, she will eat anything we put in front of her.....but when I give her a cookie she usually hands it back.

Clearly, she is not my child.

You see I craved sweets so BAD while carrying her, that I think I messed her up for life.

But if you like sweets {and salt!} try these cookies.  They are a fun twist on the original!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Iowa Food & Lifestyle Blogger Meet-Up

So I dreamt up this idea back in the early summer to have as many Iowa foodies I could find get together and meet.  Well, this past Saturday all that hard work came together and we met as a group for the first time. It was a LONG day, but so worth it.

When I first started this process I never knew that I would walk away with 20 new friends. All of these ladies {and men!} are talented, funny, smart and enthusiastic about what they do.  Each of them have a blog with a different niche, yet we all have the same thing in common - we love food, we love DIY projects and we love sharing our views and thoughts with our readers.

We were beyond blessed to have a gracious host in the morning, The New Pioneer Food Co-op, in Iowa City.  If you are ever in the area and get the chance, STOP BY!  This store believes in doing everything right - organic if possible, no GMOs, selling local, sustainable food and loving their customers.  

They were so excited to have us that they actually moved half of their bakery aside to give us a private room.  Along with a tour, samples, lunch and their endless knowledge they truly were the best hosts.

After lunch we all traveled downtown and relaxed a bit.  Our first stop was Molly's Cupcakes who again, graciously gave all of us a nice discount off their delicious cupcakes.  This quirky little cupcake shop {once on Cupcake Wars!} had an endless list of flavors.  I finally settled on Salted Caramel Butterscotch....and promptly died and went to heaven.  So good!

While at Molly's we got the chance to talk blogs - the good, the bad and the ugly or blogs. {Yes, there is an "ugly" side to blogging}.  It is so neat to get other's views and perspectives and know that you are not alone.

Did I fail the mention the killer turkey reuben {or Rachel}I had for lunch? And then later the delicious vegetarian lasagna at The Brown Bottle?

I ate more quality food yesterday than I have in the past week.  No joke.

I am so grateful for the friends I made yesterday.  Many of them, I've been chatting with for years via the web, yet yesterday met for the first time.  Diana, Steph, Alicia and many more. One pair, Nick and Bethany, I came to find out actually live in my childhood friend's home growing up.  I've actually slept at their house! {Before it was their house - small, small world}.  

We have plans to make this a yearly event, changing the venue, the hosts, the food, the everything - which will be great!


So, to all that came, to the many who couldn't make it but sent their love, thank you for making it such a unique and enjoyable day!

Now someone else can plan next year.

Ha - just kidding - it wasn't that bad....

Thursday, November 7, 2013

'Can't Keep Your Hands Out of It' Snack Mix

Okay, let me be honest.  I'm not going to claim that this snack mix is going to win any awards.  It's about as simple as simple can get.  It's not fancy.  I'm pretty sure most food snobs would turn up their nose and walk away.

But you know what?  Sometimes you just need to reach your hand into a bowl and come back with a salty snack.

There is nothing complicated about this mix.  In fact, I bet you all have a similar recipe.  But....I do think the combo of these four snacky items really make a good combo.  There I said it.  You have to use these four items, or it just won't work!

Really, I will KNOW if you don't use these four items.

The husband loved picking out the spicy Bugles and my little guy was drawn to the pretzels.  We all had our favorites.  I personally liked a mouthful of the pretzel, Bugle and white cheddar Cheez-It.

So classy, I know.

'Can't Keep Your Hands Out of It' Snack Mix

1 large bag Spicy Buffalo Bugles
1 bag oyster crackers
1/2 large bag pretzels
1 box White Cheddar Cheez-Its
1 pkt. Ranch dressing seasoning mix
olive oil

1.  Empty all contents into a large roasting pan.
2.  Drizzle generously with olive oil, ranch packet and toss to coat.
3.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
4.  Store in an airtight container or large plastic bag.
5.  It makes a lot!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Campbell's Skillet Chicken Marsala

Every once in awhile as a food blogger opportunities come along where you have the chance to sample companies new lines, new products or even existing products. Campbell's has recently introduced a new line of skillet and slow cooker sauces.  You can find a coupon here.

Now, I'm all about cooking from scratch when I have the time, but as a busy mom I often don't have the time.  Our schedules get hectic and my family gets hungry FAST.  

I have always, always, always wanted to make chicken marsala but never have - I think it was a combo of being intimidated and having to buy a bottle of marsala wine that would only get used once every few months when I would make this dish. {Remember, I'm pretty cheap!}

So standing in the grocery aisle earlier this week I picked up a packet of the Campbell's Skillet Chicken Marsala sauce.  At just $2.79, I thought that was pretty reasonable, even without a coupon!  Only having to add chicken when I get home, well....the deal was done.

This dish is often served with mashed potatoes or pasta, but I chose the healthy route and cooked up some brown rice.  I served this for lunch on Sunday to my husband and in-laws who were visiting and they gobbled it up!  It was super easy to make and in my opinion an easy, quick and tasty meal.  

I will definitely be picking up another packet soon.

Campbell's Skillet Chicken Marsala

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken tenders
1 pkt. Campbell's Skillet Chicken Marsala
1 T. butter
2 T. olive oil

1.  In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil.
2.  Place chicken tenders in the pan and season with salt and pepper.
3.  Cook the chicken until browned on both sides, about 5-7 minutes a side.
4.  Pour in the skillet sauce, stir and cover.
5.  Bring this mixture to a boil and cook for another 5 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through.
6.  Remove from the pan and serve immediately with rice, potatoes or pasta.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bacon Ranch Cheddar Cheese Ball

Sorry for being MIA!

My duties this week have included: more phone calls to DirecTV than I wish to count, one school Halloween party, 4 days of recovering from the biggest stye on my eye known to man, a sick dog and last but not least getting the kids all dolled up for my least favorite holiday of the year....Halloween.

But, it is now Friday and we made it.  We still have a sick dog and our main T.V. is still screwed up, but we are working on both.

During all of this I did manage to bring two yummy snacks to work one day for a 'food day'.  I sincerely hope you have foods days at your work too.  If anything, it gives you grace to eat all day long at your desk.

This little cheese ball could not be more simple.  And don't make fun of cheese balls!!!  Yes, they may scream 1975....but they are a good party dish!  Plus it feeds a lot.  It may look small but there is a lot of cheese in there.

Be prepared to bring a lot of crackers.

Bacon Ranch Cheddar Cheese Ball

2 pkg. softened cream cheese
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg. ranch dressing mix
2 c. chopped, cooked bacon

1.  In a bowl combine softened cream cheese, cheddar cheese and ranch dressing mix.
2.  In a shallow bowl {pie tin works great}, place chopped up bacon.
3.  Form the cheese mixture into a large ball and place in the bacon.
4.  Roll and form, patting the bacon into the ball until it all sticks.
5.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before serving with crackers.