Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'm back!

I took a nice, long break this weekend from blogging and most things computer related.  It was nice.  I spent most of it running after snotty noses and trying to finish this book before the fines started setting in at the library.

All in all, a pretty good weekend.

Tomorrow we head to my brother's house in Des Moines for our FINAL Christmas.  I have yet to celebrate with my side of the family so we are looking forward to it.  Someday {someday!} I hope we have a home big enough to invite the family to our house for the holidays.  I would love to not have to travel.  Anyone with me?

So on Saturday I heard the most pitiful, sad and somewhat annoying line come out of the husband's mouth.

"Are you going to cook a home cooked meal anytime soon?"


Like we haven't been eating a TON at various holiday gatherings.  With all the travel and dishes I took to those, he is right I haven't made a "meal" in about a week.  But, if you would have heard him, it was like he hadn't had a meal in over a year.  

On top of that, we hadn't been to the grocery store either, so my options were limited.  But, I scraped and clawed my way through the kitchen and found just enough items for this soup. A great soup, I might add!  It has a bit of spice to it, but nothing that is going to set your mouth on fire.  Give it a try!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Print this Recipe!
4 c. chicken broth
1 small can diced green chiles
1 15 oz. can Rotel
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
2 t. worcestershire sauce
2 T. lemon or lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. tomato sauce
8 oz. sour cream
1/2 c. water
4 T. flour
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
chili powder
garlic powder
cayenne pepper
olive oil.

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Generously sprinkle/rub chicken breasts with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until juices run clear.  Cool.
3.  In a large slow cooker combine chicken broth, green chiles, Rotel, black beans, worcestershire sauce, lemon or lime juice, garlic cloves, salt, pepper and tomato sauce.  Stir, set on HI put on the lid.
4.  When chicken is cool, dice into chunks and add to the slow cooker.
5.  After two hours, when broth mixture is very hot, combine the 1/2 c. water and flour.  Whisk into the soup and return the lid for another hour.
6.  An hour before serving {slow cooker can stay on LOW most of the day}, stir in the sour cream.
7.  Serve with crushed tortilla chips.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top 13 Recipes of 2013

It's that time of year!  My annual recipe round-up.  The ones that stood out for my readers, got the most attention and {rather boring for you....I know} the ones that received the most page views.

All 13 of these listed below were fan favorites and believe me when I say I am still making them.  Some more than others, some just when the ingredients are in season, but yes, still making them!

I hope you will stick around with me in 2014.  I'm looking forward to more cooking, new adventures, and who knows maybe some different and new "things" for this food blog.

So now do me a favor....

Leave a comment and tell me which of these you are most excited to try!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pretzel Turtles

Happy Holidays!

I swear after this post and one more, I'll lay off the sugary sweets for a bit and get back to regular programming {i.e. something a bit more savory}.  But with so many good holiday treats coming out of my kitchen, I just have to share!

These pretzel turtles are beyond fabulous and very easy to make.  I whipped them up during nap time yesterday in less than an hour.

You know me and 4 ingredients dishes or desserts - I'm all about them!  This probably doesn't even qualify as a "recipe" but I'll list out the directions anyway - I know many of you NEED directions {Mom, are you listening?}

Here we go.

What you will need:
Bag of circle or twisted pretzels
1 bag of wrapped caramels
48 pecan halves
1/2 pkg.chocolate almond bark

Cover a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper {spray with non-stick spray if using foil}. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Lay pretzels on the foil and place a caramel on each.  Bake for 5 minutes or just until a bit soft {not melted}.  Remove from the oven and press a pecan halve into the caramel.  Melt the almond bark over low heat on the stove.  Once melted, take a spoonful of melted chocolate and pour onto the turtle.  Allow to cool, or place in the fridge to harden.  Keep in an airtight container and they will keep for up to a week.

But trust me, they will never last that long!

Oh my....these are heaven.  Sweet and salty.  The perfect tiny bite!

Now if I could just stop at ONE.  I'm taking a tray of these to our Christmas Eve gathering tonight.  Along with my hot reuben dip.  {I've been craving a good reuben for weeks}.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Candied Almonds {+ gender reveal}

See these little jars of goodness?

Yeah, I risked my life for these photos.  We are in the middle of a winter wallop....freezing rain, ice and later this weekend, lots and lots of snow.  So yesterday I slowly skated and slide my way across our back deck and took these photos.

Hey, with the sun setting between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. you skate outside around 8:00 a.m. for the beauty shots.  Oh, the problems of a food blogger!

I made these little candied nuts for my son's preschool teachers.  This is his first year in school {part-time} and I'm pretty sure he likes being at school more than he likes being at home.  I get asked multiple times an evening if tomorrow is a "school day" or a "stay-at-home-day".  If I say the ladder, he is often disappointed.

These two teachers mean the world to him.  And it makes me so proud to say that.  He talks about them like they are God {or maybe he really thinks that because he does go to a Christian preschool!}.  I wanted to make them something unique and different.  When I saw a similar recipe online, I knew this was the one. And easy!  So easy.  I might make another batch for next week's holiday gatherings.

Cinnamon Sugar Candied Almonds

Print this Recipe!
6 c. unsalted, whole almonds
2 egg whites
2 T. water
2 c. sugar
2 1/2 t. cinnamon
2 t. salt

1.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2.  With an electric mixer {or by hand - I worked my muscles out on this one!} beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 4-5 minutes.
3.  Add in sugar, cinnamon and salt to the stiff egg whites.  Fold to combine.
4.  Pour this mixture over the almonds and stir to coat.
5.  On a large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, coat with non-stick cooking spray.
6.  Spread almonds on the baking sheet.
7.  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
8.  Remove from the oven, give it one last stir and allow to cool.
9.  Store in tight fitting jars or an air tight container.  Will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks.

You can easily halve this batch, if it looks too much, or the very opposite, double or triple the batch if feeding a large crowd.  This batch will make around 7-8 cups of roasted almonds.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday M&M Macaroons

One week until Christmas!

I put together these little Holiday M&M Macaroons on the news a couple of weeks back and since then everyone is asking me for the recipe.  It is hardly a recipe, only requiring 4 ingredients, but if they ask, I deliver!

My neighbor even requested a plate of them, so that is only list to do this weekend as well.  They are so good!  If you like an Almond Joy candy bar, then you are in for a treat because they taste very similar.

And do you want to see that little T.V. clip I was on?

I hate watching myself on T.V., but since I'm nice I thought I'd share.  You can view it here.

Holiday M&M Macaroons

Print the Recipe!
1 bag of sweetened coconut (or 5 cups)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 bag of mini M&M candies
1/2 c. flour

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In a bowl combine the coconut, milk and flour.
3.  Fold in the M&M's.
4.  With a cookie scoop or spoon scoop out balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.
5.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until edges turn golden brown.
6.  Allow to cool on a rack and keep in an airtight container.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Oven Baked Barbecue Meatballs

Our four year old has a few food favorites: pizza, spaghetti, any fruit, hamburgers, cheese of any kind....but meatballs, they are probably his all-time favorite food.  So when I announced yesterday that I was making meatballs for dinner, his eyes lit up!  As the day went on he probably asked 5 times when those meatballs would be ready.

Love that kid.

Now, don't think of meatballs just as an appetizer.  We like to serve them as a meal.  Last night I made homemade mashed potatoes and pulled some of our fresh Iowa sweet corn out of the freezer to round out the meal.

Both kids had two helpings of everything and the husband?  Well, he had many, many helpings.  He likes to eat on his days off!

Oven Baked Barbecue Meatballs

Print this Recipe!
1 lb. ground turkey or beef
1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1/8 c. jarred pesto
barbecue sauce or my homemade 3 Minute version

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  In a bowl combine all ingredients except for the barbecue sauce.
3.  Pour enough barbecue sauce into a 9x13 baking dish to coat the bottom of the dish.
4.  With your clean hands, form meat mixture into bite to mid-size balls and lay on top of the sauce in the dish.
5.  This mixture will make 24 meatballs.
6.  Brush more barbecue sauce over the meatballs.
7.  Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
8.  Serve hot.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Eggnog Cheesecake with a Chocolate Mint Crust {+ giveaway!}

Eggland's Best Eggs recently sent me a care package {stay tuned you could win one too!} and asked me to make a dessert with their eggs.

Well, that's an easy one - okay!

I probably love making desserts just as much as I love eating them.  And during the holidays?  Well, I'm in full max mode.  Watch out.  Especially if you work with me.  I can have you gaining five pounds in a week with all the treats I'll shove at you.

It'd had been a long while since I had made a quality cheesecake.  I usually save them just for the husband's birthday {it's his favorite}.  And as I was telling a co-worker today, cheesecakes are pretty darn easy to make!  They look incredibly intimidating, but really they aren't.  Just follow the steps and you'll be fine.

And how about some facts about the Eggland's Best eggs in used in this cheesecake? Compared to other eggs, Eggland's Best contain:

{10 times more Vitamin E, 4 times more Vitamin D, more than double the Omega-3, 25% less saturated fat, 3 times more Vitamin B12, 38% more lutein}

Eggland’s Best eggs also have 175mg of cholesterol, are gluten-free, and have zero trans fats. By using high-quality ingredients, like Eggland’s Best eggs, you and your guests are getting better taste, less saturated fat, and more vitamins. So why not indulge in some delicious desserts this holiday season, and use a more nutritious egg with Eggland’s Best?

Eggnog Cheesecake with a Chocolate Mint Crust
8 oz. chocolate mint sandwich cookies
3 T. melted butter
3 - 8 oz. pkg. softened cream cheese
4 Eggland's Best eggs
1 c. sugar
1 T. vanilla
1 c. eggnog

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Set out the following: a spring form round baking pan, a large roasting pan and foil.
3.  In a food processor {or by hand} finely crush the chocolate mint sandwich cookies.  Drizzle in the 3 T. of melted butter and combine.
4.  Spray the spring form pan with cooking spray and press down the cookie crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides of the pan.
5.  Bake the crust for 8 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
6.  In a stand mixer combine the cream cheese until smooth, then adding each egg one at a time.
7.  Add in the sugar and vanilla, continuing to stir until smooth.
8.  Slowly pour in the eggnog until combined.
9.  Pour this mixture into the cooled crust.
10.  Wrap the bottom of the spring form pan in foil and set in the middle of the roasting pan.
11.  Pour hot water into the roasting pan, around the cheesecake until the water reaches halfway up the pan.
12.  Bake the cheesecake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the cheesecake is set.  The middle still may be a bit wiggly, that is okay.
13.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool, chilling overnight before serving.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Budget Friendly Foodie Holiday Gifts {order here!}

It is officially two weeks until Christmas.  The ONLY item I have purchased is the movie Polar Express for the kids.  I'm not joking.  I have not purchased anything else.

I'm like this every year.  At about the two week mark I finally start to get serious, make my list and then find a day {or a half day, lets get real} to sneak out of the house with no kids in tow and get all my shopping done.

As a household we approach the holidays I'm guessing a bit differently than others.  I know many, MANY of you happily sit at home shopping online with a credit card in hand.  No worries, right?  Well, we don't have any credit cards.  Yes, you heard me right we do not have ANY credit cards.  {A whole post about this subject is coming, stay tuned}.  So needless to say, in order to purchase a gift I need to have the cash for it.  It requires SAVING your money.  You know like they used to do in the old days?  Pay cash for things?

Since we now have cash to purchase our Christmas gifts, because we saved, I am now ready to shop.  I have many "foodies" in my life, so I thought I'd compile a list of budget friendly foodie gifts.  All of these gifts are less than $50, can easily be purchased online.....and heck you can order straight from this blog post! Just click on the desired link, learn about the product and enjoy!

I love me some Pioneer Woman.  I really just love her recipes.  She's got my style.  Maybe I could be her assistant?  Her latest cookbook tackles each holiday throughout the calendar year.  Valentine's Day, Easter, heck even Cinco de Mayo.

For only $19.67, it's a steal!  Large step-by-step instructions and a TON of recipes.  

While I'm not a coffee drinker, I know that around 90% of you are.  I'm not sure why I never got started, but now that I'm in my 30's I just keep thinking, do I need to start?  I love hot tea and that is good enough for me.

This 35-pack of Keurig cups is quite the steal for only $22.95.  It has a nice variety and should keep the coffee drinker in your life stocked up for awhile.  At least 35 days!  

Okay, start calling me out.  Olive Garden isn't a TRUE Italian restaurant.  I know.  I've heard it all before. But, you know what?  I love their salad dressing.  Can I make it myself at home?  Yep.  I even have the recipe.  But do I have friends who would just love to crack open the bottle and pour it on?  I sure do.

Two large 20 oz. bottles for only $13.64 is quite the deal.  Remember, this dressing goes a long way, you don't need much.  Buy for your salad lover.

I'm a sucker for clean, sleek, classic tea towel.  You see we don't use paper towels in our house.  One day I was just sick of buying them, so I stopped.  Instead we use towels and rags.  As you can imagine, with two little kids we have a stash of dirty towels by the end of the week.  I'm okay with that, they launder up just fine.  {My mom on the other hand brings a roll of paper towels with her every time she visits.}

This pack of 12, professional grade tea towels comes in at only $23.99!  They will last you MUCH longer than the 10 rolls of paper towels you can get for that same money.

I had this exact same Cuisinart Fondue Maker at one point.  We got it as a wedding gift.  It's awesome.  I won't dive into details {as it still gets me all worked up}, but lets just say "the husband" cleaned off the shelves in my laundry room one day {where I stored this gem} and figured since he didn't really know what it was or the last time I used it that he's just throw it on the curb since {of course} it was garbage day.  After that point I do believe it took me a few days to even look in his direction or speak with him.

Great, now I'm all worked up again.

Anyway, this fondue pot is awesome.  It's great for parties and is easy to clean.  And what a steal!  You can get it now for just $44.99.

As a Taste of Home Field Editor you'd think they asked me to promote their magazine, but they didn't.  I just really love it!  All of the recipes come from home cooks, so you know they have been tried over generations and are loved by many.

I look forward to getting this magazine on a bi-monthly basis and usually have about half of the pages dog-eared when I'm done browsing.  Trust me, you'll be making your grocery shopping list around the recipes in here.  And at only $15.00 for a year!  Crazy cheap.

Oh my gosh, I love cheese!  There.  I said it.  I'm not afraid to admit I love cheese.  All kinds. I do not judge.

This sample cheese platter is ideal for your cheese lover, a wine drinker or the party person in your life.  Set out this platter, some crackers, fruit and you've got yourself a nice little party.  At just $37.77, I doubt you could buy all these cheese at your local store for this price.

We have a skillet similar to this one that we use for everything - pancakes, hash browns, stir fry, eggs, everything!  It is easy to put up on the counter, plug it in and even better clean up is a cinch.

We gave this one to my father in law a few years back for Christmas {he is the cook in that household} and just a few weeks ago at Thanksgiving he thanked me again for getting it for him.  He uses it all the time as well.  And at just $29.00, it is also easy on the wallet.

These silicone baking pads are awesome!  Nothing sticks to them.  Nothing.  The baker in your life {me!} would love a set of 2.  If anyone gets these for me, I'll bake them up a pan of these buttery rolls too. Maybe. I guess it depends where you live.  But, we could probably work out a deal.

Only $13.36 for two - and they last forever.  Much longer than that can of non-stick cooking spray.


So, have I given you some ideas?

I sure hope so!

Now, I need to get shopping.

See ya.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Creamy Basil Pesto Pinwheels

If you are short on time, funds or even patience this holiday season - this is the holiday appetizer for you. At just four ingredients it comes together quickly and can even be made the day ahead and then sliced right before being served.

I took these pinwheels to a work event a couple of weeks back and they were quickly gobbled up.  And its a meatless entree to boot....everyone SHOULD like them!

Hey - if you have leftover basil pesto from your garden this past summer that you froze, what a great little dish to put it in.  You know I'm a fan of using up whatever you have stashed away in that deep freeze.

Creamy Basil Pesto Pinwheels

Print this Recipe!
1 pkg. flour tortillas
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 c. basil pesto
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1.  In a bowl combine cream cheese, pesto and Parmesan cheese.  Stir until fully incorporated.
2.  Take out a tortilla and spread a generous amount all over the tortilla. Roll up tightly.
3.  Take a piece of plastic wrap and wrap around the rolled up tortilla.
4.  Once you have finished with all the tortillas place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight.
5.  Sliced with a serrated knife right before serving/plating.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Made From Scratch Carrot Cake

This cake recipe has been viewed close to 100K times, thank you for visiting!  
What's the secret?  Not much.  
Just a simple, homemade, easy-peasy cake that anyone can make!

made from scratch carrot cake (

Are you ever just needing something sweet?  

If you've met me, you often know on the weekends I'll whip up something!

So enter in this carrot cake.  I had limited ingredients in our house, due to the fact that we were leaving town and didn't want to make a trip to the store, so finding something to actually make proved to be a bit of a challenge.

I pulled out an old church cookbook and came across a few carrot cake recipes.  I had carrots, the basic baking ingredients, and low and behold I had cream cheese and powdered sugar for the frosting.  Ding, ding, ding!

made from scratch carrot cake (

Right behind my mom's coconut cake this is one of the best cakes I've made.  So good!  I put some tweaks into the recipe and I do believe that is what made it so moist.  And the kids? I've heard them say many times, "Mom, this is so good!"

They wanted second and third helpings.  I gave in to the second helping....but not the third!

Yeah, sometimes we indulge.

made from scratch carrot cake (

Share this recipe with your friends and family!

Since I first made this {this recipe was first posted in 2013} we've made it many, many times over.  Often for Easter!  People love a good carrot cake at Easter, it reminds us of Spring and new beginnings.

I'd love to hear from you if you make this cake!

made from scrach carrot cake (

Made From Scrach Carrot Cake

Made From Scrach Carrot Cake
Yield: 15
Prep time: 10 MCook time: 40 MTotal time: 50 M
This carrot cake is irresistible! Rich, moist and full of traditional carrot cake ingredients, this one is hard to pass up. Great for holiday gatherings!


  • 2 cups  sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 2 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla


How to cook Made From Scrach Carrot Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a stand mixer or large bowl cream together sugar, eggs, oil and applesauce. Then add in remaining ingredients, folding in the carrots last.
  3. Grease a 9x13 in. baking pan.
  4. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. To make the frosting: mix together the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Frosting should be nice and thick.
  6. Once cake has cooled spread frosting over the cake.
  7. Keep cake covered and it will stay fresh for a few days.
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