Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: January 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Top 10 Super Bowl Recipes

The Super Bowl is this Sunday.  Did you know that?  I'm cheering for the Broncos.  I like Peyton Manning and I love hearing him yell "Omaha!" about 100 times during the game.

I grew up a football fan, married a football fan, so there is no way I will ever stop watching football.  But, I do know that there are many of you out there that do not give a LICK. But, you do like yummy food, right?

If you need some recipes to take to a party this Sunday or just want to make something fun for sitting at home and watching the game then you've come to the right place.  I've been blogging for over 4 years now {I know!} and I'm made a lot of yummy bites.  Here are my Top 10 to make for the Super Bowl.

Do you think out of my Top 10 you can find something to make?  Tell me in the comments which one you plan on making!

Happy Footballing.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Ultimate Blondie

I made this pan of Ultimate Blondies last Friday before all chaos ensued at our house.  In the afternoon I had an appointment for the little guy at the doctor, nothing major just something that needed to get looked at.  I took Little Miss along, as the husband was at work and I'm glad I did.

She had woken up that morning with a fever, but was still acting her normal self.  I'm not kidding when I say the minute we walked into the doctor she went downhill fast.  She immediately looked awful and I could tell that her fever was worse.  Then she started getting sick.  Thank god we were there.  They quickly tested her and it came back positive for Influenza B.

So we went there for one thing and came out with two things.  But here is the kicker.  Since I'm pregnant {oh, you didn't know that?} they were also concerned about me.  I did get a flu shot this year, so they hope that I would be covered, but it did warrant a call to my OB.

At which point they put me on preventative medicine....but of course it was now 5:00 and our pharmacy was closed.  So, I loaded up the kids and drove 15 minutes to the next town over with a Walgreens and proceeded to wait in line for 40 minutes to pay $114 for a prescription.

It was such a fun Friday!

But let's face it.

You are here to learn about these blondies, not my sick kids.  Right?

I just wanted you to know that not everything is all peaches and cream around this house.

Oh, and did I mention we are having a Blizzard right now?

Enough.  On to these blondies.

These are pretty flipping fantastic.

They are chalk full of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, pecans and coconut.  They are ooey and gooey, yet hold together really well.  They were made on Friday and now being Monday are almost gone.

Hey.  Cut me a break, I had a long weekend.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

5 Foods I Choose to Make From Scratch

We can buy anything at the grocery store.  Anything you want.  They either can make it for you via their deli or bakery section, you can order it from their meat counter, or more often than not you can find some version of what you want right on their shelves.

Was this common 70 years ago?

Not a chance.

During that era they had to work a bit more for their food.  You know, put a little elbow grease into their meals.  And walking into a grocery store was uncommon and certainly nothing like they are today.

Why am I talking about this?  Well, I recently got to thinking about what I make from scratch vs. buying. Items I could easily buy with a swipe of the debit card, but I choose not too.  Either because of taste or because when I make it from scratch I actually know what ingredients are in it.

So here are the 5 foods that I choose to make from scratch vs. buying at the grocery store. I'd be curious to know what yours are?

1.  Pizza dough, bread dough, any dough.

Do you know how easy it is to make a pizza with homemade crust?  Or make homemade cinnamon rolls with fresh dough?  It's much easier than you think.  Heck, the pizza dough recipe I use only calls for flour, yeast, water and salt.  I'm pretty sure even the amateur cook has those ingredients in their kitchen.  I use this same dough for calzones and my homemade pizza pockets.

I use this world's best bread dough for more substantial breads - cinnamon rolls, pecan rolls, my German kraut burgers and your basic dinner rolls.

And who doesn't like homemade bread of any kind?  I've never heard someone complain about homemade bread.  It just doesn't happen.

2.  Any baked good.

Cookies, brownies, cakes, if it has sugar in it and it is typically classified as a dessert I make it from scratch.  I do occasionally take the help from a boxed mix, but I prefer doing it on my own.  And I never, ever buy a birthday cake from a store.  I have my reasons, judge me if you want, it's just not something I want to do.

If my kids are eating a "treat" it is more often than not something I have baked.  Should they eat a ton of sweets?  No.  But if I know it came from me and not some boxed treat with a zillion fake ingredients, I'm a bit more in favor of it.

Some of my favorite, tried and true dessert recipes are my classic oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, my basic brownie recipe or my various homemade doughnut recipes - you can find here and here.

3.  Sauces.

During the summer my tomato plants usually provide me with more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I've talked about my garden before - it is NOTHING to look at and I'm convinced I have some sort of miracle soil, as year after year I've got tomatoes coming out of my ears.  But, thankfully this provides me with lots and lots of red sauce.  Usually enough to freeze and last us through the winter months.

Some of our favorites are my crock pot basil marinara sauce and this one I received from Steph at Been There, Baked That.  Both freeze well and taste great months later.

I've also been known to throw together homemade alfredo and carbonara sauces.  Don't be afraid to try these - they really are simple!

4.  Jams/Salsas.

It has become a tradition to go strawberry picking every June.  This past summer I took the little man for the first time.  He ate more strawberries than his own weight and I'm a bit shocked he didn't get sick, but despite all of that we had a great time.  I carve out at least one full day each summer to stock our freezer with this jam.  It is the same jam I grew up eating. It is nothing fancy and I will never claim it doesn't have a LOT of sugar in it, but again, you know what?  In the end, when it is made, I know the ingredients.

Oh.  And it tastes awesome.

Secondly, after jam, salsa is probably one of the favorite condiments in our house.  We eat a lot of it - an almost embarrassing amount.  In the summer when tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro are in abundance I make it fresh.

This version is our favorite.  Throw it all in the blender and whirl away.  I still have not met a person who doesn't like it.  In the winter - I do sometimes resort to jarred versions, but we really do prefer it fresh.

5.  Seasoning packets

Growing up I was never a fan of taco seasoning.  You know, the kind you buy in the little paper packet at the grocery store?  Back then, I didn't care what was in it, I just knew I didn't like the taste.  Fast forward many years and now I care what is in it and still do not prefer the taste.  Therefore I make my own.

When we make tacos at our house I simply season the meat with chili powder, cumin, garlic salt and a bit of cayenne pepper.  Or sometimes if I'm really lazy I just throw in some fresh salsa.  If you are still buying those darn little orange packets - STOP.  You have the ingredients right in your spice rack.  Not only will it save you money but you can control the sodium and countless other additives they put in there.

Other than taco seasoning - I've also been know to make my own Italian seasoning and Ranch packets. Both are super simple.  Here are some versions I've used in the past.

Tell me what you make from scratch - I'd love to hear what you are cooking at home!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Drippy Caramel Glazed Doughnuts

Don't have a doughnut pan?  No worries!  Make these as muffins.  It all works just the same. But....if you do have a doughnut pan, make them, your kids will love ya.  And you'll most likely be thanking yourself as well.

This is just a basic vanilla cake doughnut - super simple.  But the glaze.  Oh, the glaze! The sweet caramel sauce is basic, yet sticky, gooey and just sinks right into the doughnut.

This recipe made 9 big doughnuts, I'm guessing it would make around 2 dozen muffins.  I treat the kids to a fun breakfast about once a week - whether that is pancakes, waffles, muffins or sometimes a doughnut. They think they are king tut when I break out stuff like this, as they are usually eating yogurt, cereal, fruit or peanut butter toast.

What do your kids eat?

If you make these give some to a neighbor or friend.  They will thank you!  But if you HAVE to keep them ALL for yourself, I will tell you that they stay fresh for a few days when covered.

On day 3, we had one left and a simple nuke in the microwave for 10 seconds made it perfect once again. So perfect in fact, that our 2 year was searching the cupboards to have another.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Brooklyn Popcorn Review & Giveaway

Who would love a tin of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth Brooklyn Popcorn?  Trust me, it will be worth your time to enter the giveaway below.  This stuff lasted a day in our house.  And consequently ruined our dinner - but that was okay!

When John from the Brooklyn Popcorn Company contacted me awhile back and asked if I'd be interested in trying some of their popcorn, I of course said YES.  Who doesn't love popcorn?

I was able to choose from all their flavors {think spicy cajun, dill pickle, chocolate, caramel, ketchup and so much more}, but we eventually settled on white cheddar.  I knew it'd be a safe one to try, as who doesn't love cheese?

The husband, the kids, heck even our dog LOVED this stuff.

Check out the Brooklyn Popcorn website, browse their flavors and purchase some if you'd like.  Right now they are offering a Super Bowl special where you receive 20% off all their tins at checkout.  Just think you could bring this to your Super Bowl party instead of having to make something!

And even though our popcorn has been gone for a few days, I still have this adorable, sturdy tin to store other things in.  Even the husband said, "keep that tin, it's pretty neat!".

So, here we go.

Would you like to win a FREE tin of popcorn for yourself?  Heck, and even share some with your family if they are lucky?

Enter via the Rafflecopter below.  It's easy and their are multiple chances!  It will generate a random winner next week.  Start entering! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Drunken Blue Moon Pot Roast Hoagies

There is one thing I miss during pregnancy.

A good, ice cold beer every now and then.  I'm not a big drinker by any stretch of the means, but I do enjoy a cold one every once in awhile.  I'm not ashamed!

The first time I ever had Blue Moon was in college at a bar called Sud's.  Pretty much a whole in the wall. The type of place where you walked up a long steep flight of stairs hoping and praying the wood didn't crumble beneath you.  Then once you arrived you prayed the wooden floor didn't collapse under you, fully knowing there was another packed bar underneath.

I remember walking in and seeing people drinking beer with orange slices rimmed on the side of the glass. Hmmpfh.  Oranges in beer?  This was 10 years ago so the booming breweries with tons of kinds of beer had yet to become popular.  Well, of course I tried one and loved it.

So this past weekend when I'm searching for something to make for dinner in the crock pot {remember, our oven died - but has since been fixed for $25 - SCORE!}, my mind immediately went to pot roast.  Then my eyes traveled to the fridge where I saw a few bottles of Blue Moon and some clementines.  Ding, ding, ding!

That is how this recipe was created.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Whole Wheat Rotini Taco Skillet

Wanna hear a sob story?

Our oven broke.

At least until we can call a repairman today and see if it's just a part that can be replaced. That would be fabulous, but if not I guess I'm getting a new oven!

A food blogger losing her oven is the equivalent of a professional football player having no shoes.  It is just almost impossible to get things done.

Enter in this skillet meal.  Because you know.....I have no oven.  I saw a similar recipe on Pinterest and tweaked it a bit to what I had on hand, plus halved the recipe because it looked liked it made a ton.  This version made the perfect amount and served us for two meals.

I also lightened it up a bit with the addition of whole wheat pasta and Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I didn't hear any complaints!

We always, always have plain Greek yogurt in our house as the kids absolutely LOVE IT for breakfast, with a spoonful of my homemade jam and sometimes some crushed up cereal. Their version of a yogurt parfait.

This skillet dish also heats up well.  It was just as good the second day as it was on the first. Start to finish, around 30 minutes.

Not too shabby!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Homemade Chewy, Chunky Granola Bars

Everyone and their brother has been asking for this granola bar recipe since I posted a photo on Facebook last week.  Sorry, it has taken me so long!

Life kinda got in the way this week - a few very busy days at work, the little man back in school {after the longest winter break EVER} and a lovely cold just pleasantly taking its time through each of us.

But I do have plans to make another pan of these.  After putting in the fridge to chill and firm up, I usually cut them into granola bar sizes and wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Then I stick them back in the fridge to stay fresh and where they are easily accessible for snacks.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Smothered Italian Chicken with Buttered Garlic Spaghetti

My love for red sauce and pasta inspired this dish.  It looks elegant, yet is fairly simple!  And the flavor will knock your socks off.  My homemade basil marinara sauce is key!

smothered italian chicken with buttered garlic spaghetti (
This recipe has been pinned over 75K times!  People love it!
This post does contain affiliate links for your convenience.

You know sometimes you just throw dinner together not expecting much and it turns out fabulous.  This dish was exactly that.

I had chicken thawed, along with a quart of my crock pot basil marinara sauce and a box of spaghetti noodles staring at me every time I opened the pantry cupboard.  The kids love spaghetti, of any kind, so I figured I'd bake the chicken, throw on some sauce and call it good.

But, then I got thinking....

If I cook the chicken low and slow and let it just simmer away in my flavorful sauce, and of course add some more seasonings, I bet this can be pretty good.  I was right!

As I've always said the trick to flavorful chicken are two things: #1 - Not drying it out {hence simmering away in red sauce} and #2 - providing LOTS of flavor.  So long story short, if you cook it right and add enough stuff, it will taste pretty darn good.

smothered italian chicken with buttered garlic spaghetti (

I ended up making this dish around 2 o'clock in the afternoon this past weekend due to fading natural light for photos {the problems of a food blogger} and hence the kids and I ate dinner at 4 p.m.

You pick your battles.

It was still good.  We gobbled it up and we even have two leftover pieces of chicken leftover in the fridge.  Win, win.

Smothered Italian Chicken with Buttered Garlic Spaghetti

Print this Recipe!

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 quart chunky basil marinara sauce {use my homemade version, or store bought}
1 T. onion flakes
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. Italian seasoning
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 lb. spaghetti noodles
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic, diced

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and lay in thawed chicken breasts.
3.  Generously coat the chicken with the onion flakes, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.
4.  Pour in the marinara sauce.
5.  Bake covered with foil in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes, spooning some of the marinara over the chicken.
6.  While the chicken is finishing cooking, cook spaghetti noodles, drain, set aside and keep warm.
7.  In a small saucepan melt the butter, along with the diced garlic.  Let the melted butter simmer on LOW, allowing the garlic to flavor the butter.
8.  Remove the butter from the heat and strain out the garlic pieces {keep in fairly big chunks so it is easier to pick out}.
9.  Pour the melted garlic butter over the spaghetti and toss to coat.
10.  When chicken is cooked, top each breast with handful of mozzarella cheese.  Place the oven to broil and cook for 3-4 minutes, just until bubbly.
11.  Serve the smothered chicken with the buttered garlic spaghetti.

smothered italian chicken with buttered garlic spaghetti (

This dish is perfect for Sunday dinner, yet easy enough for a weeknight.  I have also made it on Sunday, stuck it in the fridge and then waited to bake it and have it for mid-week. Honestly, I feel the flavor is even better the longer you wait!

Want some other great Italian dishes?

Chicken Pesto Penne
Chicken Alfredo Lasagna Roll-ups
Healthy Turkey Bolognese
Million Dollar Casserole
Baked Ravioli Lasagna
Sausage Penne alla Vodka
Baked Pizza Pasta

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Turkey Sloppy Joes

This is by no means a gourmet meal, but when you have hungry mouths to feed sometimes you come up with simple dishes.  I'm guessing other young mothers out there appreciate this as well?

In our house we call these "maidrites", which I'm pretty sure is just an Iowa thing, but for the sake of the rest of the world not knowing what I'm talking about today I'm calling them sloppy joes.  And I did put a little twist on the sauce for the they are a bit different.

Even better?  This fed us for two meals so on day 2 I had no cooking to do!  They reheat perfectly and there were no complaints by any members of my family.

This dish is also a good one to take to busy families - ones with a new baby, have had a hardship or just need a pick-me-up.  Bring the meat over in a crock pot, along with a pack of hamburger buns and you're set.

Turkey Sloppy Joes

Print this Recipe!
2 lbs. ground turkey
1  c. ketchup
1/2. mustard
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T. worcestershire sauce

1.  In a skillet brown the ground turkey until no longer pink and cooked through.  Drain off any excess grease.
2.  Add in the ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and worcestershire sauce.  Simmer on low for 30 minutes.
3.  Eat immediately on hamburger buns, place in a crock pot to keep warm, or allow to cool and freeze for another meal.  Will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Could You Not Spend a DIME for 30 Days?


I'll be back to regular recipe programming in a couple of days {think....turkey sloppy joes...killer!}.  But until then we are going to talk about money.  Please don't sign off now that you heard we are talking about money, stay with me on this one, you might learn a thing or two.

Here is the back story.

A few months back, my friend Kelli from The Sustainable Couple was chatting about this book, The Spending Strike.  A few days later I asked my library to order it {they'll do that you know}.  When it came in I read it in a day.  It's not deep, it's pretty short, it really is just a book about a mom {from Iowa!} who was a bit fed up with their spending habits so she called a strike.

For the month of January they would not spend ANY money.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Zip.  A day before the strike started they made a large grocery run, took cash out for two tanks of gas and paid all their bills for the month.

Some days were easy peasy.  Like the days when Iowa winters hit them hard and were snowed in and couldn't get out of the house if they tried.  But other days proved much harder.  Like the day when her parents called spur-of-the-moment and offered to babysit the kids so they could have a dinner/date night out.  Since they weren't keen on telling her parents about the strike they spent all day trying to figure out how they could go out and find a way to pay for dinner.  One HUGE bag of pop cans later {found in their garage}, they had enough cash to buy dinner out.

Shortly after reading this book, Kelli announced on her blog, along with my friend Michelle at Simplify, Live, Love that they were both going to tackle a Spending Strike for the month of January.

And then they asked if I wanted to join.

{Enter thumping heartbeat HERE.}

I thought about it  I really did.  I asked the husband {with a thumping heartbeat}.  He looked at me and said, "don't we pretty much do that anyway?"

He was right, we pretty much do a strike every month.  So I told Kelli and Michelle that we would not be participating....BUT....I would be happy to share OUR story.  Next week on both of their blogs I will be telling our story.  I'm not going to give away the details here, but I dive into the past 4 years of our life.  It's gets a little personal, I am a little nervous in sharing it, but I wanted my readers to know that money shouldn't be scary.

We are no longer scared of money, because now we control it.  We choose a program to follow that was right for US and in the past 13 months have paid off over $12,000 in debt. We now live on a cash system and hope to someday be completely debt free.

Yes, I said completely debt free.  It can be done.  Don't laugh!

So.  Here are my questions to you.

Could you not spend a dime for 30 days?

Could you do at least 2 weeks?

Could you plan your meals and eat out of the freezer to use up all those "items" taking up space?

Could you find free, exciting, fun things for the family to do?

Could you not drive your partner nuts?

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.  Could you do it?  Want to read the book first?  Do you want control of your money?

Leave me a comment and lets get this discussion rolling.

And don't forget to tune in next week for MY STORY.