Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: April 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

Strawberry Cheesecake Quick Bread


I'm still here!

I have a confession.  When I'm bored, I bake.  Some people take naps.  Some read.  Some do things they probably aren't supposed to.  I just bake.  I find it relaxing and ending result is usually something pretty darn delicious.

Enter in strawberries and cream cheese.  One of God's greatest pairings.  Back in college when I lived about a block from a Dairy Queen {big time trouble} I used to order their strawberry cheesecake blizzard. Probably 1,000+ calories but worth every bite.  Then I married a guy whose favorite dessert is strawberry cheesecake.  Two peas in a pod, I tell ya.

So whatever day I made this bread I was bored.  I initially was going to do my stand by banana bread, but then realized I didn't have enough ripe bananas.  So I improvised and came up with this.

See that jar of jam?  That goes into this bread too.  I recommend a high quality, preferably homemade jam to put into this bread {I'm a bit snobby about my jam}.  We have around 10 jars of this left in our freezer.  I hope and pray we make it till mid-June when I make my next yearly batch.

I pray for more things that just my jam supply.  Just so you know.

The other key to this bread is semi-melting half of the cream cheese to put into the batter and then dicing the rest to fold into the batter right before baking.  Oh, so lovely!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Breakfast Quesadillas

I'm still here!

I'll be 38 weeks pregnant this week and with a history of going early with our last one, my doctor is fairly certain I will not make it to my May 15th due date.  I'm already progressing {TMI...sorry} and well....just waiting!

So while I wait, I thought I'd share this yummy leftover dish I created the other day.  I often have people ask, what is the best way to use up leftovers?  Well, folks here is a dish for ya!

I'll be the first to admit that on nights when I don't feel like cooking or have nothing ready or planned we have eggs.  They are easy, everyone likes them and there are about a zillion different ways to prepare them, so we never seem to tire of them.

Two nights prior to these quesadillas, it was one of those nights.  I worked, the kids and the husband were gone all day and nothing was ready for dinner.  So I took out some yummy Canadian bacon, cooked it until crispy, then added in eggs, cooked diced potatoes, salsa and some seasonings.  It was a lovely scramble!

But we had quite a bit leftover.  Enter in these quesadillas!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Creamy Twix Pie

How about an easy spring or summer dessert that only has 5 ingredients?  Yes, please!  A couple of weeks back the husband took BOTH kids out of the house for a WHOLE afternoon. They ran errands, went to the mall and out for lunch.

Can I just say it was absolutely glorious being home alone for that long?  I turned off the T.V., turned on Pandora and blasted my way through laundry, blog work and meal prepping. All without kiddos underfoot. Do you know how much you can get done when no one is in the house?

So to thank him for a much needed break, I threw this pie together for an after dinner treat. And when I say "threw" together, I literally did that.  It took about 5 minutes.

If you are needing a simple and easy dessert for your family or one to take to an event, this is the ONE.  I mean, who doesn't love a graham cracker crust, whipped cream and candy bars?

You're lying if you say you don't like any of those three items.  Get real.

Take another shortcut and buy a pre-made graham cracker crust, or make it yourself, whatever floats your boat, but regardless just 5 ingredients people!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Building a Kick Butt Burger: Healthy Solutions Spice Blends {+ giveaway!}

I have another great product to share with you today!  The kind folks over at Healthy Solutions Spice Blends recently sent me some of their spice blends to try.

With grill season officially under way, I of course wanted to try the Ultimate Burger blend first.  We love grilling once it is warm {which this year has taken forever}.  Gosh, we throw anything on there - burgers, chicken, veggies to roast, bread, heck I've even grilled fruit {you need to try that}.

This particular night I thawed one pound of ground turkey and one pound of ground pork, added the recommended amount of spices, a dash of worcestershire sauce and called it good.

This spice packet would also be good made into meatballs, meatloaf and last week I sprinkled it on potatoes that we roasted in the oven.  All so good!

Their blends are a healthy and economical alternative to take-out.   They contain no artificial ingredients or fillers so there’s no extra bulk, just the concentrated flavor and goodness of freshly ground herbs and spices.   Most of our blends contain no salt or sugar, so restricted diets can be easily accommodated without sacrificing full flavor. 

It certainly takes the worry out of what spices to sprinkle into things.  They've perfected which spices go well together with certain foods, the work is already done for you!  And even better one packet makes multiple servings.  I'm still using the Ultimate Burger spices after three different meals.  It seals back up and stays fresh until your next use.

Guess what? I have 3 other spice blends to give away to a lucky reader: Cajun Seafood, Perfect Steak and Herb Crusted Tilapia.

Simply enter via the Rafflecopter link below for many chances to win!  I will randomly {} choose a winner on Wednesday, April 23rd.

Good luck!  This just might be the summer of giveaways! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Greek Feta Linguine

*Have you entered my Apple MacBook laptop giveaway yet?  Enter HERE.

This dish was so darn good over the weekend that I am making it again for dinner tonight. It's light, refreshing, yet still has a ton of flavor.

Do you like feta cheese?

I personally love it.  It is a crumbly, aged cheese, made from sheep's milk or a mixture of sheep and goat's milk.  You'll see it a lot in European dishes, especially Greek dishes.  I love having it as a topper on pasta or a salad.  It is a bit salty, yet not overpowering at all.  Give it a try!

And think you can't find it?  Wrong.  I buy mine at Aldi's, so it is pretty much in every grocery store around.

I whipped up a quick marinade for this chicken {nothing like bland, boring chicken!}.  I recommended making your own marinades, they are so simple.  For this one I poured the ingredients in a small mason jar and let the kids go to town shaking it {make sure the lid is on tight}.

And then this morning before I left the house, I left a jar of this marinade on the kitchen counter with instructions for the husband to combine it with the thawed chicken to marinate.

Please, let him follow directions so I come home to this being done.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Apple MacBook Giveaway!

I have recently teamed up with Mom SparkFood Folks and Fun, Gimmie Freebies and an amazing group of blogs and businesses to bring you the Apple MacBook Pro Laptop Giveaway

I am super stoked about this giveaway - the BIGGEST one I have done to date!  Who doesn't want a new laptop?  I sure do.  

Yes, this is a food blog, but I love throwing in other fun stuff along the way.  I need an efficient computer to keep this little blog going, so it only makes sense to give a computer away as more than likely you all need a reliable computer too, right?

Thank you to our sponsors for making this giveaway possible. You can see the entire list of sponsors on the Rafflecopter form below. Catch My Party, Painting Paris Pink, Cloudy With a Chance of Wine, Bird's Party, Grace Tells Another Story, A Delightsome Life, Saving With ShellieThe Silly Pearl, Tone Mama, Make the Best of Everything, Crafts a la mode, The Latina Homemaker, Funky Monkey Designs, Love the Day, Dandelion Ave., Paper and Fabric Journals, Party Patisserie, Yesterday on Tuesday, The Turquoise Home, Sweetly Chic Events, Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats, My Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Life, Sugar Confetti, Design Dazzle, and Sassy Steals.
Apple MacBook Pro Laptop Giveaway
April 14, 2014 at 12 a.m. EST to April 21, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. EST Open Worldwide Prize: 1 winner will receive an Apple MacBook Pro laptop worth $1,200! Eligibility and Rules: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. This giveaway is open to individuals 18 and older. The winner will be chosen randomly through the Rafflecopter form. It is the sole responsibility of the winner to adhere to all laws, which includes payments to any governing tax body. Winner Selection: The winner of the giveaway will be selected in a random drawing through Rafflecopter from among all eligible entries received throughout the promotion period. The random drawing will be conducted within 48 hours of the closing of the giveaway by Pretty My Party or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. Winner will be notified by email at Potential winner must accept the prizes by email as directed by Pretty My Party within 48 hours of notification. Any winner notification not responded to or returned as undeliverable may result in prize forfeiture. The potential prize winner may be required to sign and return an affidavit of eligibility and release of liability, and a Publicity Release (collectively “the Prize Claim Documents”). Rafflecopter Disclaimer: This promotion is powered by Rafflecopter. Metric Feat, LLC (“Rafflecopter”) does not sponsor, administer or endorse this promotion. By entering this giveaway, participants agree to Rafflecopter’s Privacy Policy. Social Media Disclaimer: Entrants should understand that they are providing their information to the sponsors of the giveaway and not to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram or Google+. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with any of these social media sites. Disclaimer: This giveaway is blog sponsored and is in no way associated with Apple or any of its products. If there are any questions, please email
The more entries you complete on the Rafflecopter form, the higher your chances are of winning.  If you don’t have time to fill out all of the entries you may come back and complete any entries that you may have missed. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Top 10 Items You Need for Spring and Summer

1.  Sloggers Women's Premium Clog

I have been on the hunt for an outdoor shoe.  I had a much less nicer pair that sort of resembled this clog for many years.  Then over the winter one shoe disappeared {who knows?}.  So I threw the other one away, only to find that missing one a few months later. Of course.  But it wasn't like they were comfortable anyway.

But these clogs....I'm dreaming about them.  For only $21.97 they are a bargain!  Ideal for gardening, yard work or just slipping on to run out to the garage for something you forgot in your car.

You can purchase them HERE.  Don't you love the lime green color?

I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner, but when buying fresh eggs at the farmer's market or when you are getting them from a friend, why not bring your own container to carry them home in?  I have a feeling farmer's are often searching for styrofoam or cardboard containers to bring their eggs in, so why not bring your own, transfer them into this handy-dandy plastic container and then give them their egg carton back?

Some things are so simple I wished I would have thought of this.  And for as low as $5.50 you can't beat it!

You can purchase one HERE.

This book has been lurking around the web recently and I'm intrigued!  I mean on the cover it is showing you how to turn a watermelon into a keg.  How cool is that?

I certainly do not live on a homestead, but I'd love to read about all of her ideas and who knows maybe tackle a few? And only $18 bucks!

You can purchase it HERE.

Do you garden?  Whether is be floral plants or produce, it's nice to keep your hands covered and not in the muck.  These gloves claim to fit like a second pair of skin and the colors scream spring and summer.

My garden consists of just tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos and herbs {oh trust me, I want so much more....}, but we all know even if you don't have a garden there is still yard work to do. From racking to mowing, these would be perfect!  And how about a 6 packs for $10.97? Can't beat that.

You can buy them HERE.

I really, really, really want to start composting.  I told the husband the other day.  I swear he thinks I'm crazy. Not that he isn't into it {he grew up doing it} but he is a bit overwhelmed with all the changes going on in our life right now {leaving job, having a baby, me staying home, etc.}  He said to wait.

I might do it anyway.

This indoor container is so adorable, I want it even if I don't start composting!  It keeps the smells and stench away until it is full and you can dump it outside.  For only $19.99!

You can get yours HERE.

I love wearing tank tops when the weather starts to get warmer.  You can avoid those lovely short sleeved tank lines too!  These are the perfect, light weight summery tank that comes in a zillion colors, starting at just under $7 each!

Purchase one or many HERE.

The first year we moved to our house, I had a container garden.  It worked pretty darn well!  Some varieties better than others, but none the less pretty good for not being an actual "garden".

Download the Kindle version for all the hot pointers for only $3.87.

You can purchase it HERE.

Us moms can all use a little inspiration during the summer.  Especially me!  I'll be staying home indefinitely pretty soon, and as most moms know the mom your kids have to do to keep them busy, the less fighting and bickering.

These ideas are simple and cheap.  Download today!

You can purchase it HERE.  {Free if you have Amazon Prime!}

There is nothing I've been craving more these past 9 months than an ice cold beer or slushy cocktail.  Judge away if you want, I don't care.  One of my favorite things to do in the summer is have girlfriends over, send the kids away and chat the night away on the back deck with drinks and appetizers in hand.

This little machine would make that evening just perfect!  And only $48.91 with free shipping.  If you like hosting parties, this would be the perfect summer splurge.

You can buy yours HERE.

This sundress comes in four fun colors and would be perfect an outdoor wedding, cocktail party or heck just to wear anytime!  The gathered waist is slimming on any shape and if I'm going to wear a dress in the summer this is the kind I like.

It is on sale RIGHT NOW for $24.95, act fast!

You can purchase one, or all four HERE.


So, what do you think of my Top 10 list?  What is your favorite?  Tell me in the comments.  I hope this brought a smile to your face and maybe just maybe gave you some ideas for your summer plans as well.

This is the BEST time of the year.

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cranberry Chewies

You know me, when I think of a new cookie recipe, especially one that is easy {no flour!} I make it.  These cookies took place during nap time about a week ago.

I love baking and being in the kitchen when the kiddos are sleeping {or supposed to be sleeping}.  It gives me time to just unwind without twenty extra fingers and toes surrounding me.

This is a simple bowl and stir cookie.  Dump all the ingredients in, bake and enjoy shortly after.  When the kids woke up from nap they immediately eyed them cooling on the kitchen counter.  Guess what was their afternoon snack?

Yep.  Cookies.

They cookies can easily be gluten free if made with gluten free oats.  So anyone out there who has celiac disease or is just avoiding glutens for whatever reason - make these NOW! You will not be disappointed. They are the perfect, chewy, soft cookie that gives you a hint of fruit and cinnamon, yet still tastes like a peanut butter oatmeal cookie.

In fact I went to go make another batch last night, but sadly was out of eggs {seriously, can the husband stop boiling all my eggs?  He is on an egg salad and hard boiled egg kick....don't ask}.

On that note I need to get some chickens to keep up with our egg consumption.

Or find a lovely local friend who is willing to share their egg profits with me.

Anyone?  Bueller?

I plan on making a few batches of these and freezing the dough in balls prior to baby #3 arriving.  Do you freeze cookie dough?  Simply make the dough, roll into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet.  When frozen, place in a big Ziploc baggie with baking instructions.

Then when you want a cookie {or two, or three} you can simply take out the amount you want and bake them off.

I may find myself baking some off around 2 a.m. during a feeding.  Don't judge.  Feeding mamas get hungry.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spicy Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas

I'm not going to lie this weekend has been rough.  The husband worked everyday plus put in extra hours of overtime, so it was just me and the kids.  And when dad isn't around they always seem to act out more for mom.  It sucks.

Naps and bedtimes have been a challenge for some reason.  My kids have always been GREAT sleepers. Like, awesome.  And for the most part they still are.  Well, now they are sharing a room in preparation for the baby.  It has gone fairly well, but the little miss is testing my patience every night when dad isn't home, climbing in and out of bed, before finally settling down about an hour later.  She will also climb to the top bunk {where her brother sleeps}, get in the farthest corner and laugh hysterically at me because I can't reach her.  The big 'ol belly just gets in the way.

I'm usually sweating, irritated and pretty pissed off by the time they are finally down.  At which point I collapse on the couch and call it a night myself.

But....what I will say is that the comments and feedback I received from last Saturday's post made me feel good.  Thank you for your support and kind words.  If you missed it, you can read it here.

These spicy buffalo chicken enchiladas also cheered me up.  I was craving something spicy and cheesy and I had all the ingredients on hand to make this dish stellar so I cranked it out amongst the chaos of our house over the weekend.

I've made every buffalo style dip, pizza, appetizer and sandwich you can probably name, but I had yet to tackle it in any Mexican style dish.  What took me so long?

The ingredients for these will make a large pan {8-10 enchiladas}, but I stuck with just rolling up 4 - two for me and two for the hubs, just in case he didn't like them or I didn't like how they turned out, saving the extra sauce and shredded chicken in the fridge.

Mistake!  Should have made the whole pan at once.  So good!

Dive into these gooey, spicy, cheesy darlings like it is your last meal.  You will not be disappointed if you are a buffalo sauce fan.

Oh, and do you want my cool Rachael Ray's baking dishes?  You can buy them here.  I love them!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why I Am Choosing a Different Path in Life

If you are a follower of my blog you know I've been hinting at this blog post for some time. I've been telling my readers that an announcement was coming.  Telling them that a change was going to happen soon.

Today I am finally ready to share this news.

You know being a woman and having a career can be challenging.  I truly feel we face different obstacles than men {just my opinion} and on top of that if we choose to have a family we are lugging double duty. Not that it can't be done.  Not that some women aren't fabulous at it.  Heck, even some women prefer being the bread winner while their spouse stays home and takes care of the kids.  For some families it works great.

But here's the thing.  It hasn't been working that great for us.  If you are an old reader I apologize, but if you are new to this blog, I want to share a bit of our journey, a timeline, if you will, to understand how we got to this point.

The husband and I got married in 2006.  We enjoyed a few years being child-free until in 2009 we welcomed our son.  One month prior to his birth we moved to a new town, where we still live.  Due to that move {who wants to hire an 8 month pregnant lady?} I stayed home.  I continued to stay home for the first year of his life.  During this time I started this food blog.  Which, to this day, I consider one of the best wild hair decisions I've made.

In March of 2011 we welcomed our daughter.  By this time I was back to working in a corporate setting. Three months after her birth, my department was let go and I landed a new part-time job the very next day. How it happened so perfectly I'll never know.  It allowed me to work only 3 days a week and be more hands on with my children.

This part-time job is where I am still working, three years later.  This position has given me endless opportunities.  I have made more professional contacts than in any other job I've ever been in.  It truly has been a joy working there.  I enjoy what I do and the people I work with.

In less than 6 weeks I'll be giving birth to our third child.  Another girl.

During the past year and a half, the husband and I have been working our tail feathers off scraping off our debt.  I'm happy to report that during this time we have chipped away around $14,000.  It's almost like we kicked an annoying family member out of the house!

A few months back we had to sit down and weigh our options.  I had opportunities come my way - a full time new position, a different position, it seemed like when I was at home trying to figure out what to do, everyone else seemed to think they had something for me.

But my heart just wasn't in any of it.

You know what I hated with a passion?  Rushing out the door on those three mornings at 7 a.m. with still tired kids and a crabby mom.  Sitting at my desk at 3:00 realizing I had nothing planned for dinner, yet had hungry mouths waiting for me.  Waking up on Friday morning facing a house that for the past three days was victim to a raging tornado.

I really disliked ALL of this.  So much so, that each week it took me about a day to recover, only to start the week again in a couple days.

So after putting the pencil to the paper and realizing that gas, daycare costs and my crabbiness was certainly going to take a hit come this summer we made a decision.

I am quitting my job and staying home starting next month.

There.  I said it.

I will officially become a stay-at-home mom soon.  Not because we moved and I was 8 months pregnant. Not because I lost my job.  But simply because I wanted to.

Will it be hard?  I have no doubt.  Will there by days I regret my choice?  More than likely. But I am truly hoping the good days outweigh the bad and that we've made the best decision for our family.

But you know what?  Here is what I am looking forward to.  Spending more quality time with my kids and not being so darn rushed.  Walks to the park.  More play dates with other stay-at-home moms.  Having a more organized home.  Prepping dinner during the day so I'm not rushing at 5:00 p.m. to throw something together.  Getting back into a fitness routine. Volunteering more time at my children's school.

And did you think I forgot?

Spending more time developing my food blog.  I've had to turn down some opportunities lately simply due to lack of time and energy.  I want to stop doing that.  I have recently made contact with a web-guru {not her official title} to do a little revamping of this site.  Not a ton of things that you'll see, but on the back end, boring stuff that helps bring in readers and money.  I want to get back to posting every other day and making even more exciting recipes.  I'm really excited about this.

So now is the time I ask you.  If you could be a stay-at-home mom would you?  Be honest.  I know it isn't for everyone.  Heck, it may not even be for me, but I will find out soon enough.

Give me your thoughts about this post.  I know I wasn't sharing anything about food today, but I wanted you to see another part of my life.

And don't worry I'll be back with some yummy bites soon!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

5 Quick & Easy, Nutritious Breakfasts for You {and your kids!}

I was recently contacted by the kind folks at Life Time - Athletic in Des Moines, Iowa.  Their charitable foundation, Life Time Foundation, is focused on inspiring healthy people and a healthy planet.  Currently they are focusing on improving our children's nutrition - one school lunch program at a time.

I was immediately intrigued as I have a preschooler, next year I'll have another one and soon they will both be attending school full-time where they will be served lunch.

March was National Nutrition Month and what better way to kick off spring than by talking about some easy, affordable and most importantly healthy foods that we can serve our family and kids.  Today I am focusing on breakfast items, but really we all know all of these below ideas can be served anytime of the day.

We all know {especially those of us with slow moving kiddos} getting breakfast in the mouths of our children can be daunting, but these five recipes listed above are easy and can ALL be prepared ahead of time.

Have an extra hour Sunday afternoon?  Whip up a batch of the french toast bake, boil off some hard boiled eggs, heck you can even assemble the yogurt parfaits a day or two or three before and they taste just the same.

All of these Life Time Foundation recipes have the same philosophy:

To promote serving real, whole foods while eliminated the following:
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Artificial Colors
  • Added & Artificial Sweeteners
  • Trans Fats
  • Hormones & Antibiotics
  • Bleached Flour

I tried two recipes over the weekend, the crustless quiche and make ahead parfaits.  These were simple choices for me and my family.  We love eggs and we love yogurt.  Better yet, my kids love them.

In fact our newly 3 year old is so HOOKED on Greek yogurt that we've started buying 3 quarts of it at a time at the grocery store.  {Now, she doesn't eat all of that, but when you have a toddler requesting it everyday for breakfast you go through it fast!}

I filled our quiche with cheese and green onions and layered the parfaits with dried fruit and my homemade granola.

I personally love companies that focus on getting our kids to love simple, whole and healthy foods.  We strive to eat pretty healthy at our house {or at least mostly all homemade food} and I'm happy to see the Life Time Foundation is doing the same.

If you are interested in donating to their cause, click here.

And even better the kind folks at the Life Time Foundation want to give one of my readers a handy-dandy drink size tumbler to use.  As we all know the best drink to cart around with you {and have your kids drink} is WATER.  This tumbler will keep it cold and refreshing all day long for you!

Simply leave a comment telling me your own healthy breakfast idea.  One you do currently or one habit you'd like to start.  Go!

I'll pick a random winner on Friday, April 4th.