Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: June 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014

30 Minute Taco Rice Skillet

This easy, family friendly 30-minute meal is a must for your weekly meal plan.
Kids love this!

30-minute taco rice skillet (

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I'm still trying to get used being a stay-at-home mom.  I constantly forget what day it is.  I still feel like come 9 p.m. I better start getting ready for bed as I have work in the morning.  I tell myself often that we need to stay home, as in my head I know the work week is ahead.

I wonder when this will change?  Today felt a bit different.  The kids and I had a play date and picnic with some friends that lasted 3 hours.  It was glorious.  Now that I'm at home these things can happen.  The kids ran around barefoot, got sweaty, begged to eat lunch at 10:30 and a friend and I got in some good conversation.  In turn, it wore out my kids and the rest of our day was pretty darn good because of it.

The little miss had a late afternoon swim lesson and my oh my.....a girl can get quite a bit done with that little daredevil/non-stop-talker/go-getter thing out of the house.  In an hour I managed to get the baby down for a nap, do the dishes, switch out laundry, return a phone call and prep this easy 30 minute dinner.

30-minute taco rice skillet (

Now, I've made this dinner before, but just now realized I had never blogged about it!  If you have trouble coming up with simple and quick family dinners then this one is for you.  My kids love it.  I let them scoop it up with tortilla chips as we all know kids love scooping up their food!

This mixture also freezes well.  When I was working {See?  Here I go again...} I would divide out the leftovers into to-go containers, freeze it, then grab a container when I didn't have anything planned to take to lunch.

30-minute taco rice skillet (

Try this cheesy rice dish soon - you won't be disappointed!

Oh, and my stars and stripes cloth napkins I used in these photos, people have asked where I got them.  I can't remember!  But I did find similar ones on Amazon.  Super cute!

30 Minute Taco Rice Skillet

Print this Recipe!

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. salsa
1 3/4 c. water
1 c. white rice
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
sour cream
crushed tortilla chips

1.  In a large saucepan, cook the ground beef until juices run clear, drain off grease.
2.  Add in water, salsa and seasonings and bring to a boil.
3.  Add rice and stir.  Turn heat down to low and cover for 15 minutes.
4.  Once all water is absorbed and rice is tender, stir in cheddar cheese.
5.  Serve hot, garnished with additional salsa, sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.


I have high hopes of hitting up the farmer's market today {with three kids....please pray for me}.  Our local one is growing by leaps and bounds and I want to support them. 

I also need to make one LAST batch of strawberry jam and if time permits make a BIG batch of basil pesto.  My plant is out of control and needs to be tamed.  Look for my recipe soon!

And lastly, if even more time permits get caught up on about a zillion blog related items.  Having a newborn really permits most of that!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Swirled Cheesecake Brownies


It's about time I give you a dessert don't you think?  I made these brownies yesterday fully intending to bring them to my in-laws today for their anniversary, but like many times before the husband and little man FOUND THEM after dinner and well, the rest is history.

There were some left, but I didn't feel like dragging half a pan an hour and a half away.....story of my life.

But let me tell you....these are divine.  Do I dare say some of the best brownies I've ever made?  I'll let you be the judge.

I was tempted to add some fresh strawberries to this batter, because you know, I have them coming out of my ears {5 batches of homemade jam down!} but I'm glad I didn't,  Just leave well enough alone, right?
But it would taste good with fresh strawberries swirled into this batter.
I can't make up my mind.


Make these!

Don't delay!

Tell me to stop shouting!

Enough.  Here you go.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cheddar Dill Biscuits

Holy moly, these taste pretty darn close to those addicting biscuits they serve you at a certain popular chain seafood restaurant.  Know the one I'm talking about?
A few nights back I threw together some pasta for dinner {which ended up being nothing to rave about} and instead of doing the typical garlic bread as a side, I made these biscuits.  Which in turn, were something to rave about.
In fact every day since then I have been warming one up in the microwave for an afternoon snack and then regretting it later while I walk around with dill/garlic breath.
You have to pick your battles.

Please do not be intimidated with making biscuits.  Unlike bread, no kneading is required, just a little elbow grease to mix in the ingredients together and a floured surface to press the dough down flat and a sharp knife to cut.  That's it!
I even made these with three kids in the same room as me.  I'm pretty sure there was a bit of crying, yelling and bickering with each other going on, but I just turned my back to it all for a few minutes to mix this dough together.
Sometimes you just have to let them work it out.

Now I know biscuits aren't typically a "summer" side dish, but that doesn't mean you can't make them.  I baked mine in my toaster oven so I didn't heat up the kitchen.  And like I said prior, they made up for a piss poor pasta dish I made.
{It was edible.....just bland and boring}.
You win some you lose some.

You had better tuck this little gem of a recipe away for the Fall months as well.  I can see these working fantastically with a hearty soup, casserole or stew.
But I'm not going to think about Fall right now, because lets be honest after the winter we had, I am trying to embrace this glorious summer!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hash Brown Crusted Spinach & Egg Quiche

Three cheers to a healthy breakfast or dinner!
A crispy hash brown bottom gives this egg dish a new twist.

Hash Brown Crusted Spinach & Egg Quiche...a crispy bottom crust and a loaded egg filling!  Perfect for breakfast, brunch or even dinner. (

Yesterday I pondered dinner ALL DAY.  I couldn't think of anything that sounded good, anything that I felt like making, nor anything that I had ingredients for.  First world problems I tell ya.

Mix this with children who decided to turn into monsters over the weekend and well, it just wasn't my best day.  I think a few of these phrases rang through our house over the weekend while the husband was gone working and I was tending to the cherubs.

"There will be no screaming unless you are on fire!"

"If you pinch me, I'll pinch you back!"

"If one more person touches the baby with their grimy hands, I'm going to scream!"

Clearly, not my best moments.

I'm sharing this just so you know we all have days {or whole weekends} like this.  No one is perfect.

Hash Brown Crusted Spinach & Egg Quiche...a crispy bottom crust and a loaded egg filling!  Perfect for breakfast, brunch or even dinner. (

Moving on.  Finally at around 5 p.m. I pulled items together for this quiche.  Since it had already been A DAY I wasn't in the mood for tackling a typical quiche crust, so instead I grabbed some frozen hash browns out of the freezer and decided on this crispy crust instead.

And let me just say, I want all my quiches to have a crust like this from here on out!  Crispy, salty, crunchy and flavorful.  And not soggy like some crusts can get.

Hash Brown Crusted Spinach & Egg Quiche...a crispy bottom crust and a loaded egg filling!  Perfect for breakfast, brunch or even dinner. (

What is also great about this is that you can tailor it however you like.  This time I threw in cheddar cheese, salsa and spinach but it would be great with sausage, bacon and a handful of other veggies as well.

It ends up slicing like a dream and can even be eaten cold - although I do prefer it warm.  When the husband got home later that night, he tackled most of it, but I did manage to scrape together one last piece for breakfast the next morning.

Put this in your dinner rotation, stat!

Hash Brown Crusted Spinach & Egg Quiche...a crispy bottom crust and a loaded egg filling!  Perfect for breakfast, brunch or even dinner. (

Hash Brown Crusted Spinach and Egg Quiche
Print this Recipe!

6 c. frozen, thawed hash browns
2 T. olive oil
8 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. salsa
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
3 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed
2 c. fresh spinach

1.  Preheat a 9 inch skillet to medium high heat, with the olive oil.  When hot, place hash browns in the skillet, pressing down making them flat.  Do not stir the hash browns, let them brown on one side for 5-6 minutes, creating a crispy bottom crust.
2.  Place a plate over the hash browns, flip the skillet over and slide the uncooked side of the hash browns back into the hot skillet and cook the other side for another 5-6 minutes.
3.  When both sides are crispy, slide the flattened hash browns into a 9 in. pie plate.  Press down with a spatula, including up the sides of the pie plate.
4. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, salsa, salt, pepper, cheese and spinach and pour into the crust.
5.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 375 degrees or until the eggs are set.
6.  Slice and serve warm, or it can be eaten cold the next day.

Friday, June 13, 2014

7-Up Marinated Pork Chops {+ a Grilling Pack Giveaway!}

I live in Iowa, therefore we love pork.  If Iowa is know for anything it is corn and pigs.  {And Ashton Kutcher, Shawn Johnson, Tom Arnold and a handful of other celebrities}.  But really we are a farming state and VERY proud of that fact.  We supply a good chunk of the world with food.
I recently partnered with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, along with a handful of other Iowa food bloggers in an effort to showcase some great pork recipes knowing that our readers are becoming more and more interested in how their food is grown.
Pork producers and the pork industry have been dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the quality of pork in the United States for decades.  Today, the marketplace holds businesses and industries to higher standards, looking for them to act responsibly.
To learn more about modern pork farming and the values on which our producers operate, please visit

With over 2,000 recipes on it was TOUGH choosing just one recipe to showcase.  I was drawn to this one for its simplicity and light, summery touch.  I had all of the ingredients personally on hand {isn't that the greatest feeling when preparing a meal?} and our family loves a good marinade.
The kids and I even walked to the garden to pick some fresh basil for this one - nothing like foraging for our food!
I put the husband in charge of grilling the chops and I tackled the photos and side dish.  Did you know I got a new camera awhile back?  It makes food photography so much more enjoyable.  I also whipped up a simple rice pilaf to go along with the pork {rice, butter, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper}. 
Our kids LOVED this meal and so did we.  Simple, easy, yet so flavorful.

The awesome team at the Iowa Pork Producers Association has also generously decided to give away a grilling prize pack to one of my readers.  Just in time for summer!
The prize pack includes:
  • $50 in pork coupons
  • A 3-piece grilling too set
  • A bottle of local Iowa barbecue sauce
  • Pork Be Inspired grilling apron
  • Meat thermometer {grill that pork to 145 degrees!}
To check out this recipe and enter the contest, click on 'read more' below.  You will want to try out these chops and enter for a chance to win.  I will pick one random winner next Friday, June 20th.  Your prize grilling pack will be mailed out in early July.

7-Up Marinated Pork Chops

Print this Recipe!
1/3 c. 7-Up
1/3 c. orange juice
1/3 c. soy sauce
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried basil {I used fresh from the garden}
4 bone-in or boneless pork chops

1.  In a large Ziploc seal able bag mix together the first 5 ingredients.
2.  Place pork chops in the marinade.
3.  Marinate overnight or at least 4 hours.
4.  Grill chops 8-15 minutes depending on thickness.
5.  Remove from the heat when internal temperature is 145 degrees F and let rest before serving.
6.  These can also be frozen in the marinade/baggie for camping.  As the chops thaw in the cooler, they will marinate." rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Top 10 Summer Recipes

Today I am super stoked to share with you some of my favorite summer recipes from last year.  Not from other blogs or online sites, my own tried and true recipes!  These are ones I've shared with you last summer, received good reviews and are just down right GOOD.

There are two frames of mind when it comes to summer.  Your life either slows down or speeds up.  You either take in the sunshine and longer days and embrace them or you get all consumed by your schedule of baseball games, barbecues, day camps and the like.

One thing is for certain.  You want to eat simple, fresh and outdoor-sy type meals.  At least I do.  Just this morning I went out to my garden and picked some fresh basil to put in a marinade I am using for dinner tonight.  That is what summer is all about.

So here are some of my favorite summer meals.  All made by me.  I hope you enjoy!

Caramel Pecan Peach Crumble Bars
There you have it!  My top 10 picks for summer meals last year.  And now that summer has finally started here, I have some great ones in store in the coming months.
Coming up next on the blog is a unique and tasty marinated grilled pork chop and a super stuffed baked French toast.
And you know what else?  I'm going strawberry picking this week!  It's my annual trek to the farm to come home with red stained fingers and a fridge full of berries.  Most will be turned into jam and the rest will be frozen.  And I won't lie, many will go straight to our bellies.
Which of my top 10 are you excited to make this summer?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Garlicky Dill Dip

Dip season is here!
The long dog days of summer have seemed to finally arrive here in the Midwest and with that comes cool, refreshing summer meals.  One of my favorite things to eat when it is warm out is what I call a "snack plate".  Often for lunch I'll set out a plate or platter of fresh fruit, veggies, cheese, crackers and some kind of dip to dunk it all in.
Then we all graze and munch between trips in and out of the back door {because we all know kids make MULTIPLE trips in and out the door, they can't seem to make up their mind}.  Or sometimes I'll lay a blanket out on the deck and we'll eat this picnic style.
This dip is simple to throw together, but I do recommend making it a few hours ahead of eating or better yet the day before.  It allows the fresh herbs to flavor the yogurt and make it super flavorful.
And lets talk about cheaper!  A pre-made dip at the grocery store could set you back $2-$3.  This dip is made at just a fraction of that cost.  Plus most of the herbs were pulled from my garden, costing me nothing.
Which reminds me, I need to give you a garden update soon.  Anyone interested in that?  This year I have three types of tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, bell peppers, onions, strawberries, basil, dill and parsley.

This dip goes great with fresh veggies and even better with potato chips.  Yes, I said potato chips!  Certainly not healthy, but who cares, its summer!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

All-Purpose Rub for Meat & Veggies

I asked for foodie ideas on my Facebook page a couple of days ago and my friend Shawna requested a "rub" that can be used on everything - chicken, ribs, potatoes, veggies, etc.  Genius, girl!  In the almost 5 year history of this blog I have never shared the simple rub I often put together to season our meats and veggies.
Here you go folks!
Now, rubs can be much more complicated.  You can add as many spices as you like, but lets be honest we don't always have a ton of quality spices in our cupboard.  And, in case you didn't know, spices get old.  Some suggest replacing them every 6 months.
I don't.  Because well I now have 3 kids and that last thing on my mind is replacing my spices.  But I would suggest, at least once a year, especially if you think they are losing their flavor.
These five spices are the ones I always have on hand and that together make a great combination.  I usually makes this in small batches, so that it will stay fresh.  I used to fret over how much salt to add versus garlic powder and vice versa, but found out that by using the same quantities in a small batch works pretty well.
Therefore now, my batch consists of 3 teaspoons of each spice.  When mixed together each spice stands out, yet doesn't over power another.  I keep it in an old baby food jar with a tight lid and this has become our all-purpose spice!  
Yesterday I texted the husband and told him on his way home to pick up a couple of steaks for dinner.  I'm sure he stopped dead in his tracks, as I rarely, if ever request steak for dinner.  I like it, just don't crave it often, you know?
He brought home two nice sirloins and I proceeded to rub them down on each side.  I also let them sit on the counter to take the chill out before grilling them.  Let those flavors soak in!
I also cleaned and trimmed a healthy bunch of asparagus, defrosted some local bacon and proceeded to make our favorite bacon asparagus bundles.  So good!  And as you can see, I sprinkled them liberally with this rub as well.
By putting these bundles on a grilling rack {you can purchase your own HERE for just $8.47}, it allows the bacon to get crispy on the grill, yet not completely char the asparagus.  This is by far one of our favorite sides to grill in the summer. 
I've also been know to wrap these in prosciutto.  Yum!
Okay, now get out an old jar and make some rub!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Please Welcome the Newest Member of our Family

On May 14th at 1:04 p.m. we welcomed our third child, a baby girl, and we are just a bit smitten with her.  She was 8 lbs. 3 1/2 oz. and 20 1/2 inches long.  Our shortest baby, yet right in the middle for her weight.
She arrived just one day shy of her birth date, but came in a flash surprising us all.  Below is her birth story {without many gory details}.  Bringing a new little bundle into the world is quite a miracle, so I hope you enjoy.

I had an 8 a.m. doctor's appointment that day and secretly hoped that would be the day.  Sensing this, the husband tagged along, as it was his day off anyway.  After being checked in, the nurse immediately noticed my blood pressure was a bit high {not something they mess around with during pregnancy, especially when close to your due date}.  I had also been suffering from some mild headaches over the past week along with on and off contractions.
After checking me, I was 5 cm dilated {yes, I usually walk around like this will all my pregnancies}.  Since being that far along dilated, as well with the high blood pressure, my doctor was not comfortable sending me home and gently ushered us right over to labor and delivery.  So different from my other two labors where we always arrived in the middle of the night, tired and delirious.
So off we went to L&D, where they checked us in around 9 a.m. and started the process of inducing my labor.  They gave me the choice of breaking my water or putting me on Pitocin to get the contractions started and I choose for them to break my water.  If you've ever been on Pitocin, you know it is not that fun and I wanted to try and avoid it if at all possible.
The doctor came in and broke my water around 10:15 a.m.  After that I sat in bed for awhile, walked the halls and watched The View on T.V.  Nothing too much was happening.  Some very mild contractions, but nothing serious.
I remember watching the 11 a.m. news, walking the halls and telling my husband "no, you cannot go home to get my bag".  He was sure it would take a while, like my previous labors and we'd be there most of the day.  I am so glad he did not leave.
Looking back later that day, I was texting my friend who was watching our other two kids, along with my mom and dad who were picking up the kids soon to relieve my friend shortly after 12:00 p.m.  So I must not have been in too much pain?

Around 12:20 p.m. I told my husband I wanted the epidural now.  The contractions were suddenly, seriously painful, to the point where I could not talk through them, nor focus on anything else but controlling the pain.  We got our nurse in there and according to her records they ordered the epidural at 12:38 p.m.
The anesthiologist came in {very slowly, I might add} and started to prep me for the epidural.  I could barely sit on the edge of the bed.  By this time, I remember squeezing my nurse's hand so hard I remember thinking I would need to apologize to her later.  I also kicked the stool they wanted my feet on across the room, I just could not sit still.  And sadly for an epidural you HAVE TO SIT STILL.  With my contractions one on top of each other, he just could not attempt it.
And then, I found myself pushing.  All women who have birthed a baby know what I'm referring to.  Suddenly, I knew she was coming.  I could feel every bit of it.  My nurse pleaded I roll over so they could check me and when they did she was coming out.  Eight painful minutes later and about 4 pushes and she was out.
I literally stretched out my husband's hooded sweatshirt as I was pulling on it so hard, and he claimed I was calling in "coyotes" as I was screaming so loud.  Looking back, I know I probably acted and sounded like a maniac, but until you had have a natural labor, you will just not understand.
Those last minutes of labor were pure HELL.  I will never say it wasn't, but the joy when she came out, when we heard her cry and when she was laid on my chest, was put JOY.  She came out perfect, healthy, and all ours.

Knowing this is 99.9% my last baby, I am trying to take this all in and remember everything.  I loved staying in the hospital for those 2.5 days {pampering is great!}.  I love that she is comforted by her mama.  And I love that our other two little ones are in love with her in more ways than I can imagine.
Has it been hard?  Yes.  Caring for three kids under the age of 4 is trying, I won't lie about that.  The husband has been great, so have our extended families.  In fact one set of grandparents took the little kids for a few days this week just to give us a break.
So that is her story!  We left the house that morning, clearly not expecting to have a new little one just a few hours later.  She is just the BEST.
More updates to come on her.....and more food as well!  Stay tuned!