Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Frosted Cream Cheese Cookies

Can we take a moment and recognize that it is ALMOST August?  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I keep trying to squeeze in as much as I can with the kids - play dates, park outings, pool time, bike rides, name it, I'm trying to make the most of it.
With that being said, let's talk cookies.

When you find an awesome new cookie it is only fitting to make two batches in a week, right?  Especially since the recipe just uses half a block of cream cheese.  What is that other half block of cream cheese to do?  Get a stare down every time I open the fridge door?
Surely not!
Thankfully I took one batch to a blogger gathering and gave a good chuck of the second batch to a friend.
Because, seriously, my kids and I would eat this ENTIRE batch if left in front of us.  They are super soft, creamy and melt in your mouth.

These perfect little morsels of dough get thrown together in one bowl, chill for a bit in the fridge, get rolled, baked and then drizzled with a simple powdered sugar glaze.
Even the non-baker can make these!
Maybe you could be better than me and actually freeze the other batch.  Do you have more will power than me?
Tell me after you make these if you do...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Peanut Butter & Jam Oatmeal Bars

If there is one thing that we eat a LOT of in our house it is the American classic, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
When I'm running behind or have nothing planned for the kids for lunch, more often than not, I'll whip up a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and call it good.  The kids love them and frankly I do as well.
When our little babe was born just a couple of months ago, it was my go-to-sandwich during those early weeks of feeding a nursing babe morning, noon and night.  I had little time on my hands, so this simple sandwich became my staple.

I have no idea why I never thought of making a dessert bar to mimic our favorite sandwich.  It took me 32 years!
It started with my simple no-flour peanut butter bar.  Then my homemade jam was staring me in the face and I thought, why not?  Enter in some big dollups of jam and a few swirls of the knife and well this recipe was born.

These are perfect for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.  Or if you are a young mother like me, I pack them into our trips to the park.
Because, you know, little kids seem to need to eat every 30 minutes or so.  Or is that just mine???
You can also cut these into squares, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze them individually.  Then when ready to head out the door, where you know you'll need a snack later. you have one of these bars ready to munch on later.
Feel free to use any flavor of jam, although we are partial to strawberry!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chopped B.L.T. Caesar Salad

Hands down this Chopped B.L.T. Caesar Salad is THE best summer salad.
Your girlfriends will go bonkers for this!

chopped B.L.T. caesar salad (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

The last two days have been pretty awesome.

Not only did I make this killer salad {twice}, but I got a LOT done around home.  We shipped the two older kids off to their grandparents for two days {I'll be meeting up with them this weekend} and the husband and I enjoyed some much needed quiet time.

Yes, our little 10 week old bundle was with us, but she is easy!  I used to think one child was hard when we just had one, but after you throw in two more one is a breeze.  We were basically on the road from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with various stops in between and I think she only fussed once for about 5 minutes.  She is such a happy baby.

So anyway, we dropped the kids off, got the hubs fitted for some new work uniforms, had appetizers and a drink for lunch, stopped by a good friend's house to catch up, then finished the trip off with dinner and ice cream.

And now today, I'm getting CRAP done around here.  Laundry, yard work and lots of cooking.  I went into the garden and snatched up some peppers, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos to make copy cat chili's salsa.  I'm also making a second batch of my Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Yogurt Cookies and I'm throwing together some bacon cheese puffs later for when my girlfriend comes over to hang out.

chopped B.L.T. caesar salad (

I would probably whip up this salad {again} for her but I'm out of lettuce.  Darn.  But, let me just say, this is the BEST SALAD I'VE EVER MADE.

And I'm not a fan of salads.  Yes, I eat them.  Yes, I like them.  But I'm not like some women who crave them.  I love a good one at a restaurant now and then, but sadly I don't make them too much at home.

But then this one happened.

I was eating a B.L.T. the other day for lunch and the thought popped into my head about a B.L.T. salad.  Simple right?  I didn't want to just dump ranch dressing on it.....I wanted something different.

How about Caesar?  Yep, that is what I did.

I made a homemade Caesar dressing, chopped up the lettuce really good, spun it with THIS salad spinner {essential} and then tossed it all together.  Even my 4.5 year old liked this {the bacon probably helped}.  It reminded me of a salad you'd order at a restaurant.

This is the perfect salad to feed a crowd as well.  This version uses a whole head of lettuce, but would feed at least 4-5 people.  Make it your meal, or serve it as a side.

Share this one with your friends, my dear readers, it is that good!  Creamy, yet has a bit of a kick, yet is smoky from the bacon.  Down right freakin' fabulous.

Chopped B.L.T. Caesar Salad

Print this Recipe!

1 head of iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 slices of bacon
2 slices good quality bread
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. mayo
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. spicy brown mustard {or Dijon}
1 clove of garlic, minced
dash of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt and pepper

1.  To make the dressing combine the parmesan cheese, mayo, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Whisk until combined, place in the refrigerator to chill.
2.  Cut the bacon into bite sized pieces and cook in a medium-high heated skillet.  Cook until crisp, remove and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.  Do not drain bacon grease from the skillet.
3.  Cut the bread/roll into bite sized pieces, with the skillet still hot, place bread in the skillet, coating in the bacon grease.  Continue to stir until bread becomes crispy and brown.  Remove from the heat, draining on the paper towel with the bacon.
4.  To assemble the salad, combine the chopped lettuce, tomato, bacon, bread and prepared dressing.  Toss to coat. 
5.  Serve immediately.
6.  Serves 4-5 people.

chopped B.L.T. caesar salad (

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lightened Up Summer Fare with Mike's Hard Lemonade

*I received complimentary product from Mike's Lite Hard Lemonade and created these recipes on behalf of them.  All opinions are my own.  Enjoy!

This summer Mike's Lite Hard Lemonade has partnered with selected bloggers to use their product and create healthier versions of indulgent meals.  It was time to get creative!  I was excited to be selected, as #1 - I love a good challenge and #2 - I love a nice cold Mike's Hard Lemonade on a hot summer day.  Nothing is better!
I'm not going to lie, the husband was also happy to see alcohol delivered straight to our doorstep.  That certainly doesn't happen to everyone!
Their new Lite versions have 30% fewer calories than their originals and are sweetened with honey rather than sugar.  Pretty darn cool, huh?
With the creative juices flowing I decided on a fun, summery cocktail and a flavorful, light meal centered around the tastes of summer.

This refreshing drink is perfect to sip on after a long day at work or right before dinner.  Do like I did and sip while the husband grills!  {Hey, I do 90% of the cooking, so he can tackle the grill}.
With watermelon in its peak season and a TON of it freshly cut in our fridge, I incorporated it into this drink.  It's slushy, light and refreshing.
I sucked it down pretty fast.
Watermelon Black Cherry Slushies
2 c. frozen seeded watermelon chunks
1 bottle Mike's Hard Lite Black Cherry Lemonade
1.  Place the frozen chunked watermelon in a blender and pulse to a slushie consistency.
2.  Pour watermelon in two glasses or jar and top with chilled Black Cherry Lite Lemonade.
3.  Serve immediately.
4.  Serves 2.

To go along with our slushies for dinner we also had these super fun sandwiches and local corn on the cob {summer is officially in full swing when corn on the cob comes around!}.
I have to admit I have never marinated chicken, or any meat for that matter, in alcohol.  But I thought, what the heck?  I took a bottle of Mike's Hard Lite Lemonade {the regular version} and poured it over chicken breasts that had been pounded thin and layered with freshly torn basil from my garden.
We grilled up these bad boys, toasted some buns, slathered them with a bit of mayo and added slices of freshly cut tomato from the garden.  It ended up being a light, refreshing sandwich that I would make again in a heartbeat.

Spiked Basil Lemonade Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
Print this Recipe!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin and cut horizontally in half
1 bottle Mike's Hard Lite Lemonade
1 c. freshly torn basil
8 slices mozzarella cheese
sandwich buns

1.  Layer chicken breasts, basil and lemonade in a large Tupperware or glass container to marinate.
2.  Let marinate for 2 hours prior to grilling.
3.  Grill chicken breasts over medium-high heat, 5-6 minutes a side {if chicken breasts are thin} or until juices run clear.
4.  Top each chicken breast with a slice of cheese last few minutes of cooking.
5.  Toast buns on the grill for the last minute of cooking.
6.  Assemble sandwiches - bun, mayo, chicken and sliced tomato.

Don't these two recipes go great together for a summer meal on your patio or deck?  Yeah, I think so too.

A BIG thanks to Mike's Hard Lite Lemonade for this opportunity.  Again, who doesn't like alcohol delivered straight to their front door?

If you haven't already make sure to connect with Mike's Hard Lemonade via social media:



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Crock Pot Maid-Rites

Maid-rites are an Iowa tradition.
Yes, loose meat sandwiches, no matter how simple they are, are delicious!

crock pot iowa maid-rites (

I asked my Facebook fans yesterday what meal they wanted to see next.  Out of about 5 choices these maid-rites were the winner!

I completely understand if you are looking at this pile of meat and wondering what the big deal is, or rather why I would even blog about this sandwich.

I get it.  They do not make the most beautiful sandwich, but let me tell you the flavor is all there.  Many of us in the Midwest grew up on these sandwiches, especially if you are from Iowa.  We invented the darn things.  If you grew up in the 90's watching the TV show Roseanne you'll also remember that Roseanne and Jackie owned a loose meat sandwich restaurant.

Yep, their idea came from us Iowans.

crock pot iowa maid-rites (

These sandwiches are easy and family friendly {I haven't met a kid who doesn't like them} and they can feed a crowd!  I have a zillion childhood memories of eating these at fundraisers, potlucks and family gatherings.

Seriously, once you have the meat cooked and seasoned, you can throw it in a crock pot and let it simmer away all day long.  Bring along some hamburger buns and condiments and you've got a meal.

crock pot iowa maid-rites (

There are many, many, many versions of this recipe floating around the internet and frankly I make them a bit different each time, but I've found this one has the closest flavor of a true "Maid-Rite", like the ones you have at the popular Midwestern chain.

And by the way, if you throw a slice of cheese on the darn thing, it becomes a "Cheese-Rite".

I know.  We are so original.

Make these for your family today! 

Crock Pot Maid-Rites

Print this Recipe!

2 lbs. ground beef
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 T. soy sauce
1 T. worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. beef stock

1.  On the stovetop, saute onions over medium heat.
2.  Add in the ground beef and cook with the onions until no longer pink and juices run clear.
3.  Drain off any excess grease.
4.  Put cooked meat and onions into a medium-sized crock pot.
5.  Add in remaining seasonings, water and stock.  Stir to combine.
6.  Keep on low in the crock pot until ready to serve, up to 8 hours.
7.  Serve on a hamburger bun, with ketchup, mustard and dill pickle.

Can you believe summer is already half over?

I cannot.

On May 14th I delivered our third baby and honestly the last two months have FLOWN by.  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  We've managed to squeeze in many park dates, play dates, day trips, swimming lessons and ice cream treats after dinner but I still don't feel like it is enough.

How do you soak in every single moment of summer?  Do please tell!

crock pot iowa maid-rites (

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stuffed Strawberry Cheesecake Baked French Toast

If you are a dedicated follower {thank you, by the way} I gave you a sneak peak of this killer breakfast a couple of weeks ago.  I created it for the Iowa Food and Family Project, showcasing a classic farm food.
I keep telling my husband that when we move I want chickens.  He looks at me like I'm a bit crazy, but I know if we ever do get our dream piece of land I'll get my chickens.  And from chickens, come eggs.
I'm embarrassed to admit how many cartons of eggs we buy each week......we have a bit of an egg obsession.

Instead of creating a typical "egg" dish for them, I wanted something special.  I love a good breakfast French toast so that popped into my head first.  This also happened to be the week I went strawberry picking.
French toast + strawberries = HEAVEN.
It really was a no brainer.
Enter in my Stuffed Strawberry Cheesecake Baked French Toast.

What I love about this dish is that even though it looks fancy, it comes together in a snap.  Plus you make it the night prior, stick it in the fridge and bake it off in the morning.

I made this just for us.....but it is the PERFECT breakfast dish for a crowd.  Think baby shower, Christmas morning, etc.  It feeds a lot.  I ended up freezing what we didn't eat and it came out beautifully reheated again when pulled from the freezer.

And since all different varieties of berries are in season right now, use whatever fruit you want!  Raspberries, blueberries, peaches....maybe even apples this coming Fall?
Save this recipe below for later, you'll be happy you did.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crock Pot Sweet Asian Chicken & Broccoli

I know it is summer but I have been loving my crock pot lately.  Not really sure why....maybe because having three kids under the age of 4 has me super crazy busy?  When I get my act together and I stick to my meal plans the crock pot works for me.
My kids love rice and I can usually get them to eat anything along with it, so this dish came easily to me.  Do they rave about the broccoli I threw in?  Not really, but we make them eat a few bites of it.  {They always have to eat a bit of something they aren't too fond of...}
The husband loved the sweetness of this dish, wish is odd, because I remember thinking "I hope he likes this version because it is a bit sweeter than my usual stir fry".  Goes to show, I just never truly know what he will like/dislike.


Just looking at this soupy-bowl-of-goodness makes me want to put it into our meal rotation again this coming week!
I think it would also be great with steak and even pork, feel free to change it up to what your family likes.  You know me, I cannot stick to a recipe exactly so I don't expect you to either.
Now before I share the recipe with you, I thought I'd share some recent family picks.  It has been a long time!  A couple of weeks back we took a day to take the kids to the children's museum and out for lunch.  They loved it!
Oh, and also to check out the flood waters.....thank god it has gone down since these photos were taken.

And lastly, want to know a bit more about me?  Check out this article that a local newspaper wrote up about my blog last week!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Make Ice Cream with Your KitchenAid Mixer

You guys.
I'm flippin' ecstatic over this ice cream.  It was super simple to throw together and other than waiting for it to freeze {which was a bit painful}, I can now see myself making this again and again all summer long.
I kept it easy this first go around, sticking with good 'ol vanilla.  Next time?  I'd really like to throw in some chopped up candy bars.  Or fresh berries.  Or maybe even a drizzle of caramel and a swirling of nuts?  The possibilities are endless.

Okay, here is what you need.
  • A countertop stand mixer {a hand-held mixer would probably work as well}
  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup good, local honey
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
Really, that is it!  If you want your kids indulging in the homemade stuff this summer instead of the CRAP stuff in a box {that tastes good, but we all know has a TON of artificial ingredients} then gather up these four items and get to work.

And shall I remind don't need a master's degree to make this.  In fact my three year old helped pour in the ingredients and mix this up with me.  Get your kids involved.  They will ask you fourteen millions times if it is ready yet, but that really is the only hard part of this adventure.

Step 1: Pour in 1.5 cups of heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract into the bowl of your mixer.  Attach the whisk attachment.  Whisk the cream for 4-5 minutes on high speed until high peaks form {shown above}.  Put in the fridge to chill.
Step 2: In a small saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup of honey on very low heat, just until it is thin and runny.  Pour in the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream, take off the heat, and stir to combine.

Step 3:  Pour the honey/cream mixture into the already chilled whipped cream.  Whisk on low until combined {shown above}.
Step 4:  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 6 hours or until it has the consistency of ice cream.

Could it BE any easier?

I think not.

We dug into this ice cream after dinner for about 3 nights in a row.  Then it was sadly gone.  I need to make more!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nestle Purina PetCare Food Review & Giveaway

*I am reviewing this Nestle Purina PetCare product and all opinions are my own.  I received complimentary product samples on behalf of Nestle Purina.
When Target somehow notices that you have a new puppy in the house you take notice!  Nestle Purina's new Beyond dog and cat food is now available at Target stores nationwide and our little black lab, Otto, got to try it out!
If you are a long time reader then you know we are dog lovers.  Unfortunately during the last year and a half we have had to say goodbye to our two faithful dogs, our golden retriever Kata and our black lab Duke.  Otto {above} entered our lives just two weeks after we said goodbye to our golden retriever this past March.
I was 30+ weeks pregnant and getting another dog was unexpected.....I'm pretty sure the husband knew he had to surprise me with him because I was strongly suggesting we wait till summer.  We were just a bit busy!
Regardless Otto became a member of our family.  Have you owned a lab before?  All I can say is that they have a LOT of energy, need quite a bit of exercise and they pretty much stay a "puppy" until they are about 10.
I'm not kidding.  It takes many years for them to calm down.
But on the other hand, they are a great, loyal family dog.  Which is exactly what we needed.  Hello....three kids under the age of 4!  They are also big eaters.  With both of our labs, we have fed them 2 cups of food in the morning and 2 cups of food in the evening.  Nothing more {labs, have a tendency to gain weight very easy}.
With that being said, you need a good quality dog food on hand and a lot of it.  One large, 40-50 lb. bag usually lasts us around two months or so, give or take.
Purina's Beyond brand has a few rules:
  • Real meat, fish or poultry is always the #1 ingredient.
  • No corn, wheat or soy.
  • No added artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
  • No poultry by-product meal.
I received a free bag of Beyond Adventure, which is a grain-free tuna and egg recipe.  Otto munched away on this bag for about 5 days.  To say that he gets excited about eating time is an understatement.  I'm pretty sure he has an internal clock that just ticks away all day until feeding time begins.

I kept this blue bag in our laundry room and each time I walked by it or brought it out to feed him, he went nuts!  Seriously, I'm not kidding, he went NUTS.  We make him sit and stay for at least a minute before devouring his bowl.  I wish I could have caught a clear shot of his nails digging into the floor waiting or the drool hanging from his mouth.

Otto really enjoyed this dog food.  And can I say it didn't have that strong 'dog food' odor like some brands do?  It just smelled normal.  I'm happy we received the tuna and egg version as well, as eggs help to give big dogs their healthy coats.  We often will crack a fresh egg over his food just to help keep his coat shiny.  No need when eating this version!

Nestle Purina provided me with some additional coupons to purchase a FREE 4 lb. bag of their food.  I'd love to give a coupon away to TWO of my readers.

Don't have a dog?  Do you have a cat?  If so, they have cat food too!  Or know someone with a dog or cat?  Simply enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below and I'll chose two winners on Wednesday, July 9th.  The coupons expire on July 27th, so I want to make sure to get them to you quickly!  That way you can head on over to Target and pick up a bag.

A big thanks to Target and Nestle Purina for this opportunity!" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Glazed Doughnut Mini Muffins

Did everyone enjoy their 4th of July?  Ours was very low-key.  With the husband working, I headed with the kids to a friend's house.  The kids ran all day long and us moms held babies and just hung out.  I even left the two older ones there for a sleepover!
So I have been enjoying a bit of....freedom....shall we say.
I'm loving it.

Okay, the holiday is over but lets face it, we're all a bit tired from the fun festivities, but yet still want to indulge a bit.  Right?
These doughnuts are for you!
And these are baked, not fried, which in turn equals healthy.  Ahem....maybe not, but who cares!  Diets can start tomorrow.
I had a little girl sitting on the counter "helping" me with these, so I have confidence that you can make them in your firecracker-too-much-beer-lack-of-sleep hangover.

Let's start baking!
And tell me do you prefer "donut" or "doughnut".  I prefer the latter.  I mean, you can't have a doughnut without "dough" right?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

1, 2, 3...Pesto!

When your basil plant goes bonkers this is the recipe for you! 
 Make a big batch and freeze what you don't need right away.

homemade pesto (

We are dealing with tons and tons of rain here in Iowa.  Like, so much rain, I can't even put into words how much it has rained lately and especially this afternoon.  Our backyard, driveway, front yard and unfortunately my garden look like a swamp.

We need some serious sunshine to help dry us out.  Lord, please send us some sunshine!

Thankfully this past Saturday {when it was actually dry and sunny} I ventured out and picked a TON of fresh basil.  With the kids napping {all three, at the same time} I made two batches of pesto.  I didn't have any immediate use out of it, so I froze both batches...but I'm sure they won't last there long.
homemade pesto (

Now I am going to tell you how I make pesto.  Is it the correct, traditional way?  Nah.  But, I have found that you can tweak pesto to whatever you have on hand.  Whatever nut is in your cupboard, or whatever herb is in your garden.  Change it up!

By the way, here is a link to my food processor, which I LOVE.  It's wonderful!

Step 1: Pulse 3 cloves of garlic in a food processor.

Step 2: Add in 1/2 c. nuts {this time I used almonds} and pulse until it resembles small, course crumbs.

Step 3: Add in 3 heaping cups of fresh basil and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.  Pulse to combine.

Step 4: Add in freshly grated parmesan cheese and continue to stream in olive oil while combining.

Step 5: Continue blending until desired consistency.

homemade pesto (

One of my favorite uses for pesto is on grilled sandwiches.  Try slathering it on grilled cheese, toasted blt's or a marinated grilled chicken sandwich.

We also love this baked chicken dish and these flavorful basil pesto pinwheels.  Try it!

And of course, stirred into some hot cooked pasta, such as penne or rigatoni, then topped with more freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Believe it or not, in between burping the baby and breaking up fights between the 3 and 4 year old, I do have quite a few other posts lined up!  And if you haven't been doing so already, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and InstagramI post quite a few things on there from our daily life that you won't see here on the blog!

Have a great Tuesday.