Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: October 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Crocktober: My Top 5 Crock Pot Meals

Did you know many people refer to the month of October as "Crocktober"?
Not only is today Halloween, but it is also the LAST day of October.  Boo.
This first full month of Fall, is when most break out their comfort dishes as soon as a chill hits the air.  Casseroles, soups, hot sandwiches and chili's start making their way onto our tables and frankly, nothing excites me more.
I love Fall.  I got married in the Fall.  Come August when it is hot and miserable I often travel in my mind to a crisp autumn day when I'm under a blanket watching a football game and drinking hot chocolate.  And since in my heart of hearts I believe that everyone loves Fall as much as I do, I have picked out my Top 5 Crock Pot Meals.
Because nothing is better than great smelling food drifting through the house in October.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How to Roast Garlic and Ways to Use It

*You still have 3 days to enter my $150 Visa Gift Card Giveaway!*
Lets get our roast on, shall we?
I've often heard wonderful things surrounding roasted garlic.
It's sweet.
It's milder than fresh garlic.
It tastes like a buttery spread.
I figured if any of those three things were right, then I would like it.  Garlic and I have always been friends, so why not try making it a different way?

Here is how this whole thing works.
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Peel the loose paper ends off the garlic bulb.
3.  Take a sharp knife and cut off the head of the garlic so the bulbs are exposed.
4.  Drizzle the entire bulb with olive oil.
5.  Wrap up in tin foil and bake for 45 minutes.
6.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
7.  Gently squeeze the softened bulb, releasing the roasted garlic.
Prevent yourself from eating the entire bulb.  I had to!  Mainly just for the fear of no one coming within a 10 foot pole of me.  {The garlic would be worth it, but I'd get lonely.}

The night I roasted this bulb, all that garlicky goodness went into my killer mashed potatoes {recipe coming!}, but as I stood there in the kitchen I kept imagining all the wonderful things I could do with this.


Slathering on hot oven toasted bread.

Pureeing into a cream sauce for pasta.

Mixing into hearty soups and casseroles.

Heck, even eating it plain!  {I've heard many do this when they feel a cold coming on.}

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Iowa Blogger $150 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

I have a great one for you today my lovely readers!
As many of you know, we have some super duper talented bloggers in the state of Iowa.  Many of which I have met and have become life long friends.  These ladies have a lot of talent, all unique in their own right and I am very excited to bring you this great giveaway.
Think about it as an early holiday gift from me!
We will be choosing one random winner on November 1st, so enter today!  And in the meantime scroll through some of my "favorite things" circulating around the web right now.  If you win, just think of me as your personal shopper.  Buy something for yourself or spend it on a friend.  The point is FREE money.



Enter Here:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mini Pumpkin Pancake Muffins

The kids and I did NOT dream of a way to use up that last half of can of pumpkin while bored one afternoon and we most certainly did NOT eat all 24 of these mini pancake muffins in one day.
I wish I was telling you the truth.
We did pour over different recipes to use up that can of pumpkin and we did eat ALL of these.  But before I get hate mail of how it is irresponsible to eat a whole pan of muffins in one sitting day, let me tell you these are easily a one bit wonder.
You can stick the whole thing in your mouth!  They are light, airy and delicious and I dare you, just dare you to not eat at least half of the pan.
You call these pancake muffins because they are great dipped in maple syrup and because they taste like a pancake {obviously}.
I think I need to make a batch again this week.  It's been one of those weeks.  In the last three days we've been installing new windows, doors and today....carpet in our living area.  Not all was planned, as we are the 'save for one project at a time' kinda family, but it happened.
Right now I am sinking my toes into that squishy new carpet while trying to not fall asleep at the computer.  Staying at home with three little babes is not for the faint of heart.  I'm tired!
That is why I bake.  It is my stress reliever!
And before we get to this recipe....yes, I am still working on my 2-Week Meal Plan.  I know some of you have asked how it was coming.
Well, it's coming!  That is about all I can say.  When it's finished, tweaked and double checked I'll be sure to share.  Between burping the baby, breaking up fights between and 3 and a 5 year old and construction, it is slowly getting done.  You know...after I type one sentence and start o fall asleep at the computer!
While you are waiting, make these muffins!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

Today is my 8 year wedding anniversary.  Back in 2006 we were young {24 and 25} and just starting out on this journey.  It seems so long ago, but when you say 8 years that doesn't seem very long at all.  I remember is was cold and rainy ALL day.  Not exactly a beautiful wedding day, but they say rain is luck, right?
Tonight we have plans to have my mom come babysit and for us so we can actually go out to dinner ALONE.  I cannot remember the last time that happened.  Certainly not since baby number three came in May.
And here's a Happy Anniversary shout out to our good friend Mark and Jana as well!  They share our same anniversary and we met them on our honeymoon.  We've stayed in touch ever since!  They came to visit us once here in Iowa and I hope someday we get the chance to go visit them in Detroit.  They have the cutest kids on this planet.  Just sayin'.
So, in honor of our anniversary coming up I made a few yummy meals over the weekend.  One being this pizza.  We love pizza.  Like, really love it.  I've said before I could probably eat it a few times a week.  

When we are out at a good pizza restaurant we will often order Chicago style.  If you are not from the Midwest, this style of pizza is a bit backwards and almost resembles a pie instead of a pizza.  The crust is super thick and the toppings are layered on backwards {cheese, toppings, that order}.

Sometimes one nice large slice will do you in.....not like the typical 2-3 slices a normal person would eat.  It's so thick and hearty a little bit goes a long way!

I made this pizza pie earlier in the day and then set it in the fridge until we baked it off in the oven that night.  It worked just perfect.  You do need to allow about 30+ minutes for it to bake {hello, there is a lot of stuff in there!}, but waiting that 30 minutes is completely worth it.  Be sure to let it set at least 5-10 minutes to cool down a bit before digging in.  Otherwise you will have a sloppy, soupy mess slicing your first piece.

Feel free to add in your own favorite toppings in this one.  We kept it simple with just sausage, but anything works - pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, onions, olives, whatever!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mu Shu Chicken Fried "Rice"

*A big thanks for all the heart-warming comments from last week's post. 
If you missed it, you can read it here.*
In an effort to LOSE THIS BABY WEIGHT, I've started incorporating some light, fresh meals into our rotation.
Don't worry, I'm not going to go all "diet-y" on you.  That just isn't me.  I believe in good food.  Here at home I'll just be eating smaller portions and sneaking in a light meal here or there to keep me in check.
Mmm, k?
Now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about this dish.  It's light, refreshing and filling and although it looks a bit complicated it isn't.  It came together so quick!
I told my kids we were having "chicken and rice", which it essentially tastes and looks like.  They bought it!  My son had two bowls.  It makes this mama's heart just go pitter-patter seeing them down a bowl of vegetables for dinner.  It doesn't always happen, but when it does I rejoice {silently of course, because if I drew attention to it, they'd no doubt stop eating it.}

The husband, who gets home in the wee morning hours from work and who is usually scrounging for food at this time, even claimed in the morning that is was really good - yet still light enough that he wasn't stuffed when going to bed.
Much better than the usual chips and salsa he eats in gallons.
And here's the thing.  Use whatever veggies you want in this.  Definitely keep the cabbage in there, but if you don't have carrots, that's fine, use something else.  I thought about using some cauliflower in this, but opted for using up my broccoli instead.  Be creative!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Crock Pot Apple Butter

I made this Crock Pot Apple Butter once just so my house would smell good.
It worked.

crock pot apple butter (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Fall has officially hit the Midwest.  The last two days have been filled with a cold, wet rain.  About enough to send this mama through the roof at points.  Three kids trapped in a small house is a recipe for disaster.

What has saved us is them "helping" me in the kitchen.  We made this fabulous apple butter, as well as a big batch of tacos and a layered taco dip one night, plus homemade popcorn on the stove {which is always a huge hit}.

The rest of the week is supposed to dry out, and although cool, we should be able to get our hinnies outside to enjoy the changing leaves and crisp weather.

crock pot apple butter (

Holy moly is this good on a hot, toasted English muffin.  I meant to make a batch of homemade biscuits, but then my Betty Crocker day went down the wayside and I pulled an English muffin out of the fridge and called it good.

I'm not sure if your kids are like mine, but every day around 3:00 p.m. they NEED a snack.  I'm not sure what it is, because I know they don't really need it.  They will not starve.  But for whatever reason if I don't give them something, that hour before dinner can be a nightmare.

So I give in and give them something.  It usually involves a fruit or vegetable, but yesterday I gave them each a half of an English muffin slathered on this good stuff.  We all agreed it IS going on our oatmeal in the morning.  How great will that be?!

If you have a crock pot and around 15 apples, make this!  It will give you two pints of yummy goodness!  One to keep for yourself and one to give away.

I use this crock pot and love it.  And it gets a heck of a workout in the Fall!  I also love this smaller 5 Quart version, it does the job too.

Crock Pot Apple Butter

Print this Recipe!

12-15 apples, peeled and diced into chunks
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla

1.  Combine all ingredients in the crock pot, stir and set on low.
2.  Cook for 10-12 hours {your house will smell fantastic!}
3.  When mixture is cool, blend until smooth using an immersion blender.  If you do not have an immersion blender a food processor or blender will work.
4.  Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

So, need ideas for what to use this on?  Here are a few.
  • Stirred into oatmeal or other hot cereal
  • Spread on toast, biscuits, English muffins
  • As an appetizer topper of cream cheese or brie
  • Stirred into pancake, waffle or muffin batter
  • As a topping for ice cream
  • As a dipper with grilled pork chops
crock pot apple butter (

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I Don't Have it All.

*This post is very random and doesn't include a recipe or much talk about food.  Enjoy.*
I don't have it all.

I know, shocking.

Recently I received an email from a reader thanking me for a recipe that worked well for her family and at the end of the message she said, "How do you seem so put together?"


That is the great thing about social media.  You can certainly come across like "you have it all", when really you don't.  I mean, you can lie to the high heavens and know one ever knows it!

Here's the thing I do have a pretty great life, but it is far from perfect.  If you've been a long time reader I've documented some of our personal stories.  Moves, births, job changes, cleaning up our debt, etc.  All of the same stuff normal people go through.  Each phase of our lives has change and I've had to learn to adapt.

This above photo is from vacation in August.  I'm a bit sleep deprived in the photo, I remember this.  I also need to lose the baby weight {working on that}.  But my kids and hubby look great!  This babe is a bit skinny, but she has chunked up since then {read more on that below}.

So here are some answers to that email I got a couple weeks ago.

When I gave birth to my first baby, I was hell bent on breastfeeding through the first year.  Then he came {over 9 lbs.} and he was hungry.  Like any new mom that first week is pretty much hell and heaven smashed together.  My milk supply was low at its best.  I tried it all, pumping round the clock, fenugeek capsules, drinking tons of water, eating fatty foods, pretty much everything except buying donor milk.  So after 3 months I called it quits.  Baby number two came.  Same thing.  Quit at 3 months.

And here we are at baby number three.  Same problem.  I did use some donor milk in the beginning to help supplement, but at 3 months when she wasn't gaining weight, I had to introduce formula.  But this time, I'm happy to say I'm still pumping away and giving her as much breast milk as I can, which is about half of what she eats during the day.  I have a goal of 6 months and we are about to five. 

I consider this a victory.

There was also a time when I was working full-time, then went down to part-time and then eventually this past May became a stay at home mom.  I remember thinking to myself in college how I would NEVER stay at home and not use my well-earned college degree.  I mean, how could anyone waste something that cost so much money?

Then I had kids.  I am the first to admit I'm not the best parent.  I have a tendency to be short fused with them at times, I'm not the best at creative activities and more often than not I'd rather have a quiet house than a loud one.

But with three kids under the age of 5, that just doesn't happen.  I see parent's posting photos on Facebook of their children's accomplishments and I'm at home thinking, "I made it through another day".  Did we accomplish much?  Probably not.  But, the kids are clean, we ate homemade food, we got outside and played and now they are tucked safely in their beds.

I consider this a victory.

As a family we are pretty thrifty.  More so than many, many of my friends and family.  We made a conscious decision two years ago to not spend beyond our means.

This means we stick to a budget, do not use credit cards and work our butts off for things we want and need.  This doesn't always fly in the real world.  It's funny when you look did people spend 100 years ago?  If they didn't have the cash for it, they simply didn't buy it.

I can count numerous times that I've turned down various activities {dinners out, impromptu play dates, quick trips to the next town over to go to Target, etc.}, not because the money wasn't in the bank, but because that money was designated for something else.  Something better.  Something we are saving carpet, windows, vacation money, etc.

I may be the boring gal who doesn't go out and spend, but in the end when I do buy something it is because I've earned it, not put it on a piece of plastic.

I consider this a victory.

So.  I have this food blog.  Five years running!  I make 80% of our meals homemade.  We do not buy much processed food.  We grocery shop every two weeks, list in hand and buy what we need.

There are days when I would give my pinky finger to have a freezer stocked with frozen meals, that could be easily thawed, thrown in the oven and everyone would eat straight off the tray and dip everything in ranch dressing.  It would be so easy.  But instead, we've made the effort to feed our kids some pretty good food and forgo the crap food.

There are times I'd like to arrive to a gathering with a store bought appetizer tray.  Just once.  But I know everyone would give me crap.  A food blogger bringing something store bought to a party?  The horror.

Some days we still drive by a convenience store around lunch time and I'll pick up a slice a pizza for all of us with cash in hand just because I'm lazy and call it good.  Yes, I do that!  That meal doesn't involve fruits or vegetables.  I just try and not think about it too much and move on.

I consider this a victory.

I recently joined MOPS.  It is an international organization geared towards mothers of preschoolers {that's me!}. We meet twice a month.  I am able to drop off the baby in the nursery {the other two are in school} and I have two hours of undivided time to myself.  And I get to fellowship with other moms my age, going through the same thing.

Some weeks have heavy topics {addiction, finances, etc.}.  Other weeks we just socialize and are happy coming showered and having remembered to brushed our teeth.

I'm learning not to judge other moms for their choices.  We all do things differently.  Feed, clothe, school, etc.  I've found it is easier to give other moms grace, rather than judgment.  This can be hard at times.  We all think we are doing things the best way, but sometimes it takes stepping into other shoes for just those four hours a month to see there are "other" ways too.

I consider this a victory.

There are only 24 hours in a day.  Many days 11:00 a.m. rolls around and I swear it could only be 9:00 a.m.  When the kids wake you up at 5:45 a.m. it makes for a long day, yet goes so quick at the same time.

Most days I feel like I accomplish NOTHING and all I've been doing is picking up the trails left behind from my family members.  Or it's making one meal, cleaning up that meal and already thinking in my head what is the next meal.  {Can't they ever feed themselves?}

There are days that I never leave the house.  When I go to bed at night, I think, did I leave our yard today?  When was the last time I drove somewhere that wasn't a school run?

Then there are days that I purposely make a point to DO SOMETHING.  I tell the husband "I am going to ABC and I'll be back in two hours".

I consider this a victory.

There you have it.

I'm not superwomen and I've never claimed to be.

I wanted this post to be different and dive a little more into my life as a mom, wife and friend.  By no means am I trying to look down on how other families raise their children, cook their meals or do their shopping.  I'm just giving insight into some of my thoughts.

What are the victories in your life?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Brownies

Want a quick throw together dessert that only requires five ingredients?  And no flour?  These brownies come together in about 5 minutes and bake in another 20-25.  They will take care of your peanut butter and chocolate fix all in one sitting.
I even dumped in some chocolate chips to make them extra chocolately...because you know that was NEEDED.
People often ask how I keep desserts in our house all the time without snacking on them all day.  Here is my secret.  I make about one dessert a week.  We each have a piece or two that first day then I cut up the dessert {in this case brownies} into little bite sized pieces, lay them on a baking sheet and freeze them.  Once they are frozen I throw those pieces into a big Ziploc baggie, label it and store them away in the freezer.
Then for those weeks I don't get around to baking, or if we have people over, I take out some pieces put them on a plate and they are unfrozen in about 30 minutes.  They taste just the same!
Remember I don't buy pre-packaged desserts or many snacks for that matter, so making them homemade is how I get around it.  I'd rather us to eat something a bit indulgent, but at least I know what is in it!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Beef & Potato Burritos

How was everyone's weekend?
I was home with the kids while the husband and his friend's played, but I still managed to get quite a bit done.  You see, every Fall, the husband and some of his buddies spend all weekend duck hunting.  Yes, we hunt duck around these parts!
But what is crazy is that first night they go out around midnight and SLEEP IN THE BOAT so they are all ready to go by sunrise.  Super, super crazy if you ask me.  Every year they come home the next day and complain, sulk and swear they won't do it next year, but every year THEY DO IT AGAIN.
Of course this year it was the coldest weekend we've had yet {I even woke up to snowflakes on Saturday}.  They froze their butts off and didn't have a great hunt that first day but came back with some fun stories.
What I do during these weekend might not sound like fun to most, but I basically cook and bake up a storm to keep their bellies full.  Friday night I made these sassy tailgate sandwiches and that night I always threw together some breakfast burritos for them to take on the boat.  Then Saturday {when they ALL napped} I made chili and this homemade cornbread bread.  Finally Sunday morning before they left they snacked on my homemade pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  Whew!
Okay, I've gotten a bit off track....let's talk these burritos!
I had two packages of good tortillas in the fridge last week and instead of our usual tacos, I thought I'd tackle some burritos.
What makes these so good is that your fry the potatoes prior to assembling.  Yes, I said "fry the potatoes".
I normally do not fry anything.  I don't even own a deep fryer, but a little oil in a pan on the stove works just the same.  It gets these potatoes nice and crispy and I swear reminds you of a fast food burritos when you bite into them.
This batch makes 15 burritos.  Our kids loved them and well, as you can probably imagine, the husband shoveled down more than he probably should have.  I had planned on freezing half the batch, but then got lazy and decided to just eat them for two dinners in a row.
Put these on your meal plan today!

And in case you want to "see" what duck hunting looks like, here is a photo of the husband {he does exist!} and his friend's dog.

Later today we are attempting a jalapeno cream cheese and duck stuffed bacon bite.  I have never eaten duck before, but I am willing to try it.....we'll see how it goes.

And before I give you this burrito recipe, on another note, I am working on a non-food related post to talk about a few emails I've received during the year.  You know from random readers wondering how I keep such a "perfect" life.


After receiving another one last week, I finally thought I should address it.  My life is far from perfect and although it looks it on social media, it's not.  So stay tuned for a post on that.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mushroom & Swiss Burgers

I think it is a guy thing.
My husband sometimes gets overwhelmed when reading a huge restaurant menu.  If it is the typical all American bar and grill, 90% of the time he will order a mushroom and swiss burger and call it good.
He is not a picky eater and will eat most anything, but when there are 1,000+ choices in front of him, he will almost always stay within his comfort zone and order this burger.  He must feel safe ordering it, as you usually can't mess up a burger too badly, right?
On the same page, my brother was telling me this summer how Hardee's {the fast food chain} always had a great mushroom and swiss burger.  I also remember a good friend from high school always ordering that burger from Hardee's as well.  They must know what they are doing?
Anyway, I wanted to recreate this burger at home.  We grill burgers all the time, especially in the summer, usually at least once a week.  And we have mushrooms often, but I never even thought to put them ON the burger.  Sometimes the easiest things are the hardest to come by.
I realize if you don't like mushrooms you're probably turning up your nose right now {they tend to do that to people who don't like them!}, but hang in there folks.  Look what I have coming up soon!
  • Beef & Potato Burritos
  • 5 Ingredient Brownies
  • Crock Pot Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Do one of those interest you more?

If you don't like mushrooms and want to dive a bit into this burger, well then, here you go!