Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: December 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Crock Pot Broccoli Cheese Soup

Craving an easy, filling soup?  Well, this is it! 
This Crock Pot Broccoli Cheddar Soup is thick, creamy and comforting.
Did everyone have a fabulous holiday?
I still have two Christmas' to attend this week so mine are still going strong.  We were able to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together as a family, just the five of us.  We are usually traveling so it was special to just be at....home.
I also took a bit of a break from blogging {if you call 5 days a break}, but started my Top 20 countdown on Facebook.  I did a bit of research and found my Top 20 recipes from 2014.  I was super surprised on some of them.  Who gets so excited about a breakfast quesadilla?  Obviously, you guys do.  I'll be posting a recap here on the blog later this week.  Come back to check it out!
I didn't do much cooking this past week, but I did make this soup.  I've been trying to figure out how to make a creamy broccoli cheese soup in the crock pot for some time now.  I tried a couple of months ago and it was a complete and utter fail.  Like, big time fail.  It was a runny, icky, tasted like crap...MESS.
So, I got out some gusto and tried again.

This time it turned out pretty darn good.  And I craved....I used Velveeta.  Please don't send me the harsh messages.  I know it is crap cheese.  Processed, processed, processed.  So I guess if you don't care that I used Velveeta, make this soup.  If you do care that I used Velveeta, well.....sorry.

And I will say my kids ate this up quickly, even after they saw the broccoli {which sometimes sends them running}.  I'm not sure if I just caught them on a good night or they just really liked it.

Give it a shot!

Crock Pot Broccoli Cheese Soup
Print this Recipe!

1 onion, finely diced
2 T. butter
1 head of broccoli, chopped in small pieces
1 1/2 c. milk
1 can cream of chicken soup {or homemade}
1 c. chicken stock
12 oz. Velveeta, cubed
1 t. pepper

1.  In a skillet saute the onions and butter together until translucent.
2.  Combine all ingredients into the crock pot.
3.  Set on low and let cook for 2-3 hours or until all is combined and melted.
4.  Serve warm with fresh bread or crackers.



{Excuse me for yelling.}

In a week I'll be sharing my 2-Week Meal Plan.  Get your grocery lists ready!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

These Sour Cream Sugar Cookies are a family staple in our house. 
I'd be shocked if you don't think this is the best sugar cookie you've ever had. 
And stay tuned to the end of this post - some exciting stuff!

Merry Christmas Eve!

This recipe came from my mom.  I'm pretty sure she got it from a friend she worked with back in the day.  She uses this dough to decorate sugar cookies for ALL holidays.  Then she proceeds to make plates for some relatives and other families in our hometown.  The running joke is that when us kids come home to visit on these holidays there are no cookies left for us because she has been so darn busy delivering them to everyone else.

We get the shaft.

The husband also requests these cookies every Christmas and snags a few dozen for himself when we are visiting my parents.  I made a batch of this dough last week and had the kids "decorate" them one afternoon. 

Well, those cookies lasted about 24 hours in the house and I had none to freeze for Santa this week.  So....I made another batch today.  Thankfully it comes together quickly and can sit in the fridge until you're ready to bake.

The key to these cookies is to roll out the dough pretty thick {about 1/2 inch} and to bake them until they are just set.  These are soft sugar cookies, not the crispy kind - my favorite!

The frosting can be whatever is your family favorite, but I use a simple recipe; 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 T. vanilla, 1 T. almond extract and enough milk to make the frosting come together - adding it 1 T. at a time.

I also got adventurous this time and took 1/3 of the dough and folded in chopped pecans and chocolate chips.  I then rolled that dough into balls and baked these for 10-12 minutes.


Best cookie ever!

You really can do anything you want with sugar cookie dough.

If you have time today, or are like us and are having more Christmas' extending until after New Year's Day - make these cookies!

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
Print this Recipe!

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
1/2 c. sour cream
1 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
3 1/2 c. flour

1.  In a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar until creamy.
2.  Add in the egg, sour cream and extracts.
3.  Sift in baking soda, salt and flour.  Combine until soft dough forms.
4.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and set in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
5.  To bake the cookies roll the dough out on a floured surface.  Using cookie cutters, cut out dough to a 1/2 in. thickness.  Lay cut out shapes on a greased cookie sheet.
6.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees, or just until set and edges are very lightly brown.
7.  Allow cookies to cool before decorating.  Store in an airtight container.  Cookies will stay fresh for up to 3 days.  Cookies can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Coming up!

Two, BIG, fun things.

1.  A recap of 2014.  My Top 14 recipes from the year.  The ones that were viewed the most and had the most chatter.

2.  My 2-Week Meal Plan.  I'm super stoked about this one.  Prepare yourself to do one big day of shopping during the first week of January.  I will provide the meals for two weeks, a detailed shopping list and a chart to keep it all organized.  You don't want to miss this!

Until then, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Double Chocolate Christmas Cookies

I make these every year during the holidays.  
They are easy enough for the kids to make and everyone loves them!

double chocolate christmas cookies (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

I was recently at one of my MOPS meetings and we put together this cookie mix.  You know, the ones where you place all the dry ingredients in a mason jar {these green holiday ones are super cute}, decorate the jar a bit and then attach directions for baking?  Yeah, that one.

I changed up the ingredients just a wee bit and then made them again when I got home.  You know, because my three year old asks to make cookies EVERY DAY. 

Seriously, we make them about twice a week.

Don't you wish you knew me?  Because I give a LOT of them away.

Anyway, we made these cookies again when we got home.  And then again.  And then I had to tell myself to STOP.

double chocolate christmas cookies (

And I know you are probably thinking, Ally, come on, there are only 5 more days until Christmas.  I'm bogged down with work, last minute gifts, wrapping and family gatherings.  I do not have time to bake cookies.

Oh, but you do!

Because these only require 5 ingredients.  One being a devil's food cake mix.  They are so simple.  Dump everything into a bowl and bake.  It is THAT easy.

See?  You do have time to bake these.

And they are so pretty.

double chocolate christmas cookies (

We made these for my son and daughter's preschool teachers, delivering them yesterday as it was their last day before Christmas break.  Each teacher got four healthy-sized cookies wrapped up in cellophane {100 count bags for under $5 here} and ribbon.

{And when we handed them to them, they got SO excited.  As baked goods are their fave.}

Alright, enough chat.  You have some baking to do.

You have the time!  These make a great last minute hostess gift.  And of course they look superb on a cookie tray.

Double Chocolate Christmas Cookies

Print this Recipe!

1 Devil's Food cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 c. oil
1 c. holiday M&M's
1/2 c. chocolate chips

1.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
2.  Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.
3.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
4.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop out rounded balls.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until set.
5.  Makes 20 cookies.

double chocolate christmas cookies (

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Homemade 1000 Island Dressing

I love a good salad dressing.
Especially if it is homemade.
One that can sit in the fridge and I can eat it on everything in site for a week.
One that is great on sandwiches, on salads {of course}, used as a dipper or for eating straight up with a spoon.
This, my folks, is this dressing.
Let's clarify one thing.  I have never, ever bought a bottle of Thousand Island dressing at the grocery store.  The only time I eat it is at a restaurant or if it is sitting at a salad bar.  Why haven't I bought it?  I'm not really sure....because I really do love that stuff!
Please don't ever be afraid of making your own salad dressings.  They are so easy!  And you will know exactly what it is made of.  {Have you ever read the back of some of those bottles?}
I also make a good Greek dressing in the summer and a yummy ranch for wedge salads.  Try them both, you won't regret it.
We have been eating off a huge head of lettuce this week and this dressing has pretty much been snatched up the kids, husband and me.  {Hey, don't judge me, if this dressing gets my kids to eat salad, then so be it}.

I am also putting the fixings for my open-faced reuben sandwiches on the menu for next week, because let's be honest...this dressing would be fabulous on those.

Whip up a batch of this today.  Keep it in the fridge for up to a week in a half pint mason jar.  Refill as many times as needed.

It's okay.

I understand.

It's that good.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Warm Feta & Artichoke Dip

 I have partnered with Chobani on this blog post, creating a healthy, yet flavorful appetizer, just in time for those holiday gatherings!  #MadeWithChobani

warm feta & artichoke dip (

Why is it that during the holidays I crave finger food?  That I could base my entire supper simply on an appetizer?  Or that I'd just rather snack than eat a meal?

Well, I'll tell you one thing.  I ate this dip as an appetizer, a meal and a snack all in the span of three days.

I was recently inspired by the #MadeWithChobani Project to see if I could come up with a healthy dessert, appetizer or meal.  And since I consider dips a "meal", I opted for the appetizer round.  Doesn't everyone love a good dip at a party?  Or in my case, just to eat at home in your jammies?  I do!

I have long been a lover of Chobani yogurt.  It is not uncommon for us to go through a 32 oz. container of it in less than a week.  The kids eat it almost daily for breakfast and I use it often in baking, as well as more savory dishes like this dip.

warm feta & artichoke dip (

Not only am I presenting a healthy dip here, but gosh darn isn't it pretty?  I'm kicking myself for not throwing in some chopped green peppers or diced green chilies - you know to make it a bit more "holiday-ish".

But I still think it is PERFECT for your upcoming holiday gathering.

The tang of the feta and the sharpness of the parmesan cheese give it a "pop", but the yogurt and dab of mayonnaise help to mellow it out.  Since I had Triscuit Thin Crisps with Sea Salt at home that is what I used as a dipper.

Although, I'm guessing a nice hunk of French bread would be absolutely divine as well.

warm feta & artichoke dip (

Please give this warm dip a try!

I promise you will fall in love.  Take it to your next party, put it in the slow cooker, heck, slather it on the bread used in a grilled cheese {yes, I'm dreaming of this...}.

Have I convinced you yet?

Warm Feta & Artichoke Dip

Print this Recipe!

1 15 oz. can artichokes, drained and chopped
1 small jar pimentos, drained
8 oz. Chobani plain Greek yogurt
1/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
8 oz. feta cheese
1 t. garlic powder

1.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl, tossing to coat.
2.  Place in an oven safe baking dish or bowl.
3.  Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees until melted and bubbly.
4.  Serve with crackers, veggies, pita wedges or chunks of French bread.

Thank you Chobani!  #MadeWithChobani

warm feta & artichoke dip (

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide, Part II: Food and Drink

If you are like me you still have Christmas shopping to do.  In fact, I am just now starting the bulk of mine today.  I'm dropping the kiddos off with a babysitter and I'm tackling most of it in a few hours.  This is how I do it every year since I've had kids - watch out, don't get in my way, power shopping.  I don't technically prefer doing it this way, but with three little ones I don't get much time out on my own {and believe me, I prefer to be ALONE}.
BUT!  I do have a few things I still want to order online as well.  This year my extended family decided to for-go drawing names like we have in the past and instead we are all buying one gender neutral gift around the $20 range.  This year's theme is...Food and Drink.  So the gift you buy has to fall into this category.  When we actually exchange we'll draw numbers, allow people to steal your gift, etc.  I think it will be fun!
So while brainstorming a "Food and Drink" gift I came across some neat items.  And I thought I'd share them with you!  Here are a handful I came this close to ordering for our gift exchange.
*If one of these trips your fancy, please click on the Amazon affiliate link to order.

Dip Clip - $12.16

Wine Openers - $12.98
Happy Shopping!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hot Cocoa Dip

Quite possibly the easiest dessert dip you'll find this time of year! 
Grab the ingredients for your next holiday gathering. 
I attended my first {and last} ugly sweater gathering this year.  My afghan sweater certainly wasn't the ugliest by any stretch of the means, but you still wouldn't have me caught dead in it, if it wasn't for this party.
When I was leaving the house the husband said, "That sweater isn't actually too bad, you could wear it on Christmas Eve."
Are you color blind?
Wear it on Christmas Eve in front of Jesus and everyone?  No thank you.  He really needs to get out more.
I made my pumpkin cinnamon rolls for this gathering, as it was for MOPS...but if your ugly sweater party is at night or a bit more lively {say, with some bubbly}, this Hot Cocoa Dip might be a fun dish to take.  It comes together lickety-split and I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it.  In fact, I made it on a night the husband was working and the next morning he asked me what it was.  I told him Hot Cocoa Dip and that you eat it with Nilla wafers or graham crackers.
He then proceeded to tell me he just ate it straight with a spoon when he got home in the middle of the night.  There simply wasn't any time to waste with a cracker.


Feel free to top this dip with whatever seems suitable to you - mini marshmallows, crushed graham crackers, silvered all goes down the same pipe, right?

In fact the next night after dinner we had a tiny bit of this left and we made sandwiches with it out of graham crackers.  Did you ever have frosting in between graham crackers for a snack as a kid?  Well, I did and this reminded me of that.

But better.

Make this for your next holiday party!

Hot Cocoa Dip
Print this Recipe!

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
4 T. cocoa powder
1 t. vanilla extract
chocolate chips
chopped pecans
Nilla wafers

1.  In a bowl combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, cocoa and vanilla, stirring to combine.  Chill for an hour.
2.  Top with chocolate chips and chopped pecans.  Serve with Nilla wafers or graham crackers as dippers.


If you missed my post earlier this week, check it out here.  It's a fun one!  And I must have "dip" on the mind as I partnered with Chobani for another exciting post coming up.  And lastly I have the final installment for holiday gift giving.

So much coming!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hosting a Freezer Swap {What to Do, What Not to Do}

*This post gives the ins and outs of hosting and participating in a freezer swap. 
What is a freezer swap you say?  Well, read on!

This past weekend a group of girlfriends and I spent the better part of the morning hosting a freezer swap.  It is the second one we've done and when this one was finished we realized we've learned a few things along the way.

I've had SO many people ask about these darn things.  People are intrigued!  Some don't have the faintest clue of what I'm talking about and others think they know but have no idea of how to go about it.

So...being the nice lady that I am I'm here to explain it all to YOU.  And I'm sharing exactly what recipes we put together in case you'd like to try them yourself.

Here are the basics:
  1. Rally together a small group of friends.  Five is a good number, anything more than that can make for a very crowded kitchen.
  2. Each person need to pick 2 freezer friendly meals to make the day of the swap.
  3. Once your meals are chosen you need to purchase enough groceries to make both of those dishes (x) the number of people attending.  Example: I made chili and a rice casserole and we had 5 people in attendance.  Therefore I made 5 batches of chili and 5 rice casseroles.  That way each person goes home with one of your meals, plus you can take one home too.
  4. Prep as much as you can the night before.  I cooked up all my hamburger meat for the chili and baked the chicken breast/cooked the rice for the casseroles.  That way when I arrived in the morning all I had to do was assemble everything.
  5. Bring disposable foil containers, Tupperware or big Ziploc baggies for storage.  Foil containers work well for casseroles, baked pastas, etc.  I used Tupperware for the chili and large Ziploc baggies work well for meats/marinades or any baked dish {can be frozen flat in the freezer so they take up less space}.
  6. Make sure to label what you made with the date, recipe name and cooking directions.  Most dishes will stay fresh in the freezer for 3-6 months.
  7. Bring a cooler, laundry basket or box to help carry everything home.

When all is said and done you'll go home with a NICE stash for your freezer.  We planned this one a few weeks before the holidays, which will make it extra nice with the busy weeks ahead.  I'm super excited to dive into some of these!

Here is the full list of what we made.  Feel free to try them out for yourself!

Which one are you excited to try?  Have you ever been to a Freezer Swap?  Do you think you'd like to organize your own?
Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Soft Gingerbread Maple Cookies

 These Soft Gingerbread Maple Cookies will certainly kick off the holidays.  They taste like a true gingerbread cookie, yet a bit lighter and with a hint of maple.  A definite must on your holiday baking list.
soft gingerbread maple cookies (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Have you started baking for the holidays yet?  It is never too early in my opinion as cookies freeze fabulously.  The only problem is keeping your fingers out of the freezer while waiting for Christmas Day to come.

If you are like me, I like to sneak one cookie after dinner every night up until the holidays.  Then after Christmas I'm pretty sick of them.  But until on!

Can you believe I have NEVER baked a gingerbread cookie?  You know, the traditional kind.  Rolling out the dough, cutting out shapes, decorating....blah, blah....I just don't have time for that.  But at the same time I love their taste.  What is a girl to do.

soft gingerbread maple cookies (

So, like usual I broke the rules and made my own version.  It's much easier for me to bake drop cookies, as it is quicker and less messy {I tend to get cranky when things are really messy}.  So these Gingerbread Maple Cookies were invented.

They are super soft, chewy, big enough to allow yourself a few bites before it is already gone, and quite frankly, just gosh darn dang delicious. 

They hold up well, travel well and are perfect for your holiday party or family gathering.  And of course, freeze well.  Just don't eat them all!  Hide them behind a frozen something-or-other that is unidentifiable and clearly not edible.

soft gingerbread maple cookies (

Soft Gingerbread Maple Cookies

Print this Recipe!

2 1/4 c. flour
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. softened, unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. half and half
1/4 c. real maple syrup
4 T. sugar {for rolling}

1.  In a stand mixer or large bowl combine softened butter, white sugar, brown sugar, half and half and maple syrup until creamy.
2.  Add in spices and dry ingredients until combined.
3.  Using a cookie scoop, roll the dough into large 1 inch balls, then roll in sugar.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.
4.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or just until edges are browned.  Do not over bake.
5.  Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.  They will stay fresh for 3-5 days.  Freeze for up to 3 months.

soft gingerbread maple cookies (

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1: Books

I'm a book lover.  Always have been, and always will be.  In fact, one of my worst fears in life is that one of my kids will not enjoy reading.  It's kept me awake at night.

We push books at our house.  At least once a day we have the two older kids sit quietly {doesn't always work} and read.  Even though neither can actually "read" just yet, we feel it is important for them to see the photos, look at the letters and become familiar with a story.  I hope someday they love reading as much as we do.

So...I've compiled a pretty cool book list for your holiday gift giving.  Some I've read, some just come recommended.  If you are like me you love a good book as a gift.  When I'm done reading it I try and pass it on to someone else.  Maybe you should do the same?
All books are available to purchase directly through the following Amazon affiliate links.

Food: A Love Story {kindle version}

*This post does contain affiliate links.  If you do make a purchase through my link then I will make a small percentage of the sale at no cost to you.  Thank you for supporting my blog.
Coming up Next!  It's cookie time!  This Friday, I will be showcasing 12 Hours of Holiday Cookies on my Facebook page.  Every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. you'll see a new holiday cookie just in time to get you geared up for this busy baking season.
Be sure to follow my page by Friday to join the fun!