Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: July 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mike's Hard Lemonade Boot Campaign

I am working in cooperation with Mike's Hard Lemonade this summer.  Although being compensated, all opinions are my own.

mike's hard lemonade boot campaign (

My dad is a Veteran of the Vietnam War.  He served our country from 1969-1970, well before I was even a twinkle in my parent's eye.  With three brothers in his family, he was the first one drafted in his family, back when they drafted by county.  His brother was later drafted as well, but since he was picked first, it was him that had to serve.
My dad was newly married, fresh out of college and now headed to war.  In a very foreign place.  Mind you he grew up in rural Iowa on a farm.  Although he played college football and had a small taste of city life, the world was still a very big place to him.  He headed to Oklahoma for basic training, my mom in tow, in what my mom refers to as the “cockroach house”.  It was there they started their life before the war.
He left for Vietnam in early 1969.  My mom was seven month's pregnant with my older sister.
He did not come back for her birth {I'm thinking that wasn't an option back then} and didn't meet her until she was 9 months old.  My mom lived with her parents during this time, seeking all the family help she could, doing the best she could not having her partner near her side.
My mom often tells the story of heading to the airport the night my dad’s troop returned, at midnight nonetheless, with her 9-month old daughter in her arms.  My sister screamed bloody murder when my dad picked her up.  Could you imagine?  Meeting your daughter for the first time at 9-months old?  As my mom recalls, my sister was rarely around many men, only to have my 6'4'' dad walk over and suddenly be near her daily.  It was an adjustment for all of them.
mike's hard lemonade boot campaign (

My parent's then got on with their life.  They both took teaching jobs {my dad – coaching football, teaching Physical Education and later becoming a Middle School Principal and my mom a Speech Pathologist both in the same school district}.  As my dad has said, “I wasn't worried about my life everyday back home, I was just grateful to be back alive.”
He said his two biggest worries in Vietnam were the weather {so, very, very hot and humid} and the unknown of what would happen on a day to day basis.  Which I believe is much of the same worry with our military today.  Although, war is different now, it is still the unknown.
He has rarely, if ever, talked about his experiences over there, and from what I've heard only recently, so many years later, has he opened up about a few things that he had endured.  I'm fairly certain he saw more than a young man should ever have to see or do.
I am sharing a bit of my dad's story today, as coincidentally I was contacted by Mike's Hard Lemonade a few weeks back asking if I'd like to participate in a few of their “missions” this summer.  After speaking with them, I knew this program fit well with me.
Mike's has recently teamed up with the Boot Campaign, an organization dedicated to promoting patriotism for America and our military community while raising awareness of the challenges military members face DURING and AFTER service.
mike's hard lemonade boot campaign (

This summer they have introduced their new Flavors of America variety pack, which features four incredibly refreshing flavors of summer – Lemonade, Peach, Black Cherry and Apple, all being flavors that are iconic to the different regions of our country.  Just like their fans love kicking back with a cold bottle of mike's, they also love kicking back for a good cause.  Sales of these flavor packs are helping to support their $125K donation to the Boot Campaign this year.  For each case purchased, Mike's will donate 25 cents to fund four once-in-a-lifetime experiences for veterans.  So far, they've treated veterans to backstage concerts, VIP suites at races, all-access experiences at Nashville's CMA Fest and much more.
What veteran, young or old, doesn't deserve a chance like this?
Whether many, many years ago like my dad, or freshly home from a tour, each Veteran deserves the chance and opportunity to unwind.
I took this new variety pack to my family reunion this past weekend.  And yes, I had my dad stand, sit and pose with me and this kick-back, refreshing, summer cocktail.  He was a very good sport.
And then he promptly asked for one.
He has not lost his sense of humor!

A big thanks to Mike's Hard Lemonade for this opportunity to tell my Dad's story and for being a company that understands the importance of supporting our Veterans.  For more information please visit the Boot Campaign and Mike's Hard Lemonade.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Margarita Pizza with Balsamic Drizzle

The classic margarita pizza with a sweet surprise!  
This one comes together in a snap, especially when you take the shortcut I did.

margarita pizza with balsamic drizzle (

There was a day last week when the husband was like any wife {I think?} I made everything he doesn't really care for in the span of about 12 hours.

Which basically means everything he doesn't qualify as a meal.

Meal #1 - the greatest sandwich in the world, the B.L.T.  No one else in my family understands the deliciousness of this sandwich.  I had picked my first garden tomato earlier in the day, we had leftover bacon, my toaster was still working {it has since died a slow miserable death...please send me a toaster...anyone} and we had, lettuce and mayo. 

Consider me SOLD.  I had a superb B.L.T. for lunch that day.  All by myself.  It was awesome.

Meal #2 - the classic, original margarita pizza.  My family would eat this if I gave it to them, but they would probably rant and rave about "nothing being on the pizza" and then I would get annoyed and it would all be ruined.

They do not understand a good thin crust, a thin amount of sauce, chopped tomatoes, fresh basil or the sweet, sweet sauce.

So this was my dinner.

Again, alone.

margarita pizza with balsamic drizzle (

Please don't feel sorry for me.  I truly enjoyed each of these meals, even if I was eating them by myself {honestly though, the 14 month old LOVED the pizza}.

Sometimes you just have to make what you want, when you want it, you know?

And another thing.

I bought a store bought crust at the grocery store.  I know.  That is not like me.  I 99.9% of the time make my own pizza dough.  I have mine down to a science, it really is easy {you can find it here}, but I found myself in a moment of weakness at the store the weak prior and it ended up in my cart.

But it's okay.  We all need shortcuts now and then.  And I will officially say I am not ABOVE a store bought crust from here on out.  So flippin' easy to just pull it out of the package.

margarita pizza with balsamic drizzle (

You guys {and YES, I am talking specially to the guys}, this pizza is delicious.  Give it a chance. The fresh tomato, the melted mozzarella, the basil.....and the sauce!  You just need to take the time the reduce down the balsamic vinegar and make this sauce.

It will clear out your sinuses for SURE while reducing, but it's worth it.

Margarita Pizza with Balsamic Drizzle

1 large fresh garden tomato, diced
4-5 large basil leaves
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. pizza sauce

1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2.  In a small sauce pan, add the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer until vinegar reduces at least by half to a thick, syrupy glaze.
3.  Assemble pizza: crust, sauce, cheese, tomato and freshly torn basil leaves.
4.  Bake directly on the oven rack for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
5.  Remove from the oven and drizzle the balsamic glaze on top.
6.  Eat while warm {but reheats great as well!}

margarita pizza with balsamic drizzle (

Friday, July 24, 2015

Red Velvet Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Blue Bunny and I have partnered up again this summer as July is 
National Ice Cream Month.  Just another excuse to indulge!

red velvet brownie ice cream sandwiches (

I am continuing to work with Blue Bunny this summer, as frankly, they like me and I like them.  We make a good partnership.  And I love ice cream.  Always have, always will.

Blue Bunny's headquarters is way up in the NW corner of my home state {Iowa, in case you were living under a rock} and I really hope to visit their corporate office at some point - until then we'll make deliciousness from 5 hours away.

When I got the assignment to create something for this glorious summer month in celebration of one of the greatest desserts of all time, I have to be honest...I had a hard time pinning something down. Back and forth I went.  A freezer dessert?  An over the top sundae?  And then it clicked.  Homemade ice cream sandwiches.

Because I have kids.  And everyone knows all kids love ice cream sandwiches.

red velvet brownie ice cream sandwiches (

And let me just say this....I haven't had much, if any desserts lately.  Now that I know for a FACT I'm done having babies {yes, everyone reading, I am DONE}, I've been doing my best to get my body back.

Which means sweets are pretty much out the door.

I have indulged in some pieces of dark chocolate after dinner now and then, but hey, dark chocolate is good for you right?  In moderation?  And wine.  I've had a few glasses of that. But, I've got three kids under the age of 6, so cut me some slack.

So enter in the afternoon while making took some real courage to not sample.  The kids have had one each night after dinner, along with the husband and I've had ONE bite.  In fact it is the bite you see in the below photo.

Yes, you can feel sorry for me.  I do.

red velvet brownie ice cream sandwiches (

These suckers are crazy good.  Blue Bunny red velvet ice cream sandwiched between a homemade brownie.  This ice cream has chunks of red velvet cake swirled in cream cheese flavored ice cream nonetheless. Dear Jesus, how can they do this to me?

The will power used during this recipe development about did me in.

But here's the thing, it's National Ice Cream Month.  So let's celebrate a little.  Do me a favor and indulge once before this month is out.  You don't want to miss out!

Red Velvet Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

2/3 c. cocoa
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 c. flour
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking pan.
2.  In a mixing bowl stir together cocoa, brown sugar, sugar and flour.
3.  Mix in the eggs, vanilla and milk to form a thick batter.
4.  Pour batter into the pan, pressing down with your fingers, spreading evenly.
5.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
6.  Once cool, cut the brownies down the middle and then turning the pan into 6 rows, creating 12 pieces, enough for 6 sandwiches.
7.  Remove the brownie pieces from the pan.  Letting the ice cream soften a bit, scoop a generous amount on one brownie piece and then topping it with another.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.
8.  These will stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months, but lets be honest they will never last that long!

red velvet brownie ice cream sandwiches (

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?  Tell me in the comments!  I'll pick two random winners to send some free Blue Bunny coupons your way.

My favorites.  In this order.

1.  Peanut Butter Cup.
2.  Anything with caramel.
3.  Butter Pecan.
4.  Good 'ol vanilla.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sticky Sweet Bacon Chicken Bites

Talk about a flavorful bite!  You won't even need a dipping sauce with this one.  
Sticky, smoky, sweet and simply sinful!

sticky sweet bacon chicken bites (

I received two texts today wondering why I wasn't featuring a new recipe post yesterday. Geesh! You guys really do keep track of when I'm supposed to be around.  For you faithful readers {those that texted, obviously} you know that I post three times a week, with two days between each post.

If you're not confused yet, what this basically boils down to is that yesterday I should have had a new post up and I didn't.  I'm a day late.

The past week has been a bit busy, I was a bit distracted and well, I honestly got behind on my days. Being a stay-at-home-mom I sometimes find myself thinking, 'what day is it today?'.  It's like I'm retired and every day is a Friday.

Here's a recap.

1.  Our dog brought me a dead squirrel this morning.

2.  Our older two kids spent 4 days with one set of grandparents and are leaving tomorrow for the other set.

3.  I dealt with many crying children last night, one in pain {the one who is EASY and is rarely sick}, who eventually was diagnosed with a double ear infection today {say what?  he's almost 6, thought we were over that stuff}.

4.  I'm still getting used to the husband's new work schedule.  Home more, or at least at better times, but yet very busy with the randomness that is his job.

5.  And lastly, I caught up with an old college friend.  It's amazing how you don't see someone for YEARS, yet you can talk like it was yesterday, for hours.  Great memories.  It was bittersweet.

sticky sweet bacon chicken bites (

So, last night I made these bites.  Which, I'm sure are supposed to be in the appetizer category, but I was a rebel and served them as dinner.

But I rounded them out with fresh garden green beans {sauteed in bacon, chicken stock, can find that recipe HERE}, so in my book it was a meal.

Although I could make a meal out of appetizers.  Finger foods are my fave.

I quickly grabbed four, as I knew they would go quickly, the kids got a few and the husband gobbled up the rest of the bowl, claiming 'you can make these again'.

Okay, twist my arm!

sticky sweet bacon chicken bites (

And for all of you thinking these look time consuming and complicated, think again.  You know I don't have time for that.  You don't even need dreaded toothpicks to hold them together!  The bacon adheres itself to the chicken while baking.  I had no issues with it unraveling or falling apart.

Feel free to dip them in barbecue sauce, but honestly you don't need it.  They are flavorful all by themselves.

Get ready to pop a few {or 10!} into your mouth.

Sticky Sweet Bacon Chicken Bites

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8-10 strips of bacon, cut in thirds
meat seasoning of choice {I used THIS}
1/3 c. brown sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  For easy clean up line a baking sheet with foil.  Then place a greased baking rack on top of the foil.
3.  Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and generously rub with seasoning.
4.  Wrap bacon around the chicken pieces and roll in the brown sugar.
5.  Place on the baking rack.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.

sticky sweet bacon chicken bites (

I'd love your ideas for some great appetizers, I feel like my site is lacking in them!  Feel free to leave your favorite in the comments.

We have our annual summer family get-together this weekend and I need to bring something.  I am THE FOOD BLOGGER of the family and need to bring my game.

Ideas please???

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oven Baked Steak Fries

 You may never buy frozen fries again.  I'm serious!  Homemade ones are just the best.

oven baked steak fries (

Do restaurants even have steak fries on the menu anymore?  Growing up I remember going to a restaurant in town for dinner, mainly after football games, and all of their burgers were served with thick cut steak fries.  I feel like I don't see them anymore.

But you can have them at home!

I used my friend Kristen's method for making homemade fries - which requires two extra steps, but they are worth it.

I thought we were THIS CLOSE to not getting to eat these last night, as I no longer walked down the hall and back and smoke was rolling out of my oven.

Luckily it was just juice from the pork chops rolling off the pan to the bottom of the oven {going to be a *#$! to clean up later}, but it had me panicked for a moment.  What do you even do for a kitchen fire?  Water?  Flour?  Just run out the door?

I need advice for this.

oven baked steak fries (

The previous two nights the dinners at our house were beyond lame {scrambled eggs, and something obviously not even worth remembering} so I figured I had better step up my game last night in fear the husband might leave me.

And I'm lucky I got this meal on the table.  The previous night I got an impromptu text to join some friends on her patio for drinks after all our kids were in bed.  Well, at 1 AM, I finally got home.  I might have had a BIT too much fun.

And I paid for it yesterday.

This old lady can't hang like that anymore!  How did we do it in college?  I can't remember. I'm sure I was a ton of more fun then.

oven baked steak fries (

Anyway, these steak fries.  I seasoned mine with garlic powder, salt, Stubb's BBQ seasoning and Parmesan cheese, but certainly season them with whatever you like or have on hand. But season, liberally.  You want them to have flavor folks.  A simple sprinkle of each will not do the job.

Sprinkle each and toss.

Then do that again about four times.

I'm serious.

And don't skimp any steps in this recipe.  You'll ruin them and then have to blame me for the bad recipe.  It's not fun getting those emails.

Oven Baked Steak Fries

3 large baking potatoes
garlic powder
Parmesan cheese

1.  Wash potatoes.  Cut them in half horizontally, then each half into 3-4 thick spears.
2.  Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil.
3.  Drop the potato wedges into the boiling water and let cook for 5 minutes.  Stirring occasionally.
4.  Remove the potatoes and place in a large bowl.  Allow to cool for a couple minutes.  
5.  Start sprinkling on the seasonings.  Toss to coat.  Do this again and again, until they look thickly seasoned.
6.  Place on a large greased cookie sheet, lined in rows, not touching each other.  This is the key to browning well and not steaming.  {At this point you could put the baking sheet in the freezer for a couple hours, remove the potatoes and place in a large Ziploc bag.  They will store in the freezer for at least 3 months.  To bake, simply lay frozen fries back on a greased baking sheet, not touching and bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through}.
7.  If not freezing, bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through until crispy.

oven baked steak fries (

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

No Bake Cookie Dough Bars

If you have a knack for stealing spoonfuls of cookie dough before they are baked, 
well then this is the dessert for you.  Consider yourself warned!

no bake cookie dough bars (


Don't not blame me {i.e. sending me Facebook messages, emails or show up at my door} after you eat these. They are addicting.  They are rich.  Super, super sinful.

They do not contain eggs, so this dough is perfectly edible to eat uncooked.  But plan on sending off most of it to your neighbors, friends, co-workers and the like.

Or...better yet.  Cut into squares and place in containers in the freezer for 'small bites' when you need a quick sugar pick-me-up.

Hey - I've never once claimed these are healthy!  I'm just getting all the warnings out there in front of us.  

Now, moving on.

no bake cookie dough bars (

I had been thinking about this recipe as the husband always, always walks by while I'm making cookies and steals spoonfuls of the dough.  He has no care that he probably shouldn't be eating it.  He doesn't care.

So in my head I thought, "he'll love this!"

I should never think like that.

I showed it off with great prestige the other night to a crowd of just....



This is good.


For a family of cookie dough lovers, they rather just eat it out of the bowl!  Or they are hiding their truly feelings.

But seriously, this stuff is good {no matter what they say}.

no bake cookie dough bars (

With the consistency of fudge, keep this in the fridge or freezer.  I threw some white chocolate chips in too, just because, but feel free to change it up.  Add in peanut butter chips to the dough or to the top chocolate layer, do whatever you want!

No Bake Cookie Dough Bars

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2  c. chocolate chips
1 c. white chocolate chips

1.  Line the bottom of an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2.  Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy.
3.  Add in the vanilla and sweetened condensed milk to combine.
4.  Fold in the flour until creamy.
5.  Fold in 1 c. of the chocolate chips and the 1 c. of the while chocolate chips to form the dough. Pat into the pan, pressing down to lay flat.
6.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours to chill.
7.  In the microwave melt the remaining chocolate chips in 15 second intervals, stirring each time until melted.  Pour over the bars and spread to make smooth.
8.  Place back in the fridge to harden, at least one hour.
9.  Keep in the fridge or the freezer, cutting into bars first for easy access!

no bake cookie dough bars (

Coming up I've got some good stuff on tap!  A fun ice cream dessert as July is National Ice Cream Month.  You didn't know that?  Now you do!  Plus a fun blog series with Mike's Hard Lemonade. I've teamed with them through September for some unique posts that you won't want to miss.

Stay tuned my friends!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

My Top 10 Summer Foodie Finds

I love summer.  Everything about it.  Warm days, cold drinks, late nights, I really like it all.  Each summer I find items that reek summer.  This year I've found my Top 10.  A couple items I already have, some I've yet to buy and some on my wish list!

top 10 summer foodie finds (

I know it sounds cliche, but I cannot believe summer is already halfway done.  At church this morning we ran into one of our kid's teachers and we she mentioned already being back in the classroom preparing for the coming year.  Wow!  It really is halfway done.

With each summer comes products I find that I love.  I've been eyeing a few here and there and even purchased a couple.  This here folks is my Top 10 list for the summer of 2015.  If you are a young mom I think you'll really love a few and if you aren't a mom there are still many that are genius! Items for your home, your car and your backyard barbecue or picnic.

Happy Shopping!

Vintage Blue Mason Jar Tumblers

For whatever reason we all love mason jars for reasons other than canning.  I'm right there with ya!  These blue vintage tumblers are ideal for your summer drinks.

top 10 summer foodie finds (

My friend Michelle has a great blog post on making your own homemade popsicles out of fresh fruit and lemonade.  You NEED to read it, here.  She introduced me to these reusable ice pop molds.  Your kids will definitely get their recommended dosage of fruit a day with these.

top 10 summer foodie finds (

For whatever reason my kids think they HAVE to have those little toothpick holders when eating sweet corn.  We have some, but inevitably I can never find them all in our utensil drawer, these I can just chuck when done!

top 10 summer foodie finds (

I will have a Kindergartner in the Fall, who most likely will eat school lunch, but I know there will be days he'll want to pack his own.  I've been drooling over these Bento lunch boxes for quite some time.  The organization factor excites me.  They are also good for summer picnics {we have one at least once a week}.  Better then hauling my big cooler!

top 10 summer foodie finds (

How do you wash your fruit?  I mostly do a vinegar/water soak, but I'd love to have this on hand.  It's so easy to just spray, wipe and wash off.

top 10 summer foodie finds (

We were at Scheel's the other day {the husband HAD to buy a new golf driver...sigh} and at the check out they had these fruit infused water bottles.  I want one!  It reminded me of when we stayed at the hotel last weekend and they had stations of lemon-mint infused water chilling at the front desk.  I loved it!  So refreshing.

top 10 summer foodie finds (

Staying on the water bottle theme, isn't it annoying when you put ice in your water bottle but an hour later it's melted and your water is luke warm?  Yeah, drives me nuts.  Stainless steel bottles hot in the heat or cold.  Perfect for toting around in the warm weather.

top 10 summer foodie finds (

Again, back to our travels last week.  I had a cooler in the van and I swear I was traveling to the ice machine a couple times a day to keep our snacks cold.  Pain!  This travel cooler stays plugged in your vehicle when traveling = no ice needed!

top 10 summer foodie finds (

I have one of these and love it.  Although I also use plastic snack bags, it's nice have a reusable one that you can wipe down and use again.  I bring ours on picnics, in the car, to church and well, basically everywhere.

top 10 summer foodie finds (

Am I the only weirdo that likes drinking out of straws when chugging down my daily water intake?  For some reason it just makes it more fun.  Instead of buying a pack of 100 plastic straws every now and then, I need to purchase these reusable ones.  Hello!

top 10 summer foodie finds (

top 10 summer foodie finds (

Go ahead and PIN this list to your Pinterest board so you can go back and visit.  If you don't get around to all of them this summer they'll be great for next summer too!

This post does contain affiliate links, which does not cost you anything more if purchasing through me, but does give a teensy-tiny percentage back to me, helping me to continue to fund my blog. Thank you!