Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: November 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Two Week Prep Ahead Meal Plan for Busy Moms

Hey mamas!  You're busy.  I know.  We've got this, okay?


We are that group of people who do the work of twenty....for free.  Nothing about it is easy.  Each life stage that our children go through creates a different challenge. 

When our wee ones are tiny we'd give our right hand to have just one hour to ourselves.  When they become teenagers we spend half of the day in the car traveling to and from events that most likely will not shape their lives.  When they leave the house we pray they remember us and come back to visit.

Being a mom is not for the faint of heart.  You go into it thinking about all the sweet nothings.  What you forget to think about is all the hard work.

I once heard that moms spend one-third of their life catering to their children.  And of that one-third, much of it is spent feeding those little people.  Is starts as round-the-clock feedings, which turns into pesky eating toddlers, then savage hungry teenagers and finally belly-hungry 20-somethings that crave the meals they once remembered hating growing up.

The MOST asked question I receive is....
"How do I meal plan when I am so busy?"

It's a great question.  I get it.  I'm right there with ya.  My two older kids are just starting to enter the stage of sports, birthday parties and other random activities, which of course interfere with MY schedule and that picture-perfect-round-the-table-dinner-time that us Americans are supposed to have.

Meal plans have always been popular on my food blog.  People crave the darn things.  Who wouldn't?  They set up an ideal plan for you and all you have to do is execute.  Which sometimes can prove to be the hard part, but trust me, if you take the time to follow through with one, it will be the best two weeks of your life.

I specifically set up this two week plan for busy moms.  These are the moms who do not have that ideal one hour of prep time to get dinner on the table, let alone even 30 minutes.  Often they are eating in the car or when they get home late after practice.

Nothing stresses out a mom more than when everyone is clamoring for food {right now!} and nothing is ready.  I went back and forth on this one many times.  The only way I could get around making this super simple for busy moms was to make you work a little.  This plan requires prep work, but the work is on the weekend {Saturday or Sunday}, which then FREES UP THE REST OF THE WEEK.

I've divided the plan into two weeks {5 meals each} and left the weekends open.  Weekends at our house are for eating out, grabbing a quick sandwich, attending a party or eating leftovers.  If you are a big weekend eater, you may want to re-arrange.

*Each recipe is a clickable link, where you'll find print options.

Week One
Baked Chicken Burritos
Chicken Pesto Meatballs
Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
Pizza Burgers
Mexican Stuffed Shells

Week Two
Cheeseburger Chowder
Baked Ravioli Lasagna
One Pot Beef Lo Mein
Pulled Buffalo Chicken Sliders
The Best Chicken Tetrazzini

Now, you are probably thinking how do I prep this all ahead of time on the weekend when I'm already crazy busy?

You have to block out a couple hours to get this done.  There is just no other way around it.  But that is okay, as it will save you ample time and headaches as the week moves along. 

Here are a few of my tips and work for me.  Feel free to tweak what you want below.

Week One
Baked Chicken Burritos - bake off chicken breasts, shred and set aside.  Prepare the mexi-rice, set aside.  Assemble burritos, wrap and roll in tin foil and place in the fridge until ready to bake off during the week.

Chicken Pesto Meatballs - thaw the ground chicken, mix with pesto ingredients and roll into balls placing in a 9x13 pan, top with marinara sauce.  Place in the fridge until ready to bake.

Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup - fully prepare soup and place in the fridge for later in the week.  If not eating the full batch, place half in a freezable container for later in the month.

Pizza Burgers - fully prepare meat mixture, let cool and place in the fridge.  Have English muffins and extra mozzarella cheese ready to bake off for later in the week.

Mexican Stuffed Shells - cook hamburger and assemble/stuff cooked shells.  Cover and place in the fridge until baking later in the week.

Week Two
Cheeseburger Chowder - cook the hamburger, chop veggies and make the soup, allowing to cool before placing in the fridge.  Freeze some if not eating the full batch.

Baked Ravioli Lasagna - remove frozen ravioli and assemble lasagna.  Place in the fridge until baked during the week.

One Pot Beef Lo Mein - slice beef, chop veggies, mix sauce and set aside in separate containers.  Cook spaghetti, drain, cool and put in a container.  When ready to eat, saute meat, veggies, sauce and toss with the cooked noodles.

Pulled Buffalo Chicken Sliders - combine the chicken, sauce, water and seasonings in a big Ziploc baggie {I am loving these hands-free baggy rack storage bag holders}.  Place in the fridge.  On the morning you plan to eat, place mixture in the crock pot of LOW.

The Best Chicken Tetrazzini - prepare the casserole as directed, place in a greased baking dish, cover and place in the fridge or freezer until the end of the week.

Do you think you can do this?

YES, YOU CAN!  Put in a bit of work and it will be the best two weeks of your life.  If you have older kids, leave notes for them during the week with directions on putting the dish in the oven.  If your significant other is home during the day or before you, let them help as well.  You don't have to do this all yourself.

Being a bit of a control freak myself, I've learned {after many failed attempts} to let those you love help you, even if they do it a different way than you.  In the end, it all goes in our belly and comes out the same end.

Did I just say that?  Sorry.

But you get the picture.

And lastly, before you get to work, if there is a meal here that turns you off, swap it with another.  Say, you HATE meatballs and would rather eat a piece of coal, well fine, just swap with another one of my recipes.  But, please note I picked these recipes specifically because they are simple and can be prepped ahead, so you'll need to look for any easy one!
Interested is other meal plans off the blog?

Here are a few that people rave about.

2-Week Meal Plan + Free Printables

2 Week Meal Plan for a Family of 5 for $170

5 Crock Pot Meals x 2 = 10 Dinners

10+ Five Ingredient Dinners

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

One Carton of Ice Cream Melts Into...3 Amazingly, Easy Desserts

Take one half gallon box of ice cream and turn it into THREE DIFFERENT DESSERTS. 
You'll be famous by Monday.

One Carton of Ice Cream Melts Into...3 Amazingly, Easy Desserts (

So, here's a story.

A few months back I was on the phone with a PR rep from Blue Bunny.  Just typing that out sometimes baffles me.  I mean, who knew a few years ago I'd be on the phone with any PR rep, let alone one that represents an iconic Midwest ice cream brand, right?

It is exactly why I love what I am doing.

And what I love about Blue Bunny is they always want my input, my views, my ideas.  They know I love ice cream, they know I'm from Iowa {where they are headquartered} and they know I'll spread the love.

And while this post is NOT sponsored by them {we got too busy!}, I still wanted to share my idea that they also loved.  Their holiday flavors are out in stores {pumpkin, peppermint, etc.} and while walking by the freezer section one day it hit me.

Why not turn melted ice cream into an array of different desserts?  Most desserts call for a milk or cream of some sort, so if I would just melt down the ice cream it would be an already flavored cream ready to dive into a batter or drink.


So if you have been paying attention to the blog over the past month or so, I've featured three different desserts that had melted ice cream as an ingredient.  And not to brag, but these desserts have been going over like gangbusters on social media.  People are loving them!

Dessert #1 do I event begin to explain this one?  I love cake.  I love big, sheet cakes that feed a million people.  I love cakes with a browned butter frosting that makes people turn their heads and go "hmmm....what is in this?".  I just really, love cake.

One Carton of Ice Cream Melts Into...3 Amazingly, Easy Desserts (

Every single person that was in this cake's presence the weekend I made it, loved it.  It reminds you of a traditional pumpkin bar {you know the one} but at the same time so, very different.

And why the Iowa tie?  Well, because I can.  I wanted to top Texas and their ever-so-popular sheet cake.  I'm starting a trend.  Jump on with me, will ya?

One Carton of Ice Cream Melts Into...3 Amazingly, Easy Desserts (

Dessert #2

My kids love hot chocolate.  To the point that in the winter every-single-time they come inside from playing in snow they feel they need to have it.  Like how spaghetti needs sauce. It has to be there, ready and waiting or else their day in the snow isn't complete.

Once again, I got creative and thought melted ice cream as the 'cream' if you will as the base would be perfect in a hot drink.  Was I ever right on this one!

And remember....drinks don't contain calories.

One Carton of Ice Cream Melts Into...3 Amazingly, Easy Desserts (

Dessert #3

You know the trick to perfect cookies?  You need to use a mixture of butter and shortening in the batter.  It will give them the crispy edge, yet a soft, chewy center.  Adding melted ice cream to the batter?  

It flippin' just puts everything over the top.

I found pumpkin chips at the grocery store, but cinnamon chips would be great too.  Heck, even white chocolate chips would be good.  These cookies went over so well, I almost made a second batch.

One Carton of Ice Cream Melts Into...3 Amazingly, Easy Desserts (

I got all wild and crazy and made these cookies twice the size of normal cookies, but feel free to make them smaller and get more out of the batch.

And if you decide to use regular vanilla ice cream in the batter, it works just the same.  Fancy it up and use whatever flavor combinations you want.  The ice cream police will not come calling.

One Carton of Ice Cream Melts Into...3 Amazingly, Easy Desserts (

Let's get real here for a second.

Do you think you could do this?

Could you buy a half gallon box of ice cream and turn it into three {heck, probably even more...} desserts to impress your guests?

I think you can do it.  It's kinda fun.  The only hard part is keeping your family from not eating the ice cream in the freezer until you are done with it.  It was a struggle in our house. For real.  But we survived.

One Carton of Ice Cream Melts Into...3 Amazingly, Easy Desserts (

With the holidays coming up, give this one a try!

Peppermint ice cream would be fun.  Or red velvet.  Or if you are boring, scared or timid, use a premium vanilla.

And let me know how it turns out!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Texas Butter Roasted Chicken

Disclosure: This post is part of my relationship with the Stubb's Insiders Program.  
Product and compensation have been provided, but all opinions are my own. 
#ad #sponsored

texas butter roasted chicken (

It's been a bit of a monumental week at our house.

We are nearing close to Thanksgiving.  Today I shoveled 9+ inches of SNOW off our back deck, plus two sets of sidewalks.  And we put up the Christmas tree.

Two out of those three things did not make me happy.

I did not believe we would receive this much snow the week prior to Thanksgiving.  It does not happen often in November.  January?  Yes, of course.  But for November?  Usually an inch or two will suffice.

On top of that, I begged and pleased with my family to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the Christmas tree, but I was quickly out voted by the husband and kids.  And then who did most of the work?  You got it.  Me.  Oh well, it's done and it's twinkling.

But...I am excited it is nearing Thanksgiving.

Whose with me?

texas butter roasted chicken (

Also, I have a confession to make.

I have never hosted a Thanksgiving {hello, super small house} and I have never roasted a whole turkey.

But, I have roasted my fair share of chickens.  And in my heart of hearts I tell myself that the turkey and chicken {cousins, of course} cook relatively the same.  One just much longer.  So, I could do it, right?

Here's my chicken in all her raw glory.  I got this one at Aldi's.

texas butter roasted chicken (

Although many of you know, I partnered with Stubb's during 2015.  This friendship has been incredible.  I've been able to showcase many of my recipe creations with you featuring their products. It has been fun!

Let's take a look back....

About a month ago they sent me my final package {shed a tear with me, will ya?} and per usual it was chock full of goodies.  A Chili Fixins Cookin' Sauce, a Smokehouse Bourbon Cookin' Sauce, Hickory Liquid Smoke {literally ONE day after I made my first ever batch of homemade oven ribs} and today's featured ingredient Injectable Texas Butter.

I mean, hello, injectable butter?

It was like I was 5 again and Santa gave me everything I had ever asked for.

texas butter roasted chicken (

This here is my bird all rubbed down, injected and molested.  I was a wee bit intimidated to use the liquid butter.

Will I poke the chicken in the wrong place?  Will I put in too much?  Turns out you can't really mess up.  With any syringe type injector {used for food purposes}, the directions basically say to plunge deep in all the nooks and crannies and let it rip.

So that is exactly what I did.

And it worked!  Stubb's Texas Butter is full of mustard, onion, garlic, many spices and well....butter. Just sniffing it smelled heavenly.  Did I want to take a sip?  Maaaaaaaaaaybe.

But honestly, if you can't get your hands on Stubb's Texas Butter {but, seriously, just order HERE}, you could easily make your own.  Melt butter, add a bit of oil, some mustard, fresh garlic and your favorite spices.  Ta-da!  Done.

texas butter roasted chicken (

So to come full circle, in case you are a bit lost, I roasted a chicken for this dish, but a turkey would be fantastic too, considering Thanksgiving is less than a week away.

Anyone still deep fry their turkey?  It was all the rage a few years back, but perhaps one too many grease fires and burns killed the excitement?  I've had both deep fried turkey and chicken....and both had been injected with liquid gold.  And oh boy, what a different in flavor!  I mean, why not do this?

And here's another secret.  While roasting this chicken I continued to baste it with melted butter about every 20 minutes during the last hour.

The more butter the better right?

This chicken is tender, juicy and very flavorful.  Give it a try!

Texas Butter Roasted Chicken

1 whole 5-6 lb. chicken
1 bottle of Stubb's Texas Butter {or anything equivalent}
1 whole lemon
extra melted butter for basting

1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2.  To prepare the chicken, remove any giblets in the chicken cavity {may come in a bag}.  Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry.
3.  Place the chicken on a wire rack in a large roasting pan.  Slice the lemon in half and place inside the chicken cavity.
4.  Inject the chicken with the Texas Butter, under all joints and under all sides of the chicken's skin. Generously salt and pepper the chicken.
5.  Bake for 2 hours or until juices between the leg and thigh run clear.  During the last hour of roasting, baste with melted butter every 20 minutes.
6.  Allow the chicken to rest at least 15 minutes before carving.

texas butter roasted chicken (

This post was sponsored by Stubb's, as part of the Stubb's Insider Program.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Traditional Slow Cooker Sunday Red Sauce

Put this sauce on to simmer and your worries will literally melt away.

traditional slow cooker sunday red sauce (

I do not have any Italian heritage in my name, but if I were allowed to pick, that country would be first on my list.  

At my high school graduation party when all my other friends were serving cold meat sandwiches and watery potato salad, I was serving baked ziti, homemade bread and salad catered by the lone Italian goddess in my hometown {hi Rosemary!}.

It was fabulous.  And much needed.

When you attend 15 graduation parties over the course of a weekend {hello, small town living} you get sick and tired of eating the same slop.

I am also the girl who had a four-tiered layered chocolate cake {with ALL chocolate frosting} at her wedding.

What can I say?  I dare to break the rules.

So growing up jarred sauces and I were pretty good friends.  I cannot remember my mom ever making a homemade red sauce and nothing against her or them, we just didn't take the time to make them.  But then I got married, had kids and got all Betty Crocker-ish and started making my own.  I have a few different versions.    This simple 30-minute marinara is for when I'm in a super time pinch. And this slow cooker basil marinara sauce has a completely different taste and uses fresh tomatoes out of the garden.

What I'm getting at is, it is okay to use different red sauces for different occasions.  I have certain ones I use during various times of the year.  But this sauce?  It is perfect for fall and winter.

traditional slow cooker sunday red sauce (

It's hearty and robust from the addition of red wine.  It could cook all day or all night and never fail you as the flavors just get better and better together.

The kids and I sampled this sauce with big hunks of crusty bread about an hour before dinner and let me tell you.....they are now also hooked.  I've roped them in.  They want to be Italian just like me.

This batch makes a lot and we got three meals out of it.  That first night I served it with these crispy, pan-fried chicken cutlets {another one of my favorites - hello, chicken parm!}.  The kids gobbled it up like it was no tomorrow.

We had the leftovers for lunch the next day, then served the sauce over spaghetti the night after, and finally just last night almost a week later we had it in my pepperoni pizza lasagna roll-ups.

Traditional Slow Cooker Sunday Red Sauce

*slightly adapted from The Lemon Bowl

1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
32 oz. can whole tomatoes
32 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 c. red wine
2 c. sliced fresh mushrooms {optional}
fresh basil and parsley

1.  In a skillet over medium heat, add in olive oil and diced onions, cooking until translucent.  Add in the minced garlic towards the end.  When finished transfer the onions and garlic to a large slow cooker.
2.  Add remaining ingredients into the slow cooker, breaking up the large whole tomatoes with your hands or kitchen scissors, leaving as chunky as you like.  I like to add around 1 T. of fresh herbs {basil and parsley} to the sauce before cooking and then again after to garnish.
3.  Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or as long or little as you need it to.  It would be ready after 4 hours but could probably go as long as 10 hours.

And in my quest, to give you photos of my "real life".  Remember people get on me about is one from last weekend.  The husband and I had a blast with friends at the dual Iowa Hawkeye wrestling meet and football game.

We love the Hawkeyes {or I should say "I" love the Hawkeyes....long story}, so tailgating is my thang.  I love it.  I would do it every weekend if someone bought me season tickets.

Any takers?

There is one home game left this weekend with the chance for them to go 11-0.  It is a big deal.  And snow is in the forecast.  I'm sure it will be interesting!

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Top 10 Educational & Learning Toys for Holiday Gift Giving

Each year I pick some of my favorite holiday gifts.  
I mean, I've already done the shopping for you!
Browse this list and pick your favorite.

I can't believe I'm saying this but it is now mid-November and we are creeping up on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Say what?

It feels like I was just on summer vacation and my kids were just starting school....but alas, we are here.  We've been lucky around these parts for some great Fall weather, so obviously, I'm blaming the weatherman for me thinking it is still early October.

Each year I pick my favorite holidays lists if you will.  Some years it's stocking stuffers. Some years it was books and then foodie gifts.  Some years it is a hodge podge of it all.  {All still awesome lists you should check out}.  This year my first anticipated holiday gift list is all about the kiddos.

And let me preface this by saying, toys and I don't get along very well.  I have a small house and I do not like clutter.  But I will make room for ones that are meaningful.  Otherwise when anyone asks what my kids want for Christmas I always, always, always give them this list:

Gift cards to their favorite restaurant 
Membership to our local Children's Museum
Tickets to a a football/basketball game
Kid's magazine or book subscription 

I feel the best gifts are those given as experiences.

BUT, this is a unique and special list.  These aren't the toys that you wait in line for at Toys 'R Us on Black Friday.  These are the toys that make the gift giver feel good.  They are educational.  They make your child think and zone out on {in a good way} for more than 30 minutes.  Basically they aren't junk and you as a parent will be happy to let your child play to their heart's content.

So let's get started!  And yes, all products here are affiliate links.  Meaning, if you would purchase via my link, I will get a mini small profit from your purchase.  It does NOT affect your price, it just helps me keep this little blog going.  

So....happy shopping.

IQ Fit - $9.99

Do me a favor and bookmark this page, you'll need it for your holiday shopping!  Why not give the gift of something educational, yet still fun to your kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews or even that special little someone in your life.

Happy Shopping!

This post does contain affiliate links.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Caramel Apple Crumble

This dish screams Fall and colder weather, so jump on the chance and serve it up!
It is the only "apple crisp" I make.

                 caramel apple crumble (

I have so many baked apple dishes in my repertoire it's a bit embarrassing.  And you know what? This Fall I made zero.  Zilch.  I even accompanied our middle child on a trip to the apple orchard, came home with a bucket of apples and STILL didn't make a dessert out of them.

There are these apple pie bars, which in turn has people hounding me for the recipe.  And then, this apple butter which is amazing on toast, bagels, English muffins, pancakes or in oatmeal.  This pumpkin apple sweet bread?  Killer.  And a big crowd favorite my Instant Pot Cinnamon Applesauce.

You guys I made none of this.

I felt a bit like a failure.

I've said many times how on the weekends I will often bake up have a 'treat' for the weekend.  It has come to the point where the kids and husband will now ask what their treat is for Saturday and Sunday.

They are like a bunch of salivating dogs.

             caramel apple crumble (

For whatever reason this particular weekend my mind went immediately to some sort of apple crisp or crumble.

Maybe it was because I had been neglecting this fruit for so long {other than eating them fresh}. Maybe it was because I didn't have the energy for a cake or homemade brownies or the patience for cookies.  Maybe it was just plain because I was craving it.

And listen, when the baker is craving something, they will make it.  Everyone else should just be thankful they are getting a dessert.


               caramel apple crumble (

So I set off to make this delicious crumble and then got all wild and crazy and threw in half a jar of caramel.

Because all baked apples taste better when drowning in caramel.  It's a fact.  I've done the research. And when you top the apples with a crumbly brown sugar and oatmeal crust, well, hell, it takes it over the top.

Caramel Apple Crumble

4 apples, peeled, diced and cored
1/2 c. sugar
2/3 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. flour
2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. jarred caramel topping

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8x8 baking dish.
2.  Combine the diced apples with 1 t. of the cinnamon, tossing to coat.  Lay the apples in the bottom of the baking dish, then pour on the caramel topping.
3.  In a bowl combine all dry ingredients.
4.  Pour melted butter over the dry ingredients, stirring to combine.  Sprinkle over the apples.
5.  Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
6.  Let dish sit for 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm with ice cream or whipped topping.

                                                 caramel apple crumble (