Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: January 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Valentine's Funfetti Popcorn

Kid's have a school party?  Want to make something for your babe?
This snack covers all the bases.

valentine's funfetti popcorn (

I figured it was time around these parts to do a fun food post and with the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday upon us what better time than to make a cool snack.

When Gimbal's Fine Candies contacted me last week, with samples soon to follow on my door stop, I just knew I had to incorporate them somehow.  My kid's love popcorn and let's be honest they LOVE any form of candy {much to my dismay}, so why not combine the two?

After this snack was made I promptly packaged up half of it and delivered to some friends in town with little kids.  I just could not trust myself with it sitting on the counter before me.

It's dangerous.

valentine's funfetti popcorn (

Gimbal's is located in San Francisco {a four generation company dating back to 1898} and while I have no connection with them other than them finding me, golly that city has been on my list to visit for a long time.

Along with Key West, Denver, New York City, Nashville, Seattle, Savannah and so many more.  I'm not really sure where I'm going with this other than letting you know my travel bucket list....but San Francisco is on top of that list.

I really want to sit on those Full House front steps and get my photo taken.

And when I go I'll find that original Gimbal's store and buy myself a bag of their cherry {made with real cherry juice} and cinnamon chews {made with real cinnamon oil}.  I decided I liked them both equally.  So naturally, I put both of them in this holiday mix.

valentine's funfetti popcorn (

I wanted to actually coat this popcorn in something...and not let it be just another snack mix, you know?  Sometimes you've got to spark things up a bit.  We've all had our fair share of the traditional popcorn, peanuts and M&M mix.


I whipped up a mixture of melted white chocolate chips with coconut oil and wait for it.....vanilla pudding mix.  It mellows out the white chocolate and gives the whole coating a smooth, vanilla flavor.

Then of course I added corn chew cereal to increase the crunchiness and Valentine M&M's. This mix is busy.  There is no lack of boring here.

valentine's funfetti popcorn (

Valentine's Funfetti Popcorn

6 cups popped popcorn
2 cups corn chex cereal
1 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/4 c. coconut oil {or any light oil}
1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
handfuls of add-in's: M&M's, Gimbal's candies or candy of choice

1.  In a bowl place popcorn and corn chex cereal.
2.  In a microwave safe bowl combine the white chocolate chips and coconut oil.  Melt in 25 second intervals, stirring each time, until smooth.
3.  Add in the dry pudding mix and stir until smooth.  Pour over the popcorn/cereal mix and toss to coat.
4.  Sprinkle in the add-in's and pour the mixture on pieces of wax paper to cool and harden, about 15 minutes.
5.  Break up by hand and keep in an air tight container to stay fresh.

What do you do for Valentine's Day?  Love it?  Hate it?  Don't give a hoot?

I'm kind of in the middle.

I could take it or leave it.

But I do love that it gives me an excuse for candy.

So there.

valentine's funfetti popcorn (

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hamburger Steaks with Cheesy Sauteed Mushrooms

Jazz up that package of ground beef and impress your family with these!

hamburger steaks with cheesy sauteed mushrooms (

It's January and we are all supposed to be on this healthy new year kick, but sometimes incredibly lean fish being plated next to steamed broccoli makes me have violent thoughts.

And a violent mama doesn't do anyone good.

I want to be eating happy things and not foods that are tasteless and remind me of unfulfilled dreams. So instead I try and eat just a little bit of those bad foods {usually at dinnertime}, while during the rest of the day I am living on oatmeal, peanut butter on whole wheat toast, eggs, fruit and often times bites here and there of what the kids are eating.

It works for me.

Don't judge.

Dinner time is the only time we are ALL sitting together.  It is always chaotic, people are always bickering, food is often flying, be we are TOGETHER.  So I've chosen this meal to be my meal.  You know the meal I actually give a rat's ass about.

hamburger steaks with cheesy sauteed mushrooms (

I'm sure this will change in the years to come, but currently our breakfasts are fast paced and frantic and our lunches are a hodge podge of the previous night's leftovers or something resembling a sandwich.

I mean today I ate three pieces of shrimp, a few crackers, a piece of string cheese and a mini Hershey's bar.

Clearly I have work to do.

But, this dinner thing?  

I've got my act together on that.  I serve a meal.  It usually has a side or two circling around the main event.  What a concept!

A couple of nights ago I made these hamburger steaks.  The husband claimed if I made chicken or anything resembling chicken anytime this week, he'd have have to start fasting.  It was that bad.  So instead of a withering away husband I made this.

And they turned out fabulous.

Such a change up from a regular old burger.  I mean, they are called steaks.  Do not forget that.  It is vital and important to the recipe.

hamburger steaks with cheesy sauteed mushrooms (

They are also great re-heated.  I packed two away for the husband's lunch, because frankly those were the only two left.

Obviously we ate slapped together sandwiches for lunch the next day, but it was okay....we I knew dinner was coming soon.

I live for dinner.

It is my way to get through the long afternoons when the girls aren't napping well and helps me to remember that after dinner comes baths and bedtimes.


Hamburger Steaks with Cheesy Sauteed Mushrooms

2 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. button mushrooms, sliced
1 T. olive oil
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/8 c. flour
1/2 c. beef stock
1 c. Monterey Jack cheese

1.  In a bowl combine the beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.  Form into eight patties.
2.  In a very large skillet, heat oil to medium-high heat.  Add the patties to the pan, cooking 4-5 minutes a side.  Remove the patties from the pan.
3.  Add the mushrooms to the hot pan, cooking a few minutes until they start to brown.  Sprinkle them with flour, and additional salt/pepper {optional}.  Cook out the flour for 2 minutes.
4.  Add the beef stock to the pan, stirring, allowing the mixture to thicken.  Return the patties to the pan and spoon the mushroom gravy over the patties.  Cover the skillet with a lid, turn down to a simmer and allow to cook another 5 minutes.
5.  Sprinkle the patties evenly with cheese, cover again with the lid, allowing cheese to melt.
6.  Serve warm.

Cooking this dish in an electric skillet makes it super easy {as all eight patties fit}.  This one by Black & Decker is very similar to mine and works great!  We use it for pancakes, eggs, hash browns, burgers, grilled cheese....well, just about everything.

hamburger steaks with cheesy sauteed mushrooms (

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Chocolate Cake Donuts with Chocolate Ganache

Homemade donuts are all the rage.  
Make your own and you'll be the hit of the town.

chocolate cake donuts with chocolate ganache (

I've said before I will not trust anyone that says they "don't eat donuts".  Please.  Deep down I know you like them.  It's like cake.  Who doesn't like cake?  For some reason people feel ashamed to say, "I had a donut for breakfast".

I get it.  They are a tad unhealthy.  There really is no nutritional value.  You will probably be hungry an hour later.

That is why you have a second breakfast.

The donut is the appetizer or a snack to the meal, if you will.

So there.  We should all be having a donut once in awhile.  Life is short and these are fantastic.  The end.

chocolate cake donuts with chocolate ganache (


I'll write more.

The day I made these I was also bribing my 4.5 year old.  Yep, I said bribing.  She challenges me and sometimes and I succumb to parenting like a 4.5 year old.  With just her and her sister at home in the afternoons I still make her "nap" or at least have quite time in her room.


She could take it or leave it.  60% of the time she will actually fall asleep, which is beyond wonderful.  The other 40% of the time I hear her using the restroom, walking around in the hallway, shutting doors, singing, pretty much anything other than sleeping.

chocolate cake donuts with chocolate ganache (

In many trial and error moments I have found that she will work for rewards.  I know, parenting hackers call me out, but it sometimes works.

She lives to go with me in the mid-afternoon to pick up her brother from school, so I will often say, "If you nap, then you and your brother can have a special snack when he gets home from school".

It is never anything crazy.  Maybe hot chocolate.  Maybe a homemade cookie.  But when I'm usually offering apple slices or string cheese, it gets her attention.

A few days ago it was homemade donuts.

Yes, I made these donuts just so my 4.5 year old would take a nap.

Proud moment right here.

chocolate cake donuts with chocolate ganache (

Baking homemade donuts is a breeze as long as you have a donut pan.  I bought a simple one years ago on a girl's trip and have used it numerous times.  It makes six donuts, which is just enough for this horrible breakfast craving.

You can purchase yours HERE.  It's on sale for $11!

After I made these last week, I posted this cherry donut recipe on my Facebook page, hinting that I had the chocolate version baking in my oven and my local friends went a little bonkers.  They are used to my random drop-offs of baked goods.  I have a feeling they were all thinking, "will she pick me this time?"

Well, one special friend got lucky.  At preschool pick-up I casually handed over three chocolate donuts and told her to make sure her boys let her have one.

They did!

chocolate cake donuts with chocolate ganache (

These are moist, almost cake like...and the frosting?  It's simple and light with just the perfect amount of chocolate.  The ganache is made in the microwave in 1 please don't skip this step, it's so easy and so worth it.

Chocolate Cake Donuts with Chocolate Ganache

1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
1/3 c. sour cream
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. coconut oil {or any light oil}

1/2 c. chocolate chips
2 T. butter
2 T. coconut oil
2 t. water

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease the donut pan.
2.  In a bowl beat the wet ingredients, then gently add the dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
3.  Spoon the batter into the donut pan, filling to the top.
4.  Bake for 10 minutes or until the tops are slightly cracked and spring back to the touch.
5.  While the donuts are baking, in a bowl combine the frosting ingredients.  Melt in 20 second intervals stirring after each time.  Do this until it is completely melted.
6.  Using a knife, carefully remove the donuts from the pan.  Dip the tops into the frosting, then turn over and let cool/frosting harden on a piece of wax paper.
7.  Eat right away or keep in a airtight container to stay fresh.

Oh, and I had quite a bit of frosting left over.  Which in my head meant, I'll need to make another batch, but it never got that far.

Someone may have slathered it between graham crackers for snack the next day.

She wasn't napping.

chocolate cake donuts with chocolate ganache (

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Healthy Turkey Bolognese

You will not feel ashamed serving this big bowl of pasta to your family!  
Healthy, fresh ingredients, make it worthwhile.

healthy turkey bolognese (

It's not all cinnamon rolls and mac and cheese around here, every once in awhile I slap down a healthier version of a classic.

Today, it is this turkey bolognese.

It is not often that I dream up a dish, make it, photography it and also share it the next day, but this is exactly what happened yesterday and well, now today.

I had been fridge-less for 2.5 days, which led to many cold meat sandwiches, cereal and eat-up-whatever-is-going-to-spoil meals.  I had two coolers full of perishables and on constant rotation between our kitchen floor and our deck.  Our fridge died on Sunday, at the precise time we brought home bags upon bags of groceries.  Go figure.

Thankfully and not-so-thankfully the outside temperatures have been hovering around 5 degrees, which is all well and good when I need to keep something frozen, but not so cool when I just want to keep something cold.

So for the past two days I played a really fun game of trying to keep items cold, yet not letting them freeze.  Back and forth we went - outside, inside, outside, inside.  It is so much fun, you should try it!

healthy turkey bolognese (

Which all this non-fridge nonsense going on, I wasn't cooking.  I was struggling.  I would walk over to the fridge 267 times a day and go to open it only to find out {oh yeah, idiot!} it wasn't working.

It is a bit surreal how much of a habit something becomes.  How did people even exist before refrigeration?

I would have died.

So after two days of living like Laura Ingalls, we got a new fridge delivered.  Out with the old, in with the new.  I had my life back.  I didn't have to put on my winter coat every 10 seconds to walk out onto the deck to get the gallon jug of milk.

Heck, eventually I was walking out with no coat, no shoes, whatever I was wearing because I didn't care, even though it was bone chilling cold.

The point of this is....I finally cooked a yummy meal last night.  One that required more than a bowl, a box and the milk.  One that was slapped between two slices of bread.  And, it was delicious, and healthy {minus a few carbs}.

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This little piece of work loved it.  She gobbled down two bowls.  Until recently, she has been pretty squirmish about meat, but not in this!  Didn't even faze her.  Shortly after this photo was taken she chucked this bowl like the shot put, all of us ducking {we are used to this} and gladly proclaimed she was, "All done!"

Well, no crap.

Hey, at least she ate the meat.  Although judging by her still plump arms and cheeks, she isn't wasting away.  She is 20 months old and a barrel of laughs, learning more each and every day.  She also has a love/hate relationship with her siblings, missing them when they are at school, yet bickering with them when they are at home.

She's a ham.

A ham that loves her bolognese. 

healthy turkey bolognese (

Once you have the basics of this sauce cooking, let it simmer.  I had mine going for longer than you probably need to, but the girls were napping and I was being lazy and frankly it smelled good on the stove.

The fresh carrots, celery, onion, garlic, along with the red wine, gives this sauce a deep, rich flavor.  I opted for ground turkey instead of beef or pork to make it a bit leaner.  And trust me with everything else going on, you'll never know the difference.

If feeding two, I'd definitely cut this recipe in half.  If feeding a hungry family like me, make the whole darn batch.  We have a healthy container of leftovers, but I have faith that will be gone soon.

Healthy Turkey Bolognese

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. finely diced carrot
1 c. finely diced celery
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
1/3 c. dry red wine
1 t. dried parsley
1 t. dried basil
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 lb. dry rigatoni pasta
Parmesan cheese
olive oil

1.  Heat a stock pot over medium heat.  Add in a drizzle of olive oil to the pan.  Add in the turkey and cook until browned and juices run clear.  Being ground turkey there shouldn't be much, if any grease to drain.  Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
2.  Drizzle in a bit more oil and add in the onions and garlic.  Saute for a minute or two.  Then add in the carrots and celery, cook another five minutes.
3.  Pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, getting up all those good yummy bits.
4.  Add in the tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine, cover, turn down the heat and let simmer for at least 1 hour.
5.  Return the meat to the pan and let simmer another hour {or if on a time crunch, can be eaten right then}.
6.  When ready to eat, cook the rigatoni according to directions.  I leave my pasta a bit al dente. When cooked, drain the pasta and add to the sauce, tossing to combine.  Serve hot with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

healthy turkey bolognese (

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stove-Top Beef Stew

This hearty, stick-to-your-ribs stew will win over the hearts of everyone!

stove top beef stew le creuset dutch oven (

I'll fully admit it.  When I talk about beef stew I feel like I've ages about 50 years.  Is it a Grandma dish?  Probably.

Don't make fun of me.  I know it looks like a meal mountain men eat on a daily basis {which they probably do}, but I promise you, you will love it.  I made this on a day when the plague was close to hitting us and we were all a bit hit-and-miss on whether we even wanted to eat or not.

Kind of like a hearty bowl of chicken noodle soup, this stew just feels good going down.  It's nourishing and fills you up.

Per usual, I did have one problem when this stew came to mind.  I, of all people, a food blogger nonetheless, does not own a soup pot or dutch oven that can go into the oven.  What the heck?  It is just one of those things you never think about buying for yourself.  At least I don't.  Until I want to cook a roast not using my slow cooker or simmer a stew long and slow.

And in case you are wondering....I'm totally eyeing this Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron Dutch Oven in a deep, deep purple.

It's pricey.  There is no doubt about it.  But I fully know I would get great use out of it and it would last forever.

stove top beef stew le creuset dutch oven (

Due to this little problem I have, I had to improvise my stew a bit.  Instead of letting it slow cook in the oven to finish, I tweaked the recipe a bit and cooked it fully on my stove top. Which honestly, wasn't that big of a deal.  It worked perfectly!

So for all of you out there, struggling through life like me not having access to a beautiful pot like the one above {go ahead, send me a sympathy card}, this is the stew for you.

And look at these beautiful veggies!

Yes, you can feel good about eating this dish.

stove top beef stew le creuset dutch oven (

Go ahead and put what vegetables you want in this stew, but carrots, potatoes, onion and mushrooms are the traditional ones.  Sometimes you'll see green beans, or heartier root vegetables like turnips or sweet potatoes, but this is what we had on hand.

Because really, who buys turnips?

Not me.

Go ahead, shoot me an email saying how good they are for you.  I'm ready.

I made this stew for dinner one night and we had enough leftover for the next night.  You can serve a good crusty homemade bread with it {like this one}, a yummy cornbread muffin {we love these} or heck even just a sleeve of crackers.

stove top beef stew le creuset dutch oven (

Stove-Top Beef Stew

1 lb. cubed steak or minute steak {any cut you enjoy}
1 medium onion, diced
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 c. button mushrooms, cored and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
3 c. beef stock
1/3 c. dry red wine
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. dried thyme
3 T. cornstarch
3 T. water

1.  In a large stock pot heat oil to medium-high heat.  Brown the meat until golden brown on the outside, yet not fully cooked, then remove from the pan and set aside.
2.  Add in the onions and garlic, cooking for a few minutes.
3.  Pour in the stock and wine, stirring to remove the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. 
4.  Stir in the seasonings and the Worcestershire sauce.  Return the beef to the pan, along with the potatoes, mushrooms and carrots and bring it to a boil.
5.  Bring the pot down to a simmer, cover and let cook on the stove top for another hour.
6.  In a bowl combine the cornstarch and water until smooth, the gradually stir into the stew after it has cooked an hour.  Place the lid on the pot and let simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour.
7.  Serve warm.

stove top beef stew le creuset dutch oven (

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dried Beef & Green Onion Bagel Dip

Want a dip that everyone loves?  Kids and adults alike?  This is it!

Dried Beef & Green Onion Bagel Dip...the best party dip around!  Addicting, creamy, salty, onion-y, the ultimate crowd pleaser. (


I'm back to the land of the living.  After close to two weeks of sickness in our house I feel normal again.

Today I showered {I had been doing that...}, but today, my readers, I actually showered, put on a nice outfit, fully did my hair, PUT ON MAKE-UP and went somewhere.

A good friend of mine is due to give birth, like yesterday, so when she texted a few days earlier wanting to do lunch, I hopped on that train faster than I could type back, YES.  We thoroughly enjoyed a salad and pizza buffet without kids and it was just what I needed.

I was tempted to just keep driving around and around and around to kill more time before I had to get home, as alas, the babysitter was waiting and I needed to get back to life.

Oh well, next time.

Over the weekend, when 80% of our house was better I made this dip.  I also made it a couple weeks earlier at Christmas.  Addiction is a real thing.

Dried Beef & Green Onion Bagel Dip...the best party dip around!  Addicting, creamy, salty, onion-y, the ultimate crowd pleaser. (

It's not fancy.  Your kindergartner could possibly throw all the ingredients together in a bowl, I'm fairly certain of that....but that is really here nor there.  What matters is that anyone who takes a bite or a bagel dunk has never looked back.

And the longer it sits in the fridge, the better!  I may have eaten this for lunch two days in a row.  No joke there.  But then of course, I starved myself until dinner, because you know, I ate DIP for lunch.

Totally not healthy.


That is what I've been told.

Don't eat dip for lunch.

I've talked about how I would love if the American Association on 'whatever' changed their guidelines and included dips as a main food group, right?  They should do this and make it just a sliver of the piece of pie that you should eat during the day.  Kind of like carbs.  Make it even less. Just put it on the chart!

Until that happens, make this over the weekend.  Take it to a party or eat it for lunch like me.  People will want the recipe!

Dried Beef & Green Onion Bagel Dip...the best party dip around!  Addicting, creamy, salty, onion-y, the ultimate crowd pleaser. (

Yield: 4 cups

Dried Beef & Green Onion Bagel Dip

prep time: 5 MINScook time: total time: 5 mins
The party dip of your dreams! Everyone will ask for the recipe. Bagel dunking is now a thing! Salty, onion-y, creamy and full of flavor.


  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1 1/2 c. mayo
  • 3 pkg. Carl Buddig Corned Beef {about 1/2 lb.}, diced
  • 3-4 green onions, diced
  • 3 T. dried parsley
  • 1 t. Accent or seasoning salt
  • 1 pkg. Everything Bagels, cut into chunks


  1. In a bowl stir together all ingredients and place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour, best if overnight.
  2. Right before serving cut up the bagels into bite-sized pieces to use as dippers. Can also serve with crackers or veggies....but bagels are our favorite!
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