Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: February 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Honey Balsamic Angel Hair Pasta

More often than not dinner needs to come in a flash.
This Honey Balsamic Angel Hair Pasta does just that!

honey balsamic angel hair pasta (

Do you make a point to do things with friends?

I got to wondering about this question the other day as some friends and I were planning our next girl's night.  We just recently set the first Friday of every month as girl's night.  We did things with each other before but it was never a "set" thing.  It was random and probably less than it should have been.

I was talking to an acquaintance at my son's school yesterday and mentioned "girl's night" in conversation and she looked at me like I had just grown horns out of my head.  Like it was this foreign concept to have a set time with your girlfriends each month.  She went on and on that between work, her family and other responsibilities she "didn't have time for that".

Please, please if you know me, do not ever let me utter those words.

Gosh, I relish my girl time.  Sometimes it is what gets me through the week!  Honestly, those few hours of no responsibilities {other than getting myself back home} is just what I need to feel rejuvenated.

honey balsamic angel hair pasta (

So far we are doing random things - meeting for dinner, going to a movie, having a drink, but we are all anxiously awaiting warmer months when we can gather on the patio of one of our houses and just hang.

Maybe toss together a quick dish like this Honey Balsamic Angel Hair Pasta and crack open a bottle of wine.  Getting together with friends doesn't have to be a big "ta-da".  Heck, most of us are just happy to get out!  If you are hesitant on getting together with friends when you think you're family needs you at home {trust me, I'm guilty of this} don't be, us mamas need a break too.

Your family WILL survive.

And you'll come back better for it.

honey balsamic angel hair pasta (

What I love about this dish is that it would be perfect for your friends, perfect for just you at home and even perfect to serve to a crowd.

It is light, flavorful and down right tasty.  If you want to cut out the pasta you can also serve this over rice, or remove the carbohydrate all together and eat the chicken and veggies on their own.

I don't say that often people.

But they taste that I'm saying it.

And start to finish this is made in under 30 minutes!  I really, really want to say it is a 20 minute meal, but if you dilly dally a few minutes here or there, it is about a 24 minute meal....and well, that just doesn't have a good ring to it you know?

Here is my 24 Minute Honey Balsamic Angel Hair Pasta!

Doesn't work.

So give yourself thirty minutes and just know you'll be done before that with some minutes to spare. Call a friend or something.  Plan that girl's night.

honey balsamic angel hair pasta (

Honey Balsamic Angel Hair Pasta

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. diced mushrooms
1/4 c. Italian dressing
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
8 oz. angel hair pasta
1/4 c. fresh Parmesan cheese
2 t. salt
2 t. pepper
1 t. garlic powder
1 T. olive oil

1.  In a dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Lay the chicken in the pot sprinkling in the salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Cook, turning a few times until the chicken is cooked, about 7-8 minutes.  Remove from the pan.
2.  In a separate pot cook the angel hair pasta according to directions or just al dente.
3.  Keeping the pan on medium high heat add in the Italian dressing.  Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pan, bringing the dressing to a boil.  
4.  Add in the honey, continuing to stir.  
5.  Add in the balsamic vinegar, continuing to stir, a minute or two until the mixture thickens a bit.
6.  Toss in the broccoli and mushrooms coating with the sauce, bringing down the heat to low.
7.  When the pasta is done, toss it into the dutch oven with the vegetables and sauce.  Reserve a ladel of the starchy cooking water and also add to the pot.
8.  Grate in the Parmesan cheese and toss to coat.
9.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Baked Reuben Sliders

Throw these Baked Reuben Sliders in the oven for a party or just for dinner!
They can be a great finger food, yet 2 or 3 will fill you right up.

baked reuben sliders (

We have been having some gorgeous weather for February in the Midwest.  My kids and myself have been itching to get out of the house and take in the fresh air.  We even had the windows open twice in the past week!

Cool, fresh air seems to do everyone good, right?  Moods are better and the kids get worn out easier. Win, win in everyone's book.  Throw in a couple of good, long walks, getting the bikes out and a neighborhood play date and this past week has been golden.

Now that I've completely jinxed myself, I'm sure we'll have a major snowstorm wallop us come the first week of March. 

baked reuben sliders (

I promise I have some lighter, healthier meals on the horizon {hello, summer is fast approaching}, so forgive me, but these sliders.....they were NEEDED.

I had been dreaming about them for quite some time.  I meant to have them on the blog over a month ago!  Each time I went to make them, something got in the way - we had to cancel going to a friend's where I was going to take them - then I planned them for a weekend meal and we suddenly were on the road with other, finally this week I just made them.

Just because.

And we randomly snacked on them for lunch one day and dinner the next.  Just because it is called a slider doesn't mean you have to be at a party eating them!

baked reuben sliders (

I kept these pretty traditional with the iconic corned beef, swiss cheese and sauerkraut.  I did make my own thousand island dressing {which honestly I make once a week anyway for salad dressing, honestly I could drink the darn stuff}.

And please, please, please use King's Hawaiian rolls for this recipe.  I'm not sure what they do to those things, but they are buttery, soft and delicious.  You can find them at literally every grocery store.  Even my small town store has them.  But - hint, hint - sometimes they are stored in the freezer section.

baked reuben sliders (

Have a napkin close by when you take a bite of these!  Between the dressing, the cheese and the buttery topping, you'll have stuff dripping everywhere.

But it is SO worth it.

If you don't gobble them all up in one sitting, just wrap them up and keep them in the fridge.  Twenty to thirty seconds in the microwave warms them up again nicely and they'll taste just the same.

Baked Reuben Sliders

1 12-count pkg. King's Hawaiian rolls
1/2 lb. sliced corned beef
6 slices Swiss cheese
1 c. sauerkraut
1 c. mayo
1/4 c. ketchup
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 stick of unsalted butter
1 T. spicy Dijon mustard

1.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2.  Cut the rolls in half and lay the bottom half in the pan.
3.  In this order layer: Swiss cheese, corned beef and sauerkraut.
4.  In a bowl combine the mayo, ketchup, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper.  Spread a generous spoonful on to the tops of each roll, then place that roll on top of the slider.
5.  In another bowl, microwave the butter and mustard until just melted and combined.  Brush this mixture over the rolls.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and warm.

baked reuben sliders (

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Chicken Noodle Chowder

This Chicken Noodle Chowder is creamy, comforting and down right sinful.
If winter is still going strong where you are, make this pronto!

chicken noodle chowder (

We are trying something new with our kids.  Winter is always hard, as they are stuck in the house and more often than not bouncing off the walls.  The other night I actually saw our middle child fly through the air from our big overstuffed chair to the couch on the other side of the room.

Followed by giggles and my reprimanding.

We already have them adhere to pretty strict rules.  We are probably a bit tough on them, but it is only because we know their full potential.

They are good kids, but with a hell of a lot of energy!

Our oldest are 6 and almost 5 {next month}, although they are basically like twins.  They do the same things and feed other each other, good or bad.

After much thinking we have introduced that word.

You know the one.


chicken noodle chowder (

But being the parents we are, we are not the type to just hand over a ten dollar bill at the end of the week and call it good.  You know, giving them the discretion to do with it as they want. No, no, no. They are only 6 and 4!

They already have a slew of chores that get delegated throughout the week.  We don't use a chore chart or anything like that, we simply just ask them to do the chore and they are expected to adhere to that.

Their chores include: emptying or filling the dishwasher, making their beds, taking the garbage/recycling to and from the curb, picking up their toys before bed, helping set the table for dinner, folding laundry and putting their clothes away, feeding the dog and any other chore at our discretion.

Do they always listen?  NOPE.  And often they will complain.  They are kids, not angels!  In an effort to teach them financial responsibility and give them a bit of a reward for taking part in our household, this allowance has come in.

chicken noodle chowder (

On Monday, they each start with 7 one dollar bills, essentially a dollar a day.  We hold their money throughout the week {in a hidden place, they already found it once, those little devils}.

At the end of each day, we determine if they earned their dollar.  If they did?  Great!  If they didn't, I put a little tally mark next to their name for that week on the fridge and the countdown begins.  On Sunday, we look at those tallies and subtract them from the original seven.  This ending money is then divided between spending money, savings and church offering.

Again, we ALWAYS hold onto their wallets {yes, they each have a wallet and think it is pretty cool}. Trust me, at this age they lose money faster than I lose my temper some days. And put it up high! I've found kids are great climbers.

chicken noodle chowder (

And for a little humor....

Our eldest child can be described as this: focused, a bit serious, organized, practical and a rule follower.

Our middle child can be described as this: free-spirited, adventurous, hilarious, everyone's friend and a rule breaker.

I'll let you determine who consistently has the most tally marks.

Either way, this is fun for them and us.  Go ahead and steal the idea if you like!  Just as a thank you, send everyone you know to my blog and make my recipes, okay?

chicken noodle chowder (

I had my middle child help me with this chowder one day last week after school.  She does best when given tasks, and cooking is her forte {enter my heart skipping a beat}.

She'll do anything to chop a vegetable or stir something in a bowl.  Our family seems to big soup eaters, or that is at least what people have told me, and this chowder was no exception! I had originally planned a basic chicken noodle soup, this version is our favorite, but my mind wandered and I tried something different.

Thank god it worked!

It had recently snowed 5 inches and I was home bound and COLD.  I needed something hearty and comforting.  So why not through every starchy food I own and throw it in the pot?

And speaking of this pot, my friend Biz from My Bizzy Kitchen, sent this to me in the mail last month.  My cup runneth over.  That girl has the biggest heart and I cannot wait to see her again this summer.  I'm in love with it!  You can get yours here.

chicken noodle chowder (

You can easily make this chowder and let it sit on the stove on super low all day until dinner. That is what I did.  I was too lazy to put it in the fridge once finished, so I just shut off the heat for most of the afternoon {cast iron holds heat very well} and then later turned it on very low when I felt it was losing some of it's heat.

Right before dinner, I cranked it up a bit and we were ready to eat within 30 minutes.

Oh, and how could I forget?  I made these mile-high buttermilk biscuits to go along side. They almost stole the show {so good!}, but in the end the chowder won.

chicken noodle chowder (

Chicken Noodle Chowder

3 c. shredded cooked chicken
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
3 potatoes, diced in small cubes
1 c. old fashioned egg noodles
5 c. chicken stock
1 stick unsalted butter + 3 T. unsalted butter
1 c. flour
1 c. shredded colby cheese

1.  Heat 3 T. of the unsalted butter into a dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat.
2.  Saute the onion, celery and carrots until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
3.  Add in the potatoes, shredded chicken and chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Then let simmer for 10 minutes.
4.  In a separate pan melt butter over medium heat.  Add in the flour and whisk to combine, cooking out the flour for a few minutes.  Then add this roux mixture to the veggie/chicken/stock mixture, stirring to combine.  The soup will start to thicken quickly.
5.  Add in the cheese, continuing to stir.
6.  Taking the dutch oven off the heat, add in the noodles and cover to simmer.  After 10 minutes (but can go much longer) the noodles should be soft.
7.  Add in salt, pepper and parsley to taste - liberally!
8.  Serve warm, right away, or keep off the heat and warm up again for later.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Baked Cheesy Chipotle Dip with Jumbo Shrimp Dippers

How about we transfer ourselves to the coast?  
Jumbo shrimp gets a makeover with a fun, cheesy dip with a kick!  #MoreCoastal

baked cheesy chipotle dip with jumbo shrimp dippers (

I am the first to admit that seafood doesn't land on our dinner table all too often.  Maybe it is because we are landlocked.  Maybe it's because I'm lazy.  Or maybe it's just because in my head I feel like it is too tricky to tackle.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture {USDA} recommends that people eat at least two servings of seafood each week.  However, the average American consumes less than one serving a week.

Me included.

When SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Co. offered me the opportunity to sample some of their shrimp {America's #1 Breaded Shrimp}, I jumped at the chance.  Everyone in my family loves shrimp, so why aren't we eating more of it?

Being the middle of winter in Iowa {i.e. bone chilling cold}, I wanted to transport us to the coast. We needed something to change up our dinner routine.  My kids love anything crunchy and crispy and even more than that they like to "dip" their foods.  What kid doesn't?

baked cheesy chipotle dip with jumbo shrimp dippers (

At least once a week I plan a couple "easy" dinners.  Dinners that require little thinking and can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Hey, I'm busy!  I'm often shuffling kids to and from and tending to a house, a husband and a dog.

I need easy when it is available.

Frozen SeaPak shrimp makes it easy to bring the taste of coast to your family's table.  My middle child, who turns five in a couple months, helped arrange them on a baking sheet and even popped them in the oven for me.

Less than 20 minutes later?  Viola!  Crispy, crunchy, jumbo shrimp.

And the dip?  It was an added bonus.

baked cheesy chipotle dip with jumbo shrimp dippers (

Cream cheese, garlic, tangy Parmesan with a healthy kick of a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce....this dip is phenomenal.

We placed the dip in ramekins and baked it right next to the shrimp.  No need for extra dishes or pans.  In under 20 minutes of baking time we had a fun, unique, coastal dinner.  I rounded out the meal with a salad on the side.  What a fun change of pace!

My kids LOVED this.  I have no reason why I will not make this again.  You know what happens when you serve a dinner that is "out of the norm" for you?  Your kids remember it. Then they promptly ask for it again.

And again.

And again.

We had shrimp again two nights later.

baked cheesy chipotle dip with jumbo shrimp dippers (

SeaPak is highly regarded within the seafood industry for its adherence to the utmost quality standards and for its commitment to resource management and sustainability.  They are committed to making life for consumers more coastal, by sharing with them the best tastes and experiences of coastal living.

I mean, why not add this to your dinner rotation once a week?

You know what else is cool?  SeaPak's Seafood Sweepstakes is in full swing.  Someone {and a lucky friend} will win a trip to New York City for a culinary lesson with Food Network Kitchens!  I'd give my left arm for that opportunity.  Be sure to enter HERE for your chance to win.

baked cheesy chipotle dip with jumbo shrimp dippers (

Baked Cheesy Chipotle Dip with Jumbo Shrimp Dippers

1 pkg. SeaPak Jumbo Shrimp
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 c. mayo
1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped {depending on how much heat you want}
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. Monterey Jack cheese
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. dried parsley
chopped tomatoes for garnish

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2.  In a mixing bowl combine cheeses, mayo, chipotle chiles, garlic, lemon juice and parsley.  Fill dip into a heat safe dish.
3.  Place SeaPak jumbo shrimp on the baking sheet.  Place both the dip and shrimp into the oven. Cook shrimp according to directions, 12-14 minutes, turning once.  The dip will cook next to the shrimp and be hot and bubbly when the shrimp is done.
4.  Sprinkle dip with the chopped tomatoes and serve along side the hot shrimp.  Serve warm.

Be sure to follow along with SeaPak on their social media channels {Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube} you just never know what they might be up to!

baked cheesy chipotle dip with jumbo shrimp dippers (

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SeaPak. The opinions and text are all mine.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

8 Chicken Dishes That Won't BORE You

Chicken does not have to be boring.  
These 8 chicken dishes prove that - they are flavorful, fun and easy!

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

I'm currently snowed in and a bit bored.  Don't get me wrong I love the snow.  This batch happens to be extremely beautiful, light and fluffy and gorgeous.  With all that said I'm a bit over the cold weather.  I'm longing for spring days.

Days the kids can be shipped outside without a few hundred garments layered between them and the sharp wind.

This boredom has prompted a spur-of-the-moment blog post.  People are always telling me they love the round-up posts where multiple recipes are showcased and they can then meal plan off those posts. Just reading that ONE entry gives them multiple options for dinner.

I also get a LOT of this....

"I have chicken breasts thawed and have no idea of what to do with them.  I want something that isn't bland and boring"

I hear ya.

Most of my dinner fails have come with boring, bland chicken as the main event.  Not only is the cook disappointed, but the looks on every one else's faces about make me want to crawl under the table and not come out until breakfast.

Because I'm a pleaser, because I love making people happy and because I just want to help that poor, pitiful chicken, I'm giving you 8 of my favorite mouth-watering chicken dinners. Trust me, there is nothing bland or boring about these!

Pass this one along to your friends.  Share it on Facebook.  People will love it!

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

These Sticky Sweet Bacon Chicken Bites are perfect for your pig and chicken lovers.  They are sweet, salty and have a hit of barbecue sauce brushed over them to make them sticky.  If you want to make them an appetizer, cook them as directed and place in a slow cooker on warm.  Serve with toothpicks of course!

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

My sister introduced me to these Pulled Buffalo Chicken Sliders a few years ago and I've made them a zillion times since.  Just enough heat to make them "buffalo style" they are great for crowds and family gatherings.  And don't forget the ranch or bleu cheese to drizzle down over them!

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

Ah....this one is my favorite.  Yes you can make your own Chinese take-out!  This Crispy Orange Chicken is stellar served over steamed rice and reheats well as leftovers {but you won't have any}. Make it just once and your family will be asking for it again the following week.

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

There for awhile we were having Taco Tuesday's in our house and these made the rotation a LOT. Letting the chicken cook in the slow cooker all day cuts down on the dinner prep and that melty cheese?  So good.  Top these Baked Chicken Ranch Tacos with whatever toppings you desire.

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

Creamy with a kick I'll call this one.  My Green Chile Chicken Casserole is hearty and filling. We eat it as a meal and we've been known to grab the bag of tortilla chips and scoop it up with those, topping with sour cream and salsa.  Either way - yum!

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

Can we first talk about this pastry dough?  I'd stuff anything in it and eat them up.  I usually keep these on the mild side for the kids, but feel free to add as much buffalo sauce as you like.  My Buffalo Chicken Hand Pies are great eaten fresh, as leftovers or frozen for a future meal.

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

As a mom I love one-skillet meals.  The less dishes to be washed the better.  My Lemon Butter Chicken is refreshing.  It's tangy, sweet, juicy and just wonderful.  Put it on your winter meal list to brighten your spirits when snowed in {like me!}

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

Fajitas are simple to make in the oven, did you know that?  Cut up your chicken, your veggies and let it all roast together in a baking dish.  These Oven Baked Fajitas are always fun - they come together in a flash.  Throw in peppers, onions, zucchini, corn, whatever you like, season liberally and you're done.

8 chicken dishes that won't bore you (

Which one is your favorite?

Any interest in a ground beef dinner list after this one?  That is FOR SURE another meat that can be booooooooooring.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sweet Heat Roast Beef Sandwiches

This three ingredient roast beef sandwich couldn't be simpler and it's a crowd pleaser!

sweet heat roast beef sandwiches (

I love a good meal that requires virtually no effort.  This one is it!  I put it in before I left for a meeting yesterday and by dinnertime that night it was bubbling and ready for us to dig in.

I mean, I have three kids!  Sometimes it is 3 p.m. and the dinner light bulb finally goes off and I end up scrambling.  I hate those days.  Dinner is usually an epic fail and everyone is disappointed.  And hungry two hours later.

I do my best to meal plan, but like every mom out there sometimes it just doesn't happen.  Life gets in the way and suddenly you've been eating cold meat sandwiches and chips for dinner two nights in a row.

This busy mom meal plan has popular...maybe I should use it on myself in the coming weeks?

sweet heat roast beef sandwiches (

I took this roast out to thaw the day prior knowing it would go in the slow cooker and knowing it would be shredded and made into sandwiches.

But...I wanted to do something different.

I had a few chipotle chilis in adobo sauce leftover from a fun recipe you'll be seeing soon {think shrimp!} and needed to use it up, PLUS....a random can of alcoholic root beer {don't ask}.  Wouldn't you know when you put them together to simmer all day long it makes magic?

Yep, it sure does.

Now the roast I put in was small, just 3 lbs., but we polished this thing off!  Seriously, not a shred of meat leftover for today.

Wish was disappointing, but hey, it wasn't a cereal dinner, so I'm taking that as a win.

sweet heat roast beef sandwiches (

This meat is tender, juicy, sweet and yet has a bit of heat.  Nothing to make you sweat, but it balances the sweetness nicely.

Don't be afraid, all three of my kids ate this and didn't even mention it.  You'll be fine.  Give it a try!

Sweet Heat Roast Beef Sandwiches

3-4 lb. beef arm roast
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (found in the Mexican aisle in a can)
8 oz. Not Your Father's Root Beer (or a non-alcoholic root beer)

1.  In your slow cooker place in the roast.  Pour on the root beer and place the chipotle peppers (whole) on the roast.
2.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 4-6 hours.
3.  When done, the meat should shred easily with two forks.  Shred and let soak in the juice until ready to eat.  Serve on hoagie buns and enjoy!

Woo-hoo, I have a lot planned coming up!

An ooey-gooey, tangy slider, a crispy shrimp appetizer, and get this.....a SALAD!

Yes, it's February and we could probably all use a salad.

sweet heat roast beef sandwiches (