Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: April 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

25 Easy Salsa Recipes

The world's #1 condiment...salsa!
Check out these 25 tasty recipes.

25 easy salsa recipes (

I love salsa.

Like really, really love salsa.

In the winter I'm buying endless jars of it and in the summer I'm making a fresh batch weekly.  Our favorite kind, which many people call "blender" salsa is a key staple in our diet during the months of June-September.  My version is a copy cat of the popular Chili's restaurant chain.  It is so good!

Even though that recipe is our staple version, I'll pretty much eat any that finds a spot on my plate. Fresh, canned, ones with black beans and corn, sweet dessert versions, even ones with unusual ingredients like watermelon or avocado. with me at a Mexican restaurant?  Prepare to get your own bowl of chips.  And salsa.  I don't like to share.

Browse through these 25 delicious salsa recipes.  I can bet you'll find a few {or four, or five} that you'll want to try!

25 easy salsa recipes (

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Short Cut Chopped Caesar Salad

My new obsession, this Short Cut Chopped Caesar Salad.
All the taste, without all the fuss.

short cut chopped caesar salad (

There are a few foods in my life that I am currently obsessed with...

1.  Buffalo wings.  Boneless, on the bone, I'm impartial.

2.  Ice cold water.  In my thermos all day long.

3.  Farm fresh eggs.  I'm currently getting about 4 dozen every two weeks.

4.  Wraps for lunch.  Tortilla, cheese, turkey, spinach.  Simple and yummy.

5.  Caesar salads.

I'm a bit perplexed why Caesar Salads have been on my brain lately.  I never, ever used to make them, let alone order one at a restaurant.  In fact, I may have turned my nose up at them.

Then one day I ordered one at Panera Bread when meeting a friend for lunch.  The conversation stopped and I got lost in the salad.  I'm pretty sure I was licking my bowl clean. From that moment on I seemed to order one each time I went out to eat.

short cut chopped caesar salad (

I believe the two secret ingredients to a great Caesar salad are garlic and the anchovies. Well, low and behold I do not keep anchovies or anchovy paste in my house.  I know for a FACT my small town grocery store does not carry it.

But, I really, really wanted a Caesar salad, so what was I to do?


I Googled, scanned some Pinterest recipes and browsed a few cookbooks and came to the conclusion that I would just make my own "dressing" for this salad and see if a homemade short cut version would be worth eating.

short cut chopped caesar salad (

It was worth it.

It's tangy, peppery, creamy and delicious.  Oh, and did I mention you have to have fresh Parmesan cheese?  You have to have it.  Don't skimp on this ingredient.  I should actually list fresh Parmesan cheese as the 6th food I'm obsessed with lately.  Yes, it should be on the list too.  I'm adding it to everything.

Oh, and the croutons.  You cannot have a Caesar salad without croutons.  You need the crunch.  You need the salt.  You need THEM.

I have made this salad three times in the last three weeks {for those counting, that is once a week}.  Once to take to a friends for a barbecue and two times just for us at dinner.  The husband and I have split a whole bowl of this {and I'm not usually a huge salad person}.

The kids even ate it!

short cut chopped caesar salad (

And just a tip.  If you are making this for a crowd or taking it somewhere, simply mix up the dressing in a small mason jar and refrigerate.  Grab that jar and the lettuce, fresh Parm and croutons before you walk out the door and simply mix it all up right before serving.

I've done this and it works perfectly!

Short Cut Chopped Caesar Salad

1 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c. mayo
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. spicy brown mustard
2 cloves of garlic, minced
dash of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

1.  In a bowl {or mason jar if traveling}, combine the Parm, mayo, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Set aside or refrigerate until later.
2.  In a large bowl place the chopped lettuce and half of the croutons.  Pour in the dressing and toss to combine.
3.  Garnish with extra croutons and additional Parmesan cheese.
4.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Garlic Knot Pizza Casserole

An easy dish that has quickly become a family favorite!
Garlic Knot Pizza Casserole start to finish in under an hour.

garlic knot pizza casserole (

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

So a few nights ago I asked the husband what his last meal would be if he were on death row. You know, random and completely out of the blue, like most of my conversations.

He should be used to these kinds of questions.  They randomly pop into my head and spew out like vomit whether or not the situation is right.  So when he looked at me like I was an alien, I shouldn't have been surprised.

"I don't know Ally, why are you asking me this?"

Just answer the question.  I wanted an answer.  So then, naturally, I started answering for him. Steak and potatoes?  Lasagna?  Fettuccine Alfredo?  Shrimp?  I was shouting out all his favorites.  We never did determine what he'd choose.

garlic knot pizza casserole (

Instead we made the conversation all about me.  He said spaghetti would be my last meal {very close}, but I told him it would be a fantastic chicken parmesan.  In the end it really would be anything with a good red sauce.  This version of mine is a favorite.

The night this conversation was stirring was the same night we ate this new dish and it has quickly become a family favorite.

Buttery garlic bread, our favorite pizza toppings, spaghetti sauce and cheese!  Lots and lots of cheese. I promise there is not a kid around that won't like this casserole.

garlic knot pizza casserole (

Then the night after we ate this I promptly made another one and stuck it in the fridge for a friend who just had a baby.

It is perfect to take to someone in need.  New baby, sickness or just because.  Have you ever delivered a meal 'just because'?  You should.  It shocks the hell out of people and yet makes them smile all at the same time.

It is great.  And I make the best decision EVER a few years back and purchased these reusable 9x13 pans.  They can be delivered and you don't have to worry about getting them back.  Throw them away or wash them out to use again.

Make this dish!  Just figure out their favorite pizza toppings first, okay?

garlic knot pizza casserole (

Speaking of great meals to throw together and take to some must be the topic of the week as I've had two friends ask for suggestions this past week.  Here are a few of my favorites.  All can either stay cold in the fridge for a couple days or can be frozen.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 1 tube Grands Buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. onion powder
  • 1 t. Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 2 c. mozzarella sauce
  • 1 lb. cooked sausage
  • pepperoni slices
  • other favorite pizza toppings
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease a 9x13 pan.
3. In a microwaveable bowl melt the butter and stir in the seasonings and Parmesan cheese. Open the biscuits and cut each biscuit into six pieces each. Drop them in the bowl and toss to coat in the butter mixture. Layer the coated biscuits on the bottom of the pan.
4. Layer on half of the pizza toppings, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese and the remaining toppings.
5. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

garlic knot pizza casserole (

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Grab a cold glass of milk and dive in!
Triple chocolate and worth all the calories.

triple chocolate fudge brownies (

I had just the absolute best day yesterday...and I didn't even leave the house!  I am completely whipped now {lots of sun, manual labor, never sitting down kind of day}, but I'm plodding through this blog post before catching some shut eye.  I just had to share the brownie love.

But, first.  Today.

I made pancakes for breakfast.

I had dinner prepped by 10 a.m. {my mom's famous potato salad, burgers, baked beans, PLUS this strawberry cheesecake dessert}.

We headed outside together as a family and worked liked dogs from 10 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Our garden has now been expanded and that sod was recycled to other areas of the neglected yard. Everything was raked, swept and cleaned.

B.L.T.'s were eaten by all outside at lunch and it was glorious.

I threw everyone {including myself} in the shower as we were covered in dirt and dinner was eaten and cleaned up by 5:30 p.m.

All kids were in bed by 8:00 p.m. and the husband was asleep in the recliner prior to that.

And here I sit.  Tired, exhausted really, but as you other moms know, we are usually the last to go to bed in the house.  It was just the best day.  I was busy from dawn to dusk, my skin got a little crispy, we ate good food, there were minimal fights and the back yard looks great. Some of the best days are the ones spent at home.

triple chocolate fudge brownies (

Now.  Brownies.

They are quite possibly one of my favorite desserts.  So rich and fudgy and decadent, I usually pick one in the food line-up at most social gatherings.

I'm not above a boxed mix, not at all.  In fact I have one in my cupboard right now, but I also whip up the real deal now and then.  Heck, I even have a post on making your own homemade mixes to keep in the pantry.  Have you tried that?

I'm a bit obsessed.

Then things got really ugly around two weeks ago and I chopped up a whole chocolate {very large} rabbit leftover from Easter and dumped it in this batter as well.

Of course the kids noticed that one was gone....if you were wondering.  Mom fail.

triple chocolate fudge brownies (

Speaking of Easter candy there is a still a bucket of it on top of my fridge.  I just need to throw it away.  It's sooooooooooooo tempting.

For whatever reason, after lunch, EVERY STINKING DAY, I feel like I need a piece of chocolate. Such a weakness of mine.

I just need to throw it away.


Tomorrow, I will throw it away.

When we get home from church and I'm running around making lunches for everyone, I will throw it away.


triple chocolate fudge brownies (

These brownies!

I keep getting side tracked.

It is best to let these cool completely as that "fudge" will set up and just be awesome. Honestly, this brownie could quite possibly last for over a week on your counter and never become the least bit dry or hard.

And of course I added frosting.  Spiked with Nutella.  I mean, these brownies needed to be "triple fudge" not "double fudge", it just didn't sound right.

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

2 eggs
8 T. softened butter
1/2 c. milk
2 t. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. salt
2/3 c. cocoa
2 c. flour
1 large plain, milk chocolate bar, chopped

4 T. butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese
2 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. Nutella
1/4 c. milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8x8 baking pan.
2.  In a small saucepan melt the butter, then stir in the cocoa and vanilla.  Pour this into your stand mixer bowl.
3.  Beat in the eggs.  Then sift in the flour, sugars and salt.  Fold in the broken chocolate pieces.  The batter will be thick, so loosen with the 1/2 c. of milk.
4.  Pour the batter into the greased pan.  Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow the brownies to cool completely.
5.  To make the frosting combine the cream cheese, butter and Nutella until smooth with a mixer. Add in powdered sugar to combine.

Love brownies?  Want more?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chicken & Feta Veggie Toss

Light, healthy and flavorful!
This Chicken & Feta Veggie Toss won over my crowd, I bet it will yours as well!

chicken and feta veggie toss (

Sometimes the best dinners are the ones that start unplanned and require the least amount of fuss. This dish was very unexpected.  I basically just starting chopping and hoping for the best.

Somehow it worked.

Life is sometimes like that.  Things are unexpected.  People surprise you.  You don't often know the basics about a person.  I was reading one of my many, many, many blogs the other day {seriously, I have so many} and she had listed just random, interesting facts about her.  It was so much fun to read!

So just like this dish - a random, thrown together dinner one night, here are some random thoughts, ideas and facts about me.


Or be bored if you are strictly that "recipe" reading type.  I've always said this is a food blog, not a food recipe site.  I share recipes 99.9% of the time, but I often throw in other random things as well.

chicken and feta veggie toss (

1.  I'm an avid reader.  Always have been.  I have a list longer than you'd care to see of all the books I want to read.  I'm fairly certain the librarians hate me.  I'm constantly asking if they have this or that and I'm pretty sure in their head they are saying "go look it up on our computers".  I'm also a bit disappointed that I've only read 9 out of these 34 books, the Most Addicted Books of the Past 25 Years.  I guess I'll put more on my list.

2.  I'm early.  All the time.  In fact I kind of panic and get all shaky when I know I'm going to be late {usually because of other people - ahem, the husband}.  I often say I will drive somewhere just so I know we will be on time.  In high school I was the youngest of my friends so I relied on them to drive me places.  I remember being "tardy" on multiple occasions because a certain friend would forget to pick me up for school.  I wanted to die.

3.  I'm not a shopper.  I want to be, but I'm too cheap.  With that being said I really, really want to sign up for Stitch Fix or something similar.  Who has tried it?  Good?  Bad?  I like the idea of having a personal stylist who knows me from afar and sends me pieces to choose from.  

4.  I live in a super small house.  I sometimes feel like HGTV is secretly tapping me for a version of Tiny House Hunters.  When we moved here we were on one income, I was 8 months pregnant and we needed a place super fast.  I didn't want to give birth in a hotel, or in our realtor's car driving us around looking for homes.  We now have 5 people and one ornery dog under this roof.  I'm counting down the days until we move, which will probably be 5 years from now, but I still look forward to it.

What odd, random facts do you have about yourself?

I could probably go on and on, but I'd rather not bore you.

chicken and feta veggie toss (

Back to this dish, shall we?

You will not feel bad about serving and eating this for dinner.  It is chalk full of fresh vegetables and just when you think it will be boring you get a tasty of the juicy chicken along with the tang of the feta cheese.

Any feta fans out there?

I love it.  LOVE IT.  I put it in eggs, on top of pasta {this Greek pasta dish I make is fabulous} and I've even baked it into a garlicky cheese bread.  It's tangy, salty and just brings a dish together.  Eat this dish warm or cold, it's great both ways!

Chicken & Feta Veggie Toss

2 c. cooked, diced chicken
2 c. cooked white rice
1 large carrot, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 c. fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pkt. Ranch seasoning mix
1 c. crumbled Feta cheese
olive oil

1.  In a bowl combine the cooked rice, chicken and ranch seasoning.  Set aside.
2.  In a saute pan, drizzle olive oil to coat the pan.  Over medium high heat saute the carrots, onion, garlic, zucchini and spinach until tender.  Add the vegetables to the chicken and rice mixture.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.
3.  Toss with feta cheese and serve warm or cold.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

10 Healthy Dinners - All Items Purchased at ALDI

Need a jump start?  Me too.  Dinner can be challenging!
Cruise on through these 10 Healthy Dinners made from 
wholesome ingredients purchased at ALDI!

***This post is sponsored by ALDI.***

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

Meal planning is kinda of my closet ninja in hiding.  When I'm super focused and really good at it, it can kick anyone's butt to the curb.  When I'm off my game, I'm just like any other mom scrambling during the witching hours {4:00 to 6:00 p.m.} hoping the tears and screaming can be kept to a minimum.

Here's the thing.

Life gets crazy and plans get put on the back burner at times.  This includes dinner and that is okay. No one ever said being a mom and feeding your household was going to be easy, but I will tell you this, when I take a moment to plan, even if it is just 10 minutes on a Sunday evening before the week starts, my weeks goes a whole lot better.

And when I take the extra effort and plan HEALTHY dinners for my family, ones that I don't cringe at, it makes my week go fantastic.

You all know I've been an ALDI grocery shopper for many years now.  The husband visited once and declared we had to go back and we've been visiting there ever since.  Their selection continues to grow and amaze me.  What is great about these 10 Healthy Dinners is that I've highlighted many unknown healthy products that ALDI's carries.

Coconut Oil?  Yep.

Organic Fresh Spinach?  Got it.

Balsamic Vinegar?  They have that too.

These 10 Healthy Dinners are also cost effective.  Each family has a food budget.  It varies from family to family, but nothing is worse than coming out of the grocery store having spent WAY more than you wanted to.  This is usually due to not planning, grabbing whatever catches the eye and not being focused for the week ahead.

How about we change that?

Below I have detailed 10 Healthy Dinners, with their costs included.  Pick your favorites.  Or give them all a try!  You can easily eat happily for two straight weeks on this meal plan {leaving a few days for eating out, leftovers or a simple sandwich night}.

Please note:  I shopped at my local eastern Iowa ALDI's store.  Prices and availability can vary from store to store.  Also, you will notice one grocery item may be purchased for multiple meals.  For example: a large bag of chicken breasts is used for multiple meals, as are staple ingredients such as olive oil, eggs, cheese, etc.  Seeing this, you'll notice some meals are more expensive than others, due to that main ingredient being priced out in one, but not in the other.  Please click on each recipe title for the full recipe and directions.

3 lb. bag boneless, skinless chicken breast - $6.69
2 thin crust flat bread pizza crusts - $2.99
6 oz. jar of pesto - $2.49
4 pack of tomatoes - $2.99
8 oz. mozzarella cheese - $1.89
8 oz. feta cheese - $1.79
Total: $18.84

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

1 lb. ground turkey - $1.89
garlic cloves - 89 cents
carrots - 99 cents
celery - $1.29
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes - $1.19
15 oz. can diced tomatoes - 95 cents
1 bottle of red wine - $5.99
rigatoni pasta - $1.59
Parmesan cheese - $1.99
olive oil - $3.19
spices {parsley, basil} - 99 cents/ea.
Total: $21.94

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

3 lb. bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts - already purchased
coconut oil - $4.99
16 oz. sour cream - 99 cents
bag of mini sweet peppers - $2.49
flour tortillas - $1.49
spices {chili powder, cumin, garlic powder} - 99 cents/ea.
Total: $12.93

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

bag of hash browns - $1.89
olive oil - already purchased
carton of eggs - $1.28
milk - $1.94
jar of salsa - $1.89
8 oz. cheddar cheese - $1.89
fresh spinach - $2.49
Total: $11.38

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

3 pack of small sized zucchini - $1.92
spaghetti sauce - $1.89
pepperoni - $2.19
8 oz. mozzarella cheese - $1.89
garlic powder - already purchased
Total: $7.89

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

3 lb. bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts - already purchased
broccoli - $1.49
mushrooms - $1.29
bottle of Italian dressing - $1.29
honey - $3.99
balsamic vinegar - $1.95
angel hair pasta - 95 cents
Parmesan cheese - already purchased
olive oil - already purchased
garlic powder - already purchased
Total: $10.96

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

2 lbs. ground turkey - $1.89/ea.
zucchini - already purchased
broccoli - already purchased
spinach - already purchased
garlic - already purchased
eggs - already purchased
Italian style breadcrumbs - $1.29
Parmesan cheese - already purchased
ketchup - $1.49
brown sugar - $1.19
Worchestshire sauce - $1.49
red pepper flakes - 99 cents
garlic powder - already purchased
Total: $10.23

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

spinach - already purchased
olive oil - already purchased
bag of mini sweet peppers - already purchased
cheese tortellini - $1.49
red wine vinegar - $1.95
Parmesan cheese - already purchased
garlic powder - already purchased
{spices} onion powder, Italian seasoning - 99 cents/ea.
Total: $5.42

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

l lb. ground beef - $4.99
can of black beans - 79 cents
can of chili beans - 59 cents
Rotel diced tomatoes and chiles - 59 cents
can of diced tomatoes - 55 cents
can of corn - 49 cents
ranch packet seasoning - 49 cents
spices {chili powder, cumin} - 99 cents/ea.
garlic powder - already purchased
Total: $10.47

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

1 lb. ground beef - $4.99
broccoli - already purchased
brown sugar - already purchased
soy sauce - $1.19
red wine vinegar - already purchased
olive oil - already purchased
white rice - $1.79
garlic cloves - already purchased
ground ginger - 99 cents
red pepper flakes - already purchased
Total: $8.96

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

Grand Total: $119.02

Can you believe I just gave you 10 Healthy Dinners with all items purchased at ALDI and the total came to less than $120?  This is epic my friends.  All of these meals are flavorful, fun and filling.  My family has tried each and every one of these dishes and have given them the thumbs up.

I would like to thank ALDI for sponsoring this post and giving me the green light to share some of our favorite meals.  I only hope you take advantage of this meal plan and put it to use!

Want to read other popular meal plans?

10 Healthy Dinners All Items Purchased at ALDI (

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