Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: June 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

If you are on the hunt for a delicious, easy muffin to start out your day, 
these Double Chocolate Banana Muffins are it!

double chocolate banana muffins (

I'm struggling a bit here.

It is nearing the end of June and I'm struggling.  I have three kids that are eating me out of the house. I feel like I never leave the kitchen.  When one meal is done and I've cleaned up they are asking about the next meal.

I want them to be back in school.

Yes, I just said that and I have no shame.  I love summer and I love all our activities but I cannot keep enough food in this house to sustain them.  I am not a big pre-packaged food buyer {minus the much needed string cheese, raisins, some crackers and the occasional applesauce} so our grab-n-go options are a bit more limited.

Take these muffins for instance.  I made a batch one morning...and by batch I mean 16 muffins. Sixteen muffins is a lot don't you think?  Not in this family.  They were gone by the next day.

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I try and bake something...anything...during the week {often twice a week} to get us through those snack times and hurried rush out of the door mornings.

These Harvest Muffins are an all time favorite, as well as my Blueberry Oat Breakfast Cookies and my personal favorite {because really, it is all about ME} are my No-Bake Banana Nut Bites.

Any one of these will grace our house during any given time of the week.  I'm often having to double batch some of them.  My kids eat like dinosaurs!  Everyone comments on it.

"Your kids can eat."  They say.

"Your kids will eat anything!"  They say.

Yes, I know, trust me, I know.

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So what is the point of all of this?

I'm trying to get better.  I'm trying to take it all in this summer while we are all under one roof driving each other crazy.  I'm trying to have things on hand so when I can say they can have a snack it is there and ready.

Side note.  When do they stop asking when they can eat?  10?  At which point do you just let them decide?  At almost 7, 5 and 2, I've still got my reins pulled tight, but I'd love to know from other parents when I can ease up.  Send me your thoughts, okay?

Back to these delicious muffins.

I want to die in the batter.  It is so good.  The banana keeps them moist and the mini chocolate chips keep them gooey.  They pretty much taste like dessert.

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 banana, mashed
1/4 c. honey
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. Greek yogurt {plain or vanilla}
1 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
2 T. cocoa
1 c. mini chocolate chips

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Fill a 24-cup muffin pan with liners {will probably only use 16}.  This is my favorite pan!
2.  In a bowl combine the wet ingredients: mashed banana, softened butter, honey, vanilla, yogurt and egg.
3.  Sift in the dry ingredients: sugar, flour, baking soda and cocoa, stirring just to combine.
4.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
5.  Using a cookie scoop {trust me, get this one, it creates the PERFECT amount of batter in each cup}, fill the cups with a heaping scoop of muffin batter.
6.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until cracked on top and they push back to the touch.
7.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before eating.
double chocolate banana muffins (

Muffin fanatic like me?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dill Pickle Pasta Salad

It isn't summer without a creamy pasta salad on the menu.
Bring this one to your next gathering!

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Love pickles?

I do.  Well, dill pickles rather.  I hate sweet pickles.  Barf.  Don't put them near me.  But the dill variety?  I'd snack on a whole jar if I didn't know they'd make me swell from the salt intake the following day.

Anyway, I love dill pickles.

If you're a hater {I know many of you...} I'm sure you've already checked out.  It's okay. You'll come back for the Double Chocolate Banana Muffins coming up next.  Because let's be honest, everyone loves muffins.

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So last week was kinda a "week".  We finished up the older two kid's t-ball league, my oldest had he last day of Nature Camp, my mom visited and the husband worked some seriously weird and odd hours, which for us is par for the course, yet it interrupted our schedule a bit.

I literally had it in my head that I'd make this pasta salad each day of the week to go along with some burgers on the grill and then every stinking day something interfered with those plans.  Thank god, I'm flexible.

Finally, come Saturday, I made this side dish.  We planned a quiet night at home, but it turned out being a long day of golf for the guys and having friends over later for dinner that night.  But this pasta salad made the menu so that is all that really mattered.

Even I was getting sick of thinking about it.

But then I tasted it - fabulous!

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If you love dill, you'll love this.  If you love pickles, you'll love this.  If you love a creamy, not sweet, yet not quite tangy cold pasta, you'll love this.

Are you still with me?

And in case you are bored...there is a unique way to get EXTRA pickle flavor into this pasta. I had heard of a recipe doing this once before and remembered it when putting this one together.  I really do think it gives it more of a pickle-y flavor.

Make this for dinner!  It goes great along side a juicy burger and baked beans {at least that is my favorite}.  If you want to give your guests an array of pasta salads to choose from you definitely also need to try my Deviled Egg Pasta Salad or my Creamy Avocado, Tomato and Bacon Pasta Salad. Both are great in different ways!

Dill Pickle Pasta Salad

1/2 lb. medium shell pasta
1/2 c. chopped dill pickles
4 mini sweet peppers, finely diced
1/2 c. cubed colby cheese
1/4 c. chopped onion, finely diced
2 t. dried dill
3/4 c. pickle juice
2/3 c. mayo
1/3 c. sour cream
1/8 t. cayenne
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

1.  In a bowl combine the mayo, sour cream, 1/4 c. of the pickle juice, cayenne, dill, salt and pepper and set aside.
2.  Bring a pot of water to boil, generously salting the water.  Cook the shell pasta to al dente, drain and place in a bowl with the remaining 1/2 c. pickle juice.  Toss the pasta in the pickle juice and let it sit for 5 minutes.
3.  Drain the pasta from the pickle juice and toss with the prepared dressing, chopped pickles, cheese, peppers and onion.
4.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cookie Monster Ice Cream

Surprise your kids with this Cookie Monster Ice Cream!
They'll love ya forever.

cookie monster ice cream (

Go figure I make this fun kid ice cream last week when my two older kids are gone and out of the house for six days.

A glorious six days it was.

I had the cleanest house on the block.  I exercised every single dang day.  I enjoyed a "break" each afternoon and read my book on the deck.  My laundry pile was cut in half.  Our pantry didn't get devoured three days after I made a big grocery run.

So secretly I must have been missing those little devils to make homemade bright blue ice cream on a random Thursday, right?  I think it was my inner conscience.  The little tike did get a few bites here and there but honestly she was more interested in the cookies.

I had a post last year take off on making your own homemade ice cream with the use of your KitchenAid mixer and this recipe is done the same way.  Who knew years ago there was a way to make ice cream without a proper machine or a tin coffee can and rock salt?  This simple way was right under our nose the whole time.

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Let's also get something straight.  This ice cream isn't healthy.  No ice cream is really, but this ice cream really isn't healthy.  When something consists of just heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk and cookies, well you aren't going to win the healthy award for the day.

I'm sorry for that.

But, if you are like me and just take a "nibble" each night for 4 nights in a row, then it isn't too bad.  I cannot speak for the husband who happily finished off the pan, but whatever, our kids weren't here so we lived a little.  Sue us.  

You need to make this.  Here's the thing.  If you don't like the color blue or food coloring in general just leave it out.  If you don't like chocolate chip cookies {you're weird} replace them with whatever cookie or candy bar you do like.  If you want to try and make yourself believe eating ice cream is healthy throw some fruit in.

Make this however you want.  Bend the rules and live a little.

But...this version is really, really good.

Cookie Monster Ice Cream

2 c. heavy cream
1 {14 oz.} can sweetened condensed milk
1 t. vanilla
crushed chocolate chip cookies
blue food coloring

1.  Add the heavy cream to your stand mixer or a bowl if using a hand held mixer.  Beat at medium to high speed until stiff peaks form.
2.  Slowly pour in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla and turn the speed back up to medium and beat until thickened.  Add in a few drops of food coloring until you have your desired blue color.  
3.  Fold in half of the crushed cookies.
4.  Pour this mixture into a greased loaf pan.  Top with remaining crushed cookies.
5.  Freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.

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Need more ice cream fun?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

5 FREE Meal Planning Printables + Freezer Inventory Check-List

Want to get organized with your meal planning?
Then this is the blog post for you!
5 free meal planning printables (

Nothing excites me more than being organized in the kitchen.  When I'm on top of things everything seems to run like a smooth ship.  Mama stays happy and the kids get fed.  And really that is all that is important, right?

I'm kind of old school.  Yeah, I have an iPhone and I'm sure there are 1.4 million different apps to organize my grocery lists and pick the best meals for me, but in the end I just enjoy taking an old pen to the paper and writing it down.

If you are like me, then this blog post is for you. 
5 free meal planning printables (
I got a little bored the other night when making my grocery list {on the back of an envelope from a old bill I might add} and I thought, 'this would be a lot more fun if I had something PRETTY to write this all down on'.

So I created a quick one and printed it off.

I then went back to my grocery list and then promptly forgot about it.  I went about my day. Feeding kids, chasing a dog, running errands, blah, blah, blah.  And then, I kid you not, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and while sitting upon the throne {sorry, TMI?} my thoughts went back to that printable I had made earlier in the day.

If I liked using it, wouldn't others too?

5 free meal planning printables (
The timing on this could not have been more perfect.  The other two kids jetted off with their grandparents for a few days to visit family, so miraculously I had a wee bit more time on my hands. With the youngest napping one day I created four others + a freezer inventory sheet {I'll explain that later}.

I wanted to give you guys something that you too could print off and use in your home. These are perfect for jotting down your ideas, what is needed at the store, taking it with you while shopping and then pinning it to the fridge when you get home.

I like to put mine on the side of the fridge right next to my pantry where I can see it multiple times a day.  I'm busy, and even when I often glance at it right after breakfast, by lunch I'm looking at it again because I got distracted and never got out meat to thaw for dinner.  That is MY life.

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I've also found everyone likes their menu plans and shopping lists to look different, so I got all crazy on ya and created five different ones.  I figured between the five you could find one you like, right?

If not, we're not friends.

You're too high maintenance for me.

And I guess if you only like those phone apps that do all of this and much more, you've probably stopped reading by now.  But me?  I like to write.  I don't like to put down my phone, in my purse in the store {and it ultimately gets buried}, only to have to pick it up again because I can't remember what I just read, punch in my password {again}, open up the app {again} and then finally remember what I was supposed to be looking for.

We've come full circle folks.

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I hope you share this with your friends.  I want you to share this with your friends! Especially your mommy friends.  Don't you think they'll love it?

Or if you are really feeling generous, just go ahead and print some off for your friends and hand deliver them.  Knock on the door, hand them over and pray you haven't insulted them.

Maybe only give them to your "really good friends".  Because really good friends don't get insulted when you tell them the truth.

You're very disorganized and I now you need help with meal planning and grocery shopping.  Here you go.  See ya later.

5 free meal planning printables (
Let's not think I'm giving all the love to what we NEED TO BUY.  We also need to pay some attention to our deep freeze.

Do you have one?  We do.  The don't call it a deep freeze for nothing.  Stuff gets lost in that black hole. Your best cuts of meat can get shoved to the back to only be found 6 months later covered in freezer burn.

So like any good food blogger I created a freezer inventory sheet.  When that baby is full, go ahead and write down EVERYTHING that is in there.  Everything.  Then tape this sheet to the freezer door. Whenever you pull something out of there, cross it off the list.  You will know exactly what you have at all times.  And the same goes for when you go to the store and pick up a couple of things and mindlessly throw them in the freezer.  Write them down on the sheet.  Keep the list up to date and you'll never lose that rump roast again.

So let's say you also need help picking the meals you want to make for the week, well I have a solution for that too!

Here are some very popular meal planning posts I've put together the last couple of years. Take the help wherever you can get it!

Each graphic is printable, so just click on it and it will take you to the Google Drive site I set up. Print some copies off and get to work.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Strawberry Ginger Beer Dump Cake

Nothing beats a cake that only requires four ingredients.
This Strawberry Ginger Beer Dump Cake is perfect for summer!

strawberry ginger beer dump cake (

Ginger Beer, not to be confused with Ginger Ale, is a naturally sweetened and carbonated non-alcoholic beverage {although you can now find it's alcoholic cousin as well}.  It has recently become popular again due to the wave of people again drinking Moscow Mule's and the Dark 'N Stormy.

I'd like to say I've been helping this movement.

I'm guessing it just runs in the family.

Although, it has beer in the title, there is no beer in it, so please don't get all excited and nervous and wacky on me thinking you'll be putting BEER in a dessert.  Even I don't do that.  Relax.

It is the carbonated sweetness from this drink that makes this dessert top notch.  Only four ingredients gives you dessert here.  I love that.  Nothing makes me happier than a simple, easy, sweet treat.  

And when strawberries are involved?  Even better.

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Yesterday happened to be the day I was assigned to bring a meal to our dear friends.  This friend of mine, was my VERY FIRST FRIEND in a brand spanking new town close to 7 years ago. Her in-laws happen to live two doors down from us.  They have three kids {one set of twins} that are great friends with my kids.  This friend introduced me to a whole slew of other friends and for that alone I will be forever grateful.

So when this friend was diagnosed with cancer last month I was a bit devastated.  For her. For her kids.  For her husband.  For me.

But you know what?  Cancer picked the wrong person to mess with.  I've never met a more determined, stubborn and feisty woman in my life.  She's got this mess of a disease and we are all backing her.  She will be fine and we will all be stronger because of her.

So on top of my Crock Pot Mac-n-Cheese, a kale and poppy seed dressing salad and a homemade dip and veggies, I made this cake.

Because let's face it, each day needs to be celebrated.

strawberry ginger beer dump cake (

Minus the ginger beer, the remaining three ingredients to this cake are probably lurking around your house somewhere {hopefully in your kitchen}.  I currently have oodles of berries on hand {any berry will do} and since I'm a baker at heart I am never without a cake mix and a pudding mix in my pantry.

See?  This is SIMPLE!

Oh wait, I forgot the whipped cream.  You don't have to top with whipped cream, but in my opinion any fresh berry in the summer needs to have whipped cream go along with it.  It's like peas and carrots.  Spaghetti and meatballs.  Chips and salsa.  You get the picture.

Put this recipe on your summer-to-do-list.  Now.  You will not be disappointed!

Strawberry Ginger Beer Dump Cake

*I doubled this recipe giving us a 9x13 pan and our friends a 9x13 pan.  This way, you aren't stuck with a half box of yellow cake mix and pudding mix lingering around.  Just an idea.  Also, you will find Ginger Beer in the liquor section of any grocery store.  Or you can purchase via Amazon.

1/2 box yellow cake mix
1/2 box instant vanilla pudding mix
3 c. fresh or frozen strawberries
12 oz. Ginger Beer
whipping topping, for garnish

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
2.  Place the strawberries in a single layer at the bottom of the pan.
3.  In a bowl combine the cake mix, pudding mix and ginger beer.  This mixture will be a bit lumpy.
4.  Pour the batter over the strawberries.
5.  Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
6.  Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes or until golden brown.
7.  Serve at room temperature with whipped topping.
8.  It can be refrigerated or kept at room temperature for storage.

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I'm completely 100% a cake person.  I enjoy pie here and there, but hands down cake is my weakness.  Here are some other family favorites that we enjoy.

Monday, June 13, 2016

20 Pool Side Dips

These 20 Pool Side Dips will keep you full and happy all summer long!

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My ideal vacation is one with a little sight seeing and whole lotta lounging pool side.  I mean, come on, it is called vacation for a REASON.  I do not want to be going from here to there with a set schedule all day long.

I want my day to flow from a relaxed breakfast, to proper sun deck time with a good book, to a casual lunch {sitting on the sun deck}, followed by a shower, a late dinner at a restaurant on the water and finally more time on the dock with a drink in hand.

If you find that boring, then I'm sorry.

I guess I won't be vacationing with you.

So, let's get back to that lunch on the dock.  I'm the queen of 'snack plate' lunches even when at home tending to children and running a house.  A few crackers, some cheese, a piece of fruit, probably some relishes and often a dip.  It's just kind of my thang.

So when on vacation I like to continue this for three reasons.

1.  I'm often not in the mood to eat something heavy while sitting in a bathing suit.

2.  I most certainly do NOT want to lose my lounge chair on the dock to someone else if I had to get up.

3.  It's fun!

Having a little mini picnic while alternating dips in the water is perfect in my opinion.  Bring some drinks and snacks in a cooler and my day is set.

Therefore I picked a handful of favorites from this very blog, along with a small handful from other bloggers.  It is pool season people!  Make a dip and eat it for lunch.

You won't regret this.

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I'm in love with all of these dips.  I honestly want to make one a day until I've gone through the entire list.  Don't think I am not taking mental notes for our yearly pilgrimage to Lake Okoboji this August. That lake lets me unwind and relax.  I look forward to it each and every year.

Which one do you want to try first?

Let me know!

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