Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: November 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Sometimes in life you just need a cookie.
A big, giant, soft, filled with chocolate chunks type of cookie.

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This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Hey y'all!  I hope you had the loveliest of lovely Thanksgivings.  I sincerely hope you stuffed yourself with turkey {then later made this soup with the leftovers}, ate more pumpkin pie than you needed and then plopped on the couch for a day of napping or football watching.

That is pretty much what we did here!

Did you hit the malls the day after?  Or shop from the comforts of home?  I did not hit the malls, but I'm happy to report I am 80% done with ALL of my shopping, well on my way to my goal of being done December 1.  So close!

If you have young kids be sure to check out my post Gifts I'd Purchase My Kids This Christmas.  I purchased three off this list for my little devils, so I'm sure you can find something too.

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Besides Thanksgiving prep and holiday shopping I've been knee deep in holiday baking. Yes, this early.  Kind of like how a magazine preps six months in advance for holiday issues, I'm about two months ahead.  It's a bit crazy, but it's needed!

This Thursday starts my 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways {so pumped!} and I'll be posting every day for 12 days in a row {bless me}, so it has definitely required some additional prep work.

One day while baking up a storm for these upcoming recipes the kids were begging for chocolate chip cookies.  My first thought was, really?  Could they not see I had my hands full?  But then I realized they don't really give a lick that Mom has a food blog and all they wanted was a darn cookie.

I get it.  Sometimes I just want a simple cookie too kids.

But, because I was busy I didn't want a whole batch so I whipped up this GIANT version that just gives you nine cookies, all done on one big cookie sheet and it's done.  Easy prep, easy clean up, everyone is happy.

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Now you can cut corners and simply put chocolate chips in these cookies or you can made them chunky by dicing up a couple Hershey chocolate bars and you'll hear angels singing.

I definitely think it's worth the time and effort.

These cookies were so good that I made another batch the next day and delivered them to my friend who let me borrow her daughter's Halloween costume {because you know I don't do that holiday very well and I'm cheap so I borrow everyone else's nice hand-sewn costumes}.  And since she has four kids ranging from about age 7 to 2 months old I'm really hoping she hid them in a closet and kept them all to herself.

Every single giant chocolate chunk cookie would be worth it.

Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
2 regular-sized Hershey bars, chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
2.  In a heat safe bowl microwave the butter until very soft, almost melted.  Add in the sugars, egg and vanilla and stir to combine.
3.  Sift in the flour, salt and baking soda.  Stirring gently just until combined with wet ingredients.
4.  Using a knife roughly chop the Hershey bars and fold into the batter.
5.  Roll dough into nine large balls, about the size of a golf ball, or slightly bigger.  Place on the cookie sheet.
6.  Bake for 11 minutes.  Do not over bake!  They will be slightly golden at the edges and soft in the middle.  Let them rest on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Warm Bacon Ale Cheese Dip

Onions, bacon, beer and cheese make this dish irresistible.
Perfect for football watching and big parties!

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This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

You know what's fun?

Being a homeowner.

I spent one day last week completely without water as we had all of our pipes replaced in our crawl space, due to frequent leaks.  That was fun.  Gas station bathrooms are fun.  With a toddler who likes to announce things.  Lots of fun my friends.

I also love how us Americans have to live with a television {me included} as it is where we catch all our news, favorite shows and reality drama.  So when this mama goes to turn it on one night after dinner because all I want to do is zone out and all I get is a black screen....UGH.

Thankfully Black Friday deals are rampant right now so a new T.V. is in order.  They say things come in threes.  Let's hope they are wrong.

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But, you know what?  Give me a good cheese dip and I forget all our household issues.  Trust me when I say I am not above the classic Velveeta + Rotel cheese dip.  I'm pretty sure my mom made that dip famous.  But, I do like to change things up a bit when I can, because I'm a food blogger and I rarely make the same thing twice.

Also, in no particular order I also love these things {stay with me here}.

1.  Beer.

2.  Airport people watching.

3.  Leggings + a good book + a cappuccino.

4.  Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

5.  The first snowfall of the year {still waiting}.

6.  Bacon.

When I was brainstorming recipes and what I love, number one and number 6 kept coming up in my brain.  How could I combine the two?  And then it clicked, use the beer as the liquid in the dip, melt in my favorite cheese, add bacon, saute onion in the bacon grease {hallelujah} and gobble it up with tortilla chips.

Bless this dip.

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This dip is thin {not on the hips, but in consistency, just to clarify}, salty from the bacon, rich from the dark beer and a helluva good lunch when you're lazy and have no time.

I'm not the only one who eats chips and dips for lunch am I?


And let me just be clear on something.  Thanksgiving is this week and we all have turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie on the brain.  That's fine. No worries.  But what happens on Friday?  When we are football watching and shopping and not wanting a leftover turkey sandwich?

We eat dip people.

Put this on the menu for SOMETIME during the weekend, because I will bet you a dollar that from Friday to Sunday at some point you grab snacks and need to feed a crowd and no one will be interested in another big meal.

Warm Bacon Ale Cheese Dip

1/2 lb. bacon, diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 T. dijon mustard
12 oz. dark beer {I used Fat Tire}
8 oz. cream cheese
2 c. pepper jack cheese, shredded {I used Cabot Cheese}
10-15 dashes of hot sauce

1.  In a large, deep skillet cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon and set aside, but leave the drippings.
2.  Cook the diced onion in the bacon drippings until translucent and tender.  Stir in the mustard.
3.  Pour in the beer and bring it to a boil.
4.  Bring the heat down to low and add in the cream cheese, whisking until melted.
5.  Whisk in the pepper jack cheese and combine.  Add the bacon back in.
6.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

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Need more dip inspiration?

Well, you've come to the right place.  Feed your crowds with some of these favorites.

And stay tuned, guess what is coming!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Chocolate Stuffed Christmas Cookies

Need a new cookie for the holidays?
These Chocolate Stuffed Christmas Cookies are perfect!

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This post is in conjunction with The Great Minerva Dairy Cookie Challenge, but all opinions are my own.  Affiliate links are enclosed for your convenience.

Whether you are ready or not it is time to start planning your holiday baking.  Remember cookies freeze fabulously!  Feel free to bake almost any cookie, plate it, wrap it and forget about it until all your holiday parties start filling the calendar.

Minerva Dairy recently contacted me to see if I'd be interested in participating as an online influencer {did you know that is the proper term for a blogger?} during their holiday cookie exchange and challenge.  

Umm...hello, yes!  Nothing kicks up my fancy like holiday baking.  I was basically a shoe in. These Chocolate Stuffed Christmas Cookies are a new creation of mine and trust me when I say you NEED to include them on your holiday cookie platter.

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Everyone who visits The Great Minerva Dairy Cookie Challenge between now and December 15 can vote for their favorite cookie.  Their very own Venae Watts, a 5th generation family member of Minerva Dairy, has created her own holiday cookies to go along side-by-side with the food blogger's cookies {i.e. ME}.  Each entry gives you a chance to win FREE BUTTER for a year!

You can vote HERE.

Have fun taking a look at everyone's weekly holiday creations!

Now, on to MY cookies, shall we?

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If you are a frequent reader of my food blog than you know I have three kids under the age of 7 and I'm a stay-at-home-working-mom.  Needless to say my time can often be limited. And if not limited I have kids under foot, including a dog who is consistently laying on my feet every time they stop moving.

Therefore complicated cookies aren't really my thing.  And even though these are "stuffed" cookies they are easy!

Take some help with a devil's food cake mix.  Yes, I said a cake mix!  Doctoring it up to make it a cookie is easy.  And quick!  In fact, now I'm dreaming up how to make a million stuffed cookies with all the flavored mixes.

The cookies are a bit crunchy on the sides, yet soft in the middle and keep their shape beautifully. The filling you ask?  Well, I truly believe it is the BEST part.  Cream cheese, powdered sugar, chopped pecans and chocolate chips.

It's like eating a whoopie pie in cookie form.

Dang, delicious.

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Chocolate Stuffed Christmas Cookies

2 eggs
2/3 c. canola or vegetable oil
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. chocolate chips
food coloring {optional}

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray.
2.  In a bowl mix together the cake mix, eggs and oil until combined.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3.  Using a medium sized cookie scoop, scoop out the cookie dough onto the baking sheet filling the cookie sheet with 20 cookies.  Spray the bottom of a glass with cooking spray and gently press on the cookies to flatten them.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool.
4.  While baking in a bowl combine the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, pecans and chocolate chips.  Optional add red or green food coloring.
5.  When the cookies have cooled spread the cream cheese filling on the bottom of one cookie, topping it with another.  This recipe will make 10 stuffed cookies, or 20 if you use a smaller cookie scoop.
6.  Keep refrigerated.  Or freeze among wax paper in a tightly sealed container for up to 1 month.

A big shout out to Minerva Dairy for including me in this fun holiday baking project!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

22 Christmas Cookies

Need a new Christmas cookie?
You're in the right place.  Grab the sugar and flour and let's get to work!

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Each year my high school girlfriends and I get together and do a massive holiday baking session.  I've been friends with these girls my whole life, literally since kindergarten.  We know each others ins and outs and this tradition is one of our favorites.

Here's the run down.

We have Jess, our hostess.  You see we just tell her we're descending upon her house every December to do this because she has the best kitchen.  She doesn't mind.

Then we have Jenelle, who would rather have a root canal than bake, but she puts those feelings aside for one afternoon to please all of us.

And Missy, she's the decorator of the bunch, having worked at a bakery and chocolate store for years. She makes us all look bad.

Lastly, Tiff.  She rolls in flustered, usually un-showered, often missing crucial ingredients and no doubt will have to run to the store in the middle of a recipe.

You see, we're not perfect but we all get each other and we have a great day baking.  Mostly laughing.  Often getting on each other's nerves, but it's fun.  In fact this post is for them.  I'm guessing they have no idea what they are baking this year and with a couple weeks to spare, here is a list of 22 for them.

You're welcome girls.

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22 christmas cookies (

22 christmas cookies (

22 christmas cookies (

22 christmas cookies (

22 christmas cookies (

Did you find one that you like?  Want to bake?  Want to gift to someone during the holidays?  I sure hope so.

I personally really enjoy giving edible gifts at Christmas time, even if it is a just a small plate with four homemade, delicious, mouth-watering looking cookies on it.  People really do enjoy them.  They know they are from the heart and that you took time to make them.

Stay tuned as I have more gorgeous looking holiday cookies on tap during the month of December, as well as some holiday baking giveaways.  You don't want to miss out!

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

White Cheddar Spinach & Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese

I combined my favorite hot dip with my favorite side dish.
What's not to love?

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This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

I'm kind of known for my hot spinach and artichoke dip.  Right when it was becoming all the rage say around 2005, I started making my version for every party, every gathering with my girlfriends and it most definitely tagged along with me for every family gathering.

It was kind of my thing.  I could make grown men, who claimed they "didn't like spinach, let alone an artichoke" dive into the bowl and forget about the entree awaiting them.

And please...don't think I was serving it with sliced veggies.  Never.  Each and every time I'd grab a nice crusty loaf of bread or baguette from the grocery store, slice it up, drizzle it with some olive oil, toast it in the oven and then rub a fresh clove of garlic over the slices right out of the oven.

Yep, that my friends is how you do toasted bread.

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When I got my first "major" marketing job out of college, I was placed in a small department of this corporation and met some amazing women.  These ladies and I probably did more chatting than working, but it was during this period where I perfected this dip.

When the husband was working 2nd and 3rd shirts I'd invite those ladies over to our humdinger of a house {if you'd call it that, we opted to call it a compound} and we'd drink wine and eat appetizers as our supper.

Those days were so easy.  Hanging out with friends with not much of a care in the world other than getting back to work on Monday.

That job was one of my favorites and had we not moved I'm fairly certain I'd still be there today.  It allowed me to travel....Orlando, San Diego, Chicago and other Midwestern cities that I probably would have not visited.

So this newly created Mac-n-Cheese is for those ladies.  You know who you are.

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Let's take a moment to chat about mac-n-cheese.

There are so many different ways to make it.  So many variations to toss in.  I've made it a zillion different ways.  Honestly, every time I make it, it is not like the time before.  My poor kids, they never know what they are getting.

Sometimes, like this spinach and artichoke version, I make it in just one pot on the stove top. Kind of my favorite way as it only requires one pot and there is no draining.  One of our favorites is my Mushroom, Bacon and Swiss Mac-n-Cheese.  I adore the burger with all my heart so of course I stuffed all that into pasta!  And then sometimes I want to throw it in the oven and walk away as a baked version. My Bacon Buffalo Mac-n-Cheese is another crowd pleaser if you like some heat.

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Let me tell you something.

I was a bit nervous to serve this to my kids this week.  They are fine with spinach.  Not a problem there.  But enter in the funky vegetable called an artichoke and I was silently preparing for WWIII.

But like a good Mommy, I didn't say a word.  I put a serving on their plates right next to their chicken and sat down to eat.  I watched them like a hawk.

And I'll be damned, they ate it.

They didn't chat about the funky green stuff.  They didn't pick and complain.  They just ate it.  AND THEN ASKED FOR SECONDS.

Mommy win.

I'm sure it helps that the creamy cheese sauce is phenomenal {in my opinion}.  But anyway, it just goes to show this doesn't just have to be served to adults.  Serve your kids and let them find out for themselves.

Oh, and two important things.  Please use a quality, good white cheddar cheese.  My friends at Cabot Cheese sent me some and I love it.  You can find their version at any grocery store. Also, please use marinated artichokes, not just the plain ones in a can.  The marinated ones are FULL of flavor and really make this dish.  Don't skimp!

White Cheddar Spinach & Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese

8 oz. penne pasta
4 c. water
2 c. milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 c. frozen and drained chopped spinach
6 oz. marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
2 t. salt

1.  In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat the water, milk, minced garlic, salt and penne pasta over medium heat.  Bring this to a low bowl.  The pasta will cook in this mixture.  Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.  When the pasta is almost finished you'll notice the liquid has reduced by half.
2.  When the pasta is cooked turn down the heat and slowly stir in the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese. Continue to stir until it forms a smooth cheese sauce.
3.  Fold in the spinach and chopped artichokes.
4.  Bring the heat down to low, continuing to stir occasionally, until sauce is thickened and you are ready to serve.
5.  Optional: add in chopped cooked chicken or shrimp.

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You know what else makes me a bit crazy?

Sometimes I make this famous American dip and then spread it on homemade pizza crust, add more cheese and then bake it like a pizza.

You can see my recipe for Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Deep Dish Pizza here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Cheese Tortellini Tomato Soup

Homemade soup does not have to intimidating!
This Cheese Tortellini Tomato Soup is simple and comes together in 30 minutes.

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This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Because I don't say it enough, your presence on this blog, whether active or lurking behind the scenes makes me so happy.

I ran into a girl a couple of weeks back at a party and introduced myself, I shook her hand and she immediately looked me and said, "Oh, I follow your blog!".

You see, this is how it often happens.  I have no idea who is reading unless they tell me, or send me an email or comment on one of my social media pages.  I know I have a good handful of faithful readers who never miss a post {you know who you are}, but I would have never have known that had they not told me in passing.

So when this gal told me this at that party, I was thrilled!  It makes my day when people tell me they are reading.  It keeps me going.  It gives me courage to tackle some recipes that otherwise in my normal life would have never attempted.

So, thank you!  

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I'm super duper, fantastically excited about the two months coming up.  The holidays are my thang. Make sure you stayed tuned in December 1-12 as I'll be giving away some of my favorite products and foods for 12 days straight.  I have a long list of companies who are on board because they believe in my blog just like you do.

And don't forget I always share plenty of holiday gift guide posts.  Did you see my last one featuring The Gifts I'd Purchase For My Kids This Christmas?  I hand picked ten of our family's favorites.  Join forces with me and start shopping NOW.

Remember, I've vowed to get all my shopping done by December 1st.  Think I can do it?

Enough already.  Let's talk SOUP.

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You see, I made this Cheese Tortellini Tomato Soup one night for dinner in my Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven {I want one in every color for Christmas, by the way} and we ate the whole stinking pot in one sitting.

What is wrong with us?

Nothing I've determined.  We just like soup.  And when it's homemade and flipping delicious, I'll tell you what it goes down easy.

In case you are wondering kids LOVE this soup too.  Throw an ooey-gooey grilled cheese next to their bowl and you're golden.  Between the cheese filled tortellini and the rich, tangy tomatoes I'm thinking just about anyone would eat this.

Did I mention you can make this in 30 minutes?  Forget Sunday Supper, this can be made on a lame Wednesday night.

Cheese Tortellini Tomato Soup

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 c. chicken stock
2 T. butter
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. dried basil
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
8 oz. packaged cheese tortellini

1. In a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, I use this cast iron version, melt the butter over medium heat.
2. Add in the onion and cook until translucent. Add in the minced garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.
3. Pour in the broth, tomatoes and seasonings and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium-high and add in the tortellini pasta. Put the lid on and cook 10-12 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
4. Serve warm with grilled cheese sandwiches.

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Of course I'm not going to leave you with just one delicious soup, how about 8 more!