Five Weeknight Meal Ideas

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

Who else has a hard time getting dinner on the table on weekdays? I would love to hear what your biggest issues are. One of my issues is that I don’t prepare ahead of time. My kids come home from school, we get busy and suddenly it is 5:30 and I have no idea what to make for dinner. So, today I am sharing five easy weeknight meal ideas that you can make in 30 minutes or less! Each one of these meals features a protein, a vegetable and an Alexia Foods product. The steak dinner was the favorite of the females in my family and Zack’s favorite meal was the Italian Sloppy Joes.

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Spinach Artichoke Dip Bites and $75 Crisp Cooking Tools Giveaway

Disclosure: I received Crisp Cooking Tools to facilitate this recipe post for Spinach Artichoke Dip Bites.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Bites

Spinach Artichoke Dip is another one of my favorite appetizers. Once when I was pregnant and on bed rest, my friends came over for the evening to visit me. They asked if there was anything they would pick up for me and all I wanted was spinach and artichoke dip. I’ve got to admit that I ate the whole thing and it didn’t even make me sick! Spinach artichoke dip is a popular appetizer for parties. Today I am sharing a recipe for Spinach artichoke dip bites that is perfect for the holidays. They are a delicious, bite size snack with red and green accents.

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Sautéed Green Beans With Bacon & Farberware Cookware Giveaway

Disclosure: This Sautéed Green Beans with Bacon recipe was developed for Farberware Cookware as part of sponsored post.

Bacon Green Beans

We finally have our Thanksgiving plans figured outunless they change again. This year we will be spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws but we still need to decide who is bringing what. So far, I know that my in-laws will make the turkey, mashed potatoes and corn casserole. We will be bringing a ham, pecan pie and these green beans with bacon!

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Peppermint Candy Cane Crunch Donuts

Peppermint crunch donuts recipe

Although I enjoy mint desserts and candy year round, peppermint desserts always remind me of the holidays. It’s been a long time since I’ve made doughnuts so I had to try making a peppermint version. First, I made some homemade, baked doughnuts, but they were so bland that even my kids didn’t want them. Instead of trying another batch, I changed the game plan and made canned biscuit dough donuts instead.

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Cheesy Chicken Sausage Potato Skins

I made the Cheesy Chicken Sausage Potato Skins as part of a sponsored post for Gold’n Plump.

Cheesy sausage potato skins

Potato Skins are another appetizer that my family loves. We order them at restaurants and purchase the frozen version to cook at home. Zack has been talking about my bloomin‘ baked potatoes and asking me when I am going to make them again. Instead, I decided to make cheesy chicken sausage potato skins and he helped me. While adding the cheese, he told me that his mouth was literally watering because they looked and smelled so good!

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One Pot Pasta: Turkey Alfredo Ziti

This One Pot Pasta Turkey Alfredo Ziti recipe is the ultimate Ragú® #NewTraDish mash up and is part of a sponsored post for Socialstars.

One pot pasta turkey alfredo ziti

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away? I love that Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. Much of the year is spent rushing from here to there. We need a holiday to remind us to slow down and be thankful. Thanksgiving is also a time to reconnect with family and friends. For my family, it is a relaxing day even though we have a large number of people and all of the little cousins are full of energy. But we all know the real star of the show on Thanksgiving is the foodoh the FOODfrom the moist turkey and the fluffy mashed potatoes to the gorgeous pies and desserts! Plus, there are always leftovers which are fabulous. With that in mind, I made this delicious One Pot Pasta Turkey Alfredo Ziti recipe for leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

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Blooming Sweet Potato & O Olive Oil Giveaway

Disclosure: I received an O Olive Oil Collection to facilitate this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Bloomin' Sweet Potato

We went to a restaurant recently that had delicious sweet potato fries. My friend ordered them as an appetizer and we were delighted to discover that the dip they served with the fries was sweet rather than savory. It was a combination of marshmallow cream and cinnamon that I had to try making at home. Instead of making sweet potato fries, I had to try a Blooming Sweet Potato.

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Eggnog Macarons Recipe

Eggnog Macarons

Last year, I completely missed out on making eggnog recipes during the holiday season. So, I’ve got a few different ones planned for this year, if I can squeeze them in. The first is eggnog macarons with eggnog buttercream frosting! I tried making French macarons for the first time last May. Then, I made a bunch of them for my sister-in-law’s wedding reception but haven’t made them since. Every time I made macarons, I get mixed resultssome of them turn out and some don’tbut that is fine with me. We still eat the ones that aren’t perfect and they still taste great!

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Blooming Apples On The Rachael Ray Show


 You guysI have some really exciting news to share with you today! My Bloomin’ Baked Apples were featured on the Rachael Ray Show today! Last week, I received an email from the Rachael Ray Show asking me to give them a call. To my surprise and delight, I found out that they noticed my blooming apple recipe online and wanted to have one of the chefs make it on the show. Of course I agreed and the show aired today!

I just had to share the news with all of you because I’m not sure if you are aware of this but…


are the reason my recipe was noticed and then featured on the show! All of you, the readers, fans and followers of The Gunny Sack took time to share my recipe with your family and friends via word-of-mouth, email and social media. I want you to know just how much of an impact your support has. You made my blog post go viral. As of right now, my Bloomin’ Baked Apple’s blog post has had

over 3.5 million pageviews

over 1 million “Likes” on Facebook

over 440,000 pins on Pinterest

and now a Rachael Ray Show feature

With a grateful heart, I want to saythank you!

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Meatball Pretzel Bites

Disclosure: This easy appetizer recipe for Meatball Pretzel Bites was created as part of a sponsored post for Casa Di Bertacchi.

Meatball Pretzel Bites Recipe

Soft pretzels are one of the snacks my kids love. When we are at the mall, they always ask if they can get pretzels. They must not be the only ones joining the pretzel craze, because pretzels seem to be everywhere lately. We’ve seen everything from pretzel buns to pretzel pizza crusts! A few years ago, I started making homemade soft pretzel nuggets and we all love them. Since then, I’ve found an even easier way to make homemade pretzel nuggets using refrigerated dough. By using refrigerated biscuits and fully cooked Casa Di Bertacchi beef meatballs you can easily make Meatball Pretzel Bites for a holiday party appetizer.

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Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad

Disclosure: I received Rachael Ray Cucina Stoneware pieces to facilitate this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad Recipe

One of my family’s favorite salads for holidays, family meals and even birthdays is Strawberry Pretzel Salad. This is a sweet salad so we often serve it with the desserts rather than the meal. Usually one of my sister’s make the pretzel salad so this was my first time. I decided to add pecans and brown sugar to the recipe and I love how it turned out!

Rachael Ray Stoneware

This is week tow of the Holiday Progressive Dinner and today’s sponsor is Rachael Ray Cucina Stoneware and I am in love with the pieces I received. They will definitely be showing up in future posts. I chose agave blue for most of the pieces. I got a 9 x 13 rectangular baker, a 1.5 quart round baker, 12 inch oval serving bowl, two 12 ounce oval au gratin in agave blue and one in mushroom brown,  two of the 4 piece dipping cup sets in assorted colors.

2014 Holiday Progressive Dinner Salad Recipes:

Busy-at-Home : Pear Pistachio and Pomegranate Salad with Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Adventures in All Things FoodHearty Holiday Chopped Salad

The Gunny Sack: Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad

Daily Dish Recipes: Holiday Avocado, Pomegranate and Spinach Salad

Flour on My Face: Fresh Fruit Pomegranate Salad

Will Cook for Smiles: Pomegranate Goat Cheese Salad


Rachael Ray Stoneware Baking

Crafted from sturdy stoneware and glazed with warm, earthy color, these Rachael Ray Cucina Stoneware pieces combine contemporary kitchen functionality with touches of relaxed, rustic character. I really like the brown brush strokes along the edges. These pieces are oven safe to varying degrees (check the packaging and website for specifics) and are also microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe for convenience. The sturdy, appealing pieces match great-looking Cucina dinnerware to bring coordinated style to the kitchen and home, and makes the perfect partner for serving bowls and platters and other baking dishes in Rachael’s Cucina collections.

Pretzel Salad Ingredients

To make the Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad, mix together chopped pretzels, chopped pecans, brown sugar and melted butter.

Sugared Pretzels and Pecans

Spread in a pan and bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes. All of the mixture to cool and then break it into small pieces.

Diced Strawberries

Dice two cups of strawberries and set them aside.

Cream Cheese Filling

Beat together softened cream cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla. Fold in whipped topping.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad Recipe

Before serving, stir the diced strawberries and sugared pretzels and pecans into the cream cheese mixture. Spoon into a serving dish.

Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad

Serve the Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad in the small dip cups or bowls. Everyone at your holiday dinner will love this recipe!

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Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • 1 cup pretzels, crushed
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups strawberries, diced
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz whipped topping
  1. Mix together crushed pretzels, chopped pecans, brown sugar and melted butter.
  2. Spread in a pan and bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and then break it into small pieces.
  3. Beat together softened cream cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla.
  4. Fold in whipped topping.
  5. Before serving, stir the diced strawberries and sugared pretzels and pecans into the cream cheese mixture.

Adapted from Copper Country Favorites Cookbook

You can order your own Rachael Ray Cucina Stoneware and many additional cookware pieces here:

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Slow Cooker Chocolate Turtle Bread Pudding

Chocolate Turtle Bread Pudding Recipe

You know how most kids spend their candy money on gum and candy bars? When I was a kid, I spent my candy money on those things as well, but unlike other kids, I also bought pink wintergreen lozenges, Sen-Sen black licorice mints, sponge candy and chocolate turtles. I would buy the boxes of chocolate turtles when they would go on sale during the holiday season. They are still one of my favorites and sometimes I buy them from chocolate shops. So with that in mind, I decided to make Slow Cooker Chocolate Turtle Bread Pudding. It is a warm, comforting dessert with chocolate, caramel and pecans. Of course, it tastes even better when topped with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream!

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Easy Banana Bread Recipe

Disclosure: I have been compensated for this sponsored post by MIRACLE WHIP, as part of the Mom It Forward Blogger Network

Easy Banana Bread

I’ve got a secret to share with youI don’t eat bananas! I love banana bread, banana nut scones, banana bars, and I put bananas in my smoothies, but I have no memory of ever eating a plain banana. My family loves bananas though, so when I buy them, I always buy extra so that I can use them in my smoothies and my baked treats. Today I am sharing an Easy Banana Bread recipe with a secret ingredient: MIRACLE WHIP!

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Glazed Holiday Ham Recipe and Farberware Giveaway

Disclosure: I received a Farberware Cookware set to facilitate this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Glazed Holiday Ham Recipe

My family’s favorite main dish for the holidays is ham. Last year, I shared a recipe for making ham in a slow cooker. That is still a great way to make ham, but this year I wanted to share a faster way to make a ham. This Glazed Holiday Ham is heated in a Dutch oven for about one hour. The recipe is adapted from a fantastic recipe that my sister-in-law uses to make glazed deli ham for sandwiches.

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Caramel Apple Truffles Recipe

I made these Caramel Apple Truffles as part of a sponsored post for Musselman’s Apple Butter.

Caramel Apple Truffle Recipe

 We had another gorgeous fall weekend here in Minnesota. On Saturday, the whole family raked leaves in our yard. In the evening we had an autumn get-together with friends. We visited, carved pumpkins and ate all sorts of delicious fall treats from popcorn balls and caramel apples to pumpkin pie and hot apple cider. Of course I wanted to bring something fun to share with everyone and decided to make Caramel Apple Truffles. Everyone raved about the truffles and there weren’t any left to bring home once the evening was over. What was my secret ingredient? Musselman’s Apple Butter!

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Breakfast Pizza with Hash Brown Crust

This post brought to you by Simply Potatoes. All opinions are 100% mine.

Hashbrown Breakfast Pizza

Growing up, one of our favorite things to have for dinner was breakfast! We loved anything from pancakes to waffles and French toast to fried eggs. French toast was my dad’s specialty and it is what he would make us on those rare occasions when my mom wasn’t home to make dinner. My husband and kids love breakfast anytime of the day. Our favorites include omelets, egg bakes, pancakes and breakfast sandwiches. And of course, everyone’s favorite side dish is breakfast potatoes! Potatoes are kid-friendly because they taste good. Mom’s love them because they are easy to prepare and it is a great way to sneak in some nutrition!

Last week, kids in Minnesota had Thursday and Friday off and they were all so excited. Vanessa went to stay with a friend on Friday night and Zack had a friend stay over here. On Saturday morning, I made this delicious breakfast pizza with a hash brown crust!

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Easy Queso Blanco Recipe – White Cheese Dip

Easy Queso Blanco Recipe

While we were on vacation in North Carolina last October, my sisters brought us to a local restaurant called Islands Fresh Mex Grill. Everything at the restaurant was delicious and we wished that we could’ve gone there more than once. There were 12 of us that the restaurant and we all agreed that our favorite item on the menu was the chips and queso!

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Bloomin’ Baked Potato Recipe

Bloomin Baked Potato

We had so much fun with the Bloomin’ Baked Apples I shared last month that my whole family decided that we needed to make some more bloomin‘ recipes. I’ve seen the fabulous bloomin‘ onion bread recipes online and one of these days I am going to try it but we wanted to go with something else. We tossed around ideas for other things that could be cut in a similar way and we decided on potatoes! Baked potatoes are good anyway, but then when you cut them, cover them with oil and salt and top them with cheese and bacon, you know they have to be delicious!

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Spicy Bacon Wrapped Sweet Peppers

This post brought to you by Texas Pete. All opinions are 100% mine.

Spicy Bacon Wrapped Sweet Peppers

Please tell me I am not the only one who loves appetizers. There are times when I order appetizers as my meal at restaurants. We recently went out to eat with a big group of friends and the mouthwatering appetizers completely outshined the main dishes! I like it when appetizers have a lot of flavor, some spice and of course, bacon is always a bonus. Today I want to share a recipe for Spicy Bacon Wrapped Sweet Peppers that is perfect for the entertaining. The sweet peppers add flavor and beautiful color to the dish. Inside is a creamy mixture of Texas Pete Hot Sauce, cream cheese and ranch dressing! Then, everything is wrapped in a piece of crunchy bacon. The combination is fantastic.

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Italian Cheese Steak Pizza Recipe

This Italian Cheese Steak Pizza recipe is the ultimate Ragú® #NewTraDish mash up that the whole family will love and is part of a sponsored post for Socialstars.

Italian cheese steak pizza #NewTraDish

It’s no secret that my family loves pizza and we love sharing pizza with others! We have pizza with friends almost every weekend. Now that fall has arrived, pizza is perfect for sharing when entertaining friends and family. Everyone loves warm, cheesy pizza fresh out of the oven. We enjoy the traditional pizzas, but we also make grilled pizza, calzones, pizza dip and pizza balls when our friends are over. We also love making pizza mash-ups like macaroni ‘n cheese pizza or chicken alfredo pizza. Today I am sharing a new mash-up recipe or NewTraDish using two classic Ragú® recipes to make Italian Cheese Steak Pizza: Chunky Gardenstyle Pizza and Italian Cheese Steak Sandwiches. Instead of putting the Italian cheese steak on hoagie buns, I followed the instructions for the Chunky Gardenstyle Pizza and put everything on a prebaked pizza crust!

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