Everyday Mom's Meals

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Zoo To You 2016

Yes, it's that time once again. When our family ventures out to one of our favorite summer time spots, The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, and then report back to all of you what's going on at one of the country's BEST zoos! 

We are always so excited to visit the zoo, see all of our favorite animals and check out everything new they have going on; and this summer there are definitely new and adventurous attractions to see. Plus this year, we were extra lucky because Maa Ma got to join us for our day of fun!

Now for us, part of exploring the zoo is seeing what new food/menu options they might have added since our last visit; and to best do that, we decided to ask Chef Matt, the zoo's executive chef some questions we had about what we saw. We were lucky enough to meet Chef Matt in person last year and wanted to follow up on a couple things, and had some new thoughts too.

1. Last year when we spoke, you mentioned you had some new ideas you were looking to develop for this season. Have you been able to implement any of those?

  I did work on some new ideas for this season unfortunately a lot of them were put on the back burner. This tends to happen a lot in our environment. We did work on other projects such as building more shelves and storage for product, revamping the line at Rays by pulling out the registers and adding a grab and go cooler, adding a second soft serve machine to Matilda’s, adding an Icee mix up station in Africa, and purchased some much needed equipment for all the stands. I did get a chance to play with Mt. Dew ice cream. It turned out great and we run it on occasion and on holiday weekends. Right now I am working on doing something fun for Zoo Brew.

 2. We noticed a family meal available at the Tree Tops Cafe and were wondering if there are any other family options we didn't see. 

 Unfortunately at this time Tree Tops is the only place we offer family meals. 
3. Have you ever considered having daily lunch specials (especially sat Ray's Grille)? 

We do run specials quite a bit. I have not made it a mandatory daily thing at this point, but I can tell you that Ray’s has ran Krab Rolls, Strawberry Short Cake, and Banana Pudding with Nilla wafer cups. In other locations we have done Chicken and Waffles, Specialty Pizzas, Pizza Fries, Pizza Pretzels, Deep Fried Cookie Dough, and Brownie Sundaes.

 4. What is your biggest meal seller? We realize popcorn and ice cream are crowd favorites, but besides those. 

Chicken Tenders Baskets, Burger Baskets, Pizza, then Ice Cream…… In that order.
5. Have you ever looked into offering Lemonade Shake Ups? We love them and know they are a hit at other places we enjoy during the warm months. Just a suggestion :) 

  Funny you asked this. This was one of the concepts that got put on the back burner, but yes I have the concept all drawn up and was looking at putting it in Africa. Bees are always a problem with a concept like this especially at a zoo. So for now it’s still just a concept, but it is still on my radar and something I’d like to do. 

If you don't know about all the new and exciting things going on at the zoo this summer, you have to check out the completely remodeled Australian Adventure. Part of this was finished last year when we were there, but not Sting Ray Bay is open, where you can actually pet a sting ray! Not to mention a gorgeous outdoor eating area perfect to grab some shade and rest. Plus, there are plenty of great photo opportunities as well.

Oh, and while you are there, you have to take a ride on the new Crocodile Adventure River Ride. If you've been before, it's the log ride we all loved as kids, but even better! So relaxing, but still exciting too! 

And of course no trip to "our" zoo is complete without seeing our favorite exhibits as well. For us, it doesn't get better than watching the Sea Lions play. Seriously, we could sit and watch these adorable friends all day long. They are definitely the boy's favorite!

The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo has been a family favorite since I was a little girl. If you live in our neck of the woods, and haven't planned your summer trip yet, you MUST! Or even if you live within a couple hours, it is definitely worth the drive. You won't regret it! To learn more, buy tickets or plan your visit, be sure to check them out online, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Follow along for all the zoo fun!

Disclaimer: I received free tickets in exchange for this feature. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summertime Picnics

Tis the season! No! Not that one. We've got another 6 months before that. I'm talking about outdoor eating season! All those occasions we find all summer long to enjoy our favorite summer time foods in the warm sun! From cookouts and barbecues, to one of our families favorites, picnics, this time of year we find ourselves eating outside more and more!

Does your family still enjoy a good old fashion picnic? If you haven't went on one in a while, I say seize the day! They are literally one of the summer time activities we look forward to the most! Plus, they can be a ton of fun on cheap! Pack up the trusty picnic basket (I have a couple!) with yummy food, find a local park and you've got yourself a days worth of fun.

Now when it's picnic time in our house, we all of our assigned jobs. Little E usually gets to have input into which of his favorite spots we are going to visit. Mr. E loads up the car and drives. And me? Well, I'm in charge of food of course! We have the standbys we like to have every time, but I also like to come up with new things to make each picnic a culinary adventure.

So when my new friends at Smithfield offered to send me some of their delicious boneless sliced hams to play around with, I knew it was time to take my every day ham salad recipe and kick it up a notch. A friend had recently shared with me her version, and I thought combining the two would be a perfect match.

You can serve this on bread, toast, rolls, or what I used, some buttery croissants. In fact, I love using those on picnics because I can pack them separately from the salad itself and easily assemble them on site. That way our sandwiches aren't mushy by the time we are ready to eat. If you love deviled eggs, this tasty twist will be right up your alley!

Summer was made for getting outside and enjoying every last sunny minute. And what makes it even more fun? When you can take some delicious food with you and only add to the enjoyment!

Deviled Ham Salad
2 c. finely chopped ham
2 ribs celery, diced
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2/3 c. mayo
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 TBS dried parsley, plus extra for garnish
Black Pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine ham, eggs and celery. In a medium bowl whisk together mayo, mustard, Cajun seasoning, pepper and parsley. Pour over ham mixture. Chill for at least an hour before serving. Serve on buns, toast, with croissants or crackers. 

Disclaimer: Smithfield provided me with some samples to use in recipes. The thoughts and opinions are all my own.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

On The Go Summer Snacking with Smithfield {A Feature}

We have less than a week of school left. I can't tell you who is more excited, me or the boy, but there is definitely excitement in our house. 

The only downside to having him home with me every single day (and believe me, it's a very small one) is I have to feed him! This kid wants three meals per day, plus snacks in between! And even though it is summer, so of course we treat ourselves now and again, as a mom I also want snacks I can feel good about giving him too. Plus, if they are ones he can enjoy on the go during our busy days, even better. This is where my friends at Smithfield come in.  

Their new line of Ready, Snack, Go! snack packs are exactly what we look for in a convenient, tasty and feed good snack all summer long. They come in 6 flavor varieties of Smithfield lunchmeat paired with fresh cheese. Plus, with a low MSRP of $1, they are budget friendly too! 

My son loves all the flavor combos and different options. He can grab one out of the fridge anytime instead of having to say "Mom, what can I have for a snack?" I love that I can throw some in a cooler for a trip to the splashpad or pool! 

Oh, and they can help with easy lunches and summer time picnic menus too, with Smithfield Anytime Favorites. The quarter boneless sliced ham comes pre-sliced, so it's super easy to use for sandwiches or easy weeknight meal prep. I'm thinking ham salad for our next summer time picnic! 

If summer time snacks and meals have you scratching your head, look no further than these delicious and easy new products from Smithfield for all of your sunny day, on the go, treat needs! 

Disclaimer: I received free samples in exchange for this feature. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

BEST Potatoes EVER

Yeah, so that's a pretty big claim, huh?! How can I be so bold? Well, it's because I can honestly say of all the roasted potatoes I've made over the years, and trust me, there have have been a lot, these are hands down the best tasting, most tender, perfectly what I was looking for version.

How did these magical potatoes come to pass? It's simple. The same way most new recipes are coming out of my kitchen these days. Baby cravings!!

For those keeping track, I am now 6 1/2 months pregnant, and yeah, pretty much hungry all the time. When my tongue sets it's sights on something I can't let it go. I obsess about it until the craving is satisfied. Just like with Alex, my cravings aren't really strange or made up of weird combos, they are just foods I love, and when I want them, I want them NOW.

Such was the case with this recipe. I was having Mr. E barbecue a roast on the grill, had our first batch of sweet corn of the summer, and wanted some tasty taters to go with it. I'm not joking when I say I planned this meal on a Wednesday, before my weekly grocery trip, and literally could not stop thinking about it until Sunday when it was finally time to execute.

These come out of the oven with just the right about of crispy outside, but tender, buttery inside. They have such a robust flavor, with only a few ingredients, making them super easy too. Serve them with whatever you've got coming off the grill, from steak to chicken!

I'm sure everyone has that one potato recipe they consider to be the best ever, and right now, for me these are it!

Garlic Roasted Potatoes
3 lbs. honey gold potatoes, or any small yellow potato, quartered
1/4 c. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Dried Parsley 

Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl whisk together oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Leave at room temp for about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Allow to marinate at room temp for 20 minutes. Transfer to a large baking sheet. Add extra salt and pepper.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring a couple times, until browned and fork tender. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Meatballs Made Easy with Aidells®

I was recently asked by  Aidells® to create a recipe and share their product using it.

As a busy mom, I know how hard it is to find the time to put good food on the table...fast. We all want to feel good about the meals we give our families, but none of us have the time to spend all day in the kitchen. So what's a lady to do? Well, this is when I look to the store for a little help; and this time that meant a trip to my local Meijer store and my new friends at Aidells®.

Aidells® packaged Sausage Links and Meatballs come in unique, bold flavors, have incredible taste, and are made from hand picked ingredients. These aren't your everyday meats! They are also gluten free, contain NO nitrates, and have NO added hormones. For home cooks like me who care about what they see on the ingredient label, that is like icing on the cake! 

I cant' wait to try the sausages too, but this time around I was focusing on meatballs, which come in three tasty varieties, so it's easy to find the one that compliments the dish you're making. 

Aidells®  Meatballs Terriyaki and Pineapple (12oz)

Aidells®  Meatballs Italian Style with Mozzarella (12oz) 

Aidells®  Meatballs Caramelized Onion (12oz)

For me, they were super easy to find at Meijer, next to the " butcher" counter, not too far from the other packaged meats. 

 Oh, and right now you can get a $1/1 coupon through mPerks to make these even more budget friendly! This promotion runs from 5/1-5/28, so make sure you get to Meijer quick! Plus, on 5/1 there will be live in-store demos as well!

So, now that I have your attention, and probably drooling, I know you are wondering what did I choose to make with these yummy meatballs. Well, I had a rustic, hearty, but still simple meal on the brain, so I decided to try the Italian Style with Mozzarella.

This dish will have your family convinced you were sweating over the stove all day, when in reality you can have it on the table in about an hour. You can even make the sauce the day ahead to save even more time! (See notes in recipe.) Plus, since the meatballs are fully cooked, once the sauce is ready, you simply have to warm them in it for about 10 minutes to have a finished marinara with meatballs ready to go! 

So, if you're looking for a way to get dinner on the table in an easy, time friendly, but still delicious way, that you can feel good about...be sure to download that mPerks offer, head to Meijer and bring some Aidells® meatballs home today! 

Gnocchi with Meatballs
 2 (1 lb.) packages potato gnocchi
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
2 (12 oz.) packages Aidells® Italian Style Meatballs
2 celery stalks, cut in half
2 carrots, peeled and cut in half
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 medium white onion, peeled, left whole
2 dry bay leaves
2 TBS butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dried Parsley
Parmesan cheese

In a large pot or dutch oven, combine tomatoes, onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add butter, stir well. Add meatballs and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring another large pot of water to boil. Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain well. Serve meatball sauce over gnocchi. Garnish with dried parsley. Serve Parmesan cheese on side. *NOTE* You can make the sauce a day ahead, cool and refrigerate. When ready, warm on stove top over low, add meatballs and follow remainder of recipe.


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