Everyday Mom's Meals

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Our "Zooper" Day at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

It's that time of year again! When we head over to one of our favorite summer time locations, and it's only 15 minutes from our house! How lucky are we?! 

The Fort Wayne's Children Zoo has been bringing all of us a little closer to the wild and some of our favorite animals for over 50 years! This is a place I loved as a kid, and now I can share it with my boys.

Oh, and this year's visit? It was extra special because it was Max's 1st trip! Big Brudder was SO excited to share all of his favorites with his little buddy, and for even more fun, we brought Maa Ma 
 along for the adventure!

One of the first things you see when you enter through the gates is a huge schedule of things you can see at the zoo that day, so you can plan your day even better. 

And those "chats" be sure to watch for those signs too. Alex was super stoked to learn more about otters. The zoo keeper answered a ton of questions from the crowd, making it a nice was to interact with the animals in our own way. 

Of course we have our favorites we have to see every time. The sea lions being at the top of that list. No kidding, we could spend the whole day watching them! Stop by at 11:30 and 3:00 to see them feed and do some amazing tricks.

Ever touch a stingray? Well, now you can! The Australian Adventure has been totally revamped over the past few years, and it is gorgeous! Max totally made himself at home!

Alex and Maa Ma with the stingrays.

I love the photo props in Australia

 After you've seen the kangaroos, the Great Reef and everything else Australia has to offer, take a break with a relaxing river boat ride through the outback! Watch out for the crocs though! 

After you've been "down under", pop over to the African Journey for a mini safari!  It will include the zoo's brand new lion, Bahati! Oh, he is gorgeous, and quite the poser for pics! 

Since Alex was a little boy, he has always looked forward to the African portion. Why? Because you can feed a giraffe!!! Yes yes yes! It is one of the coolest things you'll ever do!

And if you need to sit down, and get something to eat, there are plenty of places for that too. The Tree Tops Cafe in Indonesia has lots of kid friendly choices, and you can take a spin on the carousel while you are there too! My boys thought their giant pretzel was pretty tasty! 

 If you prefer to pack a picnic instead, the park area outside the gate is perfect for that too. Just get your hand stamped before you leave, and you can get back in when you're done. 

Have a baby in a stroller? The zoo is totally equipped for that. Most places can fit them perfectly, and if they need to be parked, they have designated places for that too. But see, even the little ones can get up close and personal. Max was totally entertained with the 3 year old orangutan! 

If you haven't planned a trip to the zoo in a while, it really is a MUST before the end of summer. Plus, they are now open until 8pm (Last admission at 7) through Labor Day, making it a great way to relax after work too! For more info and to keep up with everything they have going on,  you can visit them online,  and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Boy and His Cheese

My son has a real love affair going on; and even at the age of 12 1/2, I'm okay with it. Why? Because it's with cheese!  It started at a very young age, and it has only grown deeper and more real with every passing year.

Just how far will he go for the cheese? Well, every week he accompanies me to the grocery store so that 1. He can spend time with me and 2. He can see if there are any free cheese samples. True story. 

Lately, he has also been watching a lot of Food Network shows on demand. Actually we watch them together when I'm feeding baby Max a bottle. He has always watched cooking shows with me, but now he is actually taking notes of recipes he wants to try. And that is how we stumbled up on this cheesy dream.

He was watching a recent episode of Pioneer Woman  and this was one of the dishes featured in the episode. Right away he declared "Mom, we need to make this!" Well, how could I argue with that? 

If your kids are mac n cheese lovers like him, they are going to flip for this! It's SO much better than any box! Plus, if they are little sous chefs, they can do a lot of this with you! He did! 

It is no wonder the boy loves his cheese so much, after all, it's a family trait! 

Easy Shells n Cheese
2 lb. small shell pasta
1 lb. Velveeta, cubed
4 c. finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 c. milk
2 TBS butter
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain well. As the pasta cooks, in a large pot or dutch oven, heat milk and butter over medium low heat. When up to temperature, turn heat to low, stir in Velveeta until completely melted and smooth. (This will take a little time, just be patient.) Stir in shredded cheese until melted. Turn heat up to medium. Season with Salt and Pepper. After pasta is drained, add to sauce and mix to combine. 

Recipe From Pioneer Woman

Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer Break

That's right. We waited 9 long months, but summer vacation is finally here. Yes, I'm one of those moms who count the days, just as much as the child does. I can't help it. I LOVE having my boy home with me all day, every day. And now that it is actually boys, I'm even more excited!

We have lots of fun things planned over the next few months, and they will all be even more special since it is Max's first summer. One of the things Alex has been planning on is getting into the kitchen and cooking even more than he usually does. He actually has a couple cookbooks of his very own, and he has been picking out the recipes he wants to try for a few months now. 

This was the first one we decided to make. A homemade sauce that we can have on a hot day without heating up the house? Sign us up!

This is technically a spaghetti sauce, but we had 2 boxes of ziti in the cupboard, so that's what we served it over. Absolutely delicious! 

If your kids are home and you've already run out of things to do with them, try cooking with them! You would be surprised just how much they will love getting involved in making what they eat, and you will love the memories you make!

Slow Cooker Meat Sauce
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 dried bay leave 
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown beef with onion. Drain if necessary. Add to slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, sugar, and seasonings. Stir well. Cook on LOW for 6 hours. Turn off heat and let sit covered for 1 hour before serving. Serve with your favorite pasta.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Seriously, It Is May

Here in Indiana we are used to the fact that Mother Nature doesn't always pay attention to the calendar. Back in February it was 80 degrees, and now that it is May, we are having days with highs in the 40's. Add in rain and wind, and it has been pretty miserable. Luckily the sun has returned and temps are feeling more spring like, but last week when we were freezing, this is what was on my dinner table.

We love ham and beans, and I have a terrific recipe for a simple slow cooker version I've been making for years. But this time around I wanted something new. I wanted something a little different. And boy did I get it!

This doesn't taste anything like that traditional ham n beans. Honestly I had never had pinto beans before, but had heard they are a staple down in Texas, and if you want the best, that is where you go. So I was glad when I found this recipe that was supposedly done in that same way.

Now I served these up as a main dish, with some cornbread on the side, but I think they would make a fantastic side dish to any barbecue this summer. Got some burgers, steak or ribs on the grill? A big pot of these would taste so great with any of them!

I will be happy when the weather finally decides to stay warm, sunny and spring like. But I'm a Hoosier, I know there are still some rainy, chilly days in my future...so at least I have some delicious food to ease my woes!

Crock Pot Pinto Beans n Ham
1 (16 oz.) bag Hurst pinto beans 
1 lb. diced ham
1 white onion, quartered
6 c. chicken broth
2 c. water
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. pepper 
Diced White Onion for garnish

Set seasoning packet of beans aside. Combine beans, broth and water in Crock Pot. Stir well. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Remove onion. Add seasoning packet, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. Stir. Cook on HIGH another 2-4 hours until beans are tender. Scoop out about 2 cups of beans with broth into a medium bowl. Mash beans into a thick paste. (I like a potato masher for this) Return back to Crock Pot and stir. Cook 30 minutes on LOW until thickened. Remove lid and allow to sit for 1 hour uncovered before serving. Serve with onion if desired.

Recipe Inspired by South Your Mouth

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hurry Up Picnic Weather

Summer time picnics are one of life's most simple pleasures, and something our family has been enjoying for a few generations now. They are part of some of my best memories as a kid, both with my grandparents, and with my mom and dad; and now I've carried on the tradition with Alex.

This year we are looking forward to introducing Max to the tradition, and we can't wait! Sure he won't be able to enjoy most of what is packed in the picnic basket, (And yes, for those wondering, I own an actual picnic basket!) but that's okay. It is more about the experience than the food. Well, kind of. The food is super important too.

We have our favorites. The stuff the boys always want me to pack, but I try to keep it fresh and new too. After all, we go on so many picnics every summer, I don't want it to become boring!

Pasta salads are a must, so it's a good thing I have a thousand versions, or so it seems. This is our first new one of the season, and it's a doozy! Super simple, but packed with flavor. If you can boil pasta and chop veggies, you can whip this up. It makes a great light supper on a warm night too. Just add some fresh fruit and crusty bread on the side. Or, make a batch on the weekend, and you have lunch for the week.

I can't wait until the sporadic warm days are more consistent, the rainy spring days subside, and we are loading up the SUV with coolers, that trusty picnic basket and head off to make more family memories!

Greek Pasta Salad
2 (12 oz.) boxes bowtie pasta
1 seedless cucumber, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 (6 oz.) jar kalamata olives, halved 
1 (4 oz.) container feta cheese, reserve a little for top
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 c. Greek Salad Dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain well. In a large bowl combine pasta and rest of ingredients. Stir well to combine. Chill a few hours before serving. Garnish with extra cheese.