Everyday Mom's Meals: June 2016
_____

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cool Suppers for Hot Days


Oh summer, how I love thee. Even when the thermometer reads 90 before noon, the Indiana humidity is at 110%, and my 8 month pregnant body has sweat coming out of places I never knew existed. Yes, even with all of that, I am still summer's #1 fan. See, we have a saying in our family, "You don't have to shovel sunshine."

Did you catch that? 8 months pregnant. So many people are telling me "Wow this is flying by, but I'm sure it's not for you." Well, I have to be honest, IT IS! I can't believe our baby boy will be here in such a short amount of time. But, with so much left to do to get his nursery ready, he needs to keep baking a while longer!

Being pregnant in the summer isn't something many women would be okay with, but I am. Alex's birthday is in September, so apparently I'm just destined to enjoy the dog days of the season carrying a few extra pounds; and it's a blessing I am so thankful for.

But that doesn't mean I can't find my own ways to beat the heat. We are regulars at our local splash pads and pool. And I can always get inside with AC and put my feet up. Plus, when it comes to dinner time, I can make sure meals are light, cool and refreshing.

Such is the case with this terrific salad. Sure, it would be great at a picnic or at your July 4th cookout, but it also makes a tasty meal on a hot evening. I served it with some fresh fruit on the side and we were all satisfied without feeling stuffed.

These hot days are what I long for during those bitter cold winter months, so I for one will not complain. I will just find ways to make it a little easier on myself and this little bundle of joy of ours!

Shrimp Pasta Salad
1 lb. medium shell pasta
1 (12 oz.) bag frozen cooked shrimp, deveined, shell off, tail on, thawed
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1/4 c. mayo
1/4 c. zesty Italian dressing
2 tsp. Chesapeake Bay Style seasoning, plus extra for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, remove tails from shrimp and cut each shrimp in half. In a large bowl combine shrimp, pepper, and celery. In a small bowl whisk together mayo, dressing and seasoning. When pasta is cooked, drain, rinse with cold water and drain well. Add to shrimp mixture. Pour dressing over. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Chill 2 hours. Before serving, sprinkle with extra seasoning. *NOTE* You might ask why buy tail on shrimp if you're going to take them off? I find with frozen shrimp, they keep their shape better if they are frozen with the tails on, and then removed later.



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.