Archives for October 2012

Save Time in the Kitchen with the Ninja Cooking System {Giveaway}

Being home for the last 4 months full time with the kids has given me a chance to explore (and even improve) my cooking skills.  But preparing new and exciting meals for my picky eaters definitely has a learning curve.  I am enjoying the process, but I am spending way too much time in the kitchen from prepping to cooking to cleaning…there has to be a better way.

When I first heard of the Ninja Cooking System, I thought it was just another fancy crock pot.  And while I do love my crock pot meals, I do not need another appliance taking up space in my already small kitchen.  But, I stand corrected.  The Ninja Cooking System is so much more than a traditional crock pot and even has my husband amazed!  Here are a few things the Ninja can do:

  •   Steam-Infused Roasting and Baking – Cooks meat evenly and cuts the cooking time by up to 30 percent, keeping more natural juices in the meat while taking the bad fat out.  Baked goods are more moist too, and can be prepared with up to 50 percent less fat! Score!
  • Fast One-Pot Meal Making – With Triple Fusion Heat, complete meals can be made in just one single pot. Layer meals by cooking dry pasta, veggies and meats all at the same time in the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System. Cuts down on clean up time, too!
  • SEAR-ious Slow Cooking – The Ninja Cooking System has both stovetop settings and slow cook settings which allows the home cook to use the same pot to sear and brown meats and vegetables to add more flavor to the meal. The stovetop can be used after slow cooking to deglaze sauces, and to add delicate vegetables for a perfect texture. The slow-cooker is programmable; allowing you to set the cooking time, which will automatically keep warm once cooking is complete.

The system comes with a very nice book of delicious recipes to try.  I decided to try the Chili with Cornbread Crust which can be made completely in the Ninja.

What You Need:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 large onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

28 oz diced tomatoes, undrained

15 oz kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 package cornbread muffin mix

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup milk

How to Make It:

1.  Pour oil in to the Ninja pot.  Set to Stovetop High and heat oil.  Add beef, onion and bell pepper.  Brown meat and spoon off fat.  Add chili powder and cinnamon and and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2.  Stir in tomatoes, beans, and paste directly into pot and set to Slow Cook High for 4-5 hours.  Cover and Cook.

3.  Combine muffin mix, egg and milk in a bowl and pour directly on top of chili.  Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes.

The chili was amazing (even the kids ate it) and perfect for a cool Fall day.  All of my cooking was done in one single appliance and there was no need to even turn on my stove or oven.  The recipe was very easy to follow and I am no checking out what to make as my next dish.

The Ninja Cooking System, which retails for $159, definitely helped me save time and serve up an easy, healthier meal all from one convenient countertop pot.  Amazed?  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself and win a Ninja Cooking System below!

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 This post is the opinion of Experimental Mommy.  While a product was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

 

Join me at Signature Chefs Auction for March of Dimes in New Orleans

I think the last time my hubby and I got dressed up for a night on the town was for….uh….well….our wedding?  We are long overdue for a date and when the night is for a good cause, it makes it even better!  We are so happy to be attending the Signature Chefs Auction to benefit the March of Dimes.

Because more than half a million babies are born too soon each year (193 of these babies are born each week in Louisiana), proceeds from the auction will benefit the March of Dimes campaign to reduce the rate of premature births, birth defects, and other serious threats to babies’ health.  While raising money for a great charity, you have the opportunity to dine on some of the very best food from New Orleans Executive Chefs.  This year, the Chefs will be Alex Harrell – Sylvain, Chad Penedo – Court of Two Sisters, Chef Norman Love – Norman Love Confections, Michael Sichel – Galatoire’s, Chef Tenney Flynn – GW Fins, Mike Gowland – Manning’s, Steve Reynolds – Reynolds Family Winery, Rene Bajeux – Rene Bistrot, Clay Mauritson – Mauritson Winery, Chef Alison & Slade Rushing – Mila, Chef Mark Quitney – Five Fifty Five, Vincent Catalanotto – Vincent’s, Chef Vinny Russo – M Bistro, Chef Chuck Subra – JW Marriott, Chef Frank Brightsen – Brightsens, Chef Michael Doyle – Maurepas Foods, and Justin Kennedy – Parkway.

My mouth is watering already.  Ready to join me?  The event will be held on Friday, November 2nd at 6:30 pm at the New Orleans Marriott.  Tickets are available at $250 per person and tables of 10 are available for $2,500. Hope to see you there!

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While tickets were received to facilitate this post, all opinions remain 100% mine.

 

Fire Safety Month with Fireman Chris and Home Depot

Did you know that October is Fire Safety Month?  What steps are you taking to make sure you and your family are safe?  Are you doing everything you can to prevent the unthinkable?  Thanks to Home Depot, we had a local fireman (and family friend) come to our home to take the kids through our home and help us create a fire safety protocol.

While we have known Fireman Chris for a long time, the kids are always in awe when they see him in uniform.  After a brief introduction and testing the kids’ current safety knowledge, Chris gave us several tips to make sure our home is properly protected from fires.

1.  Smoke detectors should be located inside every bedroom and on every level of your home.  Batteries should be changed twice a year which can be obtained from your local firehouse. Did you know that 62 percent of reported home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with either no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms according to a 2011 report from The National Fire Protection Association?  Fortunately, Fireman Chris gave us the smoke detector seal of approval!

2.  When possible, cooking should be done on your back burners and away from little hands.  At the very least, pot handles should be pointed to the back to avoid accidents.

3.  Children should always sleep in a room with a closed door.  If a smoke detector sounds, the child should crawl to the door and feel the door with the back of their hand.  If the door is cool, it is safe to escape.

4.  If the child is trapped in their room in the event of a fire, it is imperative that they do not hide under the bed, in a closet or under covers.  The should lay face down in the middle of their room with arms and legs spread wide and scream loudly.  This will help a fireman find them quickly and pull them to safety.

5.  Every home should have a working fire extinguisher which should be inspected regularly for proper pressure.  Use PASS when operating the extinguisher: Pull, Aim, Shoot, Spray.

6.  Designate a spot for your family to meet in case an evacuation is needed.  This should be away from the house at a tree or mailbox.  Stress to your children that once they are out of the house, they should not return for a pet or any sentimental items.

After a tour of our home, Chris dressed in all of his gear to show the kids what he would look like if he came to rescue them in the face of a fire.  He explained that they should not be afraid of a fireman even though they may look scary in all their gear.  They are the good guys and will bring them to safety!  The kids even got to try on the gear for themselves.

Chris’ visit was an informative one!  The kids enjoyed it and my husband and I learned a lot about fire safety, too.  If you are looking to get more information, The Home Depot, in partnership with NFPA and Kidde, is helping raise awareness of fire safety throughout October by offering in-store fire safety workshops for kids and adults. Find a workshop at a The Home Depot store near you or check out fire safety tips on the Home Depot website.

The Home Depot partnered with bloggers such as me to help promote Fire Safety Awareness Month. As part of this promotion, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about the products used. The Home Depot believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. The Home Depot’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

National Fair Trade Month and Keurig Brewer Giveaway

Did you know that October is National Fair Trade Month?  If you are not aware of what Fair Trade means, you are not alone.  I am still learning, too!  Basically, Fair Trade practices ensure that coffee farmers get a fair price for their beans allowing them to grow their businesses and invest in their futures.

For more than a decade, Green Mountain Coffee has been a leader in the fair trade movement not only bringing you a great cup of coffee but improving the lives of the farmers that supply the product.  In celebration of Fair Trade Month, Green Mountain Coffee in partnership with two musicians, Grace Potter and Michael Franti, began the “Great Coffee, Good Vibes, Pass It On” campaign.  They traveled to Sumatra and Columbia to see first hand the effects of fair trade practices.  Through a series of free concerts, the initiative celebrates the good vibes of fair trade and even an opportunity to win a trip to Costa Rica.

With the arrival of Fall, I am happy to announce that I am giving away a new, bright orange Keurig® Mini Plus Brewing System and a box of Fair Trade Certified™ Pumpkin Spice!  Plus, if you would like to try the fair trade products, use the code GMCFTC8155 to receive 10% off your order (expires November 5). Enter below!

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Three Tips For Making Personalized Fall Invitations

Making your own holiday cards is a fun way to make invitations and presents for children. They can be given as gifts to your children as well as teachers, friends and other important people in your life. You can get materials from department stores and craft stores to create beautiful works of art that will be treasured for years. Here are three tips for making personalized invitations and cards for fall.

DIY Ideas

You can make numerous designs for your cards during the fall season. They can be pop-up cards, simple cards with one side, a bi-fold or tri-fold card. You may want to start by choosing a theme. Pumpkins, candy and bats are great for Halloween cards and invites. Leaves, food and warm colors are suitable for Thanksgiving. You can use cut-out shapes to decorate the cards too.

Materials & Where To Buy Them

Thick paper in a variety of styles will be necessary. Look for different colors, prints, textures and finishes. These will give your crafts a unique dimension. Buttons, glitter, ribbons, flocking powder and stencils can further improve your creations. These can be found at department stores and craft stores. To add a more personal touch try including something like invitationbox.com personalized stamps to complete your invitations.

Paper packs and materials can vary in price. When you consider the cost of pre-made cards, you will quickly learn that the handmade ones are more cost efficient. They are special and personalized for each individual, and that makes them so much nicer to receive.

Putting The Cards Together

If you are making multiple cards in the same style, cut out all of the things you need in equal amounts. Make each card in layers. Make a production line that keeps things going smoothly. This saves you time, and it ensures that each card is consistent with the last.

If you are not making multiple cards in the same style, then tailor each card to the individual it is going to. This is a sweet and personalized way to invite someone to a party, event or just to tell them you are thinking of them. These kinds of cards are more often appreciated than pre-made cards.

Making personalized invitations for fall is an exciting experience for parents to give loved ones something thoughtful. They are versatile, fun to make and they are affordable. The possibilities are endless with just a little creativity and a few materials at your disposal.

This post is brought to you by guest author, Jenna Smith.

Top 10 Kid Friendly Activities in New Orleans

When you think of the best family friendly vacation locales, what comes to mind?  Disney World?  Cedar Point?  Great Wolf Lodge?  Sea World?  What if I told you that New Orleans is a fabulous place to take your kids on vacation?  Believe it or not, New Orleans has so much more to offer than the adult fun of Bourbon Street.  As a native New Orleanian raising kids in the Big Easy, I have a few suggestions for traveling to New Orleans with children that will rock your vacation.

1.  Audubon Aquarium of the Americas: Located right on the Mississippi River and adjacent to the French Quarter, the Aquarium is convenient by foot or even streetcar.  We love observing the sea otters, penguins, sharks, jellyfish and seahorses but our absolute favorite new addition is the Parakeet Pointe where you get up close and personal with more than 800 square feet of interactive space.  You can even feed the birds!

2.  Audubon Zoo: Ranked among one of the best Zoos for innovation and entertainment, the Audubon Zoo is one of our go-to activities!  The elephants, gorillas and sea lions are always family favorites and the food is amazing in the Louisiana Swamp exhibit.  A recent addition, the Cool Zoo, is perfect when traveling to New Orleans with children during the hot summer months.

3.  Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium:  If you have a little one that is fascinated by bugs, this is the place for you!  This is a highly interactive and educational activity which includes a 4D movie, gorgeous butterfly garden and even the opportunity to dine on some food cooked with bugs!

4.  Louisiana’s Children’s Museum:  The museum offers more than 30,000 square feet of interactive play that is sure to entertain.  On top of supporting reading and math skills, your child will learn all about Louisiana culture through the programs and interactive exhibits.  My girls love “makin’ groceries” in the pretend grocery store!

5.  Cafe du Monde:  Beignets and chocolate mik.  Enough said.  Parents, try the cafe au lait, too!  Open 24 hours and 364 days a year (closed on Christmas Day).

6.  Storyland in City Park: This playground featuring 26 storybook vignettes is set in the beautiful City Park of New Orleans.

7.  Carousel Gardens Amusement Park: Located next to Storyland, this is the perfect place to get your play on!  From the historic carousel to the ferris wheel and the train ride to the bumper cars, there is something for everyone in this amusement park.

8.  Horse and Carriage Rides:  If you head to Jackson Square, you will find the mule-drawn carriages which is a great way to see the City without all the walking!

9.  Steamboat Natchez: Take a ride down the Mississippi River while listening to a jazz band and fun facts about the city.  The kids love touring the boat and seeing how a real steamboat works from the inside out!

10.  Mardi Gras World:  Believe it or not, Mardi Gras is a wonderful family friendly activity.  But if you are not in town for the festivities, I highly recommend heading to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World to see what it’s all about.

Traveling to New Orleans with children can be a fun, relaxing, entertaining and educational experience.  I love raising my kids here surrounding by our rich heritage and culture.  I hope you enjoy my City and laissez les bon temps rouler!

 

What If Santa Shopped Online?

When I was a kid, I remember the JC Penney Toy Catalog coming in the mail in the weeks before Christmas.  My brother and I feverishly started circling everything our little hearts wished Santa would bring us that year.  Of course, we had no concept of money or that Santa did not have an unlimited budget.  Now that I have children of my own, some things never change.  While my oldest is pretty savvy online, she has taken to creating wish lists on her favorite websites and plans to print them to mail to Santa (we are still unclear if Santa has access to the Internet). But she, too, has no idea that Santa’s pockets are not very deep…especially this year.

Before “Santa” shops this year, I hear that he will be using current coupon codes online in order to stretch his dollar.  Shopping online can definitely save time and and even save your sanity from skipping long lines and parking lot wars.  I have recently found some great deals on Zulily for my girls (if you are not a member, what are you waiting for?) and I plan to advise “Santa” to shop with Coupons for Zulily early to get the best deals.  Sometimes shipping from Zulily can take longer than expected so it’s best to get started now!

My oldest daughter is also into fashion this year.  Gone are the days of princess play sets and pretend kitchens.  While I am sad that she is growing up, I am excited for each new stage of my daughter’s life and it is fun to watch her grow and experience life.  On her wish list this year is clothes…..and lots of them!  Fortunately, I was able to get Promo Codes for Aeropostale, one of her favorite stores!

Santa plans on rising to the occasion this year with the help of coupon codes for online shopping.  What are your shopping tips and tricks this year?

This post is the opinion of Experimental Mommy and it brought to you by CouponCodes4u.com.

Protecting my Samsung Galaxy S3 #VZWA

In the past few weeks, my Verizon Samsung Galaxy s3 and I have become close…some would say attached at the hip…or palm.  I am even comfortable saying that I am falling in love.  So, I want to do everything I can to protect her…uh, I mean, it.  Here are a few ways you can protect your new Samsung Galaxy S3:

 

There are several methods of security built in to the Samsung Galaxy s3.  Simply tap on Apps, Settings, Security and finally Screen Lock.  A display with all of your security options and brief descriptions will appear.  The swipe option just requires a finger flick across the screen and provides no security.  Anyone can access your phone.

1.  The Motion Option: By activating this option, you can unlock your screen simply by tilting your phone.  This offers no security as anyone that picks up your phone will be able to unlock it.

2.  The Face and Voice Unlock:  The Galaxy S3 can be set to recognize your face and a 3-5 syllable spoken word.  Because the recognition is not completely accurate and someone else may look similar, this option is considered low security.

3.  The Pattern Option:  The Galaxy will provide you with a dot grid and you basically play connect the dots to create your own 4 dot pattern.  Depending on the pattern you create, this option can be medium to high security.

4.  The PIN Option:  As there are tons of possible 4 digit PINs that can be created (I’m too tired to actually do the math), this is the most secure security pattern.  It is recommended that you not use numbers that are significant to you such as your birthday or your anniversary as others close to you may be able to figure out your PIN.

I love all of the security options available on the Galaxy S3.  I am currently using the pattern option.  My kids like to pick up my phone and start playing games, but because I do not have parental controls set on the Internet, I do not want them to be able to access it without my knowledge.  Securing my phone with a pattern only I know gives me a peace of mind that my kids are not playing unsupervised on my phone.

How do you secure your phone?

I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Ambassador program and have been provided with a wireless device and three months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

I Took the Finish Quantum Sticky Dish Challenge

Over the last few months, I have been working hard to get more comfortable in the kitchen.  And I am pleased to announce that I have cooked and baked quite a few tasty recipes for family and friends.  If you know me at all, you know that this is a big accomplishment.  While I am actually enjoying cooking (gasp), I will tell you that I absolutely hate washing the dishes.  I hate it so much that I purposely look for recipes that will be easy to clean up when I am finished.

Fortunately, I just learned about Finish® Quantum® Dishwashing Detergent.  With a 3-chamber technology, Finish Quantum releases agents that break down food residues so well that there is no need to pre-rinse.  Any technology that saves me from washing dishes by hand is good in my book.  So, how does it work exactly?

  • Finish® Quantum® releases each agent when needed during the cycle
  • Rinsing Gel Powerball® – Works to wash away residues for sparkling clean glasses and dishes
  • Scrubbing Microbeads – To break down even the toughest food residues so they can be washed away
  • PowermaxTM Bleach – To attack tough stains like tea and coffee

That sounds fantastic, right?  But does it really work?  As part of the #FinishRevolution, I was asked to take the Sticky Dish Challenge.  To complete the challenge, I needed to create a sticky recipe (something that would normally be difficult to clean), refrain from the pre-rinse, place dishes directly into the dishwasher and let them sit overnight.  In the morning, use one Finish Quantam tablet and report the results.

I decided to try a recipe I recently found on Pinterest called French Toast Casserole.  What’s stickier that syrup, brown sugar and bread baked in the oven?  I knew this would create a baked on residue that would be difficult to remove.  Before beginning the process, I headed to Williams-Sonoma to select the perfect dish for my project and found a lovely red 9×13 stoneware dish.  To see the French Toast Casserole recipe, check out my recent post.

As you can see, the recipe did indeed leave quite the mess.  I did not think that without pre-rinsing and using a little elbow grease, that the Finish Quantum would be able to remove the stuck on residue.  I placed the dish on the bottom rack of my dishwasher and let the tablet go to work!  To my surprise, the dish came out completely clean.  No kidding.

Do you want to take the sticky dish challenge?  Get a free sample of Finish Quantum to try in your home by simply filling out this form.  If you want more information, check out Finish’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel.

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample and gift card were received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

Decorating for Fall with ProFlowers

With the arrival of the latest cold front here in New Orleans, we are getting a glimpse of Fall weather.  Because temperatures are still reaching the mid-80’s, it is hardly appropriate to break out the jackets and scarves.  In order to make it feel more like Fall, I am decorating my house to ring in the new season (even if we are still in tank tops and flip flops).

One way I love to decorate my home for the season is through scents.  I absolutely love my Scentsy Flameless Candle Warmer and use seasonal scents to conjure up images of Fall.  The scent I am using now is Pumpkin Spice and I am in love. Baking is another great way to welcome the new season. I have found tons of pumpkin recipes on Pinterest and have enjoyed testing them out in my kitchen.

Finally, decorating your home with flowers is really makes a beautiful statement and can create a lovely visual affect (even if it is 85 degrees outside).  ProFlowers offers a ton of great seasonal floral arrangements for Fall!  My favorite colors are pinks, corals and yellows, so Fall colors make me smile.  After looking at the options, I decided to go with the Deluxe Cinnamon Cider Rose Arrangement.  For $49.98, you get 10 terracotta roses, 5 red alstromeria, 5 yellow Viking micro poms, 3 ruscus and 3 leather leaf.  For an additional $9.99, I selected a beautiful green trumpet vase to display my flowers.

My flowers arrived on the selected delivery date and are shipped in a box.  They were carefully packed and arrived undamaged.  After unwrapping and trimming the stems, I arranged the gorgeous flowers in my vase, added water and the included flower food and proudly displayed the bouquet on my table.  For the next 3 days, the flowers bloomed and smelled incredible truly bringing Fall inside my home.

Treat yourself to some flowers and turn your home into a Fall Festival!  You can find plenty of coupon codes for ProFlowers.com making these bouquets quite the bargain.  Happy Fall Y’all!

This post is the opinion of Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.