Brew a Better Stay at the Hilton Garden Inn

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy.  While our hotel stay was complimentary, all opinions remain 100% mine.

I am a proud Mom to a beautiful, talented and inspiring dancer.  Yes, I am a dance Mom.  No, it is nothing like the television show.  We are blessed to be a part of a studio that not only gives my daughter a fantastic dance education, but surrounds her with love and encouragement, too.

Because she is part of the studio’s competitive team, we take to the road and travel to many competitions to watch our beautiful dancer and cheer her on.  On a recent trip, we chose to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in Pensacola, FL and I am so glad we did!

The hotel is very easy to access from the Interstate and we just loved the section of town in which it is located.  From the moment we pulled up, we felt “at home.”  The property was well maintained, clean and welcoming.  The lobby was nicely decorated to look like a living room in a cozy home and a full service restaurant was just to the right.

Before heading to the theater for a long day of dancing, we checked into our room (which was ready when we arrived).  The two queen room was clean and comfy but my eyes were drawn immediately to the shiny Keurig beckoning me to make some coffee.

Hilton Garden Inn and Green Mountain Coffee (the makers of Keurig) recently partnered to “brew a better stay.”  Now, more than 73,000 Hilton Garden Inn guest rooms in North America now sport Keurig K130 brewing systems plus each room is supplied with four complimentary K-Cup packs.  Our room had two Diedrichs Regular Coffee, one Diedrichs Decaffeinated Coffee, and one Bigelow Black Tea K-Cup packs but if you are craving other varieties head to the 24-hour Pavillion Pantry in the lobby where additional K-Cup packs are available for purchase.

It was so nice to be able to enjoy a cup of hot tea after arriving back at the hotel following the dance competition.  And it was a great way to save time the next morning rather than find a local coffee house and stand in long lines before hitting the road.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Hilton Garden Inn!  My husband and I often joke about taking our Keurig brewing system on road trips and now we don’t have to.  What a great amenity!

 

Learn How to Make #SweetSwaps with Splenda

This post is part of the SPLENDA® 365 SWEET SWAPS ™ blogger program by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC. and The Motherhood, who sent me products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are my own, and I hope you enjoy them.

If you know me at all, you know that I love sweet tea.  No really, I LOVE IT.  With all my heart.  However, with 40 right around the corner, my waistline and slowing metabolism doesn’t love it so much.  As much as I hate to admit it, I may have to break up with my sweet tea.

Here in New Orleans, Mardi Gras aka “Fat Tuesday” is just 48 hours away.  Following our day of festivity, Lent begins for Catholics.  Right here, right now, I am declaring for all the World to see……

…..I am giving up sweet tea for Lent.

Brace yourselves, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Fortunately, I have SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener on my side.  I will be swapping out the sugar for Splenda in my tea to cut back on my sugar intake.  Did you know that experts recommend women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day, yet the average American eats 22 teaspoons daily?  I have to get control.

The SPLENDA® Brand is dishing out 365 ways to swap sugar for SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. And you can learn more tips and tricks at the #SweetSwap Twitter Party.

    • When: Tuesday, March 4 at noon ET/11 a.m. CT/9 a.m. PT
    • Twtvite:http://twtvite.com/sweetswaps
    • Hashtag: #SweetSwaps
    • Prizes: Prizes will be randomly awarded to five participants who answer the trivia questions correctly. Each prize includes a $50 Visa Gift Card and an assortment of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products! Prizes limited to U.S. participants only.
    • Hosts: @TheMotherhood, @TheMotherhood25, @CooperMunroe and @EmilyMcKhann

Come share you own secrets of success!  How do you lower your sugar intake?  Where do you use Splenda?

When Oranges Attack Minute Maid Pure Squeeze {Giveaway}

Promotional consideration for this content was provided by The Coca-Cola Company; however, Experimental Mommy is fully responsible for this giveaway. All opinions expressed in this content are my own and not those of The Coca-Cola Company.

Both of my daughters love a cold glass of orange juice in the morning before school. I love it, but apparently the oranges?  Not so much.

Minute Maid is unveiling “When Oranges Attack!” a new interactive game encouraging users to prevent America’s favorite family man from drinking Minute Maid Pure Squeezed orange juice, with the help of Orange’s angry friends. But the question remains, “Why are the oranges so angry?” It’s because Minute Maid Pure Squeezed orange juice tastes just like a fresh, ripe orange.

The contraption game launched on Facebook on Thursday, February 13.  The objective is to create a contraption that allows oranges to knock over the bottle of Minute Maid Pure Squeezed orange juice before the game’s main character can drink it.  With five fun levels (and a bonus level which can only be unlocked by entering one of five Minute Maid Pure Squeezed UPC codes), you can rack up the points and share your score with Facebook friends.

It didn’t take me long to pass Level 1: Lights, Camera, Contraption.  But Level 2 was a head-scratcher and not quite so easy.  Thankfully, there are hints if you get stuck!

Thirsty for some OJ?  One Experimental Mommy will win a coupon for a free carton on Minute Maid Pure Squeeze Orange Juice! Enter below:

 

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Healthy Valentine’s Day Treat Ideas

This post was created in partnership with Winn Dixie. All opinions are my own.

There are many things I love about Valentine’s Day.  Performing random acts of kindness with the kids, the smell of flowers, the cards that tug on my heart strings and the extra hugs make this day one to remember.  What I don’t love? My daughters on sugar overload.

Between the school parties and after school activities, my kids get enough junk food to last them till the following year.  So, at home, I am trying to prepare healthy treats that will still make the day special.  Thanks to Winn-Dixie, it couldn’t be any easier.

My youngest daughter decided she wanted to give her sister a special treat this Valentine’s Day.  Considering the other 355 days of the year they are fighting, I was ALL for one day of love and sisterhood!  She decided on making a special pink strawberry smoothie.  In the product section of my local Winn-Dixie, fresh fruit platters are sold for about $11.00.  With the fruit already washed and cut, preparation so much easier and my little one can help in the kitchen.

Using some fresh strawberries, bananas, yogurt and ice, we blended into a tasty and healthy Valentine’s Day surprise for her sister.  She even made a special card and attached it to the bottle!  Inspired by our healthy creation, I searched for more ideas and created an entire Pinterest board to collect ideas for the future.


Looking for more healthy options?  Check out the Winn-Dixie Pinterest Page for inspiration!

Dinner Under 550 Calories at Applebees {Giveaway}

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

My husband began his healthy lifestyle journey in July of 2012 and he has made amazing progress.  A year and a half later, and he has lost 75 pounds and managed to maintain all of the changes.  I could not be more proud of his accomplishments and I know he is an inspiration to many others.

While he is no longer trying to lose weight, he does continue to eat much better than years gone by.  Going out to eat can certainly be a challenge with so many tempting options.  His solution?  Avoid restaurants.  But with our busy lifestyle, sometimes eating out is our only option.  After I heard about Applebee’s Unbelievably Great Tasting & Under 550 Calories menu, I knew we would have to give it a try.

The menu has been carefully crafted by Applebee’s executive chefs to include a full menu of dishes – such as the new Weight Watchers-endorsed Roma Pepper Steak and the new Savory Cedar Salmon.  They use savvy cooking techniques to add robust flavors without the extra calories.  We recently visited our local Applebee’s in order to give it a try!

We happened to visit on a Tuesday night when Kids Eat FREE! Score!  Hubby and I asked specifically for the Under 550 menu as we didn’t want to be tempted by other options. Of the five options, I decided on the Creamy Parmesan Chicken while hubby ordered the Napa Chicken and Portobellos.

Both of our dishes smelled great when they arrived the table.  It was hard to believe that the generous portions were really under 550 calories!  The Parmesan sauce on my chicken was really, really good and hubby’s sauce was the perfect mix of savory and spicy.  Needless to say, we both cleaned our plates.  But the best part was that we were genuinely full for under 550 calories.

Ready to test it for yourself?  An Applebee’s gift card would be helpful, right?  Fortunately, I have one right here to give one of my lucky readers.  Enter below:
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Sweets for Your Sweetie at Harry and David

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  Tell me you have a fantastic plan for your Sweetie.  No?  Let me give you a great idea…a quiet night at home watching a favorite movie while nibbling on Cupid’s Crunch by Harry and David.  You can thank me later.

If you haven’t heard of Cupid’s Crunch (I hadn’t either), it is a tasty variety of the popular Moose Munch, a super delicious gourmet caramel popcorn including premium nuts and decadent chocolate.  What’s awesome about Cupid’s Munch is that it includes heart shaped cinnamon red hots.  Snuggle up with your Sweetie and dive into this spicy snack to heat up the night!

If popcorn isn’t your thing, check out all of the yummy Valentine’s Day treats from Harry and David.  How adorable is the Valentine’s Day Gingerbread Love Mobile?  And don’t forget that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for women!  You can find some great gift ideas for men including a Red Wine Duo gift set or a trio of barbeque sauces.

Do you have any unique gift ideas for Valentine’s Day?  Share!

For the Love of Dinner and a Movie!

With Carnival Season taking over here in New Orleans, it is very easy to forget that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  Don’t be caught empty handed!  Specials by Restaurant.com has just what you need to impress your loved one.

With this exclusive Specials by Restaurant.com deal, you’ll receive two movie tickets to use at one of your favorite movie theaters, along with a $100 Restaurant.Com eGift Card…all for just $30! You’ll love the great deal of choices ranging from a heart-warming feature such as Winter’s Tale, an action-packed reboot like RoboCop, a star-studded drama in The Monuments Men or the all new 3D Lego movie. Locate your theater here and you will be on your way to the best Valentine’s Day ever!

Take advantage of this exclusive offer today before it sells out and spread the love – Specials by Restaurant.com offers make great gift ideas for everyone.

See the “Hot Combinations” from Lean Pockets {Giveaway}

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

As a Mom who works outside of the home full time, I struggle to make lunch fresh and interesting.  To be honest, I eat a turkey and cheese sandwich at least 3 days a week and according to Lean Pockets, I am not alone.  Did you know that, on average, Americans eat the same exact meal at least four times a week?  Boring.  Do you need a mealtime makeover?

Fortunately, Lean Pockets has come to the rescue with 19 new flavor varieties.  Their protein and pretzel bread “hot combinations” deliver on the hot and savory combination consumers crave and help them introduce variety and flavor into their meals and snacks.  As a member of the Lean Pockets Blogger Advisory Board, I was excited to get a sneak taste of the Chicken Jalapeno Cheddar pretzel bread sandwiches.

I will admit that I am not normally a fan of a pretzel bread sandwich, but I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of this sandwich.  In true Lean Pockets fashion, the frozen sandwich is easily heated in the microwave in the provided crisper.  Evenly heated, spicy and cheesy made this variety a hit and earned it’s spot on my lunch rotation.  Watch the fun video below for info on new varieties:


Is your mouth watering yet for the new Lean Pockets #HotCombos?  Enter below and one winner will receive coupons for FREE Lean Pockets, branded T-Shirts, coolers and more!  Don’t miss any of the hot combinations by liking Lean Pockets on Facebook!
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Celebrate #BaconLove with Homemade Bacon Mashed Taters {Recipe}

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy and brought to you by Winn-Dixie. All opinions remain 100% mine.

Do you know that the term “bring home the bacon” comes from a game of catching a greased pig at a county fair?  The winner took home the pig and literally brought home the bacon.  Now, I am no fan of fair games and I am fresh out of greased pigs so I took the easy way out by heading to my local Winn-Dixie.

Throughout the month of January, Winn-Dixie is celebrating everyone’s favorite food during their Bacon Event with bacon sampling, bacon recipes, and bacon sales. To join the fun, I thought I would share one of my family’s favorite bacon recipes, Homemade Bacon Mashed Taters.

What You Need:

  • 2lbs. washed red potatoes
  • 4 slices cooked bacon
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to Make It:

  • Cut the red potatoes into quarters and boil for about 12-15 minutes.  Drain.

  • Add all ingredients, except bacon
  • Mash until mixed and consistent
  • Add bacon pieces and gently stir until mixed
  • Serve hot!

Got a bacon recipe to share or in search of new ones?  Head to your local Winn-Dixie to grab the necessary supplies!

Take a Bite Out of Mardi Gras with a Sucre King Cake {Giveaway}

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

Now that my New Orleans Saints are out of the Superbowl hunt (cue very sad music here), I can focus on the next big thing here in NOLA….Carnival! January 6th, also known as King’s Day, begins the Carnival Season which ends on March 4th or Fat Tuesday.

There are so many reasons why I love Carnival. The friends, the parades, the throws, and the music all top the list. But my favorite has to be the traditional New Orleans king cake.   Never heard of a King Cake?  The king cake is as rich in history as it is in flavor. Since the 1800s, New Orleanians have celebrated the beginning of the Carnival Season with a “King’s Cake” on Twelfth Night. A small plastic baby symbolizing the baby Jesus is inserted in the cake, and the reveler who finds it is said to have good fortune for the year. The recipient then continues the festivities by having another party and providing the next King Cake.

It’s a safe bet that most offices and schools in the New Orleans area will have a King Cake every Friday throughout the Carnival season.  It is also a safe bet to assume that I have eaten more than my fair share of this tasty treat in my 39 years of life.  A few years ago, I was introduced to the King Cake from Sucre and I have never looked back.

Voted “A Favorite” By The Times Picayune 2012 King Cake Contest and 2011 “BEST” King Cake by a Washington Post blind taste test. Sucre’s signature buttery danish pastry is sweetened by cinnamon and raw cane sugar then folded with a light layer of creole cream cheese. Serves 8-10 people.
One thing they forgot to mention on their website, purely unintentional of course, is that I crowned the Sucre King Cake best in New Orleans. Not only is it the prettiest King Cake I have ever seen, my taste buds love it, too!  Is your mouth watering yet?  If you are longing for a taste but don’t live in New Orleans, don’t worry!  A Sucre King Cake can be delivered right to your door!  Plus, one Experimental Mommy reader will win one right here.  Enter below:

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