Heating Up Dinner Without Heating Up the House #SeetheLite

This review and giveaway was made possible by iConnect Influencer Management and Litehouse Foods. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine.

With the heat here in New Orleans hitting 97 degrees, we have been getting quite creative with ways to stay cool. A dip in the pool, a mister fan in the backyard, a delicious sno-ball for dessert and absolutely NO turning on the oven mid-day.

While the heat has not stopped our summertime picnics, finding recipes to feed the masses without heating the house has been a challenge. Not to mention, I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is outside enjoying the pool. Thankfully, my household has finally seen the light this July thanks to Litehouse Foods.

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I had the opportunity to try the Litehouse Foods Homestyle Ranch dressing over the 4th of July holiday, and this creamy ingredient helped me infuse big flavor with minimal time in the kitchen. All of our guests loved the Southwestern Pasta Salad but more importantly, my girls are eating better with a dressing that stays fresh from the refrigerator section.

What You Need:

  • 1/2 cup Litehouse Foods Homestyle Ranch Dressing
  • 1 chopped red pepper
  • 1 cup fresh corn
  • 1 cup fresh salsa
  • 1 package of pasta
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cubed

How to Make It:

  • Prepare pasta per package instructions.
  • Cool pasta and add pepper, corn, salsa, cheese and ranch dressing.
  • Combine together and cool for one hour.

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Want to try it? Enter my giveaway for two FREE Litehouse Foods coupons below and if you make it, let me know how much you loved it! Enjoy!

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Girls Night Out at SoBou New Orleans

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with SoBou in New Orleans. All opinions remain 100% my own.

Earlier this week, I was smack in the middle of the chaos of hosting my own blog conference. For those of you that have ever planned a live event, wedding, conference or birthday party, you know how overwhelming and downright stressful they can be. Fortunately, I run this conference with some of my very best friends so when the event is over, I look forward to regrouping with the team and enjoying just being together.

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This year, we had the opportunity to do just that at a much needed team dinner at SoBou in New Orleans. As you can imagine, New Orleans has no shortage of restaurants but SoBou has been on my bucket list for a while now.  As any good New Orleanian knows, any establishment created by the Commander’s Family of Restaurants has to be top notch.

As we developed the SoBou concept, cocktails and the warmth of a saloon or tavern environment were very much on our mind, but our saloon had to have serious food – dishes you find yourself craving. For us, the food is always center stage, but stage right are the cocktails and stage left is the wine.

SoBou definitely grabs major points for ambiance. We were seated in The Apothecary and I was instantly entranced by the wall of glass bottles. The decor, while feeling upscale, is welcoming and not intimidating in the least.

Our waitress could not have been more attentive and personable (and patient). She led us through the menu, suggested her favorite dishes and offered her expertise on the wide array of cocktails. What I loved about the SoBou menu is that it offers a “Small Bites” section which goes way beyond the typical saloon appetizer. While the bites may be small, the flavor is certainly big. Can you say Sweet Potato Beignets? These menu items are perfect if you want to have a few cocktails and try a wide variety of flavors.

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Moving from the small bites, our table chose a few different dishes from the “Big Bites” section but I will admit that Ellen’s Chili Brined Pork Tenderloin looked absolutely amazing. But if your party is super hungry, SoBou also offers Family Style meals to pass around the table, too!

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Between the drinks, appetizers, entrees and dessert (we had the Bananas Foster on the Half Shell), we dined in SoBou for almost three hours. But it was honestly the shortest three hours of my life because they were filled with laughter, delicious food and impeccable service.  If you are looking for not only a meal, but an experience, head to SoBou in New Orleans!

Learning to Love Veggies with Litehouse Foods #SeetheLite

Litehouse Foods is an iConnect: Influencer Management client.

I don’t typically eat vegetables. Well, not willingly anyway. So when I was invited to Philadelphia last week to learn how to lighten recipes for the July 4th weekend with Litehouse Foods, I was excited that their yummy dressing would be involved. Because frankly, I knew the veggies were coming.

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Knowing a food demo would be given by a registered dietician, I was correct in assuming our good ol’ green friends would be key to the menu. But much to my surprise, the cauliflower buffalo bites demonstrated looked nothing like a vegetable!

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If you’re still with me-I could easily pretended to be a veggie-lover so how about some props for honesty?–and I can’t get past the fact than my favorite veggie is now considered a starch (freakin’ corn) then check this out. Litehouse Foods has an entire recipe section on their website for “buffalo” foods that pair nicely with Litehouse Blue Cheese dressing.

AND I ate (and enjoyed) kale salad at the dinner. Perhaps there is still hope for me yet?

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I also learned that Litehouse Foods dressings can be found in the refrigerator section where “it belongs.” I tried both their Blue Cheese and Ranch dressings and later discovered why they were so good. One word. Buttermilk!

The event was a great way to catch up with new bloggers and meet with representatives from the brand which is always a pleasure. While the company is owned now by employees, Litehouse Food began as a family-owned business in Idaho. I love a brand with roots that makes it obvious the product is a quality one that is created with love.

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Thank you Litehouse Foods for the opportunity to learn about your dressings and for allowing me to spread the word. And for having cookie dough desserts on the menu.

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Guest post by Cecelia Mecca. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @CeceliaMecca.

Fourth of July Dessert: Banana Split Cake

If my house was burning down, there are a few things I would grab. Family first of course, and then pictures, but I’d likely risk my life for my cookbooks. I have dozens of them, and I love them all. Down South, we have “Church cookbooks” which consist of recipes from all the old Grannies and Mee-Maws in the church. These are my favorites (Sorry, Emeril) because every single recipe submitted is good. No, really. Think about it….if were asked to submit a recipe for something, you’d send in the one everyone loves, right? So, I have six of them from six different churches, and I use them all the time. Recently, I had to make a dessert and decided to consult the church cookbooks and guess what I noticed? Every single one of them had a recipe for Banana Split Cake. Every. Single. One.

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Don’t believe the church Grannies? Listen to me. Banana Split Cake could go down as one of my favorite desserts ever for several reasons. One, you don’t have to turn on the oven. Two, it’s easy ingredients and easy to make. Three, it feeds a crowd, perfect for your 4th of July BBQ. Last, did I mention it’s delicious?

Now, the weird thing is about all the church lady versions of the Banana Split Cake is that each one has raw eggs in it. And, I have no shame in admitting that I have eaten it (and made it) that way many times and I am still alive to tell about it and eat other things that are bad for me. But, salmonella, blah blah blah so I decided to play with a few different versions of it, omit the egg, and eliminate the possibility of someone spending a weekend camped out in the bathroom. This way works just fine and you’ll never miss the raw egg. That’s the weirdest sentence I ever typed.

Take a look at the ingredients:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz Cool Whip, thawed
  • bananas (about 4)
  • jar of maraschino cherries
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped pecans (or any other nuts you like)
  • 20 oz can crushed pineapple, drained

Directions:

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1. Mix graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 stick melted butter until well combined. Resist temptation to eat all of it right out of the bowl -you need it for the crust. Press this mixture into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Put in the fridge while you do the rest so the crust firms up.
2. With an electric mixer, blend cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Resist temptation again to eat all of it right out of the bowl, but you have my full permission to lick the beaters. No eggs, remember?
3. Spread the cream cheese mixture you didn’t eat on top of the graham cracker crust.
4. Slice the banana into circles (thickness is up to you, but not too thick) and line those puppies up like soldiers on top of the cream cheese layer.

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5. Spread the crushed pineapple on top of the bananas.
6. Spread the Cool Whip on top of that. If you want to be all fancy pants and use real whipped cream you can but the church ladies will tell you Cool Whip works just fine.
7. Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top and add the cherries.
8. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

If you want to mix it up a little, you can. You can use cut up strawberries with the bananas and pineapple, or in place of the cherries. You can also omit the nuts and add chocolate chips or drizzle chocolate syrup but I promise it’s better without chocolate and I can’t believe I just said that. Serves about 12 people.

Skeptic Turned Supporter: My NuCulture Challenge Results

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with iConnect and Alternascript. All opinions remain 100% mine.

Earlier this month, I told you about a new probiotic launching on June 6th from Alternascript called NuCulture.  I made no apologies for being a skeptic but when the bottle arrived I will admit that my curiosity got the better of me. To recap:

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NuCulture contains 5 probiotic strains, each patented, extensively clinically studied in double blind placebo controlled studies on healthy human populations, and formulated to a clinically effective CFU to actually work.

When the product arrived, I was surprised that it did not have to be refrigerated like some priobiotics on the market. I also loved that it came with an informative pamphlet explaining the benefits of regularly taking the supplement. Opening the bottle, I was pleased to see that the size of the pill was not huge and I could easily swallow it without an aftertaste either.

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I have been taking NuCulture for about two weeks now and I am happy to report that not only have I had ZERO side effects but I have honestly felt better. The bloated, sluggish feeling is disappearing which is great since we are headed to a beach vacation soon!  While it’s only been two weeks, I started feeling the benefits just after a few days and I can’t wait to see what happens over the next several months of continuing the probiotic.

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If you want to give NuCulture a try, they are offering a 14 day completely free trial including free shipping! NuCulture is now available as a subscription and each bottle contains 30 capsules and is $47.89 per month.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary. While I liked the product, it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Cure the Cravings with SNICKERS Crisper

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy and sponsored by SheSpeaks/MARS. All opinions remain 100% my own.

Hi. My name is Bridgette and I am a chocoholic. While I do my best to eat sensible meals, I always seek the satisfaction of chocolate after finishing my plate. I blame my Grandma who always served a delicious dessert immediately following every meal. As you can imagine, this habit may not be waistline friendly but I have a secret weapon.

Fun Size Chocolate Bars.

Best.Invention.Ever.

Snacking on just one small fun size bar usually does the trick and keeps my chocolate cravings at bay which is much better than diving into a giant piece of chocolate cake. But what about the days when you need a crunch, too? Fortunately, when hunger invents new problems, SNICKERS comes to the rescue.

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The geniuses at SNICKERS recently launched the new SNICKERS Crisper! It’s is a delicious combination of crisped rice and peanuts topped with a layer of caramel and coated in creamy SNICKERS Brand milk chocolate.  You get all of the yummy chocolatey goodness with a satisfying crunch, too!

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And the best part? They come in many different sizes to proportionately satisfy your specific hunger. Are you HANGRY? Grab the SNICKERS Crisper Single. Need a snack as you run out the door? Try the SNICKERS Crisper 4 to Go. Or just have a chocolate craving? The Fun Size is a great option for you (and it’s only 100 calories)!

Check out all of the SNICKERS Crisper offerings at Walmart stores or at Walmart.com. These will make a perfect addition to the perfect Easter basket!

New Orleans Welcomes Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse

Tonight, we had the pleasure of being some of first guests of the newest restaurant in New Orleans, Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse. Located inside the JW Marriott hotel on Canal Street, Fogo de Chao offers a truly unique dining experience. From the beautifully appointed decor to the Brazilian trained gaucho chefs, you immediately feel a sense of hospitality when walking through the door.

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After being seated (I recommend requesting second floor seating so you can take advantage of the balcony views) and a quick explanation of how the dinner would flow, we headed to the centerpiece of the restaurant, The Market Table. Immediately, you will notice the colors of the offerings as the market table is almost a work of art.

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A spread inspired by the grand kitchen tables on the farms of Southern Brazil where family and friends gather to share the finest and freshest from their harvests. We bring you seasonal salads, irresistibly fresh vegetables, imported meats and cheeses, artisan breads and more.

 

My husband and I tried a sampling of many of the foods but my favorite was the butternut squash soup and the brown sugar black pepper bacon while hubby could not get enough of the Feijoada (black bean stew).

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On every table, you will find the “red light/green light” place cards. When you are ready for the gaucho chefs to begin bringing a selection of meats to your table, simply place the card on the green light and get ready to eat!

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Our Brazilian-trained gaucho chefs carefully select and prepare every item before presenting at your table. From the best cuts of meat to the fresh selections of our Market Table, they ensure every bite will be memorable.

With sixteen variety of meats, you are sure to find something (or many things) that will delight. The gaucho chefs bring a cut of meat to your table on a sword and carefully carve it table-side. Shortly after, another chef appears with another selection until you call it quits by turning your card to the red light. We tried sirloin, bacon wrapped chicken, lamb, and pork ribs along with garlic mashed potatoes, polenta and caramelized bananas. Every dish was seasoned beautifully and cooked to perfection (I prefer my meats medium well so they gaucho chef brought selections to our table that were cooked to my liking).

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If you are looking for a unique date night in NOLA, my hubby and I would highly recommend checking out Fogo de Chao!

Get a Taste of the Holidays at Denny’s

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. As a member of #DennysDiners, I am compensated for my time and effort but all opinions remain 100% mine.

In typical New Orleans fashion, I believe we will have another “shorts and flip flops” kind of holiday. Definitely no white Christmas, roasting marshmallows by the fire, or Jack Frost nipping at our noses as the songs suggest for New Orleans residents this season. Because of the warm weather, I am having such a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit!

With two small kids, we are searching the City to find ways to inject some Christmas cheer into our holiday despite the fact we are selecting our tree in tank tops. Fortunately, we found exactly what we were looking for at Denny’s. With three new dishes and a few returning favorites, guests of all ages are sure to feel the holiday spirit at breakfast, lunch, dinner or any time in between.

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As soon as we walked in, my daughter spotted an advertisement for the new Rudolph Pancake Breakfast and told our server that she did not even need a menu because she was eating Rudolph. The dish includes two fluffy pancakes topped with turkey bacon antlers, whipped cream, chocolate eyes and nose, served with two eggs and crispy hash browns (I will admit that I secretly wanted to eat Rudolph, too).

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But after taking a look at all of the holiday offerings, I am a sucker for traditional turkey and stuffing so I knew I had to give it a try. This dish features the finest tender sliced turkey breast, savory stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, served with a choice of two sides and dinner bread….and was delish! While I was too stuffed to make room for dessert, I can’t wait to go back and try the Santa’s Milk & Cookies Shake made with creamy vanilla ice cream blended with tasty sugar cookies and topped with whipped cream and more cookie crumbles. Honestly, I think Santa would love if we left this for him on Christmas Eve.

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If you need a holiday pick-me-up, take the first sleigh to your local Denny’s and try out the new holiday offerings. This special menu is available through January 6, 2016.

Quality Food, Unbeatable Prices at Denny’s

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy. As a Denny’s Ambassador, I am compensated for time and effort but all opinions remain 100% mine.

When I say “Denny’s”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For me and my family, it is fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon and sweet syrup. But what if I tell you that Denny’s is so much more than breakfast and offers real quality ingredients such as avocado sliced completely fresh in-store, 100% beef hamburger patties and even veggie burgers made with Amy’s® organic grain patties?

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With a husband who is very health conscience, these facts definitely caught his attention and he was ready for a taste test. Scanning the menu for fit-fare items, he finally decided on the Wild-caught Alaska Salmon (which is wild, natural and sustainable) which comes with a side of steamed veggies.  While healthy options can sometimes be bland, hubby (who admittedly is not a huge fan of salmon), cleaned his plate and said the dish was full of flavor and quite filling as well.

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Of course, the kids still opted for breakfast items (who can resist the pancakes, right?). But, I love that they both opt for seasonal fresh fruit with their meals. Denny’s uses completely fresh fruit and rotates the option based on the season. You will find nothing coming from a can in this dish!

Operation “quality ingredient” was a huge success. The meal was delicious, satisfying and fresh. I am sure we will return soon as my daughters spotted the Holiday Menu complete with Reindeer pancakes that peaked their interest. Till next time, Denny’s!

Faster Meal Prep with the Thaw That II

This post is written by Experimental Mommy contributor, Erin. While a sample was received to facilitate this post, all opinions remain 100% honest.

I don’t know if it is just me, but I am horrible about planning dinner during the busy work week. I tend to have so much going on that I wake up, go to work, come home and realize that I didn’t think about what we are going to eat for dinner. After debating with my husband for a while, we finally decide on a recipe at the last minute only to realize that some of the necessary ingredients are still frozen.

I hate to defrost food in the microwave because I feel that it compromises taste and texture. By this point, our only option is running to grab take out.  I’d like to say that this cycle causes us to then think about planning ahead next time, but with such busy lives, that normally doesn’t happen. But now, we have discovered the Thaw That II.

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This product creates a very easy, fool proof way to defrost food in half the normal time.  You simply put the item you would like to defrost on it and let it sit. I recommend flipping the food over every hour or so. This product does not require any electricity, no hot water, no batteries, all you do is simply put a piece of food on it and let it do the work!! My food was defrosted in only a few hours as compared to the old way of it defrosting for a day in the refrigerator.

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Thaw That II has a very small unnoticeable slant to it. The concave thawing surface directs all liquid from the defrosting food to the center and it is naturally collected by the attachable drip-catcher so you don’t have to worry about the liquid from the food all over the place.

 

We used the Thaw That II last week during another forgotten dinner plan.  Our chicken defrosted quickly and thoroughly allowing us plenty of time to prepare dinner before it got too late. The finished dish was very tasty and I did not notice any difference in taste or texture by using the That That II.

The Thaw That II retails for $59.95 and should be a staple in every kitchen!