Cleaning Up the Crunch

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Cascade. All opinions are 100% my own.

What’s better than Taco Tuesday? How about when Taco Tuesday lands on National Crunch Taco Day?! That calls for a full blown Mexican Fiesta! Since everyone in my home absolutely loves Mexican food, I had no complaints from the family. Ground meat, corn shells, taco seasonings, sour cream, salsa and queso made the kitchen smell divine. Even my husband (who is normally a burrito kind of guy) sat down and celebrated with a crunchy taco in honor of the occasion.

Anytime my whole family can sit down together during the week to share a meal is a good day. But glancing at the kitchen quickly whisked me back to reality. While tacos are super easy to make, our little fiesta sure did use a lot of dishes. From the skillet to the queso bowls and baking pan to festive plates, this meal had the potential for many tough to clean pots and plates.

Thankfully, I learned all about how to properly load a dishwasher and I had Cascade Platinum Action Pacs under my sink. I’m not sure that I will ever get over the jitters that skipping the pre-rinse and soak causes me, but the amount of time saved by my Cascade Platinum is greatly appreciated. Not only do I get back valuable time with my family (or to take a siesta), but my dishes are spotless, too. Did you know you can even leave your dishes in the sink for 24 hours and Cascade Platinum will STILL successfully tackle the dried on mess?

Learn more about how to get Cascade Clean here.

Treat Yourself Sweetly and Support Ronald McDonald House Charities, Too

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with McDonald’s. All opinions remain 100% mine.

What’s better than a bowl of vanilla soft serve? How about vanilla soft serve blended into a thick, creamy shake?  But, what if that shake had a purpose? Even better! From March 11-17, you have the perfect excuse to head to a participating McDonald’s and indulge in any McCafé Shamrock product. For each McCafé Shamrock product sold during this time, McDonald’s will donate 25¢ to Ronald McDonald House Charities®.

These proceeds will help programs right here in New Orleans like the Ronald McDonald House®  which opened in 1983. Located on Canal Street, this 15 bedroom house serves as a home-away-from-home for an average of 85 families with children in the hospital each month. In addition, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile provides free immunizations for children in New Orleans and surrounding parishes and local McDonald’s owner/operators offer college scholarships to students in financial need who have demonstrated academic achievement, leadership and community involvement. I love that my purchases can directly benefit families in my own community!

Ronald McDonald House

Looking for more ways to help? Support Ronald McDonald House Charities year-round by donating your change in the RMHC Donation Box or purchasing a $2.99 Happy Meal at participating McDonald’s in the greater New Orleans area. McDonald’s donates 1¢ to RMHC for every Happy Meal and Mighty Kids Meal sold. Check out this short video to see how these programs help those in need:

Head to a participating McDonald’s in the greater New Orleans area (let them know you are coming on Twitter!) and grab a Shamrock Shake for a cause!

Empowering Kids to Make Balanced Choices

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with McDonald’s. All opinions are 100% mine.

Let me walk you through a typical weekend conversation in my home:

Scenario 1: Kids claim to be starving. Kids offered a balanced snack of fruit and yogurt from our home refrigerator. Kids turn up nose and claim to no longer be hungry.

Scenario 2: Kids claim to be starving. Kids offered a trip to McDonald’s, get dressed and are in the car in record time. Kid 1 orders a Happy Meal and selects a Cutie as the side. Kid 2 orders a Happy Meal and orders Go-GURT as their side. Mom watches in disbelief (but is secretly happy for the minor victories in life).

McDonald's Happy Meal Box
McDonald’s, in partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, has committed to increasing customers’ access to fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. As part of McDonald’s ongoing commitment to help make balanced choices fun and easy for families, I am happy to let you know that Cuties are back at McDonald’s for a limited time in Happy Meals and a la carte as a seasonal, fresh fruit side choice! I would say they have been quite successful because McDonald’s has served more than 2 billion packages of Apple Slices since 2004 and 59 million California- grown Cuties to date.

Cuties in McDonald's Happy Meal
Right here in New Orleans, there are 90 locally owned and operated restaurants proudly serving our community. Right now, your child can enjoy a Happy Meal for just $2.99 at participating McDonald’s in the greater New Orleans area. Don’t forget to grab a Cutie for yourself, too!

Want to try it for yourself? Enter below for a chance to win a $50 McDonald’s gift card!

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Dining on the Disney Wonder

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. And while this was the third time I have attended, this was the first that included Disney on both Land AND Sea. I was elated to learn that we would be boarding the newly re-imagined Disney Cruise Line Wonder for three fantastic nights! From the moment we stepped on the ship, my family and I felt like royalty which carried through to each of the three on-board restaurants we visited.

Unlike other cruise lines, your family will rotate to one restaurant (keeping your same table number and servers) each night providing you with three completely different dining experiences. In true Disney fashion, dinner was much more than delicious food. Walking into each restaurant, you are transported to another place whether it be to New Orleans at Tiana’s Place, under the sea at Triton’s or right into the middle of a Disney classic in progress at Animator’s Palate, each experience is unique and sprinkled with pixie dust.

Dining on the Disney Wonder

Tiana’s Place

Tiana's Place on Disney Wonder
Being from New Orleans, we are huge fans of Disney’s Princess and the Frog. Seeing your hometown, traditions and culture come to life in animation is truly magical. So we were excited to learn that our first night on board would be spent at Tiana’s Place! Walking through the door, you feel like you are in the middle of the movie from the decor to the entertainment. It’s just like Princess Tiana would have wanted! The jazz band played some of our New Orleans favorites and were even led by the alligator, Louis from the movie. The big finale was a traditional second line that got everyone involved and dancing. We felt right at home!

Tiana's Place table settings
 

Tianas Place Entertainment

Triton’s

While Princess Tiana is our favorite, Ariel comes in a close second. My youngest daughter is obsessed with mermaids so you can only imagine how excited she was to dine at Triton’s. Themed after Ariel’s father, King Triton, you are surrounded with serene ocean colors and regal decor.

Triton's Menu
Triton's table setting
We felt that this was the most upscale of the three dining rooms on the Wonder but the Cast Members still made the experience fun for the kids by surprising them with magic tricks table-side. We loved that our table servers followed us to each restaurant and we really loved telling them all about our adventures.

Animator’s Palate

Animator's Palate sign
Ever wish you could be in an animated film or wish you could be one of Disney’s esteemed Imagineers? Then Animator’s Palate is a must do on the Disney Wonder! The dining experience starts off just like any creative process….a blank canvas. The entire restaurant is themed in black and white and frames on the wall display primitive sketches of well known Disney characters. As the meal progresses, color is slowly added until the sketches comes to life in animated clips topped off with a visit from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (aka Mickey Mouse from Fantasia).

Animator's Palate dessert
Animator's Palate decor

If you are lucky enough to dine in Animator’s Palette more than once on your cruise, you get to become an official Animator! You create a character and through the magic of Disney, your creation comes to life on the walls set to some pretty catchy music. This was such a fun experience!

 

You won’t have a bad dining experience at any restaurant on the Disney Wonder! The themes are very well executed and the entertainment is so much fun for the kids. No stuffy restaurants here! I loved that we could sit down as a family each night, recap our adventures and plan for the day ahead.

We did not get a chance to dine at Palo, the 18 and over restaurant onboard the Wonder. If you’ve been, share your experience in the comments!

Dining on the Disney Wonder

Work Smart, Not Hard with Cascade Platinum Action Pacs

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

Over the course of my life, my Dad has given many tidbits of advice. But the one that stands out the most (and I hear myself repeating to my own children) is, “Work Smart, Not Hard.” In my teen years, as most teenage girls do, I ignored most of his advice. But this one line really stuck with me before starting any project or homework assignment. Now, I still repeat this to myself before planning my day.

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A few months ago, I had the opportunity to watch this saying in action by learning how the scientists at Cascade developed the Cascade Platinum Action Pacs. This brand started over six decades ago and has been continually improving the product to provide the best consumer experience. Now you can work smart by skipping the sink (that’s right….NO pre-rinse or soak needed) and letting Cascade Platinum do the rest!

Cascade Platinum Action Pac
Of course, there are three things that contribute to the success of your dish load: the detergent, the dishwasher and the user.  Do you know how to properly load the dishwasher in order to give the detergent its best chance of success?

How to properly load the dishwasher

  1. Plates go on the bottom rack and should be separated by the prongs allowing water to reach each dish. Make sure the plates are not touching each other. Pro tip: Make sure tall items are not blocking the sprayer!
  2. Glasses should be placed on the top rack with the open side facing down.
  3. Utensils should be placed on the bottom rack in the provided holder but make sure there is space between each. If detergent can’t get to it, the utensil will not get clean!
  4. Don’t block the detergent dispenser with large bulky items.
  5. Place plastic items on the top rack to avoid melting.

Following these easy tips will allow Cascade Platinum to do the rest and minimize your time in the kitchen. Work smart, not hard!

 

Cuties are Coming!

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with McDonald’s. All opinions remain 100% mine.

I would love to tell you that each and every evening when my family arrives home from school or work, we sit down together for a well planned, technology-free, delicious dinner together. But, that would be a total lie. The reality is that we are a family of four on the go running from school to work and from dance class to the gymnastics mat. Because my husband and I work full time and have two daughters highly involved in extra-curricular activities, dinner can be a challenge. Luckily, there is a McDonald’s exactly halfway between their school and the dance studio.

McDonald's Happy Meal with Cuties

While convenience is of the utmost importance, I still want to be sure that I am feeding my girls a balanced meal to help get them through their busy schedules. I loved when McDonald’s introduced apple slices as a Happy Meal option in 2004 and now I am thrilled to learn that Cuties® will be available for a limited time this Spring both in Happy Meals and a la carte! Because we are often eating in the car on the way from one activity to another, I love that my daughters can slip the Cutie in their backpack and have fruit as a snack between classes.

Cuties California Clementines

Did you know that Cuties are an excellent source of vitamin C and deliver 1⁄4 cup of fruit? Plus, the Cuties offered at McDonald’s are supplied by Sun Pacific, a family-owned fruit grower in California and they generally take less than two weeks to arrive at the store once harvested in the field.

While our busy lives call for much planning and organization, I am thankful to have options such as McDonald’s Happy Meal with Cuties that won’t break the bank. In fact, participating McDonald’s in the New Orleans area are offering Happy Meals for just $2.99! See you at the drive-thru!

Cuties® is a registered trademark of Sun Pacific.

Improving my Cooking Skills with Morton Salt’s #NextDoorChef

This post was written by Experimental Mommy in partnership with Morton Salt. All opinions are 100% my own.

Being a New Orleans native, I am truly spoiled with the number of quality restaurants in my backyard. I have heard of acclaimed local chef Nina Compton‘s new restaurant, Compere Lapin, but regrettably, I have not yet made it there to sample the fare.  Imagine my surprise when this past Monday, I got the chance to meet Chef Compton in a literal backyard restaurant!

Next Door Chef: New Orleans
Have you heard of Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef? I was fortunate enough to join a number of guests at the filming of the next episode which was set right here in New Orleans. In this episode, a New Orleans resident is paired with Chef Compton to learn how to prepare a remarkable meal using different types of salt. The local’s home (and backyard) was transformed into a fully decorated pop-up restaurant and we were served an amazing meal along with tips on how to transform our own home cooked meals to gourmet dishes by using the correct type of salt.

Different Types of Morton Salt
At the event, I learned more about the benefits of using Morton Kosher and Sea Salt, versus the standard table salt when cooking. Did you know that you should use Morton Kosher Salt when rimming drink glasses like the Americano cocktail we sampled at the event? Or use Morton Coarse Sea Salt to add an artistic “pop” you and your dinner guests can see and taste? The larger than table salt crystals provide contrasting texture.  Turns out a lot of us are using table salt for almost all cooking purposes, which is a huge miss in the kitchen. But don’t forget to use the conversion chart if you decide to try out other types of Morton Salt in your recipes!

Next Door Chef cocktail
I can’t wait to share more about the cuisine we sampled and the tips we learned, but because I know you are all prepping for holiday cooking, make sure you check out Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef: Chicago (aired on November 10th) which was focused on improving your cooking techniques for the holidays. The second installment set in Nashville will debut in the Spring but I am super excited that the summer episode will showcase my hometown, New Orleans, which is known for amazing Cajun/Creole inspired cuisine.

salted charbroiled oysters
In the meantime, if you decide to host your own “Next Door Chef” party or have a recipe idea using Kosher or sea salt, post your photos on social media using #NextDoorChef.

Celebrating Friendsgiving with Cascade!

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

I am a lucky girl. In my 42 years, the fact that I have more blessings than I can count on my fingers and toes makes me wonder what I did to deserve it. Somewhere along the way, I learned that it is critical to my happiness to surround myself with people that lift me up, stand by my side, and love me unconditionally. Fortunately, I have a circle of friends that are like no other.

These women are fierce.

Mothers. Wives. Business owners. Scholars. Entrepreneurs. Teachers. Executives. Volunteers. Care-givers. Doctors. Nurses.

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I am beyond humbled that these women choose to be my friend! In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to celebrate our friendship and host a “Friends-giving” dessert party.  In the middle of the Thanksgiving hustle and bustle, I wanted to gift them each one hour to sit, relax and recharge before heading back to prepare for the day ahead.

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Because we are all chocolate lovers, I decided to make a “Molten Chocolate Pudding Cake” and serve with Vanilla Ice Cream. We had a whole hour to indulge our sweet tooth and just catch up with each other and laugh about old times. One word….heaven. There is something about giggling with your besties that recharges your soul, right?

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Thankfully, I didn’t have to spend time on the dishes because I was armed with Cascade Platinum! Did you know that your dishwasher actually works harder for you when you skip the pre-wash? In order to get the most optimum clean and shine, remember to skip the sink and use Cascade Platinum to save time and energy on your dirty dishes.

The dessert I made definitely left a sticky mess on the baking pan and mixing bowls. But, Cascade Platinum ActionPacs provide 3X more film-fighting power to clean through stuck-on food in one wash, making it the best clean you can get. Sounds too good to be true, right? My guests were definitely skeptical.

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After teaching them the correct way to load a dishwasher (we even taught the kids!), we simply inserted one Cascade Platinum ActionPac and let the magic happen. To all of our amazement, the dishes came out SPOTLESS with absolutely NO pre-rinsing. Thanks Cascade Platinum for giving me back valuable time to spend with my amazing circle of friends!

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Want to try it for yourself? Print this $0.50 off Cascade Platinum coupon to save on the best clean you can imagine! Plus, enter below for a chance to win a year supply to Cascade Dishwasher Cleaner and cascade Platinum samples (five winners will be randomly chosen)!

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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!