Make Reading Fun with McDonald’s Happy Meals

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

As a child, I could often be found sitting on my windowsill with my nose stuck in a book. From an early age, I loved reading and my parents encouraged my obsession by enrolling me in summer reading programs at our local library. I always knew I wanted to pass this love of reading on to my own children and by the time I became a Mom, I was well aware that research by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that reading daily to young children stimulates early brain development and helps build key language, literacy and social skills.

After the birth of my first daughter, I made a point to read her a bedtime story every night not only for the obvious benefits to her brain development but for the ultimate bonus of endless baby snuggles. Now that she is 12 and an avid reader herself, I can say that the many stories read together were time well spent (and greatly missed)!

Happy Meal Books

In celebration of National Literacy Month in September, McDonald’s in partnership with HarperCollins Publishers, will distribute four Happy Meal-sized books in Happy Meals from September 5-18th. Treat your child to any Happy Meal for just $2.99 in the greater New Orleans area and you will find one of the following 4 books inside:

  • “Pete the Cat’s Got Class” by James Dean
  • “Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School” by Herman Parish
  • “Just a School Project” by Mercer Mayer
  • “If You Take a Mouse to School” by Laura Numeroff

Happy Meal Books

I love that McDonald’s is adding efforts to promote early literacy to a long list of the company’s actions supporting children’s well-being. Did you know that between 2012 and 2016, McDonald’s has served over 78 million cuties and over 2 billion servings of fruit and low-fat dairy options like Go-GURT?

McDonald’s is also a proud supporter of Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s largest children’s literacy organization, which seeks to promote literacy by making it easier for children throughout the country to have access to interesting, captivating reading materials. By 2018, McDonald’s will have donated approximately 400,000 books from the Happy Meal Books promotions to RIF literacy efforts and programs across the country.

If you want to enjoy some quality time with your little one, grab a Happy Meal at one of the 90 McDonald’s locations in the greater New Orleans area and settle in with a good book! To help you on your way, one Experimental Mommy reader (living in Louisiana or Mississippi ONLY) will win a $50 McDonald’s gift card! Enter below:

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Honey Soy Grilled Skirt Steak Recipe with Morton Salt

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

When people learn that I am from New Orleans, they automatically assume that I must be a great cook because I am surrounded with culture and incredible food in my City. However, that could not be further from the truth. Since attending Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef: New Orleans event a few months ago, I have been putting my new skills and knowledge into practice and I can honestly say that it has made a huge difference!

Morton Salt New Orleans Next Door Chef
As you may remember, I was welcomed into the home turned pop up restaurant of Siobhan, a New Jersey transplant living in New Orleans for the past seven years. The multicultural meals Siobhan shared with her Grandmother when she was growing up inspired her love for new and exotic foods. To learn how to enhance her cooking through the proper use of salts, Morton paired Siobhan with Nina Compton of Compère Lapin restaurant (runner-up on Season 11 of BRAVO’s Top Chef) and I was lucky enough to taste the results of the partnership!

Morton Salt Salad
This Morton Salt Next Door Chef event was tied around summertime cooking and grilling, which I couldn’t wait to learn more about since grilling is a staple in my home. I could not get enough of the Honey Soy Grilled Skirt Steak so I wanted to share this recipe with you!

Chef’s Tip: For this recipe, you will use Morton® Kosher Salt because it helps break down the fiber of the meat, resulting in ideal tenderness while also providing seasoning.

Honey Soy Grilled Skirt Steak
Honey Soy Grilled Skirt Steak (Serves 4–6)


  • 1 ½ tsp. Canola oil
  • 1 ½ tsp. Reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. Honey
  • 1 tsp. Chili flakes
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. Red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. Fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp. Garlic, minced
  • 12 oz. Skirt steak
  • 2 Tbsp. Morton® Kosher Salt
  • 1 ½ cup Scallions, finely sliced


1) Combine 1 Tbsp. Morton® Kosher Salt, canola oil, reduced-sodium soy sauce, honey, red wine vinegar, ginger, chili flakes, 3/4 cup scallions and garlic to create a marinade.

2) Pour over skirt steak and let marinade for 1 hour.

3) Remove the steak and reserve the marinade.

4) Prepare stovetop grill or preheat broiler.

5) Grill or broil steak on high heat for six minutes, turning over halfway through and brushing with the marinade.

6) Remove the steak from the grill and allow it to rest for 2–3 minutes.

7) Slice the steak into 1-inch pieces, top with remaining 3/4 cup scallions and season with the remaining 1 Tbsp. Morton® Kosher Sea Salt.

To learn more about Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef: New Orleans including more recipes from the event and tips for elevating your cooking game using the proper salt, check out the video.  Don’t forget, if you use table salt for all your cooking needs, you’re doing it wrong!

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


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.

Cascade product line

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.


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.


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?


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.


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!



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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