Everyday Mom's Meals

Friday, July 31, 2015

Not So Cheap

About 3 years ago, Qdoba came to Fort Wayne. I don't know if I had ever heard of them before that, but being Mexican food, we were certainly happy to have another option, since it's one of our favorites. Oh, and it didn't hurt that Mr. E. actually won FREE meals for a year at their grand opening!

Yep, for an entire year, the three of us could go in there and have a delicious meal, absolutely free. And being at a time when money was a little tight, we were especially grateful for the treat.

But after the year was up, I have to admit our visits became less and less frequent to the point I can't tell you the last time we ate there. Believe me, it's not that we don't still love the food, but the first time we went in and got the same meals we had been getting for free, and had to pay for them we realized just how not so cheap it was. I'm not dissing them in anyway. They have fresh ingredients, delicious food, and ask a fair price. But for a family of 3, I paid about the same as I do for a sit down meal, with a server...and they are a little closer to the fast food category in my opinion, which is totally fine, but if I'm paying that money, I kinda don't want to have to get my won drink. You know what I'm saying?

So a couple weeks ago and when Little Man and I started talking about how badly we were craving one of their burrito bowls, I decided it was time to try to recreate them at home. But instead of doing them individually on an assembly line like they do in the restaurant, I figured why not make a big one. In one pot. Easy peasy.

I adore one pot meals, and I know so many of you do too. Especially with back to school time upon us, those simple meals that can be on the table in about 30 minutes are crucial to moms (and dads) every where not pulling our hair out.

Add your favorite ingredients to this to really make it your own. I think corn would be delicious, and maybe even some hot peppers for those who like it spicy.

I love going out to eat, and when we do, I still want to stay on budget and get the most bang for our buck. So when places have to get scratched off the "to go" list, at least I can recreate our favorites at home.

Chicken Burrito Skillet
Inspired by no. 2 pencil
2 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 lb.) cubed
3 TBS olive oil, divided
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 c. extra long grain rice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 c. shredded taco blend cheese
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
3 green onions, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Additional Topping Ideas:
Sour Cream
Taco Sauce
Green Chilies
Pickled Jalapenos
Diced Avocado

In a large skillet, heat 2 TBS oil over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to hot oil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until browned on all sides. Move chicken to sides of pan. Add other TBS of oil and allow to come to temp. Add rice, cook and stir for about 2 minutes until just beginning to brown on edges. Stir in chicken broth, beans, tomatoes, and seasonings. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed. Stir occasionally while cooking. Remove from heat, sprinkle with cheese, cover again and place on warm setting until cheese melts. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and green onions.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Boy & His Beach

My boy is part fish. I accepted this a long time ago. He has a very special relationship with water. From body surfing in the waves of the Atlantic to spending hours playing in the pool, I know he must have gills I haven't found yet.

I shouldn't be surprised though. He comes by it naturally. His dad and I both love the water too. He gets the part fish DNA from me because I could be by/in the pool all day long. As far as the beach goes, his adoration for it comes from his daddy. I like the beach. I like to gaze at it. Walk on it. Maybe dip my toes in the ocean. But to lay in the sand, having it stick to my skin, and then swimming in the salt water...not so much. I like chlorine. But my boys can spend hours laying on the sand, digging, napping, they don't care as long as they are becoming one with "their" ocean.

So you can imagine how sad it sometimes is that we live in landlocked Indiana. Sure, we have our pool in the backyard, but it will never be as nice as the one in Florida. And yes, we could visit the beach at one of our many lakes...but it's not the same.

So when I want to bring a little beach to my little boy's Hoosier world, I find other ways; and this time it included a snack! Seriously, if you are having kids over for a day at the pool, or lake, or even a kids' birthday party, you've got to include these. They are as cute as they are yummy and they will go nuts for them!!

My boy loves his beach and ocean. Since we can only get him there 2 weeks every summer, I've got 50 other weeks in the year to nurture that love, and keep him as excited as he was when he stuck his toes in the sand for the very first time.

Sand and Surf Pudding Cups
1 (3.4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 c. milk
1 c. vanilla wafer cookies, crushed
1 Fruit Roll Up
Teddy Grahams
Parfait Cups
Mini Umbrellas
Blue Food Coloring
In a medium bowl whisk together pudding mix and milk until smooth. Chill in fridge for 5 minutes to soft set. Remove and add food coloring until you get the desired color of blue you want. Carefully scoop into cups. Top with “sand” or crushed cookies. Cut fruit leather into 4 equal strips. Lay one in each cup. Add with a bear. Add umbrella. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes to finish setting.
*NOTE* Crushing the cookies are a great way for the kids to get involved. Simply put cookies in a Ziploc bag and let them pound away!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Whole Grain Challenge with Nature's Harvest® {A Feature and Giveaway}

"Whole Grains." Everybody is talking about them, and you can't go down the aisles of your grocery store without seeing them around every turn. That's because they are an important part of a nutritious diet! The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends that adults eat 48 grams or more of whole grains daily and children ages 4-13 years old eat a minimum of 40-48 grams per day. However, studies have shown that the majority of children and adults are not consuming the recommended amount of whole grains.

This is why Nature's Harvest® Bread is so excited to launch the Whole Grain Challenge to encourage families to include 48 grams of whole grains into their diets every single day.  From July 13 to August 10, participants can take the whole grain pledge on the Nature’s Harvest® Facebook page and they will automatically be entered into a weekly sweepstakes.

If you've never tried Nature's Harvest®, let me tell you why you should! 

Each variety of Nature’s Harvest® bread is baked with:
At least 8 grams of whole grains per serving
No artificial flavors or colors
No high fructose corn syrup 
Since ALL Nature’s Harvest® breads are baked with at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving, it’s an easy way for moms to provide her family the whole grains they need… no matter the variety.
Nature’s Harvest® bread is now available to consumers nationwide and come in delicious varieties including:
100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Bread
Honey Wheat Made with Whole Grain Bread
Butter Top Made With Whole Grain White Bread
Butter Top Made with Whole Grain Wheat Bread
Now you can have bread that is soft, flavorful and perfect for every day use that your family will love that you can feel absolutely great about giving them. With back to school time just around the corner, and all those pb&j sandwiches going with the little ones, it's the perfect time to make the switch!

I was super excited when my friends at Nature's Harvest® asked me to try their bread and come up with a fun recipe to share with all of you.
One of our favorite supper time combos inspired me. Soup and Grilled Cheese. It's an American classic, and while 99% of the time, it's the standard tomato soup and American cheese, this time I decided to switch it up. I took that grilled cheese sandwich to the next level! I basically took one of my favorite appetizer dips and stuffed it between two slices of bread. Genius, I know. 
With busy school days almost here, simple, tasty, fast meals we can get on the table and still feel good about are a must, and using Nature's Harvest® for a soup and sammy meal gives us just that. Oh, and the great folks at Nature's Harvest have also provided me with a fun giveaway for you too. Just scroll down under the recipe to see how to enter! 
Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese
1 loaf Nature's Harvest Butter Top Made with Whole Grain White Bread
Margarine or Butter, softened
1 (14 oz.) can artichokes, chopped
6 oz. fresh spinach
3 TBS olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 TBS sour cream
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
3 c. finely shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook garlic in oil for 30 seconds just until fragrant. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add artichokes and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and Parmesan, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread margarine on one side of slices of bread. Lay margarine side down in large skillet. Add about 2-3 TBS mozzarella cheese, and 2-3 TBS of spinach mixture to bread. Top with another slice of bread, margarine side up. Cook until browned on all sides. Serve with a cup of your favorite soup.


Leave a comment telling me your favorite sandwich! Include an email address so I can find you easy. 
(1) Winner Will Receive:
(1) $5 off coupon for Nature's Harvest® Bread
(1) $25 Visa Gift Card

Contest Ends: August 7, 2015
Disclaimer:  The information and coupons have been provided by Nature’s Harvest® so that I could try the product and share my thoughts and information about Nature’s Harvest® bread. The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the opinions of Nature’s Harvest®. They also provided me with the prize package for the giveaway, but I am in charge of running it and choosing a winner.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Missing Florida

A month ago at this time, I was laying in a lounge chair, next to my favorite pool in the world, just steps away from our favorite beach in the world. Yes, we were on vacation, and yes, we've been home for nearly 3 weeks now...and we are still going through withdrawal.

We can't help it. It's not that we don't love our Hoosier home, but the sand, the surf, the relaxation, the freedom...all of it is so appealing, but especially when you get back into the daily grind and your already busy life explodes with more and more to do.

Now, this week it did get a tad easier because we "discovered" a great public pool about 20 minutes north of our house that is such a fun time, the boy literally spent an entire afternoon playing and swimming. (I say discovered, because it's been there for years, and I've known about it, but this week was the first time we actually went.) So after a fantastic day poolside, I wanted to make something with a little tropical feel to really complete the "almost like Florida" vibe.

This makes a terrific sweet side to any summer meal, or wait and serve it for dessert. If you're having a pool party or maybe a get together at the lake, it's super cute for those too. To me, it's a little like the classic ambrosia I've made a thousand times, but just with a little something sunnier. Oh, and if that pool party happens to have kids at it, be sure to spring for the tiny umbrellas. The boy thought they were the best part!

Creamy Tropical Salad
1 ( 20 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 1/2 c. mini marshmallows
1 1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut, reserve a little for garnish
Maraschino cherries, for garnish

In a large bowl combine pineapple and oranges. In a small bowl whisk together sour cream and vanilla until combined. Pour over fruit. Stir until combined. Fold in marshmallows and coconut. Chill for at least 6 hours before serving. Garnish with extra coconut and cherries. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Salad...Hold The Mayo

I love summer. I love everything about summer. The sun. The heat. The water. The FOOD! I crave summer time foods year round (Yeah, I'm the girl that you will find making potato and macaroni salad while the snow falls!) but they never taste quite as good as they do in the backyard on a warm summer evening.

However, the one thing I find that most of our favorite summer dishes (especially the sides) have in common is mayo. Now, I love mayo. I eat it by the bucket loads...on sandwiches, in salads, from the jar with a spoon..okay that one might be pushing it; but it's probably my most used condiment. But during the hot summer days, sometimes mayo isn't your friend.

One, depending on the time of day, mayo can seem a little heavy. We like to eat later in the evenings during summer vacation, and a few times, salads with mayo have just seemed a little too much at that time of day. And two, this being the biggest issue, mayo and sunshine do NOT mix. If you're having any outdoor party or meal, those mayo filled salads must be kept chilled, and let's face it, that's not always practical.

So, I set out to make a delicious, summer quality salad/side dish that didn't have one ounce of mayo in it. Not one drop. I wanted something with a lot of veggies, but a light dressing that would could hold up to the heat and sunshine.

This is what I came up with. I was inspired by artichokes and olives because, well, if I'm being honest, I was just hungry for them. And the hearts of palm? If you've never had them they fall into that same category of salty, briny...mmm good. They are one of Mr. E's favorites, so I threw those in too. If you go to look for them, they are usually right next to the canned artichokes.

Feel free to add whatever veggies you love, pretty much anything would be delicious in here. In fact, I wanted to add zucchini too, and simply forgot it at the store, so it's definitely going in next time!

Summer salads are so tasty, and we all love the creamy mayo filled ones. But after you've eaten 100 lbs of those this summer, maybe something lighter could go on the menu too!

Quick Artichoke Salad
1 (14 oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 (14 oz.) can hearts of palm, drained and sliced
1 (14 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, well drained
1/2 c. black olives, sliced
1/2 c. green olives, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
 2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 TBS lemon juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 TBS dried parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine and toss all veggies. In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar lemon juice and garlic powder. Pour over veggies. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving.

Shared at Weekend Potluck