Sunday, September 24, 2017

All Things Apple #Celebrate365

Fall has arrived and the annual debate has begun - are you Team Apple or Team Pumpkin.  I personally enjoy both but if I had to choose I would go with Apple.  Apples are so versatile for both sweet and savory dishes, and you have access to fresh apples for a longer time-frame than you do pumpkin.  No matter which side of the aisle you sit on, I think we all can agree that there is something special about both of these fall flavors.

Now while I am for both Apple and Pumpkin, this week is all about Apples!  In fact, this week I'm celebrating #AppleWeek with other food bloggers.  So to get the week started, I've partnered with my Celebrate 365 co-hosts (Carlee from Cooking with Carlee, Jan from Tip Garden, and Nicole from Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom) to throw an All Things Apple Blog Party.  Bloggers are encouraged to link-up their favorite apple recipes, crafts and ideas here in this week long blog party.

What is your favorite Apple dish?  Be sure to link up your favorites below and remember to Comment for a Cause!

All Things Apple #Celebrate365 Link Blog Party - pin your favorite apple recipe, crafts and ideas

Friday, September 22, 2017

Girls Night Out: Enchanted Acres

Last weekend I visited Enchanted Acres, located west of Sheffield, Iowa, with the North Iowa Bloggers.  My family and I enjoyed exploring the pumpkin patch and painting pumpkins.  We have had fun going on a family visit every year since its opening in 2012.  In fact - here is a list of our family's 5 Favorite Things to do at Enchanted Acres.

The Big Red Barn at Enchanted Acres, Sheffield, Iowa, home to lots of Girls Night Out activities this fall

At the end of the evening, while we were all hanging out on their hexagon fire pit swings, I asked Enchanted Acres owner, Shannon Latham, what she was most excited for this year at the pumpkin patch.  Without hesitation she said, Art Box Painting!  And that got me thinking about all of the fun activities Shannon plans for the patch's season, not only for families, but also some for adults only.

So grab some of your girlfriends and head out to the Big Red Barn at Enchanted Acres and have a Girls Night Out:

Enchanted Acres has not only activities for the family but for your next Girls Night Out - check out the schedule

If you can't make a class, you can still go with your friends to Enchanted Acres to get pumpkins, gourds, mums and to check out their gift shop with lot of fun decor items and food!  The pumpkin patch is open Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  General admission is $5 per person (children age 2 and under are free), and on Fridays the admission is waived.

Enchanted Acres has not only activities for the family but for your next Girls Night Out - check out the schedule

So which class would you love to go to with friends?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!
Have a Girls Night Out at Enchanted Acres this Fall by going to one of their classes or workshops

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Avocado Salsa #foodbloggers4fl

Last week a group of food bloggers and myself gathered together to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey by creating Texas inspired recipes and sharing about different relief efforts.  Today that same group is gathering together to support those affected by Hurricane Irma.  Irma effected areas of the Caribbean, Florida and Southeast United States.  Today we are all sharing recipes inspired by those areas, and once again sharing how you can help!

When I think of the impacted area I think seafood and citrus.  Maybe it's because I live in the Midwest, but anytime I'm on the coast I eat as much seafood as possible.  Not to say we don't have access to flown in seafood here, it is just awesome being able to try so many different kinds of fresh seafood while visiting places like Florida.  Besides seafood, you can't think of Florida without also thinking of oranges, grapefruit, limes, tangerines, etc.  In fact, Florida is the top producer of oranges and tomatoes in the United States.

So what to do with all these traditional foods and flavors?  Why not wrap them all together in a taco, influenced by the area's Hispanic heritage!  Plus I love tacos!  So, that is how I created my Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Avocado Salsa.

Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Avocado Salsa #foodbloggers4fl

Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Avocado Salsa

2# Shrimp, raw, peeled and deveined
4 Garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Onion powder
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1/2 Orange, juiced

Citrus Avocado Salsa:
2 Avocados, decided chunky
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced chunky
1/2 Red Onion, chopped
1/8 cup Cilantro, chopped
1/2 Orange, juiced
1/4 tsp Garlic salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Start your tacos by peeling and deveining the shrimp.  Pat the shrimp dry and then coat the shrimp with the garlic, chili powder, cumin, onion powder and salt.  Let shrimp sit and marinate while making the salsa.

To make the salsa combine the avocado, tomato, onion and cilantro.  Then toss with the garlic salt, pepper and orange juice.  Lightly stir to combine flavors.  The salsa can sit and wait for the tacos to finish.  Any leftovers need to be refrigerated.

Now start cooking the shrimp.  Warm the oil over a medium-high heat.  Coat the oil along the bottom of your pan and then add your shrimp.  Saute the shrimp til they become pink and opaque.  This usually takes 5 minutes.  About half way through the cooking process, add the other half of orange's juice to the pan.

Serve your Shrimp inside your favorite taco shell with the Citrus Avocado Salsa on top!

Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Avocado Salsa #foodbloggers4fl

My entire family loves these tacos!  My kids consider shrimp a special treat.  They are seasoned with a mild spice so everyone in the family can enjoy them.  The Citrus Avocado Salsa adds richness and freshness to the taco, with a little zing from the orange.  These tacos are easy to make and perfect for feeding a crowd (or a family of six 😉).

Sharing recipes inspired the areas hit by Hurricane Irma while encouraging ways to aid with relief efforts #foodbloggers4FL

Now, how you can help!  Hurricane Irma hit several areas.  These are local organizations that will be working in the impacted areas aiding with ongoing needs:
Also, be sure to check out all of the awesome recipes shared today as part of our support to bring awareness to relief efforts to those affected by Hurricane Irma:

Please consider donating today and remember to Comment for a Cause!
Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Avocado Salsa - a quick meal for a busy weeknight that the whole family will enjoy #foodbloggers4FL

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ladies Night Out in the Field

As a busy Mom of four I'm always looking for a good excuse for a Ladies Night Out, and that was part of the inspiration behind CommonGround Iowa's inaugural Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field.

CommonGround Iowa's Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field, bring women together to talk food, farming and family
Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy
I am a volunteer with the national CommonGround program, which brings together women farmers from across the United States, to share about the food we grow and how we produce it.  Our goal is to have conversations to help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation surrounding food and farming.  There are twelve volunteers in the state of Iowa.  Last year after harvest we got together and decided we wanted to create an event where we could foster relationships with other women in Iowa and talk about food, farming and family.  One of our volunteers, Kellie Blair, volunteered to host the event, and from there the event that brought together 40 women from Central Iowa (and four men - all with the last name Blair and our photographer 😉) got its roots.

CommonGround Iowa's Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field, bring women together to talk food, farming and family
Our host Kellie Blair and one of the Blair men 😉
welcoming guests to their family's farm
Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy
The evening started off with appetizers and small chat over wine.  It was great to meet a wide variety of women - teachers, legislators, marketing professionals, business owners, pastors, etc.

CommonGround Iowa's Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field, bring women together to talk food, farming and family
Des Moines Moms Blog Co-Owners Andrea Cooley and Kara Knaack
having a conversation with CommonGround Volunteer Sara Ross and myself
Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy
After everyone arrived and had their fill of appetizers, Kellie welcomed everyone to their corn, soybean, pig and cattle farm.  Kellie and her husband AJ took the group around to checkout some of their equipment and cattle, as well as answer questions about some of their farming practices and technologies used.

CommonGround Iowa's Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field, bring women together to talk food, farming and family
AJ sharing about their beef cattle calving season,
while many got their perfect cow photo and cow selfies
Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy
Then it was time for supper to be served.  The menu included amazing smoked beef tri tip, roasted pork tenderloin, marinated garden vegetables with edamame, and dauphinoise potatoes.  I have to specifically name the menu because it was delicious and perfect for a ladies night out!

CommonGround Iowa's Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field, bring women together to talk food, farming and family
Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy
Following supper there was a short program which included AE Dairy President & CEO Miriam Erickson Brown.  It was great to catch up with both her and AE Dairy Director of Marketing Kim Peter that evening, and for Miriam to share the AE Dairy story with all of the attendees.  AE Dairy has made changes over the decades to reflect trends but one thing remains the same, their passion for quality and that starts with the cows on the Iowa dairy farms they source their milk from.  I also loved that she shared about being a third generation family business owner.

CommonGround Iowa's Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field, bring women together to talk food, farming and family, Miriam Erickson Brown keynote speaker
Miriam Erickson Brown, President & CEO of AE Dairy
sharing with the women about her family's dairy business
Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy
But you want to know what my favorite part of the evening was???  It was the dessert!  And not just because the warm apple crisp and vanilla ice cream were once again delicious; it was because of the conversations held sitting at the tables or standing in line to get more ice cream.  After a couple hours of dinning and hearing about all of the volunteers' farms, the women in attendance had lots of questions and were interested in learning more.  Our intimate setting was the perfect spot for everyone to feel comfortable to ask any question and have discussions about food and farming.  There were so many connections made that evening.

CommonGround Iowa's Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field, bring women together to talk food, farming and family
Blair Farm
Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy
Thank you to Kellie and AJ for being our gracious hosts.  You both were great at sharing about your farm with everyone.  Thanks to my fellow CommonGround Iowa volunteers for working on everything from the invite list, to bringing flowers from their personal gardens to use as table decorations.  Thank you to our CommonGround staff for making arrangements for things like a tent, tables and chairs, and for taking our ideas and transforming them into something tangible.  And lastly, thanks to all of the women who shared their Friday night with us.  I hope you had a great Ladies Night Out and I can't wait for the 2nd Annual event next year!

Have you ever been to a Ladies Night Out on a farm?  Have you ever been to a Banquet in a Field?  Share about your experiences in the comments section.  And if you haven't been to an event like this and would like to, let me know that as well!  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

CommonGround Iowa's Ladies Night Out: Banquet in the Field, bring women together to talk food, farming and family

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Steak Skillet Supper #foodbloggers4tx

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas at the end of August it was almost overwhelming to know how to help or where to start.  I had empathy for everyone that was in the storm's destructive path.  And I wasn't the only one.  Soon a group of food bloggers that I work with regularly and I started talking and brainstorming what we could do to help and bring awareness to the relief needs and efforts.  We decided to all come together by creating Texas inspired recipes and sharing them today.

When I think Texas, I think beef - afterall, Texas raises the most cattle in the United States.  There were so many ranchers that we affected by Hurricane Harvey.  In fact, the counties that sustained damage from the hurricane were home to 1.2 million cattle.  Ranchers worked tirelessly to drive the cattle to higher ground but they couldn't get to them all immediately.  They are still working day in and day out to move cattle, but despite their resilience, Texas agriculture officials fear thousands of cattle have died in the aftermath of Harvey.

So to support those ranchers and share their pride in Texas and their ranches, I decided to make a Steak Skillet Supper for Two.  Break out your cast iron and get ready for a delicious, simple and quick meal for two.

Steak Skillet Supper - great for date night or a quick weeknight meal #foodbloggers4tx

Steak Skillet Supper for Two

2 - Steaks of your choice (I used T-Bones since I thought they represented Texas well and I had some in my deep freezer)
Garlic Salt 
2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 heaping cups Zucchini, sliced in 1/2 inch circles and quartered
1 Onion, sliced
1 Green Pepper, sliced and cut in half
1 Jalapeno Pepper, sliced and cut in fourths
8 oz Whole Button Mushrooms, sliced in half

Season your steaks with garlic salt and pepper and let sit out at room temperature while you get the cast iron skillet ready.  Warm up the skillet over medium-high heat, then add the butter and oil.  Once the butter has melted add the steaks.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of your steak and your preference for doneness.  I prefer my steaks medium rare so I aim for an internal temperature of 130°.

After steaks are cooked, take out of the skillet and let rest on plate.  Turn down heat on skillet to medium and start adding your vegetables.  Saute the zucchini, onion, peppers and mushrooms for 8-10 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender.  Add your steaks back to the skillet and serve.

Steak Skillet Supper - great for date night or a quick weeknight meal #foodbloggers4tx

Usually I feel like steak should be paired with some good, hearty potatoes, but you won't miss them with this vegetable medley.  The combination of flavors from the onion and peppers, along with the generous portion of zuchinni and mushrooms will fill that spot.  My favorite parts of this skillet supper are probably that you only use one pan and that you can make it in 20 minutes.

Food Bloggers for Texas Hurricane Harvey Relief - a collection of recipes and resources on how you can help with relief efforts #foodblogger4TX

Now, how you can help!  First, there are several organizations that are needing everyone's help in order to take care of ongoing relief needs.  I have chose to support the Houston Food Pantry this month through Comments for a Cause, but any of these organizations would be great:

Second, you can join me and the over 30 other bloggers today by sharing your favorite Texas inspired recipes, along with links to relief organizations:

Please consider donating today and remember to Comment for a Cause!  Also be sure to check in next Thursday, September 21st as we share Florida inspired recipes to bring awareness to Hurricane Irma Relief.
Steak Skillet Supper - great for date night or a quick weeknight meal #foodbloggers4tx

Friday, September 1, 2017

Comments for a Cause - Houston Food Bank

Comments for a Cause - Houston Food Bank
Happy September 1st!  As Labor Day Weekend starts it is time to unofficially say good-bye to summer and get ready for fall.  And I have to admit, that kind of makes me happy!  Fall is my favorite season.  I love harvest time, tailgating, college football, excuses to eat fall foods, everything apple and everything pumpkin!

But before I get ahead of myself with celebrating fall, let's recap last month's Comments for a Cause efforts for the CAL School Supply Closet.  Last month I had 73 comments, creating a $36.50 donation to help families in my local community get ready and prepared for school.

In the month of September I'm proud to be supporting the Houston Food Bank.  I will donate $0.50 for every comment made on my blog to help with their Harvey Disaster Relief.

Comments for a Cause - Houston Food Bank

My heart is with everyone in Texas and Louisiana that was hit by Hurricane Harvey.  It is almost overwhelming to know how to help or where to start.  After seeing photos of ranchers moving cattle to higher ground through flooded plains in Southeast Texas and families being rescued by boat out of their homes in Houston, the one thing I knew tied everyone together and that was going to be affected greatly was food.  After doing some research I decided the best location to send money would be the Houston Food Bank.

The Houston Food Bank has set up a Harvey Disaster Relief program that is helping people in the greater Houston area affected by the flooding.  There is both a short term need, as they provide food and supplies to those distressed, and a long term need, as they will continue to help residents as they rebuild their lives.

So help me, help those in need after Hurricane Harvey and comment all month long to support the Houston Food Bank.  In addition to this month's Comments for a Cause, I am joining up with other food bloggers on September 12th to not only share recipes that celebrate Texas, but also to highlight how you can help, including donating to the Houston Food Bank and other reputable charities.  If you are a food blogger and are interested in participating in the #foodbloggers4tx outreach effort contact me and I'll get you lined up!

What are some other relief efforts you are aware of for those affected by Hurricane Harvey?  Remember to comment all month long and thank you for your continued support of Comments for a Cause.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Omaha Weekend Family Guide

If you've been following my blog and Facebook the last couple of weeks you know that my family and I went on a vacation to Omaha, Nebraska earlier this month.  So far on the blog I've highlighted a few places we went to, but that doesn't include everything.  So here are our recommendations on how to plan an Omaha Weekend Family Getaway.

Day 1

Omaha Children's Museum

Omaha Weekend Family Guide - Omaha Children's Museum

The Omaha Children's Museum is a perfect way to start your family's Omaha Weekend.  Kids can explore, create and learn while venturing through the two levels of exhibits.  Be sure to check out the Super Gravitron Ball Machine and the Imagination Playground while you are there!  With activities for all ages, your family is guaranteed to have several hours of fun there.  Learn more about our visit here.

Watch a Baseball Game

Omaha Weekend Family Guide - Go to a Baseball Game, Omaha Storm Chasers

Omaha is the perfect place to go to a baseball game.  Omaha is home to the minor league team, the Omaha Storm Chasers and is home to the College World Series.  When we were visiting earlier this month the Storm Chasers were in town and were actually playing the Iowa Cubs.  So we rooted for both teams 😉  We had a great time sitting in the McDonald's Berm section of Werner Park, and the night we went they had a special where the first 50 kids in the Berm got in for $1!  You can't beat that!  If you plan on sitting in the Berm (the lawn area behind the outfield) be sure to bring a blanket or two the watch the game, and if you are lucky like we were, fireworks afterwards!

Day 2

Durham Museum

Omaha Weekend Family Guide - Durham Museum

Start Day 2 off with a stop at the Durham Museum.  This museum includes two levels of exhibits that will have you go back in time and discover the beginnings of Omaha, housed in the original Omaha Union Station.  From Native Americans, to trains, to Omaha native Warren Buffet - there is something unique to check out around every corner.  I will admit, my family and I enjoyed the Durham Museum more than I thought we were going go to.  They had a lot of interactive exhibits that the whole family enjoyed, and we all were in awe of how they restored the Great Hall of the Union Station.  Learn more about our visit here.

Old Market

Omaha Weekend Family Guide - Old Market, Ted & Wally's Ice Cream

Then go next door, and walk the cobblestone streets of the Old Market area.  This historic business district is full of unique dinning and shopping locations, including Ted & Wally's Ice Cream as seen above.  Ted & Wally's eclectic decor and ice cream flavors is worth the stop to see and taste.  If you look in the bottom right side of the photo you can see two large ice cream makers that they make all of their homemade ice cream in.  I had the Roasted Street Corn ice cream when I was there and loved the creamy, unique flavor.

Gene Leahy Mall

Omaha Weekend Family Guide - Gene Leahy Mall, Giant Slides

On the North side of Old Market is the Gene Leahy Mall.  This park includes waterfalls, unique outdoor art, and two giant slides.  Our family enjoyed walking along the pathway throughout the park that encompasses four blocks, and we all took a trip down the pair of huge slides, many, many times. 😊

Heartland of America Park

Omaha Weekend Family Guide - Heartland of America Park

Continuing exploring this side of Omaha by then traveling East to Heartland of America Park.  We found a picnic table while we were here to have lunch on and enjoyed watching the 320 foot water fountain (that you can see behind us in the photo).  If you go in the evening they put on a light show in the water fountain!

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

Omaha Weekend Family Guide - Bob Bridge

Lastly, head North to the Bob Bridge.  This pedestrian bridge links Omaha and Council Bluffs.  Be sure to take your photo standing in both Nebraska and Iowa while you visit!  The Bob is a curvy bridge representing the Missouri River, which it is over.  Our family enjoyed going "Bobbing" and earning our .9K badge.

Day 3

Henry Doorly Zoo

Omaha Weekend Family Guide - Henry Doorly Zoo

Because you can't see all of Omaha in just two days, make it a long weekend and dedicate an entire day visiting the "World's Best Zoo", the Henry Doorly Zoo.  With over 17,000 animals from around the world over 130 acres, you are guaranteed to see something new and exciting for every member of your family.  And there is a chance that even with one full day at the Zoo that you won't be able to see it all!  With both indoor and outdoor exhibits, the Zoo is the perfect place to visit anytime of the year.  Check out the highlights from our visit here.

We thought Omaha was a fun place for the whole family and that it was very family friendly.  Have you ever been to Omaha before?  What would you add?  What spot on our Weekend Family Guide makes you want to plan a trip to Omaha?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Make your #OmahaWeekend plans for your Family with this 3 Day Guide