Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easy Barbecue Chicken Wings #ChooseSmart #CollectiveBias

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser.

A debate my Mother and I have had since I was a teen was whether or not national brands are in fact better than store brands. We see the store brands wherever you shop these days and sometimes they are significantly cheaper than the national brand but the question is, do they taste better? 

The other day I was shopping at Smart & Final gearing up for the holidays, the nice thing about Smart & Final is that it's a one-stop shop. You can get everything you need from seasonal items, produce to meats. The thing I love about Smart & Final is that they carry all the warehouse store items without the club fee and the crowds - you literally can get in and out of the store with ease! 

I found the frozen chicken right next to my produce department. 
We hosted Easter lunch and I wanted to have a quick appetizer that would appeal to everyone in the family. Since my Mom and I have had an ongoing discussion about brands I thought it would be fun to do a taste comparison and recipe. My comparison would be with First Street Chicken Party Wings (4 lbs.) vs. Tyson Chicken Wing Portions (18 oz.) and First Street Original Sweet BBQ Sauce (18 oz.) vs. Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ Sauce. 

I began my prep the day before Easter, frozen chicken wings take a while to thaw and since I was thawing quite a lot of chicken I let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator. The thing I noticed right away when opening the First Street Chicken Party Wings vs. Tyson Chicken Wing Portions was that the First Street bag had more uniformed pieces. They weren't big, they were pretty small and the Tyson bag had some large pieces and some small. I liked that the First Street bag stayed to the "party" name and kept the bites small. 

For the wings I wanted to keep the basics simple. There were guests ranging from my two-year-old son to my Dad who is sixty-nine. I didn't want to load the wings with sauce and not have the kids enjoy them. I coated the wings in extra virgin olive oil and then continuing with the flavor comparisons I tried Tradewinds Grilled Chicken Seasonings vs. McCormick Grill Mates Barbecue Seasoning. I let the wings bake until they were super crispy, the way we like them, and then served alongside our Easter lunch with the barbecue sauces on the side. 

Both sets of wings cooked evenly, perfectly crisp and I didn't need to flip them which made it even easier. When we served them I noticed that the Sweet Baby Rays BBQ had a little more hickory flavor vs. sweetness of the First Street Original Sweet BBQ. The chicken had great flavor, the seasonings were slightly different, the Tradewinds seasoning tasted like my Dad's homemade seasonings (which we love and I just ran out, bonus points!) and the McCormick's seasoning carried out the hickory flavorings and a little more spice from the red pepper flakes. It was a tough decision on who the winner was and trust me that all eighteen guests were grilled on who they thought was better! 

Who did we pick? The First Street Chicken Party Wings were overall better in terms of consistency, we liked the Tradewinds Grilled Chicken Seasonings and the kids loved the First Street Original Sweet BBQ sauce. So, naturally the winner was... 

The STORE brands! Take that Mom...just kidding! 

If you want to give these Easy Barbecue Chicken Wings a try for your next get together or just for an easy weekend lunch I highly encourage you to head on over to the nearest Smart & Final and give their store brands a try!  

Easy BBQ Chicken Wings Recipe:

4 lbs. First Street Chicken Party Wings, defrosted and rinsed
3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 TB Tradewinds Grilled Chicken Seasoning
First Street Original Sweet BBQ Sauce, to taste.

Preheat oven to 375º. Place your thawed and rinsed chicken wings onto a baking sheet. Dab a dry paper towel onto the wings to remove any excess water. Coat the chicken with the oil and seasonings and toss with your hands. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the wings reach the level of crispness you enjoy!

If you live in the San Diego Area you will be happy to know a new Smart and Final store is opening in Poway on April 30, 2014:
12339 Poway Rd. 
Poway, CA. 92064
Find more recipes in the Smart and Final Social Circular.  And follow Smart and Final on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Balsamic Roasted Muscat Grape Salad {recipe} {clean eating} {paleo}

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for Whole Foods Market.

When Whole Foods approached me to come up with a recipe for a once-a-year beautifully green and pink grape I jumped at the chance. The Muscat Grape comes from Chilé and is only available at Southern California Whole Foods Markets through April. I have never had a fresh Muscat grape, I've only had the chance to have it in vinaigrette or wine form. The fresh seedless pink grape was even better, the rich flavor and succulent crunch were amazing. . . and addicting!

For a quick and easy salad packed with a punch of flavor give my Balsamic Roasted Muscat Grape Salad a try!

(makes two large salads) 

1 full stem Muscat Grapes, rinsed & dried 
2 TB balsamic vinegar 
3 TB pomegranate seeds 
2 strips of applewood smoked bacon, cut into strips
1/4 c. pecans, toasted 
6 c. organic baby spinach 
dressing (I used this recipe

Preheat your oven to 375º. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss grapes with vinegar on the baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes or until they are slightly brown. The vinegar and juice that's released from the grapes while roasting creates a yummy glaze on the grapes. Remove from oven and let cool.  In a salad bowl combine spinach, cooled grapes, pom seeds, bacon and pecans. Drizzle with your choice of dressing and enjoy! You could top this salad with a nice grilled chicken breast or grilled white fish. 

Remember that the Muscat Grapes are only available through April so hurry up and add them to your holiday table. Whether it's adding them to a salad, making fruit skewers or enjoying a handful at a time you won't be disappointed with this pink beauty! 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Jersey - Family Vacation Day 1

As you read in the post before this one we took our first family vacation across the country to visit Jim's family in NJ. The kids did great on the flights, they actually slept for 75% of all four flights. This is huge especially since Payton has been a non-napper since age two. 

Our first morning we got an early start and this early start happened after a very late night. Brayden has slept exclusively in his crib since three months and sticks to a schedule. He was really thrown through a loop when there wasn't a crib for him to sleep in and even more so when he was forced to cuddle with the three of us. Thank goodness that March Madness began because he finally fell asleep watching basketball as we streamed the SDSU game through our laptop. 

We quickly got out the door and Miss Payton learned real quick that when mommy and daddy tell you it's really cold out and that you should wear a jacket it truly means it. She reassured us that she was fine until we walked outside and that cold air whipped her in the face. We quickly found her bundled in her coat and her sweatshirt covering her head. We thought we could cheer her up with her first Dunkin' Donuts experience but she stayed super chipper by hiding and eventually falling asleep as we drove to Grandmom and Grandpa's house. 

Our only plan for the day was to visit the Statue of Liberty. We, well, really meaning me, was not prepared for how cold it truly would be on Ellis Island. Thank goodness for my mother-in-law and her planning because she had gloves for all of us and hand warmers. It was really neat and even emotional taking the ferry over to Ellis Island. I imagined what it was like for my great-grandparents as they embarked from Norway. It was more emotional looking at the city from the distance where the twin towers used to stand. I have seen it numerous times but never from that angle where all you had was Manhattan as your skyline. 

The kids had a great time, Payton wouldn't listen to me at all which was irritating but I let it go. She held onto her Grandmom's hand and engaged in conversations that I am sure they will both cherish. 

Brayden was the only one really cooperating as I forced my camera in his face the entire day. I can't blame Payton for ignoring me. It's annoying. 

When we finally got to the statue it was so darn windy and as we exited out onto the platform the wind scared the bajeezus out of the kids that they grabbed right onto daddy and nestled into his neck as we took the walk around. The rest of our time on the ground was spent chasing Payton around, her giving us sassy looks and testing my patience. When we left the New Jersey port (which, if you are ever considering going to the Statue of Liberty I recommend going this way vs. New York) we headed to lunch at one of the grandparents fav Tex-Mex restaurants. It was super yummy and nice because my sweet Payton reemerged. I guess she was just really hungry! Like mama, like daughter. 

Our view from the platform. 

Brayden would throw the leaves and watch them whip in the wind. It was so fun doing this with him. 

She would not let me take a picture of her at all. Very unlike her because she loves posing. 

Daddy was explaining the skyline and what the freedom tower meant. 

cold. tired. hungry. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Jet Setting with Disney's FROZEN #FROZENfun #CollectiveBias

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser.

A few days ago my little family took our first adventure 3,000 miles away from home as we traveled to New Jersey. We have never traveled by plane together so the stress level for mommy was on high alert as I planned out our thirteen hour travel day. As I was brainstorming how to keep our two small children occupied for both of our flights I knew that it had to be planned out by hour. I had researched how to keep them engaged without wanting to run up and down the aisle but I wanted a theme. I know that sounds so cliché, but I love having a theme for special events and this was one trip that is bound to be memorable. When I saw that Disney was releasing the FROZEN DVD on March 18th I knew that Elsa, Anna & silly 'ole Olaf could bring a smile to both children throughout the entire flight. 

We are a FROZEN obsessed family, but I mean, who isn't these days? As I was preparing for the in-flight activities I headed to Walmart because they seemed to have the most merchandise in-stock. This took a bit of work but with visiting multiple stores I was able to purchase enough goodies to surprise each child. The last piece to the theme was purchasing the FROZEN DVD which came out this past Tuesday. Walmart has the best deal on the movie which is available at a rollback price of $16.96 to $14.96 and there is a sweet $5 off coupon on specially marked packs of Eggo waffles (24 count). 

So what did I pack? Well, I first started out with purchasing the FROZEN Anna & Elsa suitcase for Payton. I let them pretend pack and then when they fell asleep I packed each of their suitcases with their activities so they would be surprised when we boarded the plane. This was key! As we boarded and got situated I filled the back of the seats with: A Tale of Two Sisters book,  Troll Magic coloring book with crayons, Big Snowman, Little Snowman book and the best idea was the FROZEN invisible ink coloring book! They both thought it was the coolest thing watching images and colors appear, this honestly locked both of their attention for 60% of the flight. I also loaded their tablets with Olaf's Freeze Fall app. I also packed each of their lunch boxes with fun snacks, including healthy and special treats.

I knew that the take-off might be a little scary for them but I reminded them how brave Anna was when she embraced the snow to go look for Elsa in the now frozen Arrendelle. When I explained this to them Payton excitedly explained back how brave they were being for traveling to snowy New Jersey for the first time! Exactly my sweet California girl!

Our first flight was the longest leg so halfway through I turned on FROZEN and they thought it was so cool to watch a movie from my laptop. Make sure to purchase a headphone splitter if you have multiple children or if you want to listen along with your child!

When we arrived at our layover we explored the airport. They rode the walkways, cautiously entering and exiting which the folks in Chicago loved as they were hustling and bustling through! When we reached our terminal we had some lunch and once they were finished I let them know that I had a special gift for them because they behaved so well on the flight. They were so excited and appreciated that we acknowledged their good behavior on this new journey. Payton loved the Anna Sparkle Doll and as we took off on the next flight she wasn't as scared because she was hugging Anna telling her that they would be brave together!

The last few days have been exhausting but I have to let you know that with the help of pre-planning our flight with #FROZENfun activities from our favorite movie, it helped create a memorable experience. My kids have been thanking me nonstop for making their first vacation away from home so fun.

Do you have any special tricks you use while traveling with your little ones? What's your favorite part of FROZEN? I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

#ad Gluten-Free Chicken & Cabbage Lo-Mein {recipe} #cookitGF #collectivebias

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser, #cookitGF #collectivebias

As many of you know we have been doing the gluten-free cooking thing since last September. It can become frustrating for me while meal planning because there are a lot of foods my family loves that I simply cannot eat. My kids love going out to their favorite Chinese restaurant for chicken lo-mein. I don't love it because I end up eating foods high in gluten, sodium and who knows what else. Plus, I always feel yucky afterwards. I wanted to create a dish that pleases everyone in the family so I came up with a healthy, quick alternative; gluten-free chicken & cabbage lo-mein. 

I got the inspiration while shopping at Sam's Club a few weeks ago when they were having an in-store demo for Tyson Gluten-Free Grilled & Ready Chicken Fillets.  Don't you just love the store demos? It keeps the kids calm and you get to enjoy new products that you might not try otherwise. Look for the Tyson demo in your local stores on 4/4, 4/5 and 5/14. 

Gluten-Free Chicken and Cabbage Lo-Mein


2 Tyson Gluten-Free Grilled & Ready Chicken Fillets, diced into chunks
1 rib of celery, sliced
5 whole water chestnuts, sliced
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 small head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
5 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 bunches green onions, sliced
3 TB dry roasted peanuts, chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds
3 TB toasted sesame seed oil
4 TB coconut aminos


1. Heat sesame oil in a skillet or wok. Add in broccoli, mushrooms and celery. Sauté for a few minutes. Next add in remaining vegetables. 

2. Add in sliced and diced chicken. Follow the instructions on the bag for defrosting options. I used the microwave to save time.  

3. Lastly, add in cabbage "noodles" and sprinkle coconut aminos on top allowing the aminos to wilt the cabbage. Sauté for about three to five minutes. Garnish with sesame seeds and crushed peanuts. Enjoy! It tastes just like one of the top Chinese restaurant chains lo-mein but without the guilt and way healthier!

For a high quality, gluten-free chicken meal check out Tyson's Gluten-Free Grilled & Ready Chicken Fillets today! Find Tyson here for additional information. #CookitGF