Food

Since the moment I became a Walmart Mom in October of 2008, I have been asking for more organic food options in their stores, mostly because I know that greener products at Walmart tend to be more affordable than everywhere else. So every time a new option is added, I celebrate it.

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This time, that option is Wild Oats. The brand has been around since 1987, but they’re coming to Walmart with more affordable prices so they’ll be accessible to even more consumers. Wild Oats Marketplace Organic™ products are USDA certified organic. This line includes canned vegetables at just $.88 (Nice!) to a wide range of spices, from paprika to curry powder and ground cinnamon starting at $2.48. These organic items represent nearly 90 percent of the Wild Oats offering, but the other items are still made from simple ingredients.

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In fact, the company has a list of 125 questionable ingredients that you will never find in their products, including antibiotics, nitrates, artificial colors and flavors, MSG and a ton of other nasties you’ve probably never heard of, but still want to avoid eating.

The price point is really the key here. I am among those consumers who is used to paying more for organic food, but I still wish I didn’t have to. And that pricing is what really keeps a lot of people from even attempting to buy organic options. So just how affordable are these products? Here are a few comparisons:

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The assortment will vary by store, but with nearly 100 total products from Wild Oats being added, most stores will likely have a decent selection to choose from. And of course, we always want more organic produce, because I think we could all stand to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, sans pesticides. In addition to growing its selection of organic packaged foods, Walmart is also expanding organic options in other categories, including yogurt, produce, deli and bakery.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of a ton of products in my pantry that are likely to be replaced by Wild Oats. Organic food without the markup? That’s what I’m talking about.

Learn more about Wild Oats at Walmart.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

There are a lot of things I planned to do with baby Juliza. Breastfeeding, for one. That plan has worked out thus far. But I also planned to use reusable diapers. That one hasn’t worked out so well. Another plan I have for when she starts eating food is to make my own baby food. She just turned 3 months old, so that is still a little ways off, but I’m already thinking about it. I have all these grandiose ideas about how I will make all her meals from scratch with nothing but fresh, whole ingredients. ALL of them.

Of course, the reality check in the back of my mind knows that it’s unlikely I’ll make all her food. Because there are barely enough hours in the day as it is. And while I’d love to buy only organic baby food in those moments when I do go the store-bought route, that can get pricey. So when Walmart asked me to sample some new food from Beech Nut that meets me in the middle, I had to try it.

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Beech-Nut’s new “Real Food for Babies” is a line of baby food that contains exactly what the name implies: real food. No preservatives. No artificial colors. No added flavors. Just real, whole foods like fruit and veggies. For example, the carrots are called “just carrots”, and that is quite literally the only ingredient in the jar.

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Take a quick look at this video for a sneak peek at baby Juliza in action and what my older daughter thinks of the Beech Nut products:

We actually tried all four of the options. Of course, our more mature palates are used to added salt and sugar, particularly when it comes to veggies, but these were still really good. The beets, pear and pomegranate was actually my favorite, because I love beets. And we’re betting that baby Juliza will be only too happy to try them when she’s finally old enough. She already seems to be interested in everything we eat!

These are available at Walmart for just $0.98 a jar, and there are options for stages 1, 2 and 3.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am a serial snacker. Not to be confused with a cereal snacker (though I do have a history of that too). In the past, this habit has gotten me in trouble, because I tend to prefer sweet snacks. Unhealthy sweet snacks. Think cookies, ice cream and the like.

As I worked to lose more than 60 pounds last year, I shifted my snacking habit toward healthier options, like celery and peanut butter, nuts and fruit. But pregnancy has a way of making a woman feel invincible, and I admit I started falling back into old habits. So when Walmart offered me the opportunity to sample Balance Bars, a nutrition energy bar, I jumped at the chance to get my snack habit in check.

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They offered two flavors: Balance Bar Dark chocolate crunch and Balance Bar Gold chocolate peanut butter. As much as I love peanut butter and nuts in general, I’m not a huge fan of nuts and chocolate together. Yeah. I have strange food preferences. (aff)

The upside is that I love, love, love the subtle bitterness of dark chocolate. And this bar offers just enough chocolatey goodness. The bar is a bit chewy on the inside, more like a firm brownie than a granola bar. And while it definitely skews sweet, it isn’t toothache-inducing sweet. It’s more of a passing sweetness that doesn’t stick around for very long.

With 12 grams of sugar and 180 calories per bar, it definitely make a great snack if you’re on a calorie restrictive eating plan, and with 13 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, it is filling enough to make a standalone snack, preferably with a large glass of water. But there are other attributes that make Balance Bars attractive: They are gluten free and kosher, and made with 100% Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa.

Bonus? My daughter begged me to try one, and she loves them! I’d feel completely comfortable buying these to use as her snack for school, particularly because it would fill her up more than some of the other snacks she takes. Plus, I can easily drop one in my own purse before heading out the door for an easy snack that doesn’t require stopping at a convenience store or vending machine.

A box of 6 bars costs $5.36, which puts us at less than a dollar a snack. I can work with that average, and we’ll be buying these again. They’ll give me something to reach for in the middle of the afternoon when my sweet tooth starts looking for attention.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I can’t lie: Breakfast time at my house basically  boils down to every man for himself (and God for us all). On weekdays, my daughter gets up about an hour before my stepson, because her bus comes a lot earlier. Sometimes I make her breakfast, and sometimes she does, but he is responsible for his own meal. And my hubby and I sort of figure it out as we go. On weekends, sometimes one of us will get up and cook for everyone. But as a general rule, it’s a potluck. Which means that some days, I am tempted to head to the nearest fast food restaurant for a quick breakfast sandwich because I don’t feel like cooking.

So when I was introduced to the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker on a recent trip to Walmart headquarters — and found out I was going to receive one — it was like a match made in heaven. A device that will make breakfast in 5 minutes and allow each person in the family to have exactly what he or she wants? That’s what I’m talking about!

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I couldn’t wait to try it. And it really is as awesome as it sounds.

The premise is simple: Start with bread of some kind and top it however you’d like: With your choice of egg, meat, cheese, veggies, whatever.

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The first sandwich I made was super simple: A whole wheat English muffin with some sliced turkey and an egg. The trick is that the machine has two compartments: One on the bottom for the bottom half of the bread and whatever you choose to top it with, and a section on top with a sliding bottom where the egg will cook, topped with the other half of your bread.

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I followed the instructions for assembling the sandwich. Bread and turkey slices on the bottom, with an egg and bread on top. Of course, I was so focused on the instructions that I forgot essentials like salt and pepper. Nonetheless, 5 minutes later, I had a respectable sandwich, and my hubby enjoyed it.

Once I realized how easy it was to use, I got a little more ambitious. The second sandwich featured bread, cheese and turkey slices on the bottom, with an egg, beaten together with chopped onions, green peppers, salt and black pepper, along with bread on top.

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How amazing does this look?

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And wow, did it taste great! Seriously. Not greasy at all and about a million and a half times better than any breakfast sandwich I’ve ever gotten at McDonald’s.

Like I said, this is perfect for my family, because we all figure out what we want for breakfast when we want it and tend to eat at random times. These sandwiches take about 2 minutes to assemble and 5 minutes to cook, so even if you’re in a hurry, it will be ready for you when you’re walking out the door.

If you have someone on your holiday gift list who, like me, is a lazy cook, this gift will make their entire Christmas the second they use it. Really.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Even last year as I was in the process of losing 60+ pounds, my weight loss didn’t change the way I feel about cooking. It’s not that I dislike it. I’m just lazy. So I tend to cook the same stuff over and over again and opt for ease and convenience. Now that I’m late in pregnancy during the rush of the holidays, I admit sometimes I’m even less inclined to cook. Exhaustion and all that.

So when Walmart challenged me to provide a meal for my family using only Marketside ingredients, I jumped at the challenge. Because I’m always up for a dinner option that I can get on the table quickly with little effort. Big bonus if it didn’t come from the drive thru at a fast food restaurant and didn’t cost an arm and a leg to feed four people — including a hubby and stepson who can both pack it in.

If you’re not familiar with Marketside, it’s a line of food products exclusive to Walmart that includes everything from organic greens to artisan breads, pre-made salads, pasta and more. If you’ve ever bought a rotisserie chicken at Walmart, there’s a pretty good chance it was from the Marketside brand.

We buy the rotisserie chickens and organic baby spinach all the time, so this time, we wanted to try something new. I was actually pretty impressed with the selection of options available, even down to sandwiches made fresh in store and single serving salads.

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Still, given that I am the picky eater in the family (sad, I know, with two kids at home), I had to find something that we all could enjoy. And who doesn’t like pizza, right?

We picked up an extra large five cheese pizza for just under $7, cheesy breadsticks, a Southwestern salad kit and some baby spinach to mix with it (picky as I am, I DO love raw spinach), some extra dressing and a bowl of chicken tortilla soup.

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You may have noticed the turkey pepperoni smuggled in there. Well, there are a ton of options for pizza flavors, but most of them were topped with either beef or pork — neither of which my family eats with any regularity. And I don’t eat red meat at all. So we grabbed some turkey pepperoni to add to half the pizza. My daughter had a ball with that part.

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While the pie and breadsticks were in the oven, I put together the salad from the kit, added some spinach to it and warmed the soup.

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We took the cheesy goodies out of the oven a few minutes later, and marveled at how good everything looked. Seriously, if you’ve been turned off by refrigerated or frozen pizza in the past, you will NOT be disappointed by these. The cheeses and sauce are great quality and taste like it. I personally like to let the cheese get bubbly and a little brown around the edges, so it has almost a fire-baked quality.

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Really, this was a delicious dinner that took almost no time to prepare. At $7 for such a huge pie, we’ll be eating these more often. For right at $25, we got a full, satisfying meal WITH some leftovers for lunch the next day. And we honestly could’ve been satisfied with just the pizza and salad, even without all the extras. That would’ve cost us right around $10. For dinner to feed a family of 4.

I admit I didn’t give Marketside products a thorough look in the past, but I certainly will be from now on. You can check out the full range of products at the Marketside website.

 DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am a soon to be 31-year-old woman, and I started cooking for myself regularly when I went to college at 16. Would you believe that in all those years, I had never used a crockpot? What can I say? It’s one of those things you never really miss until you’ve had one.

Needless to say when Walmart offered me the opportunity to try the new Crock-Pot Hook Up system, I jumped at the chance.

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After all, I’ve admitted time and time again that I am a lazy cook, and anything that will make that easier is a win in my book. But this particular system is more than just your average crockpot. Up to six Crock-Pot Hook Up units can plug into each other using just one outlet. Yep. You read that right. You could use a single unit by itself, but can you imagine the possibilities for dinner, holiday gatherings or parties? I could, and I couldn’t wait to try them.

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I was pleasantly surprised to receive two units: the 2-quart crockpot and the unit with two 1-quart containers. My hubby and I quickly set out putting them to use. We decided to make a simple chicken stew with chicken breast, green peppers, onions, garlic, seasonings to taste, and a little water and chicken broth. (aff)

I will say that for a family of four, the 2-quart unit is a little on the small side, but there is a larger 3.5 quart option.

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We let the chicken cook for about 4 hours, until it was tender and falling apart. And in fact, it smelled so good that we immediately started eating and I forgot to take photos of the finished dishes. I also made rice and broccoli on the side and used the double dish crockpot to keep them warm until we were ready to eat. Being able to plug in one unit and sit both next to each other on the counter made serving dinner really easy, and it stopped us from having to reheat plates in the microwave. This is particularly a problem for me, since I’m usually the one who serves everyone else. By the time I get to my own plate, the food is sometimes cool. Being able to serve directly from the crockpot makes mama happy.

I can easily imagine using these for a potluck type of situation, where food can often be cold by the time everyone gets to eat. If everyone brings their dish in a Crock-Pot Hook Up, the food will stay warm and only one outlet would be needed for every six crockpots. Sounds awesome to me!

The removable pots and covers are made of stoneware and are dishwasher safe, so I really appreciated just being able to throw those pots in the dishwasher when we were done. I just gave the base units a quick wipe, then stacked them on top of one another in a cabinet.

All in all, we’re going to be making a lot more meals in these crockpots, particularly since winter is upon us, and we often want something savory and somewhat heavy. Plus, I loves the idea of being able to start a meal in the early afternoon and leave it cooking until dinner time. You mean I don’t have to stand in front of the stove for an hour-plus? I’m absolutely in!

This would make a great gift for the foodie on your list, and they’re available in a variety of colors. Plus, when you purchase one from Walmart during the holidays, you’ll get a $10 gift card back. Sounds like a great deal to me!

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

In my family, if there’s one recipe that is synonymous with “the holidays”, it’s baked mac & cheese. It’s not that I don’t make it throughout the year. However, it’s pretty much a given that I will make it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any holiday or special occasion in between. This is true even if this event is at a family member’s house. I’m expected to arrive with mac & cheese in hand. And with good reason. It’s amazing!

Ok. I’m tooting my own horn a little bit. But honestly, over the years, I have tweaked and fine-tuned this recipe, and while I wouldn’t call it gourmet, exactly, it is really darn good. So when Walmart asked me to share a recipe for holiday entertaining, it was a no-brainer that I’d share this one!

Caribbean Style Baked Macaroni & Cheese Pie

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Ingredients:

  • 1 14-16oz. box elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups Velveeta cheese shreds
  • 1 cup Fiesta cheese blend (Monterey Jack, cheddar, Queso Quesadilla & Asadero cheeses) or any three-cheese blend
  • 2 tbsp. Ricotta cheese
  • 1 tbsp. sour cream
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 egg
  • Garlic powder to taste

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Directions:

1. Cook the macaroni according to package instructions, being sure not to overcook. I prefer to use whole wheat macaroni, but any type of elbow mac is fine.

2. Drain the macaroni in a colander and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. Use the same pot to warm the evaporated milk on medium heat. Melt the half stick of butter into the milk.

4. Once the butter is melted, add 2 cups of the cheddar cheddar cheese along with the Velveeta and fiesta cheese blends. Set aside the final cup of cheddar. Stir continuously until the cheese is well melted into a sauce.

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5. Turn off the heat, and add the cooked macaroni to the cheese mixture. Blend well to make sure all the macaroni is coated. As you can imagine, this is VERY cheesy!

6. Add  the Ricotta cheese, sour cream and garlic powder. Mix well. Finally, break the egg into the mixture and stir well. This will help to hold the macaroni together once baked.

7. Spray or grease an approximately 9″ x 13″ baking dish. I love to use a glass Pyrex dish for this, because it cooks evenly. In my experience, darker colored metal baking pans have a tendency to burn on the bottom and along the sides.

8. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar cheese over the top and cover with foil.

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9. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the cheese is bubbling and the top of the macaroni has developed a slight crust.

Serves 8-10.

Honestly, I absolutely LOVE this recipe, and my kids would eat it every day if I let them. I personally like to serve it with something that is cooked in gravy. This is usually my Caribbean stewed chicken (I’ll share that recipe another time), but for the holidays, I usually just make a tomato sauce based gravy to go with everything. Hot mac & cheese pie with gravy on top is my idea of heaven.

Macaroni pie is widely made throughout the Caribbean, and every person’s interpretation of it is a little different. For example, check out fellow Walmart Mom Melanie Edwards’ Trinidadian Macaroni Pie recipe over at Modern Mami.

If you try this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think of it!

What recipes do you find yourself making each year for the holidays?

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m guilty of blender envy. You see, my husband and I have had our old, basic blender for almost as long as we’ve been married — and we had our 10th anniversary this past July. There was nothing particularly wrong with our old blender. It just wasn’t very powerful. Which meant blending for long minutes in order to crush ice or turn a protein shake into something drinkable rather than something resembling flavored chalk.

So when I went to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, AR a few weeks ago and got to see for myself what a better blender looks like, I was thankful. But when I learned I’d receive a Ninja Ultima blender to review, I was ecstatic!

The box alone tells you this thing is a beast — in a good way.

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But when I took it out and stood it next to my old blender. Well — let’s just say it’s like putting a shiny new Mercedes Benz next to a rusty old pickup truck. Nothing wrong with the truck, per se, but man, did I want to try the Benz!

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I’ve said before that we are a smoothie loving family, and we make them fairly often — mostly because they’re pretty expensive to buy on a cup by cup basis. So to test out the blender, it only made sense that I’d try my all time favorite smoothie recipe: Strawberry banana.

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We also use orange juice and a tiny bit of cream of coconut. This time, we had some cantaloupe on hand, so I added a bit of that too.

First, the capacity of this blender is enormous. If I had put all of this in my old blender, it would be filled to the brim. The Ninja, however, had room to spare. Plus, the lid has a handle that also acts as a lock, so there’s no need to hold the cover while blending.

Good thing, too, because this blender is powerful. Want to hear it for yourself? You may want to turn down the volume on your computer first:

Like I said, it’s powerful. And loud. But boy does it work well, and fast! The smoothie was blending to perfection in about 30 seconds flat, even with pulsing first. The ice and fruit were pulverized, and I couldn’t pick out pieces of them if I tried.

In fact, the smoothie was blended so well that next time, I’m going to use less orange juice so that the consistency will be a little thicker. We had gotten so used to using lots of juice in our old blender, because otherwise, we’d have a really chunky drink. Now, I know I won’t need to do that any more.

So here’s my 30-second strawberry banana (canteloupe coconut) smoothie:

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It is as delicious as it looks.

The Ninja Ultima also came with a recipe book, and I am itching to try a bunch of these recipes, including one for salsa and even a couple for soups.

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To say where has this been all my life would be an understatement. This blender is powerful and easy to use. My only caveat is that it does take up a lot of space. So much, in fact, that we’ll have to keep it on the counter, because it can’t fit on our cabinet. That’s not really a problem, though, as I forsee using this a lot. So having it close at hand will be easier anyway :)

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.