Sunday, December 12, 2010

Success: Candy Cane Chocolate Fudge from Woman's Day Magazine

I love weekends. It gives me the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen and this weekend I tried two new recipes. One was a success, the Candy Cane Chocolate Fudge recipe from the Dec. 2010 issue of Woman's Day magazine.


*whew!* I'm coming down from the sugar rush of sampling this recipe. Yum-o!

The other recipe I tried was a fail, Crispy Parmesan Chickpeas. It was also from the same Woman's Day issue. I'll post about that one later in the week so let's focus on the Candy Cane Chocolate Fudge.

Candy Cane Chocolate Fudge Recipe, Woman's Day, Dec. 2010

I'm not going to post the recipe because you can find on Woman's Day but will share the one change I made...when we get there.

Pictured up top are the candy canes I smashed with my trusty hammer. Remember this post photo from last year's holiday preparations?

I melted the ingredients until smooth (pictured above) then poured them into two parchment-lined 8" pans (pictured below).

Note: Rather than bittersweet chocolate chips I used semi-sweet - just because I couldn't find bittersweet at Wal-mart.

Before I sprinkled on the crushed candy canes (I used 7 regular sized canes vs. the recommend 8), I sprinkled flaked sea salt onto one of the pans of fudge. Then set both in the refrigerator for about four hours.

Unfortunately I'm a fan of salt and it seems to enrich flavor when combined with chocolate. I thought the sweetness of the peppermint and chocolate would meld well.

Does the salt work? Yes. It didn't give the fudge an overly salty flavor but enhanced the flavors and cut the sweet edge out.

Below is the final presentation. Ain't it pretty?

Now I need to figure out who to give these to because there is no way I'm going to eat one pan of fudge (and admit it).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Round 2 of Boot Camp, Pie Confession and What I've Lost

The first session of boot camp ended last week but I missed it due to work and Thanksgiving travels. I did well sticking to the nutrition plan and exercising but last week, I caved in to fast food (had coupons for free things) and ate, and ate, and ate all weekend.

That's Right. I Ate the Whole Thing.
I confessed to my trainer I ate a whole pie over the weekend - bourbon, chocolate and pecan. I don't want to know how many calories were in it. I know it was bad - I'm feeling the sugar crash this week. At least I confessed and can move forward.

So today was the weigh-in for the new session. I've lost half a pound since the last weigh in! I'm not using an exclamation point because it's good, I'm using it because it sucks! Granted, I lost 9 pounds before the last weigh in.

What I've Lost
The up side, I've lost 3% in body fat meaning 6 pounds of fat have converted to muscle. This, I'm happy about and so was my trainer.

What I've Gained
As for today's training session, I've discovered I hate something more than the boxing session - the hanging-by-my-arms-from-a-bar-doing-100-knee-tuck exercise. Seems easy but after 30 knee lifts, feels as though my body is lifting cement. Surprisingly, I did it and for that I'm proud.

I'm also finding my confidence in the gym - conversing with the gym rats. I know what free weights are and I know how to use 'em. Sort of. I'm getting there.

We also worked on abs and arms tonight and it's taking everything in me to type this blog post - my arms and hands feel like jello. Can't wait for the next session.

Bring it on.

Oh, don't forget to check out what I've been doing over on SoloTravelGirl.com.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Maximizing Opportunities on MyPoints.com for Gift Cards


I've been a member of MyPoints.com for a few years and it's only been the last two years where I've gotten smart about the program to earn points to redeem for gift cards. Once I figured it out, I was kicking myself because it's so easy to earn points which is why I'm sharing what I learned. It can be easy for you, too!

I've earned enough to receive gift cards for movies, fuel and shopping.

There's no gimmick and you don’t hand over your credit card number or any money. As I recall there are lengthy surveys but don’t get sucked in to purchase anything. It’s not necessary.

MyPoints.com Rewards Users with Points By:
  • Reading emails.
  • Taking surveys. If you don't qualify you usually earn some points but earn more when you qualify and take the survey. There's also a free daily spin option with an opportunity to earn more points.
  • Printing and redeeming grocery coupons offered off the site. (I've used the coupons at CVS, Publix and Wal-mart)
  • Making purchases through merchants. MyPoints.com acts a portal so if you want to purchase something from your favorite online retailer, first search for them on MyPoints.com then click through to place your order.
Earning points takes patience but they add up quickly. Currently, it takes 1,650 points for a $10 Wal-mart gift card, 3,850 for a $25 Shell gift card and 6,750 for a $50 Regal (movies) gift card. I don’t have the patience to rack up thousands of points but friends of mine have.

These days, MyPoints.com saves on my overall budget and daily time I invest is minimal.

Interested? Register here. (And yes, I earn points when you register through this link.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Orange Zesty Twist to Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie


I know the real reason coworkers at my previous employer loved me. It wasn't my free-spirit, work ethic or sense of humor. No. It was my Kentucky bourbon chocolate pecan pie at Thanksgiving. I discovered that when I announced I was leaving a few fans asked for me to bake the pie for my farewell party.

I'm heading to my cousin's for this Thanksgiving and last night while baking a regular pecan pie and a Kentucky bourbon chocolate pecan pie, I experimented with Florida oranges. I always have left over mixture - guess it's because I pie regular pie crusts vs. deep dish and wasn't sure what to do with it. I planned to make a cranberry and orange mixture (chutney???) to keep at home and decided to use the orange as a shell to cook left over pie mixture.

I sliced off the top of the orange and hallowed out the interior to place in the food processor with the cranberries. I poured the mixture in and baked it at 350 degrees for about 25 minute.

The verdict? DELISH! Juice from the orange infused the mixture for a nice balance of flavors. It wasn't overly orange and I was surprised how good it tasted with the chocolate.

A little bonus: the oranges were FREE from a friend's yard. The joys of living in Florida.

Here's my Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie Recipe

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

1 Frozen Pie Shell (I used Pillsbury last night, any will do. If you're adventurous, feel free to make your own but why make things difficult?)

Pie Filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine, melted
3/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup bourbon
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup pecan halves
1 cup chopped chocolate (I used chopped Hershey Kisses I had in the freezer; chocolate chips work well)

1. Beat eggs in mixing bowl with hand mixer 'til blended (about 30 seconds)
2. Stir in sugar, margarine, corn syrup, bourbon and vanilla.
3. Stir in pecans and chocolate.
4. Pour in frozen pie shell.
5. Cover pie shell edges with aluminum foil, place in oven for 20 minutes.
6. Remove foil and continue cooking for 20 to 25 minutes until inserted knife (I use a wood chopstick) comes out clean.
7. Cool on rack.
8. Enjoy!

Be sure to check out SoloTravelGirl.com to read up on my adventures.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"You Want Me to Do What?"

"You want me to do what?" I said to my fitness trainer tonight when he told me to lift my legs and touch my ears with my feet. Mind you, I was already on the floor resting comfortably on a mat after doing lunges, squats and rock climbers, among other sweat-pouring drills.

Fitness trainers are meant to push people's comfort zones and realize your potential. That's how you get fit. When I was asked to do what I thought was impossible, lift my legs and touch my ears with my feet, I thought he was crazy. Amazingly, I did it without breaking my neck.

So how is boot camp going? This started week 4 and so far, so good. Each workout has been getting progressively difficult and each day is different. Last Thursday my thighs hurt so bad from Tuesday's and Thursday's workouts, I limped around as if I had a real injury. It was the kind of pain when you walk down the stairs you feel as though your leg muscles are going to split because they feel so tight.

The sessions have been a mix of strength training, boxing, yoga and other activities I'm not sure what you call them. I can't remember sweating so much so quickly. Not even with roller derby, but I guess wearing a helmet soaks things up.

Have I lost weight? I think so. I've avoided the official scale but will have a weigh-in Thursday along with a check of my body mass index. Clothing is beginning to loosen and the other boot camp participants and the trainer said they could tell I've lost some.

I certainly hope so. I've been doing my best to stick to a high-protein, low carb diet eating 6 small meals a day including drinking Myoplex Light after workouts - which I quite like. I know my friends McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, and CiCi's Pizza miss me. I've been either bringing in my own meals or visiting Subway and Wendy's for my protein fix.

I've been doing so well I'm perplexed about Thursday. I have the day off and was considering a trip to Epcot for the Food & Wine Festival but worry I'll over do it. Sunday I may join a tour of a Fort Myers farmers market, one that is traditionally Hispanic. I'm learning to rethink what I put in my body, just hope I have the strength to resist temptation which is difficult for a foodie.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Week of Boot Camp and I Haven't Puked

"You'll probably throw up."

Those were the words told to me by a male participant of the weight loss boot camp at my gym. Last Thursday was my first day attending and I was one class behind the others because business travel had me out of town for the initial class. A female participant had puked so it was only natural I, the newbie, would do the same.

"Good to know," I said.

Since then I've survived two other classes (three in total) and I have successfully held my lunch. Although, I admit to coming close.

How do I feel? Tonight my body feels tired. Like last Thursday, aches are beginning to settle in. It was upper body day where I had to punch the pads the trainer held. Boy, is that hard! Other activities were involved, too.

Leg day is on Tuesday. It was hard and I don't recall dripping sweat so much before but my legs really didn't hurt afterward. They felt stiff and heavy. Maybe it's roller derby training? Or maybe the protein shakes I've been consuming?

Mentally, I'm feeling great. For the past week I've been on the program's nutritional plan, too. It was hard the first couple of days. I enjoy cooking and enjoy eating so being regulated six small meals a day which consist of three of this, four of that and a teaspoon of something else has taken some getting used to.

Honestly, I think my stomach has shrunk because an apple with a teaspoon of natural peanut butter is filling. I still have headaches but they are waning and I don't have cravings for tasty food.

If scales at my doctor's office and the gym are accurate, I'm excited about the weight loss after the first five days. If they're not, well, I'll find out tomorrow how much I've lost in the past week.

Stay tuned for progress!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Attempt at Making Baked Caramel Apple Donuts



I came across a blog called "Shutterbean" today and a recipe for baked caramel apple donuts. Yes. I know. Sounds sinfully delicious.

Last January when visiting Buffalo I made my Mom stop at Tim Hortons for a donut. My choice: apple fritter filled with caramel. Yes. It was sinfully delish.

So, I just *had* to try caramel apple donuts recipe. My pantry had most of the items and I picked up the rest at Walmart including a mini-bunt cake pan. They didn't have any donut pans and since I didn't want to wait, I found what I thought was the next best thing.

I'm not going to include the recipe but you can head over to Shutterbean to pick it up. And be sure to take a look at her photos. Then compare it to the one at the top of this post.

Um, yeah. I had an issue and didn't cool the baked goodies before taking them out of the pan.

But, they taste delicious and can't wait to taste one tomorrow after the caramel soaks in. Yum!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cooking Parsnip Bacon

I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen during my "free" time and today was no exception. Today's experiment was inspired by the Nov. 2010 issue of Food & Wine magazine and a very small article about parsnip bacon. Chef Quinn Hatfield of Hatfield's in Los Angeles shared the simple recipe:

Chef Quinn Hatfield's Parsnip Bacon
Use a vegetable peeler to thinly slice parsnips;
Brush both sides with vegetable oil;
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper;
Sprinkle with smoked salt;
Top with another piece of parchment paper;
Place another cookie sheet atop the parchment paper;
Bake one hour and 15 minutes at 300 degrees;
Cool before serving.

Seemed simple enough to prepare and following is my version of the recipe.

Jenn's Parsnip Bacon
I used my vegetable peeler to slice off thin layers of one parsnip;
I dipped the slices in olive oil;
Placed on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet;
Sprinkled with flaked sea salt and pepper (didn't see smoked salt at Publix);
Placed another piece of parchment paper atop the slices followed by a cookie sheet;
Baked at 300 degrees for about an hour and 5 minutes.

If you look at the picture on Food & Wine and compare it to my final results (below) you'll see mine look like crisp bacon.

These actually turned out pretty tasty with the right amount of crispness and bite peppery bite.

Hungry for culinary travel? Check out Eataly New York in New York City and my mini-trip report on the visit over at SoloTravelGirl.com.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Three Tips for Marketing Your Blog on the Cheap

It takes money to make money and blog page views come from marketing, too. Following are three tips I've used for marketing your blog on the cheap

Friday, October 01, 2010

Dig Out the Tie-Dye! It’s a '60s Dance Party, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010 , in Palmetto, Fla.

Hey Southwest Florida! Dig out the bellbottoms, go-go boots and tie-dye shirts for what should be one groovy evening on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, at the Olympia Theatre in Palmetto, Fla. (1512 10th Ave. West) when Yesterdayze hits the stage with rock 'n' roll for the soul. Not only will you boogie to '60s tunes but a music video for the band will be shot that night.

Here are the deets:

Olympia Theatre
512 10th Ave. West, Palmetto
Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010 7 to 10 p.m.
Doors open at 6 p.m.
Tickets: $7 in advance, $10 at the door

Half price admission for anyone wearing a Yesterdayze t-shirt.
Visit www.yesterdayze.com for additional info.
Disclosure: The bassist is my uncle. Isn't that cool?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grandma's Delish Corn Chowder Recipe

Homemade corn chowder is one of the most delicious foods and tasting it always reminds me of home. I love the milky and salty base along with the texture of pork and corn. My mom makes and grandma made the best corn chowder and when a friend brought me back fresh corn from Wisconsin I knew there was only one thing to do with it: make corn chowder.

First, the Wisconsin corn. Yum-ola! I realize Florida is heavy into agriculture but there’s something about vegetables grown in fertile soil of the North. The corn was incredibly sweet and crisp – absolutely delicious.


Grandma's Delish Corn Chowder Recipe

Second, the recipe. I asked my mom for it and she sent me grandma’s version. Here it is:

Salt Pork (you can use bacon if you would rather)
Onion
Evaporated milk
Potato
Corn
Milk or half and half or cream.

Notice anything missing? Quantities perhaps?

So grandma’s cooking instructions are as follows:
  • Cut salt pork into small pieces - fry till almost crisp and be careful not to burn.
  • Add diced onion toward the end and cook ‘til translucent.
  • Drain some of the grease off if there is a lot. [Note from Mom: I think Grandma liked to keep it all in!]
  • Add a can of evaporated milk, corn, and potatoes which have been diced and cooked ahead of time.
  • Corn can be canned, frozen or fresh cooked and cut off the cob.
  • Heat and add milk. Do NOT boil since the milk will curdle.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
You can add other ingredients if you want such as parsley, grated cheddar, etc. on occasion. You may want to try some other spices, too.


My Corn Chowder Recipe

Hmm. Being one who enjoys cooking but not proficient at it, I did my best to replicate the recipe and importantly, the taste. This is how I made it:

Pound of Peppercorn Bacon (I shopped at Walmart and they didn’t have salt pork)
Medium Onion – Diced
One Can of Evaporated Milk [Note: My Mom told me I should have added two cans because of the amount of milk I used; but it still tastes fantastic with one can and plus, I don’t know what the purpose of evaporated milk is]
Five Medium Red Potatoes – Boiled with Skins then Diced
Four Ears of Fresh Wisconsin Corn
Half Gallon of 2% Milk
One Quart of Half and Half


  • I chopped the bacon into small bits and fried it. Because of the quantity I friend half a pound at a time. When it was about done, add half of the diced onion and cook until the onion is translucent.
  • Pour the bacon, onion and three quarters of the grease into the pot.
  • Add the evaporated milk, corn and potatoes.
  • Heat over medium heat and stir.
  • Once mixture is warm add the milk and Half and Half on low to medium heat until cooked.
Do not boil – it’ll curdle and make you sad you can’t enjoy the incredible chowder.

I didn’t add any salt or pepper because the bacon had enough of both.

I froze much of the chowder and it freezes very well. When ready to eat I completely thawed it in the refrigerator before heating in the microwave in 45 second intervals.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's Been Cookin'? Mint Ice Cream Sundaes



Yeah, I've been a bit neglectful of this blog - so sorry. But, I have been making somewhat regular posts over at SoloTravelGirl.com.

Okay, since that's out of the way, onto to tastier things, what I've been cooking in the kitchen. This past weekend it was mint M&M ice cream sundaes. I had last Friday off and was flipping around the TV when I saw "Down Home with the Neelys"and they were cooking up some good eats. Their recipe for mint chocolate chip ice cream had me at "mint chocolate chip ice cream" so I decided to make a batch. Here's a link to their recipe for mint chocolate chip ice cream and here's how I tweaked it:
  • One 14oz can sweetened condensed milk , chilled
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon green food coloring
  • 1 cup mini M&Ms candies (I had a BOGO coupon for M&Ms, used one bag for my office trail mix snack and don’t think it was a good substitute to mini chocolate morsels)
Directions
  • Mix the milk, cream, peppermint extract and green food coloring together in a large bowl and refrigerate until cold;
  • Pour cream mixture into ice cream machine and turn it on;
  • Churn until the mixture looks slushy like soft serve, about 12 to 15 minutes;
  • Stir in the mini M&Ms candies (In theory, you wait this long to pour in the chips otherwise they will sink to the bottom because they are heavier than the mixture. The M&Ms sunk even after the mixture was slushy.);
  • Transfer the ice cream to another container and put plastic wrap on top of the ice cream;
  • Cover the container tightly with a lid;
  • Freeze for several hours until firm enough to scoop.
I served it atop fresh baked brownies, hot fudge (dropped hot fudge underneath the brownies) and whipped cream. Although the ice cream froze overnight it was still soft and melted rapidly, but maybe the hot fudge had something to do with it. I also discovered M&Ms may not melt in your hand but they will bleed in an ice cream mixture which caused the green ice cream to turn an olive green. The ice cream was very minty and if I make it again I'll reduce the amount of mint. Overall, it was delish!

Image at Top: The Neelys (Center) with Guy Fieri (Left) and Paula Deen (Right) at the Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival, Feb. 2009

Image at Bottom: Mint Ice Cream Sundae

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Meeting the American Dream - Dusty Rhodes in Punta Gorda, Fla.

Here's a secret: I grew up watching professional wrestling. Yup, there, I said it. So when I heard the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, was rolling into Punta Gorda last week, I had to go.

The Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center seems to be the ideal venue for professional wrestling, this is the second time I've attended a Florida Championship Wrestling match at the fairly new venue (grand opening was January 2009; first match I attended was in Dec. 2009 where Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat made an appearance) and others have been held there, too.

The night card for Friday night (July 30) included eight events. Can't call them all matches because when the FCW Divas came out, they held a limbo competition. At first, thought it was pretty lame but it was actually pretty clever planning on the organizer's part - it was a way to have the Divas perform without wrestling, for whatever reason.

The night included some tag team matches and one-on-one events. Was disappointed there wasn't a battle royal at the end but the evening was exciting enough. I can tell you who won but I'd spoil the fun for those not in attendance and waiting to view it on Bright House Network on Sunday night at 6 p.m.

And for those who don't know, FCW is considered the minor league for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). When Dusty Rhodes came out after the first (or second) match with FCW Diva Aksana on his arm, he received a standing ovation. In some ways, it seemed as though it was a changing of the guards. Rhodes told the audience many of the performers wrestling that night will someday join the WWE circuit.

KIX Country 92.9 had a guest announcer at the match for one match and I swear they announced him as Trooper Roy but I can't find anyone on the station D.J. with this name. But who knows, maybe he's not a D.J. Would make sense to have Bob Alexander announce a match, since he has been inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame. But who knows, maybe he WAS the guest announcer and I heard and wrote the wrong name down. Anyway...

So, I stood in line almost 90 minutes to meet Dusty Rhodes, shake his hand and have him autograph a postcard. Nice guy. Fun evening. More images can be found on my Flickr account.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Does the GEICO Gecko Have a Grip Like this Guy?

My cats play rough and any critter which meets their paws probably won't come out alive. That's where I come in. I try to save the poor souls and pictured is the thanks I got!

Friday morning was the usual routine. Once the cats are fed, I open the door to the patio where the cats watch the world and dream of being feral kitties romping in the grass.

I knew something was up when I heard excessive meowing and Sunny was intensely occupied in the living room. Looking, I saw a dark brown lizard in his grips, or so I thought.

I pushed Sunny away but the lizard moved with him. Picking up the cat, I slightly shook him side to side, thinking perhaps a claw had pierced the little victim.

Nope. Another look and this little Florida lizard had his jaws gripping the cat's paw!

It eventually let go and made a poor attempt at hiding. Okay, it's in unfamiliar territory, I get it.

Ugh. Just what I didn't need, another dried up lizard carcass because it couldn't figure out how to make the run for freedom. (I found one last week in one of my computer bags. Once removed, Sunny took it upon himself to make the bag his favorite sleeping spot.)

I grabbed the bugger and he swung around and latched onto my thumb! It didn't hurt but startled me. This was the first time a lizard fought back. It felt like hundreds of Velcro teeth latched onto my thumb.

The situation was so funny, had to capture this Kodak moment and although this iPhone photo isn't the best, you get the idea.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Sometimes It's About Throwing Spaghetti on the Wall


Honestly, I have no clue where June went, or the first half of 2010 for that matter. But that's not the purpose of this post.

I've been trying to spend more time on my blog and writing gigs to pay down debt and continue making a name for myself and sadly, I've been neglecting this blog. I've done some pretty cool things in the past month: groovy trips, cooked some tasty food and overall, just enjoying life.

I have to chuckle today because there are some things I write about because I'm passionate about it while there are other things I write about because I know I can make a quick buck. Last week my article "Five Things Frequent Travelers Almost Never Have to Buy" was published. In a week's time, it's received more than 4,000 page views! Meanwhile, other articles I put my heart, soul and time into are barely pushing double digits.

The article's published on Associated Content which was recently purchased by Yahoo! Did the big Y publish it on their site? Is it just a highly searched topic? My Google alerts haven't picked up anything, of course, if it's elsewhere, doesn't mean my name still needs to be associated with it.

Sometimes, I'm just throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks and that article is popular for some reason. Will be fun to see how much this silly little article makes me.

Be sure to check out SoloTravelGirl.com to catch up on my latest adventures including my trip to New York.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Homemade Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream – Yum!

Earlier this month I picked blueberries in Fort Ogden, about 20 minutes from my Port Charlotte, Fla., apartment. I ended up gathering 2.5 pounds of the sweet berries of goodness but what to do with them? I usually make blueberry jam and I still may do so but thanks to the power of the Internet, I found a wonderful recipe for blueberry cheesecake ice cream!

A friend gave me her ice cream maker and although I have no business eating ice cream, if I make it, it should be "healthier" for me, right?

I found a Cooking Light recipe on MyRecipes.com and reduced it to fit the countertop ice cream maker. Unfortunately, I didn't research how a Krups ice cream maker works and the drum needs to be frozen for days, much longer than the 20 hours I had it in. Needless to say, the ice cream mixture didn't freeze in the maker but in the freezer.
Still, it was delish! And no, I didn't eat it all myself, I shared. Here's my modified recipe. (Again, here's a link to the original recipe.) Enjoy!

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Recipe – One Quart
1 Cup Sugar
4 Ounces Cream Cheese
2 Egg Yolks
1 ½ Cup 2% Milk
½ Cup Half-and-Half
2 Cups Blueberries
2 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Water

Combine sugar, cream cheese and egg yolks in a bowl and beat with a mixer on high until smooth.

Combine milk and half-and-half in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
Add half of the hot milk mixture to cheese mixture stirring with a whisk 'til creamy.
Return it all to the milk mixture on the stove, cover and cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes (or 'til thermometer registers 160 degrees) and stir constantly.
Place pan in an ice-water bath.
Cool completely and stir occasionally (It'll cool pretty quick).

Combine blueberries, powdered sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to boil.
Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly, stirring frequently. (Mine took much longer than 10 minutes).
Remove from heat, and cool completely. (I used a the ice-water bath.)

Stir blueberry mixture into milk mixture.
Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.
Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm...if you can wait that long. You have my permission to eat out of the ice cream drum.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Chick-fil-A's New Spicy Chicken Sandwich Sizzles with Heat

Last week, thousands of Chick-fil-A fans had a VIP tasting of the fast food restaurant's New Spicy Chicken Sandwich for free! It was pretty slick how Chick-fil-A requested advance reservations for a specific time period at a specific restaurant.

Upon arrival, my order was taken at a designated VIP line. I turned in my invitation (which was emailed after I secured my reservation online) and my name was checked off the list. As a bonus, fries and a beverage were included along with the New Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Sweet! Free dinner for the single gal.

The dining area had a red carpet, tables draped with red coverings, fresh flowers and table tents indicating "VIP Seating."

I ordered my new sandwich with the pepper jack cheese, lettuce and tomato.

The verdict? Oh, it's delish and hot with spelled with capital H-O-T! It's a thick, juicy piece of chicken full of zesty heat. I'm a fan of spicy hot food but think this may be too much heat for the faint at heart.

Chick-fil-A's New Spicy Chicken Sandwich is now available to everyone. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

'Quirky Girl' the Song to be Released June 15, 2010, by Lady & the BASS


Had no idea in 2005 when I started this "Quirky-Kitsch Girl" blog I was at the beginning of the "Quirky Girl Movement." Apparently, "Quirky Girls" are women who aren't actively seeking Prince Charming (although it'd be nice if he knocked on the door or if Mr. Right Now turned up), at ease being alone (which is why I say 'I'm traveling alone, not lonely'), achieving new goals, and fearless.

Apparently, I'm the definition of a "Quirky Girl" and an Italy-based musical group, Lady & the BASS, has composed a song to accompany the "Quirky Girl Movement."

Have I just been validated? Or a fad of pop culture? The song "Quirky Girl" is being released June 15 by Groove N Moove Records and will be available through various digital music stores, such as iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Napster. Give a listen here, it's quite groovy.

Image Source: Lady & the BASS

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on links and purchasing this item via Amazon supports my traveling habit, thanks!

Monday, May 31, 2010

What Have I Baked Lately? Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. Mmm...


Last weekend I baked brownies and a golf ball shaped cake. Since it just looked like half a ball (I baked it in a bowl), I didn't take a photo to share. It tasted pretty good - red velvet with one-and-a-half containers of Betty Crocker's cream cheese frosting - yum! It was my turn to make a co-worker's cake. Anywho...

This weekend I baked Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and I have to say, OMG! These cookies were delish! I found the recipe on the blog Baking Bites which I found via The Motherload blog.

Actually, the original recipe is for Peanut Butter Oatmeal and I added the package of chocolate chips. The recipe also called for a peanut butter glaze but since I don't keep milk anymore (stupid lactose!), I skipped it and they tasted just as good.

So if you want to try the recipe, follow this link to Baking Bites. Or, if you come visit, I have a stash in the freezer but not sure for how long I can resist them.

Oh, and check out what else I've been doing on my Solo Travel Girl blog.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Celebrity Sighting: 'Pawn Stars' in Port Charlotte, Fla.

I've never been in a pawn shop before, now I have one more thing to tick off the bucket list. I spent a bit of my evening at Westchester Gold and Diamonds in Port Charlotte. No, I haven't fallen on financial hardship, I was meeting a couple of reality television celebrities from History Channel's Pawn Stars. Austin "Chumlee" Russell (pictured) and Rick "The Spotter" Harrison were on hand tonight and will be there Saturday. You can check out my article, "History Channel's 'Pawn Stars' Meet Fans in Port Charlotte, Fla.", for deets.

I confess I didn't know who they were but I'm always up for some celebrity spotting. The best part was meeting the show's publicist. She looked familiar and it clicked (after she told me), she appeared on an episode of "How Do I Look?", the one when the Chippendales requested the make over. I peppered her with questions but a burning one I always wondered was, "Do they really make you throw away all of your clothes?"

"Yes."

But she said the quality was much better. She also has ties to Charlotte County. Great chatting with her and an overall cool evening.

FTC Disclosure: Clicking the links will generate revenue for me to support my traveling habit. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Celebrity Sighting: Ahmed Hassan of DIY Network's Yard Crashers

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival wrapped up Sunday and since I was in Orlando visiting friends, I swung by to check it out (I'm a season pass holder). In addition to incredible topiaries and gorgeous floral displays, weekends during the festival included educational workshops including those with celebrity gardeners.

I wasn't able to arrive as early as I would have liked but I did catch a glimpse of the host of DIY Network's Yard Crashers, Ahmed Hassan. He seemed to have great rapport with fans and took his time chatting and laughing with them. Seemed like a really nice guy.

The other highlight of the day was enjoying a Disney turkey leg for lunch. Yum! This has got to be the best theme park comfort food. Unfortunately, they're too darn big and I can never finish one. Next time I visit (which will be next month during a Hollywood Studio's Star Wars Weekend (the one with Billy Dee Williams!) I'll be bringing a baggie to save it. Is that gross?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Adventures in Making Beef Jerky


Now I understand why beef jerky is so expensive. It takes a lotta meat, sometimes complicated ingredients and patience. The June issue of Food & Wine magazine included an article about 28-year-old New York City baker Rachel Graville (and proprietor of Iris Cafe in Brooklyn) and the beef jerky she's been making for the past couple of years.

I'm a fan of the dried meat and following the article were three beef jerky recipes so I decided to tackle the "Sweet & Spicy Jerky" recipe, which wasn't the simplest recipe, but sat in the middle in complexity of ingredients.

You can follow this link to the Food & Wine website for the recipe. Shopping at Wal-Mart, I found most of the ingredients except whole anise (I purchased anise seeds and used 1/2 teaspoon) and fish sauce.

Yes, the fish sauce for beef jerky sounds disgusting and I substituted oyster sauce. Okay, probably not the best choice because after reading cooking boards, oyster sauce is thicker and sweeter than fish sauce.

Slicing the meat was pretty easy and ended up marinating the meat about an hour more than recommended (recipe called for no more than 8 hours. Since I made this during the week, it soaked for 9). Baking at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours was about an hour short but I'm pleased with the end product, although when I travel to New York next month, I'm planning a visit to Iris Cafe to pick up Graville's real stuff.

Pictured is the final product atop the Food & Wine article.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cooking Up My Fresh Seattle Fish

If you've been keeping up with my travels over on Solo Travel Girl blog, you know I visited the Pacific Northwest last month for my 40th birthday celebration and made a trip to Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. If you haven't seen the video of the experience, check it out on YouTube.

I shipped back $XX amount of fish (I'm purposely refraining from revealing the amount because although it was a deal, some may find the price a bit exorbitant) from the trip and have enjoyed fresh seafood just about everyday I've been back.

I purchased wild salmon and halibut. Salmon's now in season and all I can say is OMG! It is so tender it practically melts in my mouth. And the halibut is pretty delish, too.

How have I prepared these fish dishes? Up top is a snapshot of halibut with a caper butter sauce with tomatoes, inspired by watching Food Network and seeing the chef for the governor prepare her halibut in a similar sauce.

Here's my recipe for caper butter sauce (and next time I'll dice the tomatoes):
  • In a skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter, brown both sides of the halibut then transfer to pan and bake in oven at 350 degrees until done (15 minutes maybe?);
  • In the same pan on medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of butter (this may be excessive, but good) and melt;
  • Add a tablespoon of capers;
  • Add chopped tomato to the mixture and stir so melted butter does not melt;
  • Garnish halibut with the sauce and enjoy!
That's Oregon wild rice accompanying the dish, purchased during the Portland Farmers Market.


For the salmon, I combined some of my favorite things to make a sweet and spicy berry sauce (pictured above).
  • First, I grilled the salmon on my George Foreman Grill.
  • While grilling, combine 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (I used the real stuff from Western New York); 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam; 2 tablespoons of green onions and 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes in a saucepan and cooked over medium heat until well blended together;
  • When the salmon is finished grilling, transfer to a plate and top with the sweet and spicy berry sauce.
Yum! I love the combined flavor of sweet, spicy and savory.

I have a many more fillets and steaks to enjoy and will have fun experimenting with recipes.

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on some links and making a purchase may generate revenue for me and support my traveling habit. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going: Film Festival and Birthday Trip

Time, oh give me time...

Geesh! Had no idea how fast time passes during this whole aging process thing. My birthday trip is AROUND the corner, check out the deets over on my SoloTravelGirl.com blog.

Last weekend I spent most of it in Sarasota stalking the 2010 Sarasota Film Festival celebrities. Not really. I'm not a stalker and I'm not a very good paparazzi but check out my Flickr stream for snapshots from Saturday's red carpet.

See the photo of rocker Patti Smith? She's an uber celebrity and here's what happened when she arrived at the Saturday night Sarasota Film Festival event: actor Stanley Tucci's car pulled up behind her and guess he was a bit impatient. Rather than waiting for her car to advance so he could walk the red carpet, he and his entourage got out where the car was parked. No biggie, right?

Well the six guys, two photographers and handful of fans ran over to him leaving just me snapping photos of Ms. Smith. I felt a little bad I mean, she's a mega-accomplished star and deserves respect. So, taking it upon myself to make her feel loved, I welcomed her to Sarasota, she replied with a smile and "thank you". Classy lady! She's pictured above.

And, here are a couple of articles about Vincent D'Onofrio, "2010 Sarasota Film Festival Conversation with Vincent D'Onofrio" and "Vincent D'Onofrio's Don't Go in the Woods at Sarasota Film Fest". I hope to have another article posted this week with a wrap off of which big-named celebrities were at the festival.

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on links may result in funds to support my traveling habit. Thanks!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Stalking at the 2010 Sarasota Film Festival, April 9

12th Annual Sarasota Film Festival Kicked off tonight. No live Tweeting for me this year, as explained in this post on my Solo Travel Girl blog and I can't afford to attend all the events so... the plan was to stalk the red carpet tonight - opening night.

And the on-camera star power on the red carpet? Kevin Kline. There could have been more celebs, I just didn't know who they were. I don't know if other celebs showed up for the post-film parties but hope to take in some stargazing next weekend.

I realize a film festival is suppose to be about substance, about filmmakers selling movies and maybe that's what the Sarasota Film Festival is doing - focusing on the business aspect.

You can read more about tonight on my Solo Travel Girl blog.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballpark...Again


Today was my third Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training game this week. I'm not a big baseball fan, just worked out that way. Although, have to admit I'm enjoying the Spring Training energy.

Tuesday night was Rays vs. Boston Red Sox. I purchased the tickets the day they went on sale because:

1. I wanted to go to a game this season.
2. Figured if I couldn't go or find someone to go with me, I could sell the tickets because it would be a sell out game.

Wednesday I sat in the County's box along with a magazine travel editor so that was for business. Which was the day Sean Rodriguez made an amazing catch in the outfield.

Today I went because my vet gave me two tickets yesterday. I've dropped a lot of money in that office so took them. Ended up going alone (it's March Madness) which allowed me to try out my Nikon 5000 some more. Check out some of the results over on Flickr.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

AVATAR Coming to DVD and Blu-ray April 22, the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day

Okay, I'm lame. I'm probably one of 99 Americans who hasn't seen James Cameron’s history-making movie, AVATAR yet. It's the highest grossing film of all time, raking in over $2.6 billion in worldwide box office receipts. Apparently if I want to have the total 3-D experience, I better hurry because I received word this week the movie will be available in the U.S. and Canada on DVD and Blu-ray April 22. Already??? Where has time gone?

Honestly, I have no interest in seeing AVATAR but EVERYONE is telling me it’s fabulous and a must-see, although, I’m told conservatives may not appreciate the underlying political messages. Are there really hidden political messages? I thought it's about a bunch of blue people running through the jungle and flying over cliffs and canyons. And there’s something about filling in elements on the Periodic Table? Suppose I need to see AVATAR to catch up with 21st century pop-culture.

I also heard some news show discussing the euphoric impact the movie has on people but some people experience depression after watching AVATAR because of the let down. The talking heads said the movie paints a Utopian society which is probably an escape for viewers but once they are back to reality, they are saddened reality isn’t like AVATAR-land. Can anyone enlighten me?

April 22 is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. I imagine because of the movie’s theme, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment purposely coordinated the release date. So when seeking that perfect gift to give your favorite tree hugger, pick them up a copy of AVATAR and you probably should pick one up for you. After all, it’s epic.

Pre-order Avatar on DVD through Amazon here or pre-order the Avatar Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Tried to Be Discreet, Baby!


Perhaps I was a bit too discreet in trying to snap a shot of Dickie V (Dick Vitale), famed basketball sportscaster when my parents and I enjoyed lunch at the Broken Egg, Lakewood Ranch (Bradenton/Sarasota, Fla.). That's my Dad's shoulder in the foreground with the announcer in the background.

Vitale was there raising funds for a pediatric research grant for local hospitals. He was selling and signing books, basketballs and even Dickie V bobbleheads. Now, that's a lotta bobbleheads to raise $1 million and think he realizes that because May 21, 2010 will be the Fifth Annual Dick Vitale Gala. Being held at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, the event will honor Tony Dungy and Tom Izzo.

Will you be attending? Event tickets are ONLY $1,000 each. Magic Johnson will be there. Last year's gala sold out and you can download event info through Dick Vitale's site. If you cannot attend and would like to make a donation, call 1-800-4-JIMMYV.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What's an ABC's Extreme Makeover House Look Like in Person?


Smaller. At least that's what I thought when seeing the Extreme Makeover home in Buffalo's West Side (228 Massachusetts Ave.) this past January. It's a lovely house and the shots from ABC's show made the interior look huge but suppose it's true, the camera dds about 10 (or 20?) pounds, even to a house.

This is a drive by snapshot of the home belonging to the Powell Family.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Dancing with the Stars Spring 2010 Line Up

ABC released the names of celebrities competing in the Spring 2010 season of Dancing with the Stars tonight during the final rose ceremony of The Bachelor. Very appropriate to have Melissa Rycroft, a former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader who was the finalist in The Bachelor (Season 13), then dumped on national television and later competed on Dancing with the Stars (and now happily married), join DWTS host Tom Bergeron. If you missed it, the line up is...

Pamela Anderson (Actress, Entertainer)
Chad Ochocinco (Wide Receiver for Cincinnati Bengals)
Aiden Turner (All My Children)
Erin Andrews (ESPN Reporter)
Shannen Doherty (90210, Charmed)
Buzz Aldrin (Astronaut, 2nd to Step on the Moon - no, he's not Buzz Lightyear)
Niecy Nash (Clean House, Reno 911)
Nicole Scherzinger (Singer, Pussycat Dolls)
Evan Lysacek (Olympic Men's Figure Skating Gold Medalist)
Kate Gosselin (John & Kate Makes 8)
Jake Pavelka (The Bachelor, Season 14)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Catching the Fever: Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training Practices

I know nothing about baseball. Okay, let's say I know very little about baseball. I know it involves two teams who hit a ball with a bat and run around some bases (four, including home plate) on a field called a diamond. And that's about it. I can't even use the excuse of being a girl because I know many women who know everything about the sport. I will use the "daughter of a football coach card" though.

Living in Florida, knowing something about baseball, or at least pretending to know something, seems to be a requirement, especially since the Sunshine State is home to the Grapefruit League (spring training). I'm living in the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte) and trying to catch baseball fever. This morning I headed out to the Charlotte Sports Park to practice with my new toy (Nikon D5000) and figure out the excitement.



I'm guessing spring training practice (it's free! And begins around 9:30 each morning until March 4 when games begin) is much different than a regular season game. Fans seemed to be on a mission of capturing as many autographs as possible. Autograph collecting just isn't whipping out a business card and having the player sign the back of it. It's definitely much more complex.

Tampa Bay Rays fans came out prepared with bags of balls, extra ballpoint pens and Sharpies, baseball cards, bats, and photographs. I saw one guy with baseball cards attached to a notebook so all he has to do is hand the pad to the ball player. Another guy had a clipboard, also making it easy for the ball player to sign a photo or card. Those who were really prepared brought their own water to keep hydrated from the heat.

Sweet spot? What's that? All I know is I heard lots of giddy fans excited when so-and-so signed their ball on the sweet spot so it has to be important.

Yup, I have a lot to learn about baseball but I'll pick it up. Eventually. Or, anyone up for teaching me? Enjoy some of these snapshots taken today. When I figure out who the players are, I'll label the images appropriately. I followed the crowds and snapped photos of those the fans were excited about.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bidding Florida Skaters Good Luck in 2010 Winter Olympics

Despite all I had to do (or at least what I should have done) this weekend, I joined in the celebration to bid good luck to 2010 Winter Olympic-bound U.S. pairs figure skaters Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett (pictured: doesn't Caydee look like America's next sweetheart? And I'd much rather sport a Caydee Denney hairstyle than a Dorothy Hamill wedge although my hair probably can't do either) and Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig yesterday at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex in Ellenton, Fla.

Yes, Florida is producing figure skaters for the Winter Games in Vancouver which in part is due to the coaching team of Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnston and Alison Smith and to the excellent training facilities in Ellenton.

Amazingly, I've uploaded some photos on Flickr and someday I'll post at least one video (although it's evident I need better cameras!!!) but enjoy this recap in my article titled, "Florida Skaters Heading to 2010 Winter Olympics: Pairs Skaters Denney & Barrett and Evora & Ladwig Represent Team USA." Be sure to check out which skaters are dating!


The above photo are skaters for the silent auction which were autographed by the Olympians. Proceeds of the silent auction and raffle benefit the skaters' families so they can make the trip to Vancouver and the Southwest Florida Figure Skating Club.

Go for the gold!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yes, Dad. You Made the Blog

"Am I going to make the blog?" my father asked yesterday.

Does my family feel left out when they're not included in my blog posts? Or do they cringe with anticipation as to what family secrets I'll expose? [Note: as far as I know, there aren't *many* family secrets.]

My dad was admitted into the hospital on Monday for your typical "not feeling well situation" which lead to the doctor keeping him overnight due to family history and his age. Tests followed.

When I spoke with him yesterday he was *just* going to have a stent implanted. (Is "implanted" the right terminology?) No worries. Just about everyone has one these days, including his big brother, and it's a pretty routine medical procedure.

This afternoon, the stent procedure turned into single bypass surgery. Guess he's trying to do one better than his big brother and rather than a stent, will come out with a badge of honor of a new scar on his chest.

When I spoke to my sister this evening she said all went well. I'm feeling somewhat out of the loop being down here in Florida and the rest of the family in New York. Feeling somewhat helpless. My Mom sent updates via her iPhone - thank you 21st century technology.

I feel I have an obligation to post SOMETHING on here about his hospital visit so this is it.

Hope you read this soon, Dad!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Twitter Ornament - Am I Obsessed?

Really wish I posted this before the holidays but better late than never. I was introduced to Bisque It Studio in North Port - a ceramic painting studio -last fall and truly enjoyed it. This year for Christmas I ended up painting ornaments and made this Twitter-themed one for me.

While not perfect, it's a snapshot of my Twitter obsession. The bird's eye is a Swarovski Crystal.

Oh, and don't think I painted the balls in the vase, too. Picked those up at Michael's.

So have you checked out my travel blog lately?