Saturday, November 05, 2011

What's Been Cooking in My Kitchen? Candied Chinese Chestnuts

Chinese Chestnuts and Glass Pumpkin
Fall is my favorite season. A native of Western New York and now a Floridian, autumn just isn't the same down here. 

A few weeks back my mom sent my favorite fall treat - Chinese chestnuts from the family backyard. It's always a game picking them up before the squirrels and deer do.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy as a Bee

Sorry I haven't had much to say over here lately, or over on, life is moving at 1,000 mph and I'm catching what I can. I do wish there was a way to tap my brain with some kind of USB cable and download my thoughts while I sleep into a blog post. There's so much up there waiting to be shared.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Having Fun with My New Zoku Quick Pop Maker!

When I attended the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference in Vancouver last June, attendees received admission to EAT! Vancouver, a consumer foodie show also taking place at the convention center.

It's there I was introduced to the Zoku Quick Pop Maker - a quick and relatively easy way to make gourmet frozen treats on sticks. The gals giving the demonstrations made it look so easy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Justin Bieber: Now I Understand

Up until Friday night I didn't understand the fascination with musical artist Justin Bieber. Yeah, he seemed like just another pretty face fans who cranked out danceable tunes and enamored fans across the globe. Having been told Bieber's "Never Say Never"movie is a great marketing flick, I rented it and...

OMG - I'm in love with Justin Bieber! Seriously, I can't believe I just admitted that. Wait! This is not in a creepy kind of way. That kid seems so genuine, fun, smart and plain adorable. I now understand why my mom is a Clay Aiken fan and an older friend is a big Justin Timberlake fan.

What impressed me watching "Never Say Never" was how the 17-year-old performer connects with his fans (free concert tickets, meet and greet, replying to Twitter messages, etc.) and how family seems important (staying with his grandparents when he played a concert in his hometown). He appears to enjoy entertaining while being grounded and grateful for what he's achieved.

He also never gave up on his dreams. Granted, he's only 17, signed a record deal when he was 15 after being discovered on YouTube. He has a whole life of dreams ahead of him.

Growing up in the 1980s, I adored Duran Duran and I wrote them fan letters with hopes of an autographed photo. Instead, I received a brochure with pricing levels for their fan club. Bieber appears to be different because he knows his fans put him where he is. Other bands, as Duran Duran, feel they were entitled to their success rather than appreciate who put them there.

Bieber is just refreshing. Seriously. Watch "Never Say Never."

So yeah, I'm officially coming out as a Justin Bieber fan. What are ya going to say about it?

Don't forget to visit to see what else I'm up to.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Muddling through Mango Madness

If you live in Florida then you know mangoes are bountiful this year. In the last two weeks I've received about 50 of the luscious tropical fruit and am running out of ideas on what to do with them.

I've made three batches of mango chutney using this recipe on Simply Recipes (, a batch of mango sorbet using this recipe on All Recipes ( and took my grandma' rhubarb tort recipe (which is on my Solo Travel Girl blog) and tossed in the 2 cups of chopped rhubarb I had with 3 mangoes. Rather than one big torte I made these in cupcake papers.

I still have about 2 dozen mangoes left. Any ideas other than eating them? More chutney? Refreshing sorbet? All of these are easy to make it's just a pain cutting mangoes.

Monday, June 06, 2011

One Minute with Andre Reed, Former Buffalo Bills Wide Receiver, during His Visit to Clarence, N.Y.

I was up in Buffalo over the weekend for a childhood friend's wedding and my itinerary was jam packed into my less-than-48-hour visit. Planned was a visit with another childhood friend, Annette, who recently donated her kidney to her niece, and drive to Western Pennsylvania for the wedding. En route, my mom informed me Andre Reed, former Buffalo Bills wide receiver (1985 – 1999), was going to be in town for a public appearance.

I couldn't miss his visit because the Bills were part of my childhood and his appearance was practically down the road at a culinary shop called The Podge. (10205 Main St., Clarence, N.Y., Tel: (716) 759-2080)

Reed, who HAS to be Hall of Fame-bound, was promoting his all purpose cooking sauce called Over the Middle. I'm told it’s delicious on burgers, steak and chicken and that it's a barbecue and steak sauce rolled into one.

I picked up a few bottles of Reed's sauce and while he signed them, I asked him if it was good being back in Buffalo.

"Always good to be back in Buffalo," he told me. "If I had a dime for every time someone told me I wish you were playing…it’s a nice thing."

For every bottle of Over the Middle sauce sold in Western New York a donation is made to Kids Escaping Drugs. KED's mission is to raise, manage and distribute funds for the development and support of facilities, education and prevention programs for adolescents and their families in Western New York suffering from alcohol and drug dependency/addiction.

I'm looking forward to tasting Reed's sauce but hope I can save his autograph on the bottle.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Well Hello There. It's Been a While, Huh?

Yeah, yeah. I realize it's been quite a while since I've last posted over here. How many times have you read that on a blog?

Well, I've been busy, busy and have been posting over on my Solo Travel Girl blog. You should check it out sometime.

The highlight of life lately is the upcoming space shuttle Endeavour launch on Monday. It's Endeavour's last liftoff and the second-to-last NASA space shuttle launch ever! I'll be viewing it about as close as the public can - in the press area.
Who ever thought Twitter would provide groovy access to something? Long story short, I was one of 150 Twitterers selected to participate in the NASA Tweetup for the launch, which met the end of April for two days, when Endeavour was suppose to launch.

Although we didn't get to see the shuttle launch then, it was AMAZING! It included hearing and meeting NASA astronauts, engineers, scientists and staff who make things happen.

You can head over to Solo Travel Girl to read the NASA Tweetup posts and follow me on for updates on Monday's launch, which is scheduled for 8:56 a.m.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies Stuffed with Girl Scout Thin Mints - Oh Yeah!

Yeah, you read right. Chocolate Chip Cookies stuffed with Girl Scout Thin Mints. And yeah, they are as sinfully delicious as the name implies.

Let me begin by saying yes, I'm still working out with a trainer at the gym. I haven't lost much weight (about 8 or 9 pounds) but I've lost at least a dress size (the clothing I was oozing over is now too big) and I'm a whole lot stronger. I'm writing this as pain from yesterday's workout settles in.

Bottom line, I have no business baking sinfully delicious cookies but when I read about Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies on Amadeleine yesterday, I knew what I'd be doing on this Friday night - baking! (Be sure to check out Amadeleine's recipe and instructions).

Now, since this is March, two things are on my mind: McDonald's Shamrock Shakes (my father used to bring them home on St. Patrick's Day, what a treat!) and Girl Scout cookies.

I had two, $5 Target gift cards (from Target's awesome sales) so picked up Oreos and Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (I just don't have time for baking from scratch) on the drive home to work. I swung by Walmart hoping the Girl Scouts were out selling cookies and sure enough, there they were.

To make the cookies, I encased a Thin Mint in chocolate chip cookie dough and did the same with an Oreo. Plopped them on a cookie sheet, baked them for about 18 to 20 minutes and cooled them on a wire rack.

If you check out the original recipe and see my final cookies, mine don't look as pretty but my, oh my! The chocolate chip cookies stuffed with Girl Scout thin mints are pretty rockin'!

Give it a try and mix it up with your favorite cookie. And let me know the outcome!

Now excuse me. Sugar rush is settling in. Be sure to check out to see what else I've been up to.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Letter from U.S. Public Health Service Promises $30 to Participate in Study: Scam or Legit?

At the beginning of the year I received a letter from the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) stating it's conducting a national study on health-related issues and my address was randomly selected along with more than 200,000 others. The letter said Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is contracted to conduct the study and a representative will visit me.

The letter provided the interviewer's name and stated she'd have an identification badge. All members of my household (me) would be asked a few questions and if qualified, I'd be asked to complete a survey and be compensated $30.

With all the scams going around I wasn't sure if this was legit. I Googled the phone number provided (800-848-4079) and found it did belong to Research Triangle Institute. I also found some message boards where users posted they didn't think it sounded legit and kind of scammy.

I forgot about it until last night, around 6:30 the doorbell rang. It was the woman mentioned in the letter. She had an identification badge and asked me a few questions in which she punched the answers into her magic hand-held device. Questions were basic - my age, ethnicity and whether I lived here full-time.

Turns out the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health needed more 40-year-old, Caucasian women so I was selected to take the hour-long survey and I was chosen to represent about 4,500 others in the United States. Whoa! The responsibility!

The interviewer went out to her car and returned with a computer and box of papers. We set up shop on my dining room table where she asked me questions and I completed questions on the computer. She was professional and fun and she assured me responses are kept confidential. She never asked to leave the dining area so I know she wasn't casing my place.

Some of the results are used to determine what types of medical services are needed in specific communities so just like the U.S. Census, participating is important.

I was never once asked for my name or social security number and I received $30 cash so I'm pretty confident this is not a scam. If it was a man conducting the interviewing not sure if I would have let him in.

Have you been contacted and asked to participate in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health? Results of this study will be released in 2011 - can't wait!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

What's Cooking? Snowball Cupcakes

My Mom is one of the creative and best cooks I know. She's always trying new dishes. When I visited over Christmas she prepared a new dessert for the family called a Snowball Cake. I took the recipe and made cupcakes for an office birthday party last week.

Following is the recipe, which she saved from the Buffalo News, and my modifications.
1 Angel Food Cake
1 Pint Heavy Cream
1.5 Tablespoons Unflavored Gelatin
4 Tablespoons Cold Water
1 Cup Boiling Water
1.5 Cups Orange Juice
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
Dash of Salt
8 Ounce Bag of Shredded Coconut

Soften gelatin in cold water.
Add to boiling water and stir.
Add sugar and salt, stir thoroughly.
Add orange and lemon juices, stir.
Refrigerate until mixture begins to thicken (It doesn't take "that" long.)
Beat heavy cream until it's the consistency of whipped cream and fold half of it into the gelatin mixture.

Add sugar to taste to the remainder whipped cream and set aside.

Shred the Angel Food Cake with hands into small bits and place in the gelatin/whipped cream mixture.

Line a muffin/cupcake tin with paper baking cups.
Pour (I used a ladle) mixture into baking cups and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and add shredded coconut.

I didn't add coconut to every cupcake since I know some people aren't fans.

The result is a light and refreshing treat. It has a jello-y consistency and isn't heavy. Best of all, there's no baking involved! You can pick up a pre-baked Angel Food Cake from any grocery store.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy New Year! 1,000th Post! Thank You!

Yowza! Can't believe this is my 1,000th post on this blog AND it's 2011! My, oh my. Where has the time gone?

I really don't have anything profound to say to mark this occasion other than thank you for following, reading and commenting during the past five-and-a-half-years of this blog's life. To say it's been a roller coaster is an understatement.

But, it's a new year with new opportunities. To kick off 2011, I watched the Twilight Zone marathon on Syfy (which was interrupted by WWE's RAW on Friday night) and spent most of the weekend at home, trying to clean and downsize. Over the course of the weekend I filled a huge garbage bag with trash, recycled loads of plastic, paper and glass and took two garbage bags full of documents to be shredded. I deep-cleaned my bathroom (almost as well as my mom does) and did about four loads of laundry.

I made a rockin' bowl of vegetarian chili, found in the January issue of Real Simple (before recycling it), met up with a friend for lunch, watched football and a movie at another friend's house and had a great conversation with a longtime Yellowstone pal.

After all this, I still don't feel accomplished. My apartment still looks like it's full of stuff - and it is. I just need to chip away because later in the year I want to buy a house and want to move as little as possible.

But moving right along...Happy New Year!

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili Recipe from Real Simple- if you'd like to try it yourself, head on over to Real Simple for the recipe. I followed it to the tee with the exception of the sour cream and tortilla chips. No need for them but did top it off with radishes and scallions. The radishes seem a bit strange but tastes good. This recipe has the right amount of spicy, heat kick and I'll definitely be making it again.