The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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Happy Birthday AK

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If any of you are regular readers of my blog, then you know that I have “Frousins” who are my cousins but also among my closest of friends.  The term Frousin was coined by the brilliant and handsome AK.  It perfectly describes our relationship – we are related, there is no doubt about that if you saw our mothers when they are afraid of being late, but we also laugh together, travel together and just enjoy hanging out, much like a good friend.  I’ve stopped doing birthday blogs, mostly because, I felt like as nice as they were, if you didn’t know the people, it was a great big in-joke that you, my readers couldn’t be part of. I decided to make an exception for AK since it’s a special birthday and he is so special to me.  In honour of your big celebration and inspired by this photo, here are 40 things that I love about AK:

  1. You have a lovely sister (GK) who we are so happy to have in Toronto.  If you are our brother from another mother, she is our sister from another mister
  2. Your parents are fabulous!  And I love how they spoil you
  3. You introduced us to AB who not only has great taste in balloons, but is one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met
  4. You are named after my wonderful grandfather – that makes you the “King” in our family
  5. OK-OK, I know – it’s all about you!
  6. When I saw how your students reacted to you, and how much they loved you, it warmed my little heart.  You care about people and it’s such a rarity these days
  7. You also know how to say it like it is, and that always cracks me up
  8. Speaking of cracking up – the expression that you get when you are surprised by something always makes me laugh
  9. You play along with my annoying rating games and “would you rather” scenarios
  10. You know a good bottle of wine when you see it – hooray Oyster Bay
  11. You know how to shop and are a deal finder
  12. You are a snazzy dresser who know how to mix high and low
  13. You won best dressed teacher – and campaigned for it
  14. You take care of yourself (pedicures anyone?)
  15. You are smart!  Who else would know what and where Azerbaijan is!
  16. You do the same laugh until you cry thing that I do so I feel less alone in the world
  17. You are a bit klutzy which also helps me feel less alone in the world – because I’m a lot klutzy
  18. You are patient.  Who else could teach me to shoot a bow and arrow?
  19. You are logical – your best tip for teaching me how to shoot the bow and arrow?  “Um…you have to actually aim it at the target”.  I got so much better after that!
  20. You understand that camping now if staying at the Holiday Inn
  21. You love your sister’s bird and animals in general.  You’ve even started taking care of him!
  22. You discover new places and share them
  23. You are a great travel mate!
  24. Even more important, you like to travel – that can sometimes be two different things.  If you like to travel, it means that you have a curiosity about the world
  25. You were brave enough to move to a foreign country for school
  26. You own up to getting hangry
  27. It’s always so funny to see how calm Starbucks makes you
  28. You always try to do the right thing
  29. You like to do cheesy things and make them fun
  30. You also like to do very civilized things like go to a VIP Cinema
  31. You understand how fabulous the “Golden Girls” are
  32. You like a good concert – in fact, you have great taste in music
  33. You have no issue taking one for the team
  34. You like being treated in a first class manner but you do not have a first class attitude
  35. You get through what life throws at you with a sense of humour
  36. You don’t expect anything – in fact, you should ask for help more
  37. You know how to brighten someone’s day
  38. You let people have their moments and enjoy it when they do
  39. You are generous to a fault
  40. When people are going through a difficult time, you are there.  2015 wasn’t kind to my family.  You didn’t ask what you could do – you just showed up and I’ll never forget that!

Have a wonderful birthday and a happy, healthy year.  I can’t wait to celebrate with you!

 

 


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Atlanta – The Food Tour

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When I was trying to figure out what to do in Atlanta, my first thought for day one was a walking tour.  I love them – they help you get oriented to a city AND you don’t have to ride around in a bus or a land to sea boat where they make you quack like a duck.  While checking Trip Advisor, which I have to admit, I do have a little obsession with, I came across Peachtree Food Tours.  If you were an avid reader of my little site, you’d know that I just wrote about the owner/operator John Hannula.  For $100 (US), you got to get a little history of mid-town Atlanta and go to some fine eating establishments. SOLD!

Here was the great part, and why if you are going to be in Atlanta, I highly recommend Peachtree Food Tours – I received a comprehensive email from John with an overview of what to expect plus some recommendations of where to stay, play and eat while in his little peach of a city.  A few days before the trip, he called and followed up with me!  Talk about surprise and delight.  He was very accommodating about the fact that I don’t eat beef, pork or lamb and he pre-warned me that one of the stops included a hamburger.  Great customer service.

We met on Sunday morning at 11:45 at the beautiful Fox Theatre.  Here’s a quick snap shot (and some pics) of the five places that we visited:

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Cypress Pint and Plate

  1. Cypress Pint and Plate was the 2nd place winner for best hamburger at the 2013World Food Competition in Las Vegas.  That’s why I chose to have a chicken sandwich instead : 0 )  It’s served on a donut.  Not a Tim Hortons/Dunkin’ Donuts type of donut, more of a light Asian donut with a hint of sweetness.  This was amazing!  No, I didn’t eat the whole thing – I had 5 fries and half the sandwich – you have to pace yourself.

2. Princi Italia was a lovely little Italian Restaurant.  The three of us shared the fig and gorgonzola bruschetta that you see in this pic.  Gorgonzola is not my favourite cheese, but it totally worked with the figs!  We all shared the pasta – it was Fontina cheese and cream sauce – so yummy.  It was all very rich, so a taste was enough.  This was by far my favourite place, but sadly, we didn’t have time for a return visit.

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Einstein’s

3.  Don’t get this confused by Einstein’s Bagels – another Atlanta establishment – this was a proper restaurant with shrimp and cheddar cheese grits with green beans, a fried green tomato and buffalo mozzarella cheese.  Again, so good.  I had grits once before, and I wasn’t a fan.  These changed my mind.  My least favourite place, more because of the ambience than the food.

4.  Cafe Intermezzo was a beautiful taste of Paris in the heart of mid-town Atlanta.  They had two cases of cakes and pies and a dessert expert took you on a “tour” of their 40 different selections.  A cool experience. I had the Heath Bar Milkshake Cheesecake – yum – but incredibly rich.  They give you to go containers so no pressure to finish your dessert.  If you visit, I recommend sharing.  I had less than half of this at the cafe and was going into a food coma.

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Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe

5. Our last stop was Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe for “to go” treats for later.  My selection was a savoury green onion bun and a Nutella donut.  Honestly, I was relieved that these were to go – I couldn’t look at food at this point.  These were pretty good!  The savoury bun was a little meh, but you can never go wrong with Nutella.

The tour ended at 3:45 and we walked, a lot.  We got a great overview of Atlanta, a little history, a little humour, a lot of good food and a thank you note from John!  Totally unexpected and he sent us pictures that he took throughout the day.   Never been on a food tour?  Here are some of my tips after being on a grand total of one:

  • Wear comfortable shoes – you do a lot of walking
  • Dress for the weather – these aren’t indoor tours
  • Pace yourself.  I know, I know, it all tastes so good, but you have lots of places to visit.  I was semi-full after the first restaurant, and ready to burst after the last and that’s with “tasting” the food.  If you try to eat everything, you are going to suffer
  • Be open-minded – try everything.  They’ll try to accommodate your requests, but if it’s just because you think you won’t like it, your wasting your time on the tour
  • Ask questions – either about the city that you are in or for local recommendations.  You have an expert on your destination available to you for 4 hours – use that time wisely
  • Make sure you do this on your first or second day in the city that you are visiting if you can.  As mentioned, it helps you get a lay of the land and if you really love a place, you have time to go back and have a full meal there
  • It sounds costly, but for $100, you really don’t need to eat dinner or breakfast and your lunch is covered!

Enjoy!  Next time, I’ll tell you my favourite non-food related things to do in Atlanta.

 

 


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Peachtree Food Tours – A Must Do in Atlanta

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I just got back from HOT-Lanta and Savannah!  If you’ve read my blog before, you know travel is my thing.  My friend and I decided on very short notice, to use up some of our vacation time from last year to do a little something-something.  We have a habit of setting impossible sight seeing standards for ourselves, doing things that only the very dedicated (or crazy) tourists would do.  We decided on Atlanta and Savannah on a whim.  My job, which I took very “Type A” seriously, was to plan Atlanta for us.  Hi-ho, hi-ho, off to Trip Advisor I go, or went in this case…
I’m a big fan of walking tours, you get to see a lot that way, and it helps you orient yourself in a big city.  As I was looking, I noticed a walking tour that was all about food!  Even better, it had a perfect 5 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor!  That’s the best that you can do on this finicky site!  I was hooked by what people were saying and thought it would be cool because I had never been on a food tour before.  My friend Amber was in, so the tour was booked for our first full day in this peach of a city.  It was even better than I expected.  I’ll write more about the tour itself in my next blog, but I was curious about how you get into this line of work, so John Hannula was kind enough to answer a few questions.
 How/why was Peachtree Food Tours born? In 2014, as a retired home-builder, I decided to spend quality time with my three boys who live around the world, a 2 – 3 week opportunity in each of my boy’s homes to visit…and hike…and just be Dad and Grandpa. That experience led to my idea of getting all three of the boys together in one location so off we went to hike Glacier National Park. Before leaving for Montana, my sweet Jeri reminded me that, although I was creating wonderful father/son/grandson memories, it was all costing money.  2015 would have to see me going back to work. Yikes!
During the 24 hour flight layover in Atlanta after the Glacier NP holiday, the oldest son who lives in the UK asked if lunch could include a big, juicy burger…so off we went to The World’s Best Burger, just 2 blocks away in my Midtown Atlanta neighborhood. After the incredible burger, he asked what were we going to do next.  “There’s this bourbon thing that you might get a kick out of” to which he broke out in a huge grin and replied, “Dad!  You should do a Food Tour!  It’s a no-brainer! You’ve already been on 15 or more Food Tours around the world and Midtown is restaurant heaven!”  And from that September conversation, my first Tours occurred two months later!  That has been followed by over 150 Tours sharing food, booze, and fun with 800+ guests!
 Why sign up for a Food Tour?  The real question is “What is a Food Tour?  Of those 800 guests at least 80% had never been on a food tour (!) with many of those having no idea what they were getting into!  (The short answer – A Food Tour is typically a walking, tasting adventure that has a bit of history woven into the outing but focuses on sampling food in a number of restaurants.)
 But…why do a Food Tour?  The best answer is two-fold.  One, you get a taste of that neighborhood’s (and even region’s) dining options that should include several  local specialties.  This is a fabulous way to “try out” some restaurants that you might not have considered in your travel plans…but now will definitely return to.  Secondly, you will be with a local for 3 – 4 hours and he/she is often a font of information as to other restaurants, shopping, great day trips, etc.   All you have to do is ask and soon you’ll feel much better about where your travel dollars can be spent best.
 Finally, if at all possible, ALWAYS take a Food Tour the first day in your visit!!  You have the opportunity to learn a ton about the city you’re in…and why learn all this with only one day left in your holiday??
 How do you find a Food Tour?  When traveling, I’m a huge fan of TripAdvisor.  Just google “TripAdvisor/Atlanta”  (or wherever!) and then type in “Food Tours”.  Large cities around the world will have several to choose from…so now what to do?  Read at least 5 – 10 reviews as a pattern will start to unfold of the “Why” the reviewer had a terrific time. While reading the reviews the tour guide’s name should show up in almost all of the writings…which is extremely important. Remember…you are about to spend 3 – 4 hours with this person which makes your guide a huge part of your day!!
Trust your Trip Advisor reviewers as they tend to be more objective, better traveled, and certainly thoughtful. If there isn’t a Food Tour that looks attractive, an excellent plan “B” is a Cooking Class, particularly when in Europe or Asia as you’ll start the Tour in a local market.  Imagine being in a Rome food market with a chef, everyone hollering in Italian, you having the time of your life!
Thank You John – I had an amazing time – it was a great introduction to food tours and Atlanta.  If you happen to be anywhere near Atlanta, check out John’s website http://peachtreefoodtours.com/about/ and book one.  Check back this week for more on Atlanta and my experience on the Peachtree Food Tour.


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It’s Chili Inside…

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It’s chili inside of you silly!  Hopefully, like me, you prefer turkey chill because cows are too cute to eat with those big brown and soulful eyes.  If you haven’t guessed already, it’s time for another recipe courtesy of me, previously one of the world’s worst cooks.  If you are expecting me to teach you how to make home made tomato sauce, I’m afraid dear readers, that you are SOL (that means so out of luck – remember this is a family friendly environment).  What I’m going to do is teach hopeless people like me how to make a meal that isn’t frightening in an honest (like my chicken soup recipe) way.  Here is everything that you need to make a pot of turkey chili:

The kitchen paraphernalia (not sure of the right names) that you will need:

  • One big pot – your biggest, and don’t forget the lid
  • One wooden spoon
  • A cutting board
  • A sharp knife for cutting – yup your going to have to use a knife
  • 2 bowls – one for the vegetables and one for the ground turkey (no cross contamination)
  • 1 strainer for the black beans
  • Your cell phone – for this recipe or just to return texts

All of the below ingredients can be modified to suit your taste.  For example, you may love mushrooms and want to include them in your turkey chili.  I, for one, feel that they have the texture of a slug, so no way, Jose are they going into my dish.  You may have food allergies, so don’t follow my suggestions if you are like my frousin AK and have issues with peppers and other night shades.  I also am a huge vegetable fan so I throw in a lot of them.  If you are an unhealthy eater who never touches vegetables, simply leave them out.  Last, but not least, if you prefer kidney beans to black beans, or another type of bean, feel free to substitute.  I’m not going to be offended.  I happen to like black beans and I won’t get grossed out like I do with a bean that looks like one of my major organs.

Ingredients:

  • One and a half tablespoons of olive oil (or whatever oil you have on hand cheap skates)
  • One onion of whatever shade you like – I like purple because it’s one of my favourite colours
  • 1/2 pound package of ground turkey – duh, what did you think I was going to say considering it’s the main ingredient
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Black Pepper
  • Chili – yes you put chili in chili
  • Sriracha (optional)
  • One jar of President’s Choice Tomato Basil Sauce (or if you are American, Ragu) or whatever you prefer – remember, I’m not making it from scratch.  Have a back up jar on hand or some salsa in case it’s not saucy enough
  • One can of black beans rinsed and strained (don’t forget to strain)
  • One zucchini
  • One red pepper
  • One orange pepper
  • One broccoli crown
  • Two celery stalks
  • A handful of carrots

I prefer to practice mise en place – a fancy french way to say do all of your prep ahead of time.  I like to lay out everything and have my vegetables chopped and ready to go.  I place my spices next to the turkey by the stove in a bowl and have a chopping board on another counter ready to go.  I also do my cleaning along the way so I don’t have to do a massive clean up at the end.  Here are your step by step cooking instructions:

  • Chop your vegetables and place in the bowl.  Start with the zucchini – it’s the easiest to cut up and will build your confidence
  • Continue chopping until finished (I know sounds logical but some of you may like to take breaks – keep going)
  • Once everything is chopped and in the bowl, start chopping the onion, you can’t avoid it.  It makes me cry too – now is the time to take breaks – just rinse your eyes out – it’ll make them feel  better.  Leave this on the cutting board
  • Next, put your pot on the stove and add the oil to the bottom.  I’ve learned from minor splatter burns to only turn the stove to about halfway to heat the oil
  • Once you’ve heated the oil, it’s time to get the worst job done – cook the ground turkey.  It’s gross, but just take it out of the package with the wooden spoon and you won’t have to touch it
  • Once it’s in the pot, start smooshing it with the wooden spoon until it’s not so chunky.  Keep smooshing the turkey – it’s about a 5 minute ordeal.  During this time, the turkey will start to look and smell like a brain – just go to your happy place until it’s over.  I sing Kelly Clarkson songs in my inside voice.  For this, I recommend “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”
  • As you are cooking the meat, you’ll need to season it.  Get your onion powder and do a “shake, shake, shake your booty” and that’s usually enough.  Next, repeat with the garlic powder, chili and black pepper
  • Once the meat is cooked, it will look like white chunky brain matter, add the entire jar of sauce
  • Add all of your vegetables
  • Add your black beans
  • Add a huge amount of sriracha unless of course, you can’t handle the heat in which case you should get out of the kitchen
  • Stir, stir stir
  • Turn the heat all the way down to low and cover with the lid, if it doesn’t fit, then you must acquit, I mean get a lid that does.  Sorry, I’ve been watching the OJ mini-series on FX
  • Stir occasionally, and cook for 1 hour
  • Let this cool and then pack away and freeze or eat, whatever makes you happy
  • I can usually get 6-7 servings out of this

Next, to make it fancy, and if you are a light eater, take a spoonful of chili and skid it along the plate like they do in fancy restaurants and add three grains of brown rice as a side dish.  Seriously, what is with the puree skid?  The most over used and unattractive way of serving that I’ve ever seen!

Anyway – that’s it.  I’m just going to warn you, that the first time I did this, it took me 2.5 hours.  I’m down to 90 minutes, small victories.  Enjoy : 0 )