Monday, November 13, 2017

What's Cooking? A Recipe Roundup to Inspire You and Make Dinner Less Stressful

Are you sick of trying to figure out what to make for dinner all the time? I know I sure am! While I LOVE to cook, I get tired of trying to figure out what to make.

Inspired by the NY Times "What to Cook This Week," I'm starting a new feature to help us all come up with practical ideas and inspiration to make dinner more fun and less stressful. These recipes will be realistic, palate pleasing and hopefully help make dinner fun again.

I don't cook at home every night and I'm sure you don't either. I'll focus on 3 great recipes so you can still work in your favorite recipes, use up any leftovers and go out to eat too.

This mayo free tuna salad sounds especially fresh and tasty thanks to the lemon, olives and capers. You could obviously make this into a sandwich, but I think it would be great served on top of a pile of rice, couscous or quinoa and with a side of cucumbers, celery sticks and baby carrots. Quick, easy and healthy too! (New York Times Cooking)

How about a Country Cassoulet that you can whip up on a weeknight? If you substitute canned beans in this recipe, dinner will be on the table in less than an hour. While not authentic, it will satisfy your craving for hearty home cooked goodness. If you want to make this dish a little fancier, head to Heinen's a get some pre-cooked duck confit. Magnifique! (Taste of Home)

Sometimes you don't want to cook but you want something fantastic. Make this herb and garlic baked camembert, open a bottle of wine and dig in. If you want to round out the meal, serve some sliced apples and celery sticks along with the crackers. Pro tip: If you use a brie baker, the cheese stays melty longer. (Smitten Kitchen via Epicurious)

What are you cooking this week?

If you have a favorite recipe you would like me to feature, let me know!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bloggers, Booze and Beauteousness

The blogging community in Cleveland is booming. While many of the old timers have hung up their keyboards, there is an enthusiastic and talented wave of new bloggers on the scene showing us that blogging is thankfully not dead.

Leah of By Travel and Error has made it her mission to get us local bloggers together to meet each other in real life for fun, networking and education. It's a more local version of the Ohio Bloggers Association. And she is doing a GREAT job! We're three meetups in, and it's been a blast!

Last night a group of ladies went to The Salvaged Boutique for a crafty night of fun. While I have stalked this shop online for ages, this was my first time visiting. Kathy and Karen are the super sweet owners, sisters and most gracious hostesses.

The Salvage Boutique logo

The Salvaged Boutique is a shop and studio featuring refurbished furniture, vintage good, up-cycled items and unique home decor - basically all the beautiful things. In addition, they offer make and take workshops to let out your inner artist.

Our group made Ombré painted pumpkins. We painted paper maché pumpkins with Wise Owl chalk paint, gilded the stem and applied gold vinyl fall themed words. 
ombre pumpkin
While we were working on our beauteous masterpieces, we sipped tasty cocktails provided by Watershed Distillery. This Ohio-based company is one of my favorites. We had a build your own Old Fashioned bar featuring their pre-made Old Fashioned. 
This is great for a party because you don't have to measure and mix and the cocktail is perfect every time. We also got to try the newly released Apple Brandy that is made with 100% Ohio apples.
Watershed Distillery Apple Brandy, ohio apples
Jen from Watershed made a giant punchbowl-sized cocktail by combining it with lemon juice, maple syrup, and sparkling cider. This was dangerously easy to drink and would be perfect for Thanksgiving.

We also received a swag bag filled with some chocolates, greeting cards by Plum City Designs and beauty samples from Stella & Shay Beauty Bar. It's always nice to find out local businesses. #ShopLocal people!
bloggers painting ombre pumpkins fall meetup
If you would like to follow more local bloggers, here's a list of the attendees to get you started:
Thank you to The Salvaged Boutique, Watershed Distillery, Stella & Shay Beauty Bar and Plum City Designs for helping make this a night to remember.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Turkey Day the Urban Farmer Way - Thanksgiving Curbside

*Update: You have until Saturday Nov.18th at 6pm
to order your Thanksgiving Curbside feast! **

So first I have to say, that Thanksgiving is my favorite meal. The one I look forward to all year. I just can't get enough turkey and especially all the delicious sides. So as soon as the calendar flips to November, I start my countdown.

This year I got a sneak peak of Turkey Day when Urban Farmer invited me to try out their Thanksgiving Curbside program. Here's how it works - they prepare the entire meal with ALL the sides and all you have to is stop by and pick it all up. That's it! No shopping. No cooking. And minimal cleanup. You get to spend more time enjoying the holiday, visiting with family or friends, or making your Black Friday shopping list instead! 

The only thing you have to worry about is placing your order by 6pm on Friday November 10th.

The Thanksgiving Curbside meal is only $150 and includes all of this:
You may be thinking it's too good to be true, but it's really that easy! And it's from Urban Farmer so everything is super delicious, maybe even better than your normal holiday fare. (Don't worry, I won't tell Aunt Betty!)

When I pulled up, I was greeted by these two lovely ladies pushing a cart with a huge amount of food on it. Pro tip: Make sure you have room in your car for everything. There's a lot of food!
As you can see, the packaging was excellent. There were two large containers each of the potatoes, stuffing and veggies and one big tall container each of the gravy and cranberry sauce.
The boxes are VERY sturdy and have handles so transporting everything was a breeze. Nothing tipped or spilled or got squished.

If your timing is right, you can just dig in when you get home. We weren't going to be eating for awhile and I wanted to keep everything hot so I transferred the sides into oven-safe containers and put them in the oven. You could easily microwave everything too but it was cold outside and I was very happy to turn on the oven.
Do you see the pan the turkey is in in the photo above? That is a real pan and comes with the meal - a very nice unexpected bonus!

Everything was excellent especially the turkey (it was actually juicy!), cornbread stuffing, and the roasted veggies. The rolls and butter were pretty amazing too. The flaked sea salt on top really showed the attention to detail that goes into everything that they do at Urban Farmer.
My Mom and Step-Dad joined us for dinner and there were TONS of leftovers. I only served half of the sides provided and we didn't come close to finishing everything. They say that this meal serves 6-8 but I would say it serves 8 easy and you would still have leftovers. 
Two miracles happened that night:

1. My Mom actually ate turkey...and liked it. She NEVER makes it or eats it,  so this is big news!
2. I fell in love with cranberry sauce. I never even touch the traditional stuff but I couldn't stop eating this one. More of a compote, it is very fresh tasting and has chunks of fruit in it. I've been enjoying it with the leftover butter on bread - way better than typical jam, that's for sure.

Not only were we having a Thanksgiving Feast, we were also celebrating my adorable Buffy's Sweet 16 birthday. (I hope I look half that good at 80+ years old!)
She even had her very own bowl of yum. She ate all this and was still begging for more. She even had some pumpkin pie.
Buffy gave the Urban Farmer Thanksgiving Curbside feast two paws up and we all agreed. While the food may not be the EXACT menu that you are used to, you will not be disappointed. Remember, professional chefs are making the meal. For example, we always do a traditional bread stuffing but loved this cornbread version. There were no complaints and it was a nice change of pace to try new versions of old favorites.

If you are like me, the best part about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. So even if you celebrate with family, this Curbside meal is the perfect way to ensure lots of tasty leftovers. And it's obviously PERFECT for a Friendsgiving too! 

We made lots of sandwiches, a pot pie and some of the best turkey soup I've ever made!

In addition to the Curbside dinner, Urban Farmer also has a Thanksgiving Pie Sale. Of course pumpkin is available but also some non-traditional choices that sound amazing. Shaker Lemon - I'm talking to you! Pick up is on Wednesday November 22nd from 9-11am. Orders must be in by November 8th. Call 440-730-4250 to reserve yours.
If going out on the holidays is more your style, they will be serving a Thanksgiving feast in house too. This is great if you don't want turkey because they also offer lots of choices including beef tenderloin and a fontina risotto with black truffles. Yum. $58 per adult/$22 per child 9 and under.

Before trying the Curbside dinner, I would never have dreamed of not having a family cooked meal, but this definitely made a believer out of me. Would it be too crazy for us to have THREE Thanksgiving dinners?? I'm tempted to order another one! 

** Disclosure: Urban Farmer invited me to preview the Curbside dinner in
exchange for sharing my thoughts with my readers. As always,
the opinions expressed are my own.**

Friday, September 29, 2017

Rumtoberfest at Bahama Breeze

Thank you to Bahama Breeze for partnering with me on this post!

What is Rumtoberfest? It's an annual celebration of all things rum at Bahama Breeze. Now through November 5th, you can join in the fun.
They unveiled three brand-new signature rum cocktails for the event – Shipwrecked, Tradewinds and Frozen Mojito. 

This year’s Rumtoberfest also introduces the restaurant’s largest rum flight, the Rum Raid – featuring eight rum-based cocktails for parties of two or more to conquer. This was so much fun and a great way to try all the tropical cocktails! 
I really enjoyed the Tradewinds and would love to go back and try that Frozen Mojito since it isn't included in the Rum Raid. If you prefer your rum straight, try the Premium Rum Flight: Zaya Gran Reserva, Barbencourt 15 Year and Estate Reserve Mount Gay XO.

In addition to the cocktails, there are two rum based food items: Rum & Coke Ribs and Chicken and Rum Cake. Man, I wish I had room to taste the rum cake!

Rumbash Fridays feature live music, fortune tellers, games and giveaways. For more information, visit

You can follow Bahama Breeze on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Monday, September 25, 2017

pARTy with PHriends Giveaway

Providence House is Ohio’s first and one of the nation's longest operating crisis nurseries. They offer free, voluntary (non-custodial) emergency shelter to children ages newborn through ten years old who are actively living in crisis situations. Providence House works with the families to help prevent abuse and reduce foster care placements. They provide individualized parent education, mentoring, counseling, certified trauma specialists and therapy to keep families together. Their program really works - last year 98% of the children were reunited with their parent or guardian!
You can help them continue their amazing work by attending their 5th annual fundraiser pARTy with PHriends on Friday September 29th. There will be lots of tasty bites, wine and beer, a DJ and more. Plus you'll have the chance to purchase artwork created by the children and win raffle baskets.

You can purchase tickets online for $35 each - it includes 5 beer/wine samples and one full sized beverage of your choice.

I'm also giving away a pair of tickets to pARTy with PHriends! Enter using the Rafflecopter below. You can also head over to Instagram for another chance. Winners will be drawn on Thursday. Good luck!

** Disclosure: Providence House is one of my clients at my real job. I am helping them because I love them and what they do. They provided the tickets for the giveaway. **

Friday, September 22, 2017

Taste of the Browns 2017

Until the Browns win the Super Bowl, the Taste of the Browns is the most fun you'll ever have at First Energy Stadium. We may love cheering on the Browns during home football games, but this event has an extra element of fun. Great food for an even greater cause. This annual fundraiser for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is one of the best ways to help tackle hunger. What makes it so great?

The Players
This is THE place to mix and mingle with some of your favorite Browns players, past and present. They are big guys with even bigger hearts. Plus they are super gracious and are willing to take a million photos and even sign autographs.
Taste of the Browns 2017, Cleveland Browns, Nate Orchard
Taste of the Browns 2017, Cleveland Browns, Josh Cribbs
The Auctions
They offer a ton really cool items that will have you whipping out your wallet in record time. You get the opportunity to win amazing and unique experiences and collectables.
Taste of the Browns 2017, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Taste of the Browns 2017, Cleveland Browns, silent auction, Joe Thomas jersey, Fracisco Lindor Jersey
The Food/Drinks
With over 25 vendors, you really have to pace yourself. There are so many delicious dishes it's always hard to pick a favorite. This year, my favorite bites were the Buffalo Chicken Taco from Barrio and the luscious chocolate cups of heaven from Chef John Selick of University Hospitals. For some of the bigger dishes like sliders, it makes sense to share with a friend if you want to try everything. An extra shout out goes to the chefs who served food that was easy to eat in addition to being delicious. 
Taste of the Browns food
John Selick's chocolate pudding at Taste of the Browns

Cleveland Browns, Taste of the Browns
desserts at Taste of the Browns 2017
The Venue
The event offers you the chance to be able to experience the Club Level which is quite a treat. Plus you get to sit outside in the seats and enjoy the beauty of the stadium when it's quiet. This year the weather was PERFECT too. I didn't want the night to end.
Cleveland Browns First Energy Stadium Taste of the Browns 2017
And the absolute best part = the event raised $255,000!!! As usual, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank scored a touchdown with this event! Definitely mark your calendars for their 20th anniversary next year. In the meantime, you can donatevolunteer or even give via shopping by using Amazon Smile. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

** Disclosure: I was asked to help promote this event and host a giveaway. In exchange, I received two media passes. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed, are my own. **

Friday, September 15, 2017

L'Amour du Vin Giveaway

Fall is fundraiser season and I am extremely excited to attend one that I have never been to before. L'Amour du Vin features wines from around the world and cuisine from delicious Cleveland area restaurants. 

In addition, there will be exciting raffles, a unique silent auction and exclusive VIP Lounge with specialty cocktails. All proceeds benefit the Arthritis Foundation’s mission to conquer and cure arthritis. 
This annual fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation is celebrating their 20th year! And thanks to their generosity, you can win a pair of tickets and join in the fun.

Sept 27th 

Avon Oaks Country Club
32300 Detroit Road
Avon, OH 44011

Tickets are on sale now online. If you upgrade to The VIP experience, you'll also get delicious tastings from Bonefish Grill, high-end wines from Heidelberg Distributing Company, specialty cocktails from Brown-Forman and chair massages compliments of EXHALE: The Spa. I don't know about you, but a massage and some win sound like heaven!

Guests will enjoy these great restaurants and wine, and get the chance to bid on auction items.

2017 Participating Restaurants
Ahern Catering | Blind Perch | Bistro 83 | Bomba Tacos & Rum | Bonefish Grill*
Café Piccolo | Heck's Café Avon | Kiedrowski's Simply Delicious Bakery
Luca West | Market, Rocky River | Melt Bar and Grilled | Texas de Brazil | Wine Bar, Rocky River
Parker's Grille & Tavern/Parker's Downtown | Wood & Wine | Yard House
If you are feeling lucky and would like to win a pair of tickets, enter using the Rafflecopter below. Contest end Saturday Sept. 23rd. Good luck!

Find out more at the event on Facebook.

** Disclosure: In exchange for helping to promote this event, I was given two tickets to giveaway and two for my own use. As always, all thoughts and ideas are my own. **

Saturday, September 9, 2017

2017 Taste of the Browns Giveaway

Everybody in Cleveland eagerly awaits fall for many reasons. One of the biggest is the return of football! My first love is baseball but there is something about football season that is just plain FUN. Maybe it's the tailgating. Or maybe it's one of the most highly anticipated events of the year, Taste of the Browns. Last year they raised more than $226,000 and distributed more than 904,000 meals!
Cleveland Browns and Greater Cleveland Food Bank Taste of the Browns 2017
Photo Credit
This annual fundraiser for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is packed with amazing food, great auction items (like Joe Thomas' Favorite Things package, chef tastings, and a Terminal Tower party!), tasty beverages and best of all, Cleveland Browns football players both past and present. You'll be able to mingle with Joe Thomas, Josh Cribbs and other Browns favorites with nibbling and sipping in the Club Lounge at First Energy Stadium.

Browns players, Cleveland, Taste of the Browns
The list of participating restaurants is long, but some of the ones I'm most excited about are Amp150, Blue Point, Edwins, Lago, Luca and Humble Wine Bar.

Taste of the Browns, Browns mascot, Chomps
When you purchase a ticket to Taste of the Browns, you help ensure that everyone in our community has the nutritious food they need every day. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is a wonderful organization that not only helps the hungry in our area, but also reaches out to people hit hardest by natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. For every dollar donated, they are able to provide four meals! Think of all the people you can help feed by attending this event.

Even if you can't attend you can help tackle hunger by bidding on items or making a donation.

You can also try to get lucky and win tickets here! I have two general admission tickets to give away to one lucky reader! Complete any or all of the entries using the Rafflecopter below. You can also head over to Instagram for another chance to win (look for the Taste of the Browns logo). Winner will be chosen randomly on Thursday at noon.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cleveland Browns, football, autograph

You can follow The Greater Cleveland Food Bank on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

** Disclosure: I was given two tickets to giveaway to a reader and two tickets for my own use in exchange for helping promote this event. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. **

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jet Away to Put-in-Bay! Late Summer Edition

Now that the kiddos are back in school and Labor Day is right around the corner, you may be thinking that summer is over. Fall isn't officially here until the end of September and you still have a lot of time to squeeze in some more summer fun. Why wait 'til next year? If you're thinking of an island escape, take advantage of the great weather, cheaper hotel rates and smaller crowds and jet away to Put-in-Bay.
One of the things on our Summer Must Do list was to visit the Lake Erie Islands. We hadn't been there in six years (crazy I know!), and we've been longing for a return visit.
Put in Bay, boats, Lake Erie
Jet Express contacted me to see if I wanted to try out their Put-in-Bay Kayaks and Caves Adventure Deal and we jumped at the chance to Seize the Daytrip. 
Jet Express, ferry, Put in Bay, Lake Erie Islands ferry
We headed to Port Clinton and headed to the Jet Express. They had our tickets waiting for us as well as a blogger swag bag with cool sunglasses that change color in the sun and t-shirts. I definitely recommend buying your tickets ahead of time because they sell out, especially on the weekends. And if you want to get outside seats, make sure to get in line early. They are first come first served.

The boat ride was super fast and really comfortable. In no time we were pulling into the downtown dock on Put-in-Bay. They drop you off right in the middle of town so you can start having fun as soon as you hit land.
Our first stop was to The Boardwalk to their famous lobster bisque. It's a PIB Must Do for sure! If you are doing the Kayaks and Caves Adventure Deal, make sure you head upstairs to The Upper Deck Boardwalk because the included coupon isn't good downstairs.
Boardwalk Put in Bay, Lobster Bisque, best eats on PIB
We knew we had a fun day ahead to we fueled up on burgers, bisque and Bloodys and headed over to get our bikes. Deal alert: They have a Bloody Mary bar from 10am to noon for $10. 
Put in Bay restaurants, seafood, lobster bisque, bloody mary bar
When we got to the bike rental, we learned an important lesson - get your bikes early, especially if it's a Saturday. Luckily we scored the last two bikes and were on our way.

We had a gorgeous day and rode all over the island. When we got hot, we toured the caves and made a pit stop at Heineman Winery. Even if you aren't a wine drinker, the Wine Garden is a great place to relax. It's not fancy, the wine is drinkable and they sell cheese plates. Plus, their grape juice is really refreshing and tasty! We learned that Crystal Cave is the world's largest geode - pretty cool!

Across the street is Perry's Cave Family Fun Center. It's a fun place to take the kids because in addition to the cave, there is also put-put golf, gemstone mining, a rock wall, and more. We went on the tour of the cave which includes an underground lake, an old well and tiny stalagmites and stalactites.
Our favorite part of the Family Fun Center was the Butterfly House. It was well worth the $8 per person to be surrounded by butterflies.
Our next stop was the kayak rental, but we chickened out. It was pretty choppy on the lake and we aren't the best kayakers. Nobody else was kayaking either so we figured our instincts were right. We would definitely like to go back and paddle around next time.
The bike ride made us thirsty, so we headed to the Put-in-Bay Brewery & Distillery. We tried a flight and had some nachos. Loved the wooden PIB shaped flight holder!
Put in Bay, craft beer, Strawberry Basil Wheat beer
The strawberry basil wheat was our favorite. The others were drinkable but could have used more flavor. We were hoping to try the Pass Out Bourbon Stout and the Ole Cotton Top Irish Red but they are seasonal brews.

As we were sipping and noshing, we found out my husband's cousin was on PIB for his bachelor bash, so we hopped on a taxi and crashed the party! We didn't want to cramp their style so we just hung out with them until they hit the bars.
Chris' bachelor party on PIB
By then it was time for us to catch our ferry and head home. The Jet Express offers late night service so we were able to pack in a ton of fun on our visit. We were both sad the day was ending, but are looking forward to visiting again soon!
Jet Express, Lake Erie Islands, ferry, Port Clinton ferry
A late summer or fall visit has a lot to offer ~ it's my favorite time to visit. There are all kinds of events going on in late summer and fall. Besides smaller crowds, cheaper hotel rates and the weather being perfect, here's five more reasons for you to visit now:

1. For all you country music fans - grab a lawn chair and your favorite cowboy boots and head to Bash on the Bay with Toby Keith August 31st at the PIB airport. 

2. For the history buff, you don't want to miss Perry's Victory Heritage Weekend on Sept. 8 - 10th. It's the 204th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie. When we were there we watched a rifle demonstration. It's really interesting to think how important Lake Erie was in the War of 1812.
War of 1812 Soldiers, Put in Bay, Battle of Lake Erie
3. If Kelleys Island is more your speed, you can take the Jet Express on Sept.9th for Treasure Island Day - an island-wide yard sale.

4. Did you know that the Jet Express also has a Cedar Point route? You can Jet over to Cedar Point and check out the Last Blast of Summer & Food Truck Wars

5. And while it's not taking place ON the island, I highly recommend the Perch, Peach, Pierogi and Polka Festival in Port Clinton on Labor Day weekend. You can fuel up, take some free polka lessons, then head to Put-in-Bay for the day.
The Rum Republic, End of Route 1, Put in Bay to Key West
We had a ton of fun, and we didn't even end up here!
jail cell on Put in Bay
If you want to take advantage of the Kayaks and Caves Adventure Deal, the price is $150 and includes:
  • 2 round-trip adult Jet Express tickets (from Port Clinton)
  • Bike rental for 2
  • Kayak rental for 2
  • $25 gift certificate for Mossbacks or The Upper Deck Boardwalk
  • Crystal Cave tour for 2
  • Perry’s Cave tour for 2
  • 2 Heineman Winery tours plus tastings
  • Over $100 savings in exclusive coupons
The ferry tickets alone are $33 each so it's a great deal!

Follow Jet Express on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

* Disclosure: Thank you to Jet Express for partnering with me on this post.
As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. *

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ride RTA Giveaway

This summer is flying by! There are so many fun things happening around #CLE and I’ve been doing my best to take advantage of as many as possible.

Events are fun. Trying to get there is not. One of my favorite ways to skip the traffic and avoid the outrageous parking fees is to ride the Greater Cleveland RTA. The Rapid is my favorite because it's so much fun. But even if you aren’t close to a Rapid stop, the RTA busses have stops practically everywhere, are really convenient and help you start having fun sooner.

Did you know that RTA has an app to make riding even easier? After downloading the app, you can PLAN, BUY and RIDE using your smartphone. No more fumbling for exact change or standing in line at the ticket vending machines!

And when you use the app, you can even SAVE. If you show your RTA pass at one of their partners, you get all kinds of deals and can enter to win prizes. For example, $2 of admission to the Zoo, $1 off hot dogs at Happy Dog and 25% off one pastry or coffee/tea at Blackbird Bakery.
We rode RTA to the Indians game last week and it was SO easy! We got to sit back and relax during the ride and hopped off right by the stadium. 
If you visit the RTA street team's station in right field on a Friday or Saturday, you can win T-shirts and other prizes. Our game was on a Thursday so I'm borrowing a photo from the RTA Instagram page to show you where to go: 
But the best part: not having to fight traffic on the way home. We walked to the station and let RTA do the rest.
If you haven't taken advantage of RTA, what are you waiting for! After you see how easy it is, you'll be saying #IGORTA!

Enter to win a monthly RTA pass so you can try it for yourself and you'll also get two Indians tickets. Enter below using the Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Greater Cleveland RTA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #IgoRTA to share how all the places that RTA takes you!

** Disclosure: I was provided Indians tickets and monthly RTA passes for my personal use and to giveaway to a reader in exchange for sharing my opinions with you.  As always, all thoughts are my own. **