Monday, October 31, 2016


Are you a fan of Chopped? Have you ever wanted to meet the chefs to find out how they deal with all that pressure? Well, we caught up with Lyanna Cintron, the Battle 2 Winner from Food Network's Chopped Teen Tournament to get all the yummy details about her and the show.  This savvy chef from Queens New York got her start in the culinary world by making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for her mom at the tender age of 6.  The rest, as they say, is history.  

**Waving hello as Lyanna gets situated.

What made you decide to get on Chopped?
My baking instructor,Adrienne Terzuoli had a notice on the bulletin board in class at Food and Finance, and encouraged me to try.

Yay Adrienne! There are lots of famous chefs, particularly in New York.  Is there one you admire or would enjoy working with?
Chef Marcus Samuelsson & Chef Lyanna

Chef Carla Hall & Chef Lyanna
Chef Ramsey is someone I admire  and would love to meet and work with.  I love his passion in the kitchen, when he's not so angry or slamming things around. (lol)

Chef Gordon Ramsay from the show Hell's Kitchen

Agreed, I would say he definitely has passion, and his blue eyes are electric! Would we ever catch you eating a cheeseburger or hot dog?
Just because I can make fancy dishes doesn't mean I don't enjoy a hotdog every once in awhile. I actually prefer that over a cheeseburger.

Give me my cheeseburger any day! (lol) Are you the designated cook in the kitchen for Thanksgiving dinner, and if so, what's on the menu?
I would probably say that I'm the head cook during Thanksgiving because I'm designated to prepare the turkey and yams.  Other than that, me and my brother help out my mom as she needs us.

One of your menu items on the show was sausage and peppers. How quickly did you get to think about that?
At most, I think I had less than 3 minutes to put everything together in my head before I had to take off running!

That dish looks phenomenal! What time did you actually arrive at the Chopped Studio, and is everything completed in just one day?
We arrived at 7am, and left at 8pm, so everything was recorded all in one day.

We're all dying to know what you ate throughout the day.
Well, everyone had to get to the designated hotel individually. Once we arrived, there was this really fantastic breakfast there. When everyone finished, we headed to the studio in a van to get started. During the middle of the day, the culinary team prepared a really nice lunch for everyone before we recorded the dessert round.
A culinary masterpiece from Chef Lyanna

The other contestants during your show were Tommy, Nathan and Samantha.  Was everyone friendly?
Everyone was really nice, but I bonded the most with Tommy, and we still talk today.  We'll actually be going to the CIA together in March 2017.

Speaking of school, what kind of plans do you have, and do you still need funding?
Once I graduate from high school later this year, I'd like to be able to travel a little and find a job before going to the CIA. How else am I supposed to gain worldly experiences, right?  I was really blessed to win a 2 year scholarship to the CIA, but I still need funding for my Bachelor's Degree which I don't have right now.

The Garlic Butter Shrimp & Fried Calamari dish  looked delicious, and everyone loved the way you prepared it. Since you've been working at a well-known restaurant like Carbone's, would you say Italian food is your fave?  In case you didn't see the show, this is what was in those daunting baskets.

Appetizer: saucisson en croute, quinoa, white harissa, seaweed salad
Entree: squid, lemon candy, kusa squash, shrimp cocktail
Dessert: pirate’s breakfast, French pastries, strawberries, citrus soda
All types of food are my favorites, but I would have to say Italian is pretty high up there.

How long does it really take for a decision to be made of who gets chopped?
As I was sitting in that room waiting, it seemed like it took the longest time ever, but that was due to nerves and anxiety.  In reality, they decide in about 2-3 minutes.

That's a lot faster than I thought.What would people be surprised to know about you?
People would be surprised to know that my second career would be photography.  I love taking pictures of beautiful scenery.

Wow!  That's pretty quick! I know you're super busy, but what do you watch on television when you have time, and what was the last movie you enjoyed?
Law & Order SVU, Young and Hungry, and long list of others.  I watched a movie called Me Before You.

I love reruns of law and Order SVU, too.  As romance readers, we have to be nosy about your love life. (lol) 
Well, Declan is my boyfriend, and he is the most amazing guy ever!  He's tall with the most beautiful eyes,
and he's just as weird as I am.  What's great is that we both love each other for who we are with no changes, and he makes our relationship feel like a fairytale.   He likes for me to give him new recipes to cook and he does a really good job, so I give him props.  He also makes some mean scrambled eggs and sausages.  I also like that he takes me out to different restaurants to expand my culinary knowledge.  Declan is definitely a keeper.

How romantic!  What 3 things must you have in the kitchen?
Salt/Pepper, Chef's Knife and Olive Oil

Where will we see Chef Lyanna in 4 years?
Hopefully graduating with my Bachelors from the CIA and working in a High End Restaurant.

Oops!  Before you leave, I've been dying to know this for years. Do you get to keep those really cool chef jackets?
LOL - Yes, They mail them to us.

Thanks so much for such a fun interview. You may not have won the $25,000 grand prize, but you're still a STAR to us!  

Don't forget to help this brilliant young chef of 17 reach her dream of getting a Bachelor's Degree at the CIA by visiting:

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Have you ever heard of Jones Soda?  I never did until moving here to North Carolina, but everyone seemed to rave about them.  I found some in Big Lots, and my goodness they were amazing. What's great about these drinks is that they come in really cool colors and unique flavors that you don't really see with other soft drinks. AND they use cane sugar instead of high fructose syrup. 

Even though it's Fall here in NC, we're still enjoying some warm weather.  So what better way to celebrate all that sun than with a yummy creamy ice cream soda?  The adventure was on as I dumped 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream into a beer mug (nope, I don't drink beer, so I may as well use it for something, right?-lol) and poured in a 3/4 cup of Jones Green Apple Soda.  YOWZA! It was a fab floaty fruit drink in seconds, and tasted fantastic.  I just wish I would have remembered to take a picture before I ate it all.

But you don't have to use vanilla. Instead, go wild with red velvet ice cream mixed with a blueberry drink, or a strawberry ice cream mixed with root beer.
 This is fun to do with the kids, or as a quick dessert when friends come over to visit.  Experiment with how much ice cream or soda you need until you get that perfect flavor.

There are plenty of places to eat in Walt Disney World, but did you know that you can't buy gum?  No one wants that sticky stuff on their feet while walking around.
BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) is okay if you want to save money.  That's right! You can bring a picnic basket from home or other snacks if you like.  Things like super large coolers, glass bottles, or alcohol are prohibited, however.  Guess what else you have to leave at the hotel?  Your selfie stick!

Jamie Leigh Curtis starred in the very first Halloween movie in 1978, and yes, it was super creepy.  Did you know that the budget was so tight that she had to purchase her own outfits for the movie from JCPenney?  She spent less than $100. Not happy with just one scary movie - there were a total of 10 made to haunt us, and the scariness finally ended in 2009, thank goodness.  Was it just me, or were you glad when it was all over?

Friday, October 28, 2016


When I first started reading novels years ago, the only things I noticed were the blurbs and book covers, before happily moving on to the next story.

It wasn't until 2004 that I began to pay attention to reviews that were inside of the book.  It took a while longer before I actually sought out reviews to help make informed book purchasing decisions.

Despite a massive TBR pile and many favorites, there are only 5 authors that I'll purchase without reading a review or the blurb about their novel.  Every other suggestion on new books or authors, come strictly from bloggers.  The effort they put forth in reading or listening to a book, then sharing that knowledge is a much needed element.

Some may feel differently, but I believe that reviews sell books for authors, and become topics of discussion for readers.  I also think that for the most part, authors really appreciate knowing what we think about their writing efforts, the covers or even the genre they've chosen.  

When possible, every effort is made to provide positive feedback for all those authors who labor day and night to come up with such amazing stories, so I can't imagine a world without book reviewers. Some are straightforward, a few are brutally blunt, many are hilarious,  most are well-written, and they are all entertaining. Many book reviewers are also getting into the review of merchandise, as well. What about you?  Do you need to see a review before picking up a new novel or product for your reading pleasure?  Do you pay attention to the opinions of others?  

Kirkus Media is seeking experienced book reviewers of English and Spanish-language titles to review for Kirkus Indie in various formats and genres.  

If interested, pass on your resume, samples of your writing, and a list of preferred genres to David Rapp at is a great place to get products to review for cash or the use of the product.  Some are strictly for overseas, but others are designated specifically for US Bloggers. - This site has a large volume of books to choose from, and even though you won't get rich, you can get paid for your reviews.

First the title to their website is probably a misnomer, because 2 wonderful women (Heather Wheeler and Joanie Demer) created this phenomenal website.  Also, you may think that this site is all about coupons (they are the gurus of saving money with coupons and rebates), but they also give you real cool recipes, lots of tips about making money, and other news you can use.  If you contribute an interesting article to their site, you can get paid!  Pitch your idea after reviewing the site to:

With over 5 Million subscribers, Kyle Taylor and team created this website to tell you how to earn money in unexpected places. I'm not kidding.  You will be truly amazed! Then share your ideas for cash!  Send those articles to:  

The holidays are weeks away, yet there are literally thousands of female veterans who are homeless with nowhere to go.  They have left their homes because of domestic violence, can't find a job to pay all the bills, or never hear back from all the organizations that promise to help.  That woman behind you in the grocery store is wondering if she can find a safe place to sleep in her car for the night, or crying because she has to go to a job interview without a shower or clean clothing.
In North Carolina, there are technically very few organizations that may assist with female veterans who are homeless.  Volunteers of America, Passages, Family Endeavors, United Way, Alston Wilkes Society, and Community Link are the ones that come to mind.  Some of these are affiliated with each other.  Some will help, but I promise you they don't move quickly, which can be very stressful to a woman who needs a place to live right now.  
While they are unable to offer financial assistance, visiting may make you feel so much better.  Ms. Benita Koeman is the founder of this site that provides many resources in different states.  When you see the site, you'll wonder how in the world she has time to reach out personally to those who have questions, but she does.  Ms. Koeman epitomizes the meaning of kindness, and we appreciate her.

Do you know someone who's homeless without a place to call her own?  Is someone you know unable to pay rent?  If you can, reach out with hugs of support and monetary assistance to help these women get on their feet.  They served our country to protect us.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


We love visting Kim at she hosts her weekly Sunday Post and shares new info on books, blogging, and more. Be sure to stop by to say hello! *Waving

Triple Chocolate Cookies - from The Food Network

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 large yolk
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces white chocolate chips

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cloves together in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove pan from the heat, add the bittersweet chocolate, then set aside until melted.

Whisk the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla together in a medium bowl, then slowly whisk in chocolate. Stir in the flour mixture to make a loose dough. Don't overwork the dough. Fold in the chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 if convection option is available).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form dough into balls, about 2 inches or 1 1/2 ounces each, and put on the prepared baking sheets, leaving a couple inches between the cookies. Bake until outside is crackly, but the center is still moist, about 13 to 15 minutes, or 12 in convection. Cool on a rack.

You already know that I love spicy food, so when I came across this Habanero Jam, I was definitely on board.  Even better, it's super simple to make which is great.

4 oz. habanero chiles, halved with the seeds removed(removing the seeds decreases some of that heat)
2 cups tequila or vodka
1/4 finely chopped red onions
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
6 tbsp raw sugar
1 1/2 kosher salt

Chop the chilies in a food processor, then transfer to a small bowl and mix in your tequila or vodka. Let it sit uncovered for 1-3 hours, and chilies will get less spicy as they soak.  Drain, then set aside.

Transfer the chilies to a small pan, then add onion, vinegar, orange juice, raw sugar, salt and 1 cup water, bringing to a boil over medium-low heat.  Cook until the chilies are tender and the liquid has a syrupy texture - about 50 minutes or so.  Let cool and you're all set! Yummy!

If you like to add some sweetness to this jam, try strawberries or peaches.

You can live in a state for years and still miss out on some of the tasty treats from various restaurants.

SAN DIEGO is home to Little Italy's "Top Chef Alley", where some of your fave chefs from the show have amazing places to eat including one of my boyfriends, Richard Blais.  By the way, if you're addicted to the show like I am, the new season of Top Chef begins in Thursday, December 1, and Charleston is the hangout.  Yay!

NEW YORK has some of the best puffy fried fish tacos at Rockaway Beach Surf Club.

DETROIT is bragging about  a brand new place called Sister Pie and they serve dishes that are over the top fabulous. Strawberry Pistachio Crumble Pie, Toasted Marshmallow Butterscotch Pie, cookies and more, are what you can find on this eclectic menu according to Bon Appetit

Or if Detroit is a little too far, check out my friends Jeanine and Jack at for their amazing version!

Morrisville, NC will offer Trick or Treat & An Outdoor Movie on Thursday, Oct 27, 4pm - pm at Parkwest Village.

I drink a ton of water each day mixed with lemon and sometimes coconut, but there are plenty of ways to get your H2O fix these days, if you don't like it plain.  Now you can get Cactus Water, Organic Maple and even Artichoke!  Some of these drinks can be pricey at $4 for a 17 ounce bottle or $3.00 for a bottle that's 11.5 oz.  My suggestion is to just make your own. You can put in the amount you like and it's much less expensive. When I want a lot more flavor, I have a HUGE bottle of pomegranate juice mixed with ginger slices, lemon, green tea, water, vinegar and dandelions. (Yes, Kim, I know you pay dang good money to get rid of them in your garden-lol) Yes, I know it sounds gross(lol), but it burns fat and tastes good.  Even better, you don't have to worry about anyone trying to run off with your drink. (lol)

I don't know about you, but I used to have trouble figuring out how to measure the right amount of pasta from the box for two people, causing plenty of leftovers.  Try placing those noodles in an empty spice jar that has at least a 1 inch opening.  The amount that fits in that jar should be enough for you and that special someone!

Now 33, my son has been an avid Dallas Cowboys fan since he was 6 years old. He is 100% committed even if they're on a losing streak.  On the other hand, I used to be football fan about 10 years ago, but now not so much.  I must however, admit to my guilty pleasure of watching the Making of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders or the DCC as they call themselves on CMT.  They just happen to be the most famous and well known cheerleaders. But you may be surprised to know that they're not paid very well for having such amazing stamina to dance and cheer for an entire game.  Their practices can last from 2-4 hours. They may earn anywhere from $100 - $150 for their time.  That's the equivalent of $9 - $15 per hour. YIKES!

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders aren't just pretty faces.  They need to know about football and are quizzed on the sport.  Their coach is no nonsense, so don't miss a step, flip your hands the wrong way, or not be able to do a split properly.  You'll be counseled, and if it's still wrong, you'll be cut during training camp.

The DCC has a regular squad, and also a team of 17 women who perform unique dance routines. They visit hospitals, go on USO Tours and make other public appearances for special events.