Xmas Recipes 2019

Here they are

I figured it was easier to post the links in one place for folks than trying to constantly add links to the recipes on Facebook. Since many of you asked about the recipes for the South African Chocolate Pepper Cookies and the Polenta Parmesan Cookies I mentioned on an earlier this week, I will start with them.

Black Pepper Chocolate Cookies

This recipe is pretty easy and I recommend you read the instructions a few times first. The Author also suggests starting with the minimum amount of black pepper and then ramp up. I think when I make a new batch I will increase the black pepper up a 1/2 tablespoon. I think you might also be able to swap out the pepper for other types you might have handy as well.

The recipe link is from the website Food52 and was reposted according to the author notes: Text and recipe from Where Flavor Where Flavor Was Born by Andreas Viestad Born by Andreas Viestad (Chronicle, 2007).

Polenta Parmesan Cookies

This recipe was in the December 2018 issue of Food Network Magazine on page 84. The recipe itself is pretty basic and already I am thinking adaptions. Such as making them a bit thicker and turning them into “thumb” print cookies and topping with pepper jelly or a tomato bacon relish. To the taste, they read both sweet and savory so I imagine I could also top with Lemon Rind Jelly.  Just a note on this one – it does need to time to chill. I made mine the night before and sliced and cooked them the next day.

The recipe link is Polenta-Polenta-Parmesan Cookies on Food Network Magazine

 

Hallmark Hell

Even Gay People Do It

As some of you who follows me on social media (@FVSTRONA on that Twitter thing) know I tend to comment about the Hallmark Channels lack of LGBT diversity representation. 

But given that my world is a bit crazed and working as I do in the government – both Paul and I tend to come home pretty stressed. So Lifetime and Hallmarks’ annual holiday overboard on the methodologic and campy “holiday love” stories do serve as a great escape from political commentary and faux leaders trying to pretend that they actually care.

It was this in mind, that when Paul mentioned a trip back east, I conspired to turn the front rooms of the house into our own “Hallmark” style, over the top version of a bnb called “EverQueer”. 

Without telling him, I went through years of collected holiday decorations, managed to hit on a one day 70% off sale at Micheals,  and rummaged through a few pals storage units. I even got to repurpose some ornaments that I rarely get to use now that we put up the slim line tree most years. The end result was precious and we couldn’t wait for Paul’s reaction! I think he may rethink traveling before Christmas any more… This also means I get to bring out some old favorites like angel tree topper that’s been in my family for over 50 years or the diorama I picked up a few years back.

 

 

 

While it was all for fun – it still doesn’t account they Hallmark refuses to address its lack of LGBT holiday love – short of it’s either afraid of its “mom and pop” conservative viewership or its simply run by folks with an overly conservative, homophobic streak. Gee, I wonder if they would respond if people started to hashtag #LGBTCelebrateTooHallmark with pictures of the loving and holiday celebrations we have. Just saying..

Yup.. $5 on clearance at Micheals and I even found a “custom lightboard”

It was a book club that Sunday and I went big

Because book club discussions aren’t always just about talk.

Our monthly book club is also about what foods we bring; what reading the book inspires us to bring and share. Many of us choose to find a way to bring an authentic or reinterpreted version of something mentioned in the book or from the time period.

Since this month we read David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. 

My take on the book was positive as a read. Finding it a well-balanced collection of research and storytelling that manages to remind the reader of the historical narrative of racism and white privilege at the heart of so many of this countries moments. But the subject did give me several layers of emotions.

But back to the food

I opted for a Bourbon Pecan Cornmeal cake with an edible gingerbread oil rig and chocolate “oil”. My unique challenge was that I have never made a gingerbread oil rig or any structure before. So choosing the right recipe and the structural challenges were quite the experience. But in the end, it all worked out.

I won’t even mention the stress of moving it in two parts then topping the cake with its “rig” caused.

The cake itself was great.

I liked to cornmeal texture with the nuts. It is one I would remake. The recipe for the cake was from http://eclecticrecipes.com and used walnuts, but I had pecans laying around begging to be used.

What Are the Best Places to Eat at Disney World?

Although many people are familiar with all of the exciting attractions and entertainment options available at the Walt Disney World Resort, what some do not realize is that the area also boasts an amazing amount of unique dining experiences. There are many delicious places to eat in Epcot, such as Biergarten Restaurant in Germany,  the Spice Road Table in Morocco, the La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico, and more throughout. Here are just a few of the magical dining experiences to consider as you plan your trip to Disney World.

Cinderella’s Royal Table

Located in the iconic castle in the Magic Kingdom, this experience is the ideal choice for those princess lovers in your family. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this is the only way for visitors to Disney World to get to see the inside of the castle. Not only will you be able to dine in an amazing setting, but you will also be visited at your table by up to five Disney princesses. Cinderella is always present and the other princesses vary.

Sanaa

This unique restaurant serves up authentic Indian cuisine over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Known for their naan bread service with a wide array of accompanying dipping sauces, Sanaa also serves a diverse mix of Indian specialties such as butter chicken and tandoori shrimp. What makes this restaurant so fun is its setting overlooking the savannah at the resort, giving diners the chance to view giraffes, ostriches, and more as they nosh on their Indian cuisine.

Biergarten

The Biergarten Restaurant in Epcot is located in the World Showcase section, particularly the German section. This lively venue gives visitors the opportunity to celebrate Oktoberfest any time of the year. The vast buffet features some of Germany’s most loved dishes such as spaetzle, sausages, and Bavarian cheesecake. A live oompah band provides daily entertainment while you dine.

Chef Mickey’s

This iconic character buffet is a tradition for many families. Located inside of the Contemporary Resort, this all-you-can-eat buffet features a host of American classics. Guests of all ages will be delighted when Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and the whole gang stop by each table for a visit.

Advanced dining reservations can be made up to six months in advance. It is recommended that guests make their reservations as soon as their plans are set, ensuring that you do not miss out on any of the magic. And who knows, you might come back home with some inspiration and more motivation to tackle cooking.

Fall catch up

Fall has hit me strong this year.

It’s been a pretty busy few weeks so I haven’t been able to keep up with posting. This week will be a brief recap of highlights as we round the corner into the middle of October. 

As September hit

We tried to get ourselves motivated to do a few of the local street fairs – but we ended up missing the Folsom Sreet Fair but did head out on that Friday before or some fun at the Prime dance.

But continue to manage to get a few urban hikes in and as a treat, we included an unplanned meal at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe at its newest location, one afternoon and managed to get seats with any wait! (note- Saturday afternoon around 1:30 – no line). We definitely enjoyed all the food from the grilled cornbread, sweet roll and crumb cake to the different eggs dishes. Even the coffee is good. This is not some flash in the pan cafe – they have held court in San Francisco as a local and tourist favorite for years. Word on up Dottie’s – the pastries as well as the entrees are large and go fast. If you do get in a line, let the folks know at the counter what pastry you want so they can set one aside as once they sell out – it’s out for the day. 

We did manage to check out some other local street fairs in September, including the Inner Sunset Street Fair which netted use some new food finds to try by local vendors including a new jam and a spicy garlic sesame spread.

Another fun find was these dolls

A pal of mine collects this genre of art representing the African in American arts and when I travel and find some interesting finds for him I call him up. This set of stuffed dolls match in style two smaller ones I got at an estate sale some months earlier. For now, they sit in the living room, although a few folks have referenced the movie Annabel saying the dolls seem to follow them.

I also continue to go through boxes from our move that never was opened as well as boxes sent back from CT. This little guy was an odd character that I remember seeing while growing up. My dad used to have him in different places so now he watches over us.

 

Bookclub, Sales & Food

Knocked out a bunch of new dishes this month including a baked ham with pan stewed apples,  For book club in October – I went with a new recipe for Scalloped Potatoes meet Potato Gratin.  I liked this modified version for its cheesy taste and less liquid than in regular scalloped version. 

Paul and I also managed to score big at the Timbuktu outlet sale with a few new bags. One we had been looking at online we got for less than 25% of the original price.! After the sale, we stopped by a corner Mexican place called San Jalesco we hadn’t tried before but had been around forever. We liked the food so much, we ended up back there a few weeks later to try it for dinner. Well worth the money and the folks working were a lot of fun.

I also found a new fun find at Costco. I rarely have purchased the prepared food at Costco, except for the roast chickens. But the stuffed peppers with ground meat and rice looked great and are a reasonable price. So I figured I would take a risk. My suggestion – do it. They are good, easy to heat up (just add some water to the bottom of the pan first) and are pretty well flavored so no need to “almost homemade” it.  Except maybe some more cheese on it, they require no work.

Had some fun with improvising a recipe for Monkey Bread. Which to be truthful, is really just an excuse to east chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon. But it works! Let’s face it – most foods that are this good – aren’t going to ever photograph that way.. so simply imagine how good it tastes. 🙂

Paul really likes Oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies – but they don’t really connect with me – so I decided to whip up a bar (pan) version. This adaption has all the same ingredients with the addition of chopped nuts. Making them thick, chewy and crispy – while rich, they tasted great. Perfect for a office party as they can be cut small but pack a punch of flavors. 

Palm Springs

We tool a quick trip to PS for a long weekend and managed to grab some perfect weather. Since it was last minute – we didn’t make many plans with anyone, but did grab dinner at Grand Central which recently opened ( and yes – go!) and got a peek at Arlan’s newest Daddy’s Barbershop.

Now, did you know – that in Palm Springs – they actually have a station on TV for dogs? Serious. DOGTV is a real thing an pretty much is hours of outdoor nature seems with natural sounds. 

More to come this week including our “On The Train to Reno” weekend

To be continued…

4 Reasons Your Diet Never Works

You may often hear your friends say they’re going to stick to their diet this time, but the reality is that people often fall off the wagon fairly early into their weight loss journeys. It’s not uncommon for people who have just started a diet to feel hungry between meals or feel like they’re not reaching their goals as soon as they had expected.

This often leads to people feeling like they want to give up or at least have a few more cheat meals than they should. If you know why people often don’t stick to diets, though, then you can find ways of circumventing the problems. Here are reasons why people don’t always stick to diets and the four ways to make your healthy lifestyle changes stick.

You Don’t Have the Right Supplements to Round Out Your Diet

Oftentimes, while diets mean cutting things out of your regular eating schedule, it results in people using products and foods that aren’t up to par with what they’re dietary needs have to be. According to Xyngular, you need products and meal plans that are realistic. When you’re not getting the right nutrients, working out and even simple daily activities can be more difficult. Your body needs nutrients to build muscle, get you through a workout, and combat stress.

When you don’t get enough nutrients, you’ll likely find yourself feeling lethargic or stressed out, which can lead you to eat unhealthy food in an attempt to make yourself feel better. However, you need to remember that healing and nutrition needs to happen on the cellular level if you want to feel your best. Recovering from toxin buildup can take time and effort. As ASEA points out, “As we age and as our bodies are exposed to toxins and environmental stress, cellular function diminishes, and with it, our health and quality of life. This decline also affects the body’s ability to produce and maintain a proper balance of redox signaling molecules.” If you want to feel in tip-top shape for the next time you hit the gym, make sure you’re feeding your body with the supplements you might not get enough of. 

You Don’t Have Realistic Meal Plans

There are a couple of mistakes that people often make during meal planning when they go on a diet. One of the biggest mistakes is that they don’t make any sort of meal plan at all. Winging it can leave you vulnerable to making impulse decisions when you’re hungry at work or running errands. Another common mistake is not having enough in your meal plan to keep you full and satisfied. This can also lead to poor or emotional eating decisions. MommyPotamus suggests that you stick to a schedule that works for you, and have a shopping list always on hand with foods that are approved by you.

You Don’t Exercise

Exercise is part of a healthy diet. When you hit a plateau, a healthy exercise plan can help get you over it. Exercise also releases endorphins that make you feel good, making you less likely to look to the piece of chocolate cake for comfort when life gets stressful. You need to start committing to a routine, even if it starts small. According to Mayo Clinic, you should begin by assessing your fitness level and start from there on out. Try running a mile or two every weekend, consistently, and see how you can improve the plan when you reach a level of ease running a mile.

You Don’t Have Support

Having people around you who are supportive of your decision to make healthy changes to your lifestyle is key in actually making it work. Surround yourself with people who care about your health and provide encouragement (or even better, healthy recipes!).

Many people fall off the dieting wagon, but a lot of people succeed in making lifestyle changes. If you work at it and have a plan, you can be one of those success stories.

4 Ways to Travel that Make it Easy to Control Your Diet

While traveling abroad can be a rare and wonderful time, that freedom tends to play havoc with your waistline upon returning home. This article seeks to advise potential travelers on minimizing weight gain and how to stick to their diet while traveling abroad.

Consider Where You Stay

While you may want to stay at a bed and breakfast or a hotel, most of those venues leave you with relatively little to work with when it comes to cooking. Having a few options for food leads to eating unhealthily. Traveling can be tricky for healthy eaters. However, if you are staying in accommodations that offer kitchens, like houses, condos, or even beach houses, you can have more control over your diet by buying groceries and preparing some of your own meals. Even the most basic of inns should have some sort of miniature fridge for you to store your food.

Consider Dining Out at Higher-End Locales

Everyone with dietary or digestive issues knows the dread of hoping their waitress will treat the mention of a dietary issue seriously. The good news is that most high-end restaurants are more than likely than others to alter your meal to suit your needs.

Scout Out the Menus of Local Eateries

Research the local eateries and how far those locations are from where you will be staying. Depending on your stay’s length, you may wish to have a minimum of three to four options to choose from. If all the locations you have picked serve non-regional food of the same type, your taste buds may get burnt out on this new adventure.

Familiarize Yourself with Nutritional Vocabulary

While this advice is mostly of use to people traveling to other countries, it may also prove useful when dining at high-end restaurants that serve ethnic cuisines. In short, you want to know what words like “creamy,” “breaded” and “buttery” look like in the relevant language. These words are a good shorthand for foods that will be loaded with calories. Additionally, you may want to look up specific dishes just to know if you should even bother trying them because you have heard the name before.

The first step in planning a trip is research, so remember to consider your dietary needs in that research. Look for eateries that offer you tools to prepare something more than ramen noodles and coffee. Research local venues and consider frequenting the high priced ones more often. Learn red flag vocabulary for your dietary needs. With the proper research done, you can move on to packing and then set out on your trip.

 

I realized I never posted about my Bear TEDxPtown talk here!

It’s Out;

Just when my life could not get any more interesting; I get asked to do an actual licensed TEDx Talk.

Yes Really! 

Sharing who I was has never been an issue. I learned early on, to be the best I can be today, meant often owning who I was in the past. So, in this case, it played out on the TEDx platform. I was one of the lucky 10 people invited to participate in TedxProvincetown as it held it’s first TEDx Talk series this summer and the links have finally gone live.
26 years ago, I left the East Coast for an opportunity to work in San Francisco in progressive sexual adult content mediums addressing often ignored, overlooked, marginalized and underserved communities. Men like me didn’t fit the then “gay male archetype”; who often struggled to find to a sense of identity and inclusion with so few role-models to draw from.  We often hear and read much on body-shaming and the harmful effect that it has left on women. My talk shares my experiences as a gay man, with features and a body type that refused to fit the “Ken doll” model and how men (aka “Bears” ) like myself created a place for ourselves to thrive as sexual, loving and inclusive beings.

So what happens?

26 years later I find myself talking about those very same issues to a wider audience! It is an honor to share my experience as a gay man on body shaming, invisibility, resilience, and lessons learned from a “bigger” perspective.
But it was an honor to share my experience as a gay man on body shaming, invisibility, resilience, and lessons learned from a “bigger” perspective with an incredible group of people.

Now What?

Visit my talk on the TEDxProvincetown Youtube channel: https://youtu.be/8J-gaUgztjs  , share it with friends, your schools or workplace. Also check out the full speaker’s playlist for all 10 talks. For more details about the talk and how to share it with your friends; visit my Engage Blog post on MentorSF.com

Curious about TEDxProvincetown?

You can find out more on its website www.tedxprovincetown.com or read more about the other speakers https://tedxprovincetown.com/tedx-provincetown-talks-performances/.
The hashtags & social media accounts for TEDxProvincetown include:
#TEDxPtown, #TEDxProvincetown
Facebook: [@TEDxProvincetown
Twitter:  [@TEDxPtown Profile, hashtag: #TEDxProvincetown]
Instagram: [TEDxProvincetown– profile, hashtag #TEDxPtown]

Top Places To See When Traveling In Texas

Texas is one of the most popular and most exciting states in the nation. This place just so happens to be America’s second most populous state, and it hosts many of the nation’s most affluent cities such as Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Fort Worth. The Lone Star State consists of more than 260,000 square-miles, and it has some of the very best historical sites, national parks, amusement parks, train rides and science museums. Another great reason for coming to this destination is that there are a number of family-related activities that people can enjoy as a group. It’s time to pack your bags and take a trip to America’s last frontier.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

One of the absolute best things to see up close and personal is the Houston Museum of Natural Science. This extraordinary museum has been around since 1909 and over 2 million people visit this place every year. Science and education meets at this intersection as visitors will get a chance to view dinosaur exhibits, get a chance to see some of the rarest gemstones as well as see some of the best taxidermied animals. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.

San Antonio Riverwalk

The San Antonio Riverwalk is by far one of the most interesting and relaxing destinations on the planet. Located in Texas’ second most populous city, this destination provides up to 2.5 miles of walkway along the San Antonio River. Did you know that the Riverwalk is the most visited attraction in the state of Texas? Yes, this is 100 percent true as this place offers artisan shows, festivals and parades. This long channel of water was first designed to provide flood control for the city, but as of today, it is lined with affluent restaurants, lodging facilities, museums and shopping outlets. TripAdvisor.com states that over 76 percent of people who visited this area gave it an excellent rating of 4.5.

The Fort Worth Zoo

Who aren’t amazed at wild animals? The next great attraction is basically the Forth Worth Zoo. There are over 542 species of birds, reptiles and animals here. Kids will get a thrill while viewing silverback gorillas, lions, tigers and other majestic animals. The prestigious USA Travel Guide ranks Forth Worth Zoo as the 5th best zoo in the US. This huge wildlife refuge hosts a splash park, a carousel, a train ride and a theater.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort

This particular waterpark is a fan-favorite as it allows you to beat the heat with downhill racing slides, a water coaster, a lazy river ride and pools. SW&R is located in New Braunfels, and it has a variety of attractions for kids and adults. Swim-up pools and cabanas roundoff some of the more popular venues here.

There you have it! The great state of Texas has many activities to participate in, and it has much to see. All in all, visiting Texas should definitely be on your bucket list.

Did you enjoy reading about travel to Texas? Maybe you might like some more articles on travel, like 5 Other Must-See Beach Vacation Destinations or 5 Local Things Not To Miss in San Francisco!

 

References:

MommyPoppins

Visit Fort Worth

Avis

All Storage Online