My Brother

I am so thankful for my brother Joe.  He is not only the best big brother you could possibly have by your side, but he also has a chocolate factory.  The best of both worlds – wonderful brother and delicious chocolates.  He has been leading my family for years with is patience and strength.  He is also really funny and loves to play practical jokes on everyone.

People ask me all the time about Joe and Waggoners Chocolates.  I thought giving you a behind the scenes look might shed some light on how amazing he is and cool it is that he has a chocolate factory.

Joe as been creating confections for some of the most renowned chocolate companies in the world.  Many of the chocolates that you love have been developed by Joe and his team.  He also travels the world to bring the cocoa beans from harvest to market.  He can taste a bite of any chocolate in the world and tell you the quality, level of cocoa and usually what region it has come from.

That leads me to Waggoners Chocolate.  When Joe decided to build his own company, he wanted to keep it small creating some of the finest confections in the world.  Every piece of chocolate is created in small batches, with ingredients that are local.  Fresh creams and butters from the Ohio valley.  Fresh pretzels baked and shipped right to the factory to be drenched in chocolate. Made in the USA which is so important to Joe as he served his country for 8 years in the Army.

When Joe was asked to come on television, he was initially worried about the delivery to customers, freshness and quantity.  He chose to come on when he learned he could ship right from his factory to the customers.  His visits are limited; he only makes what he can make.  He has always believed that customers are family.  So many folks over the years that shopped in his store are now close, personal friends. His wonderful wife, Stephanie and daughter Cierra share in all the work with Waggoners Chocolates.  That is why every time you take a bite, you know the box was packed with love and pride.

I am not involved in the business at all, but last year he gave me the honorary title of ‘president of taste testing’  and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Give Joe a call next time he is on air next time and let him know what new flavor you would love to try!

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Making meal time quick & healthy

I think it’s happened to all of us, right?  A long day at work and we get home to find there is absolutely ‘nothing to eat in the fridge’!  So, what do we do?  Either go out for fast food or spend the money at a sit down restaurant.  Or, race to the store and grab anything that sounds good to our grumbling stomachs, which usually results in overeating and over spending.

So, one night after the mad dash to the store and coming home with some lettuce and a rotisserie chicken, I started thinking.  Hmm, I love chicken and it’s a great source of protein, but this bird has been sitting in a ton of grease (a.k.a. flavor) for I don’t know how long.  That grease is equating to how many calories and fat?  There’s gotta be a better way!

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I thought about my friends that blot the grease off of a slice of cheese pizza (which I find blasphemous, btw) but maybe they are onto something? So I pulled off the skin, rinsed the darn thing off and pulled off just enough chicken to top my salad. Dinner was delicious and I had enough meat left on the bones to make two more meals!kw-blog-4-2kw-blog-4-3

 

 

 

 

Now, granted, having it cooked for you may cost you a few bucks more, but I found that Costco has a bird that is double the traditional size of most stores – I can get 5 meals out of that bad boy.  And my local grocery has a ‘$1 off cluck’ weekly special every Thursday.  I love starting the weekend off with some meals already prepped and ready to go!

From chicken salad (two ways),to tacos and pot pies  – I think you’ll love this quick way to get meals done in a jif and save a few calories along the way.

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What do YOU do with your bird? I’d love to hear!

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Coffee with Coffee

allison-blog-coffee-1Coffee = Happy day.  Period.  That is the main ingredient to my diet.  I have to confess that there is no better way to know if the day is going well.  My fun factor, laughs and concentration level is singularly determined by one little bean.  I’m quite finicky about the coffee I drink and could write a book on the nonsense and seriousness of coffee beans and preparation. 

In fact, there’s a cold brew in front of me now.  

Over the past few years, when traveling around the world, I’ve found that there is a problem with cold or iced coffee.  Coffee houses love to serve them, as they use day old or left over coffee for their iced coffees.  I believe that’s why so many people don’t like the bitterness that normally comes with first sip.  Coffee has a personality and can lose that when it is over-processed. 

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Recently, on a trip to Seattle, I was invited into one of the biggest coffee specialty roasting houses in the world to taste a few new roasts and blends that will be coming to the market next year.  It was spectacular!  Know how the effect of the growing climate, water, soil, temperature can affect the taste was spectacular. Growing up in the chocolate business, the cocoa bean source would be the sole basis for the flavor of the chocolate.  I found this is the same with Coffee.

allison-blog-coffee-3-tastingDuring the tasting, we were served an iced coffee with cream. I turned and asked the age old question, how?   It seems that we’ve been doing it wrong all along. Don’t take the morning brew and pour it over ice, or take the morning brew that has been sitting on heat for hours and think you’ll get a smooth, unadulterated sip.  You won’t.  This seems so simple, but the result is one that may take you from a hot joe drinker to a iced cold brew aficionado.   You can add cream, flavor, mint, basil or any other flavor to this.  Remember, this is a concentrate and will be perfect to have in the refrigerator.  Just promise me you’ll try it black the first time so you can enjoy the clean, smooth taste!  And, if you’re going all in, make yourself a tray of coffee ice cubes!)

Cold Brew Coffee

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely ground coffee beans (for the best quality, use deep french roast)
  • 4 cups cold water

Directions

Add ground coffee and cold water together in a large bowl. Stir briefly to combine. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 12-24 hours.

Then remove the bowl, and place a strainer covered with a cheesecloth in a second bowl.

Pour the coffee mixture over the strainer, and wait until the liquid has filtered through the strainer. Discard the grounds and remove the strainer.

Serve the coffee over iced, stirring in water to dilute the coffee at 1:2 coffee/water ratio. (Example would be; 1/2 coffee and 1 cup water)

Refrigerate the remaining coffee concentrate in a sealed container for up to one week.

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Who Rescued Who?

When moving to Minnesota almost 9 years ago now, I knew I was moving to a whole new part of the country with no family here.  After settling into my new place, I felt like something was missing.  Although we had lost our beloved family puppy years before when my daughter went to college, I never thought I would own another dog.  Well, sure enough – as the story goes – I would have to think again about being dogless!

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One day in January, a snowstorm was brewing and I needed to beat the storm and gather supplies.  I thought I should head out to a big box store to stock up.  In my new city – in my new car and with my new GPS – I got lost, very lost and ended up about 40 minutes from home.  Turns out, they don’t always know where you’re going!  On the route to get home, I pulled up to a light and looked to my left to see the animal shelter.  What the heck? Right? It was snowing; I was going nowhere fast in the snow – so in I went.  Just to ‘look’ at the cute puppies!

Allison blog 2 1RIt was love at first sight.  Riley was a 4 year old mixed breed (of many things) but looked like golden + lab mix to me.  She sat in the back of her kennel, scared, skinny and looked tired.  As I read her ‘card’, she had been ‘dropped’ off at the night window with no information.

I asked to see her and, as they brought her out of the kennel, I knew she would never return.  She came home that day.  She has been the best friend and companion since the day I brought her home.  She is a quiet, gentle soul who has always been there.  When my mom was sick this past year, she never left her side. She’ll go anywhere with you.  She’ll walk right beside you in the rain or in the hot sun – she is always there!

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Writing this blog has allowed me to remember that day so clearly.  I am blessed to have turned left instead of right.  I guess you never know which is the right way or what you will find, only that – if you get a chance – follow your heart. Riley has given more than she has ever asked, a million times over.

Thank you for blessing us with your love every day, little Riley.

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Kimberly’s 48 hours in Vegas Survival Guide

Looking for a quick getaway that has all the makings of an Adult Disneyland? Then look no further than Viva Las Vegas.

My sister-in-law, Natasha, had never been to Vegas and since my friend, Bucky, was headlining in a show and colleagues were attending the JCK, it seemed like the perfect weekend to go for broke (no pun intended)!!  Girls Trip!!

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There are lots of great and affordable airlines traveling to LV this time of year – so while the temperatures are rising, take advantage of the low $$ for travel.  Pack a carry-on only; don’t waste a minute of your time at baggage claim and heaven forbid your luggage gets lost.  It’s a quick trip: 2 tops, 1 bottom, a bathing suit & cover up, 2 dresses, 1 pair of heels and a pair of flip flops . . . that’s all you need!!

Once you arrive, be prepared to wait in line for a taxi. This line appears to be never ending, depending upon the time Kimberly blog 2 taxi line insert& day of arrival, but it moves quicker then Space Mountain and there’s some pretty good people watching along the way.

Once you get to your hotel, you may also encounter a long line to check in. Understand, Vegas truly never sleeps, so people are checking in & out at all hours of the day.  Join the Total Rewards program online so you have a member number, as most casinos have a special check-in line & tons of discount for members . . . and it’s free to join.  And always smile, be courteous and ask for an upgrade.  I found that being kind (that and a discreet tip to the person checking you in) will pay off handsomely in the long run. You’re not in your room for most of the day, but a higher floor, better view and executive lounge privileges can sure make your stay that much sweeter.

Kimberly blog 2 shopping 3Shopping in Vegas is just insane! It’s the best of NYC, LA, London, Paris and your favorite mall all wrapped up on one long strip.  From the highest end boutiques to the most convenient of touristy shops – you could literally arrive there empty handed and go home with an entirely new wardrobe!!Kimberly blog 2 shopping 1

If you love to eat like me, you’ll be in a gastronomical paradise!! From the mom & pop diners to your favorite celebrity chefs, there are a gazillion Kimberly food 3opportunities to tantalize your taste buds.  Enjoy breakfast in Rome, lunch in Paris and dinner in NYC . . . it’s a culinary feast of the senses.  Don’t have a reservation?  No prob!  Be flexible, go on an off hour, be willing to sit at the bar, smile . . . and don’t forget to tip the guy or gal that squeezes you in without much of a wait!!

Kimberly blog 2 food 1Entertainment abounds in Vegas, from the biggest headliners, to musical Kimberly blog 2 MJ2reviews, cabarets, comedy and everything in between.  If you’re worried about seeing that one big showstopper, then perhaps book in advance.  But I found walking up to the ticket counter was just as easy, you see the actual venue & there are no overpriced service charges from a third party!  Kimberly blog 2 BrittneyPerhaps the best secret is that house seats are ‘on hold’ until the day of the show for special guests of the headliners, etc.  If you’re at the right place at the right time, a coveted seat may be yours!!!

Want to feel inspired? The various hotels are all incredibly different and feature one-of-a-kind architecture and design features that are truly museum quality.  Be sure to allow some time to just wander from one place to the next to the next . . .

Kimberly blog 2 poolsideFinally . . . it’s totally hothothot in Vegas and you must stay hydrated!!  Carry h2o with you at all times and wear sunscreen.  If hanging out by the pool, rent a covered cabana or lounge chairs that offer you shade and protection.  While they can be $100-200 for the day, with food/beverage minimums . . . it’s completely worth it for you to have a place to hang your hat, take a little nap if you stayed out too late the night before and just enjoy the wild and wacky pool scene.  When it’s 114 degrees outside, getting burned and blistered can happen quicker then you think and ruin the rest of your trip!

Yep, you really can do Vegas in 48 hours and survive!!  And, if you happen to get caught up on one or more of these steps, just remember:

What happens in Vegas . . . well, you know the rest!

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Love to see YOUR Vegas vacation pix too!!

Cheers xx

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Why Do Collectors Collect?

Kendy blog 2 2LThroughout my 30 years in the Home Shopping Industry, I’ve discovered that our customers love to collect. In the 1980’s, die cast cars, dolls, and capitamonte were the hottest collectibles.

Kendy blog 2 1LOnce the 90’s rolled around, sports collectibles, coins, and beanie babies were on the must buy lists of home shopping customers.

Today, watches, Tiffany style lighting, and Waterford Crystal are the collectibles of choice.

Kendy blog 2 1RI think collecting is an essential childhood hobby. It creates opportunities for curiosity and learning. It teaches kids how to take care of objects, spend money wisely, and cooperate when negotiating and trading. As kids, most of us collected marbles, trading cards, stamps, coins, etc. Kendy blog 2 2MMy children collected rocks and gems as they were curious about all of the gems I sold. Did you collect anything when you were a child? What was your favorite thing to collect and your prized possession? I wonder if kids collect as much as we used to Kendy blog 2 2Rback in the day . . .

I, personally, am not a collector of things at all. So, it’s curious to me why people become collectors. Really no one in my family collected anything, except my grandmother who had a plate collection on her wall. It makes me think that collecting begins as Kendy blog 2 3Ra family tradition . . . my parents really only collected family memorabilia, so I do the same in order to preserve the past. We preserve the kids’ photos, artwork, ribbons, letters of accomplishment, etc.

 

So, I’m curious . . .Kendy blog 2 3L

What do you collect?

Why do you collect?

How did you get started?

Is it a family tradition, passion, obsession, habit?

Do you collect for investment purposes, perceiving the items will increase in value over the years?

Kendy blog 2 3RDo you collect for status?

Has your collecting turned into hoarding?

What do you wish you had never collected?

What do you collect that Evine Kendy blog 2 1Mdoesn’t sell that you’d like to see us offer?

If you do collect things we offer, what are you missing in your collection that you’d like to see?

Please let me know, I’d love to hear about it!

 

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Together

I treasure my friendships!  My husband Lewis is my best friend – we are great companions and have the best time together.  We also enjoy spending time with an amazing group of friends that we met through Evine years ago.  We’ve remained close and enjoy traveling together.  We consider ourselves very lucky to have a great group of friends like this. What’s so cool about this group is the age range – 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s! The thirty-somethings teach us old dogs a thing or two.  Talk about great dating conversation!  Wow, wow, wow!!  Times have changed since Lewis and I were dating!

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One of our favorite weekends with them is our canoe trip to Wisconsin.  We spend a leisurely weekend at our friend Lisa’s cabin – laughing, eating and catching up on life.  This is an annual trip that’s been going on for 10 years! We all sign up for our food assignment a couple of weeks out.  Who’s doing dinner?  Well, it’s usually my sweet Lew and our dear friend Brett – they’re both talented when it comes to cooking.  I love to bake a cake or bring a fun dessert, and everyone else signs up for breakfast or lunch on the Namekagan River.  Oh . . . and someone’s always given the fun cocktail assignment!  We spend all day Saturday floating down the river enjoying the beauty of nature and just being together.  We love that word ‘together’ and we use it a lot.

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With this great group of friends we always travel to some place new every October.  We try to pick a place that none of us have ever been to, and all get to experience something new together.  We’ve been to the vineyards in California, Whidbey Island in Washington, Savannah, Georgia and, this year, we’re going to Santa Barbara, California.  What a treasure friendship is!

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We love to close out the year together celebrating the holiday season. Lewis and I host a Christmas get-together for our group at our house.  We enjoy an amazing meal – last year it was lobster!  Then we enjoy exchanging gifts and doing a fun elephant gift exchange too! This night goes on forever with fun games, great conversation and everyone usually ends up spending the night.

I feel incredibly grateful for our friendships.  We’ve been through a lot together and it feels so good knowing that you have their love and support.

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Cheers to friendship!

 

 

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Traditions

kathy blog 2 homeThere is something so nostalgic and a bit romantic about creating great traditions with family and friends. We started going ‘up North to the cabin’ every July with our college friends about 30 years ago.  Back then we were just a group of crazy couples (with even some of our parents), then babies came and weddings and funerals  . . . but we never missed this time together.  Fast-forward to more recent years and it’s back to just us crazy couples – now all empty nesters!  The events of the week have started to revolve around food, what could be better?!

kathy blog 2 beach fireSo picture this . . . lakeside cabin with a great beach, bonfire, loons (the bird not the people) and some great classic rock music . . . and now add in a traditional CLAMBAKE!

Here’s how we did it, and now it’s part of the tradition and everyone can participate.

Start with a visit to your local fish market to get the clams, shrimp, mussels and lobsters!  And the rest is kathy blog 2 lobstereasy.  We wanted to do this on the beach over an open fire, so we started with a huge galvanized tub and started picking rocks out of the lake to use at the bottom of the tub. Filled it with lake water – yep, lake water (a really clean lake) – and then started layering in all the goodies.

Here’s the recipe I use (not created but use, and it’s perfect every time):

Beach Clambake

1-½ lbs of baby red potatoes                                                                        1 lb little neck clams                                                                                         2 cups water                                                                                                      4 tablespoons salted butter                                                                              2 large yellow onions, cut into eighths                                                           8 garlic cloves                                                                                                   ½ bottle of dry white wine                                                                               1 ¼ lb of kielbasa sausage, cut into bit size                                                    3 lobsters, each 1 1/2 lbs or larger                                                                      5 medium ears of corn, husked and broken in half                                         1 lb of deveined shrimp                                                                                    8 lemons, quartered for serving                                                                 Tons of melted butter for serving                                                     Sourdough bread for serving

  1. kathy blog 2 guysPre boil the potatoes until tender
  2. Fill large bowl with cool, slated tap water and submerge clams for 30-45 min. This way they purge the sand.  Scrub.
  3. Start adding ingredients to the tub in this order (with enough water in the tub to cover the rocks) and steam the ingredients: onion, garlic, wine, cooked potatoes, sausage. Steam for 5 minutes by covering with wet beach towel. Add the lobsters and cook for 6 minutes. Add the corn and clams and cook another 6 minutes. Add shrimp, cover and cook another 6 minutes.
  4. Pour onto a newspaper-covered table and serve with lemons and melted butter and some fresh warm sourdough bread.

The bar is easy, we usually have cold beer in a tub and some crisp, cold, white wine.

We spread newspaper over a picnic table down at the waters edge, throw out a few plates and lobster crackers, and go to town!

Dessert?  That’s easy….s’mores of course!  Enjoy!

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My Own Private Idaho

Brian blog 2 1RThere seems to be so very much talk these days about ‘farm-to-table’ sourcing of food for an ever-growing number of restaurants.  The thought that perhaps the meat and produce were grown locally, or even better, on the premise, makes food seem extra healthy, no matter the amount of butter, salt or oil chefs add to make it taste good!  Restaurants based on this concept where I live in Minneapolis can’t find enough tables and chairs for their trendy clientele, and Pinterest can’t find enough bandwidth for the photos.

Brian blog 2 2LSo, what to do with all this extra land around my home, now that the flower gardens are maturing and the chickens are getting settled?  Create a ‘yard-to-table’ flow of fresh greens, vegetables and berries that can bring organic, healthy and creative benefits this summer and every summer that follows!

I can think of no one better to partner with than my Partner Aaron. He’s a farmer’s son and knows a great deal about planting and crop rotation. Me, I’m just a non-stop farmhand that can go after the weeds (including the roots!) for hours. I just start with 70’s hard rock in the a.m. and finish Brian blog 2 3Rhours later with the best of the 90’s blaring from my Bluetooth speakers and Spotify.

Over the winter, Aaron created a potager (a kitchen garden) and, together, we planted over 100 unique types of vegetables, fruits and berries this spring.

Five types of lettuce (including the delicious Red Romaine and Little Gem), three varieties of blueberries, French breakfast radishes, Roquefort beans, wax beans, and Dragon beans will for sure expand the gastronomic journey for all dining at our home.

Brian blog 2 4L (2)Sure, sure, you’re absolutely right . . . this is going to be some of the most expensive produce brought to any table, but it’s food we created for ourselves and friends.  And how exciting to see otherwise unused property become something very useful, and seeds go from packet to produce!

Oh and the seeds . . .  please don’t ask the price of the seeds! They’re not just any seeds.  Aaron had to find non-GMO seeds from probably one of the last places on earth that purvey Berian blog 2 5Lthem: the Baker Seed Co.  I guess we’ll just look the other way on the total cost of seeds, plants and water bills as we prove the cliché, “You get what you pay for.”

Is there a saying “A farmer’s work is never done”?  If not, there should be because in August we’ll be installing the next round of plants in the rotation per the potager.  More beets, squash and melons will be next on the menu for our fall harvest dinners with Brian blog 2 6Mfriends.

Brian blog 2 7ROh, and the rabbits!  Yes, they couldn’t be more excited for us and our little private Idaho. They eat well. They eat organic. They have variety. They, are very happy here.

So, tell me about your garden!

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Summer in St. Louis

BK photo 1 rightWhen I was a kid, Summers were filled with making my spending money cutting lawns, going to the McKenzie Neighborhood Pool when finished for the day, and frequent stops with my family at the St. Louis Phenomena, Ted Drewes, for the best Frozen Custard on this planet. If you ever travel to the “Show Me” State of Missouri, it’s well worth your time and travel to get there and get in line!

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Since the 1930’s, St. Louisans have been lining up 12-windows-across, sometimes 20-people-deep, to enjoy a cone, sundae or Concrete with our favorite toppings amidst the Frozen Custard Crowd.

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Depending on the night, you may see the mix of families with kids in red wagons, Muny Opera-goers dressed in full Lilly Pulitzer, and countless baseball, softball, & swim teams, either celebrating their victories or dusting off their losses.

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BK photo 5 rightMy favorite sundae is the ‘Tiramisu’, with chocolate, pistachios and cherries on top. It’s just one of dozens to choose from!  And yes, I have been more than once in the course of a day, on more than one occasion . . . (you would too!)

July is National Ice Cream month and, may I say, Frozen Custard more than qualifies.   So why not plan an ‘Ice Cream (or Custard) Social’! Gather your most deserving friends and family together to share in a tradition dating as far back as England’s King Charles II with something delicious that you make yourself.

No one Frozen Custard recipe would satisfy everyone’s different likes and/or food sensitivities, so I’m including a link to Pinterest to inspire you.   Note: frozen custard does not have to be just vanilla, and a number of recipes can even be made without an ice cream maker!  Custard is much like ice cream, just without the whipped air.  (Sorry, but Ted Drewes is not giving his up at any price, although many attempts have been made to buy him out.)

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/frozen-custard-recipes/

BK photo 7 middleWe make a lot of ice cream at home and will all the more with the fresh eggs our new chickens will provide this summer. Want to upgrade your creation? Consider shopping your local kitchen store for Lyle’s Golden Syrup. You’ll love the rich taste and it can be substituted in equal amounts to sugar, honey, or corn syrup. Enjoy!

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P.S. Let me know how your ice creams turn out. I love to learn from you too!

 

 

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