Saturday, February 26, 2011

Artsy Fartsy Stuff

As most of you know, I do  lot of arts and crafts, mainly for gifts and such.  Well to give you an idea of some of the things that I do make, I am going to attempt to post some of the photos here.  It seems some people are having trouble viewing the photos on Facebook so here goes:


It was a typical lazy Sunday morning, everyone was up and ready to face the day. Phillip and I were reading the Sunday paper and Jr was reading the sales ads (as he always does)  and mom was reading the funnies.  .  r got all excited about something he found in an ad, so he brought it over to me. Well, being as my son and I spend a lot of time in the itchen together, eh knows the thins i want and need.  Well he was reading the Kohl's ad and saw several of the items I had said I needed for the kitchen  So Jr rousted his daddy and we all headed off  to Kohl's in Santee, CA.  I am glad we did!  I had never been to a Kohl's store before, I had always thought they were out of my price range and just too upscale for my taste. (kind of like the way Mervyn's, Macy's and JCPenney's were).  But i have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.The store was neat, clean, well stocked and organized.  The prices were very reasonable.  The inventory was fantastic.  They had items I would never have  thought  a department store would have.  I thought I was going to have to go to a specialty kitchen shop, but I was wrong.  It was all right there at Kohl's!  I had just broken my Belgian waffle iron, nd they ad a new one, top of the line, name brand, and it was cheaper than the one I had bought before!  I also found a cuisineart griddler...fantastic product at an awesome sale price.  It was half the price I had seen it advertised anywhere else. needless to say, I know where I am going to start doing my kitchen gadget shopping!

Kohl's Department Store
9412 Mission Gorge Road
Santee, California 92071
(619) 258-1016


For many years I have been trying to find my father.  All thru my young life, my mother gave me false information about  my real father, even to the point of lying on my birth certificate.  I did not find out till much later that my father was in fact still live.  Of course she claimed she didnt know where he was.  I took it upon myself to find him.  I had tried everything, all kinds of online searches, libraries and various other resources available to the public.  I could not find anything.  One day, I happened to be watching Maury Povitch or one of those daytime talk shows that had a segment on people looking for lost loves, parents,siblings, e tc.  At the end of the show, an ad played for 800 us search.  So I took down the info and called them.  I figured I didnt have anything to lose as I had already tried everything else.  Big mistake.  I gave them all the information I had which wasnt much, but they claimed they have been dead on with  far less information.  So they told me to send them $100, gave them loads of information and their search began.  About a month or so later, I get  some correspondence from them (boy was i excited).  I was finally going to be like those people on tv that finally get to meet up with the missing part of their lives...boy was i wrong.   What I ended up with was not a simple name and address for my father, it was a computer printout of hundreds of people's names and addresses. Some of which were not even male.  They did nothing for me that I could not have done for myslf  FREE OF CHARGE.  They claim if they can't get results for you the service is free, but what they don't tell you is that they will give you every name and address possible some that are not even close to what you gave them to begin with, and in doing so that is their way of giving you results and their way of getting out of giving you your money back.  You end up screwed in the end, with nothing to show for it.  Don't waste your time on this company.  You are better off doing your own searches, there are so many resources out there to use, don't pay someone else to do what you can do yourself.

800 US Search
600 Corporte Pointe, Suite 220
Culver City, CA  90230
(310) 302-6300

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 isn't just bait anymore! Tokyo Japanese Food and Sushi

When I first moved to Southern California, a few years back, my boyfriend absolutely refused to eat sushi, claiming it was nothing more than bait to use for fishing.  Well, the times they are a changin'! I turned him on to this great little place in a tiny strip mall in El Cajon.  They  have a huge variety of sushi to choose from, and it is all made fresh while you wait.  The prices are get large quantities of sushi for the price, and the price itself was very inexpensive.  This place prides itself on making every piece look as good as it tastes.  The restaurant is clean, the staff is friendly and  knowledgeable and the atmosphere is quiet and homey.  My boyfriend and I went there and I got him to try some of he different varieties of sushi.  I told him not all sushi is "raw fish" like so many people seem to think, so it ain't "bait".  He loves sushi now and is always anxious to try new types, and this shop made that possible!
Tokyo Japanese Food and Sushi
755 Arnele Avenue
El Cajon, CA 92020
(619) 593-7651

Skin FX tattoo and body piercing

I have always been a fan of tattoos and piercings, I already have 9 tattoos and numerous piercings to my name.  Most places are "OK" to get tatts, not the greatest, but not the worst.  Many are not very clean, the artists generally are not very friendly and they rush you out of the shop, as if you were on an assembly line.  Many look like dives that should be bypassed at all costs.  I found one that is fantastic and puts all the other local shops to shame.  Skin FX is a great shop! It is clean and sterile environment, spotless.  They have great flash (artwork), they are very attentive and friendly.  They are more than willing to answer any and all questions and concerns.  You can pick from their flash, bring in your own, modify what they have, bring in photos or give them an idea of what you are looking for and they will create it for you.

After the artwork is in place, they will sit with you and go over every bit of after care that you will need to know, to keep your tattoo looking it's very best and to stave off infection and to bring out the best of the colours.  Rob runs a tight ship, and that is what makes it work.  He knows what he is doing, and has only the best people working for him.

If you want to check out Rob and his shop, the address and phone number are:
 Skin FX
1269 Broadway,
El Cajon, California 92021
(619) might wish to call in advance, the shop is almost always packed !

Sorry for the delay

The first order of business for the day is getting these older reviews out that I am transferring over from Judy's Book and various other sites that I have been posting on for years.  These reviews may be old, but they may help others to make informed purchasing decisions, etc.  Also, this will show other businesses the type of reviews I am capable of writing, and that I can (and will) happily review their products and services in exchange for a little free publicity. And who couldnt do with a little free publicity these days?  So here goes nothin lol....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Judy's Book

Those of you who have known me for any length of time, know that I have been a City editor on Judy's Book for many years.  Posting reviews of businesses, services, products, etc.  Well, I sort of went MIA over there when things were going downhill, but now that the new management has asked my help to get things back up and running as good as it used to be, I will be getting more active over there again, in time.  But I thought that some of you might find my old reviews helpful.  They don't benefit me too much anymore, since my family and I have moved from the areas that I reviewed, but if I can help even one person make an educated decision about buying or using the services of certain companies, then I feel I have done a great service.  And I want to help as many people as I can in this lifetime, either in person or thru this simple blog.  So, over the next few days (when I am not coming up with recipes to post here, I will post other items of possible interest such as these old reviews, magazine articles, book reviews, product reviews, business reviews and such.   Also, I am very big into crafting.  If you know me from Facebook, I am sure you have seen my artsy fartsy folder filled with pics of crafts that I have completed.  I never thought much about my crafts, but I guess they must be popular as I have just made my first sale!!  Yup, I'm happy lol.  Let me know what you think, like I told you all before, this is YOUR blog as much as it is MINE and I need ideas.  What do you want to see here? Would you like me to post my craft pictures here? Family pictures? If you see a craft picture that you really like, and would like to purchase the item, maybe we can talk about it and make arrangements, but no guarantees.  I am trying new things all the time, and if you have ideas for crafts you would like to see made, tell me and we will talk about it.  I am great at  negotiating lol.  I do basic knitting, one photo you will see is of an afghan blanket I made in a camoflage design, really cute on a sofa and warm enough to wrap up in to sit and watch television on a cold night.  I am also now into making scarves, different types, functional ones to wrap your throat/neck/face in when you need to go out in the snow, or fashionista ones that just look cute with your dress ware.  Any colour combo you can think of, and in memoriam of Dale Earnhardt's death, I have one in the works that is black, red and white.  Do you have a fave sports team?  Fave colour combo?  I am open if you are interested in buying them.  So that is a preview of what you may see heading here to my blog.

I also have been contacting companies to see if they would like a little free publicity in return for reviewing their products.  And yes, that idea was very warmly received, so I am looking forward to doing this as well...and of course you will still get to see all my recipes as I try them, such as tomorrow you may see a recipe for candied bacon cookies...sound weird?  Well, I guess we will find out together how weird or fantastic these cookies really are when I make them tomorrow. 

Ok, thats enough of a head's up, I dont want to give away all my surprises....don't forget to email me or drop me a line here if you have ideas and thoughts....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Helping those that need it...

Are you looking for an old family recipe that may have become lost over the years, or are at a loss for what to make for a special occasion, dinner, snack, party or whatever?  Drop me a line here. I help people all the time, find the really hard to find recipes, international, local, or whatever.  From the mundane to the unique.  Do you have questions about recipes?  Questions about ingredients and such? Dont hesitate to ask, I will do whatever I can to answer your question, and help you.  I love a good challenge.  I collect cookbooks, I have file cabinets filled with recipes, both new and tried and true recipes.  I have many websites that I go to if I need particular information.  I am here for you, this is YOUR blog just as much as it is MINE.  That is why I am also offering up space on my blog to review products for companies that may want to put out the word about a new product or service they may be offering.  So come follow me on my daily adventures in life....

A simple dish that all will love

I really had no idea what I wanted to make for dinner last night, I was going to be real busy around he house so i didnt want to do a lot of standing or cleaning up.  Don't ask me what actually clicked in my head, but some little voice told me chicken and stuffing.  Not something we have a lot of at our house but I think that is about to change.

Earlier in the day I had made some hot links for lunch, and there was two left so i chopped them up and put them into the cooking water/butter that was asked for in the preparation of the stouffers stuffing mix.  I had to be a little plain stuffing here, I used a combination of apple and cranberry stuffing mix.  I let that cook out and soak up all the liquid for about 5 minutes.  I prepared a baking dish with a light coating of cooking spray, and then i dumped all the dressing into the pan and spread it evenly into the pan.

While that was standing and soaking up the juices, I got my boneless, skinless chicken breasts out, rinsed them off and paper towel dried them off.  I took some Italian seasoned bread crumbs and put some onto a plate, and into a bowl I put about a half cup of nonfat, low sodium ranch dressing.  I brushed the salad dressing onto both sides of the chicken and then coated the chicken in the bread crumbs, arranging each chicken breast on top of the dressing.

I popped the whole baking dish into the oven at 450 degrees for 40minutes.  It was awesome!  The chicken was so tender and juicy and the dressing had that lightly crispness on the outside and moist and flavourful throughout...

The dinner was cheap, fast and easy, everyone loved it, even my very picky mother (who claims she absolutely hates hot links and stuffing), even she raved about it.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

some sweet treats for my friends

Bavarian Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
2/3 cups cold water
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups milk
2 vanilla beans, slit and scraped or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Do not allow it to form stiff peaks. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Soak the gelatin in cold water for 10 minutes.
Place a fine mesh strainer inside a medium-sized bowl. Fill a larger bowl with ice water. Set each aside.
Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. If using vanilla bean, slit them open and scrape the seeds into the milk adding the entire pod into the milk as well. If using vanilla extract add after the creme is cooked.
Bring the milk to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow the flavor of the bean to infuse into the milk for approximately 30 minutes.
Remove the bean from the milk and reheat the milk mixture. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thickened and a pale yellow color.
Add a 1/4 cup of the hot milk to the egg mixture, stirring constantly to temper the yolks and then add the tempered yolks to the milk in the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened.
Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the medium sized bowl. Remove strainer; add the softened gelatin and whisk until the gelatin is dissolved. (If using vanilla extract, add it now.)
Place the bowl inside the larger bowl filled with ice water. Stir the mixture until it begins to cool and just begins to thicken.
Fold in the whipped cream. Use as desired or pour into large mold, smaller molds or serving bowl, chill until firm and unmold by placing in hot water for 15 seconds.
Makes about 6 cups.

Strawberry-Chocolate Bavarian Cream

1 (10 ounce) package frozen sliced strawberries, thawed*
2 envelopes unflavored gelatine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/4 cups milk, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
Strawberry Cream (recipe below)

Drain strawberries; reserve syrup. Add water to syrup to equal 3/4 cup. Stir gelatine into liquid; set aside.

Puree or mash berries to equal 1/2 cup. Reserve for use in Strawberry Cream.

Combine sugar, chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of the milk in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and very hot. Add gelatine mixture, stirring until gelatine is completely dissolved. Remove from heat; add remaining 1 3/4 cups milk and the vanilla extract. Pour into bowl; chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon.

Whip cream until stiff; fold into chocolate mixture. Pour into oiled 5- or 6-cup mold; chill until firm. Unmold and garnish with Strawberry Cream.

* You may substitute 1 cup sweetened sliced fresh strawberries for the frozen.

Strawberry Cream

1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry puree (reserved from above recipe)
2 or 3 drops red food coloring

Whip cream and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until stiff. Fold in strawberry puree and food color.

Orange Marmalade Bavarian Cream Recipe

1/4 package of gelatine (scant measure)
1 cup of orange marmalade
1 tablespoonful of lemon juice
1/4 cup of cold water
1 cup of double cream

Soften the gelatine in the cold water and dissolve over hot water; add the marmalade and fold in the cream, beaten firm. Turn into a mold lined with paper. Strawberry preserves may be used in the same way.

Raspberry Bavarian Cream

1 1/4 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups fresh raspberries OR
1 10 ounce package frozen raspberries

In a saucepan, combine milk with 1/3 cup of the sugar; heat until scalding. In a bowl, beat egg yolks with remaining sugar and salt. Slowly whisk hot milk into the egg mixture. Return to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon. Do not let mixture boil or it will curdle. Sprinkle gelatin over water to soften; stir into hot custard and remove from heat. Add vanilla and strain sauce through a fine sieve. Cool custard by setting pan in a larger container filled with ice cubes. Stir occasionally until sauce starts to thicken and become syrupy.

Whip cream until stiff. Puree raspberries in a food processor or blender and then strain through a sieve to remove seeds (use spoon to press juice through sieve and a rubber spatula to help remove it from the other side). Fold whipped cream into custard, then fold in pureed strained raspberries. Rinse a 6-cup mould with cold water. Pour in custard mixture and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours or overnight. To serve, dip mould briefly in warm water, dry off and place serving plate over top. Quickly invert and turn out onto serving plate. Trim with fresh berries or mint leaves.

Bavarian Cream
Recipe courtesy Michael Symon
Yield: 6 servings

1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups whipped cream
6 sliced strawberries

Put the split vanilla bean in cream and slowly bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour.
Remove bean and scrape out seeds, add them to the cream and discard the pod. Sprinkle the gelatin into the milk and set aside.

Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together. Warm the cream mixture back up and slowly whisk into eggs. Place mixture over simmering water and stir until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooded spoon. Remove from heat and add milk and gelatin mixture.

Place bowl in ice bath and stir until at room temperature.

Fold in whipped cream and pour mixture into 6 (6-ounce) ramekins. Place in refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours or until mixture is set. Remove from molds and garnish with strawberries.

Valentine's Dinner

Yesterday was a very busy day, well, when isn't it a busy day for me? We dropped off baked goodies, valentine goody bags and such for our son's class and for the staff, placed two terracycle receptacles at the school to collect items for recycling that will gain us extra money for the school, etc.  Then, after all that, we went on to my pain management appointment to see how things were progressing there.  I am doing as well as an be expected under the circumstances.  Long story there, maybe I will say more later on about all that nonsense.

I chose a very interesting recipe to make for our special dinner.  I chose to make Curried chicken livers with potatoes.  Doesn't sound like much, and if you are like me, I hate organ meats, I dont care much for liver or hearts, gizzards, etc.  But everyone else in the family likes such things so I decided to go for it.  Here is the recipe as I prepared it:

This recipe serves two, but I doubled it, since I serve at least 4 at every meal, and yes, it was a huge hit.

14 oz potatoes, cooked and diced
4 oz onion, diced
3cloves garlic, minced
4 oz diced bell pepper
6 oz chicken livers, cut down to bit sized pieces
1/2 package of bacon, cut into small pieces
1tbsp parsley
1/8 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil (olive oil preferably)
(and now for my favourite part, the spices...)
this calls for curry, but i did not have curry in my pantry at the time, so be creative if you don't have any curry is what I used:
1/4 tsp 5 spice powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tbsp turmeric, 1 tbsp cajun sensation spice blend from my darlings at "Spice of Life" (thank you,

Place your spices in a non stick pan with water and oil, and heat for one minute.  Add onions, garlic and bell peppers and cook for 2 minutes to soften them just slightly...Add bacon and cook another two minutes.  Add livers and parsley, and cook, stirring frequently for 3 or 4 minutes, add in your potatoes and stir fry 2 minutes, tossing very well to incorporate all the wonderful flavours.  At the very end of the cooking, stir in your  yogurt and add whatever salt or pepper  you wish to add to kick it up a few notches.

The recipe does double well, and rather than using a regular frying pan, I used a stove top wok, and it worked wonderfully. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

You can follow me...

I am also on Twitter and Facebook.  My name there is as it is here, Annamarie Dodge.  I am not very creative that way, I figure I am easier to find if I keep it simple.  Feel free to follow me if you like, the more the merrier I always say.

And what can I say...Happy Valentine's Day!  Am I doing anything special today? No, not really.  I am making goodies for our son's class and a few other classrooms and the staff at our school, and I will be making a special dinner for all of us, as I do for any special occasion or event.  Trying something new, of course, and I will post the recipes here, give my reviews and notes, and even post a photo if I can...this is all new to me, so I am still testing the waters...bear with me!

From the beginning...

Welcome to my is truly a work in progress, as I have never done anything like this before.  Yes, I am a foodie, I love to cook, bake, try new things, etc. But I am not JUST a foodie, I am passionate about everything I do, about everything in life.  Family, faith, volunteering, art, crafts, love, new items on the market, toys, games, even cleaning products...if I like something well enough, I become passionate about it, and then cant wait to tell people about it...good or bad...actually.  I dont like seeing people wasting their money on a product that may just be junk.  So I will go try it out first and then review it.  I am on many survey sites to do just that, give my opinions, tell it like it is (trust me, I have become very good at it) and in doing so, I have become pretty well established out least in the survey circles.  I have done reviews for such groups as Judy's Book, Associated Content, etc.  It is just something I have always enjoyed doing.

Now to give you just a little more insite on me:  I am handicapped, not that I admit it, nor could you ever tell, because I never let it slow me down.  I presently work as a volunteer at my son's school (along with my husband).  I help out as a teacher's assistant, I help out in the front office, or where ever else I may be needed.  I did actually work(for pay) at the school cafeteria as a food service worker, up until October/November of 2010.  I had back surgery back in June of 2010, and it just posed too many health risks to keep working under those circumstances, even tho I dearly loved my job and the people I worked with.  Of course, I loved it, I got paid to do what I loved doing best, cooking/baking and dealing with children and doesn't get any better than that!  Anyway, I digress.  I had to give it up, and go back to being just a volunteer and a stay at home mom for the most part. 

As for my husband, we have been married approximately 5 years, and together  for over 10 years.  When we first met, he was pushing close to 500lbs!  He was not in good health.  But in the first year we were together, I knocked close to 300lbs off him, and got him on the road to better health.  I did nothing drastic, just cooked better for him, got him on portion control, got him out walking, etc.  It works, if you really put your mind to it.  It is not easy, not by a long shot, but it can be  doesn't all have to be  hard work.  Try new recipes, go window shopping, etc...make it fun and it will work for you.  He did end up having open heart surgery a few years back, due to all the damage that had already been done, not to mention from a stressful job, etc. 

We met in California, he lived and worked in Southern California, and I at the opposite end of the state in Northern Cal.  We met online in an interest group we both belonged to.  After about a year's time, we decided to meet for the first time, face to face.  Just over a year later, we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy (something we never dreamed would happen, since I was told I could not bear children), but God knows, I have always been one to prove the doctors wrong.  We lived in Southern California up until hubby's father took ill and we chose to go visit him before his death three years ago.  I fell in love with New Mexico and did not want to go back to California (but of course someone  had to pack up the apartment lol) so we went back, and I did just that.  Hubby retired from his job with the federal government and we moved to New Mexico. And the rest is history.

What can you expect from this blog?  What do you want to see?  I will post recipes that I have tried, ideas, ways to make an average recipe more healthy.  I will check out stores, businesses, establishments and such and give my reviews on their service, atmosphere, prices, etc. I will give reviews on products, books, etc.  If there is something in particular you want to see or hear about, let me know.  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  Having a party or get together and are clueless about what to serve or do? Ask, I will do my best to help.  This may be my blog, but I am doing it for all of you!