Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Get your forks (or chopsticks) ready! - General Tso's Chicken Recipe

 
by The Hometown Queen Bee

I really enjoy General Tso's Chicken, a common Chinese Restaurant favorite. However, I am not a huge fan of eating out and would much rather make meals at home. Why? Well, I guess I like knowing where the ingredients came from, how they were handled, and how they were prepared.

So, like many of you, I head to Pinterest for recipes. Ah yes, reliable Pinterest, right? Yeah, not so much! I tried one or two recipes that I found on Pinterest and was not at all happy with the outcome. Could it have been my fault? Oh well...maybe...I suppose, but still, I was on the hunt for a different recipe, or what I actually did in the end...read about twenty recipes on how to make General Tso's and then just make it! I kind of like to learn by trial and error...the error part sometimes sucks but it is what it is.

Along with the General Tso's Chicken, I really enjoy broccoli and rice. Something about that combo, it's just delish! So, when I made this, that is what I paired it with. If you rather have something else, be my guest!

Alright, well this is my mutli-resource recipe, a collaboration if you will...

Ingredients:

for the chicken;
1 pound of chicken (I used breast meat; cut into cubes)
1 egg white
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch

for the sauce;
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 or 6 dried red chilies
3 tablespoons chopped green onions

Extras;
broccoli and white rice
(this is what I like to make along with the General Tso's but you can have it with anything you wish!)


Prep time: 20 minutes           Cooking time: 15 minutes


Instructions:

1. Combine soy sauce, egg white, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Mix together until free of lumps. Add the chicken cubes into this mixture and toss to coat them well. Let the chicken marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes.

2. Using a saucepan, put a small amount of oil in and put over medium heat. Once hot, add in the garlic, ginger, green onions and dried red chilies. Consistently stirring, reduce heat and keep on for a couple minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients; chicken stock, sesame oil, soy sauce, tomato paste, rice vinegar, garlic paste, and brown sugar. Mix all together and bring to a boil. You can ten taste the sauce and add anything you see fit. (more spices, more sugar, or more vinegar for extra tanginess). Once the sauce is to your liking, leave on very low heat.

3. Take another pan and add enough oil the cover the entire bottom. Bring the oil to a boil, careful of splatter, and add the cubes of marinated chicken into the hot oil. If you have a splatter guard, be sure to use it to avoid a mess! Cook the chicken for a few minutes on each side and until you know they are fully cooked. (reminder; chicken should always be fully cooked and the middle temperature should be 160 degrees). You may also have to repeat this step, unless you have a very large pan. You don't want to crowd the chicken in the pan, it won't turn out well.

4. Once your chicken is fully cooked, in a large bowl or serving dish, combine the sauce with your chicken. Now, take a moment to remove the grease and oil from the pan you were cooking the chicken in. (Don't pour down the sink; I'm sure you already know that can lead to clogged drains)

5. Now that your pan is clean of access oil, put it on low heat and add the chicken and sauce into the pan, letting it simmer and mix together. Now it is ready to be served with what ever sides you wish!

Enjoy! 


 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Who likes to drink wine?


...and who likes to drink wine out of beautiful wine glasses?
 
Recently, I got the opportunity to try these hand painted wine glasses, from Valentina Paris. These wine glasses are amazing! They come in a set of two and are very large in size! If you have one glass of wine from this glass, you will be feeling fine! 
 
The details with the hand painted design is very unique and classy. I think these glasses would make a fabulous wedding or anniversary gift! They have that "wow" factor that would impress anyone! I know I surely was delighted with them and have used them several times already. They are nice enough to be for special occasions only, but also fine for everyday use. I am glad I have them and I will get a lot of enjoyment from them! If you come over to my house for wine, you can look forward to sipping it from these beauties!
 


 
Link to buy product; http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00SC2JP5O?ref_=cm_cr-mr-title
Disclaimer; I received this product for free or at a drastically reduced price, in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. The thoughts and feelings expressed are genuinely my own.
                                        

National Coffee Day; Sept. 29th


Ummm, hello! This could very well be one of my favorite days of the year!!! Lol, ok I'm totally exaggerating, but I do love coffee! I do get a little chuckle out of how nearly everyday is a "National-something" day. There is National Dog Day, National Ice Cream Day, National Pancake Day....I could go on and on... It's sort of silly I guess, but hey, it is a little fun too. Coffee is a popular drink, no doubt about it! An estimated 400 billion cups consumed each year! It seems to be a running joke about moms running on coffee during the day, and then reward themselves with wine at night. Geez, I don't know anyone like that! ;)

 
 

So, being National Coffee Day, did you know that there are places that offer freebies today?? Or, at least discounts on your cup of Joe!! Because I am here to serve you, my lovely readers, I will share some with you right here and now!! Get your coffee cups ready!!

Dunkin’ Donuts: Free medium cup of Dunkin’ Donuts hot or iced dark roast coffee. The limit is one per guest, and is available at participating locations.
Krispy Kreme: Free small coffee and original glazed donut.
Sheetz: Free cup of coffee.
Tim Hortons: Get any size coffee in Regular or Dark Roast for just $1 at participating U.S. restaurants.
McDonald’s: Participating McDonald’s restaurants are giving away free small coffees, others are charging only .25 cents.
Cumberland Farms: Customers can text the word FREECOFFEE to 33733 using their smartphone to receive a coupon for a free hot or iced coffee, in any size, all day long.
Panera Bread: Rewards members have been able to score a free coffee every day of September, so this deal will be good for National Coffee Day too of course.
Wawa: Free coffee in the size of your choice.

If you have heard of anymore deals, please add them in the comment section below! A couple of these places, like Cumberland Farms and Wawa, we don't have in my area, but I still shared because they're obviously out there somewhere!

Right now you might be thinking, "what? no deal at Starbucks?"...the company decided to take another approach on National Coffee Day. It has been reported that Starbucks is launching an initiative called “Starbucks One Tree for Every Bag Commitment.” Over the next year, when someone buys a bag of coffee at a Starbucks location, a tree will be planted in a community that needs one on their behalf. Starbucks is also planting 1 million coffee trees in farming communities that need help. Hey, more coffee tress means more coffee! But, sorry guys, no free coffee at Starbucks, but that is a nice idea anyway.

Alright, so the geek in me wanted to know a little history behind coffee! I consulted Wikipedia to get some info! Coffee dates back to around the 10th Century, and thought to have been first discovered in Ethiopia. By the 16th Century, it had spread through the Middle East, and then continued to expand throughout the world. So yes, these amazing coffee beans have been around a while! Today, coffee plants are cultivated in over 70 countries. As of 2005, it has been the world's seventh largest legal (I like how they added the legal part, haha) agricultural export and the second most valuable commodity  exported by developing countries. So yeah, coffee is sorta a big deal :)


Everyone seems to have vast differences on what kind of coffee they like, what they like in it, and so on... Do you have a favorite? I am so easy when it comes to coffee! Some of you might think I'm crazy, but I don't really care for Starbucks, and even Tim Horton's I could take it, or leave it. I actually rather make my own at home, using French vanilla creamer...or even just stop at a gas station for coffee if I'm on the road. So, no real fancy stuff for me! haha! But the key to my coffee, like I mentioned, is the flavored creamer. I won't even bother if I can only have milk or sugar. Flavored creamer is the only way to go for me! French vanilla is my favorite, but others are ok too. I like the pumpkin spice creamers this time of year!


 
Have a fabulous day, everyone...and I hope you all get to enjoy some coffee today!!
 


 

 

Monday, September 28, 2015

All that Blood Moon / Lunar Eclipse hype

 

There seemed to be a lot of hype about this Blood Moon/Lunar Eclipse phenomenon we were calculated to experience this past Sunday night. I blame social media, lol. Did you make any special efforts to see it? Ok, I admit it, did get sucked into the hype and wanted to check it out myself. I even went as far as setting up my tripod and camera and going outside to snap a few pictures.

So, there I was at about 9:45pm, taking my tripod and camera up the street...some trees were blocking my view right at my house, so I had to find a decent spot. As I set up my camera at a good location, with a good view of the moon, I also realized I had a pretty decent view of my neighbors house...and his bedroom, which had a light on. I was really hoping that he wasn't going to see me out there....with a camera...at night...lol. "I swear, I am just here to look at the moon", I thought to myself. Please don't see me and think I'm a weirdo or a peeper! I just want to see the moon!

I wasn't sure I'd get any decent shots. See, I am actually in desperate need of a new and better camera, especially now that I am blogging. But my mediocre $150 Olympus camera was going to have to do! Well, I was actually pleasantly surprised! I got a few really good shots! I am glad I was able to do so, because my six year old really wanted to see it, but there was no way I was going to let him stay up until 10pm, nor would he have been able to make it that late anyway! So, I will share these with him when he gets home from school later today. I wonder if he will be impressed by it, or just be like "oh...ok..." and be totally over it in one minute lol.

I thought it was pretty neat, but not really worth all the talk. I had been outside around 8pm to walk my dog, and the moon was huge then! Ya know, that "Supermoon" thing, where the moon looks 14% larger than usual because Earth is closer to it. But somehow in the next hour or two, the moon seemed to be back to it's normal size. Maybe that was supposed to happen, but I must say, the whole experience would have been a lot better if the eclipse and blood moon thing happened at the same time the moon was extra huge. It was still cool, don't get me wrong, I'm glad I stepped out to have a little look-see!

In case you missed it...I'm sharing my pictures with you. This is what we could see here,
in Western New York :)


 
Did you enjoy a similar view last night?

 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I used to do what???

It was 2005...I had just moved to Florida and unfortunately my 5+ years of banking experience in New York was not helping me land a job at a bank in Orlando...reason? I wasn't bilingual. Haha, ok, so I had to think outside the box! What else was I qualified to do? What new job skill could I learn? Ok, I needed to find something, fast!

My (then) husband and I were shopping for a few basics for our new apartment at a Target near our new home. I saw a "Now Hiring" sign and one of those lovely application kiosks. So, I sat down and applied. They had several different positions available so I checked a few that sounded good to me. One of which said "Assets Protection Specialist". I really wasn't sure what that was...but in my 23 year old head, I was thinking some sort of office job logging numbers of product loss, or something along those lines. Yeah, I thought, I could do that. An office job would suit me just fine.

Within a few days, I was called in for an interview. He asked me the typical questions and told me that he felt I would be great for the position. He started to tell me a bit more about this Assets Protection Specialist position, and I wish I could have seen my face because I'm pretty sure my mouth probably dropped. He wanted me to do WHAT??? Me??? Really???

Once I knew what was going to expected of me, I thought no way can I do this! But, it was a full time job, making more than I had at any previous job...and being in a new city, with an expensive apartment, and my (then) husband starting culinary school full time...I felt I really had no choice but to take this job.

This position required me to take and pass a course, one named "None Violent Crisis Intervention", where I basically learned how to apprehend a person and subdue them without actually causing someone physical harm. And why on earth did I need such training??? Here is what the job consisted of...I would walk around the store, dressed in regular clothes (no red shirt and khakis for me! lol) and I would watch for suspicious people who might try to steal from the store. Or, notice someone already in the process. Either way, I was to maintain a visual of them, either from the floor or via security camera in my office...watch what they were stealing and where they were concealing it...and then apprehend them once they passed all points of sale, aka: the registers. Target stores will often also have a dressed security guard at the front of the store too, and it was their job to aid me when I radioed them about an apprehension about to go down. I had handcuffs if needed, but if the person cooperated I wasn't forced to use them in all cases. I would take them to my office, call the police, and start my report of the incident.



So, if you have followed my blog at all thus far, you probably think as most people do..."I cannot see YOU doing this job!" I know, right?!? But I did. For about a year. Oh the experiences I had! I had a lot of teenagers stealing CD's...a couple times young girls stealing clothes...once, and this one I'll admit was a little sad; a woman stealing diapers, toothpaste, and baby formula - things you know she probably needed- but hey, I had a job to do and stealing is wrong no matter what. Still though, I felt for her.

Probably one of the more interesting apprehensions was a middle aged man, who concealed some head phone and a couple other items from electronics. I think about a total of $60 worth of merchandise. Once I completed the apprehension and had him in my office, he began to tell me he had diplomatic immunity. He was from another country and here only temporarily I guess. Well, I told him I had no idea what his status was and it was going to be up to the police to sort all that out. It turned out that he did have diplomatic immunity. Key words there; DID HAVE. It had expired about two months prior. Here this guy thought he could get away with anything due to his immunity status, but he was wrong! Off to jail he went. I found it slightly amusing.

So, was I good at this job? Honestly...no. LOL, sorry being honest. It was an experience for sure, but this was not my line of work. I am in no way a bad-ass... I am girly. I must admit, it did have its excitement and gave me a "rush" if you will...but the job was actually really dangerous. Something I probably didn't really consider in the beginning. But we got reports from stores all over the area, some even nationally, and sometimes things got really ugly. Think about it...some druggie is stealing to support his habit...could be high even at the moment...someone tries to apprehend them and they have a knife, gun, or some other sort of weapon. Yes, it does happen. I remember reading a report that in a city just north of Orlando, a woman had stuffed some bathroom towels and other items in her clothes, and when she was stopped, she whipped out a knife and stabbed the person (the person at that store doing the same job as me) in the leg! Suddenly, the decent pay did not seem worth it at all! Plus, having back problems already at this point, this was way too physically demanding for me. So, my year of pretending to be a bad-ass was over.

That right there has been my most interesting job in my entire life. So, these pictures that I show, I apologize for the poor quality...they were shots I paused and printed out from our security cameras...probably not really supposed to share them so no one tell Target on me please! LOL


 
What has been YOUR weirdest, or most crazy job ever?
Please share! :)

Friday, September 25, 2015

HQB's Friday Five



Hey y'all! It's Friiiidayyy! ...time for another edition of HQB's Friday Five! Today I am going to cover my 5 favorite things to do with my son! Since he was born, my life pretty much revolves around him, so of course we have our little favorite activities we do all the time! It is actually really hard to narrow it down to just five, but I did it!

1. Board Games! I love board games, card games, you name it. I like adult games but I especially enjoy playing children's board games! And it helps that my son is pretty fun to play with! He is quick to learn the rules and for the most part is a good sport even when he loses. You have to let your kids know that they can't win every single time. Just one of those facts of life better learned early on. Board games are especially good on rainy days or in the winter when outdoor play isn't always possible. Some of our favorites are Monopoly Jr., Operation, Guess Who, Don't Break the Ice and Checkers.

Monopoly Jr.

Guess Who?
 
Operation



2. Traveling. Even when my son was a baby, he was great on road trips! I've said it before, but I'll say it again..I don't really care for flying. I much rather take a car. I love the idea of getting somewhere in just a couple short hours verses driving all day, yet, driving is still my preferred way to go! (darn fear of flying!) I have taken my son on many trips so far in his six years of life! From where we live in New York..to Toronto, Canada..to Nashville, Tennessee..to Chicago, IL..and even once to Orlando, Florida! He has always been a great traveler, very content to just enjoy the ride! Especially if you play music in the car! (my little music lover!) I wish we had time and money to travel even more than we have, but I am glad we have been fortunate to go places we have thus far. We always have so much fun when we go out of town! It can be simple site-seeing to a major theme park, it's all good when we are just enjoying it together! <3 Since my son was only about 18 months old when he visited Disney World, I really hope to take him again sometime before he will outgrow that "magic" of it all!

Rock Island, Tennessee


Cave City, Kentucky



Chicago, IL


Baby Xander at a beach in Florida
 

3. Local Activities and Outdoor Fun. Locally, we like to visit car shows, live music, festivals, etc. These are always a fun way to spend a day together! The car shows are fun to walk around and talk about our favorite cars, enjoy a snow cone, and soak in the sunshine. Recently, a nice car owner at a show even let my son sit in one of the cars! This past summer, we went to see a live local band, Easy Street...and the drummer called Xander up on stage to take a photo! He felt so special! We also love taking walks, when we can talk and share ideas and thoughts. It is also fun to play some outdoor sports and visit various playgrounds! Our winters can be harsh and long, so when weather is nice, spending time outside is always going to be a favorite time for us! Ok, there is one event that I will brave the cold for...and that is our local ice castle! They build it each year on Chautauqua Lake and it is pretty neat to go see.

checking out a car show!
 
Hanging with the drummer from Easy Street!

simple playground fun...
 
doing some skating...

a little baseball...

Chautauqua Lake Ice Castle
 

4. Our Spirituality. Since Xander was a baby, I have taken him with me to religious meetings. I personally feel it is very important to teach my child what is in the Bible. He absolutely loves attending the meetings and is always eager to participate. His genuine love for God is so heartwarming and let's me know that all the effort is well worth it! It also bonds us, a strong common belief we share. It truly is one of the most important part of our lives, and I wouldn't want it any other way!

My son and I at a religious convention, learning about God <3

dressed up in our Sunday best :)
singing...

5. Our Laughter! And our silliness! It was hard to narrow this list down to only five, but this last one sums it up well! What ever makes us laugh and enjoy the moment, are the best moments that I always treasure! There are times to be serious, but then there are times to just be goofy! We love those times! I am a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine! Is has to be! Have you ever had a really good laugh, and then felt horrible right after? No way! It lifts the mood and your spirits! So, I will leave number five at just being silly and having fun together!

that is one mighty hard laugh right there!!!

nothing like pure joy on your child's face!



we like to be silly, what can I say?

Ha-Ha :)

Thanks for reading this weeks Friday Five! I wish you all a HAPPY WEEKEND! <3
Stay Beautiful :)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I refuse to give up on summer just yet!

Ok, I know it is technically fall now...but here in Western New York, we are still having summer weather! So as long as we have nice weather, in my mind, it is still summer! I know that soon enough my cling onto summer will come crashing down, but until then I plan to enjoy every minute possible! That is why I made a stop at one of my favorite places while driving home from Buffalo the other day...Evangola State Park.



It's rather amazing how many years I've lived in this area and never knew this place existed, until I just stumbled upon it about a year ago. This state park offers a playground, tons of picnic and grilling areas, and a sandy beach on Lake Erie with beautiful views!


I walked along the beach, enjoying the sun shining its warm rays down on me. There were geese at the waters edge and others enjoying some sort of snack from in the water. I love Lake Erie because it is so huge, even though it is a lake, it almost feels like the ocean. It makes me miss my days of living in Florida. I love Summer, Spring and Fall...but I do not like New York Winters! I am not trying to think that far ahead and just stay in there here and now, enjoying what we have left of the Summer/Fall. High 70's this entire week...I'll take it!

 
 
What is the weather like where you are from? Do you get to enjoy the fall leaves changing colors? Do you have mild winters? Or lots of snow and freezing temps? I must warn you though, if you make your area sound too good, I must might wind up on your doorstep! ;)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wine in Western New York

 



I live in Western New York. Something that you may not know about WNY is that we have many wineries! Also, because we border Pennsylvania, there are many in the North Eastern part of PA as well. We are basically taking about the area between Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA. There are dozens of wineries in this area! They are so fun to visit...do a wine tour along the wine trails, and enjoy some wine tasting! But even if you don't want to visit a winery directly, you can purchase these local wines at stores, maybe even at stores near you!

Recently, I visited a local chain, Premier Wines, where their selection is amazing!! They have wines from all over the world, all well organized by origins...Australia, Italy, Spain, Chile, etc. Then, also broken down further for U.S. wines into states, like California and of course, New York!



 
Me. Wine. Need I say more???
 
I really enjoyed browsing through their many wines! I seriously spent over a hour here looking at all they had. I especially enjoyed their showcase of New York wines. What a huge selection! I saw some of my favorites, like Johnson Estate Wine, a local winery I have visited before. Many of the varieties are good, but my personal favorite is Pink Catawba. Fairly sweet, and goes so well with fresh strawberries! Also, another favorite is Bella Rosa by Merritt Winery. This one I like to enjoy with some cheese. Of course, there are many I have yet to try...I will get to them all someday lol!
 
a huge selection of wines from New York State
One of my personal favorites! Pink Catawba by Johnson Estate
 
 

more wines from Johnson Estate...

more local wines...
(Merritt Winery's Bella Rosa is another personal favorite of mine!)


more local wines...
 
Premier Wine also had something else I found interesting...and slightly shocking lol. They had a room, separated by glass walls and a locked door...what is inside? Some of the more expensive wine I have ever seen! You were not even able to enter this room without an employee unlocking this door and escorting you in! The most expensive bottle I saw was $3,900! Many others in the hundreds and thousands too. Can we have a wine tasting of one of those, please? lol. I sure do wonder what such an expensive wine would taste like! I have a feeling I'll never find out.
 
check out the prices on these!


Ok, so back to the wine I could actually afford...I looked around for something new to try. I found a wine from Chile that sounded really good; Cabernet Merlot by Gato Negro. This is a red wine, with 13.5% alcohol per volume (actually really high). Main characteristics of this blend are the soft tannis added by Merlot and the pleasant finish from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Incredible fruit aromas of plum, raspberries, blackberries and hints of vanilla and chocolate. Excellent paired with grilled red meats, all types of cheese and ham. I can't wait to try it!!

Making a wine selection from Gato Nego, a wine from Chile.



Where has the Hometown Queen Bee been???

I can't believe it has been nearly a year since I sat in front of this screen as the "Hometown Queen Bee" and wrote a blog po...