Category Archives: food

Women are from Venus, Chocolate is from Mars

Yesterday, I went with one of my new colleagues to E-town’s Convocation. She was taking pictures, and I was tagging along to experience the tradition. As she was taking pictures of the crowd before the procession began, I couldn’t help but inhale. After all, that’s part of surviving.

When I inhaled nasally, the smell of chocolate chip cookies spread throughout my olfactory cavity.

“Do you smell cookies?” I asked the photographer. The dining services staff was working on setting up tents for the All-College Picnic to follow the Convocation. Freshly-baked cookies for dessert, I thought to myself. But how did they get the ovens outside? I’ve seen tiny portable ovens before, but for hundreds of people? Would everyone get a cookie?

“That’s M&M/Mars. It always smells like that,” she replied with a smile.

It wasn’t cookies. It was chocolate. Being made. But it smelled just like cookies baking in the oven. I wondered what was being done at the moment. Was it the chocolate being made from the cocoa? Or, was a batch of Peanut Butter M&Ms (my favorite) being made? Joe and I had passed the manufacturing facility while we were exploring Elizabethtown, but I didn’t realize the chocolaty smell lingered all the way to campus. Mmm!

Today, on my way to campus I had my windows down (which I hand-rolled, by the way). As I turned on to Chestnut from High on onto to College Ave., I smelled that smell again. What a pleasant way to start each morning.

(As a side bar — chocolate bar in this case– I learned that Mars makes a lot more than I thought – Skittles and Altoids, for example. I also read in the latest Elizabethtown College alumni magazine that Frank Mars – a fourth generation of the family owners of the company — spoke on campus.)

When the time rolls around where I crave chocolate more than other times of the month, you may just find me at the edge of campus getting some respiratory therapy for PMS. Chocolate inhalers. Now there’s a good idea.


Please McDonald’s, leave my shake alone

Years ago, I slept over my friend Martha and Laura’s college apartment. Laura had to get up to go to work. I was in the same bed as Martha. I woke up fresh from a dream about a chocolate (not milk) shake from McDonald’s. I stopped at the nearest Golden Arches near their Penn State Hazelton place and fulfilled my dream-induced craving. That was 1997 or 1998.

I haven’t craved a shake like that in years, but yesterday I had to run an errand to AAA in Wilkes-Barre. There’s a McDonald’s across the street, which I passed to turn into the lot. I thought that since it was over 90-degrees outside and that I was stuck to my seat from sweat since I do not have air conditioning in my car that a nice chocolate shake would taste nice. So, all through the paperwork I had to do, I thought of nothing but the shake.

I momentarily stopped thinking about the shake when I had to date a contract and asked what date it was, and found out it was already August ninth. Then, as I wrote out the numeric date, I laughed out loud, “Ha! 8, 9, 10!” She chuckled, but wasn’t sure if it was with me or at me. But, after that interesting finding, my thoughts wandered back to the shake.

The line was long. And, I was already in it and it was so backed up and with the parking lot designed like an upper level of Dr. Mario, there was no escape. So, I just waited. All I wanted was a shake, but after this pain, I figured I deserved a double cheeseburger too.

It was finally my turn. I ordered a medium chocolate shake and my burger and proceeded through two windows.

This is what I was handed.

new mcdonalds shake

This is not what I thought I would get.

Yeah. That. McDonald’s now puts its shakes in clear cups and tops them with whipped cream and a cherry. The whipped cream pretty much instantly melted in the heat, by the way. But aside from that, I was shocked at the way it was served. Why so fancy? I posted the image on my Facebook page and tweeted it before even leaving the parking lot. Others commented that McDonald’s is trying to be all artisan with its drinks.

No thank you.

If I want a good coffee – I go to Dunkin Donuts or even, yes, McDonalds. Sometimes Sheetz (local place in PA). If I want a fancier coffee drink, I go to Starbucks — the coffee is a bit strong for me, so if I go Starbucks, I go with an espresso drink.

And, when it comes to milkshakes, if I want somethings more milkshakey, I’ll go to an ice cream stand, to a Friendly’s or to somewhere known for desserts. If I want a really thick ice cream concoction that is like a shake, I will go to Wendy’s to enjoy a Frosty. This drink, pictured above, is the last thing I expected to come through the little window when I asked for a shake.

That’s right. A shake. Not even a milkshake. McDonald’s is trying too hard to be something it is not. The Quarter Pounder and the Big Mac are old standbys, and so are the shakes – vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and sometimes Shamrock. But alas, the traditional coffee and shake are now part of the McCafe line.

What do you think? Do you like the new way McDonald’s serves its shakes?

A Philly-born Bachelorette Presents: The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Steak

The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Steak Recipe - Finished Sandwich

Dinner was delicious. Not sure if cholesterol levels agree with taste buds, but it's OK. I won't eat for a few days.

This is the story about a hungry girl with limited options.

This is the story about a hungry girl who reinvented the official (or is it unofficial) sandwich of her birthplace.

This is the story about a girl who actually is no longer hungry because she just ate and is blogging about an hour ago, when she was still a very hungry girl whose cupboards had it worse than Old Mother Hubbard.

So, here goes the story of my Philadelphia Cheese Steak Recipe:

I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of myself. I was pretty hungry when I got home from work (and tanning) today. My boyfriend is coming over, but not until later (gym first – I hope he worked out some for me – you’ll see why). I couldn’t wait. I was hungry.

I explored my options:

  • Cereal. I have lots of good kinds: Cap’n Crunch. Chocolate Cheerios. Frosted Flakes. Cupcake Pebbles. Whole Grain Cheerios. The problem is that there is no milk. Nope. Tossed that curdled carton out on trash day.
  • Leftover Chinese food. The small amount of leftover pork fried rice was tempting, but since I never enjoy reheated sweet-n-sour chicken, I opted not to eat it. I did not throw away, though. It was just trash day so my can is empty and I don’t want that to sit there all week. I just got out cat litter smell from upstairs, haha.
  • Johnsonville Kielbasa. This was very appealing, but I’d rather save that for when I have mashed potatoes and other veggies. You know. A real meal.

The rest of the freezer and fridge was: ravioli from three months ago that I am afraid to open to throw away but too connected to the Tupperware it is in to throw the whole thing away. Frozen waffles and French Toast. Ice Cream. Condiments. And then… I saw it!


Then, I remembered the last time Joe and I made Philly cheesesteaks was less than a month ago, so the jar of sauce and jar of sweet peppers I saw on the fridge door was likely still good. And, I also had cheese! Processed cheese, but cheese! (I waste too much food so unless I am certain I will eat it, I no longer by fresh meat and cheese.)

I was thrilled for my Philly cheese steak. I started cooking. Then, it hit me.

No bread. No rolls. No two slices of anything my meat mixture could come between. How do you make a Philly cheese steak without a roll?

That’s when it also hit me that I DID indeed have something bread-like. I had bought a bunch of breakfast food for my three-day writer’s retreat last month. (Oh yeah – that’s why I have so many boxes of cereal and so many boxes of frozen breakfast food). On that Central PA shopping trip, I picked up some Thomas’ mini-bagels and something new, Thomas’ Bagel Thins. I had leftovers of everything and the everything flavor Bagel Thins were the item thing I finished. Sunday evening, after Iron Man 2, Joe and I went to Wegman’s to raid the Mediterranean Bar and we also walked up the bread aisle. The Bagel Thins were out in plain sight so I picked up a pack.

Why can’t a cheese steak go on a bagel? I saw no reason. As I looked at the bag, I realized that bagel and cream cheese are a big Philly thing. And, Thomas’ are made near Philly. Ha! I chuckled to myself that I am making a really Philly-inspired meal.

Oh. My. God. Cream. Cheese. CREAM CHEESE!

I had inadvertently created a new version of the Philadelphia Cheese Steak. A Philadelphia Cheese Steak served on a bagel with cream cheese. Playing of the Wheel of Fortune Before and After puzzle style, the name I devised for my cheese steak recipe became:

The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Steak

Holy freakin’ moly. I started taking pictures of the ingredients, and even made (AND ATE) a second sandwich so I could share. And, so I could taste that heavenly concoction again.

To replicate my Philadelphia Cheese Steak recipe, which was made me two sandwiches, you need the following ingredients and supplies:

  • An apartment with a stove. Utilities must be paid up so said stove gets hot.
  • Box of flat, frozen, red sheets that turn into brown meat when warmed up, or as most people call them, Steak-Ums (or your favorite brand)
  • Jar of Tallarico’s brand sweet peppers (no relation)
  • Jar of Tallarico’s brand steak sauce (no relation, however this jar is related to the jar mentioned above)
  • Thomas’ Brand Bagel Thins in the ‘everything’ flavor
  • Tub of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (using your favorite brand here would be a mortal sin because this recipe is about Philly)
  • A few slices of American cheese. I used Borden’s individually-wrapped slices, but I prefer real deli cheese.
  • A frying pan, a spatula/flipper type thing and a cream cheese knife (we’re not using it for butter, so we’re changing its name)
  • Salt and pepper
Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Tallarico Brand Sauce

Kraft's Philadelphia Cream Cheese & Tallarico's sauce and peppers are three ingredients you'll need.

Thomas Bagel Things

Thomas brand Bagel Thins in 'everything' is one thing you'll need, too.

To replicate my Philadelphia Cheese Steak recipe, you need to take the following steps:

  • While pan is heating up, you can put towels in dryer like I did. Otherwise, use this time to get your stuff together.
  • Break apart 4-6 slabs of meat (which would be 8-12 since two are always stuck together between the waxyish paper) and toss in pan.
  • Before meat starts to cook, also put in a few forkfuls of the sweet peppers. This way, they get heated up and a little soft.
  • Add salt and pepper while meat and peppers are cooking. Continue stirring.
  • I like my meat to get a little brown when I make cheese steaks, so just cook until it’s to your liking.
  • Drain grease if you want to. I forgot.
  • Add enough steak sauce it coats all the meat when stirred, but NOT so much that it is saucy. Let sauce get warmed up. Stir mixture a little.
  • Remove pan from heat and then push all steak together so it is even. Top with cheese, covering every last section. Cover pan with lid or larger plate so that the captured heat perfectly melts the cheese.
  • While cheese is getting oozy, toast your Bagel Thin. Since these are indeed thin, use a mid-level setting as not to make this crunchy.
  • When bagel is toasted, spread cream cheese over one side of the bagel.
  • Lift lid of the pan to see your wonderful concoction. You can leave the cheese on top, or mix it up a bit. Either way, cheese will be in every bite. I usually mix it up a bit.
  • Place about 1 turner-thing full of steak onto the cream cheese. More if necessary, but don’t overfill too much. You should have enough meat for two bagels. Top with top of bagel.
  • Slice and serve. Maybe with a pickle and fries, but I had no side dish.
  • Lastly, enjoy.
Philly Cheesesteak on a bagel with cream cheese

Look at that ooey-gooey goodness!

Bagel sandwich with cheeseteak

Another view of the bagel, this time, topped.

You can modify this as you like. This is merely a guide to what I did. One suggestion though: DO NOT USE VELVEETA OR EASY CHEESE. REAL CHEESE STEAKS USE REAL CHEESE, usually American or Provolone. Go easy on the cream cheese because it will melt a bit. Otherwise, the sandwich wasn’t messy at all. Just a few peppers fell out.

After eating two, I can report that they were both delicious. And I’m not saying it because I made it. I’m saying that because there is something euphoric about cream cheese that makes all things right in the world. It can make anything taste good. I learned to like crab after eating crab and cream cheese dip. I can withstand the heat of jalapeno poppers because of cream cheese. It’s like a helper condiment.

And in this case, it helped enhance the awesomeness of homemade Philadelphia cheese steaks.

I know that Dunkin’ Donuts has a steak bagel breakfast sandwich, but I think this on-a-whim hunger-induced idea is pretty creative. If something else exists like it, I wasn’t aware. But, maybe I will look around. Either way, it was new to me and I hope it is new to you, too!

Disclaimer: I am in no way responsible for increased cholesterol, jeans not fitting, or any other adverse affects to health and wellness.

Hidden bonus: I actually realized that with Bagel Thins instead of a big hoagie roll, you cut back on some carbs. I mean, the calories are there with everything else, but if you are cutting back on carbs, this is a good alternative to thick bread.

Did you try this? Let me know what you think!

My friend Jeff once made a bacon cheesecake that was fantastic, but I think I’d draw the line at steak and cream cheese with a bagel.

P.S. Many a good Philly cheese steaks come with onions. Those who know me, know I love fried onions. So why, you ask, did my sandwich not have onions. Why, you ask, did I also not make the pierogies I had in the freeze? Because this is what happened the last time I tried to keep onions.

Sprouting onions in the cupboard

Last month, I found these when I went to get an oven mitt. Yep. I cook THAT much. I think I used one.

Yep. Being single and living a lone does not work well for keeping things around in bulk. Even my frozen food gets freezer burn.

How to Make Iced Tea – A Busy Professionals Guide to a Perfectly Refreshing Beverage

I recently discovered a new recipe for iced tea and thought I would share this unorthodox method with the world.

Step #1 – Boil some water. You don’t need a Princess House Heritage Cut tea pot like I have. Any old kettle will do.

Step #2 – Pour said water into your favorite mug, taking extra caution of any scalding drips that may burn or scar your wrist, knowing it happened once before.

Step #3 – Place tea bag, your favorite flavor, into favorite mug.

Step #4 – Look at clock on stove and realize that, Crap! You must get in shower now!

Step # 5 – Proceed to get ready for your busy, busy day. Grab your car keys and cell phone and drive to work.

Step # 6 – Arrive at work and apologize for being late. Then, work. Continue Step # 6 for 8-10 hours.

Step #7 – Get home from work and kick off your uncomfortable shoes.  Say hello to your cat and walk into kitchen and discover a cup of surprise iced tea for your refreshment.

Step # 8 – Enjoy.

Do you bite your string cheese? Or do you peel it?


"Dear Inventor of Cheese: You complete me." - Me, 2009

I didn’t eat lunch today. Instead, I enjoyed the sun and cleaned out my car and took out some recycling. I know. What was I thinking? I mean, the not eating part.

So, at about 3:30ish, I needed nutrition. I snagged two string cheese packets(?) from our work cafe. I pulled a string. It tasted so good that I just took a bite and continued in the same fashion with the second string cheese stick.

It made me wonder.

Do others cheat at string cheese?

I posted this question on Facebook and Twitter and I found out that I am not alone; however, some other fine folks I know do adhere to proper string cheese etiquette.

I want to know what makes string cheese pull apart so easily. How do they make this delicious dairy product so fiberous? I want to nominate this mysterious process for a How It’s Made episode. (And, actually I wonder if it’s a dirty process so maybe it could be hosted by Mike Rowe, because he’s pretty hot and How It’s Made has no host; only a narrator. But, on second thought, I hope it’s not dirty because I eat it.)

Anyway, as I was thinking about how I bend the rules as I bite my cheese, it got me thinking. My question is pretty uncannily similar to a question that one wise owl once asked:

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?


The Tootsie Pop Mystery is similar to that of the String Cheese question.

That’s still an unanswered question because, well, no one can truly get to the bottom of this because, while the candy coating flavors are fun and tasty to lick, the anticipation of the gooey, chocolaty center is too overpowering. And, as the owl says, “1 -2 — CRUNCH — three!”

I just may never discover how many fibers of stringy dairy stuff there are in a standard stick of string cheese because I just can’t help it. I bite it like it’s a Tootsie Pop.

That’s how I like all my relationships, including cheese: no strings attached.

Some Random Thoughts -Rocky Horror, Tom Petty, Dive Bars & More Things that and in I-N-G

My last two posts were poems. I never really write poems, but since I wrote a few, I decided to share them. Funny thing is that I pre-scheduled the second one three days in advance thinking that I’d write another post in between. I didn’t expect them to be back-to-back, haha.

Some random thoughts from this past week or so:

BAKING: Last week, my friend Jeff brought me pumpkin cookies. I ate one while he was here and held back. After he left, after a weekend of a haunted hayride and a scary movie, I ate the entire tub of cookies in one sitting. It was only six, but still. They were delicious. I instantly looked for a recipe, and found one from A week passed, but I made them tonight. Yummy! The second batch turned out better than the first- I took them out at 15 minutes. They are more soft and moist. I technically made one batch, but I had to bake one pan at a time because I only had one baking pan, haha. I have more pumpkin, so I will make more, but I got tired.

Soft Pumpkin Cookie Recipe

I baked soft pumpkin cookies while drinking Harvest Moon by Blue Moon

READING: I finished LIES MY MOTHER TOLD ME by Kaylie Jones. It was fabulous. One line from one of the later chapters really, really resonated with me. Don’t want to say which one it is, because it’s too personal for this blog. But, I guarantee you that if you read this memoir, something will stick with you, too. I just started a new book last night, YEAR OF WONDERS, a book about the plague in 1666.  I like it so far. Was hard to adjust from Kaylie’s conversational style to the more formal English that people in 1666 speak, but I like the main character a lot. This is the first book of fiction I am reading in over two years. It’s been all memoir since I started the Wilkes program. I think I did read Animal Farm and some Stephen King in the middle somewhere, but pretty much, all memoir. Wonderful memoir, may I add.

WATCHING: Rocky Horror Picture Show, put on at Music Box Dinner Theater in Swoyersville, was tons of fun. I went with a new friend I made through attending events at Paper Kite Press and had a blast. The cast was great. Very, very enjoyable. Another friend of mine heard I was going, so she went also and had a great time. What a fun night!

DRINKING: A new dive bar. I went to a new bar, Full Moon Cafe, in Larksville on Friday and had fun. I love finding hole in the wall places. It was quite the eventful evening, too. And in fact, I just wrote a nine-page essay about the night. Long story short: I complained all night about my hair being in a ponytail. When we got to Full Moon and I said it again to an older woman I knew through a previous job, she whipped my hair tie out, fluffed my hair, then proceeded to give me smokey, sexy eyes. Yes. An impromptu make-over at a dive bar. One of the funniest things ever. Here’s a picture for your viewing pleasure in case you don’t believe me. Love nights that I can write nine pages about. A cute boy helps, too.

Donna Talarico Gets Made Over at Full Moon Cafe in Larksville

If strange things happen when there is a full moon out, imagine what happens when you are INSIDE the Full Moon. (Wow. Did I just write them a helluva tag line or what?”

LISTENING: Tom Petty Live Anthology Superhighway Tour is going well (I blog about Tom Petty music a lot). Think I am on Week #4 and I am just enjoying it to the fullest. Every week, two new songs and lots of memorabilia like newspaper clippings, set lists, studio papers, and more. Fun, fun, fun. Best $25 I spent in a while. Can’t wait until the physical set comes out on November 24. Things have been so busy for me lately that I actually forgot to check the last two weeks, so tonight, I am enjoying four new live songs! As I write this, I am listening to “Breakdown” as it was recorded live on June 30, 1981 in LA – sounds so young! What a freakin’ jam session this was, too. They break”Down” into Hit the Road Jack. Wow, just a killer performance of “Breakdown.”  The crowd sings along in a lot of it, and it makes me wonder who was at that concert, and where they are now.  I love the commentary about these songs and shows that the band gives through the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Superhighway Tour.

SLEEPING: Sleep has been going better. Still hit snooze two hours before I wake up, but I am in my bed before 11:00 p.m. every night. I stop drinking caffiene after 12 or 1 – usually my last coffee around 11 and my last soda with my lunch. If I need the fizz, I go for a Root Beer. Before bed, I’ve been journaling to get my mind to stop racing, then that gives time for my peppermint melatonin tea from Alvita a chance to get to get to a good temperature, then I have been reading (while my white noise machine playes) until I fall asleep. I’ve been getting a lot more sleep and feeling better during the day. The only part of the equation that still makes no sense is the waking. Amazing, still, how I hit can still hit snooze for two hours.

PLANNING: I’m doing a talk at Wilkes next week for my former mentor and friend, Jane, and the student-run PR agency and am very, very excited.

WONDERING: And, I woke up this morning, as shown below, with one sock on and one sock off. This has been going on for years. Last week, my friend Jeff stayed over and I showed him in the morning how the same thing– one sock off. We had watched Paranormal Activity, so he said, “Maybe a demon is taking your sock?” Hm. Here’s my blog post from over a year ago about this…

one sock

99% of the nights I sleep with socks on, I wake up with the left sock off. Have no idea why. Do you believe in the sock monster?

And, that’s it. Just some random stuff I’ve been up to.

Where’s the Menu Board?

A few weeks ago, on Black Friday, I headed to work and en route, stopped to get a McDonald’s breakfast at the Luzerne location. When I pulled up to the order speaker, something was very different. There was no menu. None. There was just an empty, metal, red circle thing which I am guessing held the menu. I felt at a loss intially, so I just ordered a coffee with three creams and a hashbrown. I mean, I know what McDonald’s carries, but without the menu, I felt a tad lost.

I figured the Luzerne McDonald’s just chose a holiday weekend when less people would be eating Big Macs to change/upgrade the order board. Then, fast forward today. I wanted a fountain soda. Bad. So, I pulled into the Luzerne McDonald’s and again, NO menu. It’s been a little while; you’d think they’d have it replaced by now.

I seriously thought of asking into the speaker box, “Hey– what do you guys have here?” You know, throw them off a bit. Pretend I’ve never been to the Golden Arches before!

What is so funny about this situation is that most Americans would do just fine without even looking at the menu at the McDonald’s drive-thru. Seriously! And that should scare us. We’ve been groomed to know what McDonald’s serves, from the Big Mac to even lesser knowns, like the Asian Chicken Salad. We know about the fries. We know about the shakes. We know about the pies. We don’t need the menu board. Yet, it’s a source of comfort. It’s pictures can perhaps change one’s mind. It can help the indecisive, decide.

But really- I wonder how long it takes to replace a menu board. There may be someone in Luzerne county who never ate at McDonald’s, and may very well need it.