Komodo Teriyaki Sauce

This brand promises a premium sauce made in the Japanese tradition. Copy the link for a sample:



Washington Square Park, Manhattan

Comedians, contortionists, an improv jazz concert or puppet show, lively chess matches. These are some of the happenings one might encounter at Washington Square Park.

Washington Square


Located in Greenwich Village, its nearly 10 acre expanse assures space to explore the sights or to carve out a slice of solitude.

Washington Square


La Sandwicherie, Miami

The sandwich shop has seen many incarnations. Even so, La Sandwicherie differentiates itself. Part French cafe; part South Beach sandwich stand; perfect for casual diners; perfect for sophisticated palates. La Sandwicherie offers plenty of healthy indulgence.

I ordered prosciutto on French bread. It contained an array of cool and crisp veggies along with artisanal meat and cheese. Sandwiches come on your choice of bread supplied by a local bakery and are completely customizable as are the salads and smoothies. La Sandwicherie even bottles its own vinaigrette.

I returned another day, opting for salmon on a croissant. That bread was just as delicious but easier to handle and less filling than the bulky baguette. Still, the hefty serving size allowed for leftovers. La Sandwicherie's Miami Sunset smoothie, a refreshing blend of coconut milk, raspberries, orange, papaya and mango topped of my second satisfying meal.


Rosemary Chicken Sliders

Alexia's all-natural frozen breads provide convenience and savings. I often find them on sale at Whole Foods or Publix and with a coupon they're practically free. Since they aren't stored at room temperature, I don't have to worry about them spoiling before I consume the entire package. Plus, they come in flavor combinations that add depth to recipes. The olive oil and rosemary in these ciabatta rolls provide a perfect canvas for the chicken and fresh veggies.


For two sandwiches you'll need approximately:

  • .25 cup of baby kale or arugula
  • 6 thin onion slices
  • 1 small baked or roasted drumstick
  • 2 Alexia Rosemary Olive Oil rolls
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp spicy brown mustard
Coat the bottom of each roll with mustard. Place shredded chicken on top then a layer of greens followed by onions. Coat the top of each roll with mayo. Enjoy!


Gelato Ti Amo, New York

Gelato Ti Amo boasts shops in Italy and America, so I expected decadently delicious gelato. I got that and more. I did not expect yogurt too. Although pleasing, the Black Cherry yogurt needed to dial down the sweetness. Extra sugar seemed concentrated in the cherries.

In contrast the Fig proved harmonious, highlighting the fruit and the gelato without either competing for attention. Best of all, the shop uses all-natural ingredients. I love Gelato Ti Amo, and you will too!


Pineapple Pomegranate Smoothie

Pomegranate juice's tartness makes me overlook its health benefits and skip it in favor of sweeter options. Scoring some for free led me to give it another try.


You'll need approximately:
  • .5 cup Pom pomegranate juice
  • 8 oz can pineapple chunks, juice included
  • 1 tbs fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 oz Torani raspberry syrup
Freeze the pineapple chunks and juice prior to blending all ingredients. Pulse on high for about 45 seconds then liquify for about 15. Scrape blender bowl if needed then repeat blending until desired consistency is reached.


“If You Tell, I Will Kill You” Book Review

How to Write a Memoir Review
Never have I read a book within one day, but that was before If You Tell, I Will Kill You. Within the pages of this engrossing story Tonya McLin writes, “The discussion of violence disturbs our human psyche.” How true. This former salon owner and hair stylist delves deep within the portals of her mind. She unveils and releases the stigma victims of abuse often feel.

Initially set in the late ’60s, the memoir begins during the author’s early childhood at age three. Under the serenity of the Georgia sunshine and amid the guise of happiness, she is torn from the tranquility of her mother and forced to forge a new life. When it seems the clouds preventing her happiness are about to dissipate, a new storm brews on the horizon.

Besides the author other main characters include Tim, the manipulative anti-father figure, and Nana, her stern yet loving grandmother. For 10 years, Nana and her husband raise Tonya and her seven siblings. Tim is the catalyst for much of the novel’s action. His decisions rock this family’s faith to its core, and Tonya unwittingly becomes his victim. 

Through a revealing mix of religion and remembrance, the author’s narrative allows readers to relive her childhood while she reflects on experiences through adult eyes. Hers a survivor’s story, a true testament to the power of the human spirit.

If You Tell, I Will Kill You represents more than a title. It is the stern warning Tim uses to hold Tonya captive in a prison built using intimidation and fear. As an adult who has “been healed from control and manipulation,” McLin uses her story to inspire and to inform.

Reports of abuse rarely reach the heart of the issue. McLin does what headlines fail to do: She provides victims with a voice and the knowledge that empowerment is possible. She also demonstrates that the effects of abuse last beyond the moment. I did not read this memoir, I felt it.


Free Multipurpose Wipes

Copy the link for a sample of Sandy's wipes:



$10 Off Amazon Local Deal

Check your emails. Amazon Local sent subscribers a message that downloading then signing into the mobile app by 8/11 will gain them a $10 off promotional code. Redeem this code by 8/27.


Doughnut Plant, NYC

TV shows repeatedly showcase Doughnut Plant. I added the shop to my list of must-visit NYC eateries years ago in part due to the publicity; mostly due to its array of high quality ingredients and its flavor combos. Few in my inner circle would dare try foods infused with matcha green tea or lavender. Most balk when I profess my love of coconut or blueberries, especially in baked goods. Discovering these varieties and more at Doughnut Plant proved a bit overwhelming. Filled with house-made jam or not? Cake or yeast?  Add on fresh ice cream or flavored milk or juice meticulously processed by Doughnut Plant staff instead of some faraway vendor?


I ignored a Valrhona Chocolate doughnut tempting me from the display case. It looked too sinful. These pastries, after all, would pass as my breakfast instead of dessert.

The Coconut Lime cake and the Lavender Flower yeast varieties played like lullabies across my taste buds. Each exhibited subtle ingredient notes. The Fresh Blueberry yeast and Matcha Green Tea cake varieties popped on my palate.

Doughnut Plant's yeast offerings exhibit a chewiness and a density similar to ciabatta bread. I saved the lighter cake varieties for the next morning. They remained fresh without refrigeration.

SoZo Coffee Sample

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Smith Street (Mocha) Bagels, Brooklyn

The two guys behind the counter laughed when I commented on Mocha Bagels' overwhelming offerings. They playfully bantered with me while I pondered the possibilities. I expected coffee. I expected bagels. The pancakes and extensive assortment of prepared meats and cold salads came as a surprise.
Mocha Bagels

Before reading their labels, I mistook mounds of cream cheese for gelato. Everywhere I turned, a new group of items jumped out.


Call it a convenience store, coffee bar, bakery, bagel shop or deli. Regardless of how you categorize Mocha Bagels, it has options even for picky eaters like me.


I passed over a muffin and croissant since they weren't house made. Then, after extensive deliberation, decided to order a Mocha Special Bagel. I'd read online that it was a top seller. I chose a pumpernickel bagel but did not otherwise alter the Special's makeup. The slightly chewy bread provided a balanced base for ripe tomatoes, pleasingly plump capers, lox, and ultra-creamy cream cheese. Although I finished eating it nearly two hours later, this sandwich remained fresh and flavorful.
NYC Bagels


la Madeleine French Cafe Freebie

Today only, la Madeline French Cafe is giving away a free dessert in honor of Bastille Day:

"for a FREE mini dessert in celebration of bastille day. tell our associate at the register “happy bastille day” to receive your choice of a FREE mini pastry, parfait or tart."

la Madeline Happy Bastille Day


3B Bed and Breakfast, Brooklyn

Home away from home. That's the sentiment Matt at 3B Bed and Breakfast expressed he hoped guests felt. Judging from thank you notes left by previous and often repeat travelers, 3B's staff has consistently delivered on creating homey experiences. Most guests, surprisingly, visit from Europe. My first bunk mate, of all places, lived in the same county where I reside.

Sharing a room isn't ideal for all. In an effort to save money and to embrace an attitude of adventure, I gambled on trying these unconventional accommodations. Friends cringed at the idea. After lodging at 3B, the stay ranks in my top three.

The staff resides within the brownstone on another floor. Someone was always available. I consider the high level of cleanliness and 3B's commitment to being green major pluses. Wind power, eco-friendly supplies, salvaged decor, an emphasis on locally-grown and organic foods, composting for a rooftop garden: My kind of place!

Families, singles and couples stay at 3B, which offers various room choices. If complete privacy isn't an issue, try out the bunk option. And if traveling with no more than three others, you could all sleep in the same room if each guest booked a bunk. I chatted with two sisters from Japan who did that.

I spent more time on site than any other guest because I was apartment hunting and taking full advantage of the complimentary computers. Allison and others gave me advice on navigating New York City as well as dining suggestions. The hearty yet healthy breakfast offerings kept me fueled until I recharged with my next meal. Between indulging in breakfast, tea and coffee at 3B and using Scoutmob, I spent less than $40 on meals over four days.

3B lies in the heart of downtown. Use the earplugs supplied or bring your own pair to block out noise from street level and the subway. Some nights were quiet. One opportunity for improvement at 3B would be adding additional towel hooks in the bathroom. Otherwise, these guys have nearly perfected creating a peaceful oasis in a fast-paced city.

coffee and tea bar

dining table

computer desk

common area


bunk beds



Cereal and fruit bar



Homemade Granola

Check out http://3bbrooklyn.com/ for more details.

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Spinach Lasagna

Lasagna is a totally customizable. Combining Greek yogurt or a crumbly type of cheese with a hearty sauce mimics ground beef's texture. And, as long as you build layers of flavor, you won't miss the meat. I stumbled upon marked down packages of Kroger's Private Selection sliced marbled blue white cheddar cheese, a combination I'd never noticed in any deli section. After using it on grilled cheese sandwiches, I decided to try it in another recipe.


For this version you'll need:
  • 4 - 6 qt slow cooker
  • 1 can chopped spinach, drained extremely well
  • .5 cup Mild Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Chiles, drained extremely well
  • 1.5 cup Alessi Princess Sauce with Heavy Cream
  • 6 Hodgson Mills Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles
  • .25 tsp black pepper
  • 6 slices marbled blue white cheddar cheese
  • .25 cup ketchup
  • .50 cup Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle barbeque sauce
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
Spray the slow cooker's interior. In a mixing bowl, combine tomatoes and all sauces. Cover the bottom of the slow cooker with a thin layer of sauce. Break up enough of two noodles to almost cover the sauce. Then place another thin layer of sauce on top of the noodles. Cover with three cheese slices, keeping cheese from touching the slow cooker's sides. Season the spinach with the pepper then stir it into the remaining sauce. Almost cover the cheese layer with half of the mixture. Place more broken noodles on top. Cover with remaining cheese slices, followed by the remaining noodles. Top those with the remaining sauce mixture. Cover with shredded cheese. Cook on high for about 1.5 hours. The lasagna is done when the noodles are tender.


Comfort Suites, Jacksonville

I stayed here during a family reunion because the organizer got a good rate. Nothing about the visit ranks above average, however; the hotel may appeal to anyone wanting just a spot to sleep in. The area around the location looks up and coming with nicer hotels and a new shopping center nearby. We were able to drive to the beach in less than 30 minutes.

This Comfort Suites could benefit from refreshing the interior. The paint was flesh colored with coats upon coats. Caulking in the bathroom needed to be cleaned/replaced. Fixtures had rust spots. The shower controls were not user friendly, and the room's carpet pattern made it difficult to tell if it was dingy or just old-fashioned. Besides areas that needed dusting, hairs (at least five) left in the tub ranked as a top cleanliness issue.

On the plus side, I did appreciate the fresh fruit served at breakfast. They also had coffee, juice, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, and waffles. Each room contained a mini-fridge, coffeemaker, and a microwave. 


High Road Craft Ice Cream & Sorbet, Atlanta

As someone who's seriously contemplated making gourmet ice cream for personal consumption, I'll stick with High Road. This frugal foodie deems it a deal due to the effort put into crafting their treats. High Road surpasses the mundane. Sure, it's on the pricey side, but not much more than "premium" grocery store offerings. I purchased mine on site and later discovered Whole Foods sells pints for a dollar less. On the downside, the grocer offers fewer flavors. On the upside, those pints list ingredients while the ones at the factory don’t.
High Road Craft

If purchasing directly from the source, bring small bills or a credit card since this is not a traditional storefront. The staff was knowledgeable and courteous. They offered dry ice so my pints would stay cold in my cooler during transit. High Road is a small-scale operation, which lends to the attention to detail. Read the extensive product list on its web site. The descriptions explain the thought put into the company's ice cream and sorbet flavors.

I sampled Gin and Tonic, and Chocolate Crisp. Both were scrumptious. Spotted Trotter (bacon and pastrami) was an impulse buy. Meat in ice cream? I had to experience that! Since I'd skipped breakfast and lunch, I figured the savory treat might satisfy me until I ate an actual meal. It did. Spotted Trotter is sweet and salty. Continuing my pledge to try new things, I also purchased the Carrot and Mascarpone flavor.  A vegetable in ice cream? Definitely worth the try.


Sweet Potato Coconut Muffins

These breakfast muffins will keep you full much longer than boxed cereal:

Coconut Muffins

You'll need approximately:
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • .50 cup Arrowhead Mills Organic Rye Flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • .25 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • .5 cup milk
  • .5 cup Trader Joe's Shredded Sweetened Coconut
  • .5 cup Bruce's All-natural Sweet Potato Pie filling
  • .5 cup sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, including the coconut. Break apart larger clumps of sugar. In another bowl, beat the egg. Sir in the milk and oil. Gradually add dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until halfway combined. Gently stir in sweet potatoes. Then do the same with the sour cream, using less than portioned if mix is too wet. Spoon mixture into greased muffin tins. Place tins in the oven and bake for 14 to 20 minutes. Will make at least six muffins depending on the amount portioned in each tin cup.


"Chasing Destiny" Book Review

Chasing Destiny Book CoverGritty and gripping, Eric Jerome Dickey's Chasing Destiny takes readers on a fast-paced ride. Two central characters, Billie and Destiny, drive most of the action. Chapters mainly revolve around their viewpoints. Additionally, the Los Angeles biker culture provides a backdrop. Dickey immerses readers in it as well as the ever-unfolding drama. Full of twist and turns, Chasing Destiny delves into romantic and familial relationships. Dickey unearths raw and unexpected realities while exploring both.


El Titan de Bronze Cigar MFG., Miami

I sought a birthday gift for my dad that he’d enjoy but wouldn’t necessarily buy for himself. Since he had an affinity for cigars and I planned on checking out Little Havana anyway, El Titan de Bronze Cigar Mfg. caught my eye. The shop produces cigars, instead of merely selling them. I knew he’d appreciate the Cuban-style manufacturing, and I wanted to see the factory. One room housed the production area and retail shop. The operation was much smaller than expected.

Earthy scents wafted past me. A group of cheerful cigar rollers sat at tables situated steps away from showcases. They effortlessly created one gem after another. The co-owner, Sandy Cobas, greeted me.  I told her that I caught a bus close to there but still had some walking to do. She allowed me use of the restroom upon request and told me to help myself to cold water in the kitchen. Her warmth extended throughout the ordering process. We chatted a bit about the shop and how I discovered it.

Sandy read the list of my dad’s preferences. She retrieved the Titan Grand Reserve Cameron for me and offered a substitute for the discontinued Belicosco. I told her I wanted to buy him a third type. She then mentioned another cigar they were phasing out and offering at a discount. Sandy thought it would fit my dad’s wish for something small, short and mild. After she packaged my selections, I asked if she was familiar with a restaurant close by. She offered her opinion and suggested I travel by cab then called one for me. My dad enjoyed his cigars; I enjoyed the experience of purchasing them. I still don’t know much about cigars, but I know I’d recommend El Titan de Bronze to any serious aficionado.


Free Bowling

AMF is letting kids bowl free until September 2. Sign up for the eclub to get alerts on this and other specials:



Sally's Gluten-Free Bakery, Alpharetta

Lately my sister, Nicole, has delved into trying gluten-free foods. Finding flavorful bread and baked goods has proved challenging. We each tried Sally's Gluten-Free Bakery and found that their products are viable options.

Sally's Gluten Free

Sally's is, essentially, a small storefront. Refrigerated cases contain take-and-bake pizzas. Samples of bread and sweets line the checkout counter. The guy who helped me gave a bit of info on the cookies, breads and cupcakes without overselling them. He also refrained from pressuring me to add another product to my tab after I told him I wanted to redeem a deal for a free mini loaf. He advised that the pumpkin loaf I picked would last 2-3 days (the package stated less time) and that I could freeze it immediately and enjoy it later. I also purchased a pack of chocolate chip cookies.

I ate half of the loaf two days later. Even when I finished it off, the loaf remained moist. Initially, I noted the lack of butter in and thicker consistency of this soy, gluten, egg and dairy-free product. Warming spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) permeated the bread. The more I tasted, the more I liked it.

chocolate chip cookies

Thin and crunchy, the cookies contained butter and diary. No one would have guessed they lacked gluten. A few days after purchase, they too remained fresh. Six come in a small pack. They are so rich that two were enough to satisfy me, but they were so scrumptious that I ate three.

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Free Shopping Bag

Purchase a Dasani multipack at Publix or three resuable shopping bags and get one free. See coupon in store.


Starbucks Espresso Coupon

Starbucks CouponCheck your inbox if you're a My Starbucks Rewards member. They just issued a $1 off coupon for any espresso beverage. It seems they're sending coupons every month now.


Apple Maple Chicken Sausage with Coconut Curry

My nephews devoured this sausage one morning after I assured them they could stomach the apples in it. I soon discovered that it goes well with dinner dishes too!

You'll need approximately:
  • 1 cup Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk
  • .5 cup water
  • .75 cup Mahatma Jasmine Rice
  • 1 small chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tsp grape seed oil
  • 1 package Al-Fresco Apple Maple Chicken Sausage
  • 1 jar Seeds of Change Organic Mild Coconut Simmer Sauce
Place rice in steamer. Pour milk and water over it. Steam for about 20 minutes or until liquid absorbed. Meanwhile, chop onion into small chunks and the meat into bite-size pieces. Heat oil in saucepan on medium. Add onion and sausage. It is already fully cooked, so time will be based on the desired level of sear. Cover with simmer sauce. Simmer on lowest setting, stirring until warmed through. Makes about 4 servings.


Free Pinkberry Yogurt

The company's press release says "Pinkberrygreek is fresh, not frozen, all-natural Greek yogurt with no added sugar, thickeners or preservatives." Grab a full-size sample only on Wednesdays in April from 11a.m. – 2 p.m.


Free Scott Toilet Tissue

Register to receive a free roll:  Scott Toilet Tissue


Taste Bakery Cafe, Miami Beach

Yelp reviews led me to Taste as an option for breakfast on the go. I arrived via the local bus, which stops right across the street. My tight schedule prevented me from dining in although the atmosphere looked inviting. Inside was clean (including the restroom) and cozy with a variety of seating options. Patio dining was also available. The lemon ginger muffin I wanted was no longer on the menu, but I didn’t leave unsatisfied. While I studied the display case, the staff was helpful and patient. To my surprise, they had a pistachio muffin. This underrated nut is one of my favorites, so I pounce on the opportunity to try dishes featuring it.

Pistachio Muffins
If only I'd discovered this delight before I'd plopped down nearly $7 on a mediocre slice of pistachio cake from a publicized SOBE eatery. Taste’s muffin was moist, full of nuts, and a substantial serving size.

Believe me, I contemplated stopping by again on my way to the airport. Fear of missing my flight kept me from doing so. I regret not ordering two muffins and will definitely return should I visit Miami again. Their menu also features salads, wraps, sandwiches and coffee. Taste is an appropriate name for this eatery. The pistachio muffin was the tastiest bite I had in Miami.

Visit http://taste-bakery.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=3
to view the bakery's photo gallery.


Free Reach Floss

Kroger has Reach Floss on sale for $1. Combine that deal with a $1off 2 coupon on Coupons.com. If you purchase four a Catalina coupon will print at the register for $3 off your next grocery purchase, making them free.


Free Tax Return Filing

Detail are on IRS.gov. Click on the link to see if you qualify:


Spiced Right Barbeque, Suwannee GA

After watching an episode of United Tastes of America, I sought out finger-licking ribs. Most places I found online were farther than I wanted to drive or closed on Sundays. Spiced Right won my patronage by default.
Pork Ribs

The ribs might've been a fluke, but I won't return to find out. I pretended the parched top layers didn't exist. Futile attempts at gnawing through them left no alternative. I peeled them off but dryness awaited underneath.

If I could judge this establishment solely on customer service, it would rank highly. I left unfulfilled. Some of the fresh-cut fries were undercooked. The brisket verged on being overdone. It was spiced right as were the collards.

Collard greens and friesNo heavy hands prepared those greens. Laced with slightly salty pork, a well-orchestrated symphony of sweetness and acidity enveloped each leaf. Regretfully, the merits of this side dish were not enough to erase all the wrongs I encountered.


Bath&Body Works Freebie

Bath&Body Works has sent a coupon for a free travel-size item and one for 20% off your entire purchase. Check your mailboxes. Both expire on 4/21.


Orange Ginger Coconut Smoothie

Orange Ginger Coconut Smoothie
The weather outside has been frightful. Wind whipping, temperature dipping. I needed a bit of sunshine in a glass. I don't care for ice in my smoothies, so I used cold ingredients. Makes 16 ounces without ice cubes.

You'll need approximately:

  • half of a medium orange, cut up
  • .5 tsp orange zest
  • .25 tsp ground ginger
  • dash nutmeg
  • .5 cup Fage Total 0% greek yogurt
  • 1 cup So Delicious coconut milk
  • .25 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tbs sweetened, shredded coconut
Put yogurt in blender then add spices. Add zest and shredded coconut. Add coconut milk then  orange pieces. Pour pineapple juice over contents. Blend on high for about 45 seconds then liquify for about 15. Scrape blender bowl if needed then repeat blending until desired consistency reached.


Free Escada Sample

 Perfume and my allergies don't get along, but I hope you'll like it:


Free Eucerin Smoothing Repair Lotion Sample

This brand is great for all members of your household, especially those with sensitive skin. Click the link below for your sample:


Sweet Potato Pancakes

Pancakes are my main choice for a make-ahead breakfast. They freeze wonderfully and defrost quickly. I adapted these from AllRecipes.com. I replaced the pumpkin with Bruce's Sweet Potato Pie filling, which I found for 50 cents. With no allspice on hand, I added more of the other spices. I also skipped the all-purpose flour. Instead, I opted for equal portions of King Arthur Unbleached Whole Wheat and Arrowhead Mills Organic Rye flours. I oiled the griddle with Smart Balance spread. 

See http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-pancakes/detail.aspx for recipe details.


Rain Checks Rule

Why? Because they extend the life of sales. This strategy applies to retailers of various types. Most set limits on coupon redemption and purchase quantities. And, stragglers like myself miss out on sale items because other savvy shoppers pounce as soon as an ad takes effect.

What I Got for Free Today
Don't despair when you encounter empty shelf space. Go to the customer service counter and request the maximum allowable amount of rain checks. When the item is back in stock, redeem the voucher for that amount or less depending on your needs. If using coupons too, make your purchase before the coupon expiration date.

Collard, Onion and Mango Chutney Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The collards I planted in September survived winter. I've been craving them lately, especially with onions.The other night I found myself in a pinch. Determined not to eat out and to use ingredients on hand to make a quick meal, I peered into my fridge. An often overlooked jar of mango chutney begged me to pick it instead of mayo. I did and threw together a sandwich that satisfied my hunger.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

You'll need approximately:
  • .5 cup collard greens, end stems removed
  • .25 cup chopped onion 
  • 1 tbs mild mango chutney
  • 2 slices Kraft Big Slice Colby & Monterrey Jack
  • Healthy Life 100% whole grain wheat bread
  • 1 tbs Smart Balance Spread
Place a slice of cheese on each slice of bread. Set aside. Preheat grill or panini press. Meanwhile, melt the spread in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the vegetables. Saute just until the collards are tender. Spread the chutney on top of the cheese slices. Place vegetables on top of one slice then place the assembled sandwich on your grill without applying too much pressure on the lid. Cook until crust has toasted to your desired level.


Figo Pasta, Atlanta

Figo Pasta
I discovered Figo Pasta as a mystery shopper years ago and patronize it now as a regular customer. It’s grown to multiple locations since but hasn’t lost its rustic appeal. At Figo, meals aren’t rushed. Each bite rings of carefully cultivated flavor profiles, transporting diners to Italy.

My enthusiasm for Figo continues to grow. I had a small gathering there for my birthday. I normally go to the Hammond Drive location in Atlanta but have had positive experiences at others. Figo outshines national chain restaurants, especially those serving boxed pasta and masquerading as fine dining.

Spinach Pasta

Figo offers homemade traditional pasta as well as wheat, spinach, gluten-free and paprika.The restaurant serves standbys, like eggplant parmesan, but being able to select your own pasta and sauce combination continues to draw customers. I’m fond of the spinach tagliatelle and the crab ravioli, usually with a cream sauce. As Figo expands its seasonal offerings, I venture more outside of my comfort zone: Think strawberry risotto or bacon cheeseburger ravioli.

Even if its addictive, signature olive oil was the only item for sale Figo would still shame its competition. A coupon calendar sold every December adds to Figo’s value. Part of the proceeds go to charity.

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GA (Georgia) French Bakery, Duluth

One morning I drove all around the Pleasant Hill Mall area in Duluth searching for a real bakery that sold fresh blueberry muffins. I almost gave up when I happened to notice GA (Georgia) French Bakery. Items in the display all appeared decadent. The blueberry scones and the blueberry bread pudding were sold out, so I chose a fruit tart. Slices of deep red strawberries, vibrant kiwis and mandarin oranges crowned creamy custard atop a golden crust.

GA French Bakery's quality is better than swanky Atlanta-area bakeries I've tried and less expensive. Its offerings include loaves of bread, croissants (sweet and savory), danishes, cookies, cakes, soups and sandwiches. Every pastry I've tried has pleased my palate, offering a twist on the familiar. Clearly, the owner incorporates classic baking techniques. And, in case you're wondering, the owner is from France.