VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Ronald McDonald House Taste of Hope

I was recently invited to visit the Ronald McDonald House in Clifton to learn about their new Taste of Hope program. If you're not familiar Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home to families whose children are hospitalized at Cincinnati Children's. 

The first thing I love about Ronald McDonald House is the fact that you're smack dab in the middle of the city - but there's a really nice courtyard that makes you feel like you're tucked away at a peaceful oasis!

Before we learned about the Taste of Hope program we got to meet this little guy. That face! Here's the thing - there are 78 stories like his - kids with serious medical issues and families that need help. It's amazing what they do here.  They just posted on Monday about a family that has been there from Turkey for 354 days and is FINALLY going home.

Take a minute to imagine if that was you - that had a child with major medical issues and you had to spend a year halfway around the world to save your child. Would you be able to afford it? That is exactly why Ronald McDonald House exists.

They have started a new Taste of Hope program which I'll tell you all about in just a minute. Previously volunteer groups would come in and make meals for the families. The thing is though - these groups weren't all planning things together. So what would happen is that 3-4 nights/week - the groups would make pasta. I mean - if you had to cook for 100+ people - what would you make? Then think about allergens and how healthy meals are and 100 more things that pop into your mind. It's a bit chaotic!

So they made a big decision and hired a chef. Chef Greg has worked at a variety of places in Cincinnati including a country club - so he's used to preparing meals for large groups. Now - Chef Greg plans the meals and gets great deals on supplies and so much more.

Now - the residents get variety in their meals, they can find out exactly what's in anything and plan ahead. The folks at RMH told us that so many more people are eating the meals, there are fewer leftovers and the comments are great!

They have an amazing kitchen area with multiple stations and refrigerators as well as a grill, cooktop, etc. Most of these are available to the residents if they would like to make something of their own. But - these great areas for prep and working have also made it even better for volunteering.

And that's where Taste of Hope comes in!!!

Now - volunteer groups can come in - hands free - and basically have a fun cooking class and team building experience. There is a donation cost for the group - but it's super affordable!!! For lunch, your team donates $250 and for dinner/weekend brunch it's $400.

Let's think about that - for just $250 - they can feed 100 people!!! They like to have groups of 4-12 people (minimum: 14 years old) - so even if you got a group of friends - for $20 you could have a cooking class and do something great for charity!
On my visit - I got to make salmon cakes with Chef Greg. They're basically like crab cakes but made with salmon. My Dad used to make salmon patties with canned salmon - and he wouldn't pick out the vertebrae - ew. Chef Greg used FRESH salmon and premium ingredients and they were delicious! I didn't have breakfast before I got there and might have eaten three of them before I went back to work. :-)

After my salmon cake breakfast - I went on a tour of the facility. They have so many fun things to help the families feel at home. In many cases, it's more than just the actual patients - it's their brothers and sisters that come too. They have an arts and crafts room, a library for adults & children, a beautiful and comfortable foyer as well as a children's theatre area where they do performances and have visitors from various groups like the Cincinnati Bengals!

The families are also encouraged to decorate their doors - it helps the residents and volunteers get to know each other and find out about progress along the way.

Lynn is the most amazing volunteer - she showed us around and is so knowledgeable. This pic is my favorite because of the awesome art behind her. They also have a lot of art in the House that was done by residents.

One thing Lynn shared with us is about those pop tabs that they collect - they bring in $25,000 every year - IN POP TABS! Every little bit helps!

One room we visited was the Meditation Room. This room is available for parent when they need some peace and quiet and also when the stories of residents don't have a happy ending.  The lamp you see in the corner is left on for 24 hours after someone passes. Thankfully the light wasn't on the day we visited.

They also have a light on top of the building that can be seen from the windows of Children's Hospital. This gives the kids that are staying at the hospital comfort because they know their loved ones are close by.

We also got to see a room - it's much like a hotel room and is completely private. It's basically a mini apartment for residents during their stay. They house 78 families every night of the year - there is always a wait list.

There's also fun artwork around the facility. It's all got a sense of whimsy which really helps for the kids.

So after this great visit - I had to sign up and volunteer! Luckily my office has exactly 12 people - so it was the perfect size for the Taste of Hope program.

 Here we are - what a great looking group! 

First we watched a quick video about these two adorable kids with the same condition that met at RMH and have become a great support system for each other.

We got to cooking and prepping - and I learned a trick. Push a hard boiled egg through a metal cooling grate and you've got the perfect salad bar egg prep! Way quicker than slicing and dicing!
Big Boss Man was on grill duty but then it was his turn for the tour so I finished up the grill duty. We started the chicken on the grill to get the sear on the outside and then finishing them in the oven.
We split up and did all sorts of duties around the kitchen. Audrey was prepping these delicious pretzels from Servaatis.

Tim manned the cooktop and prepped the walleye - wooooo it was HOT! He was an excellent chef.

I started grilling asparagus but the heat from the grill was kicking my butt so Eric volunteered to jump in and show me up in 3...2...1. Fancy old asparagus flipping!

You might also be wondering about the time commitment - for lunch it goes from 10-2, dinner is 4-8 and brunch is 8-12. After you prepare and serve lunch, you get to eat it as well. We were very happy because Graeters was on the menu for dessert! #WINNING

Then we topped the grilled walleye with water chestnuts, red peppers and a lemon rosemary butter sauce.

And here are our final dishes - grilled chicken with peppers...

Grilled walleye with a lemon rosemary butter sauce...

and grilled asparagus. I mean - fancy right? Way better than having spaghetti 4 nights a week!

Here was our favorite moment of the day when our host was checking someone in and we looked down and noticed they had matching shoes. Like exactly matching! It was a fun moment to bond with one of the patients!

There are still plenty of options in June to volunteer (scroll to the bottom to see the calendar) - so I urge you - dare I say CHALLENGE you to create a team and help out Ronald McDonald House. Work at a small company? Tell your boss it's a really affordable and fun team building opportunity for just $250! Work at a big company? Submit a proposal for your team to do it! (Every big company has teams - right?!) Have a group of friends? Ask them if they want to get some good mojo and have a fun lunch or dinner and do some good!

Ronald McDonald House does amazing work and they need you to keep doing that amazing work. It's a really fun experience - I hope you'll join in!

Product Review: Mean Green Cleaners

This post is sponsored by Mean Green but all opinions are my own. 

Okay - first of all - how fun is this guy? 
He looks so ominous and yet adorable! 

So here's the thing - I cook and when I cook - I'm a slob. I just have to focus on the food and the ingredients and keeping track of the dogs to make sure they're not stealing anything - that trying to keep it clean along the way just doesn't happen. Messes happen. 

But I'm glad to have been introduced to Mean Green Cleaning products! They are the #1 heavy duty cleaner and I am going to put them to the test as a Brand Ambassador! 

They have a wide variety of products:

* Super Strength - this cleans everything from fabric to concrete and is THE GREASE CUTTER!
* Mildew Destroyer - duh - it cleans mildew! It's also effective against Salmonella and Stephylococcus in just 30 seconds!
* Anti-Bacterial - this lemony scented blast of cleaning power kills bacteria and viruses in 10 minutes but doesn't contain bleach, harsh acids or phosphates
* Orange Champ - this multi-purpose, multi-surface cleaner is tops for grease AND even works on laundry stains! (Did I mention I spill on myself too?)

They've had independent studies done too - it really is the best! Check it out!

I'm already putting Mean Green to the test around my house. Here's a hint of what's to come!

For now - I will leave you with a coupon for Mean Green so you can try it for yourself. You can find Mean Green at Kroger, Family Dollar, Walmart, Lowe's and Dollar General.

Food Hussy Recipe: Healthy Lemon Blueberry Donuts (1 WW Point, Egg-free!)

I'm always looking for dessert recipes that are egg-free with my allergic husband. I also had some blueberries from my friends at Green Bean Delivery (see the special offer to the right!) that I needed to use up! 

I'm also on Weight Watchers now and am trying to be good about what I eat so I had to find something healthy! There's a famed "Weight Watchers Cake" recipe that floats around and it's egg-free, low calorie and low-fat so I had to give it a whirl!

It's super easy - cake mix (any kind you want) + Sprite Zero (or Diet 7Up). I wanted to add blueberries to it because lemon & blueberries are a natural pairing.

I bought a 2 liter and just measured out 12 ounces (1.5 cups) - there is a warning to this though...

This stuff gets SUPER FROTHY!!! Frothy like you can't imagine! As you see I added the blueberries in at this point - but they all sink so if I had it to do over - I would wait and just add them to the pan.


 Then I just spooned the batter into my mini-donut pans. And - since the blueberries were all on the bottom - I spooned them out and dropped them evenly across the pans.

You can make these into cakes, cupcakes, donuts, etc - whatever you have pans for! The smaller and more individual the items, the less baking time. So just keep an eye on them.

The cake is very very spongy - so it can be a little sticky. It's sweet enough that you really don't need anything but you can top it with a little sugar free Cool Whip if you like.
Lemon Blueberry Donuts - 1 WW Smart Point! 

1 box Lemon Cake Mix
1 can of Sprite Zero
1 container blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix cake mix and Sprite Zero - gets frothy
3. Spray donut pan with nonstick spray
4. Fill donut pan with Sprite/Cake mix
5. Drop blueberries in all your donuts
6. Bake for 15-25 minutes - check frequently - really depends on the size of your donut pans. Mine were minis so they didn't take as long.

Restaurant Review: Wendy's Power Up Mediterranean Chicken Salad

The folks at Wendy's sent me a gift card to try their new Power Up Mediterranean Chicken Salad and I wanted to let you guys know about it too! 


Here's the nutrient-rich, protein-packed fuel you need to power through your day. Always-fresh-grilled chicken teams up with a savory ensemble of feta cheese, hummus, and sundried tomato quinoa blend to take this salad to the next level. This product is available at participating locations.

I'm on Weight Watchers and this salad is 13 points. I did leave off the croutons - I'm not a big fan and it just didn't need them. It also came with two small packets of light balsamic vinaigrette dressing and I only used one.

Why Should You Go? 

It's a good salad - not a great one. I like their BBQ chicken salad much better but that is 150 calories more (450 vs. 600) and 20 points vs. 13 (ouch). The chicken was really good - it was warm and cut into reasonable sized pieces. There were quite a few toppings as well but there wasn't a lot of any of them. The quinoa was barely noticeable but I really liked the hummus and feta. The hummus is unique in that it's more the consistency of ketchup but you can still taste it. The chicken was the best part - it's grilled and not at all dry.

All in all - a unique fast food salad for sure and I enjoyed it!

NYC: A Food Adventure!

I love New York. It's my absolute favorite place to visit. I recently had the chance to go for a work trip and was giddy about it! 

Once my plane landed, my bags were in my room - I was on a mission. A mission to just walk and eat and take pictures and SHOP! I love all the amazing artwork that is just everywhere! My phone battery was perennially almost dead for 3 days because I wouldn't stop taking pictures!

We were staying right near Little Italy - so that was my first stop - CANNOLI TIME! Turns out my nose knows where to go because I literally went to the same shop I went to maybe ten years ago (pre-Food Hussy). As soon as I walked in - I recognized the counter. The cannoli was just as delicious today as it was oh so many years ago. If you've never had one - it's a must! The shell is light and flaky and crispy and then the filling - it's creamy but not too sweet and not too cheesy. And let me say - a good cannoli should not be overwhelming - you should be able to devour it and not feel like you just ate a pound of butter. And Caffe Palermo has a great cannoli! 

I also stopped by Dean & Deluca and when you are a huge Seinfeld fan and you're in NYC and you see a slice of Cinnamon Babka - you must purchase it. It's not as good as the chocolate babka but it's still a babka - albeit the lesser babka. (It actually was just ok - but the Seinfeldian in me loved it.)

Caffe Palermo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After my belly was cannolified - I went shopping!!

I went to the Nike Lab and got Larry some new fancy kicks. He's not really into "fancy" kicks - but the clothes there were way to NYC hipster - so shoes it was. Then after getting him some shoes and my mom some salt & pepper shakers - I had to get something for me. And yes - those shiny shoes were it!! Oh how I love shiny. The best part is - they are SUPER comfy!!! Love love love! I have gotten so many compliments on them - and it's always fun to say, "Oh I got them in NYC!"

The first night - I met up with the girls that I was in town with for dinner at David Burke Kitchen. I tend to have a rule about dining in NYC - that I eat one really nice meal out ($100+) and then street food the rest of the time. But - I was with girls that weren't quite so food obsessed so I had to break my rule. booo.

I started out with some fruity drink with a salted rim - I can't remember what it was but it was tasty. I rarely drink but I figured NYC was an occasion to have a little fun.

We started with an assortment of bread and butter served up on a rock. Yeah - cuz that's NYC fancy there. It was fine bread - good varieties - very hard on the outside and soft on the inside - as bread should be.

I decided to share a couple of items with one of my friends (fellow blogger Angie Six) - we started with the house made ricotta ($12) and crostinis. It was fine - I guess I like ricotta but maybe not as much as I'd thought. It's creamy and was good on the bread but not something I would order again - not much flavor to it.

Another member of our group got the vegetarian chili and it looked very healthy with lots of veggies and legumes but I'm not sure she really liked it - she only ate a little bit.

The one definitely delicious part was the brussels sprouts and shallots side ($10) - worth every penny. Brussels sprouts are such a great veggie - kids hate 'em and then they grow up and figure out that if you don't boil them for 20 minutes - they're freakin awesome! Yeah for sprouts!

Another girl got the Goffle Road Farm Chicken Breast ($32) served with local organic rice pilaf (really they grow rice in NYC?), cranberries, charred scallion and rosemary-ginger broth. Looked good - these are new friends so it wasn't the "give me a bite so I can try it" friends.

I really don't know what I was thinking but I got the 28 day aged ribeye ($55) and shared it with a friend. It was fine but I can get steak in Ohio - I guess nothing on the menu was inspiring me too much. 

All in all - I was a bit disappointed in David Burke Kitchen and my rule stands. A meal under $100 in NYC is about like a $25 meal in Cincinnati. If you go - go all out - and go someplace fabulous like Daniel. Splurge - it's worth it. I ate there once and it was like 15 courses and a never ending stream of men coming and scraping crumbs and bringing silverware. The food was the most amazing I have ever had. Trust me. 

David Burke Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

That was all for that night but there were more nights ahead and more food!

We were also very close to Chinatown - which is another place of wonderment to explore and spend my hard-earned money! Now I've done the whole "follow a stranger into a hidden room and buy the "good" purses" - but this was about food - so off we went.
And as you're walking through Chinatown - you see all sorts of things - like shrimp, crabs and some sort of dead bird. I think it would be so much fun to live in NYC and shop at these little places - buying fresh shrimp and random dead birds!

We wanted Dim Sum but the official Dim Sum places were booked so we just walked around until we found someplace good.

We found Shanghai Cafe Deluxe and it was PACKED!!! Good sign! 

Emily was super excited to be eating Chinese food. It was so crazy packed. You walk in and you better have your whole party - then you sit where the slightly abrupt woman points. Then they add more rando people to your table until it's full. Then you order! And make it snappy!

We just started ordering a bunch of appetizers - and figured we would stop eating at some point. Steamed dumplings, fried dumplings, steamed buns and spring rolls. Bring 'em on! 

This is me and Candy Po snarfing our food. She's gonna so love me for sharing those pics! #ornot

I think these were the buns - basically everything all kind of tasted the same - little pouches with monkey meat inside. (Not really monkey - but that's what a friend of mine calls unnamed chunks of meat.) It was all delicious!

Seriously - delicious! these were the fried dumplings. OMG we just kept eating!!! We shared everything and just kept trying things. We didn't really know what we were eating but it was hot and yummy - so we kept going. We ordered everything at once but they brought things out as they were ready - every few minutes - new food!

The best part was the price. We felt like we ordered a ton of food and it was $20! Split between 5 of us! $4 each (plus tip). Seriously?! 

The best part was after we left - we saw another place two doors down that was completely empty. Shanghai was still packed with a line out the door. Apparently - we chose correctly!

Shanghai Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

At the beginning of the night we could not decide between Little Italy or Chinatown - so in the end - we decided what every red-blooded American would do - EAT BOTH!

Therefore, after our noshing on Chinese, we decided to seek out meat and tomatoes.

Little Italy is just as fun as Chinatown - with lights and people and stores and food and smells (good and bad) and dogs! I love seeing NYC-dwelling dogs and their people - it just seems so great to live in a city like this AND have a dog!

We settled on Parm - a very quaint, tiny place that was blaring some old school Eminem when we walked in. I'M HOME!

I got a side of meatballs ($14) - I absolutely love meatballs and have to get them anytime I'm somewhere authentic. They were delightfully delicious. Meatballs have to be meaty but not just a ball of hamburger. These were light and perfect. I killed them all. And the sauce - don't even get me started on the sauce!

Someone else got Italian Fries ($8) and spicy sauce ($1). This made no sense to me. They have potatoes in Ohio, Indiana and Georgia (where we were all from) - why would you get french fries in NYC? But they did and I tried them - of course a little olive oil, parmesan cheese and salt never make anything bad!

I did get garlic bread ($7) plus fresh ricotta ($3). The garlic bread - so good - light, crispy, seasoned and it disappeared into my belly so quickly!

The fresh ricotta was fine - more seasoned than David Burke - and delightful when used as a topping.

So there's our teenie tiny table filled with plates and me killing some garlic bread, ricotta and marinara! I was killing it!

The girls split a S'mores Ice Cream cake ($12) - I did sneak a bite of this cuz duh - how could you not?! I will always choose Savory over Sweet so I was more than content killing the meatballs and garlic bread but the ice cream cake was a big hit! 

Again - big score here! So yummy!

Parm Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Then we're walking back to our hotel and Candy said she'd heard about a place that only serves rice pudding. Cuz in NYC - that happens - supposedly we were close and now - we were on a mission.

And we found Rice to Riches - with many flavors of rice pudding and lots of sarcasm to go around. The rice pudding was kind of expensive at $8 for a small container. I really don't like rice pudding but decided to at least try a bite - so I went for the Coconut Cream and it was really good. If it had been $3 - I would have gotten some - but not $8.

But I did make purchases. Their signs and magnets are HILARIOUS!!! Seriously - I was laughing and laughing as I looked through them.

My favorite sign was on the way out. Jesus loves you, but I'm his favorite. Duh. 

Rice To Riches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After the crew had their rice pudding - we headed back to the hotel and then... (oh boy - more food) - we saw a window with a girl sticking her head out selling cupcakes!! It was like Two Broke Girls came to life right in front of us!!

Inside the window was Baked by Melissa - she was selling bite size cupcakes for $1. How can you not buy food that costs $1? And then - how can you not buy 6 of them? They were really great and threw in extras for my crew that laughed at me. But you see I didn't have the rice pudding so I could have cupcakes - right?! I mean - I didn't get the ice cream cake - I didn't get the rice pudding - I needed the cupcakes. 

Baked By Melissa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So there you have it - my culinary adventures in NYC. There was a little more but these were the highlights. I did stop at a pasta store and took home some dried pasta and bought some fresh sauce without realizing that I had no refrigerator in my room. So yes - I got ice from the machine in my hotel and set the sauce in the ice. And then - the morning I was leaving - I sat in my room and ate marinara sauce with a plastic spoon in my hotel room. And it was delicious.

So when you get to NYC - explore, try new things and EAT!