Caravia Fresh Foods

Catering to the “Old Country” Spirit

An Italian Family Tradition You’ll Savor

Caravia Fresh Foods

A weekly trip to the Italian deli with my grandmother, a Southern Italian immigrant, is a tradition I cherish. She brought her love for fresh whole food with her when she emigrated from Guardia Lombardi to Northeastern Pennsylvania in the early 1920s.

Sadly, my Grandma died more than three decades ago but Caravia Fresh Foods, an Italian specialty store, sandwich shop, and deli in Clarks Summit, PA, is a trip down memory lane every time I shop there. Their innovative menu embodies true Italian spirit with made-to-order sandwiches on hearty bread or wraps, a choice of soups, sides, salads, and desserts.

Taking my sons to Caravia is a treat for them and me. Joe Cognetti and his family founded Caravia in 2004 as a means to honor their Italian heritage through Joe’s grandmother, Michelena Caravia, from San Mango, Calabria, Italy. Joe and his son, Ryan, and cousins Peter and Marianne, all share the same goal – to build on their tradition of large family meals with plenty of fresh Italian dishes. First came the prepared foods department followed by the grocery section where they introduced a wide range of imported Italian specialties and an organic produce section that inspires their customers to eat healthy well-balanced meals. Caravia’s success is attributed to the undivided attention they give to each customer who enters their store.

What is a true Italian spirit?

Traditionally, it’s family gatherings with an abundance of fresh dishes derived from responsibly sourced farm-to-table food. That’s what Joe Cognetti and his family envisioned and the family has held true to its mission since day one. Caravia has become so well-known, that on any given day, you’ll find travelers from the tri-state area stopping by for lunch and groceries.

Looking to stock your refrigerator and pantry with gourmet foods? The produce section is brimming with your favorite greens and vegetables from the top growers. Dress those greens with a selection of the best-known cheeses, prime soppressata and prosciutto, and other delectable cured meats. Prepare your next course with pasta, sauces, olive oil, and vinegar, and be sure to bring home a loaf of fresh-baked bread. They’re baked in Italian bakeries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Caravia is also the home to outstanding cookies, rugelach, pumpkin and banana, and other seasonal bread so you can top off every meal with more sweet reminders of your visit to Caravia.

View the sandwich, catering, and holiday menus at Caravia Fresh Foods, 1151 Northern Boulevard, Clarks Summit, PA.

Many thanks to Caravia Fresh Foods for sponsoring the Mozart Calms with Heather Schmid article. Take a break from your busy day and listen to Heather’s exclusive operatic performance of Una donna a quindici anni from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

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Mozart Calms with Heather Schmid

Mozart Calms with Heather Schmid

A Return to Classical Roots: Mozart Arias for Living

An Interview with Heather Schmid

This article is sponsored by Caravia Fresh Foods, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania U.S.A.
Caravia Fresh Foods

When the world shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, like many people, Heather Schmid lost her job. Her shows and live performances were canceled and she struggled to achieve a balance with reinventing her music career and making sure her kids were safe and educated. “Heather Schmid Mozart for Coping” illustrates how this Boston Massachusetts-based American musical artist and composer found comfort in her classical roots.

Mozart Calms with Heather Schmid

“We’ve all been through a lot in the past year. Handling a global pandemic requires resilience and coping mechanisms. One really helpful coping mechanism is music,” Schmid says. “Listening to Mozart passively in the background while going about your day does seem to help things run smoothly.”

Heather Schmid, International Opera Singer and Pop-Rock Star

Heather is an American GRAMMY member international recording artist, classically trained singer, musician, lyricist, television host, spokesperson, and philanthropist. She’s also the first-ever international artist to perform in many cities of China. Her pop-rock shows draw crowds upwards of 10,000 seats in arenas in China, India, UAE, Pakistan, and Europe. Her television show, “The Ambassador,” draws 200 million viewers worldwide on CCTV 9.

As she describes below in our interview, she returned to the Soundwave recording studio during the pandemic and found comfort and healing through Mozart’s operas while she recorded her latest album, “Heather Schmid Mozart Arias.” Heather graciously performed a Mozart Aria, “Una donna a quindici anni,” in an exclusive video she created for

Buy her latest album on using the link below. “Music for Healing” “Heather Schmid Mozart Arias.”

The Interview 

You have a varied repertoire from classical to pop music. Tell us how your music career evolved.

Beginning in middle school I started training in classical music because I lived close to Hartt School of Music. We had access to some very talented classical training teachers. Also, our high school music program was very strong; we competed in all of the local music competitions. It was such a solid foundation that I was prepared to sing in many genres. I graduated as a classically trained opera singer from Boston University but I have a personal interest in many other styles of music. After I graduated, I won the Miss Millennium International pageant and that began my pop dance music career which evolved to more international performances. As I traveled and performed more in Asia, I began to utilize my classical training. After five pop music albums, I am so glad to return to my classical roots.

Heather Schmid returned to her classical roots after five pop music albums. All submitted photos courtesy of Heather Schmid.

How does music help us handle daily stress and heal?

We’ve all been through a lot in the past year. Handling a global pandemic requires resilience and coping mechanisms. One really helpful coping mechanism is music. Listening to Mozart passively in the background while going about your day does seems to help things run smoothly. Just like what the recent study showed that driving while listening to classical music produced less driving accidents and road rage. Some people also listen to Mozart to help them fall asleep at night time.

What effect does music have on you and what does Mozart’s music have over other composers?  

The classical era, particularly the classical and baroque era of music has been found to have specific effects on the brain. It has an organizing effect to our neurological functions. The “Mozart Effect” was studied a lot in the early 2000s and countless albums were created because of this research. Mozart was a musical genius of his time. His music is composed in a way that our electrical impulses and brainwaves respond positively. That’s why many people listen to Mozart while studying because it helps our brain stay on track and stay focused. Likewise, when we are a feeling a little anxious listening to Mozart helps even out the electrical impulses in our brain.

Describe the feelings you had when you returned to the recording studio to produce “Heather Schmid Mozart Arias.” Were you away from your studio throughout COVID-19.

Like many people, I had a hard time at the beginning of the pandemic. I essentially lost my job as many people did. All of my performances and live shows were canceled. And dealing with homeschooling on the first few months of the pandemic like many other moms, I struggled with the balance in reinventing my career and making sure my kids were safe and educated. I did visit the Soundwave recording studio as a way of personal healing, and I continued to finish Mozart Arias while really enjoying the process; and I thought that if this is healing for me, it may be as well for other people going through the same things.

How did your classical fans react to your pop-dance debut and your albums “Close Your Eyes,” “The Goddess Within,” and “The Goddess Awaits?” How do you shift gears from classical to pop?

The fundamentals have to be there vocally, you need to have a really solid vocal technique in order to shift musical styles. If you have a strong technique, many styles are available to you. It’s just about singing healthy, remembering your breathing. A lot of my international fans are honestly less interested in classical music and that’s okay with me. I produced this album in hopes to bring some relaxation and healing in the best way I know how.

Your bio notes you are a Grammy member international recording artist, a classically trained singer, musician, lyricist, television host, spokesperson, and philanthropist. How do you allocate your time?

Well I have gotten really interested in habit tracking, keeping a schedule and a journal and I have a massive calendar in my office. I don’t know if I balance everything well but I do try to take advantage of the opportunities I have.  It is always extremely important for me that every show benefits a local charity. That helped me connect with my values and has always been a real priority for me.

Heather Schmid performs internationally
Heather’s Miss Millennium International Pageant win launched her pop dance music career.

With 294K Facebook followers, 2.9M YouTube views, 18.4k followers on Instagram, and 6k on Twitter, you obviously post content that appeals to your audiences. What is your opinion about the power of social media?

Social media is extremely powerful. It allows us to connect to the rest of the world in just one click. It is important for me to use my influence in social media to always inspire people and to always spread kindness and positivity to the world. Many of my fans are in Asia so it’s the best way to stay connected. In many ways social media brings us into each other’s living rooms and it’s the best way to stay close.

What is your favorite destination and where do you hope to go post-COVID?

I have really missed performing internationally. My husband’s family is from Pakistan and I feel really close to the country. So, I look forward to returning to see them and have delicious spicy food.

What is your focus for the near and distant future?

Next weekend I have my first live performance in one year. I am performing Una Donna for Easter Sunday. It looks like for the summer, many live performance places are opening back up and I am so happy to be offered opportunities to perform Mozart Arias throughout summer. I will also continue to do more research with Neuroscience Media Group about studying how music affects the brain.

Before we close our interview, I would love to know about your role as Miss Millennium.  

In high school and college, beauty pageants were a vehicle to share classical music; I had local titles, and the prize money helped pay for college. On the same weekend of my graduation at Boston University, my best friend and I went to compete at the Miss Millennium International pageant in Las Vegas. I was lucky enough to win a new car, a Kia Sportage, and a Wednesday Nights show opening for theaters in Las Vegas. I am grateful for the beauty pageant opportunities even if my feelings about the events themselves have evolved.

Relax as you watch Heather Schmid perform Una donna a quindici anni from Cosi fan tutte, one of Mozart’s 22 operas. Leave a note for Heather in the YouTube comments section.

An exclusive performance video by Heather Schmid

Article Sponsored by Caravia Fresh Foods

Many thanks to my sponsor, Caravia Fresh Foods. Learn more about what makes Caravia so special and why this Clarks Summit Italian specialty store and full-service deli is always busy. Read the article here.
Learn more about Heather Schmid at

Disclaimer: One or more of the links on this page is an affiliate link. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase.

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10 Top Lunch Box Hacks

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  • April 2, 2021
Hormel Top 10 Lunchbox Hacks

Healthy Wholesome Lunches for Kids


Hormel Top 10 Lunchbox Hacks
“Wholly Guac” is one of the Top 10 Lunchbox Hacks for back-to-school. Photo courtesy of Hormel Foods.

Do your lunches run out of steam a week or two into the school year? If so, you’re not alone. We quickly learn when our children are pleased with the lunches we’ve packed.

When my oldest son was a high school sophomore, a squirrel gave away my son’s deep, dark lunch secret. He (the squirrel) emerged from under our deck with a full bologna sandwich in its mouth. Apparently, my son chucked the sandwich under the deck upon his return from school. The squirrel was quite pleased with his afternoon snack, but I was not.

Create Simple, Wholesome Lunches

Tanya Rodriguez, Hormel Foods cultural anthropologist, said consumers frequently ask her for simple, wholesome lunch ideas.

“I spend a lot of time inside the homes of families all over the country,” Rodriguez said.

Her list of hacks will not only make lunch fun for kids. Even the youngest and pickiest palettes will appreciate tasting a new variety of foods and flavors.

As kids across the country start heading back to school for the upcoming school year, Hormel Foods Corporation (NYSE: HRL), is providing its top “lunch box hacks” of the year to help simplify weekly school lunch and snack time preparation, all while adding some fun surprises when students open their lunch bags. As a travel writer, these ideas are also perfect for feeding your children’s hunger pangs while traveling.

The following list of “lunchbox hacks” has been tested by the company’s culinary experts who developed these fun and stress-free lunches using tasty options.

Lunch Box Hacks

  1. Use a paper straw for a fun twist on a sandwich. Cut meat, cheese, and bread into fun shapes with cookie cutters and slide the shapes onto the straw.
  2. Use waffles, pancakes or bagels instead of bread for a nice change of pace.
  3. Use a frozen Wholly Guacamole® mini as an ice pack to keep your lunch cold. It will be thawed by lunchtime and you can dip your veggies or chips in the guacamole.
  4. Cut large CHI-CHI’S® flour tortillas with a small cookie cutter round to make mini tacos and then use silicone muffin liners to create a build your own taco bar.
  5. Place guacamole, salsa or peanut butter in the bottom of a jar, add veggies and cover with jar lid to save on containers.
  6. For PB&J sandwiches, put the peanut butter on both slices of bread. It keeps the jelly from seeping into the bread of the sandwich and getting soggy by lunchtime. Or for a fun twist on the PB&J, check out the new SKIPPY® P.B. Fruit Bites.
  7. Use muffin liners to keep foods separate in lunch boxes. Silicone muffin liners work especially well.
  8. Wrap a cheese stick with meat and a tortilla then slice it for a new twist on a sandwich.
  9. Build a salad in a disposable beverage glass. Place a fork through the cut out in the lid for a salad on the go.
  10. Write secret messages on bananas. Use a toothpick to write the message like I heart U or U R Beautiful or U R GR8.

What’s great about these lunchbox hacks is parents and kids can prepare the lunches together with everyday items found in most homes and add a wide variety of Hormel Foods brands to the mix. 

ABOUT HORMEL FOODS — Inspired People. Inspired Food.™

Hormel Foods Corporation is a global branded food company based in Austin, Minn. The company has over $9 billion in annual revenues across more than 80 countries worldwide and its brands include these well-known names: SKIPPY®, SPAM®, Hormel® Natural Choice®, Applegate®, Justin’s®, Wholly Guacamole®, Hormel® Black Label®, Columbus ®. Hormel is a member of the S&P 500 Index and the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats and was named one of “The 100 Best Corporate Citizens” by Corporate Responsibility Magazine for the 10th year in a row. Numerous other awards and accolades for its corporate responsibility and community service efforts reflect the company’s commitment to producing quality foods. In 2016, Hormel celebrated its 125th anniversary and announced its new vision for the future — Inspired People. Inspired Food.™ — focusing on its legacy of innovation. For more information, visit

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The Lodge at Woodloch: a decade of recipes

  • By
  • March 30, 2021

Are you looking for recipes that use organic and homegrown vegetables and herbs? From culinary to made-from-scratch beauty fixes, The Lodge at Woodloch cookbook offers pages of healthful meals and recipes you can prepare today, tomorrow, and in the coming weeks. Don’t waste your bountiful harvest!


follow nature’s lead with seasonal recipes

Do you have a passion for nature?

You can cultivate your own well-being in much the same way you would improve or refine your garden using ingredients harvested from nature.

“NURTURE with NATURE: Seasonal Recipes for Body, Beauty and Healing,” a cookbook brought to you by The Lodge at Woodloch, is more than a collection of recipes.  It’s a “guidebook” that provides directives for anyone who seeks to discover or restore that delicate balance between living and thriving. NURTURE with NATURE is a culmination of a decade of guests’ favorite recipes.

Guests arrive at The Lodge at Woodloch, an award-winning spa destination located in the Lake region of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, knowing they will leave rejuvenated with their souls enlivened. During your stay, you will immediately understand why the lodge draws customers from near and far. Each moment of your visit is a celebration of life and come mealtime; after hiking, fly fishing, a painting or yoga class, or a spa treatment, a diverse array of dishes await you in the Tree Restaurant and Bar.

This recipe book is a celebration of the miracles of Mother Earth and her ability to provide our earth with a wide spectrum of seasonal foods, herbs and nutrients that enhance our well-being.

NURTURE with NATURE is a collaborative effort of The Lodge at Woodloch executive chef Josh Tomson and his team; Amanda Clabaugh, treatments’ manager, beverage recipes from Leslie Britt and Cindy Wasilewski, and Nathaniel Whitmore, master herbalist. Readers will find Pantry Clean-Up, Choosing Foods for the Season, a Food Rainbow, as well as more than 100 recipes. Much credit is also due to Andrea Killam, the photographer, and creative director, whose photos depict the calming environment at the lodge.

If you’ve never visited The Lodge at Woodloch, you are missing an opportunity to experience a world-renowned, adults-only spa resort destination and a culinary wonderland. The recipe book only scratches the surface of the locally-sourced, garden-to-table cuisine you will find.

As I perused the pages of NURTURE with NATURE, I made my list of must-have ingredients so I could begin to sample several of the recipes. Most of the ingredients are readily available at your local farmers’ market or in the organic herbs, fruits and vegetables sections of many grocery “superstores” or online. A few of the offerings are “crispy trout with wild leeks,” “oyster mushroom & homemade ricotta flatbread,” and “brown rice veggie burger.” You should also reap the benefits of the renewal beauty and healing recipes, which are also arranged according to the season. Try the spring “Calming Banana Mask” to soothe and smooth your winter-weary complexion and the “softening hand and foot scrub” before sandal weather is in full swing.

I’ve been a guest at The Lodge at Woodloch and Woodloch Pines, two properties owned and managed by the Kiesendahl family. Rest assured, you will be pampered by your hosts.

NURTURE with NATURE was published in December 2016 and you can purchase a copy on Amazon by clicking on this link:


See what’s happening at The Lodge at Woodloch, an award-winning spa destination in the Lakes region of the Pocono Mountains.


A link on this page is an affiliate link. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase but at no additional cost to you. I have experience with all of these companies and by linking to their product or a party that sells their products, I recommend the product based on their helpful and useful nature, and definitely not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.

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Desert-Inspired Yoga Practice

Healthy Ways to Release Stress and Find Peace

Noa Raman, a certified Yoga instructor, and StandWithUs.TV producer teaches participants breathing and postures

Dead Sea Desert-Inspired Yoga Practice
As a central location for health research, the Dead Sea offers several health benefits due to the water’s mineral and low allergen content. Researchers have found the mud is high in calcium and potassium, two minerals your skin needs to stay young and healthy. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

As the world recovers from pandemic fatigue, it is more important than ever to find a healthy way to release stress and find peace. Noa Raman, a certified yoga practitioner, and StandWithUs.TV producer led a desert-inspired yoga practice and meditation on Feb. 16, 2021, from her Tel Aviv studio. The session opened with a brief meditation that set the tone for the relaxing yoga postures that followed.

“During the pandemic, I have learned that sharing my yoga and meditation practice gives me and the students I work with a moment of stillness that is always there if we give ourselves the time and space to return to their breaths.”

Noa Raman

Yogis of all levels celebrated tranquility in the comfort of their homes as the wellness and beauty series came to a close. Israel Ministry of Tourism, AHAVA, Tamar Regional Council, and Israel Land of Creation presented the Zoom event as part of their third and final “Exploring Wellness in the Israeli Desert and Dead Sea” webinar. Representatives of Six Senses Shaharut, a new wellness resort scheduled to open in September 2021, and AHAVA, Dead Sea Mineral Skin Care Products, kicked off the webinar with an emphasis on the beauty of the desert and the Dead Sea.

Masada (“fortress” in Hebrew) is a mountain complex in Israel in the Judean desert that overlooks the Dead Sea.
Masada, a fortress on the mountain in the Judean desert, is a UNESCO world heritage site that overlooks the Dead Sea. Photo was taken by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Before moving to Israel in June 2018, Noa was a member of the StandWithUs’ campus team for three years as a mentor to college students in the Northwestern United States as an advocate for Israel and to combat Anti-Semitism. After making Aliyah, (immigrating to Israel by herself), she joined the StandWithUs Israel team as the Director of International Delegations and Birthright Israel Collaboration Enhancement Program (BICEP). She is the Producer of StandWithUs.TV, an educational platform that offers in-depth Israeli programming that viewers can access from the comfort of home or office.

The little things and moments matter so much. They take up more space than the big things. They create endless choices and possibilities.

Noa Raman
A girl enjoys the Dead Sea mud.
Spa and health treatments are available throughout the Dead Sea area. Photo taken by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Are you looking for a Yoga event to enhance your current practice, look into Yoga ARAVA, an annual event held in the Arava BeershebaIsrael settlements. The event offers in-depth yoga workshops amidst a breathtaking desert landscape with an emphasis on quality meditation and yoga practice. This year’s festival is scheduled for Thurs., Nov. 4, 2021, to Sat., Nov. 6, 2021.

Learn more about Yoga Arava events at

Read a yoga companion story here on

Disclaimer: The Amazon link on this page is an affiliate link. I will make a small commission if you purchase an item using this link at NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU.

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Lifestyle Recipe

Refried Beans Kosher-Style

Refried Beans Kosher Style with Quesadilla by Deep Flavors cookbook author Ken Horwitz

Southern Jewish Cooking with Ken Horwitz

Learn How to Top off a Quesadilla with Homemade Frijoles Refritos and prepare to have fun while watching Ken Horwitz create this healthier version from his Texas kitchen.

Featured Chefs From Around the World logo by Joan Mead-Matsui.

This Frijoles Refritos video and recipe come to you straight from Texas where Deep Flavors author, Ken Horwitz, turns his favorite foods into flavorful Kosher recipes. Be sure to watch the video on my landing page.

Deep Flavors A Celebration of Recipes for Foodies in a Kosher Style
Buy your copy of Deep Flavors, a cookbook that celebrates traditional and non-traditional Jewish food you can prepare in your kitchen with help from Kenneth M. Horwitz. Deep Flavors is available in hard copy and on Kindle. Click on the image or scroll down to the link to buy a copy of Ken’s book.

We hope you enjoy our first Chefs Creations From Around the World video presentation featuring “Deep Flavors” cookbook author Ken Horwitz. Scroll down to view the Refried Beans Kosher-Style recipe with cooking tips.

The Perfect Frijoles Refritos

Frijoles refritos Refried Beans are a common item on almost every plate in a Mexican restaurant, at least in Texas, and are common in many, if not most, Mexican households as a staple item. However, at the risk of being accused of blasphemy, I will state that they are, for the most part, so bland as to be inedible without substantial enhancement, at least to my taste.

In restaurants, I frequently mix in the spicy salsa to add flavor, if I eat them at all. However, at home, it is possible to make a much more enticing product that is worthy of the effort and quite delicious. It has the additional advantage of being a very inexpensive and healthy dish, although do not confuse beans with low-calorie diet food.

Quesadilla are a staple in Mexican cooking.
Vegan quesadillas with avocado and red pepper served with tomato salsa. Add a layer of homemade refried beans and you’ll have another shot of protein.

Despite the translation of the name refried beans, frijoles refritos can be made deliciously without any frying, with very little oil, and without any degradation of flavor (although that is not common practice among Mexican cooks, at least in Texas, who use Crisco, which is kosher, or lard, which is not kosher). The process is quite simple and produces a tasty and flavorful result that is not only kosher but is worthy of being eaten as a side dish or used as an enhancer—not just a filler—in soft tacos of every sort, as well as in Quesadillas (Chapter 12), Seven-Layer Dip (Chapter 5), and more.

7-Layer Dip is a favorite at parties. Homemade taste enhances the flavor of the dip with a homemade twist.
Package leftover refried beans in air-tight containers and freeze them. You’ll be glad you did when you have a hankering for a quick Mexican specialty meal.

This recipe can be easily multiplied. I make extra Refried Beans Kosher-Style with the plan to freeze the unused portion since this is a useful and delicious ingredient.

You can cook your own dried beans from scratch, but for this purpose, I think it is hardly worth the effort. Buy canned beans that have no additional flavorings at all. If you purchase already mashed refried beans, make sure that they are not flavored other than with salt and do not contain lard or other fat. Read the label carefully because many of these products use pork lard and other undesirable ingredients. A kosher product should not be hard to find. There are many brands with vegetarian refried beans available in their product lines.


2 (1-pound) cans plain whole beans (I prefer black beans for this use, although pinto or red beans are certainly good)—or ½ pound dried beans

1 small onion, diced

3–4 large cloves garlic

1 teaspoon commercial chili powder (I prefer McCormick’s flavor, but it is a matter of taste. Penzeys has a chili powder blend with a delicious flavor profile similar to McCormick’s, albeit somewhat more spicy, and two even more potent chili powder blends.)

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste

1 teaspoon thyme, or to taste

1 teaspoon oregano, or to taste

¼–½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder or some canned chipotle in adobo (extra can be frozen in a glass container and thawed for later use)

fresh chile such as jalapeño (optional)

1–2 dried guajillo chiles (optional), reconstituted in hot water, drained, seeded, and chopped, reserving the liquid to substitute for the water needed in the cooking process

about ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped


freshly ground black pepper


If using canned whole beans, put the beans into a strainer, and rinse thoroughly.

Lightly sauté the onion and garlic in a minimal amount of olive oil (less than a tablespoon). Add a commercial chili powder blend, ancho chile powder, chipotle chile powder (or canned chipotle chile in adobo), salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and thyme, all to taste. Cook very slightly to “bloom” the flavor of the spices.

A fresh, finely minced jalapeño is also a good addition. Remember to remove the seeds and ribs inside the pepper unless you want the heat, noting there is no lack of opportunity to add heat with other ingredients. Serrano chiles are somewhat spicier than jalapeños but have a significantly different flavor that I do not like. Chipotles (either as chile powder or canned in adobo) are delicious but quite spicy and should be added carefully. Ancho chile powder is less spicy and has a nice fruity flavor. Chipotles are, in essence, smoked, dried jalapeños and add a wonderful, very different smoky flavor to the dish but are spicier than fresh jalapeños. For 2 cans of beans, I never use more than 1 or 2 chipotle chiles if I use the canned version rather than powder. Taste as you add because chipotles are quite spicy.

Different chiles have very different flavors, not just different heat levels. Some TV chefs will use bell peppers (which are, of course, a type of chile) in substitution of, for example, poblano peppers, but the bell pepper flavor profile is just wrong for most Mexican food.

Next add the drained and washed canned beans (or, if you are cooking dried beans, your freshly cooked beans) to the pan with the spices. Add some filtered water—perhaps ½ cup or as needed. Mash with a potato masher to the desired texture. A blender or food processor would produce a wrong texture. Cook the mixture at medium heat to the desired thickness. If it is too thick, add water; if it is too thin, keep cooking, stirring constantly, evaporating water until it reaches the desired thickness, and adjusting as needed. Be careful to not burn the beans, as they will do so if you leave them unattended on the heat.

When desired texture is reached, add some finely chopped cilantro stems, and cook just to heat. I know that some people, such as my daughter, do not like cilantro, but it really adds a nice flavor that does not taste as cilantro in the final product. The finely chopped stems are soft and edible and have the same flavor as the leaves, some of which should be reserved for a more refined use such as a garnish or as a raw condiment in soft tacos.

I assure you these beans are anything but bland and are quite delicious.

Go Deep in Flavor

Deep Flavors is a perfect idea for that last-minute gift: sensational and detailed recipes such as the familiar but reimagined favorite, Deconstructed Turkey, designed to produce a perfectly cooked bird with bountiful sauce and stuffing every time, or the different, but delicious, Texas State Fair Blue Ribbon Winning Mushroom Spinach Lasagna, to unique and delectable desserts like Lemon Coconut Custard Cherry Pie, or a German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake, to advice on how to enhance ingredients (from asparagus and mushrooms to nuts), plus the many other eclectic recipes and ideas, all combine to make award-winning Deep Flavors a valued gift for your loved ones or friends who love to cook. See also the review of Deep Flavors in the New York Times:

Tips to Season to Perfection:

1.         Use mushrooms, especially wild porcini, trumpet, chanterelle, and morel mushrooms. There are many delicious domesticated mushrooms, from button mushrooms to shitake to portabello, etc., but yet do not have the same intensity of flavor. I buy dried wild mushrooms by the pound on the internet and while it may seem expensive to spend $35.00 on a pound of mushrooms, the reality is that you only use a couple of ounces at any one time (and mix with exotic, domestic or even plain button mushrooms), so the cost per recipe is really only a couple of dollars.

2.         Use herbs and spices generously in your cooking. The more you cook and the more you use herbs and spices, the more you will become familiar with their flavors and how they combine with other flavors. Dried herbs frequently have a much more intense flavor than fresh herbs: use both. For example, sweet basil is easy to grow and the flavor of fresh basil in a tomato sauce, on a salad, and elsewhere is incredible. There is nothing like fresh herbs to add flavor to fresh food. Just remember that many dried herbs have a more intense flavor, so use about 1/3 or so of the dried herbs as the fresh.

3.         Asparagus is an incredibly flavorful vegetable, and great to eat. However, it should be peeled to remove the stringy outside of the stem. Starting about two inches down from the tender tip peel towards the cut tip of the asparagus with one swipe of a vegetable peeler, turning the asparagus until you have gone completely around. Then, break off the bottom inch of the stem which remains woody. The entire asparagus is now delectable, and can be used with a minimal amount of cooking so that it stays green and succulent.

4.         Flavor can be created by browning ingredients before you assemble the recipe. For example, meats, mushrooms and vegetables like (onions and carrots) acquire great flavor by browning. The brown bits on the bottom of your pan are not burned, but are pure flavor. After you brown your meats or vegetables, use a liquid of your choice such as wine or stock to deglaze or remove the brown bits from the bottom and carry those flavor bits into the sauce that will be served with the dish.

5.         Always taste the dish as you proceed, adding salt as you go along, so that when the dish is served it will have a wonderful flavor. This is essential for many foods, but particularly grains, because if you do not salt as you are cooking, the salt will not get into the grains and you simply cannot add enough salt at the table: it is too late. Similarly, if you are going to cook a large piece of meat, salt the meat and allow the salt to be absorbed into the meat over a period of time. So, for example, if you are making a steak, salt the meat, put it into the refrigerator, and allow it to rest for several hours as the salt permeates throughout the meat. Again, simple, easy, and all it takes is a little bit of foresight.

Deep Flavors is a book celebrating recipes for foodies and vegetarians in a kosher-style. The emphasis is on how to cook for flavor while kosher, so the question may be raised by many readers who are not Jewish: Well, is this for me? Of course! Essentially kosher means food with (a) no pork; (b) no mixing milk and meat; and (c) no fish that does not have fins, scales, and gills, so no shellfish. That leaves a lot of possibilities! Learn more about Deep Flavors at

Need more cooking tips from Ken Horwitz? Read this companion article with more tips on how to make all of those Jewish recipes you had growing up.

Watch the video.

Learn Video Editing with Wondershare Filmora, the software I’ve used for years and trust.

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Book Review Lifestyle

Love Affair with Rome

Love Affair with Rome Mark Tedesco author

“She Seduced Me”

Love Affair with Rome Mark Tedesco author

Author Smitten by Relationships, Events, Culture, and History

California writer and teacher, Mark Tedesco, weaves his personal stories and interviews into his longing for Roman travel.

Mark Tedesco’s Love Affair with Rome began when he was nineteen. He was on his first soul-searching trip and soon discovered, once Rome becomes a part of you, there’s no turning back.

Mark Tedesco Love Affair with Rome She Seduced Me Travel Guide
Author Mark Tedesco seated in front of Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, Rome.

In fact, he used the word, “Magical” to describe the city of miraculous stories, monuments, and energy.

“As I stood in the piazza in front of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the book came to me like a lightning flash. Of course! What makes Rome unique are its stories! Every person, street corner, statue, and brick has its story. In this book, I wanted to tell some of these stories that make Rome…magical.”

Mark Tedesco, She Seduced Me (Interview with Joan Mead-Matsui)

You will also be enchanted as Mark projects his striking descriptions of the native Romans and tourists onto his readers in this glorious non-fiction collection of personal stories and interviews. “She Seduced Me” serves as both an essential travel guide and a personalized tour of Rome.

Sightseeing in Rome
Tourists flock to the famous Pantheon, a former Roman temple, now a Catholic church in Rome, Italy.

Join Mark as he takes you through the streets of Rome to the coveted historical sites, piazzas, and restaurants he discovered during his frequent trips. You’ll meander past all that makes Rome a cultural hub for the native Italians, Americans, and other foreigners who collectively, make this European city a treasure. Mark reveals the best places to eat, drink, and observe the culture at its finest.

His attention to detail and sense of curiosity have led him to uncover and define Rome not only from a tourist’s viewpoint but from a much deeper perspective. He said,

“Letting my feet guide me, rather than a book or a plan, through the streets of Rome has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Rome is full of surprises; from the street musician hidden in a small piazza, to a restaurant known only by locals, to a forgotten church filled with Renaissance art, to a broken column dating from the Roman Empire, all of these surprises await those who step out of their plans into the unexpected.”

Mark Tedesco

In Chapter 5, “Americans,” Mark comments on a question many tourists have pondered. Why are Americans so easily recognized in Italy?

“I speak Italian; some would even say I am fluent. Why is it that every time I address a shopkeeper or resident in Rome in Italian, they always respond in English? Other times, even before I open my mouth, they assume that I am American. What gives me away?”

Historical Sites in Rome
The Roman Forum was a hub of political and social activity among Roman citizens.

His answers and observations in each chapter, from “Stories, Saints, and Weirdos” to “Nocturnal Vatican,” will surprise you and yes, they will make you laugh. You can buy a copy of She Seduced Me: A Love Affair with Rome (published by dixi books) and prepare for your Italian adventure.


Mark Tedesco is a history teacher and a published author living in Los Angeles. He shares his love for mankind, history, and culture through his teaching and books. 

She Seduced Me: A Love Affair with Rome, is Mark’s most recent book; it is a travel guide of the best places to visit in Rome. Mark takes this book far beyond the typical travel guide with expat interviews and stories that will delight you. 

His first book “That Undeniable Longing – My Road to and from the Priesthood” is a memoir of his sojourn in Rome in a Vatican seminary leading to ordination. Readers have been taken aback by his honesty and integrity in recounting his journey. See the CNN program on Mark’s story.​

“I am John, I am Paul: A Story of Two Soldiers in Ancient Rome” is Mark’s second book; it is an historical novel, exploring the lives of two 4th century Roman soldiers.

“The Dog on the Acropolis” is another historical novel that Mark wrote, which brings the reader back to the era when the Acropolis in Athens was being built.

Learn more about Mark.

Read my “50 Places to Fly Fish Before You Die review here.

Looking for additional travel stories?

Don’t miss 50 Places to Fly Fish Before You Die.

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Joan Lifestyle

Bolete Bethlehem: Outstanding Dining

  • By
  • March 4, 2021
  • Sticky
Bolete Dinner

Indulge In Unhurried Dining

Bolete James Beard Foundation Semifinalist Nominee for


It’s no secret why Bolete Bethlehem draws crowds. An outstanding menu and a romantic atmosphere make this an ideal dining spot for guests who want to relax. It’s time for you to carve out time from your hurried life to experience this James Beard Foundation semifinalist nominee for “Outstanding Restaurant.”

Bolete Bethlehem ranks HIGH on my list of all-time favorite restaurants.

In the kitchen of a former stagecoach inn, Chef Lee Chizmar gets down to business preparing stocks, pasta, and sauces and planning his daily menu. The chef and his team prepare everything on-site and that personal touch is reflected in every morsel that appears on your plate.

View the menu here.

If you live in the Lehigh Valley region, you’re close enough to Bethlehem to plan an impromptu dinner date at Bolete [bo-leet], 1740 Seidersville Road but don’t let an hour or two drive stop you from experiencing one of the best meals you’ll have. When your travels lead you to the Lehigh Valley, add Bolete Bethlehem to your itinerary. My meal was superb.

Bolete Dinner Chef Lee Chizmar

Highly Recommended

My evening with the staff at Bolete evolved while I was a guest at The Sayre Mansion. I arrived in Bethlehem in the early afternoon and immediately, dinner was on my mind. My thoughts turned to a relaxing meal after settling in at the mansion. You might have experienced the confusion that comes with narrowing your dining options in a city with so many options. I’ve literally spent hours sifting through online menus. Who wants to do that, particularly when your day is jam-packed with sightseeing or business meetings? Bolete Bethlehem came highly recommended.

Fortunately, the management at The Sayer Mansion recommends Bolete and I made my reservation for 7 p.m. so the remainder of my day I could set up my tripod and camera gear, interview staff, or walk around town.

Bolete Bethlehem


In a world of fast food, diners looking for a relaxing meal will appreciate the leisurely atmosphere.


Prepare to be dazzled

Allow me to paint a picture of what you can expect to find at Bolete. Imagine a cozy family-owned restaurant housed in a former stagecoach inn on the outskirts of town. An accomplished chef and his wife own and manage this intimate fine-dining eatery who spent their life dreaming of opening a restaurant. A solid plan and diligence helped the couple build a business that caught the attention of the culinary world and landed them a spot in the running for one of the top awards. Chef Lee Chizmar and his wife, Erin Chizmar, were selected as semifinalists in the James Beard Foundation,  “Outstanding Restaurant” category.

Chef Lee commented,

“It was remarkable for our whole team to hear of the nomination. They each work tirelessly to make each guest’s experience great. And it was such an honor to be considered among those other industry titans.”

Paying HOMAGE to the Mushroom

Bolete Bethlehem James Beard Award Nominee

Bolete, or mushrooms, is one of the key ingredients Chef Lee adds to many dishes. If you’re not a fungi fan, you can request your meal without them.

Why mushrooms? Aside from the fact that Pennsylvania is the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” and an abundance of varieties make them a convenient choice, Chef Lee and mushrooms have had a long and interesting career.


“Mushrooms have been an integral part of each restaurant I’ve worked at in my career, so when we moved to PA (Pennsylvania) to open Bolete, it was a natural fit,” Chef Lee said.


If you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what I ordered, I began my dining with a first course: The menu description reads, “Liberty Gardens Mixed Greens (Salad) WITH 12 pickled local mushrooms, parmesan, sunflower seeds, cipollini, garlic sourdough crouton, mushroom “Caesar” vinaigrette” but I asked my server to hold the croutons because I limit my gluten intake. I didn’t leave so much as a sunflower seed on my plate and the subtle mushroom taste combined with the shaved parmesan is the perfect prelude to all of the second-course options. I decided on the Cast Iron Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops, hand-rolled gnocchi, local mushrooms, bacon, swiss chard, Burgundian snails, parsley, and porcini puree.

The Decor: A Meeting of Rustic and Romantic

The former Stagecoach Inn sits at the crossroads of a busy intersection so, after sunset, passers-by can catch a glimpse of the soft glow of romantic lighting coming from the windows. My first reaction, as I found my parking spot in the on-site lot, was “Oh, this is perfect.”

You, on the other hand, might wonder why you’ve never dined at Bolete. Once you’re inside, the history and the unpretentious antiquity speak to you. Anyone with an affinity for history will appreciate Chef Lee and Erin’s choice of casual seating in the bar area or the dining room and their collection of carved wooden mushrooms in each of the windowsills. Softly candle-lit dining areas and a memorable meal await you at Bolete.

Bolete Restaurant Celebrates Mushrooms


The woodsy flavor of mushrooms is an integral part of Chef Lee’s menu.

Make your reservation online.


My meal was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experience.

If you’re in the Harrisburg, PA area, learn more about Bricco here



Wondering What to Wear to Dinner? Get Help from Your Personal Shopper.



Thanks to Wondershare Filmora, I’m able to create videos for my travel clients featuring  the fun I have on my travel assignments. Learning to format videos gave birth to my Joan Matsui Travel Writer YouTube channel. 

Contact me for more information about how you can highlight your business. 

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Love Aboard a Cruise Ship

Love Aboard a Cruise Ship Podcast with guest, Tanya Zaufi

The Everything, Everywhere, Travel Writer Podcast – Episode 5 with Tanya Zaufi, Author and Travel Expert

Join Joan Mead-Matsui, Everything, Everywhere, Travel Writer Podcast host as she interviews Tanya Zaufi, “All Over The Map” author and travel expert.

Love Aboard a Cruise Ship Podcast with guest, Tanya Zaufi


Join travel podcast host, Joan Mead-Matsui, for Love Aboard a Cruise Ship in the Everything, Everywhere, Travel Writer Podcast, Episode 5 with guest, Tanya Zaufi

Love Aboard a Cruise Ship? Absolutely! Listen to Episode 5 and you’ll discover how my guest, Tanya Zaufi, met the man of her dreams while working on a cruise ship. Her story of how she met the handsome pastry chef who stole her heart is rich with romance and love and packed with advice and tips on how to keep your love relationship healthy. She also shares details about many of the destinations she visited throughout her career.

Create your own romantic playlist with amazon music. 

One or more of the links on this page are affiliate links. I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item or subscribe to a service. 

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National Geographic Travel Deals

National Geographic Travel Deals

Unique Lodges of the World

The Best Trips with Travel Experts to Guide You

See what National Geographic Travel Deals await you.

There is travel and there is TRAVEL with opportunities for hands-on engagement and exploration. If world-class accommodations, combined with discovery and intimate encounters with lesser-known parts of the world is your idea of the perfect vacation, get your hands on a copy of “National Geographic: Unique Lodges of the World.”

I can’t make up my mind if I’m more impressed by the guide’s brilliant photography and insightful interpretations or the partnership and mission of National Geographic and the lodge owners. Together, they have teamed up to celebrate nature and cultures and preserve the environment, while at the same time, providing a genuine educational environment where children and adults can learn and explore.

Throughout this 123-page guide, you’ll find a page dedicated to each of the 120 select National Geographic endorsed lodges from North America to Austrailia and the Pacific. The lodges were selected because of their commitment to sustainable practices and support for natural and cultural heritage. A full description of the lodge’s history and its contribution to the environment, “About This Lodge” and “Things To Do” bulleted lists, a brief “Why We Love This Lodge” narrative, and details of a complimentary “National Geographic Exclusive Experience” guests are at your fingertips in a clear-cut format.

From a Canadian island retreat to a Costa Rican Eco Lodge, find the best National Geographic Travel Deals and the world’s most spectacular accommodations.

  • Fogo Island Inn, Canada.
  • Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa.
  • Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru.
  • Kapari Natural Resort, Greece.
  • Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco.
  • Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica.
  • Lizard Island, Australia.
  • Longitude 131°, Australia.

Support National Geographic travel deals because they benefit the environment and other initiatives. When you book your trip through Natural Geographic, a portion of the proceeds from all travel programs make a difference in our world. If you’re looking for a dream trip, the travel specialists are available to help you plan each leg of your journey. or call +1-312-940-7404

The Lodge at Woodloch: A decade of recipes

Read the full post at

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