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Autumn Olives Ketchup

I’ll be the first to admit that COVID social distancing has caused me to do some weird stuff…I’ve learned about paw paws and foraged for them and made several batches of muffins, I’ve made life-changing lemon muffins from yellow squash, I’ve painted a section of my living room purple, I got a cat…I could go on. Perhaps the strangest so far, to me, is autumn olives. I first heard about autumn olives about a month ago on a Facebook foraging group that a friend added me to after I started getting weird. That post took me down a couple hours-long Google hole as I researched all about autumn olives and what you can do with them. I decided I was going to try foraging for autumn olives and make ketchup!

One of the things I learned is that autumn olives are best after it has hard-frosted. Lucky for me <<sarcasm>> I live in the part of NY where it frosts early (but then gets to be 80 degrees during the day so you never know how to dress!). After three nights of frost, I figured it was time to go look for some autumn olives. I had heard there were a bunch growing down by the lake. I laced up my walking shoes and headed out on my quest. It’s beautiful by our lake – check out this funky driftwood lean-to I walked by. Even cooler, it had a Little Lending Library next to it…in the middle of nowhere…so super cool!

After about a half mile, I found some! Keep in mind, I had never seen an autumn olive before…I just had a couple of photos from the internet to search with. This is an autumn olive tree:

My recipe said I needed 4 cups of autumn olive pulp for ketchup, so I picked about 4 cups or so of autumn olives. It took me about a half hour. After that, I decided it was so gorgeous, I should get my 3 miles in for the day. I have to tell you I jumped off this bridge at least 1,000 times when I was a kid, and I camped in the park across from the autumn olives stash every summer. The lighthouse wasn’t there, but it’s a great addition!

Feeling absolutely fantastic and accomplished, I headed home to make ketchup!

So the first step to making ketchup is to run the autumn olives through a food mill. I don’t have a food mill, so I simmered them for about 3 minutes with a little water and smooshed them through a sieve. It’s easy!

A note about those seeds: autumn olives are INVASIVE. Don’t put them in your compost! Put them in the garbage to be disposed of.

Then, I learned a hard lesson. 4 cups of autumn olive berries only makes 1 cup of autumn olive pulp. Dang it. I’m 3 cups short! I have to go back out and pick more autumn olives. You can also use this break time to deal with anything else life might have thrown at you while you’re boondoggling weird foraging skills…for example, the dead red squirrel your cat left for you in the living room.

Ok, squirrel disposed of, another hour picking autumn olives…I’m feeling kind of “over” this experiment of mine. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Once you have your 4 cups of autumn olive pulp from 10-12 cups of autumn olive berries, you add maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt, and a sachet of cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, mustard seed, and onion. This simmers until it’s ketchup consistency. It’s beautiful.

It took about 30 minutes of simmering for me to get a fantastic, rich ketchup consistency. Once that’s done, you pop it into jars…or, in my case, jar. Yes, after 2 hours of sweating in the sun picking autumn olives, squishing them, and cooking them, I got 1 small jar of ketchup. However, that jar is filled with DELICIOUSNESS! It doesn’t taste like Heinz ketchup…it tastes like bougie, artisan ketchup! When my husband tried it, he said, “I guess this is our ketchup from now on!”

Would I do this again if I wasn’t stuck in social distancing isolation? Maybe. It really is fantastic! But, the picking is a lot of work. Those berries are tiny! However, if I had a minion or a friend to help pick, I would definitely make it again!

Want to try it for yourself? Here’s the recipe I used with some notes:

Autumn Olives Ketchup


  • 4 cups autumn olive berry puree
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup


  • Make autumn olive puree; you can simmer the berries with a small amount of water until soft (about 3 minutes) and squish them through a sieve OR put them through a Foley Food Mill
  • Place autumn olive puree in a crockpot with no lid and gently simmer until reduced by half (note: I didn’t do this step, I just skipped to the next one)
  • Put the puree in a medium sauce pan; tie onion and spices in a spice bag and add to the puree, along with the sea salt, vinegar, and maple syrup
  • Continue cooking until thick like ketchup – about 30 minutes. Stir frequently so you don’t scorch the puree
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Instant Pot Elderberry Syrup

Have you heard about the awesomeness that is Elderberry Syrup? It has so many health benefits! Now, I’m not a doctor, so don’t take my word for it…go do some research! Google Elderberry Syrup, Elderberry Syrup and flu prevention, and Elderberry Syrup and reduced cold duration and symptoms. Go…I’ll wait.

Convinced? Ok. So let’s make some Elderberry Syrup in the Instant Pot so you can have it done in 20 minutes!

Don’t have an Instant Pot? You can get one on Amazon. This is the one I have:

You also need dried elderberries. My local health food store didn’t have them, so I ordered them from Amazon too!

Ok…let’s go!
2 cups dried elderberries
8 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks (or more if you really like cinnamon…and it’s super good for you!)
2 cups RAW honey

Put everything except the honey into your Instant Pot. Seal it up and set it for high pressure for 20 minutes.

When it beeps, do a quick release and then open it up and let the mixture cool to almost room temperature. Then, strain the mixture using a very fine strainer or a strainer lined with cheesecloth.

You’ll have a bunch of gorgeous elderberry liquid left. To this liquid, add your 2 cups of raw honey and stir it in completely.

That’s it! Put your awesome and delicious elderberry syrup into mason jars and store in the fridge! It will be good for 4 months.

You can take it one of two ways:

At the first sign of cold or flu, take 2 Tablespoons every 4-6 hours.

Or, daily dosage: take 1 teaspoon daily.


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Becky Rice and Beans!

If you know me at all, you know that I have developed a passion for Spanish food over the past year or so. I am OBSESSED!!! It’s really difficult to get Spanish food near where we live, so I began learning how to cook the things I love most: rice and beans, empanadas, pernil, carne bif…I could go on.

Why is this absolutely delicious rice and beans dish called Becky Rice and Beans? Because I can’t actually cook rice. I use a rice cooker. So, my Puerto Rican husband says I can’t call them Puerto Rican rice and beans if I’m making Becky Rice. Since I have an inappropriate sense of humor most of the time, I named the whole recipe Becky Rice and Beans 🙂

Here we go!

First off, put your Goya Rice in your rice cooker! 🙂

Get a rice cooker like mine here:,aps,175&sr=8-1&linkCode=sl1&tag=donmanuelpr04-20&linkId=4e23bb310f495d20a555c959c556cdae&language=en_US

Do not be the least bit ashamed if you make Becky rice like me! Someday, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of making great Puerto Rican rice…today is not that day.

While the rice is doing it’s thing, let’s make the beans! Here’s what you need:

1 Tbs oil
2 big heaping Tbs Goya Sofrito
8 oz Goya tomato sauce
2 cans (15-16 oz each) pink beans – drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1 packet Goya Sazon with Culantro and Achiote
1 packet Goya Jamon
1 tsp Goya Adobo
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Black pepper to taste
2 Tbs Manzanilla pimento-stuffed olives, sliced (I use Goya) (the olives are optional)
1/2 pound of potatoes peeled and diced

Here’s what you do:
In a pot, saute the Sofrito in the oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Now, it says, 2 big heaping tablespoons of Sofrito…I use closer to a 1/4 cup of the stuff, because I love it.

After you’ve sauted the Sofrito…EVERYBODY IN THE POOL! Seriously, toss in everything else except the potatoes and the olives. Then, give it a taste. It should taste slightly salty, and you want it to be like that, because the potatoes will absorb a lot of the seasoning.

Add the potatoes…and the olives if you like them. Sometimes I add olives, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don’t. You do you!

Now, bring this pot of awesomeness to a simmer and let it cook until the potatoes are done…about 30-40 minutes. Stir it occasionally.

When it’s done, it will be thick and delicious!

To serve, get your Becky rice. Look at how perfect that is!

Put the rice on the bottom of a bowl and layer the beans on top!

It really doesn’t get better than that! Tonight, I served the Becky Rice and Beans with some deep fried tilapia that I made in my fryer (which you know I’m also obsessed with:,aps,167&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyQVVESEpCSEEyNllMJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNzAwNTk1MUFRRlYzS1FGTFZTWiZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwMDUzMzg5M0dKRFk0RUtQTTRHVCZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=&linkCode=sl1&tag=donmanuelpr04-20&linkId=ce5c46c216e95b1bec6af0d661b79e48&language=en_US

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Enjoy!

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Leftovers…what’s left?

I hate wasting food. I get super creative using up leftovers, because my family doesn’t seem to like just eating leftovers. I like to take them for lunch, but that’s not always enough not to waste food. Recently, I made a big pork roast and didn’t know what to do with all the leftovers. When I don’t have a solid plan, I dump everything in the fridge into a baking dish and call it a casserole! Here’s my latest creation.

This is a dump casserole. I wanted rice for this casserole. I am a fantastic cook, but I can’t make rice. It either comes out too mushy or too crunchy. So, I invested in a rice cooker! Heck yes! Perfect rice every time. I got this one off of Amazon:

I made two cups of rice for this recipe. You’ll want to combine your rice and your leftovers…I had the pork and peas. People in my house don’t really like peas, so I hide them in casseroles 🙂 I also added about a cup of cheddar cheese, a can of cream of mushroom soup, about a half cup on french fried onions, and a cup of milk. Smush it all together and pop it in a baking dish.

Bake this beauty for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Then, top it with a bunch more cheddar cheese and the rest of the can of french fried onions. Bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the onions are browned. Enjoy!

So don’t be afraid to dump the contents of your fridge in a pan and tie it together with cheese!

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What’s the secret to sweet tea?

If you don’t live in down south, you probably grew up drinking unsweetened iced tea. Why do we do that up here in the north? I mean, we already have to deal with snow and ice and a higher cost of living and more taxes…so why would we take the sugar out of our iced tea?!

My husband is absolutely in love with sweet tea, and we only get it on our trips down south. Placed up north that say they serve sweet tea are liars. Recently, I thought to myself, I have access to all the powers of the internet…I must be able to figure out how to make authentic southern sweet tea!

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I sure did figure it out! And now I’m going to share it with you so you don’t have to spend hours on the interwebs and experimenting!

What you need:
— 3 cups Sugar
— 1/8 teaspoon Baking soda
— 3 Lipton family size tea bags or 12 regular tea bags
— water 🙂
Note: I can’t find Lipton family size tea bags where I live, but I just discovered you can get them on Amazon!

My husband is an addict, so this recipe makes a gallon of sweet tea. Get yourself a gallon size pitcher or cut the recipe in half if you want less (but why would you want that?).

Ok! Here’s what you do. Put 4 cups of water in a pot over high heat on the stove. When it begins to boil, turn off the heat but leave the pot on the stove, add your tea bags, and the baking soda. Yes, I said baking soda. Turns out, it removes the bitter taste from the tea. We don’t want bitter tea…we want sweet tea!

Now, leave it alone to steep for 15 minutes. Not 14 minutes, really not 10 minutes…15 minutes! While it’s steeping, add 12 cups of water to your pitcher…and maybe clean your kitchen or something so you’re not tempted to mess with the tea early.

Get ready to add the sweet to your sweet tea!

After 15 minutes, scoop out all of your tea bags and give them a squeeze to get all the tea out of them. Then, add 3 cups of sugar to the hot tea. Yes, 3 cups. Don’t let me find out you added less, because you’re like “I don’t like things too sweet.” Shut the front door. You should have a little sugar mountain in your tea!

Now, stir that sugar into the tea until it is dissolved. Once that sugar is all absorbed, add your tea mixture to the water in you pitcher and stir it all together. You’re done! I promise you, you won’t have better sweet tea unless you have a southern gramma who’s making it for you! Enjoy!

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you thought!

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Wicked Easy Hand Pies

I love pie. I think pie is one of the three reasons worth living for (the other two being love and sex). I think little hand pies are cute, portable, and yummy. While making pastelillos with my husband, I thought, “why can’t I just put pie filling in this babies and fry them?!” I tried it, and all I can say is…yummmmm!!!!

Recently, I got myself a countertop fryer:

You can get this here:

Debra’s Cheatin’ Hand Pies

– Goya discs
– Canned pie filling of your choice
– Powdered sugar

My husband loves cherries, so I always make cherry and then I pick another flavor. This time, I’m going with apple. You do not have to make two flavors, but I like variety!

Put a little over a tablespoon or so of filling in each disc.

Then, tuck that filling in to bed tightly.

Make it pretty! Use a fork to really seal it in.

If you accidentally filled yours with a little too much love, and a little filling oozes out, that’s ok! A little extra love never hurt anyone!

Prep all the hand pies while you wait for your fryer to heat up to 375 degrees.

Then, pop three at a time in the fryer and cook for about 2 minutes on each side.

When they’re done, I just pop them out onto a baking sheet covered with a paper towel to soak up the extra grease. While they’re still hot, sprinkle powdered sugar on them. Sprinkle that powdered sugar on there until your soul is happy!

That’s it! Too easy! It’s like cheatin’!

Enjoy…let me know if you try this recipe and what you think!

Note: We are Amazon Affiliates and will occasionally receive compensation from product recommendations.

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Fear of Frying

I have pinned a lot of things on Pinterest that are fried, but I rarely tried to make any of them. I had tried frying things in a pan in the past: fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and fried eggplant for eggplant parmesan. All I did was make a mess giant mess in my kitchen, and my food was really unevenly fried/cooked. I developed…a fear of frying.

My husband is Puerto Rican and wanted empanadas for his birthday. I decided to invest in a countertop deep fryer to be able to make 30 fried empanadas in an evening. IT CHANGED MY LIFE! The empanadas were amazing, and now I fry everything! I got this baby on Amazon:

You can get this here:

Ever since, I’ve been trying new recipes and making up new recipes. Today, I want to share my recipe for fried pork chops. Yum!

Debra’s Funky Fried Pork Chops

You’ll need:
– 4 bone-in pork chops
– Goya Mojo Criollo marinade
– 1 packet Goya Sazon
– 1 T Goya Adobo (sometimes I use 2 if I’m in the mood…season with your soul)
– 1 c flour
– 2 eggs

To start, marinate the pork chops in the Goya Mojo Criollo for about a day. I don’t know what’s in this stuff, but it’s amazing!

When you’re ready to fry, set your fryer to 375 degrees and let it heat up to temperature while you get the pork chops ready. Beat the two eggs and put them in a shallow dish (I use paper plates). In another shallow dish, stir together the flour, Sazon, and Adobo.

Now, do the traditional flour, egg, flour again method to coat the pork chops. Really get your hands in there and make sure they’re well coated!

Coat both sides in flour first
Coat both sides in egg
Really coat it good with the second coat of flour

Now, it’s time to pop them in the fryer! I fry them one at a time. Once in the fryer, leave it alone for five minutes…maybe use the time to work on a side dish. I made sauted Kale with onions, bacon, and garlic. After 5 minutes, flip the pork chop and wait another 5 minutes. That’s it! Take it out and fry the next one.

These things are delicious, and they take no time at all! Your family and friends will think you are a kitchen god/goddess! Seriously, check this out!

My husband often sits in the kitchen while I cook…this is the result of him hanging out with me tonight:

That’s it! Let me know if you try my pork chop recipe and how you liked it! Happy Frying!

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Funk me! These Funk ‘N Waffles Changed My Life!

October 11, 2018

One of the cool benefits of dating a DJ, is that I get to go interesting new places.  DJ Don Manuel got asked to dj the October 9th Hip Hop Night at Funk ‘N Waffles in Syracuse, NY hosted by Exoticz.

Now let me tell you, when he told me it was going to be at Funk ‘N Waffles, he no longer had a choice about whether or not he was going to do this event! I have wanted to go to Funk ‘N Waffles for YEARS!!! Years I tell you! Ever since I saw them on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives!

So, on a Tuesday night, we headed off to Syracuse for waffles and hip hop! What could be better?! As we were leaving home, Don Manuel got his first PLUR Vision care package as their new brand ambassador…so he had to do a Facebook Live unboxing, because we could not be more excited about this company! That made the trip north go by so quickly!

Upon arriving at Funk ‘N Waffles, we spent quite a few minutes negotiating our order between me, DJ Don Manuel, Mr. Fairbanqs, and the cook   We decided on three waffles: the Pulled Pork waffle, the All Shook Up waffle, and the Jive Turkey waffle (this one was not optional, because it’s the one I saw on tv!). The Funk ‘N Waffles staff were super nice and helpful, they sent me off with our drinks and a beeper to wait for our order while I watched DJ Don Manuel and Mr. Fairbanqs set up.

About 15 minutes later, our waffles were ready!!!! Woop woop! Waffle time! From left to right, we have the Pulled Pork, the All Shook Up, and the Jive Turkey. This also turned out to be our order of favorites.

The Pulled Pork waffle is a buttermilk waffle with pulled pork and Dinosaur BBQ sauce on it.  Delish! Nothing out of the ordinary, but a solid waffle choice! We all enjoyed it.

Next, the All Shook Up.  This is definitely in honor of Elvis and named after one of his songs. This is a bacon stuffed buttermilk waffle with bananas, honey, and peanut butter toppings. Woah. I loved it! Mr. Fairbanqs thought it might be too sweet, but it’s not.  It’s just the right balance of sweet and savory. I would definitely order it again! Thank you, thank you very much (please try to read that in your best Elvis impersonation voice)!

Now, Funk Me! The Jive Turkey waffle…as seen on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives being chowed down on by Guy Fieri.  This is a waffle made of stuffing. You heard me, stuffing! And not Stove Top Stuffing either…your grandma’s homemade kick ass stuffing! On top of the stuffing waffle are mashed potatoes, turkey, and gravy…and a side of cranberry sauce. Shut. The. Front. Door. We should have ordered two. In fact, DJ Don Manuel and Mr. Fairbanqs had me order two more to-go before we left for the night…that’s right, Funk ‘N Waffles will make you one of these amazeballs concoctions until 11:30pm or so most nights! You can also check out our Facebook Live tasting here: 

After stuffing our faces, it was time for DJ Don Manuel to get to work! He is so goshdarn cute!

There was great music, a great line-up of live artists, and all all-around awesome vibe for the night! As always, DJ Don Manuel went Live to share the party (click on the image to go watch and listen!):

As the show was wrapping up, Mr. Fairbanqs thought to check Pokemon Go and see what was around…and spotted a Lunatone! What??!!! Now, he didn’t have a Lunatone, and neither did I.  Ok, well, technically, I did have one, but I gave it to DJ Don Manuel because I knew he’d been looking for one for a long time (We were in St. Pete’s Beach, FL…I woke up early one day and checked my Pokemon Go while laying in bed and saw the Lunatone one resort over. So, I threw on a dress…didn’t even take time for underpanties…and ran over and caught if for him and traded it to him when he woke up.  If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.). Anyway, I digress. This Lunatone that Mr. Fairbanqs spotted was four blocks away.  He took my phone and his and bolted out the door.  He came back about 20 minutes later with this beauty:

After that, we packed up and headed home.  And that, my friends, is how you do a random Tuesday night: adventure, awesome food, great music, good friends, a little nerdy, and a hot DJ!