Sunday, February 4, 2018

Skillet Chocolate Monster Cookie

Remember Monster Cookies? They were all the rage once upon a time. I hadn't made them in years! Then, just over a year ago, I saw Grant Melton make a Monster Skillet Cookie on the Rachael Ray Show.

It looked SO GOOD! I knew I needed to try it! Thankfully I had purchased an oven proof skillet a few months earlier so I just needed to get the ingredients together. Of course I made a couple of small changes to his original recipe like using crunchy peanut butter rather than smooth and peanuts instead of pecans. It was DELISH!

Well, actually, I did have one problem. I didn't want to serve it in my Paderno non-stick pan. I wanted to serve it on a large plate. That meant a double invert to get it out of the pan and onto a plate. I did let it cool for awhile in the skillet before trying to turn it out but I didn't wait long enough! When I did the initial turn, the cookie fell apart! Luckily, I had put a piece of parchment paper over the cookie first so none of the broken pieces and crumbs were lost! It was a very tasty mess!

 A few weeks later, I tried it again and waited till the cookie was completely cooled before doing the invert and that time it worked perfectly!

Then I had this crazy idea to make it even more delish. Why not make it into a Skillet Chocolate Monster Cookie? If I adjusted the basic ingredients a bit and added some cocoa powder AND NUTELLA ,,, the cookie could be downright amazing!
It was time to experiment! I adjusted the amount of Peanut Butter down a bit and added Nutella. That combined amount was a little more than the original Peanut Butter amount so I felt safe adding a few Tablespoons of cocoa powder to up the chocolate flavour even more! I used peanuts rather than pecans as I almost never have pecans in my pantry. I also swapped out the raisins in the original recipe for dried cherries as cherries go really well with peanut butter and chocolate.

The result was beyond my expectations! The PB and Nutella made it moist. The oats made it a bit chewy. The combination of all the add-ins was just right. It was loaded with scrumptious flavour and cookie goodness! I had hit the cookie trifecta!

As always, I took samples to several friends to get their opinions. Let's just say the oohs, awes and mmm's I heard were music to my ears! They LOVED it!

This tasty treat is great for any occasion and can also be frozen if removed from skillet and wrapped in plastic wrap then stored in a zipped freezer bag.

By the way, February 5 is World Nutella Day, so if you are looking for a sweet treat to wow your co-workers, friends and family you can't go wrong with this recipe!

Skillet Chocolate Monster Cookie
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup butter or block margarine
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup Nutella
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups quick rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup candy coated chocolate candy (M&M’s)
1/2 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup blanched, salted peanuts, chopped

Soak the dried cherries in hot (not boiling) water for 15-20 minutes to partially rehydrate. Drain, rinse and chop. Place the cherries in a single layer on a paper towel to drain a bit more while preparing the rest of the recipe. You could also use fresh cherries that have been pitted and chopped into small pieces. If you prefer your dried cherries to be really chewy (like shoe leather for the really dry ones!), you could skip the partial rehydration but I am partial to a softer cherry.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In an 11 or 12-inch oven proof skillet, melt the butter/margarine. Once melted, turn off the heat and add in the peanut butter, Nutella and both sugars. With a heat proof spatula or whisk, mix until smooth. Remove the skillet from the heat to a cooling rack and let cool for a few minutes.
 While the sugar mixture is cooling, combine the oats, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

Once the sugar mixture is cool to the touch, use your spatula or whisk to mix in the eggs.

Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the oat mixture. Once the dough has formed, add in the candy coated chocolates, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, peanuts and dried cherries. Mix just to combine all the add-ins. Spread the batter evenly in the skillet.
 Place the skillet into the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until slightly puffy on top and starting to pull away from the edges.

Remove skillet from oven and place on wire rack to cool before serving.
 Now, depending on what type of skillet you used the serving/presentation may have to vary a bit.

If you used a cast iron pan, you can serve it warm out of the pan.

However, if you use a non-stick pan such as my Paderno, then you will have to use a non stick utensil to slice it in the pan OR preferably take a few extra steps to remove it from the pan to a serving plate when cooled so that you don't inadvertently scratch or otherwise damage the non-stick coating on your pan.

Before you attempt to transfer the cookie to a serving plate, allow it to cool in the skillet for at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours before attempting to remove from pan. This allows the "cookie" to firm up. Attempting to invert it out of the pan before completely cool will result in it falling apart! Trust me - that is what happened the first time I tried making a skillet monster cookie! It was still delish - just didn't have a great look for presentation!

To remove from a non-stick pan:
Once the cookie is completely cooled, place a piece of parchment or wax paper over the top of the cookie in the skillet then place a cooling rack upside down on top of the parchment paper. Align it so that the rack and the paper completely cover the top of the skillet and the cookie inside. While holding onto both the skillet and the paper on the rack, CAREFULLY, turn it over so the rack with the paper is on the bottom and the pan is upside down on top. If the cookie does not slide out within a few seconds, gently tap the bottom of the pan to loosen it. At that point it should separate from the skillet onto the parchment and rack. If the cookie still feels a bit warm on the underside leave it for a few minutes before the final invert. Once the bottom also feels cool to the touch, place a serving plate upside down on top of the cookie. Now, CAREFULLY turn the whole thing over so the plate is on the bottom with the cooling rack on top. Remove the top rack and paper.
Cut into wedges and serve! This will easily make 12-14 servings.
This can also be frozen whole or in pieces - just wrap whole or each section in plastic wrap before placing in a freezer bag. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nuts And Bolts

I'm not big on snacking but when I do, one of my all time fave snacks is "Nuts And Bolts"! Not the kind you buy in a bag or box or even in the bulk food section of some large grocery stores. I'm talking about the homemade version!

Over the last few months, I've seen a number of comments online about the classic snack "Nuts And Bolts". Some love it. Some hate it. Some just find recipes that call for ingredients and seasonings that just don't mix well and lament the waste of time and money on ingredients.

Wait! You say you don't know what "Nuts And Bolts" are? Well, in some places it is also known as "Party Mix" or "Chex Mix".
Whatever you call it - it is a deliciously addictive snack! Served warm, room temp or straight out of the freezer it is devoured in no time! It is often served with cocktails or other alcoholic beverages but also great with a soda/soft drink or even a glass of ice water!

So, what's in it? Well, that to can vary by region but the basics are a couple of cereals, mini crackers, pretzels, peanuts and seasonings. It's baked in a low/slow oven to allow the added seasonings to be deeply absorbed into the mix for an even better flavour!

Personally? I prefer the following:
Cereals - Cheerios and Shreddies, Both are original versions - that is, they have not had flavours such as honey/sugar coatings, cinnamon or fruits added. Many people also use one or two varieties of Chex cereals such as oat or rice - just don't use a flavoured version like the chocolate or vanilla ones!
Crackers - Cheese Bits or Cheese Nips, Both are made by Christie and add a nice touch to the mix without having an overwhelming flavour or flavour that would not match well with the other ingredients and seasonings.
Pretzels - I prefer the basic lightly salted thin pretzel stick. You could use the small pretzel twists/knots if you choose. Just be sure to break either version in half as they are both a fair bit bigger than the other ingredients. Either way, just avoid all the flavoured ones such as smoked or hickory.

 Peanuts - blanched, salted peanuts work the best. Some people use a mixed nut combination but as those are more expensive and mostly peanuts anyways, why not just use peanuts! As with the other ingredients, avoid flavours such as smoked, hickory, beer or BBQ. A simple salted peanut without skins works best.

Butter or block margarine is your choice. I use block margarine as it is a whole lot cheaper than butter which is important on a tight budget.

Seasonings - A lot of extra flavour comes from the Worcestershire Sauce, The other two seasonings are Garlic POWDER and Onion POWDER. DO NOT USE GARLIC SALT OR ONION SALT!  There is more than enough salt in the other ingredients!

Using specially flavoured ingredients or playing with other spice additions is just a waste of time and money. They won't work with this mix and will result in a nasty flavour that even the squirrels will run from!

The recipe I'm sharing today, is one that has been in my family for over 50 years! I can still remember helping my mom make this when I was a kid. My mom would often make huge batches just to be able to have extra in the freezer. It was amazing how quickly it could disappear! It was a quick and easy snack to pull out of the freezer for when we had unexpected company stop by. It was always a hit at parties! You can also package it up in gift bags for a hostess gift!
By today's standards of snacks this may seem a bit retro but if you make it for when you are having some friends/family over for the evening, to watch a movie or sporting event, believe me when I say that "Nuts And Bolts" will be a big hit! It will disappear in no time!

At the bottom of the recipe, you will find a guide to making larger quantities of this tasty snack!

I hope you enjoy this snack as much as our family has!

Nuts And Bolts

2 cups broken lightly salted pretzel sticks
2 cups blanched, salted peanuts (sans skins)
2 cups shreddies (original)
2 cups cheerios (original)
2 cups cheese bits or cheese nip crackers

1/2 cup butter or block margarine
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (NOT SALT)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (NOT SALT)

Combine the first five ingredients in a roaster or dutch oven
Melt the butter/margarine - either in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove. Add the Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion powders. Mix thoroughly. Pour over the ingredients in the roaster and stir to thoroughly combine and coat the other ingredients.
Place uncovered pan in preheated 200F oven and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes - stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. Note: at the 1 hour 15 minute point, I generally taste a couple of the shreddies. If they are still really soft then I leave the mix in for another 15-20 minutes. At that point the shreddies are usually getting quite firm and will crisp up when cooled.
 Serve warm or cold. Can easily be reheated for later use. This recipe freezes well.

Note that this recipe can easily be multiplied 2, 3 or 4 times if you have a large enough pan. Baking times will take a bit longer depending on size of batch and container used. 


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Orange Almond Fudge Cookies

Today, I'd like to share another cookie recipe with you. This recipe is based on yet another of Joanne Fluke's recipes. The original recipe for "Orange Fudge Cookies" was included in her 2017 Hannah Swensen mystery "BananaCream Pie Murder".

I first tried making these in May of this year with these changes:

The original recipe called for unsweetened baking chocolate squares. I almost never have these in my pantry so used the standard substitution: "3 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or shortening for every 1-ounce unsweetened baking chocolate."

As always, I also used block margarine rather than butter - mostly because butter is generally over $5/pound here and that is more than I can afford. A good quality block margarine such as Imperial or Parkay will work quite well. I watch for sales and can usually get a 3 pound /1.36kg box for about $3 to $3.50. I've never had anyone complain about me using margarine or the resulting flavour in my recipes.

I also toasted up some chopped almonds and added those as they go so well with orange and chocolate! Naturally, I added more chocolate chips.

The cookies were good but not quite what I had imagined. The orange flavour wasn't really there and they weren't really that fudgy. I knew I had to make a few more changes.

I made them again in October and slightly reduced the amount of margarine while upping the orange juice concentrate. I also added a bit of orange extract.

The other major change I made was actually an accident! The original recipe instructions called tor melting the butter/margarine with the unsweetened baking chocolate. That first time, I had just melted the butter/margarine and added the cocoa powder with the dry ingredients. When I made them in October, I actually FORGOT to melt the butter/margarine! I just added it with the sugar to the bowl of my stand mixer and whipped it up to light and fluffy!  

I know that melting can change the way a recipe turns out but I'm not sure if this was the case here or whether it was my other changes. Either way, this version turned out moist, fudgy and loaded with flavour! It was EXACTLY what I had imagined to could be!

I took samples to several people and got rave reviews!

Yes, this recipe makes a LOT of cookies (8-9 dozen) but they freeze well. They would also make great gifts for the upcoming holiday season - or any time of year!

I hope you and yours enjoy this recipe!

Orange Almond Fudge Cookies
1 cup chopped almonds, toasted*
4 cups flour (I use 2 cups all purpose and 2 cups whole wheat)
1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter or block margarine softened to room temp.
1 3/4 cups white (granulated) sugar
3/4 cup frozen unsweetened (pulp free) orange juice concentrate, thawed to room temp
2 large eggs, fork beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 1/2 cups dark or semi sweet chocolate chips

*Place the chopped almonds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toast in a preheated 350F oven for about 5-7 minutes - stirring at least once. These can burn easily so keep an eye on them while preparing other ingredients. Once the almonds are toasted to the desired degree, place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before adding to the cookie dough.
Measure the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a medium mixing bowl. Stir and set aside.

Place the butter/margarine and white sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix thoroughly then whip to light and fluffy. Add the thawed orange juice concentrate and the extracts. Mix in completely. 
Add the fork beaten eggs to the mixing bowl and beat thoroughly.

Gradually add the flour combo in (about) 1 cup increments mixing well after each addition. Reserve about 1 Tablespoon of the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions of flour mixture to ensure all ingredients are well combined.

Combine the cooled almonds, chocolate chips and the reserved flour. (Coating the nuts and almonds will help create a more uniform distribution. Add the nuts and chips to the dough and mix in on low speed till well incorporated. The dough will be really soft.

Scrape down the bowl and the mixing paddle. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and cover with plastic wrap - or transfer the dough to a smaller bowl and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. (I prefer transferring the dough to a smaller bowl before chilling as it takes up far less space in my fridge.)

Once the dough is chilled - line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into balls about an inch in diameter. Place on the prepared sheets and flatten slightly - just enough so that the balls don't roll around when you are transferring the pan from the counter to the oven. These spread while baking so leave a couple inches between each ball. 
Bake in preheated 350F oven for about 8-9 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on the pans on a cooling rack for 4-5 minutes. The cookies are very soft hot out of the oven and need a few minutes to firm up on the pans before transferring to racks. Then, carefully slide the parchment paper and cookies onto a second rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 9-10 dozen. 
These freeze well. I stack them side by side in rows in freezer bags. When I want to have a couple as a snack or serve several to guests, I lay them in a single layer on a plate to thaw then warm for a few seconds in the microwave so they get a bit of a flavour burst.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Apple Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Autumn is here and so are the fresh crop of apples! Today, I'm sharing my recipe for "Apple Sour Cream Coffee Cake"! There are countless recipes for apple coffee cakes on the internet. This recipe is based on a blueberry coffee cake from Mennonite Girls Can Cook.

The basic cake batter is pretty much the same - with a few changes. Obviously, I swapped out the blueberries for diced apples. (I used Royal Gala). I also added some chocolate chips! (duh!)  I prefer using a combo of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour but if you only have all purpose that will work fine. At about $5-6/pound, I can't afford butter, so use a good quality block margarine such as Imperial or Parkay in my baking. The MGCC recipe made the cake in a 9"x13"x2" pan but I tend to favour using 2 8" or 9" round pans. I find they bake more evenly than a large pan. With a bit of pan prep, the cakes can be removed to a serving plate and also wrapped for freezing. The original recipe also called for a layered assembly method of half batter, fruit. half topping, remaining batter and remainder of topping. Personally, I like my fruit mixed into the batter rather than a separate layer. The separate layer tends to get a bit soggy if the entire cake isn't devoured the same day.

For the topping, I used my own recipe which is light on cinnamon as I don't care for an overwhelming taste of it in my food. You can add a bit more if you prefer. My topping also includes toasted almonds and finely chopped chocolate!

As always, I took samples to some of my friends and they thought it was great!

This cake is moist, flavourful and great anytime of the year but there is something about baking with apples in the fall that just feels right and is oh, SO delicious!

 Apple Sour Cream Coffee Cake
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons cold butter or block margarine
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate (semi sweet or dark)
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds, toasted

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter or block margarine at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 cups diced apples (peel and seed before dicing) (I used Royal Gala)
3/4 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

Toasting Almonds:
Preheat oven to 350F. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a rimmed cookie sheet and then spread the chopped almonds in a single layer. Toast in the oven for about 5 - 7 minutes making sure to stir at least once or twice during that time. The almonds will take on a strong nutty aroma and turn a darker shade of brown. Watch them carefully though as they can go from perfectly toasted to burnt in a minute! Remove pan to a cooling rack and cool to room temp while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
For Topping:
Combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Add the cold butter/margarine and mix with a fork till fine crumbly mixture. Add in the cooled almonds and chocolate. Stir to combine. Set aside.

For Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare 2  8 or 9 inch round cake pans by spraying with non stick cooking spray. Then place 2 strips of parchment paper (about 1 1/2 - 2 inches wide) in an X shape, pressing down along the bottom and up the sides - allowing about an inch or two to hang over the top edge at each end. Place a circle of parchment over the X and press down to line the bottom of the pan. Note: To make the parchment circles, place the pan on top of the parchment and use a pen or marker to trace around the outside of the bottom of the pan. Then using the marked line as a guide, use scissors to cut out the circle. Repeat for second pan. Set prepared pans aside. (Note: I've tried this with wax paper but it isn't as strong as parchment so tends to tear when you attempt to lift the cake out of the pans after baking and cooling.)
Combine the flours, baking powder, salt, and soda in medium bowl. Set aside/

Using an electric mixer beat butter/margarine in large bowl till fluffy.

Add both sugars and beat until blended.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg.

Add lemon zest and vanilla and combine.

In a glass measuring cup, measure the 1/2 cup milk then add the 1/2 cup sour cream to make 1 cup. Stir to combine. If you don't have a glass measure, you can blend the two ingredients in a small bowl.

Beat the flour mixture and the milk/sour cream mixture alternately into the butter/margarine mixture - beginning and ending with the flour mixture. This doesn't have to be exact. Just add about 1/3 of the flour mix and mix in. Then add about 1/2 of the milk/sour cream mix and mix in. Repeat with the flour, then the last of the milk/sour cream and the last of the flour.

Stir in the chopped apples and the chocolate chips till well combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and level it out evenly with the back of a spoon or fork. Pans will be pretty much full but not overflowing!

Sprinkle half the topping mix on top of each pan. With the back of a clean fork or spoon, gently press the topping down but do not stir it in!
Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until toothpick test comes out clean.
Cool on wire racks for at least 2 hours before attempting to lift cakes from the pans. The more the cakes have cooled, the easier it will be to remove them without them breaking apart. Once the cakes have completely cooled, they could even be covered and put in the fridge to set more firmly before removal from pan. When you are ready to remove the cakes from the pans, run a knife around the edge between the cake and the pan to ensure it isn't stuck. Gently lift two opposite edges of the parchment to loosen. Then repeat with the other two opposite pieces. When you are sure the cake is not stuck, carefully and gently, lift the cake out of the pan, removing parchment and transferring to a serving plate.

Each cake can be cut into 8 pieces. Total Yield: 16 servings  
It should be noted that you can double wrap one cake in plastic wrap and store in a zipped freezer bag for up to a couple of months.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Vulture In The Guise Of A Volunteer

Over the years I've been approached numerous times by strangers who ask about my sight and how I manage to do as much as I do on my own. At first I was a bit surprised at others interest, but soon realized that most people were genuinely curious. I came to appreciate people actually asking rather than making erroneous assumptions. I also got quite good at giving succinct answers to their questions. I say this as a prelude to a recent experience and this cautionary tale....

This past May, I was on a city bus, coming home from my weekly grocery shopping at Superstore when I was approached by a senior. He came from further back on the bus, told me his first name and said he was hoping to become a volunteer with the CNIB. He wondered if he could ask me some questions about my vision, the CNIB and volunteering. He asked about my sight and how I managed. He asked how hard it was to do things like grocery shopping and errands.

I assured him that I was quite capable of doing things for myself and frankly enjoyed having the independence to do things on my own terms and time table. When he suggested that some things would be easier with a volunteer, I said that if I ever did need help, that I had several friends who were more than willing to help out with a heavier than usual shopping trip or assist in other areas if the need arose. There are other people with disabilities who need help much more than I do.

As for being a volunteer at the CNIB? I explained that other than an occasional purchase through the CNIB store, I rarely had contact with the agency anymore. I wasn't familiar with current staff or how volunteers were selected or trained.

Before I got off the bus, I asked if he was online and explained that I'd written a few posts about my vision loss and the CNIB over the years. He told me he wasn't online much - mostly just for email. I gave him one of my cards anyways and suggested he check out my blog.

Now, let me make this clear. I've handed out dozens of these cards over the years so that people can check out my Blog, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube pages. There is also an email address on the card specifically for random contact. Only a handful of people have actually sent me an email.

So, you can imagine my surprise when he sent me an email about 12 hours later - giving me his full name, address, phone number and offering to be my personal volunteer!!

Seriously? Had he heard nothing I'd said about my being independent?

He had seemed sincere on the bus that morning and asked all the typical questions. I'm usually quite good at reading people but somehow no alarm bells went off with this guy - until I got the email!

I waited a day, then responded politely, but firmly stating again that I had NO need for a volunteer. I said I hoped he would find a suitable volunteer position at some point - if not with the CNIB, then with any number of other agencies.

That should have been the end of it - but it wasn't.

The following morning, he sent another email. He wondered how I managed with grocery shopping in the winter. As he lived quite near the Superstore, he suggested that he could do some of my grocery shopping for me but thought I would probably want to shop for perishables myself. He could deliver it to me or meet at a neutral place close to me. Of course he added that we would have to discuss or make some arrangement for his seniors bus tickets but that I could think about his offer over the summer and he'd be in touch in a few months.

OMG!  This guy has NO concept of the word NO! I chose to ignore that email and hoped that he'd forget about me. I should also note that over the next few weeks, I shared this story (in more detail) with several friends - all of whom agreed that this guy was an idiot with an agenda and potentially a borderline stalker!

Well, as you may have guessed by now, that wasn't the end. In early August, I received another email. He had been to a volunteer orientation at the CNIB but wasn't sure he wanted to continue as they seemed to think volunteers were some kind of employee! He was also waiting for his security background check to be completed. He asked again if I needed any help with groceries or other errands.

Over the next week, I carefully drafted a detailed response. The following is a slightly edited version:

"A background/security check has become a necessity for most organizations/businesses. Sadly, there are far too many people who will use any opportunity they can to take advantage of those who require services. The main difference between a volunteer and an employee is a pay-check. Either way, you are a representative of the organization you associate yourself with. Therefore, you are expected and required to behave in a respectful and responsible manner - following their guidelines and directives. Personally, if I WERE to ever need a volunteer, I wouldn't want anyone who hadn't been thoroughly checked and was fully compliant with the agencies policies.

As to your ongoing suggestion of my needing assistance with grocery shopping or other things?

It appears that you've failed to grasp that I have already told you twice (on the bus and in a previous email) that I DO NOT need any help. I have friends in my life who are more than willing to assist if I ever do need help. They would also not expect/want payment for gas/bus tickets either.

When one volunteers, there are ALMOST ALWAYS incidental expense involved. It is extremely rare to receive remuneration for a volunteer position. If finances are that tight for you, perhaps you should reconsider volunteering.

Then, there is the matter of payment for said groceries. I collect PC points on my groceries and often pay with my debit card. These factors alone would eliminate you from doing any of my shopping for me.

Grocery shopping is an art. It is also one that I take VERY seriously! I do all of my own cooking/baking and keep a well stocked pantry. I keep a running list of items I am low on, watch for sales and compare prices in online flyers every week. This allows me to buy items on sale and/or in multiples when there is a good deal. Some items, I am brand loyal and others I will switch out for certain alternative brands if they are cheaper than an advertised item. If an item is cheaper in multiples, or larger sizes I calculate whether or not I would use it all before it expires. I check all packaging for damage and expiry dates.

Seasonally? I stock up even more in spring and fall so that I'm not carrying as much in heat of summer or cold of winter. In winter, I layer up and use grips on my boots in icy conditions. Year round, I use my large ergonomic backpack to carry the heavier items. I also have insulated bags and reusable bags in varying sizes for bulky or more fragile items. With the backpack, I can easily carry 20 - 25 pounds of groceries in one trip and generally have at least one reusable bag in use with the backpack as well. I am my own Sherpa.

In any given grocery shop, approx 40-80% of my list is perishables such as produce. I am even more particular of these items than the grocery items.

Having you or anyone else do only non perishable shopping is useless.

I take pride and pleasure in doing my own grocery shopping. It allows me to get out, see what's new in stores and keep tabs on changing products and prices. It also keeps me in touch with many of the kind staff and customers that I've met at Superstore over the years. On the occasions that I have needed in-store assistance, I've never had an issue finding staff or another customer who is willing to offer me assistance in reading a label or finding an item.

So, as I hope you will FINALLY see, I have NO need for your "assistance" in ANY part of my life.

Please stop trying to find excuses to inject yourself into my life. IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!"

It is only three weeks since I sent that reply and he hasn't responded. "IF" he is smart, he won't try to contact/speak to me again. It is rare that I have to go into such detail or be that direct with someone but I felt strongly that this was the only way that he might get the message that he wasn't going to be part of my life in any respect. I've also realized that this guy has obviously done this direct approach before. As I said, my radar for sensing crap/scams is pretty well honed but nothing jumped out till I got the first email.

He thought he'd found an easy mark but what he really ended up doing was marking himself. He crossed the wrong person when he continued to contact me.

That persistence concerned me. With that in mind, I contacted a couple of friends who volunteer for various organizations/agencies and asked them to touch base with their coordinators about how this guy operates. I explained my concerns that he may try to take advantage of someone who was naive or vulnerable. I can stand up for myself but not all people can. Without revealing names/agencies - I learned that at least 2 organizations already had notes in their volunteer data base about him. Though I wasn't able to confirm this next part, it is my understanding that he also has his own business and tries to make money off of people like this!

Having a business that helps others is one thing, but approaching people directly or through an agency in the guise of being a volunteer then expecting to be paid is underhanded and pathetic.

It takes all kinds! Thankfully, the vast majority of volunteers are there to truly help others - not to serve their own needs/agenda. Hopefully other agencies and individuals will see his scam and realize that he is a persona non grata.

Admittedly, somewhere (hopefully far) down the road, I may well need a volunteer but it sure as heck won't be someone like that! Until then, I will continue to be proudly independent with an occasional assist from store staff, a fellow customer or my amazing friends!