Treat a Soldier this Memorial Day

Traveling home the other day, I ran into a young man at an airport who was being deployed on his fourth tour to Afganistan. These scenarios were so very common and expected 10 year ago, but unfortunately we are still sending young men and women into harms way.

This Memorial Day show your appreciation for a soldier by sending a treat overseas. Nothing will carry the taste of home more than chewy brownies, carefully packaged to arrive at a soldier’s bunk, fresh and delicious.

Not So Blonde Brownies

Developed by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
3 eggs
½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract
2 tablespoons Kahlúa
1 cup coarsely shopped white chocolate
¾ cup coarsely chopped nuts of choice (optional)

Not So Blonde BrowniesPreheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.

Cream the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the chocolate extract and Kahlúa. Add the sifted dry ingredients in two additions, beating well after each addition. Fold in the white chocolate chunks and nuts.

Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the batter over the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Serves 15

To ship cookies safely, allow them to cool thoroughly and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Place a layer of crinkled wax paper in the bottom of a metal cookie tin so that it fully covers the edges of the tin. Layer the brownies carefully, then fill in remaining crevices with air-popped popcorn to absorb moisture. Cover brownies with additional wax paper and put the lid on the tin. Wrap the tin in plastic wrap to keep air out. Check or visit a local US Armed Services Center for mailing addresses and additional shipping instructions.

Gone Fishing

With an 8 lb. trout
With an 8 lb. trout

“Has anyone ever fallen in?” I asked Captain Frank Campbell, of Niagara Region Charter Service. “No,” he laughingly responded. His confidence reassured me that nothing would go awry during this good day fishing.

Campbell is one of the most popular fishing guides in Western New York. Traversing the waters of Lake Ontario, the upper and lower Niagara River, and more, he guides his customers and visiting media to fishing hot spots. The region is a world class fishery and anglers know it. They look for Trophy Smallmouth Bass, Muskellunge, Walleye, King Salmon, Coho Salmon, Brown Trout, and Lake Trout.

One of the most popular spots is where the lower Niagara River empties into Lake Ontario, and this time of year, some of the hottest Trout and Salmon action can be found there. It is possible to take Brown Trout, Lake Trout, King and Coho Salmon up to 30 lbs. Steelhead catch up to 20 lbs. and mixed catches of 10 to 20 fish are commonplace.

The novice to most experienced fisherperson can benefit from chartering with Campbell. He provides the boat, equipment, tackle and advice. Guests are responsible for proper clothing, camera, New York State Fishing License (a one day license is available for $5), cooler, baggies, food and drinks. In Niagara County, Campbell departs from the “Ultimate Fishing Town” of Olcott, NY and Lewiston Landing.

My one day fishing taught me three important lessons:

  1. Fishing is hard work. Whether you are out there for fun or to catch dinner, fishing can be seen as a physical and mental challenge. Knowing the difference between the lure hitting bottom and having a bite can be a challenge for the novice. With a little time, the fisherperson in you will begin to rise to the surface. Having patience is very important, as are strong arms. Reeling-in a 10 lb. fish isn’t for the weak.
  2. Dress the part. Sun protection and layering are important. A wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and SPF sunscreen are a must. During this time of year, Niagara USA weather can be unpredictable. Jeans or yoga pants, heavy socks and sneakers, Polo or t-shirt, and a sweatshirt should suffice for an average day out.
  3. Have a sense of humor. As some point you might find yourself with aching arms or no catch to boast of. Just remember, you will return to the river with its rolling escarpment on either side of you but until then – take in the scenery and wildlife it offers.

At the end of the day be pleased of what you accomplished, especially that catch you are proud of.

For more information on Frank Campbell and Niagara Region Charter Service, visit, email or call (716) 284-8546.

This post also appeared on the “Explore Niagara USA Blog.”