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January 2008

Penne Pasta with Spicy Peppers Recipe

I'm a huge fan of penne pasta. I love the flavor and texture and find it to be one of the most versatile pastas on the market. Below is one of my all-time favorite Penne Pasta recipes. If desired, you can add grilled shrimp or chicken to this dish. I've also added thinly sliced strips of London Broil and chunks of Italian sausage. No matter what you add, it all tastes good!

Penne Pasta with Spicy Peppers can be served as an entree for either lunch or dinner. My family enjoys this dish along with a tasty crisp salad and homemade garlic bread or breadsticks. I hope your family enjoys it too!


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Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes


1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Red Bell Peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips, seeds removed
2 large Onions, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Vegetable or Chicken Broth
1 cup frozen Peas
1 teaspoon Frank's Hot Sauce or Tabasco Pepper Sauce
1/2 cup heavy Cream or Half-and-Half
16 ounces Penne Pasta, cooked according to package directions
3/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add red peppers, onion, garlic, and salt; cook and stir 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.
Add chicken broth, peas and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally.
Spoon half of red pepper mixture into container of food processor or blender; process until smooth and return to skillet over low heat.
Stir in cream and heat through.
Remove from heat and stir in pasta; tossing well.
Spoon into individual pasta bowls and top with cheese.

Linens-N-Things Special Warm-Up Promotions

Vacuseal I finally found the cordless Vacu-Seal I've been looking for since November. Believe it or not, I located it at Linens-N-Things. I had no idea they carried kitchen gadgets, gourmet food, Rachel Ray cookware, bakeware, cutlery and pretty much anything you need to outfit your kitchen.

What's even better is Linen-N-Things is having a huge sale. Current promotions include:

$10 Rebate on EuroPro 6 Quart Slow Cooker plus Bonus Little Cooker with purchase.
Priced at $29.99 after rebate. Rebate by mail. Offer valid until 2/06/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

Save $30 on Cook at Home 16 Piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set.
Regularly priced at $129.99. Offer valid until 2/06/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

Buy One, Get One 50% Off on sale priced Martex Deluxe Heated Mattress Pad.
Now priced at $29.99-$59.99. Available in Twin, King, California King sizes. Offer valid until 1/27/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

$10 Rebate on EuroPro 6-Slice Convection Oven.
Priced at $39.99 after rebate. Rebate by mail. Offer valid until 2/06/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up

Free Shipping Plus Save 50% Off Wireless Boom Chairs.
Offer valid until 1/27/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

New! South Hampton 8-Piece Comforter Set, only $79.99.
Set includes comforter, 2 shams, 2 Euro shams, bedskirt and 2 accent pillows. Set is available in 3 contemporary colors. Offer valid until 02/06/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

Save $40! Lexington 8-Pc Comforter Super Set.
Regularly priced at $99.99. Offer valid until 2/06/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

8 Piece 450 Thread Count Cotton Sheet Set, $49.99.
Available in queen - King, California King sizes. Offer valid until 2/06/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

Save 25% on Entire Stock Decorative Window Hardware.
Offer valid until 2/06/08.  Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

FREE $50 Gift Card with purchase of Entire Stock Eddie Bauer Comforters.
Gift card by mail. Offer valid until 2/06/08. Save on Shipping, Choose In Store Pick Up.

To begin your Linens-N-Things shopping experience click on the banner below. If you're cheap like me, you're going to love this blow-out sale!


Cook at Home 16 Piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set, now $99.99 until 02.06.08.

French Toast Bread Pudding

Earlier today, I discovered French Toast Bread Pudding at Windy City Restaurant Hopper;a fabulous blog with amazing recipes! This blog has archives dating back to September 2006 and categories include appetizers, chicken, lobster, seafood, shrimp, wine pairings and more.

I think the thing I enjoy most about blogging is connecting with other passionate foodies who are eager and willing to share their secrets. I left a message at Windy City Restaurant Hopper and asked if I could post her French Toast Bread Pudding recipe. Robyn, the founder of the blog, contacted me within a few hours, granting me permission. Let's all give Robyn a round of applause and a great big THANK YOU! 

French Toast Bread Pudding

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Serves 6
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes
*Requires overnight refrigeration before baking

French_toast_bread_pudding_4 Ingredients:
1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
8 large Eggs
2 cups Half-and-Half
1 cup Milk
2 tablespoons granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping, recipe follows
Maple syrup, if desired


  • Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs).
  • Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices.
  • In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly.
  • Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices.
  • Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden.
Serve with maple syrup, if desired.

Praline Topping:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) Butter
1 cup packed light Brown Sugar
1 cup chopped Pecans
2 tablespoons light Corn Syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from Black Hound New York

It's hard to believe Valentine's Day is just around the corner, isn't it? I don't know about you, but even though Valentine's Day has become exceptionally commercialized, I still love to indulge my family and friends with a shower of love-gifts.

In the past, I would spend hours making handmade chocolates, truffles, chocolate covered cherries and fudge. Unfortunately, I no longer have the time to make homemade goodies for Valentine's Day. Instead, I utilize the power of the Internet and do 99.9% of my shopping online. I have found many great deals online and wanted to share one of my favorites with you today.

Chocolate_truffles_heart_boxBlack Hound New York: Now, this place isn't cheap by any means, but it's still a good deal. When I make homemade truffles, I typically spend around $100 to make six dozen. That comes out to about $1.38 per truffle. Black Hound New York has a box of 20-25 assorted truffles for $25, making their cost between $1.00-$1.25 each. As much as I hate to admit it, Black Hound New York truffles taste better than my homemade truffles AND they are packaged in a pretty box.


Chocolate_creation_basket_3 If you want to go all out, Black Hound New York offers an amazing Chocolate Creation Basket. This completely edible chocolate basket is filled with a cornucopia of chocolate treats including bittersweet chocolate truffles infused with liqueurs, white truffles, milk chocolate truffles, chocolate almond bark and chocolate hazelnut clusters. I'm telling you, it's to die for! I bought two of these last year for Valentines gifts. One of my friends (sorry Jo!) didn't receive hers. Bet you can't guess where it went, LOL.

Chocolate_pyramid_cakeBlack Hound New York also has this very interesting Chocolate Pyramid, which I haven't tried yet, but plan to do so in the near future. It's described on the website as, "Velvety layers of bittersweet chocolate infused with Grand Marnier, milk chocolate infused with Framboise, and white chocolate infused with Calvados buried inside a luxurious coating of cocoa dusted bittersweet Belgian chocolate." Grand Marnier is a liquer made from a blend of cognacs and distilled essence of orange. Framboise is a Belgian beer that is fermented using raspberries and Calvados is apple brandy. Sounds intoxicating doesn't it?

Black Hound New York has an entire section dedicated to Valentine's Day gifts. From cakes to cookies and chocolates to pastries, you're certain to find something that will satisfy the tastebuds of all those you shower with love-gifts. To visit Black Hound New York website, click on the link below.

Chocolate.com - The World's Largest Chocolate Marketplace

Sweet and Sassy Crockpot Chicken Recipe

The following Sweet and Sassy Crockpot Chicken recipe is the most amazing dish I have ever tasted. The flavors are a cross between Bourbon Chicken and Sweet and Sour Chicken. This recipe is super easy to adapt. While it calls for a whole cut-up chicken, you can also use either bone-in or boneless chicken breasts, but will need to adjust the cooking time.

Before you start cooking Sweet and Sassy Crockpot Chicken, allow me to share a few tips with you.

  • If you use chicken breasts, reduce the amount of brown sugar to between 1/2 and 3/4 cup.
  • Reduce the cooking time by 75 percent by using breast meat cut into chunks. This method only requires a 2 hour cooking time over low heat.
  • Last, but not least, you can also cook this recipe on the stovetop by using boneless chicken breasts cut into strips or chunks.


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Serves 8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 hours crockpot; 45 minutes stovetop


1 whole Chicken, cut-up
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
2/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Lemon-Lime soda
4 Garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Black Pepper, freshly ground
2-3 Green Onions, sliced, optional


  1. Wash and pat dry chicken. Place in Crockpot.
  2. In small bowl, mix together remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
  3. Turn heat to low and cook chicken for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. Carefully remove from Crockpot using large tongs.
  5. Transfer pieces to serving bowl. Top with fresh green onions if desired and serve immediately.

This chicken tastes heavenly when served over rice or noodles. Add a fresh salad and hot dinner rolls for a satisfying meal on a cold winter night.

Delicious Living Magazine

Delicious_living_magazine I am SO excited! I recently stumbled upon Delicious Living magazine and feel like a kid in a candy shop. I was introduced to Delicious Living many moons ago while working at a popular health food store in Indianapolis. Our boss was incredibly creative and as soon as Delicious Living arrived on the counters, she would grab a copy so her chefs could get to work on creating something new.

When we moved to Colorado, the nearest health food store was 20 miles one-way and I kind of lost track of the magazine. Ironically, Delicious Living is published in Boulder and at one time I was only 15 miles away from their office. If only I knew then what I know now.

Anyway, to this day, I still have Delicious Living recipes glued on index cards which I use in our family's monthly meal planning. What I love most about the recipes offered in the magazine is they always taste so good that even my picky "meat-and-potato" husband enjoys them.

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered the Delicious Living website! I can subscribe to the magazine once again AND I have access to their vast database of recipes 24/7. Life can't get any better!

For those of you who love cooking contests, check out the Delicious Living Recipe Contest. I'm going to get to work tweeking one of my appetizer recipes and get it submitted. The first prize winner walks away with a $150 gift certificate to the health food store of their choice, while one runner-up in each category is rewarded with a $75 gift certificate. I'd be pleased to win, how about you?

Delicious Living is a fabulous website and I think you will be pleased with the content, recipes, health notes, podcasts and more. Check them out online at www.DeliciousLivingMag.com.

The Dorm Room Diner Crockpot Recipes

Since we've been sharing Crockpot recipes this past week, I wanted to let you know about a place where you can get all the Crockpot recipes you could ever want. Over at The Dorm Room Diner, you'll find a phenomenal bargain -- The Dorm Room Diner Crockpot recipes in digital format for less than $20. You can download them instantly and start cooking today!

The Dorm Room Diner Crockpot Recipes provides a solution for those who have a hectic lifestyle. And, who doesn't these days? All you have to do is prep your ingredients the night before. The next morning, get up 10 minutes early and pop everything into your Crockpot. When you come home from work, your house will smell divine and dinner will be ready. Now, that's almost as good as having a private chef isn't it?

Crockpots can be used to cook soups, stews, casseroles, meats, poultry, fish, seafood and even desserts. With The Dorm Room Diner Crockpot Recipes you'll never be bored with the same ole' weekly meal routine. You could try something new for more than a year and never eat the same thing twice.

But wait, that's not all... (sorry, I couldn't resist!)

The author of this cookbook is a generous soul. When you order The Dorm Room Diner Crockpot Recipes ebook, you'll also receive 3 free gifts including: Arnold Bennett’s Classic Book, “How To Live On 24 Hours A Day”, The "Cooking What's Left" Crockpot Cookbook, and The “10 Ways to Make Money In College” eBook. Now that's what I call a great deal!

If you love Crockpot cooking, you'll want to invest in this amazing collection of Crockpot Recipes. Just click on this link to order your copy of The Dorm Room Diner Crockpot Recipes TODAY!

Unusual Crockpot Recipe: Caramel Apples

My friend, Jo, shared an interesting Crockpot recipe with me the other day. It's really quite ingenious and I wish I would have thought of it a few months ago. You see, it's a Crockpot recipe for Caramel apples! I made four dozen caramel apples for Halloween. This technique could have saved me a LOT of time.

If you've ever made caramel apples, you know they can be kind of a pain. You have to be somewhat careful while melting the caramel. It's easy to burn and it's easy to keep too cool, which in turns make it setup, then it's hard to get it to adhere to the apple. I usually break out the double-boiler, but even still it's hard to control the proper temperature to sustain the smooth consistency required for coating apples. That's where the Crockpot comes in! It keeps it at the same temperature for a long period of time.

The following caramel apple recipe is so simple, you're going to love it! And, clean-up is a snap too. As you probably already know, the Crockpot is one of the easiest things to clean. Baked on food just slides right off. I love it!

Anyhoo, I digress. Let's get down to business. Here is the Crockpot Caramel Apples recipe...


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Serves 8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1-1/2 hours

2 (14-ounce) packages Caramels
1/4 cup Water
8 Granny Smith Apples   
8 Popsicle Sticks   

  1. Line a flat baking sheet with waxed paper.
  2. In Crockpot, combine caramels and water; cover.
  3. Turn heat on HIGH and cook caramel mixture for 1-1/2 hours. Stir frequently. When thoroughly melted, reduce heat to LOW.
  4. Insert popsicle stick into the stem end of each apple.
  5. Dip each apple into hot caramel mixture and turn to coat entire surface.
  6. Hold apple above the Crockpot and allow excess caramel to drip into mixture.
  7. Quickly transfer coated apple to waxed paper and allow time to cool.

NOTE: Caramel apples can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. However, if you're like me, your caramel apples will never sit in the fridge that long!



Ten Ways to Recycle Coffee Grounds

Recycled coffee grounds can save you time, money and help you avoid toxic fumes from commercial cleaning products. Below are ten ways to recycle coffee grounds and protect the environment. 

  1. Mix the grounds with water to provide your houseplants with an "energized" drink. Plants need the nutrients found in coffee grounds, including nitrogen and potassium, both common ingredients in store-bought fertilizer. Using organic grounds will provide a healthier and happier plant environment!
  2. Sprinkle used grounds on your outdoor plants.
  3. Sprinkle a ring of used grounds around a tree or plantings to deter ants.
  4. Use slightly damp grounds on icy steps and sidewalks. The grounds stick to the ice, creating a safer walking surface.
  5. Pour a few grounds down your drains to gently scrape the sides of the pipes. Do not use if pipes are already slow draining or clogged.
  6. Use to scrub gunk off surfaces such as grills and greasy pans. Use wet or dry grounds.
  7. Keep a container of dried coffee grounds in a shaker near the kitchen sink. Use to scrub strong odors such as fish, garlic and onion, from your hands.
  8. Wet your face and scrub with one tablespoon coffee grounds. This is a gentle exfoliating wash for your face.
  9. Use steeped grounds and a cotton swab to touch up furniture scratches.
  10. Coffee grounds are a great addition to any compost pile. Just throw them into your compost bin, filter and all.

Feel free to add your tips on Recycling Coffee Grounds in the Comments section. If you're looking for great coffee click on the banner below to join the Coffee of the Month Club from Clubs of America.

The Coffee Taster's Club

The Cheap Gourmet Hits the Big Time!

In September 2007, I wrote a post about The Cheap Gourmet Blog being syndicated by one of the industry-leaders, 1800Blogger.com. My association with FoodandWineBlog.net has been extremely rewarding. Not only have I obtained additional traffic and tremendous exposure via their network, I have also developed a wonderful business relationship with the founder and CEO, Ken Maciora.

Earlier today, I received an email from Ken requesting my permission to submit a press release featuring my mom's Beef Pot Roast with Burgundy Wine Sauce, which was posted only yesterday! Upon receipt of my approval (afterall, who wouldn't be thrilled to have a press release submitted!), the PR showed up on the home page of Trans World News.

I was on the phone with my mom so fast that I think I short-circuited the system. As you may recall, mom was a bit hesitant to share her secret beef pot roast recipe. Not that she's greedy, it's just that this particular recipe is one of her personal creations and is considered a prize possession.

Mom was pleasantly surprised to hear her beef pot roast recipe was such a hit. But, even more touching was the pride I heard in her voice when she heard what the press release said. And, I quote...

"Food and Wine Blog, a blog owned by 1800blogger, announced that The Cheap Gourmet has published a new recipe for Crockpot Beef Pot Roast with a burgundy wine gravy . Kathy Browning, the editor of The Cheap Gourmet, is one of the most insightful bloggers in the food category in the world. Her recipes are creative, simple, and most importantly delicious. Her blog posts always contain a personal touch so that you feel you’re getting personal instruction from someone who can improve your culinary instincts."

I've been involved in internet marketing for 8 years and freelance writing for 2 years. Mom has watched me struggle to make it big in the online world. She knows how hard I have worked to establish The Cheap Gourmet blog and share our family's passion for food. To her, this press release was just as important as if The Cheap Gourmet had been featured on Good Morning America or Oprah.

I think every blogger longs for good press and most work very hard to achieve some level of fame. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that others are benefiting from the content, enjoy the recipes and take advantage of the merchandise offers.

A big thank you to 1800Blogger.com, FoodandWineBlog.net and my MOM for teaching me how to cook!

Crockpot Beef Pot Roast with Burgundy Wine Gravy Recipe

During the holidays, I went home to visit my family in Indiana. Pretty much everything I know about cooking was taught to me by my mom. She is the Queen of putting together a scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth meal with her ever-present Crockpot.

When I arrived, the aromatics of mom's Beef Pot Roast filled the air. I could smell it the instant I opened my car door. The moment I crossed the threshold, my salivary glands went into overdrive and I was instantly drawn to the Crockpot sitting on the counter.

As I approached the Crockpot, it took every ounce of energy to not stick a fork in and grab a morsel. Mom informed me I would have to wait one more hour before diving into her famous concoction of beef, onion soup, burgundy wine and mushrooms. The wait was excruciating!

It wasn't easy prying this recipe from mom. But, she's a passionate foodie and with a little persuasion from her favorite daughter (sorry Sis!) she agreed to share her divine recipe with The Cheap Gourmet readers. I am honored to pass along this tried-and-true Crockpot recipe to you and hope that you and your family enjoy it for years to come!

Shop Crock Pot the original slow cooker!


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1-2 cloves Garlic, peeled
Salt and Pepper for seasoning
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-1/2 to 3 pound Eye-of-Round or Beef Rump Roast
1 packet of dry Onion Soup mix
1/2 cup Water
1 can Mushroom soup mix (my favorite is Campbell's Golden Mushroom)
1/3 cup Burgundy Wine (Merlot or Cabernet are excellent choices)
4 teaspoons Cornstarch
1/4 cup Water
1 (4 ounce) jar sliced Mushrooms, optional


  1. Place roast in a shallow pan and allow to come to room temperature; about 2 hours.
  2. Rub roast with garlic, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add olive oil to heavy skillet, turn heat level to high.
  4. Carefully place roast in heated oil and sear* on all sides.
  5. Remove beef from skillet, reduce heat to medium-low and transfer beef roast to crockpot.
  6. Add dry onion soup mix and 1/2 cup water to skillet used for searing and mix well.
  7. Cook soup mixture for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  8. Add mushroom soup and wine to soup mixture, stir well.
  9. Remove from heat and pour mixture over beef roast in slow cooker. If necessary, add water so liquid covers three-quarters of the roast. Cover.
  10. Cook 6 to 8 hours or until roast is fork tender.**
  11. Remove roast from crockpot, place on plate and cover loosely with foil.
  12. Add cornstarch to 1/4 cup cold water and stir.
  13. Add mixture to liquid in crockpot and cook until thickened; then cook one additional minute.
  14. Add water if necessary for desired consistency.
  15. Add sliced mushrooms, if desired and heat thoroughly.
  16. Transfer mixture to gravy pitcher and serve with beef roast.
  17. Slice beef roast and transfer to serving platter.

*Sear means to brown beef on all sides to lock in juices and create a crisp outer layer.
**Fork tender means the beef will easily fall apart when a fork is inserted, pulling the meat away from the roast.

If desired, add quartered onion chunks, red potatoes and baby carrots. Place in crockpot after adding the soup-wine mixture. Or serve with mashed potatoes and vegetable side dishes.

Taste the most popular wines

Vanishing Bees - Are We Pimping Bees into Extinction?

Once in awhile you run across a story that is so compelling you MUST share it with others. The Vanishing of the Bees is one such story and I hope you will take time to watch the trailer of this compelling video. What does this have to do with cheap gourmet cooking, you ask? Believe it or not my friend, it has everything to do with gourmet food and food in general!

You may or may not have heard about CCD - Colony Collapse Disorder. In a nutshell, honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate, with as many as 85 percent of the bee population simply vanishing.

So what's the big deal if we lose a few bees? Unless you want to consume rice, corn and genetically-modified food for the rest of your life, it's an enormous deal! You see, without honeybees many of the fruits and vegetables we consume will no longer be available. The bees are responsible for pollination. No bees + no pollination = no food.

According to Vanishing Bees website; "Honeybees are responsible for pollinating one-third of our food supply, including most of the fruits, vegetables, nuts and even alfalfa used to feed livestock." The website and video remind us of the importance of being responsible earth stewards if we want to continue to eat; let alone eat gourmet!

One thing I particularly like about Vanishing Bees website is the information they provide regarding the history of agriculture and the 5-million year connection we humans have had with this fuzzy insect. While many of us prefer to avoid bees, they play a critical role in our survival. It's crucial that we not forget this important fact.

I highly recommend watching "Vanishing Bees". This insightful and thought-provoking movie trailer can be viewed for free at www.VanishingBees.com.

Le Gourmet TV

Recently, I discovered Le Gourmet TV, an interactive gourmet cooking website packed with step-by-step cooking videos. What I like about Le Gourmet TV is not only can you watch how recipes are put together, you can also learn a great deal about cooking.

Le Gourmet TV also includes videos on how to choose the proper cooking equipment, how to pair wine and cheese with your meals, how to choose the proper type of beer and a "Field to Table" section which promotes Sustainable Living.

In addition, Le Gourmet TV offers a variety of channels with easy-to-understand videos. You'll find a channel for Baking, BBQ, Beer, Cheese, Coffee, Preserves, Whiskey, Wine and Tea. Other channels include the Chef Series, Cooking Gear and Roadside Menu.

Click here to visit Le Gourmet TV now or click the link below to continue reading this post.

Continue reading "Le Gourmet TV" »