25 Ways To Be a Tourist In Your Own Town

Now that summer is here, you don’t have to plan a getaway to enjoy some new sights. Chances are, there are plenty of interesting fun things to do in your own hometown that you’ve never tried because, hey, they will always be there, right? Time to go exploring in your own backyard with these great tips:

  1. Pretend you have friends coming to stay with you from a foreign country for the first time. Where would you take them?
  2. Pick up a local guidebook. You’re likely to discover places and tips you didn’t even know about!
  3. Sign up for community newsletters and mailings to be aware of happenings.
  4. Use web apps like Yelp! to discover new places to eat that are rated by locals.
  5. Spend a few minutes looking at the postings on bulletin boards in public places like libraries and schools.
  6. Visit your town’s website. Find out historical facts and future events.
  7. Make a list of museums, galleries, and parks in your town and make a point to visit them.
  8. If there are lakes or rivers nearby, rent a canoe and spend a day on the water fishing or relaxing.
  9. Research nearby walking, biking, or hiking trails. Take a bottled water and bug spray and make an afternoon exploring the great outdoors.
  10. Ditch your car for the day and plot out a pedestrian day about town.
  11. Take a ride on public transportation, whether bus, metro, tram or train. You’re likely to get a different glimpse of your own city and community.
  12. Snap a lot of photos, just as you would when touring other cities. Don’t let the familiarity keep you from preserving memories.
  13. Interview longtime residents about what life was like when they were younger. Ask their recommendations for a day on the town.
  14. Explore your local architecture. Look for themes, influences and charm. What’s the tallest building in town? The oldest?
  15. If you live in an older town, find out if there are guided ghost tours and take a friend for a bone-chilling walk into the past.
  16. Research your local gardener’s guild and participate in a garden tour of homes.
  17. Many tourist councils offer city passes with discounts to major attractions. Purchase one and spend the summer visiting different attractions.
  18. Any famous persons from your town? Research their biography and walk in their footsteps.
  19. Get connected with your local arts council. Attend outdoor concerts or plays put on in the community.
  20. Utilize weekend mornings for farmers markets and yard sales to pick up local delicacies and great antiques.
  21. Mix up your routine. Drive a different route to work for a week. Eat in different restaurants. Shop at a different grocery store.
  22. Spend a night or weekend at a local hotel or bed and breakfast.
  23. Attend a local sporting event and cheer for the local team. Even if you don’t know anybody!
  24. Shop local small businesses to find unique and meaningful “souvenirs” unique to your town and the people there.
  25. Adopt an adventurous attitude. We’re more likely to try new things on vacation, but why not at home too? Say yes to new opportunities and invitations that push you out of your comfort zone and lead to discovery.

Recipe: Deep Fried Pickles with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Mrs. Fields Secrets Fried Pickles
We’re rounding out our Favorite Fair Food Series (see Deep Fried Oreos and Funnel Cake) with a delicious snack that is perfect for sharing with friends. Deep fried pickles have everything going for them: sweet, spicy, crunchy, salty. The key is to use a good quality pickle. Choose your favorite variety (we recommend a sweet and spicy brine), and make a batch for your next party or movie night in. (And don’t forget the spicy, tangy dipping sauce.) They are blue-ribbon worthy and downright addictive!

Deep Fried Pickles with Spicy Dipping Sauce

2 cups sliced pickles, drained
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
2 quarts peanut oil

Spicy Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup

Directions
Heat oil to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir flour, cajun seasoning, pepper, baking soda and salt together. Whisk in the water and stir until no lumps appear. In a small bowl, combine the dipping sauce ingredients and set aside. Dredge half of the pickles in the batter and place in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides and remove to drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining pickles. Serve warm with dipping sauce.

12 Great Recipe Ideas for a Long Weekend

If you’re hosting a houseful for the holiday weekend ahead, there’s no need to slave over a stove to keep everybody fed. We’ve got a secret weapon to keep you on top of your game. Store-bought rotisserie chicken can be transformed into so many different delicious recipes, it’s the most versatile way to feed your crowd over the long weekend without breaking a sweat. (And nobody knows they’re eating leftovers!) We’ve put together a dozen crowd-pleasing meal ideas (hot, cold, and room temperature) to see you through from Friday to Monday.

1. Stir some tangy barbecue sauce with the chicken and serve it on rolls with coleslaw for a delicious Pulled Chicken Sandwiches.

2.  This Asian Chicken Pasta Salad is fantastic as a light lunch or dinner, or as a perfect potluck side dish.

3. A platter of Chicken Chimichangas can be put together quickly and will undoubtedly go fast.

4. A pot of this Half Hour Chicken Gumbo and a pan of cornbread is an impressive quick meal with impressively rich flavors.

5. Fresh Greek-inspired flavors come together in this Chicken, Tomato and Feta Pasta Salad that is perfect served cold or at room temperature.

6. Everybody loves an enchilada, and the pre-cooked chicken makes these Chicken and Green Chile Enchiladas come together in a snap.

7. Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps are a fabulous appetizer or lunch with fresh, summery flavors that everyone will love.

8. It’s hardy, it’s healthy, and so pretty too. Chicken and Wild Rice Salad is a meal on its own or a perfect side dish at the BBQ.

9. A Pear and Chicken Sandwich is perfect for a picnic in the park, a hike in the hills, or fresh fare during fireworks.

10. Loaded with grapes, apples, cashews and dill, My Favorite Chicken Salad is delicious on a croissant or as an appetizer next to a plate of crackers.

11. You can’t go wrong with a pot of chili and this White Chicken Chili is a savory summer alternative to heavier beef versions. Load it with fresh toppings like avocado, cilantro and sour cream.

12. And finally, a Tex-Mex twist makes these BBQ Chicken Tacos a festive (and easy) meal to serve inside, outside, for lunch or dinner.

Giveaway: What’s Your State’s Favorite Treat?

Patriotic Cookie Tray

Undoubtedly, one of the best things about America is the diversity of culture, people, and best of all, food. Every region around the country has its own unique cuisine and flavor, the staple dishes that represent the population. We know that Philly has cheesesteaks, and New York has pizza, but what about the treats? With the Fourth of July right around the corner, we’re celebrating the great flavors of all fifty states with a fun new giveaway.

Show your state pride and win some delicious Mrs. Fields cookies by completing this sentence: When you come to __________(your state), you’ve got to try the ____________! Tell us your state’s favorite treat and you’ll be entered to win this incredible Patriotic Cookie Tray, loaded with our favorite treats: luscious cookies, brownies, and frosted cookies.

Time to step up and represent your state!

Fine print: One entry per person, please. Entries accepted until midnight, Sunday, June 29, 2014. You must be 18 years to enter and a resident of the United States. Winner(s) will be selected and notified via email.

Recipe: Funnel Cake

Mrs. Fields Secrets Funnel Cake
We’re back for the second installment in our Favorite Fair Food Series with a fair food that has been around as long as fairs themselves. Sweet, crispy funnel cake, dredged in powdered sugar is an indulgence that you can definitely enjoy at home. The key to a great funnel cake is a good batter, some hot oil, and the right squeeze bottle. (We highly recommend this Pancake Pen.) It’s really that simple!

Funnel Cake

1 large egg
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 quarts peanut or canola oil
powdered sugar

Directions
Heat oil to 350 degrees while you prepare the batter. In a mixing bowl, whisk egg, then add the milk and vanilla and whisk again until well combined. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until there are no lumps. Stir in the melted butter then transfer batter to a squeeze bottle. Once oil has reached the correct temperature, squeeze batter into the oil in a circular motion until you have an even layer (about a 1/2 cup of batter). Cook for about 30 seconds, or until edges appear golden brown, then flip and cook an additional 15-20 seconds on the other side. Gently remove cake to drain on paper towels, then coat with a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar before serving. Makes 4-6 cakes.

Tips for a Perfect Cheese Plate

As an appetizer at the beginning of a party or as dessert to wind things down, a cheese plate is a beautiful and creative way to feed your guests. Putting together a great cheese plate is both an art and a science, but it’s not hard to pull off once you learn a few tricks. Here’s everything you need to know to do it right:

  • Serving Sizes: Plan on roughly 1-2 ounces of cheese per guest.
  • Variety: Select cheeses that are a variety of different textures (aged, firm, soft, semi-soft, blue) and made from different milks (cow, sheep, goat).
  • How Many: No need to go overboard. Three to five cheeses are plenty for a great platter. Too many options can get overwhelming.
  • Serving Temperature: Room temperature provides the best flavor and texture of each cheese. If you make your platter ahead of time, allow 45 minutes to an hour before serving.
  • Use Labels: Mark each cheese with its name and a simple one or two word description.
  • Knives: Have one knife per cheese.
  • Ask an Expert: If you’re not a cheese connoisseur yourself, no problem! Ask the advice of your local deli manager when putting together your cheese platter. He or she will likely have a lot of great recommendations. Let them know your budget and then allow them to offer advice.
  • Always Have Honey: A drizzle of honey balances and tames the flavor of sharp cheeses that some guests might not enjoy on their own.
  • Use Plain Bread and Crackers: Avoid herb-infused or flavored breads and crackers, which can fight flavors and take away from the experience.
  • Don’t Crowd the Platter: Leave a 1-2 inch gap between items on the platter to avoid getting fingers and knuckles where they don’t belong (and possibly cut!).
  • Fruit and Nuts Are a Must: Break things up with fresh fruit like grapes, figs, apricots and dates as well as small handfuls of your favorite nuts.
  • Sweet and Savory Sides: Jams, chutneys, olives, and thinly sliced salty meats like prosciutto are also great additions to your platter.
  • Platter vs. Individual Plates: If guests are walking around, opt for a large platter from which everyone can serve themselves. If it’s a formal sit-down meal, use an individual plate for each guest.

Do you have a favorite cheese or platter tip? Share your ideas!

Image via Williams Sonoma

10 Genius Camping Tips

Summer is officially here and the great outdoors is calling. Before you pack up your gear and head for the hills, check out these great tips that will make your camping trip a breeze (and make you look like a genius)!

1. No need to lug around an entire bag of charcoal. Fill an empty paper egg carton with Match Light charcoal for a simple and effective fire starter for the grill.

2. No coffee pot? No problem. Make individual coffee bags out of coffee filters and dental floss. Allow them to steep in boiling water for several minutes, just like tea.

3. Refill empty Tic Tac containers with your favorite spices. It takes up less space and you can store them with your camping equipment year round.

4. Add bundles of sage to your campfire to keep mosquitoes away.

5. For perfect s’mores, use a small block of wood on the outer rim of campfire to rest your cracker and chocolate while you roast the marshmallow.The wood will transfer heat to get the chocolate nice and melted.

6. Campfire Banana Boats are a delicious ooey-gooey alternative to s’mores. Or a good side dish for s’mores. Either way.

7. Freeze drinking water in jugs and use them instead of ice in your cooler. Not only does it save space, it saves your ham sandwiches from getting soggy.

8. Avoid soggy, slippery bars of soap by creating one-time-use strips of soap with a vegetable peeler. HINT: rub dry soap on a mosquito bite to relieve itching.

9. Place a few of unscented dryer sheets on the table (or under a tablecloth) to keep bees away from the food.

10. A first aid kit that fits in your pocket is a must-have for hiking. Use an old prescription bottle and fill it with bandaids, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment and some Benadryl.

Do you have a favorite camping tip? Share you ideas with us!

Recipe: Deep Fried Oreos

Mrs. Fields Secrets Deep Fried Oreos
One of summertime’s greatest pleasures is the local fair. Whether it’s a county fair in the midwest or a street fair in midtown Manhattan, people are drawn to fairs and especially those delicious traditional fair foods. Today we’re kicking off a fun new series featuring your favorite fare from the fair, beginning with a dangerously delicious indulgence: Deep Fried Oreos. Hot and sweet, crunchy and soft, Deep Fried Oreos are downright crave-able. With today’s recipe, there’s no need to wait for the fair, but beware: whip up a batch and you may get a spontaneous crowd (and maybe a blue ribbon)!

Deep Fried Oreos

2 quarts canola or vegetable oil
1 package Oreo cookies
1 1/2 cup pancake mix
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
powdered sugar for garnish

Directions
Heat oil in a deep fryer or dutch oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a tray with paper towels for drainage. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the milk, egg, and two teaspoons of oil together. Slowly add the pancake mix until no lumps appear. Once oil reaches temperature, coat 4-5 Oreos at a time in the batter, then drop into the hot oil. (Cook in small batches to prevent overcrowding and burning.) Cook for 20-30 seconds per side, or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve warm with sprinkled powdered sugar.

Oh Fudge!

Today is National Fudge Day, the day we all gather to celebrate the rich, chocolaty goodness that is known as fudge. But how will you pay homage to this perfect confection? Here are some favorite fudge recipes to inspire your day:

Instead of your morning coffee, how about morning coffee fudge?

Or swap your sandwich for Mini Mint Fudge Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Think you don’t have time for fudge? Think again. This recipe for Easy Chocolate Fudge comes together in only ten minutes!

And happy hour just got happier with fudgy Guinness Brownies.

Heat things up in the evening with a little hot fudge, because everything is better with Hot Fudge Sauce (except, perhaps, spaghetti).

Or, cool things down with some Homemade Fudge Pops, the perfect treat on a summer evening.

Whatever you do, enjoy your day enjoying fudge!

Colorful Ice Cubes

Mrs. Fields Secrets Flavored Ice Cubes

We’ve got a simple way to add a fun range of flavor and color to your summer beverages. Freezing concentrated cubes of punch or juice will not only cool your summer drinks, but infuse them with bright color and flavor. You can match the colors to your party theme or holiday fare (think red, white and blue), combine them in a beautiful pitcher or in individual glasses. As the cubes melt, the drink gets more flavor and color with each sip!

Rainbow Ice Cubes

3 packets Koolaid, different flavors/colors
1 cup sugar
6 cups water
3 ice cube trays

Directions
Mix contents of one Koolaid packet with 1/3 cup sugar and 2 cups water. Stir thoroughly to ensure that sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into one ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Repeat with remaining Koolaid packets and ice trays. Once frozen, place cubes in a punch bowl, pitcher, or individual glasses with water, wine or clear soda for a beautiful pop of color and flavor.

HINT: Dark, concentrated juices like grape or pomegranate work best for juices. Consider freezing berries inside ice cubes for even more color and texture!

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