Thursday, August 2, 2012

summertime awesomeness...

once again life has been interfering with blog time :/ ...I just wanted to pop in and say that I'm still kickin' over here - I actually have about half a dozen things I want to post about..including what's been going on in brandiland..and other stuff that is mostly NOT food related - but really about all I have time for today is to share this awesome sammich with you guys...

actually it's not just a sammich..really it's the flavor of summer!

it's no secret I'm NOT a big fan of summer..I'm also not a real big fan of summer foods

don't get me wrong..I LOVE a nice, juicy grilled steak or burger..some fall off the bone BBQ ribs..they're all serious YUM! ...but to me it just gets boring..I'm MUCH more of a fall/winter-time food person

besides..heck..summer foods can be replicated INSIDE (or if you're crazy like me..still grilled OUTSIDE) all year long!

so unlike cold weather foods which are often too heavy to really enjoy during the sweaty heat of summer...I don't come to miss summer foods in their off season like I do winter foods

with one major exception...FRESH FRUITS & VEGGIES!

one of my very favoritest things about summer is our garden..where we grow tons of awesome heirloom tomatoes, basil and spinach..3 of the main ingredients in one of my all time favorite sammiches..something that can only be made with fresh garden has way too short a season..I miss it as soon as the season ends and look forward to it again all year long!

my SUPER AWESOME parmesan crusted double garlic heirloom tomato panini with fresh basil and baby spinach..oozing with melted mozzarella...OHMYGAWD it's so freakin' good!!

the 'double garlic' comes from a layer of this awesome creamy garlic dip (which, for those of you who are local..I use 'Dons double garlic dip' from Adams..but I'm sure there are similar sour cream/mayo based garlic dips on the market) spread on the inside..along with a drizzle of this amazing GARLIC VINAIGRETTE 

the backbone of a good sammich is the bread...for a panini, regular old white bread won't hafta use something that will stand up to being this case I use this great crusty PEASANT BREAD

so ya start out with the bread...and you spread on a layer of creamy garlic dip (as if it were mayo) then you start layering on your veggies..if your tomatoes are real juicy, ya wanna remove as much of the wet seedy area as possible so's to not make your nice crunchy sammich all soggy

so yeah..layer on the tomatoes, basil and baby spinach (sometimes I also add very thinly sliced shallot as well)

next..add your cheese - I usually use nice creamy whole milk mozzarella..I find it melts the best (as opposed to part-skim..which to me often seems rubbery) - you could also use fresh mozzarella - YUM!

I shred the cheese rather than using slices, simply because the next step is to drizzle on the garlic vinaigrette..which will stay on the sammich A LOT better if it has those nooks & crannies to seep into (rather than just pour off the flat surface of the slices)

so like I add the drizzle of garlic vinaigrette..and top with the second slice of bread...

on the top of that slice..brush on or drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a nice layer of fresh grated parm (the pre-grated store bought stuff will work in a pinch..just make sure it's a good one!)

now...since I'm not rollin' in the dough over here..nor do I have space for (as Alton Brown would say) UNI-TASKERS..I don't have an actual panini press (I'm sure most people don't!) ...but I DO have a George Foreman fat reducing grilling machine..which my mother bought me for my birthday..prolly 12 years ago!

which I hafta admit..aside from my yummy BUFFALO CHICKEN BURGERS..pretty much ONLY gets used for making paninis!! (although I did recently grill steaks on there..after running out of propane 2 minutes after putting them on the real grill...with surprisingly successful results!)

anyway...onto a pre-heated George Foreman grill (or panini press if you have one) goes the sammich (parm side UP) for prolly about 5 should start to hear the sizzle of the cheese melting down onto the grill..that's usually a good indication that it's done - unlike with a panini press that kinda locks down...when using the George Foreman you sometimes have to move your sammich around once or twice to make sure that the whole top gets nice and toasty

when it's done it should look something like THIS:

a perfect, crunchy, gooey, awesomely fresh, delicious taste of summer!!

if you have your own garden..or access to a good farm stand or farmer's market you should totally try it's a great quick, simple and delicious summer meal..that is not only full of awesome, healthy flavorful and nutritious doesn't heat up your house!!'s the simple things that make life so good :) ♥

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


is there a prize for worst blogger of the year? if so I think I should get it!
I really need to keep a list of things I want to write about when I have time...cause it never fails..when I'm too busy to sit down and actually write, I'm often composing a brilliant post in my head..which always somehow seems to evaporate by the time I have a moment to actually sit down and type

sometimes I wish my childhood fantasy of a DREAM RECORDER would finally be invented...I mean so many of the things we saw as fantasy when we were kids (video phones, clones, face eating zombies, etc.) actually exist why not??

of course it would be AWESOME to be able to record and re-watch your dreams when you're actually awake enough to figure them out...but also how handy would it be to have a way to record your at times when you can't remember why the hell you walked into a room..or more I said..that brilliant blog post you so perfectly composed in your head whilst up to your elbows in dirty dishes yesterday! a child I didn't really stop to think about how that sort of thing could be used for evil...but still I mean could your google search history, right?

that doesn't stop us from (albeit, reluctantly) typing in '2G1C' just once to see what the hell all the fuss is about, right? right?? hahaha (fyi..I abbreviated that in the hopes that gross people won't stumble in here..although I'm sure it didn't help!)

maybe the brain recorder could be hardcore password protected...but then of course if you THINK the password it would record and then there it would be for anyone to use to access your thoughts..or could they?? ...I guess they'd need your password to access your password

what if YOU forget your password? would you get amnesia??

ok..obviously some kinks need to be worked out...but I'm sure as soon as the government figures out how such technology could be will somehow be mandated that we must be immediately implanted with the device..or face stiff fines..err..taxes!

anyway...this is not at all what I imagined I would post about when I sat down to write today...but now of course I have Cheap Trick's DREAM POLICE stuck in my head...which is making me think of Fast Times at Ridgemont High..and now I'm scanning my dvd I'm gonna just shut up and hit publish now...before I forget!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

another one of my many pet peeves...

I have a confession to make...I'm addicted to onions..that's right..I'm an onion junkie...hopelessly addicted!

like that old Richie Rich character..chances are on any given day you won't be able to get within 5 feet of me without your eyes watering from my super onion breath hahaha

it's no secret that in addition to being an onion junkie...I'm also probably in need of a 12-step program for CHEESE addiction as well...

ohh how I ♥ cheese!!

cheese & onions...what could be more awesome??

hence my life-long love affair with french onion soup...which was introduced to me by my grandmother when I was just knee-high to a grass hopper..oh yeah..waiters and waitresses would looked at us like we were nuts when I'd be sitting there in my booster seat drooling over a crock of french onion soup

(the looks didn't stop either..when unlike normal kids who were eating off the kiddy menu..for my entree they would order me broiled swordfish or filet mignon..ahh the 80's!)

anyway..growing up, I spent most weekends with my grandparents..and one of the things we did was go out for a nice dinner just about every over the years I became quite a connoisseur of french onion soup..and I learned that for some reason..a lot of people make REALLY BAD onion soup..and it drives me crazy!!

when I was probably like 8 years old I started judging a restaurant by it's french onion soup..if it's on the menu..I try it..and if IT sucks..the restaurant sucks!

it's true...if they can't handle making decent ONION SOUP there's not much hope that they can handle making ANYTHING

it's like how chefs judge people on their ability to make scrambled eggs..because they say that is the simplest thing to make and everyone screws it up...the same is true for onion soup

it is seriously one of the most ridiculously simple things to make (and make well) yet more often than not what you get tastes like dirty dish water with a couple stray onions (sometimes even bits of onion skin!)

I really don't understand what the problem is..first of all it's clear a lot of the time that what you're eating fell off the back of a SYSCO truck (it came from a can) and was just finished off in house with a bit of bread and cheese - this infuriates me! ...if I wanted to eat canned soup I could have stayed home in my PJs and done that myself in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost - if we're spending our hard earned money at your restaurant..please don't open up a can and feed me like I'm a fucking dog..seriously!!

so yeah...clue #1 if they serve CANNED soups..they suck!

but sometimes it's clear that they actually made the soup there..and they just don't know what the hell they're doing...I gotta give em credit for trying at least..but really..onion soup is almost as simple as boiling water

granted you have no control over the onions and like all produce..sometimes what ya get ain't all you'd hope for...but there's an easy solution to that problem..don't make onion soup that day!!

as a customer I would sure as hell rather be told I can't get something..than get it and wish I hadn't!

of course you usually hafta eat an onion to know if it's not all it should this may mean having to start the soup before you realize it's not something you're gonna want to serve people..but that's life when you're dealing with food...when in doubt throw it out (or find another use for it...where the onions aren't the freakin' star of the dish!)

besides..if they're willing to serve something that tastes like dish water..I wouldn't put it past them to be proponents of the 60-second rule!

so clue #2 if they have bad quality control..they suck!

for some reason french onion soup is one of those restaurant things that people never think to make for themselves...people usually seem very surprised when I tell them I'm making it..but I'm so in love with it..and get tired of being disappointed in I learned to do it's actually one of the very first things I ever learned to cook because well..I wanted some..and I wanted it NOW! hahaha

to make good onion of the most important things you need is takes time to properly caramelize onions..and properly caramelized onions are ESSENTIAL for good onion soup!!

ideally I would use an enamel pot but since the kitchen gods have as of yet not blessed me with the Le Creuset pot of my dreams (prolly cause it costs more than my freakin' kitchen aid stand mixer!) ..I'm left with no choice but to use stainless steel..which is fine as long as it's a good quality, heavy bottom pot/pan...the really important thing is that you do NOT use non-stick!! - you need them to be able to get a bit sticky in order to get that yummy caramelization ya need to slice up some onions - for a dinner size portion for two I use about 5 good sized onions (for that many onions you need a good size least 4 quarts) - I usually use my Jamie Oliver T-Fal professional series round 5 qt casserole (that's a lot of words for one pan!)

you need to slice the onions evenly..and fairly thin...normally I'm not a stickler for uniformity when it comes to soup..I'm more into rustic..the purpose of uniformity is even cooking..and with soups and stews that's not generally an THIS case I make an exception

not a great pic but it gives you an idea of how they should be sliced...

I should prolly mention that there's a bit of olive oil & butter in the pan to help give it some place to go...ya don't want the onions to just burn to the bottom of the pan

oh..I also throw in a bit of thyme and a couple bay leaves at this point...

and I start them out at med-low to get them goin'..then put a lid on them and turn it down a bit to let them cook down slooooowly..I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be patient and just let them do their thing...keep an eye on them to make sure they're not cookin' too they don't burn..but otherwise..leave them alone!

eventually (after about an hour or so) they will look like this:

see how they're all nice and soft and fully cooked...and there's a bit of liquid in there? that's a good thing!

at this point you'll want to remove the lid but keep the heat nice and'll need to keep a closer eye on them now as they're more likely to burn...the point of removing the lid is to let the moisture evaporate so the onions can start to brown and get sticky

'keep an eye on them' doesn't mean stir them around want them to have plenty of contact with the bottom of the pan...poke around and see if they're getting golden on the bottom..if so..stir them around...keep doing this every so often until they look something like this:

(at this point you could just stop..package up your oniony awesomeness and save it for use in any number of delicious ways...from pastas to pizzas to and beyond!)

by the would be a good time to take out the bay leaves so ya don't hafta go fishing around in a full pot of hot liquid to find them..nobody want to choke to death on a bay leaf!

at the risk of sounding all technical 'n shit..the process of getting the onions all brown & sticky like this will create what is called a 'fond' (I think that's French for 'the BEST PART'! hahaha) which is just concentrated bits of flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan...of course I forgot to get a pic of that :/ get up all those yummy want to 'deglaze' the pan (use liquid to make the sticky stuff unstick) this case I use wine (red/white..depends on what I have more of..just PLEASE DON'T use cheap cooking wine like what you'd find in the supermarket grocery section!) ..although you could use broth..or even beer...a nice ale would be good in some onion soup - yum!

I use just enough to cover the onions and clean up the bottom of the pan

turn the heat up a bit and let this go until the wine starts to get a sorta syrupy consistency (should only take a few minutes on med - med-high)

next it's time to add the liquid..if I have any on hand I prefer to use my own beef stock..but I sometimes get lazy about making my opinion..the next best thing is Pacific Foods organic low sodium beef broth -- A. it's organic and 2. it's moderately priced somewhere between garbage tinny tasting canned broth (like College Inn) and ridiculously expensive boxed broth (like Kitchen Basics or the various celebrity chef brands like Emeril or Rachael Ray)

when using store bought broths or stocks you ALWAYS want to make sure it says LOW SODIUM or NO SALT ADDED...this way YOU have control over the seasoning I said..once the wine has cooked's time to add the broth...heat through and give it a taste..season with salt & pepper accordingly

voila...onion soup! see how dark it is..and full of onions? no dirty dish water here! (if that's too oniony you can always add more broth..leftovers freeze great)

hello...could it BE more simple?? now that you have the 'hard' part's time to frenchify your soup - and if you thought my pet peeves ended with the're WRONG!

they often screw up the bread..and sometimes even the cheese :/

one of my biggest pet peeves is a bad soup to bread to cheese ratio...this is very important you know..if you're like me and actually want some of each in every bite!

if I run out of bread at the end I'll forgive them..but I can't stand having to try to ration my cheese because they felt like goin' skimpy on me of the worst offenses I have seen was a place that actually used pre-packaged salad croutons as the!

if you look at a recipe or description for french onion will usually say 'crouton' but what they mean is not a handful of dried out bread cubes you could break a tooth on...they mean a seasoned, toasted piece of bread..good a nice chewy, crusty hunk of french bread

if we have a loaf of french bread in the house I'll eat the whole damn thing..not to mention that a good loaf of french bread usually ain't I avoid that if I can
our store often has a basket full of day old bread which usually has bags of portuguese rolls..which are very similar to french bread..crusty and chewy on the outside..soft on the inside..4/$1..ya can't beat that!

now..since our house is not a restaurant..I don't have the luxury of scrapping the onion soup idea if the onions turn out to be less than I let the soup dictate how I treat the bread..if the onions are awesome and the soup is just right..I generally just butter the bread and pop it under the broiler for a quick toast

but if the soup could use a little help...I boost the 'crouton' a bit by making garlic toast or parmesan garlic toast out of it

either way..cut the bread as if you're making garlic bread (everyone knows what pieces of garlic bread look like, I assume)

if not..look HERE

meanwhile..ladle your soup into oven safe bowls or soup crocks..leaving enough room for the's ok if the bread is above the rim of the bowl)...and when your bread is done it on top of the soup

as for the cheese..traditional french onion soup is done with gruyere..but I've had it with all sorts of different cheeses..provolone, mozzarella, mixes that included cheddar...they were all yummy..I guess it's just a matter of just want it to be something that melts well but has a little snap (in other words it won't just liquify when it hits the soup and have no texture..ya WANT it to get stringy and be a pain in the butt to break away..picture a fresh hot pizza)

we're blessed to have a store with an amazing cheese I can have my pick of just about any kind of cheese imaginable..I usually use something called emmental..just because it's 'swissy' ..similar to gruyere but usually quite a bit less expensive

you can grate the cheese if ya don't mind a mess..or do it in slices..I usually grate it just because I think it melts quicker and more easily that way...but it doesn't matter..what matters is that you DON'T SKIMP!

pile that cheese up onto the bread..and pop the whole thing under the broiler..until it starts to get bubbly and golden brown in spots - KEEP AN EYE ON IT..if you walk away it WILL burn!!

this one prolly coulda stood a few more seconds under the broiler..just to brown it up a bit more..but I was getting smelled so yummy!

so anyway..there ya have it..PROPER french onion soup...prolly one of the easiest 'restaurant dishes' you could ever make..and easily one of the most delicious!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

unicorn poop...

I said a while back that I was gonna justify my pinterest addiction by doing at least one pinned project a month and share it usual I've been slacking!

there is one project that I had been dying to do since I first pinned it (months ago!) ...I originally wanted to do it with the monkey..but since I won't be getting to see her any time in the near future..I decided to do a trial run..and send them to her as part of her birthday present (never mind the fact that her birthday was in I said..I've been a slacker!)

the bought part of her present...a SHARK PUPPET and a SHARK ATTACK MUG have been sitting here all along..but I wanted to add more and couldn't find any of what I wanted..then last week I found this awesome UNICORN BUTTON (check it's hilarious!) and would go perfect with the UNICORN POOP I found on pinterest!

now I guess it'll be like she gets a second birthday...yeah..sure..why not?

so anyway...UNICORN POOP is this AWESOME sparkly, rainbow sugar cookie I said..I found on pinterest..I believe THIS is the original link from the person who came up with this (did I already say AWESOME?) idea

you form the dough into the shape of little piles of poop..hence the name

I didn't do mine EXACTLY like hers just because I didn't have all of the exact right accoutrements..but still I think they came out pretty darn nice!

you start out by making regular sugar cookie dough...I have my own recipe but I wasn't sure if it would keep its shape as well as some of the pics I saw so I used a recipe from the comments on her post

typical ingredients everyone has on hand:

3 C. flour
1 C. butter
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1½ tsp. baking POWDER
½ tsp. salt
you can also add vanilla or any other flavoring you like..I thought some lemon zest might be nice but I didn't wanna mess with it on my first try

typical cookie thang...cream the butter and sugar together - add egg and mix till combined - combine the flour, baking powder & salt and slowly add to the wet stuff till it comes together (don't over-mix..over-mixing is never good for cookies!)

according to the creator, the number of poops you'll get will depend on the size of your unicorn...but it's lookin' like about a dozen and a far as I can tell (I haven't used all the dough yet) -- believe me..1-2 dozen unicorn poops is PLENTY!

anyway..once you have your dough, ya hafta divide it into 6 equal portions..and dye each one a different color of the rainbow...looks kinda like play-doh, right?

 at this point you could freeze the dough and save it for a later date...

once you have your different colors all mixed up, you're gonna want to chill the dough...I did mine in individual baggies..and flattened them into disks..this helps them cool A LOT faster..the down side is that they also warm back up faster..I split mine in half (so I had 12 baggies..2 red, 2 orange...etc.) ...I wasn't sure I had it in me to make that much poop but also..if the baggies I was working with got too warm, I could swap them out for the ones still in the the end I only used half..and it didn't really make a difference that the last bits of dough were's almost impossible to tell which poops were formed with cold dough and which were done toward the end

(incidentally this is also the best way to chill pie dough..that way when you start rolling it's already starting with the right shape and goes WAY quicker!!)

anyway...once your dough is all nice and chilled you're gonna want to break off little bits at a time..about half inch balls I guess..and roll them into thin 'snakes' of each color

I highly recommend using a silpat (silicone baking mat) from this point on...if you don't have one it will still work..the original recipe didn't use one and hers came out fine...but you'll hafta use flour to keep the dough from will absorb and you won't see it in the final product..but why deal with that if ya don't have to?

once you have all your individual colors rolled out you're gonna twist them into a rope this:

cookie dough is a bit more fragile than you're gonna want to be careful...but it doesn't hafta be perfect (this one certainly isn't!) will still come out cool! now that you have the rope it's time to form it...wrap it around in a coil until it looks like a little pile of poop! here's how they looked UNbaked...

why didn't I bake them ON the silpat? because I was making one poop at a time and transferring them to the pan as I went (and I was too lazy to wash my other silpat! haa)

because they're thicker than regular rolled or cut sugar cookies you're gonna want to bake these a little longer...I baked these for about 11 minutes at 350ยบ

this is how they look undecorated, right out of the oven (I did sprinkle on a little lavender colored sugar before baking) ...I think they're pretty enough just like this!

but if you wanna go full out UNICORN'll want to add some shimmer and sparkle! 

 this is the finished product...

like I said..I didn't have everything the original recipe called for (which was: Wilton's white sparkle gel, rainbow dragees, rainbow disco dust and star sprinkles) ...neither of the 2 places I looked had ANY disco dust so I used pink PEARL dust instead..I skipped the dragees just because I'm not in love with sprinkles you can break a tooth on..I thought I had star sprinkles but it turned out they were hearts..I wanted stars so I had to go back out to get some..the place I went only had star shaped edible glitter..that worked for me!

I almost forgot to mention that you need an old paint brush to apply the sparkle gel...I also used another paint brush to apply the pearl dust (if you just dip the brush in the dust and kinda tap it over the cookie it will 'snow' down pretty evenly..but you'll definitely want to use two separate brushes as the dust will just stick to a wet brush) 

ok so the first thing you do is brush on a thin layer of the sparkle gel...this is what your sprinkles and whatnot will stick to..therefor once your sparkle gel is'll wanna work a little quick so that it doesn't dry out! (once again I worked with one poop at a time) 

it was really hard to get good pictures of how sparkly they really are...but in this pic you can kinda see how the light catches the edible glitter stars..especially the one stuck to the white heart on the left

and here you can really see how the pearl dust kinda can see it best on that pink heart in the front..the disco dust would have looked more glittery..but I think this is still very pretty..and all that glitter might have been too much with the glitter stars :)

~ note: if you wanted to use the dragees you hafta put them on RIGHT out of the oven while the cookies are still hot so that they will press into the surface..otherwise the cookie will harden and they will just roll off

this project was time consuming to do took me about an hour to form just one pan full of cookies (that's 12 unicorn poops)'s possible I might have moved a little faster if I didn't feel like complete poop myself all day..but still it's a time consuming solo project no matter what...but if you have access to a baking buddy..or a group of baking buddies...this would be a GREAT rainy day project!

the supplies aren't cheap...but they aren't set in stone either..I'm sure you could be creative..just make sure nobody tries to use craft glitter and I'm sure they'll be fine :)

all in all UNICORN POOP day in brandiland was lots of fun..and I'm pretty sure the whole house will be sparkling for DAYS! ...I can't wait till the monkey can visit so we can make some poops together!

p.s. even though they look too pretty to eat..I couldn't resist...good news..they taste almost as good as they look!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

can ya hear me now?!

I know..I've been a bad blogger...although you guys know me by now..I suppose you're used to it...and I have been in contact with most of you..but still..not post DOES have something to do with why I've been so quiet though...

I know it sounds ridiculous...especially being posted on a blog, which can't be written or read without the internet..but lately I just keep thinking about how I really want to disconnect from technology...I'm so tired of the ever present hum and glow!!

I just want peace & quiet and a life relatively free of all the unnecessary distractions and glitches and ridiculous garbage

more and more I find myself watching OLD tv shows and/or PBS because tv has gotten so we REALLY need SOMETHING to entertain (distract) us every smurfin' moment?! I can't even stand the food network anymore because all the shows have this obnoxious music that is sometimes so distracting I can't hear or pay attention to what the host is saying...when Julia Child was rushing to get a souffle whipped up did she need urgent sounding music playing to wind up her audience??

and what's with all the advertising?? I thought it was bad enough when networks started having giant logos in the corner at all times...but now they have HUGE animated reminders of season premiers or just whatever show is coming on next..dancing across the whole bottom half of the screen (which is REALLY fun when you're watching something with subtitles!!)

and NOT only that...but NOW they actually have advertisements on the screen during some they don't get enough advertising time in during the commercial breaks..NOW they hafta have pop-up ads on TV?!?! ...literally while a show is on..a pop-up ad for a law firm or car insurance will appear on the screen..what the...seriously?!

and for all the advances in technology we sure have reduced ourselves to putting up with a lot of annoying glitches...if the cable isn't pixilating or the satellite isn't going out because a cloud dared pass by..the netflix is acting up!!

and phones..ugh!'s no longer cost effective to just replace the battery on your cordless phone..ya hafta buy a whole new one now...and all the phones are so damn small and uncomfortable it's impossible to carry out any sort of household chore while gabbing with a friend!!

used to be I would get all my dishes done, laundry sorted, folded etc. while on the phone...we'd keep each other company solving all the world's problems while bangin' out all our more boring if you try to do dishes while talking on the phone you're lucky if the stupid thing doesn't slip off your shoulder into the soapy water...and the crick in your neck..forget it!!

I keep hearing all this stuff about the shit hitting the fan..and as unprepared as I am for such a thing..most of the time all I can think is BRING IT ON!!'s enough already with the constant CONSTANTNESS of everything!!

once upon a time, families ate meals together..actual home cooked meals made from wholesome, NATURAL ingredients (ahh..that's a rant for another post) ...they had conversations, read books, played games (together) that didn't require electricity or cause carpel tunnel syndrome! people had hobbies..and they socialized..WITHOUT the assistance of a social NETWORK!

the phone didn't ring between 9pm and 9am unless there was an emergency!

tv stations signed off after a certain hour..and that was ok..because THAT is when you're supposed to be RESTING YOUR MIND!!

if you needed something on a were SOL!

children looked healthy...they actually saw the sun and played outside..sure sometimes they got a skinned knee or a broken arm..but it beats the crap out of them getting diabetes and heart disease!!

if someone got a hole in their jeans they didn't run out to buy a new pair..they patched it up! ...if their radio, tv..or hell even their telephone went on the fritz..they repaired it..or found someone who could...these things weren't just thrown out until ALL possible ideas for fixing them were exhausted!

people took the time they had to sit in a waiting room to do things like balance their check book, read a magazine..mull over thoughts and ideas..figure out what to make for dinner...or heck even 'bond' with their fellow 'waiters' by striking up conversations...not anymore! we have to check fb for the umpteenth time..or play 'angry birds'..or 'draw something'..AGAIN!

and don't even get me started on abbreviations/text slang/substituting numbers for words, etc.

I seems to me like all these things that are supposedly designed to make our lives better are just pulling us apart as families and as a society, making us more and more wasteful and IMPATIENT...people are irritable and they don't even realize it's because of all the constant stimulation competing for our attention and the lack of actual human contact..we THINK because we're in more constant communication that we're better connected..but we're not! much of what we see, say and do has so little real thought or care that it's's WORSE than meaningless...

we're all aware on some level (even those who are guilty themselves) of the mindfulness of others..of how much thought and consideration is going into our interactions with others..and we've gotten used to accepting and probably even think we're satisfied with the bare minimum...

call me crazy..but I'm NOT content with apathy..I don't want to 'grow' to be satisfied with the bare minimum from people...or gadgets...I want to be enriched by my relationships and my activities! just seems wrong for us all to be in this constant ON mode...I can't speak for anyone else..but I'm just so tired of the incessant buzzing and beeping and running! ...where is the DOWN time??

people want more and more mobile devices because they're always on the go..but WHY?!

and WHAT is going on that's so important that we have to be connected at ALL times!!

do we HAVE to share every little thought that pops into our heads? ...MUST we be kept abreast of the minutiae of everyone's lives..moment by moment?

are our own thoughts THAT hard to live with that we must constantly be distracted from them with gadgets and animations and music?

does EVERYTHING have to be faster and brighter and better than the next guy's?

have we learned NOTHING from the financial events of the last several years?

I'm reminded of a quote I often see..which is: "be the change you wish to see in the world" (Gandhi is usually credited with this..but I'm pretty sure those were not his actual words) ...still..decent words to live by nonetheless...

so..what changes do I wish for?

I wish that more people wanted to live more simply...slow down and take time to recognize and appreciate what's important..for themselves and their community as a whole...

I wish people would try to be more cognizant of what they are putting into their bodies..AND what they are putting out into the world..the examples they're setting

I wish people were more interested in learning and carrying on the traditions and skills of their grandparents/great-grandparents, etc.

I wish people were more interested in the QUALITY of the time they spend..and less interested in the speed at which they race through each thing they do

I wish people were less concerned with having MORE stuff they don't need...and more concerned with filling their time with people, things and activities that enrich their lives!

I'm NOT saying we should all quit our jobs, disconnect from technology and live on a commune somewhere..milking cows, canning preserves and sewing our own clothes, etc. (as awesome as that sounds to ME) ...we all have to do what's right for US!

I just wish people's priorities were different...and that we would all spend more time focusing on the things that are truly matter who you are..where you live..what you always comes back to the SIMPLE things..they are what center us and truly enrich our lives...

anyway..these are the changes I wish..for me and for the world...which is why I long for a more low-tech existence...the way things are is exhausting to me..and interfering with my ability to focus on the things that matter most... awesome and peaceful as it sounds..I doubt brandiland is going off the grid any time in the near future...besides..without the internet..WHO would see me being the change I wish to see?!

and quest to figure out how to strike a balance, continues...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Polish meatballs (an old family recipe...with a twist)

I used to ALWAYS have ground beef in the freezer...I check the sales every week..and whenever it was a decent price ($1.69 or less per lb.) I would stock up...

but for whatever reason..I haven't seen ground beef go on sale in over a year! and with the every day price being comparable to that of a decent steak...I just can't bring myself to buy it :/
who would have ever thought HAMBURGER would become a LUXURY item?! my stockpile has been gone for a few months now...

but last week, our regular store FINALLY had it on sale (for $2.69 a pound..good grief :/ ) much as I never would have imagined I would ever find myself getting excited about ground beef (especially at THAT price!) ..I did my little happy dance! hahaha

it seemed like it had been FOREVER since we even had ground beef in the house! I started mentally flipping through my recipe files..and landed on one of my very favorite old family I started to gather ingredients I thought it might be a nice idea to share it most people have heard of SWEDISH meatballs...polish meatballs are probably not as well known...and well..that just ain't right!

actually..there are many variations in all 'nationalities' of meatball...traditional polish meatballs are very similar to swedish meatballs..the easiest difference to see right away is that traditional swedish meatballs are served with a creamy gravy...polish are served with more of a salisbury steak-like 'brown gravy'

my family recipe has a slight twist from the traditional...and then I go ahead and give it ANOTHER twist of my own

where traditional polish meatballs are made with torn bread or bread crumbs and marjoram in the mix and are often cooked on a bed of onion & celery (which is later used to make the gravy) ...somehow my family (probably in an effort to use up leftovers and make the meat stretch even further) decided to mix the meat with prepared from the thanksgiving turkey!

because the stuffing is full of celery & onions and seasoned with poultry seasoning, which contains get all the traditional flavors...but with the added awesomeness of pillowy little bites of delicious stuffing all throughout - YUM!

then I twist it a bit further by scrapping the traditional brown gravy...instead I use a component of another old family 'recipe' grandfather's favorite..stuffed flank steak..which is braised in a tomatoey sauce..thanks to the gourmetification of all the old 'undesirable' cuts of meat..I can't afford things like flank steak..but since that recipe is also made with regular old stuffing..using the 'sauce' from this seemed logical to me...actually I was confusing the two in my head but thought what the hell..polish meatballs would be awesome with a tomato-based gravy! ...especially since they're served over buttered egg noodles :)

so it is (actual recipe below)

first you make some stuffing...

unless you already have some leftover which case I suggest you skip this step! hehehe

then you mix the stuffing into some ground beef...divide evenly and shape into patties (I know..not very meatball-y...that's just the way we've always done it...I'm sure you could make them round instead..whatever floats your boat! :) ...and brown on each side..add the sauce fixins (a whoppin' TWO ingredients..woo hoo!) and let it all simmer together until the meat is cooked through...

not the best pic..but you get the idea...if the sauce isn't thick enough for ya you can add a little corn starch/water to it..just make sure ya cook it a couple more minutes to cook out the raw corn starch flavor...but ya want it to be able to coat the egg noodles this :)

I tried to get a decent pic of the inside of the 'meatball' so you could see the way they're studded all throughout with soft delicious bites of stuffingy goodness...but bein' winter in NY there was no natural light at that time of night to get a decent pic...hopefully ya get the idea :)

the recipe: (makes 4 good size patties)

for the meatballs you'll need:

1 pound of ground beef
6 slices of white bread - I like to toast mine
1 medium onion - chopped
4 or 5 celery stalks - chopped (including leaves..they add great flavor!)
1 egg
a tablespoon or so of poultry seasoning - I use BELL'S
salt & pepper to taste (I almost always forget to add salt and pepper...the rest of the ingredients are so full of flavor I don't even notice...but ours is a very low salt house you may feel differently)

for the gravy:

round about one part beef broth - preferably low sodium it's always best if YOU control the salt!
to two parts tomato this case I used V8 because that's what I had available

I just used one 14 oz can of beef broth...and used that can to measure out the tomato juice


saute onions and celery in a little butter & olive oil until soft and starting to get a yummy golden color...let cool
mix celery & onions with the toasted bread cubes, egg and poultry seasoning until it's all nice and mixed together
combine stuffing and ground beef and form into 4 patties
brown on each side and then pour tomato juice and beef broth into the pan and let it all simmer together slowly until the meat is cooked through...about 15 minutes
thicken gravy with a little corn starch mixed with cold water...make sure ya cook it another couple minutes just to make sure there's no raw corn starch flavor
serve over buttered egg noodles

note: I'm the queen of lazy so I do this all in one pan...if I have to make the stuffing I then cook the meatballs in the same pan I sauteed the onions & celery in...ya just have to make sure ya use a pan that's deep enough to comfortably hold the gravy!

~enjoy :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

sometimes ya feel like a nut...

I've mentioned before that I have a bit of a PINTEREST addiction...but I've decided that I'm NOT gonna be one of these people who pins a lot of stuff and then never does any of it (I have enough of THOSE projects in my craft closet already haa!)

so my plan is to pick at least one craft, DIY project or recipe a month and do it...not just START it..but actually FINISH it...and post about it here

this will kill two birds with one stone as far as my new years resolutions (make better use of my time, doing things I enjoy AND don't neglect my blog!)

yesterday I had a wicked headache and spent the first half of the day curled up on the couch...but after a little muppet therapy I started to feel headaches can be fierce and I'm usually stuck with them till at least the next day..therefor I had already resigned myself to the idea that I wasn't gonna get any housework done
so I decided to make the most of the little time I had left before it was time to start dinner..and make some dessert hahaha

come on...admit'd do the same thing if faced with a choice between laundry and CHOCOLATE!!

like I said..I had found this recipe on pinterest and being a HUGE fan of chocolate and coconut I was dying to try it..I already had all but one of the ingredients in the house so I made sure the last time I was pick up the one thing I was missing..coconut oil (just because I always like to follow a recipe as best I can for my first attempt at making it)

it drives me NUTS when I read reviews of recipes and people are like 'this recipe sucked' or 'it was ok' ...but then they go on to say all the ways they altered it to the point of it not even being the same dish anymore! ...what did you expect and why the hell are you reviewing it if IT isn't actually what you made?! ...IDIOTS..Aagh!!

anyway...let me just say that this recipe was anything but sucky!! ...not only are they absolutely delicious..but they were SO easy that if you had the ingredients in the house (all of which are pantry items that can sit for like..ever!) could easily bang them out as a last minute hostess gift or dessert for unexpected company...and they'd think you slaved all day :)

the balls rolled like a dream...

the recipe says to chill them and then re-roll just to smooth them out and chill again so that they are nice and smooth before dipping...but I was lazy and forgot this step :/ ...after all this WAS just a test run...I might have made them prettier if I actually planned to share..heh!

personally I think they're fine like this...the 'messiness' gives a nice hint as to the coconutty deliciousness hiding under all that chocolate...

and it certainly doesn't detract from the enjoyment of eating them!!

I couldn't wait...had to have one before they were fully set :) can see it was still a little soft

somehow I refrained from devouring the entire tray...AND managed to keep the spousal unit from gobbling them all up

so I took another pic you can see..they set beautifully and hold their shape well

I doubled the recipe but only ended up rolling half...when I do the rest I think I'm gonna stick a whole roasted almond onto each before I dip them...mmmm homemade almond joys!! much for the eat better/get healthy portion of my resolutions hahaha

just kidding...I've been workin' on that too...but all work and no play make brandiland a very unpleasant place!! :) ...besides..isn't there a law that says a girl and her chocolate must never be parted?! ...yeah..yeah..I'm pretty sure that's a law anyway..if it's SHOULD be!!

anyway...the recipe is from HERE... but I'll post it here anyway (with my own notes etc.) because I think if you like coconut you should make these truffles like...NOW!!
but in like 20 minutes when you're nibbling on your finished product...cause they're THAT easy..I promise!! should go check her out :)

Gooey Chocolate Coconut Truffles
makes about 24 teaspoon-sized truffles

3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted *
1 1/2-2 cups milk chocolate chips, melted **

in a large bowl, combine coconut and sugar and mix to combine. add in milk and coconut oil (I just threw it all in at once and smooshed it all together..cause I'm lazy)
mix constantly until a gooey coconut filling results (she used her hands and so did I!)
roll into balls about a teaspoon size (or a little larger) and place on a parchment-lined (I don't have parchment so I used waxed paper) baking sheet.

if you want them to look all fancy and professional..freeze for 15 minutes, then remove from freezer and roll again between your palms to smooth any coconut edges. freeze for 10-15 minutes more. while freezing, melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave. remove coconut balls from freezer and immediately dip.

I obviously skipped all that freeze/roll/freeze business and just went right to the dipping (had the chocolate melting while I rolled the balls)

she says to refrigerate until ready to serve...I didn't do that either cause I'm not a fan of cold candy (and neither are my teeth!) ..but as you can see they hold up just fine at room temp

* if you had to I'm sure you could use melted butter instead..but it would obviously change the flavor...not that I've ever noticed butter changing the flavor of something for the worse hahaha
however...coconut oil is much healthier and has a much lighter flavor (like almost non-existent)

**I always add a bit of grated beeswax to my dipping chocolate...this gives it a pretty shine AND helps it set up nice and not be all gooey on your fingers when left at room temperature :)

ok now go make some WON'T be sorry!! :) ♥