Friday, September 23, 2016

Teatime with Brandy: Cool Toddy Cocktail with Lindy's Italian Ice

Being the big supporter of the arts that she is, Brandy was recently helping out at a rehearsal for an armature opera group when one of the lead sopranos began to croak quite unbecomingly.  "I think I'm coming down with a bit of a cold," the girl said, coughing a little after attempting to belt out a high G.  Quickly, the musical director, costume designer, and several members of the chorus began berating the girl with advice.  "You need honey!" one shouted.  "You need tea with lemon!" said another.  "You need a shot of whiskey!" slurred someone from the back of the room.  "I've tried it all," sighed the girl, "But everything just seems to irritate me throat more and more."

This was one when Brandy piped up.  "How are you drinking these things?" she asked.  The girl looked confused.  "All together," she said,  "No no, my dear.  What temperature?"  The girl furrowed her brow.  "Well, hot of course."  "There's your problem," Brandy responded, shaking her head, "I'll be right back."  Returning to her own home, Brandy pulled several things from her fridge; a bottle of honey infused whiskey, some lemon infused iced tea, and a cup of Lindy's Lemon flavored Italian ice.

Brandy had grown rather fond of Lindy's over the summer, finding their single serving size cups the perfect thing to keep in her freezer for a quick and refreshing snack.  There was also a wide variety of flavors to be considered, with delicious classics like Strawberry, Black Cherry, and Watermelon.  Brandy also discovered a whole other use for these boldly flavored and smooth textured treats: as an alternative to ice for her cocktails! Because each Italian ice is crafted in small batches to ensure a true flavor without an excessive use of sugar, Brandy found that a scoop or two of these beauties into a cocktail can serve the dual purpose of chilling and flavoring, meaning that instead of watering down the flavor of a cocktail, they actually enhance them as they melt.

With this in mind, Brandy created a cold version of her favorite winter time drink, a Hot Toddy, or in this case, a Cool Toddy. Once completed, she rushed back to the rehearsal and handed her creation to the soprano. After a few sips of the icy beverage had reduced the inflammation in the girl's throat, she was delighted to find she could sing once more. "There's not much in this world that whiskey, tea, and desserts can't fix," said Brandy, sagely.
Give Brandy's Cool Toddy recipe a try, or visit Lindy's Pinterest Page for more ideas and recipes.

The writers of this blog were provided with products by the company free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Cool Toddy

Lindy's Lemon Italian Ice
Honey flavored whiskey
Lemon flavored Iced Tea
Lemon slices for garnish

Chill the cocktail glasses for at least a few minutes before starting.  Scoop Italian ice into each glass until they are about 3/4 full.  Pour in one part whiskey, or fill half the glass.  Pour in iced tea until the glass is full.  Stir gently with a swizzle stick, garnish with a lemon slice, and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Food News: Edward and Sons Debuts Organic Green Banana Flour

Edward & Sons Trading Company (, a pioneer in the natural foods industry today adds gluten-free Organic Green Banana Flour, another innovative product to their many certified organic and gluten-free products sold under their Let's Do...Organic® brand.

A healthy alternative to traditional wheat flour, Let's Do...Organic® gluten-free Green Banana Flour is made from organic, unripe bananas picked before their sugar content has fully developed. The bananas are dried and then milled into fine flour, resulting in a slightly sweet and decidedly fresh taste.

Unripe bananas boast high levels of resistant starch, prized by dieters because it helps them to feel full. As its name suggests, resistant starch resists digestion in the small intestine and passes through the body without entering the bloodstream or breaking down into glucose, like most other foods. Popular in paleo, gluten-free and other special diets, Let’s Do...Organic® Green Banana Flour contains only organic green bananas.

Cooking with Let's Do...Organic® Green Banana Flour adds a smooth texture and subtle, delicious flavor to breads, pancakes, pastries, pasta and much more. Edward & Sons currently features some delicious recipes to guide the curious in how to best use the flour.

This exciting new product joins other Let's Do...Organic® coconut favorites: Coconut Flour, Shredded Coconut, Coconut Flakes, Creamed Coconut and Condensed Coconut Milk in the home baking sections of supermarkets, natural food stores and specialty grocers nationwide. Edward & Sons also features a wide range of organic coconut milk items under its Native Forest® and More Than Fair® brands and organic coconut water under its Nature Factor® masthead.

Commenting on the debut of Let's Do...Organic® Green Banana Flour, Edward & Sons founder and CEO Joel Dee said, “We are dedicated to introducing the most innovative organic products to the market. We’re thrilled by the enthusiastic response to our new Organic Green Banana Flour among consumers and foodservice customers searching for delicious and versatile alternatives to conventional grain flours.”

The writers of this blog have been compensated for the information contained in this post.

Friday, September 16, 2016

MOD Pizza or For Love of the Toppings

The Slow and Savory Review

It may surprise some to learn that Brandy, on occasion, has been known to have some athletic interests.  Besides her title as a world clogging champion and heading up an all star bowling league, she has also developed a rather passionate interest in baseball since moving to the States all those years ago.  "I'm a firm believer that one should always make an attempt to understand the culture of the country they are currently in, and as far as I can tell, most of American culture can be summed up by baseball," Brandy says, "It's all wholesome and fun on the surface, then there's a level of intense energy that doesn't always get released in the way one wants it to, then there's a level of subterfuge and strategy that no one ever acknowledges.  And also there's hot dogs and beer."

This fascination with American culture is what led Brandy into accepting the position of manager for an amateur baseball team, consisting entirely of former major and minor league baseball players who all just happened to be foodies.  The team (called the Chicago Corndogs) recently found their way into the Midwest Very Un-Professional Baseball League play-offs, much to the surprise of pretty much every player and coach, except, of course, for Brandy.  Cool as a cucumber with her best Sunday hat on and a cup of tea in her hand, Brandy managed to guide the team into clinching their division with an offensive display of 54 runs (they set a record for hitting 5 grand slams in the first inning) while her starting pitcher tossed a perfect game consisting of only 30 pitches.  To celebrate their unprecedented victory, Brandy decided to treat her team to brunch after the game.  "Baseball teams usually get pizza after a game, not Eggs Benedict," one brave infielder explained to her.  "Well then, pizza it is," she said, begrudgingly.

Knowing not just any old pizzeria would do for a team full of cultured palates, Brandy zeroed in on MOD Pizza, a fast casual chain of pizza restaurants, serving up unusual combinations of fresh toppings, sauces, and cheeses on a chewy Asiago infused crust, all cooked up fresh and fast in a brick oven in about 5 minutes or less.  The open and sunny space of the Glenview location gave Brandy's boys a chance to stretch out and relax, while the classic rock soundtrack provided Brandy with an immediate reason to smile as she took stock of her ordering options.  Pizzas came in pre-determined combinations for those wishing to simply point and pay, but could also be customized from the ground up for those wishing to express their culinary creativity.  With each medium sized pizza coming in at less than $8, Brandy could hardly resist ordering as many pizzas as the oven could hold to satisfy her team and give her a good taste of everything.

Brandy managed to try three different pizzas from the group before the team demolished them completely.  Firstly, she tried the Caspian, a BBQ chicken pizza with Gorgonzola and red onions.  Brandy very much liked that the BBQ sauce wasn't too sweet and had a good amount of heat and smokiness to it.  Though the flavors were rich and bold, the thinness of the crust and deft hand applying the toppings ensured that the pizza was still fairly light.

Secondly, Brandy went for the Sienna, a special seasonal pizza with garlic, mushrooms, rosemary, a few cheeses, roasted Brussels sprouts, and a drizzle of fig balsamic glaze.  Brandy loved this sweet and savory combination, even though on paper it sounded a little odd for a pizza.  The rosemary added a nice complexity to the flavor, which was kicked off by the sweetness of the balsamic, but the star of the show was most definitely the Brussels sprouts.  "What a lovely combination of summer and fall!" Brandy exclaimed, "Just like a baseball season."  The Asiago cheese that was baked into all of the crusts was an especially nice contribution in this pizza, giving it a little nuttiness as well.

Lastly, Brandy decided to build her own pizza creation.  She started off with some white sauce, then added some garlic rub and mozzarella, following that up with mushrooms, artichokes, spinach, bacon, and even more garlic.  The Brandy, as Brandy decided to call it, tasted like a delicious spinach artichoke dip with a side of garlic bread for dipping.  "Oh, I think I've really made something special here," Brandy grinned, "I think my little concoction should be put on the menu immediately.  Or maybe I should help them create the ultimate brunch pizza!  With bacon and poached eggs and shrimp and grits on a French toast crust with a maple syrup glaze!"

Now fully carb loaded, the team packed up their gear and prepared to head home.  "Hey guys?" pipped up the catcher as he checked his phone, "Did anyone else realize we were supposed to play a double header today?"  A collective groan went up from the players as they all suddenly realized their mistake.  "Well thank goodness those pizzas were light, fresh, and fast, hu boys?" said Brandy, "Let's go win two!"

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review
MOD Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy: Fig Mascarpone Hot Cereal and Hamilton Beach GIVEAWAY!

"I can't find anything in this kitchen any more!" Brandy exclaimed one morning as she sifted through her counters to find the appliances and tools she needed, "How on earth did I accumulate all this brick'a'brak?"  The problem was that Brandy is a kitchen gadget addict.  Everything from shiny garlic presses to non stick panini grills to zucchini noodle makers lined her kitchen counter, making it impossible to get even the simplest prep work done.  "That's it," she exclaimed, "I'm tossing out everything that doesn't have versatility!"

And so she began to test each and every one of her gadgets and doo-dahs and appliances to make sure that they fit her criteria.  Waffle maker?  "Only makes one thing and takes up far too much room," she said with a sigh.  Electric apple corer?  "I'll just have to go back doing things the old fashioned way," she lamented.  Rice cooker?  "Hey now!" she exclaimed, "A rice cooker may seem one dimensional, but this one actually has quite a few uses!"

Brandy was talking about her recently acquired 4-20 Cup Rice and Hot Cereal Cooker from Hamilton Beach, which she had grown quite attached to as of late.  The sturdy, yet light weight appliance can not only cook all kinds of rice to fluffy perfection, but also a whole host of grains, from quinoa to farro, can steam vegetables, and best of all, can cook up oodles on hot cereal.  There is nothing Brandy likes more than a bowl of hot steaming oatmeal, grits, or cream of wheat in the morning, and because this particular machine has a "delayed start" function as well as an automatic warming function once its done cooking, she can actually prepare a lovely breakfast the night before and have it ready to go when she wakes.  The non stick interior of the rice cooker kept even the stickiest muesli off the sides, and the fact that the machine came with both a rice paddle and a steamer basket was simply the icing on the cake.  "In the cold Chicago winters, there is very little that brings me as much joy as some hot cereal," she's often been known to comment.

Just the thought of a delicious bowl of hot cereal  had Brandy drooling, even though it was 4:00 in the afternoon by this point and over 80 degrees outside.  Thinking of all the warm, earthy flavors fall has to offer, she conjured up images of spices, maple, cream, and delicious late season figs and decided to combine all of them into one decadent dish.

Because she loved her creation so much, Brandy's rice cooker survived the great Kitchen Purge of 2016, and she felt so strongly that everyone should have one of these that she has decided to give one away to one lucky reader!  All one has to do to win is to leave a comment down below, telling us what they would create using their very own Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker.  Bonus entries for everyone who follows Bunny and Brandy on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram and leave a comment on the picture of Brandy's hot cereal creation.  A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday September 21st.  After being notified, the winner will have 24 hours to send their mailing address to:

If you aren't the lucky winner of the rice cooker but still want to pick one up for yourself, you can find them on Amazon and the Hamilton Beach website.

The writers of this blog were furnished with appliances by Hamilton Beach in exchange for an honest review.

Fig Mascarpone Farina

1/2 cup of Farina (cream of wheat)
2 cups of water
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup of mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Maple syrup
Candied pecans
Black mission figs cut into quarters

Add the farina, salt, and water to the cooker and set on "Hot Cereal" (alternatively, add the ingredients before going to bed and program the cooker to start the process in the morning).  After cooking, fluff the hot cereal with a fork and break up any clumps that may have formed.  Add in the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir until the sugar is dissolved and well combined.

In a small bowl, whip the mascarpone, maple syrup, and a tiny bit of salt with a fork until fluffy.

Spoon farina into bowls and top with a drizzle of maple syrup, a dollop of the whipped mascarpone, a few fig pieces, and some candied pecans, and serve immediately.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tea Time with Brandy: Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cheese Danishes with Nocciolata

When one likes to cook for as wide of a circle of friends as Brandy has, one certainly has to keep in mind a variety of dietary needs.  This is perhaps why Brandy's shelves are constantly stocked with a variety of flours, oils, and condiments so that she can whip up something delicious at a moment's notice for anyone who might stop by.

Lately Brandy has been trying to beef up her repertoire of dairy free baking recipes.  "It used to be almost impossible to think about baking without butter or milk, but now I know it can be done," she often tells herself while puttering around in the kitchen.  In fact, vegan alternatives are being made for almost everything these days, often times tasting just as good as their traditional versions, which Brandy discovered when she sampled a dairy free version of Nocciolata, a chocolate hazelnut spread from Italy.

Nocciolata-Dairy Free from Rigoni di Asiago is certified vegan, organic, non-GMO, gluten free and is made from a secret family recipe.  When Brandy first tasted this decadent treat, she found it just as rich as its milk laden alternative.  "I don't know how they kept this so creamy without using any cream!" Brandy exclaimed, "Oh, the things I could do with a rich spread like this."

Suddenly, she was struck with the idea of coming up with a recipe that could just as easily be made with dairy as without.  Taking Nocciolata's rich flavor as inspiration, Brandy combined it with the most desired dairy-based treat imaginable, i.e. cheesecake, and created a versatile filing that could be used in a variety of dishes.  Taking things in a brunchy direction, she created this simple and easy danish recipe that could easily be made completely dairy free by using vegan cream cheese and a dairy free puff pastry.

The writers of this blog were sent products free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cheese Danishes

1 package of frozen puff pasty dough (defrosted)
1/2 cup of Nocciolata
1/2 a brick of cream cheese
2 tablespoons of sugar
whole hazelnuts for garnish

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Cut the puff pasty into squares of equal size (they can be bite sized or gigantic, just as long as all the pieces are of equal size).  Using a sharp knife or a cookie cutter, cut a circle out of the middle of half of the pieces.  Using a bit of water, stick the pieces with the hole cut out on top of the whole pieces.

In a medium bowl, whip together the cream cheese, sugar, and Nocciolata.  Spoon the mixture into the middle of the puff pasty pieces until they are level (the amount will vary based on the size of the danishes).  Bake the danishes on a greased baking pan for 15-20 minutes, or until the top it golden brown.  Top pastries with hazelnuts (alternatively, they can be topped with fresh berries or turbinado sugar) and serve warm.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Postcards from Bunny: Dinner at Macello Ristorante and Pizzeria

Summer was taking one of its last breaths of the year when Bunny arrived in Chicago one evening for a brief layover between flights from Saint Thomas and Caracas.  "Everybody seems to already have plans for the evening," she grumbled, checking messages on her phone, "Oh well.  Perhaps its time for a date night with myself!"

She'd been craving Italian food since a brief stop in Milan a few months previous, so she chose to visit Macello in the West Loop.  Situated a little father west than most of the other trendy West Loop bastions, Macello featured a small deli at the front, a beautiful dining room just beyond the entrance, and a patio out back.

Bunny was struck first by the beautiful light streaming into the dining room via the triangular skylights over head.  At the back of the space, the open kitchen and wood fire oven added a warmth to the atmosphere that instantly made Bunny feel right at home.  The old world decor of exposed brick, concrete floors, and dark warm woods was brought to life with various pops of color throughout, like the glass panels on the windows, the giant painted lanterns hanging from the ceiling, the swirling murals along the walls, or the embedded bits of colored glass in the floor that positively mesmerized Bunny.

Inspired by the colors around her, Bunny picked out an equally colorful cocktail to kick off her meal; the Island Getaway made with pineapple and blue curacao.  Though not traditionally Italian, Bunny quite liked the fruity, sweet, and whimsical flavor.  "Is it artisan and natural and gourmet?  No," Bunny posited, "But is it fun?  Absolutely!"

Bunny started off her meal with a pair of cheesy appetizers; the Carciofi Ripieni and the Caprese di Burrata.  The Carciofi Ripieni, or stuffed artichokes, were very tender with a nice, nutty cheese both inside and on top.  The flavor was bright, citrusy, and almost sweet from being cooked in a white wine sauce.  The caprese was very fresh and rich with the uber creamy burrata taking the place of the more traditional mozzarella.  The herbiness of the basil was the dominant flavor along with a sprinkling of fresh pepper and some olive oil.  Bunny only wished for a firmer tomato at the base, as the slices beneath the cheese were on the watery side, but some brighter and more flavorful grape tomatoes on the top helped to compensate.

Instead of settling for one entree, Bunny decided to order two half servings of pasta so that she could try get the most out of her evening on her own.  First she tried the Braciole Beef Orecchette, a hearty dish with a bright and acidic tomato based sauce that was packed full of veggies for a classic Italian flavor.  Bunny loved how tender the beef rolls were, breaking apart easily with just her fork, while the pasta had been cooked to perfection with just a touch of chew to it.  Secondly, she sampled the Tartufata Laganelle, a linguini like pasta with a curly edge dressed with a truffle pesto, sausage, mushrooms, and a wedge of creamy goat cheese.  In this dish, Bunny felt that the pasta was the true star with the truffle flavor enhancing rather than overpowering everything.  The spiced sausage was a lovely accompaniment as was the goat cheese, which added a nice bite to an otherwise earthy, but light dish.

Lastly, Bunny finished off her meal with a dessert called Tartufo di Nocciola, a multi layered ball of ice cream coated in coco powder in order to resemble a truffle and topped with a spiked caramel sauce.  Though the texture of the dessert was a little grainy (Bunny suspected it hadn't frozen quite right) the flavor was pure hazelnut bliss with a nice boozy kick from the caramel.  "One would think this would be perfect for a chocoholic, but it's actually more nutty than anything else," she mused, sipping on an espresso.

Finally, she kicked back with a Limoncello and listened as a lovely young man played the accordian just behind her.  "I was so worried I wouldn't have company tonight," she laughed to herself, "But one can never be truly alone when there's a plate of food chock full of someone's love and passion in front of you."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Carmine's or Larger Than Life

The Slow and Savory Review

Patio season has always been an odd phenomenon in Brandy's mind.  "The people of Chicago get so excited every year to eat their meals outside," she says, "And I really don't understand the compulsion.  That is to say, I do realize how cooped up the population feels after a long Chicago winter and that any excuse to be outside feels like a blessing at first, but as the humidity seeps in and the bugs begin to swarm, I for one run straight for an enclosed and air conditioned space."

Bunny's dear friend Bailey is an example of one such person who will take any excuse to be outside during the summer.  "Let's go find a beautiful patio and have brunch!" she cheerily declared one Sunday morning.  "Must we?" Brandy whined.  "Yes.  It's beautiful outside, the sky is blue, and there's so few days like this left in the year.  Quit being such a stick in the mud!"  And so with much grumbling and rolling of eyes, Brandy agreed to a patio brunch.

They decided on Carmine's in the Gold Coast, a relaxed Italian steakhouse atmosphere with a beautiful covered patio space that made even Brandy scratch her chin in appreciation.  Filled with lush green color and flowering plants, the patio space gave diners the best of both worlds with television screens and sweetly twinkling string lights along with fresh breezes and prime people watching views.

Brandy and Bailey settled in with a couple of cocktails while they planned their menu strategy.  Brandy enjoyed the refreshing and sweet Pimm's Royal while Bailey chose a classic Bellini with a nice, crisp peach flavor.

"Let's switch things up and start off with something sweet," suggested Brandy, eyeing up the Bananas Foster French Toast, which Bailey agreed to wholeheartedly.  When the French Toast appeared on the horizon however, hefted by the smiling server, both ladies gasped in amazement.  The massive sweet treat consisted of what looked to be a whole loaf of bread, sliced into three pieces, coated in a crispy breading, slathered in sliced bananas and caramel sauce, and accompanied by several large scoops of vanilla gelato.  The thing tasted just as good as it looked with a crunchy exterior and a soft, eggy, chewy interior.  The flavor was true to the banana's foster moniker with plenty of sweet, buttery, and rummy notes.  "I was originally thinking we might order some dessert to share at the end of the meal," said Brandy, "But I hardly think that will be necessary now!"

Bailey picked the Surf and Turf Benedict for her main course, with half the dish coming adorned with a crab cake and the other with a small filet.  Bailey found that the steak had a good char on it and was still incredibly tender for a thinner cut of beef.  The crab cake was indeed mostly crab with very little cake and had a bit of brightness added to it with some red and green peppers throughout.  "Whoo boy!  This hollandaise has a bit of a kick to it!" Bailey exclaimed in delight.  On the side, some simple roasted marble potatoes were a nice accompaniment, while a small bowl of fruit provided a touch of sweetness to cleanse the palate of all the rich and salty flavors.

Brandy was feeling more in a lunchy kind of mood, so she went with the Lobster Roll.  She was very pleased to see that the lobster roll was composed of about 90% lobster, unlike some others she's had that are loaded with fillers like celery or potato.  The chunks of lobster were big too, and very tender and fresh tasting.  The buttered and slightly warm bun perfectly complimented the cold lobster salad, as did a sprinkle of cayenne pepper in the mayo, adding a touch of heat to liven things up.  Brandy also received a side of fruit along with some crunchy seasoned fries.  "Lobster rolls are always a bit of a gamble," she said, "But this one is certainly a winner in my book."

Perhaps it was the high quality food, the generous portions, the friendly service, or merely the indulgent weather, but Brandy found herself in a rather good mood following her brunch at Carmine's.  "Alright, perhaps there is something to this so called patio season," she begrudgingly admitted to Bailey, "But I'm still never going to be a sun worshiper."  "That's fine," said Bailey, "I'll soak in enough sun for the both of us."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review
Carmine's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato