Friday, August 25, 2017

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy: Triple Chocolate Butter Mochi and Nielsen-Massey GIVEAWAY!

Many years ago, Brandy was on a beach in Hawaii, sipping a tropical cocktail and starring out over the water at a patch of dark clouds. She had a fully packed picnic basket beside her, stuffed with everything she would need for a day of sun bathing and relaxation. Then, quite suddenly, people began running from the beach. Brandy wasn't quite sure what the problem was. Was there a shark in the water? Was there a pop up luau happening somewhere? Was there a shortage or coconuts? And then the rain started. This was no English drizzle or a light sprinkling; the sky opened up as suddenly as though a giant shower head had been turned on. Before Brandy even had a chance to scramble for cover, her entire picnic basket was soaked through.

Trudging off the beach and into a local cafe, Brandy took a seat by a window and starred forlornly outside, willing the rain to pass over. Taking pity on her and her soggy picnic basket, the owner of the cafe brought over a simple looking snack. "It's called Butter Mochi," the jovial man told her, "It's a local favorite. Give it a try." And from the first moment that her teeth sunk into that ooey, gooey, chewy little square of heaven, she was hooked.

This was the memory Brandy was currently savoring as she starred out the window of her new home at a rainy late summer afternoon. "What I wouldn't give for a bite of butter mochi right now," she said to herself, remembering so clearly how the brownie-like confection had so delighted her with it's one of a kind texture. "Wait a minute," she said, "Don't I have mochi flour in my cabinet?" And sure enough, buried behind the cornmeal and tapioca starch was a box of mochi flour. It wasn't long before Brandy had collected up all the ingredients she needed to recreate the decadent treat she had first tasted so long ago.

This time, though, she decided to give the butter mochi a chocolatey twist. While traditional butter mochi has a vanilla and slightly coconutty flavor, Brandy decided to add coco powder, chocolate chips, and Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract into the mix, as well as a splash of Nielsen-Massey Pure Coffee Extract, which she knew would help to bring an extra richness and depth to the flavor. The result was an even more indulgent treat than the one Brandy remembered having all those years ago.

So convinced was Brandy that everyone in the world needed to try butter mochi that she not only recorded her perfected recipe for posterity, but she is also giving away a pair of extracts from Nielsen-Massey to one lucky reader! Be sure to leave a comment down below to be automatically entered and we will reach out to the winner next week (so be sure to leave an email or social media handle in your comment). Best of luck!

Triple Chocolate Butter Mochi

2 cups mochi flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup coco powder
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
14 oz of unsweetened coconut milk
14 oz of sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp Pure Chocolate Extract
1 tbsp Pure Coffee Extract
5 tbsp butter, melted
2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 13x9 baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine mochi flour, sugar, coco powder, and baking powder. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate extract, coffee extract, and melted butter and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring continuously to ensure that no lumps are formed, until the batter is completely smooth (optionally, run the batter through a strainer to catch any smaller lumps). Add in the chocolate chips and stir to make sure they are evenly dispersed, then pour the mixture into the pre-greased baking pan.

Bake for about an hour or until the center is firm to the touch and the edges are slightly crispy. Let cool for at least 30 minutes, then serve at any temperature to enjoy various levels of chewiness.

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Postcards from Bunny: Step Up Shine and Dine 2017

It was time once again for the Step Up Women's Network event of the year, Shine and Dine, and Bunny was speeding her way to the party in a single engine plane flown by an ex-Blue Angel. "Can this thing go any faster?" she yelled to her pal in the pilot's seat. "No," he yelled back, "But it can do this!" And suddenly, the plane was spinning in mid air and spewing colored smoke from its rear, forming the sentence Bunny is running a tad bit late! in the blue Chicago sky. "You have to warn me before you do that again!" Bunny chided him, "I dropped one of my earrings!"

Eventually, Bunny made it to the new home of the Shine and Dine event, Revel Fulton Market. As in past years, she was greeted at the door by smiling girls in orange, the very girls Step Up Women's Network benefits. The first order of business was to scope out the vast array of offerings from the restaurants from all across town who had come to support the event. Chef Cory Morris maned the table for Ronero, serving up a delicious tuna ceviche with lime and corn in a coconut broth. At Terzo Piano table, Carolina Diaz brought a red pepper rigatoni. Christine Cikowski of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, who served as the chef/partner for the evening, came with her stellar plate of Fried Chicken Nachos (which Bunny may or may not have had seconds of). New comers to the event, like Eden, Butcher and Larder, and ASAP Poke were big hits as well, with lines moving steadily past their tables all night. Offerings from Duck Duck Goat, La Sirena Clandestina, and Found Kitchen greeted guests as they took their seats for the main presentation. Favorites like Bang Bang Pie, Floriole, and Sixteen provided sweet treats to round out the savory plates.

Step Up CEO Jenni Luke first took the stage to thank all the sponsors and walk the crowd through just some of the accomplishments of the program and the girls that the program benefits in the previous year. Several alumni of the program spoke about how much the network of mentors helped them through their education and into stable and important careers while groups of orange clad girls currently in the program looked on with stars in their eyes, dreaming of the day they too would be honored for their hard work and success.

The evening wore down with a live musical performance, which got everyone up and dancing. All told, the evening raised more than $350,000 for Step Up Women's Network, a truly admirable sum. Bunny made a promise to herself to once again find a way to attend this spectacular event next year (and every year after that) so that she never misses any stories of the incredible girls who are continuously given such wonderful opportunities through Step Up to grow to their full potential.

To see lots of pictures from the event, visit the Bunny and Brandy Facebook Page. You can also check recaps to previous Shine and Dine events to see how this year measured up.

The writers of this blog were invited to attend the event free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Tea Time with Brandy: Summer Snacks & Sips

It has been quite a harrowing few weeks for Brandy. Though she has adored living in Lakeview these past 10 years, she felt she needed to move on to bigger and better things (specifically, a bigger and better kitchen). So recently, Brandy uprooted herself into a new place a little farther north, where she could enjoy a little more peace and quiet as well as a bit more room to stretch.

Of course moving house is never an enjoyable business. There's always that strange in-between period of living out of boxes and bags and feeling lost in one's own home. For that reason, Brandy has kept a few very specific things by her side to help with the transition.

A recent addiction to cold brew coffee led Brandy to Tall Tale Coffee, a local employee owned company with a store front cafe in Ravenswood. Through their home base, Tall Tale Coffee delivers their signature cold brew to doorsteps around Chicago. Eight cups of smooth, toasty coffee come conveniently packed in a fridge-friendly box with a spigot built right in, enabling the coffee to be poured and enjoyed straight away. Best of all, one can set up a subscription that will deliver a box every week, two weeks, or 4 weeks automatically. Brandy found this ready-to-go coffee invaluable during all those early morning unpacking sessions. She even got a code for her loyal readers to use in order to get their first box free when they sign up for a subscription: BUNNYBRANDY

In order to being her long days of packing and unpacking, Brandy had to load up with not only lots of caffeine for energy, but also protein. For this, she would quickly prepare what she liked to refer to as a Bibimbap Breakast Bowl using authentic Korean products from Sunny's Korean. Using a traditional bibimbap as inspiration, Brandy would quickly saute veggies like mushrooms, zucchini, and napa cabbage, using a touch of vinegar, sesame oil, and the Kimchee Seasoning to add spice, salt, and a touch of sweetness all in one go. She also loves to marinate thinly sliced beef in the Korean Teriyaki sauce and quickly cook it up with a little garlic and ginger. Finally, she'll whip up some simple scrambled eggs as a base (in place of rice in a traditional bibimbap), then add the beef, cooked veggies, some fresh veggies like sliced radish and baby spinach, and top everything off with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. The result is a protein packed bowl of deliciousness that can be enjoyed hot, cold, or can be stored for a few days in the fridge to intensify the flavors.

Of course, all that protein and caffeine can't last all day, so a little sugar rush in the middle of the day is usually needed, and that is when Brandy found herself reaching for goodies from Everton Toffee Company. Inspired by a recipe created in 1753, Everton Toffees come in two different forms; Butter Toffee Caramels and toffee and nut covered pretzels. The caramels are soft and chewy and perfect for a quick hit of buttery goodness, while the pretzels are the ultimate in sweet and salty snacking. As tasty as they are on their own, Brandy's favorite way to eat these crunchy little delights is with ice cream. The salt on the pretzels goes incredibly well with a good quality vanilla, while the nutty, buttery flavor of the toffee is excellent with dark chocolate, meaning the ideal pairing in Brandy's professional opinion is a vanilla chocolate chip.

Finally, after a long day on her feat, Brandy likes to relax with a nice cocktail. Recently she's become a big fan of 1893, an all-natural sugar sweetened soda based on Pepsi's original recipe. The cola comes in four varieties; Original, Citrus, Ginger, and Brandy's favorite, Black Current. The fruity, more mature flavor of the soda makes it a perfect cocktail mixer, and Brandy's preferred cocktail to mix up is her play on a Whiskey Seduction, which she likes to call a Polite and Consensual Whiskey Conversation. The drink starts with 2 oz's of vanilla scented whiskey in a tall glass, then a few sprigs of basil are muddled into the liquor, followed by two ounces of a fruity red wine, then four ounces of the Black Current cola, ice, and finally, a squeeze of lime juice. The result is a smooth, sophisticated, and slightly sweet cocktail that fits any occasion, from a summer evening relaxing on the porch to a vibrant dinner party (or in Brandy's case, an early afternoon curled up in an arm chair, knitting and watching a baseball game).

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