Tuesday, July 31, 2012

KARL'S Krescent Balls

My brother, Karl W. Brandt, died 4 years ago at the age of 49.  Karl suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. He was a gentle person who loved animals, music and fishing.  He couldn't keep a job for very long and he never went on a date.  When he developed Type 2 diabetes in his 40's, he couldn't control his blood sugar levels because he didn't trust doctors.  He finally succumbed to kidney failure.

He would have been 53 today, and I'd like to dedicate my blog to him.  

KARL'S Krescent Balls
Make's 24

1 stick butter, softened
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. water
1 cup flour
1/2 cup packed finely ground walnuts or pecans

Heat oven to 350°F.

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and water.  Mix in flour and walnuts.

Roll into 1 Tbsp. balls.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 15 to 20 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.  

Roll in powdered sugar when cool.

My brother Karl and I, circa 1979.  I was 18 and he was 20.

Monday, July 30, 2012



If you read the above article, I hope that you note the following passage:

In the past, Mr. Romney has offered his donors a more detailed view of his policy plans and political challenges than he’s willing to unveil in public.

Why would a candidate seeking the highest office in the free world choose to bar the press from such an event?  Is it possible that only million dollar donors are fit to receive such details?  If a candidate is unveiling policy plans, I think that we all need to know what they are, so that we can make informed choices when we go to the polls in November.  If he's afraid that the American people won't go for his plans, then what is he going to do if he's elected?  Run roughshod over all of us?  Or is this just fear?  In London, Romney showed his true, arrogant colors, by insulting the Olympic planners, implying that he was a better organizer in Salt Lake City in 2002.  Another Etch-A-Sketch moment.

Is he afraid that he'll stick his foot in his mouth again, or is he just afraid to talk about his unpopular plans?

Fear is not a good quality in a presidential candidate.  He wouldn't have had the balls to take Osama Bin Laden out.  The bar has been raised.

What we need are some debates.  We need to know who this carefully guarded candidate really is.

Makes 24 

Don't be afraid to get out the deep fryer; these wings are BIG on flavor and very popular.

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/3 cup Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 lb. chicken wings, tips removed, separated at joints
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
1/3 cup blue cheese
Oil or shortening for frying
1 cup flour
Celery sticks

Whisk butter, hot sauce, paprika and cayenne in medium bowl; reserve 3 Tbsp.  Place remaining mixture in zip-lock bag with wings.  Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, whisk sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar and garlic in medium bowl.  Crumble blue cheese and stir into sour cream and mayonnaise mixture.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In large pot or deep-fryer, heat oil to 375°F. In 4 batches of 6, dredge wings in flour and fry immediately in hot oil, 6 to 7 minutes, moving and turning pieces frequently with tongs, until deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels. 

Brush hot wings with remaining hot sauce mixture and serve with blue cheese dip and celery sticks.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hot Dogg'n It


How can anybody NOT love Michelle Obama?


Because Michelle's a good sport and she just went with the moment.

German-style veal hot dogs
Good quality freshly baked rolls
Fresh condiments: Chopped tomatoes, Bermuda onion and cucumbers; spicy German mustard.

Grill hot dogs to golden brown perfection.

Serve hot dogs in buns with the condiments.

In Chicago, we have a PHENOMENAL deli on the northwest side of the city called Andi's Deli (http://www.andysdeli.net/).  They are predominantly a Polish deli, but they have other European offerings, including the thick-skinned German-style veal hot dogs that my mother used to prepare for us when I was a kid (by the way: this type of hot dog is gluten free).  They are still one of her favorite foods, and since she and my dad are visiting today, I thought I'd surprise her.



A special dinner to celebrate the Olympic Games in London.  USA!  USA!  USA!
Makes 6 servings

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2-1/4 cups flour, divided
1/2 tsp. each salt, garlic powder and black pepper
4 baking potatoes, cut into strips
12 oz. beer
2 lb. cod fillets, cut diagonally into 1-inch strips
Oil or shortening for frying

In large pot or deep-fryer, heat oil to 375°F.  Heat oven to 225°F.

Mix mayonnaise, pickle relish and lemon juice.  Cover and refrigerate.

Whisk 1-1/2 cups flour, salt, garlic powder and black pepper in medium bowl.  Add beer; whisk until combined.  Set aside while potatoes are fried.

Fry potatoes 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove with slotted spoon to paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Transfer to ovenproof baking sheet and place in oven while fish is prepared.

Place remaining 3/4 cup flour in shallow bowl next to beer batter.  Dry fish with paper towels and lightly season with salt and pepper.  Dip fish pieces in beer batter, then lightly coat with remaining flour before carefully dropping into hot oil.  Fry fish until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon to paper-towel lined plate, then transfer to baking sheet with fries to stay warm while remainder of fish is fried.

Serve fish with tartar sauce and French fries.

My family and I really enjoyed this dinner while watching the opening ceremony.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rough Start Fruit Tart



My mother taught me that if you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all.

Rough Start Fruit Tart

After a rough day, comfort may be found in a lovely dessert featuring fresh summer fruit.

½ cup powdered sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
12 Tbsp. butter, softened

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. milk
1 tsp. orange zest
1 pkg. instant French vanilla pudding

1/4 cup fresh blueberries
3 strawberries, sliced
4 kiwi, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1-1/2 Tbsp. sugar

Heat oven to 350°F.

Combine powdered sugar, flour and butter in food processor fitted with steel blade.  Process until mixture forms a ball.  Press dough evenly into 12-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until light brown.  Cool on wire rack.

Beat cream cheese until smooth.  Gradually beat in milk, then blend in zest and pudding mix.  Spread over cooled crust.

Arrange fruit decoratively over pudding mixture.

Combine orange juice concentrate, cornstarch, orange zest and sugar in small sauce pot.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened.  Cool.  Carefully brush glaze over fruit.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sensible Scalia Ice Cream Sundae


There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Someone should tell Mitch McConnell!

Sensible Scalia Ice Cream Sundae
Makes 1 serving

It makes sense to indulge once in a while.

2 scoops good-quality ice cream
2 Tbsp. warm caramel sauce
Aerosol whipped cream (go for it!)
2 Tbsp. toasted pecans
1 maraschino cherry



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Games Smoothie


“You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers encouraged your hopes,” he said after praising the competitors in footage unearthed by NBC News. “Coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches and communities.”  Mitt Romney, 2002

People lending a hand...what a concept!  

Let the games begin!

Summer Games Peach Melba Smoothie
Makes 4 servings

You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to appreciate the refreshment and health benefits of this simple-to-prepare smoothie.

2 cups frozen peaches
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 cups soy milk 
1 container (6 oz.) Peach flavor Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. flax seeds
1 Tbsp. sugar

Place all ingredients in blender; blend until smooth.

Substitute frozen raspberries for frozen blueberries.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup (278g)
Servings Per Recipe - 4

Amount Per Serving
Calories 160
Calories from Fat 35
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 0.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol  0mg
Sodium 60mg
Total Carbohydrate 26g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 21g
Protein 7g

Vitamin A 10 %
Vitamin C 110 %
Calcium 20 %
Iron 4 %

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Big-Ticket Blathering Black Bean Quesadillas

Can we please not do this again this year?  

Big-Ticket Blathering Black Bean Quesadillas
Makes 8 servings, or 32 appetizers

Substantial and affordable. ¡Muy sabroso!

1 can (15.5 oz.) rinsed and drained black beans
1 ear corn, roasted, kernels removed with sharp knife
1 tomato, seeded, chopped
jalapeños, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 large burrito-size flour tortillas
3 cups shredded Chihuahua or Queso Quesadilla 

Sour cream for serving

Combine beans, corn, tomato,  jalapeño, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt and 1 Tbsp. oil.

Lay 2 tortillas on clean flat surface.  Cover half of each tortilla with 1/2 cup cheese.  Layer 3/4 cup black bean mixture evenly over cheese and top each with 1/4 cup more cheese; fold over.

Heat an electric griddle to 375°F or put a flat griddle on stovetop and heat to medium-high.  Brush surface of griddle with 1 Tbsp. oil and add quesadillas.  Cook 2 minutes on each side (flip carefully!) or until lightly browned and crisp and cheese is melted.  Transfer to cutting board and cut each quesadilla into 8 wedges. 

Repeat with remaining oil, tortillas, black bean mixture and cheese.  Serve with sour cream.

Use fewer jalapeños if you can't tolerate too much spice.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Washington Politics Watermelon Spritzer

Washington Politics Watermelon-Lemonade Spritzer
Makes 12 servings, 8 oz. each

We deserve a great summer cocktail to help us forget how petty the campaigning has become.

1-1/2 Tbsp. lemon zest 
2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
6 cups cubed seedless watermelon
3 cups club soda
1 bottle (750 ml) vodka

Make lemonade base by combining lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a pitcher, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours but no more than 24 hours.  Strain mixture into serving pitcher.

Blend 1 cup lemonade base with watermelon until smooth.  Add puree to pitcher along with club soda and vodka; stir gently.  Serve in ice filled glasses.

For a less potent cocktail, replace vodka with white wine.

You can substitute water for club soda.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

BLT (Bush NOT Leaving Texas)

Would YOU leave the comfort of Texas for the GOP convention in Tampa Bay?

Bush NOT Leaving Texas
Makes 3 servings

This Italian-twisted BLT loves to be center stage. 

1 French demi-baguette (8 oz.)
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, minced
6 slices crisply cooked bacon
1 tomato, halved and sliced
1 cup arugula leaves
4 oz. ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
Salt and pepper

Split bread loaf almost all the way through, creating a hinge.  Spread bottom half of bread with combined mayonnaise and garlic.

Layer bacon, tomato, arugula and mozzarella over mayonnaise.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Cut into thirds and serve.

Bush II, Dubya, 43

Saturday, July 21, 2012



Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies...

Makes 42 cookies

Exceptional flavor from honey, orange and candied ginger.

1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
Powdered sugar 

Heat oven to 375°F.

Melt shortening, honey and sugar in sauce pot over medium low heat; cool.

Beat egg, orange zest, baking soda and cooled honey mixture.  Blend in flour and ginger.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet 2-inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until deep golden brown.  Lightly dust with powdered sugar before serving.

1. I used a No. 70 cookie scoop to portion cookie dough.
2. Make ice cream sandwiches!  Fill 2 cookies with softened vanilla ice cream.  Wrap in plastic and freeze 1 hour. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lame Line of Reasoning Layered Dip



The liberal media have done it again!  

They've been plotting for YEARS to name a character in the Batman Trilogy 'Bane' to associate Mitt Romney with an evil movie villain during the 2012 election season.  So diabolical.

Oh, wait...what was that?...Bane was in the original Batman series...oops.

Lame Line of Reasoning Layered Dip

Everything in THIS dip makes sense.

1 can (16 oz.) refried beans
1 can (4.5 oz.) diced green chilies
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 avocadoes
Juice of 1 lime, divided
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1 cup sour cream
1 large tomato, diced
1 serrano chili, seeded and minced
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 oz. queso fresco, crumbled

Mix beans, chilies and cumin in medium bowl.  Spread on bottom of 8-inch square glass dish or 9-inch round pie plate. 
Mash avocados with half of the lime juice.  Stir in half of the salt.  Spread evenly over bean layer, almost to edge.   Top avocado layer with sour cream, spreading almost to edge.
Combine tomato, serrano, green onions and cilantro with remaining lime juice and salt.  Spoon evenly over dip.  Top with crumbled cheese.  
Serve with tortilla chips.

If you prefer a spicier dip, add more serrano chilies to the tomato topping.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Active Agenda Adobo Chicken


For ONE candidate, anyway, who also has to run the country.

Active Agenda Adobo Chicken
Makes 6 servings

You'll never be too busy to make this tasty Filipino chicken recipe for dinner.

1 cut-up fryer (3-1/2 to 4 lb.; 10 pieces [cut breasts in half])
3/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 cup vinegar
12 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp. peeled, thinly sliced fresh ginger
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
3 cups hot cooked rice (any kind)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 green onions, thinly sliced on bias

Place chicken in large skillet or saucepot with cover.  Pour combined soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger and peppercorns over chicken.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cover; reduce heat to low and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until "falling off the bones" tender.

Transfer chicken pieces to serving dish with rice.  Strain remaining liquid and return to skillet.  Whisk brown sugar into liquid, bring to a boil and cook on high 5 minutes or until reduced by half, whisking occasionally.  Drizzle over chicken and rice; sprinkle with onions and serve immediately.

I photographed the adobo chicken with Trader Joe's Basmati Rice Medley.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012



Rhambo Combo

The only thing better than 2 Chicago Democrats.  My favorite combination - steamed mussels (see 7/17 blog) and grilled pizza (below).

2-1/2 cups bread flour
2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 cup very warm water
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. honey
8 oz. shredded Italian cheese blend
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Combine flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine.  Mix water, 1 Tbsp. olive oil and honey.  Add to flour mixture and process 1 to 1-1/2 min. (dough will form a ball).  Remove dough from processor, knead one or two times on counter and place in greased bowl covered with a towel.  Let stand 1 hour or until doubled.  Meanwhile, heat gas grill on high.

Roll or stretch dough to a 14" circle.  Place on pizza peel and brush top of crust with 1 Tbsp. olive oil.  Flip onto grill, oil side down.  Close cover and cook 1 minute.  Using pizza peel, flip pizza and cook 1 minute on other side.  Remove crust from grill to wire rack.  Reduce heat to low and turn off burners on one side of grill.

Brush crust with remaining oil.  Top with 3/4 of the cheese.  Combine tomatoes and garlic and dollop over cheese.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Use pizza peel to place pizza on the side of the grill that is turned off.  Close cover and cook 5 to 8 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.  Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NEXT IN LINE (?) Mussels with Wine

I find it interesting that, according to polls, adding Bob McDonnell to the ticket in Virgina, Rob Portman to the ticket in Ohio, Marco Rubio to the ticket in Florida or Paul Ryan to the ticket in Wisconsin, doesn’t help Romney seal the deal in these battleground states.  

What gives?

NEXT IN LINE (?) Mussels with Wine
Makes 4 servings

You won’t want to wait for these!

1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
½ bottle white wine (see NOTE)
2 lb. clean, debearded live mussels
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

Heat oil in large skillet with tight fitting cover.  Add garlic; cook and stir on medium heat 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add wine and bring to a boil.

Add mussels; cover.  Cook for 4 to 8 minutes or until most have opened.  Season with salt and pepper, stir, and top with parsley.

Serve immediately.  Spoon into bowls with broth and pass crusty French bread.

Use a crisp white wine, like chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio.  Use something that you can finish with the mussels!

Mussel safety et al:
Mussels are alive if they are shut tight before you cook them; discard any that are open or cracked.  When they are cooked, they will open up, and as long as you've discarded any that are open before cooking, you should be safe.  I have always been very happy with the mussels purchased at Costco, but you'll have to use a very large skillet and double the recipe because they come in a 4 lb. package.  I purchased the mussels in the photo from Burhops in Glenview, IL, and I was very satisfied.

Monday, July 16, 2012



We're better than this, we just can't prove it.  Tony Gwynn

Makes 20 squares

Although small, these sweet treats will never be considered trivial.

1 frozen pound cake, thawed
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam or fig spread
2/3 cup hot water
2/3 cup corn syrup
8 cups (2 lb.) powdered sugar
1 tsp. almond extract.
Blueberries and raspberries for garnish

Slice pound cake into 4 layers.  Spread 2 layers with jam and cover with remaining layers.  Cut each 'layer cake' into 10 squares by cutting in half lengthwise and then into 5 equal portions.

Whisk hot water and corn syrup until dissolved.  Gradually whisk in powdered sugar and almond extract until smooth.  

Place cake squares on wire rack and pour fondant over cakes to coat.  Let stand 20 minutes or until set, then coat a second time.  Place a raspberry and a blueberry on top of each square immediately after 2nd coating.  Let set completely.

If the fondant becomes stiff, whisk until smooth and pourable.

A Personal Note:

Baseball Petit Four
A friend of mine once said that only a mother can love a 12 year old boy.  

This team is the exception to that statement.  They're good boys who care about each other and their team, who always do their best, and have a first place division trophy to show for it.  Boys who understand and live by the golden rule.  Exceptional athletes and good sports.

I would like to dedicate my post today to the 2012 ESAA 12U Thunder baseball team and to the parents of these exceptional boys.  

What a blast we had this year!

2012 ESAA 12U Thunder
Top row
Chris Moore, Brian Vance, Nathan Moore, Johnny Costello, Ben Mulcrone, Colum Goebelbecker, Patrick Kramer, Frank Vance
Bottom row
Ben Wagner, Jake Mitchell, Augie Whittington, Spiro Vaselopulos, 
Aidan Dunham, Ted Wagner