Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How to Make the Best Potato Salad

My mother would argue with me over the title of this post because she and I have completely different opinions on what makes a potato salad "good."  She prefers hers more "mushy" and heavy on the mustard.  I like my potatoes a bit firmer and give me all the mayo.  This "best potato salad" trick I learned, though, would work for either of our palates.  It comes down to one thing: the eggs.  Not the mayo, the mustard, or the consistency of the taters.  It's all about the eggs.
 
We went to a graduation party last month.  I was in the kitchen talking while Mark fixed his plate.  As soon as I joined him and sat down, he told me, "you have GOT to try this potato salad."  I did (because, duh, I'm Brandi and I love me some potato salad) and it was oh.so.good.  We asked who made it and turned out it was Kathy.  I asked her for her recipe right away.
 
"Oh, it's nothing to do with the recipe.  It's the eggs.  Use one egg for every potato."
 
The next time I made potato salad, that's what I did.  Well, actually, I was using baby reds and since they were smaller than the Russet potatoes she used, I did one egg for every two small potatoes.  It ended up being the same potato-to-egg ratio.  And you know what?  The potato salad was AMAZING.  I whipped up another batch of it last weekend and it was declared, "sweet love," "wow," and "that potato salad is awesome!"

FYI: I don't think it's possible to take a good picture of a potato salad!

Here's my recipe but, really, it's more the method than the recipe.  It's all in the eggs!

8 baby red potatoes, scrubbed and cut up (I keep the skin on)
4 boiled eggs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
MAYO!  (I never measure, I just keep adding it until I feel I have a good consistency)
Dill relish, about a tablespoon or so
Salt and pepper

Boil potatoes until just done.  Allow them to cool -- I usually stick them in the freezer for a bit.  Combine potatoes, eggs, onion, red pepper, relish, and mayo.  I add the mayo in a little at a time until I have the right consistency.  You could also add a squirt or two of mustard.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve it up and wait for the compliments to roll in!  ;)

It's all in the eggs!

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's the House Wine of the South

 
When I was a kid, my grandma would make sun tea and then pour, like, NO LIE a full pound of sugar in it.  Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but, I swear, that stuff was thick like syrup.  And also absolutely delicious.  Especially when drank out of the Dukes of Hazzard cup all us cousins would fight over.  Ahhhhh, the 80's.

A couple weeks ago I randomly told Mark, "I want some sweet tea."  Then.  "I want sun tea!  With a pound of sugar in it!"  He loves sun tea also so we were both on board with making it.  And, last Saturday, he prepped it, set it out in the sun, and a few hours later I did the finishing touches.  J tasted it first and told me, "this is better than the tea we had at that chicken place in Texas!"  A true compliment and you know that if you've ever had Bush's tea!

Sun Tea is easy to make and a pretty straight forward "recipe" but I thought I would share just in case any of you Yankees reading have never had the pleasure.  ;)

Here's what you need:

Gallon jug (glass jar with a metal lid is best -- the metal lid helps trap the heat)  I actually found mine at Walmart for about $5!
6 Teabags
Water
Sugar

All you do is fill the gallon jug with water, place the teabags in -- leave the tags hanging outside of the jar.  Sit it outside in the sun for about five hours. Important: It needs to be in direct sunlight! Move the jar if necessary. 

When you bring in, add sugar to taste.  I didn't do quite a "full pound!!!!" like my grandmother but I was fairly generous with the sugar.  Serve over ice.  It's super tasty!

Keep in mind: sun tea is weaker than regular brewed tea (but so much more delicioso!) Also,  you really need to drink it within a day or two.  And one last tip?  Tastes great with vodka!  ;)

Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Burger Bar Chicago

It's been nearly two months (whaaaaa??) since my Chicago trip but I was going through my drafts and realized I never got around to posting about two of the restaurants we ate at.  NO.WAY.  How very un-Brandi of me!  So, in honor of finding a folder of drafts AND friends from Chicago coming to town this weekend . . . let's have a Foodie Friday post!

We were hoooooongry after leaving our comedy improv show in Chicago. We took off on foot and ended up popping into Burger Bar Chicago. I love a good burger!

It was around 10:00 at night but the place wasn't very crowded, we were immediately seated at a booth in the bar and within seconds our water glasses were filled. Our waiter was prompt and friendly, offered suggestions, and was really the best server we had the entire weekend. 

First up, we ordered our drinks ... I went with the beer of the month and D decided to try a flight. She told the waiter, "surprise me" so he brought a collection of local brews. 


The dark one on the end was oh-so-NOT-good. Not good at all. But that's why you do a flight, right? Try 'em out!

Our appetizer was ... bacon lollipops!


Pork belly skewered and covered in bacon. No lie, we mostly ordered them because of the name. Come on, bacon lollipops? I'm on it! They were really good too. 

I went with the "Get-in-my-belly," partly for the name (yes, again) and partly because the description sounded so delicious. Burger topped with brie, pork belly, dijonnaise, and an onion jelly.   I feel like it's important to point out that we ate wayyyy more pork belly during this trip than we did pizza.  And we were in Chicago.


Oh goodness, what.a.good.burger! It was cooked perfectly and had an amazing flavor. For my side, I had the sweet potato fries with chipotle aioli dipping sauce. Yum! And it was SO MUCH FOOD. I couldn't even eat half the fries and only a little more than half the burger.

D ordered the Wild Bill - a bison burger topped with tomato chutney and goat cheese! - with truffle fries.  It was also delicious and also way too much food to even think about eating the whole thing.  It was during this meal that we pondered how successful a food sharing app would be. You know, like a ride share only better because it's FOOD. 

I would absolutely, hands down visit Burger Bar Chicago again. I can definitely see why they've been dubbed best burger in the Windy City!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mojito!



Kendra and I have decided to "Fun Friday" every Friday this summer.  Basically this means we eat yummy food, make some kind of drink, and spend the afternoon lounging around the pool.  Living the dream, my friends, living the dream.
 
For our last Fun Friday, I was had a craving for Mojitos.  When I think Mojitos, I think the summer of 2008.  For whatever reason, they were insanely popular that year.  I had never had one before and that was the summer after I had K1.  I was in full-on diet mode that entire summer but couldn't resist the yummy, minty drink.  They are sooooo good.
 
I decided I wanted to try to make some from scratch for Fun Friday and, of course, I have to share the recipe I used!
 
You Need:
35-50 mint leaves, depending on your personal taste
3/4 cup sugar
6 limes, quartered
Fifth of white Rum
2 liter Sprite Zero
 
What You Do:
 
Muddle together mint leaves (I found it easier when I tore them into smaller pieces) and sugar in bottom of large pitcher.  Squeeze in juice from six limes and continue to muddle.  Pour in rum and top with Sprite Zero (you won't use the entire bottle but you will use most of it.)  Throw in your quartered, juiced limes and give it a good stir.  This is SUCH a good - and refreshing - drink!
 
And now I'll letcha in on a bit of a funny story.  After I made these Kendra told me, "I forgot mojitos had rum in them.  Rum makes me sleepy."  I told her rum doesn't really have an affect on me.  And, well, I was asleep by 7:00 that night.  After only two mojitos!  Apparently rum does make me sleepy! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Oasis

I almost titled this post "My Oasis" but the kids have been getting on to me about using my instead of our when discussing our house.  In my defense, I'm mostly saying things like, "it's my house and I don't have to wear a bra if I don't want to!" but whatever.
 
I'm going to do a "room-by-room" of our new digs and I'm starting with . . . the backyard.  Because it's my our oasis, it's where we spend most of our time, and, frankly, most of the rooms aren't done and pulled together and won't be for a while.
 
So, here it is.  The Oasis, what 100% sold me on this house, and my favorite part!
 
The view when you walk out the backdoor:
 

On the day we moved in, we realized the previous owners left a bunch of potted plants.  "We can toss those if you don't mind," Mark told me.  I agreed until Kendra came over and discovered what they were: it's a potted herb garden!  We have cilantro, basil, spearmint, rosemary, oregano, kale.  I can't wait to walk out my backdoor and pick my own fresh basil.

The previous owners left a couple pages of instructions for us, things like when trash day was and some stuff about the pool.  They included, "Enjoy the strawberries, they're almost ready!"  Yesssss!  We have strawberries growing in our yard!  They were ripe when we moved in and the kids demolished them easily in an afternoon.  We have more growing now. 

We also noticed on move-in day that the rose bushes had bloomed.  Yellow roses are my favorite, they were my dad's favorite, and it felt like a sign to see these on the day we moved in.  We also have a couple of pink rose bushes.  I've been clipping them and taking them inside.  It's nice having fresh flowers and with the pop-up heavy rains we've been having, the roses don't always make it.
 

Our deck is two-tiered.  We put one of the grills (yeah, we have three.  All functional.  I know.  My man likes to grill!) on the first tier and our table and chairs on the lower.  I've realized there's no way to get pictures when there are no towels, cups, and pool toys laying around.  Not unless I try to at night because, seriously, we're out here all.the.time.
I have something special planned for my table (it's made of 12x12 tiles, one of which is broken and a few are warped just from being in the sun) and I'll show when it's all done.
 
Obviously, the highlight of the backyard is . . . THE POOL!
 

The kids are in it all the time.  We've already had Fun Friday and Sunday Funday.  The diving board is easily the most popular part (all the big kids are awesome swimmers.)  It's a salt water pool which is awesome.  It's cheaper and easier to maintain.  You don't get the burn or smell from chlorine.  Mark was the one who thought a pool was a MUST and he really wanted one with a salt cell.  I'm so glad he was so determined!

The way our yard is sloped, we don't have a lot of privacy from the neighbors behind us.  These flags and trees serve as a sort of barrier.  You better believe I'm going to find some kind of Arkansas something or other to go on those Razorback red flags!


We're very fortunate that we have A LOT of yard that's not being taken up by the pool.  The boys could easily play football, a dog could run around, all that.
 

Here's a view of the back of the house from the pool area:

We have a couple of changes we want to make.  First up, this:


The AC units are old and probably on their last legs.  When they do go out, we want to relocate them to the side of the house to cut down on noise.  We're going to fill in all those rocks with concrete because, well, the rocks are annoying.  You should've seen Mark and I trying to get the big daddy grill to set on those rocks.  (Spoiler alert: it didn't happen.)

We also eventually want to enclose the back deck and make a screened-in porch.  We are "outside" people and a four seasons room is PERFECT for us.  We've discussed using this year's bonus to do this but I'm not sure if we'll knock it out right away or wait a bit.  It doesn't really matter to me because I'm so seriously in love with our amazing backyard!

I never thought I would have anything like this ever and sometimes when I'm drinking my coffee out on the back deck, I feel like I need to pinch myself.  Obviously we're not going to end up in Better Homes and Gardens or Southern Living or anything but it's perfect - perfect! - for us.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

We Bought a House!

 
We woke up early Friday morning, very excited and maybe even a little nervous.  It was closing day!  We got kids off to school (their last day, a half day, and, therefore, a CRAZY day!) then met with our realtor and lawyer.  Eleventy pages signed later and . . . we were homeowners!  Have I used enough exclamation points in this post??
 
We were hopeful we would get the keys at closing but that didn't happen.  It took a couple hours, just enough time for us to get the garbage disposal fixed at the old house and call to have utilities switched over.  I ran to pick my kids up from school and, on the way back, Mark called and told me to head on over to the new house.  Um, hello!  Okay!  The realtor met me there with the keys and that's when the "excitement" really started. 
 
My mom and Kendra both helped with the kids.  Russell and Anthony helped us move.  Anthony was a total ROCKSTAR in this move.  He helped both Friday and Saturday, didn't complain (too much) and basically told me, "you say jump and I ask how high."  Seriously, if you're a single lady in your late 20's to early 30's and are interested in a North Dakota farm boy and don't mind the liberal use of f-bombs, let me hook you up!
 
We spent the long weekend moving and unpacking.  Our house still looks like a tornado of boxes came through.  The only room that's completely unpacked is the kitchen but, even in there, we have random stuff on the counters.  I know it'll take time to really get settled in but I can't wait until it's more complete!  
 
I will eventually share house pictures, probably room-by-room, but for right now I just had to write about our over the moon excitement of being in OUR home.  It feels amazing.  The kids love it and, since Friday, Mark and I have looked at each other roughly 2934028 times and said, "I love this house" or "I love this neighborhood" or "THIS YARD!"  We are so, so happy and so, so blessed.