Cleaning out my island

Dec 29, 2010 by

Time to clean out my island.

No, thats not my island.

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Here is my island.  isn’t it pretty?

A few times lately I’ve been cooking and looking for some tool or utensil and I know have 7 of them, but can’t find a single one.  My drawers are overflowing with kitchen stuff and I don’t know why I might ever need 12 scrapers, or 8 wooden spoons all at once.

So I set out to clean out my kitchen island drawers and get rid of some items that I have way too many of and never use

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Here is the mess

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This is the worst drawer.  An abyss of utensils and implements of destruction

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This one is also bad, but slightly better with the silverware being somewhat organized, even if my knives don’t fit in the tray

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And here it all is.  Everything that was in my drawers taken out.

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An old classic…Kiss Cookies

Dec 24, 2010 by

I always like to try new things, but sometimes you have to re-visit the classics.  Its almost Christmas, and everyone’s house should be filled with no only some holiday cheer, but with the smell of something delicious in the oven.

If I wasn’t sick right now, I would be able to smell the wonderful cookies in the oven.   I visited my family last weekend for the holidays (and now blame them for getting me sick), and while up there my sister was making an old favorite of mine, the kiss cookie, as in Hershey’s Kiss.

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These are simple to make, and oh so delicious to eat.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started

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Ingredients:

2 2/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
a bag of Hershey kisses, unwrapped
some extra sugar to roll the cookies in

Lets get started… Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

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In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda.

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yummmmmmy peanut butter

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Add butter and peanut butter and mix until smooth.

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Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy.

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I love brown sugar

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Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.

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Grab a bit with your fingers and roll it between your hands to get them into little balls.  They should be a bit smaller than what is seen here.

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Grab some extra sugar and pour some in a bowl.

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Roll your cookie balls in the sugar.

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Bake 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet or baking stone for 10 minutes.

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While those are in the oven you need to make these…

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look like this

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When the cookies look nice and golden brown and awesome like this, take them out.

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Push 1 kiss to the center of each cookie and enjoy that smell.

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Set them on a paper towel to cool.  The kisses will become soft and squishy.  Let cool and enjoy.

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Me and my sister when we were little would push down all the tops of the kisses on the cookies.  My mom didn’t like that very much.

thats it!  Just rinse and repeat for the next batch of cookies into the oven.

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While you are waiting for them to bake you can pre-make the dough balls and toss in the sugar bowl with others to save time rolling each one individually.

Now here is some gratuitous cookie shots

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And I only ended up with 3 extra kisses from the bag.  I’ll just eat those to clean up.

So while I was sick, my wife confirms that the entire house smells delicious and she gladly at a couple of these cookies.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and that its filled with great family and friends.

Merry Christmas everyone

Ben…

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Finally a discount on giving!

Dec 13, 2010 by

You get discounts all the time when you shop, but not so much when you give.   Why not?

Well Groupon is running a great promotion for $15 for $25 worth of microloan credit at Kiva.org and I think its a great idea and a great way to get started with Kiva.

I’ve mentioned Kiva before in my thoughts on Christmas post, and I’ll cut right to the chase and say that if you are looking to do something good this Christmas, take a look at what Kiva is doing and join them.   Kiva works by providing microloans to those in need around the world.  These are not just donations.  This money is lent out and repaid back to you to then re-loan out to others.  There is a virtuous circle here where your money and effort are at work and repaid over and over again to do more good to those that need it.

This Groupon is a great way to test it out and do some good this holiday season.

Check it out. I just bought it.

Ben…

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A Simple Vegetable Soup

Dec 12, 2010 by

Soup is easy to make.  Vegetable soup is really easy to make.

Here is the basic process

Vegetables + Chicken Broth + Heat = Vegetable Soup

What you do with the first ingredients is up to you.  Use what vegetables you like.  Use what vegetables you have.  Its up to you.

As its getting colder, a nice vegetable soup sounded good.  Here is a quick soup I threw together with some veggies from my garden.

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So I basically just raided my garden and grabbed a little of everything

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What I ended up with and what you’ll need:

  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Beans – these are nice to add to a vegetable soup.  I used white kidney beans
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Green Beans
  • Chilies
  • Parsley

The celery and green beans weren’t from my garden.  I need to plant some of those.

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Again, the basic premise is chop all those up, throw them in a pot with some chicken or vegetable stock, add a little salt and pepper and turn on the heat and you will have soup.  I threw in a few small twists.

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I wanted some color and some additional flavor on some veggies so I roasted the zucchini and some carrots.  Cut up the zucchini into chunks.

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Slice up some carots

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Throw into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil

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Sprinkle with salt and pepper

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Throw into a baking pan and into the oven at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes until they have a nice brown  tinge.

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This carrot looks like the imperial scout droid on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.  I’m just saying…

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While those veggies are roasting (and smelling great) cut up some carrots

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Cut up an onion

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cut up some celery

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I added a chili pepper cause I have a ton of them.  I only added one cause I didn’t want it to be too much for the soup, but I could have added more.

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Grab a big pot, throw a little olive oil in, turn on the heat and add in the carrots and the onion.   Stir for a couple of minutes

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I had some cauliflower from the garden I haven’t done anything with yet, so I cut them up into some crumbles and threw them into the soup as well.

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Stir this around over heat until all the great smells come out of the vegetables.  About 5 minutes.  After that add your chicken stock to the vegetables.  Use enough to cover the vegetables and then add a little more.

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when the roasted vegetables have some nice brown color on them take them out and set them aside

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Chop up your fresh parsley.  You can use parsley flakes, but fresh is awesome.

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Cut up the green beans into inch and half slices

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Rinse your beans that you are using

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Throw them into the soup

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Add the green beans

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Cook all of this together for a few minutes and then add in your roasted veggies.

Salt and Pepper to taste and you are set!  You now have soup.  Congratulate yourself and sit back in the amazing smells coming out of your kitchen.  You can also add other spices if you like.  Dill, Thyme, Oregano are all good.

Warm soup on a cold day hits the spot.   Of course as I write this its now 85 degrees in southern California and I know why the rest of the country hates us.

So next time its cold in your neck of the woods, try making some fresh home made soup.  Its really very simple.

Ben…

Got a good soup recipe?  Please share in the comments below

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So this is Christmas…

Dec 5, 2010 by

When I was younger Christmas was a big deal in my house.  I’m not sure why exactly, but it was a big holiday where we went all out with a great tree, a lot of decorations around the house and a TON of presents under the tree.  Legos for days, Star Wars action figures strewn about, we were not lacking in anything.

Today when I think of Christmas I love to see a tree full of presents and love to watch people open gift after gift.  But I think that model is broken.  I think there is a better way.

Perhaps its just me getting older.  Perhaps its my priorities changing.  In recent years I’ve watched children at family gatherings open present after present, quickly throwing the 3 second old new toy down to grab another present to unwrap.  They are left with a pile of new toys and an even larger pile of boxes and wrapping paper and then usually only play with one thing, and often times that is the box that some large toy came in.  The other toys then get thrown into a toy box or closet full of other toys that never get played with and then are thrown away or given to the Good Will.

Less is more…

This year my family and I are still buying gifts for the children, but we are pooling our money to buy them one very nice thing that they will love verses 7 things that they may not need or want.  There will be 6 less boxes to wrap; 6 less boxes to throw away.  They will have less to open, but we hope they enjoy what they open and receive that much more.

Also this year I’m asking that no one buys me any gifts, but instead donate to a charity such as:

http://friendsandhelpers.com/

http://www.kiva.org/

http://www.charitywater.com

I know I’m running the risk of sounding like a pompous douche-bag when I say things like that, but I truly don’t need anything and I know there are many others around this world that really do.

Experience is everything…

And for those I am buying gifts for this year, I’m buying both them and myself experiences we can do together.  I’m buying them tickets to a concert, or football game.  Its not a box under the tree, but its a memory we can create and remember together.

I don’t want to tell you how you should have your Christmas.  I hope to inspire you to think of some great ways you can spend time with your friends, family and loved ones and not have piles of empty boxes and ignored toys to throw out this year.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone

Ben…

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