Q: How do you stop a Polish army on horseback? A: Turn off the carousel.

(The title of the post is only tangentially related to the subject matter. If you’d like to find more Polish jokes, travel back in time to the early/mid 20th century because they’re not a thing anymore)

The main thing I have in common with the good people of the Jersey Shore is that I have a 100% ethnic name, but 0% of the European-ness* to back it up. I mostly don’t care- the name makes me feel a little fancy and foreign- because I mostly don’t have to interact with real Polish people- but on the occasion I come face-to-face with someone from the motherland, I feel more like Snooki at the Colosseum.**

It usually goes down something like this: Polish person hears and or sees my name, gets excited, then says something rapidly in the mother tongue. It’s likely that they are saying, “Do you speak Polish?” or “From where in Poland do you hail?” or perhaps “I like your sweater!” But to me, it just sounds like “You are everything that is wrong with America.” It bums me out to have to tell them that I’m not really one of them- just an ugly American wolf in Polish sheep clothing.***

I’ve tried learning Polish, and tried, I mean once downloaded a dictionary app, looked at all those z’s and l’s with slashes and the endless, inscrutable strings of consonants, and said, “nevermind”.

I do know one word, though. That word is Pierogi. I like it because it’s easy to say, and then also because I like to eat them. Because I’m such an embarrassment to Poland, I actually had never made them from scratch before this, probably because (cue the sad Chopin) my Polish grandmother died when I was a toddler. But she and my grandpa mostly ate pizza and steaks so I don’t know how much help she would have been anyway.

I know my mom has made pierogi but I don’t remember helping (sorry mom), and I know my sisters have made them together because they love each other the most. But now it’s my turn. For the dough, I used a recipe that seemed to get the most “Polish grandma” accolades. The dough is just flour, eggs, and sour cream, which sounds about right. The fillings are where I put my own spin on it. Since I’m kind of Polish but not really, it only seemed appropriate that my pierogi followed suit. So, using the most common flavors you might find in your grocery store freezer as inspiration, I prepared three variations:  1. goat cheese and vinegared blueberry, 2. bacon, potato, and mango chutney-spiked sauerkraut and 3. beer braised Andouille. I served them with a pear mustard compote and crème fraiche.

 Oh, and I also fried them, because America.

 Recipes can be found here.

 *A shoutout to Poland for apparently being so absurdly awful that my forefathers thought Milwaukee, WI seemed like a preferable option, thus beginning of the series of random events and happenings that led to my existence as a sentient being and my ability to type this right now.

**Which sounds like it would be a great film of the porn varietal

 ***probably a track suit and high-heeled sandals, let’s be real

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Flowers for Jana

My sister Jana and her friend Haylee spent the weekend in Brooklyn keeping an old lady (me) company. Their trip happened to coincide with Jana’s 22nd birthday. Last week, I’d asked her for some birthday treat ideas, and she said she wanted to make dirt cakes- the chocolate pudding/oreo treat, served in flower pots or a similar receptacle, crowned with gummy worms and/or silk flowers. My mom made them for Jana’s class as a birthday treat one year and it stuck with her (although MY most salient memory of Jana’s birthday was her colonial-themed party, for which my mom sewed mob caps and floor length skirts for all the guests. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized that this wasn’t just standard-issue mom behavior and that we seriously lucked out in the parent department).

Jana is now a classy adult lady, however, and we needed to update the dirt cake to something more appropriate for her station. In my mind, we had two directions we could go- we could go the René Redzepi foraging route, with foraged plants, edible soil, and maybe a couple local insects, or we could go the chocolate mousse and candy trompe l’oeil route. Uhhh, durrr. We picked the chocolate mousse.

Nick and I talked about making edible terrariums a long time ago, but without Jana and Haylee, it probably would have never happened. The most important thing to me with these terrariYUMS (get it??) was that the entire thing be edible. We searched the city in vain for edible flowers (Eataly, Chelsea Market, Whole Foods) but winter thwarted our efforts. We ended up with mint and lavender, as well as some wax flowers I had on my countertop that Jana decided to sample (after frantically googling “wax flower poisonous,” we determined that although they are not toxic, we probably should not make a meal of them- but the spindle-like leaves taste JUST like kaffir lime leaves- and they really looked beautiful in the terrariums).

While I made the mousse, Jana and Haylee totally killed it with the marzipan mushrooms and coconut moss. We assembled our terrariums (see below for components) both in a single-serving variety (plain glass tumblers) and in a “party size”- utilizing a glass planter that formerly held a REAL, non-edible terrarium that I slowly choked of all life with my black thumb. The finished product looked amazing. 

Jana was pissed that there were no gummy worms, though, so I still managed to ruin it for her. I guess I’m not quite at Mom level yet.

Components (from base to top):

  • Chocolate rocks (we got ours on Amazon but these are also probably available at your finer… novelty candy?…. stores(
  • Coarsely crumbled chocolate cookies (we used Newman-Os which actually taste a little like dirt so it’s appropriate. These will provide a barrier between the rocks and the sand, so make sure they are coarse.)
  • Crushed amaretto cookie “sand” (or graham crackers, or shortbread, or anything else really because most cookies look like sand if you pulverize them.)
  • More crushed chocolate cookies (a little finer for this layer is good so it looks more “dirt”-like
  • Chocolate mouse (I used a Julia Child recipe because duh. I like this recipe because, though more involved than others you might find on the interwebs, it doesn’t utilize gelatin or other stabilizers. The mousse is super light but has enough structure from the treatment of the eggs to lend that firm, airy texture we hope for with a decent mousse. Do yourself a favor and use good chocolate for this- we picked up a block of Belgian bittersweet chocolate at Chelsea Market)
  • More crumbled chocolate cookie “dirt”
  • Shredded coconut “moss”, colored with food coloring. We did a forest green shade as well as something a bit more chartreuse to give it more of a realistic feel. We also mixed it with a bit of salted caramel to cause it to lump up like moss.
  • Marzipan mushrooms, caramel “pebbles”, mint sprigs, lavender sprigs, and wax flowers to decorate. Let your OCD shine!

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Zola x Collected Edition

If you’re between the ages of 24 and 35, chances are you or someone you know has gotten engaged in the past two months. That’s right- in addition to the stress of Christmas and the pressures of the New Year, the time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day is now officially “Engagement Season.” If you’re anything like me, you celebrated this auspicious season by sobbing into your pillow and mainlining Ben & Jerry’s nonstop while googling engagement rings and constantly harassing your boyfriend- but the good people at the new website Zola have been putting this time to slightly better use.
Zola is a beautiful, modern, and useful site where couples can register for things that are actually beautiful, modern, and useful. With categories ranging from homegoods to food gifts (hello, cheese-of-the-month club) to experiences (like yoga memberships or mixology classes), it’s so much more inspiring than your standard “purely the necessities” registry. As a guest, I love the idea of selecting from a registry like this; I’ve never really been excited about sending a set of towels or a top sheet- but I DO love the idea of gifting a cooking workshop.
And of course… Collected Edition is one of the new vendors on Zola. We’ve featured a small selection of our 10” wood maps (New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles), styled with our scroll frame and available in our natural wood colors. You can peep them here. So, if you are engaged (or know someone who is)- head over to Zola, sign up for a registry, and shop away!

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This is another little project we did for our families this Christmas. The sight of snow in these pictures is making me want to vomit with rage, but no matter- I love cutting boards, cheese boards, serving boards- any kind of board. Plates are for plebes- nothing says class and fanciness like an assortment of delicacies artfully arranged on a piece of material.

For these, we purchased wood planks with live edges in a couple species (the board in the top photo is walnut and the bottom is cedar), cut them to size, sanded them down, then laser etched them with scientific illustrations, vintage charts, and assorted ephemera.  The top board, given to my sister, Jana, has a page from a French botany textbook. The bottom, for my other sister, Kirsten, features a very informative map about the distribution of cheese manufacturers in Wisconsin in the late 1800s (we found this in a scholarly cheese journal from the ‘50s because that’s a thing). The boards are finished with beeswax, which gives them a nice luster and protects the wood from stains.

We made about 7 or 8 of these, but the holidays being what they are, we, of course, neglected to photograph them. Oh well. Due to the nature of the wood, each is one of a kind, but I’m excited to make a bunch more and get them up in the store.

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It’s actually our 1 year tumblr-versary, and as befits any committed relationship, I’ve spent the better part of our time together completely neglecting it. But I figured, given the occasion, I should toss the old girl (? ) a bone and give her a little love and attention.

Despite my plans for frequent updates, December just didn’t allow for that. I had images of what this Christmas would be- a New York holiday season, for the first time unencumbered by dark specter Pre-Fall fashion season (see: my life, 2006-2011) or medical emergencies (2012).  Perhaps I would spend my days spinning in circles, arms outstretched, whilst glittering snow fell around me on the pristine, festive streets of Brooklyn. Maybe I’d have hot chocolate every night while I worked on handcrafted gifts for every family member and friend, my work illuminated only by the multicolored lights of the Christmas tree. And obvs, I was going to make elaborately decorated Christmas cookies, go to the train show at the Botanical gardens, go ice skating- who knows, maybe even see the Nutcracker or the Rockettes. It was going to be the Christmas of my dreams.

So that didn’t happen. Instead, from Thanksgiving until December 23, I was completely inundated with orders. Rather than halls decked with boughs of holly, there was an apartment filled with packing materials and the bane of my existence, “laser schniblets” (tiny razor-sharp particles of wood, acrylic, or paper that seem to find their way into every surface of our home. In summer, they can most often be found stuck to my legs). Rather than sugarplums, I existed on a diet of takeout and Diet Coke.  I also watched a ton of Investigation Discovery murder shows and old episodes of Say Yes to the Dress (this was a confused time).

The task at hand seemed rather insurmountable- but on December 20, after I dropped of the last major shipment at the post office, I breathed a sigh of relief, went home, and… started working on Christmas presents for our nearest and dearest. No rest for the wicked and/or weary. Although we weren’t able to execute all the grand plans we had, we did manage to pull off some nice projects.

Like these bracelets.  We’ve been talking about making some 3-D printed jewelry for a while, so I sketched out a little idea utilizing some of the 18mm Rivoli (double pointed, like a diamond UFO) crystals I used with for the necklace a while back, as well as some 10mm chaton (pointed back) stones. Nick built a model in SolidWorks, then used his mad 3-d printing skills to print those suckers in white PLA. Some exact-o cleanup, a few dabs of E-6000, and some sterling chain later…

 Modern technology, eh?

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Luck be a Lady Apple

Nick was gone for essentially the whole month of October, traveling for work. Whenever he travels for more than a week, I have these delusions that I’ll become “my best self” while he’s gone, finally reading the books I have piled up or learning to love salad.

The reality is that I turn into a frat boy, eating almost exclusively pizza and candy and watching reality tv for company; I didn’t want to post all pictures of empty Nutella jars and Diet Coke bottles, so the Collected Edition blog took a little break. But now we’re back, and will hopefully be able to share some of our holiday adventures with you- like these mini caramel apples.

I wish I could make an infomercial showing people struggling with caramel apples. How many times have you bitten into one and taken half of the caramel with you? All you’re left with is a boring apple. Or what about when the apple starts sliding down the stick? Or, if you’re like me, you’ll end up with peanuts in your hair and caramel in your eyebrows just from attempting to sink in your teeth.  And they are always huge, which has never made sense to me.  They’re like 6 lbs, with an inch thick layer of toppings- it makes it difficult to get that perfectly balanced bite of tart apple and sweet caramel.

Enter lady apples. I’ve been talking about these tiny 3-bite apples nonstop for a couple months, searching in vain for them at every grocery store in Brooklyn. Finally, success! They are the perfect caramel apple-apple. Very crisp, a little tart, and very tiny, they are the ideal canvas for draping in caramel; the proportion makes for a better caramel/fruit ratio and they’re easy to eat (too easy to eat, maybe). My greatest regret in life is not also buying a regular apple to photograph the lady apples next to- but trust me when I say they are very small- ranging from approx. 1 ½” to 2 ½” in diameter.

The final caveat of an apple is the core.  There’s some “life hack” going around about how you can just eat the core if you eat the apple bottom to top, but I refuse to believe that. Our thought? Replace it with a “core” of your own devising. We cored our apples, then stuffed half of them with brown-sugar baked bacon, and the other half got the peanut butter treatment. THEN we dipped them in caramel, and topped the former with pink sea salt, and the latter with roasted peanuts.

Don’t have an apple corer? Neither do we.  One of the best things about being a hoarder is that you’ll frequently have random things lying around that can be repurposed into great kitchen tools. We actually used a broken tripod- the ¾” hollow metal tubes of the legs turned out to be the perfect size for coring apples.

Voila. We present the caramel apple, perfected. No core, no pesky stick, no broken teeth- just perfect food, conveniently packaged in a 3 bite package. 

PS I’ve had great results using this caramel recipe for my apples- but experiment! Some people prefer harder or softer caramel- but this one is toothsome, complex tasting, and has a silky smooth texture that adheres to the apple quite well. If you core your apples, do NOT fill the hole with caramel- the moisture from the exposed apple flesh with liquify your caramel and you’ll end up with a big gloppy mess. 

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This is turning into a real sausage fest

You know how people are always like, “If you like sausage, you don’t want to see it being made”? Ignorance is bliss, especially if it involves a dubious but delicious food. Sausage has a reputation for being the stuff of nightmares (if you didn’t think so before, see exhibit A. Damn the French), so I generally try to not dwell on how many eyeballs and offals are in my brat.

But, as demonstrated by my penchant for surreptitiously looking up the endings to movies and tv shows while watching them, I like to ruin things for myself. Thus began our foray into sausage-making.

Sausage-making is an art of which I will not even pretend to have begun to scratch the surface. Any idiot (read, us) can grind up some meat and some fat, add some spices, and stuff it in a pig intestine- but it takes a real master to craft a spectacular link. For the everyday meat enthusiast, it’s a lot of trial and error- but it’s a pretty fun and delicious process. Plus you have the option of adding zero eyeballs and/or offals.

There are a lot of sausage tutorials on the interwebs that would do a much better step-by-step than I can, so I just want to impart a couple pieces of advice that I found particularly useful.

Prepare your materials.

Make it delicious.

From everything I’ve read, you want to aim for approximately a 70% protein, 30% fat ratio in your sausage. But after that, the rest is really up to you. Go wild. That’s really the best part. If you just want a hot Italian, just buy it at the store. Home sausage making is for experiments. Put bacon in it. Put cheese in it. Put fish sauce and lemongrass in it. Put fruit in it. Whatever. Just make it fun. This go around, we made a Beemster/sugared bacon/pink peppercorn sausage and a Tom-Yum inspired sausage.

Keep your s*** cold.

This includes meat, fat, bowls, and grinding plates. All the recipes you see are going to tell you to freeze or refrigerate between steps, and they’re not just trying to make your life difficult. It not only prevents the fat from combining with the meat too much and resulting in a drier end product, but it also makes the mix of meat, spices, veggies much easier to grind. This is especially true if you have any soft add-ins, like cheese. When we did this last year, we sort of skimped on the chilling, and the cheese we added just got completely jammed in the grinding tube and make a terrible mess. This year, we froze it for about 30 minutes before grinding- and everything was smooth sailing.

Add more spices and fat than you think you need.

I was a little sheepish about the fat- I was scared of making a greasy sausage. So I skimped a little, and our end product was a bit dry. Lesson learned. Also, really go to town on the spices. This isn’t a burger. The spices are the main event.

Don’t be a wimp

The hardest part of sausage making is opening the bag in which the casings are stored. It’s f***ing disgusting, no way around it. They look like nasty white worms packed in salt (which, if you think about it, is actually a LESS gross alternative to what they actually are), and they smell just goddamn terrible. They were also inexplicably tied in a really complicated knot, which resulted in having to handle these things a lot more than I hoped.

After struggling with the casings and releasing what I totally randomly assessed to be about enough for 5 lbs of sausage (about 3 sections of casing, I soaked them in warm water for about an hour. They get significantly less disgusting after they soak. You have to rinse them like crazy, but it’s kind of fun to watch them fill up with water. If you’re not careful, it will end up like this, so keep it under control.

Don’t go it alone

Always have a partner when you’re stuffing sausage: I don’t know how anyone could do this alone. This is definitely a 2 person job- one person needs to be adding the meat mixture to the stuffer at a pretty constant rate so you don’t end up with giant air bubbles, while the other needs to be regulating the actually stuffing of the casing. You’ll probably end up crying if you try this alone.

Also, you’ll want someone to bounce all the double-entendres you will absolutely be making throughout this process

Give yourself time

I would recommend NOT starting this project a couple hours before you’re supposed to leave for a trip upstate- our friends were outside in the car, calling us, while I was elbow-deep in pig intestine. Give yourself time to enjoy the process.

Share the fruits of your labor.

Even if they are insanely delicious, you’re probably not going to be so keen on eating 5 lbs of sausage on your own. Force your friends to eat them and give you compliments. They’ll probably enjoy them more anyway.

After all, now you know how the sausage is made.

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Brand New

If we can learn one thing from Tostitos, it’s that your home should resemble a restaurant as much as possible. If you’ve done your job right, your guests should be asking for the bill at the end of the night and leaving a couple bucks on the table for your stellar service. If this isn’t happening for you, you probably need some work on your branding. And nothing says class and fanciness like a custom coaster.

All kidding aside, I love our new “You Are Here” product. They started off as a way to use up the small squares of excess material we have as a byproduct of our frames, but they’ve ended up being nice objects on their own. I love them in the black and white acrylic- and I love the idea of turning the You Are Here concept into useable everyday products.

Since a coaster with a ton of holes in it is a bit counter-productive, I’ve backed them with a piece of clear acrylic. Right now, we’re putting the final touches on these to make sure they’re production-ready- but keep your eyes on our Etsy shop for their appearance soon!

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You Art What You Eat: Thiebaud’s Two Jolly Cones

We went to the art museum about four times a year on class trips when I was a kid. Despite having literally thousands of paintings from which to choose, the docents tended to bring us to a couple particular wings of the museum over and over. That’s how I ended up visiting the Wayne Thiebaud paintings in the collection several dozen times. My guess is that the docents figured the pastel colors, easy-to-digest (pardon the pun) subject matter of cakes and treats, and the textbook-perfect demonstration of impasto were easy to explain to large groups of squirrely kids- plus there were no naked bodies for us to giggle about.

Fifteen years later, I still have a soft spot for Thiebaud. Despite a commonality with the Pop Artists in regard to subject matter, he cannot really be considered a practitioner of that genre. The works lack the subversive and critical qualities of Pop Art; rather they focus on the craft and technical aspects of painting. Thiebauds cakes, ice creams, and lollipops are his water lillies; the subject matter really is secondary to the painter’s treatment of light and composition. These are works that don’t have a heavy-handed message- they are beautiful pieces that immortalize tangible yet ephemeral objects.

Two Jolly Cones (2002), although painted several decades after most of Thiebaud’s most famous confection works, retains many of the characteristics of that early work- the attention to light and shadow, the ubiquitous impasto, the reverberating color treatment. I thought the clown faces were just a whimsical touch, but it turns out that ice cream clowns are kind of a thing. Apparently Baskin-Robbins sells them, and Rose made a version of them during season 2 of the Golden Girls. So perhaps Thiebaud’s just a fan of mediocre ice cream and sassy older women.

Because the only way to make dessert more fun is to serve it with a healthy dose of pedanticism, we decide to create a version of this painting that is actually edible. Our cones are significantly less jolly than Thiebaud’s, mostly due to a sweltering New York summer, but also probably due to us jamming the cone hats on too hard in a pathetic attempt to make them stay in place. But coconut ice cream is more delicious than oil paint (in my opinion, at least- try telling that to Van Gogh; hey-o!), so the score is 1-1.

(Our recipe for coconut ice cream is so absurdly simple that it doesn’t even merit its own post: combine 1 can coconut milk with a scant 1/4 of sugar. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Fold in fresh shaved coconut pieces (1/2 cup). Consume immediately- this tends to freeze rock hard and is best eaten fresh from the ice cream maker.)

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