Soft Pretzel Bites

I don’t think anyone will be more excited about this post than my dad. You see, last year, while I was living with my parents waiting to move to California, I made these pretzels to take to a friends house for some serious football watching. My dad had been telling me he wanted to learn how to bake bread and when he saw (and tasted) these he immediately said, “When can you teach me how to make these?!” I think he managed to wait 2 days before demanding to give them a try. Since that day he mentions “making pretzels” anytime we talk about food or cooking (which if you know me, you know happens often). And I know he was jealous when my sister and I told him we made them for Bayday during her visit.

When I taught my dad, I twisted the pretzels into sticks, but for Bayday Emilie and I cut them into bite size pieces that are perfect for snacking. I don’t know if that was a good idea or bad idea. These pretzels are already addicting, but when you can just pop one in your mouth any time you think about/see/smell them, you’re in trouble. They’re just that good. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!! (And as a bonus I’m including my recipe for Super Easy Beer Cheese, a-maz-ing with the preztels)

Soft Pretzel Bites

(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp butter, melted that has been cooled
Kosher salt, for topping
Parchment paper and cooking spray

Directions

In a measuring cup dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Set aside. (Mixture should become foamy, if it doesn’t your yeast may be bad or your water too hot)

In the bowl of a standing mixture fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugars, and salt on low speed. Turn off the mixer and pour the water/yeast mixture and melted butter into the bowl. Turn the mixer on and knead for 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too dry you can add extra water, a tablespoon at a time.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a ball. Place the dough ball in the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise for one hour (*or until double in size).

Towards the end of rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper and cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the hot water and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and melted butter.

After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and then knead with hands for one minute. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into 12 even portions. Now you can pick your shape. For pretzel bites roll each portion into a snake then cut the snake into bite size pieces, about 1 1/2 inches in width.

Dip the pieces in the baking soda water and place on the baking sheet (sometimes I dab the pretzels with a paper towel if they seem too wet). Brush each pretzel bite with egg whites/melted butter then sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I always let my dough rise in the (off) oven with the light on.

Beer Cheese Dip

(Sunny Side Up original)

Ingredients

6 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup good quality beer
1 Tbsp horseradish
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2-3/4 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

Microwave cream cheese for 30-45 seconds until very soft. Stir in the beer, horseradish, and garlic powder. Microwave again for 30-45 seconds. Add the grated cheese and stir until smooth, microwaving again if necessary.

 

BBQ Turkey Burgers

>

Grilling is great. Living in Ohio there were only a few months out of the year that were ideal for grilling. Winter would be way too cold and summer could be brutally hot (I’m sure a lot of you know what I mean). But man we looked forward to those months. San Diego has grilling weather pretty much year round. So can you believe that we just now bought a grill? Crazy, right? As much as Jesse loves steak and I love experimenting with food, you would think that would have been one of our first purchases. But, I guess other things just got in the way. Regardless, we have one now and it’s awesome.

One of the first things I had to make were these burgers that I have had bookmarked for months. Lucky for me I had just enough left over pulled pork and BBQ sauce. And when I say lucky, I mean lucky. These burgers were awesome. I have a deep love for all things BBQ so I guess it’s not that surprising.

The few changes that I did make were because of what I had on hand, white onions instead of red and green onions, and ground turkey instead of ground chicken. Also, I didn’t plan ahead far enough (or I just missed it on the ingredient list, I’m not sure what happened) so I didn’t have cornbread made. I did however have a good ole stand-by box of Jiffy mix. So I just used a 1/4 cup of that. Worked perfectly. Oh, and I only needed 3 burgers so that’s all I made. Of course they were HUMONGOUS, so I recommend making 4.

BBQ Turkey Burgers

(Adapted from Pink Parsley)

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup crumbled cornbread or 1/4 cup cornmeal or 1/4 cup Jiffy cornbread mix
2 Tbsp minced onion
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 lb ground turkey (or chicken)
2/3 cup chopped pulled pork
5 Tbs BBQ sauce, divided
1/2 red onion, sliced into rings
4 slices colby-jack cheese or extra sharp cheddar
4 burger buns
Oil for grill grates

Directions

Prepare your grill.

In a small bowl, combine the cornbread/meal/mix with the minced onion, cilantro, paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. In a medium bowl, combine the ground turkey, pulled pork and 3 Tbsp of BBQ sauce. Then mix the two together until thoroughly combined.

Shape into 4 even burgers. Place burgers and onion rings on preheated grill. Cook on one side for 5 minutes then flip to the other side. Brush the cooked side with the some of the remaining 2 TBSP of BBQ sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip one more time and brush with the rest of BBQ sauce. Place the grilled onions on top of the burgers and then top with cheese. Close the grill lid and cook until the cheese is melted. If you like your buns toasted, now is a good time to throw them on the grill.

Easy Mac and Cheese

It’s not what you think. I know that it looks like I’ve got a plate full of Velveeta Shells and Cheese, but it’s not! What’s really on the plate is the easiest and maybe creamiest homemade mac and cheese I’ve ever made. I consider myself to be somewhat of a mac and cheese connoisseur, I’ve made countless recipes, some that were amazing and some that were big fat flops. I was worried that this was going to be one of those flops. It just seemed way too easy, like 1-step up from the box kind easy. But this was no flop. It is the great, easy, weeknight answer to your “How can I make mac and cheese for a side dish without it taking longer than the main course” question.

Of course I upped the cheese to milk ratio a little bit because I’m cheese crazy and I’m so glad I did. I used a Medium Cheddar, but the possibilities are endless. Half Medium Cheddar half Vermont White. Half Colby Jack half Pepper Jack. Half Cheddar half Jack. See where I’m going with this? The more significant the cheese is on it’s own the more significant the taste will be in the mac and cheese. The Medium Cheddar resulted in a mild, smooth, and creamy mac.

Easy Mac and Cheese

(Adapted from Evil Shenanigans, originally from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients
16 oz box pasta, I used small shells
2 Tbsp butter
12 oz can evaporated milk
2 egg, beaten
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp red pepper optional
1/8-1/4 tsp Black Pepper
2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese*
Salt to taste

*Sorry kids, I just don’t think the packaged pre-grated cheese will work for this. It’s coated in stuff to keep it from sticking together and therefore, won’t melt well.

Directions

Boil pasta shells 1-2 minutes short of the suggested time on the box (No one wants mushy watery mac and cheese). In the meantime, combine the evaporated milk, eggs, mustard powder, and pepper in a large measuring cup and whisk together.

Drain the pasta in a colander and then return it right back to the hot pan. Reduce heat to low. Add the butter and stir until melted.

Carefully add the milk egg combination to the pan, stirring constantly to avoid making scrambled eggs. Stir for 3-4 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Add the cheese in 4-5 increments, making sure that each addition is completely melted before adding the next.

Serve immediately. We had ours with grilled steak and small salad and it was the perfect meal.

Classic Lasagna

Some of the things I missed the most while I was in China were cheese, bread, and dessert. I got my fill of good vegetables, meat, and seafood, but nothing quite filled the hole in my heart (or stomach, in this case) that cheese and carbs left. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that my first meals back were loaded. Driving back from the airport we even made an emergency pit stop at In-N-Out Burger. Double double mustard fried with grilled onions and a Neapolitan shake? Yes please! Next up on my must-have-soon list was an over the top cheesy pasta dish, and lasagna fit the bill perfectly.

I’ve posted a vegetable lasagna recipe already, but this craving was for the classic version. So I whipped up a classic lasagna and enjoyed every last bite of the delicious cheesy, carb loaded, meat filled goodness. Then, yesterday I read online that July 29th is National Lasagna Day. Perfect! I bumped this recipe up the line so you’ll be prepared to make your own for the special day.

Classic Lasagna
(Developed over the years by me)
Ingredients
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles

1 15-oz container of Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out
4-5 fresh basil leaves, julienned (or 1 tsp dry basil but I really recommend finding some fresh!)
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper

1 lb Italian sausage (I used sweet, but also like spicy)
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dry basil
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp dry parsley
1/4 tsp dry rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1/3-1/2 cup dry red wine

1 16-oz ball of fresh mozzarella, shredded (to equal about 2 cups)*
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

*As with many things, I think that real fresh mozzarella is key. Of course it’s really up to you, but I don’t think a block of Kraft mozzarella will cut it! You can find real balls of fresh mozzarella in the specialty cheese section of any well stocked grocery store. If you have trouble shredding it you can cut it into slices. Or do what I do it and hand it to the nearest strong man and make them do it! 🙂

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, brown and crumble the Italian sausage. When the sausage is cooked through and browned add the tomato paste and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Stir to coat the sausage with the tomato paste. Season with dry basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the red wine and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

While the meat sauce is simmering, combine the ingredients for the ricotta filling in a medium sized bowl.

Spread 1/3 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Then lay out 4 noodles, slightly overlapping. Make 3 sets of layers in the following order:

  1. Noodles
  2. 1/3 of the Ricotta filling
  3. 1/4 of the Meat sauce
  4. 1/4 of the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese

After the 3rd group of layers, top off the lasagna with another layer of noodles, the last of the sauce, and the rest of the shredded cheese.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. (I also gave mine 2 minutes under the broiler to make the cheese a deeper golden brown)

Serve with a green salad and garlic bread. (Yes mine is totally Texas Toast, not homemade or gourmet but Jesse loves it and it was fast!)