Sunday, February 28, 2010

Soft Pretzels

Ah, there's nothing like walking through a mall and catching the aroma of freshly baked pretzels. Only problem is all those people.
Now you can please your agoraphobic self and just make them at home.

This is an Alton Brown Recipe which I'll post for you at the bottom here.  I thought they were pretty darned easy and kinda fun.
I didn't have actual pretzel salt so just used the coarse kosher salt on the plain ones.  (True confession time:  I like my plain pretzels just dipped in ketchup.  I blame a college friend)

These I flopped around in some cinnamon sugar, heavy on the cinnamon.

And these are graced with sharp cheddar cheese.  Bacon bits might be nice on there too.  Heck, bacon bits are nice everywhere.


  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cincinnati Chili

Just a short lame-o post with one lame-o picture, but the chili my friends, is far from lame-o.

Usually my chili consists of ground beef, beans,tomatoes, onions, and a packet of chili seasoning off the grocery store shelf and maybe some bell pepper if I'm feeling ambitious. And I'm okay with that.  
But I saw this at Gonna Want Seconds, and knew I had to try it. 

I think you should too.  That is if you're into spicy, smoky, sweet deliciousness.  And I think you are.
Go check out Kathleen's recipe and be in chili bliss.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lasagna Pan Winner and Trial Run Baking

I'm just as pleased as punch to announce the winner of Rachael Ray's Lasagna Lover pan set is...

I'll be contacting you by email to get your snail mail address to get this to ya!

This contest was made possible by the folks at CSN stores and was chosen randomly by my daughter drawing a name out of a big butter bowl.

I decided to join one of those blogging groups that sends baked goods to the troops overseas, and in my reading found that butter is frowned upon since it turns rancid quite rapidly.  I was butter?  What the heck??

So I tried a couple of recipes using butter flavored shortening instead.  And you know what?  I think it worked out okay.

First I made Ina Garten's cranberry orange scones, which I usually make with dried apricots, but just happened to have some craisins around so that's what I put in them.  
I've always loved these scones and thought the shortening did a pretty good job.  You get a little bit of the fake butter thing, but I figure "fake" tastes better than "rancid". 

I found a recipe for a kind of cookie I had never heard of before, it's called a ranger cookie.  You can see the recipe here at Epicurious.

I loved these and thought they were also good leaving out the butter and substituting the butter flavored shortening.  These are just chocked full of yummy stuff (pecans, coconut, crushed corn flakes, and oatmeal) and I imagine you can put in whatever tickles your fancy.  I'd definitely include the corn flakes though, I think they are what make them really special.  

I made these cookies with Eggland's Best Eggs I was able to try for free for being a member of Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program.

Look how cute, they stamp each one!  I want that job :)

If my spelling seems extra sucky, I changed over to blogger's newer blogging format and can't find the spell check. Any clues?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rachael Ray Lasagna Lover's Baking Dish Giveaway

I'm pretty psyched to get the opportunity to offer this giveaway to you! This was made possible to me by CSN Stores, which operates a plethora of online stores full of great things for your home from mailboxes to waterbeds.

What we have up for grabs is this Rachael Ray Lasagna Lover and 2 Piece Bubble and Brown Individuals.

Aren't they just the bees knees?  I saw them and just fell in love.  I've never actually owned one so I can't give you a review, but if nothing else they look fabulous!  I know I'd be tickled to serve my semi world famous lasagna in this beautiful dish.

Here are the specs:

  • Two - 12 ounce Bubble & Brown™
  • One - 9"x13" Lasagna Pan
  • Multiple Use Stoneware - Dishwasher, microwave, freezer safe and oven safe to 500°F for convenience and versatility
  • Glazed interior is nonporous so foods won't interact
  • Contemporary Design - Contemporary, playful shape in a vibrant and fun color goes directly from oven to table
  • The shallow sides result in crunchy tops for each serving
  • Wide Handles - Extra wide handle holes allow you to get a good grip from any angle

Now it's time for (drumroll please)  da rules:
1. It looks like CSN ships to the US and Canada, not including Alaska and Hawaii.
2. Giveaway will run through this Saturday (Feb 20) at midnight.  Winner will be chosen by the random number thingy and announced Sunday-ish.
3. Be sure I'm able to contact you. 
4. To enter leave me a comment telling me where you found your favorite recipe for lasagna or your favorite place to go eat it.  (If you don't like lasagna you're disqualified, sorry!)

Thanks for playing, and good luck!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Great White North

As in northern Arizona. As I mentioned in a prior post we purposely drove north looking for the snow. We found it!
This is the cute little cabin we stayed in at a KOA. I always thought those places would be kinda cheesy, but it was pretty nice. And fairly deserted which was a plus.
This is the girl about three minutes after we got there. She couldn't wait to jump right into the snow.
Trudging across the frozen tundra. This was the view right out our front door. I thought it was pretty nice.
The family with their new snow friend. (Don't ask the boy about how cold his toes got during this particular excursion...he was an unhappy camper by the time we got done there!)
Me with some very aggressive friendly deer. Of course once that cup was empty they turned up their fluffy little tails and went elsewhere.
(This was at the Grand Canyon Deer Farm)
I'm not sure what's up with my hair. I'm starting to look a lot like Cousin It.
In other news...
I'm hoping to have a fun giveaway posted by this Friday, maybe Sunday at the latest. So be sure to check back! Tell your friends, tell your relatives, tell anyone that likes to win free stuff!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lemon Bars

As happens every now and then, life handed me some lemons...
(or someone was giving them away at work and I took more than my fair share) I made Lemon Bars.
I have to apologize to any of you if you've ever posted your beautiful lemon bars and felt someone come by with just a "that's nice" attitude. That was me. I just didn't know.
How was I to know that lemon bars made with beautiful fresh lemons were so luscious, and sweet, with just the right amount of tartness?
How was I supposed to know about the gooey goodness atop the shortbread perfection?
I was living in ignorance. I'm so glad my eyes have been opened.
If you're still living in the dark, please make these and join me in the land of lemon enlightenment.

Lemon Bars (from The Joy of Baking)


1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 baking pan.
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix together until dough just comes together. Press into bottom of greased pan and bake for 20 minutes.
With mixer, beat sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and zest until combined. Fold in flour. Pour over shortbread crust and bake for 20 minutes until filling is set.
Cut into squares or triangles and dust with powdered sugar.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Italian Roast Beef Sandwiches

Do Italians really eat roast beef sandwiches like these? I really doubt it. I just chose to call it that because it's got Italian dressing in it. Clever, I know.
I saw several recipes (all in one day) of some sort of roast cooked with pepperoncini's in a crock pot with various other ingredients, then shredded up for sandwiches. I thought it sounded super and decided to try it myself. Instead of using the whole peppers like I had seen, I got sliced since my husband said he didn't really want stems in his sandwiches. Smart man!
Since I'm a fan of keeping it simple this only consists of 3 ingredients. The roast (it was a smallish one, just shy of 3 lbs I think), Italian dressing mix (about half the package), and about half the jar of pepperoncini's and half the juice. (I don't remember how big that jar is and I'm feeling too lazy to go look)
I put it in the crock pot at 9am on low, and by 5, it was more than ready.
I think we all enjoyed this (with swiss cheese on a toasted bun) and would definitely try it again.
I may be feeling like this little cold penguin on Saturday.
While most folks don't wish to see another flake of snow anytime in the near future(if all those facebook updates are any indication), we are purposely driving north this weekend to try to find some. It's for the children, ya know.
We hope to find some (small) hills to slide down, and a warm place to have some hot cocoa.
Wish us luck!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Haiku Time

Win this fun bento set by picking on me! I've always wanted to be immortalized in a three lined poem.

Just go to Lunch Bucket Bento and play her fun little game and this can all be yours! it now!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Easy Minestrone and Hoho's Chinese Noodle Soup

First up is this easy and delicious minestrone. It's still barely cool enough here that I can pretend it's winter and enjoy a nice hot bowl of soup.
I thought this minestrone was flavorful and comforting. And it was pretty fast and easy.
I found this recipe at can click here for the recipe. The only change I made was to use the "Italian style" tomatoes, which added a little extra flavor. We ate these with BLT's...yum!
This next soup was found by my son during some of his web surfing.
If you don't know who Hoho is, he is the simian friend of Kai Lan, who is the Nickelodeon character beloved by little girls between 3 and 6, and um, maybe some 11 year old boys.
(there's no predicting what will attract the attention of an autistic kid!)
So Simon ran across this recipe at the Nickelodeon website and was pretty interested in it, so I thought, what the heck, and made it for him. I didn't really think he would like it. I think I added too many of those bean thread noodles, and it got a little gelatinous.
But he seemed to just love it!
The website also shows some directions for making cupcakes that look like other characters from the show. Pretty cute!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Crunchy Blueberry Tart

My local grocery store had fresh blueberries on sale for a dollar this week. I was so excited I grabbed as many as the law would allow (that'd be four) and ran home with them.
I was planning to make the chilled blueberry pie that is one of my favorite things ever, but decided I wanted to try something I hadn't tried before. Then I remembered bookmarking this recipe several months back and the rest is history.
I saw this tart at The English Kitchen, and remember thinking how delicious and beautiful it looked. I'm very glad I remembered it! Even the girl child, who typically doesn't eat berries at all, scarfed it down! I had to make mine in a pie plate because I don't own a tart pan. (If I had a quarter for everytime I've said that on this blog, I might have about 75 cents!)
Without further ado, here is the recipe (and a few changes I made)
For the crust: 6 ounces unsalted butter, softened 6 1/4 ounces of plain flour 4 3/4 ounces of caster sugar 2 1/2 ounces rolled oats
(I substituted about 1/2 the sugar with brown sugar, and sprinkled in some cinnamon)
For the Filling:
9 ounces fresh or frozen blueberries 1 cup of blueberry jam 1 TBS balsamic vinegar 2 1/2 TBS cornflour (after googling, I discovered "cornflour" here is most likely what those whacky Brit's call corn starch, so that's what I used)
For the Topping:
3 ounces unsalted butter
4 ounces rolled oats 4 3/4 ounces caster sugar (used half regular and half brown sugar instead, and more cinnamon) Creme Fraiche for serving (reddi whip!)
Begin by making the crust. Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Place the butter in a saucepan and melt. Whisk together the flour, sugar and oats. Stir this mixture into the melted butter, stirring well to completely combine. Press the dough into a 10 inch tart tin with a removable bottom. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. To make the topping, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in the oats and sugar. Mix together well, and then set aside while you make the filling. To make the filling, gently stir together the blueberries, jam and balsamic vinegar, mixing well. Stir in the cornflour. Pour this mixture into the oat pastry case. Sprinkle the topping evenly over top and then place the tart onto a baking tray. Bake in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool. Remove the side from the pan before serving. Serve cut into slices with some creme fraiche for spooning over if desired.
P.S. This is my 200th post! Got no prize for ya, but thanks for hanging out with me anyway. Maybe at 250!