Sunday, November 30, 2008

Soft Pretzels

I wish I had a photograph of these wonders when they came out of the oven, because they were awesome! Alas, they were all scarfed up so quickly that I didn't have time to get out my camera. I promise to take photos during the process next time, as the directions would seem much simpler with the aid of some pretty pictures.

This recipe works great with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. If you don't have a stand mixer, not a'll just get a bit of a work-out with your pretzels.

1 1/2 c. warm water (I run my tap until the water feels hot to touch. I'm sure there is a more scientific method, but this method seems to work well for me.)
1 1/8 t. active dry yeast (I buy the little bottle and measure it out's more economical this way)
2 T. brown sugar
1 1/8 t. salt
1 c. bread flour
3 c. all-purpose flour (I use the unbleached kind...I say, why use extra chemicals just to have really white bread as opposed to almost-white bread?)
baking soda
3 T. butter
2 t. sugar
kosher salt (a/k/a coarse salt)

Pour the warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer with the regular beater attachment on it for now until you have everything stirred together. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use a regular bowl and a big spoon. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water, and stir it to dissolve the yeast in the water. At this point, you might be wondering how you will know if your yeast is still good if you can't seem to remember when you purchased it. If you would like to test it out, wait 3 to 5 minutes for bubbles to form. Bubbles = good yeast. No bubbles = throw it out and head to the grocery store for some new yeast.

Add the 2 T. of brown sugar and the 1 1/8 t. salt and give it another stir to dissolve these items. Mix in the 1 c. bread flour and the 3 c. regular flour until the flour is incorporated into the liquids. Change out the beater attachment for the dough hook, turn it on medium to medium-low, and let it run for about 7 minutes. You can add a bit more flour if it seems to be sticking to the sides of the mixer.

If you don't have the aid of a stand mixer, dump the dough mess onto your counter (cleaned, of course) with some extra flour. Knead the dough by pushing the heels of your hands into the dough, grabbing the dough that you've just pushed away from you, and pulling it up and over the area that you were previously pushing. After each push, turn the dough mess a bit and push again with the heels of your hand, repeating the process. Don't worry about doing it exactly right; the whole point is to keep pushing and pulling the dough until your hands and wrists hurt.

After abusing the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, cover it with a clean towel and let it rest for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and spray a baking sheet or two down with cooking spray. Just before you begin rolling out the pretzels, mix a few tablespoons of baking soda with a cup or two of hot water in a shallow pan (I use a casserole dish). Mix them up to dissolve the baking soda. The pretzels will be dipped into this prior to setting them on the baking sheet to bake.

Cut off a piece of dough with a scraper or a butter knife, and roll it out Auntie-Anne style using the palms of your hands. This process is a bit easier if the dough is a bit sticky. If you need to sticky-it up, dip your fingers into the baking soda mixture prior to rolling. When the dough is about 1/2 inch in diameter, form it into a pretzel shape and dip it into the baking soda mixture. Place onto the baking sheet and continue forming pretzels. Bake the pretzels at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

Melt the 3 T. butter with the 2 t. sugar and mix together to dissolve the sugar. When the pretzels are golden brown, pull them out of the oven and brush them with the butter/sugar mixture. Sprinkle them with kosher salt and enjoy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pumpkin Log

Well, it's that time of year again when I crave my mom's signature Thanksgiving dessert (after apple and pumpkin pies, of course). I remember attempting to help Mom with rolling out the cake from the time I was, well, I don't really remember the age. Suffice to say young.

Makes 2 logs

Ingredients for the Cake:
6 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. canned pumpkin (not the pie mix)
1 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon

Ingredients for the Filling:
2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
2 c. powdered sugar
4 T. butter or margarine
2 t. vanilla

Mix cake ingredients together until combined. Line two 11x17 cookie sheets with waxed paper. Pour 1/2 of the cake batter into each sheet and bake at 350 degrees until set. Sprinkle powdered sugar onto two towels and turn cakes over onto towels. Roll pumpkin cakes up length-wise and place in refrigerator until cool.

Beat filling ingredients until smooth. Unroll the cakes, and spread the filling onto the cake. Roll the cakes up and sprinkle with powdered sugar for decoration.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chocolate Covered Banana Martinis

This recipe comes courtesy of my martini-lovin' big sis, Marnee. Although she doesn't have quite as many martini-drinking days now that she has a wee one, I've still never had a chocolate martini as good as the ones that Marn could whip up. This is a bit of a twist on the original, and it sure was yummy. I didn't have any half-and-half on hand, so I substituted 1 shot of milk and 2 shots of whipping cream. Either works; just use what you have on hand.

3 shots half-and-half
1/2 shot of banana liquor
2 shot of chocolate liquor
1/2 to 1 shot of vanilla vodka
1/2 shot of Kahlua
1/2 shot of Godiva liquor

Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well until fully combined and frothy. Decant into a chilled martini glass. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Grilled Honey-Soy Glazed Tofu with Toasted Coconut and Mango Salsa

Could be the longest name for a food, ever. But it deserves each and every adjective, as they all combine to make this dish a sweet-savory wonder! If you're vegan, you can swap out the honey with light corn syrup or any type of sugar you prefer (add some water, if necessary). The mango salsa that I used for my shrimp this past weekend went with this tofu so perfectly, I had to repeat it for this recipe. The original blog about the salsa is here.

firm tofu, cut into strips
1 T. sesame oil
2 t. soy sauce
2 t. honey
salt, to taste (kosher if you've got it)
coconut (about 1/4 of a bag)
mango salsa

Mix the sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and salt, adjusting the amounts until it takes sweet and/or salty enough for you. I like all of my food on the salty side and am therefore a poor judge, but you probably want to at least add a light coat of salt to the tofu prior to grilling them. Coat you indoor grill pan with cooking spray, turn it on medium-high, and let it heat up until a drop of water sizzles off within three seconds. Toss the tofu on in there, being sure to have only one layer of tofu onthe grill at a time so the tofu gets a bit of a char on it. While the tofu is grilling, glaze it liberally with the honey-soy glaze.

After all of the tofu is grilled, spread the coconut in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and toast them up for 7-9 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Place them on a plate, and layer the tofu on top of them. Serve with mango salsa on the side. Here's a photo of my plate, but the photo does not do the dish justice. I'll be sure to get my camera out before I start eating the food next time!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you really want to bake cookies, but you feel as if you need to be healthy, these cookies are for you! Not that I'm saying they're healthy, because that is certainly not the case. But they do contain oatmeal, which in my mind makes them as good as breakfast. Heck, I'm making a whole new label for breakfast recipes, and it's going to start with these cookies. And it has been proclaimed.

The photo of these yummy delights is above, and they are the cookies on the right. The recipe for the brownies in the center is here, and the snickerdoodle chip recipe for the cookies on the left is yet to come. If you want to mix things up a bit, or if you have a friend who's given up chocolate due to recent family enlargements (shout out to Brooke and baby Bennett!), you can switch out the chocolate chips with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. I did a bit of online research (what did we ever do without Google at our fingertips??), and have confirmed that while milk chocolate does contain caffeine, white chocolate does not contain any caffeine. Plus, the cranberries add to the whole "healthy" component of the recipe. :)

To give credit where credit is due, I believe that my sister (who's a budding romance author and confirmed awesome blogger) has modified this recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook. In any event, we consume at least two full batches of these babies every time I visit her.

1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. butter/margarine, softened
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
2 c. quick oats
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 t. baking soda

1 c. chocolate chips OR 3/4 c. each of dried cranberries and white chocolate chips

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar in the blender until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and blend to combine, then continue adding the dry ingredients (sifted together if you have time to go to the trouble). Stir in the chips and cranberries, if desired. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, shorter if your pan in shiny.

If you don't want to bake these right away, you can plop the batter onto some plastic wrap, roll it to form a log, and put it in the freezer for a few weeks (or until it begins to smell funky). With my husband around, I've never gotten a chance to determine just how long it lasts in the freezer or fridge!

Mango Salsa

This salsa is more of a fruit-based salsa that goes well with seafood, or really anything grilled (possibly tofu, or for you meat-eaters, maybe a honey-soy glazed chicken?). I usually serve it with some simple grilled coconut shrimp. For that recipe, go here.

mango (frozen is fine)
green onions
red pepper
lime juice
salt (kosher, if you have it)

Dice the mango and the red pepper, using a ratio of about 2:1 (apparently that ratio's pretty handy for this recipe). Slice some green onion, on the diagonal if you're feeling fancy, and add them into the mango/red pepper combo. Mince the cilantro and add it in, and finally add lime juice and salt to taste. As a guide, start with about 2-3 teaspoons of lime juice and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt for about 2 c. of salsa, and add to taste. If you splurged on actual limes to obtain your lime juice, zest them prior to juicing them and throw some of that in as well.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Coconut Shrimp and Mango Salsa

It's been awhile since my last entry, but a recent request by the fam for a recipe reminded me that I should attempt to post something at least annually. In any case, I made this fabulous shrimp dish for Memorial Day, and I thought I'd share with y'all. Ok, you got me...I'm not Southern. I respectfully retract my "y'all" comment and replace it with "you guys."

I don't have any photos of this dish right now, but I plan to make it again soon and promise to take some pics of each step along the way. I'll add them as soon as I have them...

mango (frozen is fine)
green onions
red pepper
lime juice
salt (kosher, if you have it)

Prepare a brine for the shrimp by adding a ratio of about 2:1 of salt and sugar to some warm water. I usually start with about 3 to 4 tablespoons of salt to 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar, and then make it stronger depening on how long I want to wait to let it soak up the yumminess of the brine. Prepare the shrimp by taking off the shell (including the tails, if you don't want to mess with them while you're eating them), and put the shrimp on in there.

In the meantime, prepare the mango salsa. Dice the mango and the red pepper, using a ratio of about 2:1 (apparently that ratio's pretty handy for this recipe). Slice some green onion, on the diagonal if you're feeling fancy, and add them into the mango/red pepper combo. Mince the cilantro and add it in, and finally add lime juice and salt to taste. As a guide, start with about 2-3 teaspoons of lime juice and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt for about 2 c. of salsa, and add to taste. If you splurged on actual limes to obtain your lime juice, zest them prior to juicing them and throw some of that in as well.

On to grilling the shrimpers...

If you have an indoor grill, now's the time to dig it out of storage. Turn it on medium-high and let it heat up. Put the shrimp in a bowl and toss them with some oil (whatever type you have on hand, but I'm a fan of the "EVOO," or Rachel Ray's term for Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Toss them onto the grill (being sure they have a bit of room to breathe), and let them cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they turn opaque (watch that they don't overcook, or they'll get tough).

While the shrimp are grilling, spread the coconut in a thin layer onto a cookie sheet and put them in a 350 degree oven for approximately 7 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden-brown.

When the shrimp are done, serve them on top of the toasted coconut with the mango salsa on the side.