Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pretzel Bites

If you have been to purchase a big pretzel lately, you might have seen they are making little pretzel bites now that come in a cup. My son loves these little bite size snacks when we go to the mall. I made these  for Superbowl Sunday after coming across the recipe at My Kitchen Cafe. Yeast breads are my weakness in cooking, but these are really easy. We had them with an incredible hot chorizo dip that I will share the recipe for later. These turn out chewy on the outside, soft on the inside, warm and buttery. Very good and a fun and different snack, especially for kids!

*Note: if using active dry yeast, increase the yeast to 1 tablespoon. Proof the yeast in the warm water and sugar (let it bubble and foam  about 5 minutes) before adding it to the flour and salt.
*Makes about 2 dozen pretzel bites
2 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) very warm water
1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt (optional)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix to just combine. Add the water and mix well, adding more flour, as needed, a bit at a time to form a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it is soft, smooth and quite slack. The goal is to get a really soft dough that isn’t overly sticky. Lightly flour the dough and place it in a plastic bag; close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest for 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 500°F. The high heat is what will help those pretzels to brown up perfectly and stay soft on the inside. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or lightly greasing them.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into about four strips of equal length. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda in a liquid measuring cup (deep enough to dip the pretzel bites into). Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved.  You may not get the baking soda to dissolve. Just lightly stir up the mixture right before adding each pretzel.
Cut each strip of dough into about 6-8 pieces, about 1 to 1 ½ inches in width. You don’t have to be completely exact, just eyeball it. 

Dip each pretzel bite in the baking soda solution (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 7-8 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Bake one sheet at a time – it won’t hurt the other pretzels to chill out for a little longer.
Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all.  Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave on low heat. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lemon Chicken & Orzo Soup with Kale

So far our spring has consisted of snow, almost every day, with maybe a sunny day here and there. So for me, soup days are not over. This recipe I adapted slightly from Good Life Eats would still be great in warmer weather. It ends up being just slightly thickened, not too heavy, and has a nice light lemon flavor. If you've never tried it, orzo is my absolute favorite in soup, too. I thought this was an ultimate comfort food with the pasta, yummy vegetables and smooth broth.

This was the first time I have used kale and I have to say, I think I prefer it to spinach in a dish like this one. Have you ever felt like the flavor of spinach can overpower a dish? Kale is much more mild, one reason I think my boys ate it without complaining. It is super high in vitamins A & C and has endless other health benefits.

Tip: I never, never add my pasta to my soup. I always cook it separately and add it to our individual bowls. I do this because I always have leftovers and the pasta (or rice) soaks up all of the broth. This time I broke my rule and added the uncooked orzo to the cooking soup because I wanted to use the starch as a thickener. In two days when I wanted to use the leftovers, of course, there was no broth. So, all I did was recreate the broth part and it was no big deal. I made 6 more cups of chicken broth, added the 3 egg yolks {tempered}, the lemon juice, and added it back to the pasta and veggie mixture. It honestly tasted better the second time around.

Photo Used From Good Life Eats
*Printable Version*

What You Need:
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine {I used cooking wine}
3 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
6 cups chicken broth
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and diced or shredded {or I used one whole rotisserie chicken}
3/4 cup orzo
3 egg yolks
zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1.5 teaspoons fresh thyme
2-3 handfuls of kale, ribs removed, chopped or torn into pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee onion in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2-3 minutes and add garlic. Cook garlic one minute and add white wine. Let simmer 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme and carrot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow carrots to cook 10-15 minutes. Add cooked chicken.

In a separate bowl, combine 3 egg yolks and the juice of 2 large lemons. {I use this from Williams Sonoma to juice and love it}. Slowly whisk 1 cup of hot chicken broth into the egg and lemon mixture. Then, add this back into the soup mixture. This is how you temper your eggs and is the thickener for your soup.

Add the kale. It does not wilt as quickly as spinach so you'll need to give it a little extra time to wilt down.

Let simmer 5-10 more minutes or until your carrots are starting to become tender. Add uncooked orzo to the pot and cook until it is done and carrots and celery are cooked through. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Homemade Twix Bars

I have to say, this whole making- your -chocolate -candy- at -home thing is really growing on me. It started with these Peppermint Patties and then the Oreo Truffles, which turned into Nutter Butter Truffles and now Samoa Truffles are in the works...

I know. After this baby comes I am in serious trouble with the chocolate addiction. Its a wonder I didn't have insulin issues or gain ridiculous amounts of weight. {Not that I didn't gain plenty!} Too bad it didn't make me sick the entire time, like it did in the beginning.

And my husband is in crisis over the weight he has gained during this pregnancy-induced treat making spree.

I blame the internet. If I didn't have it, I wouldn't come across all these wonderful recipes and feel the need to try them, because I really do not come up with these ideas on my own. These homemade Twix bars come from Savory Sweet Life and I pretty much think she might be a food genius for this. 

The steps are going to sound like a lot of work, but I promise when you start it goes super quickly and is really easy. Plus, they are sooo good.

I have one tip about dipping chocolate. I really do not like the flavor of almond bark, which is what many people use to dip candies, pretzels, berries, etc. I also think its turns a funky color after it sets up. Spend the extra money and use baking chocolate or candy melts. It won't be worth the savings if the candy doesn't taste good!

I am sorry my pictures are terrible! It is so hard to cook & take pictures at the same time. I have so much respect for those food bloggers that document the entire process so beautifully with photos. If you want to see photos for this recipe done correctly, go visit the original post on Savory Sweet Life!

*Printable Version*

Yield: 12 Bars

What You Need:

{24} square caramel candies, cut in half
{24} 4 inch honey wheat pretzel sticks
1/3 cup Nutella {As an alternate idea, try peanut butter!}
2/3 cup baking chocolate or candy melts
Sea salt {optional}


1. Spoon your Nutella into a plastic storage bag and cut the tip off of one corner.

2. Cut each caramel in half and lay them out in a single layer on a microwave safe dish. Soften them, starting with 8 seconds in the microwave, until they are pliable but do not melt.

3. Starting at one end, mold your caramel onto two pretzel sticks. Use 4 halves {2 full caramels per bar}, gently pressing the caramel inbetween,  using it to "glue" the pretzels together. If you are slow like me, you may have to re-warm your caramels during the process.

4. Now, flip your bars over and pipe the Nutella down the middle of the other side, between the two pretzel sticks. Use a knife or spreader to cover the sticks and push the Nutella down between the two.

Now you should have assembled bars.

Melt your baking chocolate or candy melts according to package directions. I start with one minute in the microwave, take them out to stir, and then add 30 second increments until fully melted.

Toss the bars into the melted chocolate, coating them, and lift out on a fork letting the excess chocolate drip off.

Place each on wax or parchment paper and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Once each bar is dipped, place the sheet into the fridge for 15 minutes to set. Enjoy!