Pretzels

Today I spent my day in the kitchen making a bunch of things to go into the freezer. One of the things I made fresh, though, were pretzels. My hunny says they are his new addiction. And they’re fun to make! Even if they’re a little frustrating.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that you can make homemade pretzels into any shape you like? These are supposed to be our little man and woman with the M for our name. They kind of turned out a little more like mermaids?

They don’t end up looking like the dark crispy pretzels that you see in the mall, but they taste just as good. The dough is chewy and the top is crispy. Best snack ever.

If you have some time to spend with your kids or your hunny, make some pretzel dough and go to town.

Update! Recipe added! Got it from cdkitchen.com.

“Auntie Annie’s” Copycat Pretzels

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup warm water
1 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup bread flour
3 cups regular flour
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
to taste coarse salt
4 tablespoons butter (melted)

Directions:

Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in mixing bowl; stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt and stir to dissolve; add flour and knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rise at least 1/2 hour.

While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups warm water and 2 Tbsp baking soda. Be certain to stir often. After dough has risen, pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long rope* (about 1/2 inch or less thick) and shape. Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on greased baking sheet. Allow pretzels to rise again. Bake in 450 degrees F oven for about 10 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter and enjoy!

Toppings: after you brush with butter try sprinkling with coarse salt. Or for Auntie Anne’s famous Cinnamon Sugar, try melting a stick of butter in a shallow bowl (big enough to fit the entire pretzel) and in another shallow bowl make a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Dip the pretzel into the butter, coating both sides generously. Then dip again into the cinnamon mixture. Enjoy!

* The longer and thinner you can make the dough rope, the more like Auntie Anne’s they will be. (Of course I don’t have the counter space!)

*Sweet butter, not regular butter, is one of her secrets!

Advertisements

Cooking for Two

The past couple of days we had some amazingly delicious meals for dinner. Last night, it was a shrimp pasta, tonight it was porkchops and spinach. Both were done rather healthy compared to how we normally eat. And for once – there were two nights in a row with NO LEFTOVERS! This is an accomplishment for me I promise.

The shrimp pasta, I took some help from the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme, the Italian Herbs and Spices kind. I mixed about half a tub of that with about a tablespoon and a half of prepared pesto, and another tablespoon of regular cream cheese. I added some dill and some thyme to that mixture and heated it on the stove. Then I threw in some leftover peas we had from the night before, and then halved some cherry tomatoes at the last minute and put those in as a topper. I cooked up some shell pasta, tossed it with half a block of grated mozzarella, and then the sauce mixture and finally about a half-pound of shrimp I sauteed until they were just pink.

These past couple of nights I’ve just been trying to take my knowledge of what tastes good together and running with it. And it’s worked out splendidly.

Tonight, we had a balsamic spinach and the best pork chops ever. (Mom you need to try cooking them this way!) I quickly declared that I had been making pork chops wrong my entire life, and my hunny said he’s never liked spinach until now…The secret is in the flour.

For the pork chops:

2 Bone-In Pork Chops (I’m sure you could use bone-less, but I have my barbarian moments and enjoy gnawing the meat off the bone that is impossible to get at with a fork and knife)

About 3 heaping tablespoons of flour

2 tablespoons of ground mustard

1 tablespoon of Montreal Steak Seasoning

A couple of dashes of ground oregano

2 tbsp of cooking oil (I used canola)

For the Spinach:

1 box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to get rid of the majority of water

Balsamic vinegar, approximately 3 tablespoons

4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 of a onion, thinly sliced

Garlic powder, about 1 tsp

ground sage, about 1 tsp

1/2 tsp of salt

1 tsp of pepper

1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

Start by saute-ing the onions and garlic on low in a small pan with the olive oil until they get very fragrant.

While those are working, mix the flour, ground mustard, steak seasoning and oregano on a paper plate. Heat up the canola oil in another pan on medium until the oil moves around the pan like water (quickly and easily). Put the pork chops in the flour mixture, and press and coat both sides, then put them in the heated canola oil.

Go back to the spinach pan, and once it’s all fragrant, put the spinach in there and turn the heat to medium low. Move it around the pan so it doesn’t stick and let it work.

After about 4 or so minutes, flip your pork chops. The edges should be just starting to get white.

Add the balsamic to the spinach mixture and stir it up well to combine it with the onions and garlic as well. Let that work for about a minute, then add the dried spices. Stir it all together.

About this time, your pork chops should be ready to flip again. Try not to move them around the pan when you’re not flipping them, because you don’t want the wonderful golden skin that is forming on there to break off. Dependent on the thickness of your pork chops, they should be ready in about 2 minutes.

Add the lemon juice to your spinach, stir it in, and then move that off the heat.

Plate the spinach first, and then top it with the parmesan. Put the porkchop on top of the spinach for a very pretty presentation.

Tangy Jack Chops

Without even realizing it, and completely unintentionally, I managed to use three ingredients that my hunny isn’t particularly fond of… and oh wait, he LOVED it. I told him as we ate dinner last night what all was in my random marinade and he gave a very confuddled look and kept eating. I was very proud of my accomplishment.

So for you daring types, here’s an estimation of what I put in my marinade – which went over my two bone-in pork chops in a resealable bag while my roasted potatoes cooked (about 30 minutes):

3/4 c. Brown Mustard – not necessarily spicy, but would be good with a spicy or coarse ground mustard

1/2 c. Barbecue Sauce – I used a slightly sweet and spicy kind that I found at farmer’s market, but whatever your favorite sauce is would work well

1-2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

1 tbsp. ground horseradish

1 tsp. each Salt & Pepper

1/2 tsp. Cayenne

1/2 tbsp. Garlic Powder

1 tbsp. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey

Put it all in a bag, close the bag with some air in it, and shake like crazy. Then put in the pork chops and marinate for 30 minutes or more. Then cook in a pan, flipping twice, and dipping with each flip.

Let me know in the comments what you think!!

Hoisin Stir Fry

Beef and vegetable stir fry, rather simple actually – though it would have tasted better if I didn’t try to cheat. Not that it tasted bad. Just not as good as it could have.

The really cool part about this stir fry is that it takes about 20 minutes. So, perfect for a week night when you don’t have a lot of time. Serve it up with some steamed rice.

I’m going to start something new with the new year. I’m going to put the recipe in my post instead of a separate page. Tell me how you like it?

Here’s the ingredients:

1 lb Steak, sliced thin – the recipe says sirloin, I used a cheaper “every day” steak. I also used the same amount that I would have if I was just grilling it up for the two of us.

1 tbsp Cooking oil – the recipe suggests peanut or vegetable, I used canola and it tasted just fine.

3/4 c water

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp hoisin sauce

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp dark sesame oil

8 shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin – I took some help from the store and bought the ones that were packaged and sliced already.

1 c baby corn – or a can of corn kernels

8 oz of asparagus, cut in to 1 inch spears. Use fresh. Trust me. Canned gets mushy.

1 c sugar snap peas or snow peas and 1/2 c red bell pepper strips – I used a bag of frozen stir fry veggies… I’m thinking use the fresh stuff and add what you like.

1/2 c cherry tomato halves

Directions:

Whisk together the water, soy sauce, hoisin and cornstarch. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large pan or wok. Put in the steak and cook until just medium. Remove from pan and set aside, but keep the juices and oil.

Add sesame oil, mushrooms and corn, cook and stir until mushrooms are tender and corn is heated through. Add asparagus, snap peas and bell peppers, cook and stir until crisp-tender.

Return beef and juices to skillet. Stir sauce mixture and add to pan, along with tomatoes. Cook and stir 1 minute or until heated through and sauce has thickened.  Serve over rice

I got this from my Thai Cooking book. See my bibliography.