31.5.14

Honey Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels with Chia Seeds



Have you ever been totally obsessed with a particular food item?

So much so that you can't stop thinking about it?

I've had this problem with soft pretzels lately.

It all started with a Smitten Kitchen post about soft pretzel buns.


Then my friend Kara told me about Deb's chocolate chip brioche pretzels

Then I went to the mall with my friend Steph and bought a soft pretzel from the Auntie Anne's kiosk. 

It was soft and salty and buttery and delicious,  and I thought it would satisfy my soft pretzel craving. 


But it didn't. 

Then, two of my other favorite bloggers posted soft pretzel recipes… (jalapeƱo pretzel dogs and soft pretzel ice cream sammies) on the same day! ENOUGH. I had to make my own. These were just destined to happen.

To justify having twelve of these in my house at one time, I had to make a healthy twist on the original soft pretzel recipe.  BUT, it still had to be traditional enough to satisfy my soft pretzel craving. These did both.  The whole wheat flour is unnoticeable in these, but the honey adds the perfect amount of sweetness.  The chia seeds are an additional health boost and provide a nice crunch.


When I gave Adam one, his response was, "These are good. What are the black things on top?"

"They're chia seeds."

"As in, Chia Pet chia seeds?"

"No, as in chia seeds, the good-for-you seeds people sprinkle on oatmeal and in smoothies."

Then I googled chia seeds and discovered that Adam is right.  Chia seeds are none other than the seeds from the Chia Pet. Who knew? They're definitely good for you though, and much more useful sprinkled on top of food than growing funny green plants, if you ask me.


Since there are several steps involved in the recipe, I made you a how-to video. It's a slight improvement over the last one, but the quality is still lacking and I didn't realize until afterwards that shooting video vertically doesn't really make sense, sooooo there's a lot of black space.  I'm learning! Thanks for putting up with me.  


Also, you'll want to watch this all the way through as there's a scandalous bit at the end ;)


Happy pretzel eating!

Honey Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels with Chia Seeds


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup honey
1 package fast acting yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
non-stick cooking spray
10 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Toppings:
chia seeds
coarse sea salt
cinnamon & sugar

Directions: 
Prepare a clean surface with flour.

Combine warm water, yeast, and honey in a small bowl. Let sit for 5-7 minutes until yeast is bubbly.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together salt and flours. Then yeast mixture and butter. Stir until  incorporated into a ball, then move to floured surface. Kneed for 4-5 minutes or until elastic. (Or when the dough bounces back slightly when you poke it.)

Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm place for an hour or until dough is doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 and spray two cookie sheets liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large sauce pan, bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, return the dough to the flour surface. Cut dough in half, then cut each half into half again, then cut each half into 3 pieces, for 12 pieces total.  Role each piece out into a 24 inch rope. Make a U shape, then bring the ends of the U into the middle and press firmly to seal.

Carefully drop each pretzel into the boiling water, two at a time, for 30 seconds, then place on the prepared cookie sheet.

Brush each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with desired toppings. (coarse sea salt, chia seeds, cinnamon and sugar, etc.)

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. (I found that the cinnamon sugar ones cooked more quickly than the plain ones, so keep that in mind.)

Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen

Recipe adapted from Honest Cooking 

25.5.14

Farro Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Avocado, Feta & Spinach Pesto



I get more excited about lunch during summer time.

Life is just a little more relaxed, so I have more time to put things together, and fresh veggies abound. There's no reason not to take the time to make a colorful, healthy, filling lunch.

This hearty lunch salad features my new favorite grain, farro.

I think of farro as a sort of cross between brown rice and orzo. It's satisfyingly chewy and filling. I love it in salads like this, but I've also used it in place of rice in a casserole, and I had it at brunch this weekend topped with onions, gruyere, swiss chard, and poached eggs.

There are several different types of farro, so you'll want to be sure to read the directions for how to prepare it. Some varieties require soaking overnight, but my directions below are for the quick-cooking variety.

In many ways, this recipe is not surprising. You already know I love avocado in salads. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) You also know I especially love feta and avocado in salads. (See here and here.) However, the addition of the roasted red peppers and chewy farro makes this salad unique, and all the flavors and textures here--> lunchtime win.


Also, a note about co-worker lunch judging.  You know it happens. If you're lucky enough to have a lunch break and to be able to share it with your co-workers or friends, you know what I'm talking about. As everyone is pulling out their packed lunches, you scope each of them out--perhaps with some judgment, jealousy, or just plain interest and inspiration. I've gotten a lot of great lunch ideas by stealing them from friends and co-workers.

Anyway, you may experience some co-worker lunch-judging with this recipe.  Though the colors are beautiful when all of the ingredients are separate, once you combine them, the spinach pesto makes everything green. Very green.

So yes, your co-workers may make fun of you when you pull out this salad, but offer them a bite and their judgment will turn to envy.  I promise!



Farro Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Avocado & Spinach Pesto


Ingredients:
1 cup farro
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 avocado
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 ripe avocado, cubed
2 red peppers
4 ounces fresh spinach
1 clove garlic
juice from half a lemon
olive oil
salt & peper

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 450.  Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, add 1 cup faro and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Drain any excess water and let cool, rinsing with cold water if necessary.

Cut red peppers into large slices and place on cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, using hands to evenly distribute oil and spices. Arrange peppers with outer edges facing down. Roast at 450 for 10 minutes, then flip over, and roast for another 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting into bite-sized pieces. 

In a food processor, combine spinach, lemon juice, garlic, and 3-4 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until smooth.

In a large bowl combine crumbled feta, avocado, cooled farro and red peppers, and spinach pesto. Toss to combine, adding additional salt and pepper if needed.

Notes:

  • If you don't want to break out the food processor, or you want to avoid the strange green hue of this dish, just chop the spinach up finely and throw it in. Then make a simple dressing with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. 


18.5.14

Shandies with Homemade Sparkling Lemonade



Friends, I've found my favorite summer drink!

It's called a Shandy, and it's a combination of sparkling lemonade and wheat beer.

I had my first one a couple weeks ago at baseball game. Everything about that day--the sunshine, the baseball, my cool, sparkling, refreshing, slightly alcoholic drink--just said summer. I was so happy.

Annnd, I get to recreate that feeling every time I have a sip of one of these.


There are many easy ways to create a Shandy.  You could use Sprite, or ginger ale, or some Crystal Light or Country Time Lemonade. BUT, right now I'm going to have to insist that you make your own homemade sparkling lemonade.

It takes just a little bit of effort and makes a world of difference.


I'd never actually made homemade lemonade before this, which is maybe kind of embarrassing. However, after making it, I've decided I'm going to continue making it all summer.  There are so many fun variations (I've listed a few at the bottom) AND it's so good for you.

The hardest part is squeezing all the lemons, so having a little lemon juicer is crucial. I have one that I bought at IKEA for $6.00.  The only other ingredients are simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) and sparkling water.  Chill everything until it's really really cold, then combine with cold beer. Are you thirsty yet?


Just to show you how easy it is, I made you a little video. 

For some reason I thought it would be cool to shoot this video on my phone, using a hiptastic indie video app. The result is yellow and grainy and decidedly un-cool, BUT it's my first video attempt and you get to see my goofy face at the end. 

video

Here's some advice, friends. Make a batch of this homemade sparkling lemonade this Thursday night.  When you get home from work on Friday, pop open a beer and make yourself a shandy. Then go sit somewhere outside, take a deep breath, and savor summer.


Shandies with Homemade Sparkling Lemonade


Homemade Sparkling Lemonade:

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh lemon juice, squeezed from 6-8 lemons, strained to remove pulp and seeds
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2-2 1/2 cups sparkling water

Directions:
While you're squeezing the lemons, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cool, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Bring to room temperature or refrigerate, if time allows.

In a pitcher, combine fresh lemon juice, sugar water, and sparkling water. Add extra lemon slices as a garnish if desired.

Shandy:

Ingredients:
1 pitcher homemade sparking lemonade
2-3 bottles of wheat beer (Blue Moon would be good. I used this Bavarian Trader Joe's brand and loved it)

Directions:
Pour sparkling lemonade into 4 glasses. (Each glass should be a little less than half lemonade.)

Top each glass with wheat beer.

Sip away!

*Serves 4-6, depending on how much lemonade you like in each serving.


Optional Fun Twists:

Lavender Honey Lemonade--substitute honey for the sugar. Add a teaspoon of culinary lavender to the simple syrup. Strain mixture to remove lavender petals.

Mint Lemonade--add a tablespoon of fresh mint leaves to the simple syrup. Strain mixture to remove mint leaves.

Berry Lemonade--add frozen blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries to the sparkling lemonade.

Sparkling Arnold Palmers--Instead of beer, combine sparkling lemonade with a couple shots of sweet tea vodka.

11.5.14

Strawberry Pretzel Cheesecake



There are some things moms just do best.

Adam's mom can fill a dishwasher like no other.  You think that dishwasher is full? Nope. She can rearrange a few things and fit 3 more plates, 2 glasses, and a bowl in.

My mom has a magic way of taking temperatures. When my sister and I were little and complained of a fever, she would kneel down and put her cheek up to our forehead. She said this was a better way to tell temperature than with her hand, because our hands are usually cooler than the rest of our bodies, but I think the closeness of her face to ours brought healing properties of its own.

Both my mom and Adam's mom can fold a fitted sheet so that it has perfect crisp edges.  Perfect.  Like you can't even tell it's a fitted sheet.


I probably won't be a mom anytime soon, but sometimes when I think about it, I worry.

I'm not an expert at filling the dishwasher. I don't have magic temperature taking abilities. And I definitely cannot fold a fitted sheet with crisp edges.

Can you be a good mom without those "mom" things?



The answer, I'm sure, is of course.  And moms do many amazing things that don't revolve around cooking or cleaning or nursing sick children.

But to all of us, I think, there are just some things that our moms do best. Things that no one else can ever replicate.


Adam's mom makes an amazing dessert called strawberry salad and Adam LOVES it.

She makes it every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes other special occasions. Adam gets giddy at the sight of it and has been known to eat large bowls of it for breakfast the next day.


The recipe has a crunchy pretzel bottom and middle creamy layer composed of cool whip and cream cheese. It's topped off with strawberry jello studded with fresh strawberries.

Maybe it sounds strange, (I think the salad name came from the 70's when things with jello were called salad) but it is SO GOOD. The salty-crunchy-creamy-sweet flavor combination is just something you have to try.


Adam's parents moved a little over a year ago, and he misses them a lot.  (I know this even though he doesn't always say it.)  I've tried to make his mom's strawberry salad twice, and both times were a near disaster.  The first time I poured the jello before it was partially set and splattered red liquid all over my white kitchen. The second time I added frozen strawberries to the hot water which cooled it down so much that the jello didn't coagulate. (That was at Thanksgiving and I had a meltdown at the table over the runny strawberry salad.) 


Since those two mishaps, I've been thinking about strawberry salad and about Adam's mom. And what I realized, of course, is that part of what makes strawberry salad so good is the person who makes it.

My kitchen foibles aside, my attempts at strawberry salad will never really measure up.


This doesn't mean that we can't enjoy creamy pretzel strawberry deliciousness. It just means that I will leave the real strawberry salad for her, and I'll make my own version. 

In my version, I nixed the jello--since that caused so many problems for me--and made a fresh strawberry compote topping instead.  I also replaced the creamy center with a thicker, classic cheesecake filling. 

The result? Fantastic. This strawberry pretzel cheesecake retains all the lovely qualities of the original strawberry salad, but also becomes something new, and I hope special, in its own right. 

Maybe I'll make it for our kids someday. 

Wishing you a happy Mother's Day, friends!

Strawberry Pretzel Cheesecake

Ingredients: 
Pretzel Crust
2 cups crushed pretzels
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Cheesecake
2 (8oz) packages 1/3 of the fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
11/2 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry Topping:
2 pints strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions:
Pretzel Crust:
Preheat oven to 350.

In a 9 inch pie pan, combine crushed pretzels, sugar, and butter. Use a fork to mix together and then press into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.

Cheesecake:
Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Pour over pretzel crust. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until center is set.

Let cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 4 hours.

Strawberry Topping: 
In a small saucepan, combine strawberries and sugar over medium high heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes until sugar is dissolved, then use a potato masher or fork to smash about half of the berries.

Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue cooking over medium high for 5-7 minutes until bubbling, slightly thickened, and covered in foam. Carefully use a spoon to remove foam.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water. Gradually add cornstarch water into the strawberry mixture, whisking continuously. The strawberry mixture should now be lovely and thick! Remove it from the heat. Let cool completely before pouring over cheesecake. I would recommend refrigerating it for at least an hour.

Notes:

  • I think a timeline is helpful with multi-step recipes like this: 
    • 6 hours before serving--make the pie crust and bake it. 
    • While the pie crust is baking, and as it cools, make the cheesecake filling, then pour over pie crust, bake, and refrigerate for 4 hours. 
    • 2 hours before serving--make the fruit compote mixture and refrigerate. 
    • 5 minutes before serving--pour the fruit compote over the cheesecake.
    • Slice and enjoy!
    • Alternatively, you can make everything the night before so that it refrigerates over night!




4.5.14

Roasted Potato & Asparagus Salad with Avocado & Sun-dried Tomatoes


Can I talk about law school for a minute?

I try not to talk about it much on here because

(a) this a food blog

(b) I don't usually have anything important or interesting to say about it

(c) you probably don't want to hear about future interests or vicarious liability or standards of review, and

(d) if you did, you could learn much more about them in a forum/chat room somewhere else.

But, here's the thing, law school exams really suck. really.


1 exam. 1 grade. An entire semester of hard work.

Law school exams are graded based on a bell curve, which means that a certain number of people have to get A's, B's, and C's. There's no objective "A" standard. You're graded based on how well you do in comparison to your peers.

It's a really weird system, and maybe part of the reason why lawyers get such a bad reputation.  You come to law school and meet some awesome (and maybe weird) people and then come exam time you have to hope that most of them are DUMBER than you. Or at least bad at studying. Or susceptible to testing anxiety. What?

This is contrary to every impulse I have a ingrained in me as an educator. Everyone has gifts and can do well!  Cater instruction to different learning styes! Work together to help everyone succeed!

This crazy mindset also breeds strange behavior during exam studying.  Anytime you see/hear about someone else studying you become a little paranoid. They're doing more than you. You're behind and not doing enough. Why do you check instagram so much? Why aren't you more disciplined? You're stupid and probably never going to amount to anything.

The nasty thought process progresses….


They also give you lots of time in between your exams. You have no classes to go to, no clubs or meetings, so you spend all your time studying or hanging around in your head. (which is a bad place to be at this point) There's no distracting yourself by staying busy with the comfort of an everyday routine.  No vegging out in front of the t.v. or wasting time surfing the internet. YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE STUDYING, DANGIT!

My exam studying goes through several phases. It starts with mild panic, and lots of digging my finger nails into the skin on my thumbs.  This progresses to general stress joined by lots of excuses to check my email/take long showers/clean/do anything that isn't studying.

By the end of it, I am vulnerable and exposed. Like all my hard edges have worn off. I just feel everything a little too much.

The night before my last exam, Adam asked me if I wanted to go for a drive.  Going "for a drive" is one of our things. (See this post and don't judge the terrible photos.)  We don't always have a specific agenda, and that's the best part.

That night, we drove fifteen minutes to a nearby lake.  As we got closer, I could see the sky turning pinker and pinker through the trees.

When we pulled up to the lookout point we saw this.


I wanted to laugh.

Of course the world is beautiful and so much bigger than the small little miserable place I'd been inhabiting during exams.

It's also inconceivably, extraordinarily, undeservedly good.  It just is.

I got to sit next to my favorite person and stare out at this sunset, trembling--slightly from the breeze and my general emotional state--but also from the astounding recognition that I could have missed this moment entirely if I'd decided to stay inside.

Life is a gift that we have to choose to see.


I'm done with exams now (Praise God!) and trying to recuperate with some healthy eating.

This salad is my new favorite. The star of the show is the fingerling potato, which is cut into discs, seasoned with spices and roasted until crispy, then laid atop a bed of lettuce along with roasted asparagus, creamy avocado, and chewy sweet sun dried tomatoes.

It's spring in salad form, and just the kind of thing I need to start craving some green stuff.

Give it a try, friends!


Roasted Potato & Asparagus Salad with Avocado & Sun-dried Tomatoes


Ingredients:
6 cups lettuce of your choice (Arugula would be great here)
1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut into small discs
1 bunch asparagus, ends removed 
1 handful sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 ripe avocado, chopped
olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper
balsamic vinaigrette, for serving

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425. 

Prepare 2 cookie sheets with aluminum foil. 

Spread the asparagus on one sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to ensure that oil and spices are distributed evenly. 

On the other cookie sheet, spread out the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and chili powder.  Drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to ensure that oil and spices are distributed evenly. 

Place both in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove both cookie sheets and stir the vegetables around. The asparagus will probably only need another minute or two, while the potatoes will need another 10 minutes on the other side.  

Remove from the oven and let cool.  Cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces. 

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus and potatoes. Serve with balsamic  vinaigrette. (Or make your own with equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil and a pinch of salt & sugar) 

Notes:
  • To make this a super easy lunch, roast the vegetables the night before.
  • A little parmesan cheese sprinkled over top is good too!
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