March 28, 2009

Homemade Pretzels

Today was a cold and very windy day. It was perfect weather for staying in and baking something new. Chris has been begging me for a few weeks to make homemade pretzels. Plus I haven't used my dough hook on my new mixer yet so it was the perfect reason to try this out. I used an Alton Brown recipe from Food Network. They turned out so great. I'll definitely try this again soon. This was our appetizer and Chris made a tasty chili. I'll post pics and recipe of that next.

1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 pkg active dry yeast (I used the fast acting yeast)
22 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp water
Pretzel salt (I used Kosher and it worked fine)
Vegetable Oil

Combine water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until dissolved. Then sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. (*If it doesn't foam or starts to settle to the bottom, start over with warmer water or maybe your yeast was old.) Add flour and butter and using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combines. Then change to medium speed and let it knead the dough until it's smooth and starts to pull away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4-5 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 warm place for about 30 minutes if you are using the fast active yeast; if not, 50-55 minutes. While the oven is preheating, you can sit it on the stove near the warmth.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling oil in a large pot.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface or countertop. 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 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 pans.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1 for 30 seconds each. Remove them from the water using a large slotted spoon or spatula. Return to the pan and brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg and water. Then sprinkle with the pretzel or kosher salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color. About 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite mustard. Makes 8 large pretzels.

March 22, 2009

Cajun Chicken Wings & Corn on the Cob

It's that time of year again to cook everything on the grill. I love the smell of food cooking on the grill. Sunday evening was the perfect day for grilling. We have this cookbook we haven't tried many recipes out of yet. (Barbecues, Grills & Outdoor Eating) I'm sad we've waited this long but it definitely won't be the last one. Note: You will need a roll of paper towels on hand as this can get a little messy. But it's soooo worth it. You'll thank me for this one!!

8 chicken pieces (drumsticks, thighs or wings) - we used wings
2 ears of fresh corn
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp melted butter

Trim any excess fat from the chicken, but leave the skin in place. Slash the thickest parts with a knife, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat as much as possible.

Pull the husks and silks off the ears of corn, then rinse them under cold running water and pat them dry with paper towels. Break them in half or small pieces.

Mix all the spices together. Brush the chicken and corn with the melted butter. Sprinkle the spices over them and toss well to coat evenly.

Cook the chicken pieces on a medium-hot grill for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Then add the corn and cook the chicken & corn for about 15 minutes more, turning often. Enjoy with a frosty beer!!

March 21, 2009

Roasted Chicken Thighs & Potatoes

I am not sure where I found this recipe but after weeks of staring at it in my files and salivating, I decided to whip it together Friday night after I got home from work. It didn't take long at all and it was a very tasty dish. There are so many delicious flavors in this. It reminded me of Lemon Chicken a bit with the tartness from the lemon and artichokes. So if you love Lemon Chicken, you'll enjoy this dish. I didn't get a picture as I totally forgot to snap a few before devouring it for dinner and lunch Saturday.

Olive Oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper (you can use Kosher as well)
dried basil
5-6 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
15 oz can of artichoke hearts, quartered, drained
15 petite or fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
2 cloves of garlic, sliced into slivers
2 lemons (zest of one lemon and the juice and the other sliced thinly)
2 tbsp chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (garnish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a pot of water over high heat until boiling. Add sliced potatoes to the pot and boil for 6 minutes. Drain then add garlic, lemon zest, lemon slices, artichokes and 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pot with the potatoes. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste, just use your judgement on how much. Set aside.

Season the trimmed chicken thighs with sea salt, pepper and dried basil. About a tsp of dried basil is a good starting point. If you feel it needs more, go ahead. It couldn't hurt! Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in an OVEN PROOF SKILLET over medium high heat. Once it's ready add the chicken thighs and cook 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the chicken over and remove from heat. Add the potato and artichoke mixture to the pan. Place the skillet in the oven to roast for 15 minutes.

Mix 1 tbsp of olive oil, juice of one lemon and 2 tbsp of chicken broth in a small bowl. Season with dried basil, sea salt and pepper.

Remove skillet from oven and pour the lemon juice mix over the top of everything. Let stand for 4 minutes before cutting.

March Cookie Madness

We're going to a BBQ today to watch the basketball games, drink and eat delicious food. I asked if there were specific cookies he wanted and the host requested Chocolate Chip Pecan. I'm not one to eat cookies with nuts but I don't mind making them for a friend. And I have to admit, I did give in and try one after being tempted by the chocolate-nutty smell that filled my house. They were really good! I may have to rethink the whole nut thing. I also made Oatmeal as they are my all time fave. I've provided both recipes and pictures.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cup flour
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used the mini chips)

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, beating well after each one. Gradually beat in the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the chocolate and nuts. Use a cookie scoop or spoon and make rounds on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool in pan for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned work)

options: 1 cup raisins, 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Stir in oats and any other optional ingredients if you choose. (nuts, chocolate chips, raisins). Use cookie scoop or spoon to drop rounds onto ungreased cookies sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 1 minute on pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen.

March 1, 2009

Oreo Brownies

My husband loves to send me links of things I should try out as far as baking or cooking. It usually means, "Hey babe, I think these look delicious. Can you please make these for ME?". I didn't mind trying these out as I was definitely in the mood for some chocolate, which doesn't happen very often at all. I know.. weird. I made them last Sunday and shared a few with a couple of friends that came over to watch the Oscars with us. I took the rest to co-workers who devoured them in no time. A couple of people warmed them up in the microwave for just a few seconds and said they were so delicious warm. The smell of them warmed up was amazing!!

2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup +2 tbsp flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chopped Oreo cookies (25 cookies)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9"x13" baking pan.

In a heatproof medium bowl, microwave butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate until melted and smooth. About 2-3 minutes, stirring every minute. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Blend the chocolate mixture into egg mixture; cool to room temperature.

In a medium bow, sift together 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture. In a small bowl, stir Oreos and remaining 2 tbsp of flour. Add Oreo mixture to chocolate mixture. Pour batter into baking pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; do not overbake. Allow to cool. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, until cold; then cut into squares.