Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cheesy Soft Pretzels

A little while ago a gentleman in our little town was injured and the community pulled together to raise some money. I wanted to do my part to help so I decided to do some baking. I made cinnamon buns and these cheesy soft pretzels. Everyone looooves bread so I knew they would sell well.
I ended up making 18 dozen cinnamon buns and 8 dozen pretzels. So... I know this recipe works well as I made it quite a few times. 
As written below, it makes 8 pretzels but it can easily be doubled! I added some extra aged cheddar to make them just a little different than a regular pretzel. You can leave the cheese out if you want or use another cheese - just make sure it is something strong!

Cheesy Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups hot water
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 tsp) 
3 - 4 cups flour
2 Tbsp oil
2 cups aged cheddar, shredded

Also needed
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten
coarse salt for sprinkling

In a large bowl, stir together hot water, salt, and sugar. Add in yeast and let sit for 5 minutes for yeast to bloom. Add in 3 cups of flour, 2 Tbsp of oil, and the cheese. Mix until dough forms - you may have to add a bit more flour if it is too sticky. Knead dough for 2 minutes. 
Place into an oil bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for an hour.

When dough has doubled....

Preheat oven to 450. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 
Punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal size balls. (Note: I doubled the recipe that is why the picture below has 16.) Cover the balls with a tea towel and let rest 5 minutes. 

Bring a large pot of water with 2/3 cup of baking soda to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
Take one ball and roll it into a rope about 12 - 16 inches long. Fold the rope over on itself to form a pretzel shape. Press your finger firmly into the pretzel where the dough crosses itself. This is so the pretzel will stick together when you drop it in the water. (You can see the little indents below where I pressed the dough together.)

Drop the pretzels, 1 or 2 at a time, into the simmering water. Cook 1 minute and then gently flip over and cook another minute on the other side.

Place back on cookie sheet. When all pretzels have been done, using a pastry or basting brush, brush each pretzel with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with a little of the coarse salt. 
Place in preheated 450 oven and cook until golden brown, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Serve warm with honey mustard or hot mustard dipping sauce. I've also made a melty cheese dip to go with them. My niece-in-law dipped hers in a horseradish sauce that she had and it sounded like a genius idea. You can eat just as is too! There is no wrong way to enjoy a pretzel!

The baking soda bath is what gives them that signature pretzel chewiness. Word of advise - don't add the baking soda to a boiling pot of water. It will go *poof* and you will have baking soda water boiling up and over everything. Add it before the water boils... just sayin'.
These freeze quite well, the only thing is the salt sprinkled on top can disappear when the pretzel thaws. They still have the same great taste but just look a little different. 
If you are craving something salty and chewy and delicious.... you definitely want to give these a try!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Picnic at Cinnamon Creek

For the last year Sue and I have been wanting to do a lovely little picnic with friends to say "Thanks you for being in our lives". Of course, as it always does, life got in the way and the months slipped by. Finally, this month, Sue and I decided we really had to just do it or it would never be done. 
We invited a few friends to join us at a little campground called Cinnamon Creek, about 15 minutes from Lillooet, out the Duffey Lake Road. If you ever get a chance to visit British Columbia you MUST drive the Duffey Lake Road and visit Lillooet. You will not regret it! It is one of the most beautiful drives on the planet. Not even exaggerating a little bit. 

This was our picnic spot. Pretty sweet, am I right?
There isn't an awful view to be found. We really are spoiled with nature's beauty up here in BC.

For our lunch we decided to do a few little charcuterie boards with a gorgeous chicken cobb salad Sue made. (Check back for the link to that recipe!)

I could frame that as art and hang it on my wall. 

We also had a rustic apple galette and some lemon cheesecake parfaits for dessert.

We had some homemade buns that we decorated with a little parchment paper and string.

There certainly wasn't a shortage of choices. Fresh grapes from our friend, Holly's, garden. Sue made some dried plums and apricots.... 

A couple of bottles of wine and sparkling (non-alcoholic) juices to go along...

A quick close up of Sue's salad. She made a lovely herb and garlic dressing that was amazing!

We had so much fun making everything and visiting with our friends.
Funniest part of our visit? Me, crawling up on the table to get some overhead shots. Let's just say I am not exactly graceful. 

I got the shots though so.... it all worked out in the end!

It doesn't have to be terribly complicated to put together a beautiful lunch for a picnic. 
Some meat and cheese, fruits and nuts, a little chocolate and treats, and *voila*

Check out our post on Charcuterie Boards (Click HERE) for a more detailed list of some ideas for boards!

Now that we know how easy and fun it is put together a picnic for our friends we are definitely going to do it again! The weather was perfect and the company even more so. 
Check out Cinnamon Creek camping area on the Duffey Lake Road for a delightful lunch spot - actually, anywhere along the Duffy Lake is delightful.... you really can't go wrong!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cottage Cheese Cookies

I've found the newest addition to our Christmas cookie list. These bad boys are super simple to whip up, make a lot (which is perfect for a cookie exchange), are fairly inexpensive, and look soooo cute. 
I initially decided to try a cookie with cottage cheese because we accidentally bought way too much of it. Turns out, this was a very happy accident. 
The dough for these cookies is kind of like a pie dough, giving these cookies a "turnover" feel. With only 3 ingredients I'm thinking this dough would be excellent for tons more uses - maybe even some savory ones!

Cottage Cheese Cookies

2 cups flour
1 cup butter, cold
1 cup + 2 Tbsp cottage cheese

1/2 cup or more of jam

1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
~1 Tbsp milk

Prepare dough - In a blender or food processor, process the flour and butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

Add in the cottage cheese and process until dough starts to form and pull away from sides. Cover the dough and chill for about an hour.
After chilling, preheat oven to 400. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out with a circle cookie cutter (I believe mine was 3 inch). You can re-roll the scraps and cut out more circles. 
Place 1/4 tsp of jam in the center of each circle.

Tightly pinch the edges together (if you find they are not sticking then dampen the edges with a dab of water).  Repeat until all the circles are done. Place them on the prepared cookie sheet. 
Poke each one with a fork so they can vent. 

Bake at 400 for about 15 - 20 minutes - until cookies are lightly browned. 

If they aren't sealed tightly then they will pop open a bit. Which I love because then you can see some of the colorful filling inside. If you don't want that to happen though, be sure to seal them very firmly. 
Prepare drizzle - Once cookies are completely cooled: in a small bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, vanilla, and milk until mixture is the consistency of glue and will run off the end of a spoon so you can drizzle it over the cookies. You made need to add a pinch more milk, or a pinch more icing sugar to get the right consistency. 

FYI - I believe I got 40-ish cookies from one recipe. 
They are just so cute. They look like pierogies when you are making them! Red jam is perfect for Christmas but you could use any jam you like. If you want a little different twist - use about 1/8 of a tsp of almond extract in the glaze instead of the vanilla. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatballs

Our sister Orra used to make the best chicken cordon bleu. I can remember her having to pound out the chicken, bread it and then fry it. I usually have a hard time trying to pound out a chicken breast. It can go sideways for me very quickly. I thought maybe using ground chicken would be easier for me. 
While it doesn't really save any time compared to Orra's way, I do find it much more simple. I believe I got 4 servings of 3 meatballs each out of this recipe when serving it with egg noodles.  
Cheese, chicken, creamy sauce - so many things to love here. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatballs

Mustard Cream Sauce
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
salt & pepper
1/4 cup whipping cream (heavy cream)
2 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded 

1 lb ground chicken
salt & pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
4 slices deli ham
4 slices Swiss cheese
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 eggs beaten
1 Tbsp milk

To Cook
canola oil (enough to cover 1/3 up the sides of the skillet)

Prepare the mustard cream sauce - Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour in and whisk until smooth. Continue whisking as you slowly pour in the milk, salt & pepper, and cream. Whisk until smooth. 
Add in the mustard, bouillon, and Worcestershire. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Once it has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the wine and Parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Set sauce aside and keep warm until meatballs are done.

Prepare the meatballs - In a mixing bowl, combine chicken, salt & pepper, egg, and panko. Mix well and form into 12 balls.

Cut the ham and Swiss cheese slices into 4 pieces each. Make little stacks of the ham and cheese to go inside the meatballs. In a bowl, combine the panko and Parmesan. In another bowl, combine the beaten eggs and Tbsp of milk. 

Flatten a meatball slightly in the palm of your hand. Place one stack of the ham and cheese in the meatball and pinch the meat up around it. Re-roll to shape into a meatball again.
Dip the meatball into the eggs and then roll in the breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture to evenly coat. 
repeat until all meatballs are formed and ready to be cooked. 

Heat the canola oil to 350 degrees in a large skillet. Place the meatballs into the hot oil.

Gently turn each meatball to cook all sides until meatballs are cooked through. Watch closely so you don't burn the meatballs. When meatballs are almost done - make sure your sauce is still heated. 
When done, remove the meatballs from the oil and place on paper towels to drain off any excess oil. Carefully move the oil off the heat and let it cool completely before discarding it (or saving it for another use). 

Serve hot over noodles or rice with the sauce. 
Love the bit of melty cheese peeking out!

Note - the sauce and meatballs can be made ahead of time. For the sauce - prepare as above to the point it is done and just being warmed. Remove from heat and place in covered, microwave safe container. Let cool and keep in fridge for up to 2 days. Simply reheat when ready to use. 
I have prepped the meatballs to the point where they are ready to go in the oil and then covered and refrigerated them for up to 6 hours - I'm sure they would be fine overnight -  (ie: made them at breakfast time and chilled until dinner time). Then let them sit at room temp for about half an hour before continuing to cook as above. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

No Bake Penotti Monster Cookies

Quite a while ago we received a gift from Penotti Canada of two jars of their product. One jar we used to create our Crunchy Cookie Butter and Coconut Biscotti (Recipe HERE). The other jar we used to make these frightfully good no bake monster cookies. 
No bake cookies are soooooo great, aren't they? Super easy to whip up at the last minute. Throw some spooky candy eyeballs on and *voila*  a Halloween snack the kids will love. And adults. And ghouls. And vampires. Pretty much everyone....

No Bake Penotti Monster Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup baking cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup coconut
candy eyes

In a large saucepan mix sugar, butter, and milk. Bring to a full roiling boil (Full, rolling boil = bubbles can't be stirred down). 
Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. 
Remove from heat and stir in the Duo Penotti and vanilla until smooth.

 Stir in the oats and coconut.

Working fairly quickly, drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper covered cookie sheet (you can also use plastic wrap). 

Press two eyes into each blob. Let cool completely. 

You can make them all different sizes if you like. They harden up enough to go in a lunchbox if you want to send some to school with the kidlets. 

You can also make these without the eyeballs of course! But.... cooooome ooooon

They're just so cute with the eyeballs. 
I mean.... terrifying.... they are so terrifying with the eyeballs. 
These are basically just a fun update to a classic "haystack" cookie. The Duo Penotti instead of peanut butter makes these extra tasty!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Blueberry Ice Cream

Blueberry ice cream is not one of my favorites, if we are being honest. I just find that blueberries are so mild that it doesn't impart a lot of flavor to the ice cream. I decided to try and up the blueberry flavor by adding in a swirl of reduced blueberries. 
It worked!
Not only does it add a textural element, it definitely boosts the blueberry-iness of it. Blueberry ice cream has now moved up the list of favorite flavors for me. The beautiful color helped push it into the top 10. If you are one of those people that only eats ice cream in the summer (weeeeeeird) then you still have lots of time to whip some up!

Blueberry Ice Cream

1 cup fresh blueberries
1 Tbsp sugar

Ice Cream
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cups whipping cream, divided
1 cup half and half cream (or whole milk)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp blueberry vodka (optional)

Prepare swirl - on a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together blueberries and sugar.

 Keep stirring while blueberries come to a boil and start to breakdown and thicken - about 10 minutes (you want it to be jam-like). Remove from heat and let cool completely. 
Prepare ice cream - Place blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium pan. Cook and stir until mixture breaks down (much like the swirl, above). Remove from heat. Place a strainer over a bowl and strain the blueberry mixture through. Discard the bits left in the strainer. Set the bowl with the blueberry puree aside. 
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together 1 cup of the whipping cream, the half and half, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Keep stirring constantly until mixture starts to steam. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks. Very slowly whisk in a little of the hot cream mixture - about 1/4 cup at a time. (Do this slowly so you don't curdle the eggs). Stir the the yolk mixture back into the cream and place back on heat. Continue to stir until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. When thickened remove from heat.
Place remaining 1 cup of cream in a bowl with a strainer on top. Pour the hot mixture through the strainer into the cream. Stir in the blueberry vodka, if using. 
Stir in the blueberry puree.
Chill mixture at least 4 hours.
When chilled: place in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions.
When the ice cream is done processing, scrape half of it into a container. Place half of the swirl mixture on top and swirl with a butter knife. Scrape the remaining ice cream on top, then swirl on the last of the swirl mixture.

Freeze until firm. 

I use a bit of blueberry vodka to help prevent the ice cream from freezing too hard. It's not necessary though. You can use plain vodka or just leave it out. If your ice cream freezes really hard just be sure to take it out about 10 minutes before you want to serve it.