Monday, February 27, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

We tried this recipe tonight and it is delicious.  It was pretty simple, with Zak helping me.  He made the pretzels into pretzel-shaped and I boiled them and put on the finishing touches.  We're already thinking of different variations to try -- sweet, with cheese, garlic salt.  I used Alton Brown's recipe and don't really have any major modifications or tips to add.  Except to cook the pretzels for less time.  But anyways, these are delicious and easy to eat!

1 1/2 c. warm (110 - 115 degrees) water
1 Tbl. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
approximately 4 1/2 c. (22 oz.) flour
1/2 stick butter (2 oz.), melted
10 c. water
2/3 c. baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten w/1 Tbl. water
pretzel or sea salt
Crisco or Pam spray

1.  Combine warm water, sugar and salt in stand mixer bowl, with yeast sprinkled on top.  Let sit for 5 minutes or until mixture begins to foam.
2.  Add the flour and butter and mix on low speed until well combined.  Change to medium speed until dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 - 5 minutes.
3.  Remove dough from bowl and oil/spray it well and return dough to bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for about an hour or until dough has doubled in size.
4.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line 2 pans with parchment paper and lightly spray/brush with oil.  Set aside.
5.  Bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pan.
6.  Turn dough out onto a slightly oiled surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough into a long, 24-inch rope.  Make a U-shape, holding ends of the rope and cross them over each other and press onto bottom of the U to form a pretzel shape.  Make sure the ends are pinched onto the bottom of the pretzel, so they stay put.
7.  Place one pretzel at a time into the boiling water for 30 seconds.  Remove with a large flat spatula.  Return to baking pan and brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture, then sprinkle with salt.
8.  Bake until golden brown in color, about 10 - 12 minutes.  Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes before serving.

before boiling

with egg wash & salt

our prettiest one, fresh from the oven!


Nutritional Facts
servings per recipe: 8
amount per serving

Calories: 319.5
Total Fat: 7.0 g
Saturated Fat: 3.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.8 g
Cholesterol: 40.8 mg
Sodium: 624.6 mg
Potassium: 79.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 55.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
Sugar: 1.8 g
Protein: 7.7 g
Vitamin A: 4.1 %
Vitamin C: --
Calcium: 1.5 %
Iron: 18.5 %

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

I got this individual pie pan for my birthday and was super excited about it; Zak loves chicken pot pie and I could just imagine making cute little pot pies for him!  So this afternoon I went for it.  Overall, it went really well, except for my first set of pies.  I didn't realize that I needed to put the little metal plates on the bottom, because the box wasn't specific enough went everywhere.  But I at least had the forethought to put the pan onto a baking sheet in case it leaked.  But the second pan of pies turned out just perfect!  So I'm jazzed about this pan and it's going to be awesome for summer fruit pies!  

The recipe I have for chicken pot pie is from my mother-in-law; I made it for Zak for the first time the night we got engaged.  I've made it a few times since then, but haven't really measured the amounts in the recipe.  Since I've been trying to be good about what I eat, I went hard core today and measured everything and wrote it all down, but now I have a recipe with actual amounts for the ingredients.  The only note is, when using the pie pan, I used 4 pie crusts; when I make just a pie in a pie plate, I only use 2 crusts.  Anyways, enough with the background and onto the recipe!

4 pie crusts (for individual pan, 2 for normal pie pan)
3 medium potatoes, peeled & cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled & cut in half-circles (about 3/4 c.)
1/2 onion (about 3/4 c.)
2/3 c. frozen peas
1 stalk celery, diced (1/3 c.)
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized cubes (came out to about 9 oz. cooked)
3 Tbl. flour
1/2 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheese
3 - 4 chicken bouillon cubes
3 - 4 c. water
salt & pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Prepare all vegetables and place in a large stock pot.  Measure water--enough to cover the vegetables.  I usually end up with 3 cups.  Drop in corresponding number of bouillon cubes.
3.  Add thyme, garlic powder, and shakes of salt & pepper; cook on medium to medium-high until vegetables are tender.
4.  In another pot, boil water and add chicken; cook.
5.  Mix together milk and flour in small bowl, add to potato mix.  Cook until thick, more flour may be needed.
6.  Add cooked chicken and cheese, stir until cheese has melted.  
7.  Pour mix into pie crusts and place top layer on top, make sure to cut vents.
8.  Bake 20 minutes if using individual pie pans, or about 30 - 40 minutes if using normal pie plate -- until crust has started to turn golden brown.

Usually when I make it with a normal pie plate, there is leftover mixture.  It's good to eat plain, but I imagine it's great with biscuits or thick bread.  With the individual pan, I had plenty to make 10 little pies, hooray!

stock picture of the pan with the plates and cutter

my second batch of pies, perfect!


my very first pot pie, from the night we got engaged

Nutritional Facts
servings per recipe: 10
amount per serving

Calories: 424.7
Total Fat: 21.5 g
Saturated Fat: 9.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 7.7 g
Cholesterol: 25.1 mg
Sodium: 716.1 mg
Potassium: 335.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 48.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
Sugar: 2 g
Protein: 10.6 g
Vitamin A: 35.5 %
Vitamin C: 18.8 %
Calcium: 9.5 %
Iron: 4.6 %

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hazelnut Toffee Crunch

So I made this on a whim, because I had leftover hazelnuts from attempting to make hazelnut coffee creamer for Zak.  I'm debating to post that recipe, because I wasn't too thrilled with the result, but Zak was impressed and liked it, so there you go.  Anyways, I wanted to find another use for the hazelnuts because I spent like, 1 1/2 hours toasting them and rubbing the stupid skins off of them.  This time I went with this recipe; but I did find a recipe for homemade Nutella, and that might become a reality soon.  But anyways, I made this toffee, and it was my first time making a candy that needed a candy thermometer, but it turns out that my meat thermometer was a decent substitute.  I took a bunch over to our friends' house, and they raved about it, so that made me feel better about a recipe I wasn't 100% on!

1 1/2 c. milk chocolate chips
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. hazelnuts, chopped
2 Tbl. light corn syrup

1.  Toast hazelnuts in a single layer at 275 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes, until skin starts to crack and turn golden brown.  To remove skins, pour hot nuts in a damp towel, wrap up and let steam for about 5 minutes.  Rub skins off with towel until most of the skins have been removed.  This website & this one was helpful.
2.  Once hazelnuts have been skinned and chopped, line 9x9" or 8x8" pan with aluminum foil extending up the sides.
3.  Melt chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth.  Set aside in fridge until chocolate has cooled a little.
4.  In a small saucepan, combine butter, chopped nuts, sugar and corn syrup.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly until butter melts.  Heat the mixture to between 250 - 265 degrees F; it will start to bubble a lot.
5.  Pour candy mixture over cooled chocolate and spread evenly.  Return to fridge to cool.  When cooled completely, break into bite-sized pieces; I got about 64 pieces out of this recipe.  Store in an airtight container.

after two hours in the fridge


another shot

Nutritional Facts
servings per recipe: 64
amount per serving

Calories: 58.2
Total Fat: 4.3 g
Saturated Fat: 1.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 4.7 mg
Sodium: 14.3 mg
Potassium: 34.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 4.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Sugar: 2.2 g
Protein: 0.7 g
Vitamin A: 1.1 %
Vitamin C: 0.3 %
Calcium: 1.1 %
Iron: 1 %

Kung-Pao Chicken

I found this recipe on a cute blog, called Six Sisters' Stuff, and decided it would be worth a try.  It's entitled '500 Calorie Kung Pao Chickn' and thought it'd be fitting because we are trying to watch our caloric intake AND we love Chinese food.  But Chinese food isn't known to be super healthy!  So anyways, I made this is and it's delicious.  The chicken's so tender and I love the bites with cashews in it.  I decided to sub in cashews for the peanuts the original recipe called for, mostly because we love cashews more and also because we didn't have peanuts.  I used a package of frozen vegetables called "Asian Medley", that had carrots, broccoli, snap peas and baby corn in place of the snow peas.  I think I'll use a little bit more next time, because they were so good in it!  Also, the sauce was pretty hot with just 1/2 tsp. of the red pepper flakes, so I am sure I'll go a little easier on those next time.  But this recipe is awesome and I am so so so happy with it!

2 Tbl. dark sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil and it was just fine; the original recipe subbed olive oil)
1 c. chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 c. water
3 Tbl. low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 c. vegetable medley/snow peas/sugar snap peas
2 Tbl. chopped unsalted, dry-roasted cashews/peanuts

1.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan, saute for 3 minutes or until tender.
2.  Add garlic and saute 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add chicken, saute 3 minutes or until no longer pink in the middle.
3.  Combine water, soy sauce, cornstarch, brown sugar & red pepper flakes and stir until sugar dissolves.  Add to pan and bring to a boil.
4.  Add vegetables and cook for 2 minutes or until veggies are crisp-tender and sauce has thickened.  Sprinkle with nuts.

Perfect with 1/2 - 3/4 c. rice in a bowl.  It makes 4 servings, at 250 calories per serving (excluding rice).

it smells so good!

nom nom nom

Nutritional Facts
servings per recipe: 4
amount per serving

Calories: 249.7
Total Fat: 10.8 g
Saturated Fat: 1.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4.2 g
Cholesterol: 65.7 mg
Sodium: 830.2 mg
Potassium: 413.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Sugar: 2.2 g
Protein: 28.7 g
Vitamin A: 4.2 %
Vitamin C: 14 %
Calcium: 4 %
Iron: 8.5 %

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sweet Garlic Chicken

I saw this recipe on-line while trying to find a simple meal.  Well, this was incredibly simple and delicious.  We both really liked it, and I'm sure it'll get worked into our rotation.  The garlic matched well with the brown sugar to create a surprisingly delicious flavor.  Perfect with mashed potatoes and a vegetable side dish!  I added minced dried onion and changed the baking time and temperature

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 garlic cloves, minced
about 1/2 Tbl. minced, dried onion
3 tsp. olive oil
4 Tbl. brown sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking dish with foil.
2.  Saute garlic and minced, dried onion in olive oil until fragrant and tender.
3.  Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar.
4.  Pat mixture evenly onto chicken.
5.  Cook about 20 minutes, until center has reached 170 degrees and is cooked.

I forgot to get a good picture of the this, so this will have to do!
this is from my second time making it, after cooking in the oven

Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes [Cheesecake Factory]

Oh my goodness I love this dish.  It's from the Cheesecake Factory and is my favorite appetizer of all-time.  Normally, I wouldn't go for all these different salsas and flavors, but combined, they are amazing.  I love the corn cakes the most.  My mom made these for us when we were in California, and they were better than the restaurant's!  I've had my eye on this recipe before, but never made it because I was unsure of how it'd go, especially without a food processor.  But I talked to my mom about it, and she convinced me I could handle it.  It's a bit more of an involved recipe, but well worth it.  My cakes turned out a little crispy and not totally one solid piece, but they still tasted delicious.  I made five cakes in all, even though it's supposed to make 4. Whatever, we were happy to have a bonus one!  They kept find in the fridge overnight, so today the leftovers were still wonderful.  Zak said I should make mini ones to serve with these; he loves them that much!  Another recipe success!

Salsa Verde
2 tomatillos, with paper removed and chopped
4 oz. mild green chilies
1 green onion bunch, chopped
2 Tbl. fresh cilantro
1 1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of pepper

a nice, mild green

Tomato Salsa
1 medium tomato, diced
1 Tbl. Spanish onion, minced (I used red onion)
1 Tbl. fresh cilantro
1/2 - 1/4 tsp. lime juice
1/2 small jalapeno, minced
dash of salt & pepper

After I lightly blended the ingredients

Southwestern Sauce
1/2 c. mayo
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. water
3/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. onion powder
dashes of: salt, pepper & garlic powder

Seriously, using a squirt bottle helped big time

Tamale Cakes
1 1/2 c. frozen corn (keep 1/2 c. whole & separate)
1/2 c. butter, softened
3 Tbl. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. masa harina (corn flour)
2 Tbl. white flour

1/4 c. sour cream (4 Tbl.)
1/2 - 1 avocado, chopped
2 Tbl. fresh cilantro, chopped (I didn't use)

1.  Prepare the salsa verde by combining all ingredients in a food processor or use a hand blender.  Cover and chill.
2.  Prepare tomato salsa by combining all ingreidents in a small bowl.  I used my hand blender briefly to slightly mix the ingredients into a mushier? state.  I wanted it to be a bit more spreadable and in smaller pieces, if that makes sense.
3.  Prepare southwestern sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl.  Transfer to a squirt bottle, as it will make life much easier when assembling!  Chill.
4.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
5.  For the tamale cakes, coarsely puree 1 c. of the corn in a food processor.  Using a hand blender was kind of a disaster, and took awhile.  Next time I plan on using a blender, if I don't have a food processor before then.
6.  Once pureed, combine with softened butter, sugar and salt.  Blend well with electric mixer until smooth.
7.  Add masa and white flour and blend well.
8.  Mix in the remaining 1/2 c. of corn by hand.
9.  Measure 1/2 c. and form into 3-inch patties.  Using slightly wet hands helped a lot to form the patties.  I got 5 patties out of the mixture.
10.  Arrange on a baking sheet and bake 20 - 25 minutes, or until cakes are browned on the bottom.
11. Flip cakes with a spatula and bake for an additional 5 - 7 minutes or until slightly browned.
12.  To serve, spoon the salsa verde onto a platter.  Coat entire plate with about 1/4 inch of salsa.
13.  Arrange tamale cakes on top of the salsa verde.
14.  Add spoonful of tomato salsa on top of each cake, with a dollop of sour cream on top.
15.  Arrange avocado pieces on cake and drizzle both ways with southwestern sauce.

Step 1: assemble corn cakes on salsa verde

Step 2: Add tomato salsa and sour cream

Step 3: Add avocado and southwestern sauce

Nutritional Facts
servings per recipe: 5
amount per serving

Calories: 469.1
Total Fat: 32.4 g
Saturated Fat: 13.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 11.5 g
Cholesterol: 61.8 mg
Sodium: 505 mg
Potassium: 435.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 44.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.3 g
Sugar: 14.9 g
Protein: 5 g
Vitamin A: 23 %
Vitamin C: 23.1 %
Calcium: 5.4 %
Iron: 6.2 %

Lemon Chiffon Cake

I made this recipe for our 5 year anniversary dinner celebration.  This is the last year we'll celebrate it, since our wedding anniversary is more important.  Plus, it's kind of a pain because it's 2 days before Valentine's Day which translates to me planning two special meals.  Which I don't mind, but still!  Anyways, I wanted to make some sort of lemon dessert, but use my cute heart pan to make individual heart cakes.  This recipe was pretty simple and actually really tasty, but I had some trouble with it.  I normally don't have too many issues with baking or cooking, but I now think it might have been because I forgot the cream of tartar (it's mentioned in the ingredient list, but not in the directions), and also because that pan is just difficult.  But the cake itself was delicious, so light and fluffy, yet substantial.  I whipped up some whipped cream and added some sugar and lemon extract and it was a nice, lemon-filled dessert for us.  I modified the recipe a bit (the instructions were a bit vague about the sugar, so I kind of just added until I felt it tasted good; I used way more lemon juice, because it initially did not taste the way I wanted it to), and I'm sure I'll try it again, using a normal cake pan next time.

5 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 c. sugar, divided
2/3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbl. vegetable oil
6 Tbl. milk
juice from 1 lemon (original recipe called for 1 tsp. lemon extract)
1 Tbl. lemon zest

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl.
2.  Add cream of tartar to egg whites and mix.  Add in 1/2 c. sugar once slightly stiff, and continue beating until stiff.
3.  In large bowl, add oil in with egg yolks and mix until color is a pale yellow.  Add other 1/2 c. sugar, continue to mix.
4.  Add in milk, lemon extract/juice, zest and beat until well blended.
5.  Add in dry ingredients and mix well.
6.  Gently fold in egg whites and mix well.
7.  Pour into pan and bake 20 - 25 minutes.

not the best picture, but you get the idea