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Friday, April 22, 2016

Soft and Chewy Pretzels and Pretzel Bites

My daughter Audra has been making delicious, chewy pretzels for her family for a while.  They were getting rave reviews from her hubby and kids.... so of course I had to try them!  We decided to try them as pretzel bites rather than a full sized pretzel.  It worked perfectly.  Family loved them!  Win!

Audra and I made several batches of these Pretzel Bites for a meeting I was attending.  So many of the people there loved them as well.  I've never had store-bought soft pretzels before, but several of the meeting attendees said they were as good as Pretzel Maker Pretzel Bites.  

The recipe is simple and not too time consuming for bread.  Give it a try!

Soft and Chewy Pretzels and Pretzel Bites

2 3/4 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. yeast

1 C. warm water

Pretzel Salt or Coarse Salt

3 T. melted butter (for brushing after baking)

Put all dry ingredients in mixer bowl.  Pour warm water over and stir with a spatula to incorporate.  Knead on medium low for 5 minutes.  Put in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap (spray the plastic wrap as well for easy removal) and let rise for 30 minutes or so.

While the dough is rising, make a soda wash by mixing 1 T. baking soda with 1/2 C. of warm water and then microwave for one minute.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Place dough on an oiled surface and divide into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a long rope about 1/2 inch diameter.... twice as thick if you're doing bites.  Shape each rope into pretzels OR cut 1 inch pieces from the rope.  Dip each pretzel/bite into soda wash and place on a well greased cookie sheet.  While still very wet, sprinkle with salt.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Bake for 9-10 minutes or until beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.

Enjoy plain or dipping in cheese sauce.  YUMMM!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Perfect Poppy Seed Dressing

Summer is coming bringing warmer weather and the stronger desire for cool salads.  This sweet and tangy Poppy Seed Dressing is perfect drizzled on your choice of greens.  Last night we enjoyed this on a grilled chicken salad and today I've just tossed some sliced strawberries and almonds on romaine.  

This recipe is SO inexpensive per batch, particularly if you have the ingredients already on hand.  The only thing I had to buy this time was the poppy seeds.  I figured it cost me somewhere around $1.60 and it makes a generous 3 cups of dressing.

My sweet Mom shared this with me several years ago and I've no idea where she found this recipe but it has certainly become my favorite!   

Perfect Poppy Seed Dressing

3 T. chopped onion
2/3 C. white vinegar
2 tsp. ground, dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. poppyseeds
1 C. sugar

2 C. oil

Blend the first 6 ingredients well in the blender.  Slowly add the oil while the blender is running at medium to high speed until it is well incorporated and the dressing is smooth.   Chill before using.  Store in refrigerator.

Joy's Notes:  I like to use 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds - I add one with the first part to be blended and the second teaspoon I add after the oil is blended in so that some of the seeds stay whole.  I have used 1 1/2 C. oil and then a few tablespoons of water rather than the whole 2 cups of oil - but I like it best with the recipe as is written above.  Mmmm!!!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Chocolaty Peanut Butter Squares

I used to love Reece's Peanut Butter Cups but they've changed somehow since I was in love with them and it seems that they just don't have the same flavor. This recipe for a similar treat is much more like I remember the flavor of the old candy bar!   

My brother shared this recipe with me before I was even a teenager!  He got it from someone he met while serving a mission in Kentucky and Tennessee for our church.  It was easy enough for me to make by myself that my Mom let me mix it up even before I learned to bake cookies. 

I pressed this into an 8x8 pan but if you like a thinner peanut butter base to go with your chocolate, press this same amount into a 9x13.   If it's more than you can use, it freezes nicely but be sure to cut it into squares before freezing.

Chocolaty Peanut Butter Squares

2 C. Creamy peanut butter
2 cubes margarine or butter, melted
4 1/2-5 C. powdered sugar
1 12 oz package chocolate chips

Blend peanut butter and margarine in blender until well mixed.  Add powdered sugar a cup at a time mixing well until your dough is almost dry and crumbly.   Press into an 8x8 ungreased pan.   Melt chocolate chips in microwave carefully. (I put mine on defrost for about 5 minutes and stir - sometimes it needs a few more minutes on low power)  Spread on peanut butter mixture.  Refrigerate until firm.  Let warm to room temperature before cutting through the chocolate.  Cut into bite-sized squares.  Share!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Home Lunch Quality Control

Years ago my Mom found a little paper in a new shirt that said "Inspected by 14".  She saved that paper and then put it in Dad's lunch the next day with a bite out of the sandwich.  What a fun memory that has been for my family as an example of keeping the fun in a marriage.

Today I did my own quality control for Dave's lunch!  He'll get a kick out of it and won't have a choice but to think of me while he's away at work.  

Perhaps sandwiches like these will show up in lunches for April Fools!  Surprise!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Good ole Idaho Mashed Potatoes

Born and raised right in the middle of Idaho potato country has allowed me to enjoy potatoes almost every day of my life.  We can grow potatoes in our garden but when there are fields and fields of them all around us it's so easy to buy bulk potatoes from a nearby farmer and store them for the winter.  

This year I bought from my cousin who has a field just a mile from me.  This field is part of a farm my grandpa bought and farmed with his boys many years ago. Good soil for growing potatoes and families.  I grew up hearing stories of hand picking potatoes out of the rows in the fall harvest but with modern equipment harvesting is much easier!   There's nothing like the earthy smell of potatoes fresh out of the ground.  

Freshly dug Idaho Potatoes heading into the cellar for storage.
Big beautiful spuds!!!

I like to store 200-300 pounds of potatoes through the winter.  If I pull them right out of the field and put them in gunny sacks or boxes, I can put them in my garage and throw a heavy blanket over them and they'll store into the late spring.  Once in a while if the garage temperature drops below 32 degrees I have to put an electric heater in there overnight to keep them from freezing.   They store best unwashed and in a cool, dark, place.

Mashed potatoes are a staple at our house.  Served as a side dish with gravy or butter, or as the base with a hearty gravy over the top as a main dish or even as the top of a shepherds pie, mashed potatoes are so versatile!

Directions for delicious Idaho Mashed Potatoes.

Start with about 1 medium sized Russet potato per person. (Burbanks are our favorite but Norkotas work too)  Lets say we're feeding a family of 4 for this "recipe".

4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

Place into a medium saucepan and cover with cold water and 1 tsp. salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a fork.  Not TOO soft or you'll not be able to add as much milk but too firm and they'll be lumpier than you might like.

Drain well.

Mash with a good old fashioned potato masher.  (They're a little harder to find but I really like the results better than with a ricer.  I keep my eye out at thrift stores for older, sturdy mashers but you can buy them on for less than $10 too!)  Be sure you scoop around the edges of the pan to pull out any potato quarters that are hiding there.... once you add the butter and milk it's hard to get the lumps out.

Add 1/4 C. (half of a cube) of real butter and let it melt as you use the potato masher to mix it in.  Add 1/3-1/2 C. milk or cream and continue mashing until all is well blended. (add more milk until the potatoes are the consistency you like - I like mine pretty thick.)  Add salt to taste if you wish.  Pile the mashed potatoes into a bowl and place a nice pat of butter on top to serve.

This is my idea of perfectly mashed potatoes if you're topping them with gravy!   If we're just topping them with butter, I like them a little bit thinner.  Either way they are so creamy and delicious!