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Saturday, March 25, 2017

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!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Healthy Breakfast Scramble

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Yet, that's often one of the most difficult times to take a few minutes to nourish yourself!  This breakfast scramble can be cooked in under 10 minutes and is quick to eat.  Ingredients can be prepped ahead to save time.

I often fix this just for myself, though if my husband is home he enjoys it as well.  It works well to just double the ingredients and cook for two.  It doesn't work as well to cook for six people as the eggs take longer to cook and the spinach goes too soft and the color leaches out into the eggs.  

Dave and I have been participating in a health program through his work that gives us support on making healthy changes to our activity and food.  One of the challenges is to eat a high protein breakfast each day.  This recipe supplies around 15 grams of protein and 260 calories.  Add a piece of whole wheat toast and you're above 20 grams of protein. Add 1/2 an oz of shredded cheese on top and even better if you're not counting calories!  You can do more than that in a protein shake, but I really really love to chew my breakfast!    

Don't forget, you don't have to limit this only to breakfast!  It's a tasty lunch or dinner as well.

My Favorite 
Healthy Breakfast Scramble

2 eggs, beaten with about a teaspoon of water and salt and pepper

2 baby portabella mushrooms, sliced

1 handful of fresh baby spinach

2 tsp. olive oil

1 fresh tomato, sliced or diced 

In a small frying pan, over medium heat, saute the mushrooms in olive oil until they are lightly browned.  Add spinach and stir gently as it warms and goes limp, about 1 minute.... maybe 2 at most.  Add eggs and stir gently until they are set.  Remove from heat.

Slide your breakfast scramble onto your favorite plate and top with diced tomato.  Sprinkle with a tad of salt if desired.

Enjoy warm!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Oatmeal Crispies

This was the first cookie I learned to bake. I think I was about 11 years old, maybe 12.  What warm memories of using my Mom's old mixer.  By the time I was adding the last cup of oatmeal I had to have help to stir it in by hand.  I remember eating about as much dough as baked cookies.  Some things never change!!!  However, some things DO change and now I have an awesome KitchenAid mixer than can mix up a double batch all by itself without batting an eye!   

I'll type in the recipe just like Mom's, but I do make some changes.  Most of the time I add 1/2-1 tsp. of cinnamon.  I've read about the health benefits of cinnamon so in my mind, this qualifies these cookies as a health food. LOL!  Seriously though, if you're going to have a cookie, one with oatmeal in it at least provides more nutrition than one with straight white flour, and once in a while I substitute 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the white flour.   (and then remember that cinnamon! ;)  )   

Oatmeal Crispies

1 C. shortening (or margarine or butter)
1 C. sugar
1 C. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2-1 tsp. cinnamon optional
1/2 C. chopped walnuts optional
1 C. chocolate chips
3 C. quick oats
1/2-1 tsp. cinnamon if desired

Cream shortening and sugars; add eggs and vanilla.  Sift flour, soda and salt (and cinnamon if using) together and add to creamed mixture.  Add oats, nuts and chocolate chips.  Drop on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  (when they're done they'll be starting to brown on the edges and look not quite done in the middle... take them out and let them sit on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes or so and they finish up nicely)

Joy's Notes:  If you use margarine, you probably want to add an extra 1/4 C. of flour.  Often, I bake my first sheet of cookies and if they spread too much, add a bit more flour.  The original recipe says to bake for 8-10 minutes but my oven most of the time needs 11-12.  I seem to ALWAYS burn one sheet of cookies because I set it lower & then think "I'll leave it in just one more minute" and then I wander off and forget.  I'm sure things like that don't happen at YOUR house. :)   Those over done cookies are really good dunked in milk!  Waste not want not.  (This DOES NOT apply to extra blackened cookies... they don't taste good in any amount of milk - if the oven is smoking... throw them out. lol)

Several years ago after making these cookies, I was cleaning up in the kitchen and realized the baby was being awfully quiet.  Guess what he found!  He'd learned to pull the chairs out and was quite a climber.  The cookies were just too much to resist. :)   Awww these babies grow up too fast!  Now he's 8 years old and could reach the plate just fine without climbing!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hearty Chicken and Lentil Stew

These cold, windy days make a soup or stew so inviting!  Hubby and I are trying to make some healthy changes to our diet and this hearty stew is perfect for filling up without filling out!

I love the earthy, peppery, flavor of lentils.  My mother fixed them some when I was growing up, my favorite recipe of hers was a Lentil Casserole with hamburger and the seasonings of baked beans.  It was delicious!  If I had had kale or spinach on hand I would have thrown some of that in at the end of cooking to add color and nutrition, but I was out of fresh greens.  Play around with the veggies all you want in this stew and you'll find which ones you love best!

Hearty Chicken and Lentil Stew

1-2 chicken breast, boneless, diced
2 quarts chicken broth (or 2 quarts of water and chicken bouillon)
1 1/4 C. lentils (I use red)

Brown chicken in a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Add chicken broth and lentils and bring to a boil.  Simmer for around 40 minutes or until lentils are almost tender.


1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 C. sliced carrots
1 C. sliced celery
1/2 C. chopped onion
1/4 C. chopped pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme or 1 T. fresh chopped thyme

Bring back to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.  


1 1/2 C. cubed winter squash or sweet potato
(this is where I'd add a handful of spinach or kale if you choose)

Cook until all veggies are tender, about 10 more minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream if desired.