Monday, October 5, 2015

Bavarian Pretzels

One of my favorite after-school snacks as a kid was a warm pretzel dipped in mustard.  Even as an adult, I love to stop at the mall pretzel place, or at a food kart at the amusement park, and get a giant pretzel to share with my kids.  Several years ago, when I attended an Oktoberfest celebration with my husband and then four-month old, I couldn't wait for a warm, just slightly salted pretzel, slightly crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.  When I decided to plan an Oktoberfest-themed meal this year, I knew this carb bomb was a must!  Enjoy...I know I will!

3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons baking soda
3 cups water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, or to taste

In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, stir together 1 cup of flour, yeast, sugar, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1 1/3 cup water.  Let this mixture stand until bubble begin to form, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the salt and gradually stir in the remaining flour until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding more flour if needed.

Divide the dough into 6 pieces and let them rest for a few minutes.  Roll out one piece at a time into a rope about 15 inches long.  Loop and twist into that cool pretzel shape.  Set on a baking sheet while you roll out the remaining portions.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Bring the remaining 3 cups of water to a boil and add the baking soda.  Remove from the heat.  Dip pretzels into the water bath for about 45 seconds, flipping over about halfway through.  Place the soaked pretzels on a greased baking sheet and brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve warm, with your favorite mustard for dipping!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

This Month: Oktoberfest

The weather is finally starting to cool off, the leaves are changing color, and football has reclaimed my Saturday afternoons.  My family spends weekends in apple orchards and pumpkin patches.  What better way to celebrate one of my favorite seasons than with a special Oktoberfest meal?!  Throw on your favorite sweater and boots, toss a plaid tablecloth on the kitchen table, pour your favorite German brew, and get ready for a great meal!

Beer-Glazed Brats and Sauerkraut

German Potato Salad

Apple Bavarian Torte

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Fondue

12 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup cream
3 tablespoons raspberry liqueur, like Chambord

Combine the chocolate and cream in the top of a double broiler and set over simmering water.  Heat until the chocolate is melted, stirring constantly.  You can also combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until melted, stirring ever 30 seconds.  Be careful not to let the chocolate burn.  Pour into a warm fondue pot.  Drizzle with liqueur.  Keep fondue warm over low heat.  Serve with fresh fruit (strawberries, bananas, and kiwi are our favorites) and pound cake for dipping.

Recipe adapted from Dip Into Something Different, from The Melting Pot.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Quartet of Dipping Sauces (Fondue Night)

For my Valentine Fondue Dinner, I wanted to copy the three-course meal we'd had years before at The Melting Pot.  However, I only have two fondue pots.  Not wanting to interrupt the meal to wash dishes, I made a traditional cheese fondue to start and chocolate fondue for dessert.  As the main course, I made my husband's favorite chicken tenders along with a quartet of dipping sauces to keep with the dipping theme.  I hope you'll enjoy these as much as we did!

Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Chinese plum sauce
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped green bell pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Combine all except the oils in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the oils gradually, processing constantly until well blended.

Chiptole Aioli

4 oz canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
juice of 1 lime

Mince chiles and place in a bowl.  Add the mayonnaise, Worcestershire, and lime juice and whisk until fully incorporated.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

1 tablespoon honey dijon mustard (or be like me and combine dijon with honey, to taste)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 cup (give or take) olive oil

Combine the dijon (and honey, if not using honey-dijon), vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil while whisking until smooth. I'm not convinced I used the entire 1/2 cup olive oil. I tasted along the way until I got the flavor I liked, adjusting the ingredients as I went.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Traditional Swiss Fondue

Fondue is such a fun dinner idea.  Whether you're planning an at-home date night or a fun dinner party with another couple, there's just something about dipping your dinner!  I remember many chocolate fondue desserts as a little girl, thinking they were so much fun!  As a teen, I graduated to a full-on fondue dinner while vacationing at a fabulous ski chalet in the French Alps.  In college, there was a great fondue restaurant where I celebrated many special occasions with friends and family.  Most recently, fondue has become a Valentine's tradition for my husband and me, since this was our first special dinner together way back when.

3 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 ounce sherry
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
dash of ground nutmeg

Toss cheese with flour in a bowl.  Place a metal bowl over a saucepan filled with two inches water (you can also use a double broiler).  Reduce heat to medium and add wine.  Stir in the lemon juice and garlic, whisking as you go.  Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add half the cheese and cook until melted.  Add the remaining cheese, a little at a time, until all the cheese is completely melted.  Add the sherry slowly, around the edges of the bowl.  Pull the cheese mixture away from the edge of the bowl and cook about a minute, until the alcohol cooks off.  Stir to incorporate all the ingredients.  Season with pepper and nutmeg.

Pour into a warm fondue pot and keep warm over low heat.  Serve with cubed bread, fresh veggies (broccoli works great!), and boiled baby potatoes to dip.

Recipe adapted from Dip Into Something Different, from The Melting Pot.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This Month: Fondue Party

My husband and I met just over ten years ago.  For our first Valentine's Day together, we were also facing the beginning of a long-distance relationship, just a few months after our first date.  We were both Active Duty Navy and he was transferring to another state.  He asked what I wanted to do for Valentine's Day, and, longing to do something different, I suggested fondue.  He made reservations, we had a lovely evening, and the next day he left for Ohio.  For Valentine's Day two years ago, we had a toddler and I was weeks away from my due date with baby number two.  We opted to stay in for dinner, and I took it upon myself to recreate that first Valentine's meal.  I know it seems strange to post a Valentine memory in September, but it's the perfect date night meal for a crisp autumn evening!  Enjoy!

Honey Mustard
Spicy Thai Peanut
Chipotle Aioli

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Fondue

Monday, August 24, 2015

Artisan Bread

When I was a baby, my mama made all her own bread.  Later, when I was a teenager, she used a bread machine, and I remember the wonderful smell of homemade bread baking throughout the house.  I've only ever made beer bread and banana bread, and, while I have no plans to make 100% of my family's bread from scratch, it's nice to make every now and then.  Especially when you're making a pot of mussels and have an amazing pot of cooking juices in which to dip torn off bites of crusty-on-the-outside-and-chewy-on-the-inside homemade bread!  This recipe is super easy, pretty fast (for bread), and incredibly tasty!  I hope you'll enjoy it as much as me!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water

In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, stir together the flour, salt and yeast. Add water, mixing on slow speed until the mixture forms a shaggy but cohesive dough. Do not over-work the dough. 

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours, until it bubbles up and doubles in size.

After dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place a Dutch oven, uncovered, into the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

While the Dutch oven preheats, turn dough onto a well-floured surface.  With floured hands, form the dough into a ball.  Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest.

One the oven is preheated, remove the Dutch oven and, with floured hands, place the dough into it.Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Carefully remove cover and bake for 7-15 minutes more, uncovered.