Category Archives: Snack

Appetizer / Dairy-Free / Happy Hour / Savory / Snack / Vegetarian

Homemade Soft Pretzels

July 8, 2014

How was your 4th of July?  Ours was fun.  We had a BBQ which ended up going long into the evening and involved a lot of debauchery and a record consumption of Fireball shots (Not by me.  Ew.)  If I had to gauge the amount of fun our party was by how sticky our dining room floor was the next day, I’d say it was suuuuper fun.

At the BBQ we served grilled sausages with sautéed peppers and onions, the world’s largest watermelon, and my go-to Caesar salad.  The night before I also whipped up two batches of homemade soft pretzels (because sausages + soft pretzels — so American, right?  Yah.)  The pretzels were such a hit that I figured I should share the recipe with y’all, so you too can be the talk of the town at your next party.

Soft pretzels aren’t particularly difficult to make, just kind of time consuming.  And if you cheat a little and use a bread maker to make the dough (like me), it’s even easier.

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Soft Pretzels

makes 16 pretzels

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (80-90°F)
  • 1 tbsp. salt (plus additional for sprinkling)
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • Alkaline solution: 5 cups water + 1/3 cup baking soda
  • Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a splash of water or milk
  1. Using a bread maker: To make the dough, place all ingredients (omitting the alkaline solution and egg wash) into your bread maker in the order listed above and use the dough setting.
  2. Not using a bread maker: Combine water, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and let sit for 5 minutes until the mixture begins to foam.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in flour mixture until well combined and the dough comes together.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Oil a clean bowl with vegetable or olive oil and place dough in it.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 50-55 min, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. Once your dough is ready, cut the dough into 16 equal pieces (cut into fourths, then cut each fourth into fourths again).  Quickly roll each piece into a long rope and twist it into a pretzel shape.  *Try to handle the dough as little as possible — the longer you mess with it, the tougher your pretzels will be.
  4. Once you have 16 pretzels formed, place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat, cover them with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 425°.
  6. Make your alkaline solution by combining 5 cups of water with 1/3 cup baking soda in a wide saucepan, then bring to a boil (I used my Le Creuset braiser for this).  Once boiling, boil each pretzel for 3 minutes, flipping halfway through (you can do this in batches rather than going one at a time).  Place onto a wire rack to drain.
  7. Once drained, return pretzels to a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper.  Brush each pretzel with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt (I recommend using pretzel salt or sea salt for this — I used Maldon flake salt).
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. To revive pretzels the next day, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with a tad more salt, and reheat in the oven for 3-5 minutes.

IMG_3122IMG_3123IMG_3124IMG_3119Pair these with mustard and a cold beer and you’re in business.

 

Dairy-Free / Dinner / Gluten-Free / Savory / Snack / Stay Healthy / Vegan / Vegetarian

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

October 9, 2013

More salsa!  Hooray!  If you get a CSA box, you’re likely getting some tomatillos around this time of year, now that they’re in season.  I don’t have much expertise in dealing with tomatillos, but I do know how to turn them into a pretty delicious salsa.  And, like I said yesterday, making salsa is about as easy as it gets.  (I mean, it’s literally prep + roast + puree — not exactly rocket science).

Let’s get cookin’.

Salsa VerdeRoasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

  • Bunch of tomatillos (about a pound), hulled, cleaned and cut in half or quarters (depending on size)
  • 1 red onion, peeled and quartered (a white onion would also work in this)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Jalapenos (this is to taste — I used a lot (like 8) and just removed the stem and cut them into chunks.  Use fewer if you like less spice, remove seeds and ribs to cut down the spiciness even more.)
  • olive oil
  • s&p
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 tsp honey**
  • handful of cilantro leaves (optional)
  • fresh-squeezed lime juice
  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Combine tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapenos in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast until tender (about 15 minutes).
  3. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  4. Place roasted veggies into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Add cumin, honey, lime juice, and cilantro, then pulse to combine until desired consistency is reached.  Taste and doctor as you see fit.*

*If the salsa is too sour, add salt + honey.  If the salsa is bland, add salt + more jalapenos.  If the salsa lacks depth, add cumin + lime juice.  If the salsa isn’t bright enough, add lime + cilantro.

**I find that the honey really makes a difference in this recipe.  Salsa Verde can be kind of boring and sour if not made correctly, but I find the spiciness of the jalapenos and smokiness of the cumin are balanced perfectly by the sweetness of the honey.  Try it out and see for yourself!

 

Somebody get me a margarita.

Dairy-Free / Dinner / Gluten-Free / Savory / Snack / Stay Healthy / Vegan / Vegetarian

Roasted Tomato and Chile Salsa

October 8, 2013

You guys, can I just say that I am killing it with my Fall Bucket List right now?  I mean, I may or may not have spent my Saturday night organizing our hall closet.  Try not to be jealous of how exciting my life is.

In other news, we had a taco night.  Olé!  I made two kinds of salsa from the goodies that came in our CSA box — one red, one green, both nice and spicy.  I’ve made salsa one time before, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why I don’t do it more often.  It’s so insanely easy, and just plain delicious.  There’s something about fresh salsa — it tastes so much better than store-bought.  And it’s awesome that you know there’s not any weird preservatives or who-knows-what-else lurking in ingredient list.  (Like, seriously WTF is maltodextrin?  Why is it in everything?)

Roasted Tomato Salsa

Roasted Tomato and Chile Salsa

  • 1 medium to large white onion, peeled and quartered
  • Large bunch of tomatoes (I used an assortment of cherry and heirloom), sliced into large chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 hot peppers (I used ghost peppers from our CSA box — I removed the ribs and seeds because they were insanely hot.  Hatch peppers would be good in this, and jalapenos would work in a pinch.  If you like less spice, remove seeds and ribs before roasting and/or use less peppers.)
  • olive oil
  • s & p
  • fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • cilantro (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Place onion, tomatoes, garlic, and peppers in one layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, then toss to combine.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes (until tender).
  4. Turn on the broiler, and place pan under it until vegetables begin to char (it took 2-3 minutes in my oven).
  5. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.
  6. Place roasted veggies into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Add lime juice, cilantro (if using), and a bit of water (to thin it out).  Puree until desired consistency is reached (you may need to add more water if you like a thinner salsa).

red salsa

Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / Date Night at Home / Dinner / Happy Hour / Savory / Snack / weekend

Date Night at Home Ideas: Dinner, continued

March 25, 2013

I have to admit that one of the things I love about going out to dinner is all the courses you can order.  Generally, I’ll have an ordering strategy before we even make it to the table at a restaurant — one that enables me to try a lot of the dishes on the menu.  (Luckily, KC is generally very amenable to letting me choose what we order.  He’s a keeper, that one.)  Obviously, when you’re having a date night at home, having to prepare all those courses would take up a lot of your precious time that you’d much rather spend gazing at your sweetie.  Or downing another cocktail.

One of the ways to get around the time in the kitchen/I want to eat more than one thing dilemma, is to create an appetizer spread for your date night.  Appetizers are fabulous, because they’re not too big (allowing you to eat a lot of different things without ending up feeling like you’ve swallowed some kind of large sea mammal), and generally don’t require too much prep time.

Here’s a spread I put together for KC’s birthday last year:

appetizer spreadIt may look impressive and time-consuming, but it’s really just three main things.

1. Cheese Board

I always start off with a cheese board, because a. I love cheese, and b. it requires zero cooking.  My general rules for a cheese board are to display 3-4 cheeses + toppings + pickled item(s) + bread/crackers.

Cheese: I like to have at least one soft/creamy cheese (goat or brie, generally), one hard cheese (like an aged gouda or cheddar), one semi-hard cheese (like a comte or emmentaler), and/or one semi-soft cheese (like havarti or jarlsberg).

Toppings: I’ll generally do at least one type of meat (turkey, salami, and prosciutto are my go-to’s), tomatoes, and condiments (I love honey with goat cheese, grainy mustard adds a nice kick to semi-hard cheeses, jam is wonderful with certain types of brie, and TJ’s just started selling quince paste — I couldn’t pass that up!).  Other things like sliced fruit, nuts, and roasted peppers are also nice additions.

Pickled Items: There’s something about pickled things that I automatically associate with a cheese spread.  Also, things that are pickled last forever in the fridge, making them easy to keep on hand.  I almost always have cornichons (I’m obsessed) and green olives laying around; but you can always include other types of olives and/or pickled veggies as well (carrots, mushrooms, peppers, etc.)

2. Veggies and Dip

I like to include a vegetable-centered appetizer, to provide a little relief (and peace of mind) from the cheese + carb happenings which generally dominate my table.  My favorite one to serve is crudite with green goddess dressing.

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Green Goddess Dressing

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (I like Fage 2%)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use full-fat mayo)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 anchovy filet or 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 scallions, tops and bottoms removed, then cut into thirds
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves (basically a few handfuls)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper
  1. Using a regular or hand blender, combine all ingredients together, then blend until fully combined and pureed.
  2. Serve with any combination of sliced: carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, snap peas, zucchini, cherry or grape tomatoes, radishes… whatever you can think of.  It’s not great with celery though, just take my word for it.

3. Something Hot

Obviously none of the above requires any real cooking, so I like to include something warm to balance out the room-temp cheese plate and cold veggies + dip.  To make things easy on yourself, you could prepare a hot dip which could be served with the same bread you’re using for the cheese plate (artichoke dip yummmm).  Here I made ricotta crostini with prosciutto.

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Ricotta Crostini with Prosciutto

  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tub whole milk ricotta (I think it’s generally 12 or 16 oz)
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or lemon zest (use zest if you like it more lemony)
  • 1 small bunch mint, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen, defrosted)
  • prosciutto (thin slices cut into thirds)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Lay out sliced baguette in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, turning to coat.  Bake 8-12 minutes, until browned and crispy, turning once halfway through.
  3. While the bread is baking, stir together ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice or zest, mint, and peas, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  4. When bread is done baking, top slices with ricotta mixture, then top with prosciutto.

Gluten-Free / Savory / Snack

Uno de Mayo

May 2, 2010

Are you as excited for the first Happy Hour post as I am???  Maybe not?  Well, I’m excited.

Like I mentioned in the last post, Saturday our friend Josh had a birthday BBQ at his place in Walnut Creek.  (Happy 26th Josh!  We had a great time on Saturday!) We had a great time catching up with friends and soaking up the sun in the backyard.  Sadly, we had to cut out early because Alexis was having a Cinco Uno de Mayo dinner party at her place in Oakland.

I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to make my first Happy Hour combo!  I decided on something to go with the theme: homemade margaritas and fiesta bites (yes, I named them myself).

Fiesta bites were inspired by one of the appetizers at the Bar Method party last weekend.  The caterer made little bites of steak and salsa with sour cream on top, which were good, but I thought were lacking a little spice.  I decided to make my own with chicken and some hot sauce.

These bites take a little preparation, but they pack a punch flavor-wise and are a real crowd pleaser.

To make these, I bought Tostitos Scoops, because they make the perfect little cup to hold all the components of this appetizer.  To each chip, I added a piece of chicken (I cooked a chicken breast in the oven — 350° for 30-35 min — in some olive oil, salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin), some salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Salsa Authentica — it has good flavor and a little heat), some avocado which I mashed with salt, pepper, and some Sriracha hot sauce, then I topped it off with a little squeeze of Fage 2% Greek yogurt.  The yogurt I just scooped into a Ziploc bag, which I then cut the tip off of so I could squeeze the yogurt onto the chips easily.

There you have it, Fiesta Bites!

A little effort translates into some very delicious finger food.

To pair with these, I made margaritas which I adapted from one of Ina’s recipes.

These margaritas are somewhere in between a frozen margarita, and an “on-the-rocks” margarita.  You can always add more (or less) ice depending on how you like yours.

To make these, I used 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (yes, this did make me wish I had a real juicer, instead of just a reamer), the juice of one lemon, 1/2 cup of triple sec, 1 cup of white tequila, a squeeze of raw agave syrup, and about 3 cups of ice.  All this was blended in a blender, then served either straight up or over ice.

This is a tart, frothy margarita which doesn’t have that syrupy sweetness of those store-bought margarita mixes (which I really can’t stand).  It’s pretty strong, so consider adding 1/2 cup tequila to start, then adding more to taste (this is a good technique to follow with the agave as well — add a little, then add more to taste so it doesn’t get too sweet).

These can be served with or without salt.  And, if you’re craving a frozen margarita, add more ice; or, (if you want to get really fancy), throw the blended-up mix into an ice cream machine for 15-20 minutes.  Yum!

Alexis’ dinner was super yummy.  She made corn and flour chicken enchiladas from scratch (even the green sauce!):

She served the enchiladas with roasted avocado corn salsa, black beans, sour cream, and cabbage in a cilantro-lime dressing.

Clearly, I didn’t like any of it.

Clearly.

For dessert Alexis made Mexican wedding cookies (one of my all-time favorite cookies):

Oh man, deliciousness overload!

KC and I ended up staying way past dinner and dying laughing over Carey’s 3rd grade yearbook.  Good times.

I hope you guys had (or have) some fun plans for Cinco de Mayo.

Ok, off to get dinner on!  Later!