Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pretzel Bagels

Well my friends, we've done it.

We've combined two of the best bread products into one. It is as miraculous as you'd expect. It is also much easier than you might think, and that is pretty great too!

Pretzel Bagels. I don't know if there is much more to say (...that won't stop me from gushing about these beauties, of course). Deep, golden brown crusts with a sprinkle of pretzel salt, soft and chewy centers. The taste of soft pretzels in a bagel suit. Ugh, yes. This is what dreams are made of.

In order to make this breakfast dream a reality, there are a few key things we need. First, for the bagel part of it all: yeast, flour, and patience. Yeast will get activated in a bit of warm water with some sugar. This will bring our bagels to life, allowing them to puff up in a hot oven. Although bread flour is more commonly used in bagels because of its higher protein content, all-purpose flour is perfect for our needs in this recipe. It will create a crumb that is a little softer than a classic bagel and more reminiscent of a traditional soft pretzel. The dough won't be as lofty, but that's OK.

For the pretzel parts, we need a good bit of baking soda, an egg wash and pretzel salt. The bagels will take a quick dip in a pot of boiling water combined with baking soda. The baking soda changes the pH of the water and helps speed up the cooking process, creating that deep brown color on the outside of the pretzel bagels. The egg wash will create a sheen on the outside, and also act as the glue that keeps that irresistible salt on top. It's science!

So now that we know we can in fact make pretzel bagels, what on earth should we do with them? Here are a few ideas:

--Eat them warm, straight, right out of the oven
--Cut 'em in half and smear a bit of cream cheese all over, with a sprinkle of garlic and chives for good measure
--Make a breakfast sandwich, heavy on the cheese
--Whip up a batch of tuna salad and pile it high

The options are endless, but the good thing is, there ARE options. Lots of 'em. No matter how to slice it, they're sure to impress

Here's what you need for Pretzel Bagels* (Print Recipe!)

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 quarts water to boil in a large pot
2/3 cups (seriously) baking soda
1 egg, whisked with a splash of water
2 tablespoons or so pretzel salt

Here's what you do

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitting with the dough hook attachment, combined the warm water and sugar until dissolved. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir gently, and let sit for 10 minutes until proofed. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate large bowl. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture until a crumbly mixture forms. Increase speed to medium and knead until it comes together in a smooth ball. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with silpat mat or parchment paper. Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil and carefully add the baking soda (if you add it all at once, it will bubble into a mess so just take it slow). Divide the bagel dough into 8 equal pieces and form into a bagel shape. In batches, boil each bagel in the baking soda and water for 45 seconds on each side. Using a slotted spoon, strain and transfer back to the baking sheet.

Brush each bagel with the egg wash then sprinkle your desired amount of pretzel salt on top. Bake for 20 minutes and allow to cool slightly before serving. No doubt these are best the day they are made but will last for 3 days well-wrapped on the counter. Reheat in the oven or toaster and use as desired.

*Gas Stove Girl Original Recipe, with bagel inspiration from A Beautiful Mess

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pumpkin Pie Martini


It's September which means it's pumpkin season and don't even try to argue that I need to wait until September 21st because I WILL NOT!

I'm not sure when exactly it became a crime to love pumpkin flavored everything, but all I know is if that's so wrong I do not want to be right. Fall is my favorite time of the year and this Pumpkin Pie Martini is further proof of it's seasonal greatness!

My mom, fully supporting my pumpkin addiction, found a bottle of pumpkin vodka that is the perfect autumn addition to my bar cart. It is also exactly what I needed to create this wonderful pumpkin cocktail, which will be on repeat for the foreseeable future.

Since pumpkin and cinnamon go so well together, Rumchata seemed like the perfect addition to this martini. Creamy, sweet, and smooth. Of course, any pumpkin pie martini needs a little spice and this one is lucky enough to include a wonderful homemade ginger simple syrup. Making your own syrups can really change the world of cocktails at home. See Blackberry Mint Juleps for reference.

If you, like me, were first in line at Starbucks on September 1st fully prepared to order a pumpkin spice latte and if you, like me, are willing to try nearly any product that they make into a "pumpkin" version, then you most definitely need to whip up a batch of my pumpkin pie martinis! Cheers to thirsty Thursday!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Broccoli and Cream Cheese Breakfast Braid

Some of my favorite recipes tend to be accidental - recipes you put together because you need to clear your fridge and freezer, but then all of a sudden the most delicious creation emerges from your oven.

This...this is one of those recipes. A very happy, very tasty accident.

Here was the situation I found myself in this weekend. In addition to a grumbling stomach around 11 a.m. on Sunday, there was:

--One sheet of frozen puff pastry that was reaching it's prime hanging in the freezer
--Half a block of cream cheese that was close to it's last leg in the refrigerator
--Two big bags of chopped frozen broccoli
--A small nugget of parmesan cheese and half a ball of mozzarella in the cheese drawer

Individually, these aren't particularly bad situations to find oneself in. Combined, however, I started panicking. I didn't want to waste any of this food, so I knew I had to get creative.

And so goes the story of my Broccoli and Cream Cheese Breakfast Braid. This creamy. dreamy creation is perfect anytime of day. Having some girlfriends over for brunch? Need a quick, low maintenance dinner? Want to treat your family to a special Saturday breakfast? This recipe is just what you need for all these situations and more.

In reality, I should have foreseen the success this dish was going to be. Generally, anything wrapped in puff pastry will immediately have a gourmet touch. Then I went ahead and made a savory cream cheese base...who DOESN'T love warm, melty, rich cream cheese?! A couple of soft-scrambled eggs and chopped broccoli make this dish robust and fulfilling. Plus, you can customize this any way you want! Thinking about adding ham and cheddar cheese? Me too!

Did I mention that it's a showstopper? So gorgeous!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Crock Pot Italian-Style Beef with Cheesy Polenta

I adore this dinner. Simple, slow-cooked, tangy, and cheesy.

These are adjectives to live by! 

Are you, like me, a fool who forgets all about her beloved Crock Pot in the summer? Why do we neglect the one device in our kitchen that cooks our food entirely without an oven?! Well today, we are fixing this problem. 

This Crock Pot Italian-Style Beef with Cheesy Polenta is familiar yet intriguing. Comforting Italian flavors like oregano, parsley, and tangy crushed tomatoes meet boneless chuck steak, make a wonderfully rich ragu as they simmer away while we are at work, THEN get piled high atop a polenta packed with garlic, mozzarella cheese and cracked black pepper. What's not to love?

Oh, I nearly forgot, if you--this time, unlike me--are handy with your summer garden and find it overflooowing with fresh basil, please please PLEASE tear up a bunch and throw it on top. Please? Thank you. 

So, here's how this all goes down:

The night before your delicious dinner: Set out your Crock Pot/slow cooker, the exact spices you need, a can of tomatoes, and honey so you don't have to fumble in the pantry early in the morning. Chop an onion and a clove or two of garlic, then stick them in the fridge in a zip top baggie.
The morning of: Dump onion, garlic, tomatoes, spices, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of your slow cooker. Whisk until combined, then nestle in the steak. Turn on low, go live your life for 8 hours.
Just before dinner: Prepare the most delicious, creamy polenta known to man. Shred up your beef. EAT! 

It's meals like this that remind me why I l.o.v.e. food! Let's eat.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mixed Berry Red Wine Popsicles

It's Fri-YAY so I made red wine popsicles!!

Specifically, I made Mixed Berry Red Wine Popsicles to help us beat the mid-August heat.

P.S. Can I just say, real quick, how much I hate summer? I did a complete switch sometime after graduating college and now I simply cannot stand it. It no longer has the carefree, "school's out" joy surrounding it. I hate being hot, and sweaty, and uncomfortable, and dehydrated all the dang time! Enough! Give me cold weather now I say!!

At the risk of sounding dramatic, let's just talk about these popsicles. An adult spin on a childhood classic. No matter the flavor, popsicles have a way of brightening your day. Plus they can offer us a fleeting minute or two of chilly comfort in the late summer humidity.

Now, I made these popsicles with the intent of them really tasting like red wine, with just a hint of berries and orange juice in the background to give them a sort of sangria-like flare. Because of this there is more wine than other liquids in the popsicles, and--although they do indeed freeze solid--the melt time on these bad boys is preeetty quick. No worries though, just enjoy them with a small plate or cup underneath to catch any drips!

Dessert and drinks all in one? I'd say we are doing something right this summer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Breaded Pork Chops with Warm Bulgar Wheat and Arugula Salad

Let's talk dinner!

Really good, incredibly tasty, fast and wholesome dinner.

That, after all, is exactly what this recipe is! It's comfort food, but lightened up. It's fresh but fulfilling. The flavors are bold and full of that summer brightness. I just love it, and I'm sure you will too!

I served this recipe for Breaded Pork Chops with Warm Bulgar Wheat and Arugula Salad for Monday night dinner and it was the perfect start to a busy week. I had a couple of 3 ounce pork chops that I sliced in half lengthwise then pounded them out thin. I breaded them the way all good cutlets are breaded: dredged in flour, dipped in egg, pressed into whole wheat seasoned bread crumbs. Fool-proof and delicious.

Along with the crispy and juicy chops, we need a light and refreshing salad. Summertime means lemon, tomatoes, arugula and basil are plentiful, so we must be sure to utilize this season's bounty. For a nutty bite, try ditching the quinoa or rice or barley and walk on the wild side with a bit of bulgar wheat. Bulgar wheat is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked and partially cooked. It has a texture similar to cous cous but is less starchy and a bit more flavorful.

Summer, if you can believe it, is flying by but you can really savor it with this dish. It's quick enough to enjoy on a weeknight, but pretty (and pretty delicious!) enough to serve for a dinner party. Break out a chilled bottle of prosecco or sauvignon blanc and savor every bite!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Recent Eats - Volume 2

A round-up of my favorite bites and other food drama from the past few weeks

Guys, are you enjoying your summer? Are you going to the beach, eating a bit too much ice cream and cheeseburgers, getting a tan, getting bug bites, and overall loving life? I hope you are! That's what summer is about. I've spent a lot of time with family and friends on little but wonderful long weekend trips and, of course, eating!

Golden Harvest in East Lansing, MI

My best friend recently moved out to Michigan where her boyfriend is pursuing his PhD. Not too long after she moved, we planned a weekend for me to come visit and the trip didn't disappoint! We went to a beach along Lake Michigan, drank wine slushies and lots of beer, and ate some great food. The best of it all was Sunday breakfast at Golden Harvest.

This small and eclectic diner-style joint is, as I understand it, pretty famous in the Lansing area. They have outrageous breakfast and brunch-style dishes and their specials are to die for! We started the meal with an order of the biscuits and gravy (OMG) and then I had a Monte Cristo sandwich with a side of homefries. I mean...they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I'll just leave you with this:

*hearts eyes emoji*

Pulled BBQ Chicken

Cory takes trips up to Rochester for work from time to time, and during his last visit a coworker sent him home with three local barbecue sauces to try. BBQ is my favorite kind of food so I couldn't wait to put these sauces to good use. I used this Country Sweet Mild Cooking Sauce to make some of the best pulled chicken ever!

I started by searing a couple of pounds of seasoned boneless, skinless chicken thighs and a quartered onion in a big dutch oven. When the chicken was golden brown, I dumped in a whole bottle of this amazing cooking sauce and let it simmer away for over an hour. The chicken then shredded like a dream and was perfect for sandwiches, salads, even tacos!

Peach Cobbler Popsicles

We recently threw a party for some friends who were moving away from Boston out west. The theme was Wild Wild West, because who doesn't love a themed party?! For dessert, I whipped up these delicious Peach Cobbler Popsicles.

I adapted the recipe from Billy over at Wit and Vinegar, replacing the berries with chopped peaches. This was my first go around making homemade popsicles and it worked like a dream! Have some patience when you are trying to unmold the the bottom of the mold under warm water for a quick 15-25 seconds then use a little elbow grease to pull them right out. These popsicles were sweet, decadent, and truly delicious!

Slide By Food Truck in Boston, MA

My friend and I started a little tradition last summer where we visited a new food truck near our office every week and posted our lunches on Instagram with the hashtag #JessAndIvyFoodTruckAdventure. While we haven't been as consistent this year, we recently tried the Slide By food truck. They offer 3 to 4 different sliders each week, each meal coming with 2 sliders and french fries - a perfect lunch portion! I had panko-crusted chicken sliders with bacon. I have never had a more perfectly fried piece of chicken, and from a truck no less! Absolutely recommend :-)

A beer, for good measure

Cory and I took a trip to Cooperstown, NY, for the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony this year to see my all-time favorite player, Mike Piazza, get inducted. It was an awesome weekend filled with baseball and beer. On our way out, we stopped at the Saranac Brewery in Utica, NY. They are currently offering the most amazing Cold Brew Coffee Lager that any and all coffee lovers MUST get their hands on! It is smooth and rich, yet somehow a bit refreshing.

P.S. I'll be back with new recipes next week! But in the about Nutella Ice Cream?