Soft Baked Pretzels

My daughter asked me this weekend if we could have soft pretzels like we had on the  ferry from Wisconsin to Michigan last summer. I love that, like me, the things she remembers about trips include the food she ate! Ironically, I looked at my kids food ideas  board on pinterest and saw that I had already pinned a soft pretzel recipe. Milwaukee has a plethora of German brew pubs, which means tons of homemade soft pretzels, and a new family favorite appetizer.

Monday was my first afternoon alone with all three kiddos. Miles was napping in the swing and the girls were playing great together downstairs so I figured I’d bake. Why not?

While the pretzels were baking I made a honey mustard dip and I put some Tostados queso dip in a second bowl as our two dipping sauces (Yes…dietitians have processed food in their houses too. Remember -MODERATION).

I felt so accomplished afterwards. A fun, delicious homemade dinner on the table that everyone loved. Ryan and I had ours with an Italian sausage and salad on the side to round out the meal and the kids had deli meat and fruit with theirs.

One quick disclaimer. This is a very easy recipe but beware that it is a little time consuming as you have to make the dough, knead the dough (I did this in my Kitchen Aid mixer), let the dough rise for 15 minutes, form pretzels, let the pretzels sit in baking soda bath for 2 minute and then bake them for 8 minutes. I did 2-3 pretzels in the baking soda bath at a time to speed things up. I’d assume ~45 minutes total before they are ready to eat but I promise it is worth it.

Soft Baked PretzelsFullSizeRender (5)

Source: Sprinkle Some Sugar Blog

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 standard packet)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (3/4 cup more if needed)
  • Baking soda Bath = 2 cups of water and 4 Tbsp baking soda
  • 6 Tbsp melted butter and 1 Tbsp coarse salt for sprinkling on top post baking (I used 4 Tbsp butter and pinched salt on but did not measure)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 and line baking sheet with parchment paper or a non stick silicone baking sheet mat

  1. Combine yeast and warm water and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a hook or in a bowl if you aren’t using a mixer. Let sit until your yeast is “frosty” or looks like it’s bubbling.
  2. Add salt and melted butter to yeast mixture
  3. Add flour one cup at a time until dough forms and is no longer sticky. You may need more or less based on temperatures where you live. I found that I actually had to add 3 tsp of water (one at a time) to this to make it sticky.
  4. Once dough Knead dough in mixer or by hand for 5 minutes until its smooth.
  5. Form dough into and let sit in a bowl for 15 minutes (I covered my bowl with a towel as i do that with other dough I make)
  6. While dough rises prepare baking soda bath. Boil 2 cups of water with 4 Tbsp baking soda. Stir and heat until dissolved. Remove from heat and pour into a 8×8 or 9×9 pan and let cool to be lukewarm temperatures.
  7. Take the dough out of the bowl and flatten slightly to cut into 8 sections like a pizza. Roll each section out to be ~15-20 inches long. Form the rope into a pretzel
  8. Once 2-3 are made place them in the baking soda bath and leave for 2 minutes (make the rest of the pretzels while they soak). If they are not fully covered spoon liquid mixture on to the top.
  9. Remove from baking soda bath and place on baking sheet. Reform if needed and sprinkle with salt
  10. Bake for 8-9 minutes until golden brown
  11. Brush with melted butter after taking out of the oven and serve HOT with your favorite dipping sauce

Honey Mustard Dipping SauceFullSizeRender

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Mix together and refrigerate

Food of the Month

Cheese, Cheese, Cheese!

If you’re saying to yourself, why cheese? Well, for one, the packers are on a nice winning streak and I’m a proud cheese head and two, because the holidays make me think of delicious cheese dishes and plates.

I started my food of the month off a few days behind but with a great entrance.

Barefoot Contessa’s Mac & Cheese

This was a great dish for a Sunday afternoon. I made mine with Trader Joe’s organic vegetable radiatore noodles and I split my milk (1/2 skim milk and 1/2 2% lactaid milk). I also used a gruyere/swiss mix instead of straight gruyere cheese and it was delicious. Also, I only had whole wheat bread so I used this to make the bread crumbs. Lastly, and this was my mistake, I added 3/4 Tbsp instead of 1/2 tsp of nutmeg but we all liked it. I think I would do a 1/2 Tbsp if I made it again.

From a nutrition standpoint for macaroni and cheese I would classify this one in the middle. It’s not a low fat recipe but it also isn’t an insane recipe with cream and extra pounds of cheese. You could always cut back on how much cheese you add if you want to lighten it up even more.  I found it to be a nice balance that can be paired with some veggies or a side salad to round out the meal.

Another one of my favorite recipes for the holiday season to bring as an appetizer is the

Pesto Cheese Blossom from The Food Network

To make this healthier I always use fat free cream cheese.  You mix the cream cheese with garlic so it will still have a good flavor. I opt out of adding the pistachios since I’m not a big fan of them but I know others who have made this with them. I’ve brought this to a work party, friends party and made it for family and everyone loves it. Plus you can make it the day ahead and it’s Christmas colors.

It’s hard to talk about cheese and not talk about serving sizes. Cheese, in the right portion size is a great source of calcium but it is often over ate. Since it is made from milk it is higher in fat so it’s important to note how much you are eating. I would stick to 1- 1.5 ounces per serving. This looks like 6 dice and while that seems like a lot of plain cheese it adds up quickly when cheese is added to things like pizza, nachos, macaroni and cheese, etc…

Another thing to note is some cheese are a little lower in fat than others. For example, feta, provolone, mozzarella and swiss cheese have less natural fat than cheddar and havarti cheese. Another great cheese is Laughing Cow, who make a great portioned swiss cheese with 50 calories per wedge plus a light version that comes in multiple flavors for only 35 calories per wedge. It is a great substitution for cream cheese or to spread on sandwiches. Another way to cut back on the fat in cheese is to choose ones made with 2% milk. They will have less fat without sacrificing taste and texture like some fat free cheeses do.

Fighting Fruit Fatigue

You may remember I talked about fruit fatigue at the beginning of the month in my choose cherries post. Well today I discussed ways to fight fruit fatigue on Twin Cities Live. Try new ways to to eat fruit instead of only eating apples, bananas, oranges and watermelon. Many fruits are available year round in dried, juice, frozen or canned forms. The recommended amount of fruit for adults is 1-2 cups per day. Only one if 5 Americans are getting enough fruit each day, are you? I hope so and if not read on for some great ways to increase your fruit intake for a long, healthy life.

I showed viewers ways to cook with dried cherries, tart cherry juice, pears, grapefruits and grapefruit juice! I was also lucky enough to be accompanied by my cousin Jess who took so many lovely pictures during the segment.  Check out the finished dishes below (recipes linked at the bottom). I highly recommend the cherry chili for a delicious warm winter dish, the smoothie for breakfast or a snack, the baked brie as a Christmas party appetizer, the salad as a dinner party starter, the grapefruit slaw served with tilapia or cod and the ginger grapefruit spritzer as a party cocktail!

Prepping the food before the show
Cherry Chili and the Yogurt Cherry Smoothie ingredients ready to make live
Candied Walnut, Pear and Leafy Green Salad and Baked Brie en Crout with Pears
Grapefruit Slaw and Ginger Grapefruit Spritzers
 

Twin Cities Live Segment: Fruit Fatigue Link

Recipe Links

Cherry Chili
Cherry Yogurt Smoothie
Candied Walnut, Pear and Leafy Green Salad – try topping with goat cheese
Brie en Croute with Pears – I used croissants in place of the frozen pastry puff
Grapefruit Slaw – I topped it with grated fresh ginger
Ginger Grapefruit Spritzer