Archive for the ‘Snacks’ Category

Earlier this summer, some friends hosted a pretzel-making party. They prepared the dough, then guests helped roll the dough into pretzels. Guests also brought beer and dip for the pretzels. It was ingenious.

Pretzels have never been a go-to snack for me. I find the hard, crunchy ones bland and the generic soft ones… well, bland too. I guess I like those special mall pretzels that have so much salty butter that bland is not an option – but these homemade pretzels were so much more. Soft, warm, flavorful… that was enough to woo me. Add homemade beer cheese, a chorizo-cheese dip, mustard, even melted chocolate to the mix and I was in carb-heaven. The party was great and the pretzels were delicious.

I immediately wanted to make them myself. I used Chris’s birthday as an excuse.

My first day making preztels was a hectic one. We planned to go swimming in the morning and be back in time for me to make the pretzels and whatever else I couldn’t make ahead of time. However, the weather was unseasonably cool and gray so I quickly tried to get as much party-prep and cooking done in the morning, before we went swimming in the warmer, sunnier afternoon.

With all of the larger, more consequential and serious problems in the world – I was worrying myself sick about the damn pretzels. I was so looking forward to making them, but would I have time? I couldn’t make the dough before going swimming because it might over-rise – which is a problem, I guess? So I waited until we returned, where I managed to pull off everything, except totally cleaning the kitchen before people started knocking on the door.

They were a hit. Small, soft, delicious, and complexly flavored from the addition of the rye flour. If you’ve never made pretzels – this is a great place to start.

In the instructions below, I also include a link to a video about kneading dough. I’ve never been that successful with making breads that require yeast and kneading. The video clearly helped me.

Soft Rye Pretzels, by Kim Boyce from from Good to the Grain

Makes 12 large or 24 mini

1 package active dry yeast

1 T. honey

1 c. rye flour (available at Nuts and Stuff or in the health food section at grocery stories_

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1 T. kosher salt

1/2 c. baking soda

about 2 T butter, melted

coarse sea salt

Put the yeast in a large bowl. Heat 1 and 1/2 cups water until warm, but not hot. Pour over the yeast  and stir in the honey.  Add the rye and all purpose flour and salt and stir again.

Pour dough onto a floured surface  or large board and knead. I have never successfully kneaded dough before, always resulting tough dough, so I consulted the experts. YouTube. If you have never successfully kneaded dough before, check out that video. It will help.

Add up to 1/2 c. flour if needed, until dough is “tacky” but not “sticky”. I had some trouble with this. The dough seemed very sticky to me so I kept adding flour, maybe even more than 1/2 c., until it stopped liberally sticking to my hands. Knead for about 12 minutes, or until dough is smooth and soft. Place the dough in a bowl greased with some melted butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 and 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

While dough is rising brush two baking sheets generously with melted butter. Preheat the oven to 450. Make sure you have two oven racks placed in your oven, one in the upper-third and one in the lower-third.

When the dough has doubled, pour it onto floured surface and cut into 12 (or 24) equal pieces. Roll each piece into a snake, about 17 (or 7) inches long with thinly tapered ends. Rolling will be easier if you don’t use a floured board. Form each snake into a pretzel shape, or any kind of shape you want, really. Place onto a buttered baking sheets and let pretzels rise for 15-20 minutes.

While pretzels are rising for the final time, fill a large pot with 10 cups of water and bring to boil. once pretzels have risen and the water is boiling, add the baking soda to the water. To poach pretzels, lift pretzel and place in hot bath; let each side boil for 30 seconds, removing from water bath with a strainer. Pat excess water with a towel and transfer back to baking sheet. Finish boiling pretzels, brush with butter, and sprinkle liberally with salt.

Bake for 15-18 minutes rotating sheets halfway through. Pretzels will be dark in color. Transfer to rack to cool.

Enjoy immediately, preferably with some beer cheese.

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While I’ve spent previous blog posts describing my love of savory breakfasts, recently I’ve been craving the sweet. Well, the sweeter-than-savory kind, particularly scones. There is something about the flaky, buttery, not-too-sweet baked good that makes my mouth water and cravings spike. These scones are perfect for the sweet breakfast craving… particularly the guilt-free pastry craving.

Not-too-sweet, just buttery enough to be tasty, yet filling and wholesome because of the whole wheat flour. These are great. They also freeze really well.

The recipe comes from a book by one of my favorite cooks/ cookbook authors, Melissa Clark. I was drawn to the book because it is about eating what you want while losing weight. Since I love Melissa Clark’s recipes, and have always wondered how she stays so thin, I bought the book. It has a pretty terrible title: The Skinny: How to Fit Into Your Little Black Dress Forever, has a pretty common-sense healthy-eating plan (eat what you want, but not too much of it, include lots of vegetables and exercise), and includes pretty amazing recipes. This is one of them. I’ve made them twice in the last month. The first time I followed the recipe and used dried cherries. The second time I used fresh blueberries. Both were great. So make these, wrap them, and freeze them, and pat yourself on the back for making a delicious and healthful pastries for breakfast.

“Whole Wheat Cherry Scones” from The Skinny: How to Fit Into Your Little Black Dress Forever by Melissa Clark

Makes 12 scones

3/4 c. dried cherries or cranberries, or raisins, roughly chopped (you could also do what I did one time and use fresh blueberries)

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. whole wheat flour

1/4 c. sugar

1 T. baking powder

1 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

5 T. unsalted butter, cubed

2 large eggs

1/2 c. milk, plus additional for brushing

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

If using fresh blueberries, skip this part: place the cherries in a sieve and pour boiling water over them. Drain well, transfer the cherries to a bowl and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter.

Using a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Stir in the fruit.

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and milk. Pour liquid into the dry ingredients. Stir just until everything comes together. The dough has been really thick when I make and I end up using my hands to mix it all together. Don’t over mix, but make sure there aren’t any dry spots.

Divide the dough into three equal balls. With your palm, flatten each ball into a 5-inch disk.

Slice each disk into quarters using a sharp knife.

Transfer scones to the parchment-lined baking sheet, 1 to 2 inches a part. Brush each scone with some extra milk.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes until scones are golden on top and firm, but not dry. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

If freezing, let cool completely.

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My mom used to deep fry zucchini when I was younger… or was it eggplant? It might have been eggplant actually, but I remember having fried zucchini and finding it wonderful. This zucchini isn’t deep fried. But sliced zucchini lightly coated in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs, and cooked until crispy makes an easy, tasty, and mostly healthful side dish or snack. I thought the one medium-sized zucchini and yellow squash combined would make at least 3 servings, but Chris and I devoured them all, and were wanting more. Maybe we’ll receive more summer squash this week.

We’ve done really well with our latest bounty of CSA produce, and, as of Monday, used all of the veggies we received last Thursday. To atone for the zucchini and summer squash I could not use quickly enough last week, they were the first I wanted to use this week.

Using up some of our meat share from last week, I cooked the hamburger patties in a grill pan, and served them with salad greens and these zucchini crisps.

I also want to plug Elie Krieger, of the Food Network. I adapted this recipe from her’s for Zucchini Parmesan Crisps. This is only the second thing I’ve made from Ms. Krieger (in addition to refried beans). Both dishes have been easy to adapt, tasty, and not unhealthy. I plan to pay closer attention to her recipes on foodnetwork.com.

Here’s how I made the Zucchini (and summer squash) crisps, adapted from Elie Krieger’s recipe:

Makes about 2 servings

1 medium zucchini and 1 medium summer squash (or two of one or the other)

1 T. olive oil

1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan

1/4 c. plain, fresh bread crumbs (or use dried)

1/8 t. salt

1/8 t. garlic salt

black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly coat with olive oil

Slice the zucchini into thin rounds, about 1/4-inch thick. My summer squash was skinnier, so I cut this into quarters, lengthwise, then cut each of those in half. You could also cut this like you cut the zucchini, into thin rounds.

In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the oil. Add the Parmesan, bread crumbs, salt, garlic salt, and pepper.  Mix everything together. If using fresh bread crumbs, the zucchini will not be entirely coated, but they will be covered in the flavorful oil mix.

Place the zucchini in a single layer on the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned and beginning to crisp. Serve.

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pan-fried onion dip

No pictures this time guys – sorry.

This is probably old news to most of you, but the USDA recently came out with their updated dietary guidelines,  (outlined and analyzed in Mark Bittman’s recent column). The updated guidelines advise Americans to  consume less salt and less food in general, particularly processed food.

Shortly after this event, I eschewed everything they outlined and made this appetizer for a Super Bowl Party I attended. Full of mayo, cream cheese, and sour cream and consumed with salty potato chips – it was fantastic. While I’m all for Americans eating more healthfully, this is an example of where preparing your own “junk” food is still going to be better for you than buying junk food full of additives and stuff you’ve never heard of.

This pan-fried onion dip is simple and flavorful. Really delicious, frankly, if you are into creamy dips and chips.I did cut down on the amount of butter and oil used, and I also used low-fat sour cream, light cream cheese, and mayo made with olive oil.

Adapted from Pan-Fried Onion Dip, from Ina Garten

2 large yellow onions

2 T. unsalted butter

2 T. vegetable oil

1/4 t. ground cayenne pepper – don’t be afraid of the dip being too spicy. This step is really important for ensuring a balanced, not-too-sweet flavor

1 t. salt

1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (half of a standard package)

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.) Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

I sliced the onions as the recipe suggested, but it made for a messy dip. If I make this again, I’m going to chop the onions rather than slice.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. You could also place the ingredients in a bowl and just mix using a hand mixer. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

This is best made a couple of hours before serving so the flavors can meld.

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savory palmiers

So – this is a rather belated post. I originally made these savory palmiers for my birthday almost four months ago(!!).

Not only are these little pastries delicious, but they are also pretty easy to whip up and they make an excellent appetizer or party food. Really – I’m not posting this cooking endeavor late, I’m posting it just in time for your Oscar party-planning.

I’d imagine you can change the recipe to suit your own taste, but the combination of pesto, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese is the perfect mix of salty and tart, all wrapped up in flaky, buttery goodness. Never fear if you have not used puff pastry before – I had not prior to this. Just make sure it is really, really cold when you start. And when you slice these things, make sure to use a sharp knife and slice them very thinly. They puff up in the oven.

Ina Garten is the person to thank for this easy, delicious, perfect-for-entertaining recipe. I would expect nothing less from her.

Savory Palmiers,  from Ina Garten

1 package puff pastry, defrosted

1/4 cup prepared pesto, store bought or homemade (I used Lotsa Pasta pesto)

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes in oil, drained

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (to toast them, place in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toss occasionally and watch closely so they don’t burn)

Lightly flour a board (or very clean counter top) and carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin  until it’s 9 1/2 by 11 1/2-inches (I actually measured using a ruler, you can do this, or estimate).

Make sure all of your filling ingredients are nearby.

Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sundried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center.

Then fold each side again towards the center until the folded edges almost touch.

Fold one side over the other and press lightly. (Not pictured)

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat the entire instructions for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry in 1/4 inch thick slices and place them face up 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm. They were also good at room temperature several hours after the party started.

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As I mentioned in the previous post, this was a big week for me, trying a new vegetable and making up a recipe. Really though, this recipe wasn’t a big deal and I was inspired by a cheese ball I had when I lived in Bloomington, IN. Bloomingfoods, a local food coop, sold (and still sells?) delicious, fresh, Maytag blue cheese balls during the holidays. Festive and different from usual wine-flecked or bright-orange cheese ball, I was eager to try to recreate Bloomingfood’s delicious recipe for a Christmas party.

I think it turned out well – and there wasn’t much left at the end of the night. How bad can cheese really be though? It was a nice mix of salty and creamy cheese, sweet cranberries, and sharp garlic. If you are headed to any Christmas or holiday parties try this out, particularly if you like blue cheese. It also comes together pretty easily, with or without a food processor.

Maybe another time I’ll try creating a more creative recipe.

Here is what you do, from… me! With inspiration from Bloomingfoods.

4 oz. sharp white cheddar

1 clove garlic

8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened – I used reduced-fat

2 – 4 oz. Maytag blue cheese, or any other soft blue cheese (Maytag is made in Iowa) I originally planned to add 4 oz, but Maytag is strong and not everyone enjoys the pungent taste of this moldy cheese, so I started with half that and tasted it. 2 oz. was enough for me and my taste-tester.

about 3/4 c. dried cranberries, or more or less.

1/2 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 c. toasted, chopped walnuts

1. If you have not already done so, cut the cheese into cubes and place in a food processor. Add the clove of garlic too.

Pulse a few times until the cheese and garlic are chopped. If you don’t have a food processor, just grate the cheese finely and mince the garlic.

2. Add the cream cheese, blue cheese, and cranberries to the bowl and process until the ingredients are mixed and come together. Or mix the ingredients well in a bowl with grated cheddar and garlic.

Taste and add salt and pepper.

3. Transfer cheese mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form into a ball using the wrap.

Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

4. Place chopped parsley and walnuts on a large, shallow plate and mix together. Spread into a thin layer. Carefully roll the cheese ball in the mixture until completely coated. Serve at room temperature with crackers.


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roasted chickpeas

One Sunday afternoon, I wanted a healthy and filling snack that did not require a trip to the grocery store or too much work. This recipe came to mind.

Roasting canned chickpeas turns them into a crispy, savory, and satisfying snack, particularly when adding salt and spices. It comes together quickly and then just bakes in the oven. An interesting and easy dish.

Spicy Oven Roasted Chickpeas

Makes 1.5 cups

1 15 oz. can chickpeas

1 T. of olive oil

1 T. kosher salt

2 t. spice, garam masal was suggested

Heat the oven 400°F. Pour the chickpeas into a colander and drain and rinse very well under running water. Pat dry.

On a large baking pan, toss together the chickpeas and olive oil.

Roast for 30-40 minutes or until brown and crispy. Turn and stir every ten minutes so they don’t burn.

Take out and toss to taste with salt and spices.

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