Pumpkin Soft Pretzels

Pumpkin Soft Pretzels 2

A few years ago, I went through a serious soft pretzel phase. They were the first yeast bread-like item I’d ever made successfully, and I just couldn’t stop making them. It eventually got to be so ridiculous that I caved and had a “Soft Pretzel Week” on Savvy Eats, wherein I covered pretzel recipes, dip recipes, and pretzel food science.

Making soft pretzels became second nature, and after a time, I hardly even needed to measure the flour out – I could just tell from the feel of the dough if it was right or not.

And then, I just stopped. I’m not even sure why – maybe I felt a little burnt-out on pretzels, or the stockpile of frozen twists in the freezer was enough for a few months.  I’m not sure what it was, but a few weeks ago, I found myself craving a good soft pretzel. And because I had an open can of pumpkin puree that needed to be used up, and because it is pumpkin month, I decided to replace much of the oil with the pumpkin puree.

It turns out that making soft pretzels is a bit like riding a bike – as I kneaded the dough, punched it down and shaped it into pretzels, it felt comforting and familiar. Except whereas when you ride a bike again after a long time away, all you get is a bike ride, when I made this old favorite recipe, I come away with warm, springy soft pretzels.

Pumpkin Soft Pretzels

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Nutty Granola

Nutty Granola

Lately, I’m all about finding new ways to preserve summer’s bounty.  I’ve got plenty of jam stocked up for gifts and winter eating (not to say I won’t make more this year, though!), and am pro at infusing vodka.  I have multiple ways of preserving tomatoes – sauce, diced, roasted and frozen – and plan to freeze plenty of berries,corn, peppers and pesto.

But this year, I want to try some new things as well.  I’m finally going to make some pickles, and think I may want to freeze some peach slices in addition to canning them.  I’m picking my first batch of currants tomorrow, though I’m not entirely sure how I am going to use them yet.

A few weeks ago, when I had my sudden influx of sour cherries, I decided to experiment with oven-drying them. I used The Kitchn’s method, and while the final cherries are delicious, I don’t think it is going to be financially feasible to oven-dry them again.  I pitted and dried 2 pounds of sour cherries, and ended up with a mere 3/4 cup of dried cherries. That’s $10 for just a few handfuls in the end. Womp womp.  At least my other experiment with sour cherries – maraschino cherries with amaretto - was a smashing success!

I’m determined to make the most of my tiny amount of dried sour cherries, though, so I made up a batch of granola.  Totally worth the pricey dried cherries.

Nutty Granola 2

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Coconut Walnut Granola

Coconut-Walnut-Granola

Originally, I was going to tell you the story of my early morning gym trips.  How I get up, get dressed, drink some water and eat a little something.  How I haven’t found the right little something to snack on pre-gym, something that’s quick to prepare and eat.  Something that is simultaneously filling enough to fuel my workout, but light enough that I don’t feel weighed down. I was going to tell you that this led me to make these granola bars, filled with nuts and oats and coconut and dried cherries.

But then I was running low on both honey and brown rice syrup, so I used maple syrup instead.  This was the downfall of the granola bars.  Instead of sticking together in bar form, it crumbled apart into little chunks of granola.

The thing is, I should have known better.  Maple syrup has a much higher water content (about 33%) than honey (less than 20%) or brown rice syrup. Of course it isn’t going to be as sticky and won’t hold oats and nuts together as well as the other sweeteners.  But I forged ahead anyways.  Oh well, at least we have some delicious granola now.

But next time, I’ll experiment with using half maple syrup and half honey or brown rice syrup.  Or I’ll skip the maple syrup altogether and stick with one of the other two.

Coconut-Walnut-Granola2

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DIY Gift: Popcorn Seasonings

POPCORN KIT 2 TEXT

There are only a handful of situations in which plain or lightly salted popcorn is better than flavored.  Game nights are one, the nights that you want to grab a handful or two of popcorn while someone else takes their turn without getting cheesy fingerprints on all the game pieces.   These popcorn seasonings are for all those other nights. With some of these, your fingertips may get a little stained with cheesy, spicy goodness.  But that’s okay.  Embrace the messiness, and know that the flavor more than makes up for it.

For each gift box, you will need:

1 gift box (I used a 6″ x 6″ x 2″ box)
Tissue paper
3 spice jars
Paper, washi tape, tags, twine and/or ribbons for labeling the jars
3 popcorn seasonings (recipes follow)
Popcorn kernels

Putting the box together is simple. Layer tissue paper along the bottom of the box.  Fill and label each jar, then nestle them into the gift box.  Add a bag of popcorn seasonings, and tie the gift box shut.

POPCORN KIT 4

Alternatively, if you know that your giftee already has popcorn in their kitchen, give them a fourth jar of seasoning in their gift box.

Smoky Curried Popcorn Seasoning

 

Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn Seasoning: Mix together 5 parts granulated sugar and 1 part ground cinnamon.

Cheesy Garlic Popcorn Seasoning

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: Makes about 1/4 cup

Cheesy Garlic Popcorn Seasoning

This recipe makes enough to fill one 4-ounce spice jar, but can easily be scaled up to make as many gifts as you need. To make four gifts, for instance, multiply all ingredient amounts by four.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons cheddar cheese powder
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle over lightly oiled or buttered popcorn.
http://www.savvyeat.com/diy-gift-popcorn-seasonings/

Italian Herb Popcorn Seasoning

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: Makes about 1/3 cup

Italian Herb Popcorn Seasoning

This recipe makes enough to fill one 4-ounce spice jar, and is easily scaled up to make multiple gifts.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons Romano cheese powder
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Instructions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle over lightly oiled or buttered popcorn.
http://www.savvyeat.com/diy-gift-popcorn-seasonings/

Sources for the cheese powders:

King Arthur Flour (cheddar only)

The Spice House

 

 

 

 

Cherry Pretzel Energy Bars

Cherry Pretzel Bars title

Dan and I competed in the Finger Lakes International Dragon Boat Festival with his company team again this weekend.  We paddled as hard as we could, yelling to keep in sync at times, exerting ourselves far too thoroughly to make any noise at all at others.  Sadly, our 500 meter races times of 2:56, 2:56 and 2:53 weren’t enough to sail us into first place again, but the competition was stiff and we did get 5th out of 8 teams.

Between races, we squeezed under the pop-up tent for some shade, lifting our faces to the occasional breeze.  We chatted and lounged and stretched.  We rehydrated, sipping water, Gatorade and beer.  And we ate — fresh blueberries and cherries, sandwiches from home or Thai food from the stands down the shore, and these energy bars.  Adapted from Jess Thomson’s Nut and Seed Energy Bars, they were a huge hit among my fellow paddlers.

Cherry Pretzel Bars 2

Cherry Pretzel Energy Bars

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 24 bars

Cherry Pretzel Energy Bars

Adapted from Jess Thomson's Nut and Seed Energy Bars. One of Dan's coworkers told me they taste "just like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...but better and healthier!" Made almost entirely of whole foods, these bars are the perfect snack for between races or mid-bike ride.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw pepitas
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw peanuts
  • 10 dates, pitted
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 cups pretzels
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries
  • 3/4 cup dried currants

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Spread the nuts and seeds out onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast at 400F for 5-7 minutes. If you open the oven and see them beginning to brown and smell their fragrant nuttiness, they are done. Set aside to cool.
  3. Puree the dates in a food processor or blender. They will clump up into one big sticky ball, so stop the processor and break the ball up with a fork. Begin pureeing again so that it smooths out into more of a paste.
  4. Whisk the arrowroot powder, peanut butter, salt and dates in a small bowl.
  5. Bring the brown rice syrup and maple syrup to a boil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Whisk the syrups into the date mixture.
  6. Pour the pretzels into a large mixing bowl and begin crushing them with the bottom of your measuring cup. The largest pieces should be no bigger than the size of a penny. Toss in the toasted nuts and seeds, the cherries and the currants.
  7. Pour the sticky syrup mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and gently stir with a wooden spoon until everything is coated. Make sure there are no dry spots left at the bottom of the bowl.
  8. Line a 9x13" baking pan with parchment paper so that it comes up the sides. Scrape the bar ingredients into the pan and even out the layer with your wooden spoon.
  9. Spread another layer of parchment paper over the bars and use the bottom of a measuring cup to press and smooth out the layer underneath.
  10. Weigh down the bars with a heavy pan or book to keep everything pressed together as it cools.
  11. After about an hour, turn the bars out onto the counter and peel off the top layer of parchment paper.
  12. Using a very sharp knife, cut the block into 24 bars. If you have one, a large chef's knife is best, as it makes it easier to make one even cut, without sawing through the bars and making things crumble.
  13. Wrap each bar in parchment paper and store in an airtight container.
http://www.savvyeat.com/cherry-pretzel-energy-bars/

Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Quick Bread

Choc Orange Bread 2a

Let’s talk happy surprises.

1.  BN.com told me that the books I ordered with my Christmas gift cards weren’t going to ship until the end of the month because one is on back order.  Surprise!  Two of the three arrived yesterday.

2.  I got Dan the 5th season of Dirty Jobs on DVD for Christmas.  Surprise!  Not all of the jobs on the show are cringe-worthy…like the olive oil presser or walnut farmer.

3.  I’ve only had one migraine since October, which is a HUGE improvement over the 2-3 per week I struggled with this summer.  Surprise!  I developed a sensitivity to one of my prescriptions, which I stopped taking in…October.

4.  I’ve also had far fewer tension headaches.  Surprise!  Turns out my glasses prescription was 30% stronger than I needed (yes, 30% STRONGER), so my eyes were working over time to counteract that.

5.  All of the glasses I’ve had since 4th grade have been thin-framed, designed to mask the fact that I was wearing glasses at all.  Surprise!  I like my new, bolder frames more.

6.  I’ve never been a huge fan of oranges…until I discovered blood oranges.  Surprise!  Blood oranges are back in season.

Choc Orange Bread 3a

I love quick breads.  I love blood oranges.  I love dark chocolate.  Not a surprise– this bread rocks!

Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Quick Bread

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Quick Bread

Though I used a blood orange in this recipe, you could also use another type of orange.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • Zest and juice of one blood orange
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the applesauce, milk, zest and orange juice. Stir until there are no dry lumps left.
  4. Fold in the chocolate, and pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake at 375F for 35-38 minutes, or until the edges begin to pull away from the pan and the top is browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Make Ahead and Storage

The best way to store quick breads is the same as the best way to store muffins!

http://www.savvyeat.com/blood-orange-and-dark-chocolate-quick-bread/

 

Sesame Soy Snack Mix

Sesame Snack Mix 1

Dan is a pro at the whole “drive across the country in the middle of the night” thing. As long as he has some Mountain Dew, Red Vines or something else snacky, he can keep his focus and attention on the road.  He’s been known to make the 13 hour drive from Madison to Ithaca starting at 10pm in one shot.  I don’t know how he does it.

I, on the other hand, am useless when it comes to driving late at night.  Or driving more than 5 hours or so at a time, for that matter.  When I moved to Ithaca, we left Madison around 8:30 pm.  Our things didn’t fit into the station wagon, so we had rented a second wagon and were both making the full drive.  I made it through Chicago and into Indiana, but just barely.

(In retrospect, getting married on Sunday and then packing up the car and starting the 850-ish mile drive the next day may not have been the best plan.)

I called Dan just 3 1/2 hours into the 14 hour drive to tell him, “If we don’t pull over so that I can take a nap in the next 15 miles, I’m going to fall asleep at the wheel.”  We pulled into a gas station, and I was asleep within seconds of taking the keys out of the ignition.

Just a few minutes later, I awoke to Dan rapping nervously on the window.  Apparently, we were in a very sketchy neighborhood known for its gangs violent crime rate.  He understandably didn’t want to sleep in a gas station parking lot there for that long.

Honestly, the only way I made it to the motel 10 miles away where we decided to crash for the night was by driving with the windows open, sipping water and alternating screaming and singing at the top of my lungs.  I felt ridiculous, but better than driving off the road, right?

But Dan?  He could have completed the entire drive that night, no problem, if it weren’t for my needing to stop.

Sesame Snack Mix 2

On Tuesday, guess who did all the middle-of-the-night driving?  It certainly wasn’t me!

Though I did take my turn and drive from 9-midnight so that Dan could get some sleep.

Dan needed some good snacks to help him get through the drive, and this sesame soy snack mix was one of them.

Sesame Soy Snack Mix

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 12 cups

Sesame Soy Snack Mix

If you aren’t eating this to help you stay awake on a long drive, it also makes a great party dish or afternoon snack.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups corn Chex cereal
  • 4 cups sesame sticks
  • 3 cups pretzels
  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9×13″ baking pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, gently stir the cereal, sesame sticks, pretzels and peanuts.
  3. Whisk the melted butter, sesame oil and soy sauce in a small bowl and pour over the cereal. Stir until the dry ingredients are coated.
  4. Bake at 250F for 55-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the snack mix looks dry. Spread the snack mix over paper towels to cool.

Make Ahead and Storage

Store in an airtight container for no more than 7-10 days.

http://www.savvyeat.com/sesame-soy-snack-mix/

Chai-Spiced Mixed Nuts

Chai-Nuts-1.jpg

My favorite stadium or fair special treat is candied nuts, especially the pecans or walnuts.* They are covered in a crunchy sugary coating, and are typically served in paper cones slicked with oil from the roasted nuts. As you bite in to one, the sweet outer layer cracks to give way to a perfectly roasted pecan or walnut half.

Ever since my great success with candied pecans, I’ve been craving more. This time, I went with a chai latte flavor. Would you expect anything less from me?

* Actually, that’s a lie. Funnel cakes are up there too.

Chai-Spiced Mixed Nuts

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 3 1/2 cups

Chai-Spiced Mixed Nuts

These nuts are sweet and crunchy, just like the kinds you’d find at stadiums or fairs. Any mix of nuts will work, though I chose to use almonds and walnuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted walnut halves
  • 2 cups unsalted almonds
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup chai latte mix (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250F and grease a large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg white until it is white and frothy with soft peaks. Fold in the nuts, stirring until they are all coated with the egg white.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, chai and salt. Add the sugar to the nuts and stir until all of the sugar is sticking to the nuts.
  4. Spread the nuts onto the baking sheet. Bake at 250F for one hour, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes, until the nuts are dry and the sugar doesn’t come off on your fingers when you touch them.

Make Ahead and Storage

These nuts will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks when stored in an airtight container (if they even last that long!)

http://www.savvyeat.com/chai-spiced-mixed-nuts/

Mexican Hot Chocolate Roasted Pecans

Chocolate-Pecans-1.jpg

Yesterday, I tweeted asking what time everybody typically ate Thanksgiving dinner. Surprisingly, an overwhelming number of people told me they started the big meal sometime between noon and 2 pm. That seems so early to me! Do you still eat a smaller dinner at your regular meal time, and treat the Thanksgiving feast as your lunch? Or do you just graze throughout the rest of the day?

I think I’m going to serve our dinner around 4, if for no reason other than the fact that I’d like to take my time in the morning rather than rushing to get the turkey in the oven. Instead of serving the meal early, I plan on setting out some appetizers like these candied nuts for people to snack on in the afternoon.

I made these pecans three times. Actually, they were originally almonds. But my first two attempts were disastrous, and I ran out of almonds. Turns out they are just as delicious, if not more so, as pecans.

My first attempt called for melted butter, cocoa powder and malt powder. No matter how long I baked them, the coating wouldn’t dry out. I ended up with a mass of nuts that were simultaneously gooey and burnt.

For my second attempt, I used much less butter and replaced the malt powder with a collection of spices. These were delicious, but the topping ended up as a light dusting on the nuts and a pile of loose sugar and spices.

Finally, finally I switched out the butter for an egg white for the pecan batch. Success! The sugar caramelized and clustered on the nuts, giving them a crisp and crunchy coating. Sweet and a little spicy, these will make a great appetizer or post-dinner snack.

Chocolate-Pecans-.jpg

Mexican Hot Chocolate Roasted Pecans

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 cups

Mexican Hot Chocolate Roasted Pecans

These pecans make for a stellar appetizer or snack. Pack them into a glass jar and tie up with a ribbon for a beautiful gift for friends and party hosts. If you’d like, you can use a combination of pecans and almonds here, or replace all of the pecans with 4 cups of almonds.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white
  • 3 1/2 cups unsalted raw pecans
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Pinch ground allspice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250F and grease a large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg white until it is white and frothy with soft peaks. Fold in the pecans, stirring until they are all coated with the egg white.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and spices. Add the sugar to the pecans and stir until all of the sugar is sticking to the nuts.
  4. Spread the pecans onto the baking sheet. Bake at 250F for one hour, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes, until the pecans are dry and the sugar doesn’t come off on your fingers when you touch them.

Make Ahead and Storage

These nuts will store well in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (if they even last that long!)

http://www.savvyeat.com/mexican-hot-chocolate-roasted-pecans/

Blueberry Pie Granola

I met with a new friend (hi, Megan!) for tea earlier this week, and ended up chatting for close to two hours.  We met at the Blue Frog, a cute and friendly new cafe in the Ithaca mall with a somewhat unfortunate location.  The menu was extensive, making it difficult for me to decide on a drink, but I finally landed on the blueberry pie iced tea.

Blueberry Granola

Apparently, blueberry syrup + vanilla syrup makes iced tea taste just like blueberry pie.  Who knew?

So yesterday, when I set out to make a new granola recipe, I decided I just had to make it blueberry pie flavored.  Plus, I had all those berries from this weekend to use up!

Blueberry Granola 3

Blueberry Pie Granola

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup blanched, sliced almonds
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease a 9×13″ baking pan, and mix the oats and almonds together in the pan.

Using a blender or food processor, puree the blueberries.  In a small bowl, mix the blueberries with the maple syrup and vanilla, then pour over the oats.  Stir until all the dry ingredients are covered, and even out the layer of granola as much as possible.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Allow to cool before serving.

Now who wants some blueberry “pie”?