Tuesday, April 27, 2010

30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30: Parmesan Garlic Soft Pretzels with Homemade Honey Mustard Dip

Watch out Auntie Annie's! This homemade soft pretzel recipe rivals any plain old boring mall pretzel! These pretzels are soooo good I found them worthy to be a main course! I served them for dinner (alongside some coleslaw because of course a true dinner must incorporate some type of veggies). 

I had never used active yeast before and was a little intimidated by it, but this recipe is a cinch! The most difficult part is shaping the dough to somewhat resemble pretzels. I was so horrible at it that I enlisted my hubby...and found that he is a terrific pretzel shaper! I would never have never guessed he had hidden pretzel shaping skills! Hubby shaped all the pretzels for me because I couldn't quite master the technique. 

On Beantown Baker's website where I found this recipe, she shows two different types of pretzels you can make with the master recipe, so I decided to go with the Parmesan Garlic variation. Next time I might try the sun dried tomato...oh wait... maybe I will make the plain version so I can top them with cinnamon and sugar. Yummmm, I'm ready to make another batch ASAP because ours is already gone! Oh and did I mention the hidden bonus is that these little guys are only 1 Weight Watchers point??

Parmesan Garlic Soft Pretzels 
From Beantown Baker

1/8 cup hot water
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic
2/3 cups parmesan cheese
4 + cups of flour
Coarse Kosher salt
Baking soda
Butter or shortening (to grease cookie sheets)


In a large bowl mix together hot water and yeast until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the warm water and brown sugar and keep stirring until the brown sugar dissolves. Press the cloves of garlic and add them, along with the Parmesan cheese into the liquid mixture.

 Slowly add in the 4  cups of flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and does not stick to the sides of the bowl.
Lightly flour the counter. Dip your hands into extra flour and knead the dough until it is stretchy and smooth. (Push it down and away from you with the palms of your hands, turning the dough as you work)

Grease cookie sheets generously with butter or shortening. Sprinkle greased cookie sheets with Kosher salt.

Preheat the oven to 475.

Fill a large saucepan at least halfway full of water. For each cup of water, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda. 

Divide the dough into equal sized pieces. Using the following 4 steps shape each dough ball into a pretzel shape:

1. Roll the dough into a rope that is 14 inches long and as thick as your thumb. Bend the dough into a "U" shape. **If you have trouble rolling the dough into a rope, wet your hands slightly and try again.)

2. Cross one end of the rope over the other one. The rope should cross about three inches from the tips.

3. Twist the crossed ends, making a full turn. Fold the ends backwards, towards the middle of the "U".

4. Open the ends slightly to form a pretzel shape. Press the ends firmly into the dough.

Bring the water in the saucepan to gentle boil (be sure there are not too many bubbles). Using a large pancake turner lower each pretzel into the saucepan. Count slowly to 30. Lift the pretzel and shake off excess water. Place the pretzel onto the greased, salted cookie sheet. Repeat until all the pretzels are done.
Sprinkle some kosher salt and Parmesan cheese on top of the pretzels and bake for 8 minutes or until they are golden brown. 
**If you want to make your pretzels plain, and not Garlic Parmesan, just omit the garlic and Parmesan cheese from the recipe!

Honey Mustard Dip
Modified from The Cottage Home

5 ounces creme fraiche or sour cream
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons dijon or German mustard
Salt & sugar to taste
Mix sour cream, honey, and mustard together. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Monday, April 26, 2010

French Martini

I don't know why it hadn't dawned on me before to blog about fun drinks that my husband and I try! We mostly drink wine, but every once in a while we like a nice martini. I prefer the more tropical varieties and my obliging and wonderful husband will not only go and buy the ingredients for my fruity drinks, but mixes them up for me. This recipe from Ina Garten had been sitting in my Food Network recipe box for about 2 years and so this weekend I finally decided it was time to try it.

CAUTION: This martini is very strong. I couldn't even finish one. I guess that is what 2 1/2 cups of vodka will do! My husband actually said, "Who would have thought the Barefoot Contessa is a booze hound?" Next time we make this recipe we will definitely scale down the vodka, probably to just 1 1/2 cups. The Chambord is my favorite part and I put a little extra in on the top of mine to make it pretty.

French Martini
From Ina Garten

2 cups fresh pineapple juice
2 1/2 cups vodka
1/4 cup Vermouth
2 teaspoons raspberry liqueur (Chambord is recommended)

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill a martini glass with ice and pour the cocktail over the ice. 
Look closely in this picture for my baby Wendell. :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Aunt Becky's Pasta Florentine

One of the best things about marrying into my husband's family was gaining two new families! And one of the best things about his family is Aunt Becky. Aunt Becky in one word: fabulous! Aunt Becky is one of the most vivacious, fun loving women I've ever had the pleasure to know and now she is my family too! Aunt Becky helped to host a bridal shower for me where I received a huge cookbook filled with recipes from all the women on both sides of my husbands' family. It was a gift I will always treasure - and a gift that keeps on giving because I am able to bring all these wonderful recipes into my own home.

I was so excited that this Pasta Florentine recipe of Aunt Becky's was included in the cookbook because I've eaten it a few times and just love it! It's a wonderful salad for large get togethers because it makes such a large portion. When I made it, I halved the recipe and it still made a huge batch. I love the combination of spinach, chicken, and pasta. The cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers and onions add a lovely pop of flavor in every bite. I am not sure what was wrong with me when I went shopping, but I bought penne pasta instead of bow tie like the recipe calls for. Of course the flavor was still the same, but next time I make it, I will be sure to use the correct pasta! 

Pasta Florentine
Special thanks and lots of love to Aunt Becky

6 chicken breasts (3 lbs) cooked and cubed
24 ounces of bow tie pasta, cooked
1 pound fresh spinach, torn into pieces 
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 small bunch of fresh herbs (tarragon, basil, and parsley)
cherry tomatoes
2 cups mayonnaise
2/3 cups olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese

Combine chicken, pasta, peppers, onion, spinach and herbs in a large bowl. In a small bowl whip together mayo, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the chicken/pasta ingredients. Top with cheese and cherry tomatoes. 

Note: this recipe serves 8 - 12 and can be made ahead. You can also substitute shrimp for chicken. 

I also wanted to note that for Christmas my hubby gave me an Aerogarden and I use it all the time. The one I have came with Basil, Thyme, and Chives but there are several other options. I love that I now have fresh herbs in my own kitchen. For this Pasta Florentine recipe I didn't have to buy any basil because I have some growing on my kitchen counter. Just wanted to give this a plug because it's a great little herb garden for those of us who live where we don't have a yard to plant our own, or for those of us who live in climates where we can't have fresh herbs year round. :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Low Fat Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

Just a few days after I made Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing I saw this recipe for Lowfat Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing on Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes. I am 100 percent hooked on homemade dressing! Store bought dressing just does not measure up.

I used the Blue Cheese Dressing to cool off Buffalo Chicken that I served with cruidtes. The dressing was excellent and you would never know it's low fat - actually mine not be since I used full fat mayo. Oops! :) I doubled this recipe so we would have extra for dipping veggies into later on. After it sat for a day or two it was even better, too!

Lowfat Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing
From Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes


1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
6 ounces fat free yogurt
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I just used regular vinegar)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and freshly ground pepper


In a small bowl mash blue cheese and yogurt together with a fork. Stir in mayo, lemon juice, vinegar, and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Black Beans and Rice

When I made Creamy Chicken Enchiladas this week, I cooked up Elizabeth's Black Beans & Rice to go with them as a side dish. This yummy side dish is so easy and quick! I will definitely be making it again to accompany Mexican dishes.

Black Beans & Rice
Modified from Dutch Oven


2 cups of rice, cooked to desired tenderness
1 can of black beans
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons of olive oil


In a medium sauce pan heat the olive oil and garlic. Add the black beans with their juices. Heat through. Stir in rice. Serve.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

My husband and I just got back from Mexico and the best vacation we have ever had! We did not want to leave the beautiful resort, unlimited drinks, and yummy Mexican fare. Alas, reality called and here we are back at home doing the daily grind. In a vain attempt to keep the vacation feeling going, I made these extremely delicious Creamy Chicken Enchiladas that I found on my blogging friend Elizabeth's cooking site. The shredded chicken, cream cheese, and green chilies shine through in every bite of these rich, soft enchiladas. 

A confession: In the past I "made" tacos, burritos, or enchiladas from a box. This recipe showed me how easy it is to create your own yummy Mexican cuisine. The boxed stuff doesn't even hold a candle to these enchiladas.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas 


Enchilada filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon onion powder (I used minced onion since I didn't have onion powder)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken (I used three chicken breasts that I baked in the oven with salt and pepper for about 15 minutes but Elizabeth says you can also used store bought rotisserie chicken)
10 tortillas (Somehow I only had enough filling for 7 and used whole wheat tortillas)

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 can chopped green chilies
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Oops, I used a whole package of Mexican shredded cheese since we are HUGE cheese lovers)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat the cream cheese, water, onion, cumin, salt, and pepper until smooth. Stir in chicken. Place 1/4 cup of the mixture on the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam down in a 9X13 greased backing pan. In a bowl combine the soup, sour cream, milk, and chilies. Then pour over enchiladas. Bake uncovered for 30 - 40 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake 5 more minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with salsa and sour cream. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asian Meatballs

During my cooking blog surfing I found Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes. This fantastic cooking blog immediately made it to my favorites list because the food looked so yummy but is actually healthy! Since I started this cooking blog in November I have been so excited to make dishes that are delicious that I've thrown any concerns about calories, carbohydrates, and fat grams to the wind! Not such a good idea, especially now that bathing suit season is quickly approaching. I discovered Gina's website just in time. For each recipe she gives you the WW point value, serving size, and calories. I've tried two of her recipes now and they are not only Weight Watcher Friendly but super flavorful! You won't even notice you are eating healthy! Even if you aren't a health conscious eater go check out her website because I guarantee you will find something that grabs your attention!

These Asian Turkey Meatballs with Lime Sesame Dipping Sauce were the first recipe I tried from Gina's site. They appealed to me because of the flavor combinations: ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime. Yum yum! The meatballs turned out very moist and had a distinct Asian flavor that was very different flavor from any meatball I've ever tried. I served them with Veggie Lover's Fried Rice and with the Lime Sesame Sauce to drizzle over the meatballs and rice it was a filling and delicious meal. I will definitely be adding this one to our meal rotation. I noticed that some people commented these make great appetizers too, but you would probably want to double the recipe for a larger crowd because although the meatballs are large, the recipe only makes 12.

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Lime Sesame Dipping Sauce
From Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes


1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
1 egg
1 tablespoon of ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Dipping Sauce

4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 chopped fresh scallions
*I also added in 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds


Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix ground turkey, bread crumbs, egg, salt, scallions, cilantro, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of oil with your hands until combined. Shape 1/4 cup meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a baking dish. Repeat with remaining mixture. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

For the dipping sauce mix together lime juice, water, soy sauce, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl. Add scallions (and sesame seeds).

Transfer meatballs to a serving dish. Stir sauce, then drizzle meatballs with 1 tablespoons sauce. Serve meatballs with remaining sauce.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Balsamic Brown Butter Ravioli

This is one of those recipes that are super simple, very easy, and great for those nights when you don't have a lot of time to cook. It literally takes about 15 minutes from start to finish and it's so good - how can it not be with 6 tablespoons of butter?

It's one of my favorite recipes from Giada De Laurentiis, but I honestly love just about anything of hers. The sauce is tangy and velvety from the balsamic vinegar and the crunch of the toasted walnuts is a great combination with ravioli of your choice. I also added in wild mushrooms that we got from our local Farmer's Market that I sauteed in butter. 

Balsamic Brown Butter Ravioli
Modified from Giada De Laurentiis


18 to 20 ounces of store-bought ravioli (cheese, mushroom, or squash) *I used chicken and proscuitto 
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (Bake at 350 for about 5 minutes, shake around, taste a couple and bake about 2 more minutes)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Bring a lot pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli onto a large serving platter. 

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides and the butter begins to turn to a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

This is also when I sauteed the mushrooms in butter over medium heat. 
Transfer the ravioli to the saucepan with the balsamic brown butter. Sprinkle walnuts and Parmesan over the top. Serve immediately. 


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