Monthly Archives: January 2016

Buttery Soft Pretzels w/ Serrano Bacon Cheddar Sauce

Soft pretzels have to be one of my favorite snack foods ever. As a child, I would stand in line at the “snack bar” of my k-8 school every lunch with the 75cents I somehow managed to find that morning for one. Sorry mom, I wasn’t eating the lunch line’s green beans and hamburger steak..  

As an adult, it’s what I nosh on at every sporting event, fair or concert…and don’t even get me started on how many I quite frankly inhaled during the pregnancy of my second son. I’d load my first child up (who was about 8 months old) in the car and take him and my fat butt up to Target just to buy 1 or 2 warm, large pretzels at their snack bar. I’d then put my baby in a cart and walk around aimlessly stuffing my also fat face while contemplating on buying just one more. Yes, I may indeed have a soft pretzel problem.

Now some may argue it’s a bad idea that I can now make my own. I’d normally tell them to be quiet but..well….my mouth is so full of soft pretzel that I physically can’t ;).

*Hey, if you’re going to do it right, serve it alongside my homemade spicy cheese sauce and save the mustard for the baseball game!

The Starting Lineup

Pretzel Dough

  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 rounded Tbsp brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt 
  • 2 cups bread flour 
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Baking Soda Bath

  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 2 cups warm water

Garnish

  • Kosher/rock salt
  • and/or cinnamon and sugar mix
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted 

Serrano Bacon Cheddar Sauce (optional)

  • 2 Serrano peppers, seeded and finely diced (I, of course, kept the heat in mine 😉
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked & crumbled (reserve 1 Tbsp of the grease)
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • Pinch each of salt, pepper & garlic powder  

To start your pretzel dough, combine 1 1/2 cups of warm water and the yeast into the bowl of your mixer. Gently mix together and allow to sit for about 5 minutes till it starts to foam up a bit.  

   Next, add in the brown sugar and the salt to the yeast mix. Stir together until it’s dissolved. Now add in both types of flour (all 4 cups), and using the paddle attachment mix on low for about 15 seconds to combine. Switch the attachment to the dough hook and mix in high for 5-6 minutes to knead the dough. 

     Lightly oil a large bowl and place the kneaded ball of dough into it. Cover and let sit in a warm spot for 1 hour to rise. 

 Immediately after setting your dough to rise, make the baking soda bath. This part is easy, simply combine 2 cups of warm water with 2 Tbsp of baking soda. Stir often throughout the next hour. 

 After the dough has risen, cut off about 1 cup of dough at a time and roll into a 1/2″ thick rod shape. (*do not flour the counter here, damp hands work best). 

   Now here you can either cut that long strip of dough into 1-2″ pieces OR shape into your traditional pretzel shape. Once to your liking, carefully give each a quick dunk into the baking soda bath and set onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat till dough is gone. 

 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and let the pretzels rise again for about 15 minutes (while the oven gets to temp). Bake for 10-12 minutes. While these are baking you can melt the 4 tbsp of butter. Remove from the oven and brush the pretzels/pretzel bites with the melted butter and either sprinkle with kosher or rock salt OR toss in a large ziplock bag with a cinnamon-sugar mix. 

   Serve immediately with a dipping sauce and enjoy!! 

 

Serrano Bacon Cheddar Sauce (optional)

In a sauté pan fry up the bacon, remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Drain all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon grease…that stuff’s good as gold! 

 Add 1 tbsp of butter to the reserved bacon grease and melt. Once melted stir in the flour to form a rue and then quickly whisk in the milk. Whisk Whisk Whisk till smooth! Now slowly whisk in the two cups cheese till creamy and then fold in the cooked, crumbled bacon and the finely diced Serrano peppers. Pour into individual ramekins and serve alongside some warm, soft pretzels!  

           

Poor Mans Pickle Burgers

Don’t let the title fool you…even you rich folks can and will enjoy this simple meal!  It’s easy to prepare, a meal can be had in under 30 minutes and you likely have these ingredients already in your refridgerator!

My family can’t stop requesting them, which is fine by me!  To best describe them is a mix of a diner patty melt, loose meat sandwich and a Freddy’s Steak Burger all in one!  Also, not having to shape hamburger patties out makes this both quick AND stretches it farther.  ..and trust me, you won’t even miss the normal ketchup & mustard here..just try it my way.  Please…..

The Starting Lineup (makes 4 good size burgers)

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, finely minced, divided 1:1
  • 4-6 slices American cheese
  • Dill pickle slices, thick cut or lots of them
  • 8 slices bread (I prefer sourdough, but generic wheat or white works!  It’s a “poor-mans” after all!)
  • Mayonaisse (the real deal, not Miracle Whip)
  • A pinch each of salt, pepper & season salt 
  • 1 tbsp butter (optional for grilling the sandwich)   

Preheat a saute pan to medium heat and add in the ground beef and 1/2 of the minced onions, salt, pepper & season salt.  Cook till meat is browned and onions translucent.

 While the meat is cooking, slather the mayonaisse on both sides of the bread…I mean from corner to corner here!  Also, heat up another pan to “grill” the sandwich.

 After the meat has finished it’s assembly time!  With the cooked ground beef divided evenly, add a layer onto one slice of the bread.  Top with a bit more minced onions, LOADS of pickle slices and then top it off with a slice or two of the melty American cheese.  *make sure to cover all the toppings with the cheese, this REALLY helps hold it all together!  Finally, add on that remaining slice of bread and transfer to the heated pan.

     Grill each side of the poor mans burger for about a minute, till crisp.  Cut on the diagonal and serve with some good ol fries or chips!!  Enjoy!

Texas Taco Joes

This is another FUN meal that the entire family will love!!  A spin on the classic “Sloppy Joe” with an open-face, TexMex twist!  

The meat topping can be made to your desired heat level (or use ground turkey, pork or chicken if you’re not a beef fan) and then the toppings can range to what I listed below or can go waayyyy beyond that!!

*If your grocer doesn’t carry “Texas Toast” in the bread aisle…move.  

… Just kidding 😂, you may check the freezer section OR buy a large bread loaf in the bakery and just slice it at least a good 1-1/2″ thick!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped 
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes, “Mexican Style lime & cilantro” (don’t drain)
  • 1 can green chilis
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Texas toast 

Garnish (optional)

  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Chopped onion
  • Diced tomatoes 
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream
  • Avocado slices
  • Black olives    

Heat a pan up to medium with the ground beef and the chopped onion *add about 2Tbsp of EVOO if using a very lean meat.  Cook until the onions are translucent and the meat is browned. 

 In that same pan (draining grease IF necessary), add in the taco seasoning along with the can of Rotel tomatoes, green chili’s and water.  Stir, bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer.   Cover the mixture and walk away till thickened *about 15 minutes. 

     While the meat mixture is thickening, we’ll toast those fat slices of bread.  Aka “Texas Toast”.  Now you can do this as you wish, oven or toaster, but I layed a bunch of slices down on a baking sheet and popped it under the broiler of my oven for just a minute till toasted!

The fun part has arrived!!  Preparing your own Texas Taco Joe with the toppings of your choice!  I’m a fan of “the works” and add everything but the kitchen sink to mine, but to each their own!!  Enjoy! 

 

Chilaquiles con Huevos with Roasted Verde Sauce

Wow!  I’m almost bilingual with this recipe!  It may definitely be ‘Spanglish’, BUT it IS authentic and delicious!!  

Roasting the vegetables gives the verde sauce such a great depth of flavor and frying the corn tortillas makes for such a better chip!  Please don’t use store bought chips here…scratch frying really holds up to that spicy green sauce and never turns into a soupy mess.  

Now you can eat this sans the egg and it’s just as good, but for breakfast in my house, my boys must have the huevos!  This is also fantastic with a side of potatoes and beans…oh, maybe a cerveza too!!!  Assuming, it’s your day off of course 😉

The Starting Lineup

Verde Sauce

  • 1lb tomatillos (about 12), husked, rinsed & halved
  • 2 serrano peppers
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 white onion, rough chopped (reserve a couple thin slices)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth, depending how thick/thin you like it
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro 
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander 

Tortilla Chips

  • 10-12 corn tortillas, cut into triangles
  • Canola or Vegetable oil (about 1/2+ cups)

Garnish

  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Queso Fresco, crumbled
  • Mexican crema (or sour cream)
  • White onion, thinly sliced 

Huevos

  • 1-2 eggs per person, fried -over hard or runny yolk      

To begin this easier than sounding recipe, preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  *Typically takes about 15 minutes.

While the oven is warming, rinse all of the peppers, cilantro and husked tomatillos (they can be kind of sticky).  

On a foil lined baking sheet, lay the 3 peppers, the sliced and husked tomatillos, the garlic (still in skin) and the roughly chopped onion (I still leave skin on here too).  Drizzle a bit of EVOO overtop and sprinkle on the the salt & pepper. 

 Place this on the oven’s top rack (now turn to broil with oven door slightly opened), and let the vegetables char for about 5-7 minutes.  You may need to turn them occasionally during this time.  Once they’ve finished and have that lovely ‘burnt’ look to them, remove the baking sheet and turn off the oven. 

 While those are just slightly cooling, heat up the canola oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Once the oil is ready, start frying up the cut up corn tortillas in 2-3 batches.  *Try to lay them in the hot oil almost one by one (but quickly) so that they don’t stick together.  This will only take a couple of minutes.  Once finished, transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle the hot chips lightly with salt. 

   Meanwhile, in a seperate pan, cook your huevos (aka eggs ;)) to your taste. 

Also, finish up that verde sauce!  In a blender combine 1/2 cup of cilantro (stems & all), the chicken broth, the roasted tomatillos, peppers (stems cut off), onion (outter ‘skin’ removed) and push the roasted garlic out of its ‘skin’ as well.  Top this off with a tsp each of the coriander and cumin.  Place the lid onto the blender along with a hand towel (hot liquids and blenders..keep safe!) and blend till smooth! 

     Remove the oil from the tortilla chip pan and carefully wipe clean..Over low heat, add in most (or all) of the verde sauce and bring to a simmer.  Toss in the freshly fried tortilla chips and cook for just 3-5 minutes as you don’t want them “mushy”,… bleh… 

 Spoon the warm tortilla-verde-sauce mixture into individual serving bowls.  Top each with the crumbled queso fresco cheese, a drizzle of the Mexican crema, thinly sliced white onion and fresh cilantro…oh and don’t forget the huevos!!!  Enjoy! 

 

Braised Short Rib Poutine

This may have a hoighty-toighty, fancy name but it’s just a big ol bowl of delicious cheesy, brown gravy fries!  This comfort food is soooo good on a cold day, while watching a fantastic football game or even after a late night.  The Dutch oven does most of the work for you, and if you’re not into it, go ahead and buy a bag of frozen fries.  I won’t tell 😉

The Starting Lineup

  • 2lbs Short Ribs (1/2 boneless, 1/2 bone in)
  • Potatoes, french fry cut and soaked a couple hours to overnight
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp  
  •  1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2-3 cups beef broth/stock (to cover about 3/4th way up the short ribs), water can also be substituted 
  • 1/2 stout beer (drink the rest 😉)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • Cheese curds (Wisconsin’s finest 😉 
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for ribs)
  • Canola oil (for potatoes)
  • Parsely garnish (optional)   

Begin this recipe for scrubbing the potatoes and carefully cutting into strips a la French Fry!  Put the cut up fries into a large bowl of cold water.  Once you have finished cutting all of the potatoes, I like to carefully pour out that starchy water (hold on to those potatoes now) and refill.  Cover and refridgerate for at least an hour or two or even overnight.  This helps to pull out the starch resulting in a crispier fry!  Mmmm….. 

   On to the short ribs.  Season the ribs liberally with kosher salt and pepper and have a large pot/dutch oven warming a couple of Tbsp’s of extra virgin olive oil to medium-high heat.  Place 3-4 short ribs at a time into the hot pot and sear each side.  Set the seared ribs aside once finished. 

     In that same pot that you seared the short ribs in (now turn down to medium), add in the onion & shallot and sauté till translucent (about 5 minutes).  Next add in the minced garlic, worcestershire and the tomato paste (cook for just about a minute, till fragrant). 

  

  


 Now we’ll pour in half of the beer (make sure to finish the rest, “waste not, want not”..or something like that).  When the beer is added you’ll hear quite the sizzle sound, and with a wooden spoon scrape up any brown bits on the bottom on the pot from the seared and sautéed ingredients.

Next, pour in the beef stock/or water along with a hefty pinch of salt & pepper.  Turn the heat down to low and add back in the seared short ribs and any juices that the short ribs gave off in their set aside dish.  Cover the dutch oven and let it do its thing for about 3 hours.  Those ribs will be fall apart tender and falling off the bone, literally. 

 

Once the time has come, remove the short ribs again and set aside.

Here you’ll also bring a seperate saute pan to medium to melt the butter.  Once melted, slowly add in the flour while constantly whisking to make a roux.  Once that flour taste has cooked out, whisk the roux directly into the ribs braising liquid (dutch oven), until it thickens to a gravy, whisking occasionally.  It’ll happen, just give it a few minutes. 

       By now the short ribs should have cooled down enough to handle.  Pull off the bones, remove as much fat as possible and shred.  Add the now shredded meat directly into the dutch oven gravy.  Lord have mercy! 

   While those flavors are melding together and the gravy is thickening up, we’ll finish the French fries.

Take the soaking potatoes out of the ‘fridge and drain that starch water.  Place the cut up fries onto a towel and pat dry as much as possible.  Water drenched foods and hot oil do NOT mix. Never ever.

Bring the canola oil up to heat 375 degrees (I used my deep fryer), and add the fries in batches cooking for about 4-5 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and turn up the heat to 425 degrees.  Again, in small batches add the fries to cook for another 3-4 minutes and transfer to a large bowl and toss with a pinch of salt. 

 Assembly time!!  Your stomach is growling isn’t it??  Place a good amount of those hot, crisp fries onto a plate and ladle that hot, short rib gravy right over top.  Sprinkle on a handful of those delightful, squeaky cheese curds and grab a fork, dinner is served!! 

 

Loaded Breakfast Potato Skins

So I was making loaded potato skins for a gathering last night and thought, “Hey, these have potatoes (check), cheese (check), bacon (check)…why not just add the missing component of eggs and make this into a breakfast??!”  Genius I tell ya!!

A great thing about the breakfast potato skin is that you can change up the flavors everytime you prepare them!  How about a chorizo & green chili with sour cream & salsa?  Or perhaps use a sweet potato, egg whites, spinach and feta!  Yes to both of those for me!  Hey, if you’re a fan of runny yolks, why not top with an over-easy egg??  Being creative has suddenly made me hungry all over again!

…and much to my husband’s happiness, I served this with a side of cream gravy to complete this most perfect brunch….

*The ingredients below do not have specific amounts due to the number of people being served.  Any questions, please ask 🙂

The Starting Lineup

  • Potatoes, baked, scooped & halved
  • Bacon, cooked & chopped
  • Breakfast sausage, cooked
  • Eggs, scrambled
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Green onion, chopped

Extras (optional)

  • Extra virgin olive oil & kosher salt (potato skins)
  • Butter, milk, salt & pepper (scrambled eggs)
  • Flour, milk, salt & pepper (cream gravy)
  • Salt, pepper, chili flake (breakfast sausage)
  • Sour cream  

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, cover a baking sheet in foil and place on the bottom rack of the oven *to catch any drippings from the potatoes. Now scrub the potatoes, prick a few times with a fork and coat in extra virgin olive oil and a decent amount of kosher salt.  Set the potatoes DIRECTLY on the top rack, over the baking sheet.  Allow to bake for about 40 minutes or until the flesh is soft but the skins are crisp. 

 While the potatoes are baking away, you can fry up the bacon.  Once it’s cooked till crispy, transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. 

 In that same pan, now add in the breakfast sausage and cook through.  *Here I like to add in some seasonings if needed.  Like the bacon, once finished transfer to a dish and set aside. 

   Ok….if you’re feeling ambitious you now can use the grease from the sausage and create the cream gravy!  Add in a 1/4 cup of flour and whisk in the grease to create a rue.  Follow that with 2 cups of milk while constantly whisking to incorporate the rue.  Season to taste. 

 Around now the potatoes should be finished baking.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool just slightly.

Egg time!  Crack the eggs into a bowl with a splash of milk and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Whisk together and pour into a buttered sauté pan and scramble away! 

   While the eggs are doing their thing, cut each potato in half lengthwise.  CAREFULLY scoop out a bit of the inner flesh of each halve.  Make sure to leave enough of the flesh/skin on the outer edges so that it doesn’t fall apart on you.  *Depending on how hot the potatoes still are, you may need to wear an oven mitt to handle them.  Once scooped, place each onto a foil lined baking sheet (I just use the same sheet from when we baked the potatoes earlier). 

 Follow this up by first spooning in a good amount of the cooked breakfast sausage into the potato shells.  Top that with scrambled egg and then a heaping helping of shredded cheddar cheese. 

  

    

  
Place these bad boys BACK into the oven (top rack) under the broiler setting.  Watch closely as it only takes about a minute or two for the cheese to melt.

Remove from the oven and top with the cooked, crumbled bacon and green onions.  Serve with either gravy, hot sauce, sour cream or salsa alongside..enjoy!! 

 

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