Pinterest Test Kitchen # 87 ~ Homemade Pretzel Bites

Technically this could be filed under the Sundays With Sarah posts but since I helped I am putting it under the pinterest test kitchen. It’s one of the perks of being both the blog owner and mom so even though Sarah mixed and made the dough I’m still claiming it 🙂


Plus we tried it once before and it could have been submitted to that pinterest fail site. But we read up on homemade pretzel making and figured out what to do differently and easy peasy we had a delicious treat for this summer’s first ladies swim night. (What is a lady’s swim night? An evening moms and ladies eighteen and older bring a favorite finger food and beverage to my house and come float in the pool. It’s so fun and relaxing!)

We served them with both sweet (chocolate and caramel) dipping sauces as well as two different kinds of cheese sauces. I couldn’t choose a favorite…it was all good!

What you’ll need:
1/4 oz packet of dry yeast
1 TBS sugar
1 cup of warm water
1 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour 
4 TBS unsalted butter, divided
3 TBS baking soda
coarse salt
What you’ll do:
Mix the sugar and yeast together in a small bowl
Add in warm water and stir until the sugar completely dissolves
Put it aside and let it sit for 10 minutes
Mix the salt and flour together
Chop 2 TBS of butter into chunks and add to the salt and flour mixture.
Mix on low speed until it becomes coarse crumbles. 
Still on low speed slowly add in the yeast mixture just until combined.
Using your hands gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead until it is no longer sticky.
Place the dough into a bowl, cover, and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add in the baking soda.
Cutting off small pieces of dough roll it into about 1/2 inch thick ropes.
Cut the rope into bit size pieces.
Boil a few pieces at a time for about 30 to 45 seconds until puffy.
Remove from the boiling water and place on baking sheet.
Brush with melted butter and top with a sprinkle of coarse salt.
Repeat until all of the dough is used.
Bake on 350 degrees until golden brown, about 8 to 11 minutes.

The original recipe did a few things differently. Firstly, they left the dough in ropes and made sort of long pretzel sticks instead of bites. Secondly, they also had a second  20 minute rest before they boiled the dough.

Hope you enjoy!

Sundays With Sarah #3 ~ Roasted Root Vegetables With Tomatoes and Kale

Actually the post should be titled Sundays With Sarah That Happen On Saturday With Her Sisters.

But that seems rather cumbersome on top of a somewhat long recipe name, don’t you think?

It was the way it actually went down although for the life of me I can’t remember why we asked her to cook on Saturday instead of  Sunday but what I do remember is that she and her sisters were really loud and laughing a lot and there were carrot and parsnip peeling absolutely everywhere.

Sarah is no vegetarian, the girl loves her a good bacon cheeseburger, but she is quite happy to not eat a lot of meat. Rob however needed some protein so we paired her delicious veggies with chicken for a satisfying dinner. It was the first time we had ever eaten parsnips and rutabagas and we all really enjoyed them.

What you’ll need:
3 lbs of root vegetables, peeled and chopped  ~ Sarah used parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, and potatoes 
1/2 cups chopped onion
1 head of garlic, separated and peeled
6 TBS olive oil, divided
1 tsp kosher salt
1 heaping TBS tomato paste
1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 generous cups of green leafy vegetable ~ she used kale

What you’ll do:
Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix together all of the vegetables (except the onion) and garlic in a roasting pan.
Toss with 3 TBS olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt.
Roast for approximately 45 minutes, stirring half way through.
While the veggies are roasting heat the remaining 3 TBS of olive oil in a dutch oven or large sauce pan.
Saute the onions.
Add the tomato paste and cook for about one minute.
Using your hands tear the canned tomatoes into large pieces and add them to the pot.
Add the remaining liquid from the can.
Add your seasoning and simmer on low heat until your vegetables are done roasting.
Toss in the kale and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes
Stir in the root vegetables and serve!

Hey, did you know we made a Pinterest board to keep Sarah’s recipes organized and easy to find? We did and you can follow it here!

Sundays With Sarah 2 ~ Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

When I was growing up my Mother made Sunday dinner and we ate it after coming home from church. It was the traditional fried chicken or pot roast kind of fare (which I still dearly love) and that was it for the day. After that big ol’ lunch she didn’t cook again.

Even though we eat at church every week I have pretty much followed the tradition of letting Sunday be a whatever night. Which has worked out great since Sarah has started cooking on Sunday evenings. We love it. We’re spoiled by it. We’ve become accustomed to it. And she’s on spring break in the great Northwest having a grand old time and we’re eating eggs for dinner. I wish you could have seen the look on Em’s face when she realized we were on our own for dinner. I think she misses her big sister a little more than she was before. I know I am!

I still have a recipe to share from a previous dinner though. We love Brussels sprouts in our house and they are kind of a staple. On special occasions I will roast them with apples and bacon. They’re also a quick and tasty veggie for me to steam for lunch. Sarah’s dish roasts them with a balsamic reduction and brown sugar and there really just wasn’t enough. We all wanted more so I think we’ll be doing this recipe again. (The original recipe has a link to a reduction recipe Sarah made.)

What you’ll need:
1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut lengthwise
2 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup balsamic reduction glaze
1 TBS light brown sugar
What you’ll do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and salt and pepper until well coated.
Arrange sprouts on a foil covered baking sheet, cut side down.
Bake for about 18 minutes or until tops begin to brown.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and flip sprouts over.
Drizzle the balsamic reduction evenly over the sprouts.
Give each Brussels sprout a tiny pinch of brown sugar.
Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Keep a close eye on them so that they don’t over cook as the sugar will help with the caramelization.

Serve immediately and have seconds!

Remember my egg photographing obsession? I think Brussels sprouts are right up there too with their pretty shades of green and lovely textures.

Sundays With Sarah 1 ~ Blueberry Swirl Bread

I think I’ve mentioned before that Sarah has started spending a lot more time in the kitchen. It’s been fun watching her develop an interest in cooking and she is pretty daring in her exploits. It took me a long time to be brave enough to venture into bread making but it was one of her first endeavors.

She’s pretty fearless and we are reaping the benefits for sure. And you can too because I hope Sundays With Sarah will become a regular feature here on the blog. Another monthly post born out of her kitchen adventures will be Thursdays With Mary and Sarah. Once a month she gets with a friend and they cook for our families and the first meal was amazing! (Just wait until you see those recipes!)

But for today’s inaugural Sundays With Sarah post we’re sharing a delicious blueberry swirl bread. The original recipe called for cranberries but they’re out of season and we had plenty of frozen blueberries left from when we picked them last season so it was a quick and easy swap. She’s made this twice now and it’s been a big hit.

For the bread ~

What you’ll need:
1/3 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast (Just realized we used rapid rise and it was fine.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cup all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
What you’ll do:
In a small pot, heat the water, milk, and butter over medium heat until butter is melted.
Remove pot from heat and let the mixture cool.
While it is cooling mix together the sugar, yeast, salt, and 1 cup of the flour in a large bowl.
Pour the lukewarm liquid ingredients to your dry ingredients and mix on low speed.
Stir in remaining flour one cup at a time increasing the mixer speed slightly until a smooth dough is formed.
If the dough seems a little dry add a little olive oil or if it’s too wet add a little more flour.
Shape the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly greased bowl.
Cover and allow the dough to rise until double in size. (Usually takes about an hour.)

While your dough is rising you can make your blueberry filling.

What you’ll need:
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/4 cup water
1 TBS butter
1 TBS lemon juice
What you’ll do:
Combine the blueberries, brown sugar, corn starch, and water in a small pot.
Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 10 to 15 minutes.
(You may want to keep your pot covered as the blueberries may begin to burst.)
Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients and stir.
Allow mixture to cool.
Putting it all together ~
Punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface.
Roll the dough to a 10 x 20 inch rectangle. 
Spread the blueberry sauce to within 1/2 inch from the sides.
Starting with one of the shorter sides, tightly roll up the dough, pinching the edges closed.
Turn seam side down and with a sharp knife slice the full length of the bread down the center, end to end.
Braid the two strands and carefully move to a lightly greased 10 inch loaf pan.
(You will probably want an extra set of hands for this part!)
Cover and allow a second rise in a warm place, about 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is a golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.
Dust with powdered sugar and a few blueberries and enjoy!

We ate the first loaf while it was still warm and utterly delicious. We ate her second loaf the day after she baked it and it was still just as fantastic.


Test Kitchen 85 ~ Penne a la Vodka

My birthday was last week and we had an impromptu dinner party. It was quite the international affair with an Italian pasta dish made with Russian vodka paired with a delicious Spanish wine sangria.

In our house normal celebration procedure is the birthday person chooses the meal. But Sarah is, I’m learning, quite the adventurous cook and is willing to try any recipe that catches her eye so she asked if she could make my birthday dinner.  The pasta recipe came from her Audrey Hepburn cookbook and is really good. Really, really good.

What you’ll need:
1 small onion, finely chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
5 1/2 TBS unsalted butter
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup good quality Russian vodka
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
course sea salt
1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano*, grated
What you’ll do:
Saute the onion and red pepper flakes in the butter over medium heat.
Add the tomato puree and reduce heat to low, cooking for a few minutes.
Stir in vodka.
Cook down for 15 minutes and pour in the cream.
Add in the pasta and turn the heat to high.
Pan fry for one minute, making sure to toss pasta so it is evenly covered by sauce.
Sprinkle with the parmigiano-reggiano and serve.

I had never heard of this type of parmesan and was a little concerned that it was some kind of specialty hard to find cheese. Turns out that it is normal parmesan cheese only better. Shaped like a stick of butter, it is a little pricey but so worth it…dry and very flavorful and nothing like the powdery stuff sold no where near the dairy aisle. I am learning that while one may need to be economical one must also occasionally splurge on the good stuff. And surely a birthday feast is just such an occasion!