Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pretzel Nuggets

One of the best things about malls is the pretzel shop. The smell permeates everything and it makes you crave one while you shop for unnecessary items. They are so soft, warm, buttery, and salty. Then you get the spicy cheese to dip them in and they are even more amazing. Sifting through recipes online I realized there are tons of recipes for these sinful twists. Having never made pretzels, I decided to start with this recipe for nuggets from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, a blog I frequent. I've used several recipes from her blog and you should probably spend some of your own time checking them out. These nuggets are practically perfection. The dough is easy to make, doesn't take much time to rise, is easy to handle, and produces the best texture for a pretzel. If you love pretzels and have an hour or so, you should probably try these out.

Time: 60-75 minutes
Yield: 3ish dozen depending on how big you cut them
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (fyi RapidRise is the same as instant)
1 cup warm water

1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 Tbs baking soda
Salt (coarse or Kosher is best)
3 Tbs butter, melted

Combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl of a stand mixer. If you don't have a stand mixer, this can be done by hand pretty easily with a wooden spoon and some hand kneading; it's very therapeutic.Give the powders a stir just to combine them.
This happened to be the yeast I had on hand but you can use an instant or RapidRise.
Getting it all together to meet.
 Add the warm water (I just blast the hot water on my tap) and mix it well. You might need to add extra flour to form a soft dough, but I never have had to. Knead it with a dough hook or by hand until your dough has formed and it is soft and not too sticky.
Knead for about 5 minutes.
 When your dough is ready, lightly flour it and stick it in a baggie that has room for the dough to expand.

Let the dough sit 30-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500F. You want it hot to help the nuggets get that beautiful golden color. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have them ready. If you don't have parchment paper, you should invest in some. Or just lightly grease the pans...I guess that works too.
Dump the dough out on a lightly-greased surface and stretch it out into 4 ropes of similar length and width.

I only have two because I only made half a recipe. The boy and I could eat a whole recipe, but we had already eaten dinner :)

Let the ropes sit for about 5 minutes. While they rest, dissolve the baking soda into the hot water. Use a bowl that the nuggets can be dipped into.
For this recipe I used too much baking soda so it didn't dissolve. That's why I suggest the cut in baking soda from the original recipe.

Cut the ropes into nuggets about 1" wide. I fail at cutting evenly so mine are never equal. It doesn't matter that much.You should get about 6-8 nuggets per rope.

Dip each nugget into the soda/water bath and place them on the prepared baking sheets. If you need to, re-stir the mixture between dips.

Sprinkle the tops with salt. As much or as little as you like. At this point I didn't have coarse salt...that has since been remedied!

Let the nuggets sit for about 10 minutes.'s finally time to bake!It's probably best to bake one sheet at a time, but if you have room in your oven, I would stick both pans in. I'm not always patient. Bake them for about 7-8 minutes or until they are nice and golden.

While they are baking, melt your butter. It's best to have it ready when the nuggets come out. Spread it all over them. If you have something against butter, you could skip this, but then I would have something against you. What kind of soft pretzel doesn't have butter?! Just do it!
That's it! Enjoy them as is, make some cheese dip, or skip the salt and roll them in cinnamon sugar. Do what you want, but you should make these regardless!

Look...they are glistening with butter....
Original post at

Monday, July 23, 2012

Zucchini Tots

I don't know a single person that dislikes tater tots. They are crunchy, salty, greasy, and comforting. However, tater tots are kind of a pain to make homemade and I'm sure they are awful for you.

Before I go any further, I want you all to know that these zucchini tots are in no way a substitution for good 'ol greasy tots. These are only a healthier, homemade alternative at the most. I found this recipe when looking for ways to use up zucchini. It is also all over pintrest. Who knew these tots (or bites) from The Curious Country Cook would be so delicious? They are very easy to make and don't take long at all. As for taste, they are kind of like a quiche with more of a tot texture, for lack of a better description. They are definitely worth making and there is a lot you could do to play with different flavor combinations.

Time: 25 minutes
Yields 12 mini muffins

1 egg
1/4 yellow or white onion, diced
1/4 cup cheese, grated (cheddar is my favorite)
1/4 cup bread crumbs (original post used Italian style, but I added my own herbs)
1 cup zucchini, grated 
Salt and pepper
Other wanted seasonings/spices

Preheat oven to 400 F and grease your mini muffin tin.
Start by beating the egg in a medium sized bowl. Add in the onion, cheese, and bread crumbs.

Wring the moisture out of your zucchini by sticking it in a towel and squeezing real hard. You could skip this step but then your tots wold be squishy and not as crispy.

Add the zucchini to your bowl of eggy cheese and bread crumbs.

Salt and pepper the mixture and add any other desired seasonings. I like garlic salt and cayenne pepper with cheddar cheese or garlic with Italian seasonings with parmesan cheese. Scoop the mixture into the mini muffin pans and squish it in.

Bake these morsels for about 18 minutes or until they are the desired browned and crispiness. Let them sit a couple minutes and then slide them out.

 These are good as a side dish, a snack, or even breakfast...any time really. Enjoy!

Original post at

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

 I love Farmer's Markets. I love people watching and seeing what is available to buy. Some days I come home with nothing but other days I come home loaded with tomatoes, potatoes, berries, peppers, herbs, and zucchini. I get home and wonder what I'm going to do with it all, but I figure that out later. I do have a couple quick fixes for zucchini. This recipe is one of them.

Growing up my mom often made zucchini brownies. That sounds odd, but they are really just chocolate brownies with tiny flecks of green. You don't really taste the zucchini..just chocolate. They are pretty good. So last year when I was looking for alternative baked goods involving zucchini, I cam across this recipe from Adam and Joanne at Inspired Taste. This bread is delicious! You don't taste the zucchini one bit and the texture is barely tampered with. It's moist, chocolatey, and sweet enough for dessert, but not too sweet for breakfast. It has a delightful cake texture and is just all around amazing. If you have extra zucchini lying around, grate it up and get ready for something amazing.

Time: 70 minutes
Makes 1 loaf or 18 muffins
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp instant coffee granules
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup grated zucchini
3/4 cup chocolate chips, opt

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly spray a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the oil and both sugars. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and coffee granules.
 In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt).
I thought it was kind of I snapped a picture.
Mix it up well
 Dump your shredded zucchini into the bowl with the dry ingredients. I had a 1/2 cup measure handy so I loaded it up and dumped it in.

Mix it up until all the zucchini is coated with the powders.

 Add the dry ingredients and zucchini into the wet ingredients in batches. Mix it until everything is moistened and combined. If you want to add chocolate chips, do that now.

Pour the batter into your pan and pop it in the oven. I didn't have a 9x5 pan so I used my slightly smaller pan and one mini-loaf pan.

Please ignore the cast iron pizza's been treated pretty roughly.
 Bake the cake...I mean bread...for about an hour. You should be able to stick a toothpick in it and have it come out clean. Set the loaf on a cooling rack and dump it out whenever you feel up to it. If you make muffins instead of a loaf, they only take about 20 minutes.

I forgot to take a picture of it sliced because I just wanted to eat it. So yummy! Next time I'm going to make it in muffin wrappers just for something different. If you do that though, remember it won't bake as long. Slice a chunk off and enjoy with a cold glass of milk!

Original recipe at

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oatmeal Coconut Chewies

As a kindergarten teacher, I acquire some odd things. I've collected small nick-knacks given to me by little hands, items left in cubbies, and various artifacts from the playground. Also, random food items; as part of the Christmas party, kindergarteners make candy trees instead of gingerbread houses. As the teacher, I request parents to send various candy items to school: white frosting, M&Ms, licorice, marshmallows, chocolate chips, coconut, etc. Kids get to frost pointy ice cream cones with green frosting and stick candy all over it. Of course, by the end students have mouths dyed by green frosting and they are hyped up from all the candy that didn't make it on the tree.

I had some extra coconut that I had no use for at school, so i brought it home to use. I didn't feel too bad doing this, because the kids really weren't that into coconut and it would be better used in my cabinets. So I come home and shove 3 bags of coconut in my cabinet, not having a clue what I should do with them. I scour the internet for different recipes and definitely found a few winners. Among them were these Oatmeal Coconut Chewies from Mel at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. These are tasty with an awesome chewy texture if you bake them just right. They come together quickly and are fantastic if you have coconut to use, like me!

Time: 10 min prep and 10 min for each tray you bake
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup softened butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup quick oats

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together both sugars, eggs, butter, and vanilla until it looks like this...
Pretty color for baking... :)

Dump in the baking powder, soda, salt, and flour and mix until it's all combined.
Finally, dump in the oatmeal and coconut and stir to combine.
It will be pretty thick, but mix it as well as you can.
Grease your cookies sheets or slap your parchment paper on there and drop the dough by tablespoons a couple inches apart. They will spread quite a bit so be sure to leave some space.
Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes. They should be just barely browned. If they brown too much they will be crispy and not chewy. In my picture below, I actually overbaked them slightly. Watch them carefully!
Let them cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes and place them on a cooling rack. These cookies are amazing especially if you just want something sweet, but not too sweet. Good stuff!

Original recipe at