Category Archives: Appetizers

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

Full disclosure: where I live, we haven’t had a snow day this winter. The only snow I even came into contact with was when we played with store bought snowballs at the Frozen birthday party I attended this weekend–while wearing flip flops. When the temperature dropped overnight and I had a teeny bit of ice to scrape off my windshield this morning I had to search my garage for an ice scraper. So I personally don’t need snow day activities. However, growing up in the Northeast US, we had plenty of snow days and I’m sure my mom was always looking for random things to keep me and my siblings occupied (and this was before the days of Pinterest. Gasp!).

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

But while weather hasn’t been a challenge for me this winter, my husband has been out of town for almost 6 weeks for work so I’ve still been trying to come up with creative ways to entertain my toddler son in the evenings and on weekends and one of my favorite ways to do that is in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake, he loves to eat and “help” in the kitchen. So we’ve made lots of smoothies, we’ve made flavored popcorn, we’ve made pizza from scratch, and my new favorite is soft pretzels.

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

For a while I was on a soft pretzel kick from the cafeteria at work. They’re not even all that good from there, but the crispy salty exterior with the soft chewy inside is definitely comforting. Homemade ones, though, especially when fresh out of the oven and brushed with melted butter, totally hit the spot. There are a number of ways to make baking these pretzels educational (in additional to delicious) for your kiddos too. Older kids can help with the measuring process while making the dough, lots of math skills there, or watching the yeast ferment (yay biology). My son is too young for those concepts, but we form the pretzels into various shapes and letters so he can practice his alphabet and shapes. He also loves topping them with salt or cinnamon sugar and brushing them with butter which are great fine motor skills practice for toddlers. In the end, we’re left with a tasty treat which makes everyone happy.

So warm up your insides with these easy and delicious Snow Day Soft Pretzels. (PS I was able to make these after work and still have pretzels ready to eat before bedtime).

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

______________________________

Snow Day Soft Pretzels (adapted from Baking Bread the Way Mom Taught me)

Yield: 16 pretzels

Ingredients:

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

1 1/2 tablespoons honey, divided

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups water, divided

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 tablespoon baking soda

Coarse salt and/or cinnamon sugar, for topping

Directions:

  1. Combine yeast, 1/2 tablespoon of honey, and lukewarm water in a small bowl. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
  2. Meanwhile, heat milk, 1/2 cup water, and 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan until hot. Transfer to a large mixing bowl (of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook if possible).
  3. To the mixing bowl, add the remaining honey, salt, and 1 cup of flour and blend thoroughly. Mix in the egg, then the yeast.
  4. Add in the baking powder and the rest of the flour, little by little, mixing with the dough hook after each addition. Continue kneading with the dough hook for 5-10 minutes until the dough forms a ball, and is smooth and no longer sticky.
  5. Place the oil in another mixing bowl. Coat the ball of dough in the oil, then set in the mixing bowl, cover with a towel, and set aside in a warm area to rise for 1 hour.
  6. After the dough has risen, punch down the dough then place into the refrigerator for 30 minutes (up to 2 hours).
  7. Place the baking soda and remaining 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and heat until the baking soda is dissolved (can omit this step but the toppings may stick less well)
  8. Remove from the refrigerator and divide into 16 pieces (can divide into fewer pieces for larger pretzels).
  9. Roll each piece of dough into a long snake then shape as desired, into a pretzel knot, alphabet letter, shape, etc.
  10. Dunk the pretzel into the baking soda/water mixture and if still hot, remove using a slotted spoon. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Top with coarse salt, cinnamon sugar, or any other desired toppings.
  11. Cover with a towel and let rise for 15 minutes while the oven is preheating to 400F.
  12. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  13. Brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Best enjoyed warm.

______________________________

 

What's Baking Badge

Advertisements

Slow Cooker BBQ Meatballs

What’s for dinner tonight AND tomorrow? How about Slow Cooker BBQ meatballs? Minimal effort for maximal flavor!

Slow Cooker BBQ Meatballs

We have some weeks that are really crazy. My husband and I can get really busy with working nearly opposite schedules leaving us with minimal time to cook thanks to a clingy toddler who wants to be held all the time and/or climbs up the oven door to check out what’s happening on the stovetop. (He is very familiar with the word “hot” but still loves to explore!) To avoid takeout or quick prepared freezer food every night, we try to do some cooking in advance to have food ready to go. Just pop in the microwave after work and 2 minutes later, dinner is served…

These tasty meatballs fit the bill. They’re great right from the slow cooker, reheat really nicely, and don’t take too much time to prep up front. I’ll give you our meatball recipe if you want to make them “from scratch” but you can totally sub in the already prepared meatballs from the freezer section of the supermarket and just make the quick and flavorful sauce if you really want to do things quick and easy. Aside from a simple dinner, they also make a nice appetizer at a party…though they’re a bit sticky so caution with white shirts and clean tablecloths!

To make the meatballs, combine ground beef (or turkey if you prefer) with panko bread crumbs, garlic, onion powder, black pepper, dried oregano, and some eggs to bind things together. Mix everything really well by hand. When my husband and I first starting dating he made me meatballs but didn’t do such a great job mixing things and hence, “variety pack” meatballs were born, since you never knew which variety you’d get in a bite…so to avoid “variety pack,” mix thoroughly. Form into meatballs. We got 75 small (about 1 inch in diameter) meatballs. Then pop in the oven for about 15 minutes until no longer pink inside.

For the sticky sweet sauce, in the crockpot combine the meatballs, honey, apricot jelly, your favorite barbecue sauce, and 3 tablespoons of your favorite grill spice. We use McCormick Smokehouse Maple because it is both sweet and smoky and imparts great flavor to the sauce. Then turn the slow cooker to high until the meatballs are hot. Our meatballs were cold at the beginning (since we made them the day before and refrigerated them overnight) so it took about 2 hours, but if you make the meatballs then put them in the sauce immediately, it’ll be even shorter. Once the meatballs are hot, turn the slow cooker to warm until ready to serve.

We’ve come back to this recipe again and again to have an easy and tasty meal prepped in advance allowing for quick dinners on crazy weeks!

bbq meatballs

______________________________

Slow Cooker BBQ Meatballs

Yield: 75 small meatballs

For the meatballs:

2.5 pounds ground beef

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 large eggs

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Combine the above ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly by hand. Form into meatballs approximately 1 inch in diameter (a heaping tablespoonful). Place into pyrex baking dishes.

3. Bake until no longer pink inside, approximately 15 minutes.

__________

For the sauce:

1/8 cup honey

1/8 cup apricot jelly or preserves

3 cups barbecue sauce

3 tablespoons grill seasoning (recommend McCormick Smokehouse Maple)

Directions:

Combine the meatballs and the above ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. Cook on high heat until the meatballs are hot, about 2 hours. Turn to warm until ready to serve.

______________________________

This recipe was featured at the Sunday Sharing Pinterest Party at Adventures with Jude!

Want more meatballs? Try Fajita Meatballs or Gingersnap Meatballs!

Healthy Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets are one of those foods that you hear about and often quickly dismiss as unhealthy “kid food.” I know McDonald’s is one of the first places that comes to mind when I think about them and I can’t even tell you the last time I graced the Golden Arches! However, parents, you all know that it can be tough to get your toddler to eat a healthy meal sometimes, especially a well balanced one with protein and veggies, that you will be satisfied to eat as well. My son LOVES fruit and will down a whole orange like nobody’s business then ask for “mo” (more, one of his most used words!) but we are still working on veggies! Generally I’d rather not be sneaky about feeding him veggies but sometimes you do what you have to do, right?

Healthy Chicken Nuggets

So I present to you Healthy Chicken Nuggets, mom and toddler approved. I am part of a wonderful Facebook group of women from around the world who “met” online because our babies were all due at the same time. I’ve been friends with them for nearly two years now and as a group, we are constantly talking and sharing what’s going on in our lives, with our littles, and learning how to be the best moms we can be. Of course feeding our kiddos comes up fairly regularly and one of the ladies shared this recipe as a favorite of her children. As soon as I read it I knew it would be something we’d have to try.

Healthy Chicken Nuggets

I love how it contains several vegetables and quinoa, plus chicken. And I know we are getting real chicken in this, because I ground it myself! The nuggets are baked but still crispy thanks to an outer coat of panko breadcrumbs and the flavors are delicious for grown-ups and children alike. The other great thing with this recipe is that it makes a ton of nuggets. I made very generously sized chicken nuggets and still ended up with 5 dozen! It’s so convenient to have my fridge stocked with leftovers for those busy nights after work or a quick lunch on weekends. I’ve been told they freeze well too, just freeze, uncooked, on a baking sheet. Once frozen, put them into plastic freezer bag or storage container and when you’re ready to eat them, take out just what you need and bake them as described below. How convenient is that?

Healthy Chicken Nuggets

My son gives these Healthy Chicken Nuggets his seal of approval! That’s all I need to know! We will definitely be making them again!

Healthy Chicken Nuggets

______________________________

Healthy Chicken Nuggets

Yield: 5 dozen large nuggets

1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled

2 small zucchinis

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 of a yellow onion

2 carrots, peeled

3 cloves garlic

1/2 of a green bell pepper

1 egg

1 tablespoon dried basil

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

3-4 cups panko bread crumbs

nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

1. Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions. [Generally will need to combine 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes until the water is absorbed.] Let cool.

2. In the bowl of your food processor with the grater attachment, grate the zucchinis. Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and cook the grated zucchini for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.

3. Continuing with the grater attachment, grate the onion and carrots. Then switch to the chopping blade and add the garlic, bell pepper, egg, basil, chicken thighs, Worcestershire sauce, and cooled quinoa. The bowl of the food processor will likely start to get full so remove some of the mixture to a bowl once it’s combined, then process the rest until it is all the same consistency and generally the same composition. If it is too loose add another egg.

4. Preheat the oven to 425F. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Form the chicken mixture into nuggets of desired size. Coat each nugget with breadcrumbs, then place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray.

5. The baking time depends on the nugget size, approximately 10-18 minutes. When done, the nuggets will be slightly browned and cooked all the way through.

Per nugget: 61 calories, 2 grams fat (calculated from myfitnesspal.com; all nutrition information is approximate)

______________________________

Garlic Edamame

Have you ever gone to an Asian restaurant and enjoyed steamed edamame (soy beans) as an appetizer? They’re generally served still in pods and are delicious when lightly salted and a healthier alternative to fried eggrolls and such. It’s easy to get the same effect at home, just boil the edamame pods for about 10 minutes, lightly sprinkle with salt and that’s it. Use your teeth to get the individual edamames out from the pods. I’m not sure if the pods are really edible but they impart a lovely salted flavor when eaten like this. Edamame also make a tasty appetizer or side dish when entertaining. Serve them family style, and make sure to have extra empty bowls for people to deposit their empty edamame pods. You can even serve them alongside your chips and salsa and wings for game day.

Garlic Edamame

In exploring my Hawaiian cookbooks, I came across this recipe for Garlic Edamame and immediately knew it would be on my menu for the week. I love edamame and I really really love garlic and needed a side for the Pineapple Curry Stir Fry meal. So Garlic Edamame it was.

The soy beans are cooked in pods in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes as I described above, then drained. In the meantime, I prepared a compound butter, which is just butter with other added ingredients to provide extra flavor. I used a stick of butter and combined it with a healthy dose of garlic, some minced shallot, a touch of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, some lemon juice, and a pinch of dried parsley. If your butter is at room temperature it will be easier to combine. Use your hands to get all the flavors melded, if you need to…that’s what I had to do since my butter was a little cold and the paddle attachment for my mixer was in the sink.

Then I melted the compound butter in a large wok over medium heat, and added olive oil and even more garlic, sauteeing the garlic until it began to brown slightly. I tossed the cooked soy beans into the lovely garlicky sauce and finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Despite the quantity of garlic in this recipe, it wasn’t overwhelming at all. My husband, who does not favor garlic quite as much as I do (sorry, honey) enjoyed them with me, but you can definitely cut back on the garlic a bit if you’re not a fan. Try edamame for a game day snack, an appetizer at your next dinner party, or as a side with dinner and take it to a new level with Garlic Edamame. Make sure to share it with someone you love.

Garlic Edamame

______________________________

Garlic Edamame (adapted from Star Advertiser By Request 2)

2 pounds frozen soy beans (edamame) in pods

salt, for the boiling water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

8-9 cloves garlic, minced, divided (can reduce amount if desired)

1 teaspoon minced shallot

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more to taste

pinch of dried parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

1. Boil the edamame pods in well-salted water for about 10 minutes. Drain.

2. Prepare the compound butter by combining the butter, 1 tablespoon of the minced garlic, shallot, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of parsley in a bowl until the butter is slightly softened and all the ingredients are mixed evenly.

3. Melt the butter in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the remaining minced garlic and saute until the garlic starts to lightly brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the edamame. Toss to coat with the butter sauce. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

______________________________

%d bloggers like this: