Monday, April 30, 2012

Crispy Chicken & Scallion Waffle Sandwiches

Sickness has invaded my house.  It started late last week, and even now I'm anxiously waiting for my doctor's office phone line to open so I can make appointments.  I say this to let you know that I haven't forgotten about this recipe; not only have I been super distracted and under the weather, but I also needed more time to break this recipe down.  There's a LOT to this.

Yeah, when you're tired, hungry, and the kids are whining, it's a little overwhelming to bread chicken, wash goop off hands, pour batter into the waffle iron, keep an eye on frying chicken, try to not burn the waffles, while salting the freshly cooked chicken as soon as I pull it out.  I tried to make everything at once, hoping to speed up the process and get dinner on the table sooner.  Lesson learned.

BUT, don't freak out on me.  I want you to try this.  I'll give you some tips and tricks to make sure this is an easy meal to pull together, even after a long, hectic day.

Crispy Chicken & Scallion Waffle Sandwiches
Recipe adapted from Jeff Mauro

For the chicken:
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp granulated onion
1 lb boneless chicken tenders
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 heaping tsp paprika
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp ancho chile powder
3 large eggs

For the waffles:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup seltzer
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped scallions

1.  For the chicken: In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk, hot sauce, kosher salt, granulated garlic and granulated onion. Place the chicken into a re-sealable bag and pour the buttermilk marinade over the chicken. Marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, in the fridge. [Note: I strongly recommend overnight]
Simple, flavorful marinade

2.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and have 2 baking sheets with wire racks set inside. Preheat a waffle maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. In a large cast-iron skillet, bring about an inch of oil to 350 degrees F, give or take.  FYI, I did not keep track of the temperature.  I had the burner on about medium to medium-high heat.

3.  In a baking dish, add the flour and season it with the paprika and some salt and pepper. In another baking dish, add the panko and season it with the ancho chile powder and some salt and pepper. In another dish, beat the eggs.  [Note: the trick to seasoning a breading line-up is make sure you can SEE the seasoning.  As Jeff mentions on his show, "if you can't see it, you can't taste it."]
I have a 1/2 sharp, 1/2 sweet paprika.  Love it!!

Not all chile powders are spicy!  This one is very smokey and deep in flavor.

4.  Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing the excess buttermilk to drip off. Then dredge the chicken first in the flour, then in the eggs and finally coat the chicken in the panko.

5.  Fry the chicken in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, until each side of the chicken is golden brown and the interior reads 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the fried chicken to one of the prepared baking sheets and place into the warm oven to stay warm and crispy while you make the waffles.
Always, always, ALWAYS season as soon as it comes out of the fryer.

6.  For the waffles: Whisk the oil, vanilla and eggs in a medium bowl until combined. Add the buttermilk and seltzer.
Fairly basic waffle ingredients

7.  In another bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, table salt and baking soda to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Stir in the scallions.
I was conservative with my onions for Gavin. But add more if you like!

8.  Spray the waffle maker with some nonstick cooking spray. Pour the batter in the waffle iron and cook until golden. Set aside in a warm oven on the other prepared baking sheet until ready to serve.

Ok so first, I just want to say that These. Are. WONDERFUL.  Even my occasionally picky Gavin, whom I was sure was going to ask to eat his waffles separate from the chicken, ate a fully assembled sandwich.  Rob said at least twice that I could, at the very least, make the chicken again.  Gavin swiped two more waffles from the platter as I tried to clear the table.  I love dinners like this!!

But before you run off to the kitchen to check your fridge and pantry, I want to let you in on some things I learned from making this.  If you haven't figured it out already, there is a LOT to keep track of here!

Get Ahead/Make Your Life Easier Tips:
  • Follow the instructions exactly and focus on the chicken, then the waffles, keeping the finished food warm in the oven.  
  • Make the waffles ahead of time.  Pull them out of the waffle iron when they're just shy of that glorious brown and let cool.  Then crisp/brown/heat them up in the toaster later while the chicken is frying.
  • Bread the chicken ahead of time.  You could either freeze the breaded, uncooked chicken to make WAY later or just refrigerate until you're ready to fry them up.  
  • Do the waffles and bread the chicken and REALLY be on the ball for a fantastic post-long-day meal!
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

This Week's Menu

Looking out ahead at what the next week will bring!
  • Saturday: Burgers (I may sneak a healthier one in there too), baked potatoes, and tossed salad
  • Monday: Leftovers
  • Tuesday: NEW RECIPE! Chicken Rosemary with steamed green beans

 Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Plum Tart

I love plums.  Actually, I love most fruits but I really enjoy plums.  They're just such a nice sweet, tart, plump little package.  And they're purple!  One of my two favorite colors...

But it seems that my men don't share my love of plums.  I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I picked up a bunch at the store last week, but I did.  And they sat in the fruit bowl.  And sat. And sat.

So the other day I decided the lack of interest in the plums irritated me.  Enough that I grabbed them out of the bowl and said "Screw it. I'm making a tart!"

Now I'm wishing my boys would ignore fruit more often so I can tart them up like this!

Plum Tart
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup ground almonds
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
1 egg
2 lbs firm, ripe plums, pitted and cut into 6 wedges

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Don't have ground almonds?  Grind whatever nut you like in a blender or food processor.

2.  Combine the flour, almonds, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and the egg. Mix, either by hand with a pastry cutter or with an electric mixer, until crumbly.
Looks like wet sand

3.  Press 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture in an even layer into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch springform or tart pan. Arrange the plums in the pan to form a flower pattern; begin at the outside and work your way in.
So elegant and pretty!

4.  Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the plums. Bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it's lightly browned and the plum juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer the tart to a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
It was REALLY HARD to not eat this immediately

Oh, and for the record, Gavin has now declared his love for plums.  Both fresh and tarted ones.  Points for this mama!!
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mini Chicken & Broccoli Pot Pies

I've gone back and forth with myself over whether or not to post about this little experiment.  Not because of the flavor though!  Between the flaky crust, moist chicken, fresh broccoli and creamy cheese sauce, the taste was just amazing!  And they're so tiny and cute, they'd totally make any party more festive and fun.

My internal debate was over the assembly.  Rolling out pie crust and smushing into TINY muffin cups can get a little frazzling, especially at the end of a long day when you're tired and hungry.  But I realized that the good about these cuties FAR outweighs my Friday night annoyance over pie crust.

Mini Chicken & Broccoli Pot Pies
Recipe slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 small cooked chicken breast, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup meat)
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces, steamed in the microwave (about 2 ounces)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Two 10-inch round unfold-and-bake frozen pie crusts, thawed
1 large egg

1.  Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 24-count mini-muffin pan with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

2.  Melt the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 4-6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, Parmesan, chicken, and broccoli.
Thick, but not too thick

I could just eat the filling as is.

3.  On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8-inch thick. Using the 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 24 pieces of dough.  Combine the dough scraps and reroll as necessary.  Press the large rounds of dough into the bottom of the prepared pan, making sure the edges hang over the top of each cup. Using a cookie scoop OR a tablespoon, spoon the sauce into the pastry. Fold the edges of the dough up and around the filling.
Don't have a round cutter?  Use a drinking glass.

4.  Combine the egg and a small splash of water in a small bowl, using a fork. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg mixture. Bake until the edges are golden and the filling is bubbling, 17-20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.
I was inspired by The Pioneer Woman and went for the "rustic look"

Kieran was actually a major force in changing my mind about these.  Because I also made pizza puffs and popcorn for our Movie Night, there was plenty of food leftover.  That means I've had even more cute, nutritious little lunch options this week  for my growing baby boy.  And MAN he inhales these!

So I will be making these again.  But next time I'll assemble them ahead of time, when I'm more alert and have more energy, then bake them off in the evening while the family gathers to relax.  Sounds like a plan to me!
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

This Week's Menu

Just so you know, I may write down the different meals I want to make on specific days however I often will switch things around as the need arises.  Weather going to be cooler over the weekend than next week?  I'll make the soup Saturday instead of Wednesday.  Rob realizes that he has late running meetings on Tuesday?  Do the Italian Beef, which happens to be already made and chilling in my freezer, that night and save myself some meal-prep hassle.  Do we not eat quite as much food in the next few days as I expect?  I NEVER have any problem throwing in another Leftover Night!

Meal plans are supposed to be helpful and make your life easier.  And sometimes that means needing to be flexible when life gets particularly unpredictable.
  • Thursday: Leftovers

 Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Honey Chipotle Chicken Meatballs

I really love how simple, common ingredients can be combined into a flavorful and exciting dish.  And bonus points when most of those ingredients are PANTRY staples!!

Honey Chipotle Chicken Meatballs [I know I promised turkey meatballs, but I had a coupon for ground chicken instead]
Recipe adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures

1 lb ground chicken
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup honey
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeds removed* and finely chopped
1 tsp adobo sauce
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

*If you like more heat, leave the seeds in on one or both of the chiles

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Heat a large, oven proof skillet over medium-high heat.
Use up all your garlic on Greek Tacos? 1/8 tsp good garlic powder = 1 clove

2.  In a medium bowl, stir the onion, garlic, salt, and black pepper together then add the chicken to the bowl and use your hands to mix just until combined (do not overmix).  Using your hands, pat the chicken mixture into an even layer at the bottom of the bowl and score into four sections.  Roll three golf ball-sized meatballs from each section (total 12 meatballs).
These brown up quickly so don't walk away!

3.  In a small bowl, stir together the honey, chiles,sauce, and vinegar.
Sweet heat.

4.  Add the oil to the heating skillet. Once it is shimmering, add the meatballs. Cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Move the skillet to the oven and bake the meatballs for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the sauce over the meatballs. Bake for another 5 minutes (turning the meatballs in the sauce at the halfway point), or until the sauce has reduced to glaze the meatballs and the meatballs are cooked through, but not OVER cooked.  Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Gavin thought the red dots were cranberries.

I will go ahead and say that if you don't like much heat, you might want to use only one chile.  Even with the seeds removed, the glaze still packed some good spice to it.  I loved how the sweet honey flavor gave way to the smokey warmth. of the chiles.

You could serve these with anything: rice, pasta, potatoes... They cooked up SO FAST that all I had time to do was throw some scrubbed potatoes in the microwave and steam some frozen veggies.  Dinner on the table in 20 minutes!!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Risotto with Pesto and Peas

I have a thing for risotto.  I think it may have started shortly after our third anniversary.  Rob took me to this super nice restaurant and I had the most AMAZING roasted shallot risotto that I still daydream about almost six years later. *sigh*

Where was I?  Yeah, so I've tried to make risotto here and there; not too often because it does require quite a bit of attention as you ladle in the hot liquid and stir.  But sometimes I'm willing to make the time sacrifice because, dang it, my mouth wants the results!

This particular risotto recipe caught my eye for two reasons: 1) it calls for ham, which I knew I'd have plenty of after a certain recent holiday.  And 2) it also uses pesto, which I try to always have hanging around in my freezer because it's AWESOME.

Risotto with Pesto and Peas
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine

1-3 leeks (white and light green parts only), depending on their size, thinly sliced
6 cups water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup diced ham
1/2-3/4 cup pesto, depending on how much you like pesto
2 string cheese sticks, sliced*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

*I fully intended to use the shredded mozzarella I typically keep on-hand.  However I accidentally used it all up for Pizza Night so needed to get creative.  Thank God for the boys' snacks!

1.  Carefully rinse the leeks in cold water.  The best way I found is to fill a bowl with water and let the leek slices float in it for a while.  The sandy soil and grit will fall to the bottom of the bowl.
Sand and grit hide in ALL those layers.

Soak the leeks about 10 minutes, swishing a little to help the grit fall off.

2.  Make the broth: Bring the water and 1 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Adjust the heat to keep the broth at a gentle simmer.

My Observation: Honestly you could totally skip the broth part and use a good quality chicken or vegetable stock, and then some chopped green onions in lieu of the leeks. 

3.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, about 1 more minute.
Toast the rice a minute for a little deeper flavor

Slowly adding liquid as this cooks helps make risotto creamy and wonderful

4.  Add 2 cups of the hot leek broth to the rice; cook, stirring occasionally, until almost absorbed, about 6 minutes (adjust the heat to keep the risotto at a simmer). Add 1 more cup broth and cook, stirring, until almost absorbed, about 5 more minutes. Add the leeks, peas and 1 more cup broth and cook, stirring, until almost absorbed, about 5 more minutes. Taste the rice: If it is not fully cooked, add a little more broth and continue to cook, stirring, until al dente.

My Observation: If you are using only 1 large leek, be careful how much of it you add back into the risotto.  You want to add about a cup of the wilted leek slices back in so if you have more in the bowl, only add part of it back in.
It may taste bland; don't season yet!!  Taste again AFTER adding the ham and cheeses.

5.  Stir in the ham and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Remove from the heat; stir in the pesto and cheeses. Season with salt.
Hurray for leftover ham!

This turned out SO FREAKING GOOD!!!  It was creamy and lemony and a little bit salty and cheesy and just ohsoyummy.  I gave some Kieran too, because most everything in it was soft or cut into small pieces. He loved it SO MUCH that he got mad when his tray was empty and cried until I shared what was left of mine.

[Side Mommy Note: I didn't think until after dinner that pesto has nuts in it.  We watched Kieran very carefully for any kind of allergic reaction.  Had I remembered beforehand about the nuts I would not have given this to him.  So please be aware if you're thinking of sharing this with an under-2-year-old.]

Oh, and I have a confession to make.  I deliberately waited to eat some of the leftovers for lunch yesterday until after Kieran was down for a nap.  And nope, not ashamed.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

This Week's Menu

Struggling with what to make for your hungry family this week?  Here's a peek at my dinner table for this coming week...
  • Thursday: Fend for Yourself Night. In a few years, as my kids are able to make or assemble their own meals, this will make much more sense.  I plan these dinners whenever Rob or I are not going to be home for dinner.  This could mean leftovers if there are any.  If I'm on the ball and have a can of clams, I'd make linguine with clam sauce for myself.  Gavin will most likely have a PB&J.  Kieran will eyeball whatever we have and grunt his desperate pleas for it, which he can't have because Sweetheart Angel Baby still has no teeth.
  • Friday: Popcorn and Pizza 
  • Wednesday: Tonkatsu, spinach salad, and fresh whole wheat bread

 Happy eating!!
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Marinara Sauce

As we approach Garden Season, I have this maniacal intention of planting four different kinds of tomatoes in our tiny yard.  Plus green beans.  Plus herbs.  Oh and you can't forget about the raspberries.  Anyway, if all goes well, we should be DROWNING in tomatoes within a few months.  I'm sure when that time comes I'll question my sanity.  Until I reach that point though, I'm having fun and keeping my eye out for different tomato recipes.

Does it get any more tomato-y than marinara sauce?  Here's one that I can use one of my favorite ways to cook tomatoes, and I think this will be my new go-to sauce.

Marinara Sauce
Recipe adapted from my mom

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups tomatoes, seeded, peeled, and chopped, OR 1 (32oz) can Italian plum tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh basil OR 1 tsp-ish dried basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
6 oz red wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat; add oil.  Saute the onion and garlic until softened.

2.  Add the tomatoes and crush with a wooden spoon.  Add basil, salt, pepper, sugar, tomato paste, and red wine.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, covered.
The best part about sauces is not needing to measure exactly.

3.  Taste the sauce to adjust the seasonings if necessary.  Also, if you have someone in your family who doesn't care for visible tomato, onion, and/or garlic chunks in their sauce, you can puree it using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender at this time.
My finicky 4 year-old would not like the chunks.  Hello immersion blender!

4.  Add Parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly.  Simmer another 10 minutes.
Love that the cheese is mixed in.
I L.O.V.E.D the flavor of this sauce!!  And even though I blended this to get rid of the chunks (no way Gavin would have eaten it otherwise), it would be fantastic left as is with it's golden garlic disks and lovely onion strands.  In some ways, it tasted like a marinara I might get at the store, but with 1,000% more flavor!

Rest assured I'll be making this again, in spades, to can and enjoy all winter long!!  Not only is this yummy on simple pasta, this would be totally awesome in casseroles, as a pizza sauce or dip, or any way you like to use marinara sauce.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Layered Ice Cream Cake

Just so you know, this dessert takes a couple days to put together so please plan accordingly.


Layered Ice Cream Cake

Recipe from some magazine that I don't remember now

15 chocolate and cream sandwich cookies (such as Oreo)
1 tablespoon milk
8 to 9 ice cream sandwiches, depending on size
3 pints of your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt flavors
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed

1.  Coat bottom and side of a 9 or 10-inch round springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line side with waxed paper, using spray to help adhere to pan. Trim paper to height of pan.  Finely crush 12 of the cookies in a food processor. Add milk; pulse just until mixture holds together. Set aside.  
Since they're crushed up, I just used generic sandwich cookies

2.  Unwrap 4 ice cream sandwiches. Working quickly, cut each in quarters. Stack strips of sandwiches on end, packing them snugly together, around waxed-paper-lined pan. Repeat with remaining sandwiches to form a stand-up edge. Spoon cookie crumbs into center of pan; press firmly over bottom. Freeze at least 1 hour.  

I think it's the ice cream sandwiches that make this look so cool!

3.  Remove all 3 flavors of ice cream or frozen yogurt from freezer and let soften for 15 minutes at room temperature. Transfer each to small bowls and stir until good but firm spreading consistency.  Remove pan from freezer. Spread each flavor out in an even layer in whichever order sounds tasty to you. Top with thawed whipped topping, swirling top decoratively. Crush remaining 3 sandwich cookies and sprinkle over cake. Return to freezer; freeze overnight.

4.  To serve, remove side of pan, then waxed paper. Cut into wedges. 
I want a spoon RIGHT NOW

When you cut into this, you can see all the pretty layers of the different ice creams and whipped cream.  It's a Frozen Dessert Lover's idea of heaven!
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Monday, April 9, 2012

Pretzel Buns with Grilled Hot Dogs

Facebook conversation:

Me: Just remembered I committed to making pretzel buns today. Hmmm, suppose I should actually check out the recipe now.

Friend: Or just head over to Metro Market and pick up a dozen.

Me: Too easy. I need to see if they're really as easy to make as Food Network tells me they are. Plus if I can pull off pretzel buns, then I can try big, soft, chewy pretzels and completely kiss my waistline goodbye.

My friends, consider my waistline obliterated.  Because if I can make these so completely and utterly distracted as I was at the time, you can TOTALLY pull these off!

Pretzel Buns with Grilled Hot Dogs
Recipe from Jeff Mauro

1 cup milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 packet active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced or grated
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup bread flour
1/2 cup baking soda
Pretzel salt or coarse ground sea salt, for sprinkling
8 beef hot dogs

1.  In a small saucepan, heat the milk, 1/2 cup water, sugar and honey to 105 to 110 degrees F. Add to the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the water mixture and wait for at least 10 to 15 minutes until the yeast blooms.

My Observations: Be aware that 105-110 is just barely above body temperature.  So unless your 10 month-old is super fussy and refusing to nap like he totally should be doing, DON'T WALK AWAY.  If you overheat the milk, don't panic.  Just turn off the heat and let it cool off a bit.
No thermometer?  Use your own judgement.  If it feels warm, you're fine.

2.  In a separate saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and garlic and cook until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

3.  Combine the all-purpose flour and bread flour in a mixing bowl.

4.  Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the blooming yeast, and then add in the melted butter and garlic mixture. Mix on medium speed until the dough has come together and is smooth and elastic in texture and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes.

My Observations: Not having a fancy schmancy mixer with a dough hook is no excuse to avoid this recipe.  It just means we get to burn more calories as we use the "dough hooks" God gave us!

My dough hook

Keep kneading until it looks like this; sticky, but not totally clinging your hands anymore

5.  Line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and form into a ball. Cut into 4 equal pieces, and then cut those in half to form 8 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a ball and place onto a prepared baking sheet. Cover with a dish cloth and let them rest in a warm place for 12 to 15 minutes.
Cute little dough balls

6.  Once rested, lightly dust your work surface again and roll the balls into 7-inch logs. Place back onto the prepared baking sheet, cover, place back in the warm spot and let rest for an additional 30 minutes.
If you want hamburger buns, leave them as balls instead

7.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place one oven rack high and one low.

8.  In a large pot, bring 8 cups water to a boil, and then add the baking soda. In batches, place the dough in the water and cook for 30 seconds on each side.

My Observations: No picture of the water itself because apparently adding baking soda to boiling water causes the water to bubble VIOLENTLY.  It'll calm down but just stand back a little as you carefully add the baking soda.

Like bagels, boiling in seasoned water before baking creates that outer chewiness

9.  Using a slotted spatula, remove the logs and place onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle the logs with pretzel salt as they come out of the water, to ensure the salt sticks. Then cut 3 diagonal slits on top of the bread, not too deep.

Or you can misread the recipe and only do two slits. That's ok.

10.  Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, rotating between the top and bottom racks of the oven halfway through the cooking.
I could just snack on these as is.

I mentioned I was distracted when I made these... that may or may not have been an understatement.  My intention was to make these during Kieran's morning nap, as we had plans to be out later in the day.  Oh the best laid plans of mice and men, right?

Well, my morning didn't go as I wanted, but I thought "hey, I can adjust.  I'll just get these started during lunch and finish them off while the boys nap this afternoon."  You really can start laughing anytime now.  It's ok.  Lunch was hectic, as our earlier outing took longer.  And with the added stress of Gavin's sassy behavior, plus Kieran's crankiness from a growth spurt and teething, I was really getting frazzled.

And of course, on this day of all days, when I had something I NEEDED to accomplish and I DESPERATELY needed a break from my kids, my beloved boys randomly decided they were not tired and refused to nap.  That's right.  I measured, kneaded, boiled, and baked all to the tune of Kieran fussing about every 10-15 minutes.

But you know what?  The buns turned out REALLY REALLY GOOD.  They are soft and chewy, a little bit sweet initially, the way a pretzel should be, but toward the end of the bite there's this fantastic garlic taste.  AWESOME with the smokey, grilled hot dogs!  Add some fries and some kind of vegetable or fruit salad and you have truly spectacular summertime meal.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to go find some giant pretzel recipes to try.  I can feel my waist expanding already in anticipation.
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