Saturday, November 30, 2013


Among other things my daughter and I brought to a 2013 community Thanksgiving potluck was this appetizer.

Marinated  Mozzarella  Bites
Serves 8

¾ cup good-quality olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, oregano, and parsley
1 teaspoon black or rainbow peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Peel from half a lemon, thinly sliced
Splash of sherry, red wine, or balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
1 pound drained whole bocconcini, whole ciliegine, or other fresh mozzarella cut in large bite-sized pieces

1. Heat olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbling gently. Then remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
2. Stir in herbs, peppercorns, lemon slices, and bay leaves.
3. Add sherry, red wine, or vinegar. Add red pepper flakes. Add salt to taste
4. Put the mozzarella in an airtight container and pour the olive oil mixture over the cheese.
5. Refrigerate and allow to marinate up to two weeks but at least overnight. Stir occasionally if cheese is not completely covered by marinade.
6. Bring to room temperature before serving.

NOTE: Can be served alone or can be served on an antipasto platter with cured meats, marinated artichokes, roasted pepper, olives, and crusty bread. On you can put a chunk or ball of drained cheese between a cherry tomato and a pitted Kalamata olive on a toothpick for a beautiful and delicious appetizer.

Feta or goat cheese can be substituted for mozzarella. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wendy's Pumpkin Walnut Bread

'Tis the season! Made a half-recipe tonight. Turned out so well that I'm sorry I didn't have enough pumpkin in my pantry to make a full batch.

Making half a batch left me enough batter to make a couple of mini loaves in addition to a 9x5-inch loaf. Use your judgment. If you do find you have extra batter, you could bake it as muffins probably for 25 to 30 minutes.

Wendy’s  Pumpkin  Walnut  Bread
Serves 16

1 1 /2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 29-ounce can or 2 15-ounce cans pumpkin
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups water
4 large eggs
Zest of 2 oranges
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour

1. In large dry skillet, toast walnuts on stove over medium heat just until you can smell them.

2. In large bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, water, eggs, and orange zest. Stir until well-combined.

3. Stir baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves through small strainer into bowl. Add toasted walnuts. Stir until evenly distributed.

4. Add whole-wheat flour and stir just until combined.

5. Add all-purpose flour and stir just until combined.

6. Distribute batter between three greased 8x4-inch loaf pans or between two greased 9x5-inch loaf pans or between about 15 greased mini loaf pans.

7. Bake loaves in 350°F. oven for 60 to 75 minutes for larger loaves or about 35 minutes for mini loaves. Remove from oven when loaves pass toothpick test.

8. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before removing loaves from pans to rack to cool completely.

NOTE: If using lots of mini loaf pans, place them on baking sheet to ease handling.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Homemade Soft Pretzels

I thought I'd tell you:  I regularly participate in a couple monthly blog events.  

Taste & Create is a fun one, (created by my friend Nicole who passed the torch to me when she opened her own bakery/cafe in Germany), in which participants are randomly partnered up and tasked with creating a recipe from each other's blog.  (click the link above and email me at cowgirlmin07[at]gmail[dot]com if you'd like to join us!)

The Secret Recipe Club is interesting too, participants are assigned blogs and make recipes, but there are no partners, everyone is in sort of a daisy-chain of food.  (click on the logo at the bottom of this post to get on the list for this one)

This month, the blog I was assigned for Secret Recipe Club was:

I was initially tempted by Dee's various apple recipes...Apple Pie Swedish Pancakes led to Apple and Walnut Coffee Cake and Apple Skillet Pancake and
Apple Almond Crostata and...and...and...

Somehow, I ran across this recipe for a savory, spicy little treat called Jalapeño Three-Cheese Swirls.  And at that moment, I had chosen.  Or so I thought!

When I had gathered the ingredients and the time came to make the Jalapeño Swirls, I clicked over to Dee's pizza dough recipe, where I stumbled across THIS

I've been wanting to make Soft Pretzels for years, and never bit the bullet.  The Time Is NOW.

I was really intrigued with the sausage-wrapped pretzel option, but I'm all out of sausages of any sort.  Next time.  For now, I'm just going with a classic Soft Pretzel.  And I am SO EXCITED!!!

The dough is super easy to mix up.  The trickiest part is getting the pretzels OUT of the simmering water...I used a slotted spoon, but was wishing for a flatter utensil which must be down at the ranch!  Take it from me, tongs definitely do NOT work!  ;-)

The other tip I would add:  roll the pretzel "snakes" long and skinny, then form.  We shaped ours not taking into account the rising they would do, so they turned out more like rolls than a classic pretzel.  Not that I'm complaining!

For some reason our first pan also came out a lot lighter than Dee's...I baked the second pan a few minutes longer, and they browned right up.  I may actually prefer the lighter, softer pretzels as opposed to the crunch of the darker pretzels.  I think I'll need to keep making and eating more pretzels to "perfect" this recipe!  ;-)  Delicious with a dab of Dijon!  Can't wait to try them with sausage inside.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Recipe adapted from On The Move, via Growing Up Gabel

1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
12 cups water
¼ cup baking soda
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon water
Coarse salt, to taste

In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar.  Add 1 cup flour.  Add in oil and salt and 1 more cup of flour. Stir to combine.

Add enough flour to make a smooth, elastic dough, slightly tacky is fine. (At this point, I hadn't realized that the "enough flour" was about 2 3/4 cups, so I think I only used about 1 additional cup--it seemed to match the smooth, elastic, slightly tacky description...Fingers crossed!)  Knead dough a few times in the bowl.  Cover bowl and let dough rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees. Grease baking sheets. (I used parchment paper instead)

Bring the 12 cups of water to a boil in a large stock pot. SLOWLY add in baking soda (slowly to minimize foaming). Keep water simmering.

Gently punch down dough and divide in to 6 or 12 pieces (depending on size of pretzel you want).

Roll each piece of dough out to an 12-18″ rope. Shape in to pretzel shape and pinch ends to close up. OR, use a dough rope to wrap up a link or smaller piece of sausage, encasing it completely and pinching the ends to secure. Repeat with remaining dough and sausages.

Boil each pretzel for 10-15 seconds, making sure all sides are boiled.  Place pretzels on greased baking sheets, 1 inch apart.  Cover pretzels and let rest for 5 minutes.

Whisk together egg yolk and water and then brush on top of pretzels. Sprinkle salt on pretzels.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Secret Recipe Club

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Clam Chowder Darling

After a bad experience with restaurant clam chowder on Friday, I dug out a tried-and-true recipe for Monday's dinner at home. Here it is with thanks to Renny Darling and The Joy of Eating.

Clam  Chowder  Darling
Serves 4

8 strips of bacon, optional
4 medium-sized red potatoes, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter or bacon fat
2 small onions, very finely chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 6-ounce cans minced clams, undrained
2 cups bottled clam juice
1 teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup heavy cream at room temperature
1 cup regular whipping cream at room temperature
Salt and white pepper to taste
Parsley, snipped, for garnish

1. If using bacon, sauté bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Then transfer to a double thickness of paper towels to drain.

2. Boil chopped potatoes in water for about 4 minutes. Use 4- or 5-quart pan, but only use as much water as you need. When finished, drain potatoes and remove from pan. Wipe pan dry to use for next step.

3. Melt butter or bacon fat in the same pan used for the potatoes.

4. Sauté onions on medium heat until tender.

5. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes.

6. Crumble the cooked bacon into the pot. Also add undrained clams, clam juice, basil, thyme, heavy cream, regular cream, and cooked potatoes.

7. Bring to a gentle simmer. Gently simmer for about 10 minutes.

8. Season with salt and white pepper.

9. Serve hot with a bit of snipped parsley sprinkled on the top.
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