Soft Pretzels


Soft Pretzels is a recipe that I have wanted to make for quite a while but I was bit skeptical thinking that they may not turn out well being made at home. A few days ago on our way out the mall my son asked for a pretzel at Auntie Anne’s as he usually does. As we stood there I watched the guy cut the dough, shape and then cook it. I then had my husband ask him a ton of questions like “what is that stuff you dip the pretzel in before you cook it” and so on. After we left I felt pretty confident that maybe I could make them at home myself. So last night I gathered my tools and went to town.

Since the weather is cooler out now I was worried that my dough would not rise well so I  turned on the oven light and sit my dough which was covered with a damp towel (just like they did at Auntie Anne’s) and allowed the dough to rise, it was perfect and I could see the rise working almost immediately. The guy at Auntie Anne’s sure knew how to twist the pretzel though. He was flipping and doing all these moves and had a perfect pretzel in a few seconds. I on the other hand carefully shaped mine on my non-stick mat. Oh well, it looked better than it did in my head so I was happy. Eight minutes was the absolute perfect time allowing the pretzel to get that perfect crisp bottom and golden top. You can really add whatever topping that you may like at this point. I personally love the melted butter and sea salt mixture. I was out of sea salt so I just sprinkled on table salt and the taste was right on. These pretzels not only taste as good as the store bought kind they taste better. They were gone in no time making me wish I made more.

2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons hot water
2-1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda

melted butter, for topping
sea salt, for topping

1. In a small bowl add yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 3 tablespoons of hot water, allow to sit until frothy for 5 minutes.

2. In a large mixing bowl add flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar and oil, mix. Add yeast mixture and add a small amount of the 1/2 cup water a little at a time until a dough consistency forms. Knead well, about 5 minutes.

3. Cover dough with a damp towel and sit in a warm place and allow dough to double, about an hour.

4. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Place baking sheet with a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper in oven allowing to get hot. In a large bowl add water and baking soda, mix. Meanwhile, roll dough into long skinny ropes about 2 feet long and the size of your pinky. Form each piece into a pretzel shape, dip in baking soda water and place on baking sheet, 3 to 4 pretzels should fit on each batch. Cook each batch for 8 minutes until finished. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt.

Yields: 7 pretzels

Old-Fashioned Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies are considered a New England phenomenon and a Pennsylvania Amish tradition. A whoopie pie is like a sandwich, but made with two soft cookies with a fluffy white filling. Traditional whoopie pies are made with vegetable shortening, not butter. The original and most commonly made whoopie pie is chocolate. But cooks like to experiment, and today pumpkin whoopie pies are a favorite seasonal variation. The recipe for whoopie pies has its origins with the Amish, and in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, it is not uncommon to find roadside farm stands offering these desserts. Amish cooking is about old recipes that have fed families for generations, with no trendy or cross-cultural fusions or mixtures. These cake-like whoopie pies were considered a special treat because they were originally made from leftover batter. According to Amish legend, when children would find these treats in their lunch bags, they would shout "Whoopie!" 1/2 cup baking cocoa 1/2 cup hot water 1/2 cup shortening 1-1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup buttermilk FILLING: 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour Dash salt 1 cup milk 3/4 cup shortening 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1. In a small bowl, combine cocoa and water. Cool for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and cocoa mixture. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition. 2. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Flatten slightly with a spoon. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove to wire racks to cool. 3. In a small saucepan, combine flour and salt. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth; cook and stir over medium-high heat until thick, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate until completely cool. 4. In a small bowl, cream the shortening, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add milk mixture; beat for 7 minutes or until fluffy. Spread filling on half of the cookies; top with remaining cookies. Store in the refrigerator. Yields: 2 dozen recipe adapted from Taste of Home

Nasi Goreng

When my family and I visited Indonesia this summer we quickly were drawn to the countries famous dish Nasi Goreng in particular at the local eatery called Chicken Story which I swear we ate at almost daily. What I love about this dish is that you can use your leftovers to make it. I used leftover white rice and chicken for mine. I added some fresh ginger to my small food processor and grinded it up and I have to say that fresh ginger is a must in this recipe. The toppings of fried onions and cilantro bring this meal together. 4 cups cold basmati rice 2 eggs 6 tablespoons oil + more for onions 1/2 cup frozen peas 1/2 cup cooked, peeled shrimp 1 cup cooked, chicken, chopped dash red pepper flakes 1 tablespoon shrimp paste 2 garlic cloves, crushed 1 tablespoon freshly ground ginger 1 small onion, thinly sliced soy sauce, to taste cilantro for garnish 1. In a saute pan on medium heat add half of oil. Add eggs and a few drops of soy sauce, scramble. Add garlic and ginger, saute then add peas. Add rice, remaining oil and shrimp paste, mix well. Reduce heat to low. 2. Meanwhile, in a small pan on medium-high heat add a small amount of oil. Add onion slices and fry until golden. 2. Add shrimp, chicken and red pepper and soy sauce to taste, mix well. Cover and allow to thoroughly warm, about 5 minutes. 4. Place mixture on a serving dish and sprinkle fried onions and cilantro on top. Yields: 4 servings

Banana Pudding Bread

My husband is a huge fan of any sort of banana bread so I am constantly making it and trying to tweak the recipe to have a better recipe. In this recipe I discarded the usual walnuts and decided to add fresh qashta to have a pudding like yet still creamy taste and tea biscuits for a slight crunch. My goal was to make a banana pudding taste into the bread; the outcome was remarkable and had the banana pudding taste that I had hoped for. Make sure that the bananas that you use are over ripe for the perfect taste. You can also make homemade qashta if you do not have it readily available where you live or a small amount of pudding. Crushed cookies such as vanilla wafers can also easily replace the tea biscuits. 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 2 eggs 1/2 cup oil 3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed 1 (170 gram) can qashta 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 8 tea biscuits, crushed 1. Pre-heat oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan and sit aside. 2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, qashta and vanilla. Fold in tea biscuits. 3. Pour into a lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Yields: 1 loaf

Mouloukhiek

Mouloukhiek was an Arabic dish that I had heard a lot about but never had the pleasure of tasting. At all the grocers here in Saudi I have saw huge green stalks of the leafy green vegetable with tons of people grabbing them up. I thought that dish must be good if that many people are making it. I cannot say this is an actual eye pleasing dish myself as my first reaction was like ‘what is it’. But after I tried it I really loved everything about it and now see why it’s so popular throughout Arab countries. This is a bath my mother in law made and her recipe as well, she made a chicken version because I love chicken. Many people use lamb or a chicken and lamb mixture as well as rabbit. This dish is typically served with white rice and pita bread. 4 pounds fresh mouloukhiek, picked, cleaned and dried 1 large chicken, cut up salt, to taste 1 onion, chopped 8 garlic cloves, smashed 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 1 teaspoon ground coriander 2 tablespoons butter 1/4 cup lemon juice 5 cups chicken broth 1. In 4-quart saucepan add water and salt, add chicken. Bring to a full boil then reduce to low and cook until fully cooked. About 45 minutes. Shred chicken when finished. Cover and keep warm. Cut dried mouloukhiek up with a knife. 2. In another saucepan on medium heat add butter. Fry onions and garlic until tender. Add cilantro and coriander. Add mouloukhiek and lemon juice with chicken broth. 3. Bring to a full boil then reduce to low. Cover and allow to sit until ready to serve. Yields: 6 servings