Caramel Pretzels

22 Apr

OK, so it’s obvious from my few posts that I like food. Tonight is a short little how-to for some yummy, salty-sweet caramel pretzels!

What you need:
approx. 1 cup of pretzels (see note)
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
dinner plate or small cookie sheet
nonstick cooking spray or foil or wax paper

Spray the plate or cookie sheet with the spray or cover with a sheet of foil or wax paper. Spread the pretzels in a single layer, or just slightly overlapping. Now, in a small saucepan, over high heat, bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn the heat to medium. Set your timer for 5 minutes. Stir it constantly, or very close to it. Seriously, it will start to stick if you don’t. This is the only “hard” part about this: once the sugar has completely dissolved, and the caramel has turned a slightly more golden color, then STOP!! It can turn from perfect to burnt and disgusting in literally seconds. Mine takes from between 3-5 minutes. If you’re nervous, stop at 3 and it will still taste great, the sugar just may not be completely dissolved. Or go ahead for the full 5, just watch it closely so you don’t burn it. Once it’s done, take it off the heat, and pour it over the pretzels. Don’t take a bite yet, or you’ll just burn your tongue. Give it a few minutes. Or blow on them really, really hard. Either way, it’s worth it for that sweet and salty treat. And it takes all of, like, 6 minutes!!

Note: I used Pepperidge Farm Baked Naturals Pretzel Thins (Pack of 4) as my pretzels. They are fantastic. But you can obviously sub in regular pretzels.

P.S. I would’ve posted a pic, but they’re already gone. I didn’t really want to take the time to find the camera when the pretzels were begging to be eaten. I hope you understand.


Strawberry Fried Pies, or, The Deliciousness Contained Herein Might Simply Be Too Much for Some People

16 Apr

I’m the kind of person who, when I decide I want to make something, I figure out the easiest way to do it, and I do it. It’s not always the “right” way. I will usually look on the web for instructions, and might ask someone I know has done it. But if their way seems too complicated, and I can think of an easier way, then I’m going to do it that way. Yes, sometimes this ends up with things done not as well. Yet, this doesn’t usually bother me, if it gets the job done. And yes, sometimes I learn that there are certain things that must be done the “right” way. Mostly, I don’t like to be confined by a box of “this is how it has to be done”. If I want to try something that other people say won’t work, I’m just going to try it. And, oftentimes, it works fine, at least for me!

All this to say that I have been wanting to make fried pies for years, just like my Granny does. They were just kind of a mystery to me. She kind of explained it to me one time, in the way that Grannies explain something without really explaining it, since they’ve been doing it so long they never thought about HOW they were doing it, they just do it. So I looked up some recipes. Still, I wasn’t feeling it. I have to really want to make something before I get around to it.

This week, Mom told me that Granny used to use her biscuit dough to make the pies, before she found a different dough recipe she thought did better. I was like, “WHAT????” because I always thought you made them with more of a pie crust-type dough. So I said, “to heck with all this waiting, I’m making some fried pies!!!”

So here’s where my non-conformist ways come in. I had a pound of strawberries in the fridge, and I love the idea of strawberry pie. However, the only kind I ever see is the kind that’s either made with gooey canned filling or the kind that’s made by cooking the strawberries with cornstarch, which produces a similar product as the canned. Both of these gross me out. I don’t want my strawberries cooked, I want them fresh! So I decided I’m going to make my fried pies with fresh, sweetened strawberries. You know what? I was right, they are awesome!

It will take you a good 30-45 minutes, hands-on, to make all of these, but you’ll be glad you did. And so will your family or friends. Shall we?

Strawberry Fried Pies

pound of strawberries
1/2 cup (or to taste) sugar

2 cups all purpose flour
2 heaping teaspoons baking POWDER
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup milk

canola or other cooking oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Cut off the stem/crown of the strawberries and slice them in half, then into thirds (this is just how I did it. You can also chop them, or just slice them, whatever floats your boat). Here’s a pic of how I sliced them:

Set them aside to let the strawberries soak up the sugar.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together with a fork, then stir in the butter and milk and combine. This is easiest done with your hands (clean, of course…).

Now pour about 1/2 inch of oil into a 9-inch (or so) skillet and heat it on high for a couple of minutes, then turn it down to medium/medium-low. You can test if it’s ready by flicking some water into it and seeing if it sizzles. However, this is kind of dangerous, so do it at your own risk). If you have a candy or frying thermometer, you can heat it to 375 F. Mine was broken by a cute kid, so I just did the above.

While the oil is heating, prepare the pies. Tear off a ball about the size of a golf ball and roll it in your hands. Then roll it out onto a floured surface till it’s a circle about, oh, 5 or 6 inches across (can you tell I’m not into precision?). The circle won’t be perfect. That doesn’t matter. If you don’t have a rolling pin, just press it out with your hands.

Next, spoon some strawberries (which are now sweet and syrupy–try not to get too much syrup though, because it will leak out) into the center of the circle. Not too many, maybe 1/4 cup, because you are going to fold the circle over to make a half-moon shape.

Now fold it into the half-moon shape and press the edges together with your fingers. I read somewhere to use water along the edge before you close it to seal the edges. It didn’t work for me. Don’t waste your time. Now take a fork and press the tines along the curved edge to seal it better and to make it look all cute-like.

Before you fry the pies, get a plate and line it with a couple of layers of paper towels (I don’t buy paper towels, but I always save the extra napkins we don’t use at fast food restaurants, that would be thrown away otherwise, and keep them at home for just such an occasion!). You’ll transfer your pies to this, after they’re cooked, to drain.

Take a slotted turner/spatula and pick up the pie, then slide it gently into the hot oil. Fry for a few minutes, then check the bottom side to see that it’s a nice, golden brown (if it isn’t, keep frying and check after another minute or two). Flip it over for a couple minutes more till the other side is also golden brown. Transfer it to the paper towel-lined plate, and sift some powdered sugar over it, and it’s ready to make you its newest fan!

Now, I had an idea. Seeing as these are small, and kind of clutch-shaped, I think you could just carry one of these as your little handbag somewhere. Then you can just take little nibbles here and there, and no one would really notice. Of course, eventually people might notice the strawberry dribbles and the grease stains on your clothes, but until then, I think it could be a great thing. Just an idea.


2 Ingredient Dinner

27 Jan

We have discovered a yummy, filling dinner that only requires 2 ingredients. Yes, you can add other things, but our family is just as happy with this dish at its simplest. It’s just chicken thighs and lentils. It is so tasty on a cold, rainy night like tonight. I don’t have exact directions since we’ve done it slightly different every time, but it’s so easy that general directions should do for most people. So here goes:

Chicken Thighs and Lentils
5-6 boneless/skinless chicken thighs (can use bone-in but takes longer to cook)
2 cups lentils
salt and pepper, to taste

Put the chicken in a 3 qt. pot with about 3 cups of water and heat to boiling, then turn heat down to medium.

In another 3 qt. pot, bring 4 cups of water to boiling. Put the 2 cups of lentils in and let boil for 1 minute, stir, then remove from heat and cover for about 10 minutes, till saturated.

Check the chicken, and cook till the internal temperature is 165 F. It should start to fall apart at this point. Take two forks and pull apart the chicken into shreds. If there is a little extra water, just leave it. If there’s standing water, you might drain some out. Then mix the two together, season with salt and pepper, and you have a great cold-night dish!

Now, we did this in 2 pots, but originally it was for one pot, we just found it made our lentils too squishy. If you want to do it in only one pot, don’t add the lentils till after at least 5 or maybe 10 minutes, since they’ll be in simmering water, not off of the stove’s heat. Anyway, it’s very yummy, and very easy!

We ate it with a nice, crusty bread, which I make using the technique from this fabulous book, which I suggest everyone buy. You will not regret it!!!

Comfort Food

20 Jan

My Granny has always made chicken and dumplings for me. It has always been my favorite meal that she makes. She even made it for me for Thanksgiving one year during college when I spent the holiday with her. But, for some reason, I’ve never tried making it myself. So, tonight was the night. I got started a little late because a certain little man decided he couldn’t be put down. When I finally got him happy enough to free my hands for a few minutes, I got to work. I used this recipe. I did, however, substitute butter for shortening, and heavy cream for the buttermilk. Yummy.

Someone tried to get in on the goods too…but was unsuccessful:

He wouldn’t even look up at me for the picture. Feeling a little guilty, perhaps? Well, it wasn’t quite as good as my Granny’s, but it was pretty darn close. I think part of it is that granny love mixed in. But the mama love mixed into tonight’s bowls seemed good enough to fill some cute little tummies anyway.