Twisty Bobcat Kinda Pretzel

Hello readers!  What's on today's menu?  I made pretzels last week for my dear, wonderful, picky-pants husband.  I constantly get this question at work when I bring in baked goods: "What about your husband?!  Didn't you want to save some of this for him?!" like I'm starving the poor boy, and smacking his hands away.

Oh contraire!

Just the opposite actually.  I have to beg him to try things!  He usually just greets my baked goods with a polite, "No, thank you."  I'm serious!  Know what he wants for his birthday every year?  Yellow cake and chocolate frosting, from a box and a plastic tub, respectively.  How's that for crazy?!

So I'm constantly on the prowl for a good recipe that just might interest him...and I found one!  Jeffrey LOVES soft pretzels.  I ran the idea by him a while ago, and he was really interested; he actually followed up once to see when I was going to make them!  If he sees a stand at the baseball game, or the mall, he'll usually get one.  So I decided to surprise him when he had to work late one night last week, and have him come home to a late night snack of delicious, salty, doughy, goodness.

While I was making them (somewhat terrified at good things in the past), I kept thinking of this scene from "Two Weeks Notice" with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant (hence the title of this post.  Sorry, Sandra gets a little cut off by the layout of the page).  It's really only the first 2:15 of this clip, but the whole movie is so great.  Classic rom-com.


So anyway, I've only really got two pics for you today.  Hopefully they'll leave you satisfied and wanting to make some pretzels of your own!  I really liked the end result, but I would probably get a little more creative and season them with other things besides just salt if I make them again.  This is the picky-pants part, naturally.  :) Jeff just prefers plain salted, which were still delicious.  These would be equally excellent with some rosemary and garlic, maybe some cinnamon and sugar?  The possibilities are endless!  They were surprisingly easy to make (remember?  I'm dough deficient), just a little time consuming.  I started mine late, at about 7:30PM, and they were done by 10PM.

And look how pretty they turned out!
They were wonderful, doughy, chewy, delicious!  Add a good spicy mustard, or maybe a little queso, and ohmigod heaven!  Plus, my kitchen smelled amazing!  Oh...and that husband of mine seemed to like them too.  Especially when he told me he had SIX (SIX!!!!) the next day when he brought them to work. Ha!  Let's call that a victory.

from Smitten Kitchen/Martha Stewart

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

Vegetable-oil cooking spray (I just used parchment paper...I'm a sucker for minimal clean-up...btw, my comments will be in bold down here)

1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions this means if your kitchen is like mine, and 1000*F and humid? extra 1/2 cup is needed); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic (extremely important to wrap the dough!  Otherwise it will dry out, and won't roll out easily).

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. [I find the pretzels much easier to roll on an unfloured board, oddly enough, but see what works for you.] Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.

So there you go! These are an excellent addition to my recipe box, and I'm excited to make them again with some different flavor combinations!

Just before I go, though, I would like to give a big shout-out to my AWESOME cousin Kim!  I came home yesterday to find this waiting for me in my mailbox:

How great is that?! 

Okay, enjoy your week everyone!  Coming up next, I'll be featuring a redo of our wedding cake for our 1 year anniversary this weekend.  Keep your eyes peeled!

Detour: Special Pasta

As you are aware, I occasionally (okay...once) like to feature a non-baked good on here because it's just so darn good I want to share it with the world!  If you've known me or my husband for more than a month or two, then you've heard about our "Special Pasta."  Just sitting here actually writing out "Special Pasta" makes me laugh, because it's so funny that we call it that.  We made it last night, though, and in light of our 1 year anniversary (of marriage) coming up in a little over a week, I thought it would be great to share it with all of you.  Let's start with a story...

Most of you know that I met my husband when we were in high school.  I was 14 and he was 17, and much to the chagrin of our parents (helloooo drama!) we fell for each other HARD.  I was a preppy kid in Gap jeans and cardigan sweaters, he was a metal head with spiky hair and scary chains.  We were both in marching band, and he was probably the most charming individual I had ever met.  The years that followed were filled with love notes, late night phone calls (BEFORE cell phones! We used calling cards! Ha!), and flower-filled lockers when he came home from college for a weekend.

Okay, okay, enough with the mush.  Where did the pasta come from?!

One year for Valentine's Day I went to OU to celebrate with him.  He decided that we were going to take over his crazy little apartment (everything was brick! The floor, the walls...seriously...EVERYTHING) and have a romantic dinner.  We went back and forth on what to make, and finally he settled on a Rachael Ray recipe for "Bacon and Egg Coal Miner's Pasta (aka Rigatoni alla Carbonara)."  We. loved. it.  We also changed the bejeesus out of it for two reasons:

1. Pancetta-Have you ever been to Athens, OH?  Great place for a Halloween Party, bad place to find out-of-the-norm foods.  When we inquired if the deli had pancetta at the local Kroger, we were asked, "Paynchetta? Is that sum kahnd of cheeese?" Mmmhmm.  We smiled, thanked her for her help, and got a package of center cut bacon.

2. Quantity-Being the true blue Americans that we are, we added the whole package of bacon, pretty much doubled the cheese, and upped the ante on the crushed red pepper. Mmmm...

So because "Bacon and Egg Coal Miner's Pasta: Rigatoni alla Carbonara" is kind of a mouthful, we just started calling it "That special pasta from Valentine's Day," which was eventually shortened to "Special Pasta."  Over the years we've made it for so many people, even our friends know what "Special Pasta" is!  So after countless requests for the recipe, I'm sharing it with you.  I sincerely hope you enjoy what has become our signature dish!

Special Pasta
adapted from Rachael Ray's Bacon and Egg Coal Miner's Pasta

  • 1 pkg center cut bacon (less fatty)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (yes...5.  Don't skimp. Bacon+garlic=heaven)
  • 1 lb rigatoni (any pasta will do, I actually really enjoy this with Farfalle as well)
  • 1/2 C grated parmesan cheese (buy the block of cheese and grate it yourself. SO much tastier! Cheese was not meant to come from a can, people)
  • 1 handful of flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C white wine (chicken stock only in a pinch, the wine is WAY better)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Fill large pot with water to boil for pasta
Have your loving husband slice the bacon into small strips (naturally, you can do this on your own, but this is one of those recipes that really works best with two people).  Heat a large pan with high sides on medium-high heat, add bacon.  Be sure to drain bacon fat from the pan with a large spoon as much as you can.  If you leave it, it will be greasy, and not-so-tasty.  Once the bacon starts to look halfway cooked, add pasta to your boiling water.  It's better to be a little late adding the pasta, than early.  When you add the pasta in the end, it should be very hot.

While husband is cooking the bacon, chop the parsley, grate the cheese, and stir together in a bowl with the egg yolks and black pepper.  Add a large spoonful of the boiling pasta water to the egg/cheese mixture and stir rapidly to temper the eggs.  Add water until it's creamy and easy to stir with a fork, but not too runny (this is usually about 3 spoonfuls for us...but it will depend on your spoon!).  Set aside.

When bacon is just starting to look crisp, add garlic and crushed red pepper and stir rapidly, (careful not to burn it!!!) until garlic is just softened.  Add white wine to the pan, and deglaze.  Be sure to scrape the pan to loosen tasty bits that may have been sticking.  When wine is reduced by half, turn off the heat. 

When pasta has finished cooking, drain in a colander (DO NOT RINSE-you want the pasta to stay starchy so the cheese mixture adheres to it), and transfer hot pasta into pan with bacon.  Toss to combine.  Finish by adding egg/cheese mixture and toss well until pasta is coated.

Serve in your favorite bowl, plate, or as we're fond of: the blate (bowl...plate...blate...get it? This one is from Williams Sonoma.  Thanks, Mom!).  Finish with a little grated parmesan, and devour.  This recipe can also be doubled, and devoured as leftovers.

I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty!

Hmmm...starting off a post with a Little Mermaid quote?  Looks like a recipe for awesome-ness to me!

I have been wanting to make these Blueberry Crumb Bars for over a month now, and it was just time!  Why did I wait a month?  Well, first I moved.  Then it got HOT.  We're rocking the a/c window units here in the new digs, so the idea of heating up the oven (and, therefore, my kitchen) was less than appealing to say the least.  It finally cooled down this week, after many days (weeks?) of 90+ degree days, so I decided today was the day!

I haven't tried them yet, since they're cooling as I write this, but I can tell you without a doubt that my house smells heavenly!!  There's nothing like blueberry, lemon, and butter to make your house smell all sorts of good!  These bars look so delicious, and they were beyond easy to make!  I was actually thinking while making them, "Gosh, these are so easy, I'm not sure I'll really have much to write about!"  Then I looked at what was in front of me and realized, "Wow...I'm using some things here that might not really be something that could be found in everyone's kitchen," so I had the idea to show you some of my kitchen gadgets, gizmos, and essentials.  Plus, I figure, in the days of Twitter, Facebook, and People magazine, everyone likes to be nosy nowadays!  So here we go (Not interested?  Just want the goods? Recipe's at the bottom!)...

1. Pastry Cutter- This is my newest kitchen gadget from Hill's Kitchen.  This can be used to make biscuits, pie crust, shortbread, etc.  I've been wanting one for a while (I'm dying to try my hand at homemade biscuits!) because even though all recipes that call for a pastry cutter say "or use two forks or knives to cut in butter..." I have had zero luck with that method.  This, however, was easy as pie (Oooh! Yesss. Haha, I crack myself up!).


2. Microplane & Citrus Reamer- Do me a favor: GO BUY THESE.  Oh, I'm sorry?  You say you have a "juicer" that works just fine?  You lie.  That little piece of wood will get every last bit of delicious juice from a lemon, orange, whatever.  I've never seen anything that works better (except maybe those crazy juicer contraptions at Jamba Juice).  And the microplane?  It's just money.  Works great for zesting lemons, and also grates parmesan cheese faster than the huge box grater that is now collecting dust on my shelf (makes less of a mess too!).
3. Kitchen Timer- Essential!  My mother tells me she doesn't bake because she always gets distracted and burns things.  Ever heard of the phrase, "Like mother like daughter?"  Yep.  I've burnt a thing or two in my day.  So I love my kitchen timer magnet.  Why?  It's loud enough to hear in my living room at the other end of the apartment, it is extremely obnoxious (a high pitched "beep-a-da-beep!"), and won't turn off until I press the button.  This is just common sense people!
4. Ikea flour and sugar jars- Know what I hate?  I hate those big bags of flour that never seem to open right, so they inevitably tear, and your counter tops get more flour than your baked goods!  Drives me bananas!  These jars were $5 each!  It's a no brainer.  If you're going to go buy some, keep in mind that they should be wide enough at the top to accomodate your measuring cups (this is important! For some reason the cutest ones have skinny little necks at the top.  Who does that?!).  These also have a seal under the lid, which I like.

5. Jewelry Dish- Confession time: I'm a sucker for those pottery painting places in strip malls.  Yep.  The ones with the little ceramic turtles and "I love you!" picture frames.  I'm always looking for an excuse to go in!  Well if you're looking for an excuse to paint some cheap unfinished pottery, here you go!  This dish is shaped like a flower, is painted by moi, and holds my rings while I bake, cook, and do dishes.  As a side note: how cute are my garlic jar and Ohio barn?!  Gotta love a little home state pride!
Okay.  So did you come here for a recipe or something?  My bad.  Let's move on to that for you!  Today's recipe is yet another gem from Smitten Kitchen, who got it from 
from, adapted from

Yield: I cut these into 36 smallish rectangles
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 10 to 15 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Honestly?  These were too easy!  They are so delicious too (they've cooled overnight, and as I'm finishing this post my coworkers are devouring them)!  I think if I were to change anything, I might add some toasted pecans to the crumbles on top next time.  It would be the perfect addition!  Also, the lemon in this is so essential.  The blueberry flavor really pops because of it!  While I wouldn't recommend cutting it out, you could probably use a small orange if you didn't have a lemon lying around, and it would be equally delicious.  Okay, so seriously...go make these!!!
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