Category Archives: Dips and Sauces

Blender Black Bean Hummus

 

As a food, hummus is enjoying more and more notice in North America. Long a staple of cuisines such as the Mediterranean, Egyptian, and Indian cultures, America has been slower to recognize its unique texture, taste, and health benefits. Luckily, this is changing as stores begin carrying national brands as well as their own store brands, and consumers are driving this change.

Hummus has a reputation as a ‘clean’ food, and it definitely deserves its healthy reputation. Each ingredient in hummus is a superfood in their own right: chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. All these items have fabulous health benefits. Unfortunately, ‘Big Food’ can manage to take all these good things and ruin it with additives, chemicals, sweeteners, and preservatives.

The great news is, hummus is super easy to make! And the even better news is that it is so easy to create new hummus flavors and recipes based on what you enjoy. For a plain classic hummus recipe, check out this post, and for a different take, read my Feta and Red Pepper Hummus recipe. On the future try-it list: Beet hummus & edamame hummus. Keep an eye out for those posts.

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In this recipe, I show how you don’t have to stick to the expected ‘chickpea’ for the protein and texture. Any old bean type will do honestly, so be creative. If chickpeas don’t do it for you, try lima beans, or black eyed peas. As long as it is in the legume family it should work out texture wise.

Using dried beans makes this recipe incredibly cheap, but you could use canned beans to skip the cooking step; just add straight to the blender. Also if you don’t want to buy a whole can of tahini, you can use any nut butter like peanut butter or almond butter. All tahini is, is roasted and blended sunflower seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rinsed black beans
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika

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Step 1: Rinse the black beans & make sure there are no rocks/dirt/debris. Place in a crock pot with enough water to cover, and cook on low for 4-6 hours, until beans are soft.

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Step 2: If using canned beans, start here with rinsing. Rinse the beans under cool water until it runs clear.

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Step 3: Add the beans to the blender, along with the spices, tahini, and lemon juice.

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Step 4:  Turn the blender on, and drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape down the sides as needed. Once it reaches the desired consistency, just put in a bowl and you’re done! If it’s too thick, you can add a little more oil or lemon juice, or even warm water, until it’s how you like.

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Once you have your homemade hummus, there are so many options for how to enjoy it! For a nice presentation, drizzle on a little more oil, and sprinkle with paprika. It is a delicious dip for cut fresh veggies, spread it on any kind of sandwiches and wraps, bake your own chips to dip, or use it on pizza like a sauce.

Hummus has tons of plant protein and filling fiber, just try to restrain yourself from eating the whole batch at once.

 

Blender Black Bean Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rinsed black beans
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika

Instructions

  1. Rinse the black beans & make sure there are no rocks/dirt/debris. Place in a crock pot with enough water to cover, and cook on low for 4-6 hours, until beans are soft.
  2. If using canned beans, start here with rinsing. Rinse the beans under cool water until it runs clear.
  3. Add the beans to the blender, along with the spices, tahini, and lemon juice.
  4. Turn the blender on, and drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape down the sides as needed. Once it reaches the desired consistence, just put in a bowl and you're done!
  5. If it's too thick, you can add a little more oil or lemon juice, or even warm water, until it's how you like.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegan/blender-black-bean-hummus/

 

Walmart Grocery To Go – Part 2

 

This is part two of my experience with the Walmart Grocery To Go service.

This second order was in anticipation of a birthday party. My boyfriend got lucky, our birthdays are exactly one day apart. No excuse for forgetting my birthday, ever.

So we were both at home in our respective states for the holidays, meaning we did not get to celebrate our birthdays together. We decided when we got back we would throw a joint party for all our friends to come hang out and tell stories of their holidays too. This would be the first time we all saw each other in about a month.

I had placed the order a few days ahead of time, and set the delivery for between 6-8PM on Thursday. We had dinner, watched a movie. It was 6:30… 7:30… 8… 8:30… 9. I called the customer service line to figure out what was going on. The representative was refreshingly helpful and kind, he really was awesome. If only all customer service was like this.

However, what he found out was that the location I had ordered from was running four hours behind, and no one could contact the driver of the delivery truck, though my order was apparently already loaded onto the truck.

My order might not be delivered until after 1am… do I still want it? Ummm… no! I’m not staying up way past midnight when I have to wake up the next day at 5:30AM for work.

So I thought he cancelled it, yet I still got a call from someone around 11, who left me a voicemail telling me the same thing, my order will be delivered around 1am, do I still want it?

No.

However, there were no delivery times available the next day, which was the planned day of the party. I could go pick up the order at the store after noon, did I want to do that?

No, thank you.

The whole point of delivery, is that it is delivered. I don’t have to drive a half hour and go into the store to pick it up then load it into my car, drive home, and unload it all.

Needless to say, I was frustrated.

However, three of the people we invited had other things happening that weekend anyways, so we moved the party date to the following weekend. Good news for Walmart I guess.

So I rescheduled the delivery. And as a bonus for having messed up, they increased my budget a little and gave me free delivery again. Something is better than nothing I suppose. Now the delivery was set for the following Thursday night, same time, 6-8PM.

Thankfully, this one showed up on time, right around 6:45.

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I had decided to go with an Asian theme for dinner. I stocked up on some stir-fry noodles, teriyaki sauce, fresh veggies and chicken, sweet & sour sauce, and egg rolls. I already have some chop sticks I bought forever ago, so I busted those out too.

There was one item out of stock (the bok choi for stir fry) and a substitution of Lays brand dip for the Walmart Great Value brand. That wasn’t a problem, because the substituted brand was actually more expensive, but they do not charge you the difference.

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Then for the “party” portion after dinner, I got several types of chips and French onion dip. A few cans of chickpeas and a can of tahini so that I can make my own hummus. Several party size bags of white cheddar popcorn (pretty sure the “white” part is crack. Cause for real, I can eat an entire bag in a day), and jelly beans.

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In terms of the rest of the party experience, I also decided to get some “Island Fresh” Febreze so my house smells pretty, as well as Suave clinical strength deodorant, so I smell pretty too! And bonus for those readers over 21, beer is an option on Walmart Grocery. Count me in for a 24-pack of the 16 oz cans of Budweiser. For after the party, I got a gigantic bottle of lemon scented Cascade, to make dish clean-up easy breezy.

On to the cooking!

Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry

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Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes Thai stir fry noodles
  • 2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
  • 1 cup julienned bell peppers
  • 2 cups broccoli/cauliflower
  • 1 cup shredded spinach
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 small bottle teriyaki sauce (or make your own)
  • 3-4 pounds chicken breast strips
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch or flour to thicken sauce
  • Sriracha or hot sauce, to taste
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil

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Step 1: Bring a pot of water to a boil, and boil your noodles 7-9 minutes. In a large frying pan or wok, heat the coconut oil. Add the peppers, broccoli, and/or cauliflower and cook 5-6 minutes, covered. Then add the spinach, cabbage, and any spices/hot sauce. Cook another few minutes, until all veggies are soft.

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Step 2: Either in a separate pan, or remove the veggies and keep warm, cook the chicken strips 8-10 minutes both sides, until no longer pink in the center. Pour on the terikayi sauce, heat to simmering. Add the cornstarch and whisk to combine. Cook until sauce thickens. Combine with veggies.

Step 3: Strain the noodles, and add to the pan. Mix everything well, and heat through.

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We had a lovely dinner together, sharing stories and catching up. The stir fry was a hit! The teriyaki sauce is delicious but thinner than I thought. I added some cornstarch to thicken it up and it worked like a charm.

Homemade Hummus

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Ingredients:

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, depending on taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons warm water
  • Dash of ground paprika for serving

Optional: black or red pepper, roasted red peppers, dill, cilantro, parsley, cooked edamame, roasted beets

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Step 1: Add the tahini and lemon juice to a food processor or blender, and blend on high for at least 1 minute, up to 10. According to this recipe from Inspired Taste, this makes all the difference in a smooth, store-bought-like consistency.

Step 2: Open the can of garbanzos, and put in a colander. Run cold water over them for several minutes to remove any toxins & excess sodium. If you wish, add to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes to soften them. Then add to the tahini paste and blend another 4-5 minutes.

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Step 3: Add the garlic cloves, olive oil, and sea salt to taste, along with any other desired ingredients. If you don’t have tahini, try peanut butter or almond butter. You can use whatever spices sound good to you. Roast some beets and add them for a shocking pink hummus or a cup of cooked edamame for a delicate green boost of protein and fiber. Get crazy!

Step 4: Blend everything well until the desired consistency, adding a few tbsp water if needed. Use a spatula to pour into a bowl, and garnish with some olive oil, a dash of paprika, and/or some fresh herbs. Enjoy alone, on sandwiches, or with fresh crudités.

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Several games were gifted to us during the holidays, one of which is always a huge hit at parties: Cards Against Humanity. With game-play much like Apples to Apples but with a much more… “mature” card content, our group of friends loved it.

If your friends (and you) like intricate games with a lot of thought and strategy, you might want to look into Betrayal at House on the Hill.  In this game, you are a band of brave explorers who find a haunted house. You go through the house discovering new rooms. Based on the rooms you find, different events can happen.

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At some point during the game, “the Haunting” is triggered. The game decides who becomes the Traitor, who must now try to accomplish their goal to the detriment of their former friends, whilst the Heroes now try to defeat them first.

With 50 different unique stories, and endless unpredictable variations, this game will keep us entertained for a long time to come!

One whole bag of the white cheddar popcorn disappeared within the first two hours, and the homemade hummus was way better than even the freshest deli purchased tub. No one commented on the Island scent, but no one said it smelled bad either, so that’s a win. And the lemon Cascade works great for clean dishes with no streaks, and just a hint of lemon scent.

All in all, this delivery was far more trouble and frustration, though it worked out in the end. If I had this planned for an event that actually happened the day it was planned and my delivery just didn’t show up until after midnight, I would be extremely displeased. They did try to make it right after the fact, but we are at 50% (one of two deliveries were positive experiences).

One more delivery remains, so stay tuned!

 

This post contains affiliate links.

Fresh garden salsa

 

Salsa is a beloved condiment in many cultures. The ingredients can vary widely, but basically always contains tomatoes and chilies of some sort. “Salsa” is the Spanish word for sauce, and may come in many forms such as pureed until smooth, a combination of smooth and chunky, or the uniformly diced pico de gallo.

Salsa can be wickedly spicy to light and fruity. See Wikipedia for a long list of salsa types. Basically any fresh fruit and/or vegetable, diced or blended, with or without fresh herbs, can be called a salsa.

Fresh salsa right out of the garden, just lightly diced, is my favorite kind. I like to see the chunks of what I’m eating in bright technicolor on my tortilla chip. This salsa is amazing on its own, or you could spoon it over fresh white fish fillets, onto tacos, or into a soup with rice, beans & diced chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry or pear tomatoes
  • 2-10 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Handful fresh chives, chopped
  • 4-5 tbsp lime juice, or juice of 2 fresh limes
  • Sea salt to taste

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Step 1: Dice up all your tomatoes and onions. This part takes a little time, but is well worth it. It is up to you how big to dice, or you can puree part of the tomatoes or all of them. Totally up to you.

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Step 2: In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, herbs, and lime juice. That’s really all there is to it!

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This salsa is wonderfully fresh and vibrantly colored. It is super healthy for you, so throw it into everything, or just eat spoonfuls!

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Fresh Herb Salt

 

This idea came from an old “Midwest Living” magazine article I read while on vacation. In it they had several tips for making fancy kitchen condiments at home. Why buy expensive infused olive oil when you can make it yourself? Don’t let excess herbs go to waste, make your own seasoned salt to use long after summer is set!

A friend of mine has an herb garden that includes basil, so I asked for a handful of leaves and she kindly complied. A few cloves of garlic and some pink Himalayan sea salt, and I had myself the makings of a tasty seasoning! Adjust the type of herb and amounts to suit your own tastes.

Ingredients:

  • About 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup sea salt, coarse

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Step 1: Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until leaves and garlic is finely ground.

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Step 2: Spread flat to dry for 1-3 days. The leaves and garlic have moisture which will cause clumps if you don’t do this step.

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Step 3: You can use as is, or grind the spices together one more time. Use a funnel to pour into a seal-able container.

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And that’s it! Now you have a unique, fresh herb salt to sprinkle on chicken or fish, mix into rice dishes, or use a dash on garden-fresh tomatoes. Change up the type of herb and other ingredients you use for endless possible combinations.

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Other ideas and recipes from the same magazine clipping. Can’t wait to try them all! They would all make a darling gift for someone if put into a cute little re-useable glass or plastic container with a bow.

Lean Green Guacamole

 

Not going to lie, I absolutely LOVE avocados. I think they make just about anything better, including all kinds of Mexican food, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and dips. Never would I turn down guacamole. Especially Chipotle’s… there’s magic in there, and maybe some crack.

So when I read a recipe on Sparkpeople for guacamole involving extra healthy green stuff, I had to try it out!

This recipe adds in the goodness of greens and cucumber to add extra vitamins and bulk. It also decreases how much fat you eat per serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • Garlic salt

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Step 1: Dice up your veggies, peel and pit the avocado. Use a knife to cut all the way around it, then twist to separate halves. Pull out the pit by running a spoon along it and then pop it out.

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Step 2: Combine in a blender all ingredients. Save 1/2 of one avocado if you like extra chunks, and wait to add diced onion if you like the crunch bites. I just blended all of it together into one creamy mess.

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Step 3: Try really hard to keep yourself from eating the whole bowl!

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This stuff is so delicious. I found it a little bit watery, probably because the cucumber I used was getting old. The cucumber does give it a bit of a fresher taste, so don’t be alarmed. Add as much lemon or lime juice as you like. You could use fresh garlic cloves in place of garlic salt if you have it.

If you follow the recipe from Sparkpeople exactly, here’s the Nutrition Info breakdown:

  • Servings Per Recipe: 8
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 76.4
  • Total Fat: 6.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 143.8 mg
  • Total Carbs: 4.7 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
  • Protein: 1.0 g

Sweetly Simple Barbeque Sauce

 

One of my favorite things about football season is the food. Delicious, greasy bar food with the occasional bit of healthy thrown in to pretend (I’m looking at you, those two celery sticks that come with five sides of ranch and bleu cheese and two dozen hot wings).

But not all of it is unhealthy, and one really great option to make healthier without much extra work is BBQ pulled pork. I’ve already written about how much I love crock pots and how to make pulled pork in one.

But you can take it one step further by making your own BBQ sauce. This lets you control how much sugar goes into it, along with everything else. This sauce can of course be used for anything which could use some sweet/spicy/smoky flavor. Feel free to mix it up to your own tastes, adding extra chiles or less sugar, whatever.

Ingredients:
1 cup ketchup
1 small can tomato sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp sriracha/hot sauce
1 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp Worchestershire

Step 1: Simply combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.
Step 2: Pour over/brush onto your grilled meat of choice.
You can use it as a dipping sauce, condiment, marinade…
If it’s too thin, add some flour or cornstarch to thicken it up. If it’s too thick, add some extra tomato sauce or vinegar to thin it out. The longer you let it mix, the more the flavors will meld. Store in the refrigerator up to a week.

Lemon Pollock with Olive Tapenade

 

Fish is healthy and delicious, especially white fish like Alaskan pollock, but it can be bland or boring. Some think this is a negative, but I see it as a huge perk. Fish is the perfect neutral, like a flattering beige sweater or couch. You can dress it up however you like, and it goes well with all types of spices, cooking styles, toppings, and side dishes.

Tapenade is a classical Provençal French dip slash topping. It has also been growing in popularity in other areas of the world, like Greece and the US. The base ingredient is olives. The rest of the ingredients vary by location and chef. Typically, capers, olive oil, garlic, and anchovy fillets are also involved. But there are plenty of variations in which you don’t need anchovy, or no olive oil. (I had sardines, not anchovy, so I used that instead. And it turned out fine.)

Ever since I bought a jar of pimiento and a jar of kalamata olives, I’ve been wanting to make olive tapenade. I finally put it on my meal plan, and made it with some white fish fillets. It was indeed everything I ever dreamed it would be!

It is an amazing topping for fish, but I imagine there are so many other possible uses. Spread on crusty bread slices, a condiment for a sandwich, in pasta like pesto, a dip for crudites, a stuffing for poultry, or as a salad dressing. The possibilities are endless! And it keeps for some time in the fridge, as long as you pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to preserve it. So make a big batch.

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Photo from Joyful Abode

Ingredients:

  • 3 white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • Salt + pepper
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes

Olive Tapenade

  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup olives, pits removed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 anchovy or sardine fillet
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice

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Step 1: In a frying pan, place the three fish fillets and cover with lemon juice & fish sauce. Cover with a lid and let cook for 5-7 minutes, then flip. When fish is fully white and flakes easily with a fork, it is ready. Season as desired.

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Step 2: While fish cooks, place olives in a blender or food processor. Meanwhile, boil the rice in 1 cup water and 1 can of diced tomatoes, not drained for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked.

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Step 3: Blend the olives. Add the garlic, sardine, lemon juice, and a few tbsp olive oil. Blend, adding extra juice or oil as needed to make it smooth.

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Step 4: Place a scoop of rice on a plate, add a fish fillet and a smear of the tapenade topping.

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I got a little creative with the plating. Which do you think looks best?

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The fish is tart and moist yet firm, and is a perfect canvas for the olive masterpiece. The level of saltiness will depend on which type of olive(s) you use, I had a combination of green pimiento and kalamata. You can omit the sardine or anchovy fillet if you don’t have it or don’t like it, but I think it adds an extra layer of “seafood” taste, and since they were packed in tomato paste they also added a subtle tomato flavor.

This is a great, healthy alternative to something like mayonnaise or hummus, with lower fat and carb content yet a huge hit of flavors. Take a walk on the Mediterranean side and try some tapenade today.

 

Pineapple Pancake Syrup

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While maple syrup is delightful, sometimes you feel a little bolder at breakfast time. When I get bored or simply want something unexpected, I make up my own syrups. Since I had a huge amount of leftover pineapple upside down cake and sweet potato pancakes from breakfast at Snooze in Denver (which could be a huge post in its own right, seriously GO THERE, it’s amazing), I decided to make a pineapple-y syrup to go with them. This would be a great syrup to make and have breakfast in bed for Valentine’s Day (or the Saturday following).
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Ingredients:
1/2 can pineapple chunks
1/4 cup pineapple juice from can
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice

Step 1: Put all ingredients into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer 5-20 minutes, until it thickens to your liking.

These were the sweet potato pancakes, so those got extra love: melted marshmallows!

Step 2: Pour over pancakes. Stuff yourself silly, and smile. I bet this would taste great over my Perfect Pancakes too.



What’s your favorite way to top pancakes?

 

Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels

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I’ve had a love affair with everything you can make homemade for quite some time now. From homemade oven-baked bread (that didn’t work very well… I need to try that again), to perfect pancakes, applesauce muffins, and even infused liquor, I love when I can take a few simple ingredients and make a whole lot of something I otherwise would have to buy at the store. Someday soon I will foray into making my own yogurt, bagels, kombucha, and sauerkraut too. 
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One thing I’ve had in the back of my mind to try was soft pretzels. They seemed like an easy enough task, though I wasn’t sure. History claims that a very long time ago, AD 610 according to TLC Cooking, a monk was frustrated with his class and had some leftover bread dough. He rolled the dough out into rolls and made the iconic pretzel shape to resemble hands crossed in prayer. Originally called “pretiola”, Latin for “little reward”, they were quickly re-named “brachiola” which means “little arms”. They reached Germany, where they became a huge hit and were known as bretzels. This translated in America to pretzels, and so the famous street/fair/and sports event food took its place in our history.
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So when I found on Sally’s Baking Addiction a 30 Minute Pretzel recipe, I knew I had to try it. However, my favorite soft pretzel is the Auntie Anne’s cinnamon raisin with glaze, so rather than a plain salt that’s what I was after. With a few tweaks, I was sure I could re-create that $6 treat for far less. This recipe ended up making 8 medium-sized pretzels. I’m sure you could cut it in half for one, or make smaller ones for young-uns. You can also omit the cinnamon and use less sugar and just roll in sea salt for regular soft pretzels and dip in mustard or cheese. In fact, I think I’ll need to make another batch of plain this weekend…
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Ingredients:
1.5 cups water
1 packet yeast
1 cup sugar or brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins
4 cups flour plus extra
2 eggs, beaten
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Step 1: Pour the yeast into 1 1/2 cups warm-ish water and stir. You don’t have to wait for anything to rise, just mix it well.
Step 2: Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. (Flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and raisins). Add in the yeasty water and mix with your hands. Add more flour if needed. Once you have a fairly rubbery dough, break off a fist-sized chunk and place on a floured surface.

Step 3: Roll the dough out into a long strand, then cross it over into the pretzel shape. I’m actually going to try making letters and other shapes next time.

The next step is optional. Rumor has it boiling in baking soda water gives pretzels that chewy texture and browned color. Boil 1 cup baking soda in 9-10 cups water. Dunk the pretzels, and let boil for 5 minutes, then dry on a rack before baking. **Oh wait… it said 30 seconds. That could explain a lot. Only leave them in the boiling soda water for 30 seconds if you do this step**

A little hint: putting a wooden spoon across the top of a pot keeps it from boiling over. At least up to a certain point.

My post-baking conclusion was that while the boiling did cause a different color and taste, I like the pretzels without the baking soda step better, so I won’t be doing that in the future. However feel free to experiment yourself, maybe the altitude has something to do with it… #ColoradoBakingProblems

Step 4: Beat the eggs in a flat bowl/plate and coat the pretzels fully.

Step 5: Brush on some butter and cinnamon/sugar if you want extra sweetness. Bake the pretzels at 425 for 10-15 minutes, until nicely browned. Make sure to watch for burning.

Step 6: To make the glaze, take 1 cup powdered sugar and mix in 2 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla flavoring, and 1-3 tbsp milk (depending on the consistency you want).

Drizzle the glaze over your pretzels and enjoy!

Warm and chewy right out of the oven, these pretzels were fantastic! Just as good, if not better, than anything I’ve had from a mall or baseball field. Will definitely be making these regularly, they are so easy and take less than a half hour total time.
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National Pretzel Day is April 26, so you have plenty of time to practice and perfect your favorite recipe!
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80% of all pretzels in the United States are made in Pennsylvania, where the hard pretzel originated. Unfortunately the Pretzel Museum in Philadelphia has closed, but they leave behind some fun facts:
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bullet Pretzels without salt are called baldies.

bullet An 1859 parade in New Orleans featured a float carrying a pretzel-baking machine.
bullet An average pretzel has 3.5 grams of fat and 260 calories.
bullet German kids wear pretzels around their neck for good luck on New Year’s. 
bullet Pretzels top some Christmas trees in Austria.
bulletA page in the prayer book used by Catharine of Cleves depicts St. Bartholomew surrounded by pretzels which were thought to bring good luck, prosperity and spiritual wholeness.
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For lots more fun facts on pretzels check out the TLC website.


What’s your favorite type of pretzel or topping?



Picnic favorite: 9-layer Taco Dip

 

I’m going to a park to play volleyball with some friends, and we will grill and have a picnic afterwards. Everyone brings something to share. I wanted to make something different from your typical hot dogs and chips type food, and anything taco-related is always a hit, so this is what I came up with. Since I already had the majority of ingredients, only needed to buy the lettuce and tomato, this was super cheap. Even if I had to re-buy everything, for a party of 10 or so people this is a cheap side/dip. It is nearly filling enough to count as a meal!

Ingredients.
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup taco seasoning
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz sour cream
1 can refried beans
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 ripe tomato
1/4 head of lettuce, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup sliced black olives

Step 1: Brown the ground beef in a skillet. While cooking, layer the cream cheese on the bottom of an 8×8 pan with a spoon.

Step 2: Spread the sour cream on top of the cream cheese. Now you have 2 layers of cheesy goodness to build your mexi-masterpiece on top of.

Step 3: Open the refried beans and mix it up in the can. You can heat this first, I just scooped it right out of the can and layered it on.

That’s 3 if you’re counting.

Step 3: Once beef is cooked, add the taco seasoning and 1/4 cup water and cook until the water boils off. The beef should now smell tangy and reminiscent of Taco Bell. Pour that over the beans and spread evenly.

Step 4: Add as much salsa as you like on top of the beef. I just put about 1/4 cup since I’m adding real tomato as well.

Step 5: Add a healthy handful of shredded cheddar or whatever type of cheese you like. We’re up to 6 layers now…

Step 6: Cut the lettuce into small strips and cover the cheese with crunchy green goodness.

Step 7: Dice up a big fresh red tomato into small chunks and add those on top.

Step 8: Sprinkle the sliced black olives on top to complete the pretty picture.

And there you have it, 9 layers of tasty chip-ready dip! You can of course omit any layers you don’t particularly like, and it’s also an option to toss this in the oven or microwave for a few minutes after the cheese layer to warm up the meat/beans/cheeses before topping with the fresh veggies if you like it warm.