Food Kryptonite: Pretzels

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Do you have a food that you love? I mean, absolutely, without a doubt, that you’d eat ANYTIME?

Every since I had my first bite in college, I have fallen head over heels for soft pretzels. They’re soft, warm, salty and go with just about anything.


Especially beer. Soft pretzels are a must as a side at any micro-brewery.

Not only are they great to eat, they are easy to make and therefore the perfect party dish. Buy a side of mustard or cheese sauce and you’re good to go.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
Olive oil, for bowl
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel or Kosher salt

    • Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with olive oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
    • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone mat. Set aside.
    • Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.
    • In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel or simply cut into 1″ pieces for pretzel bites. Place onto the parchment/silicone mat-lined half sheet pan.
    • Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Pretzel Bites

They made it about an hour at the party.


Red, White & Blue Blondies

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Red, White & Blue Blondies
Fourth of July can mean a lot of this to different people. Some love to veg for the day, others like to go on vacation. Fourth of July this year for me was to race.

Crossing the 4 Mile Finish Line

Growing up I didn’t always love running. In fact, I loathed the one mile run in P.E. It wasn’t until I started running in college to keep in shape that I started to enjoy it. After a few years of running I decided to run a marathon. Once I completed it, I was asked how I was going to celebrate.

With my favorite video game character, of course.

Sonic the Hedgehog tattoo

I loved playing Sonic the Hedgehog from the SEGA Genesis to the Nintendo GameCube growing up (Sonic Adventure 2 being my favorite of all time.) It’s safe to say the blue hedgehog and his friends kept close throughout my life and I know will continue to; hence the tattoo on my ankle.

He is also my motivator to not only run, but to run fast. It may take more effort, but do the results pay off.

Not only did I race, I won my age group as well as the previous age group. By a whole minute.

Race Medal

After the award ceremony, the boy and I cleaned up and went off to a Fourth of July BBQ. Feeling the need to bring something, I made my Red, White and Blue Blondies. They were a hit.

Yum - Red White & Blue Blondie

You can obviously make these any time of the year with any M&M color choice you want. Orange and brown for Halloween, blue for Hannakah, red and green for Christmas… To keep things patriotic, red and blue were my colors of choice.

Red, White & Blue M&Ms and White Chocolate
Good, better, best.

Red, White and Blue Blondies
1/2 cup butter, melted
1-1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup M & M’s, red and blue
1 cup white chocolate chips

3/4 extra cup white chocolate chips

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare a 13×9” pan by covering it in aluminum foil and then spraying both the bottoms and the edges inside the pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine your butter and sugars together until fluffy. If you have one, I recommend an electric mixer or a Kitchen Aid.
  • Add in one egg at a time with vanilla and mix until it appears all incorporated.
  • Pour and mix in flour and salt into your batter in three about-equal batches. This way it is easier to make sure everything is well blended. Who wants tons of flour in one bite? Not me.
  • Scrape off your electric mixer. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to add in your M&Ms and white chocolate chips. Mix until well combined.
  • Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top appears lightly golden brown and a tooth pick comes out clean. Your blondies should be soft, don’t keep them in the oven for too long.
  • Allow to cool before serving. And of course, enjoy.


  • Allow to cool before melting about 3/4 cup of white chocolate chips. If you’re using a microwave, I recommend putting it in for 30 seconds, mixing, and melting again for 30 seconds. Continue this process until it’s well melted (if you try to do this without mixing in between, your white chocolate can burn easily.)
  • Cut a sandwich sized plastic bag’s side tip off (the smaller, the better.) Once your white chocolate has melted, pour into the plastic bag and drizzle over the top of your blondies.
  • Once again, allow to cool before serving.

White Striped Blondies


Home Made Hamburger Helper

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Some things just taste like home.

About five years ago, I was introduced to Emilio’s by my oldest brother. I wasn’t exactly sure what to think, the dive was in a parking garage and had about four tables. After having an order of pancakes that one time, we made it a tradition to go every Saturday morning.

This happened for a few months until my oldest brother moved away. I still made an effort to go frequently with others, but it was never weekly like before.

And then they closed.

I was saddened after hearing the news and always dreamed of their pancakes afterward. So warm with the taste of cinnamon in every bite. Rosa’s warm welcome every time we came in. Emilio’s teasing ways.

And then, two years later, after I moved for work, I heard they re-opened.


You can bet I made the drive back there and it’s pretty much the same as I remembered it years ago. They’ve got a lot more table space, and a lot more customers as well. I visit every so often, and Rosa always comes out of the kitchen to greet me with my stack of warm, delicious pancakes.

Emilio's Pancakes

I’ve tried to recreate them several times on my own, but they’re never the same. Emilio won’t share his recipe either. What a guy.


Rosa, myself and Emilio. You can’t help but be reminded of someone…

Part of the taste must be the memories I have every time I go. Just like when I was a kid, I remember my dad made Hamburger Helper all the time for us to eat. Forget steak, the fun I had making dinner with my dad and arguing with my brothers at the table about important topics such as whether Digimon or Pokemon was better makes me smile every time I see a box at the grocery store.

After aging a few years and knowing the difference between food and chemicals, I’m a bit weary of boxed Hamburger Helper. After searching online for dinner ideas, I found this recipe.

And I love it. Just like home.

Hamburger Helper

Homemade Hamburger Helper
Serves 5
Recipe from Iowa Girl Eats

You’ll need…
1 lb lean ground beef
*Somewhere around 90/10. You don’t want it to be dry.
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup hot water
2 cups skim milk
1-1/2 cups bowtie or other pasta
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  • Brown ground beef in a skillet or pot over medium-high heat. If these’s a lot of grease (which there shouldn’t be), you can drain it. Return to skillet/pot.
  • Sprinkle evenly cornstarch, seasonings and add hot water, milk and pasta. Stir together until combined and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, place a lid on top and simmer for about 10 minutes (or until the pasta is cooked to your liking) while stirring frequently.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese until its melted. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Hamburger Helper

You can’t tell me this doesn’t look a winner.