January 29, 2014

Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites

I love soft pretzels.  They remind me of playing soccer, amusement parks, and movie theaters. I almost never turn down a soft pretzel.  Especially with nacho cheese sauce!

I decided to make soft pretzels at home, and they turned out so well.  They're soft and fluffy, with that delicious brown pretzel crust. The pretzels are a little time consuming to make, but they make a lot of bites and are perfect for sharing.

These soft pretzel bites would be perfect for a Superbowl party this weekend. They are best the day they're made, though you can totally freeze them once all the way cooked.  Just heat them back up in a 300 degree oven for 10ish minutes.

p.s. Don't store fully cooked pretzels in an airtight container--they'll get mushy.  Throw them in a paper bag, or better yet, just eat them all ;)

Soft Pretzel Bites
makes about 60 pretzel bites

1 ½ cup warm water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
4 ½ cups all purpose flour, plus more if needed

1 splash vegetable oil

3 quarts of water
¾ cup of baking soda

1 egg
1 tablespoon cold water
course sea salt

  1. Add warm water and yeast to bowl of stand mixer.  Stir together.
  2. Add brown sugar and butter to bowl and mix to combine.  Let stand for 5 minutes until yeast is foamy.
  3. Add flour and salt and mix on low.  Stop mixer and scrape down the sides. Mix on low until everything is combined.  If the dough is too wet add extra flour one tablespoon at a time.
  4. Turn mixer to medium and knead the dough for 3-4 minutes.  The dough should be smooth and shiny. 
  5. Splash some vegetable oil into a bowl and rub around to coat.
  6. Remove dough from mixer and knead into a ball.  Put in the oiled bowl and cover with a towel.  Set in a warm spot for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
  7. Bring the water to a bowl in a large pot.  Add the baking soda.
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into eight pieces. Keep four out and cover the other four with plastic wrap. 
  10. Roll the dough into long snakes about a half inch in diameter.  Cut the snakes into pieces about 1 inch long. 
  11. Add a few pretzels to the boiling water-as many that fit without getting crowded.  Boil for approximately  30 seconds stirring to keep pieces moving.  The pieces should puff up and turn slightly yellow. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula. Put pretzels on baking sheets.
  12. Beat egg and water together to make an egg wash.  Brush onto each pretzel top and sprinkle with coarse salt.
  13. Bake pretzels in oven for 15-18 minutes until they're golden brown.  You may need to rotate your baking sheet if they're cooking unevenly.
  14. Repeat steps 10-13 with other half of dough. 
  15. Remove from oven to a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Eat with your favorite mustard dip, nacho cheese, or all alone!
Pretzels adapted from Bobby Flay

Pretzel bites are delicious and easy to make.  There are a few steps involved, but you quickly get into a rhythm while making them. The pretzel bites are a great afternoon snack for kids,  while staying home and watching a movie, or during any big sporting event--especially the Superbowl. 

Do you have any favorite game day snacks?  What do you like to stuff your face with while cheering on your favorite team?

linked to Sweet Bella Roos

January 20, 2014

Hearty and Delicious Beef Stew

It is beef stew weather.  Cold and dreary, and all I want to eat is warm hearty soups and stews that warm me up as I'm eating them.

This beef stew sure fits the bill! The stew is delicious and meaty with a fragrant broth and lots of delicious chunks of veggies and beef.  The key to the deliciousness is the fond, the red wine, the thyme, oh it's just about everything.

While the stew isn't the fastest thing to make, the stew is great for reheating.  So make a big pot of beef stew on Sunday and eat it for dinner later in the week.  It also freezes well-so you can make some for now and keep some for later.

Hearty Beef Stew
adapted from the Kitchn

2 pounds beef stew meat
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup red wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken broth + additional if needed
3 carrots
2 cups diced waxy potatoes (red or gold work well)
1 cup frozen green beans
salt and pepper
red wine and Worcestershire sauce for finishing

  1. Check meat chunks for size.  You may need to cut any huge pieces in half so they're more bite size.
  2. Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat in a heavy bottom dutch oven or stock pot.
  3. In batches, brown meat chunks on sides.  Remove browned beef to a bowl.  You want a yummy brown fond to develop on the bottom of your pot--this is where lots of flavor comes from.  If you fond gets a little to brown (burned) at about a tablespoon of water to the bottom of the pan.
  4. After all meat is browned reduce heat to medium.
  5. Dice onion and celery.  Add an additional tablespoon of oil to pot if it dry.  Cook until onion is soft, 5-10 minutes. 
  6. Mince garlic and add to onions and celery.  Mix together, and cook for about 1 minute.
  7. Stir in tomato paste.  Cook for 30 seconds until tomato paste is soft and fragrant.
  8. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.  Stir everything together.
  9. Add 1 tablespoon of flour.  Stir into the onion-garlic mixture until flour is no longer visible.
  10. Deglaze the pot with ½ cup red wine.  As the wine bubbles use a wooden spoon to scrape the delicious fond off the bottom of the pot.  Cook and stir until wine has reduced and thickened. 
  11. Put the meat and any juices in the bowl back into the pot. 
  12. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and chicken broth.  Stir to combine.
  13. Bring pot to a simmer, then lower heat to low and put the lid on your pot.  You want the stew to gently simmer--low and slow. Cook for 1 ½ hours stirring occasionally. 
  14. Dice potatoes and carrots.  Add potatoes, carrots and green beans to stew.  Cook for 45-60 more minutes until potatoes and green beans are cooked through.
  15. Just before serving add a splash of red wine (optional) and another 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.  Stir in and serve!
Gosh this beef stew is so good!  We loved it served with hearty bread--it was actually my first time attempting Jim Lahey's no-knead bread.  Note to self--do not leave the bread after you take the lid off...

The stew is also great with red wine and a good book.  And don't forget--this freezes well!  Just portion into freezer bags and freeze flat.  This gives the stew a quick defrost time which is great for lunch!  

Do you have any favorite tips for making beef stew?  I love that this one uses chicken broth--which I always have on hand! 

January 8, 2014

Braised Beef Tacos

Braised Beef Tacos

What do you do when you have loads of braised beef left over?  You throw a bunch of spices in and make tacos! Because I love tacos!

Leftover Braised Beef

These are great with all sorts of toppings.  I had refried beans, cheese, avocado, and canned salsa from this summer.  The beef tacos would also be really good pico de gallo! Too bad it's the middle of the winter in Indiana so I can't get good fresh tomatoes.

Braised Beef Tacos

Braised Beef Tacos
author: Happy Food Happy Home
serves 4

1 tablespoon veggie oil
1 small onion
1 jalapeno
3 cups prepared braised beef
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin

tortilla shells
Toppings:  cheese, avocado, salsa or pico de gallo, beans, creme fraiche, lime etc.

  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  
  2. Slice the onion and add to the oil.  Cook until soft-5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Dice the jalapeno.  Add to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spices and toast for about 30 seconds.
  5. Throw in your braised beef.  Stir everything together and cook until everything is warm and toasty.
  6. Assemble your tacos!  I used soft tortilla shells, and lots of toppings.  

These tacos were a great re-working of the leftover braised beef.  We could only eat braised beef and pasta for so long.  I love how versatile the leftovers were, as well as how easy it is to customize the tacos.  Dustin and I can both eat what we want, and we can both be happy!

Topping covered braised beef tacos
This was mine--lots of toppings!
Do you try to transform leftovers?  What's your favorite thing to do with them?

January 2, 2014

Tomato and Red Wine Braised Beef with Balsamic Vinegar and Herbs

Tomato and Red Wine Braised Beef

Braising beef is like magic.  It goes into the oven big and tough, and comes out shredded and delicious.  I often call it 'melting'--but then people look at me weird.

And how it tastes!! The flavors meld together, the beef is tender and has absorbed all the fat, flavor, and juices.

Tomato and Red Wine Braised Beef with Balsamic Vinegar and Herbs

I made this beef for our New Year's Eve Dinner party.  It's perfect for feeding a crowd, and any leftovers you have can be turned into lots of other things! I'll have more ideas for using your braised beef later in the week.

Tomato and Red Wine Braised Beef

Because of the red wine and balsamic this beef leans towards and Italian flavor profile, so it's perfect for being served over pasta.  But the flavors don't scream, so you can serve it over polenta, or in sandwiches too.

Tomato and Red Wine Braised Beef with Herbs
author: Happy Food Happy Home
recipe adapted from Braised Beef from The Kitchn
serves 8-10

5-6 pound chuck roast
lots of salt and pepper
1-3 tablespoons veggie oil
2 large onions
10 cloves of garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 32 ounce can diced tomatoes
3 stems rosemary (about 2 tsp)
1 tsp dried thyme
2 cups red wine (I used 1 cup cabernet sauvignon and 1 cup of a blended bold red wine)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Prep your veggies.  Dice onions and chop garlic.   
  3. Cut your chuck roast into 4 pieces. Season with salt and pepper on all the sides of all the pieces.  Add lots of salt and pepper --there's a lot of meat to season. 
  4. Add 2 chunks of your roast to the dutch oven. Brown thoroughly on all sides--about 15 minutes for all sides. The meat's crust should be dark brown--this is what creates the flavor!  Remove the seared pieces to a plate.   Repeat with other 2 pieces.
  5. Turn the heat to low.  Add diced onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes until onions are softened.  
  6. Add tomatoes, rosemary and thyme to pot.  Increase heat to medium and bring the tomatoes to a simmer.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape any fond (brown yummy meat bits) off the bottom of the pot.  
  7. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  8. Add the wine and bring the pot back to a simmer.  Turn off the heat and add the balsamic vinegar.  
  9. Nestle the chunks of meat back down into the liquid.  Add the lid onto the pot and place into oven.
  10. Cook in oven for 4 hours.  Check halfway through.  You may need to readjust the chunks back into the liquid.  
  11. After 4 hours taste for tenderness and seasoning.  I added extra salt and pepper (probably 1/2 tsp each).  
  12. Use two forks to shred the meat.  Stir it all together combining the meat and the juices together. 
  13. Throw the pot of braised beef into your fridge overnight. This allows the flavors to come together, the meat to rest and reabsorb juices and fat, and gives you a pot of deliciousness to look forward to tomorrow. 
  14. An hour and a half before dinner heat your oven to 300 degrees.  Put your braised beef back into the oven.  Stir the meat about 30-40 minutes into the rewarming time.  
  15. Serve the braised beef over pasta, polenta, or mashed potatoes!  Feel free to grate Parmesan cheese over the top. 
We at our braised beef with rotini and a salad.  It was really really good, and Dustin and I both wanted to eat more! We made ourselves stop because we didn't want to scare our friends.  

Tomato and Red Wine Braised Beef with Balsamic Vinegar

The tomato and wine braised beef was a great dish to cook for a dinner party because everything was done and cleaned up 24 hours before our guests arrived.  It was a tasty make ahead dinner party meal.  And all of our friends loved it too!
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