February 15, 2016

Soft Pretzel Bites with Homemade Cheddar Cheese Sauce

So I am ALL about the food during the Super Bowl. I have absolutely ZERO interest in football and I really don't care much about the commercials anymore either. But when it comes to getting together with friends and eating good food, I'm all for it.

I pinned this recipe a while ago and it sounded like the perfect Super Bowl finger food. I am obsessed with homemade pretzels, as you can see here, here and here, so I knew I would love them.
They take a second to make and if you're pressed for time, I would suggest having someone help you roll the dough into ropes, but other than that it's a pretty easy recipe.
I really had fun making these and would definitely love to make them again. The cheese sauce was perfect, too, because you HAVE to have something to dip pretzel bites in, right??

Soft Pretzel Bites and Homemade Cheddar Cheese Sauce
1 and 1/2 cups warm water (lukewarm, no need to take temperature)
1 packet instant yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, previously melted and not scorching hot
3 3/4 - 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking soda
1 large egg, beaten
kosher salt for sprinkling

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a spoon until fairly mixed, about 1 minute. Some clusters of yeast may remain. Add salt, sugar, and melted butter; stir until fairly combined.
2. Slowly add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix with a wooden spoon (or dough hook attached to stand mixer) until dough is thick. Add 3/4 cup more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. If it is still sticky, add up to 1/4 cup more. Poke the dough with your finger - if it bounces back, it is ready to knead.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes and shape into a ball. Place in a large mixing bowl that has been lightly coated with nonstick spray. Cover and let the dough rest in a warm area for about 10 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease or line two large baking sheets with silicone baking mats. (DO NOT use parchment paper, the pretzels will stick to it.) Set aside.
5. With a sharp knife, cut ball of dough into 6 sections. Roll the dough into six 20-inch long ropes. Cut the rope into 1.5 inch pieces to make bites.
6. Boil 9 cups of water with the baking soda. Make sure it is rapidly boiling. Drop 8-10 pretzel bites into water and let sit for 20 seconds. Remove with a spatula and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Make sure the bites aren't touching.
7. Brush beaten egg over each pretzel bite. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake batches for 15 minutes each, or until golden brown.
8. Remove from oven and serve with cheese sauce. Pretzel bites remain fresh for up to 3 days in an airtight container, though they will lose some softness.

Homemade Cheddar Cheese Sauce
2 cups whole milk (no substitutions)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 - 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on heat preference)
salt + pepper to taste

1. Heat the milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until you see bubbles forming on the top.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the top, stirring constantly until a thick paste forms, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Slowly add the warm milk to the flour and butter paste in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. It should be thick but still pourable.
4. Add the cheese, whisking constantly until it is melted. Add the cayenne. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more cayenne, if preferred.
5. The sauce will thicken upon cooling. Store leftovers covered tightly in the refrigerator. Heat over stovetop or in the microwave before serving again.

February 12, 2016

Special K Candy

These gooey treats take me back to high school when my good friend used to make them all the time. They were always so addicting and I had never even made them until Super Bowl Sunday. And man, I think I might rename them "Special Occasion" candy because there's a reason they're so good. ;)
These are similar to Rice Krispie Treats in the fact that they call for marshmallows and butter, but that's about it. Basically, you make a caramely syrup with the addition of marshmallows that makes these treats out of this world!
 The Special K are perfect paired with the caramel sauce and these will be a definite hit at any party.
 Oh and I definitely suggest sharing!

Special K Candy
2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups of mini marshmallows or 24 large marshmallows (mini melt down easier)
1 tsp. vanilla
5-6 cups Special K cereal (depending on how gooey you want them)

1. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add white sugar, brown sugar and marshmallows, stirring occasionally, until ingredients are well combined and marshmallows are melted.
2. Add vanilla and cereal and stir to combine until cereal is well coated.

3. Scoop one large spoonful of candy at a time onto waxed paper. Let cool and serve.

February 10, 2016

Tomatillo Ranch Dressing (Costa Vida Copycat)

I have absolutely no idea why I took so long to make this copycat recipe! I'm calling it a Costa Vida copycat, Cafe Rio's rival, because it is less spicy and DEE-LICIOUS.

I honestly ate more sweet pork salads with tomatillo ranch in high school/college than one human should ever consume in a lifetime. And while I could probably do without their salad anytime soon, I will NEVER get sick of this dressing, or dip as I like to call it. ;)

This blender recipe was so easy and much simpler than I thought it would be. I was seriously scared away by the tomatillos. I thought they would be too hard to find and expensive, but they weren't. You can easily find them by the peppers in your grocery store.
This dressing is seriously dangerous and I will probably eat/drink the entire bottle of it myself. It's perfect on a salad, great to smother burritos and the best to dip chicken or really just about anything in. Mmmm, mmm.

Tomatillo Ranch Dressing (Costa Vida Copycat)
Adapted from Oh Sweet Basil
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tomatillo, husked and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
1 lime, juiced
1 cup milk
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (1 oz.) package ranch dressing seasoning

1. Place all the ingredients except the mayonnaise in a blender and blend until smooth. Whisk in the mayonnaise and store in the fridge in an airtight jar.

February 8, 2016

Banana-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This my friends is my new favorite cookie. And I'm not even exaggerating. I finally found it. And the funny thing is, it was the most unassuming recipe ever. I never would have thought these would be as good as they are.
These cookies are soft, fluffy, crunchy on the bottom, chocolatey, salty, have the perfect hint of banana and are downright awesome. As in, you really should always double the recipe because you can easily eat them all in one sitting.
And did I tell you how amazing they are fresh out of the oven?? Like the best in all the land. Good enough to make twice in one week even...just saying. ;)

Banana-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Slightly Adapted from Cooking Classy
Makes 2 Dozen
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups quick oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large banana. Be sure to measure.)
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon for 20 seconds, set aside.
3. Mash bananas together with lemon juice. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend together banana, butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. Mix in egg and vanilla extract.
4. With mixer on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold or mix in chocolate chips.
5. Scoop dough out using a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2-inches) and drop onto Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 12 minutes (they should still be slightly soft). Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

February 5, 2016

Baked Monte Cristo Sliders

For those of you who don't know what in the heck a Monte Cristo sandwich is, neither did I until Disneyland 2010. No I am not a regular at Disneyland or did I know anything about how amazing the food is, I just happened to order the Monte Cristo sandwich at the Cafe Orleans. And yes, it's ridiculously expensive.

Apparently, I thought it was pretty incredible because I rarely remember the food I order. Or maybe it was the fact that I ordered a savory sandwich that was dusted with powdered sugar and served with a side of raspberry preserves as a dip. Anyway, it doesn't really matter because I remember it was delicious.

And when I saw this recipe to make sliders, I knew I had to make them right away. In fact, I've made them twice in a short period of time because I love them so much. I honestly can't wait to serve them at a family party.
And yes, you sprinkle each slider with powdered sugar and dip it into raspberry jam. And yes, it will be one of the best things you've ever eaten. The end.

Baked Monte Cristo Sliders
Adapted from Creme de la Crumb
12 savory or sweet dinner rolls
12 slices of deli ham
12 slices of deli turkey (optional, ham alone works just fine)
12 slices of swiss cheese
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) butter, melted
1/2 egg (whisk 1 egg, measure in tablespoons and use half)
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar
raspberry preserves or jam

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. Slice rolls in half horizontally. Place bottom halves (side by side, touching) in your prepared baking pan. 
3. Distribute ham over the bottom half of the rolls. Next layer the turkey (if using), then swiss cheese. Top with the top halves of the rolls.
4. In a bowl, whisk together melted butter, egg, and dijon mustard. Pour mixture over rolls and use a pastry brush to spread over tops.
5. Cover loosely with greased foil (tent the foil so that it does not touch the tops of the rolls) and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes longer.
6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with raspberry preserves or jam.