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Cheddar-Filled Soft Pretzel Rolls
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Cheddar-Filled Soft Pretzel Rolls

By now, you guys know how much I love soft pretzels.  Is it not obvious?  So last winter, I set out to make a less dense version into some pretzel rolls; rolls that would be the perfect soup dipper or even better as the vessel for a great sandwich or burger.  They turned out pretty good but too pretzel-y.  Does that make sense?

Cheddar-Filled Soft Pretzel Rolls

These pretzels rolls though…oh.mah.gah.  After my two not-so-successful attempts of tweaking other recipes last year, I came across this one last week and jumped all over it this past weekend.  There was nothing about this recipe I would have changed.  Seriously, these pretzel rolls are everything they should be – soft and chewy, with a crumb that resembles an outstanding dinner roll and that distinctive slightly crusty pretzel shell when you bite into it.

Cheddar-Filled Soft Pretzel Rolls

Cheddar-Filled Soft Pretzel Rolls

The process to make these rolls is the same as for regular soft pretzels with a quick boil and bake but I filled the dough balls with some cheddar before boiling them.  It was a simple addition that sort of took the rolls over the top – how could bubbly cheese oozing from freshly baked pretzel rolls ever be considered a bad thing?  Nope.  Never.

Cheddar-Filled Soft Pretzel Rolls

Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 16 pretzel rolls

Feel free to use whatever type of cheese you want here or leave it out altogether and make regular pretzel rolls. To take these rolls completely over the top, add a few pieces of crumbled crisp bacon along with the cheese inside the rolls.

Ingredients

    For the dough:
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups warm milk (about 100-110° F)
  • 1 ½ cups warm water (about 100-110° F)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 6 ½ - 8 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • For the filling, water bath, and extras:
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cut into sixteen ½-ounce pieces
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Mix the yeast, oil, milk, and water together in a very large bowl. Stir in the salt and 2 cups of the flour with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Mix in another 4 ½ cups until a soft dough forms. If the dough seems more like a thick batter, gradually stir in more flour by the half-cup up to a total of 8 ½ cups, until a soft dough forms. You may not need this much flour so use the range offered here as loose estimate.
  2. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough with your hands for 3-4 minutes, until it is smooth and just slightly tacky. Transfer the dough ball to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot for 1 ½ to 2 hours until doubled in size.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Light grease the paper or lightly spray it with cooking spray.
  4. Divide the dough on a work surface into 16 equal-sized pieces, lightly flatten each piece with your fingers, place a piece of cheese in the center, and wrap the dough up around the cheese. On the work surface, gently roll each piece into a ball. I find it easiest to roll the dough into balls on an un-floured surface but try to keep the dough you aren't rolling on a very lightly floured surface (to keep it from sticking) and under a lightly damp towel (to keep it from drying out).
  5. Transfer the dough balls to the baking sheets - eight dough balls per sheet. Loosely cover the dough with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest in a warm, draft-free spot for 15-20 minutes.
  6. At this point, you can freeze the dough on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Once completely frozen, transfer them to a large zipper bag and continue to freeze until you need them. Use within 2 months.
  7. While the dough rests and the oven preheats, bring the water, sugar, and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Before gently lowering two or three pieces of dough into the boiling water, gently reshape them if needed into a smooth balls. Boil only 2-3 pieces at a time for about 1 ½ minutes, flipping halfway through. If boiling the frozen pretzels, add them to the water directly from the freezer - do not thaw them - and boil for a total of 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, drain the water off each piece before transfer the pieces back to the parchment paper. The dough will probably look fairly misshapen and bubbly but don't worry - this will work itself out in the oven.
  8. With a sharp knife or razor, score two or three shallow slices in the tops of the rolls - try not to cut too deeply or the cheese will ooze out in the oven. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with some salt. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the tops are a deep golden brown. If the rolls were frozen, bake for an extra 1-2 minutes. The pretzel rolls are best served fresh and warm from the oven but they can also be reheated in the oven at 350° F until warmed through. Store leftover rolls in a zipper bag in the refrigerator.

Source

adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2013/10/cheddar-filled-sof-pretzel-rolls/

Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Stew
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Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Stew

So this chicken and sausage stew.  Prep in the morning, slow cook all day, dinner just about ready when I walk in the door at night.  Is it not the best kind of meal?  It’s one that had me excited all day the day it simmered away a few weeks ago.  I don’t want to tell you how many slow cooker meals have fallen flat for us in the past few years…but not this one.  Who knew this one would become one of our newest favorite fall meals?  With it’s creamy gravy holding perfectly tender shredded chicken and chunks of sausage, white beans, and spinach, we unflinchingly downed this meal for lunches and dinners for three days straight.   No holds barred, this stew rocked it for us.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Stew

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Yield: 6-8 servings

Allow yourself 10-15 minutes of prep time before the slow cooker is full and ready to cook for the day. A quick browning of the sausage and an easy aromatic roux allow the stew to perfectly thicken throughout the day rather than leaving you with a chicken and sausage soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage links (sweet or spicy)
  • 2 large onions, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 (15-oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz baby spinach (about 8 cups)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the slow cooker.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook the sausages until the are brown on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. They shouldn't be fully cooked at this point since they will continue to cook in the slow cooker. Transfer the sausages to a plate and set aside. Once they have cooled for a few minutes, slice them into bite-size pieces.
  3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and add the onions. If you don't have enough fat in the pan add some olive oil instead. Cook the onions for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until they start to soften and brown lightly. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, thyme, and red pepper flakes. After about 1 minute and the onions are coated with the tomato paste, stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for another minute. Whisk in the wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the broth until no lumps of flour remain. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.
  4. Stir the remaining 2 cups of broth into the onion mixture along with the bay leaves, beans, and sliced sausage. Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.
  5. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker, shred it with two forks, then stir it back into the stew. Stir in half of the spinach and cover. Cook on high for 2-3 minutes before mixing in the remaining spinach. Cook for another 7-8 minutes on high until all of the spinach is wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over the tops of the stew before serving.

Source

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2013/10/slow-cooker-chicken-and-sausage-stew/

Sweet and Salty Fall Harvest Salad
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Sweet and Salty Fall Harvest Salad

As I sat and started writing this post last night, Gremlins was on TV in the background.  I really prefer to have the TV off while I write or at the very least, to have something on that I really enjoy: Big Bang Theory, the Yankees game, a classic chick flick like Sleepless in Seattle or My Best Friend’s Wedding that I’ve seen 1000 times and can use as fun background noise.  But with Halloween around the corner, Kyle started watching Gremlins and got up in the middle to go to bed without turning off the TV.  Typical.  And moderately maddening.

If you remember the movie at all, it gets to be pretty raucous and obnoxious about halfway through when sweet little Gizmo multiplies and the evil Gremlins go ape-shit.  It’s definitely not the type of noise I prefer when I write.  But I was lazy, left it on, and then got to thinking.

Sweet and Salty Fall Harvest Salad

The salad is a whole lot like those Gremlins.  On the outside, it’s a little on the sweet side with roasted butternut squash, perfect Honeycrisp apples, dried cranberries, and candied pecan clusters.  The brie I added, which gets all melty from the warm squash, sort of balances the sweetness but it’s the hint of salt in the maple vinaigrette that sets the flavors of this salad off.  Sort of like those Gremlins.  Not that the salad turns into the spawn of the devil but it certainly comes to life with this dressing and I’ll admit to completely inhaling the salad for four straight days of lunches.  The sweet and salty combination is addictive and whether you eat these fall harvest salad components tossed over a bed of massaged kale or some leafy romaine, you won’t be left feeling hungry.  Just don’t feed it to the Gremlins.

Sweet and Salty Fall Harvest Salad

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings

Feel free to change up the ingredients in this salad to suit your preferences. Goat or blue cheese would work great in place of the brie. Use walnuts instead of pecans or add sliced almonds instead. Pears would be awesome in place of the apples. If you're not up to making the super quick maple vinaigrette I listed below, balsamic, pomegranate, or cranberry vinaigrettes would work fine too but you'll miss the salty aspect that I loved so much about this salad.

Ingredients

    For the salad:
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 bunch of kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
  • 6 oz brie, cubed
  • 1 large apple, cored and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • For the maple vinaigrette:
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • Up to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ tsp sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Spread the squash out on a large baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil then sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, toss the squash, and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, tossing periodically until the squash is browned and softened.
  2. While the squash roasts, make the candied pecan clusters. Ready a Silpat or line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Heat the butter and brown sugar over medium heat in a medium nonstick pan until bubbling. Toss the pecans into the butter-sugar mixture until coated. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar liquifies and turns a dark amber color. Pour the pecans out onto the Silpat or parchment paper and spread them out with a rubber spatula. Allow them to cool completely before breaking them up into clusters.
  3. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the maple syrup, ¼ cup olive oil, mustard, vinegar, and salt together in a medium bowl or shake it all together in a mason jar. Whisk in additional olive oil in small increments up to 1/3 cup total until you reach your desired dressing consistency.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the kale with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Massage the oil into the kale with your hands until the kale turns bright green and glossy, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Top the kale with the squash, brie, apples, cranberries, and pecan clusters. Drizzle the maple vinaigrette over the top of the salad before serving while the squash is still warm.

Source

Smells Like Home original | massaged kale method adapted from Annie's Eats

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2013/10/sweet-and-salty-fall-harvest-salad/

Pizza alla Vodka
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Pizza alla Vodka

There’s no doubt in my mind what my favorite food is.  And in my mind, the only thing that makes pizza better is when it’s homemade.  Take this pizza alla vodka, for example.  My favorite homemade dough topped with a quick and simple vodka sauce (adapted from one of my all-time favorite pasta recipes), mozz and Parm cheeses, hot Italian sausage, and roasted tomatoes.

Pizza alla Vodka

Hello!  How amazing does that sound?!  We had an alla vodka pizza years ago but it was actually a stuffed pizza with penne alla vodka pasta and while it was soooo good, it was also waaay over the top and isn’t something we would really ever consider making at home.  This pizza is the perfect reason to make pizza at home and as soon as we get home this weekend, we’ll be busting out the leftover vodka sauce from the freezer and cranking up the oven.  The post-vacay diets start Monday.

Pizza alla Vodka

Pizza alla Vodka

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: One 12- to 14-inch pizza

The recipe for this sauce will make about twice as much as you'll need for this pizza. We froze the extra sauce for a future pizza or a quick penne alla vodka dinner but you can also dip your pizza in it which is also an excellent idea.

To note about the sausage: We don't precook the raw sausage we add to our pizzas. The broken up pieces of sausage will cook in the super hot oven and if it's lean enough sausage (like you'll find with fresh chicken or turkey sausage), there won't a lot of grease on the pizza. We used hot Italian pork sausage for this pizza and it was actually quite lean so the grease was minimized.

Ingredients

  • For the roasted tomatoes:
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced OR 1 heaping cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • For the vodka sauce:
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup vodka
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • For the pizza:
  • ½ recipe of homemade pizza dough
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 links spicy fresh sausage (pork, chicken, or turkey), casings removed (about 8 oz)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven with a pizza stone inside to 500° F for at least 45 minutes. Lay the tomato slices out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle them with a little sugar and salt. Roast them in the same oven as the pizza stone for 15 to 20 minutes, until they just start to shrivel and char. Don't let them overcook because you'll cook them again on top of the pizza. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
  2. While the tomatoes roast, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste, stirring for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste coats the onions. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the tomatoes. Return the sauce to the pan, bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir the vodka into the sauce and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes then stir in the cream and allow the cream to just warm through in the sauce then remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Roll out the dough, transfer it to a piece of parchment paper, and brush the edges with the olive oil. Top the dough with about ¾ cup of the sauce, spreading it out to the edges. Sprinkle both of the cheeses over the top. Lay the tomatoes carefully (they will be fragile) over the cheese then break up the sausage into small pieces and toss it randomly over the top of the pizza. The raw sausage will cook fully in the oven on top of the pizza.
  4. Once the oven has fully preheated, slide the pizza on top of the parchment paper onto the pizza stone. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes. Remove the stone from the oven and let the pizza rest for 5 minutes and sprinkle the basil over the pizza (if using) before slicing and serving.

Source

adapted from: Pink Parsley and Annie's Eats

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2013/10/pizza-alla-vodka/

DIY: Dried Apple Rings
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DIY- Dried Apple Rings

I can’t believe how long I’ve never thought to make my own dried apples.  I mean, this recipe couldn’t be any easier to make!  Core a few apples, slice them thinly (dust off that mandoline!), and bake them at a super low temperature for what seems like forever.  It’s the perfect hands-off recipe that yields a healthy snack as-is or a dried fruit add-in for granola, breakfast bars, or sprinkled on top of some yogurt or oatmeal.

DIY- Dried Apple Rings

I used these dried apple rings in some cookies that I’ll share with you soon (another awesome recipe!) so I baked them “naked” but you could also opt to sprinkle on some cinnamon or other warm fall spices before baking.  And to make them a little more versatile, you can adjust the cooking time – a longer bake will result in crispy apple rings and a shorter bake will give you chewier ones.  How you cook them really depends on how you want to use them and at this time of year when outstanding apples are so abundant, it’s the best time to preserve the harvest!

DIY: Dried Apple Rings

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Feel free to dry as many apples as you would like - I listed 3 here since I know the general amount of dried apple slices they yielded for me. The crispier you make your slices, the longer they will last since you're zapping them of most of their moisture and making them less susceptible to becoming moldy.

There are LOTS of different ways to bake apple slices but this is how I made them. Adjust your baking time to the temperature you set your oven to.

Ingredients

  • 3 small apples, washed, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick

Instructions

  1. To note: My oven has a nifty dehydrator setting which keeps the air circulating at a constant rate at a very low temperature. I set the temperature to 135° F and baked the apple rings for about 5 hours to yield slightly chewy rings. A higher oven temperature will bake your apple rings at a faster rate - be sure to check the texture of your apples to ensure you don't over-bake them.
  2. Preheat oven to 135° F or the lowest temperature your oven will allow (most ovens will go as low as 170°F). Place the apple slices on wire racks set atop baking sheets - do not allow the slices to touch or they will stick to each other.
  3. Bake the apples for around 5 hours for chewier apples or around 7 hours for crispier ones. Once you remove the baking sheets from the oven, allow the apples to cool completely on the racks before transferring them to a resealable bag, container, or mason jar. To keep them the most fresh, freeze for up to 1 year.

Source

loosely adapted from Pick Your Own and The Kitchn

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2013/10/diy-dried-apple-rings/

Peanut Butter Cup Hot Fudge Banana Bread
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Peanut Butter Cup Hot Fudge Banana Bread

Gah!  It feels like way too long since I’ve been here!   Can you believe we’re zeroing in on mid-October already?!  I started a new job in early September (look at the view!) and though it already feels like a lifetime ago, I am sosososo thankful to kiss my last job good-bye.  Ever work in a toxic environment?  One that you, with every fiber of your body, dread getting up to in the mornings to go to?  One where you’ve dealt with unstable coworkers and less than supportive bosses?  One that actually makes your stress manifest physically?  One where you feel like you are adding nothing to the universe?  Hi.  That was my last job.  It was baaaad.

Peanut Butter Cup Hot Fudge Banana Bread

Since starting my new position (same workplace; different department, projects, coworkers, boss, etc.) I feel like a new person.  I’m back in the kitchen rather than moping around the house at night.  And with this new position, comes some really great nights of sleep.  I know, it sounds weird, right?  But I’m so busy and stimulated during the day that after a workout and dinner, I’m zonked and in bed by like 8 or 9, virtually stress free.

This, however, also cuts into my evening blogging time.  Which is not to say that I haven’t been thinking about things to make and share with you, but it’s the execution that’s been a little poor.  That is with the exception of this past weekend, I suppose.  See, we’re in Maine this week (!!!) on vacation (!!!) and I whipped up a couple snacks to bring with us, as per my usual road trip prep plans.  This peanut butter cup hot fudge banana bread is something I’ve been considering for quite a while.  With mini peanut butter cups making baking so easy (no unwrapping God-awful amounts of peanut butter cups), I threw a bunch into my banana bread batter and swirled in some hot fudge I had hanging around the fridge.

Peanut Butter Cup Hot Fudge Banana Bread

And yeah, it’s just as amazing as it sounds like it would be.  There’s nothing ordinary about this banana bread with its chunks of peanut butter cups and layers of hot fudge.  It only further reinforces my need for those afternoon workouts.  After, of course, I’m finished gorging on lobster this week and I’m back and my heaven-sent new job next week.  But for now, just hand me a fork.

Peanut Butter Cup Hot Fudge Banana Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

I opted to cut the all-purpose flour down in this recipe to 1 cup and substitute 1 cup of white whole wheat flour in for the extra cup of all-purpose the original recipe called for. You seriously would never know the difference by looking at or tasting this banana break that it's made with half whole wheat flour!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1/3 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt (or ¼ cup plain yogurt)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 7 oz mini peanut butter cups
  • 1/3 cup hot fudge sauce, just warm enough to spoon and drizzle

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, stir the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla together with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the peanut butter cups to a separate medium bowl and scoop 2 teaspoons of the flour mixture into the bowl. Toss the candy with the flour until it is well-coated. Fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients (not the candy) until they are just barely combined. Pour the peanut butter cups and remaining flour from the bowl into the batter and gently stir the candy and flour in until the candy is well-distributed and no streaks of flour remain.
  3. Transfer half of the batter to the loaf pan, smoothing it into the corners of the pan. Drizzle half of the hot fudge sauce over the batter and swirl it into the batter with a knife. Dollop the remaining batter gently over the hot fudge layer and smooth it out with a knife or off-set spatula. Drizzle the remaining hot fudge sauce over the top and swirl it around again with the knife.
  4. Bake for 55 minutes or until a sharp knife or long toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean of batter. (This may be hard to recognize because the fudge and peanut butter will likely stick to the knife but trust me - 55 minutes will be enough time, especially if you use a darker pan. As long as what is on the knife doesn't taste like banana bread batter, you're good to go.) Cool the bread in the pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool completely on the rack before slicing with a serrated knife. It gets better after a couple of days so wrap the leftover loaf tightly with plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature.

Source

inspired by Buns in My Oven | banana bread recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated, March 1998

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2013/10/peanut-butter-cup-hot-fudge-banana-bread/