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Black Bean and Corn Enchilada Nachos
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Black Bean and Corn Enchilada Nachos

How is it that some weeks my menu planning skills go completely out the window?  OK, so I take that back.  Maybe not completely out the window but rather altered considerably.  I go from having 6 strong meals and a leftover night to a Sunday night that sounds a little like this:

T: “Well, I was going to make eggplant…”
K: “Eggplant?” (scrunched face)
T: “Yeah, remember those pitas we made a few weeks ago? But the eggplant takes a while to cook…”
K: “Oh. (pause) I could really go for a burger.”

And so I totally sabotaged dinner that night and we ended up at the bar & grill down the street from the house; me with shrimp fajitas and him with a gigantic burger.  At least I finished my [98%] meatless month out strong.

Black Bean and Corn Enchilada Nachos

These black bean and corn enchilada nachos were born from a similar conversation.  I had planned to make tortillas for our originally-slated-on-the-menu enchiladas but a nap during a snowy afternoon this week got the best of me.  It felt gooood (minus the nightmare I had but that’s another story for another day).  So instead, I whipped out the bag of blue corn chips, made the filling from the enchilada recipe while the enchilada sauce simmered for a few minutes on the stove and we made enchilada nachos for dinner instead.  Who seriously would have thought that vegetarian nachos could be such a filling meal?  Together with the enchilada sauce I posted yesterday, these nachos can be borne from pantry staples in no time…and perhaps just in time for your anti-Super Bowl party or for the real thing Sunday night.  Either way, you can’t lose.

Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeño Cheese Sauce
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Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeno Cheese Sauce

Tell me that you’re as an obsessive party planner as I am.  Tell me that you hem and haw, and go back and forth a minimum of six times about which desserts you want on your menu. Tell me that I’m not the only one, because I sure feel like it sometimes! I keep a working menu for each party or dinner we plan in Evernote, so that wherever I am, I have access to the most up-to-date file. And that file gets worked over.

Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeno Cheese Sauce

When it comes to deciding on appetizers and snacks, however, life is a little easier. These pretzels, aside from this cheesy chorizo and caramelized onion dip and my old-standby favorite of baked fontina, are my all-time favorite party snack. I crave buttery soft homemade pretzels nearly all the time, and now that I’ve learned a method to have them on hand for when I have to succumb to the craving, I can share it with you — and you know, take you down with me.  Because you know what?  I know for sure that you guys love your homemade soft pretzels just as much as I do, as is evident from one of my three most popular posts ever.

Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeno Cheese Sauce

So the awesome thing about these pretzels is that you can make the dough and form the pretzels well in advance of your party. The key is to freeze them early, so that they are ready to quickly boil and bake for a few minutes before your guests arrive. You basically do all the hard work days (or weeks!) before your party, then have plenty of time to sit and enjoy the commercials and other incredible food you’ve made during the big game. Or wait, do you ladies actually watch the Super Bowl?

Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeno Cheese Sauce

I’ve included a step-by-step photo guide below about how to shape the pretzels (lots of you have asked me about this) as well as the full recipe with instructions that you can print out. The pretzels themselves are super easy to make and are far more amazing than any mall, stadium, or street pretzel you could buy. Oh, and if you’re a cheese sauce lover like I am (without any processed ingredients!), you’ll love the roasted jalapeño cheese sauce recipe I made as well.  Game on, people, game on!

Soft Pretzel Photo Tutorial 1

Once the dough has risen, dump it out on your work surface and divide it into 8 equal (ish) pieces.  Keep the extra dough covered with a lightly damp towel to prevent it from drying out.  Very lightly oil the surface with some vegetable oil – you can see the droplets above.

Soft Pretzel Photo Tutorial 2

Roll each piece into a 24-inch log.  (This one was almost finished.)  The dough may shrink in size – just keep rolling until you get the size you want.  (It doesn’t have to be exactly 24 inches.  Don’t stress if it isn’t.)

Soft Pretzel Photo Tutorial 3

Shape each log into a large “U” with the ends pointing away from you.

Soft Pretzel Photo Tutorial 4

Cross the ends over each other.

Soft Pretzel Photo Tutorial 5

Twist the ends around each other once to form the classic pretzel shape.  Transfer each pretzel to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover the formed pretzels with another damp towel.  Either freeze the pretzels on the baking sheets or proceed with boiling and baking them to serve immediately.

Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeño Cheese Sauce

These pretzels are best eaten when they are freshly made. So to make them for a crowd, make the dough then form and freeze the pretzels in advance of your party. This will also give you a good opportunity to double or triple your dough in case you need a lot of pretzels. Instructions for boiling and baking from the freezer are below.

Ingredients

    For the pretzels:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 22 oz all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 oz unsalted butter, melted
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • Pretzel, Kosher, or course sea salt
  • For the roasted jalapeno cheese sauce:
  • 2 small jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (not package pre-shredded cheese – shred your own)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. To make the pretzel dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and butter. 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 and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Place a barely damp towel over the dough and the formed pretzels to prevent them from drying out while you form the other pretzels.
  3. At this point, you can freeze the formed pretzels on the baking sheets. Once completely frozen, transfer them to a large zipper bag and continue to freeze until you need them. Use within 2 months.
  4. To make the pretzels: Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  5. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an wide 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. If you're freezing your formed pretzels, skip this step now and continue with it when you're ready to boil and bake your pretzels from the freezer.
  6. Using a flat spatula, gently lower the pretzels into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds. If boiling the frozen pretzels, add them to the water directly from the freezer - do not thaw them - and boil for a total of 45 seconds. Depending on the size of your pot, boil 2 to 4 pretzels at a time. Remove the pretzels from the water using the spatula, drain as best you can over the pot, and place them on the baking sheets. Brush the top of each pretzel with some melted butter and sprinkle with the pretzel/Kosher/sea salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. If the pretzels were frozen, bake for an extra 1 to 2 minutes. Lightly brush pretzels with the remaining melted butter immediately after you remove them from the oven. Serve warm.
  7. To make the cheese sauce: Set the jalapeños on a baking sheet and roast under the broiler until blackened on all sides, about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you roast them over a gas burner on the stove, turning with tongs. Place the jalapeños in a heatproof bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to cool for 15 minutes then with a paper towel, peel and discard the blackened skins off leaving just the fleshy peppers remaining. Slice, remove and discard the seeds, and roughly chop the peppers. Set aside.
  8. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the chopped jalapeños to coat with the butter. Whisk in the flour, coating the peppers, and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
  9. Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps of flour remain. Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted. Stir in the cilantro and add a pinch of salt, if needed. Serve warm. The sauce can be kept warm for 15 to 20 minutes over very low heat on the stove, stirring occasionally. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals.

Source

source: pretzels adapted from Alton Brown (freezing method from Annie's Eats), cheese sauce adapted from this recipe

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This post is part of BlogHer’s Game Day Eats editorial series, made possible by Kettle Brand Chips.

Soft Pretzel Bites with Cheese Sauce
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IMG_0464

I am a complete sucker for mall pretzels.  And it’s a darn good thing that you’ll only find me at the mall once or twice a year because more trips would like equal more pretzels.  And as much as I love them, I’ve only made them once before, admittedly to great success but since Kyle isn’t a huge fan (crazy boy), I haven’t made them again.  But in all the years since I first made them, there’s been one recipe I’ve been saving and I finally decided to bust it out just in time to share it with you while you’re all getting crazy planning your Super Bowl (or maybe anti-Super Bowl?) party menus.  For the record, we’ll both be watching movies this Sunday, as is our annual tradition, while the rest of the nation is either watching the Super Bowl or waiting for the commercials (rarely both).

So this recipe isn’t any big secret; in fact, it’s probably the most widely adored one out there but if you haven’t made it yet, you need to get.on.it.  Like now!  And don’t be intimidated by making homemade soft pretzels either because this recipe is practically fool-proof.  I not only halved the recipe (something that isn’t always recommended with yeast recipes), but I also refrigerated the dough overnight after the rise (something that is usually done to yeast dough before the rise, if at all).  I let the dough come back to room temperature for about 2 hours before using it and the pretzel bites turned out like a dream.  Seriously awesome soft pretzels.  And dipped in the homemade cheese sauce (no processed ingredients with this recipe!), I was floating through mall pretzel heaven.  Josie made this recipe back in October and suggested brushing the pretzels both before and after baking them and I couldn’t agree more – buttery soft pretzels might just be the perfect snack food!

Soft Pretzel Bites with Cheese Sauce

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: PT10-12M

Yield: about 10 dozen pretzel pieces

If one batch of pretzels is too much for your needs or you want to make them in advance for a party, these pretzel bites can be frozen after you cut them and before you boil them. Place the dough pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze then toss them in a zip-top bag. When you want them later, boil them directly from the freezer (add an extra 15 seconds to the boil time) and bake for the time instructed.

Ingredients

    For the pretzels:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • Pretzel or Kosher salt
  • For the cheese sauce:
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (not package pre-shredded cheese - shred your own)
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. To make the pretzels: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and butter. 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 and transfer it to a well-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an wide 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
  4. 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. Slice each rope into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place a lightly damp towel over the pretzel pieces to prevent them from drying out while you roll and cut the other pieces.
  5. Using a slotted spoon lower a handful of the pretzel pieces into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds, flipping them around in the water with the spoon a couple of times. Remove the pretzel pieces from the water using the spoon, drain as best you can, and place them on the baking sheets. Brush the top of each pretzel with the melted butter and sprinkle with the pretzel/Kosher salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 10 - 12 minutes. Brush with remaining melted butter before serving. Serve warm.
  6. To make the cheese sauce: In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
  7. Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps of flour remain. Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted. Add a pinch of salt, if needed. Serve warm. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals.

Source

source: pretzels adapted from Alton Brown; cheese sauce is a Smells Like Home original

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http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/01/soft-pretzel-bites-with-cheese-sauce/

Restaurant Style Spinach and Artichoke Dip
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Restaurant Style Spinach and Artichoke Dip

If there’s one recipe that I’ve been meaning to share with you guys over the past 3 years, it’s this one.   And for the most part, it’s because as many bloggers know, the problem with blogging certain recipes is that sometimes the dish needs to be served hot, before there’s any time to snap a few photos.  Take into account the time needed to adjust camera settings, fiddle with the light source, ensure all props are in place (none of these things are ever right even after test shots are taken when the food is still cooking), and essentially the dish starts getting cold by the time the photos are finished…every one of us is all too familiar with eating luke warm dinners.  But this doesn’t fly when you’ve got a room full of hungry people eying the steaming and bubbly spinach and artichoke dip that’s just emerged from the oven – we all know that.

IMG_0441

So in honor of the Northeast dominated Super Bowl next weekend, I decided to make the sacrifice (ha!) to remake this dip and blog about it for you because you NEED this dip at your party.  Now, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve actually watched the Superbowl (for the record, I just don’t get football), but I’m definitely all about understanding the snacks that go with it.  This old-standby dip is kicked up a few notches with a secret ingredient: alfredo sauce.  I almost couldn’t believe it the first time my friend Andrea brought this to a party and revealed her secret but it’s true!  The alfredo sauce adds to the creaminess of the dip without having to use mayonnaise and with few other ingredients and minimal effort, I can assure you that this dip will be gone in less time than a Super Bowl commercial break.

Need more Super Bowl snack ideas?  Check out the sidebar for a bunch of winning snack ideas!