Pillowy Pretzels and Better than Pub Cheese

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Sometimes you just need a cloud of a pretzel and a gooey cheese in your life. May this fill that need. I recommend starting the pretzels first, prepping the cheese ingredients while the dough proofs, then beginning to heat the cheese ingredients when the pretzels go into the oven. That should get your pretzels and cheese done at just about the same time.

Pretzels:

Combine 1 1/2 cups room temperature water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast (1 packet) in a large bowl. Let sit 10 minutes to give the yeast a chance to wake up. Add 4 1/2 cups flour, and 4 tablespoons of melted salted butter and mix until thoroughly combined. Remove to a lightly floured surface to knead by hand or by stand mixer, approximately 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet, dust a tablespoon of flour over it and knead in. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of a bowl or from your hands easily.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm room or atop a heating pad set to warm for about an hour, or until dough has about doubled in size.

When dough has doubled, divide into about 12 even pieces and roll into a ball. Separately, beat one egg and a tablespoon of water together for an egg wash.

Bring 5 cups of water and 1/3 cup baking soda to a rolling boil in a pot. Boil each dough ball approximately 40 seconds in the mixture, then remove to a parchment or silicone covered sheet pan. Brush dough balls with egg wash. Top with large grain kosher salt or pretzel salt. Bake about 15 minutes at 450 degrees, or until pretzels are dark golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool about five minutes.

Chipotle Cheese Sauce:

Start with a 2-cup bag of shredded cheddar cheese and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Zip the bag shut and shake to coat the cheese with the cornstarch. Pour this into a non-stick frying pan along with one 12 ounce can of evaporated milk. It’s really important to get evaporated and not condensed milk. Begin to melt together over medium heat. Use a blender to blend three chipotle peppers and two tablespoons of liquid from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Pour this into your cheese and evaporated milk mixture. Add 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. You can also use mild green chiles or diced jalapenos if you’re not a fan of chipotle. Continue mixing together over medium heat until the cheese has melted. Serve hot.

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Controversial California Clam Chowder

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Listen, here’s the thing. I know there are some ingredients you wouldn’t find in clam chowder very often. Like goldfish crackers and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. I also know you usually would cook this with fresh clams, but I like the smoked flavor you can get from tinned clams and that you don’t have to fight anyone to rinse off sand. So if I acknowledge that this could be controversial and label it as Californian, perhaps I won’t offend diehard New England chowder aficionados.

First, we make a roux. Melt two tablespoon butter in a small pan then add in two tablespoons of flour. Allow to cook for about five minutes over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add 1 large diced onion, 3 finely sliced stalks of celery, one finely diced leek, greens removed, 1/4 cup minced garlic, 3 bay leaves, one large carrot, peeled and shredded, 1 russet potato, washed, peeled, and diced, 4 strips of cooked and diced bacon, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Stir frequently and allow vegetables to soften, about five minutes. Add 1 3/4 cup half and half and 2 tins smoked baby clams. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups clam juice (two 8 oz. bottles). Cook 15-20 minutes, then stir in roux. Cook at a gentle simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Finally, remove bay leaves and stir in 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 2 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.

Pour into bowls and top with Goldfish crackers in lieu of oyster crackers. Trust me.

 

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Super Chili for the Super Chill

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When you have the opportunity to use a lean protein (turkey), a superfood (sweet potatoes), and a longevity food (beans), you should. Because, balance. And bonus: you don’t have to baby this meal. You mix it all up and walk away for most of the day and come back to dinner.

And, BONUS: this chili won first place at a chili cook off. You can make award winning food at home!

Into a crock pot, add one package of ground turkey, 2 cans of drained and rinsed black beans, one can of drained diced tomatoes, one can of diced tomatoes and their liquid, 2 peeled and diced small sweet potatoes, one and a half diced yellow onions (reserve the remaining half to top the chili), 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. [Theresa, Kierra, and Alexis: maybe 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Joe: either a full teaspoon or add 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes.] If you’re going with a vegetarian option, add an extra can of black beans and another sweet potato in lieu of the ground turkey.

Stir all this together so you can break up any large portions of ground turkey and coat everything in the spices. Cook on low 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally if possible. Around here, we like to serve over a handful of corn chips, topped with shredded cheddar cheese, raw diced yellow onions, full-fat Greek yogurt, and some thinly sliced green onions. Greek yogurt tastes a lot like sour cream and I use it for a lot more than I would sour cream. It’ll be our secret.

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Stuffed Bagel Bites

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In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 cup Greek yogurt. Stir together until it forms a dough ball. If it’s a little too tacky, add in additional flour teaspoon by teaspoon.

Press golf-ball sizes of dough into flat disks and place the stuffing of your choice in the middle. I went with salami, cream cheese and hot peppers. Perhaps a bit of mozzarella and a pepperoni. Perhaps just cream cheese. You do you. Press the dough up and around your stuffing, forming a rough ball shape.

In a small bowl, whisk together one egg and one Tbs. of water. Brush over the tops of your dough balls. Sprinkle Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning over the top. If you’re going with sweet flavoring, perhaps just cinnamon and sugar over the top.

Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 350 for 23 minutes and 2 minutes with the oven set to broil. Or cook in an air fryer for 10 minutes at 400.

No, they’re not technically bagels, but this dough is far easier.

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Devilishly Delicious Eggs

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For every 6 halves, you’ll need 4 hard boiled eggs. I’ve found that steaming the eggs makes them a lot easier to peel than actually boiling them and they break a whole lot less often.

Peel the eggs and slice in half. Remove the yolks into a food processor or shallow bowl. Add your two weakest egg white halves, 2 tablespoons yellow mustard, 1 1/2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, 1/4 teaspoon powdered turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, 2 teaspoon ranch powder and 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper.

If using a food processor, pulse to chop the eggs and combine all ingredients. Otherwise, use a fork to work all the ingredients together. Pipe into the egg white halves or spoon the filling on top of them. Top with a dash of smoked paprika.

Makes 6 halves.

 

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Pão de Queijo

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If you’re looking for a bread that’s lovely and melty and that you don’t have to let rise in a bowl for an hour, this has your name all over it. It comes together in a blender and uses a muffin tin. It also doesn’t require the use of yeast so it feels less intimidating as far as breads go.

In a blender (I use our trusty mini food processor) combine: 1 room temperature egg, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup water, 1 1/2 cup tapioca flour (aka tapioca starch, sold at Sprouts from Bob’s Mill), 1/2 cup of grated cheese (I used feta) and 1 teaspoon salt. That’s the basic recipe. I added 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne for some extra flavor. Change these according to whatever sort of cheese you use. Pulse until everything is combined into a batter.

Spoon into mini muffin tins (I like these from Wilton) greased lightly with olive oil. Fill the muffin tin to the brim. This recipe should make 16 full mini muffins.

Cook at 350 for 35 minutes. Cool briefly but serve warm.

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