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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Orzo Pasta Salad

DSC_0056I spent the first 10 years of my life steadfastly avoiding beans because of that stupid rhyme from when we were all kids. I spent the next 15 avoiding beans because I genuinely couldn’t handle the texture. But I’ve learned that if I disguise it in enough other textures, I’m on board.

Dice 1/2 of a red onion and marinate in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. While that’s marinating, cook 1 cup of orzo according to package directions. Rinse. Add to red onion mixture. Drain and rinse two cans of pinto beans, then add to mixture. Add 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 peeled, seeded and diced English cucumber, 1/2 cup of quartered cherry tomatoes, the zest of one small lemon, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper, and 1/2 cup of kalamata olives (optional). Mix all this together. Finally, fold in one cup of crumbled feta.

Serve over spinach and/or arugula if you need more green in this dish. Serve with shredded chicken if you don’t partake in Meatless Mondays!

 

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Crabby Fries

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Slice up two clean potatoes and toss lightly in a teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon cumin. Begin to air fry at 400 until crisp. This will depend in part on your frier. Move the fries about in the basket every so often to keep the air circulating around the fries and crisping them. If you don’t have an air frier, lay the oiled potato slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and cumin. Bake at 400 for approximately 35 minutes. Check on them often as cooking time will vary.

In a blender, combine 1 room temperature egg with 1 tablespoon minced garlic. With the motor running, stream in 1 1/2 cups fruit olive oil then 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Once thoroughly combined, add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 ground pepper and pulse for about ten seconds. Listen, we never registered for a blender because we already have a food processor and it seemed silly to have a large counter top appliance that does what our food processor does. I use our immersion blender to make this aoili and it works just as well.

In a small bowl, combine a drained can of crab meat with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few pinches Old Bay seasoning.

When your fries are cooked, squeeze garlic aoili over them, then scoop crab mixture over them. Top with finely chopped green onions. Eat hot.

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Blistered Carrots with Labneh

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Wash a bunch of carrots. I used rainbow carrots but regular orange ones are great. Don’t peel them. If you find that your carrots have a big size difference, consider slicing the largest ones in halves or in quarters. Preheat your oven to 450. Or, if you’re making three ingredient roast chicken, wait until the last fifteen minutes of your cook time to begin cooking your carrots.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, drop your carrots in and allow them to cook about a minute before flipping them and searing on the other side. Then, place skillet into the oven and cook at 450 for 20 minutes. If you’ve done the math and realized that this will take you past the time your chicken will be cooked, that’s on purpose. Your chicken needs time to rest before you carve it, giving you time to finish your carrots.

Remove your carrots from the oven and plate. Spread a quarter cup of labneh over them, and drizzle your favorite olive oil + herb sauce. For some of you, this will be pesto. I went with yogurt dip seasoning (dried basil, dried mint, taragon, garlic flakes, onion flakes, pepper and salt) rehydrated in a bit of olive oil. If you have a pine nut sensitivity, blend together 1/3 cup of fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup olive oil, two cloves of garlic and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt together and use that to top your labneh.

Serve hot. Serves two.

If you cant find labneh, you should know that it’s basically just strained Greek yogurt. You can use regular Greek yogurt or strain it yourself in some cheese cloth.

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