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Pretzel Rolls

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After a bout of sickness after my daughter’s wedding I got ambitious. I tried to make homemade mozzarella cheese, curds and all, only to find out that you can’t get raw milk in NJ! I bought ready made curds and made it anyway, but that’s another blog entry. These rolls were part of my insane surge of energy that I channeled into a backyard barbecue for 12.
The recipe was adapted from a recipe I found on line (don’t remember where). I love pretzels, the soft kind you get in New York or Philadelphia. Getting them warm from the corner pushcarts in New York are a fond childhood memory.
My first taste of pretzels in roll form was in the German restaurant in Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida. It was amazing, I couldn’t get enough of them! Perfect combination of salt, crust and dough!
These are great as dinner rolls, burger rolls etc. You can also form them into the traditional pretzel shape.

1 1/3 c. warm water
2 T. warm milk
2 1/2 t. yeast
1/3 c. light brown sugar
2 T. butter, melted
4 c. all purpose flour
pretzel salt

2 qts. cold water
1/2 c. baking soda

1. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix 1/3 c. warm water and the yeast. Let stand for about 5 minutes, it should be foamy.
2. Add the rest of the warm water, the milk, sugar and melted butter. Whisk to completely dissolve the sugar.
3. Add the flour and knead until it’s a firm but pliable dough. You can add a little flour or water, if necessary, but don’t add too much of either.
4. Turn out the dough and knead by hand on a lightly floured surface, for about 2 minutes. The dough should not be sticky.
5. Roll the dough into a 24″ log and divide into 12 pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about 10 minutes.
6. Form the pieces into roll shapes, or knot or make into pretzel shapes. Place on a floured surface, 1″ apart, and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let sit 30 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 425 F. Oil 2 baking sheets or use Silpat.
8. In a large pot, bring the cold water to a full boil and add in the baking soda. Place only 2 or 3 rolls at a time into the water and boil 15 seconds a side. Remove them from the water with a large slotted spoon, draining then into the pot.
9. While still warm sprinkle with the pretzel salt.
10. Arrange the rolls on the baking sheets, 6 to a sheet. Using the upper and middle racks of your oven for about 10 minutes, they should be a beautiful brown color. Make sure you switch the racks top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even browning.
11. Let the rolls cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. The rolls will be quite soft, but they’ll firm up a little bit upon cooling.
12. You can serve them warm or at room temperature. They freeze well, just thaw them before you use them or wrap them in foil in packs of 6 and warm them in a 350 F. oven

1. Don’t be tempted to add to much water or flour to the dough otherwise they’ll be heavy or dry.
2. Use pretzel salt- it doesn’t melt. And always sprinkle on when warm. or it won’t stick.
3. Don’t crowd the pot the rolls will stick together.
4. You can get creative with the shape of the rolls. Use your imagination, enjoy!


Ice Cream Muffins

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With my daughter’s wedding, the cooking has been slowing down a bit, but unfortunately my daughter and son-in-law are moving – so it will be picking up again, lucky for my blog followers!

I’ve been trying to lose some weight so I’ve been baking less. My son was home for a week and found the recipe for these muffins. “Ice Cream Muffins!”,I said. “Two ingredients!” “We might have to try these!”. They are not to many carbs or fat, depending on the ice cream you use. Obviously, if you use a high fat, high sugar ice cream it will be more. I don’t recommend using low fat or fat free or sugar free ice cream. I do recommend using your imagination when it comes to ice cream flavors!

These are delicious, and EASY! Great for a starting recipe for baking with your kids! You can make them plain or add nuts, fruit, chips, spices- the combinations are endless…

Ice Cream Muffins
1 pint ice cream, softened slightly and stirred until creamy
1 – 1 1/2 cups self rising flour (you can buy it or make your own)

Mix the flour into the ice cream until uniform. Mixture will be sticky. Scoop into lined 12 cup muffin tin. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Enjoy!


Self Rising Flour
1 cup flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Nova Scotia Ginger Cake and Lemon Curd Sauce

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Between having a flu-like creepy crud and my daughter’s wedding, I haven’t posted in a while!  Well, I’m baaaaaack!  The wedding was beautiful and I gained a great son-in-law.  I’m directing a children’s musical this weekend at my church, so I can’t believe I’m posting this-but the recipe was too good not to.  Besides the kids are coming home from their honeymoon and my son-in-law loves lemon!

For  our 25th wedding anniversary my husband and I took a cruise to Canada.  On e of the stops was Halifax, Nova Scotia.  It was a beautiful place and we took a trip to Peggy’s Cove, a fishing village.  Totally commercial now it was pretty but a tourist trap.  However, we had an outrageous gingerbread cake with warm lemon sauce while sitting on a rock looking at a lighthouse.  I have been searching for that recipe ever since!  The cake was dark, spicy, moist and yummy!  The lemon sauce added the right amount of tartness and sweetness-a winning combination!

This recipe comes very close to the gingerbread at The Sou’Wester at Peggy’s Cove.  This recipe comes from a cookbook called “From Old Nova Scotia Kitchens”-I had to tweak it a little because the cake wasn’t cooking in the middle.  I added 10 minutes and then 10 more- and then it was done!  The sauce is really lemon curd that can be used warm immediately or refrigerated and heated to thin at a later time (or used as a delicious lemon curd!).  Warning-these are not  low-calorie recipes! Enjoy!

Nova Scotia Ginger Cake

1/4 c. butter

1/4 c. shortening (I use Butter Flavor Crisco)

1/2 c. sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 c. molasses

2 1/2 c. flour

1 1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 t. ground ginger

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. ground cloves

1 c. hot water

Cream together butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs and molasses and mix until smooth.  Add dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Add hot water and beat until smooth.  Pour into a prepared (butter and flour or spray) 9″x9″ pan (I used a 9″ round).  Bake at 350 F. for 50-55  minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake should come out clean. Serve warm with Lemon Curd Sauce.  Can be reheated in microwave, cover with a paper towel.

Lemon Curd Sauce

6 eggs

Juice and zest of 3 lemons

2 c. sugar

1/2 c. butter (unsalted) (1 stick)

In the top of a double boiler with simmering water underneath blend the eggs lemon juice and zest and sugar.  Add the butter cut into pieces and cook stirring constantly until as thick as honey.  Use immediately, warm or cool and refrigerate.  Can be reheated for sauce or used cool as a lemon curd filling or spread.


1.  Make sure you use the right size pan for the cake-it could make a difference in the moistness and doneness!

2.  The sauce takes a long time to thicken, be patient.  Do not be tempted to put it directly on the stove-it will burn!

3.  This is addicting-don’t blame me for your weight gain!

Four Strand Challah

I LOVE Challah, I guess it’s from my Jewish roots.  It’s great slathered with butter, jam or honey (or any combination of the three).  Challah french toast is awesome!  I started with all-purpose flour in this adaptation of a Williams-Sonoma recipe.  Next I’ll try using at least half white whole wheat flour.  I might have to add some vital wheat gluten to help the rise, we’ll see.  This is eggier than my Italian bread, more like a brioche, and it’s huge!  I am going to have to cut this in quarters and freeze 3/4 so that my husband and I can enjoy it without it spoiling.  Included with the recipe will be instructions on how to do the four strand braid.  It has a higher profile with the four strands and looks so much prettier!

Four Strand Challah-1 huge loaf

2 pkgs. or 5 t. active dry yeast

1 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

1/2 c. sugar

3 lg. eggs, at room temp.

1 beaten egg or shine spray

5 c. all-purpose flour

1 heaping t. salt

1/2 c. (1 stick) sweet butter, softened

1 T. seeds, I used sesame (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand 5 minutes until foamy.  Add the sugar, eggs, 4 1/2 c. of the flour, salt and butter.  Either mix by hand until sticky and then knead on a floured surface or use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (I used the mixer).  As you knead add as much of the last 1/2 c. flour as you need to  keep the dough from being too sticky while keeping the dough soft, smooth and elastic.  You should knead about 5-7 minutes, you can’t overknead so keep going until the dough feels soft, supple and silky!

Form into a ball and put in a greased bowl, covered, or rising bucket, in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.  Line a sheet pan (rimless) with parchment or silpat. Punch dough down and place on work surface.  Divide in 4 equal pieces.  Roll each piece in a ball and then roll into a rope a little longer than the pan you’re putting it on.  Here’s how to braid:

1.  Place each rope parallel, vertically in front of you.

2.  Take the leftmost strand and pass it to the right UNDER the 2 strands adjacent to it, and then back to the left OVER 1 strand.

3.  Take the rightmost strand and pass it left UNDER the 2 strands adjacent to it (now braided), and then back right OVER 1 strand.

4. Repeat until you reach the ends of the ropes and then tuck the ends under.  Braid the other end in the same way until you reach the ends of the ropes and then

tuck that end under.

Place the loaf on the prepared pan, cover with a dry kitchen towel and let rise again in a warm draft free place until almost doubled.  About 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Brush the braid with the beaten egg or spray with shine spray and sprinkle on the seeds, if using. Bake until brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, internal temperature (taken from the side into the center of the loaf with an instant read thermometer) should read 190-200 degrees F.  About 30-35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.   Yummy!                                                                                                                                            Tips

1.Don’t be tempted to add too much extra flour while kneading, the dough gets less sticky as you knead.

2.To make sure the dough doesn’t dry out roll in oiled bowl or bucket so that the top gets oiled.  Cover when not working with the ropes of dough.

3. Invest in a rising bucket, the sides are marked so you can see when the dough is doubled.  They are cheap.

4. You can always braid 3 strands if you think the 4 strand is too difficult!  It will taste just as yummy!

Spicy Red Pepper Dip, Superbowl Chili Bowls and Mocha Biscotti

I’m baaaaack!  It’s been a pretty slow month cooking wise, health issues and my daughter’s wedding have taken precedence!  Anyway, no excuses.  My back is still hurting from overdoing a Group Sculpting class (I should know better!) and there is still wedding “stuff” to do, but I needed to share some recipes and tips!

Superbowl Sunday was yesterday and although I am a die-hard Jets fan, anyone from NY was a Giants fan yesterday.  Watching the game with my daughter and husband  (while addressing wedding invitations!) required some snacks and food!  We are all trying to be svelte for the wedding so I decided to make the food healthy!  The next three recipes are tweaked Weight Watchers recipes, all are scrumptious, I assure you.

The game was a nail biter!  My Giants prevailed in the end and the food was yummy.  All the recipes can be doubled, even tripled for a crowd.  And, of course, they are just as good for a winter supper or a different kind of party (not just Superbowl) or for any day of the week.  Who doesn’t love nice, crunchy biscotti dipped in coffee or tea!

Spicy Red Pepper Dip

1 – 7 oz. jar roasted red pepper, drained, reserve liquid

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a food processor, puree the peppers, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic and cayenne. Slowly add juice until desired consistency.  Refrigerate until served, mixture thickens when refrigerated.


1. Drain the peppers well, otherwise the mixture is too loose.

2. You can make this as spicy as you like, just add more cayenne.

3.  Serve with crudite and crackers- I love Fiber One Crackers, they’re healthy and delicious.

4.  You can use this as a sandwich spread or thin with some olive oil and use it as a salad dressing!

Superbowl Chili Bowls

4 tsp. olive oil                                                 1 T. chili powder

2 onions, chopped                                         2 tsp. cumin

1 carrot, chopped                                           1 tsp. dried oregano

1 celery stalk, chopped                                 1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 c. seeded and chopped green pepper          1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, minced                         1(16 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp (or more) deveined and seeded jalapeno        1 tsp. kosher salt

1 lb. very lean ground beef                pinch black pepper

Topping:  chopped fresh cilantro, chopped red onion, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream

In a large Dutch oven heat the oil and saute the onions, carrot, celery, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno until onions are translucent and vegetables are tender, 10-15 minutes.

Add the beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano and coriander, cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, beans, salt, pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer gently, partially covered, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.  Serve.


1. Make sure you use good quality chili powder and oregano-I order my spices from Penzey’s-they are a great source for all kinds of spices and recipes.  They’re fast,  reliable and reasonably priced and of excellent quality!

2. If you think the chili looks to dry after adding the tomatoes you can add a little crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (NOT spaghetti sauce!).

3. You can serve the chili over rice (brown to keep it healthy) for a heartier meal!

4. You can use ground turkey, chicken, pork or vegetarian ground beef substitute and the chili would still be great!  Just make sure it’s lean.

5. Change up the beans-use your imagination.  Add other veggies, sautéed eggplant or zucchini (don’t add it raw, to watery!) or chopped sautéed portabellos would be great.  Corn would be a nice addition as well.

6. You can also serve this with tortilla chips (baked to keep it healthy!).

Mocha Biscotti

2 c. all-purpose flour                                   1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. slivered almonds                              1 c. sugar

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder          2 large eggs

2 1/2 T. ground coffee                                3 T. strong brewed coffee

2 t. baking powder                                       1 1/2 t. vanilla

3/4 t. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or use silpat.

Combine flour, almonds, cocoa, ground coffee, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl combine the sugar, eggs, brewed coffee and vanilla.  Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture and beat on low-speed with an electric mixer.  It will form a fairly dry dough.  Divide in two and shape each into a 15″ X 1 3/4″ log (about 1″ high)   Transfer to cookie sheet and pat down tops until each piece is about 3/4″ high and 2″ wide.

Bake until the logs are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean., 20-25 minutes.  Transfer the logs to a cutting board and let cool 10 minutes.  With a serrated knife cut the logs crosswise on an angle into 1/2″ slices.  Arrange in a single layer on sheet. Lower oven temp to 300 degrees F. Bake 12 minutes per side, turning once.  Transfer to wire rack, they crisp as they cool.


1. Go wild, use your imagination, use flavored ground coffee and brewed coffee.

2. Use the nuts of your choice; pistachios, walnuts, pecans-they’re all good.

3. Use almond extract or coconut, your choice.

4.  Add mini chips or dip on side in melted chocolate or just drizzle with melted chocolate-all delicious!

Xochitl’s Chicken Enchiladas Suizas and Mexican Rice

I am back in the land of the living! After a six-week bout of bronchitis and numerous family “invasions” (to my family, that is meant lovingly!) I am back at the blog.

New Years Even and Day were spent with 11 family members and 5 dogs sleeping at my house! It was fun and included Xochitl’s (you know who you are!) recipe for one of my favorite things. Her recipe is easy and outstanding. I hope you can find Las Palmas Green Sauce in your area, it really is delicious. Of, course you can make your own tomatillo sauce if you can find fresh tomatillos, not an easy task during the Winter where I live! The medium isn’t too spicy, but if you’re not up to any spice-you can use the mild.

Crema Fresca is best here (not the canned Crema). If you can find Cacique brand-yum! Otherwise, you can use sour cream. You can substitute Queso Fresco or Oaxaca cheese for the mozzarella, if you can find it.

No pictures this time, I was too tired and sick to remember when we were making them! However, the recipe is easy enough and well worth the effort.

The Mexican Rice is easy too, and can be adjusted to your taste!

Chicken Enchiladas Suizas (4-5 servings, can double and triple)

1 lb. boneless and skinless chicken thighs

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 T. Knorr chicken bouillon powder (not cubes!)

10 small size corn tortillas (fresh, not fried)

chopped fresh cilantro, to taste

oil for frying and sauteing

tomatillo enchilada sauce (preferably Las Palmas)

mozzarella cheese or mexican equivalent, shredded

Crema Fresca (preferably Cacique) or sour cream

Poach the chicken thighs in water until cooked through and hot. Reserve 1/2 c. of the poaching liquid. Pull chicken apart with 2 forks while still hot. You need a fairly fine shred.

In the same pot, saute the onion with some of the oil until slightly caramelized. Add the chicken back to the pot with the bouillon powder. If the chicken seems dry use the reserved liquid so the chicken is moist but not too wet. Add the chopped cilantro to taste. Set chicken aside.

In a small frying pan, use enough oil to cover the small tortilla. Heat the oil and fry the tortillas one at a time. Only cook 10 seconds on each side, just to make the tortillas slightly firm, but pliable. Drain on paper towels.

Heat enchilada sauce. When cool enough to handle, dip tortillas in the sauce and place on a lipped baking sheet. Add chicken mixture and roll. Use up all the chicken. Top rolled enchiladas with some more sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F. until hot and cheese is melted.

Serve topped with crema or sour cream. Yum!

Mexican Rice (serves 4, can double or triple)

1 small onion, chopped 1 T Knorr chicken flavor bouillon powder

1-2 cloves garlic, minced 1 3/4 c. water

olive oil 1/4 c. (approximately) plain tomato sauce

1 c. long grain white rice chopped cilantro

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a medium sauce pan until slightly caramelized. Add rice to pot and brown until golden. Add bouillon powder, stir. Add water and tomato sauce. Should be light red in color. Bring to boil and then simmer, covered, until liquid id absorbed and rice is cooked and fluffy. Add chopped cilantro, fluff with a fork and serve.

Italian Sesame Bread

I’ve been remiss-no posts during the Christmas holiday!  I had too much fun eating with my family.  There will be no cookie posts for a while, I’m all cookied out!  I really like making bread a lot more than cookies.  I haven’t bought a loaf of bread in over 2 years!  I have 2 starters in my fridge, one for white sourdough (it’s 200 years old) and one for rye bread or multi grain sourdough, thanks for both Kathy!  I have  a passion for the No Knead bread recipe from the Sullivan Street Bakery, but that’s another blog!

This recipe is good for beginners.  It’s pretty simple, doesn’t take too long and looks and tastes fabulous!  It will be easier if you have the Easy Roll Improver and the Bread Shine, but it’s not necessary.   This bread is great with butter or dipped in olive oil and it’s also wonderful toasted.  It won’t stay crisp after the first day (if it’s around that long)but it will stay fresh and you can always toast it.

Italian Sesame Bread


3 3/4 c.  European Style Artisan Bread Flour (King Arthur) or

All-Purpose Flour

1 T. Easy Roll Dough Improver (King Arthur) (optional)

2 t. instant yeast

1 1/2 t. salt

2 T. olive oil

1 c. plus 2-4 T. water

3 T. toasted sesame seeds

Bread Shine Spray (King Arthur) or 1 beaten egg white

Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients-by hand, stand mixer, bread machine or food processor-until you’ve made a smooth, elastic dough.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turn to coat, cover and allow to rise 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Gently deflate dough, divide into 3 equal pieces, each will weigh about 9 1/4 oz.  Roll each piece into a 20 inch rope, tapering the ends.  Place the logs on a lightly greased or silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.  Braid them loosely, pinch the ends together and tuck them under.

Spray with bread shine or brush with egg white.  Cover and allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until almost double in bulk.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray or brush the bread again and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake the bread for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.










1. When making the braids it’s easier to lay the rolls side by side and braid from the center towards the ends and then tuck the ends under.

2. If the bread browns too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil after 15 minutes.  Enjoy!