Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yummy Pretzels

I love to bake and cook for my family.  The kids love licking beater or wooden spoons with batter or dough.  Carter loves it so much that he brings me the hand mixer to make him something and I constantly find him taking clean beaters out of the dishwasher and licking them just to see if there’s something there.

This afternoon Reagan and I made Homemade Pretzels.  Well, I made the dough in my bread maker and she helped me roll them into pretzels.

Jen 10 001

Here’s the recipe if you want to try it out.  The directions are for mixing and kneading the dough by hand.  But I just dump all of the dough ingredients into my bread maker and in 1-1/2 hours I have perfectly risen dough ready to be baked. Easy and delicious.

Buttery Soft Pretzels

  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping
  • In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

    In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.

    When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

    Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Fancy Friday

    Jan 10 007

    Last Friday night, Reagan was gone to spend the night at Nana’s and Grandpa’s, I decided to attempt to make a more fancy restaurant-type meal for Jeff and myself.

    I went to epicurious for some ideas and decided on Lobster Crisps in Champagne Dill Sauce, Beef Medallions with Cognac Sauce and Carrot Puree.

    I also bought some yummy breads at the grocery store.  I started by making the Lobster Crisps, while labor-intensive, were not difficult to make, only time-consuming.  Friday night we  got as far as the Lobster Crisps and bread because the crisps were out-of-this-world delicious and filling. Jeff made sure I took pictures of them before ate them.

    Aren’t they pretty?

    Jan 10 006

    Here’s the recipe. I changed it a bit by using the frozen puff pastry shells instead of making the crisps out of wonton wrappers. Here’s my version. Make it if you want to really impress someone:

    Lobster Crisps in Champagne-Dill Sauce

    Accompanied by Champagne, this beautiful and delicious appetizer starts the meal on a sophisticated note.

    Yield: Serves 2

    4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
    6 puff pastry shells
    1 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound live lobster
    2 cups extra-dry Champagne
    2 cups water
    1/3 cup chopped shallots
    1 teaspoon tomato paste
    1/4 cup whipping cream
    3/4 cup thin strips fresh fennel bulb
    3/4 cup thin strips peeled carrots
    3/4 cup thinly sliced leek (white and pale green parts only)
    4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill

    Bake puff pastry shells according to package directions. Let cool.

    Cook lobster in large pot of boiling salted water until just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer lobster to large bowl. Let stand 15 minutes. Working over bowl to catch juices, twist lobster tails and claws from body. Crack shells and carefully remove lobster meat. Cover and refrigerate lobster meat.

    Place all lobster shells and juices in large saucepan. Add Champagne, 2 cups water, shallots and tomato paste. Simmer until liquid is reduced to 1 cup, about 1 hour. Strain liquid; return to same pan. Add cream; simmer until sauce is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 6 minutes. (Crisps, lobster and sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store crisps at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate sauce.)

    Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add fennel and carrots; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek and sauté until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Cut lobster tail crosswise into 8 medallions. Add all lobster to skillet. Cover; cook just until heated through, about 2 minutes. Mix in 2 teaspoons dill. Season with salt and pepper.

    Rewarm sauce over low heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 teaspoons dill. Season with salt and pepper.

    Take the middle out of the pastry shells. Arrange the pastry shells on 2 plates.  Put lobster and vegetable mix into the shell and around the base of the shell. Spoon sauce over.

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    The boy who loves his dog


    Jan 10 everyday 020

    Carter loves Ella.  He loves to feed her her food and his food, lay down with her, ride her and play games with her. 

    The pictures tell the story better than I could:

    Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 004 Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 005 Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 006 Jan 10 everyday 022   

    It’s no wonder that he is ALWAYS covered in Ella fur.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    January 12 x 12

    This year, I’ve joined in a scrapbooking challenge to take 12 pictures on the 12th of each month and scrap them.  I’m trying to take pictures of what my life is like on that day. Not what I wish my life was like on that day.

    While I might not get the pictures scrapped right away, I figure I could manage to share them on my blog each month.

    This month, the 12th is on a Tuesday:

    Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 046  Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 026

    Off to my tap class & Carter’s Tumble time, then home to mop,

    Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 027 Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 029

    sort through my old clothes and deal with a tantrum.

    Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 032   Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 034

    Then off to pick up Reagan from school, so I can drive her down to dance.

    Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 035Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 036

    Brr, it’s cold, and it feels closer to 0 degrees.  The kids outside Wal-Mart after a quick shopping trip before dance.

     Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 044

      Off to ballet (then tap and jazz) she goes.

    Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 040

    Carter’s spread at dance. He spends 3 hours there on Tuesdays between all the dance classes, but (lucky for me) he has his good friend, Zack, to play with the whole time.  


    Me as I’m on my way to my monthly American Inns of Court meeting, which is normally on a Wed, and then off to a chick lit book club to discuss Twilight. 

    Jan 10 12 x12 Ella & Carter 025

    The current book I’m reading.

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Snow Play


    Starting on New Year’s Eve, we have had a steady snowfall, with an accumulation somewhere around 15-18 inches.  Yesterday, we decided to go out as a family and enjoy it.  As we were getting on our snow gear I realized that I do not have any snow clothes that fit me. They are all way too big, which I guess is a good thing, but it means I need to hit LL Bean this week before we go skiing or I may lose my pants going down the hill.

    It was a light, fluffy snow, great for skiing, but not for snowman or snowball making.

    Jeff pulling Carter up the little hill in our front yard:

    Jan 10 snow play 005

    His first ride down the hill:

    Jan 10 snow play 012


    Jan 10 snow play 014


    Jan 10 snow play 018 

    The snow angel:

    Jan 10 snow play 025

    Sledding down the hill in our side yard, yes right into the woods.

    Jan 10 snow play 029

    Rosy cheeked cutie:

    Jan 10 snow play 033

    Me pulling the kids up and down the driveway:

    Jan 10 snow play 034 Jan 10 snow play 041

    Which was much more fun when I ran along pulling them behind me:

    Jan 10 snow play 043

    Even Ella enjoyed playing in the snow:Jan 10 snow play 004

    Our house all snowed in:

    Jan 10 snow play 016

    Carter had so much fun playing in the snow.  Last year he hated being outside in it and we never really we able to enjoy it with him.  Yesterday, I asked him a couple times if he wanted to go inside, but he kept shaking his head no and saying “snow.”

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Conversation with Reagan

    One of my goals for 2010 is to blog more.  R Jan 10

    This is Reagan this morning. Her front 2 teeth are still growing in, a little on the crooked side, and she’s still missing 2 teeth on top.

    This morning I asked Reagan (who will be 7 in Feb.) the following questions to get a snapshot of her at the beginning of the year:

    What are your favorite subjects in school? Art

    What is your favorite food? Sushi

    What is your favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner? Breakfast: Honey Nut Cheerios or Frosted Mini Wheats; Lunch: PB&J; Dinner: Mac ‘n Cheese, mashed potatoes

    Who are your best friends? Lauren & Kathryn Why do you like to spend time with them? Because I just really like them

    What is your favorite thing to do in your free time? Play my DSi

    If you could wear what you wanted to school every day, what would you wear? If it was winter, jeans and a shirt; not winter, dress or skirt

    Do you like to play any sports? Yes, swimming

    What do you like about those sports? I like getting in the water and doing all these strokes. Backstroke is my favorite stroke.

    What have you done that you're the proudest of? Winning swim meets

    Where is your favorite place to go on vacation? California Why? Because I like to visit my family there and to go to Disneyland

    What do you want to do when you grow up? Scientist or a vet Why? Because I like making experiments and I like working with animals

    What did you like best about Christmas vacation? Spending time with my family

    What are you looking forward to doing next year? Spending time with my family