Spicy Party Pretzels

Made these for a pool party snack . . .

Spicy Party Pretzels
1 (9.5 oz.) pkg. Honey Wheat Braided Pretzels (or use pretzels of your choice)
Scant 1/2 cup of canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoon powdered Ranch Dressing Mix
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Scant pinch of red pepper flakes
  1. Arrange pretzels in baking pan (I lined the pan with foil for easy clean up.)
  2. Mix oil and seasonings.
  3. Pour over pretzels.
  4. Bake in 200° oven for 2 hours until toasted and crispy.
  5. Transfer to a paper towel lined cooling rack.
    Snacking on pretzels at the pool party! 
Recipe without photos . . .
Spicy Party Pretzels
1 (9.5 oz.) pkg. Honey Wheat Braided Pretzels (or use pretzels of your choice)
Scant 1/2 cup of canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoon powdered Ranch Dressing Mix
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Scant pinch of red pepper flakes
  1. Arrange pretzels in baking pan (I lined the pan with foil for easy clean up.)
  2. Mix oil and seasonings.
  3. Pour over pretzels.
  4. Bake in 200° oven for 2 hours until toasted and crispy.
  5. Transfer to a paper towel lined cooling rack.

Cream of Kale Soup - healthy, easy, YUMMY!

This is a variation of a recipe that will appear in Brian Emmett's new cookbook. He suggests serving this soup in shooter glasses as an appetizer . . . and he says to make extra as guests always want seconds.  But, forget the shooter, I want a whole bowl! It is that good, YUM! Plus, it's easy and healthy too. 
Brian used butter, baby kale and Yukon Gold potatoes. I used olive oil and just the regular kale and Russet potatoes I had on hand.  
Cream of Kale Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups loosely packed stemmed kale leaves, washed & finely chopped
3 to 4 cups of chicken broth
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
4 medium potatoes, peeled & cubed
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add chopped onions and cook a couple of minutes, then add garlic and cook until onions and garlic are tender.
  2. Add kale leaves and cook a few minutes.
  3. Add 3 cups of broth + salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, add lid and simmer about 10 minutes or until kale is  tender.
  4. Add remaining broth and potatoes; cook about 8 to 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Taste and add additional seasonings as desired.
  5. Cool soup slightly and then add to a blender in batches; blend until smooth.

Recipe without photos . . .
Cream of Kale Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups loosely packed stemmed kale leaves, washed & finely chopped
3 to 4 cups of chicken broth
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
4 medium potatoes, peeled & cubed
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add chopped onions and cook a couple of minutes, then add garlic and cook until onions and garlic are tender.
  2. Add kale leaves and cook a few minutes.
  3. Add 3 cups of broth + salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, add lid and simmer about 10 minutes or until kale is  tender.
  4. Add remaining broth and potatoes; cook about 8 to 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Taste and add additional seasonings as desired.
  5. Cool soup slightly and then add to a blender in batches; blend until smooth.

Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Quick to make dessert . . .

Chocolate Chip Oat Bars
1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick-cooking)
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or a combo)
1 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line  a 9” x 13” pan with cooking spray with foil, allowing end edges to overhang; spray with pan coating.
  2. In a large bowl cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. Mix in the salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour and rolled oats.

  6. Gently stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

  7. Spread and press mixture into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool, then lift bars out of pan by grabbing foil overhang.
  10. Cut into bars.
Recipe without photos . . .
Chocolate Chip Oatl Bars
1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick-cooking)
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or a combo)
1 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line  a 9” x 13” pan with cooking spray with foil, allowing end edges to overhang; spray with pan coating.
  2. In a large bowl cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. Mix in the salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour and rolled oats.
  6. Gently stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  7. Spread and press mixture into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool, then lift bars out of pan by grabbing foil overhang.
  10. Cut into bars.

Basic Potato Salad that can be customized

Making potato salad always reminds me of my first experience that was inedible! My mom never used a recipe so I consulted a cookbook and followed it to the letter . . . which was a mistake. Making potato salad is about tasting as you go and adjusting seasonings and amounts to achieve what you consider the ideal flavor.  
Here’s my basic recipe with lots of explanations (included in the steps) of what I think needs to be done to make tasty potato salad. Not only are amounts variable, so are ingredients . . . use Dijon instead of yellow mustard, add other seasonings (dill is nice), or used chopped up sweet pickles instead of relish, etc.

Basic Potato Salad that can be customized for your taste preferences      Serves about 8
About 3 lb. Russet potatoes (8 to 9 medium) peeled and cut into ½
 cubes
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
1 cup finely chopped celery
¾ to 1 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 to 4 hard cooked eggs and chopped
Paprika for garnish
  1. Cover potatoes with salted water in 4-quart saucepot; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer just until potatoes are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes; watch them carefully and test with a sharp knife or fork—remove from heat as soon as potatoes can be pierced with the knife or fork. The goal is to not cook them so long that they crumble when pierced! However, overcooked potatoes can still be used to make potato salad; my mom occasionally makes potato salad from mashed potatoes.
  2. Drain potatoes and cool slightly; put in a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish, celery, onion, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed – this is the KEY to good potato salad!
  4. Add about ¾ of the mayo-based sauce to the potatoes and gently mix, adding the rest if needed. If it is still not “saucy" enough add additional mayo and a little mustard, etc., until you achieve your ideal consistency.
  5. Add eggs and toss gently.
  6. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika if desired.
  7. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Recipe without photos . . 
Basic Potato Salad that can be customized for your taste preferences      Serves about 8
About 3 lb. Russet potatoes (8 to 9 medium) peeled and cut into ½
 cubes
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
1 cup finely chopped celery
¾ to 1 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 to 4 hard cooked eggs and chopped
Paprika for garnish
  1. Cover potatoes with salted water in 4-quart saucepot; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer just until potatoes are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes; watch them carefully and test with a sharp knife or fork—remove from heat as soon as potatoes can be pierced with the knife or fork. The goal is to not cook them so long that they crumble when pierced! However, overcooked potatoes can still be used to make potato salad; my mom occasionally makes potato salad from mashed potatoes.
  2. Drain potatoes and cool slightly; put in a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish, celery, onion, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed – this is the KEY to good potato salad!
  4. Add about ¾ of the mayo-based sauce to the potatoes and gently mix, adding the rest if needed. If it is still not “saucy" enough add additional mayo and a little mustard, etc., until you achieve your ideal consistency.
  5. Add eggs and toss gently.
  6. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika if desired.
  7. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Crusty Multi-Seeded Wheat and Grain Bread -— Almost No-Knead

Homemade bread, there's nothing quite like it! And, the almost no-knead varieties are so easy.  Just plan ahead as they need at least 8 hours to ferment and a two hour rise time + one hour bake time.  Crusty and delicious on the first day, they make fabulous toast in the days after. I started out making a basic recipe and keep experimenting. Here's my latest version . . .

Crusty Multi-Seeded Wheat and Grain Bread -— Almost No-Knead
4 to 5 tablespoons grains & seeds (any combination such as: rolled oats, rolled barley or rye flakes, pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, etc.) – divided use
2 cups bread flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1½ teaspoons salt
¼  teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
¾  cup + 2 tablespoons water, room temperature
6 tablespoons mild-flavored beer
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons flax seed + a few extra to sprinkle over top
Vegetable oil spray
  1. Place selected grains and seeds on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350° oven until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes – watch carefully! Cool.
  2. Mix the flours, salt, and yeast together in the work bowl of a mixer.
  3. Add the water, beer and the vinegar. Mix, adding most of the toasting seed combination (save some for adding to the top of loaf right before baking) + flax seeds.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 18 hours.
  5. Lay a piece of parchment paper on the counter and spray it with the vegetable oil spray.
  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape the dough into a ball by pulling the edges of the dough into the middle.
  7. Transfer the dough, seam side down, to the center of the sprayed parchment paper; then spray the surface of the dough with the vegetable oil spray.
  8. Pick up the dough by lifting the parchment paper overhang and lower it into a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Let any excess parchment paper hang out over the edge of the pot. Cover the pot loosely with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.
  9. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Remove the plastic wrap from the pot.
  10. Using a sharp knife, a razor blade or a bread lame (pictured below), make long, ½” deep slashes along the top of the dough; lightly spray with vegetable oil spray and top with remaining seeds.
  11. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Heat the oven to 425°. Bake the bread for 30 minutes. Note: Bread is placed into a cold oven; set the timer for 30 minutes at that point—do not wait until the oven preheats.
  12. Remove the lid from the pot and continue to bake the bread until the loaf is a deep brown and registers 210° on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bread, about 20 to 30 minutes longer.
    Above: Bread after 30 minutes -- it was baked with the lid on.
    Below -- Bread after being bakes another 30 minutes with the lid off. Notice thermometer inserted to check the internal temperature.
  13. Using the parchment paper overhang, carefully remove the bread from the pot. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely . . . if you can wait that long. Best eaten the first day but makes fabulous toast for days afterwards. Store lightly wrapped leftover bread in refrigerator (wrap in plastic wrap or place in a bag that is only partially sealed.)
Other Almost No-Knead breads include:
Almost No-Knead Bread (basic loaf)
Recipe without photos . . .
Crusty Multi-Seeded Wheat and Grain Bread -— Almost No-Knead
4 to 5 tablespoons grains & seeds (any combination such as: rolled oats, rolled barley or rye flakes, pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, etc.) – divided use
2 cups bread flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour 
1½ teaspoons salt
¼  teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
¾  cup + 2 tablespoons water, room temperature
6 tablespoons mild-flavored beer
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons flax seed + a few extra to sprinkle over top
Vegetable oil spray
  1. Place selected grains and seeds on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350° oven until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes – watch carefully! Cool.
  2. Mix the flours, salt, and yeast together in the work bowl of a mixer.
  3. Add the water, beer and the vinegar. Mix, adding most of the toasting seed combination (save some for adding to the top of loaf right before baking) + flax seeds.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 18 hours.
  5. Lay a piece of parchment paper on the counter and spray it with the vegetable oil spray.
  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape the dough into a ball by pulling the edges of the dough into the middle.
  7. Transfer the dough, seam side down, to the center of the sprayed parchment paper; then spray the surface of the dough with the vegetable oil spray.
  8. Pick up the dough by lifting the parchment paper overhang and lower it into a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Let any excess parchment paper hang out over the edge of the pot. Cover the pot loosely with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.
  9. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Remove the plastic wrap from the pot.
  10. Using a sharp knife, a razor blade or a bread lame, make long, ½” deep slashes  along the top of the dough; lightly spray with vegetable oil spray and top with remaining seeds.
  11. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Heat the oven to 425°. Bake the bread for 30 minutes. Note: Bread is placed into a cold oven; set the timer for 30 minutes at that point—do not wait until the oven preheats.
  12. Remove the lid from the pot and continue to bake the bread until the loaf is a deep brown and registers 210° on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bread, about 20 to 30 minutes longer.
  13. Using the parchment paper overhang, carefully remove the bread from the pot. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely . . . if you can wait that long. Best eaten the first day but makes fabulous toast for days afterwards. Store lightly wrapped leftover bread in refrigerator (wrap in plastic wrap or place in a bag that is only partially sealed.)

Pea and Mushroom Ramen "Risotto"

Pea and Mushroom Ramen "Risotto" is a variation of a recipe I found in the all recipes Magazine, "The Rise of Ramen" section. I ear-marked those pages and the goal is to try most, if not all of them. The original recipe called for 3 ounces for diced pancetta or bacon; I used mushrooms instead + added red paper flakes, paprika and some soy sauce. Bacon, everything is better with bacon! BUT, in an effort to control our cholesterol (yes, we both had elevated  cholesterol reading in our recent check ups -- probably from TOO much bacon), we left it out!
Earlier ramen noodle recipe I posted -- Cheesy Skillet Ramen Noodles.

Pea and Mushroom Ramen "Risotto"   3 to 4 main dish servings
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
About 4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (3 oz.) pkg. ramen noodles, coarsely broken in package - flavor packet discarded
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups chicken broth
3 to 4 tablespoon tablespoons parmesan cheese + additional for serving, if desired
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon+ paprika
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or enough to taste
  1. Add oil to skillet and heat over medium; add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and water released from released from mushrooms has been released.
  2. Add onion and salt and cook, stirring until onions are almost tender.
  3. Add both to skillet and bring mixture to a boil. Add noodle sand cook, stirring, until noodles are just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add peas about the last 2 minutes of cooking time.

  4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in parmesan, black pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika and soy sauce. 
  5. Serve with additional parmesan, if desired.
Recipe without photos . . .
Pea and Mushroom Ramen "Risotto"   3 to 4 main dish servings
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
About 4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (3 oz.) pkg. ramen noodles, coarsely broken in package - flavor packet discarded
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups chicken broth
3 to 4 tablespoon tablespoons parmesan cheese + additional for serving, if desired
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon+ paprika
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or enough to taste
  1. Add oil to skillet and heat over medium; add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and water released from released from mushrooms has been released.
  2. Add onion and salt and cook, stirring until onions are almost tender.
  3. Add both to skillet and bring mixture to a boil. Add noodle sand cook, stirring, until noodles are just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add peas about the last 2 minutes of cooking time.
  4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in parmesan, black pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika and soy sauce. 
  5. Serve with additional parmesan, if desired.