Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game Day: Pepper-Jack Cheese Dip & Yeast-less Soft Pretzels

It's pretty obvious by this point that I love me some football! Sundays are a big deal in our house. I'm a big fan of the Sunday Dinner but on Game Day I like to take that to a whole new level.

Enter cheese dip.

Nothing beats a recipe that uses ingredients you have in your kitchen. I don't know about you, but I try to avoid the supermarket at any cost. This dip was made without stepping foot into a grocery store. I love it already. But it gets better.

Let's start with what you'll need to pull this gooey, golden yum-fest off....

1 cup of milk
1 1/2 tbsp of flour
2 tbsp of softened butter
1lb of pepper-jack cheese, shredded
3/4 of a block of cheddar cheese, shredded

First thing you'll want to do is make a rue with your butter & flour. This basically means you melt your butter in a pan & whisk your flour into it until it's a smooth, even consistency. Then, add the milk & continue to whisk. The milk should begin to thicken slightly & you'll notice a creamier, less runny appearance. Add in the cheeses & continue to whisk until the cheeses are incorporated & you have a smooth, thick consistancy. I then put mine into a porcelin baking dish & put it into a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, but you'll want to pull it out when it has some browning on the top. & you're done!

This dip is great with chips. But i was craving pretzels. Soft pretzels, specifically. The only problem was that I did not have any yeast, which I believed to be a requirement to make soft pretzels. Luckily, google had something else to say about that.

So, here is a recipe for an easy & tasty, flourless pretzel that compliments the heck out of our tangy, Pepper-jack Cheese Dip!

2 cups of all-purpose flour
3 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of sugar
2 tsp of baking powder
1/3 cup of milk (I used a bit more than this. You can eyeball it...)
A pinch of salt
Sea salt (to top pretzels)
1 egg - beaten

Start by throwing your flour & butter into your mixer. Let this combine until mixture is slightly crumby. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. Add the milk SLOWLY until your mixture is wet. The dough should be damp but not sticky or dry. You can add more or less if your dough reaches desired consistency sooner.

You do not have to let dough rest or rise, you can immediately begin to work with it. I rolled the dough into narrow "snake-like" rolls & then trimmed 2-inch sections from the roll. This made small, bite-size squares but you can fashion the dough however you wish. Prepare your baking sheet with no-stick spray & place your prepared pretzels onto the sheet. Egg-wash the tops of the pretzels & sprinkle with sea-salt.

Pretzels will need to cook in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes but this will depend on the size of your pretzels.

Mine came out slightly pale in places but still tasted very much like pretzels are supposed to. they were also the consistency of pretzels inside which was interesting since they looked almost like little biscuits.  Considering the ease of these babies, they were TOTALLY a winner in my book.


Monday, September 15, 2014

ONE Special Birthday!

Hard to believe, but my sweet little nephew turned one this weekend! This past year has flown by. It's been so fun watching Mason grow & learn. He's such a cutie & he's so fun to be around. He's brought so many new experiences to my husband's family. He's my in-law's first grandbaby & it has been so touching watching them spoil & love on their grandson. Also, my sister-in-law & brother-in-law have grown into such sweet, loving parents. It is truly heartwarming to see them all together.

My sister-in-law has been planning Mason's first birthday for awhile now & it really turned out to be such a fun day. The party was at a quaint little pavilion near Ellicott Creek in Tonawanda. It was a cool, fall day but not too crisp. We were pretty comfortable the majority of the time. There were lots of family & friends there so there was plenty of body heat to keep everyone warm! 

My sister-in-law trusted me to take the pictures of the party, which was an incredible honor. I've always dabbled in photography but never really had the equipment to pursue it. My brother-in-law purchased a really, really nice Canon camera last year & suggested I use it to capture the photos from the party. After some brief "how-to" instructions, some hours spent on youtube & Pinterest learning the basics & time spent photographing Teddy, I felt like I was up to the task of photographing the party. Luckily, the photos were not a COMPLETE disaster. Haha. 

The smash cake! Mason has a blast digging into this!

Some of the presents

How adorable is this? My sister-in-law has this made.
Since it was Football Sunday, my father-in-law brought a TV & an antenna so that guests could watch the Bills play. It was an AMAZING game & ended with a Bills win! We're at the top of the AFC East at 2-0 right now. Feels pretty good! Hopefully they keep up the momentum! ....But we've gotten off topic. 

Mason had the best time playing with his Smash Cake. He had everyone at the party laughing with his goofy grin. The best part was when he decided to touch his Daddy's face with his cake-covered hands. Dad was messy, Mason was messy & it was just too adorable for words.

Little fingers mashing up cake
After lunch & cake, presents were opened. Andrew & I had the best time picking out Mason's gift. We got him some shirts from the mall which were adorable & super fun to shop for, but we knew we wanted to get him something he'd find fun as well. We'd joked around that we were going to get him a drum-set, since Uncle Andy is a drummer & it would be entertaining for Mommy & Daddy. ;-) Amazingly enough, we actually found a baby drum with some maracas, drumsticks & a little baby tambourine. Without a moment's hesitation, we snatched it right off the shelf. Mason is on his way to being a rockstar! Haha. We also bought him the book "Five Little Pumpkins" which I remember vividly from story time in kindergarten. It was always my favorite & I was thrilled to find it & share it with my little nephew!

After much excitement, the birthday boy was tired & the party was winding down. I was looking forward to coming home & editing the pictures because I was SO sure that I'd gotten some winners! I'm pretty proud of some of them & I hope I captured even a fraction of the fun, love & joy that surrounded little Mason on his big day.

Uncle Andy & I are so excited to see all the wonderful things your future has in store for you. We hope you smile your way through every season of life & that life is kind & gentle to you so that you never lose that innocence in your eyes. We love you, our handsome little nephew!