Homemade Pretzels

This blog is not just about eating local foods, but also making foods that you might otherwise buy. This way of cooking is not only economical, it's also healthier for you, as you are avoiding any weird chemicals and additives that go into prepared food. Instead, you know exactly what you're taking in, and that is a great feeling! Plus, there is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked bread, the taste of homemade pasta, or the zest of a homemade salad dressing.

This week, I made homemade pretzels. My husband and I love snacking on them, and they'd be a great addition to any Super Bowl party. The great thing about this recipe is you can make the pretzels look however you want. You can do the classic twist, the pretzel rod, or the pretzel bite, which is what I chose to do. They're easy to pop in your mouth and are a great one-dip-only option at parties.

After having my breadmaker do the work for me for about an hour and a half, I rolled out the dough and cut it into short sticks, brushed with a little beaten egg, and sprinkled with kosher salt. These little guys cooked up puffy and golden brown in just fifteen minutes. A first bite revealed a crunchy, salty outside with a soft, warm center; just the way a pretzel should be. I recommend serving them shortly after baking. If you don't, warm them in the oven for a few minutes before serving.

Try serving these with a spicy mustard or a homemade dip at your next party or just much on them whenever you like as a healthy snack. Enjoy!

Homemade Pretzels
Makes about 3 dozen

2 c whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
7/8 c water
2 tbsp coarse (Kosher) salt
1 egg, slightly beaten*

Measure all ingredients into your bread maker's bread pan, except the egg and coarse salt. Use the dough cycle on your bread maker and run the full cycle (mine is about 1 1/2 hours).

Once the dough is ready, remove the dough from the pan and place on a floured work surface. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Roll out pieces of the dough into ropes. Form into a pretzel twist, leave as sticks, or cut into shorter pieces (or opt for any other shape you can think of). Place on a greased cookie sheet (non-stick mat works great, too). Brush each with a little of the beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden and puffy.

*I never use a whole beaten egg for one recipe, so I freeze the leftover egg in a small container. Whenever I make the pretzels, I take the container out of the fridge when I start the dough cycle, and it is thawed by the time I am ready to use it.


Moroccan Root Vegetable Stew with Chickpeas

I feel the need to start off this post with an apology for my absence over the last month or so. With hosting my family for the holidays and dealing with the stifling reality that local food is very hard to find around here, I found myself lacking the time or inspiration to get a new recipe under my belt.

That being said, I have - for the umpteenth time this winter - accepted the fact that root vegetables must be my friend. But how much can one really do with potatoes, onions, and rutabagas? That is where the need for spices and delicious extras come into play. The recipe today is my variation of a recipe that I found online. The online recipe contains chicken and, with my stronger desire to go back to a more vegetarian lifestyle, I have modified the recipe to contain chickpeas instead. (Should you decide to use chicken, the original recipe calls for about 12 ounces, cut into pieces and browned in the pan before beginning the rest of the recipe.)

This root vegetable stew is relatively versatile in terms of ingredients. I used sweet potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, and potatoes, but you could also add turnips and parsnips (included in the original recipe, but unavailable at my local co-op), so long as the amount adds up the same. Also, I opt to not peel my potatoes, instead just giving them a good scrub under hot water. Potato skins, both of the sweet potato and regular potatoes, are really good for you and when cooked this way, will be unnoticeable.

The end result is a deliciously warm stew spiced perfectly with the curry, cumin, and cinnamon. These warm spices add so much and make this type of dish my favorite kind of comfort food. Served over whole wheat couscous and sprinkled with cashews, this was the perfect way to end the weekend. Plus, it makes enough to last well into the week. Enjoy!

Moroccan Root Vegetable Stew with Chickpeas

1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces potatoes (yukon, russet, or red are fine)
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots
1 cup 1/2-inch pieces peeled rutabaga
2 cups canned low-salt veggie broth or bouillon
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed (or about 1 1/2 c of re-hydrated chickpeas)
1 can drained canned diced tomatoes

Heat oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion to pot and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add curry powder, cumin and cinnamon stick and stir 30 seconds. Add sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, broth and raisins. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and chickpeas, stir to combine. Simmer until flavors blend and everything is heated through, about 5 minutes.

Serve over prepared couscous or quinoa.