Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Homemade Pretzel Bites for the Hubby

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My husband has very few vices.  And his loves are the simplest of simple…Pepsi (yes, I know), Claussen pickles and last but not least…PRETZELS!  This love affair with pretzels is no joke.  When Meijer has their store brand pretzels on sale, I buy an eyebrow raising amount!  He thinks their generic version is hands down the best, mostly because of their supreme saltiness.

Anyway, the man has also found that he loves pretzel bread.  Whole Foods makes really nice small pretzel bread loaves, but we don’t live very close to one of those and I figured I could try to make some version of homemade pretzel bread for him as a treat. 

I found several versions and settled on a combination of two different recipes.  I wanted to make my dough from scratch like the ones on Two Peas & Their Pod.  So frugal.  So easy. 

If you’ve had any luck with making even the easiest of yeast breads, then you should have no problem with pretzel bites.  Basically, it’s a simple yeast bread dough and instead of just baking the dough, there is an added step where you boil the pieces of dough and then bake them.  That’s what gives bagels and pretzel their chewy outside texture. 


I also used some tips from a recipe I found on Get Off Your Butt and Bake!, namely the way Jonna coated her bites with butter and salt after baking.  The sugar and cinnamon option looks great too.  Oh and she used store bought dough which is a great alternative if you’re in a rush as well.  Might do that in a time crunch.

So, if you’re looking to impress the hubs or just feel like spoiling the ol’ boy a bit, try this one out.  They were gone in one day!

Homemade Pretzel Bites  (printable version)


  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • butter, melted
  • Coarse sea salt

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix on low speed.  Continue adding the rest of flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Coat a large bowl with vegetable oil and add the dough ball.  Turn the ball to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil and then add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring about 18 inches ( I just eyeballed this). Cut one inch pieces from each rope to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in small batches. Boil for about 30-45 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray or use a silpat.  Make sure they are not touching.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a baking rack. Brush bites with melted butter and sprinkle sea salt.


This recipe was seriously as easy as it was impressive. Yes, there are a few steps, but for a special treat it brings the YUM factor.


As I mentioned before, I’d love to try out the cinnamon/sugar version mentioned over at Get Off Your Butt and Bake.  Or maybe the parmesan?  Oh, the possibilities! 

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Taking Charge of Our Chargers

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Slide1You’ve all been in this situation…


Massive clumps of cords and plugs from all the household gadgets that we use in our daily lives…ipad, two different cell phones, ipods, DS, new and different DS.  The list seems to go on and on.  And it drives me insane!!!  I’ve tried all sorts of ideas and realized that the only way to satisfy my need for no-clutter was to get a charging station.

This one at Pottery Barn is nice…



The price?  At $79, not so nice.

Pinterest had some great inspiration and I finally settled on something like this idea from Lisa at Two Loose Teeth.  I love the idea of using a simple inexpensive box instead of having to build something from wood.  I’m a carpenter’s daughter, not a carpenter.

Here is what I came up with…


After months and months of saying “I NEED to take care of those cords”, I finally whipped this DIY Charging Station up in one night. 

I found this card organizer box hidden in my closet.


It was never going to be used and I was about to toss it when I thought…PERFECT for a charging station?  YES!

Not crazy about florals, so I gave it a few quick sprays of Heirloom White.  Here it is, drying so that the ferocious bugs in my yard wouldn’t stick to the wet paint.


Oh and before I sprayed it, I cut out a little (not too pretty) notch for the power strip cord.


The power strip fits in like this. 


I didn’t attach it to anything since it fits pretty snug in the box. 

And EWWWWW…you can see my poor craft knife cutting from the inside.  Martha would be so disgusted!

These bookplates and brads were found at Joanns. 


After the box dried, I figured out where I wanted my my charging cords to poke through the box.  Then, I placed my bookplates on the box and traced where the holes need to be.

I cut those out with an crafting knife.  Honestly the hardest part of the project.  Trying to make that look pretty=tough.  However, I knew that the rough edges would get covered up by the metal bookplates.


I attached the bookplates with the little brads and voila!

A charging station!


It’s not perfect, but at the same time its SOOOOO perfect.  No more messy cords!  A very tidy upgrade for little time or money. 

What do you think?  Any other great charging stations ideas to share?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Earthboxing - 2012

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(I’m way behind in this post, but after my last post, I’m sure you understand.)

It’s my favorite time of year again!   I’m a summer warm weather lovin’ person for sure.  I love the bright shiny days, the way the days cool off just enough in the Midwest.  And most of all, getting my hands back in the dirt. 

This year was a little different.  I felt rushed since I was working full time and the weather has been ridiculously hot.  My mom came up to visit for Mother’s Day weekend and B’s birthday party so we had a chance to visit one of my favorite local nurseries.  Of course, we went in “just looking” and came out with a trunk full of summer delights.  Then, I got home and worried that I had jumped the gun a bit.  You never know with Chicago springtime.

However, we had a unseasonably warm spring and even hotter summer so far.  So, I took the chance at planting my tomatoes this early in the season (May 22).  Luckily (for the tomatoes anyway) the warm weather has been more than plentiful this year and they are quite happy in their Earthboxes. 

In Box #1, I planted two medium sized tomato varieties, Celebrity and Better Boy, both from Burpee. 


I wasn’t crazy about buying such a large plant, but that’s all the nursery had of the Better Boy variety. 

In Box #2, I planted two cherry varieties, Sweet 100 and Sun Sugar.  Why?  Well, we love to just snack on tomatoes and I figured with our busy schedule I might not get to the canning/freezing thing this year. 


I’ve grown Sweet 100 with great success in the past and LOVE the taste.  The Sun Sugar is a new one for me, but from what I’ve read its super sweet.  Plus, it’s a yellow cherry and I love the color contrast for summer salads. 

After 3.5 weeks (the boxes got switched, so they are Box #2 on left and #1 on right now)…


And today at 7 weeks…


Sorry for the blown out off center picture.  It’s really bright out there today.  As you can see its like a jungle!  Yes, the yellowing is normal.  Always freaks me out, but it happens yearly. 

And we have our first tomatoes of the season…


YUM!  I love the mix of yellow and red. 

Beyond my maters, I’ve also planted Chef Jeff’s Salsarific jalapeno pepper for….duh…salsa!  Can’t make enough fresh salsa in the summer. 


Alas…it did not fair well during our crazy windstorms a few weeks ago and it looks like it has kind of stunted the peppers.   Boo. 


These tiny nubs should be much bigger by now.  I guess we’ll see what happens.

And, of course, I’ve planted several sweet basil plants. 


The basil has LOVED this summer’s hot HOT weather and thrived. 


This picture above was right before I harvested it the first time.  Today, its grown back even larger than before and I’m making my second batch of pesto. 

Then, I tried out this lemon thyme plant…


Not sure what I’ll do with it, but I couldn’t pass it up.  It smells like fresh lemons!  Any suggestions?  I was thinking about homemade salt/sugar scrub?

Well, that about wraps up my adventures in the edible garden this year.  I’ll be sure to post when some of the larger tomatoes ripen.  Until then, you can  take a look back at my Earthbox journey over the past years.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

I’m Back! I really mean it this time…

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So, I know I said I was back about a month ago.  Eek.  A whole month??  Where did it go?  Well, life happens.  And in our case…many things happened. 

chicago silo

First of all, if you remember about six months ago, I started a new job in the city.  I had been home with my kiddos for 3+ years and wanted to get back to working my field.  And although I’d never done a “big city” commute before, I thought I/we were ready.  And I was wrong.  WAY wrong.  The commute was longer than I’d anticipated…almost 4.5 hours round trip.  Don’t freak you non-Chicago readers.  This isn’t completely uncommon around here.  I rode a train packed with 2000 people just like me, making the daily hike to and from Chicago.  It just wasn’t for me.  I missed my family.  They missed me.  I literally missed ALL of their extracurriculars, doctor visits and daily household happenings.  When I did get home, I didn’t have any energy to really be “in” the family either.  It wore me down and after six months and lots and LOTS of discussions with my husband, I have to give it up. 

I’m not sure what was harder…going back to work or leaving a job that fit me so well.  As with most experiences in life, this one has taught me some valuable things…1) I can still hack it in the field that I have been trained in.  Obviously all of that Heirloom White spray paint hasn’t done too much damage to the ol’ noggin.  2)  I LOVE my field and hope to one day return to the lab world.  3)  I am NOT a commuter.  At least not to this extreme.  4) On the flip side, Chicago’s public transportation is awesome and I will use it more often. 

Last, but not least…

5)  I enjoy being a homemaker and stay at home mom.  That’s the most shocking revelation of all to me.  When I lost my job years ago, I was kind of thrown into this stay at home thing without it really being my choice.  This time around I’m choosing to be home with my family and couldn’t be happier.  I’m serious!  Derek keeps saying that he’s so happy to see me happy after all of this time.  And that really says something about how right this decision feels…for all of us.  I had to try out the commuter thing and attempt to go back to work full time to fullfill a personal goal.  To prove to myself that I could still hack it.  If I didn’t at least give it a try then I would have been plagued with unknowns.

The kids keep waking up and saying, “So you’re home?  Forever?”  My answer is yes.  At least for the time being.  We’ll see what the future brings.  Maybe something closer will pop up and we’ll deal with that when the time comes.  For now, I feel like I’m finally back to really “living” in my life.  It’s a good thing.

So on top of the whole job ordeal, we also celebrated B turning 5…


Thanks to Mamaw for the awesome cake!

Lanaham turning 9…


Big thanks to Gamma Barb and Papa Terry for this awesome cake too!

We celebrated Lanham’s birthday when we went on a much needed family trip to Arizona to visit my in-laws.


Auntie Debbie and Uncle Charley are SO much fun…



And both families have great pools!


Such a fun trip!

Then we returned home and this happened to Lanham’s face…


Yep.  Exercise band + boys = 5 stitches.  He’s recovering nicely, fyi. 

As I said…LIFE happens.  Blogging gets put on the back burner.

And it has calmed down a little now.  So I really have returned and I look forward to getting back to my regular DIYing, cooking and blogging.  Thanks to all of you that have stuck with me and those of you that have become new followers even in my absence.  Hope you all had a WONDERFUL July 4th holiday!

A BIG thanks to my wonderful husband that has stuck by me in all of these decisions and supported me 100%.  I love you babe.

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