Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beer Cheese Dip {for soft pretzels}

So I told you about the soft pretzels the other day, and in our house it is assumed that this Beer Cheese Dip will be served with the pretzels.  So I don't want to withhold the goods from you.

Honestly, the first time I tried this, I didn't know what to expect, and so I was a little confused.  I wasn't sure if it was going to taste more like beer, or just be good and cheesy, but it was both and after a bite or two, I couldn't stop.  We call it a dip, but it is really more of a deep-dunking, make sure to get your fingers in there so you can lick up the extra, kind of love letter to soft pretzels.  Okay, so maybe that's an oversell.  But it is good, and you will be happy that you have the recipe, so you can make your own, because I will neither confirm nor deny that I am a double dipper with this one.

Beer Cheese Dip {for soft pretzels}

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese 
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup beer*
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. brown mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. hot sauce of choice (we use Frank's)

1. Combine all ingredients into a medium-large bowl and stir together.  It will be a rough stir.
2. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir again.  The mixture will start to come together.
3. Continue microwaving for 30 seconds at a time, followed by a good stir, until the mixture is smooth and warm.  
4. Serve warm or room temperature with soft pretzels.

*Use any beer you like.  We have made it with Coors Light and it was great.  We have made it with darker beers, like Shiner, and that darker flavor was excellent, too!

On Scotland...

Since the big vote for independence is today, I thought I would put this out there...

Whitehall Shop
Scottish St. Andrew's Flag - Whitehall Shop

I love Scotland.  On the subject of their independence, I honestly have no opinion.  My Scottish ancestry touches down on the homeland a little too far back in history to have an opinion on the modern goings on. But I do love the flag.

And to show no hard feelings, I also love the Union Jack, and you can find it in the shop here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Soft Pretzel Bites

With the official Oktoberfest in Munich coming up this Saturday, I figured it appropriate to introduce you to the last soft pretzel recipe you'll ever need.

In true German-American style, we like to load ourselves up on carbs, drink some beer, and eat a healthy variety of stinky foods that our ten-year-old selves wouldn't touch with a stick.  One of our absolute favorites is soft pretzel bites.  The recipe began as a regular soft pretzel recipe with the rolling and the twisting, and if you are bored on a Saturday, knock yourself out...the rolling and the twisting is quite fun.  However, if you are short on time and high on desire for salty, warm-from-the-oven goodness, than skip the twist and chop the dough into bites.

We first made this recipe in the college apartment with the standard sized college apartment kitchen, and we did the rolling and the twisting, and laid everything out on baking pans that were balanced on the back of the couch (because college apartment kitchens just don't come with island counter space and baking centers), waiting to go into the oven (that you could barely squeeze one cookie sheet into on the single rack). Nowadays, we toss the ingredients into the Kitchenaid, forgo the twisting, and toss several trays into the oven at once (score one for being a grown-up!).

Enjoy them any way you like your pretzels...mustard, butter, plain.  We prefer with Beer-Cheese dip, so I'll post that recipe Thursday.  It's worth the wait, I promise!

Soft Pretzel Bites

1/8 cup hot water
1 pkg. active dry yeast ( 2 1/4 tsp.)
1 1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup brown sugar
4-5 cups all purpose flour 

2 Tbsp. baking soda
6 cups water

coarse kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. In a large bowl, or mixer, combine hot water and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes.
3. Stir/mix in warm water and brown sugar.
4. Slowly add in flour in batches (one cup at a time). The amount you add will depend on humidity and dough texture.  
5. If mixing, let the dough hook knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.  If stirring by hand, mix to combine and then knead the dough on a floured surface.  With either method the resulting dough will be smooth and only slightly sticky.
6. Cut the dough down into 1" strips, and then cut strips down to 1" cubes.*
7. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray, and generously sprinkle sheets with kosher salt.
8. Heat water and baking soda to a simmer in a skillet.
9. Lower dough balls into simmering water and let cook 30 seconds. Remove from water and place directly on salted pans. Immediately sprinkle wet dough with kosher salt (to your liking).
10. Once each pan is filled with a single layer of dough balls (not touching), bake for 8 minutes, or until golden brown.
11. Remove from pans right out of oven.

*If you want to make classic twisty pretzels, this would be the point where you pull off a golf ball sized chunk of dough, roll it into a rope and twist it into a pretzel shape (pinching together where the ends attach).  Then you add them to the baking soda water and the rest of the procedure remains the same.

This dough freezes really well, and we often make half the pretzels, and freeze the other half of dough for another day (like the next weekend...cause you're going to want them again that soon).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

And Then There Were Four

Well, hello there!  It has been a while, but I assure you it has been for good reason.  Our trio has grown into four and there has been a good bit of bustle around here lately.  

Though I am sure that there are fantastic stories to tell you about the last few weeks, I am in a sleepy 'hey-he's-only-three-weeks-old-so-no-one-is-sleeping-longer-than-six-hours-now-let-me-just-take-a-nap-on-this-here-keyboard-for-a-quick-sec' stupor and can't honestly remember any of them.  So you will just have to settle for a couple of pictures for now.  

Nathan Emory James

Yes, we put him in a basket for Easter...because he is tiny, and we could.

P.S. Every time I hold him, I am thinking this in my head...

I think in Pinterest.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Busy Hibernating, Be Back Soon...

Lately, my favorite books with Court have been about bears.  I Love You, Daddy by Jillian Harker; Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea; Red Sled by Lita Judge; Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson; and several others have been on regular rotation.  I think it is because I am getting ready to hibernate.  I know, I know...Hey crazy lady, it's finally Spring!  But folks, Baby Boy is going to be here in a week (!), and I have been a machine lately making this den as cozy and ready as possible.  I am ready for a rest and some sweet baby cuddles!

On the business end of things, Whitehall Shop will be open and ready for your orders.  Luckily my den is also my office, so no need for taking leave.  However, you may not hear from me on this little ol' blog for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that friends.  When I return, I will bring brownies and sweet baby pictures (well, you may have to make your own brownies unless you are within visiting distance).

Hasta Luego!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!

In honor of one of the greatest men who ever lived...because he banished snakes from Ireland, of course...we will be eating Lucky Charms for breakfast (don't judge, green beer isn't Irish either), wearing green, talking in ridiculously bad Irish accents when the fancy strikes, and plating up the corned beef and colcannon for dinner.  

How will you celebrate today?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Because A Great Mantle Needs Great Art

We have a big fireplace and mantle.  We do not have a big living room, but that just makes the fireplace seem all the bigger.  And for the first three years of living here, we didn't have any artwork befitting such a fireplace.  I love the painting that we put there (done by my grandfather based off a newspaper clipping he found), but it was nowhere near the right scale for the enormous mantle. 
Remind me to show you this painting up close though, it really is something special.

It was driving me mad.  We even found a large frame at a garage sale that fit the space, but had nothing to put in it. So in a fit of gumption, I got out the paints and a piece of cardboard.  I figured that I would paint something simple and geometric and slap it up there until I found something better. 
Inspiration piece

Well, it turns out that after drawing countless circles with my trusty compass, geometric patterns are not as easy as they seem.  Madness was sneaking up on me again. 

So I turned to my Art board on Pinterest, hoping to find some inspiration.  I found a painting that I really liked.  "Sure, I can whip up a landscape painting with a cute little white building with no previous experience doing any such thing...and all in an hour before I need to make dinner?  Yeah, no problem."

Well, as it turned out...

First ever painting (that wasn't simple geometric or craft painting)!
In all fairness, Jonny made dinner that night.

Now that it is done, and I love it, I wish that I had done it on something better than thin cardboard (it was only supposed to be temporary).  I gave the cardboard texture by mod-podging on some crumpled-then-flattened phone book pages before I attempted the geometric design (Oh, did I mention I was using acryllic craft paints? Please no comments from the professionals), and I really like the way it looks under the new painting. 

There are plenty of technical flaws in the painting (uppity critics need not elaborate), but I learned so many techniques while working on it that I can only say embrace your fits of gumption.  It is not a great masterpiece hanging in a gallery, but it is perfectly befitting for a big fireplace mantle in our little living room.

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