Friday, January 17, 2014

{Recipe} Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites

One thing I've always wanted to make from scratch is homemade soft pretzels. So much so that I even added it to my 101 in 1001 list. When Lauren and I were hosting our friends for the Orange Bowl (Go Tigers!), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to a) use my new kitchenaid mixer to make the dough and b) cross something off my list. Plus, mini soft pretzels make the perfect snack!

However, that will probably be the first and last time I ever make soft pretzels! The first batch turned out great, but the remaining batches, not so much. I think I needed to use a bigger pot for the baking soda/water bath, because it kept boiling over and the last batch of pretzels tasted like pure baking soda! I also attempted to make a cheese dipping sauce but with the arrival of guests and the distraction of the pregame show, I let it overheat and it quickly became inedible. But I will say that people were quite impressed that I made them from scratch (even if it did take all afternoon and left a HUGE mess in the kitchen)!

Soft Pretzel Bites
from What Megan's Making
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ounces 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
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt


In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and knead 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.
Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over high heat and add the baking soda.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a long rope measuring about 22 inches. Cut the dough into one inch pieces. In small batches (about 15 at a time), boil the pretzel bites in the water solution for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season with coarse sea salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating.
These are best warm, but are still good at room temperature. They are best served the day they're made.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

With 2013 In My Rearview

One of my favorite things about this blog is being able to look back: on a fun vacation, a weekend in Greenville, or just mundane musings on a Wednesday.

I can't say 2013 was one of my favorite years. Sure, when I look back, I had a lot of fun, but I distinctly remember being sad for a decent amount of time. My feelings about 2013 can be summed up with one quote:
Here's my recap of 2013 in a nutshell!

I got a promotion and took a new role in Recruiting
I bought a new car
Celebrated turning a quarter of century old in Asheville with the best friends
I created a list of 101 things I'd like to accomplish in 1001 days
My dad turned 60!
+ I celebrated my 2 year work anniversary
The blog turned one!

I lost both of my grandparents, on the same day
A boy broke my heart
I house-hunted for a bit, and then gave up

New Orleans for Jazz Fest
Asheville (spring at the Biltmore)
Lake Tahoe (gorgeous)
Napa Valley
San Francisco
Malibu for a reunion with my college roommates

I crossed 3 states off my list this year: Louisiana, Nevada, and New Jersey (over halfway there now!)

I asked a lot of "why?" and "how?" this year. I'm hoping 2014 has the answers.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Holiday Recap

When I woke up this morning, I felt like blogging. So here I am, unashamed that I'm sharing a holiday recap a month later.

This Christmas season was wonderful! I love being home with my family, having a lot of time off from work, and just relaxing.

Before everyone went home for the holidays, we hosted "Friendsmas" at our apartment, complete with festive cocktails and tacky sweaters!
We had our annual M&M Dinner at Lazy Goat, but unfortunately Katie hadn't arrived from SF yet so it was just me and the adults!
Next up: Katie and I were "A Perfect Pair" of salt & pepper shakers at our friends' themed party (such a fun idea for a party, by the way)!
And then the Christmas festivities really got started!

The holidays are always a flurry of cooking and baking. Mom and I sit down with a pile of cookbooks and make a menu for the days surrounding Christmas. However, our family takes our traditions very seriously so we usually don't deviate from our standard menu for most occasions.

Snapshots from Christmas Eve & Christmas Day:
The week between Christmas and New Year's was filled with more relaxing, movie watching, and spending time with family. With one last hoorah for New Year's Eve, it was time to go back to work.
2013 was most definitely NOT my favorite year, so we definitely had no problem toasting it goodbye!

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Except that's a lie)

(I wrote this post the week before Christmas, and somehow never managed to post it...)

My heart is heavy while I write this recap post from my trip to Philly (over a month later). When my friend Sarah moved to Philly, she moved in with her grandparents, who lived outside the city, while she looked for a roommate/an apartment. Having lost all 4 of my grandparents already, I loved being in Sarah's grandparents home, with her sweet grandmother (who was battling cancer) and her sweet grandfather, too. While I was there, her grandmother fixed us a delicious meal with her famous crab cakes, while they told us stories about their vacations all over the world (all 7 continents)! I was devastated to find out that Sarah's grandmother passed away Tuesday night. She was such a sweet, sweet woman, full of life, and made me miss my grandmothers.
Sarah's Grandparents' home
I flew in late Friday night, so by the time we found my luggage at the airport and got back to the house, we both just wanted to grab dinner, catch up, and crash. But of course no time spent with Sarah is lacking a glass of wine and an episode of Scandal!

We were up early Saturday so we could take the train into the city.
We started out at Reading Terminal Market, in the hopes of finding a beer tasting Sarah had heard about. After wandering around the entire market, we stumbled upon the tasting, and I found my favorite beer ever on tap. Day. made.
It was a chilly day in Philly, so we combined sight-seeing with little pleasures to thaw out from the cold. We took a walk by City Hall and the LOVE statue (which is disappointedly tiny, by the way) before finding a salon to get manicures (another Charlotte/Sarah ritual). We then headed further into Center City to look at an apartment for Sarah on the cutest street. We ducked into Monk's, a cozy cafe which was just like the ones I went to in Belgium, for a pot of warm mussels.

Then it was off to Old City for the historical sites!
We stopped in Washington Square to see the Eternal Flame and the tomb of the unknown soldier, then walked to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (which is now inside, which is also dissapointing).

We met up with Sarah's friends afterwards, had dinner at Triumph Brewing Company, and then went out on the town. It's safe to say no pictures were taken for the rest of the evening!

Late Sunday, a coworker flew in to Philly and we headed to New Jersey for work, but due to lucky circumstances, we got to head back to Philly earlier than expected Tuesday to catch our flight out! One last night out in Philly at El Vez (delicious Mexican food) was complete with 2 middle-of-the-night fire alarms. But hey, complaining works, and I got our hotel rooms for free!
We couldn't go all the way to Philly without getting a philly cheese steak from Pat's, but I have to say, one is probably enough for me for a very long time!