Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Whole Spelt Soft Pretzels

I'm not usually one for buying soft pretzels at the mall, but every now and again I do enjoy the salty, dough-y, buttery taste of a nice big pretzel.  With mustard.  Obviously.

I like using whole grains as often as possible when I bake, and these pretzels were no exception.  The original recipe from this delightful site called Heavenly Homemakers called for whole wheat flour, but I used whole spelt flour.  Spelt is high in B vitamins and minerals, and although it is not gluten-free, it is thought that the gluten in spelt may be better digested because it breaks down easier than the gluten in wheat.  Of course, you can always try whole wheat flour as well, or experiment with another gluten-free flour if you want to get fancy!

I also cut the recipe in half because I didn't need 18 of these suckers.  The halved recipe was definitely plenty.  I will defer to many of the photos on the Heavenly Homemakers site because I was home alone prepping these pretzels and couldn't take a picture of myself (especially with messy hands).  Additionally, as usual, I changed the types of ingredients slightly to accommodate some of my nutritional preferences.

1 cup water
2 Tablespoon yeast
2 teaspoon honey
2 1/2 cups organic milk
1 stick pasture butter (or at least organic)
1/2 cup honey
4 teaspoon salt
8 cups whole spelt (or wheat) flour
pasture butter for topping
coarse sea salt


Here are your players:

In a large bowl, mix 1 cup very warm water, 2 T. yeast and 2 t. honey.  

Stir this together and kind of mush the yeast around.  Let this sit for a few minutes while you do the next step.

Melt a stick of butter in a large saucepan.  Add 1/2 cup honey, 4 t. salt and 2 1/2 cups of milk.  Heat this to 120 degrees. I went a bit overboard on the temperature, but it still worked out fine.

Pour milk mixture into yeast mixture and stir.  

Stir in 8 cups of flour, 2 cups at a time.  Add more if it seems too "wet."  

Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes.  

Plop it into a bowl, cover it and let it rise for 1-1 1/2 hours.  Mine doesn't look all that different in this photo, but I could definitely tell it had risen.  

Pull it out of the bowl and knead it a few times to get the air out.  Pull a ball of dough, about the size of your fist off and get ready to make your very first pretzel! (such a proud moment).  Roll it into a long snake.  Cross the two ends about 2 inches from the tips, then twist the ends again - this is where you check the pictures on the original recipe post!  Then pick up the ends and pull them down to the bottom. And then, it should look like this.  And if it doesn’t, just undo it and try again. 

After you shape each pretzel, put them on a cookie sheet about an inch apart.  

(Mine are a bit shinier because butter was applied to the dough accidentally...although I wasn't complaining about how it made them taste!)

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.


Melt a stick of butter in a saucepan.  Right when you take the pretzels out of the oven, slather them with butter.  (I accidentally did this before I baked them, so I used just a bit afterwards.)  Sprinkle them with salt and enjoy hot!  They also freeze well in an air-tight freezer bag.

You can also vary this recipe by sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar instead of salt.  I'm sure they'd also be great dunked in some melted cheese or topped with roasted garlic and olive oil.  The possibilities are endless!



Monday, June 18, 2012

Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce

I'm a big fan of recipes that make me look like a restaurant chef yet don't require fancy ingredients or an entire afternoon to cook.  This, my friends, is one of those recipes.  It's a lightened up version of cream of mushroom chicken (sans Campbells soup) that tastes divine, even the day after.  Adapted from this EatingWell recipe, it is also healthier than what you will find at your favorite dinner spot.  I love mushrooms and used even more than the recipe called for, even when I doubled the recipe.  Hope you enjoy this as much as we did.  It was seriously delicious!

Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce


2 5-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and tenders removed (I used boneless organic chicken thighs)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil (I used organic pasture butter, but any type of butter is better than GMO canola!)
1 medium shallot, minced
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
1/2 - 1 cup sliced white mushrooms (bonus mushrooms)
2 tablespoons dry vermouth, or dry white wine
1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons heavy cream (organic)
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, or scallion greens


 Season chicken with pepper and salt on both sides.  Heat oil (butter) in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once or twice and adjusting the heat to prevent burning, until brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F, 12 to 16 minutes. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes. 

Pour in vermouth (or wine); simmer until almost evaporated, scraping up any browned bits, about 1 minute. Pour in broth and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in cream and chives (or scallions); return to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan, turn to coat with sauce and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.

I served it over brown rice paired with a baked zucchini dish and it was awesome - and definitely a lightened up version of a comfort food favorite!  Enjoy a few pics of this weeknight masterpiece...



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Quick and Easy Mexican Chicken Bake

I'm always looking for ways to save some time in the kitchen while also preparing yummy, healthy foods.  I made this recipe a few months ago and completely forgot to post it, but it was so good I can't help but share.  I found it on Fast Paleo's website while web searching healthy recipes for store-bought rotisserie chicken.  In case you were confused, this recipe is actually not Paleo because it contains dairy.  I'm not advocating a Paleo diet, but there are actually some pretty yummy recipes on this site.  (By the way, I think there are some compelling reasons to eat a more "paleolithic" diet - more vegetables/fruits, fewer processed grains/sugar - but I wouldn't take it as nutrition doctrine.  Consult with me if you have questions about your own nutrition needs.)

Anyway, back to the chicken cheese goodness.  I decided to make this because I had purchased an organic rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods.  Most grocery store-purchased rotisserie chickens are pumped full of salt and other preservatives and are often made from hormone-treated chickens.  For this reason, I only buy my pre-cooked rotisserie chickens Whole Foods.  They range in price from $8.99 to $11.99 (depending on if you purchase organic - the non-organic is certified humanely raised without hormones or antibiotics).  The best part?  I think they taste better than the ones from your run-of-the-mill grocery store.  

I used organic sour cream and raw organic cheese that I shredded with a fine grater.


1 store bought organic rotisserie chicken
1.5 tablespoons cumin
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped (I used about 3 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used about 1/2 cup)

Optional garnishes:
Shredded lettuce
Diced cherry tomatoes
Sliced avocado
Cilantro leaves
Sour cream


I didn't even think to take photos as I prepped the recipe, but it was turning out so delicious looking that I snapped a few shots mid-way through! Don't worry, it's really simple.

Preheat your oven to 375ยบ. In a large bowl place the shredded chicken, spices, lime juice, sour cream, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste then mix well. Transfer to a lightly oiled baking dish and top with cheese.

Pop into the preheated oven for 15 minutes.  The cilantro will wilt a bit in the heat, but it lends a great texture and flavor.

Garnish the top with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado slices and serve with a nice dollop of sour cream and your favorite hot sauce.  I topped mine with fresh tomatoes, salsa, and guacamole and served it with a mixed green salad made with various spring herbs and cabbage.

Try it the next time you buy a rotisserie chicken at the store - it's so easy and really delicious, both at the time you make it and for leftovers.