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New York Style Jalapeno Pretzels

One thing I can’t resist when I go to the mall are those soft, buttery, pretzels from Auntie Anne’s. You know the ones, the smell hits you way before the pretzels come into view. They’re not the healthiest and covered in butter but they’re my little indulgence to get me through the next couple of hours of shopping. My favorite are the jalapeno pretzels so naturally I had to try my own version!

pretzel-dough3

These are more “New York style” pretzels rather than the chain’s version and much healthier too. No greasy, oily film covering them. I like the mall pretzels but something about making your own feels so much better eating!

pretzel-dough

These pretzels are soft and chewy and have just enough heat to keeps things interesting. They’re best when they’re fresh out of the oven and even better with spicy mustard!

soft-pretzel

You’re probably thinking “oh, I have no time for this”, but really, you do! With just a few simple ingredients to mix, a little time for the dough to rise and another few minutes for baking and voila, a New York style pretzel you didn’t have to travel all the way to city to get! That simple.

Jalapeno Soft Pretzel
makes 6-8 pretzels

adapted from Martha Stewart

1 tsp of dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp butter, salted
1 jalapeno, stem removed & chopped
2 tbsp baking soda
sea salt

1. Mix the first three ingredients and add warm water until mixture dissolves. Set aside until yeast mixture gets foamy.

2. In separate bowl mix flour and nutmeg then mix butter in with fork until mixture appears like crumble. Use fingers to mix if that’s easier.

3. Slowly add yeast mixture into flour and stir. Add chopped jalapeno peppers and mix with hands until you form a dough. Knead the dough until smooth and not sticky. Cover with plastic and let the dough rise for an hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.

4. Cut dough into 6- 8 pieces and roll out each into a long log. Shape each into your desired shape and place on a oiled baking sheet. Let the dough rise again for another 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 45o. Add baking soda to a pot of water over high heat and let boil. Boil each pretzel, a couple at a time and set a rack to drain.

6. Sprinkle pretzels with sea salt and place back on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until brown.

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Roasted Shishito Peppers With Habanero Infused Olive Oil

I love a good roasted chile pepper, especially one you can just pop in your mouth for a quick and easy snack! These Japanese Shishito peppers aren’t spicy but sometimes you bite into one that really surprises you. You might get a few out of a bunch that are spicy hot but that’s the interesting part, the flavors balance out and deliver a kick when you least expect it!

The Shishito pepper is bright green and is easily recognized by it’s wrinkled finger-like shape.

Roasted they’re great as an appetizer, just sprinkle a little sea salt! I drizzled a habanero infused olive oil just for more heat but not too much so as to not mask the flavor of the peppers. Pair it with an ice cold Pilsner or Lager for a game day snack.

You can also chop these up and toss with a salad, top a pizza, add to your omelet, so many options!

Roasted Shishito Peppers

Dozen Shishito peppers
Habanero infused olive oil
Sea salt

Drizzle the peppers with olive oil and toss around. Place peppers on aluminum foil or a cookie sheet and broil for a couple minutes each side. Make sure you keep an eye on them since they roast fairly quickly. Sprinkle a dash or two of sea salt and eat right away.

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Thin Healthy Pizza to Enjoy Over and Over Again

Who said pizza can’t be healthy? It’s one thing if you’re ordering it with extra cheese and loading it with various meats but if you’re making it at home you get to control the ingredients and can enjoy the flavors while still watching your waistline. Pizza is my all time favorite fast food, actually it’s my only favorite. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burger but only if it’s homemade and comes off the grill. Pizza on the other hand is something I’ll never get tired of eating and love that there are more gourmet pizza restaurants sprouting up around the city. Nothing like hot saucy pizza coming out of a brick oven with fresh, quality ingredients. I wish I could have it several times a week but I can really do without all the calories and well you know, gourmet doesn’t come cheap! So every once in a while I make these thin pizzas on flour tortillas or wraps for a perfect low calorie alternative.

I made a salami, cheese and jalapeno mini pie and a prosciutto, baby arugula and shaved parmesan pie. It’s perfect for lunch or dinner and won’t have you feeling extra full and heavy afterwards.

Add a thin layer of sauce on tortilla and just top with ingredients. The less meat and cheese you use the better the other flavors will come through. It’s true especially with the prosciutto and arugula pizza, the mild sweetness of the prosciutto  and the peppery arugula are delicious and the citrus infused chile olive oil bring it all together.

These would also be great for entertaining as well and you won’t be slaving in the kitchen! Just cut the pizzas into quarters for sharing and pair with some wine, maybe a Syrah or a Chianti?

Prosciutto & Baby Arugula Tortilla Pizza
Pizza Sauce, see recipe below
Parmasean Cheese, shaved
Baby Arugula
Prosciutto, thinly sliced
Citrus habanero infused olive oil
Flour tortilla

Salami, Cheese and Jalapeno Tortilla Pizza
Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella, shredded
Hard Salami, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
crushed red pepper flakes

Pizza Sauce
Tomato sauce
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
Oregano, dried
Basil, dried
red pepper flakes

Season the tomato sauce with all the ingredients to taste. Make as much as you need based on the number of pizzas you want to make. For the two pizzas above all you’ll need is about 1/2 cup of sauce.

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Easy Sunday Morning Pick Me Up

Sometimes a bowl of fruit is all you can get yourself to make on a Sunday morning. There are days when you just don’t want to fuss with much but need the energy to get you going. On those days a bowl of mangoes sprinkled with a little chile pepper spice is enough to fill you up and make you snap out of that sleepy mode. I’ve been using this lime infused chile pepper (tajin) like a mad woman. Sprinkling it on eggs, corn on the cob, cocktails and popsicles! Try it on a bowl of juicy, ripe mango for a nice surprise and Happy Sunday!!

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Spicy Empanadas with Chipotle Cream Sauce

One of my all time favorite snacks growing up was the empanada. We didn’t have them all the time but whenever there was some sort of celebration, there were empanadas on hand. Well, if you were lucky enough to get there when they were served because they were snapped up quickly! And if you missed it, oh well, until next time.

This is one of those go-to snacks for most Caribbean families although it isn’t traditionally a spicy dish in the Spanish Caribbean. Empanadas are typically a savory appetizer and if you go to any Latino festival there are usually several food vendors selling empanadas. Also, every Island or Latin American country makes them a little different and if you come to my house, you’ll definitely get it a little spiced up.

Spicy Empanadas with Chipotle Cream Sauce

Makes about 10 empanadas

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1 tbsp olives, pitted and chopped
1 tsp of Abodo (spice blend available at Latin marketplace)
1/2 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp of tumeric
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1 4oz can of tomato sauce
2 tbsp of vegetable oil + 1 cup for frying
1 pkg of round 6 inch empanada dough

Saute onions in 2 tbsp of oil on medium heat until translucent. Add the ground beef and cook all the way through making sure you break up the meat so there are no large bits of meat.  While cooking add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well blended. Make sure the beef doesn’t dry out, if it does, add a bit of water to keep moist. You don’t want the filling to be too greasy or runny since it will seep out of the dough. If too greasy, drain off some of the oil.

Lay out disks of dough, fill on one side and be generous, no one wants a thin empanada! Fold the dough over to cover meat to form a half moon  shape. Seal the edges with a fork to ensure empanadas don’t open while cooking.

Heat up 1 cup of oil or enough to coat your entire pan so that it’s about 1/2 inch high. Fry each empanada for about a minute or two on each side until light brown in color and remove from pan. Keep an eye on it, you don’t want to overcook it. Meat is already cooked so all you’ll want to do is make sure dough cooks through. Place each empanada on paper towels to soak up any surface oils.

You can eat these as is or serve with a spicy chipotle cream sauce for dipping. Enjoy!

Chipotle Cream Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo
1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
1 clove of garlic

Mix all ingredients in blender or use a hand blender until smooth and drizzle over empanadas or serve in small cup as dipping sauce.

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Three Spicy Dips for the Superbowl

Who doesn’t like a great dip for the Superbowl? Here are a few recipes I have made that are both easy and satisfying. You can serve these with tortillas chips, pita chips, potato chips or crudites.

First on the list is the Jalapeno Popper Dip. I love jalapeno poppers but do not eat them often because well, it’s got a load on fat in it and it’s fried. In this dip version you’re shaving off quite a bit of fat but still keeping that great spicy flavor. When I made this the last time the bowl was practically licked! This recipe called for mayonnaise but I replaced it with plain yogurt and you really can’t taste the difference. Also, if you’re really watching your weight just dip a couple of chips and step away, no matter how tempting it is to hog the bowl.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Ingredients:
1 8oz pkg of reduced fat cream cheese, soften
1/4 cup of plain yogurt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, reserve a 1/4 cup for topping
4-5 jalapenos, chopped into small bits
1/2 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tbsp of butter, melted

Mix soft cream cheese, yogurt, 3/4 cup of cheddar and jalapenos in a bowl until well blended. Transfer to an oven safe bowl. In a separate bowl mix breadcrumbs, remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and melted butter and sprinkle over the jalapeno mixture. Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 20  minutes. Serve with tortilla chips or veggies.

Next up is the classic guacamole. Use fresh ingredients and keep it simple.

Classic Guacamole

Sometimes I’ll add half of a diced small red onion which gives it a nice bite but it depends who’s coming over. My sister can’t deal with onions and so I leave them out just for her. Other than that I really don’t like to mess with this recipe too much because its just perfect this way.

Ingredients:
3 Haas Avocados
2 ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1-2 jalapeno, finely chopped
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
juice from 1/2 lemon

Add avocado to bowl and break into cubes with fork, add chopped tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, salt & pepper, lemon juice and blend well. Do not over mix since guacamole, it should be chunky and not runny. Serve right away or place a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of guacamole, press down to get all the air pockets out and refrigerate. The lemon in the guacamole from browning but placing plastic wrap on top of the guacamole helps as well. If it does turn brown a bit just scrape the top layer off and it will be fine.

Finally, this dip is amazing and very hot and spicy. You can serve anything with this. I even puree the mixture to use as a condiment sauce.

Creamy Chipotle Dip

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt
4 chipotles peppers in adobo sauce, chopped finely
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp chopped cilantro

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well blended and serve with your favorite chips or vegetables. If you don’t have Greek yogurt you can use regular plain yogurt. The Greek version is a bit thicker and makes dip a bit more dense.

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Spicy Pork Wontons with Dipping Sauce

This week I’m celebrating the Chinese New Year with food! I’m preparing a few of my favorite dishes, well at least the easier ones, kicked up a bit with spice! I’ve been looking for simple recipes for a while and found an Asian inspired meatball recipe and thought it would make a great wonton filling. The recipe called for turkey meatballs but I wanted to work with ground pork for my wontons so I omitted a few ingredients and added some spice. This meatball/filling is so incredibly good you can make anything with it. I can definitely see an Asian inspired burger in the near future! So even if you don’t celebrate Chinese New Year you can make this recipe your own and serve it for any gathering.

Here’s what I did…I chopped up a couple of scallions, added soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and hot chile peppers to ground pork and mixed it up really well.

I then spooned about a tsp of meat into center of wrappers and shaped the wontons. The first couple I made were terrible but I got the hang of it once I got into my groove. This was actually fun and couldn’t wait to taste them. I felt like kid completing a really important project for school except I was going to do the grading!


Spicy Pork Wontons
recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen, makes over 2 dozen

Ingredients:
1 lb of ground pork
2 tbsp of soy sauce (low sodium)
1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp of sesame oil
3 scallions, chopped
2 hot chile peppers (Indian or Thai), chopped
wonton wrappers
canola oil for frying

1. Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and blend well with fork. Cover and let sit in frig for at least 1 hour.

2. Line up your wonton wrappers on a board and spoon in 1 teaspoon of meat mixture in the center of wrapper.

3. Dab your finger in water and wet the edges of wrapper. Folder over wrapper to cover meat so you’ll be left with triangle shape. Grab each of the longer ends of triangle and bring together to form a little bonnet. Dab with a bit of water so the ends stick together.

4. Heat up oil in saute pan and add wonton wrappers when oil is hot. Do not let the oil smoke. Make sure its on medium heat and fry wrappers for 2 minutes on each side. Make these in small batches so its more manageable. Transfer cooked wrappers to paper towels to absorb oil and serve with dipping sauce.

I only used half the batch to make wontons and decided to reserve enough for two burger patties that I froze, then I made these spicy little pork meatballs! This is a very versatile recipe and I’m sure you can think of many ways to have this so please enjoy!!

Spicy Pork Meatballs

Just roll 1-2 tsp of meat between palms and fry mini meatballs in oil, enough oil to coat pan. Fry on medium heat for about 3 minutes making sure to fry on side first then the other. These are mouth-watering good! Definitely making these again for the Superbowl!!!

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Scallion Pancakes and Spiced Dipping Sauce

Happy Chinese New Year! The year of the Dragon is said to be the luckiest of all the animal signs and to honor this special year I decided to finally prepare some of my favorite Chinese dishes. I’ve always been intimidated with Chinese cooking because it looks complicated and the ingredients aren’t items I normally keep stocked. I was inspired after seeing so many gorgeous dishes on the web and finding seemingly easy recipes so I pushed forward and just went for it…and very happy with the results.

So this week I’m preparing a few dishes that I always order when I go out for Chinese food. I decided on scallion pancakes, spicy pork dumplings and General Tso chicken. I have a few other favorites but baby steps folks, this is a first for me so don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. I do think I’ll leave the fancy dishes to the experts though. These dishes that I’ll be featuring in the next few days are adaptions of recipes I’ve been collecting. The first is the scallion pancake. I just couldn’t believe how easy it was to make scallion pancakes! Why didn’t I try this sooner?! In the next coming days I’ll post my versions of dumplings, wontons and General Tso. Also, a special thanks to From Away blog for sharing this recipe! So Yummy!!

Scallion Pancakes (makes 4)
recipe adapted from From Away

Ingredients
2 cups of flour
1 cup of boiling water
1 cup of scallions, diced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
2-3 tbsp canola oil

1. Add flour to mixing bowl and turn to medium speed while slowing pouring in boiling water until dough starts to form.

2. Flour a board and roll dough in a ball. Flatten dough with palm of hand and cut into 4 pieces. Take each piece and roll into 4 separate balls. *I made half the recipe above to make 2 pancakes.

3. Take one of the balls and flatten again with palm, roll dough out to an 6-8 inch disk. Brush lightly with sesame oil on both sides then roll into a cigar shape. Next roll into a coil shape as shown below.

4. Take coil shaped dough and repeat step #3 above but before rolling into cigar, sprinkle the scallion around and add a pinch of the red pepper flakes.

5. Roll into cigar shape again making sure none of the scallion falls out, then into coil shape as shown below. Flatten down dough and roll out into disk.

6. Fry pancake in 1 tbsp of oil for about 2 minutes on each side on medium heat. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn but it should be a bit crispy.

7. Cut into wedges and serve with spicy dipping sauce.

Spicy Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp diced scallions
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sugar

Mix all ingredients and let sit out so flavor can blend well.

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