Mall Pretzels…

While passing through Utah on our way to Idaho – we stopped by to see some old friends from our Milwaukee days. We gathered for a play date and my loving and ambitious friend Leslie thought ahead and made pretzel dough. So by the time we showed up to play and catch up – the kids were busy making pretzels. They may not have been the most beautiful pretzels. In fact, some weren’t considered pretzels at all – there were swords, balls, braids – the pretzel dough pretty much became play dough that we cooked. And as unappetizing as some of them looked, they were all delicious. I’m a sucker for just about any bread.
Life with Fingerprings: Mall Pretzels

The kids took about 30 minutes to become reacquainted and then they were pretty much best friends that couldn’t stand to say goodbye to each other. There was beauty salon and nerf gun wars and cars outside on the patio. They played for hours. We laughed about how much our families have grown since our babysitting coop days years ago. Here’s a picture of our two families all grown up (another friend had already left with her four girls). We’ll continue to snap a picture like this every year!
Life with Fingerprings: Mall Pretzels

And it seems as though every other year or so we’re introducing soon-to-be friends.
Life with Fingerprings: Mall Pretzels

And because I really did love the pretzels, I snagged the recipe off the counter.

Mall Pretzels
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 tablespoons baking soda
2 tablespoons butter melted
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, brown sugar and salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Stir in flour, and knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let rise for one hour.

Combine 2 cups warm water and baking soda in an 8 inch square pan. Line 6 baking sheets with parchment paper.
After dough has risen, cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 3 foot rope, pencil thin or thinner. Twist into a pretzel shape, and dip into the baking soda solution. Place onto parchment covered baking sheets, and let rise 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with coarse salt, garlic salt or cinnamon sugar.

Dinner Group…

Our friend suggested we start a dinner group: An evening where we cook something new as a group and enjoy the meal together. She suggested the first meal; fresh spring rolls and sukiyaki. I had no clue what sukiyaki even was. Her brother had served a mission in Japan and had come home and taught the family how to make it – she was passing on the knowledge to us.

She sent out food assignments as to what we needed to bring. I probably called her three times asking her questions about my assignments. How big should I cut the celery? Is the special type of cabbage really needed? Do you want me to cook a whole pack of noodles or will a half pack do?

I was a little concerned prepping my items thinking I should probably eat something before hand because I couldn’t imagine a decent meal coming out of the things I was cutting up!

But the meal did not disappoint.
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The spring rolls were delicious – angel noodles, red peppers, mango, carrots, mint, topped with a peanut sauce wrapped in rice paper. Never would I have thrown those foods together, but it worked well.

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The main course was enjoyable – very Melting Pot-ish. A wide variety of veggies, chicken, noodles and tofu cook at the table in a teriyaki sauce. You then spoon out the items you wish to eat and serve it over rice. I was a fan of everything but the tofu. Just not my thing!

I’m pretty sure I was stuffed after multiple spring rolls – but I made room for the sukiyaki and I’m glad I did. It was tasty – I love teriyaki sauce! I was happy to see there were leftovers which I enjoyed for a few days later.

Our first dinner group left the expectations a little high for the future. I’m not sure what we’ll be cooking next – but even if the dinner falls short, the company will still be great!

Birthday Cake Rice Krispies…

These are an oldie but a goodie in our house. Bennett’s birthday is still three weeks away but the way he’s talking about it, you’d think it was tomorrow!

Like all rice krispies, these were easy to make and virtually impossible to screw up!
6 cups Rice Krispies
1 bag of miniature marshallows
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup yellow cake mix (the original called for less, but I liked a little more flavor)

Melt marshmallows with butter. Once it’s almost melted add the dry cake mix. Mix with the cereal. Once marshmallows are stirred in well add a lot of sprinkles. Don’t stir a whole lot once the sprinkles have been poured in because it dye will start to color your treats. Press into greased 13×9 cake pan. Add more sprinkles to the top and lightly press down so they stick. Let them sit for 30 minutes before cutting into them. (I like mine a little more gooey, so I add some more marshmallows!)

We made a pan when some cousins were over and loved them so much we made them again the next afternoon. Since you only use a 1/2 cup of the cake mix, you would hate to have any of it go to waste…so you must make these treats a couple days in a row. If you have very little self control, you can also put the extra mix in the freezer and save for another day!

Can you imagine other holidays…Fourth of July, Valentines, Christmas, Halloween…there are endless possibilites here!

Bean dip recipe…

Our favorite Mexican restaurant closed down last fall and we’ve been going through serious bean dip withdrawals. I’ve been on the hunt for a good comparison and I found an equal match…18 minutes away. That is way too far to get a bean fix in case you were wondering. I’ve tried a lot of recipes to find “the one”. We’ve altered recipes and altered them again. I’ve thrown whole batches away because they didn’t work for us. But we found one. We eat it with chips, we eat it in burritos. The kids like it. Wins all the way around.
Life with Fingerprints: Easy homemade bean dip made from scratch
1 lb dry pinto beans
2 quarts (8 cups) water
1 small onion
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tsps jalapeño (we use canned so the heat is consistent)
2 tbsp green chiles
2 tsps onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 brick of cream cheese

Soak beans in a bowl or pot overnight in 8 cups of cold water.
Life with Fingerprints: Easy homemade bean dip made from scratch
Drain and rinse beans after soaking. Place beans in a pot with 8 cups of water and diced onion (or dried onion). Cover with a lid and cook on high for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Once cooked (they should be fully tender when pierced with a fork), ladle out 1 3/4 cups of the water and reserve. Drain remaining water by pouring beans into a colander. Place beans, reserved 3/4 cups of water, butter, cream cheese, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and pepper in a blender.
Life with Fingerprints: Easy homemade bean dip made from scratch
Cover blender with lid and blend on low/medium speed for about 1 minute or until well blended. If it is too thick after blending, add more of your reserved water until its the right consistency.
Life with Fingerprints: Easy homemade bean dip made from scratchg
Pour mixture into a large bowl, stir in shredded cheese. Serve warm with tortilla chips. Store in the fridge.

Oreo Chex Mix…

A while back, I found oreos on sale – the cheapest I’d seen them and I stocked up. I bought 18 in one stop and the next time I was at the store I felt the urge to buy 4 more. The shelf was overflowing and everyone who saw our pantry laughed at the insane amount. However, we’re just three months in and the stash is dwindling to just a few bags. I’m kicking myself for not buying more.

The kids take oreos in their lunch. Steve likes oreos and milk. We’ve had frozen oreo delight. Oreo milkshakes. And…oreo chex mix. Chex mix is a staple at our house and we’ve played around with many varieties, but this one has stuck. And we seem to have plenty of oreos on hand!

Life with Fingerprints: Oreo Chex Mix
OREO CHEX MIX – or Oreo Muddy Buddies
5 C. rice chex cereal
1 C. white chocolate melts (or chocolate chips)
8 Oreos finely crushed
½ C. powdered sugar

5 C. rice chex cereal
1 C. milk chocolate melts (or chocolate chips)
8 Oreos finely crushed
½ C. powdered sugar
Extra chopped Oreos

You’ll see that the recipe is divided into two sections. You make have using white chocolate and half using chocolate and then mix them together in a bowl.

Melt white chocolate in a microwave bowl and stir until smooth, make sure not to overcook. Cook in short intervals and stir. Pour over chex cereal and stir. Put it in a bag or bowl with a lid, add powdered sugar and finely crushed oreos and shake.

Repeat with chocolate.

Once cooled, mix the white chocolate and chocolate chex into the same bowl and add some extra chopped oreos.