Chistmas Treats: Soft Pretzel Wreaths with Cheese Dip


This year, I googled “Savory Christmas Food Gifts” and I was super excited to find this recipe for Soft Pretzels. Although mine did NOT come out as full and cute as the ones pictured with the recipe, I can vouch that this recipe is tasty and spot-on. I’d never made dough before and it was really fun and easy.

After my mom and I had made the batch, she mentioned that pairing them with a sauce would make the pretzels even better. I had to agree. And even though I absolutely abhor cheese, I’m a people pleaser — and I know how tasty that combo is claimed to be! So I headed to the store with this cheese sauce recipe, and whipped up a batch. I bought Tillamook cheese, because … Tillamook!


Because our shapes were just a little off, and they happened to be bigger than what would fit in the containers I was planning to use, I ended up just using bright red lunch bags and scrapbook paper. It was easy-peasy and kept them looking homemade. (Atleast that’s how I justify it!)


Try this recipe! If you don’t have time during Christmas, this will impress on Game Day, too!

Pretzels (adapted from Taste of Home)

• 1 package (1/4 ounces) active dry yeast
• 1-1/2 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
• Coarse salt


  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add 2 cups flour, sugar and salt. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Divide dough into 16 portions. Roll each portion into a 15-in. rope. Fold each rope in half and twist two or three times; shape into a circle and pinch ends together.
  • Place on greased baking sheets. Brush with egg white; sprinkle with salt or sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 16 Pretzels

Cheese Sauce (adapted from Smells Like Home)

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (not package pre-shredded cheese – shred your own)
Kosher salt


  • In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
  • Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps of flour remain. Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted. Add a pinch of salt, if needed.

Serve warm. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals.


Easy and Super Delicious: Spiced Nuts

Happy New Year! Excuse the Christmas packaging, but I’m a little late on posting this. Couldn’t let it slip by though – this would be a delicious addition to your party tables tonight. They’re quick, easy and fall right in line with everybody’s mindset of staving off sweets after the holiday over-indulgences. You can make these for the party or package them up to give to your friends to start off the new year. Enjoy!

Spiced Nuts (adapted from the recipe found at

  • 1 large egg white
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 40 oz. mixed nuts (I bought in bulk at my local Sprouts market)
  1. Heat oven to 300°.
  2. Beat the egg white until nice and foamy. Mix in all spices. Add nuts and stir to coat.
  3. Bake nuts in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, pull ’em out and give ’em a stir.
  5. Reduce heat to 250° and bake for another 20 minutes
  6. Let nuts cool completely and store for up to two weeks.
Notes: It was recommended to double this recipe and use 40 oz. of mixed nuts and 40 oz. of cashews. I have to second that recommendation. Cashews rule!
Packaging: The sky is the limit! Use treat bags, brown paper bags or mason jars! I found these clear cylinder containers from my local Cake Supply Store. Similar containers can be found here.

Climbing Pie Mountain

photo(10)When I found out that my friend Danny had been given the task of making Saveur Magazine’s Salted Caramel Apple Pie for the Thanksgiving Dinner she’d be attending, I was all up in her business asking if I could help. I’ve never made a pie before and I was eager to check that off the bucket list. Kicking off my pie-making career with this recipe was one heck of a start, but I’m happy to say that we climbed Pie Mountain and each had our own pies to show for it … barely.

photo(11)Things got off to a good start: we’d donned adorable aprons, we’d made our flaky butter pie dough, apples were sliced and doused appropriately for their 1st phase of marination and the remaining steps ahead of us sounded delicious. But wow, Saveur sure knows how to make a recipe convoluted — there were only three steps numbered in the recipes, but each step had many more tasks within the paragraph! With two sets of eyes (and two pretty sharp brains) you’d think we’d catch everything, but each time we referred back to the recipe, we seemed to find something we’d missed. No big deal, we made a quick jaunt to the grocery store for a package of pie shells (oops, the receipe makes two crusts, but we needed two for one pie) and heavy cream (no, the 4 sticks of butter weren’t enough I guess).

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Photo capture from

Upon our return, the homemade dough was properly chilled, so it was time to roll it out. Danny didn’t mess around, she busted out her ruler and took cutting those 1.5″ strips seriously. Our apples had been doused in round two of their marinade, and they were ready to get into that pie crust and get cozy with the salted caramel sauce we were making. The caramel sauce turned out just as described … deep reddish brown and seductively shiny-looking. That caramel was almost a lacquer once it got inside of the pie pan. We decided to both use one homemade crust and one store-bought so we could each taste the fruits of our labor. Once the lattice detail on top was complete, we were ready to throw these babies in the oven.


At the end of SIX HOURS, we were ready to call it a night … it was late, we both were semi-delirious, and Danny assured me we both didn’t have to wait for them to bake, I could swing by in the morning and pick up my pie before dinner.

Poor Danny. Apparently that’s when things got crazy. Suddenly, smoke was filling the kitchen, and when she looked in the oven, all the filling was bubbling and leaking outside of the pie pans. WTF? She was able to keep her smoke alarm from sounding after midnight and miraculously — she also somehow managed to save these pies from destruction. They were completely intact and edible, even if they had a sloshy filling.

So what went wrong?

Well, somehow we managed to forget about that heavy cream that sat in the fridge; apparently, we were supposed to have added it to the caramel sauce after taking it off the burner. I think we were being so careful to not burn the caramel, we just plum forgot. I think that forgetting the heavy cream is what caused our caramel sauce to melt back down to its buttery-pure sugar state and eventually, bubble and run over at high temps in the oven. My thought is without the cream, the sauce couldn’t congeal and stay creamy and thick in the filling.

Was it still good?

Yes, the pie was tasty. It was flavorful and delicious, but instead of sticky gooey caramel sauce intermixed with honey crisp apples, we had more of a caramel apple marinade inside.

Was making your own crust worth it?

Tough call. It was my 1st time, and I don’t have much to compare it to, but based on this experience — no. Instinct told me that the consistency wasn’t quite right, but it still worked and it still tasted great. However, the difference between the store bought and homemade wasn’t worth the hassle in this particular case.

Should I make this pie myself?

Why not? I will say, I felt very accomplished. I’ll also say that it was a very testy recipe though. If you do take on this task, allow yourself a lot of time and do it with a friend. It definitely took the stress off and many f-bombs in the kitchen were replaced with laughs!

At the end of the day, I made a pie, it tasted good, and I had a blast with my pal, Danny. It was a win all around. Be sure to let me know if you brave this recipe — click this link to get on your way!

Dinner Party for Two: A Korean Feast

For Valentine’s Day this year, I decided that I wanted to cook something really special for my beloved mister: A proper Korean Feast! It seems like a no-brainer, but of course he absolutely LOVES Korean food, and in the three years we’ve been married, I really haven’t cooked it enough for him.

A few years ago, my mom-in-law bought us “Practical Korean Cooking“, a traditional Korean cookbook written by Noh Chin-hwa. It was translated to English with the intention of helping Westerners learn how to prepare Korean cuisine. The coolest part about this cookbook? There are step-by-step photos that guide you along, which was a BIG help (seeing as how I had no idea what some of the ingredients looked like or how these dishes are supposed to look)! So I guess in the spirit of “Julie & Julia“, this project turned out to be the Korean version. Instead of trying to tackle Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking“, I took on the challenge of Practical Korean Cooking! I decided on making a 4-Course meal. I knew it was ambitious, but I am proud to report that 4 hours later it was a huge success!

1st Course: Saengseon Jeon
(Pan-Grilled Fish Cake with Egg)

These “fish & egg pancakes” (as I called them before looking up the proper name) are a staple for my husband! He LOVES them so much, often times he can’t wait until they’re completely made – he has to cut off slices of the fish cake and eat them plain! My mom-in-law helped me with this recipe and she even gave me a cute idea of making them heart-shaped! They are super simple – beat some eggs, add a pinch of salt, dip the slices of fish cake in the egg and cook them like a pancake! I even found a heart shaped frame I could use at the Korean Market!

2nd Course: Komt’ang (Beef Stock Soup)

This soup got put on the list because a) I’ve never made my own soup stock from scratch before and b) the mister loves any kind of noodles!!! Basically, this recipe was a simple soup made with beef shank, garlic, korean radish and “chinese style” noodles. This was definitely the toughest to shop for – at Zion Market they had 2 whole aisles of just noodles! How’s a girl like me supposed to figure out the right one?!? I’m pretty sure I chose the wrong noodles, but he said it was delicious nonetheless.

3rd Course, part 1: Twaejigogi Kimch’ibokkum
(Stir-Fry Pork with Kimchi)

You’re definitely not eating a true Korean meal if there is no kimchi involved, so I knew this dish would hit the spot. No, I didn’t make my own kimchi from scratch, but there’s always next time! Thank goodness my mom-in-law told me which red pepper paste to look out for (whew!). This dish came out so spicy and bold and delicious – and the husband said everything about it was “just right”!

3rd Course, part 2: Nakchinokkum (Fried Octopus)

My goal from the start was to knock his socks off and completely surprise him by this meal – so I knew the sure-fire way to do just that was to include octopus on the menu. Octopus is a huge favorite for my husband, and there is no way he would ever expect that I would make that for him! Even though I am not a big fan of the octopus, I did give it a shot. He was completely shocked that I even attempted it and very happy about how it turned out!

I took this shot of him, mid-bite:

He liked it – he really, really liked it! 🙂

4th course: Strawberry Ice Cream and
Rice Cracker Treats

Pretty simple, but Strawberry Ice Cream is always a hit with my mister, and paired with Rice Crackers, I knew it would be a solid finish to the meal!

In total, I spent about 4 hours preparing everything tonight – and it was worth every minute of it to see his shock and amazement! Now I want to practice a bit more so I can impress my in-laws! 🙂 A BIG thank you goes out to my awesome mom-in-law who helped me out a lot by sharing some invaluable tips!

Here are a few more details of the evening:

Place setting + menu

Devouring the octopus!

I did it!

My menu!
(Sorry for bad quality of some photos – technical difficulty had us using our iPhones for the majority of the evening!)