drum roll please…….
the MRS. is in the house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I believe my lapse in blogging is fairly excusable. I did just get married after all! And by just, I mean just last week. So far I’ve been enjoying the married life. We’ve unwrapped, cataloged, and stowed away just about all of the goodies our wonderful friends and family have given us. We have friends who have been married for two years and say they still have mysterious closets full of wedding gifts. If you know me, and most of you do, you know my OCD, Type A, organizational freak personality just won’t allow that to happen. So we’ve found a place for almost EVERYTHING. It does help that all our old kitchen accessories and bedding have found their way to our newly purchased travel trailer (it’s for the deer lease, more on that another day).
I should have tons of awesome photos to share, but I’ll save that for another day. Today I just wanted to make sure you knew I was alive.
My family has a time honored tradition of making what we call “foil packs.”
Foil Pack: a precisely and often creatively wrapped foil package containing ground beef (or turkey), potatoes, assorted vegetables, and various spices. Assembled by each person to his or her specifications, wrapped up and placed on a bed of hot coals until cooked.
Last week, Cody and I had my parents, brother and his girlfriend, and my grandmother over for “foil pack” night.
I prepped for the dinner by washing and halving carrots, potatoes, celery, cabbage, bell pepper, garlic, and onion. I laid these all out for everyone to chop themselves (the hands on part of this meal is what makes it so special). I then took ground beef (and turkey) and sectioned it out into 1/2 pound balls. ** I am probably the only member of the Cowan family that advocates the turkey alternate. Anyone else will tell you I am breaking tradition. ***
Each person creating their foil pack grabs a ball of ground meat and adds their favorite vegetables and spices, securely folds and wraps the foil into an air tight package and places them on very hot coals. The best part of foil pack night are the bonding moments shared while standing around the hot coals watching your packs cook. There’s always the one that bloats, the one that’s huge, the one that sizzles, the one that’s tiny. Because everyone makes their own and wraps there own, its always fun to taunt each other. In the photo above, my brothers is the giant one in the middle. He always competes for the largest foil pack. This night he didn’t have any competition, but when my boy cousins are around, he has a run for his money.
I’ve always loved being part of big, tight-knit family. My cousins are my friends. My aunts and uncles are like second, third and fourth sets of parents. And my grandmother, well, she’s the glue that holds us all together. As I’ve started comparing my family to others, I wonder what we’ve been doing right for so long, and I’ve realized that its not just one thing that makes us so close and so loving, but a million small things (like foil pack night) that bring us together and allow us to enjoy our time spent together.
Let me begin by saying yeast and I have a rough history. We didn’t hit it off well back in 2000 when I tried a dinner roll recipe that should have been simple enough, and then in 2009 we butted heads again when my best friends and I tried to conquer Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls. But today, my friends, I finally won.
These soft pretzels are amazing! They are easy and fun to make, and best of all, they are absolutely delicious!
I’m not a huge fan of Alton Brown’s show on the Food Network. It’s more of my dad’s type of cooking show (my dad teaches Chemistry and Physics), and I usually flip the channel to something like Millionaire Matchmaker when Alton comes on. BUT, I love his recipes. This is my favorite to date.
Note: your stove top may look like this after you dunk the little guys in their 30 second bath:
But don’t let the mess deter you from trying this recipe. Its amazing, made better only by a cheese sauce for dipping, lucky me, I have a jar in the fridge!
Homemade Soft Pretzels
Yields 8 large pretzels.
- 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil, for pan
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Pretzel salt
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and kneaduntil the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Do these shoes, most of which are incredibly ugly, painful looking, and far from fashionable, actually increase muscle activity? Is it possible to shape up that rear just by donning a pair of shoes or do women see results because they are getting up off the couch? Am I going to see a difference in my tush because of a shoe even though I’m already active?
Well my friends, I’m going to find out. Today I purchased a pair of New Balance truebalance walking shoes. They are by far the cutest “toning” shoes on the market. Need more than my word for it?
So, tonight I took the Murph out on her daily walk and wore my truebalance 850’s (which also happen to benefit the Susan G. Komen Lace Up for the Cure Foundation). My thoughts after our mile walk are as follows:
“How stinkin’ cute are my pink shoes?”
“I could totally wear these with jeans, and I HATE jeans with tennis shoes.”
” The outside of my right foot feels a little funny.”
“Maybe next I’ll review a pair of Louboutin’s – If only someone were to donate a pair….”
“I hope by tush is super toned come spring break.”
The more I’ve been cooking, the more I’ve been spending on fresh herbs. Which led me to long for an herb garden. I’ve wanted one for some time now, but had been apprehensive to get one started. Would it take too much time and money? Did I have the actual gardening skill set to grow something from a SEED???
Well my friends, in my off time (two entire weeks) I conquered my fear of the herb garden and started a small planter of Chives, Oregano, Rosemary, and Basil. About 7 days later, these little guys are growing strong!
or OMG, look at these from Monkeys Always Look
These are to DIE for! I
think KNOW I need them.