Cheddar Ale Soup in Soft Pretzel Bowls

So a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website for Cheddar Ale soup…it sounded delicious but I didn’t have all the ingredients….so I filed it on my computer for another day.     I recently got a Mac and I’m still (3+ months later) trying to figure it out.  I went to find the recipe and couldn’t remember where I filed it…..so I did a quick google search for Cheddar Ale Soup and not only did I find the original recipe (from Williams-Sonoma), but I found someone that made THAT soup served in a………..wait for it……………..

A pretzel bowl!   

It has all the makings of the perfect game day food (or any day food, really)!    I could probably poll 100 men (and women too) and 90% would say at least 3 of these ingredients are on their “Top 10 Favorite Foods” list!   Cheese…….Check!  Bacon…..Check!  Beer……Check!  Pretzels……CHECK!!!   Pure Genius!  

 All day my house smelled amazing, from the pretzel dough rising on the counter, to the soup simmering on the stove, to the pretzel bowls baking in the oven…..it was heaven!  And the taste was even better!  It was delicious and the best part….I didn’t have bowls to wash after because we got to eat them!

 I’m not going to lie or even try to minimize this meal…..it takes awhile to make and it’s pretty tedious and there are lots of pans and bowls to wash (but no soup bowls!!!).  I was in the kitchen a lot this morning, more than I like to be.   When I wasn’t actually standing at the stove, I was checking on things, but if you have some time and want to make a yummy meal DO IT..I dare you!  You won’t be disappointed!  File this one away for when you are home on a snowy day or a weekend when you have extra time to spend cooking!   I actually did most of the prep and cooking of this meal in the morning and then finished it up around dinner time, because I had time while my kids were in school.  It actually worked out nicely!  You don’t have to do the pretzel bowls either…you can serve the soup in regular bowls….but I highly suggest the edible ones!  My kids loved them, and I can’t lie…..I did too! 

Pretzel Bowls

(Thank You Fake Ginger)

Makes 4 Bowls

5 1/2 cups bread flour

2 envelopes of quick-rising yeast

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

4 cups + another tablespoon or 2 of hot water (very hot, but not boiled)

Cornmeal

8 cups of water

1/4 cup baking soda

2 Tbsp sugar

1 egg white (beaten to blend)

Coarse Salt (I didn’t have this, so I left it out…I also don’t like salt on my pretzels — I’m weird

Combine bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water in stand mixer (or large bowl) and mix until dough comes together in a ball.   Switch stand mixer to kneading attachment and knead for 5 minutes.  Or put dough on floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (or until elastic and smooth.  Grease medium bowl.  Add dough to bowl, turning to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume (about 35 minutes).

Flour baking sheet.   Knead on lightly floured surface.   Diving into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and place on floured baking sheet.  Cover with towel and let sit for approx. 20 minutes until balls double in volume.  

Preheat oven to 375°.   Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Bring 8 cups of water to boil in large sauce pan.   Add baking soda and sugar (it will foam — don’t panic).    Add one ball of dough to water with slotted spoon and let sit for 30 seconds.  Flip ball and let sit for another 30 seconds.   Transfer ball 9with slotted spoon) to prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining bowls.

Brush rolls with egg white.  Sprinkle generously with salt (or omit like I did).  Bake rolls until brown about 25-30 minutes.   Transfer to wire racks and let cool.  

Using a sharp knife, work on a diagonal in a circle to remove a hole in the top.  Remove top and then hollow out the middles of the rolls to make a bowl.  Do this gently so you don’t puncture a hole in the sides or bottom.  

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Cheddar Ale Soup

(adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

 Serves 6-8 bowls of soup

 6 slices of bacon

1 Tbsp butter

1 Vidalia onion — diced

2 carrots — peeled and diced

2 celery stalks — diced

3 cloves of garlic — minced

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cup pale ale (any flavor you like)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 cups milk

3 cup chicken broth

1 pound of extra sharp cheddar cheese– shredded

 

In a frying pan, cook bacon until crisp.   

Remove bacon and drain on paper towel.

 

In a large stock pot add 2 pieces of the bacon and 2 Tbsp of the fat from the frying pan, cook on medium heat.  

Add and melt the butter.  

Add the onion, carrots and celery, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. 

Add the ale and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. 

Add the Worcestershire, milk and broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup (in small batches) in a blender.  You can also you an immersion blender.


Set the pot over medium-low heat and add the cheese by the handful, stirring constantly; do not allow the soup to boil. 

Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed pretzel bowls. 

Garnish with leftover crumbled bacon.

 ENJOY!!!  I know you will!!!

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~gianna~

Coconut Chicken Strips

I accidentally bought chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts the other day and needed to make them tonight!  I found a recipe that was perfect for dinner, because I knew the girls and Joe would eat it, but also perfect for the “football food” theme.   It’s very simple, doesn’t take much time and will wow any crowd, young and old.   Pair these chicken strips with some yummy dipping sauce of your own or use mine, and it’s sure to be a touchdown!!!!   (Sorry — I had to).  This can also be made into a meal!   Follow the same directions using butterfly shrimp for a different taste!  YUM!

Coconut Chicken Strips

 1-2 pounds — chicken tenders (cleaned)

2 eggs

1/4 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

salt (to taste)

oil (for frying)

 Set out 3 bowls.  In first bowl combine and mix eggs and coconut milk.  In second bowl combine salt and flour and in third bowl combine planko breadcrumb and shredded coconut.

 While your oil is getting nice and hot, dip each chicken tender first in the flour mixture, then egg/coconut milk mixture, and then coat it in the planko and coconut mixture.   Once oil is hot, place chicken into pan and cook approx. 3 – 4 minutes on each side and until chicken is golden brown and crispy.  If they are thicker tenders you may need to cook a little longer.

 Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain excess oil and let sit for a few minutes.

 Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.   ENJOY!!!

 

Here is what I whipped up for my dipping sauce and it was delicious:

Dipping Sauce for Coconut Chicken or Shrimp

No recipe — so add ingredients to taste

 Apricot Preserves  (I used about 10oz) — you can use Orange or Peach too!

Soy Sauce (about 1 tbsp)

Spicy Brown Mustard (about 1 tsp.)

Juice of half a lemon

Ground ginger (about 1tsp.)

Sesame oil (about 1/2 tsp)

 

Mix together and serve!

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~gianna~

Beer & Chili Meatballs

These little balls of deliciousness have been an old standby of mine whenever I’m asked to “bring a hearty appy!” because you can make them in bulk and they are so yummy!  I also always add them to my own menus..when I’m hosting a party!  I usually cook them on the stove, and then transfer them to my crockpot and keep it on warm, just to keep them hot!  (They aren’t as good served room temperature..or cold!)   And even though they do have beer in them……kids go coo-coo for them!  The alcohol burns off…so don’t worry (I never do) ;oP  And they are made with ground turkey, so they are a tad more healthy!  BONUS!!!  They are also great for any time of year…I’ve done them for New Years Eve….a Summer Luau or any day in between.  I was recently told by friends that they started making these for parties and they call them “Gianna’s Meatballs”.  I’d be happy to have my name attached to this recipe!  


You must make these for the next “bring a hearty (or any) appy!” party!  And you won’t be disappointed…NO ONE will!

Beer & Chili Meatballs

Preheat oven to 350°

You will need for meatballs…

1 lb ground turkey

1 cup Italian Breadcrumbs

2 eggs (beaten)

3/4 cup milk

Mix all in a bowl (I use my KA Stand Mixer)

Form small meatballs (like bite-sized or a little bigger)

Put on a baking sheet that has been lightly oiled

Bake for 30 minutes


You will also need

1/2 cup beer (any kind)

1/2 cup brown sugar

A bottle of chili sauce

(people often ask where to find this in the store.  It’s usually near the cocktail sauce and ketchup)


In a large pot on the stove mix in all ingredients and drop in meatballs. Stir occasionally, let simmer for 15-20 minutes!

 

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~gianna~

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Here is an oldie, but goodie!  I used to make it all the time for parties….it was one of my go-to dips.  But then other dips/appys took it’s place and I kinda stopped bringing it.  The nice thing about this recipe is that someone, somewhere ends up bringing it to a party or get together we are at…and it resurfaces itself.  Which is exactly what happened again. A friend of mine brought it to our New Year’s Eve party this year….and now it’s baaaaaack!   If you like buffalo-style chicken wings, you will love this dip!  It’s creamy, with a little crunch and a whole lot of spice and it’s really easy!  It’s a perfect dip for anytime..but especially football season!   It’s also one of my husband’s favorites!

 I tweaked my original recipe (which I got from one of my best friends, Alyssa) to make it a somewhat lighter version.   The only difference is to swap out regular cream cheese for the 1/3 less fat (or fat free) and serve it with crackers and tortilla chips instead of celery and carrots!    You decide which is the right fit for you!  🙂

Buffalo Chicken Dip (the healthier version)

 

2 pkg. 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese

2 small or 1 large can of chicken (I use all white meat Swanson)

1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch (dry mix)

1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (more or less to your liking)

1/2 cup diced celery

Celery, Carrots, Crackers or Tortilla Chips for dipping

 

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine cream cheese, hot sauce and ranch packet in a bowl and mix well with a mixer (hand or stand) until smooth.

Add chicken and celery and mix until it’s incorporated.  

Pour mixture into an 8×8 baking dish.  

Cook for about 20 minutes or until it starts to bubble…stirring every so often.

 Serve warm with celery sticks, carrot sticks, crackers or tortilla chips. 

 ENJOY!

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~gianna~

Super Bowl Time!!!

There has been a lot of talk around here about the Super Bowl….NOT because either of our local teams are in it…sadly, they are not, but because New Jersey is hosting it this year.  Neither the JETS (my team) nor the Giants will be playing, but we will still be watching.  We are a football liking family.  My husband is a football lover, but he has 2 daughters and a wife….therefore we like, we don’t love unless the JETS are playing.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting lots of recipes that would be perfect for any Super Bowl party or football Sunday!  My family and I love appetizers, dips and other fun finger foods….messy ones especially!  The messier, the better in my opinion.  You will find lots of great recipes over the next few weeks…all of which are tried and true.   Dips to hearty appetizers….lightened up recipes and sweets too!

Let’s start the party off right with this little number!  Someone made these for  my New Year’s Eve party this year and it was definitely the big winner that night!   People were raving about these hot dogs.  I even overheard a father pushing them on his 8 year old daughter…”You gotta try this….it’s the best thing you will ever eat!  It’s a HOT DOG..WRAPPED IN BACON!!!!!  (very enthusiastic!)   You really just have to try it, you won’t be disappointed!”  She took one bite and was hooked!  I heard another father say to his 13 year old, “It’s a hot dog wrapped in bacon…if you try it and don’t like…I will give you $5!”   Another one hooked!  Both True Stories.

It was the only food (and we had a lot of delicious food that night) that was completely GONE by the end of the night!   I have no idea where they got the recipe, but I’m so glad these landed in my kitchen!   They are FAR from healthy…in fact they might just be one of the most unhealthy things ever…..but who cares??   If you are still sticking to your “New Year’s Diet”….then just bookmark this page for a month from now…when you won’t give a damn and you’re looking for a great Super Bowl recipe to please everyone (even the ones still dieting)!

I’ve gone ahead and named this recipe “Jimmy’s Smokies” because  he and his wife recently told me they have named meatballs I make (recipe coming soon), “Gianna’s Meatballs.”  It felt like the right thing to do!  🙂  So without further ado….

Jimmy’s Smokies

1 package of hot dogs

1 package of bacon

Brown Sugar

Toothpicks

Preheat Oven to 350°

Cut hot dogs into quarters.

Wrap each piece of hot dog in 1/3 of a strip of bacon and secure with toothpick all the way thru (so you can easily pick it up and eat it later).

Place all wrapped hot dogs on baking sheet.

Sprinkle brown sugar all over hot dogs.

Cook for 25-30 minutes.

***Keep and eye on them from 20 minutes on….just to make sure they aren’t burning.  Oven times may vary***  

HEAVEN!!!!  

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~gianna~

Potato Soup’s On!

Baby, it’s cold outside……

In Jersey we’ve had some extremely cold temperatures lately.   Like -5°, feels like -70°.   Ok not that cold, but with all the talk…. and the kids missing school because it’s “too cold” and these crazy weathermen terms  like “Hercules” and “Polar Vortex”and people doing “fun” science experiments throwing boiling hot water into oncoming polar vortex wind gusts….giving themselves 3rd degree burns on their faces….one would think the entire U.S.A turned North Pole.   Well it’s not THAT cold, but it’s cold enough to keep me in the kitchen and not anywhere near the outside.

So last night I decided we need soup.    I set out to see what I had on hand and what kind of soup I wanted to make and decided on Potato Soup.   I found a bunch of different recipes……and kinda mashed them all together to create my own yummy soup!   It was the perfect dinner for a cold night (inside).  HA!    We really enjoyed it and I hope you do too!!!

Potato Soup

8 slices of bacon — chopped 

1 Medium Vidalia onion — diced

3 celery stalks — diced

3 carrots — cleaned and diced

8 small/medium russet potatoes — washed, peeled and diced

8 c. chicken broth

2.5 TBSP flour

1 c. milk

1/3 c heavy cream

1 tsp parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese.

In a large soup pot cook bacon until nice and crispy.

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Remove bacon from pot and put aside.

Discard most of the oil — leaving a small amount in pot.

Add onions, celery and carrots and cook on medium heat until veggies are tender  (approx. 5-7 minutes).

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Add diced potatoes and cook for another 8 minutes.

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Add chicken broth and bring to boil.

Cook for 10 minutes on a gentle boil/simmer and until potatoes are tender.

In a seperate bowl, mix together milk and flour, removing lumps and pour into soup.

Cook for another 5-10 minutes –stirring often.

Remove soup in batches and puree in a blender until all is completely smooth.  

Add all soup back to the pot and add heavy cream, stir and heat it just for another few minutes.

Spoon into bowls and garnish with bacon pieces and shredded cheese.

ENJOY!!!

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~gianna~

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