Soft Pretzel Twists

I’m not even going to gum up this post with a whole schpeal about how everyone loves soft pretzels and how easy these are to make and how they taste exactly like the famous Auntie Anne’s pretzels from the mall, though all of those things are true.

I’ve searched for the perfect pretzel recipe for years and this year, I finally found it and now I am finally ready to share it. Not like it was a huge secret, but you know, whatever. This pretzel is slightly sweet and can be topped with cinnamon and sugar, or brushed with garlic butter and dipped in melty cheese. I suggest both.

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzel Twists

2 cups milk
1 1/2 Tbs active dry yeast (2 packets)
6 Tbs brown sugar
4 Tbs butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups white flour, plus 1/2 cup as needed
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt

1/3 cup baking soda
2 cups warm water

Melted butter (for brushing onto the fresh pretzels)
Dipping Sauce (optional)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

1. Warm the milk on the stove or in the microwave until it is 110 degrees, pour into a large bowl and whisk in the yeast until it is dissolved. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. It should have little bubbles around the bowl.

2. While your yeast is working, mix together the flours, brown sugar, salt and butter in a bowl. The easiest way to blend in the butter is with your fingers, rubbing them together until the butter bits are flaky and well blended.

3. Whisk your flour mixture into your yeast mixture one cup at a time until you have no choice but to use a wooden spoon. Towards the last 1/2 cups of flour, the mixture will get very tough and you will have to start kneading. Folding and pressing the dough onto itself and working in any loose flour. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle it with more flour. It’s up to you. You’ll knead for about 5 minutes and you’ll know you are done when the dough is no longer wet and sticky and forms into a nice ball.

4. Grease a large bowl with a little bit of oil and put in your dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap and put it somewhere warm for an hour. I like to put it on top of my stove. When the hour is up, the dough should have doubled in size.

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5. Right now the dough is full of air, so punch it down to make it a little more manageable. Split the dough into 12 equal pieces.

one punch.

one punch.

many punches! The dough will begin to immediately deflate.

many punches! The dough will begin to immediately deflate.

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6. I roll the chunks into balls, which makes them easier to roll into the rope shape. From here on, I do not use flour on my counter top. The flour leaves everything too slick and the dough doesn’t stay in the shape you want. The counter top allows natural friction for excellent shaping.

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7. Roll the smaller chunks into long ropes. If you want to get technical, they were around 25 inches long.

turn the ball into a small log before rolling

turn the ball into a small log before rolling

roll beginning in the middle and working your way to the ends

roll beginning in the middle and working your way to the ends

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Pick up the rope and put the two ends together and twist the dough onto itself, leaving an open loop at the end.

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To make the twist complete, put the joining end through the loop and twist once. Bam! Pretzel twist.

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8. Put your finished twist onto a sheet tray while you work on the others.

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9. Once all of your twists have been completed, take your warm water and dissolve the baking soda into it. Dunk your twists onto the water mixture and put back on the sheet tray. The baking soda gives your pretzels that pretzel-y crust. Sprinkle on some salt at this time if you’d like.

right after baking soda wash

right after baking soda wash

with a sprinkling of salt

with a sprinkling of salt

10. Let your twists sit and rise for 10 more minutes before baking. Then get those suckers in the oven for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown and brush with melted butter.

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Go ahead and dip them in cheese dip, marinara sauce or some more melted butter.

Enjoy!

 

Overnight Refrigerator Pickles

I figure two months was the perfect amount of time for you all to wait for this post.

Why?

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Because it’s about pickles!! And summertime is infamous for it’s fabulous farm-fresh vegetables. The problem with this is the quantity of vegetables, which is always a large quantity. You get all excited and take them home, then they start looking kind of sad in the bottom of your refrigerator, and then you start seeing your hard-earned dollars melt away into a sludgy goop in the vegetable drawer. I don’t know about you, but that makes me sad. An awesome thing about pickling, is that it preserves your beloved veggies! So, if you know that you aren’t going to use those two cucumbers before they go bad, just pickle them.

I originally found the recipe for these Overnight-Bread and Butter Pickles at The Burlap Bag blog. I liked the recipe but the thing I loved the most was the method. You’ll see what I mean once we get into it.

Not only will we be pickling cucumbers, but radishes as well. I bough a bunch at the farmer’s market the other day, and boy are they spicy. Hopefully the pickling solution will take out some of the spiciness.

*Disclaimer: radishes tend to have a funny smell once they are pickled, but otherwise they taste great. It’s not for everyone, so I understand if you don’t want to try this out.

Overnight Pickles

2 large cucumbers
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs salt + 1 tsp
1/4 tsp turmeric- this gives the pickles that yellow tint
1 tsp celery seed and/or mustard seed

1. Slice your cucumbers to the desired thickness. I have a mandolin, which makes this a lot easier.

Radishes and cucumbers with the salt soak

Radishes and cucumbers with the salt soak

2. In a large bowl, mix your cucumbers with the 1 tsp salt and let them sit for at least an hour. This is my very favorite part of the method. The salt draws moisture out of cucumber, which will then give us a crunchier pickle! It’s true. Science.

Excess water from the radishes

Excess water from the radishes

 

 

excess water from the cucumbers

excess water from the cucumbers

3. After the hour, rinse your pickles well with water. While you are rinsing, put the rest of your ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove and boil it.

pickling liquid

pickling liquid

4. Once the mixture has boiled, pour it over your rinsed pickles. Put them in a sealed container and stick them in the fridge to hang out overnight. The next day, you will have some delicious pickles.

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As always, make the recipe your own! This recipe produces a sweeter pickle, but if you don’t like sweet pickles, then cut down your sugar to equal your salt. Add some red pepper flake for spice, or garlic for a zesty flair.

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One note if you decide to add raw garlic: if you put it in your boiling liquid, then it will turn blue. There is nothing wrong with it, it is still very edible, but it will be a distinctive greenish/blue color. You can try to combat this by putting the garlic in after your solution has cooled down, but even then it is not a guarantee.

Enjoy!

Red Pepper and Pesto Pizza

What am I having for lunch today? Something delicious. And dare I say it- kind of fancy.

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Red pepper and pesto pizza!

You may think that it is out of your league, but it isn’t. You can even make your own pesto!

Now, a traditional pesto is made with fresh basil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Since I had none of those things on hand, I chose to make spinach pesto. Not only does it taste just as delicious as the original, it is cheaper because I used frozen, pre-chopped spinach. This is also a great way to sneak in veggies, which we all need more of.

 

Handy spinach pesto diagram

Handy spinach pesto diagram found on Pinterest

 

All you need to do is put all of your ingredients in a food processor or blender and whiz it up! You can use it as a replacement pizza sauce like I am doing today, pasta sauce, sandwich spread, veggie dip, on your morning eggs, and the list goes on and on. Google it. The uses are endless. If you’re having a hard time using up the whole batch it freezes beautifully in a ziplock bag.

Back to this drool-worthy pizza.

Lazy lunches are my favorite so instead of making dough, I use two flour tortillas. They make the pizzas a perfect individual size.

Step 1: Make your spinach pesto (or you can use store bought if you really really feel like it). While you’re getting your pesto put together, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

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Step 2: Put the tortillas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spray lightly with an olive oil spray.

Step 3: Spread the pesto on your tortillas. No need to gob it on since the flavor is strong, but a nice thin layer should be the perfect amount.

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Step 4: Layer on your mozzarella cheese. I spoiled myself this week and bought fresh, but feel free to use frozen.

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Step 5: Add sliced red peppers. I admittedly just threw them on there to begin with, but decided to make the design a little prettier for you all. I also sprinkled on some Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Red pepper flake would also be amazing.

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Remember, everyone, salt and pepper are the best seasonings you will ever find in your kitchen.

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Step 6: Bake your pizzas for 10-15 minutes, or until your cheese has melted to your likeness then eat!

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Mmmmm… fancy pizza. If you want to make this for a larger crowd, use your favorite pizza crust instead of the tortillas. You may also add any other veggies or favorite pizza toppings!

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Enjoy!

How to Fail

I’m sorry this isn’t craft related. All the crafts that I have been doing are related to birthday gifts and baby gifts, so I don’t want to spoil anything!

This time, I will make it personal.

It is important to know how to fail. I don’t like to fail, you don’t like to fail, no one likes to fail.

Today, I failed at going no ‘poo. After a month of washing my hair with baking soda, rinsing with apple cider vinegar, and deep conditioning with greek yogurt, eggs and honey, I gave up and washed my hair with regular shampoo and conditioner. I really wanted to give no ‘poo a try. It was kind of exciting even, something different. And if I could get away with never buying shampoo again, I was all for it. After awhile, I was starting to have some doubts. So, Like any sane girl in her 20′s, I made a pro’s and con’s list to help me out.

*Hint: When in doubt, make a pro’s and con’s list.

Pro’s

- My usually thin hair felt thicker and stronger with more body
- I didn’t have to wash my hair as much (aka, I was washing my hair every day and it got greasy almost 12 hours later before doing this)
- My hair grew crazy fast
- My hair seemed to be darker, which I liked.
- I didn’t have crazy fly-aways all the time
- I felt like I was doing something good to my hair and me
- Super cheap.

My hair right after a baking soda rinse. Pretty great, actually.

My hair right after a baking soda rinse. Pretty great, actually.

Con’s

- My hair didn’t smell as awesome. It just smelled like hair.
- My hair would still get kind of greasy after a few days of rinsing, then I would have to spend the rest of the week wearing a ponytail.
- It didn’t work with my profession. As a cook, I am constantly around food, including a grill and a wood smoker. My head smelled like a mixture of smoked meats and roasted vegetables.
- Heavy hair was an issue. I will blame this one on the water in my shower. The minerals just built up in my hair and made it feel heavy and gunky. Not cool. I could have bought a filtered shower head, but who really wants to do that? Too much work.
- I thought my hair would get closer to its natural state, and in my case I thought it would get wavier. Instead, the heaviness just weighed it down and made it mostly straight with weird lumps.

In the end, I felt guilty giving up no ‘poo. And maybe I did give up too easily. The great thing about this whole experience is that I tried something new and saw what my hair could be. Turns out, I just like it better shampooed and conditioned. I will go out of my way to buy some nicer organic shampoos next time.

I am not sorry that my hair smells like cucumbers and feels lighter than air, though. Better luck next time.

If anyone is interested in giving no ‘poo a try check out AlmostExactly’s blog and go to her no ‘poo section. She gives the best tips and tricks and warnings about this new hair care routine.

The Journey

How vague, right? A lot has been going on but it is mostly revolving around two things: my Etsy shop and my hair. Both are a journey.

All of the crafty things done lately have revolved around my Etsy shop NimbleNimble. I’ve sold a couple of things, thus having to add a couple new!

I cut out five animals this morning, including some bunnies and cats of all colors!

I cut out five animals this morning, including some bunnies and cats of all colors!

 

Today I worked on a “Climbing Buddy” for a coworker who is very into rock climbing. The animal gets a D ring sewn onto its back, so it can then be attached to the harness. I absolutely loved this idea and ran with it. 

The beginning of the cat. You can see the head with the ears attached.

The beginning of the cat. You can see the head with the ears attached.

The half sewn/ half pinned body.

The half sewn/ half pinned body.

 

Because of the smaller scale I found it difficult to put in some of the sewing detail on the body. To make up for it I did some special embroidery for the face. She said she wanted a cat, so I went with a mountain lion.

The finished body with a cute little nose.

The finished body with a cute little nose.

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I was very happy with the outcome! I plan on exploring more embroidery detail on my next pieces.

I was very happy with the outcome! I plan on exploring more embroidery detail on my next pieces.

 

 

 

On a side note: Since I haven’t been exploring different tracks of craft-dom, I’ve noticed myself getting a bit restless. One of those restless bouts that make you do something drastic to your hair. I just cut it and I’ve really been liking my natural color lately so those things were out of the running. I’ve been annoyed with my hair lately because it seems very lack luster. Boring. Not as wavy as it could be and just plain thin.

To combat all of this I’ve ventured into the land of No-’Poo. As in no shampoo. As in washing your hair with diluted baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I should just make an entire post on this, but since this is not a beauty blog, I shall refrain. If you’re wondering why the hell I would choose to do such a thing check out this girls blog. She has tons of information on the subject and it makes me feel less insane.

I will let you know that my hair is pretty greasy for now, which is normal. It should calm down and I will turn from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. That is my hope, at least.

Until then, I will continue to craft my butt off for my new store.

Enjoy!

 

Open Up Shop

I officially have my very own Etsy store!

Nimble Nimble (Apparently Nimble Fingers was not available as a store name. Eh. Nimble Nimble is cute.)

I’ve been working on making these small woodland animals for about a month now. They are 100% all mine.

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sketch2

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From sketching, to pattern making and fabric choice and figuring out construction. Everything.

Bunny

Bunny

I like to think they have a goofy charm. They are not perfect, which is what I love the most about them. They have a personality. It is not manufactured. It is handmade.

Squirrel

Squirrel

I’m into experimenting with different patterned fabrics and colors to give them a little extra life. I also put some hand embroidered touches into the mix with the eyes and noses. If anyone loves the pattern but isn’t into the fabric, I am more than willing to take requests for custom pieces!

Beaver

Beaver

Along with the stuffed animals, I am selling small cross stitching ditties.

Que Sera Sera (whatever will be, will be)

(whatever will be, will be)

Right now I’m really into little affirmational sayings that just make you feel a little bit better when you’re feeling anxious. Even if it is for no reason at all.

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Have your own favorite saying or phrase that makes you feel awesome? Let me know and I’ll put it in writing.

I will continuously be working on more items for Nimble Nimble, so keep checking out the store and if you love it, share it with your friends.

Enjoy!

Refresh Yourself and Your Side Dish

Vegetables can be boring. Especially raw vegetables.

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We all should eat more, so here is a recipe to help with that. This single serving recipe is perfect for a snack or a side dish. Pair it with grilled chicken and you have a tasty light lunch. I use cucumbers and onions in mine, but you could easily add your favorites. Tomatoes or peppers would be excellent additions. It makes veggies a little more appealing by adding some extra flavor and cheese. Because everyone loves cheese.

If you say you don’t, I don’t believe you.

Cucumber, Onion and Mozzarella Salad

1/3 cucumber
1/2 small onion
1 Mozzarella String Cheese
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried dill or mint
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut up all of your vegetables and cheese into thin slices. I scoop the seeds out of my cucumber so the salad doesn’t get too watery. Put all of the veggies in a tupperware container or bowl.

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2. Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the vegetables and cheese and mix it all around. I put mine in a tupperware container so I could shake it around and save myself dirtying a spoon. Go ahead and let the mixture hang out in the fridge for at least an hour.

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3. Take it out and enjoy! This is also a great recipe for summertime potlucks.

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Feng Shui Attack: A Before and After Story

It’s one thing to have a craft table and a whole ‘nother thing to have a craft spaceI am on the verge of beginning a huge project but I find myself to be stuck. Very stuck. A few months ago I worked on beautifying my craft space, and it helped for a little while. But I still need more of a division between dining area and crafting nirvana. I know that with the space I have available to me, nirvana is far from being reached, but I am determined to get just a step closer.

Step 1: A hot mess.

Step 1: A hot mess.

I began with this. Clutter everywhere because I hate putting stuff away, a bookshelf in the corner that wasn’t serving much of a purpose because the shelves are a quarter of a circle, and a round table sitting in the middle of the space, thus wasting the area around it. Just, a mess.

Step 2: Getting rid of the little things.

Step 2: Getting rid of the little things.

I cleared off the table, got that big bookshelf out of the corner and swapped it with an existing nightstand that I had in my bedroom. This shelving is perfectly functional, as it holds my baskets and mini totes full of crafty odds-and-ends perfectly.

Step 3: Make the area.

Step 3: Shape the area.

Luckily, the eaves of my round table drop down to make a cute little rectangular table. Scooched that all the way over to one side of the nook so I had a raw space to work with. I used my cutting mat and ruler to determine what size of table I could work with. Thankfully, we had an existing make-shift table in our apartment that fit perfectly. (Unfortunately for the Boy, I stole his computer desk so he had to go find a new one.) I also vacuumed.

Step 5: Finishing.

Step 5: Finishing.

Once I put the table in, it all came together. Now that the table isn’t taking up the entire area, the space looks huge. I think I am as close to crafting nirvana that I can be in this space. The only thing that would make it better is if I had a comfier chair. I need to suck it up and get one.

I am tickled to start my new project in my new crafting area which is… a surprise that I will be sharing with you in the next couple blog posts.

Enjoy, everyone!

5 Favorite Household DIYs

Making common household items yourself is very satisfying. Not only do you know what is going inside of your products, giving you better control of scents, but it is often much cheaper and last longer. The key to making these things smell great is essential oil. A little goes a long way, so it is definitely worth the initial cost.

5 Favorite Household DIYs

1. Bathroom and Kitchen Cleaner

Vinegar and baking soda combine as a powerhouse cleanser for any grime. Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle or old soap bottle to easily dispense the cleaner. To some, vinegar has that “ah, so clean” scent, but if that isn’t for you, feel free to add a couple of drops of essential oil into the mix.

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2. Lotion Bars

Lotion bars are a must have during this wintery time of year. It is portable, not messy and intensely moisturizing, which is something your itchy, cracked hands will thank you for. Keep it in a drawer by your desk whenever you need quick relief.

lotion bars

3. Pore Strips/Face Peel

Hands down this is my favorite face peel and you only need two inexpensive ingredients to give your face this pick-me-up. Afterwards it feels like someone took a mini vacuum and sucked out all of the gunk in your pores and shrunk them all at once. It is amazing. Plus, what girl doesn’t love peeling that nastiness off of her face? Just me? I certainly hope not because it is a very rewarding feeling.

face peel

4. Scented Stick Air Freshener 

Not only will your abode smell wonderful, but you will have a nice decoration as well. These scents can be customized to your exact preferences and lasts up to a month! Play around with different combinations to find your favorite fragrance.

air freshene

5. Laundry Detergent

I only made half a batch of this stuff, and it gave me an entire gallon of detergent for only $10. Also, it is going to last me for months and months since I only need to use 2 Tbs per load. I’m probably never going to buy conventional laundry detergent again. Bonus: the clothes smell light and fresh, not like you soaked your favorite shirt in a nasty air freshener.

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These items are a gateway to getting you interested about diy household products. Whatever can get me excited about doing laundry can’t be a bad thing, right?

Enjoy!

 

 

Weaving With Leftovers

A few weeks ago I celebrated a mini early Christmas. My sister brought me a large tote filled to the brim with yarn of all kinds. Bamboo, alpaca, wool and even a bit of angora. Some of the most fine yarns came in small spools, not nearly enough to make into any large project.

Whats the best thing to do with such odds and ends?

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Weave.

I used flat bamboo coffee stirrers and yarn to create a small mat. You could also use round skewers to create the same effect.

To create a makeshift loom, I used  the large cardboard flat of a cereal box and cut slits at the top and bottom for the yarn to be strung though.

To create a makeshift loom, I used the large cardboard flat of a cereal box and cut slits at the top and bottom for the yarn to be strung though.

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It's important to keep the yarn as taught as possible without bending the cardboard.

It’s important to keep the yarn as taught as possible without bending the cardboard.

The loom before the skewers have been woven through.

The loom before the skewers have been woven through.

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The skewers being woven through the yarn.

The skewers being woven through the yarn.

As they are woven in, I pushed them close together.

As they are woven in, I pushed them close together.

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The finished product still on the loom. At this point, I used glue to fix the yarn to the bamboo skewers.

The finished product still on the loom. At this point, I used glue to fix the yarn to the bamboo skewers.

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Once the glue has dried overnight, I cut the mat from the loom using an exacto knife.

Once the glue has dried overnight, I cut the mat from the loom using an exacto knife.

At this point the mat is ready to be edged and finished!

At this point the mat is ready to be edged and finished!

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If you don’t have any skewers, you could do this with other scraps of yarn, or even t-shirt yarn to make a thicker trivet.

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Enjoy!