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Carry Out Please!

No...I am NOT running away from home.


This is my prep work to teach my Cooking With Kids class tonight.

I'll share photos and some recipes in a later blog post.  But for now...I need to LOAD UP AND HIT THE ROAD!

I know two adorable little girls (Hmmm...I mean CHEFS) who are patiently waiting in their kitchen for me.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

If you are lucky enough to be in our daughter-in-law Sara's before and after school child care program in their home, you might find yourself RUNNING from the school bus to their house...just to see what your after-school snack might be!

That was DEFINITELY the case yesterday.

When all of the kids came flooding through the front door, the smell of freshly baking yeast bread was wafting through the house.  And it didn't take long for ALL the kids to kick off their shoes, wash their hands, and sit down at the table to savor Sara's latest baking project...Homemade soft pretzels!

So here, in pictures, is the process...with helpers Luke and Gavin pitching in...

Clean Hands...Warm Heart!
Here's the Dough...Ready To GO!
Roll into Logs
Stretch...Pull...

Shaping That Dough
Twist And Shout...!

Great Job!

Awesome Helpers!

Into The Hot Tub!

Scoop Them Out

Arrange on Parchment Paper Baking Sheets

Next Step...Ready! (The "L" is for Luke!)

Luke Brushes On Egg Wash...

Move Over Gordon Ramsey!

A Sprinkle Of  Salt...

YUM!

A Brush With Melted Butter...

And A Sprinkle Of Parmesan Cheese...


What an unexpected TREAT on a chilly and rainy afternoon in Iowa...

(No wonder Sara has a waiting list for her after school program!)


HOMEMADE SOFT PRETZELS

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 T. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 pkg. dry yeast (can use rapid rise)
About 4 1/2 cups flour
2 oz. butter, melted


Vegetable Oil for pan

10 cups of water
2/3 cup baking soda

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 T. water

DOUGH
Combine the water, sugar, and Kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  Add the butter and MOST of the flour, but save some...you may not need all of it!  Use the dough hook and mix on slow speed until well combined.  Change to medium speed and mix until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl-about 4-5 minutes.  Remove dough and oil the bowl.  Return dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 55 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a non-aluminium pan, bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil. 

In the meantime, divide the pretzel dough into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a 24 inch rope.  Form into whatever shape you want.

Drop in the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds.  Remove with a large flat spatula or a metal "spider".  Return the pretzels to the sheet pans.  Brush the tops of the pretzels with the egg wash, and sprinkle with Kosher salt.  (Omit the salt if you are making cinnamon/sugar pretzels!)

Bake at 450 degrees for 12-14 minutes, and transfer to a cooling rack for five minutes (if you can wait!) before serving.  Brush with melted butter while hot.

Sara sprinkled her pretzels with Parmesan cheese...or you can omit the salted tops and roll in cinnamon sugar after brushing with butter if you prefer.

DELICIOUS!!!

Graduation Day...

Today was a special day for grandson Luke.  Today was Graduation Day...at Little Lambs Preschool.

Luke's end of the year program began with a processional into the church...


And the program was filled with songs by the children...and thunderous applause from the audience.  


Then...the moment they had been waiting for...The presentation of their certificates! (Well...actually the kids were really waiting for the cookies and punch to follow in the gymnasium...)

But all the students lined up to be called by name...


And then...the BIG moment...


And after cookies and punch, we treated the whole Mishler gang to dinner...At Popeye's Chicken!


And like the old-fashioned news stories used to say...

"A good time was had by all".  (Especially by Grandma and Grandpa!)

A CLEAN Start...

My husband is pretty amazing.

He can take THIS...



And turn it into THIS!


Like my Dad used to say..."He can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!"

And I say...

AMEN!

Old Dog...New Trick!

Our good friends sent me this picture the other day, and I just had to share it...

It seems that their dog, Buddy, is getting rather crotchety in his golden years...and he does NOT like to be left alone.  And Buddy has found a unique way to punish his owners for their absence. Apparently it has become very important to shut bathroom doors when leaving the house...or else they come home to scenes like THIS...


You've got to give credit where credit is due, and I think Buddy could branch out into a new career in his golden years.  He would do a GREAT job of unrolling the white carpet runner before local wedding ceremonies!  

His attention to detail is evident in this example.

Centered.  Straight.  A PERFECT JOB.

Apparently you CAN teach an old dog new tricks...and Buddy didn't even need a teacher!

A Class Act...

Sometimes, the best way to get things done is to start with a full stomach.  So that's just what I provided. We invited some of our high school classmates over for dinner...and then we put them to work!

We're trying to track down ALL the members of our high school class of 1969...to invite them to a "mini-reunion" later this summer.  (We've decided to throw a YEARLY event since we're not spring chickens any more!)  

So...first things first...THE FOOD...Sort of an inside picnic to get the party started...

Beer Can Chicken...Baked Beans...Potato Salad...Coleslaw...


Garlic Herb Cheese Bread...


And then...TO WORK...
(Well...Let's be honest...Not ALL work...)


Such concentration...but I'll admit we sometimes had THREE conversations going at the same time.
(Just call it a Senior Citizen STUDY HALL...but with beer and wine thrown in!)


And after the work was done, we threw in three kinds of dessert... 
Key Lime Pie, Buttermilk Pie, and an Ice Cream Pie made by classmate Lila...


Some good food (I hope!) ...shared with GREAT PEOPLE who STILL know how to have fun...no matter how many years have gone by.

Now...Bring on that reunion...
We're all up for it!

COLESLAW...A RAINBOW!

 I don't like boring food.  And regular coleslaw falls into that category for me.

That's why I "doctor it up" as my Mom used to say.  I start with shredded cabbage and carrots...but then I "throw in the kitchen sink" of veggies...whatever I have on hand.  In this batch, I added diced cucumber, sweet peppers, fresh herbs, and diced and seeded Roma tomatoes.

For the dressing I combined mayo, buttermilk, sugar and tarragon vinegar, along with salt and pepper.

It was a BIG hit.


It really is a rainbow on your plate.

And as my Mom used to say..."You eat with your eyes first."

MY Baked Beans Start With...BACON!

If you'd like to know how to make a great pot of baked beans...Start with a pound of thick-cut BACON...


Cook it up until it's really crispy, and remove it from the pan.  But leave ALL of that awesome bacon fat in the kettle!  Trust me...it's a GOOD thing!


Then saute a large diced onion and about 5-6 cloves of finely minced garlic until soft...and then mix together a bowl of HEAVENLY GOODNESS with these ingredients...


Combine the "sauce ingredients...and select the kinds of beans you want to use.  I HATE BORING BEANS so I always use a variety of legumes to keep things interesting.  



COOKING TIP:  ALWAYS rinse all canned beans (EXCEPT Pork and Beans) before using!


Next, pour that "nectar of the gods mixture" of onions, garlic and sauce over the bean mixture, and stir gently to combine.  (I like to make my baked beans the day before I'm serving them.  This allows time for the flavors to "marry" and blend together.)

And the finished product???


It's a POT OF GOLD...with no rainbow required!

Dry Rubbed Chicken...Stay Safe!

COOKING TIP:  If you are adding dry rub to a chicken before cooking...make sure you don't risk spreading salmonella all over your kitchen.  Here is a great way to get your bird ready for the grill without ever touching the bird.

If you purchase whole birds at the grocery store (I LOVE Fareway!) ask the butcher to put each bird into a separate plastic bag for you.


When you get home, simply pour some extra virgin olive oil into each bag and massage all around the chicken...being careful NOT to touch the bag with the bottle of oil!


Carefully hold the bag wide open, and liberally sprinkle the dry rub (my recipe is under CONDIMENTS on my blog) onto the oiled chicken...


Then carefully massage the dry rub all over the bird from the outside of the bag!  Your hands will never touch the raw chicken.  It is NOT necessary to wash raw chicken before cooking.  The cooking process kills bacteria, and by washing the bird you risk spreading salmonella all over your kitchen!


Then seal the bag and place in the refrigerator overnight, or until you plan to grill...


Your chicken will be full of flavor...and your kitchen will NOT be full of salmonella!

HOME TOWN CAFE, Millersburg, Iowa

Sometimes we're up for an adventure, and today was one of those days.

I decided I was NOT cooking tonight, and instead of heading to one of our usual hangouts in Iowa City, I asked hubby if he was up for a "road trip".

So we set off...on the Road Less Traveled...for our 40 mile drive from Iowa City to Millersburg.


I heard of this place through a Facebook group I belong to called Iowa On A Plate.  And Hubby already knew about the restaurant since he used to eat lunch there YEARS ago.  It was on his UPS route where he delivered packages on those dusty Iowa gravel roads...

It was a beautiful evening for a drive, and soon we were in Millersburg.  It's not hard to find the restaurant since it is one of only a few remaining businesses on Main Street.


As soon as we walked through the door we were greeted by bartender Randy.  



It turns out Randy runs the restaurant with his brother Steve.

And the menu at the cafe is pure small town Americana...Our FAVORITE kind...


Tonight was a Shrimp Night Basket Special...But Randy told us the REAL specialty is their Tenderloin sandwich.  So we each ordered the basket that included french fries and homemade coleslaw.


Everything was just as good as we'd been promised...

And while we ate, I couldn't help but listen to the conversation between owner Steve and some "locals" who were seated at a large table near us.  They reminisced about "the good old days" and the foods they grew up with. And it sounds like Steve actually grows lots of the produce they serve in the restaurant during the summer months.  (Nothing like fresh, homegrown Iowa tomatoes on the salad bar!)

And how popular are the Home Town Cafe Tenderloins?  I overheard one of the "locals" telling Steve he needed to order extra loins for August 1st.  It seems somebody is getting married around town, and relatives are returning to Millersburg for the event.  And they plan to pack up plastic bags filled with Home Town Cafe Tenderloins to take back home with them...to Colorado!  (It's amazing the things you sometimes overhear in small town diners..and I am ALWAYS listening!)


Later, owner Steve (a.k.a "Home Town") stopped by to check on us and to make sure we were enjoying our meals.


Let's just say...for once Fred and I were glad we hadn't split a sandwich.  I was happy to leave some fries on my plate, but that tenderloin was ALL GONE when I pushed my plate away.

And the coleslaw?  DELICIOUS!  (Randy says they make all of their salads from scratch...no surprise there.  You can TASTE the freshness.)

The restaurant is truly a blast from the past, and I'm guessing that's exactly the kind of restaurant the "locals" love...and that visitors like us are excited to find.

And Randy told us about their Thursday night Steak Specials that include a grilled sirloin, baked potato, salad bar and Texas toast.  (We plan to go back...and take some of our Iowa City "foodie friends" with us.)

The restaurant also has a monthly Prime Rib Special...sounds fantastic...


 Like I said...The Home Town Cafe is not hard to find...but it would be hard to find a more authentic slice of "Iowa On A Plate"...


On Main Street...In Millersburg, Iowa.

(I do love an adventure...especially one that TASTES SO GOOD!)