Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Clammy feast!

I'm a lucky girl. My parents came for a visit this weekend and they brought a whole cooler full of these beauties:

My dad raked all 140 of these on Friday! Fresh clams straight from Long Island. Imagine a 12 dozen clams for free - all I had to do was figure out what to do with them! Steamed clams and stuffed clams sounded perfect.

Ron separated them into steamer size and stuffed clam size. My mom and dad opened the big ones and I made the stuffing - it was quite the family affair!

I sauteed some diced shallot, red pepper, onion, and celery. After the vegetables were soft I added the chopped up clams. I chop my clams in a mini food processor and they always look really gross. I'm only posting the picture so when you make these at home (which you should) you'll know that if the clams look like gray vomit - it's okay!

See? Yuck right? After you add the gross looking clams to the softened vegetables add some bread crumbs, parsley and chives. I seasoned the mix as I went with salt, pepper and old bay.

My dad cleaned the shells to fill. These are better looking than those clam shaped foil things. I mean the clams come with their own perfect size container for this filling - use it! But I guess if you're using canned clams you can use those foil things or you can use this stuffing as a filling for stuffed shrimp or fish - that might be what I do with the leftovers!

Stuff the filling into the clams - I made two dozen. Here they are right before they baked at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the tops get brown.

These ended up being part of a feast at Ron's parents' house. Ron steamed the little guys to serve with melted butter and lemon, Ron's parents went salad crazy and made a tomato mozzarella salad, green bean salad, cucumber salad, potato salad and a tasty green salad with apricots, baby shrimp, cucumbers and a jalapeno vinaigrette. There was BBQ chicken too, although by the time it came out I was too full of salad to have any!

Peach pie with ice cream or angel food cake with berries and whip cream for dessert. Not a bad Sunday huh?

Update: I didn't post an individual picture of the steamers - you can see them in the spread above. We ate them all with butter and lemon in like 3 minutes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Glass Noodles!

This recipe is a variation of Jaden's recipe over at Steamy Kitchen. I've never used glass noodles before and I had a little bit of trouble finding them in the noodle isle of my Asian Market. None of the labels were in english but, luckily, the ingredients were. In Jaden's post she says that glass noodles are made from potato starch so I just searched for that in the ingredient lists!

See - tricky huh?

I sauteed thinly sliced onions and carrots with chopped garlic, red chile, and ginger. Once the onions and carrots where soft I added the sliced bok choy, de-stringed snap peas, raw shrimp, cooked noodles (just boil them for 5 minutes) some soy, honey and chopped mint. Just stir everything together until the vegetables are heated through and the shrimp are light pink and that's it!

I was hungry and scarfed this down but probably should have followed the recipe more closely. You're supposed to toss the cooked noodles with some sesame oil before you mix them into the veggie. I wish I had done this - it would have made the noodles less sticky.

Check out this neat trick! My julienning skills are less than great but I wanted my carrots sliced really thin for this dish. After peeling the outside of the carrot I continued to peel fat strips with a vegetable peeler - so thin you could see through them - see?

Side note: what do I do with all that sage in the background? It seems like a winter herb to me and I can only think to use it with roast chicken or something involving pumpkin - but it's so full now! What's a summer sage dish?

Anyway, I just cut the strips into thin pieces so they cooked quickly. They ended up being sort of noodle-like in the dish. I use peeler slices of carrot and zucchini like this as a healthy way to bulk up pasta dishes.

This was an easy dish, it just took some time to chop, slice and dice all of the ingredients. It's a great dish to use up all of the about-to-go-bad veggies in your fridge. You could even add leftover chicken or beef instead of the shrimp.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuna Tartare - I'm so obviously unemployed

I finished up my job on Friday and now I'm making Tuna Tartare at 3pm on a Tuesday.  Sort of sad - right?  I was hoping that it would remind me of the delicious tartare I had in Easton, PA (of all places!) at The River Grille.  There's had this really great crunch that I was hoping I could duplicate with adding onions and cucumber but it wasn't the same.   

I started by chopping up some cucumber, red onion, garlic, nicoise olives, parsley and oregano then added some lemon zest, salt and pepper.

I diced up about a quarter pound of ahi tuna and mixed it with the other ingredients.  I added a little bit of olive oil, some lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Nice looking piece of tuna huh?

I made a little salad as a side with watercress, parsley, nicoise olives and grape tomatoes.  It was dressed really simply with lemon juice, olive oil, s&p.

The final product looked really pretty!  I formed it using a small Tupperware container.  I toasted up some pita to make pita chips for dipping.

Fancy, right?  I missed the little bit of sweetness you get with Asian inspired tartare like the one I had at River Grille - this was more Mediterranean.  But I've still got half of a piece of tuna left to play with - maybe I'll try a different tartare tomorrow!

Meat Free, High Protein #1

I received a pleading email from my sister the other day saying that she's desperate for recipes that don't have meat or vegetables but that are actually good for you. Tall order right? Well, she's pregnant and has developed a fair amount of food aversions so I guess I can forgive her for her pickyness. Since she's pretty picky even when she's not pregnant I'll have to take into account her normal dislikes too. Oh and she has a two year old running around so nothing can be too time consuming and she lives in Florida so the recipe shouldn't require hanging around a hot stove for too long either. This is getting more difficult.

My first suggestion actually came from my mom and involves tofu. I know, I know - I'm a carnivore damn it why don't I act like one? I've only posted a dozen or so posts and TWO of them are with TOFU. Well I'm sorry but this has hidden tofu and it's for the nutritional value more than anything else.

I love peanut butter and I'm pretty sure my sister does too so she should be able to stomach this peanut butter and banana smoothie*. Peanut butter and tofu = lots of protein.

Get out your blender or immersion blender and puree a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter, a half of a banana, a quarter of a block or so of silken tofu and some ice. If it needs liquid (mine didn't) add some milk, if it needs to be sweetened add some sugar or honey.

This makes a super easy snack or breakfast with lots of protein and potassium. Oh and cocoa or a squeeze of chocolate syrup would make this even better.  And chocolate has flavonoids! I don't know what that means, it sounds made up, but mmm flavonoids!

I also read about a PB&J smoothie recently that has peanut butter, tofu and grapes - I'll try that next time I have grapes on hand but today I had those just-about-to-go-bad bananas that I'll probably end up making bread or muffins with.

I'll talk easy salads with whole grains and beans in Meat Free, High Protein part deux - coming soon!

*My nephew calls them Mooies - isn't that so stinkin' cute?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The South Philly Special

There's been a little buzz on the internet about what my friends and I call the South Philly Special.  It actually might be an old buzz but Ron just stumbled upon it and insisted that I write this post.  Slashfood has an entry about what they call the "Philly Taco".  I'm proud to say that my friends have actually eaten one of these - I'm sad to say that I missed out on it.  Our recipe calls for half of a Jim's Steak and a piece of Lorenzo's pizza - simply wrap the piece of pizza around the steak and dig in.  

It's a perfect blend of meat grease and cheese grease.  I imagine that amount of grease and carbs is great at preventing hangovers which works out well considering no sober person would ingest one of these.  Lorenzo's, the pizza place for the South Street drunks, serves slices of really good pizza (even better when you're drunk) the size of your head - the perfect size to fit wrap up a cheesesteak.  The "Triple S" is best shared with friends in Lorenzo's mirrored "room of shame" - you know the mirrored room that forces you to watch your sloppy self scarf down this 40 grams of fat mess.  Now that's a good end to a night out in Philly.        

**I've blacked out the eyes to protect the identity of the shamed

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Epicurious is coming to Philly...

I love all things Epicurious, Bon appetit and Gourmet! Epicurious is going on a Farmer's Market tour this summer and they'll be visiting the lovely Reading Terminal. They've got the most beautiful local produce.

The website says:

"Epicurious is hitting the road to visit farmers' markets across the United States. We invite you to come meet Editor-in-Chief Tanya Steel and other Epicurious editors at markets in San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. While at the market, you can sign up to become an Epicurious member, get Epicurious recipes and shopping lists printed on TasteBook recipe cards, and go home with an eco-friendly Epicurious tote bag, perfect for the market—all for free!"

Guess what? I like free things! I'd love a free eco-friendly bag. They'll be in Philly from August 22nd - August 28th. Check out more info and some seasonal menus here: The Epicurious Farmer's Market Tour. Now all I have to do is remember to go!

*Ron gets the photo credit on this one - he asked the nice Amish man to snap these pics!

Fish Tacos

Soft tacos are one of my favorite summer dishes. They're along the line of the grilled protein, grilled vegetable and bean summer routine I've talked about before - in this case you just throw the grilled protein in a corn tortilla and add some fixin's and you're done.

I think fish tacos are my favorite, they're a perfect light meal. We normally use whatever white fish is least expensive that day - preferably something firm. This time we used cod, but halibut is also delicious. We dressed the tacos with slaw, a spicy sauce, and some pico de gallo.

I made the slaw with red and green cabbage, lime juice, a touch of oil, honey, salt and pepper - I over limed which is why I added the honey but it was good with it. The spicy sauce was just equal parts mayo and sour cream (in this case both low fat because that's what we had in the fridge!) a bit of the adobo from a can of chipotles, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Ron made a pico with chopped tomatoes, a jalapeno, red onion, garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper.

The fish was just seasoned with s&p and baked - there was a lot going on in these tacos and we didn't want to over do it! I know a lot of fish tacos come with fried fish - I'll like to get these when I go out but at home it's so much easier to just grill or bake the fish.

I made "refried" beans - not really refried because it was just a drained can of pintos, a chopped plum tomato, chipotle, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and parsley all mixed together and smashed with a fork. If the beans start to dry out just add some stock until they're the consistency that you like. I make this all the time and LOVE it - it's not refried in lard but still has the refried texture. Refried bean connoisseurs might scoff at these but I think they're delicious! We also grilled some red peppers and zucchini's with olive oil, s&p.

This sort of turned into a feast - I was half way through my second taco and had to give up. And I'm positive it had nothing to do with the fact that I'm still getting home from work and immediately making a B line for this.

*I forgot to mention that this dinner would be awesome with a Michelada - have you tried them? I haven't yet but they're on my "To Make" list. Check out this recipe and picture over at Food Woolf.

**Update: Last night Ron made Micheladas and I think they are gross - I really wanted to like them but I couldn't take a sip without making a I-want-to-spit-this-out face. Bummer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Goodbye Ford Focus - You've been good to us.

This is not about food - it's about saying goodbye to a friend. Ron and I are sad to announce the passing of our 2000 Ford Focus Hatchback. We are lucky to have experienced over two years of his trusty service but sadly on Saturday, July 12th, he was totaled in a hit and run. I was working in Colorado when Ron left the house to find this:

The jerk hit three cars and DROVE AWAY! Unbelievable right? It doesn't look too bad but we didn't pay much for the car and the axel is bent which means it would need lots of work and lots of money to fix, so it's technically totaled. We're on the search for a replacement - we'd like to replace this Ford Focus Hatchback with a Ford Focus Hatchback. I'm pretty sure that this hit and runner isn't one of my four dedicated readers (because he's probably not my mom) but if you are - shame on you! You owe me a Focus.

If anyone sees a dark blue vehicle with a front driver's side light missing and a driver that looks like he might be the hit-several-cars-and-drive-away type please email me his license number. His light was still stuck to my bumper when Ron found it!

The old Focus, or "Urban Assault Vehicle" as we commonly referred to it, is survived by his mother, Sara, and father, Ron, and a whole slew of dear friends. We'll miss you. Feel free to post your memories here.

Now on to a VERY important question - who wants to host the tailgates from now on?

Switching it up

During a recent trip to Reading Terminal I bought a whole rainbow trout and some little neck clams. We had the clams with some semi-homemade pizzas (the dough was whole wheat from Trader Joes). We made a caramelized onion, ricotta and prosciutto one and a pear, gorgonzola and arugula one - fancy right? I was inspired by Deb at Smitten Kitchen (as I often am) and Jaden at Steamy Kitchen.

Anyway - about that trout. I sauteed a couple of cups of assorted mushrooms (I used shitake, oyster and leftover enoki) with celery, onions, thyme and parsley in a bit of butter and oil for about 15 minutes until vegetables are soft. Then I mixed in two slices of diced prosciutto.

Open the fish up like a book and squeeze lemon all over the inside. The Bon Apettit recipe said to let the filling cool before stuffing the fish - I didn't have the patience to wait and it was fine!

Fold up the stuffed fish, put the extra stuffing on the bottom of an oiled baking dish, and place the fish on top. The original recipe calls for lots of extra butter at this step which I'm positive would be delicious but for the sake of my waistline I left it out.

I had an extra piece of prosciutto so I wrapped it around the fish. Why not? Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 and it's done! I made what was probably too much stuffing for the two of us but it sort of served as a side dish as well. I served a standard caesar salad on the side and we were stuffed!

This dish is a little out of the norm for us. Normally we eat a grilled protein, grilled vegetables and beans for dinner all summer long. It's a rut we get stuck in every summer - but it's a comfortable, delicious rut. I can't really blog about grilled meat every day so we switched it up a little bit and this ended up being really good - enjoy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Love-Hate Relationship

I'm stuck in the airport in Denver after my last shoot of the season. Ugh - flying never doesn't suck. I meant to blog about this love hate relationship last week but ran out of time. I figured now was a good time to write!

As you know I recently had a kick ass tailgate/4th of July party. The food was all really good and everyone ate way more "real" food than they did junk food which left me with this little problem:

I LOVE party mix! Are there people that don't? If there are I don't think we'd get along. I normally don't keep junk in the house because I lack self control. But I also hate to throw food away - I'm often outside begging the neighbor kids to eat my baked goods so I don't eat a dozen cookies in one sitting. I'm hoping when I get home that this giant tub of party mix will be gone. But, if it's not I'll probably pick all the good stuff out until it's just a tub of pretzels.
(**I wrote this in Denver but couldn't post until I got home. Bad's still here taunting me!)

I should probably share an actual dish with you - this one is so simple and delicious. Ron made these bay scallops with shallots, garlic, butter, lemon and parsley tossed with whole wheat linguini. I topped mine with some halved grape tomatoes. I don't eat pasta often but when I do I like to have it nice and light just like this.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The thing about recipes

I hate recipes. I hardly ever use measuring cups or spoons when I'm cooking. One of my VERY favorite blogs is Last Night's Dinner - she has no specific recipes, just what goes in a dish and how. I feel like I can always replicate the dishes she posts, maybe not as beautifully, but they'll always taste good. I tend to look at several recipes for a dish, mix them all together and come up with something tasty. I guess you could say I'm and improvisor - I know what I like and what I don't like.

What's the problem, you ask? Well, I have a goal. I want to submit my blog to the folks. These are the qualifications:

  • Written in English (yup)
  • Subject is about food and cooking (uh huh)
  • Provides a substantial number of recipes, most original or adapted and not just copied word for word from other sites (now what exactly do they mean by "recipes"??)
  • Includes accompanying stories or notes (check)
  • Offers attractive original photos or illustrations (I can do attractive-ish)
  • Follows classic scratch-cooking methods with whole food ingredients (my favorite type of cooking!)
  • Presented in a blog format, including comments (no prob)
  • Is at least a month old, with at least 20 entries (getting there!)
  • Is a current, active blog, with at least 2 entries a month (will do)
  • Includes an "About" section with information about the blog author(s) (I'll expand on mine)

Truthfully, I don't want to write recipes but I'll happily give instructions. If Last Night's Dinner and the incredible Jennifer Hess can make it to the Food Blog Search darn it I can too - recipes or not!

I mean do you really need them folks? Now if I'm baking or if something is super complex or calls for a ton of ingredients (like AB's rib rub) of course I'll include recipes. But otherwise, I think I'll skip them. I'll leave them up to the real culinarians. We'll talk "dashes" and "spoonfuls" and "splashes" here - okay? My tastes are different than yours, maybe you don't like to add way too much cumin to every other night's dinner like I do - then leave it out, substitute something else! Don't like cilantro, add flat leaf parsley. Allergic to honey (mom), add some brown sugar or corn syrup. But if you have questions about quantities or anything else please just ask!

Oh and by the way Food Blog Search is seriously awesome - I'm on it several times a day. I still love the epicurious and food network searches but this is completely different. Check it out right over there on the right hand side of my blog.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Coquette Bistro & Bar

I didn't really plan on reviewing restaurants on this blog but we had such delicious snacks and bargain drinks yesterday that it would be rude for me not to share. We decided that in complete contrast to our binge beer drinking and rib eating on the 4th that we'd put on some nice clothes (by that I mean not jeans and Phillies t-shirt) and go out for oysters and dirty martinis! I ride my bike past Coquette Bistro & Bar every day and I've been wanting to go since it opened. So yesterday when Ron said he wanted oysters I remembered that Coquette had a sign outside advertising a happy hour with drink specials and half price oysters until 7:30 EVERY day. Happy hour specials on a Saturday? Um...okay!

I ordered their house sparkling wine and Ron had an Absolut dirty martini - both drink specials were just $5. My wine was really good - but I always love sparkling wine. Ron liked his martini, too - they're a little too strong for me but the olive was delicious. I don't generally like green olives but this was a cerignola olive, not too briny, really meaty and much better than the pimento stuffed ones that come by the gallon.

We ordered a 1/2 dozen Blue Point oysters. Being from Long Island I feel like I should really love oysters, especially Blue Points, but I don't. I'll have 2 or 3 of the smaller ones with lemon and cocktail sauce and I'm good. Ron, on the other hand, could eat at least a dozen on his own.

We also ordered a salad nicoise to split. It was a standard nicoise with really good ingredients: tuna (the good, olive oil packed kind), potatoes, haricot verts, red onion, grape tomatoes, and cucumbers all tossed with a light vinaigrette on top of butter lettuce topped with a sliced hard boiled egg and anchovies. It was nice and light - all of their salads looked so good but we were happy with our choice.

We'll be back but next time we'll bring friends! I can't wait to try some of the other items on their menu. Everything looked so good!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ribs! Alton Brown, you're brilliant.

These Alton Brown baby back ribs are awesome. I've made these several times and they are SO good and SO easy. They're perfectly not-quite-fall-off-the-bone tender. I recently got my sister hooked on them, too. You make the dry rub with brown sugar, salt, chili powder, and a slew of other ingredients. Alton says you can pretty much add whatever you want in that last tablespoon as long as the ratio is 8 parts brown sugar, 3 parts salt, 1 part chili powder and 1 part other add-ins. I followed his recipe pretty closely.

Dry Rub:
8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno seasoning (I didn't have this so I added some cumin instead)
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

This rub is enough for two slabs of baby backs. I increased everything by half because we were making three racks. After mixing up the dry ingredients, give the ribs a good rub down and put them in the fridge for at least an hour.

Wrap each rack of ribs individually in foil. Roll out a long piece of foil, place one rack of ribs on top and fold the foil over the ribs lengthwise. Crimp the two long sides closed creating a pouch with one open side.

Braising Liquid:

1 cup white wine (I use a Sauvignon Blanc, because I like to drink the leftovers!)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Microwave the braising liquid for 1 minute on high before pouring the braising liquid into the open tin foil spout and crimping it closed. Put the ribs in a 250 oven for 2 1/2 hours.

When the ribs are finished cooking, uncrimp the tin foil and pour the braising liquid into a sauce pan. Simmer the liquid until it reduces by half. The recipe says it turns to a glaze - mine always stays pretty liquidy but it still tastes good!

Brush the reduced liquid on the the ribs and broil them until they look caramelized. I broiled them on low and pulled them out to brush them with the glaze a couple of times.

That's it! Not too difficult although they do take some time. We cut them into two's, put them in a chafing dish and poured over the leftover glaze. Yum.

Tailgating Extravaganza!

Our 4th of July Phillies Tailgate was a huge success! We really went all out for this one. Friends brought tables, chairs, 4th of July decor, games, coolers full of beer and even a pop-up tent. We brought all the food (except for the strombolis - oddly enough this seems to be our new tailgate favorite!), our grill, and of course a set of homemade washers.

The menu was very All-American:
Chicken Wings
Hot Dogs
Veggie dogs and burgers & Marinated Portobellos (for the vegetarians in the crowd!)
Potato Salad
Fruit Salad
Corn & Bean Salsa

Ron makes a pretty kick ass chicken wing so he was on wing and burger duty. He also manned the grill - unless he got too distracted by a tailgating game, then whoever was closest to the grill took over!

He used to just throw the chicken wings on the grill but we've gotten better results since Lee told him about par-baking them first. He now cooks the seasoned wings in the oven at 450 then throws them on the grill, or in this case under the broiler, to crisp up. Just toss them in some wing sauce and they're done - no frying necessary.

I used a couple of Ina Garten recipes for the salads. I've made these so many times that I don't even use the recipes any more! I make the coleslaw with fresh cut red and green cabbage, shredded carrots, and scallions. The dressing is mayo, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, mustard and celery seeds.

Pasta, Pesto and Peas is my favorite pasta salad. It's bright green and really fresh. I just puree basil, spinach, parmesan, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper with some mayo in my blender. I toss the puree with bowtie pasta and frozen peas and top it off with some toasted pine nuts.

The potato salad dressing is a lot like the coleslaw dressing just heavier on the vinegar. I decided to steam the potatoes instead of boiling them and it worked out really well. No water logged, over cooked potatoes! I chopped up some celery, hard boiled eggs, parsley and scallions and tossed it with the dressing and cooled potatoes. Oh it's so good!

Ron's mom taught me how to make this corn and black bean salsa. It's so simple and everyone loved it - perfect with Tostitos scoops. It's a can of drained and rinsed black beans, a can of drained petite diced tomatoes with green chiles, a cup or so of frozen corn, a chopped jalapeno with the ribs and seeds removed, scallions, cumin, salt and pepper. I would normally use cilantro but I didn't have any on hand and it was still delicious. Bring this to your next party - trust me.

I'm pretty sure I got the most compliments on the ribs - I mean who doesn't like a good rib? They deserve their own post! I'll get to that later.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mini Pretzels

A couple of days ago I made soft pretzels. In Philadelphia you can't go two blocks without seeing a soft pretzel. They're in food carts, corner stores, on shopping carts outside the ballpark. People eat them for breakfast - two at a time! I'm not originally from Philadelphia and at first it struck me as odd to see people eating mustard before 10am. I mean I love salted bagels and I guess they aren't that different from salty pretzels and that wasn't the issue - it was the mustard. I don't want mustard in the morning - I mean mustard and coffee? Yuck. If I were to eat a pretzel in the morning I'd want to dip it in cream cheese.

I do, however, want pretzels and mustard and maybe cheese at 2am after the bar closes. That's where Center City Pretzel Co. comes in. They open at midnight and start making pretzels for vendors to pick up early in the morning. But, luckily, they're also open to the public. The other night (well technically it was early morning) we got 4 pretzels and a cup of cheese for $2. They were delicious and totally worth burning my fingers on. And although late night carbs are definitely not good for the waist line, I think they help prevent the morning hangover, at least that's what I tell myself.

So back to my pretzels. I used this Martha Stewart recipe with the step by step guidance and the idea to make my pretzels mini provided by Deb at Smitten Kitchen. This was a test recipe so I cut it in half - I had no need for 16 jumbo pretzels! I combined the water, sugar, and yeast in my mixer and let it sit for 10 minutes and foam up. I then added the flour, a half of a cup at a time, and salt stirring it all up with the dough hook to combine. I then kneaded it for about a minute in the mixer.

I put my oven on for a few minutes at about 200 while I was making the dough and then turned it off - this made for a warm place for my dough to rest. It sat around for an hour in an oil coated bowl with a clean towel over it while it doubled in size.

When they came out I divided the dough into 16 pieces and used the Martha Stewart diagram to fold them into mini pretzels. Cute right?

While they rested for 10-15 minutes I preheated the oven to 450 and turned water on to boil. Once the water boils, add the baking soda to the pot and bring it down to a simmer. Add the pretzels and simmer for about a minute - I flipped half way through like Deb advised. And yes, this is the biggest pan you'll ever see in a home kitchen! It's huge, it's a freebie from work and I don't know what else I'll ever use it for other then to make a frittata for 15 friends.  

After they simmered I salted and peppered (why not?) them. I didn't have pretzel salt so they didn't look quite as pretty as they could have but the kosher salt still tasted good.

Here they are after about 12 minutes in the oven!

I thought they were good and I must admit I had them for breakfast - actually two of them (like a real Philadelphian would!). But no mustard! Ron said they were "rubbery" and he might be sort of right. But I still want to make mini sandwiches on them. These are best eaten as soon as possible but can sit around for a day or two uncovered so they don't get soggy. I asked Deb about how to prep these ahead and she said that once they are formed into pretzels, cover them with oiled plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge to slowly rise for up to 24 hours. Bring them to room temperature before boiling and baking like you normally would. I think I'll make these again, but next time with a crowd ready to eat them right out of the oven!