Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Easy spring project
This project was inspired by two things:
1) I've noticed two tires sitting by the barn for about two years. I figured if someone needed them, they would've already used them.
2) Every spring in Cumberland County, there is a tire drop-off and trash trailer weekend in which residents can bring any sized item to centralized locations and dispose of the stuff too large/awkward/non-biodegradable for normal trash pick-up.

I started thinking about how all of those used tires could be recycled (playground "mulch," multi-colored planters, extreme races like the Warrior Dash). Since I don't have a lot of knowledge of breaking down rubber and converting it into a safe bed of playground flooring, I went with Plan B: colorful tire swing for my favorite girl. 

I cleaned the tire out well, picked up some indoor/outdoor spray paint in her favorite colors (turquoise and pink), and started working.

Homemade Soft Pretzels (Alton Brown - Food Network.com)
I can turn down sweets. I could live the rest of my life without ever having another french fry.  I could be a non-complaining vegetarian if, for some reason, that were necessary. I can not do without my bread. 

Big, doughy bagels and pretzels are two of my favorites (although I eat toast like nobody's business and get excited about a plain ol' loaf of regular sandwich bread).  I've made homemade bagels before, but found the "time required:enjoyment" ratio a little unbalanced.  The recipe below, however, does not fail the "you mean I spent all day making these and they're not much better than what I could go buy at Houchens?" litmus test.  The pretzels are fairly quick and easy and, if eaten right out of the oven, really, really delicious.  Give them a try.

1 1/2 cups warm 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 (that's 1/4 stick butter)
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 knead until 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.
For dipping sauce recipes, you might want to check out this blog.
I am fortunate enough to have thoughtful people in my life who are handy and who realize Easter basket appreciation knows no age limit. Here are some of my favorites...
An apron that totally "looks like me," a hand-crafted ink pen (that writes really well to boot), an amazingly-skilled, injection-mold flower, and a basket of goodies for my 12 cats (that's right, they got one for each cat) and Lucy and Willie. I'm a lucky girl.
I love this. He's funny without trying too hard. The message is pertinent and powerful, but not preachy or unrealistic. The argument for creativity, reading, and thinking is so much more eloquent, yet relatable, than I could ever make. When you have an extra 15 minutes, take the time to watch. 

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