Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cooking With The Ones You Love Part 3: Snacks

Snacks are one of the most important meals of my day.  I'm actually being serious.  I would not survive with out a little something to eat in between meals.  I've been known to carry around snacks, especially pretzels, in my purse or in my car.  You just never know when you'll be stuck in traffic or out running errands and really need a snack.  So to complete this month's Cooking With The Ones You Love I have teamed up with one of my best friends who also enjoys a great snack.  

Amanda and I met in college and our lives have taken us, mostly her, to many cities and countries keeping our friendship "long distance."  However, after years of always saying we would be neighbors, even if we were old and senile and didn't really remember each other, she recently made the move to sunny California.  Amanda shares the same love and passion for food as I do.  I am often thankful to her for introducing me to new and "weird" ingredients.  She is forever supportive of my cooking and is always ready for the next taste test.  Since she has become my neighbor (I still can't believe it!!), we have already spent many hours in my kitchen together cooking up something yummy while holding a scrumptious glass of red wine.  

Homemade Soft Pretzels 

I love a good pretzel and so does Amanda and along with our pretzels we cherish a really good dip.  Amanda and I have come a long way from our college days of dipping our pretzels in cream cheese (which is still really good by the way).  So we thought we would share with you our grown up version.  As I researched homemade soft pretzel recipes I found them to all be very similar.  Instead of creating my own this time, Amanda found that Alton Brown from Food Network was the best one to share.  You can find it here.  As for the dips, those where created by us.

Pretzel Dips

Smoked Gouda and White Cheddar with Mushrooms Dip

1 tablespoon plus 1 small pat butter 
1 cup brown crimini mushrooms, minced
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup white cheddar, shredded
3/4 cup smoked gouda, shredded
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan melt the small pat of butter over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside

Wipe out the pan and return it back to the burner.  On medium heat melt the 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add the flour and whisk for about 2 minutes until smooth.  Slowly add the milk and whisk to combine for another 3-5 minutes.  Add the cooked mushrooms and stir constantly using a wooden spoon for 15 minutes.  The sauce should become thick and coat the back of the spoon.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses.  Stir until all the cheese has melted.  Add the paprika and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to combine and serve warm with homemade soft pretzels.

Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Marshmallow Fluff Dip

1 - 7 1/2 ounce jar marshmallow fluff
1 - 8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl combine the marshmallow fluff and cream cheese with a hand mixer until smooth.  Add the cinnamon and mix to combine.  Serve with homemade soft pretzels.

Note:  This is a spin off of my cousin's fruit dip.  This recipe can be tweaked in many different ways and is so good that it can be eaten by the spoonfuls.