Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Beer Pretzels

I’ve been pinning pretzel recipes on pinterest for a while now but never got around to trying them, then a friend passed me Taste of Home magazine and there was another pretzel recipe staring me down. I decided that the end of fall called for some homemade soft pretzels (and beer) so we could celebrate raking our final leaves in true fall fashion. The pretzels turned out very tasty, and they were EVEN more delicious on the second day when the soft pretzels were reheated. The recipe seems a bit daunting since it is long but the end result was tasty, so I’d say it’s worth the work!

Recipe was adapted from “Soft Beer Pretzels” page 71, Taste of Home Magazine September/October 2013.


1 bottle amber beer, or nonalcoholic beer
1/2 oz active dry yeast (1 packet if you buy them in packet form)
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 – 4 1/2 cups Flour
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water
Coarse salt


Heat bear to 110 – 115 in a small pan and then remove from heat. Stir in yeast until dissolved.

In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, 1 – 1/2 tsp of salt, yeast mixture and 3 cups of flour. Beat (medium speed) until smooth and then stir in flour until the mixture becomes a soft dough (it will be sticky!).

Turn dough down on a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place in greased bowl (turn the dough over once to grease the top), cover with saran-wrap and let sit in a warm place until it has doubled – about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 425 F.

Punch dough down and turn on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 balls and roll each ball into a 14″ rope. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape.

In a dutch oven bring water and baking soda to a boil. Drop pretzels in two at a time and cook for 30 seconds. Drain the pretzels on a paper towel. Place the pretzels on a baking sheet (either use grease or parchment paper to “line” the sheet). Whisk egg and water in a small bowl and then brush that over each pretzel on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pop them in the oven.

Bake pretzels 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!! Again, reheated on day 2 (for about 15 seconds in the microwave) will also yield very delicious pretzels!


So-Tasty Tortilla Soup

Well fall has finally arrived here in Virginia so let’s celebrate with some soup! I’d argue that tortilla soup is the perfect soup on rainy or early fall days. There is something so warming about the nice light broth, veggies and SW flare that tortilla soup brings. We are big fans of spanish style cooking and especially of tortilla soup. This is a great side-dish on taco night, or as the main course when you are looking for a lighter meal.


3 tbsp Corn Oil
4 small Corn Tortillas – coarsely chopped
4 cloves Garlic
handful of Cilantro – chopped
1 Yellow Onion
1 tbsp Cumin
2 tsp Chili Powder
2 Bay Leaves
1.5 quarts Chicken Broth
2 tsp Salt
pinch of Cayenne Pepper
28 oz. Tomato Puree
2 Chicken Breasts – Cooked and Shredded
Cheddar Cheese – just a pinch for garnish before serving


In a large soup heat oil over medium heat. Add tortillas, garlic and cilantro and cook for about 5 minutes until tortillas are soft. While those are cooking puree the onion (we LOVE using our Magic Bullet for this). Add onion and tomato purees into the soup pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir in: cumin, bay leaves, chicken broth and chili powder. Once this is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  After about 15 minutes add the chicken and then continue simmering for another 15 minutes (30 minutes of simmering, total). Stir-in salt and cayenne pepper to taste, remove bay leaves. Garnish with cheese and dig-in!

Tortilla Soup photo 1 (4) photo 2 (1) photo 4

It was Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Rope!

Yes, I’m a big fan of Clue – great game, and even better movie!! Lately I’ve been very lax on blogging and for that I’m sorry! Every year it seems that I disappear for a month, or two and alas it happened again. I’ve had some big life changes going on that have diverted my attention: I started a new job (in marketing), and we purchased a new home! Selling your home is the pits – it was a lot of hard work getting the home packed up, but we cannot wait to move into our new home. It has a great big yard so the puppy will be thrilled, and it has a double-oven, so get ready for some awesome recipes! In selling and purchasing we have had a lot of DIY projects going on. At some point I’ll transition some of the before and after pictures into a quick blog post with some short tutorials on basic projects that y’all may enjoy.

As I’m sure its true for many folks that enjoy writing I’m an avid reader. I just love scoping out websites and articles online, in person, at the food store, etc. I’m also buried in some type of book, magazine, journal, etc. Magazines are an especially fun group to page through! There is something about those glossy pages that just draws me in! I love Martha’s magazine – all the pages are always beautiful (usually the projects are a bit impractical for my day-to-day life but gorgeous to look at!). I also enjoy Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, The Washingtonian to keep up on my local area and whatever else my friends pass my way (Cosmo, Health, etc).

And in the hours that I’m not pinning my life away of pinterest you can find me reading the following blogs: (Great compilation of various VA bloggers) (Running, fitness, overall health and inspiration) (If you live in the DC area – here is your local weatherman!) (Great blog featuring outdoor activities and reflections on nature) (Cooking!!)
– (poetry, writing, etc)

As I mentioned before I read pretty much anything I can get my hands-on. The folks at the library definitely recognize me because I’m there quite frequently as I go through books rather quickly. Travel books seem to stick with me more than other types of books, so is a smattering of some travel (and other) books I’ve read that have stuck in the front of my mind as worthwhile recommendations. I used to keep a book focused blog at – there are a bunch of book reviews there if you are handkering for more.

Honeymoon with my Brother (Wisner)
The Last Lecture (Pausch)
Into Thin Air (Krakauer)
Gone Girl (Flynn)- GREAT summer (or anytime) reading!
French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France (Goodman)

So that’s the scoop on where you can find me and what I’m reading when I’m not over here writing about the various crops we are collecting and cooking!

What are your favorite blogs? I always LOVE a good blog (book or magazine) recommendation!!

Calzones: Pizza’s Favorite Cousin!

I am Italian, it’s evident in the amount of pasta on hand, at all times, in my pantry as well as my meal choices. If it were up to me I’d likely have some version of pasta every single meal (yes, even breakfast), so finding italian recipes that are quick, easy and tasty are something I’m always on the lookout for. We love making homemade pizza but making the same recipes week after week can get a little boring, which is why we decided to really branch out (not) and try out our calzone making skills. It was a success! The calzone was plentiful, tasty and easy! It is a recipe we will deifnitely be using in the future!! I would imagine that for kids making mini-calzones would be a fun project since they get to really pick and choose their fillings and shape the calzone, so if you have children around this could be a fun way to make dinner more engaging and interactive…Calzone, Creative Crops


1 lb pizza dough
1 cup ricotta cheese, drained
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp italian seasoning (we used a garlic, oregano and parsley combo)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
Mix-ins: pepperoni, sausage, veggies, etc
Handful of cornmeal

** Heated marinara/pizza sauce for dipping


Pre-heat your oven and pizza stone to 450 F. Mix ricotta, mozarella, garlic, seasonings and mix-ins in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste (optional). Have a cornmeal coated area ready for your dough. Roll out your pizza dough over the cornmeal to form a circle and spread your mix-in and cheese mixture covering only 1 side of the dough and make sure to leave some of the edge available so you can seal up the calzone.

Fold the un-covered half of the dough over the mix-ins and cheese and ensure the ends meet. Your calzone/dough should be in the shape of a semi-circle now. Pinch the edges/crust togeter to seal them and use a fork to get the ‘crinkled’ look as you continue sealing them together.

Brush the calzone with olive oil, cut a few small slits in the top, like you would a pie, to allow steam to escape and move it onto your pizza stone for baking! I always make sure there is cornmeal on my pizza stone so that my pizza and calzones in this case don’t stick, so if you haven’t added a thin layer of cornmeal to your pizza stone during the heating process add a bit now before adding your calzone on top of it. Calzones are quick to bake and only need about 10 – 15 minutes depending on their size. You know your calzone is done when it is a golden brown color and is considerably larger than when you placed it in the oven.

Once the calzone has had a few moments to cool and not burn your mouth, dig in! We love dipping ours in pizza sauce, so I usually heat that up while the calzone is cooking. You can add some pizza sauce inside your calzone with your mix-in and cheese combinations if you’d like too.

The combinations of what you can stuff inside the calzone are pretty endless. Have a fun dinner and let everyone go to town creating the calzone of their dreams!

Tangy Ginger Dressing

Keeping up with my recent *easy* recipes here is a quick and easy recipe for ginger dressing. I have one of those nifty dressing shakers by OXO – it was perfect for this and many of the other dressings I have made so I highly suggest something similar if you find yourself making salad dressings every so often. We found this recipe at, and the recipe listed below just halves it, which is what we did.


Creativecrops Ginger Dressing

1.5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger root
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
1/4 cup water



Creativecrops Ginger Dressing

In your salad shaker, or a pint glass or bowl, combine all of the above ingredients. If using your salad shaker, then shake it up. If you’re using a bowl or cup, cover it tightly and then shake it up! Heat the shaken ingredients  in the microwave for 1 minute to dissolve the honey. Let cool, and shake well before serving. Store covered in the refrigerator.

We paired this over a spinach salad and it was delicious – the perfect compliment to the salad! We also put it into a wrap with grilled chicken, lettuce and shredded carrots which, again, was very complimentary to the wrap. Overall, this is a great dressing and as you can see from the instructions above, its very easy to make. Enjoy!

Burnt Broccoli (&Cauliflower too!)

It was a chilly Saturday night and our table was animatedly chatting in the cozy and warm Italian restaurant in DC when suddenly our waiter appeared with our appetizer – steamed broccoli! We love gathering at this restaurant whenever we are all in town and always order the steamed broccoli as an appetizer. But this time, a strange thing happened – we started discussing burned broccoli. I had never heard of such a thing but I was certainly interested! Our dear friend, Anthony, had my complete attention as he explained that his wife makes this delicious treat very easily all the time and that cooking the broccoli this way creates a more unique, sweeter flavor from the broccoli. My mom added that she does this same thing with cauliflower too. How did I never hear about this?! We couldn’t wait to try it out! On Monday evening I pulled out all the ingredients and we are hooked! The broccoli and cauliflower crisped up so nicely and the flavor was a bit sweeter. This is such a great side-dish when I don’t feel like steaming the veggies, and it was so easy! I hope you try these out and like them – if not send them my way!!

creative crops burnt broccoliIngredients

1 bunch broccoli & cauliflower
4 tbsp olive oil
large pinch of panko breadcrumbs
salt & pepper


Preheat your oven to 350 F (if its grilling season word on the street is that you can grill it too!). Toss your broccoli and cauliflower with the olive oil, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs. Lay out the broccoli and cauliflower on a parchment lined baking sheet (or unlined for messier cleanup). Place it in the over for about 20 – 30 minutes until the broccoli looks well-cooked and crispy.

The hardest part about this dish? Not eating it all before you serve the rest of the meal! I hope you enjoy this as much as we do! Enjoy!!

burnt Broccoli creative crops

Limoncello Liqueur

Ciao everybody – I’m Allison’s younger sister, Lauren and I’m your guest blogger for today! I’m very excited to be writing this guest blog to share my love of food and delicious drinks.  Who doesn’t love a good after-dinner drink that can melt away the stress of the day?  For our mother, that particular after-dinner drink is the italian liqueur Limoncello.  I thought this would be the perfect gift to give her for Christmas since it was unique, home-made, and most of all easy to make.  Since lemons reach their peak in August, the limoncello can be started in August and be easily ready for the holidays as the perfect gift!


Limoncello Creative Crops1.75 Liters of Vodka (Many recipes call for Everclear, if that’s too strong I would recommend Absolut)
10-15 organic lemons
5 cups water  (If you prefer it to be less sweet, adjust this ratio keeping it 1 more cup of water than sugar)
4 cups sugar


Take some vodka out of the 1.75 liter bottle, or transfer the vodka to a larger sealable container if you dont want to waste it as the lemon zests you are going to be adding will add volume. Add the rind of about 10-15 lemons directly into the bottle.  Use 10 lemons if you don’t want a strong taste or 15 if you want it very lemony – this can be tweaked to your preference.  When getting the “rind”, you canCreative Crops Lemon Zest either use a vegetable peeler to peel off the rind of the entire lemon (be sure not to get any of the white rind with it as that will make the limoncello bitter) or you can zest each lemon with a microplane. I zested each lemon with a microplane for my limoncello.
You will definitely want to use organic lemons because they have a thicker rind and do not have as many pesticides, making a better limoncello for you.  However, if organic is not an option, make sure to throughly soak the lemons to ensure no pesticides remain.
Limoncello by Creative Crops
Once the rinds are added, shake the bottle thoroughly for about 5 minutes to allow the flavor to infuse.  Store this mixture in a cool dry place (the refrigerator, closet, etc.) for 10 days, occasionally shaking the bottle to let the flavors really penetrate.
After 10 days it is finally time to start the last step in your limoncello making process!  Start your simple syrup by adding 5 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar to a saucepan and boil until the sugar is dissolved.  If you do not want your limoncello to be too sweet, you can lessen this amount to 3.5 cups water and 2.5 cups sugar; any Creative CRops Limoncellovariation will work as long as you keep the amount of water 1 cup more than the sugar.  While you allow this mixture to cool, start straining your lemon infused vodka either into a micro-strainer or by using coffee filters.  If using coffee filters, wet them with water first so they do not soak up any extra vodka (wouldn’t want it to go to waste!).  Once your simple syrup is cooled, add it to your strained vodka and store in a cool dry place for up to 2 months. I generally do a taste test after a month and it’s usually ready by then.
After anxiously waiting a month or 2, store your limoncello in the freezer and enjoy!!  This isn’t a precise recipe so tweak it to your individual taste buds but know that the finished product definitely won’t disappoint! If you’re giving it as a gift consider buying a few cute bottles to put it in and tie them with ribbon for a beautiful display! Happy Valentine’s Day!
Limoncello creative Crops
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