Today’s Special

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What makes something special?  I believe that special doesn’t have to be difficult.  Special doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  Special doesn’t have to be expensive.  Ultimately, I believe that special is in the details, the extra thought that went into something.  Special is a bit of shredded cheese sprinkled over iceberg lettuce.  Special is ribbon tied around a present.  Special is a bit of chocolate syrup in a glass of white milk.  Special is blowing bubbles inside.  Special is a bit of cheese sauce on frozen peas.  Special is writing in colored ink.  Special is sprinkles on a peanut butter sandwich.

 I’m blessed with the luxury of employment at home.  One might say that, as a stay-at-home mom, I have more free time than others.  Now, technically, all of my time is free time, for I do not get paid for what I do, but that’s a different topic.  🙂  But yes, I do have a schedule that allows for extra time found here and there to make things special.  Is making bread difficult?  No.  Is making a layer cake hard?  Nope.  But when you hand someone a loaf of homemade bread, isn’t it special?  When you cut a piece of cake sandwiched in frosting, isn’t there something awesome about that?

I love making things special. People may not always realize the time or the thought that went into something.  They may not know that I was thinking of them and was seeking to make even just a spark of special in their day.  But I know it’s there.  The simple act of putting a little something extra into whatever I did made it special for me.   Last week it was making garlic-parmesan pretzels for soup supper.  Today it’s sharing that recipe.  The time it takes to make a bit of soft, shaped “special”?  1-1/2 hours.  The time to write about it?  Not quite that long.  

How special is that?  🙂 

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Garlic-Parmesan Pretzels

recipe adapted from Good Housekeeping

  • 2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • about 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • half a stick of butter or margarine, with wrapper still on
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

 In large bowl, combine 1 ½ cups warm water, yeast, and sugar; stir to dissolve.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Add salt and 2 cups flour; beat well with wooden spoon.  Gradually stir in 1 ½ cups flour to make soft dough.

 Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes, kneading in enough of remaining ½ cup flour just to keep dough from sticking.

 Shape dough into ball; place in greased large bowl, turning dough to grease top.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place (80-85 degrees F) until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

 Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease two cookie sheets.  Punch down dough and cut into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into 24-inch-long rope.  Shape ropes into loop-shaped pretzels by picking up the rope with an end in each hand.  Twist rope ends around each other twice about one-third to halfway down length and pressing onto bottom loop as you lay the pretzel down on surface. 

 In small bowl, whisk remaining ½ cup warm water and baking soda until soda has dissolved.

 Dip pretzels in baking-soda mixture and place 1 ½ inches apart on prepared cookie sheets (pretzels may start to come undone; simply press to reattach ends).  Bake until browned, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. 

 Remove pretzels from oven.  Unwrap a small bit of the cut end of the stick of butter, and, holding onto the still-wrapped part, rub over tops of pretzels.  Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese.  Serve pretzels warm or transfer to wire racks to cool.

To make plain pretzels, omit pepper, garlic, and Parmesan.  Sprinkle the salt over the pretzel before baking.

To make cinnamon-sugar pretzels, omit salt, pepper, garlic, and Parmesan.  Combine 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/2 cup sugar.  Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over pretzels after rubbing with butter.  (I haven’t tried it, so don’t blame me if it doesn’t work, but you might be able to sprinkle some of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the pretzels before baking and then some after for a more intense cinnamon flavor–that’s next on my experiment list.)

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