Thursday, January 26, 2012

Homemade Pretzels

Homemade Pretzels
Dorcas Annette Walker

I started the month of January with pretzels and I am going to end the month with another pretzel recipe. Our family always ate big fat pretzels with ice cream, but then we were Pennsylvania Dutch, who’s German and Swiss ancestors immigrated here to America in the early 1700’s searching for religious freedom. For years my sister has made Homemade Pretzels, but it wasn’t until this month that I decided to try it myself. To my surprise pretzels aren’t that hard to make and Homemade Pretzels are softer than store bought ones.

Pretzels originated in Europe made of dough in soft and hard varieties, savory or sweet flavors, tied in a knot-like shape known as the pretzel loop. Most agree that pretzels were invented by monks and became associated with Lent and Easter. By the 12th century the pretzel was an emblem of bakers. The custom of using lye in baking pretzels evolved in the 18th century and became well liked due to baking out excess moisture and increasing self life and crispness. In the 20th century pretzels had become popular throughout the United States as Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York became renowned for their soft pretzels. Today Pennsylvania is the center of American pretzel production.

Some pretzel facts:

- The annual U.S pretzel industry is worth over $550 million.
- The average American consumes 1.5 pounds of pretzels per year while the Philadelphian consumes 12 times more pretzels as the national average.
- In the early 1950’s the Volkswagen Beetle was nicknamed the “Pretzel Beetle”.
- The Pretzel Museum opened in Philadelphia in 1993.
- Governor Ed Rendell declared April 26 as “National Pretzel Day”.
- The Anderson Pretzel Factory produces 65 tons of pretzels daily.
- The largest pretzel weighed 40 pounds and measured 5 feet across.
- Speyer Germany is called the “pretzel town” and has a weekend festival in July that attracts 300,000 visitors with over 100 bands and floats where 22,000 pretzels are thrown out to the crowds.
- On January 1st some people give each other pretzels for good luck.
- In Germany the fourth Sunday in Lent is called “Pretzel Sunday” where boys give girlfriends pretzels.
- On May 1st love-struck boys paint a pretzel on the doors of sweethearts.
- An upside-down-pretzel means a sign of disgrace.
- Some pretzel sayings: “today the sun pretzeled down” means the sun is hot, “he got pretzeled” means he crashed, “I pretzeled him one” means I punched him in the nose, “he pretzeled down the road” means he went fast, and a “pretzeled appearance” means stylishly dressed.

Pretzels can be seasoned and decorated with: salt, sugar, sesame, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin, or caraway seeds, nuts, melted cheese, bacon bits, mustard, icing, and cinnamon. You can use different flours such as whole wheat or rye. Christmas pretzels are made with gingerbread and covered with chocolate frosting. For unique shapes boil the dough in baking soda water for 30 seconds. For a darker look glaze with egg yolk before baking. Preparation time for my Homemade Pretzels is around 1½ hrs and this recipe makes (depending on the size of pretzels) close to 30 pretzels.

Homemade Pretzels

1½ c warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 pkg dry yeast
4 c all-purpose flour
cooking spray
4 tsp baking soda
Kosher salt

Combine water, sugar, and yeast in a cup and let sit for 5 minutes until yeast rises. Put flour in a medium-sized bowl and add the yeast. Knead dough for 5 minutes until smooth adding a little flour as necessary. Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray, spray dough, and cover. Let rise for an hour. Take a pinch of dough and roll out into a thin string with your hands then loop and knot. Dip into a small bowl mixed with baking soda and ½ c of warm water. Place on greased baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350º for twenty minutes until browned. Cool and store in a zip-locked bag!

Weekly tip: Pretzels can be used as a crunchy topping for salads, desserts, and soups!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Bacon, Egg, & Potato Fry

Bacon, Egg, & Potato Fry
Dorcas Annette Walker

We’ve been having winter weather lately here on the mountain with cold temperatures and a few skiffs of snow, although overall winter this year has been mild. To pamper my hens we put out heated water dishes, turned the heat lamp on, and on cold days I fix up a batch of warm rice give to my hens- all which helps them keep laying. I’ve also mucked out the henhouse a couple of times giving them fresh straw and making sure that all the nests are soft. In return my hens continue to lay big fat brown, white, and cream colored eggs of which I’m expecting a double yolk any day now. Even in the midst of frigid weather there is lots of activity in the henhouse.

The big rooster, which was attacked by my hens, put in a separate pen, and lined up for beheading has managed to escape his fateful day. In fact Red Pepper is beginning to remind me of a cat with nine lives. When I was down with my arm, Dana decided it was too much work to fool with the rooster, who had started growing feathers back and looked healthy again, and without my knowing it, put my rooster back in the henhouse. As soon as I found out I protested indignantly -considering all the work I had given the rooster to keep the old boy alive-, especially when Dana admitted that the hens had begun attacking him again. I convinced Dana to rescue my poor rooster again and had him put Red Pepper in the back enclosed garden. Red Pepper shook his remaining bedraggled feathers looking quite the sorry sight as he began surveying his new domain. Since then I’ve fixed up a temporary shelter for my rooster, who has another batch of feathers coming back in while starting each day out with loud crows like an alarm clock. Once again the dear fellow has managed to avoid getting his head chopped off.

My Bacon, Egg, & Potato Fry is a hearty dish perfect for a winter day that can be prepared for breakfast, lunch, or supper. You can substitute sausage, hot dogs, or leftover ham for the bacon or add mushrooms, black olives and peppers if desired. Preparation time for the Bacon, Egg, & Potato Fry is around forty-five minutes and this recipe serves four.

Bacon, Egg, & Potato Fry

2 pieces of bacon
4 large potatoes
salt & pepper
6 large eggs
¼ c milk

In a medium-sized iron skillet fry the bacon crisp. While the bacon is cooking peel, wash, and dice the potatoes. Remove the bacon when done adding the potatoes to the hot grease. Salt and pepper to taste, cover, and let one side brown. Turn over the potatoes, crumble up the bacon and sprinkle over top, and re-salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about fifteen minutes until the potatoes are soft flipping the potatoes a couple of times. Beat up the eggs and milk in a small bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and cover. Stir until the eggs are cooked and scrambled. Serve hot. May garnish with ketchup!

Weekly tip: To determine if an egg is good or bad put in salt water. If it sinks it is okay, but if the egg floats throw it out!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homemade Beef Fajita

Homemade Beef Fajita
Dorcas Annette Walker

Last week I featured an old recipe of my mother. This week I am giving what to me is a new recipe, although fajitas- a Spanish nickname- goes back as far as the 1930’s of what were throwaway parts of the beef given to Mexican cowboys as part of their pay then grilled and served on tortillas. I have my son, Dwight, to thank for introducing me to fajitas as he puttered around cooking in my kitchen this past week as I seldom eat out in restaurants preferring to prepare my own meals at home. While some love to eat in Chinese or Mexican restaurants- trying foods they have no idea of what they are eating, including my own dear children, I am a bit fussier. A couple years ago I was talked into going into one of these types of restaurants to try fried ice cream that my husband declared was delicious. Even though all restaurants are supposed to be inspected unfortunately this one did not meet my standard of cleanliness to start with and I wasn’t put at ease with all the chattering away in a language I couldn’t understand, but my waterloo came when I was presented with greasy ice cream that turned my stomach on sight. I couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. Now some people- like my husband- might enjoy mixed up stuff like fried ice cream, but I prefer my fried foods and frozen desserts to remain separate, thank you, especially when I have no idea of what is going on back in the kitchen.

Speaking of brand new, I also want to quickly tell you about a new hardback 365 day devotional from Bethany House that just came out called Love is a Verb by Gary Chapman and James Stuart Bell with several other writers featured in it including myself. This devotional retails for $19.99, but I will let you have it postpaid for $20.00 if you send a money order or check to: 929 Wildwood Lane, Jamestown, TN 38556.

Now back to cooking. Fajitas are a true blend of Tex-Mex food. While our Homemade Beef Fajita uses beef you can also substitute chicken, pork, turkey, steak strips etc. adding mushrooms, black olives, salsa, tomato, lettuce, and sour cream to your heart’s desire or for added zest and warmth sprinkle on three to four drops of Tabasco sauce like my son, Dwight, does. Preparation time for the Homemade Beef Fajita takes only ten minutes and this recipe makes one fajita, although you probably won’t stop with only one.

Homemade Beef Fajita

¼ c shredded leftover beef
¼ c frozen seasoned onions
¼ c chopped red & green peppers
garlic, regular salt, & pepper
¼ c shredded coby-jack cheese
1 flour tortilla

Lightly oil skillet and slowly sauté on low the beef, onions, and peppers for five minutes adding the salts and pepper to taste. Sprinkle on the cheese and let melt. Microwave the tortilla for fifteen seconds. Place the beef mixture in the middle of the warmed tortilla and fold over. You can use a toothpick to secure the tortilla. Serve hot!

Weekly tip: Each summer I chop up garden fresh red and green peppers layering them out on paper towel-lined trays to dry and then freeze for handy year round use or you can also dry the peppers in a dehydrator!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mom's Pretzel Soup

Mom’s Pretzel Soup
Dorcas Annette Walker

Another New Year has begun laid out fresh and unmarred before us; a time to ponder the past and set goals for the future. Considering the medical catastrophes that hit our family and what we are still recovering from the previous year, I was ready to turn the page on a new beginning. Last year after only a couple of months had passed our lives did a complete u-turn when my husband, Dana, had open heart surgery. Then to finish out the old year I fell dislocating my elbow, which the orthopedic surgeon says may take up to a year or longer to get back to normal. Despite major setbacks there have been many blessings along the way. I’m thrilled that I can use my wrist once again making me independent, our circle of friends has enlarged, we have a wonderful sup-portative home church and caring pastor, and our family unit has grown even closer. There is so much to be thankful for.

The one way I keep from totally losing it when life throws a curve is by staying organized. This is time of the year I pull out all my lists and goals from last year and then revise, delete, or add for the coming New Year. There is something mentally challenging and exhilarating to me about taking inventory and planning ahead while shuffling through calendars and pages of notes- something that might drive some folk batty. I love finding ideas or projects that I stashed away during the past year to consider. One of my favorite things is starting a new cooking notebook for my column for the year while browsing through old and new recipes.

Since the New Year started off cold and snowy I decided to feature a soup dish. Not any soup mind you, but a favorite of my mother’s that she would make whenever we were sick- perfect for me right now as my elbow recuperates. My mother never used a recipe for her pretzel soup that is very simple and easy to make so I’ve had to measure out the ingredients as I made it up. My Mom’s Pretzel Soup has a slightly nutty crunchy taste and is a great digestive aid- a perfect help for colds and flu this winter. You can also substitute toast instead of pretzels if you prefer. Preparation time for my Mom’s Pretzel Soup is around ten minutes and this recipe serves one.

Mom’s Pretzel Soup

½ c pretzels broken into bite-size pieces
1 c milk
1 tsp butter
salt & pepper

Place the pretzel pieces in a bowl, add milk, and butter. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Microwave for a minute or so until the butter is melted. Serve hot!

Weekly tip: A rule of thumb when serving soups: dish up thick soups into heavy china, pottery bowls, mugs, or sty foam while serving thin light soups in elegant crystal or fine china!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dwight's Breakfast Bake

Dwight’s Breakfast Bake
Dorcas Annette Walker

It happened so fast right before Christmas. One minute I was on my feet changing my son’s bed with a list of things to get done that day when my foot caught on one of the numerous cords running across the floor and I fell flat on my face. I kept telling my son that his bedroom was a disaster area and that one day I’d break my neck. Thankfully it was my elbow that was thrown out of joint instead, although the pain was excruciating. It wasn’t like I hadn’t fallen before, but this time when I saw my arm sticking out in a position that wasn’t normal, I realized that I was in big trouble. On the way to the hospital in the ambulance I was given a shot for pain, which didn’t even faze me. Normally it doesn’t take much to knock me out. In the ER I was given a stronger dose of pain medication that barely took an edge off my agony. After x-rays- where it was confirmed that my elbow was indeed out of the joint- I was sent by ambulance down to the Cookeville hospital. On the way I was given another shot. Almost six hours later, I was still awake and hurting when the orthopedic surgeon finally came down to the emergency room, put me under, and got my elbow back in place.

The next day I spent throwing everything up- a reaction from all the pain meds I had been given- while my dear husband tried to nurse me back to health. Suddenly I couldn’t dress myself, put up my long hair, or even take a shower. I’ve always been independent. Now I was dependent on my two fellows that at times were quite helpless. Thankfully my daughter, Dawn, came to the rescue. Between helping me she cleaned my house, wrapped up all my Christmas presents, baked lots of goodies, and fixed meals. What at first seemed like a big disaster turned into a special family get-to-gether. Instead of spending only a couple of days with us, Dawn and her family spend the entire week. Despite having my arm in a cast our house was full of laughter and love during the Christmas season.

Dawn and Dwight helped me put together this week’s column. One morning Dwight fixed a new dish that I named Dwight’s Breakfast Bake. Not one crumb was left. Since I couldn’t take pictures with my arm in a cast, Dawn did the honors for me. Both of my children rallied around their mom to make lots of wonderful holiday memories that warm our hearts to carry into the New Year.

Dwight’s Breakfast Bake is an ideal way to use up leftover ham and can also be made for lunch or as a light supper. You can add or mix match sausage, pepperonis, hash browns, and black olives. Preparation time for Dwight’s Breakfast Bake is around forty minutes and this recipe serves eight.

Dwight’s Breakfast Bake

1 can of eight crescent dinner rolls
8 large eggs
4 pieces of bacon crumbled
½ c cooked ham chopped
½ c frozen seasoned onions with peppers
1 c shredded coby-jack cheese
salt & pepper

In a 9 x 13 greased baking dish layer the crescent rolls on the bottom. Beat up four eggs, add a little bit of milk, and pour over the rolls tilting the dish to cover. Sprinkle on the meats and onions. Beat the other four eggs adding a little bit of milk and layer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle on the cheese and bake at 350º for thirty minutes. Serve hot!

Weekly tip: Have a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: