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Back Up and Running – With a (5K) Challenge

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photo-3-650x280Hi, everyone!

I’m back in action, and I’m sorry for my recent prolonged absence. Work, children’s and my travel schedule has overwhelmed me lately, and I’ve had some technical difficulties here on LOAF that have taken too much time to iron out. But I’m smooth now, and am back baking with you this week!

Behind the scenes lately, I’ve been taking up with a seriously motley crew. No, I’m not out stalking Nikki Sixx. I’ve starting running with a slightly different crowd – a few fantastic food blogger friends I’ve made who just happen to, well, run.

These ladies are bad to the bone, lacing up their shoes at ungodly hours of the morning, pushing aside excuses and doubt and hitting the streets, trails and the occasional treadmill to pursue the healthy, balanced, challenging and fit life of a runner. And since I kinda-sorta run a little, they invited me along for the ride; I couldn’t be happier to call myself a Red Faced Runner.

Right here, right now, I’m inviting you, too, to join us.

RedFacedRunnersLogo3

Here are the details:

The Red Faced 5K Challenge is a nine-week journey to becoming a runner. Since I am already a runner and coach certified by the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), I’ve drawn up a plan to get you from stationary to 5K race-ready in nine weeks. My fellow RFRs and I are with you every step of the way: we’re all training to run a 5K (or in some cases longer) the weekend of September 8, 2012, and we want you to train with us and change your life. I’m serious. Complete details, including the plan and some tips from me on how to train for your first 5K can be found here – over at one of my favorite food blogs, the Cookin’ Canuck (our About Page).

Who are these crazy red women or whatever, anyway, you wonder. Sure, that’s natural. I’ve got ten partners in crime who also happen to be some of the best cooks and bakers in the Internet, and who will definitely inspire you to get out there with their tales of how they became runners: Dara, the Cookin’ Canuck, our challenge host, Amy of She Wears Many Hats, Kristen at Dine & Dish, Bridget who Bakes at 350, Lori, the Recipe Girl, Katrina of In Katrina’s Kitchen, Robyn of Add a Pinch, Carolyn of All Day I Dream About Food, Krista, the Budget Gourmet Mom and Shawn of I Wash…You Dry.

Join us. Find a 5K in your hometown – or anywhere – sign up, lace up, train up and become the best you ever. (Find races anywhere in the world at Active.com and Running in the USA.)

I haven’t yet finalized my race, but you’ll likely see me pop up in Chicago at a half-marathon as part of my training for the New York City Marathon, which I’m running this fall.

Now go! Do! Then tweet with us using hashtag #RFR5k on Twitter.

See you out on the roads – and in my kitchen later this week.

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Hot Buttered Pretzels

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CoolingPretzels12-650x280Hey, is this thing on?

Oh, good.

Happy Monday, everyone! It’s been so crazy around here the last two weeks that I feel like a pretzel. More on what I’ve been up to shortly. In the meantime, I’m sharing my new love.

I didn’t mean to fall. It was an accident. Still, the Yeast Cupid got me just the same.

While opening a wonderful little care package I received from King Arthur Flour  earlier  this spring, a glossy piece of cardstock with many lines of text and numbers slipped out of the box and slid innocently along the floor to rest in front of the fridge in my kitchen.

Of course, I was on it like white on rice – scooped that baby up and behold: it told me how to bake soft pretzels. As in here, in my humble kitchen. Hmm…these might make me a hero if I could get them right. Okay, file these in my idea book and keep on rolling, I thought to myself.

Last week I finally circled back and when I cracked open my idea book, there they were. Instant attraction. Even lightning bolts. So I took the first (always skeptical) concentrated read-through and gave them a whirl the same afternoon.

You can guess what I’m about to say next. Yep, a new obsession was born. Love at first pretzel-shaping.

I’ve made these adorable, easy and delish pretzels six times since. Six. They never last an entire day and rarely an hour. You can take these the standard, as-published route, or add your own herb mix to go savory, or try a cinnamon-sugar topping, possibly, for a sweet version. Also, experiment with different pretzel sizes and add an extra twist in the middle while shaping a larger pretzel.

High WOW-factor, low on the putz meter. What could be better? Just don’t stay home alone with them.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

To note: You can certainly make this pretzel dough and bake the same day, however, for a richer, more “pretzel-y” dough flavor, I wrap my dough in plastic after it has risen and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and let warm to room temp (about an hour) before dividing and shaping. If you bake a sweet version of these, I recommend baking the same day you make the dough (no hint of sour at all).

PlatedPretzels12-1024x799

Hot Buttered Pretzels

Approx prep: 35 minutes Rise time: 30-45 minutes Bake: 9 minutes Yield:
8 pretzelsINGREDIENTS

Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
7/8 cup lukewarm water

Topping
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse, kosher or pretzel salt

3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted

PREPARATION

1. Place all dough ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached.

2. Knead by hand or mixer five minutes or until a soft, smooth and slack dough forms (note: my dough, when ready, feels “clammy” to the touch but isn’t sticky).

3. Sprinkle dough with flour, cover and let rise 30-45 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 475° F. Lightly grease two baking sheets or line with parchment.

5. Divide the dough into 8 pieces Add the baking soda to the boiling water, stirring vigorously to dissolve; allow water to cool to lukewarm as you shape the pretzels.

6. Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 18-20″), bring ends around and cross the center of the rope and drape tails into a pretzel shape.

7. Pour cooled baking soda wash into a 9×9 square baking pan. Place the pretzels, two at a time, into the water and soak for 2 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet.

8. Bake pretzels for 8-9 minutes or until golden brown, rotating baking sheet in oven halfway through. Remove from oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt. Enjoy hot.