Metro-East Living

Stir Crazy: Time to chase the cats and decorate cookies

Mini Soft Pretzels and Dip
Mini Soft Pretzels and Dip

I don’t know who’s staying at your house, but by the end of tonight our holiday ensemble will include two youngsters, who will examine the Christmas tree, stalk the cats, wonder if it will snow (they’re from California) and ask when we will decorate the sugar cookies waiting for them. Answer: Wednesday.

Questions to myself: Where did I put all the sprinkle supplies from last year? Does Edison still need a step-stool to reach the counter? Is Camille old enough to work on her own? Do I have enough leftover white icing to dress the cookies? Can we tint it without getting red or green fingers for a week?

Answers: Cabinet downstairs. Possibly. Yes. Maybe. Probably not.

New trick I’m going to try: Give each child a jelly roll pan — or any cookie sheet that has a deep lip — in which to decorate cookies. Some of the sprinkles might actually stay off the floor.

Christmas is so much more fun (and exhausting) now, even if the refrigerator is packed with super-hero and princess sippy cups, extra milk, bowls of mac and cheese, and I have to wade in with both hands to part the seas and find the coffee creamer.

Can’t wait for them to get here!

Just in case you have vegetarians staying with you like we do, I found this snack recipe for homemade soft mini pretzels, made with refrigerator bread sticks, and cheese dip that’s sure to entice kids. If they’re old enough, you can show them how to twist the dough to make the pretzel shapes.

And if the kids who are home are teenagers, the one-pot Stovetop Italian Macaroni will handle big appetites.

Contact me at, 618-239-2664 or follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

Mini Soft Pretzels and Dip

1 can (11 ounces) refrigerated bread sticks

1 egg, beaten

Kosher (coarse) salt, if desired

1 jar (5 ounces) pasteurized process cheese spread with or without bacon

2 tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll dough; separate into 12 bread sticks. Cut each in half lengthwise. Roll each bread stick lightly to form 10-inch-long rope.

To shape each pretzel, shape rope into a circle, overlapping dough about 2 inches from each end, leaving ends free. Take 1 end in each hand; twist once at point where dough overlaps. Lift ends over opposite side of circle. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush each with beaten egg; sprinkle with salt.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, in small microwavable bowl, mix cheese spread and milk. Microwave on High 1 minute, stirring once halfway through cooking, until melted and hot.

Remove pretzels from cookie sheet. Serve warm pretzels with warm cheese dip.

Makes 24, each with 60 calories, 2 1/2 grams fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 2 grams protein. Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat. Carbohydrate choice: 1/2.

Stovetop Italian Macaroni

1 pound ground beef

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cups water

1 envelope onion soup mix

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a Dutch oven, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Add the tomatoes, water, soup mix, Italian seasoning and, if desired, pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Stir in macaroni. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8-9 minutes or until macaroni is tender.

Remove from the heat; stir in Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover and let stand for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 5 servings, each 1 1/3 cups with 410 calories, 17 grams fat, 76 mg cholesterol, 969 mg sodium, 34 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 30 grams protein.

Simple & Delicious October/November 2011