Life's a Picnic

 Image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if this image is used.

Image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if this image is used.

Last night, we had a reason to celebrate.  In honor of my new job, AND it being an amazing opportunity, we decided to do a special dinner.  Rather than go out, I decided to make our dinner - this way, it's less expensive, I control the ingredients going into our food, and we had intimacy in lieu of a crowded, noisy restaurant.  Since we wanted it to be extraordinary and festive, we did a winter picnic!

I made broccoli cheese soup (tastes exactly like Panera), and turkey sandwiches on home-made pretzel rolls.  It was so delicious I couldn't stand it!  We accompanied the dinner with Layer Cake Shiraz that my husband purchased...it was his way of telling me getting the job was a'"piece of cake'.  (I know...he can be so adorable).

We were going to go out back on the patio, but because the wind was whipping pretty hard, we decided to light a fire, turn on some jazz, and have our picnic inside!  It didn't cost a lot, and by just making a few adjustments (lighting, music) we turned our living room into a winter picnic and had a woncderful time.  (Believe me, People, it's worth the effort!)

I have put the recipes for the soup and the pretzel rolls below.  Most of the stuff I already had in my pantry and fridge, and you probably do, too!  Life's been NO PICNIC for us lately, but we are so grateful for the blessings we DO have - and with this recent news we truly felt this was the best way to nourish the celebration for the next step in my career path!

Home-Made Pretzel Rolls

1 pkg dry active yeast

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp sugar

1 cup warm water

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbs butter, softened

1/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk plus about 1 tbs water

1-2 tbs Kosher or course sea salt

In a small bowl, mix yeast, salt, sugar and warm water and stir to dissolve sugar. Let sit 5 minutes until foamy. In a large bowl, mix flour and cayenne. Use your fingers to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly pour yeast mixture into flour and stir with a fork to combine. Use your hands to gather dough together and turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until no longer sticky and fairly smooth. Return to bowl, cover with plastic and let rise 30 minutes. Cut dough into 4 equal pieces and lightly form it into a sandwich bun or roll shape. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet (I used organic olive oil spray) and repeat with remaining dough. Let rise 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a large pot, combine 10 cups of water with baking soda and bring to a boil. Boil rolls in batches (I did two at a time) until puffy about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side. Transfer to wire rack to drain. Return to baking sheet, brush with egg yolk wash, sprinkle with salt and lightly score lengthwise with a sharp knife about 1/8-inch deep. Bake until golden to dark brown,  about 15 minutes.

I used a couple of slices of Boar's Head Oven Gold Turkey Breast (Boar's Head doesn't have any MSG, no fillers, no hormones, no preservatives, PLUS I had a coupon for $2 off!) and a slice of Swiss for me; for Adrian, a slice of provolone because he is not a cheesy-cheese guy.  I had a $1 off produce coupon at Kroger, so I spent a little extra on some avocado to put on the sandwich as a healthy fat in place of mayo, some lettuce, sliced tomato and red onion, a little Dijon, and that sandwich was frickin'-frackin' AWESOME.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 pound fresh broccoli
1 cup carrots, julienned
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar

Directions:

Saute onion in butter. Set aside. Cook melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly and slowly add the half-and-half . Add the chicken stock whisking all the time. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat until the veggies are tender - about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper. The soup should be thickened by now. Pour in batches into blender and puree. Return to pot over low heat and add the grated cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in the nutmeg and serve.

I put a ladleful in cute little bowls next to the sandwich, mixed a little balsamic and extra virgin olive oil in some field greens and put a handful on the side of both the sandwich and bowl of soup.  I sliced up two or three pieces of smoky cheese and put a little garnish (for fancy picnic's sake!) and it made for a BEAUTIFUL plate that filled our bellies!!  I made enough soup for Adrian and Cameron's lunches and froze the rest.

I felt like royalty with a meal like that, and celebrating the blessing of the new job made for a good excuse for a date night in the process!