Celebrate National Pretzel Month with Gnarly Knots

Did you know October is National Pretzel Month? To celebrate, today’s blog post is guest written by Funi Daniels, co-owner of Gnarly Knots:

Guten Tag and all that rot. It’s October, and that means that it’s National Pretzel Month! It’s a magical time when the world (or anyone who understands the vast importance of bread baked to perfection) comes together to celebrate and EAT!!!

My name is Funi Daniels, and I am the co-owner of Gnarly Knots Pretzel Company. We specialize in the very best bread product on the planet: Pretzels! Today, I am here to counter the myths over the ease of making the perfect pretzel. I am here to tell you that it is no easy task, but aspiring to perfection is so darn worth it! We’ve worked years to perfect our craft. We’ve lost sleep, laughed, cried and wept over (of all things?) bread! But when we finally got it right, well….it was a thing of beauty.

Matt Finn (the partner and all around awesome beau) and I got our start in the Pretzel game as part of a ‘Iron Chef’ competition we used to do with friends in Seattle where we met. It was a German Theme and Tomato and Tenderloin were the secret ingredients. We decided to try our hands at making Pretzel Tenderloin Sandwiches with a Sundried Tomato Mustard. They were AMAZING!!!

I love the history behind the pretzel. It dates back all the way to 610 A.D. The famous man who made it all happen was a simple monk rewarding children for saying their prayers. He took scraps of bread dough and twisted them in a way that children back then used to pray. That is where the pretzel shape came from…as for the flavor? Well, that was another story. One that involves a clumsy apprentice in the kitchen, who tripped and dropped a tray of ready to bake dough onto the used ash on the floor.

Instead of getting rid of the dough, he baked it, and low and behold found that the ash brought a whole new element to the baking process that had never been seen (or tasted) before! Today, pretzel makers use this same process, but instead of using soot, we use Sodium hydroxide to dip our dough into, thus causing the same chemical reaction.


The products that we provide for artizone, our Pretzel Chips, are all started with the basic core of a baked pretzel. We take all the elements of making a pretzel: making the dough, letting it rise, portioning it, rolling it into the fabulous pretzel shape, letting it rise again and develop a skin, dipping it in lye and baking it to golden loveliness. Then we take those perfectly baked pretzels and slice them only to be rebaked into a wonderful crisp chip!

We have four flavors to date: Original (all Pretzel, twice baked!) Cheese (an awesome combination of Monterey Jack and Asiago Cheese), Caramelized Onion (we do slow cook onions until they are caramelized, then grind them down into a slurry which we dip each chip into before baking) or Sofrito.

The Sofrito is my favorite and in fact an old family recipe. My family hails from Puerto Rico. Any Puerto Rican worth his weight in rice has a family Sofrito recipe and mine is no different. The core flavor of Sofrito is Onion, Pepper and Garlic.

Watch our spot on Chicago’s Best, where you can see how we run our operation, including the illusive question on how to twist a pretzel and how to ‘stuff’ a pretzel! Know that we love our product so much that we often lose sleep over it. We want our pretzels to be the very best you’ve ever tasted, whether it be soft and lovely or crisp and delicious. Thank you for reading and Gluchliches Oktoberfest!!

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Artisanal Halloween Treats and Eats (as featured on WGN)

Yes, you need to stock up on a ton of traditional candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters. However, there are lots of opportunities to get creative (and maybe even a little spooky) with your food in anticipation of Halloween. We partnered with Selena Kohng of How About Cookie fame to feature our artisanal products as inspiration for creative Halloween treats and eats that you and your kids can make at home together.

Tune into WGN Midday on Friday, October 24th. We’ll be demoing these Halloween treats and talking how-to. Check out the shopping list for each creation below and pick up everything you need to make these goodies yourself at home. 

Macaron Jack-O-Lantern:



1. Cut 3 triangle shapes and a smile shape using kitchen scissors. Apply with a dab of your binder to make them stick onto the macaron. Cut a small piece of apple for the stem and stick into the macaron filling.


Cookie Bats:



1. Cut bat wings using half of a heart-shaped cutter for the top arch, and the curve of the heart for the bottom two. Alternatively, use kitchen scissors to cut freehand.

2. Using tweezers, melt a white chocolate chip one at a time, pointed side down, on a pan over lowest heat. As soon as the pointed side melts to create a level disc, transfer to the cookie; the melted chocolate will cool and stick.

3. Repeat with a second chocolate chip for the second eye. Using a small circle fondant cutter, cut circles out of the fruit leather and stick onto white chocolate chips with your binder to finish the eyes. Alternatively, use mini chocolate chips.


Marshmallow Ghosts:



1. Prepare hot chocolate using package directions. Use the same chocolate chip melting method as the one for the cookie bats for the eyes and mouth of each ghost. Use “ghosts” in hot chocolate, or stick with skewers to dunk in hot chocolate or make homemade s’mores.


Haunted House:

photo (1)



1. Bake potatoes at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or steam them for a quicker cook time.

2. Meanwhile, make two large pancakes according to package directions. Use online images as a guide to cut a haunted house silhouette with kitchen scissors. The more uneven your lines, the better! Lay the house shape on your late.

3. Cut windows and door from dried mango slices using kitchen scissors.

4. Use a circle cutter to cut a moon from the cheese and lay on the plate. Once the potatoes are done, slice in half, then cut 1/2″ slices and add small cuts to create cloud shapes. Lay them on the plate, some overlapping the moon.

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Sage Apple Sausage Stuffing

SONY DSCAs we’ve said before, we love a good apple. We appreciate their crispy crunch year-round, but there’s no denying they’re at their best this time of year. And while we typically use them in sweet dishes such as apple pie, apple crisp, apple strudel, apple cider, apple pancakes, apple jelly—oh, we could go on—they’re also a great complement to savory dishes, such as this sausage and sage dressing. You can use it to stuff your turkey come Thanksgiving, but this comforting dish also will make an excellent side for any chicken or pork dinners you have planned this fall, especially when you get your ingredients from some of our favorite local sources.

(makes 6-8 servings)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound mild pork sausage from Juha Ranch
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced peeled cored apple
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp minced fresh sage
1 bay leaf
8 cups 1-inch cubes French bread or baguette with crusts (from 1-pound loaf) from Empire Baking Company
1 cup whole milk from the Green Grocer
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter, melted
3 large eggs, beaten to blend from The Farm at Grandview

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and sauté until cooked through and brown, about 8 minutes. Break up any larges pieces with a spoon. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl.

Add celery and next six ingredients to sausage drippings in the skillet. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Add mixture to sausage and add in bread pieces. Whisk milk, eggs, broth and butter in a medium bowl and pour over sausage and bread mixture. Season stuffing with salt and pepper.

Butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer stuffing mixture into the baking dish and bake uncovered until cooked through and brown, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Bon appétit!

Posted in Community, Dairy, Dallas, Empire Baking Company, Entrees, Food Products, Green Grocer Dallas, Grocery, How-to & Tips, Juha Ranch, Meat & Seafood, Produce, Recipes, Side Dishes, Specialty Items, The Farm at Grandview | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

October artisan of the month: Dallas Caramel Company

dallas caramel co 1Sometimes it’s the little things that keep life sweet. Artizone knows this, and that’s why Dallas Caramel Company is our featured Artisan of the Month.

Rain McDermott, a pastry chef by trade, said she started making caramels as baby shower gifts. The candies were a hit with the party guests, and orders for the little morsels started coming in.

But after McDermott had some dental work done, she became acutely aware of how the candies fuse to her teeth—not good. So she set about tweaking her recipe to get a caramel that was soft and stretchy but not sticky.

Eliminating that stickiness turned out to be important because, McDermott said, she doesn’t want her candies to be off limits to anyone, whether it’s a toddler with one tooth, a teenager with braces or a 90-year-old with dentures.

“Ultimately, it has to appeal to everybody,” she said.

And how could it not?

For McDermott, the perfect caramel packs big flavor into a tiny package.

“It has to have flavor,” she said. “You can taste real butter, real cream — not the preservatives that make it last for years.”

To that end, McDermott uses no preservatives and no artificial flavors. This means her candies don’t have the same shelf life as what you might find at the store. She makes up for it, though, by using fresh, high-quality cream, sugar and butter. For the flavored caramels, McDermott uses real ingredients. That means there’s real orange zest and juice in the orange caramels, real pureed apples in the apple pie caramels and real chai tea in the chai caramels.

To keep things interesting, McDermott explores other culinary trends and incorporates them into her own offerings. For example, she’d seen habanero toffee and chili chocolates, so she started looking at ways to bring the heat to her sweets. The solution was chipotle caramels, which incorporate real chipotle powder. McDermott said the smoky heat hits just at the end, but that it’s tamed by the candy’s creamy sweetness.

dallas caramel co 2In addition to the caramels themselves, McDermott also makes decadent turtles, which incorporate her caramel as well as premium nuts and chocolate.

Further sweetening the deal, McDermott donates 10 percent of all her proceeds to Operation Homefront, a not-for-profit that provides emergency and financial assistance to military families.

So while these sweets might not be sticky, we’ll be sticking with them this holiday season.


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The benefits of eating apple peels

SONY DSCYou’ve been told all your life that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but did you know that if you’ve been tossing the peel you’ve been tossing the best part? It’s true: The apple peel contains the majority of the fruit’s vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

The apple peel stores half of the apple’s vitamin C as well as a rich supply of vitamins A, K and folic acid. The peel also is an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, which help keep bones and teeth strong and healthy; potassium, which helps promote proper cellular, cardiovascular and digestive function; and iron, which helps the body create healthy red blood cells. It also contains trace amounts of zinc, sodium, magnesium and iron.

The apple peel is where you’ll find 2/3 of the fruit’s total fiber content, which gives an assist to the digestive and cardiovascular systems. Fiber also can help with weight loss; every gram of fiber consumed “cancels out” 7 calories, so if you took in 30 grams of fiber a day you’d effectively void 210 calories. Over the course of a year, this can contribute to a 20-pound weight loss.

Apple peels also contain phytochemicals such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, which help zap cell-damaging free radicals.

Sound pretty a-peel-ing? (Sorry, we had to.) Next time you’re noshing on a Fuji or Red Delicious, leave the skin on and take it all in. And if you’re doing any baking and wind up with a lot of peels left over, do not throw them out. There are several ways to use those apple peels.

The easiest is to blend them into your morning smoothie for some extra nutrition and fiber. Just sprinkle a little lemon juice on them to keep them from browning in the fridge.

Apple ChipsYou also can make apple peel chips. You’ll need peels from eight to 10 large apples, 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Preheat the oven to 225 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Then combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle this mixture over the apple peels. Bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours until the peels are dry and crispy. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before enjoying.

Feeling thirsty? Make tea by bringing 4 cups of apple peels and 4 cups of cold water to boil over medium heat. Lower heat and add one cinnamon stick and a little vanilla extract. Simmer 45 to 60 minutes. Sweeten to taste with honey.

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