Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Best Cheesy Breadsticks

Last Friday, the kids and I chose to ignore the foul weather predicted by local meteorologists and traveled down to Pittsburgh to spend the day with Lucy's godmother at Idlewild Park. I am so glad we did because not only did the severe storms completely pass by our area with barely a zephyr, the day actually proved to be extremely sunny, bright, and hot. It was the perfect day to be outside exploring!

I'm a bit of a history lover, so I'm going to share just a bit of information about Idlewild park. Located just Southeast of Pittsburgh, Idlewild was initially established as a picnic area in the 1870s and advertised in the Pittsburgh area to church groups and schools as an ideal recreation local. While the park enjoyed great success and popularity as a picnic grove, after about sixty years the famed Mellon family chose to commercialize the property further through the addition of rides, bandstands, and other attractions, including the commissioning of a beautiful carousel that is still in operation today. Idlewild has been a grand success every since and is now considered the third oldest amusement park in the United States!

Idlewild is located right off of historic Route 30 in a beautiful, wooded area that provides an ample amount of shade for the park's many areas. It was a beautiful drive down there through the curvy, twisty hills of the Pennsylvania countryside - one that I especially enjoyed because the kids were quiet and napping! There is the main portion of the park that consists of all your typical carnival rides such as carousels, til-a-whirls, and other spinning rides that are perfect for children ages 4-10. As you walk further in, you encounter Hoot and Holler, a cute little western-themed town featuring shops, shows, and a log ride. Jumpin' Jungle is a play area great for the whole family that includes a tree fort for climbing, a giant slide, ball pits, and more. Storybook Woods is a shaded, relaxed area where the whole family can walk along a guided path and encounter characters and interactive scenes from favorite children's stories and nursery rhymes. Across the river and just a short train ride away is the Neighborhood of Make Believe, an adorable Daniel Tiger exhibit where the big, furry little feline himself is usually present for a short song-and-dance show followed by a meet-and-greet. The rides in this area are ideal for infants to young school-aged children. Then, of course, there is an outdoor water park with slides, wave pools, and other ares to cool off on a hot day.

My kids absolutely loved Idlewild! Granted, there were a few meltdowns - Matthew was initially scared of every single ride and refused to ride anything. Emma didn't want to leave at the end of the day and sobbed the entire way back to the car. The best behaved child award definitely went to Lucy. The poor baby was to too short to ride most of the rides in the main area and had to be content with watching her siblings ride. For the most part, she was fine with it! There were plenty of other things for her to do...

I loved that the park had something to offer each of the kids. My daredevil child Emma got to ride as many spinning rides as she wanted. She was really dying to go on the large coaster but thankfully it ended up closing early due to maintenance before Jen or me had the courage to tell Emma that she was too short to ride! Matthew had a blast driving bumper cars and sliding down the giant slide. He also was obsessed with the little train they had in the park, but I should have predicted that! Lucy was absolutely thrilled to watch Daniel Tiger sing and dance live - she was clapping along and dancing too! She also enjoyed all the little rides The Neighborhood of Make Believe had to offer and wouldn't stop talking about how much fun she had for days afterwards. It was adorable. Jen, of course, was a champ for helping me put up with the kids. We were both zonked by the end of the day. But so were the kids which made the drive home not-quite-so-painful. Thanks Jen for a fun day!

The recipe for today is in no way related to our fun in Idlewild other than, like the amusement park, it is something that all three of my kids adore. My kids refuse to eat the crust of their pizza, but they are all over breadsticks. It doesn't make much sense to me either, especially as I watch the discarded pizza crusts from my children pile up on my plate during a pizza party. Thankfully for them, I have never met a carb I didn't like and the crust just happens to be my favorite part of a pizza. I have been trying to gently explain to them that breadsticks are just pizza crust without the pizza attached but they just aren't buying it.

Breadsticks are a quick, easy filler to any meal - especially caesar salad (yum!) or chicken parmesan - and I have yet to find a recipe that is as easy, forgiving, and just plain good as this one. Our little family will devour an entire batch of these in minutes. If you don't wish to make them cheesy (but really why wouldn't you?), these taste just as good plain with a hint of garlic salt. Be careful...they are incredibly addicting. It's so hard to eat just one!

The Best Cheesy Breadsticks
from Lauren's Latest

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 envelopes rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted, divided
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic salt (I use less)
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated cheddar

Stir water, yeast and sugar together in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside until foamy.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and measure out the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir with the dough hook for a few seconds to disperse the salt into the flour. Pour in the foamy yeast mixture and start to incorporate. Drizzle in half of the melted butter. Scrape the sides if necessary and knead about 7 minutes. Dough should be sticky. If it's dry, sprinkle in a bit of water, a little at a time, until the dough is slightly sticky. Grease a large bowl, gather your dough into a smooth ball, and then place in the bowl. Turn to coat with oil. Let rise 30-45 minutes in a warm place until doubled in size.

Punch down dough and roll out to be 2 ft x 1 ft, approximately, on a floured board. Cut into 1/2-3/4 inch strips using a pizza cutter. Twist two strips together to create breadsticks and place onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise another 30 minutes or so. They should be almost touching by now.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush remaining melted butter over breadsticks, sprinkle with garlic salt and cheeses and bake 8-10 minutes or until poofy, hot, bubbly and brown. Cool 3-5 minutes before eating!

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