Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Grail Quest (bagel quest)

I have recently been on a quest to make a perfect bagel.  It all started with one of my favorite blogs making bagels, and ended in my being obsessed with them.

I must say that I did not expect to find so many variations of how to make bagels.  They all did have the common theme of boil them first and then bake them, and that's where the similarities end.  In the end, I have selected my favorite.  The horses and the birds also have their favorites of my failures!

I started with just a basic bread recipe, my favorite can be found here, and while they looked great in the beginning, and they did taste good, they kind of looked terrible.

The brownish ones in this pan are cinnamon walnut, and the red/pinkish ones are apple strawberry.  The horses LOVED the apple strawberry!

My third try went a little better.  Same recipe but this time I was going for a cinnamon crunch like bagel.  After I boiled the bagels, but before I baked them, I dipped them in a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and finely crushed pecans.

These were just boiled.  They look a little like an under done dumpling, and feel squishy.

Topped with the cinnamon/sugar/nut mixture.  Then baked.

They were pretty yummy, but still I thought they could be better.  The horses also liked these, but the cows would have nothing to do with them.  They demanded cookies!

"Lady, quit taking our pictures and give us our stinking cookies."  Then they found out I only had second rate bagels and left.

So, I looked for another bagel recipe, and finally settled on this oneIt came with rave reviews, and I decided to try it.  The recipe was very similar to my original one, but turned out much better.  Could be the cook is getting better too!

Homemade bagel recipe
4 cups bread flour
1 Tbls sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 Tbls vegetable oil
2 tsps instant yeast
1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water.

Contrary to the original recipe, I combined the warm water, yeast, sugar and salt and let it proof for 5 minutes.  Then I added the oil and 2 cups of flour.  When that was combined, I added the final 2 cups of flour.  I let my Kitchen-Aid dough hooks do the kneading for me. 

I only let the dough rise 20 minutes as directed and then rolled into the bagel shape before letting it rise again for another 20 minutes.  This is one of the key things I believe.  Before I was letting them rise for an hour each time, and they were over-risen.  (is that a word?)

Then it's time to get the water boiling.  The second key is the baking soda.  Add baking soda, about a heaping teaspoon full to a pot of water.  The original recipe says a heaping tablespoon full, but that made pretzel bagels when I used that much!  (Those were pretty good too!)

And now turn your oven on to 425.

Then I boiled two bagels at a time, one minute per side. 

They should puff up when you boil them.  The one on the right has not been boiled yet, and the one on the left has been boiled.  I let my just boiled bagels sit on a cooling rack for about a minute before putting them back onto the greased cookie sheet.  This is the time, if you want something on top of your bagels to dip the top into it.  It's hot/wet enough to stick at this point. 

When all of the bagels were boiled, bake them at 425 for 15-18 minutes.  Again, the original recipe says 20 minutes, I thought they were too dark.  It also says to flip them over at the 10 minute mark.  I didn't and they turned out fine.  If they have stuff on the top (poppy seeds, cinnamon crunch stuff, etc)  I didn't want my stuff falling off.  I want the stuff for me!  Just selfish like that.

They looked amazing, and while the original recipe said to cool for 20 minutes before eating, who are they kidding?  We waited about 2 minutes, just long enough for it not to melt skin when you were slicing them.

Oh, were they good.  No horse or cow or bird got any of this batch!  From beginning to end, it was just at an hour.  This was worth the effort to me, and will be making them often. 

Next time, I'm thinking I will make blueberry.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Funny

This came to me this morning from my boss!  Happy Friday everyone.
p.s.  I've thrown in some random pictures we took in Lexingon, KY just for fun.

Undeniable adult truths

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection ... again.

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.

17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?

20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

22. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still don't know what time it is.

23. Even under ideal conditions, people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey … but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.

24. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874, and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Life in LA

I've been in LA this week, and boy will I be glad to get home tonight.  I was hoping for some great pictures of the beach, and water and maybe the Hollywood sign, but no, it's been raining all week.

All I want to know is WHY? 

Why would you want to live is a place so big and crowded? 
Why does it takes an hour to go 10 miles? 
Why is everyone in a hurry and no one has time?
Why does no one believes I have "real" cows?

I'll stick with Podunk, thanks.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What is this??

Help me! Please!! I'm begging you.  What is this thing??

I received it today from a very dear friend as a Christmas present, and I have no idea what it is.  The string is not stretchy, so I have ruled out a bracelet.  I don't believe it to be a hair accessory.  It's too long for a zipper pull or a string you tie around your finger to remind you about something (although God knows I need one of those!) and too short to be a necklace.   

This dear friend is a project manager like me, and we both work for the same company traveling extensively, so I was thinking something travel related, but it doesn't seem like it would attach to my luggage (baggage handling would rip it off!) or even my purse or keys.  We wear name badges at the locations we trave to, but I can't really see how this would attach to them, and I'm fairly certain my laptop is not in need of decor.

Here is a second view so you get an idea of the size.  It's very pretty, with a little silver butterfly above the glass bead on the left side, so I really need to thank her for it, but would really love to thank her for the _________.  I need you to help me fill in the blank!!

The absolute only thing I can even come up with is a book marker, and she knows that neither of us has the time to read books.  

You can see my dilemma... Please help me!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Soup with crunchy Tortilla Strips

I love making soup in the winter.  It's just so versatile, and easy.  There are only a couple of things that are easier than making this soup.

  1. Eating out. (not an option on the Holiday budget)
  2. Carry-out.  (but when you live in podunk, it's cold by the time you get home)
You will notice I did not mention delivery here!  We live in podunk.  No one delivers in podunk!

Back to the soup.  This soup is quick to fix, and can be made as spicy or mild as you like, with ingredients that I usually have on hand and can be a great way to use leftover chicken.  The real key to this soup, in my opinion, is the crunchy tortilla strips.  They kind of give it that restaurant quality, without the bill at the end.

You will need for the soup:

1 tbsp oil
1 lb chicken breasts diced or about 2 cups of cooked chicken or 1 can diced chicken
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup masa harina
3 cups water
1 cup enchilada sauce
16 oz velveeta
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin.

Add oil to a large stockpot and cook chicken breasts.  Skip this step if you are using cooked/leftover chicken or canned chicken.  Remove from pot and set aside.

Add oil to stockpot and cook onions and garlic until onions start to become translucent.  Then add chicken broth.  

Combine masa harina (this is in the mexican section of the grocery store, even in podunk) with the 3 cups water and whisk together very well.  Pour into stockpot and mix really well again.

Dice up the velveeta (or any brand processed cheese like velveeta) and add to the pot, stir until it gets all melted.

Then, add all remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes or until soup gets really thick.

This is where you may take liberties with this recipe. 
  • If you like it spicier, add 2 cups of enchilada sauce. 
  • If you like it really spicy, add some jalapeno peppers.
  • If you are like me and think bacon makes everything better, add some crumbled bacon.
  • If you like more/less cheese, add some more/less velveeta.
  • If you like more/less chicken, add more or less
  • If you have turkey instead of chicken, then add it instead.
I am sure you are more than capable of thinking of things here that I have not thought of.

And now the FUN part!  Let's make the Tortilla Strips! 

Take flour tortillas, any size will do (homemade or store bought, your choice) and cut in half.

Now, stack one side onto the other side, like so.

Pretend they are noodles, and cut into thin (1/4") strips.

Until you have a pile.  The size of your pile depends on the size of your family and how much they like these things.  For my family of 5 (3 teenagers) I cut up a whole package of store bought tortillas.

Heat up some oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Enough to compeletly cover the bottom is a good start, and put in a good handful of tortilla strips.  Not too many or they won't get crispy enough.

Cook about a minute and then flip them over.  Or flip most of them over.  Kind of stir them.  And when they are a golden brown, remove them from the skillet into a paper towel lined bowl or plate.

Sprinkle liberaly on your bowl of Chicken Tortilla soup and eat!  Yum!!

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Sister-in-Law is a BEAST!!

My Sister in Law came into podunk last night so she could run in the 5K Jingle Bell run today in the city.  I personally think this is crazy on two levels. 

  1. From her house in another state to my house is about 350 miles.
  2. She is intentionally going to run 3.1 miles in the 30 degree weather.
But that being said, we love it when she comes to podunk, and will happily go watch her run.  She invited us to run with her, and when we all stopped laughing, we politely declined!!  If I am going to run, it's going to be for a reason, like the cows are out, or a horse just got loose, or the cookies are burning!

Today's race started at 9am, and we got positioned along the race route just in time to see her pass.

She is in the yellow, closest to the camera!  I appreciate the fact that she wears a chartruse yellow jacket.  It makes it so much easier to pick her out and watch her fly past.  Then we got to re-position again.  Not really a spectator sport, watching a 5K.  Alot of watching, waiting and re-positioning all to avoid having to participate.

But as we were re-positioning, the walkers passed by, and these two dogs in their attire were just too cute.  We have no idea who they are, just that the dogs were cute.  Note how the one in the green is matching with it's person!  Not sure how those little legs are going to make it 3.1 miles. 

Then we caught back up with the S.I.L. as she was just about to the finish line.




She finished 6th in her age group, and 156th overall with a 29 minute 5 second time.  I would still be somewhere about the 2 mile mark having a heart attack while the little dogs in coats passed me, and laughed.

My Sister in Law is a BEAST!  Go Sally!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Great Grilled Cheese

One of my very favorite weekend meals is grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I know that the easy way to make grilled cheese would just be to slap a couple squares of american cheese on some bread and grill, but several years ago I found this recipe for ultimate grilled cheese and have never gone back. 

For the basic recipe, you will combine 4 oz soft cream cheese and 3/4 cup mayonaise.  Then mix in 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and 1 tsp italian seasoning.

Let your imagination go here.  Use any two or three kinds of cheese you like.  My personal favorite is montery jack cheese and sharp cheddar with a dash of parmesan cheese.  If you like spicy, you could throw in some diced/minced jalapenos. 

Pile on a fair amount of the cheese mixture in your bread.  The amount above makes  4 or 5 sandwiches.  Sometimes I add a couple of slices of ham to each sandwich too.  Really any kind of sliced meat would work, my personal favorite is just ham. 

Butter each side of the bread, mix up the bread you use too.  I'm using sourdough in these pictures, but I also like sliced french bread for little sandwiches.  Grill in a hot skillet for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Slice in half - I was informed by my family that the correct way is to slice diagonally - and serve.  Nothing better on these cooler nights than grilled cheese and tomato soup!  Yum.

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