Friday, June 29, 2012

Homemade 12-grain bagels

I love bagels. Bagels with butter, bagels with cream cheese, bagels with tuna, olives and Gruyère... Bagels are something I always thought would be fun to make but also thought they must be too complicated. Enter the "Joy of Cooking", the cornerstone of my cooking education and experience to enlighten me.
It turns out bagels are not much harder than making your own bread or buns, you just add in the step of dropping them in boiling water for a few minutes before you bake them.  And you get that same lovely, chewy texture which will cost you $4 a bag in the store!  You could make any kind of bagel you can think of just by adding in different ingredients to flavour the dough - the possibilities are endless!

Here are some I'd like to try soon:
Cinnamon and raisin
Rosemary and black olives
Herbs and sundried tomato
Crushed peanut and chocolate chip

For now, I'll start with the 12-grain batch I made yesterday.  Here is what I did, a variation of the recipe in my Joy of Cooking.

Homemade 12 grain bagels

This is not a very quick recipe, but it is done in fits and bursts which is great for a mom who can do a step, care for the household, then come back and do the next step. 

1 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup 12 grain flour

Beaten egg white

Scald the milk, and let it cool for 10 minutes while you get your other ingredients measured and lined up. Melt the butter in it, and add the sugar and salt. When it is just warm, mix in the yeast and let sit for 3 minutes. Add the flour and mix all together well.  Here is where you could be adventurous and add some of the ingredients mentioned above to make some funky bagel flavours.
(I didn't add photos from the first steps just because it doesn't make for very exciting photography...)

Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it  is elastic and looks like this.

Pour a glug of oil into your mixing bowl, plunk your dough in and spin it around, then flip it over and spin it again so it is nicely coated in oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place (I put it in the oven with just the light on).

Take out after 2 hour, or when it has doubled in bulk. Also, preheat oven to 400°.

Punch down and divide into 14 pieces. Joy of Cooking said 18 pieces, but even with 14 the bagels were a little on the small side. 12 would probably be ideal. 

 Roll into a snake about 7-8 inches long (little hands can help with this step) and wet the ends before bringing them together and sealing it as best you can.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet and cover.  Let rise for 15 mins. 

While they are rising, put about 8 cups of water to boil with 1 tbsp sugar.

When your bagels are nice and big, drop them in the near-boiling water. After 1 min flip it over and let cook for another 2 mins.  Do several at a time if your pot allows you.  I found some of the bagels deflated while waiting for the rest to be cooked. It is best to boil then pop in the oven as soon as you can. 

Once back on the baking sheet, brush with the beaten egg white. 

Pop in the oven for 20-25 mins until the tops are golden brown. 

Let cool on a cooling rack, not on the pans like the picture says.  

Enjoy with some cream cheese and jam like I did this morning! 
Or with cream cheese and smoked salmon like I will for lunch tomorrow... 

Breads freeze well, so bag them up in a tightly sealed freezer bag and 
take them out the night before you want to eat them. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lamb's quarters - Eat that weed!

I am LOVING my garden.  I love going out and puttering, pinching a leaf here, pulling a weed there, squishing a grub here and there... It's been amazing to see things grow.  We've been eating lettuce and peas so far, and the tomatoes will be ripening soon. One of the earliest and most bountiful crops was not actually something I planted, but rather a stowaway which I suspect made its way in through the manure we mixed in to the soil.  Chenopodium berlandieri, otherwise known as lamb's quarters, or pigsweed, or goosefoot (why is it always an animal's something?) grows commonly in North America and is often mistaken for a mere weed.  It turns out that this prolific plant is a relative of the beet, spinach, quinoa and swiss chard and makes for a deliciously nutritious side dish.  It was actually some friends who immigrated from Nepal who introduced me to this "weed" while showing me around their plot in a community garden.  

As you can see I probably couldn't grow more weeds if I actually tried.  

If you happen on these beauties either in your garden or anywhere else, just pinch the stem from the roots and throw in a colander to rinse.

Then steam them just until limp - about 5 minutes. When they are still small these are quite tender and don't need much cooking.  

Add some butter, salt and pepper, vinegar if you like that kind of thing (I do).

Enjoy beside your go-to meal.  
Voilà!  Weeds for supper.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chocolate zucchini cupcakes

I realized I need to amp up the sweets on this blog - it's been all meals and gardening lately!  Here is the first in a series of desserts: Chocolate Zucchini cupcakes!  It's a cake recipe that I decided to make into cupcakes and it worked quite well.  I've used this recipe many times from a lovely blog I read, Chocolate & Zucchini (which is aptly named).  This is a delicious, moist cake which manages to hide 2 cups of zucchini among its chocolatey crumbs.  If you're trying to get your kids (or spouse) to eat more veggies, this is a great way to sneak it in!

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 scant cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp instant coffee
3 large eggs
2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Grease a muffin tin and a half (this recipe made 18 cupcakes), and preheat oven to 350°.

Cream the butter and sugar together. 

Add eggs, coffee and vanilla

Mix well - one egg at a time if you can remember :)

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

 Dump 2/3 of the dry ingredients in the butter/sugar/egg mixture.  Place your grated zucchini in with the other 1/3 of the dry ingredients.

Mix up both bowls, coating and declumping the zucchini well. 

Now, the moment you've all been waiting for, stir it all together until just blended.

Now, I forgot to take a picture of the batter in the muffin tin before it went in the oven.  Fill the muffin tins just to the rim and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Baby interlude...

While they were cooking I went to take a picture of my beautiful sleeping baby's toes.

Back to the cupcakes! When a toothpick comes out clean, take out the cupcakes and let cool for 10 minutes, then pop onto a cooling rack. 

Top with your favourite chocolate icing - mine is this Nutella Buttercream.  I got it off Pinterest, and here is the oh-so-simple recipe:

Nutella Buttercream Frosting

1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 C Nutella
1 C powdered sugar, sifted
1-2 T milk

Just blend with a hand-mixer and spread it on nice and thick.

Don't think about the calories in the frosting... you're eating a cupcake with vegetables in it!!

Friday, June 1, 2012


Holé guacamolé!  We used to say that all the time as kids as a term of exclamation.  Now I just say it with my eyes closed when I savour a mouthful of truly holy guacamole.  I take great pride in my guacamole.  My mother-in-law declared she didn't like guacamole and I said, "Here, try mine" and she said "Ooh I like this guacamole".  There you go.

I like my guacamole made with simple, fresh ingredients.  There are so many variations, but I love the combination of spicy garlic, tangy citrus and fresh cilantro with the buttery taste of the avocado.

A nice ripe avocado
1 tomato (or a handful of cherry tomatoes)
1 lemon or lime
1 clove of garlic
Handful fresh cilantro
Dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.
Optional: pinch of cumin

Chop everything up and toss into a bowl.  

Top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and the lemon juice (or lime), mix it up well. 
I used to purée my guacamole quite smooth, but lately I've been leaving it a little chunky.  Mash to taste.

Eat it up with tortilla chips or pita chips!

Crustless quiche in a skillet

I watched the movie Julie and Julia, and promptly asked for "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Childs for Christmas.  Which I got :)  After drooling over the recipes made during the movie, I found the cookbook was full of really rich recipes which were mostly variations of each other relying primarily on quantities of butter, wine or cream.  While I do enjoy some of the key recipes, (crêpes, cream puffs, white sauce...) I am unlikely to cook from it in my day-to-day menu.  That said, the recipe for Quiche Lorraine was the basis for this one, with some adaptations.  Thanks Julia. 

I love quiche.  But I do not love making crusts and I do not love washing tons of bowls and pans.  This recipe uses one pan and one bowl, and no crust!  The flour whisked into the eggs and milk sinks to the bottom and forms a thin crust of sorts.  This is an easy breakfast or lunch for two with enough leftover for one to eat the next day. (You'll have to fight over it)  This recipe is versatile and can be adapted to whatever combination of vegetables, cheeses and herbs you can think of.  One note in the afore-mentioned cookbook was to count about 2 cups of solids (combination of veggies, cheese, meats) and 1 1/2 cups of liquid (milk and/or cream) with 4 eggs for a 9-inch pan (or skillet).  Use your creativity!  Or, just make this recipe.

Crustless quiche in a skillet

*Note: Choose a skillet that can be used in the oven

Approx. 6 slices of bacon, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup grated zucchini
3 mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar
Salt and pepper
Handful fresh basil, chopped
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1/3 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325°.

Julia suggests you may want to simmer your bacon in water for 5 minutes to get some of the salty-smokiness out. While normally I would relish the smoky-saltiness, my bacon was home-made by my brother (who is in school taking culinary arts) and was particularly smoky and salty.  

So, place bacon in a oven-proof skillet and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Drain water,

and return bacon pan and brown. 

While the bacon is browning, prepare your other ingredients, chop the tomato and mushrooms and grate the zucchini and cheese. 

Grab some nice fragrant basil and chop it up fine. 

I threw the mushrooms and zucchini in the with the bacon, just because I felt like it.

While the veggies are cooking up, break 4 eggs in a bowl and measure in whatever combination of milk and/or cream you choose to use (calories schmalories) 

Whisk together with a pinch of salt and pinch of pepper.

Then add the flour and whisk well.

Then pour over the veggies and bacon. 

Sprinkle cheese and basil on top.

 Pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes until no longer jiggly and slightly browned.

When he tasted it my husband exclaimed, "It's so fluffy!" 

With each bite, you never know what combination of flavours you're going to get - mushroom and basil? Bacon and tomato?  Cheese and something?  The combinations are endless. Well, no they are finite and I could calculate them but I choose not to.