Monday, January 30, 2012

Just Checking In

We had a wonderful weekend.  The boys went to a bowling party and had a fabulous time.  Then on Sunday, my oldest participated in a sports camp, while my youngest and I enjoyed time alone.  Woke up this morning to a 2 hour snow delay.  This allowed me a few extra moments this morning to get ready.

So what's on the agenda this week???  This afternoon I am going into Adam's school to do our January craft project, snow measuring sticks.  Wednesday I have a super exciting afternoon of an oil change and annual car inspection, insert sarcasm here.  Ooohh, but Wednesday is February 1st, which means a new cookie of the month.

Sometime this week I need to make Jell-O jigglers for a community project.  To end the week, I am going to a Bunco Party, never played but I am excited for adult socialization ;)

To keep me going this week, I intend to exercise at the YMCA and ingest copious amounts of iced coffee.  I made the Pioneer Woman's, perfect iced coffee brew, and it really is perfect.  I added a few teaspoons of sugar, a shot of chocolate syrup, some creamer, and it's a dead ringer for DD Iced Mocha.

Happy Monday!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How To Freeze Breakfast Items

I've had a few followers submit questions about a previous post.  A few weeks ago, I talked about making your own French toast and pancakes in large batches and freezing them.

So this morning, I was making another batch of French toast, and took some pictures that I hope helps to explain my process.

The first step is to make your favorite French toast recipe.  Then place the cooked pieces of bread onto a cooling rack.



Once you have the rack filled up, place it in the freezer for about an hour.




Next put them in an airtight container or plastic storage bags.





Finally, when you are ready to heat them up, place desired amount of French Toast into a toaster or toaster oven.  I set the toaster oven for about 4 minutes.  Then I cut them into sticks for the kids with a bit a syrup for dipping.





Friday, January 27, 2012

The Winner Is: Chicken Caprese Panini

Chicken Caprese Panini was the winner in the voting yesterday.  I was happy to post either recipe, but this one is great for a dinner, lunch, or midnight snack.  I do apologize for not having a finished picture, Jay ate it before I snapped the "beauty shot".

This falls under the super simple category.  Honestly, if you can make grilled cheese, you can do this!

Here's what you need:

2 slices of Italian or Ciabatta bread
3 to 4 oz of chicken breast, grilled or roasted
2 slices mozzarella cheese
sun dried tomatoes, I used the ones in a jar in olive oil
1 tbsp. pesto
cooking spray

First grill or roast your chicken, let it rest, and slice it in strips (I used about 1/2 of a standard chicken breast).  Lay out your bread, and spread the pesto on evenly on both pieces.

Next, layer the mozzarella cheese, chicken, and tomatoes onto one slice of bread. 






Put the other piece of bread on top of the sandwich, pesto side down.  Then lightly spray the outer side of the sandwich with cooking spray.  (This takes the place of the butter, on the grilled cheese.)

Now here comes my fancy panini maker....ready for it???



I use my George Forman grill.  It works great.  But if you don't have one, just use a fry pan and weight the sandwich down with another heavy fry pan on the top.



I grill it for about 3 to5 minutes....just keep peeking to see if the outside is brown and the cheese is melty :)

Serve with a salad, and just by itself!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pick The Recipe

I take a lot of pictures of food items that I make.  I keep the camera very handy in the kitchen.  The only thing is I forget sometimes what I have taken pictures of.  All the items don't make it to the blog.

So I want my followers to pick the recipe you would like to see.  Here are the choices:

Chicken Caprese Panini



Broiled Fish with Fresh Herbs






Vote here or on Facebook....but vote and I will share the recipe!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Somewhere In The Middle

Everyone has struggles in life.  Whether it's an addiction, family conflict, or just basic unhappiness.  My struggle is and always has been my weight.

I started to notice my weight was at an undesirable number when I was in middle school.  I can remember being weighed in PE class and the teacher telling me, "You better watch it honey or your weight will get away from you!"  I was in the 7th grade and really started to have poor body image.  As I got into high school, you can imagine it only got worse.  My peers were really cruel and at some point I gave up.  I just let myself go.

This behavior continued through college.  In my early twenties I got to my heaviest.  I tipped the scales at waaaayyyy over 200 lbs.  I isolated myself from relationships, and then when I was in a relationship it wasn't healthy.  I finally took charge of my life at about 24 years old. 

I joined Curves, and started eating a healthy diet.  The weight finally started coming off.  I lost a total of 88 lbs. in a period of a year.  I kept it off for several years.  I was finally into single digits in clothing size.  However, I still saw the heavy person in the mirror.  Looking back at it now, I wish I could have been happy about my success.

One of the few pictures at my heaviest

I was a size 8 here and thought I was still heavy



Over the next several years, I got married, had two babies, and put weight back on.  We also moved out of town and with depression I put on even more weight.  I still wasn't at my heaviest, but I was getting there.

So where am I now???  Somewhere in the middle.  I am about 20 lbs heavier than my skinniest, but only about 10 lbs away from my goal weight.  The goal weight was decided upon by my doctors, and what is right for me.  I won't lie, I still obsess about the number on the scale, but more importantly I want to be healthy for my boys.

Somewhere in the middle, this December
I want to teach my children about eating healthy, exercising, and living a good life.  I am happy to report, that both Jay and myself have had a great first week at the gym (we even got a workout in together).  There are some naysayers about this change in our lives.  I won't let it discourage us :)

So why blog about this??? I wanted to share my story and put a voice, name, face to weight struggles.  I will continue to keep everyone updated on our progress.  I would also love to hear about other victories in conquering their own issues, whatever they may be.

Oh by the way, I finally got my "special pans", so I am working on a new bread recipe.  Coming soon, I promise!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jay's Baked Eggs

I was upstairs this morning watching television, when Jay came up to ask if my little glass dishes can go into the oven?  I paused for a moment, and asked why?  He said he was going to cook something.  My heart skipped a few beats.  Jay doesn't cook....well not really.  His specialities are grilled cheese, eggs, and cereal.  He can grill, but as for the making the rest of the meal, it just doesn't happen.

I showed him which dishes are oven safe (good thing I did because he was looking at my glass dessert cups), and I left the kitchen.  I honestly didn't want to know what was going on.  A bit later, he emerged with an egg dish.  It looked good.  I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I said I would try it.  He worked so hard, and was waiting for approval. 

I tasted the baked eggs, and it was really good.  I mean really really good!  Joking around, I mentioned I could feature it on the blog.  He immediately starting making another one so I could get pictures :)

He made a few adjustments, and the second batch was even better.  He adjusted the cook time and oven temperature.  Also the second egg, he served over toast.  Super delicious!

So what was the inspiration for his dish.  Growing up his mom made "hole in the middle".  Jay has since made this egg dish quite frequently.  This is a bit easier than standing over a griddle making a fried egg.  You can put the dishes in the oven, set the timer, and walk away.  It is also healthier, because you aren't cooking the eggs in butter.

I also thought this would be nice for serving company.  By making them in ramekins, you can cook everyone's egg to the desired temperature.  If your guests like them firmer, just leave it in the oven longer.  (If you don't have ramekins you can do them in a muffin pan.)

Finally the last reason I really liked the method is the kids can help.  When using a fry pan, I am more concerned in letting the kids help. This way, one kid can crack the eggs while the other one adds the seasonings and cheese. Mom or Dad can be in control of the oven, and everyone is happy :)


Here's what you need:

ramekins that are oven safe (ours are about 4 inches)
eggs
salt and pepper
grated cheddar cheese
cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray the ramekins lightly with cooking spray.




Then crack one egg into a ramekin. 


Add salt and pepper, a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.




Bake for 16 to 17 minutes for a medium well egg.  If you like your egg looser, bake for 14 to 15 minutes, or firmer bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to set up for 2 minutes.




Run a sharp knife along the outside of the ramekin, and slide the egg onto a piece of toast.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This & That

What have I been up to lately??? Well, a bit of this and that.  I have been completing a few chores off of my to do list. 

First, I started organizing my closet.  My closet isn't really messy, but has a jumble of sizes, clothes that are stained, and things that I just don't wear anymore.  I am really trying to simplify my life this year.  So I decided to tackle the clothes.  I purchased the velvet space saving hangers at our local TJ Maxx, and want to know what???  They actually do save on space, but now I have a whole bunch of plastic hangers.  So anybody who lives locally who wants hangers let me know :)

I was also looking for new sauce pots.  I had a 1 quart and 3 quart sauce pot that was losing the non-stick coating.  I have had these pots for over 10 years and have served their purpose.  I was doing some online browsing and was stunned at the price of single sauce pot.  I put that one my list for something to get later on.  Well, while I was buying my hangers, I ventured over to the kitchen supply section of TJ Maxx.  Presto!!! I found a 3 quart Rachael Ray sauce pot.  Guess how much???  Done guessing?? 




Fifteen dollars!!!!  SCORE :)  I didn't care that it was yellow.  Who is really going to see it, but me?

We also got a family membership for our local YMCA.  Adam already had a membership for his swimming lessons.  Jay and I have kicked around the idea of a family membership for awhile.  This year we finally decided to take the plunge.  We received a credit for the remaining time left on Adam's membership, so our first month was practically free. 

Today I enjoyed my first workout there.  I say enjoyed, not because of the actual exercise but because of the company I was with.  A big thank you to Leigh and Michelle for being my workout buddies on my first day.

So that's about it. I filled you in on my latest activities.  I am working on some new recipes (I ordered a special pan for a special bread).  Be happy and healthy, and I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breakfast Saving Tips

Okay, first I have to vent.  Today I went to the grocery store for a few things.  I didn't need much, but had coupons that were about to expire.  So I really wanted to get those items. 

I chose my items, carefully checking each one so I got the correct sizes or amounts.  When I reached the register, I organized my groceries so all the coupon items were together.  (I like to do this, so if they have to check the receipt for a price, it's all in a row.)  The cashier scanned and bagged my groceries.  Then I handed him my coupons.  Now mind you, I had five coupons, not 50 or 500. 

The first one that through him for a loop was a free bag of rice.  He didn't understand he had to enter the amount.  He just kept telling me, "this coupon doesn't work".  Deep breath!!!  Next he gets a $3.00 coupon, and tried telling me it was too high.  I smiled and explained, he just had to verify the face value of the coupon.  Finally the last one was for $1.00 of two Keebler or Sunshine snack mixes. I purchased two Sunshine Cheezit mixes.  The register said, "items not purchased".  I checked my bags, found the items, he checked the receipt to verify he scanned them.  Everything should be OK, right??  Nope, he said he had to follow the computer.  I sighed very heavily, and asked for a manager. 

The guy behind me in line is getting real upset, but not as frustrated as I was. The flustered cashier said, "OK OK I'll just over ride it".  Now I am not picking on cashiers, I was one for very long time.  At some point, people have to use their judgement, and not rely solely on a computer.

My rant is done, and I will get to the point of my post.  While I was at the grocery store, cruising down the frozen food aisle, Brandon asked for pancakes.  I said no, then he asked for waffles, I said no.  Then it was toaster pastries, again I said no.  After three No's, the why's started.  I tried explaining to my 4 year old, I can make all that stuff at home, and it will cost much less.  That pacified him, at least until we got home.

So for dinner, I made French toast.  While I had the griddle out, I did the whole loaf of bread for French toast.  I also made a double batch of pancakes. Then I froze everything.  Now in the morning for breakfasts, all I have to do is put a pancake in the microwave or the French toast in the toaster oven.

I do this about once a month.  I make batches of breakfast items ahead of time.  I like to do it all at once.  This way I only have to clean the mess up one time.  It costs pennies on the dollar, compared to buying them at the store.

So the next time you are cooking pancakes or French toast, make extra.  Start a little stock pile in the freezer.  Over time you will notice the savings in your grocery budget :)

Need a pancake recipe, click here.
Need a waffle recipe, click here.
Need a French toast recipe, click here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

BBQ Pulled Pork

Yesterday I was able to watch a new episode of Pioneer Woman on Food Network.  I was so happy. I really enjoy watching her, she's so down to Earth.  Well by coincidence she was making pulled pork.  I laughed and thought great minds think alike. 

I will try her recipe, but for now here is how I did mine. 

I used a pork tenderloin (actually two of them, about 1 lb each).  I simply put it in the slow cooker, with a dusting of salt and pepper.  I cooked it on high for 4 hours. 

Then I removed the pork and let it rest for about 15 minutes on the cutting board.  Now, you want to begin to shred or "pull"  the meat when it is still warm.  Letting it rest for a few minutes allows it cool down a bit to handle.  With two forks, begin the pull the meat in opposite directions, it will start to shred.




Shred all the meat and put into a large bowl.



Add your favorite BBQ sauce and stir until coated.


Serve on a crusty roll or hot dog bun.



Here's the BBQ sauce recipe I used.  I got it from my friend Amy years ago.  I believe it's the BBQ sauce from the copy cat recipe for Roadhouse Ribs.  I like it for all kinds of BBQ.  (I omitted the whiskey, simply because I didn't have any.)

recipe

2 tbsp. oil
small onion, diced (I used 2 tbsp. minced dried onion)
1 1/2 c. water
6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. whiskey

In a saucepan brown onion in oil.  Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Perfect Pork Tenderloin

My house smells so good right now.  I just finished cooking roasted pork tenderloin, and now I am making BBQ sauce for pulled pork.  So why all the pork???

Well, I was having a dinner party tonight, unfortunately sickness has wreaked havoc.  So the dinner party has been rescheduled, but it leaves me with some pork to cook.  I decided to cook the original pork tenderloin for dinner for Jay and myself.  However, even Jay and I can't eat all the pork I had planned.  So for the other tenderloin, I am making pulled pork.  This way we can enjoy two different meals, and it won't feel redundant. 

Today's recipe is for the roasted tenderloin. (I will post the BBQ pulled pork tomorrow.)  Cooking pork tenderloin is super simple and relatively healthy.  The ones I have purchased are actually certified by the American Heart Association for low in fat.  The meat is plain, meaning not soaked in a marinade.  I have cooked the ones pre-marinated and they are fine, but sometimes I find them a bit salty.  By doing my own marinade, I can control the sodium and quality of ingredients.

As I said, it is really simple, but needs just a bit of prep time.  It is best to marinade the meat for 3 hours or overnight.  I chose overnight, and it really is worth it.  The meat really absorbs the flavors.  Most of the ingredients you will find right in your pantry or fridge.  The only thing I had to buy was the fresh herbs.  I have made it with dried herbs, but the fresh ones really do lend to a brighter flavor.

I also decided to cook the pork this morning, clean up the kitchen, and then I will just re-heat it for dinner tonight.  It also makes great cold pork sandwiches.  Here's how I did it:

First in a bowl mix the following ingredients.  Place the pork into a large plastic storage bag, pour the marinade over it, & mush it around. (Yes, mush is a technical cooking term.)  Refrigerate overnight, or at least 3 to 4 hours.

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. minced garlic
3/4 c. lemon juice, about 4 to 5 large lemons
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme leaves
1 tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary leaves

2 pork tenderloins, about 1 1/2 lbs each



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then in a pan that can go into the oven, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and heat over medium heat.  Sear the tenderloins on all sides, you will get a nice golden brown color.





Place into the oven, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes per pound.  I used a thermometer that is oven safe.  I pulled them from the oven when the thermometer reached 165 degrees.  Move to a platter and cover with foil.

Side note:  According to USDA, pork needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees before being removed from the heat source.  You can look at the chart here.  Personally I like my pork well done, so I cook it to 165 degrees.  You can choose at which temperature you choose to cook it to.

By allowing the meat to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, the juices will redistribute.  Then when you slice it, the pork will be moist and tender.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Snow Measuring Stick

I wasn't going to post this, but I have had a tremendous response from people who have seen this.  I do a monthly craft with Adam's first grade class.  We have done Halloween luminaries, caramel apples, mosaic cornucopias, and gingerbread houses.  This month we are doing a snow measuring stick. 

I originally saw this in a party supply catalog.  They were offering a kit to makes these, but the cost was too high to purchase 18 of them.  So I broke it down, and started looking around for supplies in my own craft bins.

The main part of this is a paint stir stick.  I have an in with the store manager of Lowe's here in Oneonta ;)  So I asked for a donation of paint sticks, and I opted for the larger sticks used for the 5 gallon cans of paint.  Then I painted it white, added a pipe cleaner for the arms, and a fun foam hat.  The scarf is scrap fleece I had, and the rest is done with markers.  I marked inch increments. 

Now when it actually snows here in Oneonta, the kids can measure how much we have.  It's great to help teach Math and using a ruler....but it's really cute too!

Linking to these parties.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Marbled Crayons

Every once in a while, I get an idea that just gets stuck in my head.  Now this idea is not my own, but something that I have seen over and over that last several years. 

When I was a little girl, my Grandma would save our broken crayons.  (She saved just about everything to re-purpose.  She would iron wrapping paper and use it again.)  Every now and then, when we went over to play, she would pull out the "special" crayons.  I never knew how she did it, but we had these awesome rainbow crayons.

Then a couple of years ago, my boys started going to our local library class.  When the teacher would pull out the crayon bags, the kids all flocked to the "rainbow" crayons.  Then a few months ago, I saw a blurb in a magazine about making your own crayons. 

Okay, these crayons are calling to me.  This weekend we made our own marbled crayons.  This was a huge hit with both kids, ages 6 & 4.  I enlisted my older son to help peel the wrappers from the crayons, and my youngest tested out the finished product.  The craft was super duper easy, and costs only pennies.



All you need is a muffin pan, some crayons, and an oven.  We used Crayola crayons.  I also purchased a new muffin pan from the dollar store, so I wouldn't ruin my good pans. 

So here's how you make them:

Peel the paper off of the crayons.  I grouped like colors together.  For example, three different shades of green.  Break the crayons into 3 to 4 pieces and put them into a muffin tin.  (When putting the crayons in the tin, I made sure the different shades were dispersed evenly, to give a marbled look.)



Bake in a preheated 275 degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes.  You just want the wax to be completed melted, no chunks.  Then carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.



Once they are completely cooled, turn the tin over on a towel and tap it lightly on the counter.  The crayons will pop right out.





These make great party favors for birthday parties too!!!!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Bread (No Machine Needed)

My little guy is home sick today with a cold.  Do you know what this means??? I have extra time for cuddles, snuggles, and a little bread making. 

I made cinnamon swirl bread a couple days ago.  Adam helped and it was really delicious.  To make the dough, I used my stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.  After rising, punching down, rolling out, and another rise it was ready for the oven.  I baked the breads, the house was full of warm and inviting scents, and we had hot cinnamon bread for snack that night.

This was my first attempt at cinnamon swirl bread.  The taste was there, but a funny thing happened to my loaf once it cooled.  The top crust separated from the swirl of the bread.  My husband proclaimed, "It may not look pretty, but it sure tastes good." 


Back to the drawing board.  I started searching the web for what may  have gone wrong.  It was likely one of two things.  Either I didn't roll it tight enough, or the butter used to make the cinnamon sugar stick separated the layers.  After looking at the suggestions I decided to try batch number two.

Seeing this recipe makes two loaves. I would change one thing on each.  The first loaf I would make the same as before, except I would roll it tighter.  The second loaf, I would omit the butter and use egg wash as the "glue" instead.  I also rolled the second loaf tighter.

Another experiment for the second batch was to make the entire dough by hand.  No mixer, no bread machine, just a wooden spoon and my hands.  Want to know what I found out???? It was actually easier this way.  I didn't have to clean the mixer and it really didn't take that much longer.

So for the results of the second batch.  The loaf rolled with the butter stilled separated.  For the loaf with the egg wash......it was fine.  Check out the photo (the bread on the left is the butter and the loaf on the right is the egg wash.)



The ingredient list is simple, it just takes a little time and patience.  Don't be intimidated by making a bread from scratch.  Just think, our ancestors did this on a daily basis.  I urge you to give this one a try.  If it doesn't come out perfect the first time, try it again.  The more you make bread the easier it gets.

ingredients (yields 2 loaves)

1/2 c. low-fat milk, I used skim
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar

1 1/2 c. warm water
4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast, 2 packets
5 to 6 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg, beaten

In a small sauce pan, combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt.  Over low heat, heat the mixture, then let cool to lukewarm.  In a large bowl, combine water and yeast.  Let the yeast proof (bubble up) a bit. 



Once the milk mixture is lukewarm add it and 4 1/2 c. of flour to the bowl with the yeast.  Mix with a wooden spoon until combined.  Slowly add more flour to the dough, a 1/2 c. at a time, until it comes together in a ball.  I only used 5 c. of flour.  (The amount of flour will depend on the environment, humidity, etc.  You want the dough to be tacky, but not stuck to your hand.)

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until it is elastic and no longer tacky.  To knead the dough, fold it onto itself and push it away from you on the counter with the heel of your hand.  Keep turning and repeating the process.  This will take about 5 to 8 minutes.



Place your dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, add a few towels, and let it rise.  Bread likes to raise in a nice warm environment, away from drafts.  Find a warm spot in your house.  Mine is on the kitchen counter next to the stove, wrapped in several towels.



Here's another tip, if you are using a glass or metal bowl, warm it up first.  Run hot water in the bowl, then dump the water and dry it out.  This will help the warm environment.

Now, go have a cup of coffee, read a book, snuggle with your best buddy :)  Wait about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.  Punch it down and divide it in half.

On a floured surface roll out half of the dough into a 8 1/2 inch by 14 inch rectangle.  At this point this point you can roll the bread starting with the short side, and place it in a loaf pan.  This is your typical white bread.  But for our purposes we are going to add a cinnamon sugar filling.




Mix 1/2 c. sugar with 2 tsp. cinnamon in a bowl.  Brush the beaten egg on the dough and sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar on it.



Starting with the short side, roll it tightly away from you.  Be sure to pinch the ends and seam together to seal in the filling.  Place in a greased 8 1/2 inch x 4 1/2 inch x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Repeat this process with the second half of the dough.



Cover and let rise, until doubled in size, about another hour.



Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  You can brush the top with the remaining egg wash, if you want an extra dark crust.

Remove from pans immediately and cool on a rack.  Store in plastic wrap for several days.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Blogs That I Read

I don't blog a lot about what I read.  So I figured I would share a few of my favorites.

First I love The Pioneer Woman.  You may have recently seen her on the Food Network with her own show.  She also has a few cookbooks, but well before all that success she was and still is a blogger.  I enjoy watching her on the Food Network.  She's very down to earth.  I love reading her blog because she has such a variety of things.  Also she writes in a natural voice, it's like having a conversation with a girlfriend.

I also follow my neighbors blog, Project Anthologies.  She gives great ideas for sewing projects, D.I.Y. furniture items, and also shares her wonderful stories of life.

Two of the first blogs I followed with regularity were introduced to me by a dear friend.  There are Whimsical Creations and The Gourmand Mom.

For my comic relief, I enjoy the sassy tales from two great ladies.  The first is Dude, WTF???  The other one is Musings on the Precipice of Sanity.  (These haven't been updated in a bit, but when they do post it's worth it!)

Which blogs do you follow??? I would love to hear :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Homemade Bagels

A lot has happened in 2011.  I promise this won't be a mopey story about all my woes, but I have decided to make some changes.  My health hasn't been the greatest the last several years.  I watch what I eat, I exercise regularly, and still my health issues haven't gone away.  While some things did get better, I am still a work in progress. 

Also my parents have suffered from their own health concerns lately.  I am not going into detail on their exact problems, but their doctors have ordered strict changes for them both.  My dad is far more reluctant to change, but my mom has really taken "the bull by the horns".  The major change for my mom is she can no longer eat processed foods.  Her diet now consists of only fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and lean protein that she prepares herself.  My mom has always been a label reader and has been conscience of sugars and fats, but now she also has to watch preservatives and added chemicals. 

I went home for Christmas and my mom was literally like the shrinking woman.  In the three months since she changed her diet she lost about 30 lbs.  I was happy for her, and hopefully it really helps her health.  Then I started to wonder, how can I avoid processed foods?

About a year ago, I did make a change in our house regarding dairy.  I now buy low-fat/non-fat organic dairy.  I also started making more of my own breads.  Which leads me to today's recipe for bagels.  I love a bagel for breakfast and so does my family.  I have been guilty of buying them for convenience sake, or even stopping by the coffee shop and grabbing one.  The problem with this is, most of the already prepared bagels have a huge list of preservatives.  The coffee shop bagels don't even have labels, so who knows what is in them. 

Making your own breads at home is also very economical.  I can make eight bagels at home for about $1.10 (that is 14 cents a bagel).  The ingredients are controlled to my standards, and really I love the smell of fresh bread baking.

{Side note:  Buy your yeast in a large jar or brick from the grocery or whole sale food clubs.  Store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  This is more economical than buying the small packets.}

ingredients

1 c. warm water, I use hot tap water
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. bread flour
2 tsp. active dry yeast

1 egg, beaten for glaze

In the insert for your bread machine, add water, sugar, salt.  Slowly add flour on top and make a small indentation.  Add the yeast.  Turn machine on for dough cycle for 1.5 lb loaf.

When the dough cycle is done, turn dough onto floured surface.  Divide into eight pieces.



Roll each piece into a ball.  Then gently pull to make a 1-inch hole. Place on a greased cookie sheet.



Cover with a towel and let rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

In a large stock pot (I used a 5 quart, but 3 quart works too), add 2 quarts of water with 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Bring to a boil.

check out my new dutch oven :)


Boil the bagels in simmering water for 3 minutes, turning once.  Return to cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg.  At this point you can top with dried onion, poppy seeds, garlic, sesame seeds.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.



Allow to cool on a rack.  Store in an airtight container for several days.