Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What am I truly thankful for?

So I'm aware that Thanksgiving was almost a week ago. But have I mentioned I work retail? Yeah, enough said. I've been busy trying not to stab guests with my set of electronics keys and resisting the urge to grab a bottle of wine off of the end cap and down it where the cameras can't see me.

Homicidal intensions aside, I had a fantastic Thanksgiving. The table was set nicely with actual china and besides the fact that the rolls I have made before at least a dozen times wouldn't cook in the middle without becoming hockey pucks on the outside, it really was a day to be thankful. But what am I truly thankful for? Family, friends, shelter, food and all the other things everyone always says, which of course I am thankful for, I am thankful for the following things...



The Nanny. Not only have I seen all of the eposides on re-runs about a dozen times (in fact I'm watching it as I type) I am thankful for it because it teaches me Yiddish. But even before learning Yiddish was important to me, I just liked the show. Something about it speaks to me. Words like tuchas (your butt), shlep (to drag something or yourself somewhere), shmendrik (a jerk or someone stupid), meshugener (someone who is crazy) and fercockt (all messed up) can easily be slipped into any conversation with little detection.



Chapstick. Even as I type this I'm thinking, where is my chapstick? When did I put it on last? I almost always carry one on me and put it on so much at work one would think that I thought it would make the shift go faster and my guests less stupid. I don't have an addiction, which aparently, is a very serouis thing. I just am really thankful for the tubes of it, any brand really.




DVR. I use to think people were being a little nutty when they said they loved their DVR and the ability to not only record TV shows you don't even need to be wasting brain cells on but to pause TV and rewind it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. I could go back to regular TV but it would be like once you try homemade cheese bagels, you can't even look at store bought ones.



Floss. Yes floss. You read that right. How could one not be thankful for floss? It gets the yuckyness between your teeth out and the fact that I haven't bought floss for years due to the generous amounts my dentist gives me, floss is surely something to be thankful for.



Peach schnapps. Or well, any fruit flavored schnapps. The cherry one I bought while on vacation with The Husband in Traverse City is also very, very yummy. I, by the way, wanted to put this one first but worried it would scream, alcholic a bit too much. The funny thing is that I couldn't even tell you when the last time it was that I even had any but when I do drink I want my drinks fruity enough I can't tell I'm getting snoggered till it's done.

And those are the things that at almost midnight I'm thankful for. There are other things of course that I'm thankful for but that's about all I can manage to think of right now. I'm sure as soon as I finally lay down to go to sleep I'll think of something really meaninful to be thankful for, but meh.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sausage, Egg and Cheesy Biscuit Breakfast Muffins

I have an obsession lately. Well actually, I have a lot of them but the one I'm thinking of right now is my two jumbo muffin tins I own. I adore them. Seriously, adore them. If I could bake everything in them I would. That is how much I love them.

Because of this love I find myself searching blogs for recipes I can make in my jumbo muffin tins which lead me to a simple but very yummy recipe for make ahead breakfast muffins. Which is exactly the kind of recipe I need because I'm not one of these mom's who can manage to make anything besides cold cereal and coffee in the morning. With a toddler who wakes up at 5:50 am in the morning and a job that has me getting home around 11 pm, breakfasts consisting of big fluffy stakes of homemade pancakes, hand formed sausage patties and fresh squeezed orange juice just isn't happening. That is unless we go out to eat and I'm too cheap for that.

The other reason this recipe is wonderful because it's one of those that you can just guess your way through and throw in whatever ingredients you like best. Following my recipe, which is an adaption from Cooking with my Kid, this will make 20 breakfast muffins.

I love these. They reheat really well and hold for about 2 to 3 days in the fridge. They also freeze really well (defrost them wrapped in a paper towel) and because they are the perfect portion sized and hand held, they are my new favorite thing to make with my muffin tins


Sausage, Egg and Cheesy Biscuit Breakfast Muffins

2 packages, 20 total, regular sized biscuit dough
20 eggs, scrambled
1 lb sausage
Shredded cheese
Salt
Pepper

Cook sausage and season to taste. Scramble all of the eggs together. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and place one biscuit dough in the bottom of each muffin tin. Spread them out so they cover the bottom but they probably won't cover the sides. Place a few tablespoons of sausage in each muffin tin. Top with cheese and pour scrambled egg mixture in till it covers the sausage and cheese and is about 2/3 full. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees until browned on top.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Honey Challah

I should begin by saying that I meant to post this last Friday but was too lazy to upload the pictures from my phone to photobucket because it would have required me to get out of bed. I was deathly ill, as in, I felt drunk and hadn't even had the pleasure of drinking, ill, this past weekend. From what I can remember of the weekend, it rocked. But moving on...

My favorite day is Friday but it's probably not for the reason other people love Friday. Normal people work Monday through Friday so Friday is the last day they work. I work retail. It's just the beginning of my week usually.

No, the reason I love Friday is because it's when I make challah (pronounced "hallah"). The word challah itself doesn't actually refer to the making of bread or the dough or even the bread itself, instead it refers to the piece of bread you are suppose to break off and burn for G-d. Either way, I love making it and not just because it's a mitzvah (commandment from G-d) either. No, I love making challah because it's delicious and it makes my house smell wonderful.

Now most people have a challah recipe handed down from generation to generation. A challah recipe that has been lovingly made for Shabbat (pronounced "Sha-bot" with "bot" rhyming with "tot") dinner, the dinner that celebrates the day of rest, for decades. I however, being the Jew in training that I am, don't have such luck. Instead, I'm left to try to figure out which recipe to use from blogs on the Internet.

I have made other recipes before, one with mild luck and another with good luck. Both however, are not what I'm now use to eating at Temple. It's more dense, more like Italian bread density but better. And sweeter. So I decided to try a new recipe two weeks ago for the first time. More than likely, all the recipes are great and it's simply my issue. Either way, this is the one I tried for Shabbat two weeks ago and again last week and it comes from My So-Called Knife. I've adapted the amounts of the ingredients and the directions slightly, using the rising method from recipes I've used in the past. This should make one large loaf.



Honey Challah

2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
3 whole large eggs, 1 egg for egg wash
1/2 tablespoon salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour

In the bowl of your kitchen aid stand mixer, pour in sugar and yeast. Add warm water and allow to sit until frothy, approximately three to five minutes.

Add olive oil, honey, eggs, remaining sugar and salt to mixture. Using the paddle attachment mix all ingredients till they are well combined. Slowly add in bread flour, half a cup at a time. About the time that the flour seems like it isn't mixing in as well (usually around 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour) switch to the dough hook and continue adding in the last of the flour.

Knead the dough using the dough hook, for 10-15 minutes until the dough is stretchy and no longer sticky to the touch.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and allow to double in size in a warm, draft free space; usually one hour.*

After the first rise, slowly deflate the dough and knead gently back into a ball. Allow dough to rise again for one half hour.

After the second rise, divide the dough into three sections and braid it into a three strand braid. Place the loaf on parchment paper and using the remaining egg to make an egg wash, brush loaf with half of the egg wash. Allow bread to rest one more hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (if using a baking stone, put the baking stone in the oven while it preheats) and brush with remaining egg wash. Bake loaf for 25-35 minutes until golden brown on the top.


My Commentary

Overall I thought this bread was really good and much closer to the bread at Temple. It is much sweeter when eaten alone, though when you eat it with a meal, the sweetness gets lost. I had my Mom and Aunt try some versus the regular bread and my Mom and I preferred this sweeter one whereas my Aunt preferred the regular one. The Husband said he didn't care, it was all bread.

*I must make admit though, that I cannot get this stupid dough to rise like all my other breads I make do! By the end of the first hour it barely even rises and I know it isn't the yeast, because it is very frothy. My best guess would be that it uses honey versus white sugar but I'm just pulling things out of thin air here. Whatever the problem is, I'm having to resort to preheating the oven to 150 degrees, shutting off the oven and putting the dough in there to get it to double in size which still takes about 45 minutes. After that however, it behaves itself like normal dough.

Oh and I left the eggwash off (so the picture doesn't reflect an eggwash, if it did it would be shinny) because I was being lazy last week. The one at Temple does not have an eggwash either and no one there seems to mind one bit so I figured I would try it that way. I just watched the bread a bit more to make sure it didn't burn. It did bake and brown faster, only about 20 minutes without the egg wash.

I think that I will need to try this recipe multiple times before I feel like I will have even come close to getting a handle on it. Each loaf I make, of the same recipe, following the exact same steps, is so very different. It's a combination of being human and paying attention to one loaf more than another to where the planets are in the universe.

In the end though, everyone should make challah. Not because it's a mitzvah, no, because it's so very tasty and makes awesome french toast from the left overs. So go, make challah!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Easy ways to "fix" any dish

I'm not sure how your family works but in my family, we have to "fix" most any dish. Whether it is from a prepackaged mix or a recipe we are following, most everything needs to be fixed. The great thing of course is that it's easy to fix most any recipe with the following condiments: mayo, ketchup, any form of cheese, peanut butter and chocolate.

How easy is it to fix any dish? Easy. You just dump whatever condiment you own,whatever amount you have left, into it until you go, "hmmm yeah that's not so bad now" and then serve it up. Dry coleslaw? Add mayo. Boring sloppy joes? Add ketchup. Veggies that taste, well, like veggies? Add cheese. You get the idea.

But my ultimate favorite fix is chocolate. And peanut butter. Chocolate and peanut butter. Peanut butter and chocolate. Damn, now I wonder if there are any peanut butter cups left from the Halloween candy... no, no I already ate them all.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Discharge

Not the gross, makes your stomach flip-flop, no the kind of discharge I need to talk about is The Husbands. Wait, that still sounds gross.

So The Husband is being discharged from the service. Actually he apparently already was at the end of last month. It's an honorable discharge, so it isn't as if he got caught banging a hooker while doing coke on watch or something. No. What is he being discharged for? Body fat. Yup. The military says he's too fat. I'm too fat. The Husband? He's barely fat. But it doesn't matter. This is his third strike (so this is not out of the blue and this is not a whine, this is a fact post) so he was discharged. That's the new rules.

The insane part? I cried. Why? Anger mixed with hurt. He was a good reservist for four years. He did everything and more of what he was asked to do. They messed with our lives for four years and then just like that, it ends. But then, what's that annoyingly cheery saying? When one door closes another opens? Hmm, very comforting.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"What an adorable little girl"

Growing up, Halloween was my favorite holiday. It was the only holiday my dad ever participated in so for me, it was one of my childhood favorites. That being said, I don't go all out for Halloween or anything, I just celebrate now by picking out a costume for A. and picking up enough Halloween candy that after I eat half of it, I still have enough to pass out.

This year however, unlike last year, The Husband picked out A.'s costume. Being a Star Wars fan he picked out Yoda. His reasoning? You have to be Yoda when you're short or else it isn't that cute. Fair enough.

We were lucky that the in-laws found a Yoda costume for $4 at Goodwill. Score! While I was initially upset at not sewing a Yoda costume like I did with last years dalmatian costume, I quickly got over it. Best of all, A. looked adoooorable.



See? Adooorable. Yes that's a mini mam paci in his mouth. Don't judge me.

So adorable in fact that almost every single person whose house we stopped at said, "What an adorable little girl!". Um, thanks. I mean, really, what are you suppose to do besides smile and say, "He's a little boy" to which everyone always goes, "Oooh" like you're lying. Idiots.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eating my weight in cheese bagels

One night, I had one of those crazy mom ideas that everything we were eating was bad for us and I should make everything from scratch. I begin searching food blogs like a crazed woman trying to figure out how to make everything from salad dressing, pasta noodles, peanut butter to breads. I spent hours finding recipes, organizing them and reading each step.


Yes, I have issues and I'm comfortable with them.

After finding all these recipes I came to the actual mom realization that I am not those super mommy bloggers. You know the ones, the ones who by 9am have dressed and fed nine children, painted the dining room, scrapbooked yesterdays activity and baked and frosted from scratch twelve dozen vegan cupcakes for the bake sale. I'm just not that mommy. I'm lazy. So instead I decided to just pick one recipe and I decided to try the one about cheese bagels, though the recipe for bacon-wrapped potato bites called my name as well.

Having only ever made two loafs of challah from scratch before I was a little scared to try making bagels. But much to my suprise, I had some of that freakish super mommy blogger magic and they turned out perfect! My pictures, not so much, but here they are along with the recipe and my thoughts on it after making four different batches of them over the last few weeks. The original recipe is adapted from Pennies on a Platter, Cheese Bagels and by adapted, I mean I changed barely anything and have instead only added my commentary at the end.



Cheese Bagels

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups water warm
3 1/2 - 4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 egg, for egg wash
5 ounces shredded asiago
5 ounces shredded reggiano
Oil oil for coating dough

In the bowl of your kitchen aid stand mixer, pour in sugar and yeast. Add warm water and allow to sit until frothy, approxiamtely three to five minutes. Add in salt and slowly add in 2 cups of flour, one at a time using the paddle attachment. The dough will be very sticky at this point.

Add in an eyeballed 2/3's of each cheese, mixing again with the paddle attachment. Add in the last 1 1/2 to 2 cups of flour. Switch to the dough hook attachment and use on low for about 8 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky to the touch and stretches. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and allow to double in size in a warm, draft free space; usually one hour.

After the dough has risen gently deflate the dough and divide into six (large), eight (medium) or twelve (small) rolled balls. Cover with a clean dish cloth and allow to rest 30 minutes. After they have rested, poke a hole in the center and stretch them out a bit. Let rest another 10 minutes. While resting, bring a large pot of water to boil and preheat the oven to 400F (if using a baking stone, put the baking stone in the oven while it preheats).

Once the water has boiled, boil each bagel for two minutes on each side. Pat dry with paper towel and place on parchment paper. Brush on the egg wash and sprinkle the left over cheese ontop. Bake bagels for 24 minutes or until golden brown.


My commentary

So my directions above indicate how I make bagels. I don't have any real reason why I add the things like I do besides that I do. I'm sure someone else would make them differently. Maybe you will make them differently. Either way my final thoughts are...
  • I use a kitchen aid stand mixer because I have horrible wrists. If you don't, you can still make them just refer to the original link.
  • You can use bread flour if you have it. The first time I used regular flour and while there is a slight difference, I wouldn't put a bra on and run to the grocery store just for bread flour if I was out.
  • When you pat the bagels with paper towels after you boil them (which is an important step, it makes them crispy on the outside and soft on the inside so don't skip it!) don't let them sit on the paper towels, quickly put them on parchment paper or they get all gross.
  • Oh, and perhaps it's just my mixer but when I use the dough hook for that long my bowl gets stuck so I spray the bottom with cooking spray.
  • These freeze nicely so make a double batch and do what I've been doing, eating my weight in them. Which if you know me in real life, you know that's a considerable amount of weight.
Besides that, enjoy!