April 24, 2012

Breakfast Pizza (For Dinner)

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If I were stranded on an island, and I could only choose one food to eat for the rest of my life, it'd be pizza.

April 19, 2012

Asparagus Pickles

Asparagus Pickles

Asparagus

I made a batch of asparagus fridge pickles a couple weeks ago based on this recipe. Of course, they've completely disappeared since then, but I'm looking forward to making these again during the asparagus season, which I know has already arrived for some of you in the country.

Our local farmer's market opens mid-May this year, and I can't wait! Especially for all the asparagus and rhubarb. They sell asparagus pickles there, too, which is where I originally fell in love with the idea. Unfortunately, each jar costs around $8 dollars, so I think I'll stick to making them at home.

April 13, 2012

Homemade Horchata

Homemade Horchata

Now that the weather is warming up on our side of the country (hooray!), I wanted to share one of my favorite homemade beverage recipes with you - Horchata! This is probably one of the easiest drinks to prepare at home, and I actually prefer to make it myself because I like my drinks less sweet than most people. That said, feel free to adjust the amount of sugar or honey you use according to your taste. I also occasionally add nuts or different spices to change the flavor a little, but this is my basic go-to recipe. Enjoy!

Homemade Horchata
¾ cup rice (I usually use long grain white or brown basmati)
4 cups water
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup sugar or mild honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups water, milk, or coconut milk

Pour the rice in a blender and pulse until it resembles a coarse crumb. Add the 4 cups water and the cinnamon stick(s), and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Homemade Horchata Homemade Horchata
Homemade Horchata

Blend the mixture (cinnamon sticks included) for 2-3 minutes until completely pureed. Add the sugar and the vanilla extract, and blend again until completely combined. Check for sweetness.

Strain the mixture with a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve into a pitcher. Add the two cups water, milk, or coconut - depending on your preference - and stir. Pour in glasses over ice as-is, or add a splash of brandy. Garnish with cinnamon.

April 11, 2012

Over the Weekend

Easter Flowers

This last weekend felt like the first real weekend we've had in months. Life has been pretty hectic lately, so it was nice to slow down and relax for a couple of days. Even nicer was the weather! It was sunny and beautiful, and very much appreciated. We spent as much time outside as possible.

Strawberries

On Saturday, we pulled out our little charcoal grill and had our first barbecue of the year. I looked through the archives, and our first barbecue of last year was in April, too. I think this is normally when Matt and I start cleaning off the back deck in preparation for our container garden, but this year we're planning on doing things a little differently. We might grow some herbs and other small plants, but we're really not sure how much longer we'll be staying in this apartment. It's a little sad, but I'm excited for the possibility of moving into our own home in the near future.

Strawberry Shortcakes

On Sunday, Matt and I took a long walk out to the Clackamas river and through our local neighborhoods. There were tons of families outside enjoying the weather, and kids running around looking for their hidden Easter eggs. So, after seeing all of the Easter festivities around us, we decided to treat ourselves to homemade strawberry shortcakes for dinner (yes, dinner). It was well into the evening by the time they were ready to eat, but they were so worth the wait.

Next Project

After "dinner," we sat down to watch Doc Martin while I cast on the stitches for my newest project, a Folded Poncho. I can tell it's going to take me awhile to finish this thing, but hey... it'll be there for me next winter.

April 5, 2012

Homemade Bagels

Homemade Bagels

It wasn't until recently that Matt and I got into the habit of picking up a bag of bagels from the Costco bakery. Normally our Costco visits are limited to the usuals: toilet paper, vinegar, baking soda, cat litter, butter, fish, pasta, basmati rice and garlic (It's a short enough list to type out, but just long enough to be awkward). And as much as we love their giant packs of assorted muffins and croissants, we always manage to keep ourselves in line as we walk through the bakery. Impressive, I know.

But a few months ago, we decided to splurge on a bag of bagels here and there. I say "splurge" because we generally try not to buy pre-made baked goods. After baking our own bread for a couple years now, it genuinely feels odd. So naturally, once we decided that we liked having bagels around the house, I set myself to the task of finding a good recipe for a homemade version.

It took three tries before I finally realized that the specific recipe doesn't matter that much. The idea is to make a super firm dough, which is where I failed in my first two tries. They weren't bad, but they definitely lacked the shape and texture that I achieved on my third try. In any case, I didn't mind making these over and over. The smell of boiled dough is something I'm really fond of. It reminds me of the way the mall smelled by the pretzel shop back when I was a teenager and spent, like, all of my time at the mall.

Homemade Bagels
Makes 8

1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar (I used maple syrup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 – 4 ½ cups bread or all-purpose flour

Combine the water and the active dry yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer or bread machine. Stir and let sit for five minutes until the yeast has dissolved.

Add the malt syrup or sugar, the vegetable oil, and the salt, and stir until combined. Add the flour gradually, and knead for about 10 minutes on a low-to-medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough should be very firm, and it shouldn’t stick to your fingers if you touch it. Cover the dough with a damp tea towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.

Punch down the dough, and divide into 8 equal portions. Place one portion on the surface of a wood cutting board (the dough should be firm enough that you don’t need to flour your surface) and flatten it by smacking it with the palm of your hand. Once flattened, roll the dough up tightly. Then, beginning from the center, roll the dough back and forth until it forms a snake 8-10 inches long. 

Homemade Bagels Homemade Bagels
Homemade Bagels

Take the two tapered ends and overlap them by an inch or two to form a circle. To secure the circle together, place three fingers in the middle of your circle, and roll back and forth over the tapered edges until uniform in size. For a video reference on this process, visit this link

 Homemade Bagels Homemade Bagels
Homemade Bagels

Repeat this process to shape the remaining seven portions of dough, and then cover with a damp tea towel and let rest for another 15-20 minutes, or until the dough has risen and become puffy.

Preheat your oven to 425◦F. Line a cookie sheet with cornmeal, semolina, or parchment paper.

Bring to boil in a large pot:

4 quarts water
1 tablespoon malt syrup or sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Once the water has come to a rolling boil, drop the dough rings into the water, making sure you give each bagel ample space. Let them cook on one side for 45-60 seconds, and then flip them over to cook another minute. Remove from water and place on the cookie sheet. Once all of your bagels are on the cookie sheet, brush the tops with an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).

Homemade Bagels

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of your bagels are golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking.