Wednesday, November 13, 2019

study stills

My older daughter took a timelapse of herself studying because why not. Here are a few of the screenshots…

And that, my friends, is what learning quadratic equations looks like.

This same time, years previous: Shakespeare behind bars, I will never be good at sales, gravity, refrigerator bran muffins, sparkle blondies, the greats, my apple lineup, the first step.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

my new kitchen: the island

Ever since we bought this house fourteen years ago, the plan was to put a large island in the kitchen. Just, we never got around to it. There were other, more pressing things to tend to, and I wasn't in any rush, really. My kitchen was fully functional. We had a makeshift island (the table that my husband had built for our previous house's kitchen), plus I had the back hall pantry for all my extra kitchen appliances and groceries, and the hutch for dishes and canned food. If I never got the island, so what.

Then three years ago, my husband started to build the island. It was supposed to be a surprise for my birthday (I learned later), but when I wandered into the barn one day and asked him what he was working on, instead of stalling or lying, he told me the truth, and, once I knew what he was doing, it took all the fun out of the making (or so he claimed) and he stopped working on it. For the next three years, the frame of the island sat in his barn, taking up space.

And then late summer, he started to work on it again. I pretended it wasn't happening but, out of the corner of my skeptical eye, I watched as he made drawers, painted, and then began to build the island top. I'd decided on a butcher block top, so he painstakingly stripped the wooden planks (cherry boards he'd gotten years ago from a science professor at the university where he'd been working at the time, plus a few boards that he had to buy) and then stood them on their sides and glued them together in sections — a ridiculously time-consuming, laborious process.

A week ago Saturday, my husband finally installed the island and countertop AND WE WERE SO HAPPY.

But then the next morning we discovered — o horrors! — that the sealer didn’t work properly: when the surface got wet, it became rough. My husband suffered an immediate existential crisis so severe that the rest of us promptly split for church, leaving him to wallow in lakes of self pity and misery alone. (He later told me that, in a fit of frustration, he hauled the entire top back out to the barn by himself, never mind his recent hernia surgery, because he couldn't stand to have it in his kitchen for one more second.)

temp top

He temporarily installed one of the tops of the tables we use for making doughnuts so I’d have a place to work, and all last week was spent re-sanding and re-sealing the top (thank goodness for wood-working friends who know about miracle products).

Then this past Saturday, he re-installed the finished countertop. This time, for real.

It is absolutely stunning, silky smooth, richly colored, and, what with all the different wood grains and colors, interesting to look at.

For now, I’m not chopping on it directly, but maybe, over time, as the shiny newness fades, I will. 

We’ll see.

The island itself is utterly massive, a true workhorse. It’s not completely done yet — the electricity isn’t hooked up and it’s missing two doors and a couple hooks (for towels, my cooling rack, etc), and outlet covers — but it’s getting there!

All week long, I slowly, slowly, slooooowly worked at filling my island drawers. Mostly, this involves lots of thinking. I ask myself, What are the things that I most often leave the kitchen for? and then I rack my brain, trying to dredge up every situation in which I step off the tiled floor for something — the little white dishes in the hutch, the bags of rice and jugs of oil in the back hall, the popcorn maker and food processor, etc — and where, in my new kitchen, they logically belong. 

pie and cake baking

starch drawer: bread, crackers, pasta, beans

water bottles

all thing for chopping, blending, mixing, ricing

Now that I have space, I’m trying to spread out the work stations so we’re not always jammed into the same corner. Mostly, this means moving the cereal, bread, and lunch fixings closer to the fridge area and clearing out the drawers by the stove for all baking and cooking.

A couple other island highlights:

A cabinet for my kitchen aid, with a pull-out shelf!

The soft-close mechanism allows me to just pull two levers and the whole thing glides gently back into the cupboard, suh-wheet!

A bottle opener! It’s totally unnecessary but it does add a delightful touch of whimsy.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.12.18), unleashing the curls!, George Washington Carver sweet potato soup with peanut butter and ginger, butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and goat cheese, maple roasted squash, pumpkin cranberry cream cheese muffins, mashed sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

what we ate

Here’s a glimpse, once again, at what we’ve been eating over the last week or two...

After watching this You Suck At Cooking video, I developed a major hankering for ramen. I made my husband stop by the store to pick some up, plus some green onions and broccoli. I like the hot sauce and peanut butter version, and I added a spoonful of thai curry to the latest batch. (I have no idea what version’s in the photo, but it’s packed full of veggies: collards, peas, and the like. So, so yummy.)

In a similar vein: what are your thoughts on MSG? I’ve always avoided MSG (and thus the reason that I rarely bought ramen), but I recently read that MSG is not bad for us like we were led to believe and that it’s perfectly fine to use it on occasion and now I’m considering buying some. Should I?

One day for lunch — perhaps this was a post-church, empty-out-the-fridge affair? — this is what I served up for a couple of the kids: potato salad, leftover peas, hotdogs. It looks more planned than it was. 

Leftover apple crisp and vanilla ice cream. We eat soooooo many leftovers. I’ve read about people who don’t eat leftovers — like ever — and I simply don’t get it. Often leftovers taste as good, or better, than they do the first time around, and it’s lovely to not have to cook and clean out the fridge at the same time. Two bird, one stone, bam.

Speaking of leftovers, this was the plate I fixed for my older son when he arrived home after a day of classes: leftover butter chicken (that was mostly sauce) with some leftover cooked ground beef thrown in to bulk it up, with leftover brown rice.

I learned how to make real burritos! Turns out, it’s all about the tortilla, and I've been buying the wrong kind all along. You want the large, thin ones that are full of fat, not the Mission kind — I found some at a local Latin grocery. (Also, the cheese tip — sprinkle cheese over the entire tortilla and let it melt before stuffing and wrapping — is brilliant.)

Friday night, our friends came out and cooked us supper: chicken and beef empanadillas, rice and beans, and mayo-ketchup sauce — the stuff is dangerously addictive — and, my contribution, a Costco salad. (We’d dropped off the raw meat at their house a couple days before so they could cook the meat and assemble the empanadillas, and then, since I avoid frying food in the house at all costs, I made them fry them outside in the cold. Poor things thought they were dying.)

I picked up this book at the library and have been dreaming, scheming, and eating all things breakfast ever since. Case in point, this meal: black pepper biscuits (they spread too much), saucy black beans, and garlicky cheesy grits. Also, since I was also processing a big bowl of peppers from the garden, I rough-chopped a bunch and threw them on a baking pan, along with a couple onions and some sausages, and roasted the whole mess in the oven.

And then here was my lunch a day or two later: the leftover grits (made from yellow popcorn that I little-red-hen milled myself) and sausage and veggies, plus some sauteed mushrooms, a bit of cheese, and a fried egg. I did not grow up with grits, but even so, they strike me as comfort food.

This same time, years previous: of mice and men and other matters, the quotidian (11.6.17), cinnamon pretzels, musings from the coffee shop, awkward, bierocks: meat and cabbage rolls, crispy cinnamon cookies.

Monday, November 4, 2019

the quotidian (11.4.19)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

For a minute there, I lost my head and made my own sprinkles.

They were pretty, though.

Sweet rolls for the chickens, sigh. 
(My kid told me they were underbaked but I didn't listen.)

Gardening: a job she's enjoying.



Tick extraction (and then, not shown, the preventative antibiotics to go with).

She wanted to go to Chincoteague so she reserved a hotel room and went.

The neighbor kid takes up wrestling.

I bet my kitchen screen is dirtier than your kitchen screen!

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.5.18), old-fashioned apple roll-ups, meatloaf, the quotidian (11.4.13), cheesy broccoli potato soup, sweet and sour lentils.

Friday, November 1, 2019

egg bagels

For illustration purposes, I used photos from a conglomeration of bagel baking episodes. 
Check the captions for bagel type identification.

I’ve been on a bit of a bagel bender. I made some for us to eat, and then I made a couple batches for the soiree, and now I’m back to making them just for us again. No one's complaining.

wheat gluten

As per my custom, I used my no-fail recipe for sourdough bagels, but then I decided to try egg bagels. Egg bagels are my absolute favorite (or everything egg bagels, to be precise): sunshine yellow and tender soft, with a most deliciously satisfying chewiness.

after rising overnight: plain bagels, barely puffed

So I found a recipe for egg bagels that called for eight yolks, which — lucky me! — was exactly the amount of yolks I had leftover after making Italian meringue buttercream. And lo and behold, a pattern emerged: make buttercream and then, a couple days later, make egg bagels. What a happy and fortuitous sequence of events! 

plain bagel on the left; egg bagel on the right

plain on left; egg on right

The texture was right, but my egg bagels’ color wasn’t even close to the bright yellow of the local bagel shop’s egg bagels. Which made me wonder: do bagel shops dye their egg bagels? So when I swung by our local bagel shop to pick up several containers of cream cheese for the soiree, I asked the woman behind the counter pointblank: Do you dye your egg bagels?

Yes, she said, startling me with her frankness. (And then I asked if they use the whole egg or just the yolks, and she said the whole eggs.)

everything plain

So my non-yellow bagels with eight yolks are authentic after all!

everything egg

(Though now my kids are begging me to dye my dough yellow so the bagels look like the ones from the bagel shop, ha.)

everything egg

Egg Bagels 
Adapted from Michelle of the Brown Eyed Baker.

This is a tough tough dough, so to keep from murdering my mixer, I finish the kneading by hand. It’s a killer workout, and I can never quite work in the last two to four ounces of flour, but it’s better than burning up my mixer’s motor.

The addition of yolks make these bagels puff so high the hole disappears.

Costco sells everything seasoning, which is perfect for these bagels. My favorite way to eat an everything egg bagel: toasted, spread with lots of cream cheese and topped with a slice of salty ham.

13½ ounces sourdough starter
8 ounces cool water
8 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons barley malt syrup, plus extra for the boiling water
6 tablespoons powdered milk
4-6 tablespoons wheat gluten
2 pounds bread flour
everything seasoning, optional

Day One
Measure everything, but the flour and everything seasoning, into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed for a few minutes. (Or, if you rather, mix by hand.) Once it’s well-mixed, begin adding the flour (that you’ve premeasured into another bowl), bit by bit, until it becomes too stiff for the mixer.

Turn the dough out on the counter and knead by hand, working in as much of the flour as possible. The dough will be soft and smooth and not one bit sticky. Cover the dough with plastic and let rest for 10-20 minutes. From this point on, refrain from adding any more flour.

Divide into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope that’s 8-10 inches long. Twist the rope around your hand, with the two ends overlapping in your palm. Pressing your palm to the counter, roll the two ends until they stick together.

Line a tray with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place the bagels on the tray, leaving about an inch of space between each bagel — they will only rise a little. Cover the tray with plastic, or stick the whole thing inside a garbage bag, and transfer to the fridge to proof for 12-24 hours.

Day Two
Remove the bagels from the fridge and let rest at room temperature, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Fill a large, wide kettle with 3-4 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add a scoop (one to two tablespoons) of barley malt syrup. Place a baking stone in the oven (if using) and preheat to 400 degrees.

When everything is to temperature — the water boiling, the oven hot, the bagels no longer chilly — slip three to four bagels into the boiling water, bottom side down (the bottoms are textured because of the cornmeal), and cook for 40-50 seconds. Flip the bagels and boil for another 40-50 seconds.

While the bagels are boiling, take the baking stone from the oven and sprinkle with cornmeal. With a slotted spoon, lift a bagel from the water and flip — so the original cornmeal-y bottom side is once again on the bottom — onto the baking stone. Repeat with the other bagels.

Boil another batch. Once the baking stone is full, slip it into the oven. After 15 minutes, increase the heat to 425 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes before removing from the oven and transferring the bagels to a cooling rack. Repeat the process with the remaining bagels.

For everything bagels: sprinkle everything seasoning on the baking stone along with the cornmeal. Immediately after removing the bagels from the boiling water, sprinkle them liberally with everything seasoning.

This same time, years previous: sour cream coffee cake, apple dumplings, 2015 garden stats and notes, chatty time, posing for candy, why I'm spacey.