Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I really miss east coast bagels and have pretty much given up on California bagel facsimiles. So yesterday it was fun to make a batch of easy and spectacular bagels. I followed the recipe in the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion cookbook, here modified slightly and in my own words:

In the mixer work bowl combine:
1 tablespoon instant yeast
19 ounces bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar (barley malt is even better)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Mix to combine and then have the mixer knead for 10 minutes (important). If the dough is pooling at the bottom of the work bowl and seems too wet, add up to 1/4 cup extra flour -- it's ok for the dough to be wettish, but most of it should be stuck to the dough hook rather than sitting on the bottom of the bowl. Then plop the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let rise 1 1/2 hours.

Remove to work area and with a knife or board scraper, divide the dough into 8 pieces. The cookbook recommends forming each piece into a ball and then poking a hole in the middle to make each a bagel, but I do it the old school bagel bakery way: form each piece into a snake, then loop it around your hand and squeeze into a circle. Repeat until you have 8 bagels. Place bagels on a piece of parchment and cover with plastic. Let rest 30 minutes.

Preheat over to 425 degrees.

In the last 15 minutes of rise, pour 2 quarts of water into a large wide pot. Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or barley malt) and 1 teaspoon sugar, then heat until water is steadily simmering. Drop 2-4 bagels at a time into the water (you may need to gently reshape them as they go in). Let simmer for 2 minutes, flip, then simmer 1 minute more. Remove with slotted spoon to a dish towel and repeat with the remaining bagels.

Place bagels on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, turning after 12 minutes, until bagels are golden brown.

Makes 8 delicious bagels.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jack at a glance 10/20/08

Jack sleeps about 11 hours a night, from 7ish to 6ish. Hans and I both believe Jack needs a bit more sleep, but were are not sure how to accomplish this.
only when ill
Jack eats a bunch at preschool, but at home his biggest meal is usually breakfast. He loves oatmeal and peanut butter toast with letters or numbers or animals made from jelly (you try to make a bobcat out of jelly sometime!). Fruit is always a hit. He still will request beets and carrots from the garden as well as lettuces. Protein is the trickiest food to get in his tummy (unless there's bacon or ham in the house). He pretty much will not eat beef in any fashion. Chicken and tofu get the green light occasionally. His favorite "meat" is salmon.
We've been potty training for almost 2 months, and making slow and steady improvements. Accidents still do happen, but they are almost always small damp spots rather than floods. Jack did poop in his underpants at preschool once, but more and more when I pick him up at the end of his preschool day he is wearing the same pants!
Getting around:
Hans pushes Jack in the stroller most mornings and I usually take him in the stroller to preschool, but he is an excellent walker (until he wants to be carried 6 blocks from home).
Preschool has exposed him to many new activities, and he is more and more interested in crafts and art projects. When we color, draw, paint, or do play-doh we pretty much do these things together or take turns (now mommy make an 8, now Jack draw a 7, etc.). He does not constantly insist that we do art for him any more, much to our relief, though he still does like us to do numbers in paint or crayons. When we're out driving or walking Jack likes to look for numbers everywhere. He's till quite obsessed with making letters and numbers out of anything he can find -- string, grocery receipts, blocks, leaves, anything.
When he is tired he is very difficult. There have been tantrums, some mild pushing, and tears. But we get through it!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cheater chili

Chili is one of our family's favorite foods. I used to make it based on a Cook's Illustrated recipe from a few years ago, but that recipe is time-consuming, especially cutting up the meat. So I made up my own recipe, and it's easy -- no vegetable chopping, meat cubing, or anything fussy.

Cheater Chili Serves 6
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 (or 2) jalapeno, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons canola or other mild oil
1 tablespoon cumin seed
3 dried New Mexico chilies (or any large red mild chile)
3 dried ancho chilies
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 28 ounce can tomato puree or sauce
2 limes
1 flank steak or 2 small skirt steaks
salt to taste

1) Throw the onion and jalapeno in a food processor and chop finely -- it's ok if it gets watery.
2) Warm oil in a large heavy pot and dump the onion/pepper mixture in. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are softened but not browned.
3) In the meantime, toast the cumin and peppers (I use a toaster oven). The cumin should be fragrant and slightly tan/brown. When the peppers puff up they are done -- be carefully not to let them burn, which is easy to do.
4) Pull cumin and peppers out of oven and let cool slightly. Grind to a powder and add to onion/pepper mixture. Stir and let cook for about 1 minute.
5) Add tomato paste and tomato sauce, juice of one lime, and stir well. Cut the flank steak into 3 pieces, then gently drop them into the pot. Add some salt (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) but remember the sauce will be cooking down, so use restraint. Pour about 4-6 cups of water into the pot, cover, and cook over low heat, about 4-5 hours (can use a crock pot -- you want small slow bubbles). At the end of the cooking time, the meat should be tender. Pull the meat (still in big hunks) out, put in a bowl/glass container, and allow to cool. Crank the heat under the sauce still in the pot to medium-high and cook down for about 1 hour, stirring frequently. At this point, combine the meat and the sauce and cool overnight in the fridge.
6) About one hour before you plan to eat, skim any fat off the sauce and reheat the chili over medium heat -- do not allow to boil. When the meat is warmed through and softened (about 30 minutes), pull it out of the sauce and shred it with two forks. Return the meat to the sauce, taste for salt, add remaining lime juice, and eat! We like it over elbow noodles with jack cheese, but there's a bunch of things you can do with it -- top baked potatoes, make tacos, etc.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


A few weeks ago when Jack was sick, we watched a little tv. Previously our television watching had been exclusively Yo Gabba Gabba, but Jack is a bit bored by that now -- I think the segments are too short. So we surfed a bit and watched Higglytown Heroes and Backyardigans. I know that these shows are for kids and not parents, but eeek! I don't get Higglytown Heroes at all; it seems like a weird combination of Brady Bunch, Scooby Doo, and Mister Rodgers. And that squirrel Fran is sooo annoying. But I thought Backyardigans was worse. The first episode we watched showed kids lying with no consequences. The second at least was loosely about saying please and thank you, but the featured song, which seemed to go on and on, was "I love being a princess." Now I forget, is Nickelodeon a Disney company? Sure feels like it!

Jack watched these shows every once in a while for a few weeks and then (thankfully) lost interest. Then we found a keeper, for now: Dragon Tales. This show is completely at his level. The boy, Max, sometimes gets a bit wild and breaks things; we know a boy like that! The characters are not too annoying, and Jack is completely in love with Eunice the unicorn. This past weekend at Fairyland, we found a plush dragon and small unicorn in the gift store, and Jack adores them. Ord went to show and tell yesterday and today it's Eunice's turn (if we can find her; she hiding right now).

On the advice of friends (hi guys!) I'm recording Reading Rainbow to give that a try as well. What else? Maybe Sesame Street?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Going the distance

Today will be Jack's first full (4 hour) session of preschool. He had 3 very good preschool days last week, so he has earned the right to stay through show and tell, a big deal for him.

I now understand that the 2 tough preschool weeks we had were the result of him not feeling well. He doesn't really complain when he feels sick, but he is not himself either. In addition to loving sour foods, looks like he may have inherited being cranky while sick from me. Now that he is completely better, he's much happier and sleeping better too.

I remember a few months ago when a few parents mentioned their kids slept from 7-7 I was soooo jealous. Last night Jack slept from 6:30-almost 7. So there. Anything is possible.