Showing posts with label 30 Before 30. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 30 Before 30. Show all posts

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pumpkin Season is Here

Even though the temperatures are hovering in the 80's in LA, once the calendar hits October the pumpkin recipes start rolling out and I just can't resist jumping on the bandwagon. As you may recall, one of the items on my 30 Before 30 list is to make bagels from scratch, so I thought, "Why not pumpkin bagels?"

This being my first homemade bagel experience, I did some research and decided to combine elements from this pumpkin bagel recipe and this New York style bagel recipe. That way I'd get the flavor I was craving as well as the chewy texture I prefer.

First I placed the yeast in warm water with brown sugar and let it sit for 5 minutes without stirring. Then I stirred to dissolve the yeast and mixed in the canned pumpkin, 2 cups of bread flour, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. This produced a very sticky dough, which I turned out onto a floured cutting board to knead and add flour to until no longer sticky.

Too sticky

In the end I probably added an additional 2 or more cups and then rolled the dough into a ball and placed in an oiled bowl covered with a kitchen towel to let rise.

After an hour, I punched the dough down and let rest for another 10 minutes. Next, I divided the dough into portions and rolled them into small balls (I ended up with 9 somehow). I tried both recipe methods for forming the bagels and preferred the Sophisticated Gourmet's suggestion of pressing your finger through the center of each ball and then stretching the ring from there.

I let the formed bagels rest for another 10 minutes on a cookie sheet covered with a towel while I put a big pot of water on to boil.

According to the New York method, you extend the boiling time to about 2 minutes for a chewier bagel, which is what I was going for. 

I noticed that the longer they boiled, the larger they got.

After transferring the bagels to a cookie sheet and baking for twenty minutes, my apartment smelled amazing and the bagels were beautifully browned. The pumpkin flavor was subtle and the texture was slightly crisp on the outside yet gloriously chewy on the inside. Now I just need to work on perfecting the shape of these babies...

New York Style Pumpkin Bagels

1 cup warm water
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 1/2 cups bread flour (divided, plus more for kneading)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

Place warm water in a large mixing bowl and add yeast and sugar. Do not stir. Let mixture sit for five minutes before stirring to dissolve. Add pumpkin, 2 cups of bread flour, salt and spices. Stir to combine. A sticky dough will begin to form. 

Transfer to a floured surface and continue adding flour a half cup at a time and kneading dough until smooth (about another cup and a half or two cups and 8-10 minutes of kneading). Roll dough into a large ball and place in a bowl coated with oil. Cover with a towel and allow to sit in a warm spot to rise for one hour or until dough doubles in size. 

After one hour, punch the dough down and allow to rest for another 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8-10 pieces and roll each portion into a small ball. Press your finger through the center of each ball and stretch a ring to the desired size. Place shaped bagels on an oiled cookie sheet and cover with a towel. 

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and set a large pot of water to boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and using a skimmer, lower bagels into hot water in batches. Let them sit for 2 minutes and then flip them over to boil for another 2 minutes. Once boiled, transfer bagels back to the oiled cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. 

Cool cooked bagels on a wire rack. Slice one of those babies in half, smear on some cream cheese, and enjoy the freshest bagel you'll ever eat.

Monday, September 30, 2013

30 Before 30 Update

It's been too long since I've blogged about my 30 Before 30 progress. The deadline of my 30th birthday is drawing uncomfortably near, so it's definitely time to bang these out. Let's take a look at the tasks I've completed recently.

#11 Mail a handwritten letter/card to a loved one out of the blue

A few months ago I was in a nostalgic mood and went through a box of old cards, photos and letters that I've been collecting since high school. I found that a huge chunk of those cards were from my friend Kim, who used to send me written correspondence almost every month when I was in college. Kim worked at Hallmark back then, so this might explain her fondness for greeting cards. It reminded me how nice it was to get a letter in the mail every now and then so I decided she was the perfect person to reach out to via snail mail. I've already received a reply from Kim and I'm putting my response to her out in the mail today. So far I'm loving this new pen pal thing!

#15 Start saving for a house

Early in the year my dear friend Jane sent me her copy of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. She and her husband had been using Dave's tips to budget for their family of three and recommended his methods for paying off debt and saving up for the future. After reading the book I was motivated to take care of the small amount of debt we had and focus on a plan for setting money aside for a house in the future. With no debt, we've been able to fulfill an 'emergency fund' as well as start a house fund.

Some of Dave's methods are a bit extreme and not completely realistic for us right now, but the book has provided the motivation we needed and made us realize that even if we aren't looking to purchase a home in the next year or two, it's never too soon to start saving.

#29 Make our guest room more accommodating

So even though we've lived in our apartment for over two years, we never really got around to doing much with our guest room. Out of sight, out of mind, right? I once heard that the best way to determine what your guest room may be lacking is to spend the night in it. In doing so, I found that a few things like curtains, a bedside table, alarm clock and space in the closet to hang clothes would make guests feel more at home.

So far I've been able to work on all of those things but the closet space :) There is currently a large wedding dress that is taking up a considerable amount of space in the guest room closet, but that will be taken care of in a matter of months so I consider this task complete!

Who wants to come stay with us?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Vacation

I apologize for the silence around here while I've been enjoying some much needed summer vacation. Even though I've been taking it easy for the most part, I haven't forgotten about my 30 Before 30 to-dos. One such item on the list involved my vacation - A trip to Michigan to visit Justin's family lake house. We spent a gloriously relaxing 4th of July with Justin's family, full of fishing, boating, fireworks and delicious meals. Justin and I flew to Chicago first, where his brother and wife have just purchased a beautiful house.

The last time I was in Chicago was for their wedding over a year ago, and I somehow never had a famous Chicago hot dog. Our hosts took us straight to Hot Doug's, the "encased meat emporium," to remedy that situation.


Hot Doug's makes all kinds of creative sausages, but I felt like I should try the classic while in the Windy City. I got a Chicago-style to share and The Norm Crosby, a garlic, beef and pork dog. The Norm Crosby was delish! Even with all the accoutrements, the Chicago-style just couldn't hold a candle to the full flavors of that juicy, garlicky dog. Also, I learned that it's considered criminal to put ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago. You just don't do it. My friend Jane would be very pleased with that policy ;)

Next stop was Goose Island Brewery to sample some local beers, which is one of my favorite things to do when exploring a city. A few Goose Island beers make an appearance in Los Angeles bars and restaurants so we've been wanting to visit the brewery for some time now. They had a really wide selection and we each sampled various flights in addition to a summer special, the Cherry-Mint Wit. Refreshing!


Later in the trip we enjoyed a really lovely meal at Maude's Liquor Bar, where I had the BEST vodka smash of my life. Prior to this cocktail experience, my favorite adult beverage might have been the blackberry smash at BOA Steakhouse. Maude's smash was just so simple and uncomplicated, full of fresh citrus and mint and not overly sweet. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. It's a problem, really...

The dimly-lit, speakeasy vibe at Maude's nicely complimented the French menu, from which the boys shared a large platter of oysters and we all devoured ricotta gnocchi, a massive cassoulet and crispy pomme frites.


From Chicago, we drove to Michigan for a few more days of food and fun.

Since the day I met Justin, he's talked non-stop about his parent's cottage on the lake. I think it might be his favorite place in the whole world. I've always looked forward to eventually seeing this place with my own eyes, so it made an appearance on my 30 Before 30 list to make certain that we'd get out there sooner rather than later.


As you can see, the cottage is primed for relaxation and once you're there, it's really hard to leave. Jobs, deadlines, bills, etc. just cease to exist for a magical few days while you're disconnected from the rest of the world. 

While we didn't eat any of the fish we spent the days catching (thank God), we experimented with smoking a brisket on the grill as demonstrated by Bon Appetit. Jessica made cottage cheese and dill bread from scratch to accompany the meat, and we all had a truly memorable lakeside meal. 

Vacation is the best. It's been hard adjusting back to a work schedule and less indulgent meals since we returned, but we have a few more fun things on the horizon. I will not let go of summer just yet!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Father's Day Surprise

Pssst - I was in Austin this weekend! It was a surprise for my parents that my sister, brother and aunt helped me coordinate and execute to perfection. It went something like this: (Warning - It's loud)


As you can see, my parents were completely caught by surprise and luckily, very happy about it. There were times over the last few weeks when I thought they suspected I would be coming home, but I'm so glad they were actually clueless. It made for a much more epic moment and memory that I'm so thrilled we caught on video. Thanks Jen!

The surprise idea has been marinating for a few months since it's an item on my 30 Before 30 list. I've always made a habit out of visiting Austin at least once or twice a year (I can't stay away!) but this year I didn't have any trips to Texas planned and no openings for when we might take another trip there. I knew I wanted to at least take a weekend to get out there this summer, so I started to think "well what if they had no clue?" I got my sister and aunt to come in to town under the guise of Father's Day and upcoming family birthday celebrations and my brother already lives in Austin. Jennifer picked me up from the airport and brought me to the house where I secretly waited in the garage for her to go inside and get my mom and dad in the kitchen. Then she snuck a call to my phone which was my signal to come in. I crept through the garage door with a bottle of wine in hand and waltzed in saying, "Who wants some wine?!" What happened next was captured in the above video and was the start to a great weekend on the lake with my family.

We celebrated Father's Day with brunch at home and a spin on the jet skis, followed up with lunch at Hopdoddy, probably my favorite burger spot in Austin.

I first visited Hopdoddy a mere two years ago and have been back about five times now. We didn't have Hopdoddy when I lived in Austin so I'm making up for lost time.

I love their black angus beef burgers, but lately I've been addicted to the Continental Club, which is a turkey burger with apple-smoked bacon, arugula, provolone and pesto. Not everyone can do a good turkey burger, as they often turn out dry and devoid of flavor. But this one is perfection every time. Especially with some fries and two types of queso on the side (chile con queso and green chili queso).

Dad's day success!

Later in the evening my parents had friends over to watch game five of the NBA Finals while grilling up some fajitas. Go Spurs! One of these friends was asking me for a list of my favorite places to eat in LA and it got me thinking. Why don't I have a list? Introducing the "Best of" series! I'll pop in now and again with my "Best of" lists in my favorite categories like burgers, beers, sandwiches, etc. The locations of my favorite eats are spread across the globe, from jerk chicken shacks in Jamaica, gnocchi in Italy and cheesy Tex-Mex in my home state. But the absolute best meals are those shared with loved ones. I'm so glad I made it home to share some delicious meals with my family this summer and look forward to some epic family meals with Justin's side of the family in a few weeks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

30 Before 30 Update

It's about time for another 30 Before 30 update! By the way, I'm really loving having this list to keep me accountable for doing things I've either put off or never done. It's made for an exciting year so far, with even more adventures in the works. A few of my friends are now making lists for when their 29th birthdays hit, which I highly recommend.

Thanks to the list, I've rediscovered how fun ski trips are. Before this year, the last time I went skiing was on Spring Break of 2006. I've been fortunate enough to ski some of the nicest mountains in Colorado, but I had somehow neglected to visit the ski areas right in my own backyard here in California. Since I've lived here for about six years, it was beyond time to make the short trip to the mountains. Back in February (I know, way to stay current on the updates) we visited Snow Valley because it was the closest mountain to us and we got a deal on lift tickets online to fulfill item #17 on my list - Go snow skiing.

It was pretty crazy leaving 75 degree temperatures in LA and arriving to snow within two hours time. I was worried I wouldn't remember how to ski, but it came back pretty quickly and I managed to get by without any falls. Not too hard a feat when you stick to green and blue runs :)

I actually night skied for the first time and loved it. The lift ticket rates were cheaper if you started after 3 p.m. and only the last two hours or so were in the dark with lights on the runs. It did get especially chilly when the sun went down but the slopes were far less crowded and we got plenty of runs in before that happened. When the cold was too much to bare, it was hot chocolate time. Aka, my favorite time.

Another one of my favorite times is happy hour. When I lived in Texas and didn't battle traffic every evening to get home, happy hour was almost a weekly occurrence. These days if I'm not on the road the second I finish my work, traffic piles up and my commute gets exponentially longer. It's harder to make happy hour happen when you're fighting the traffic patterns in LA, but since it was on my list I planned to meet a friend for a drink during the week and I remembered why I must do this more often!


Pink Taco's happy hour runs until 7 p.m. so you don't have to rush to get your fill of $5 margaritas and free flowing chips and salsa. They also have discounted appetizers like guacamole and sweet corn tamales. Yum! I think I've found my favorite HH spot. Now who wants to join me?

Knocked #22 off my list and moving right along. This month I reached the half-way mark and I now have only six months to complete the rest of my list. Eeeeek! Time to rally.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thoughts on Juicing

About a month before I got married my cousin Morgan was telling me about a wager between her and her mom to see who could lose the most weight by my wedding day. She said her healthy secret weapon was juicing and it intrigued me enough to add a juicer to my wedding registry. I chose the Breville Compact Juice Extractor because I didn't want a bulky machine taking up too much space in my kitchen and it got great reviews for the price.

The juicer arrived in the middle of wedding madness and went unused until New Years Eve. When I finally pulled it out and gave it a whirl, I was pleasantly surprised by the juicy results. Beyond the potential weight-loss benefits of replacing meals with fresh juice and the incredible health benefits of adding fruits and veggies to your diet, this stuff just tastes great! I have accomplished my 30 Before 30 goal #10 to use my new juicer and have had a lot of fun experimenting with combinations since then.

My first juice was a concoction of kale, carrots, apples and beet. I purchased the organic fruit from the farmers market, so everything was in season and local. Juicing organic produce isn't the cheapest option, as you'll go through quite a bit, but if you're going to put raw fruit and vegetables in your body, you want them to be clean and organically grown.

The items went in the juicer one by one, instantly demolished to nothing but pulp and liquid. The end result was a rainbow colored brew that looked and smelled questionable. I gave it a stir, strained the froth and poured a big glass for myself and one for Justin. After a quick "cheers" and shrug of the shoulders, it went down the hatch. was good! Our first juice tasted like health in a glass, but not in the "I'm eating grass" sort of way. Both Justin and I agreed that the juice tasted much better than it looked, and when you know that everything you put in your glass is fresh and healthy, you feel a lot better about drinking the liquid murk.

Below is a list of some staple juice ingredients that have become my go-tos.

red chard

Have you ever heard the expression, "Eat the rainbow?" The concept is basically that foods that are naturally vibrant and brightly colored are good for you. One of my favorite things about juicing is the crazy kaleidoscope of colors that it creates.

Even kids could get onboard drinking something so colorful and sweet, which makes juicing a great way to sneak fruits and veggies into your child's diet. 

If you're curious about juicing and its health benefits, I highly recommend watching the documentary "Fat Sick and Nearly Dead." Already juicing? Please feel free to share your favorite juice recipes here. I'm excited to continue the exploration and see what else I can get Justin to drink.