I made bagels the other day. Working at home I’m going a little stir-crazy and looking for distractions.

Bagels aren’t any harder to make than any raised bread. Just mix up a bunch of flour, yeast, and liquid, let it rise, and bake. About the only thing that makes a bagel a bagel is that you boil them before baking.


To shape the bagels you roll the dough into a ball and then press your thumb to make a hole.


They’re surprisingly easy to boil. You drop them in a pot of boiling water, cook them for 2 minutes on one side and then flip them and cook them another minute.

After they’ve boiled you let them dry for a few minutes then brush them with an egg wash and top with seasonings if you want.


Then into the oven for a few minutes and you have bagels!

Homemade Bagels

1 package yeast
1 T sugar
1 3/4 cups warm water
4 cups bread flour
1/2 T salt
1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water for egg wash

Combine the yeast, sugar, and water, set aside.
Mix the flour and salt together, then stir in the yeast mixture.
Mix in a mixer with a dough hook or by hand until smooth

Lightly grease the dough by rolling it around in the bowl with a little oil. Cover and let rise until doubled, around an hour.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

While the dough is rested bring a pot of water to a boil. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Shape the balls into bagels by pressing your thumb through the middle to make a hole. Make it a little bigger than you think you need to, it’ll close in as they cook. Let rest again for about 10 minutes.

Boil for 2 minutes and then flip and boil for one minute longer. You can do as many at once as fit in your pot without crowding.

Let them dry for a moment then move to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. If you’re adding seasoning sprinkle that on a plate and lay the egg-washed bagel on it top side down to cover with the seasoning. I used an everything mix we’d gotten from Trader Joes.

Bake for 20-24 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!

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When Life Gives You Couscous

We made couscous for a side dish the other day and ended up with way too much. Like 3 cups of leftover cooked couscous. I like couscous, but that’s a lot to use up.

I was looking around for what to do with couscous and came across “Couscous for breakfast” ideas. A lot them were what you’d expect, grain bowls with an egg on top, which is nice enough.

But one recipe was a couscous skillet where you stirred cheese and an egg into the couscous and then cooked it in a skillet like a potato rösti.

I grated about a quarter cup of gruyere cheese and stirred it into about 2 cups of couscous with an egg. I pressed that into a small cast iron skillet, it was about an inch thick and cooked it on the stovetop until the bottom was getting brown and crisp.

Then I put it under the broiler to brown the top. It came out crispy on the outside and creamy and cheesy in the middle. So good!

Couscous Skillet

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Garlic Many Ways

Last year my brother’s friend, Brian Bianski [1], gave me some garlic shoots. I didn’t have the first idea what to do with them, so I brought them home and stuck them in the ground.

Nothing happened, and the grass and weeds took over and then Debbie burned it all down with Roundup thinking it was just a weed patch. “Well,” I thought, “that was a failed experiment.”

Then this spring the garlic burst forth.

Garlic Patch

In June the garlic sends out flower buds. You’re supposed to cut those off so the plant will put its energy into the cloves underground. These flower buds are called garlic scapes and they have garlic flavor just like the cloves.

Garlic Scapes

So I had a big bowl full of garlic scapes and wondered what to do with them. I looked up recipes and found a recipe for a double garlic soup that used garlic scapes and green garlic. Scapes, I have plenty of, but what’s green garlic? A little more searching and I found out that green garlic is immature garlic cloves. I’ve got plenty of those too!

Green Garlic

These are a couple I dug from my garlic patch. They’re a little past the ‘green’ stage, but they’re still soft and mild, so close enough!

The scapes and green garlic all went into the pot.

Cooking Scapes

Then I added stock and so on as the recipe below calls for. I made a few croutons with lots of salt and garlic and parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the soup to add a bit of crunch to the bowl.

It was just splendid. A delicious meal from the scraps of pruning the garlic patch and the thoughts of good friends.

Double Garlic Soup
– serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side

3 fat bulbs green garlic
3 Tbsp butter
3 c chopped garlic scapes
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3/4 tsp kosher salt (more to taste, depending on how salty your butter and stock is)
ground black pepper
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 quart chicken stock
1 c half-and-half (or whole milk or cream or skim milk or yogurt, whatever you like)
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly grated nutmeg

Trim the root and green part of the green garlic, and remove the outermost layers, then chop it finely. In a soup pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add green garlic and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic scapes, thyme, salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes.

Stir in diced potato and broth, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until scapes and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add half-and-half, and purée soup with a blender. Stir in the lemon juice and season with more salt and pepper. Garnish with nutmeg and thyme leaves, and serve hot.

Add garlic parmesan croutons to make it a triple garlic soup!

1. I hadn’t seen Brian since high school. A few years after Dave died I was standing in Ranney’s Welding Shop in Churubusco talking with Ranney about welding a part for me and I felt someone staring at me from the side. I turned and he (Brian) said, “Chuck? You freaked me out, you sounded just like Dave.” I think we all still expect to turn and find Dave there.

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When Life Gives You Cherries

My mom moved to a smaller place and gave us her freezer. She cleaned it out, but she had a couple bags of frozen fruit that I said I’d like to have: a bag of pie cherries and a bag of blackberries.

Today’s a cold and rainy Saturday so with nothing else to do I thought it was a good day to do something with that fruit.

Fruit 3 Ways

That’s, from left to right, cherry jam, cherry barbecue sauce, and blackberry barbecue sauce.

The cherry jam is tasty, sweet and tart and tasting like cherries. The cherry bbq sauce is great, hot and spicy with a sweet undertone from the cherries. The blackberry bbq is different, it has smoked paprika and chipotles and it’s smokey and spicy and fruity. I think it will be really good on the right dish, but I’m not sure what dish that is.

Sour Cherry Jam

From “Food In Jars” by Marisa McClellan

About six cups of mashed, pitted sour cherries. That takes about 3 – 4 pounds of pitted, frozen cherries
3 cups sugar
1 packet liquid pectin, or 2 tablespoons of sure-jell


Combine the cherries, sugar, and Sure-Jell in a saucepan and boil for 20 minutes.
(If using liquid pectin add it at the end.) Skim off any foam that arises. After
20 minutes it should be very thick.

Process in a boiling water bath like any jam.

The recipe says this makes 3 pints. I don’t know what I did, but mine made about 3 1/2 half pints. It tastes right, not like it has twice too much sugar.

Sour Cherry Barbecue Sauce

From Serious Eats
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped frozen, pitted cherries
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Saute the onions in the butter until soft, add the garlic and cook until fragrant
Add everything else and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until it’s thickened.
Process in a blender.

Makes about 2 pints.

Blackberry Barbecue Sauce

From Food & Wine


1 pound blackberries
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons seeded and minced chipotles in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons oregano

Saute the onion in the oil until soft, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add everything else except the 1/4 cup minced onion and oregano. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Process in a blender, then stir in the oregano and minced onion.

Makes about 2 pints.

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Just Another Manic Thursday

Dang, “Manic Thursday.” That doesn’t quite work, and “Manic Monday” is so catchy. Oh well.

Pedal to the metal all day at work, and then over to Mom’s to help with a few things. Home at 5pm and what’s for supper? We had a piece of salmon thawed out [1], a nice bunch of greens, and some frozen limas. Et voilà!

Salmon on greens with limas

The whole plate is Asian themed. I tossed together a sauce of soy sauce, garlic, ginger [2], a squeeze of lime juice [3], and red pepper flakes.

Basted the salmon with that sauce and put it under the broiler.

Meanwhile I stir-fried the limas [4], then poured in a cup of chicken broth and cooked them until the broth cooked off. Tossed them with a bit of sesame oil and sesame seeds and we were ready to eat!

We’re eating lighter these days and this was a delightful meal. A bit of protein from the salmon, a lot of veggies, and spicy seasoning to make it all intense and interesting.

1. Thanks to Debbie’s good planning.

2. Minced garlic from a jar and ginger paste from a tube. Am I going to mince garlic and ginger when a deadline is looming? I think not.

3. We had half a lime in the fridge, otherwise I would’ve used a squeeze from that bottle of ‘Real Lemon.’

4. Note to self, thaw the limas first. Otherwise they splatter like crazy when they hit the hot skillet and then the oil in the skillet ignites and then you have a towering column of flame.

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I first had cioppino in 1977. Bruce Wright and I drove a pickup load of stuff out to San Diego for my sister Anne who was moving there. My Uncle Dean (one of my Mom’s brothers) lived there and he took us to the Brigantine [1] on Shelter Island Drive for cioppino.

Cioppino, at least in its roots [2], is a rustic seafood stew. For a 20 year old Indiana country mouse, it was about the most exotic thing I’d ever eaten.

I make cioppino every now and then, and with the weather turning cold it sounded good so I made it again today.


It’s just a tomato and seafood broth with shrimp, fish, mussels, and crab. [3] It’s light and tasty and exotic, and for me, nostalgic.

This is how I made it tonight. I’m the furthest thing in the world from an itinerant fisherman, so there’s probably nothing authentic about it. But it was the best cioppino I’ve ever made, and almost rivaled my memory of the Brigantine’s from 1977.


Main course for 2, with leftovers

Yellow onion
Fennel bulb (with fronds)
Olive oil
4 garlic cloves
4 ice cubes of tomato paste (maybe the same as an 8oz can, I make tomato paste and freeze it in ice cube trays)
2 pint jars crushed tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups of white wine
5 cups seafood stock
bay leaf
seafood (I had a small tilapia fillet, a pound of mussels, one cluster of crab legs, and 10 oz of shrimp)

Roughly chop the onion, fennel bulb, and garlic. Saute them in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on low heat until they’re softened.

Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, stock, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Toss in the fennel fronds. Simmer for a half hour or so.

Fish out the bay leaf and fennel fronds, then puree it in a blender.

Return to the pan and cook until it’s thickened a bit. Taste and add salt, pepper, and red pepper to your taste.

At this point you can refrigerate or let it simmer until it’s almost time to eat.

About 10 minutes before eating time throw in your seafood. Bring it to a boil and then crank back to a simmer until the seafood is done.

Enjoy with crusty bread and remember 1977.

1. It’s still there. But there’s no cioppino on their online menu. I was in San Diego in 2006 or thereabouts and went there for supper out of nostalgia.

2. In its roots it’s what the fisherman ate, cooking what they couldn’t otherwise sell. Now it’s an expensive restaurant dish.

3. That’s what I had left over after selling my catch at the docks! Hahaha! No, that’s what looked good in our very limited seafood choices here in northeastern Indiana.

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Horseradish Season

Any month with an ‘r’ in it, that’s horseradish season. April’s a good time to do it, because the ground’s not frozen.

Spenser and Owen (the Wonder Dogs) and I went out and dug 4 nice roots today.


Here they are all cleaned up. Then I peel them with a vegetable peeler.


Next I chopped them up and into the food processor they go.


Those chunks were too big, they just spun in the food processor. I dumped them out and chopped them up a little more. That worked.


The longer the chopped horseradish is exposed to air, the hotter it gets. This stuff was hot to start with and soon was suitable for use as a chemical weapon. I poured in a few tablespoons of white vinegar and a pinch of salt and gave it a buzz in the processor to stop the heat.

Of course we had a pretty jar to put it in.


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Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Well, not exactly a trip to New Orleans but we celebrated Mardi Gras in style on Skunk Hill.

Champagne (prosecco, actually)

A Bit of the Bubbly

Then as we call it, “Fish, Debbie Style.” Pan fried fish with a dusting of cajun spices and a generous dollop of meunière sauce. Add a side of creamy seafood dirty rice.

Fish – Debbie Style

And because we’re letting the good times roll we topped it off it with sweet potato pecan pie.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

I like to end these posts with a wry, yet poignant comment, but tonight I’m just enjoying the good times with my beloved.

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New Year’s Resolutions

Like everyone else we resolved to eat healthier at New Year’s Eve. More fruit, more veggies, less refined carbs, less fat, less sugar. Yadda, yadda, yadda, heard it all before.

We do pretty good at getting vegetables, but fruit is always an issue. Fruit is dessert to me and that’s hardly a New Year’s Eve resolution solution.

I was watching a cooking show and the chef made a chicken, shrimp, and fruit salad. Poached chicken and shrimp, oranges, apples, and grapes tossed with lime juice and garnished with fried garlic and shallots, and chopped peanuts.

Sounds weird (or even nasty), right? When he was making it I thought it would be horrible, but it looked good, and thinking of my resolutions I decided to give it a try.

Chicken, Shrimp, and Fruit Salad

That’s a pretty salad! And it was shockingly good. Light and fresh. The apples soak up the lime dressing and are scrumptious.

Over 2 weeks into February and we’re still hanging in there with our New Year’s resolutions!

Chicken, Shrimp, and Fruit Salad

2 generous main course salads

¼ teaspoon salt
1 Granny Smith or other cooking apple
1 to 2 cups seedless grapes, cut in half
1 orange, segmented,
1 tablespoon garlic, fried
½ cup shallots, fried
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
16 medium shrimp
4 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice or lemon juice
2 to 3 serrano chilies
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

Slice a few garlic cloves thin and slice a shallot thin. Fry gently in oil until just browned. Drain the garlic and shallots on paper towels and save the delicious oil for something else.

Cut the chicken into long thin strips and poach gently until done, maybe 5 minutes. Remove from the poaching liquid and set aside.

Poach the shrimp in the same liquid until done, maybe 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

When the chicken and shrimp have cooled you can shred or dice the chicken. You can leave the shrimp whole or dice them too if you like uniformity. I left mine whole.

Combine the chicken, shrimp, and peanuts and set aside. The salad is served at room temp.

Combine 1 teaspoon salt, the sugar, and the lime juice in a small bowl and mix. Instead of salt I used about 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce and I recommend that highly. If you don’t have fish sauce, soy sauce would be nice instead.

Set aside. Use as many or as few chilies as you like. I used about 1/2 of a big jalapeno and diced it fine. Dice or cut into fine rounds as you prefer.

Slice the cilantro leaves as fine or coarse as you like. Set aside.

Peel and slice or dice the apple.

Combine the apples, grapes, oranges, chicken, shrimp, and peppers in a large bowl. Add the lime juice and sugar mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so to soak in the dressing.

Garnish with the reserved shallots, garlic, and cilantro leaves.

Based on a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery

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Rendering Lard

As a finale to our hog butchering we rendered lard today.

If you’ve never rendered lard it’s the process of cooking pig fat until it liquefies. Then you strain it and chill it, and you end up with the very essence of piggy goodness for frying or for anything you use cooking oil [1]. Popcorn, popped in lard, is sublime.

You start by cutting all the fat from the pig into cubes. The smaller the cubes, the faster it renders. But on the other hand, the smaller you cut the cubes, the longer it takes to finish butchering. We [2] were weary on our feet by the time we cut up two hogs, so the fat cubes were about 2 inches on a side.

Once you have a bunch of pig fat you build a fire under your butchering kettle. The kettle is cast iron and about 3 feet in diameter [3]. You can move it by yourself, but once it’s over the fire and too hot to touch, it’s a two man lift.

You throw your pork fat cubes into the kettle and start stirring so they don’t burn.

Stage 1
Stage 1

See how beautifully clean that kettle is [3.5]!

You stoke the fire and keep the fat at a slow simmer, and in an hour or so the fat is browning nicely.

Stage 2
Stage 2

We had pieces that were mostly meat, and at this point we were pulling those out and salting and eating them. The most ridiculously delicious thing you can imagine [5].

Once you’ve rendered all the lard (you can tell you’re done by pressing a chunk of fat against the side of the kettle, if white fat squishes out, you’re not done) put the fat chunks in your lard press [6] and squeeze all the lard out. Then tip your fat chunks, which are now cracklin’s, into a bowl, salt them, and eat!


But that’s just a bonus. The main point is to gather lard. We strained the lard through cheesecloth and ended up with about 2 gallons of lard. Once you strain it and chill it, it’s a lovely white color.


It’s disturbing to raise your own meat. You take care of your animals, you make sure they’re well fed, have clean water, and have a dry and warm place to sleep. And then you kill and eat them. But meat doesn’t come wrapped in plastic in a grocery store. Using every last bit of pork, even to rendering the lard, respects that for us to eat, something had to die.

1. We all know animal fats are a sure route to a heart attack, and the only guarantee of a long and healthy life is to use margarine. Well, no, not margarine as we recently learned. Trans fats, from which margarine is made, are death itself. The only guarantee of a long and healthy life is to not consume trans fats. Whatever you do, don’t eat margarine, or lard. Only use Crisco which consists of a blend of soybean oil, fully hydrogenated palm oil, and partially hydrogenated palm and soybean oils. Then you will live long and prosper.

2. As usual, when I say “we” I mean “me.”

3. If you think about it for a moment, you might think, “How often do you use a butchering kettle? And where do you store it between times?” The answers to that are “Almost never.” and “In the barn.” So getting the kettle ready meant that we[4] wire brushed it for half an hour and scrubbed it with fat and salt and rinsed and scrubbed and rinsed and scrubbed.

3.5 You did read footnote 3, didn’t you?

4. In this case “we” does not mean “me.” It’s not my filthy kettle. Tom did all that.

5. If eating this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

6. You do have a lard press, don’t you?

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