Wednesday, July 1, 2015

10 Things I Learned In June

At the end of each month, I share things I learned. This habit helps me pay attention to life, myself, and God's presence. It's my way of reflecting and celebrating. In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned this month.

1. My kids' desire to watch television can be leveraged in so many ways. 

We created a list of things they need to do before having the privilege of any screen time. Parents win.

2. I have passed the age when I could eat whatever I wanted without any consequence. 

Steve and I went out on a date to celebrate our anniversary, where we ate all sorts of delicious yet heavy/greasy food. The next morning my stomach felt all sorts of horrible.

3. Our whole lives hinge on the health of our souls. 

How often do we consider that reality? I read Soul Keeping by John Ortberg, a powerful and insightful book about discovering and nurturing the soul.

4. Summer is made for drinking Moscow Mules.

5. Carrying my chubby 3-month old baby is the equivalent of going to the gym several times a week.

Which is sort of perfect, since I don't have the will power to exercise in any regular way these days. I'm not sure exactly how many pounds she weighs, but my back and shoulders have been so sore.

6. It is easy to see and criticize other people's flaws. The hard, painful work is in seeing our own flaws.

7. There is a site called My Morning Routine, where people from all kinds of places and professions share about how they begin the day. 

I'm intrigued by the habits that different people practice to live out their purpose.

8. Birkenstocks make my feet happy.

They are so comfortable, and go with everything (at least in Hawaii's tropical climate)...why did I not realize this earlier?

9. I need to stay connected with creative people. 

There are people in my life who are visionary, risk-takers, and creators of new and beautiful things. These people inspire and nurture the creator in me, and I constantly need that fuel to thrive.

10. Whenever I feel aimless or overwhelmed, my Daily Checklist serves as my guide. 

For over two years, I've had generally the same checklist of important daily tasks, and it is just as relevant and helpful as ever. In addition to my original list, I also added one more: be present to people. The challenge for me right now is how to work through my checklist during the hazy season of parenting three little ones on less than ideal sleep.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Blog Update: New Recipe Page!

Hello, readers!

I've been doing some spring cleaning on The Larissa Monologues site, hoping to give it a simpler look and make it more user friendly.

I also created a new feature, a Recipe page, where you can find every recipe organized into categories. You can browse by categories such as Desserts & Sweets, Family Favorites, or Local Hawaiian Cuisine. Or you can simply use the search feature to look for recipes by keywords. Now it'll be easier to find recipes around here. Yay!

While I indexed recipes, I had a few revelations.
  1. The birth of my blog coincided with when I first started to love cooking. I suppose me posting recipes and kitchen endeavors on the blog makes sense since they began at the same time. 
  2. The very first recipe I ever posted was Slow Cooker Kalua Pig, which continues to be one of my all-time favorites. 
  3. Lemony Lemon Bread, Haupia Squares, and Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies are the most searched for recipes by readers.
  4. There is a severe lacking of salad recipes around here. 
  5. But lots of chocolate desserts and sangria. Those are obviously the most important food groups.
Happy cooking.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bagel Bombs

Bagel Bombs. They are a thing. A delicious doughy thing stuffed with warm bacon cream cheese that explodes in the oven.

They originally hail from New York's Milk Bar, where baking queen Christina Tosi does insane things with flour and butter. And they are so scrumptious, they are worth making at home. When I bake these, my family thinks I am a culinary wizard.

This recipe has several components, but don't be intimidated by it - they're easy to put together. The dough, cream cheese filling, and bagel mix can all be made ahead of time. If I can make these in the afternoon while tending to three young kids, you can probably do it too.

A few cooking tips...
  • This recipe makes 16 3-inch bombs. But you can go really crazy, and make 8 huge ones. 
  • Bacon cream cheese could easily be transformed into smoked salmon cream cheese, lemon curd cream cheese, etc. The possibilities are endless! If you make a sweeter cream cheese filling, omit the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • You will have 1/2 the dough recipe. Use it to make homemade pizza or something else delicious later. 
Bagel Bombs
Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar
print this recipe

1/2 recipe of Mother Dough (recipe below)
1 recipe Bacon Cream Cheese, frozen
1 recipe of Everything Bagel Mix
1 egg (for egg wash)
1/2 teaspoon water

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Punch down and flatten the dough on a smooth, dry countertop. Use a dough cutter to divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Use your fingers to gently stretch each piece of dough out into a mini pizza between 2 and 3 inches wide. Put a cream cheese mound in the center of each dough circle. Bring up the edges of each round and pinch to seal so that the cream cheese mound is completely contained, then gently roll the ball between the palms of your hands to ensure the bomb has a nice, round, dinner roll-y shape. Arrange the bombs 2 inches apart on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet.

Whisk the egg and water together and brush a generous coat of egg wash on the buns. Sprinkle a heavy even coating of the bagel mix all over the bagel bombs–every possible inch, except for the bottoms, should be coated.

Bake the bagel bombs for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature up to 375 degrees, and bake for 5-10 minutes more. While in the oven, the bombs will become a deep golden brown and a few may have cream cheese explosions. Continue baking until you see this happen! Not to worry– serve them as is or use your fingers to tuck the cream cheese back inside the bagel bomb. Bagel bombs are best served warm out of the oven-or flashed in the oven later to warm and serve. If you can’t finish them all right away, once they are cool, wrap them well in plastic and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. Makes 16.

Mother Dough
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 packet (or 1 1/8 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups water

Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer– do it by hand, using the dough hook like a spoon. Continue stirring by hand as you add the water, mixing for 1 minute, until the mixture has come together into a shaggy mass.

Engage the bowl and hook and have the machine mix the dough on the lowest speed for 3 minutes, or until the ball of dough is smoother and more cohesive. Then knead for 4 more minutes on the lowest speed. The dough should look like a wet ball and should bounce back softly when prodded.

Brush a large bowl with oil and dump the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap and then let the dough proof at room temperature for 45 minutes.

The dough is ready to be used. If you do not plan to use your mother dough the day you make it, you can store it in an airtight container at least twice its size in the fridge for up to 3 days. Take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature 30 to 45 minutes before using.

Bacon Cream Cheese
1 3/4 oz bacon
8 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it’s auburn brown and crunchy. Remove it from the pan and chop it into small pieces; reserve it and, separately, the bacon fat in the pan.

Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream it on medium speed. Pour in the reserved bacon fat and paddle to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the chopped bacon, scallions, sugar, and salt and paddle briefly to incorporate.

Scoop the cream cheese mixture onto a quarter sheet pan in 16 even lumps. Freeze until rock hard, for at least 1 hour. Once the plugs are frozen solid, they are ready to be used, or they can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Everything Bagel Mix
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon dried onions
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix everything together.