Making bagels for lunch with cream cheese, avocado, and tomato
What started as an endeavour to make my own lunch and eat less calories for fat loss ended up being a pretty fun adventure into making bagels – a lunch food that I found I could actually stick with and not get bored of.
If you don’t know me that well yet, I’m only a cook by marriage (my last name is Cooke 😛) and have little to no skills in a kitchen. I’ve written on learning to cook, but the fact of the matter is that I also couldn’t be bothered making my own lunch when working from home. When I worked full time from our office, we were spoiled every day by having chefs cook our breakfast and lunch.
Even before I moved out of my parents’, I dreamed of being able to take control and make my own lunch instead of my mum doing it for me. When our offices closed in March 2020 and we were made to work from home, it should’ve been a perfect opportunity to make my own lunch, but I just couldn’t find the motivation to do it until five months later. 😅
I started with salad, since I was just buying prepackaged salad and knew I could make my own that was better tasting and a bit more cost efficient. I’d also be going through far less plastic waste.
After many months I moved onto bagels. I can’t remember what encouraged me, but I’m pretty sure it was a case of walking around the supermarket and getting enticed by all the upsells that I noticed Smoking Gun Bagels being sold at Coles in the bread aisle. I’d been meaning to try Smoking Gun Bagels ever since I came across them on Instagram, and now I could just buy them in my local supermarket!
🍞 lol I tried to toast my bagels in the toaster
Alas, I am now a bagel snob. But before I decided to “up my bagel game”, you should know about my first attempt to toast my bagel in the toaster. I used a pretty standard butter knife to cut my bagel in half and pop it in our toaster (which holds two pieces of bread). A combination of cutting the bagel with a poor butter knife and having to stand the bagel halves vertically in a toaster meant that the result was pretty awful.
I ended up with way too many crumbs in the toaster, and my bagel halves just looked sad.
We have a sandwich press at home. It was something my mum gave to me a very long time ago, well before I moved out. She asked me if she thought I would need one and I honestly just shrugged it off and said I didn’t mind. I mean, she was paying, right? 🤪 In three years of living with Nick, we used the sandwich press perhaps once. And now I use it every day for my bagels. 😂 I didn’t think about using it until I casually asked a friend if a bagel would be better toasted in the toaster, or with a sandwich press. Needless to say, it made my life a lot easier!
There were also a couple of times I didn’t toast the bagel… yeah, don’t do that. They just don’t taste as good.
🐟 The lox bagel
No bagel endeavour would really be complete without trying the much loved lox – that is, smoked salmon and cream cheese – bagel. Unless, of course, you don’t eat salmon.
I’m lactose intolerant, and although I can eat most block cheese, I don’t have a fun time with more creamy cheese (and milk and ice-cream especially). So I set out to find some cream cheese that either had no lactose or was vegan. I was excited to see Sheese – gluten, lactose, and dairy-free vegan cream cheese – stocked in my local Coles supermarket. I highly, highly recommend Sheese. I haven’t dived deep into vegan block cheese, and my last attempt found me disliking any coconut-based cheese. I’ve heard cashew-based cheese is better, but I haven’t really spent some time looking.
Sheese is made with soy (even though it does have coconut oil in it), and ends up tasting as close to real cream cheese as you can get. I immediately wanted to try the black pepper flavour because I adore peppery flavours, but there is a plain one as well.
My first bagels were smothered with Sheese and then topped with slices of smoked Tasmanian salmon. I buy the Tassal brand, because it feels like it would be a sin as an Australian to really buy any other salmon? I don’t know, you tell me. 😉
🥑 This is the part where I (eventually) learned to cut an avocado
I’m still not super great at picking avocados, but I think I should get better with time. I asked my avocado enthusiast friend, Chris, for some tips, and I still don’t know how he manages to magically have a good avocado almost every damn day, apart from just being adequately prepared. But I definitely had a lot of bad avocados during my time, and cut a few open when they were still not ripe. 🤦🏻♀️ Chris suggested to put them in the sun or next to a banana to make them softer. (But really, who just randomly has a banana? Also, I avoid them like the plague because they make me constipated, haha.) I did this a few times and it helped, but more often than not, I would still cut open the avocado too soon. It was mostly those Shepherd avocados… 😂
I don’t think I’m at the stage where I’m ready to just stockpile avocados. I usually buy 1–3 at a time, and depending on whether I need one today or tomorrow, I make sure that one of them is pretty much ready to eat, while the others will be “ready soon”. I think I will get used to it, eventually.
As for cutting an avocado, I just didn’t know how to go about slicing it. When I was younger, I just scooped out the avocado with a spoon. It was often a mess. I remember eating avocado by scooping it out from the skin and eating it just like that. So Chris passed on his suggestion which he actually got from our chef at work – cut the avocado into quarters, peel the skin off, and then slice them. 🤯
Don’t look at me funny, they don’t teach you this in school!
I’m still not fabulous at slicing avocados. I have a general fear of knives in the kitchen and I’m not comfortable with using one, so I have to really take my time. I found that slicing avocados that are too soft ends up being a bit of a mess, because the avocado gets smushed in your fingers as you are trying to hold it to slice it. 😆
🍅 Really Good Tomatoes™, aka. “these tomatoes really get me”
I have been accosted for the amount of tomatoes I put on my bagels. You’re welcome. I have a thing for tomatoes. I don’t know what it is, but it was about five years ago that I realised that, when tomatoes are really good – they are really fucking good. 🤤 And sometimes I don’t stand for less-than-good tomatoes.
I work for a company that provides us with cooked breakfast and lunch (of course, they didn’t do it while we worked from home!). Sometimes breakfast involves grilled tomatoes. It became a running joke after I came downstairs with my plate of breakfast food back in 2016 and exclaimed, “Oh my god, these tomatoes are so good. These tomatoes really get me”.
I tried grape-shaped perino tomatoes on my bagels, but I found that slicing them resulted in really awkward shapes. Since then, I bought a punnet of cherry tomatoes, and cut the little round tomatoes into halves. I soon found out that cherry tomatoes can vary in size and I would have to adapt my slicing method, so I went from halves, to quarters, to… uh, what do you call it when you cut a little tomato into six pieces? Sixths?
Basically, I would cut the tomato in half, and then cut each half into thirds. Most of the time, regardless of size, that method gives me the most optimal size of tomato wedges (or slices?) and they also end up looking nicer. Sometimes the really small cherry tomatoes are fine just being cut into quarters.
👩🏻🍳 Assembling the bagel
It is here where there are definitely a few failed attempts on account of selecting Bad Avocados or being unable to slice avocados nicely.
With one of my first attempts, I can’t even remember exactly how I sliced the avocado, but I must have tried to use a serrated table knife and almost tried to create a “smashed avocado” look to disguise the fact that I had failed to slice the avocado well. I’ve since decided that smashing avocado is not always necessary. Hahaha.
When I first started assembling my bagels, I left the hole in the centre open and tried not to cover it. The better I got at slicing my avocado, the less I stopped caring about trying not to cover the hole, because I began to fan out the slices of avocado over the surface of the bagel. I don’t know if this is like – a bagel sin, to be covering the centre of the bagel, but fuck it. Your bagels are what you make them, I say. 🥯
It also took me a few tries to realise that it was better to add the smoked salmon slices directly on top of the layer of Sheese and then put the avocado slices on top, instead of trying to put the salmon on top of slices of avocado. The avocado slices are also not as malleable as smoked salmon slices (depending on how soft your avocado is, I guess).
The way I arrange my tomato slices on my bagels depends on my mood and honestly depends on how well it’s going to sit on the avocado without it dropping off. Having the slices fall off while you’re eating the bagel is inevitable, so I’m not extremely concerned about that part – it also happens to be a lesson in balance and mastication. 😂
This was one of my experiments when I ran out of avocado and opted for baby spinach instead. I went all out on the tomato, so much so that it looks like a damn tomato wheel. Hahaha.
So really, whatever goes. But I also like them going around in a bit of a circle to mimic the roundness of the bagel, with all the tomato slices facing the same way.
Smoked salmon usually adds some saltiness to the bagel, and the cream cheese already has pepper in it, but I think a bit extra for garnish doesn’t hurt. 😊
Yeahhhh, bagels! 🥯
It’s been at least a few months that I’ve stuck to this routine of making bagels almost every weekday for lunch. I’m pretty chuffed, not gonna lie – I’ve found a food that I can eat almost every day that I’ve not gotten sick of yet, and that I can vary if I need to. If I don’t have access to a good avocado, then I can make myself a lox bagel or one just plain with Sheese, and tomatoes can be optional. I have also used spinach leaves and layered them thickly over the Sheese! I always look forward to and enjoy my bagels – this coming from a girl who had a history of hating bread and anything remotely like it.
I think my next endeavour will be to try a bruschetta bagel of sorts… me loving my tomatoes and all. I don’t know if that will be considered an abomination, but come on, I’m allowed.