Saturday, July 7, 2012

My gringa tortillas

Today, I want to share my newest cooking challenge with you. See, one of my goals for the month is to eat down the pantry, so I'm participating in the Pantry Challenge over at Good (Cheap) Eats. In addition, in our never-ending prep to run for the border, we are attempting to become accustomed to eating like locals, as well as making as much of our own food as possible. Sure, we can head to the store and easily buy tortillas for a pretty cheap price. But for the price of the tortillas, we could just buy an entire bag of masa harina. I usually just call this maseca, since that's the most popular brand. So I recently bought a bag of maseca (but not Maseca), thinking I'd attempt to make tortillas.

Today, I set out to do just that, following this super simple but highly-rated recipe. First, per the directions, I mixed 1 3/4 cups of maseca with 1 1/8 cup hot water.

I mixed it well and kneaded it for a bit, until it was wet enough to stick together but dry enough not to stick to my hands - I had to add a little extra water to it, about another 1/8 cup. Then I covered it tightly with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Then I divided the dough into 16 balls. The recipe says 15, but I find continuously dividing into roughly equal halves is easier for me.

I found that the balls of dough were a little too dry, and the edges cracked as I flattened them. They still tasted good, but they just weren't very pretty.

I ended up dipping each one in a little water, kneading it in my hands to get it moist throughout, and then shaping and flattening. Once on the griddle, I let it sit until it started to smoke and no longer stuck to the griddle when I tried to push it to the side. Then I flipped it over and let it go. I usually repeated the flipping a couple times, until they had some little toasted golden-brown spots. Most of the time, the ultimate shape was anything but round. As you can see in the pic, though, the tortillas got progressively less cracked around the edges (moving left to right on the griddle) as I figured out to add a little more water.

My very last tortilla of the bunch, though, was beautiful! I think that I finally figured out a workable technique.

I smooshed the dough into the water, kneaded it well in my hands, re-rolled it into a ball, placed it between the sides of a quart-size ziploc, and used a plate to flatten it. My hint: don't put the plate on top and smoosh down evenly. Instead, put the edge of the plate on the counter so that the plate and the counter form a 45 degree angle. Then flatten the plate over the tortilla, so that it kind of rolls the dough out. Clearly, if we had a tortilla press, it would do the same thing. P-Daddy thinks we need one, but I didn't think using the plate was too bad.

As the tortillas come off the griddle, place them in a towel. Just keep adding until they are all ready. Wrap the towel around them so that the tortillas steam themselves for a few minutes.

When you finish you'll have a gorgeous (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, remember?!) stack of tortillas for everyone to chow down on.

Just load them up with whatever filling you want, like this pork roast that P-Daddy made in an effort to clear out some of the meat in our freezer. YUM!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More Fourth of July memories

When I was living outside of the US, July 4th became really meaningful to me. I remember one year I was traveling with a friend and stopped to see a friend of mine who was a long-time resident of Guatemala, but who had a home here in the US. Their little town was festive with red, white, and blue. After a day out on the water, we headed to the bay to see the fireworks show.

It was a normal fireworks show, but the group of us were hilarious: me, my expat friends, and the friend I was traveling with, who had only recently become a US citizen. For all of us, being able to watch the show that year was a special treat! As I watched, my love for home and country almost overwhelmed me. Sounds corny, I know. But living outside of the US doesn't mean I'm not patriotic, it just means I like living outside the US.

That same year, when I was talking about traveling over the 4th and possibly missing the fireworks, my sister had said, "Why do you care? You don't even live here!" I realized then that my choices would be misunderstood, that people would think I lived elsewhere because I did not want to live in the US, and that my motives would be questioned, even by people that know me well. So be it. I cannot live my life and make my choices afraid of what other people may think of me.

But as we head into July 4th this year, let me say that I love my country, no matter where in the world I happen to be!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fourth of July Memories

Last year for July 4th, my parents invited us out to their place, and to a big fireworks display that some friends of theirs put on. We got there right before it started, tossed our chairs on the lawn, and sat back to enjoy a great show.

We all really enjoyed it, including Pooh, who loved seeing all the colors, sparkles, and variety. What he did not love was the noise. The show went on and on, which was great, but the poor kiddo was not at all happy with the loud noises. So he spent the whole show like this:

P-Daddy was very sweet and patient throughout the whole thing. I have such a great husband! And a great kiddo! Just a great family overall!

This year we are headed out to my parents' again, but we are not likely to head over to the fireworks show again due to my dad's immobility. Perhaps we'll have to create a little show of our own...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

"I'm gonna try" July

I'm a big planner. I love setting goals, making lists (and marking off things as I finish them), creating step-by-step plans, and getting organized in my thinking. I find that when I don't set goals, I tend to not accomplish things at all. So I'm working on setting realistic goals - I might not quite reach them, but I'll get further than I am now!

Crystal over at Money Saving Mom sets 10 weekly goals, broken down into the 4 categories of family/mothering, personal, home management, and business. I'm not quite ready to jump into that many weekly goals, but I think I can handle 10 monthly goals!

So without further ado, here are the 10 goals I am setting for "I'm gonna try" July:
1. Tell P-Daddy I love him on a daily basis
2. Complete at least 2 preschool packs with Pooh
3. Plan and implement at least 2 family outings

4. Eat clean with no more than 20% of calories as treats
5. Find an exercise routine that works for me and my schedule

Home Management:
6. Eat down the freezer by joining the pantry challenge at Good (Cheap) Eats
7. Organize the junk room
8. Keep the family room uncluttered

9. Prepare grant application
10. Submit 3 manuscripts for publication

I'll try to check in now and again on how they are going!