Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Assessment

Well, folks, the most recent numbers are in for the Cheap Eat Challenge this month. After adjusting for the vitamin credit ($20) and the entertaining credit ($25--you can have a look at the rules here), we spent $225.22, which comes up to $7.26/day. We tend to hover around there, don't we?

The breakdown is as follows:

Produce: $75.97
Dairy: $40.70
Grain: $29.80
Meat/Eggs: $31.06
Sweets/Sugars: $21.96
Beans/Nuts/Legumes: $31.37
Fats/Condiments: $19.71
Misc: $5.65
If you long for obsessive compulsive info about what we spent or what we ate, check out the links.

What we wasted: 

A bit more than normal actually, though still very little.
-Several hard-boiled eggs--they just got too old after Easter. Sigh.
-a serving of bean dip that wasn't that good, but that I intended to eat anyway, but then it just got too old. I was a little relieved.
-Several mostly uneaten pieces of naan--we had kids over and they didn't like the dal. I knew I should have started people out with half pieces
-Oodles of bread crusts, though the geese that come to our backyard have gotten lots this month too.
-Crackers with PB--bits here and there. it drives me a little crazy, but what to do.
-A little bit of applesauce from kids' lunches.

How we cheated:

-I didn't count foods I bought specifically for my birthday. It was a gift to me.
-I'm not counting full milk share or CSA costs, as at this time of year there's not a whole lot of food coming in from these sources. The cows milk supply is quite low right now and the CSA just barely started getting a crop (naturally). I counted $8.00 from our milk share and $6 from our CSA. This, of course, is total cheating, but by way of making excuses for myself, part of the reason I do these things is to be involved in my local food scene, not just to be a cheapskate. However, the cheapskate within is expecting that they will also prove to be financially beneficial as well.

A realization and a change:

A realization: When I began this blog, I really wanted to do the whole $6/day thing by using some local sources and by eating humanely raised meats. I think we've done pretty darn well in this department, but we have not yet been able to hit $6/day or even get in the $6 range (even with our cheating ways as noted above). I still believe that this is humanly possible to do while eating nutritiously and perhaps even including a little bit of meat. We could cut out at least $10 of chocolate/chocolate chip costs in the month, for example. And we could probably reduce our milk intake somewhat without ill effect. However, I don't think it's something my family is willing to do.
A change: However, I'm still curious to see if we can do the $6/day thing (or at least hit the $6/range). I've put some thought into it. For the month of June I'm going to be buying regular old meat from the regular old grocery store. I can't, at this point, get rid of my CSA (nor do I wish to), but I'm going to count the produce I get from it at grocery store costs--meaning that if I get 3 lb of peaches in June, I'm simply going to see how much they're costing at the regular grocery store that week and count them for that price. Same thing with milk. My purpose in this is to see how much our food each month would cost us if we were just regular old Joes buying regular old food from the regular old Walmart (or Aldi as it were).

And from there on: In July, we'll go back to our humanely raised meat. Also, I'll start counting the full milk share cost (regardless of how much milk I get from it) and the full CSA cost (regardless of how much produce we get from it). And see how much we end up spending while using and supporting these local resources. I believe that this is how we'll do it for the rest of the year. It won't be $6/day, but I expect it will be well under $10.

Here's to good food that doesn't break the bank!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Some Memorial Day Inspiration

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

In case you're desperately scouring the web in need of a couple fabulous backyard party ideas, here are a few for you.

1. Smitten Kitchen's Strawberry Cake. I haven't tried it, but it's in the oven now (I did half barley flour and half white flour) and boy oh boy did it look pretty.

2. Potato Salad.

3. Kip's Chocolate Chip Cookies. Just sub in some red, white, and blue M & M's.

4. Pioneer Woman's Layered Salad. Simple, pretty, and very good.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

Still waiting for that recipe for naan to go with your dal, aren't you?

Don't worry; it is so worth your wait.

Naan is easy to make and beyond tasty. However, I must confess that it is not a bread to make when you've gotten home from work after a long day and are starved and exhausted. (Although the leftovers are just lovely, so if you've got some of those hanging around....) It is not hard to make, nor is it very time consuming in hands-on effort. However, it is a yeasty bread that must rise. It's going to take you at least 1 1/2 hours from start to finish (again, most of this is just rising time, but still...) Save it for a nice Saturday, but do make it. And, do yourself a favor and make a lot because they leftovers reheat wonderfully.

If breads are old hat to you, you can make this fancy by adding spices or herbs. Some things I think might be good: garlic, rosemary, dill, parsely, tarragon.

You can eat these plain. They're definitely that good. Or you can serve with dal, butter, peanut butter, or anything you'd put in a tortilla or wrap.

adapted from mybakingaddiction.com
makes about 10
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Cost: $.80
(yeast: .05, sugar: .05, milk: .03, egg: .10, whole wheat flour: .36, white flour: .21)

1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 C warm water
1/4 C white sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp salt
2 C whole wheat flour
2 1/2 C white flour

In large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and 1-2 C flour. Add another cup flour and then add flour y 1/2 cups until you can't mix it with a spoon anymore. Turn it out onto the counter to knead, add extra flour as it becomes necessary. Remember that you want to keep your ball of dough nice and supple--not sticky, but not a hard ball of dough either. (Although naan is much more forgiving of mistakes than a loaf of bread or rolls; that's one of the things to love about it.)

Let rise an hour or until it's doubled in size.

Punch it down. Note: At this point, if you'd like to get fancy, you can knead in minced garlic, rosemary, or any other herbs you'd like to fancify your bread.

Pinch off pieces of dough about the size of golf bass. Roll into balls and let these rise for about 20 more minutes. (Note: If you're pressed for time, you can skimp on this rising time and still get great bread.)

Heat cast iron skillet (or another skillet that can get hot; the grill would work too if you're skilled in that area). I heat to a bit above medium. Lightly oil skillet.

Roll out dough as thin as you can and as circular as possible. Place dough on skillet. You can brush it with butter for a special treat, but I usually don't. Cook 2-3 minutes on first side until it starts to get little puffy air pockets. It'll look like this:
(If by any chance it doesn't look like this, don't despair. It will probably still be fine. Check your heat and make sure it's not too low.)

Flip it and cook on other side for another minute or until lightly browned. And then keep going.


Friday, May 27, 2011

An Award

I recently received an award from Successful...Together. I haven't received a blogging award before so that was pretty exciting. Thank you, Angie.

Here are the rules that come with this award:

#1 You thank the person that awarded it to you and list a link back to them

#2 Tell 7 things about yourself

#3 Pay it forward by sending it to your favorite recently found new bloggers

#4 Contact the blogger that you have awarded and make them aware.

Here are seven things about me:

1. I have 4 children. I suppose that some would say that shouldn't be the first thing on this list because a woman's children shouldn't be the thing that defines her. Please. What's supposed to define me; my breast size? Anyway, yes, 4 children and they do define me. They've been gifts and more than anything else in my life, they've helped me discover who I really am. Ironic, that.

2. I live on 1 1/2 acres of land and I cannot stop digging out gardens. I'm planning to seek counseling soon. 

3. We have a cat and 2 ducks. We had 6 other ducks. Two were carried off during a bad thunderstorm and the other 4 followed a boy duck in the neighborhood to another yard. My husband grieved by buying two more. I can only imagine what will happen when our children leave home. 

4. I love chocolate. And also cake. I'm planning to seek counseling for that soon as well. Of course I've been planning that for a while now.

5. I love to walk. And do push ups (at least I love it after I've done push ups). And yoga.

6. My favorite vegetables all start with 'a': artichokes, asparagus, avocado. I'd never eaten any of those vegetables until a few years into my marriage.

7. I have a husband who recently helped me plant 5 new fruit trees even though he didn't want any more trees in our yard. (They were 75% off at Lowe's. I couldn't help myself. I was possessed by tree fairies. Also, yes, seeking counseling, soon, right, soon.) Now that's a man. 

I decided to pass this award to Alyssa at Cupcake Apothecary. Her blog is new, but she seems to be going at it full throttle. And, yes, she posts more than just cupcakes. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Pop Popcorn in a Pot

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.

Popcorn is one of those foods that sort of drops off my radar and then, blammo, one day I get a fearsome craving for some, nice and hot with a sprinkle of salt if you please. (Also, if everyone could please say, 'how to pop popcorn in a pot' three times quickly, I'd really appreciate it.)

Yesterday was one such day. As I shook those kernels over the stove, it occurred to me that some might not know how to prepare popcorn in such a way. I know that when I was young and single and my cooking skills consisted of boiling water for pasta and opening a can of spaghetti sauce, I had no idea. And then I lived in Taiwan for a couple of months with a bunch of girls who'd get occasional hankerings for American food. I'm guessing we couldn't buy it in the microwave variety. Or perhaps we didn't have a microwave. At any rate, people would pop it up in the pan and I learned how too.

Which is great for so many reasons. It takes popcorn from processed to whole food (or, rather, you are in complete control of most of the processing). It's much much cheaper than popcorn in a bag. It makes it so you don't have to buy the one-use gadget that popcorn poppers are. And you have no idea how wickedly fun it is for toddlers and young children to watch (just be sure you've got the old lid on first). It's, like, the best magic trick ever.

My oldest daughter asked to have some in her lunch and my youngest daughter was grunting in demand for the popped corn, and it occurred to me that this was a tidy snack to take on walks or send in lunchboxes. And it is much healthier than fruit snacks. Can I get an amen?

How to Pop Popcorn in a Pan

Oops--I'll take pictures to go with next time I make popcorn, but I promise that it's such an easy thing, you don't really need them.

1. You'll need a pot with a handle and a lid that fits well.

2. Pour enough oil (I use canola) into the bottom of the pot to coat the bottom. It needn't be thick, but it should cover the bottom of the pan.

3. Set heat at medium and place 2-3 kernels of popcorn in the bottom of the pot. Put the lid on and wait for them to pop. When they pop, you know you're oil is at the right temperature. (Of course, if they immediately burn, your oil is way too hot and if they take forever to pop, you've got it too low or a bum bag of kernels.)

4. Add enough kernels to cover or almost cover the bottom of the pan in one layer. Be sure--as in absolutely positive--that you don't have more than one layer of kernels. Err on the side of too little. If you've got too much and it's more than one layer on the bottom of the pan, your kernels will likely burn.

5. Put the lid on and give the pan a gentle shake (side to side, not up and down) so that the kernels roll a bit and get coated with the oil. Let the pot sit on the heat until the kernels begin popping--it should only take a few seconds.

6. Shake the pan gently side to side every few seconds. You can pick it up slightly off the burner to do this. The kernels will go nuts and pop away. When the pot is full (and it will get full--another reason not to layer up the popcorn kernels), take it off the heat, remove the lid (watch for any stray poppers), and salt it. You can also add butter, but I usually don't as I find the oil gives it all the fatty oomph I need.

7. Eat it. It's much better hot.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dal with Tomato and Cream

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

I've had a good streak of people eating foods they claim not to like (sometimes even blissfully).

Dal is an Indian dish whose star ingredient is lentils (or split peas or other dried beans). Lentils are not something my family generally goes quacky for, as they lack the quality of being chocolate. I, however, enjoy dal. And it is really cheap. I make it with naan and I put the peanut butter on the table, so if people cannot bear the lentils, they can slather their bread in a different sort of legume.

I made this dal on Saturday. It was wickedly good. It was, in fact, so wickedly good that I ventured to suggest to Kip that he ought to give it a try. (Lentils are not a place I generally venture with Kip.) And then Kip shocked me by taking some. This is just the type of craziness that keeps a marriage fresh.

He ate it and then he said, "The flavor's good, but I don't like lentils." And then he took some more. Again, it was not a large portion. But it was a second portion. This, it must be noted, was done while the kids were outside playing, meaning there was no pretext even of doing it for good example's sake.  

Perhaps, just to keep my life interesting, he will even stop eating foods he formerly claimed to like. This, I assure you, will keep our marriage exceedingly fresh.

Dal with Tomato and Cream
adapted from Steamy Kitchen
Serves 4
Cook time: 1 hour
Cost: $1.95
(lentils: .50, tomatoes: .75, butter: .30, cream: .35, other stuff: .05)

1 C dry lentils
1 14-oz can diced or crushed tomatoes (I used home-canned)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (you could also use 1/2-1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 C water
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp pepper
salt to taste
1/3 C heavy cream
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro (didn't have, so skipped. Would have been lovely--for my picture and my palate)

Note for the calorie/fat conscious: You can skip the cream, but not the butter. (Or possibly visa versa.) I tasted it before adding the cream and it was seriously already to die for. Yes, the cream added even more amazingness if such a thing could be, but you could get away without using it. The butter, however, added a smooth  flavorfulness that I don't think you should live without.

Check lentils for stones (I've never found one, but I don't want to either). Put lentils in large sauce pan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain water and return lentils to the pot. You can mash some of them against the side if you will.

Add crushed tomatoes (I pureed my home-canned ones and left the juices in, so it was pretty watery). Add ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, water, butter, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 hour until dal is thick with most of the fluid cooked out. Check the pot periodically and if your water cooks out before it's done, just add more. Take off heat and stir in cream. Garnish with cilantro if desired.


Did I mention that this stuff was wickedly good? Here's my after-bowl. I mean, who needs a dishwasher. Just so you know, I've been salivating throughout the writing of this post (I'm not exaggerating or joking about that either). Must. Have. More. Dal. Perhaps I'll try a crockpot version tomorrow morning so I can indulge at lunch.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blueberry Soup (aka Almost Ice Cream Blueberry Yogurt Smoothie)

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I'll drink any healthy concoction you put in front of me (provided it's not, like, aloe vera juice or something). If it tastes great, I'll even post it to this blog. But some things. Some things are so good I'd happily skip ice cream or milk shakes or sundaes just so I can consume them. Some things are so good that I must insist you go buy blueberries and vanilla yogurt this instant so that you too can experience the chilled nirvana this soup/smoothie is. Some things are so good that some kids--even kids who turn their picky noses up at blueberry syrup, which for the record is boiled sugar with blueberries strained through--ran screaming from the yard shouting 'blueberry soup' when I announced that the second batch (because we weren't about to stop at one) was ready on Sunday.

That's right:

I scream, you scream
We all scream for blueberry soup.

Hmm. Let's try that again.

I scream, you scream
We all scream for blueberry yogurt almost ice cream.

There, that's better.

For the record, this can be drunk from a cup. But it was so pretty. And thick and creamy. And truly surprisingly like really soft ice cream in both texture and taste. That we put it in bowls. Just like the hip gourmet people that we are--dining on pretty soups before la main course. Except that, unlike those who get invited to fancy dinner parties, most of us had on bathing suits with mud up to our knees. Because that's how we roll around here.

Seriously though, although this is great for kids, it would also be great for a summer dinner party--either as the dessert or as the soup course. And it takes 3 minutes to make. Which as I understand it, is great for both mommies and hostesses alike. If you're not serving it to people who smell like dirt, you could garnish it with mint, lavender, or lemon balm.

And if you are serving to the sprinkler crowd, we made it into popsicles today. They were great too (though not as perfectly creamy as their soupy counterparts).

Blueberry Soup
Makes 3-4 cups
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cost: $1.58
(blueberries: .65, strawberries: .30, spinach: .10, yogurt: .45, milk: .08)

Note: I must insist that your blueberries (and preferably strawberries as well) be frozen. Otherwise, you won't get that amazing icecreamy quality.

1 C blueberries, frozen
1/2 C strawberries, frozen (if you haven't got them, add another 1/2 C blueberries)
1/2-3/4 C fresh spinach (just do it; you won't taste it at all and you'll feel pretty righteous when those kids come screaming for it)
1 C vanilla yogurt (alternately you could probably use 1 C plain yogurt with 6 Tbsp sugar, which is how I do my yogurt smoothie pops, though I haven't tried that with this recipe)
1/2 C milk (I used whole raw milk because I rage against the machine, but I bet 2 % would work just fine)

Blend it all in a smoothie. Serve in bowls or cups or as popsicles


Linked up with Amee's Savory and Sweets for a Saturday.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Few Good Herbs

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

Growing up, my parents grew their fair share of tomatoes and monster zucchini. And my mother always had a flower garden of some sort. They tried their hand at other things too--things that lived only into the family lore of gardening failures. But I never remember them growing herbs. They must not have been in vogue. Our herbs came to us, as far as I can recall, dried and in containers from the grocery store. To be honest, I didn't know they could come from anywhere else.

And then when Kip and I had been married for a few years and were living in concrete-land in desert California, my mother-in-law gifted me three blue pots (they couldn't come with us when we moved and I still miss them). In one grew several flowering volunteers. And in the other two, I put herbs: rosemary, marjoram, and basil in one; lemon balm and pineapple mint in the last other. I chose these herbs for their beauty and their scent. I'd seen my sister-in-law expertly rub the leaves of the herbs between her fingers and I would do the same. In fact, I used to rub the leaves on my arms, almost as though they were perfume, just so I could enjoy their fragrances while I sat on our porch and watched my kids.

 My sister-in-law worked nearby and often stopped at our house for dinner or to stay the night. One night I was making a pasta sauce and Shelle said, "Why don't we use some of your herbs?" I looked at her and with no irony whatsoever, I said, "You can do that?" Don't ask me what I thought--that they had to be dried to be safe; that they had to come from a store to go into my food? I suppose I just hadn't thought of them at all as something that could be consumed.

That night we chopped up some basil, marjoram, and rosemary. And, oh, that spaghetti sauce tasted so fresh and so good. I walked through a door that night, a door through which I never wish to return. After that I tried growing tomatoes in the tiny plot in front of our condo. I got a few red ones and about 7000 green ones that just wouldn't ripen. And I learned to fry green tomatoes. When we moved to Indiana, we dug out a small garden plot. I bought starts from stores and threw my veggie scraps straight onto the garden floor for compost. And then we moved again to a house with more land. And Kip and I have been digging out gardens ever since. I'm still very very very, and did I mention very, far from being a garden pro, but I've learned a few things along the way. And tonight we're going to go back to those sweet early days with my lovely blue pots, and talk about herbs.

Herbs can be more expensive than other starts. Some produce only for a year, some for two years, and others just keep on giving. Those ones are my favorite, but a lot of the shorter lived varieties are so tasty or can be grown from seed (a few varieties do not do well or produce true from seeds so do a quick google search before seeding), so they're well worth your love as well.

Herbs tend to do well in pots and I've kind of gotten it into my head to make a little window garden of small herb pots when I get a little spare time. But most do well in the garden as well.

Below, you'll find a few of my favorites, as well as the why and how and how much.

1. Golden Oregano

The golden is on the right; the regular oregano is in the back if you're looking to compare color. The golden is lower lying and, ahem, more golden. In fact, at certain times of year it's even more golden than this. It makes an excellent border plant as it spills over rocks and edges just beautifully. It can withstand the shade well also. And it can be used in cooking just as the green varieties of oregano can. It's a very beautiful herb that can be easily divided. I got mine for free from a dear friend who had a large patch, and it wasn't long before I had a large patch as well (so if you're local, I can hook you up with a nice free start). Perennial. Cost: free if it's from a friend.

2. Regular Oregano

There are different varieties. I have two. Do I know what they are? Of course not. This is the type of gardening expertise you can expect from me. I planted them both from seed and they took for-e-ver to come up. In fact, they took so long (especially that one up top) that I presumed them hopelessly dead and begged some golden oregano from my friend. And then the one directly above came up. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the one up top started growing mid-summer. So, yeah, anyway. Both were from very cheap seed packets. Give them time to germinate and be patient. They're excellent fresh or dried. And they're pretty too. Give them a good haircut at the end of the summer and maybe even in the middle of the summer or they--like many herbs--will start getting woody legs. Perennial. Cost: 20 or so cents for cheap-o seed packets.

3. Rosemary

Mine died early spring, and I did buy a small replacement plant, but forgot to take a picture. Rosemary is only semi-hardy. If you live in a place like IN, it must be taken into the house over winter. And sometimes, even then, it might die--especially if you thoroughly neglect it like I did. Rosemary does not grow easily or, usually, true from seed, so it might be worth your while to buy a start. Perennial if you live in a warm area or are careful to bring it indoors. Cost: 2-4 dollars.

4. Winter Savory

This is a great Italian herb. It's pungent and smells great (although it may make you crave spaghetti). It also looks good creeping over rocks in a border. I got mine from a start. Perennial. Cost 2-4 dollars.

5. Sage

Sage comes in lots of colors and varieties. This is the most standard green variety. It has proved sturdier than my other varieties and is still lovely. It bushed into a beautiful cluster of sage and it smells just awesome. As far as I'm concerned, you haven't had Thanksgiving until you've stuff your turkey with some sage as fresh and lovely as this. It lives through the winter (and beyond) here in southern IN. It benefits from a good trim when it starts to get long legs. And if it gets too wet, it will start to wilt. I didn't get this from a friend, but I think if a plant was well-established you could probably take a start. Perennial. Cost: 2-4 dollars.

6. Thyme

Thyme comes in a lot of different sizes. I love the elfin thyme, which is a low-lying one that can grow as ground cover. This one pictured is a standard cooking thyme. I got it from my same friend and in just a year, it's grown into a lovely blotch of herb. It needs a haircut when it gets long. Put it in your chicken, put it in your soup. And for all that is right in this world, put it in your Thanksgiving turkey/stuffing. Even if you can't use all that thyme, or even dry it, you should give it a good haircut, so it doesn't get excessively tall and leggy and woody. Thyme likes sandy or dry soil, though I've found it to be plenty hardy in my wettish herb garden. Perennial. Cost: free from a friend.

7. Parsley

Parsley is a biennial, meaning it goes for 2 years. You can use it both years, although it's going to go to seed fairly early in the second year. Mine was covered in a layer of leaves and stayed green throughout the winter. Even if it's too cold for that, it will come back quite early in the spring. I grew mine from seed. I soaked the seeds for 24 hours first and then I waited and waited and waited. Parsley takes a while to germinate so give it its sweet time. You can get curly or flat. I found seed for curly and went with that. It's often used as a garnish, but the flavor is great in cooking as well. Also, because of it's curb appeal, it makes a good addition to your flower beds. Biennial. Cost: 20 cents for seed packet.

8. Chives

Alas, this isn't the most flattering picture. A few weeks ago, my chives were straight up and flowering with pretty purple flowers. Sorry I missed the photo op. My same friend (thank you, Vanessa--you're the best) gave me a start for chives as well. I could not get those boogers to grow from seed, even after repeated tries. Other than that, what can I say? Chives are the classic herb in a lot of ways. They are so delicious and can hold their own in a decorative bed (bad photo withstanding) as well. I can't wait till my plant is big enough to get a start for my window garden. Cost: free from a friend or 2-4 dollars for a start.

9. French Tarragon

Generally speaking, I'm pretty lassez faire about my herb varieties. If you can cook with it, I don't care if it's Greek or Spanish, flat or curly, golden or purple. But here I must take a stance. You need to grow French tarragon and it's going to have to come from a start. Russian tarragon is the type that comes from seed and has a terrible reputation for tasting bad and becoming invasive. So splurge and go with the French. It's a perennial so it will reward you year after year. Mine sort of lagged along it's first year and I wasn't sure it was going to make it, but sure enough, this spring it's looking green, strong, and growinger. Cost: 2-4 dollars.

10. Mint

Up top you see, um, let's call it fuzzy mint--I think it's peppermint. And below is chocolate mint, which was a gift from, you guessed it, my friend Vanessa. I also have some spearmint that I tried from seed 10,000 times and then bought on sale at Home Depot. Mint is invasive and therefore must be grown in pots. It likes things pretty well drained too. It might look a bit scraggly at first, but soon enough will fill up those pots. I love mint tea or mint in lemonade. And the other day at (shockingly) Vanessa's house, she plopped a snippet of mint right into our water and it was so refreshing and smelled awesome. Move over lemon slices. The chocolate mint is my favorite; it truly smells both chocolate-y and mint-y. How can it be wrong? Perennial. Free from starts from friends; 2-4 dollars otherwise. 

11. Lavender

This is not displayed to it's best effect. In a few more weeks, its wee buds will become fragrant purple blooms that birds, bees, and butterflies will got NUTS for. I love it. I love how it smells. I love the wild life it attracts. I love how it looks. If I was a gourmet, I would even cook with it. I should have given mine a better haircut last year, but oh well. This started itty bitty and grew up quite big in two years. It didn't flower until the second year. As a warning, many varieties of lavender won't make it through a cold winter, so check with a nursery worker who knows their stuff before you accidentally buy an annual variety. Also, lavender can be grown from seed, but it's not an easy thing to do. Cost: 2-4 dollars for starts.

12. Lemon Balm

This was one of my original five herbs. I love how it smells. Some people cook with it, but I have not. I have tried it in tea several times both fresh and dried and think it tastes like spinach, not the lemony goodness I love to smell. Lemon balm grows easily--sometimes a little too easily, so keep you eye on it so it doesn't take over your garden. Get it from a free start if you can. I notice it coming up on freecycle in the spring, and that's where I got mine, though I bet Vanessa had some of that too. Perennial. Cost: free from a start.

Phew. Are you still reading?

If so, here are several more herbs I love, though I don't have them growing at this moment.

13. Cilantro

This is easy to start from seed and it will often reseed itself from year to year. I love love love everything about cilantro. Yes, I'm on that team. It can be used in Mexican or middle eastern or southwestern foods and it's awesome. Annual. Cost: 20 cents for a pack of seeds. 

14. Basil

Also easy to grow from seeds. I usually just sow it into the ground. It's pretty too and you can get different varieties. I like purple, lemon, and just the regular old kind best. I have the itty bittiest little starts coming up, but that's it. I love this fresh, dried, and most of all in pesto. Grow it; it will save you money. Annual. Cost: 20 cents for pack of seeds.

15. Marjoram

Also grows well from seed. I believe it's in the oregano family and I've got that coming out of my ears right now so I didn't grow this this year, but it's tasty if you do. Annual (though it sometimes reseeds itself). Cost: 20 cents for packet of seeds.

16. Dill

Okay, so I actually have some little starts of this, but forgot to take a picture. This grows easily from seed and often reseeds, sometimes a good bit more than you want it to. It's great with fish and in summer salads. Also, it tends to act as a pest deterrent. Last year it grew up in hordes around my strawberry plants and I had significantly fewer slugs eating my strawberries last year. The bugs, it seems, don't like how it smells. Good thing I do.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fried Potatoes

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day without cheating too much.

Alright, fine, so fried potatoes don't need too much of a recipe: potatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Oh, and ketchup. Because we all know, especially if we live in this family, that they need about 12 pounds of ketchup as well. But that wasn't my point. My point was that they don't need much of a recipe, but they do have a bit of a technique.

When I was first married (as in not much of a cook and still a little afraid of oil) I wanted to make a sort of pan-fried potato. I cut the potatoes into rounds and tried pan frying them in a wee tiny bit of olive oil. They came out raw in the middle. So I started microwaving them for a minute or two in a single layer under plastic wrap and then pan frying them. This worked and they didn't taste too bad either. In fact, I suppose that if you're going the low-fat route in life, that might just be the way to go. But I jumped that ship years ago, and let me tell you real pan-fried potatoes are so much better. They're crispy on the outside (something my earlier potatoes were missing) and soft and yummy in the middle.

How do they get that way?

First off, cube them to about 1 centimeter square.

Secondly, they need some oil, and probably more than, as they say, a drizzle. You can use olive, but it might smoke. I use canola. You want to have a nice millimeter of oil on the bottom of your pan.

Thirdly, do them one layer thick. More than that and you're in for trouble.

Fourth, I use a cast iron skillet. I'm sure you don't have to use a cast iron skillet. But I believe that cast iron does aid in goldenliness where potatoes are concerned. Of course, cast iron can be tricky, especially if your skillet, like mine, came from freecycle (thank you freecycle lady), and wasn't seasoned at all. If your cast iron seasoning is still a work in progress, you might get a few potatoes sticking. That's okay. In fact it might be the potential for stickiness that makes the cast iron ideal. Why? Because if you try to flip the potatoes too early, they stick--not just a few stubborn ones, but all of them. This lets you know it's not time to flip them. This forces you to wait even if you're hungry and the ketchup is ready and you don't want to. If they're all sticking to your pan, give them a few more minutes. When they're ready (if you've used your millimeter or more of oil), you'll be able to get that spatula (use a metal one or one that can withstand high temp's) under than and flip them over, revealing their lovely golden bottoms. Do the same thing on the other side.

Fifth, heat your pan to medium or a bit hotter than that. You don't want it so hot you throw the potatoes on and they burn in one minute while remaining raw inside, but you don't want them sitting there for an hour either. Your oil shouldn't be smoking when you put the potatoes in. Your potatoes should sizzle gently. They should not sizzle as if they are preparing to burn out their days in damnation. Just a nice sizzle, a cozy sizzle--a happily married couple sizzle rather than a just met firecrackers sizzle.

Sixth: You should start with oil, but about halfway through (about when it's time to flip when the oil might be getting a little soaked up anyway), if you drizzle some butter into the pan or on the potatoes, well, it's just really good.

And now, the "recipe:"

Fried Potatoes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
Cost: .30

2 large russet potatoes
1/4-1/2 C canola oil
2-4 Tbsp butter (optional)
salt and pepper

Chop potatoes into centimeter sized cubes.

While you're chopping, heat oil in cast iron skillet. (Begin with 1/4 C and if your potatoes soak that up, pretend I didn't just say 'soak that up' about oil and that really you just forgot to put oil in, and then add the other 1/4 C oil or the butter or both. Because who needs arteries anyway.)

Throw in cubed potatoes. Salt and pepper generously (unless you're really just going to go nuts with the ketchup later). Let cook until golden brown on the bottom and you can flip them easily (or fairly easily for those of us with season-challenged pans).

Add more oil or butter if necessary or desired. Brown the other side of the potatoes. Check one for doneness (and be sure to blow it before popping it into your mouth, because those puppies are hot).

Serve with ketchup or, if you are more sophisticated than my children (and let's hope you are), see some seasoning suggestions below.

Because of all that outer crispiness, you can really get a lot of punch from a variety of seasonings should you choose to use them (if, let's say, you are not the type of person to slather every potato-like morsel in front of you in ketchup). Sprinkle the herbs on with the salt and pepper. Here are some ideas as the herbs in my garden start to get going:
rosemary would be just smashing
parsley with salt and pepper
an Italian blend of oregano, basil, and winter savory or thyme.

I'm planning to do a post on herbs tomorrow to discuss all the ones I think you should buy. Because I was an oldest child. And I'm bossy like that.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Citrus Dressing

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day without perishing or complaining too awfully much.

My sister is always sending me recipes containing interesting grains. She's hipper than I am. Thank goodness. (Of course, being hipper than I am is not a tremendous feat, so don't let it go to your head, Bec.)

Months ago she sent me this recipe for Quinoa Black Bean Salad and at least 2 months ago, I bought the quinoa. I knew I had to make it as a side dish for something or as a lunch for myself. If you've been reading this blog pretty much at all, you probably know why. If you haven't, it's because my husband and kids would look at a dish such as this with a name that cannot even be pronounced in the queen's English and then they would barf, right there in their seats. Or at least they would pretend to barf right there in their seats. And then they would whine, unmercifully. Because there is color in this, and a grain with a name that cannot be sounded out, and little black beans, and teeny tiny onions, and--food felony of them all--chunkies; it is, in fact, chunkiness incarnate. (Would they have liked it better if I had pureed it for them? No. No, they would not.)

But perhaps you enjoy something with texture, diversity, vegetables, nutrition. Perhaps you enjoy something with a pleasing mix of sweet and salty, citrus and grain, Perhaps you enjoy a food that was once such a precious commodity that it was called the "mother of all grains" and the "gold of the Incas." What was so amazing about it? For one thing, it contains all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. For another, it is a crazy high source of iron for a plant food. For another, it can be sprouted in just a couple hours by sitting it in a clean jar of clean water (I haven't tried this one at home, so we're trusting the internet here). And for one more thing, the birds and bugs tended to leave it alone, which is why it was so valuable to the Incans who, after all, could not just sprinkle some sevin over all their crops.

However, I should warn you that it was undesirable to pests because it has a soapy-tasting coating. This is easily removed and if you buy your quinoa in a box, you'll most likely not have to worry about it at all. However, if you buy your quinoa in bulk (where it is most likely much cheaper), you'll want to rinse it for several minutes in a fine mesh strainer.

You cook quinoa like you cook rice--2 C water to 1 C dry grain--simmered in a pot until the liquid is absorbed.

And do try to find it in bulk (a health food store of a co-op are probably your best bets) because the little boxes on the little shelves of the store are going to leave you thinking it should still be called the gold of the Incas.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Citrus Dressing
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $3.20
(quinoa: 1.00, butter: .15, orange: .25, black beans: .55, tomatoes: .80--this is a guess; I have home-canned ones; onions: .20, cilantro: .25--guessing on onions and cilantro too--mine were home grown)

1 C quinoa
2 C water
2 tsp grated citrus zest (I used orange and it was great)
2 Tbsp citrus juice
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained (or about 1 C of fresh chopped tomato)
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped (I didn't have fresh, so used 2 Tbsp dry)

Wash quinoa by putting it in a fine mesh strainer and running water through it for a few minutes.

Put it in a pot, cover it with 2 C water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your dressing and vegetables. Whisk together zest, juice, butter, oil, salt, and sugar. Chop your onions and cilantro and tomatoes if fresh. Rinse your beans.

When quinoa is ready, add dressing and toss until it is aborbed. Then stir in remaining ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm.

Note: The leftovers the next day were pretty good, but after that, I felt like they were mushy and not as good.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blueberry Syrup

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

It's been a pancakes-for-dinner kind of day. The kind of day where you wake up with a shoulder aching from carrying my fussy-for-weeks toddler in my left arm while trying to complete tasks with my right arm. The kind of day where you miss quiet time and end up behind and tired all evening. The kind of day where you pay people to give you bad news. Yeah, that kind of day.

Of course I had nothing planned or remotely started for dinner, so I figured we could have pancakes. Only we have pancakes for breakfast so often that we needed something else. Like IHOP for dinner. No, we didn't go out. But we had blueberry syrup and whipped cream with strawberries. There now, that's a better kind of day.

I actually made this blueberry syrup several days ago. I made it in an effort to healthify our homemade syrup just a bit and to make it fun for my kids--whee, blue syrup!

It's so easy you'll weep for joy. At least until your oldest and pickiest child does not say "Whee, blue syrup!", but instead declares that he doesn't like it because it tastes like blueberries (he wasn't supposed to figure that part out). For the record, he ate it anyway.

Blueberry Syrup
Prep and cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: $1.10
(sugars: .33, flavorings: .02, blueberries: .75)

1 1/2 C granulated sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp corn syrup (I use light)
1 C water
1 C blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp maple flavoring (optional)

Combine sugars, corn syrup and water. Heat until sugars dissolve, stirring occasionally. Add blueberries and bring to boiling. Boil vigorously for 3-4 minutes. Take off heat, let it sit for a minute. Pour syrup through a strainer. Reserve blueberries for some other delightful purpose (see note below). Add vanilla and maple flavoring (if using). Serve hot or at room temperature. This will keep at room temperature for at least a couple of weeks. Maybe longer, but ours is gone by then, so no promises.

Note: Of course, if your kids are not picky as heck, you do not need to strain the blueberries out. My kids are picky as heck and I was going for a smooth blue/purple syrup. If you do strain them out, save them for yourself. You can add them to your own syrup, which is yummy. But what is even better is to put them in your pancakes (plop them onto the batter after you've poured it onto the pan). These blueberries are perfect perfect perfect in pancakes because they're extra sweet and not quite as mushy as blueberries that haven't been boiled in a couple cups of sugar. You can practically eat pancakes made with these blueberries without any syrup at all. I'd wager they're awesome in yogurt or over ice cream or things like that as well.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to Roast a Pork Tenderloin

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

I'm fairly new to the world of roast pork. I've done BBQ pork in the crock pot, which we love and I tried this recipe for pork adobo from Kalyn's Kitchen, which was wonderful. But the pot roasts I grew up on as a girl were of the beef variety. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I have many happy memories of those pot roasts. However, beef is significantly more expensive than pork. And I believed that if made right, a pork roast could be just as satisfying as beef.

Fortunately for you and me and all the other non-vegetarian cheapskates out there, I was right. The even better news: it's ridiculously easy to do.

1. Prepare a rub of oil, garlic, and whatever seasonings you like. Rosemary was suggested (and would have been amazing), but my rosemary plant kicked the bucket early this spring, so I used sage on half and tarragon on half. Both were great.
2. Pan fry your meat in vegetable oil for a few minutes on each side in a fairly hot pan.
3. Throw some veggies around it if you wish (I got them coated in oil and seasonings also) and pop it in the oven at 425 for 20-25 minutes and then flip it for another 10 or so. 
4. Take it out when the internal temp is 160 and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
5. Cut and eat. Drizzle some drippings on when you think no one's looking. It's good.

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Garlic and Sage
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Cost: $8.85 for one from a more humanely raised pig

1 two to three lb pork tenderloin
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided (I'm sure canola would work too and it might smoke less when pan frying)
4 cloves garlic
2 rosettes fresh sage (by which I mean 2 clusters of leaves) or about 2 tsp dried sage
3/4 tsp coarse (mine was pretty chunky) salt (if using regular table salt, use 1/4-1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

Mince garlic and chop sage. Rub into oil and then rub the stuff all around your pork. It won't adhere perfectly or anything and that's okay.

Heat remaining oil in a cast iron skillet (or another skillet that can withstand some heat) on medium high. (If the oil is smoking like mad or your meat is burning, take it off the heat, turn the heat down, and then put the pan back on.) Cook on all sides until browned.

If using cast iron, put the whole thing in the oven. (Note: I first put 2 chopped red potatoes and 1 chopped onion in my hot pan with the hot oil and tried to get them nice and coated with oil and salt.)

Roast for 20-25 minutes on one side (I roasted mine for about 40 minutes on one side and when I took it out to flip it, it was done.) Flip it over and roast on other side for about 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature registers 160. I know I push this too hard, but buy yourself an instant read thermometer and save yourself some stress. 

Take out of the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut into rounds and eat. The potatoes and onions will be beautifully flavored and browned on the underside from the oil and seasonings. They were delicious too. I poured a little of the drippings onto my meat and thought it was just to die for. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Ran Out of Eggs Egg-Free Cookies

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day while purchasing more chocolate chips than they should.

Once upon a time, I worked in a high school with disabled teens. It was a life skills class, which meant we taught them...wait for it...life skills. Things like cooking, taking the bus, shopping, practicing social skills. Many a day we helped them prepare a lunch for themselves. One day we were making cookies, only to discover that the shopping crew had dropped the ball, as there were no eggs on hand. The head teacher (I was an aide) fished around in the refrigerator and pulled out some mayonnaise. She plopped some into the batter, and odd though it may seem, all was again right in cookiedom, and we all lived happily ever after.

I don't know about you, but the shopping crew in this house still drops the ball fairly regularly, and sometimes finds herself with no eggs (or any of a number of other essential items) on hand.

Such was the case Sunday afternoon. I'd planned a light summery Sunday treat. But it was cold outside. We even lit the woodburner. And snuggled into blankets on the couch. And wanted cookies. But there were no eggs. Enter Mrs. Amey and our lovely life skills class.

Turned off by the idea of mayo in your cookies? Don't be. Mayonnaise is mostly egg and oil. It makes a great egg substitute, though you will want to reduce or omit any other salt in the recipe.

Generally speaking you'll use about 3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise per egg you don't have.

Not a believer? Make these cookies and, my friends, you will be. They are almost evilly good. They are well worth making whether you have eggs or not. The texture is somewhat different than cookies with egg. They have a sugary outer crunch that was, in my humble opinion, totally amazing. And, are you ready for your bonus buy: You can eat all the dough you want without worrying even a teeny tiny bit about salmonella (unless of course, you leave the batter out on the counter all day, which I do not recommend). Because of this, this is also the perfect batter to use if you're making homemade ice cream with cookie dough. But we'll go there after it warms up again.

Now, if you are vegan or have an allergy to eggs and that's why you're looking for a recipe with no eggs, I fear that I am probably not helping. However, if you've got some mayo substitute you often use, there's a good chance it will work in this recipe too.

As a note: These cookies did not spread the way cookies normally do. In fact, at about 6 minutes of cooking time, I peeked into the oven to see that they were still round mounds of cookie. I smashed them down with a spatula and after 3 more minutes in the oven, they were perfect. Per-fect.

I Ran Out of Eggs Egg-Free Cookies
Makes: 18 cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 9 minutes per batch
Cost: $1.05 without chocolate stuff; $1.65 with chocolate stuff
(butter: .60, sugars: .30, mayo: .01, flour: .14, chocolate chips: .45, malt balls: .15 on after-Easter sale)

Note: You can make these plain or with chocolate chips or with chocolate chips and Robin's Eggs that you've been hiding in your freezer since Easter for just such a chilly spring day (so I guess these weren't exactly egg free). The malty Robin's Eggs were a really nice compliment to the Egg-Free cookie. In fact, Kip even said we should buy malt balls to use in for our next chocolate chip cookie bender (he did not use the word 'bender,' but that's just called denial).

1/2 C (1 stick) butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C chocolate chips
1/2 C malt balls, roughly chopped

Cream butter and sugars. Add mayonnaise and mix well. Add vanilla. Sift flour and baking soda together. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Add chocolate chips and malt balls if using.

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Smash them down just a bit with a wooden spoon or spatula. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes or until just barely beginning to brown (for a cookie that is lovely and soft in the middle).


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bacon Swiss Egg Bake

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

I suppose you could eat this for breakfast. It would be especially good on a day like Christmas or Easter when most of the day will be spent sending your glycemic index into places it should never go. However, like so many yummy breakfast foods, our family eats it for dinner. It's good; it's fast; it's simple.

The leftovers are excellent used in biscuit or English muffin sandwiches with a bit of mayo and ketchup.

Bacon Swiss Egg Bake
Makes 9x13 inches worth (we always half it and do an 8x8)
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Cost: $3.25
(bacon: .30, eggs: 1.20, cheese:.75, sour cream: 1.00)

Note on cheese: I love this with Swiss, but Cheddar is also excellent as is a mix of Cheddar and Parmesan. I bet you could also use mozzarella or Monterey Jack.

Note on meat: This recipe originally called for sausage. Kip doesn't like sausage so we used crumbled bacon. I still like sausage best, but they're both awesome. You can also omit the meat altogether to very good effect.

3-4 strips bacon (or 1/2 lb sausage)
12 eggs
2 C sour cream
1 C Swiss cheese
handful spinach (about 1 1/2 C) spinach, chopped
1/4 tsp onion powder or 3 chopped green onions
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
dash hot sauce (optional)

Cook bacon till it's on the crispy side, but not burned. Take out of pan and drain on paper towel. When cool enough, crumble.

In a bowl, whisk eggs. Add sour cream and whisk. Add seasonings. Add cheese, chopped spinach, and crumbled bacon.

Pour into lightly greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads between 160 and 180 degrees.

Alternately you can bake these in 8 ramekins. One fun thing about this is that you can make a base with the eggs, sour cream and salt/pepper and then let people add their own cheese, vegetables, and meats.


Friday, May 13, 2011

100% Whole Wheat Tortillas

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.

To look at these homely, certainly-not-circular-when-I-make-them concoctions, you wouldn't expect them to win you any kiss the cook awards. 

The first time I presented a plate of these unlovelies to Kip, they were one of those lip purser foods--you know the ones: Your husband looks at them. He closes his eyes, pinches his lips a bit. He doesn't say anything because there are children at the table, but you know as he sits down to eat that he's not planning to like it.

And then--and here I hate to brag (whatever, I love to brag; I'm just usually lacking in material)--Kip ate it. And then he ate another. And then he said, "I have to give it to you; those are really good." Since you don't live here and are not married to my husband, you may not understand the utter import of that statement. There was a food he didn't think he'd like. And he liked it. And he even admitted he liked it. In words.

Even more significantly, the second time I made these, I messed them up. I didn't get the water mixed in well enough and they were even less circular than usual and had some dry spots here and there. I didn't even think I'd like them. Lo and behold. Kip pursed his lips. Kip ate one. And another. Kip complimented them. And they were messed up. (I liked them too, for the record, though they are better not messed up.)

 Furthermore, homemade tortillas are not difficult to make. They are more difficult than buying a package and opening it. This I must admit. I will even admit that I still do buy the packages of tortillas--they're really great for easy, uber-fast dinners or snacks. But. And listen closely here. These taste much better. And they are whole wheat. I can only imagine how much better tasting homemade white ones would be, but that is a journey I dare not take for fear my family would never return. Additionally, the the actual mixing of the tortilla dough is a mere five minute commitment. You do need to roll them out and put them in the pan individually, but I still don't think it's much more work/time than making pancakes. After you've done it a time or two, you can even multi-tast and make the tortilla filling as you cook the tortillas. Give it a try one Saturday night and see if you don't become a convert yourself.

And of course, the possibilities for adaptation are many.
-You could, of course, use white flour or half white and half wheat. If your family isn't used to whole wheat at all, I'd recommend beginning slowly with the whole wheat flour.
-You could also go all crazy and foodie on yourself and add fresh herbs: fennel seeds, dill, basil, thyme, oregano, cilantro, coursely ground pepper.
-Or chop up some sun-dried tomatoes and work those into the dough.
-Or--how about a dessert burrito--where you worked chopped raisins, nuts, or dates into the dough and then served it with melted butter and sugar on top.
-You could add very finely chopped ginger and make an Asian wrap.
-You could do so many things with homemade tortillas that your children may begin to send hate mail my way. I'm okay with that. As far as I'm concerned, the more hate mail I get from little kids, the more awesome your food is probably becoming.   

100% Whole Wheat Tortillas
Makes 9-10 tortillas
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes (you may also want to rest the dough for an hour or so, although you don't have to)
Cost: $.25 (.50 with butter)
(whole wheat flour: .20, oil: .05--if using butter it will be .30)

Note on oil versus butter: I do like how the butter tastes better. But the ones with oil are also extremely good and a little easier to mix up.

2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C canola oil or melted butter
1 tsp salt
3/4-1 C hot water

Stir flour and salt. Pour in butter or oil and mix together until it's kind of all lumpy in the dough (it's not going to incorporate perfectly or evenly--that's okay, but try to get it so it's not a blob of wet dough with dry flour all around). Add water gradually (start with 3/4 C and if you need more after you've mixed that up, add the rest). I try to stir the dough as I pour (or I pour in part, give a quick stir and then pour in more, give a quick stir, and then finish it off). Again, you don't want a big wet blob in the middle with the rest all dry and crumbly. After it's mixed I find I need to give it a few kneads. Not too many, but try to gather it together into a ball and if it's got crumbly parts, don' be afraid to mash it together and give it a few kneads (5-7), or--heck--if the word 'knead' has you all in a tizzy, just keep mashing it until it forms a nice lump. It's not going to be like bread dough where it's all smooth and elastic, but you should be able to form it into a sad looking sort of lump. If it's all crumbling to bits in its lump, add a bit more water and knead/mash it a few more turns. (Remember, even if you mess up and all seems hopeless and dry and butt-ugly, it will probably still taste pretty good.)

Separate dough into 9 or 10 even-ish sized balls. Roll them up like they're Playdough balls, only they won't be as smooth as Playdough balls. Rather, they'll be a little like Playdough balls made from Playdough whose lid may not have been completely shut--if you know what I mean--a few seams here or there in your balls are no big deal. At this point, I like to put the dough balls in a bowl and cover them and let them rest for an hour. It just makes the dough nicer and, um, dough-ier. However, if you haven't got the time, just roll them out and they'll be fine.

When you're ready to make them, heat a skillet--I use cast iron, but another type would work--to medium high. (I do not need to grease my skillet. If you're worried, add a bit of oil--such as peanut--that can withstand highish heat.)

Take each ball and roll it out with a rolling pin. Get it round if you can. I never seem to. Also, try to get it nice and flat--as flat as possible. Peel it up by the edges. I use a spatula, or, um, my finger nails to get it going and then it usually peels off pretty well. If you find yours are sticking, you may have added a wee bit too much water. No big deal, just flour your surface on the next one. 

Put the flattened "circle" of dough on the pan and let it cook for a minute or so and then flip it. Ideally, there will be an air bubble or two that will form--you'll see the dough puff up in a spot or few and then you'll know it's time to flip it. But mine don't always puff up with those lovely air bubbles--especially the first couple. If it's been a minute and yours isn't puffing, just check it--it should be browned in spots, like that stunning picture above. When it is, flip it and give it a few more seconds on the second side. If you find they're burning in seconds, you've got your heat too high. Turn it down. If your tortilla is taking several minutes (these generally take only 1-2 minutes on the first side) on the first side, you've got your heat too low. Turn it up. 

As the one cooks, roll out the next one (you know, if you're a pro), but know that these don't take long to cook on either side, so be careful on your first try.  

All those long paragraphs of instruction make this seem harder than it is. I wanted to make the directions as clear as possible, but seriously, they're  not hard to make. Blob of somewhat cohesive dough. Formed into Playdough balls. Rolled out nice and thin. Put in hot pan and cooked on either side. Give it a go. And don't be discouraged if your husband gives it a pursed lip stare at first. He'll come around.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...