Homemade Tortillas

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Living in Austin, we have no shortage of places that have great tortillas, and we always have some stashed in the fridge for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Always having them, however, means we also always run through them pretty quickly, and there have been too many days where we’ve been without. I decided to finally embrace making tortillas at home.

Now, I’ll admit it takes a little bit of practice to get your tortilla method down, especially if you have never used a tortilla press before. A press is actually easier than using a rolling pin, but you need to use just the right amount of pressure and the right length of time to achieve the desired thickness.

I’ve used both lard and butter in my tortillas. I prefer lard, but only if I can get it from the local butcher – not those blocks from the grocery store. Good quality butter is a nice stand-in, though I don’t recommend shortening unless you must, as it doesn’t add any flavor to the tortillas.

This post is also a precursor to October Unprocessed, the monthlong challenge to avoid processed foods. While I cook most of our food at home, it’s sometimes shocking how easily convenience foods sneak into the kitchen and our diets.

Homemade Flour Tortillas pic

Depending on your tortilla press, you might need to press more than once to get the thickness you like. A rolling pin can also be used , but be sure to not use too much flour or your tortillas can end up tough.

Tortillas are always best when they’re made right before eating, but you can cook up the whole batch in advance as well. Simply let them cool and store in an airtight container, then reheat on a griddle pan as needed.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Homemade Tortillas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter or lard
  • 3/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Cut in butter or lard until mixture starts to clump together when squeezed.
  3. Mix in water a little at a time (you may use less depending on your flour) until a rough dough forms. Knead dough until it comes together and forms a ball.
  4. Let dough rest for 30 minutes.
  5. After resting, line a tortilla press with plastic wrap. Divide dough into 8 pieces and roll each into a ball.
  6. Place one ball on the tortilla press and squeeze down for about 10 seconds. Repeat with remaining dough.
  7. Cook tortillas on a hot griddle for a minute or two on each side, then keep wrapped in a kitchen towel until ready to eat.
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Welcome to another edition of Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a progressive dinner party. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

progressive eatsWe have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.

This month’s theme is Tex-Mex, hosted by Milisa of Miss in the Kitchen.

Appetizer

Salad

Soups

Main Course

Bread

Sides/Veggies

Beverage

Desserts

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Apple Tartlets

Apple Tartlet photo

Time is getting away from me these days. Far too often, I’m unsure of what day of the week it is. Somewhere inside my brain, the miniature version of me is pacing, mumbling to itself. Go left? Go right? What’s the next move?

Each night before I go to bed I write out the tasks of the next day so I can combat this haze. It helps me center, to focus. Most mornings the last thing I want to do is leave the bed and get going on the day, so I set myself up with a purpose, one foot in front of the other. And then I get distracted by things in my refrigerator.

It could be worse, of course. It could be things that are expired, creating funk and ooze, but instead I just have drawers and shelves with possibilities. It’s easy to let yourself get lost in those.

When I made this mascarpone last week a good portion of it immediately went into the best pancakes ever – I’m sharing those next weekend, I promise — but I still had some left. I thought about a complicated, rich, showpiece dessert, and then I abandoned that idea in favor of these quick and easy, but no less delicious, tartlets.

Apples are a star food at our house, and it’s sometimes hard to convince the rest of the family that other fruits do exist the rest of the year. But when autumn comes I join the full-on embrace, and it feels like we can’t quite keep enough apples on hand.

Luckily, this dessert uses just one apple. It’s the sort of oh-crap-company-is-coming dish that you can throw together with stuff from the fridge and still have it look fancy. These little tartlets are also stellar for breakfast in the place of a standard pastry.

Apple Tartlets image

I recommend cutting the puff pastry to the size of your apple slices, so you might get more or fewer tartlets depending on your apple. With a standard Fuji apple, this recipe yields 9 tartlets.

If you like, the finished tartlets can be glazed with apricot jam or additional honey while they are still warm from the oven.

Apple Tartlets

Ingredients

  • 1 medium apple, such as Fuji
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 sheet puff pastry

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Slice apple either horizontally or vertically to create large cross-sections. Remove seeds and stem pieces.
  3. Stir together mascarpone, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  4. Roll out puff pastry and cut into 9 sections.
  5. Place an apple slice in the center of each pastry and trace around the apple with the tip of a knife.
  6. Remove the apple and spread some of the mascarpone in the circle, then replace the apple, pressing down.
  7. Repeat with remaining pastry, apples, and mascarpone.
  8. Bake tartlets for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.
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Classic Beef Stew

Classic Beef Stew

For a kid who grew up hiding most vegetables on her plate, beef stew was an Event. It was filled with all the vegetables I liked (carrots, onions, potatoes) and I could eat as much as I wanted, even with my football-playing brother there, because the slow cooker was tested to its capacity every time. Beef stew meant I could also eat as many dinner rolls — or flaky biscuits, depending on what was on sale — as I desired, slathered with smooth-yet-unmelting margarine. (This particular addiction continued in college, as my meals were sometimes composed only of Crescents and Parkay.)

Beef stew was also one of the few meals my mother cooked, and so my mind wanders to those days as a child every time I pull out the slow cooker. Even if I’m not making beef stew, I think of those chilly days when dinner was an anticipation.

When you live in Wisconsin, you and winter come to an understanding. You expect to wear your snow pants under your Halloween costume, and to make sure your mittens aren’t packed away when your May birthday comes.

In return, winter helps you embrace its beauty. It reminds you of the rush that comes when you step out into the brisk day, and how you radiate once your hands are wrapped around that cup of cocoa. It draws you in to yourself, to your family, and to the table where, if you are lucky, a pot of something has been simmering all day, permeating the air.

Living in the South, my children eat beef stew, finding comfort in the aroma and the ritual, but not really knowing why. It’s in their blood, their bones, but they don’t realize it yet. Do we ever realize these things, while we are young? All we recognize the savory broth, moving over our lips and filling our stomachs, and the restful night that is sure to come.

check out my post for classic beef stew over at recipe.com

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Honeyed Fig and Goat Cheese Muffins

Honeyed Fig and Goat Cheese Muffins photo

I had my first fresh figs only a few years ago, when I was deep into exploring absolutely everything the markets here had to offer. To be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them at first. Do you peel them? Do you eat them whole? Why do they seem to only last 2.5 minutes after getting them to the house?

It didn’t take long to find ways to work figs into nearly every meal I was having, especially if I had goat cheese on hand. My absolute favorite way to eat these sweet little fruits is to halve them, smear them with soft chevre, and then drizzle a little bit of local honey on top. It seemed only natural that my next step would be to put all of these ingredients into a muffin.

The result is a muffin studded with sweet fruit and bursts of tangy goat cheese. They’re not your typical breakfast muffin, but that’s no excuse to not make them. In fact, their distinctive flavor makes them ideal for a brunch, though you can easily freeze a batch of these to enjoy before work during the week. The muffins are best warm, of course, and they easily reheat after only a few seconds in the microwave.

The recipe uses fresh figs, but if there aren’t fresh figs where you are, feel free to use dried chopped figs. The resulting texture will be a little different, but you can prep the dried figs by soaking them in water for a bit before mixing them with the honey.

I also used goat cheese crumbles for these muffins, which are much easier to work with than soft, spreadable chevre. You could also try these with gorgonzola for an even more savory muffin, or add crumbles of either directly to the top of the muffin rather than a slice of fig.

Honeyed Fig and Goat Cheese Muffins image

Honeyed Fig and Goat Cheese Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup diced figs plus 6 whole figs
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) goat cheese crumbles

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and line a muffin tin with papers.
  2. Mix together chopped figs and 1 tablespoon honey. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In another bowl, mix together brown sugar, remaining 1/4 cup honey, eggs, milk, and vanilla until well-blended.
  5. Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed; make sure to not overmix.
  6. Gently fold in chopped figs and goat cheese crumbles. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  7. Halve the whole figs and press one half into the top of each muffin.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.
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Chai Spritz Cookies

Those of us of a certain age and upbringing spent many a December cranking out cookies through a cookie press, creating pile after pile of somewhat misshapen pine trees, snowflakes, and snowmen. Even after the charm of making cookies each Christmas fell away from my family, every time I bit into a butter spritz cookie at a friend’s house, I was flooded with the memory, however faint, of happy decorating cookies with my mother.

It had been a long time since I’ve made spritz cookies. Every year I’d see the set in the store, pick it up, and remember. Then I’d put it down and move on, somehow not allowing myself to hold on to those memories. To convince myself I had to let go.

I was telling a friend the other day that after my parents moved away from my childhood home, I wasn’t left with many mementos of growing up. Given my decluttering habit, I declared this a good thing, but then I realized why I had been wrong about putting back the cookie press. For the most part, all I have of my childhood is memories, and I should be cultivating them, tending to them like a wild garden.

It might just be cookies to some people, but for those of us with loss, no matter the level, we need to hold on to what we can.

Chai Spritz Cookies

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and OXO is hosting their annual program to benefit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a nonprofit that was founded by two OXO employees after their son was diagnosed with pediatric cancer.  For every OXO item with the green “Cookies for Kids’ Cancer” sticker sold in September, OXO will donate 25 cents in support of pediatric cancer research as part of its $100,000* pledge to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

I was thrilled to participate in the campaign this year, and it was great to get back to making cookies with a press. I’ve loved seeing what my fellow bloggers have come up with for their cookies. Visit the #OXOGoodCookies Pinterest board for cookie inspiration.

Now – these cookies are reminiscent of my childhood spritz cookies, but I pumped them full of chai spices to bring them into fall, creating a bite that is perfect alongside afternoon tea. You can lessen the spice if you want, but because spritz cookies are so rich, it’s easy for the spice to get overwhelmed.

I played with adding an orange glaze to these, but really, they are perfect as is and don’t need the extra sugar. Plus, the bonus with spritz cookies is that it makes a lot, so you’ll have plenty on hand to nibble.

Chai Spritz Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare cookie press by making sure it is clean, loading the selected disc, and removing the top.
  2. Mix together butter, sugar, salt, and spices until fluffy.
  3. Stir in egg and vanilla.
  4. Mix in flours until incorporated and dough comes together. It should resemble play-doh, a bit.
  5. Fill cookie press, replace lid, and press cookies onto baking sheet by holding press directly on the sheet and pressing the lever. Repeat until press is empty, then refill and repeat.
  6. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, until edges are just browned. Let cool slightly before removing to a rack.
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* In 2014, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer through specially marked baking tools, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.

Disclaimer: I was provided with the tools to create these cookies by OXO, but I was not otherwise compensated for this post. OXO is donating $100 to Cookies for Kid’s Cancer for each blog post dedicated to this campaign in September.

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Weekly Meal Plan, September 22

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Tonight is the official start of autumn, which means everyone can stop whining about pumpkin and pumpkin-spiced things being out. I’m only slightly joking.

I absolutely adore autumn, and sometimes go a little overboard to make up for the lack of a traditional, picture-postcard autumn here in Texas. Butternut squash is probably my very favorite vegetable, and I go a little nuts making everything with it, from soups to tacos to desserts. I tend to dice and roast up big ones so I have squash to last me the whole week — I’m not kidding when I say I sometimes just snack right off the roasting tray.

My family, for their part, is embracing the return of apples. I think we might have missed apple season in Texas, but I always allow for splurging on a few of our favorite varieties, including Honeycrisp, which were bred at the school my husband and I went to. I’m hoping to make applesauce again this year, but we go through it so quickly (the younger child is obsessed) it’s not quite cost-effective to do it ourselves. Still, I’m always trying to move toward more mindful cooking and eating, so it’s on the agenda soon.

This week is a busy one, and I have to say thank goodness for having meal planning be a stalwart in our lives. I’m not quite sure how we would have been able to get through this past month without it. Yes, we’ve punted a few times and done takeout (sometimes you just need a burger from Hopdoddy) but the fact that we have a plan at all has kept me sane.

The week culminates in Byte of Texas, the conference I’ve been planning for the past year. It’s been a lot of work but I’ve loved it. If you’re in the Austin area, you can still get tickets. I hope to see you there!

Here’s what we’re eating this week.

Monday: Butternut squash pilaf*

Tuesday: Macaroni and Trees

Wednesday: Zucchini and red pepper frittata

Thursday: Sloppy joe sliders

Friday: Red beans and rice

Saturday: Homemade pizza

Sunday: Celebratory post-conference dinner at Matt’s el Rancho

Snacks & such: Homemade tortillas*, sandwich bread

Recipe testing

What are you making this week?

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