Saturday, 16 February 2013

Stepping out of my comfort zone....

Written by Linda Gauthier


This morning I woke up, feeling like I wanted to do something different, didn't know what, but I knew I'd figure it out.  Went through my normal routines, cleaning the kitchen, wiped down the shower, checked the fridge for any vegetables that have gone rogue. Talked to the cat about my dilemma, she wasn't very
forthcoming with any ideas; she only tipped her head and looked at me like I'd gone off my meds and promptly curled up and went to sleep.

So I went outside, checked my pond, took a tour of the garden to see what, if anything, was coming up.  Yup, bulbs starting to poke their heads out of the ground, maybe I should do some spring cleanup.  Decided to attack the side yard.  Pulled a bunch of weeds and fledgling dandelions, raked some leaves up, moved a couple of landscape bed retainers, then decided nope this isn't cutting it.  With mud clumps attached to my shoes, I clomped up the back stairs.  Now what?  A cup of tea, yup tea, that will fix it.

Hot cup of tea and a stack of cookbooks later, I decided I had found my quest -- I will try a new recipe, I am going to try making my own tortillas, the recipe looks easy, simple ingredients and it is described as delicious.  Why not?  I can do this and it is good to try new things, right?  

First, I better decide how I'm going to serve them.  Okay, I have chicken thighs, black beans, kidney beans and rice, homemade canned tomatoes.  South of the border here we come.  Ariba, Ariba taste treats are on the way. This recipe was created on the fly, with the inspiration being Black Beans and Rice.

Impromptu South of the Border Chicken Thighs

8 chicken thighs, boneless skinless
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 large tin black beans
1 large tin red kidney beans
1 pkg Epicure Enchilada mix
1 medium onion
1 large clove garlic
Salt and pepper
1 cup rice
1 bottle of pale ale

In my slow cooker I placed the Chicken thighs, tomatoes, Epicure Enchilada flavouring, 1/2 a bottle of pale ale beer, (why you ask? I don't know, just thought I'd try it) chopped onion and garlic, place temperature on high and cook for 2 hours,

Open slow cooker put beans in slow cooker.  Cook for another hour. 

Now add rice cook for 30 minutes more on high, lower temperature to low stir and place lid back on.

This made a substantial amount of food, enough that I can make a soup for tomorrow night's dinner, and even freeze a portion for a future dinner.  I like being able to do this, as it allows me flexibility in my menu planning when I have crazy days.  Tomorrow's post will have information and pictures about the soup and this week's menu.

Homemade Corn Tortillas 

Recipe from an article published by Jackie Dodd
Homemade Corn Tortillas


1 cup Masa
pinch salt
¾ cup water (she has also used beer, which turns out great as well she says)


In a large bowl, add the Masa and the salt, stir to combine. 
Add the water and stir to combine. If the dough is too dry to hold together, add additional water. If it is too wet, add more Masa
Form into balls a bit larger than golf balls. 

She suggested using a tortilla press, however, I don't own one, so I used a rolling pin.  If you do have a press, her instruction on its use can be found at the bottom of this post.  The rolling pin worked well.

I layered them between parchment paper before cooking.

Heat a griddle (I used a cast iron skillet) to a medium high heat (about 350 for electric griddles). 

Cook until slightly brown on the bottom (about 30 seconds to a minute) flip and cook on the other side. Don’t overcook.

Serve warm, impress your friends.  (Her Words)

I served them with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, diced red onion, homemade guacamole, and the chicken and bean mixture topped with pickled peppers and onions (canned this past summer).  It was well received by the family and was very filling, they ate 2nds and thirds I could only make it through 1 tortilla, not because I didn't enjoy it but it was just very filling.  I found the flavour of all the items together to be very good, and texture of the tortillas nice.  I think the bean mixture was a little thick, and could have been a little thinner but the flavour was nice.  I might not add as much rice next time, and I also believe the cooking time was a little long, but otherwise it was met with favorable reviews.

The outcome of my experience with this new recipe:

Well, it turns out this was not as easy as it appeared.  I found I had difficulty in getting the dough to stick together properly.  At first I found the dough too dry, then it didn't want to stick together or roll as thin as I wanted.  I was not able to make the tortillas as round as I wanted, but the flavour was good and they worked well for the dinner.   
The problem may have been with my masa, as I had it on my pantry shelf for a while it may have been too dry.  Or heaven forbid, it could have been a problem with the operator, and not the product!  I imagine there is a technique which I need to master, and I willbut for a first time attempt I was reasonably happy.

I will try this recipe and others again.  I believe it would be worth mastering, I can see all kinds of uses, and reasons why I would like to know how to do this, rather than buy the dry plain tasting tortillas from the grocery store.

Jackies' notes on using the Tortilla Press:

Prepare a tortilla press by wrapping in plastic wrap or covering with parchment paper
Place one ball in the center. Press, rotate and press again until thin.

To my way of thinking, the only way I'm going to improve my cooking skills and provide my family with a varied menu, is to explore different methods of cooking and to think outside the box.
I have been like this most of my life.  When I met my husband, he thought Kraft dinner and French fries was a balanced meal.  I remember one of the first times I was truly shocked by his eating habits, was when I had cooked him a special meal, which consumed most of my food budget for the week by the way, and he took one look at it, without even trying it, and announced "I don't like salmon or asparagus.  Do you want to go to McDonalds?"
I was furious.  I had poached a salmon fillet, made a hollandaise sauce from scratch, steamed asparagus, the first of the season, and made a beautiful salad, and poached pears in red wine to be served with Creme Fraiche.  To which he said "can we eat at McDonalds?"
I later found out he had never even tried neither Salmon or Asparagus.  

Thankfully, he has much improved and his tastes have become much more accommodating over the last 27 years, to the point where now he will "always try at least once", and I have made sure my children had a varied diet, so they would not hurt any young man or woman, who had put their heart and soul into a meal, only to be rebuffed for "McDonalds."
It never hurts to reach beyond our comfort zone, what is it likely to hurt?  You'll either find you like it, or it is not for you, but either way, you have added to your life's repertoire of experience.  Play, learn and enjoy cooking, it is a lot cheaper than going out to restaurants all the time to find a new taste treat.

Until next time, enjoy yourself, stop and smell the coffee and think about trying new things.  Smile, it saves you from getting wrinkles.                           

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