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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lessons from Honduras - Tortilla Making

As a fourth grade teacher I incorporated making tortillas from scratch into our lessons about early California.  It was fairly easy to make the dough and shape it, but getting it off of the tortilla press in one piece was often difficult unless I doused it in flour.  I kept an electric skillet in my classroom and we'd fry them and then eat them.  They were good, if they weren't covered in flour!

Homemade tortillas are part of the menu for one of the lunches that we serve in Honduras.  They accompany Picadillo and Ashley's Corn and Bean Salad.  It's a delicious combination, especially when piled on the tortillas.  We've tried different ways to get the tortillas, and found that the most successful is to have our Honduran counterparts in the kitchen make them.  And, we get lessons!

This week I bought some Masa (corn flour) and made a batch at home.  Some were used for Pupusas as I have yet to master the technique of making a more authentic Pupusa. I followed the directions on the bag, but did need to add more water to keep the dough moist.  Here's what we learned in Honduras:

Roll the dough into small balls, not quite golf ball size.
Line the tortilla press with circles of waxed paper or parchment paper or plastic bags that you've cut.
Flatten the ball some and then place into a tortilla press.


Remove upper paper/plastic.
Peel off the lower paper and lay on a greased griddle.

Flip to cook both sides until lightly browned.
Served with your favorite tortilla toppings.

OR turn a few into Pupusas by crumbling cheese on the tortilla after the first flip.  Cover it with a second tortilla and continue cooking until cheese is melted.

 My favorite cheese for Pupusas:

The Honduran ladies made beautiful, flat tortillas without the aid of a press.  It seems to be something that they grow up learning.  Our hands and fingers have a long way to go in mastering their technique, hence the need for a press.  Several of us bought them at Wal-Mart in Honduras although they are available here quite readily. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Egg Bake - Egg Strata - Eggs in a Pan

It goes by many names, but quite simply it is a breakfast dish of eggs and veggies that is baked.  What's nice is that it can be prepared ahead of time, even frozen, and then baked fresh and warm.  In Honduras, we do prepare it ahead of time, we do refrigerate or freeze depending on how far ahead it is prepared, and we do bake it fresh although it takes up to 3 hours to bake.  That means setting an alarm for 4:30 am to turn on the ovens and start the baking so that we can serve it at 8am.

Over the course of my four trips to Honduras to prepare food for the Women's Bible Conference, I have discovered a unique method for baking using our large steamers.  I must confess that the appliance directions do not support this method, but it has saved us in the kitchen! 

We need to bake 14 9x13" pans at one time.  We have two ovens.  I've tried placing 6 pans in at a time, but the propane supplied gas ovens just cannot handle that capacity and so I've reduced it to 4 pans.  That covers 8 pans. 

For the other six, I place them in the steamers as you see above.  Add about a 1/2" of purified water to the pan.  Put in a rack. Then a pan of Egg Bake.  Set another rack on top of it and a second pan of egg bake.  Put on the steamer cover and set the temperature to 350 degrees F.  At about 1 1/2 hours, move the pans from the steamers into the oven and place those from the oven into the steamers.  I find that the steamers do not "brown" the dishes.
 Perfectly baked after 3 hours!  Let set for 10-15 minutes before cutting into 12 or 15 servings.
I am so very happy with the results this year!  Although, I am planning to change the recipe next year to one that does not contain so much liquid.  I may get to sleep in until 5:30am!
Egg Bake
Prepare each of the following items and then layer in a greased 9x13" pan:
2 boxes of dehydrated potatoes, re-hydrated
2 C canned mushrooms
2 C diced red peppers
1/2 C sliced green onions
3/4 C crumbled bacon
oodles of grated cheddar cheese (4ish cups?)
Mix the following and pour over the cheese:
4 large eggs
2 C whole milk or cream
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dry, ground mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
(Thank you to Sue Lorenz who supplied the original recipe which have tweaked according the to availability of ingredients in Honduras or that we can bring in our luggage.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pizza by the Pan (single recipe)

I recently returned from a mission trip to Honduras.  One of the nights I had planned to make pizza from scratch for dinner for our group of 16.  I casually asked if anyone to help me make the six pizzas.  Five people scrambled to the counter to help.  This was something new for them and what a ball we had making it together!  Each was different and all were delicious!

This recipe will make one crust.
Dough (Originally from the Betty Crocker Cookbook)
Warm 1 cup of water in the microwave (105 to 115 degrees F).

Dissolve 2 1/4 tsp. yeast (or one individual package) in the water.

1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
 2 T vegetable oil
 2 1/2 C flour

Mix well and then let rest for about 5 minutes.

Version 1: Dump the dough onto a greased jelly roll pan.  Thoroughly grease your hands with softened butter and spread the dough.

Version 2: Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll with a rolling pin.

Spread about 2/3 C pizza sauce, over the dough.  Generously sprinkle with grated mozzerella cheese.  Add your favorite toppings.  Ours are crumbled bacon and sliced pepperoni for my meat lovers.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes.  Cool for 3-5 minutes, cut into rectangles and enjoy!

My favorite Pizza Sauce is easily made from a few ingredients in my pantry and fridge.
1 - 15oz. can tomato sauce
4 tsp. crushed oregano
1-2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients together.  Pour about 2/3 C over the pizza dough.  Save the rest in the fridge or make a second pizza!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cheese, Veggie, and More Veggie Lasagnas in One Pan

Three variations of lasagna in one pan?  You bet.  It started out to be a vegetarian lasagna, but then morphed into the need for three variations based on which veggies people liked or not.

The first third was cheese only.
The middle section had cheese, chopped broccoli, chopped zucchini and onion.
To the last third I added mushrooms.

Meatballs were served on the side for the carnivores.

I served garlic bread and Caesar salad as sides.  Every plate looked different and only one serving of lasagna was left.  It seemed to hit the spot with everyone at our table that night.
In the future, I'll make two different pans and keep meat in one of them. We really missed our Italian Sausage, but were happy to accommodate the tastes of our guests that night.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bean Soup aka Baked Beans and Sausage

Need a simple, warm, quick meal?  This one fits the bill. Simply add sliced Kielbasa sausage to your favorite baked beans.   I sautéed the sausage first to lightly brown it and then added the beans, cooking long enough to warm them.  Pair this with a fresh pan of cornbread and you have a tasty and filling meal. 

After trying several different brands, Marie Callender's cornbread mix is back at the top of my list, even over scratch recipes. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Black Bean "Burger" Burritos

Sometime ago, one of my daughters discovered a delicious recipe for quesadillas on the back of the box of Spicy Black Bean Burger patties.  They were delicious!  In fact, I liked them so much I wanted to make a second batch, but was short on time, so I rolled the filling inside tortillas and baked them as burritos.  They were much enjoyed by my family.  In fact, I didn't even get any of the leftovers!

Tonight, they were our main course served with condiments and a Mexican Caesar Salad.  I made them fresh, having only frozen the patties when they were purchased.

Here's my tweaked version of the MorningStar recipe.  You can find the original on their website.

Mix together:
8 burger patties, warmed enough to crumble.
4 tsp. salt-free Southwest or Mexican seasoning (try Mrs. Dash)
3 C shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 1/2 C salsa

 Place a scoop on the tortilla and roll up tightly.

 Brush the tortillas lightly with softened or melted butter.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until cheese melts.
Yield: 17-18

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January Menu

I've done very little cooking outside of the holiday meals enjoying all of the leftovers, but the freezer is getting mighty empty and the plastic container drawer mighty full.  Both are signals that it's time for another round of once-a-month cooking.  I'll be in Honduras for part of the month and so created a list of foods that are easy for my family to prepare while I am gone.  For the next few days I'll be preparing meals fresh until I can shop and cook early next week.

Here's our list for the month, designated by the date:

2 - Shredded Pork Sandwiches

3 - Macaroni and Cheese

4 - Chicken with gravy and stuffing

5 - OUT - Birthday Dinner (Bring dessert for lunch)

6 - Black Bean Burritos

7 - Korv with scalloped potatoes

8 - Chicken Strips Parmesan

9 - Taco Salad/Tacos


11 - Corndog Casserole

12 - Bacon and Cheese Quiche

13 - Chili Dogs

14 - Orange Chicken and Rice

15 - Chicken Pattie Sandwiches

16 - Cheese Tortellini w/ Alfredo sauce

17 - BUY pizza

18 - Taquitos


20 - Hamburgers

21 - Manicotti, garlic bread

22 - Pupusas and Red Beans

23 - Patty Melts

24 - Ravioli

25 - DESSERT (Death by Chocolate), Potato Corn Chowder for dinner

26 - Chicken Pot Pies (Potluck lunch)

27 - Impossible Taco Pie

28 - Taco filled Pasta Shells
I made a few notes to my self in parentheses so that I am reminded of calendared events in my planning.  A copy of the list is now posted in my kitchen.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Dinner

Today began a fresh, new year.  It is a clean slate waiting to be written upon and many will make resolutions going forward.  One of my goals is to return to regularly writing my blog and so I am starting today.

Each New Year's Day we get up early to walk along the floats at the Rose Parade.  Today, I put a roast in the crock-pot before we left at 5:25AM.  I made my favorite recipe, Mrs. Ringle's Brisket (see blog).

Tonight we sat down to a perfect roast, potatoes and carrots.  I also made a fresh batch of mashed potatoes so my boys would have lots of leftovers.

About two hours before dinner time, I added chunks of carrots and potatoes to the crock-pot and let them all cook on low.  An hour later, I removed the roast to a serving platter and covered it well with foil to set and to stay warm.  Then I turned the crock-pot up to high to finish cooking the veggies.

I served the roast with au jus rather than gravy, and it was delicious!
Happy New Year!