color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Tasty Tuesday – Angel Food

Do you like cake?

Do you like marshmallows?

How about a cake that tastes like a giant marshmallow?

Mmmmmm.  Angel Food cake.  This distinctly North American creation (not to be confused with the angel cake popular in the UK) is light, airy, and delicious.  It is a type of sweet sponge cake which lends itself well to soaking up the juices of fresh fruit toppings – crushed strawberries being my favorite.  Oh, and what’s this about it being fat free?  You better believe it – the lightness of this particular type of cake comes from whipped egg whites, rather than heavy oils or butter.

If you’ve never tried an angel food cake from scratch – having only used or eaten a boxed mix – I want to strongly encourage you to try making it yourself next time.  I happen to think it’s much tastier, and heck, you can wow everyone else when you tell them about how you had to whip your egg whites to stiff peak stage first, creating an egg foam base, and so on.  You’ll sound oh so fancy.

Angel Food Cake
from Annie’s Recipes

1 1/2 cup egg whites (11-12)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cake flour

  • Beat egg whites with water, salt, and vanilla until just foamy.
  • Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

  • Add 1 cup sifted sugar – 1/4 at a time, folding 25 strokes after each addition.
  • Fold in flour sifted with remaining one cup of sugar – 1/4 at each time, 15 strokes after each addition.
  • Pour into UNgreased, 10 inch tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes.
  • When finished baking, turn pan upside down and allow cake to cool completely.  Once cool, you may need to run a thin knife around outer edge of pan, as well as the inner tube, in order to release the cake.

If your pan does not have feet on the rim for use in cooling, simply balance your cake on a sturdy bottle – wine or soda bottles work well – and place somewhere that it won’t get knocked over.

When ready to serve, plate it up with some juicy fruit and a bit of freshly whipped cream.  Enjoy!

October 11, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | Leave a comment

Tasty Tuesday is back!

Well, I would apologize for the lack of blogging over the last 2 months, but then that would mean I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying my reason for not writing.  And, of course I can’t say that.  Baby duty has definitely been a full time job, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!  More on that to come later this week – so, for now, we move on to the food.

Seeing as my life has been consumed with a tiny human lately, I haven’t had much time for proper cooking or baking… until this past weekend.  I managed to squeeze in a couple of rounds of baking cookies and muffins to share with friends and neighbors.  And, what better to start back up with than some yummy muffins!

Oh, and not just any muffins – banana oat muffins.  After all, there was a pile of black bananas sitting in my freezer just begging to be used, and I couldn’t ignore them any longer.

After searching around for a while on the internet, and finding several recipes similar to one another, the following is what I settled on.  These muffins aren’t overly sweet, and the oats add a nice hearty texture.  I think that the only thing I might change next time is adding one more banana to the mix.  I love bananas!

So, here’s the recipe, if you’d like to make them as well to have on hand for a quick breakfast (they taste great with a dab of peanut butter), or an afternoon snack.  The batter will make 12 regular sized muffins.  Enjoy!

Banana-Oat Muffins

What you need –

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup mashed banana (about 2 regular sized)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp oats, optional for topping

What to do –

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin by lightly spraying each cup with cooking spray (You could also use liners if you prefer).
  2. In a medium bowl combine all of the dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the mashed banana, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and eggs.
  4. Pour the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and stir together until well combined.
  5. Evenly fill each muffin cup, then sprinkle the tops with extra oats.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the muffin tin for 15 minutes before removing.

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | 2 Comments

Tasty Tuesday – ไข่ยัดไส้

I.
Love.
This.
Food.

One of the first meals I ever had in Thailand way back in 2005 was ไข่ยัดไส้ (say it like: khai yat sai).  Simple, delicious food that is made quickly and eaten probably just as fast.  It’s just that good.

So, what is it?  It’s basically a paper-thin egg omelette (reminiscent of crepes) stuffed with minced meat, chopped veggies, and a sweet-savory-slightly spicy sauce.  Put it on top of a mound of rice, add a sprinkle of fresh cilantro (coriander), and drizzle it with a bit of Sri Racha (the legit stuff, not the insanely hot imposter Huy Fong Rooster Sauce that most Americans think of), and it becomes a fabulous meal.  Mmmmmmmm.

Click here for a great tutorial, including both a recipe and how-to photos, if you’d like to make one for yourself.  The only notes I would make regarding this recipe – if you want to eat it the way we do here – are as follows…

  • Bacon, although included in this recipe, is not used in the omelettes here.
  • You can use whatever minced meat you have on hand (chicken, turkey, pork, beef), but my favorite is pork.
  • Usually, street vendors use thin sliced baby corn instead of kernels, and chopped raw green beans instead of snow peas – though a frozen veggie blend as stated in this recipe will work just fine.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have any fish sauce or oyster sauce.  They are wonderful and do add beautiful depth of flavor, but if you are making this for yourself at home and only have soy sauce, just use that and go for it anyways!
  • If you like a little kick (like me!), feel free to toss in some chopped chilies or jalapenos and some garlic.

Now, go make this and enjoy!!!

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | Leave a comment

Tasty Tuesday – Lofthouse Cookies

You’re probably wondering what in the world a Lofthouse cookie is, aren’t you?

If you’ve ever been to WalMart, Kroger, or whatever your local grocery store is in the States, it is likely that you have encountered (and possibly overdosed on) these.

Look familiar?  Super soft, fluffy, almost bendy, brightly frosted sugar cookies.  They are thicker and softer than your average cut out or drop cookie, which is the only kind I’d ever made before.  I think they taste and feel like a sugar cookie that meets white cake and the outside of a marshmallow.  If that makes no sense to you at all, then you’ve obviously never eaten them, and you need to do so right away.

Alone, I don’t think the cookies taste like much – so if you’re not into really sweet or flavorful things, a plain one just might be right up your alley.  (Brook prefers his plain with just a sprinkle of sugar on top.)  However, once you add some frosting, boy do they become decadent.

Brook’s grandmother makes old-fashioned sugar cookies very much like these every Christmas, and they are his favorite thing in the world.  I’ve been trying for a few years now to replicate hers (as there is no written recipe, since she has been trying to perfect it for many years as well), and this is about the closest I’ve ever gotten.  How do I know this?  Brook, the one not known for eating sweets at all, ate 7 of them over the course of a couple days.  That’s my proof right there.

So, here’s the recipe.  And, let me say this now – DO NOT eat these fresh from the oven, or even right after they’ve finally cooled, or you will be severely disappointed.  They won’t taste bad at all, but they will not have reached the proper texture yet.  Coming from one who is known for burning herself by nibbling straight from the hot box, the patience required for these cookies is totally vital and more than worth it.  If you can, once cooled and frosted (or not, if that’s your thing), put them in an air-tight container and wait until tomorrow…. or at least 6-7 hours if you really can’t stand it.  Seriously, just trust me – I tried them both ways, and the wait makes the difference between night and day.

As you can see, buttercream gets metly pretty quick in our climate. Better reason to eat these babies fast!

Lofthouse Cookies
via Runs With Spatulas

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 cups flour, divided

  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and granulated sugar until light in color and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each until fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in sour cream and vanilla.  (**Sara’s note: I only had 1 cup of sour cream, so I used a half cup of soured milk to round it out and it worked just fine.)
  • In a medium bowl, stir together 5 cups flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Slowly add in flour mixture, beating until all the flour is fully hydrated. Dough needs to obtain the right consistency for rolling, so add additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until this is achieved (up to 1 cup more flour). Dough will still be a bit on the sticky side. Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1 1/2 inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, set aside.
  • Generously flour a work area and rolling pin. Remove one section of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on your work area. Roll dough out until 1/4 inch thick. Dough will be very sticky, so continue to dust with flour as you need it. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (or an equivalent juice glass dipped in flour, as I did), cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet. (If choosing not to frost the cookies, go ahead and sprinkle some granulated sugar on top of them at this point.) Bake for 7-8 minutes, until set – bottom of cookies should be a very pale golden brown. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough, storing any extra in the fridge while not in use.

Meanwhile, prepare either your favorite buttercream frosting recipe, or use the one below.

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons milk
Several drops food coloring

  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and vanilla. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar.
  • Once smooth and creamy, add in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. Frosting should be easy to spread, but not runny. Add in the food coloring, if desired.

Once cookies have cooled, frost and add sprinkles, if you like. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container. Let cookies sit for several hours before serving to allow the flavors and proper texture to develop.

Makes: about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Food, Just for Fun, Tasty Tuesdays | 2 Comments

Tasty (not) Tuesday – Cinco de Mayo Edition

I haven’t been so great at posting in the last month or so, and that stinks. Between the coming baby, language studies picking back up, and the whirlwind of meetings/events/everything else under the sun continuing through the next couple of months, I’ve been lacking on time and motivation to sit down and write. Not to mention it being the hot HOT season in Thailand, which leaves me with little desire to cook anything to write about either.  Blech.

But, this week, I just had to. I mean, it’s Cinco de Mayo, people. I may not be Mexican, and I may not have any real ties to the holiday whatsoever… but we do celebrate the holiday all throughout the States, and I am an American. Thus, we are having burritos for supper.

If you’re from Indiana, it’s likely you may have heard of (or been to many times!) a Mexican restaurant chain called Hacienda. They’ve got fantastic food, an unlimited supply of chips and salsa, and they are the ones who make Brook’s favorite burrito in the whole wide world (and, considering where we live, I mean that literally) – the Wet Burrito.  Lucky for him, he just so happens to have a wife that enjoys the challenge of recreating the things we miss from home, and has actually gotten pretty good at it.

So, tonight we’re having Wet Burritos – the Thailand edition.

Hacienda offers a choice of shredded beef, pork, or chicken, ground beef, black beans, or red potatoes – Brook always orders the chicken.  So, that’s how I make them, too.  I will tell you now, that my version may not be exactly like Hacienda’s (as I am basically going on a memory from the States here), but I’m getting closer with each time I make them and they still taste pretty dang good.

For me, it all comes down to tender chicken and a good mole.

I start out by poaching the chicken (skin on) in plain water (2 breasts makes about 4-6 regular size burritos, depending on how much you fill them, to give you a reference) until it’s nice and tender, reserving the fresh broth for sauce making.

This is the easiest recipe for me to make, as different kinds of chiles (outside of Thai varieties) are impossible for me to find.  It’s a good base to work from, as it isn’t spicy at all and doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor.  It would be easy for you to customize by adding some heat, chopped green chiles, or whatever other flavors you happen to like.  Of course, if you’ve already got another recipe you like, or a jarred variety you enjoy, then go ahead and use that!  The recipe, as is, makes 3 cups of sauce – I tend to cut the recipe by 1/3 since there’s only 2 of us in this house.

Once you’ve added the broth to the mole, let it simmer for just a minute or two, then add your chicken (cooked and shredded or broken up by hand) and let it reduce until it’s however thick or saucy you’d like it to be.  I had just added my meat in the photo above, and let it cook for about 10 minutes from there.  After your filling has reached your desired consistency, let it sit a few minutes to cool down and stiffen up a bit – this will keep your tortillas from tearing when filling and rolling them for the oven.

Once ready, lay out all of your ingredients, and get ready to roll – refried beans, meat filling, shredded lettuce, finely diced tomatoes (seeds removed!), and of course, warm flour tortillas.

Begin by spreading a thin layer of beans across the tortilla, adding a thicker strip down the middle if you so desire – I like beans, so I always add more to mine!  Next come the tomatoes and a sprinkling of lettuce down the center of your tortilla.  Finish it off by piling your chicken on top of the lettuce, being sure not to add so much that you can’t roll it up and tuck in the ends.

Once everything is in place, fold one end of the tortilla over to cover your filling.  Next, tuck in the ends on both sides.  Then, finish rolling the burrito (holding the ends in securely!) until sealed.  Make sure you place burritos seam down, and close together, into whatever baking dish or casserole you are going to use.  From here, you can cover them in your favorite taco or enchilada sauce, top with cheese and/or salsa, or whatever else you happen enjoy on your burritos.  (We tend to just cover them with cheese, then add sour cream and salsa after they come out of the oven.)  Go ahead and pop them in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted and bubbly and burritos are heated through.  (I’m not sure what temp to tell you, as my oven does not have a temperature control on it… I just turn it up as high as the gas will go, and during our current season – my oven is outside – I know that will put me somewhere between 375-425F most evenings. 🙂

Last step – eat!

Mmmmmm……. burritos.

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesday – Lunch With My Dad

This is one of those times where I’m going to use the gigantic time difference between here and the States to my advantage.  You see, it’s already Wednesday here, but it’s still Tuesday night in the Midwest – so, this counts!  Thing is, this delay was not a result of forgetfulness or being too busy to write.  Rather, it was done on purpose.  This week’s Tasty Tuesday may be super simple, but for me, it’s special.

Last year, about this time, you may remember me writing this letter to my Dad.  Today, April 20, 2011, now marks 11 years since he passed.  You may also recall this post on remembering someone we love, where I described my sort of yearly ritual for reconnecting with my Dad.  Well, that’s what today’s Tasty Tuesday is about – the meal I eat each year in his memory.

Now, do you get why the whole time difference thing works for me?  I’m posting about food on what is still your Tuesday, but is already my Wednesday – the day I celebrate my Dad.  Perfect.

If you haven’t read the previously mentioned posts, what I do every year on April 20 (the day he died) and July 29 (his birthday) is eat a meal I remember my Mom telling me was one of his favorites for lunch or picnicking.  Lucky for me, it’s one of mine, too.

Egg salad sandwiches and green Jell-O.

So, there it is.  My lunch for today.  A bit of hard-boiled egg, celery, homemade pickles, and mayo.

Not a day usually goes by where I don’t think about my Dad at some point.  Whether it be something I wish I could tell him, a place I could take him here in Thailand, wanting to just give him a hug and tell him I love him… he’s in my mind somehow.  Especially with the birth of our first child coming in the next few months, I find myself thinking of him even more, wishing he could be here to hold his new grandchild.  But, no matter how much I wish, or think, or even regret not spending more time with him when I could have, I would never want him to have lasted 11 more years in the state that he was.  I miss him, but it’s better off this way.

Love you, Dad.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Food, Personal, Tasty Tuesdays | 4 Comments

Tasty Tuesday – ปลาเผา

After featuring Western food for the last few weeks, I figured it high time we get back to some Thai food.  Agreed?

This week, I want to introduce you to something I probably never would have ordered on my own here in Thailand (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter).  You see, coming from Midwest America, I wasn’t exposed to very much seafood growing up.  Sure, I knew what shrimp were, and I can remember one time my mom even made mustard-crusted halibut and seared scallops as a special treat.  Outside of that, canned tuna, and perhaps 3 lifetime total trips to Red Lobster, though, we just didn’t have it around.

So, what was it like, then, coming to a nation where seafood seems to be a staple in everyday cuisine?  Interesting. But, seeing as I am not one to turn down something that my host has offered, I will always try (just about) everything at least once.  And, this particular meal is one thing I am glad I tried!

Plaa Phao, or ปลาเผา, is about as simple as you can get for Thai food.  Aside from plain steamed rice, of course.  All you need is a large, flat fish (tilapia or Thai sea bass are the favorite choice around here), lemongrass, lime leaves, and coarse salt – lots and lots of coarse salt.

Check it out –

The photo above comes from a birthday dinner we attended at a neighbor’s house last week.  They are actually the ones who first introduced me to this delicious form of food.  It seems to be a favorite in their family, so every time we’ve gotten together for a barbecue, I get excited knowing that we’ll probably be eating this along with whatever else they decide to make.

So, what is it?

As I mentioned above, the fish of choice is tilapia or sea bass, but you can also find snakehead fish prepared in this same way out in street markets.  All you need to do is gut the fish, then stuff it with several stalks of lemongrass and a handful of lime leaves.  Seal the fish back up, roll it in a generous amount of coarse salt, give it a few slashes of the knife, and roast it over some charcoal.

Now, I can already hear some of you questioning the saltiness of this dish, considering the amount of white you see being charred in the photo above.  However, it really doesn’t affect the flavor of the fish at all.  The thick salty crust actually serves a different purpose – as it is used only on the outside of the fish’s skin, it actually works to seal in moisture, keeping the flesh inside tender and flaky (seriously, you don’t really even need to chew it, it’s that tender), and it makes the skin peel off effortlessly when it comes time to eat.

Surprisingly, it’s not “fishy” tasting at all.  Just light, flaky, tender, and good.  (And this is coming from someone who, since being pregnant, thinks that the fishy flavor of shrimp of any variety is way too intense and absolutely repulsive – if that helps give you any sort of comparison.)  When served, the fish is usually just placed on a large plate or suitable platter, with the skin on one side peeled or rolled upward from the tail end.  All you need to do is flake off a piece with your fork and go for it.  When one side is cleaned of meat, just grab the tail and lift upward toward the head to remove the spine, and continue eating what lies beneath.

So easy, so simple, and so delicious.  This particular type of fish can be eaten plain, as-is, or with a number of different sauces.  The most interesting, however, is the manner in which our hosts decided to eat it last week.  They seemed to make a sort of wrap out of one ruffled lettuce leaf, a few leaves of fresh Thai basil and cilantro (coriander), a pinch of super-skinny cold rice noodles, a forkful of fish, and one spoon of a sweet-spicy-tangy-citrusy vinegar sauce.  The whole thing then gets wrapped up in a ball and popped right in your mouth!  It’s such a great combination of typical Thai tastes in one neat little package.

So, once again, if any of you ever happen to find yourself on this side of the globe – this is yet another meal I will take you to eat.

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesdays – Hot Sandwich Braid

Raise your hand if you like sandwiches.  *Me!*  Now, keep them up if you like, hot, melty, delicious sandwiches from the oven.  *Oooooh, pick me!*

Sandwiches are often a quick, convenient, and familiar (which, when living overseas, is comforting) food.  They can be cold, pressed, grilled, open-faced, stacked, baked, stuffed… the possibilities are endless.  They come in all different forms, with all different breads and fillings, but the basic elements are always the same – bread on the outside, delicious other stuff on the inside.

I first made this recipe a while ago, not long after getting married and starting my first full-time job at an elementary school in Indiana.  It was time for my first work carry-in (or potluck), and I wanted to bring something everyone would like, wasn’t too hard to do, and didn’t cost a lot to make.  I wanted whatever it was to be homemade and delicious – after all, I was trying to make a good first impression!

Mmmmm... Fresh out of the oven goodness.

Well, after bringing this in, I got requests to make it again for most events after that for 3 years (and, if you know the staff I was a part of, then you already know how much everybody loves an excuse to have them during the year!).  It’s simple, delicious, versatile, takes just over an hour from start to your plate, and looks beautifully impressive (though, my pictures today aren’t so lovely, as I ran out of daylight and had to rely solely on our fluorescent ceiling lamps – blargh).  The dough is super easy to work with as well.  That makes this a definite winner in my book!

This recipe comes straight from a Taste of Home leaflet I got inside another magazine almost 5 years ago.  I’ve added a few notes in blue, as well as a few other tips at the end.  Try it out, and enjoy!

Ham & Swiss Braid
Makes one large loaf, about the length of a cookie sheet.

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) quick-rise yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard (I like to use French’s spicy brown)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound thinly sliced deli ham (smoked, honey, & pepper all work great!)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickles (totally optional – I’ve never used them, as not everybody likes hot pickles)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  • In a bowl, combine 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt.  In a small saucepan, heat water, mustard and butter to 120°-130°.  Add to flour mixture.  Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be slightly stiff).  Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
  • Roll dough into a 14″ x 12″ rectangle on a greased baking sheet.  (I just line my sheet with parchment paper and don’t bother with the greasing.  Easy cleanup!) Arrange half of the ham over dough. Top with cheese, pickles and remaining ham.

I ran out of ham - so, I did not put another layer on top of the cheese this time.

  • On each long side, cut 3/4″ wide strips about 2-1/2″ into center.  Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling.  Pinch ends to seal.  Cover and let rise for 15 minutes.
  • Brush with egg.  (Add toppings – see notes below.) Bake at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm.

It starts out like this ^, and ends up like this! ^

Other notes and tips –

  • You can also use many other filling combinations for this braid – just be sure that whatever you choose fill it with, will go with the slight mustard flavor of the dough.  Previous braids that I have made have included: ham & swiss; ham & cheddar; roast beef & cheddar; roast beef & provolone; turkey & swiss; turkey & cheddar; turkey, honey ham, & smoked provolone.  I also think pastrami would be amazing, though I have yet to try that one out – can’t find it over here!
  • If you make one large loaf, as the recipe specifies, the bread will be a nice fluffy, thick texture.  However, I have made this recipe before, dividing the batch of dough in half, and rolling it to almost the same size, though thinner.  That way, I could get 2 braids, with separate fillings, out of one batch – and, it wouldn’t be as bready.  It’s good both ways, just depends on how much bread you enjoy!  Just try it out each way, and see which one YOU like best.
  • By adding other toppings, such as parsley, other dried herbs, sesame or poppy seeds, shredded Asiago or Parmesan to the top of your braid (after brushing with egg), you can add a little extra flair, as well as help others distinguish which braids are filled with what.  For example, top the roast beef braid with sesame seeds, the ham braid with parsley, and tell your guests so they can tell at a glance which one they want to dig into.
  • Also worthy of note – if you happen to be one who enjoys stromboli, this is similar, but has key differences to be aware of, so you are not surprised or disappointed if you are expecting them to be the same.  This braid is made with a thicker, fluffier bread dough that will rise as it bakes and give more to bite into, as opposed to the thinner pizza dough that stromboli is usually made with.  Also, this dough is made with mustard, so the dough will have a slightly more tangy flavor, as opposed to a pizza dough serving as a blank canvas for the fillings.

March 22, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | 3 Comments

Tasty Tuesday – Tortillas

I usually don’t like having two Tasty Tuesdays in a row, without another post in between, but it’s been busy, busy around here, so I’ll just have to deal with it, I suppose.  Eh, who really cares anyways – it’s food.  I like food.

This week’s Tasty Tuesday is another thing I have really come to love making here in Thailand, that I never did before moving out of the States – flour tortillas.  Well over a year ago, I posted about making tacos for supper one night in Lopburi, but I was still too new at the tortilla-making game that I didn’t want to to post any sort of recipe until I was sure I had found one that was wonderful.  Well, enough time has now passed, enough recipes have been tried, and plenty enough rounds of tortillas have been made to declare that I now have my favorite recipe that I will use always and forever, amen.

Seeing as most recipes use some sort of lard, shortening, or heavy fat substance, I originally wanted to find a recipe that was a bit lighter.  Not to mention the fact that shortening and lard aren’t something I can easily come by over here anyhow.  So, after testing out 5 or 6 recipes (2 of them using shortening, just because I wanted to see the difference), I just kept going back to the very first one I ever used.  It was the most consistent, best tasting, and least complicated – so, why not?

The recipe originally comes from Eating Well magazine’s website, with a couple of minor changes from me.  One was that their idea is to freeze a small portion of flour with your choice of vegetable oil, so it acts like shortening when blending together with your flour (similar to when making a pie crust).  I, however, didn’t like having to wait another 30 minutes for that to happen, so after doing that the first couple of times, I just decided to use the oil straight out of the bottle – and, it works just fine!  That’s exactly how I’ve been doing it ever since, and it turns out perfect every time.  The other change I made is the number of tortillas I can make out of the recipe.  I tend to like bigger tortillas (halfway between what packages usually label to be “taco” sized and “burrito” sized), so I can tuck the ends in before picking up my tacos.  After all, who likes their filling to fall out when they’re trying to eat?  Not me.

So, here you go.  The recipe, and a few tips on how to make them.

Hand-Rolled Flour Tortillas

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling out the tortillas
  • 3 tablespoons oil (canola, soy, veg blend – anything light – I use rice bran)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water

1.  Add both flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and give them a good stir.

2.  Measure out your water and add oil to water.  Give them a stir, too.

3.  Add your wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until they come together.  (Keep in mind that the dough will be in large clumps rather than a nice smooth ball.  If all of the dry ingredients haven’t been dampened, add just a little more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it all comes together.)  Scoop the dough out of the bowl and knead for a few minutes until smooth. It should be a medium-stiff consistency; definitely not firm, but not quite as soft as most bread dough.

4.  Divide the dough into small balls, according to how many you would like to make – 12 for smaller, 10 for medium, 8 for large enough to make good-sized burritos.  Making the balls as smooth as possible is key in helping you roll out nice circles later on, so check out this tutorial on YouTube to see how to do that well (I didn’t like her recipe, but I used her method for making smooth balls which starts at 1:15).  Let the balls rest on a plate, covered, for at least 30 minutes to make the dough easier to roll out later.

5.  Lightly flour your work surface (counter top, marble slab, smooth glass cutting board, or my personal favorite – a cloth pastry frame), and flatten one ball with the palm of your hand.  Lightly roll a few times with a rolling pin, then rotate the dough a quarter turn.  Roll a few times again, then rotate a quarter turn.  Repeat the process until your tortilla is as thin as you can go, without being see-through.  It’ll take a little practice, but once you’ve got it, you will no longer have to worry about amoeba shaped tortillas and all will be right in the world.

6.  Place tortilla carefully (not letting it fold or wrinkle up) onto a hot griddle and watch for bubbles to form.  After about 20 seconds, flip the tortilla over and cook for another 20 seconds or so.  You want the tortilla to be white and cooked through, and some little brown spots on the bubbles are just fine.  Be careful not to let them get too brown though, as the tortillas will get stiff pretty quick.

7.  Keep finished tortillas wrapped in a towel to keep them warm and flexible as you work on the rest.

Ta-da! Lovely, delicious tortillas.

** A few things I’ve found to be very important in making great tortillas are – not letting the dough get too wet, being sure to allow the dough to rest for 30-40 minutes (or else it’ll be like trying to roll spring-loaded silly putty), rolling them out as thin as I can to keep them flexible, and flipping them quickly so they don’t get tough.

Now, if you’ve not made homemade flour tortillas before, it’ll probably take a couple of rounds to get the hang of it.  But, once you’ve got it, it is SO worth it.  Packaged ones just seem so dry and bland to me now.  Homemade ones don’t tear when you stuff them with juicy meat, tomatoes, melty cheese, and salsa.  And, seriously, if you like making quesadillas, homemade tortillas will give you that wonderful crisp outside, chewy inside goodness that you can only seem to find at Mexican restaurants.   Mmmmmm…. I’m so glad I made a double batch this week!

March 15, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesday – Broccoli Salad

If you’re from the States, and you’ve ever been to any sort of potluck meal (church picnic, work carry-in, neighborhood barbecue, etc.), chances are you’ve had broccoli salad.  I’m going to also assume the kind you’ve had is the most common type (in the Midwest, anyways) – broccoli, raisins, lots of bacon, onion, and a dressing made of straight mayo, apple cider vinegar, and lots of sugar.  Sound familiar?  Probably.  Taste good?  Definitely.

But, I still like it better my way.  🙂

I’m a big fan of taking things I know, then not only changing them to my tastes, but also making them healthier and fresher, too.  That’s how my version of broccoli salad came about.  Every time I’ve made or brought it somewhere, it has been met with good reviews and well, it’s perhaps my favorite thing to eat at a barbecue (or for dinner even in the middle of winter).

Wanna make it?  I’ll tell you now, since this is another Sara-style recipe, I’m basically just going to give you a guideline for what goes in it without precise amounts.  I always just eyeball it and it works every time.  But, don’t let that put you off.  Try it.  Play with it.  Make it, then put it in the fridge for an hour, taste, and adjust from there.  Really, it’s not that scary.  Just do it.

So, what’s in it…

  • To make a regular-sized mixing bowl full – what I usually do for a picnic – I start with 2 heads of broccoli about the size of my fist (because that’s what I can get here), and a softball-sized head of cauliflower.  Wash and chop them both up into small, bite-sized chunks.  You can even chop up some of the stems, too, if you want to add more crunchy pieces.
  • Next, a couple handfuls of RED grapes, halved or quartered, whichever way you like better and depending on how big they are to start.  It’s important to use red grapes, NOT green, as the sweetness of the red ones is what helps eliminate the need for adding any sugar to the salad as you continue.
  • Finely dice up about half of a red onion (little purple shallots will do just fine in a pinch, if that’s what you’ve got on hand).  Also, cook and crumble/chop up, pat dry, and cool about 3 or 4 slices of bacon (that is more than enough, believe me – depending on the size and flavor intensity of the bacon, I sometimes even use just 2), and throw all of that into the bowl with the grapes and veggies.
  • Get some plain, sliced, unsalted, roasted almonds, and toss in a handful of those.  If you don’t have them, you can use sunflower seeds just as well – but, I think the almonds are better.  🙂
  • If you’ve got some shredded sharp cheddar on hand, put a pretty light handful – meaning not very much, just enough to add a pop of color and a little salty bite – of that in, too.  (Sorry, you’ll notice none in my photos today, because cheese is harder to come by here.)
  • Grab a handful of dried cranberries, and add those to the bowl.  You can also use raisins, if you like.  You can even use both, which I often do.  I really like the sweet-tart bite of the cranberries best, though.
  • Now, toss it all together so it’s nice and pretty, and get ready to put on the dressing.  It really is quite simple.  Add just a couple of spoonfuls of Miracle Whip to the top of the bowl (the tangy-ness of Miracle Whip is key in balancing the sweet and salty between the other ingredients, without having to add any sugar to your salad – however, if you really don’t have any, you can use regular mayo… but, it won’t be the same 🙂 .  Squeeze on a bit of lemon juice.  Add a few cranks of fresh cracked black pepper.  Then, stir away!

You can add more of the dressing and juice as needed, but be careful not to make it very thick.  Actually, leave it a little bit drier than you think you should.  Why?  Because after stirring it around, you need to let it chill for about an hour.  During that hour, the juices from your red grapes will seep out into the dressing, and the vegetables will soften, making the salad become a bit creamier on its own.  The flavor of the bacon, though there’s not much in it, will also incorporate itself into the dressing (which is why you don’t need to add a lot in the first place) as it sits.  If, after an hour, you think it’s still too dry, then add another spoonful and another squirt of juice until it’s to your liking.  Really, if you like it, then it’s already a success!

Just look at all those little bits of yumminess...

So, now do you see why I like my style even better than the other also yummy, yet more common, version that’s out there?  You don’t need to add any sugar, as your sweetness comes from things already in the salad.  There’s much more variety, and good things, adding more vitamins, good-for-you-stuff, and more flavor.  And, heck, it’s got a lot more color!

March 8, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | 1 Comment