New Feature!!

I’d like to be organized. I pretend I’m organized all the time. One day I will be organized, hopefully by osmosis.  However, there are times when my pretend organized state collides with reality. Hence, I’m adding a new heading to my menu. It’s called, “Make it Yourself!!”  I’m so tired of finding great sounding recipes that call for items, such as a can of cream of this or that or self-rising flour, only to find I don’t have it on hand. Sometimes it’s because I get a wild hair and I wanna try a recipe NOW. Other times it’s because I didn’t get it from the store because I was rushed or they were out it. Without the item, I have to change my menu plans. Besides, I like making things from scratch - ok, I like making EVERYTHING from scratch! Anyway, why not!! Most of the time it’s healthier and cheaper!! Does that make me a food snob?!! No, it makes me look ORGANIZED!

Granted I can’t make beef from scratch but if the recipe calls for chunks ‘o steak, I can substitute it with chicken or pork. Sometimes just to make a recipe lighter, chicken or pork is substituted anyway.  But then too, I can’t make a green pepper or a carrot (neither of which are planted in our garden) but for some things there are substitutions and/or omissions (I say that ’cause we don’t like cooked green peppers so . . . Prang!! (visualize me tapping my prairie godmother wand) Green pepper omitted!

So to start this new category, we’re gonna start with baking ingredients.  Let’s say you found a to-die-for biscuit recipe but it calls for self rising flour and all you have is all-purpose flour – “Make it Yourself!!” No need to run to the store or forget making the recipe!! Here’s what you do:

SELF RISING FLOUR:

For each 1 cup of self rising flour the recipe calls for, measure the same amount of all-purpose flour and put it into a separate bowl.

Add 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the all-purpose flour.

Whisk thoroughly to combine. Use everything that’s in the bowl. Don’t think that that’s too much for the amount of flour. It will be perfect! Trust me.

Example:

Let’s say your recipe calls for 3 cups of self rising flour. In a separate bowl, measure 3 cups of all-purpose flour.

To the all-purpose flour, add 3 3/4 teaspoons of baking powder.

Also add 3/4 teaspoon of salt (it can be either Kosher or regular). Whisk to incorporate thoroughly. Add the flour mixture to the other ingredients when the recipe tells you to add the self rising flour.

Now, if you’d like to have a supply of self rising flour – let’s say you REALLY like the recipe you just made but don’t want to have to find this recipe every time you make it, make a larger batch of it. The flour mixture will keep in an airtight container, with a bay leaf (meal worms don’t like bay leaves – just in case your container isn’t as airtight as you hoped), for a long time in your cabinet.  Let’s start with 6 cups of all-purpose flour. To that add 2 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Whisk thoroughly. On a small card or piece of paper, copy this recipe and place it in a sandwich/snack baggie and put it at the bottom of the container. Dump your newly made self rising flour into the container along with the bay leaf. When your recipe calls for self rising flour, you have it!! Measure it as you would from a bag of store-bought self rising flour (just be sure you see the bay leaf still sitting in your container and not  in your recipe mixing bowl!). When you run low, the recipe will be in the bottom of the container, hopefully along with the bay leaf. You can reuse that bay leaf for a long time!

And now you’re off and running with the rest of your recipe as if nothing ever happened!!!! See what I mean?!!! That’s easy, right?!!! And wasn’t that better than having to go change your clothes (so as not to appear in the latest edition of the Wal-martians email!!!), let the dog out (we’re waiting, we’re waiting, oh great!! He found a squirrel in the tree and has wound himself around the tree 2 or 3 times and now you gotta go get him – oh wait, that’s just our dog, sorry.), find your car keys, either cool down or warm up the car. WHEW!! I’d MUCH rather make the self rising flour myself!!!!! You can do this!!!! And that makes you SO what ? ?. . . ORGANIZED!!

Well now that we have the self rising flour under our belt, let’s venture out to cake flour!! Yeah, I know!!!!! You can make cake flour too!!!!

CAKE FLOUR:

For each 1 cup of the cake flour that your recipe calls for, measure out 3/4 of a cup of all-purpose flour into a separate bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to the all-purpose flour.

Whisk thoroughly to combine. That’s it!

Example:

So let’s say your recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of cake flour. In a separate bowl, measure out 1 1/2 cups, plus 3 tablespoons, of all-purpose flour. To that add 4 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Whisk the dry ingredients thoroughly, then continue following the recipe as if you had cake flour all along by adding the recipe’s remaining dry ingredients to this separate bowl! Voila!

BREAD FLOUR:

Really, when it comes to bread flour, unless you’re a frequent bread maker, the chances of your having the additive on hand that will make the all-purpose flour most like bread flour is probably slim-to-none. But, lest I judge, here’s the additive; it’s 1 teaspoon of Vital Wheat Gluten added to 1 cup of all-purpose flour for every 1 cup of bread flour that the recipe needs. The vital wheat gluten is common enough that Walmart even sells it. Bread flour has a higher protein level (the muscles needed to create the stretchy stuff in the dough) than the all-purpose flour. By adding the vital wheat gluten, it gives the all-purpose flour the extra muscle it needs to help the bread rise tall and keep those muscles flexed through the baking. So as not to waste any of your all-purpose flour or the vital wheat gluten, measure for the minimum amount of  bread flour that your recipe calls for.

Example:

If your recipe calls for 3-4 cups of bread flour – use 3 cups of all-purpose and 3 teaspoons of the vital wheat gluten for 3 cups of the bread flour. That fourth cup (which you may only end up using half of) if it’s just all-purpose flour isn’t gonna break the bread. Likewise if you need just a bit more than that last cup, the additional all-purpose isn’t going to hurt it.

If you don’t have the bread flour or the vital wheat gluten on hand, don’t worry about it. You can go ahead and make the bread, rolls, etc. with all-purpose flour. The final product will still be very good; it will just be “softer” than if made with bread flour. However, there are a couple of things I can think of that you would have better results with if you either bought the bread flour or were sure to use the vital wheat gluten. I’m referring to rustic loaves and baguettes.  Since those are handled a little more aggressively after the “formed” rise (rather than just baking them in the same pan they had their rise in), they’re more vulnerable to deflating. However, if you are using a baguette pan, or if the “formed” shape will only need to be slid onto a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet to be moved to the oven, then by all means go for it with the all-purpose flour. The rustic loaves that are baked in a dutch oven or baguettes that are transferred to a baking sheet after rising in towels can deflate very easily with the bread flour so there’s even a greater chance without the muscle of the extra gluten in the flour. I’d hate for you to invest the time and money on something that’s more prone to fail from the get-go. There have been times when I’ve accidentally used all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, particularly in rolls, and come to find out, we really liked it better!!! I’m also noticing that more and more roll recipes are calling for all-purpose flour. Now I know there are gonna be some foodies out there that are gonna say, “How can she condone not using bread flour when it’s called for?!!!” Did you use a Truman Capote voice when you read that question? That’s what I had in mind. Anyway, my reply is this; I say for the beginner bread maker who just got a wild hair (ya know, I use that term a lot – I must get a lot of ‘em!) and wants to experience (and it is an experience)  making a loaf of bread or a batch of rolls, go for it! How could anyone whose made bread before, deny a “newby” of experiencing the smell of the yeast after the bread has risen, to feel the soft suppleness of the dough (yes, you DO have to put it down at some point) and to see it magically rise. And the aroma . . . the aroma of freshly baked bread coming from YOUR oven, from YOUR kitchen, made with YOUR hands!!!!  Oh my word!!!!  BUT, the best part is when the bread SINGS after it comes out of the oven. Oh yeah! When you roll that loaf of bread from the pan onto the cooling rack, listen and you’ll hear it crackle as it cools. It’s saying “I will bless you!”.  Slather that crust with soft butter shamelessly, I tell you, slather it!! Now let it rest and cool.  AND THAT’S NOT EVEN THE BEST PART!!  While the bread is still just a little bit warm, and you can no longer keep your family at bay, slice into it!! Feel how the knife works through the crispy crust, and then, just seems to weightlessly glide through the fleshy interior. Gently, tenderly smear the softened butter onto the slice. Serve that thick slice of heel as if it were the passing of the family crest to your children. As your taste buds make contact with the salty buttery exterior, you can hear an angelic choir in full crescendo!!! As your teeth sink into the soft, warm and buttery interior, goosebumps are expelled at rocket speed and explode all over your body!! Oh yeah, it’s an experience all right!!  Who could deny anyone moments like those just because there’s no bread flour in the house?!! So, if you decide the bread flour is too expensive, stick with mixing the all-purpose and the vital wheat gluten. Just relax, use what you have. When the aroma of the bread, rolls or whatever you’re baking makes it’s way throughout the house, onto the porch and into the neighborhood, you’re gonna be real popular, real fast!!

BAKING POWDER:

Believe it or not, you can make your own baking powder!!! I know!!! Hey, am I the go-to-girl or what?!!!  Keep in mind though, this is NOT double-acting baking powder. The difference between the regular (this recipe) and the double-acting is this: the regular is activated (gets your ingredients to start getting puffy, or rising) when it comes into contact with a liquid. The double-acting gets your ingredients moving when it comes into contact with a liquid and then again when the heat from your oven hits it. I’ve had only one recipe in my life that specifically called for the double-acting baking powder. Mostly recipes just call for baking power – however, I do always buy the double-acting.

Here’s the recipe to make 1 teaspoon of your own regular baking powder:

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

This isn’t something I’d be interested in making a container of for future use but it’s nice to know how to make it if I’m in a pinch. As I said, I’m interested in the double-acting anyway.

BUTTERMILK:

Not having buttermilk on hand has happened to me more times than I care to count!!! I start to make biscuits or come across a recipe and I have no buttermilk. Plus, milk of any kind is so bloomin’ expensive nowadays, it’s ridiculous!!  And no, I don’t blame the farmers! Of course the easiest, and most cost effective, way to make a buttermilk substitute is to make sour milk. To make sour milk (for 1 cup) pour 1 tablespoon of white vinegar into at least a 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to bring the milk mixture up to the 1 cup line. You don’t want to measure the milk first unless you’re going to remove a tablespoon of it before you add the vinegar. You want the TOTAL measurement to be 1 cup for every 1 cup of buttermilk. Let the vinegar/milk mixture sit on the counter for about 5 minutes or until it gets “lumpy”. DON’T stir it before you add it to the recipe. So, if your recipe calls for 2 cups of buttermilk, pour 2 tablespoons of vinegar into the measuring cup, then enough milk to bring the measurement to 2 cups. Let sit on the counter for 5 minutes then add to the recipe as it calls for it.

Another alternative to have on hand is buttermilk powder. The product I’ve tried (and will never leave) is SACO Cultured Buttermilk powder. I’ve found it at Walmart in their baking aisle. It stores on your self, prior to opening, and in your refrigerator, after opening. I’ve always run out of it before it expires. If your recipe calls for 1 cup of buttermilk, you use only 1/4 cup of the powder (and add it to the dry ingredients) and 1 cup of water (added when the recipe calls for the buttermilk). It is kinda pricy but when you think about how long it lasts, compared to buying liquid buttermilk, only using a cup or two and hoping you find something else to use it for, or freezing it in ice cube trays before it goes bad, this is a pretty great deal.

SIDE NOTE: There was no compensation to the owner of this blog for endorsement of this product. You were supposed to read that really fast like the guy at the end of the commercials with the disclaimer. Should we go back and read it again, faster this time?

Either way, at least you know there’s an alternative should you not have the powder or the real thing on hand. You don’t have to do without making the recipe!! Isn’t this stuff just cool to know?!!??!!! Class is now dismissed. You are free to move about the cabin.

MAJOR SIDE NOTE:  Speaking of being out of things, I am SO THANKFUL for my iPhone. (Huh? What’s that have to do with recipe substitutions?!!) Some may look at an iPhone as a luxury or a splurggance  (yep, that’s my new word and I’m stickin to it. I thought 2 g’s made it look more reputable), but I have our whole house and lives on my phone!! Seriously!!  When I run out of something I go right to my phone and put it on my “Notes” app, under the appropriate heading of where I’m going to buy it. If I don’t type it in right then, I forget to do it later. I LOVE “Notes”!!! With “Notes”, I’m never without my grocery list, my errand list or any other list I may have made at some point. Not only is it so wonderful for immediately recording what I just ran out of, as I said, I have a page designated for “Walmart”, “Sam’s”, “County Market” and “Meijer”. I list the things I want to buy under their headings as I look through the weekly ads and make my menu. I’ve even put our menu on “Notes”.  SIDE NOTE: Ok you may be thinking that whatever cash I’m trying to save on groceries is going toward gas by going to all those stores, but to you I say “No, no, noooooo! (politely of course).  Near us, Sam’s, County Market and Meijer are all in a VERY close proximity so I DO save cash!!  However, if you have to go hither, yither and yon (I don’t think I’ve ever been to any of those places) it’s something to consider whether you’re really saving anything. Something to also keep in mind about price matching at the grocery stores is that County Market and Meijer DO NOT price match. And that stinks! The other thing is that even though Walmart does price match, it must be name brand items. If County Market has their store brand milk 2/$5, Walmart will not price match. If it’s Prairie Farms, Dean’s, any nationally known company, 2/$5, Walmart will match it.  It has to be brand name rather than store brand. Big difference, disappointingly so.

I really hope this has been beneficial for you and  has made us both look really . . . well, organized, of course! I know how frustrated I get when I don’t have what I need on hand. If I can find an equal substitute, by golly I’m goin for it! So, until I have a stocked pantry that would make the folks from Food Network say, “Whoa!! What a great pantry you have!!” I guess I’ll continue to look for, and share, more substitution suggestions for us. Happy baking!

The Window – Photography

Have you ever had one of those moments when the sunlight came through a window or shone on an object so perfectly, that it was THE MOST PERFECT MOMENT in the world?! I had just that kinda moment this afternoon. The light streaming in the window was perfect. The breeze was perfect.

Yes, I coulda toned down the light, and the highlights when I edited this picture but then, I didn’t really care to see what was outside and besides, that’s not how it looked. I coulda upped the shadows and darks but I didn’t want it any more defined. I wanted to capture just exactly as it was – perfect. This scene reminded me of when I was a little girl at our grandparents’ house, on the farm, in the summer. Sometimes when I had to take a nap I got to lie on the softest, whitest chenille bedspread on Grandma and Grandpa’s bed. Their bed had an almost natural, cradling indention on Grandpa’s side that, toward the foot of the bed fit me just fine. Grandma had sheers similar to these in their room, and a window fan. There were always breezes coming in the two windows and I used to lie there watching the fan blades switch directions as the windows took turns bringing in the breezes. As the curtains billowed in one window, the other window’s curtains were drawn in so tightly they’d form around every shape’s nook and cranny. Sometimes the breezes would be enough for the bottom of the curtain to reach out to touch my toes or foot and just slide right back off. So comfy, so comforting, so sleepy, so perfect. I think of those naps often when I see the sun filtering through the sheers like this. I still love to watch the curtains wave in the breeze, then just trail off and start all over again.  Ahhhh. It was a good afternoon. Who’d think that sucha treasured memory would come, all from just looking at the window.

When I Get a Wild Hair . . .

When I Get a Wild Hair . . .

Man, I hope I’m not the only one out there that when I get a wild hair to do something, I wanna do it like, ‘while ago! Well this “wild hair” took THREE WEEKS to get accomplished!!! Remember I said I loved to photograph old barns, silos, corn cribs and the like? Well I was able to get permission (oh yeah, it was a God moment) from the landowner to take pictures of our son on their old farm. So between schedules and weather, we were finally able to get out there and get some pictures taken. I’m actually hoping to take pictures of him with his girlfriend but I thought we’d best scope out the area first. We wanted to make sure the spiders and snakes were to a minimum (like ZILCH!!!! for both of us females’ sake – it’d be a rather blurry picture with both of us running!!). I’m happy to report there’s just poison ivy, or oak or whatever it is that grows around a tree. I have a photo where Tate is leaning against a tree and the poison “whatever” has made it’s way into the frame.  Anyway, without any further ado, here are some pictures of our son, Tate (the cowboy).

I really could use some suggestions on this picture. The sun was so bright that I needed to tone the colors down but in the process I kinda feel as though I muddied them. The poles really were a very washed out grey and the ends of the bushes were really brownish.  Just seem kinda, too contrast-y. Any suggestions? I’m using Adobe LightRoom 3.6 to edit.

Everybody, this is Tate. Say hello to everybody, Tate.

The place where we shot had GOBBS of utility poles!!! If there was 1, there were 50 on the property!! The only thing I can think of is that they musta escaped from the “pole” barn. Sorry. Country humor – or at least an attempt at it. Side Note: For those of you not exposed to much farm stuff, a “pole barn” is an outbuilding on the farm that’s covered in metal. They were framed with poles partially buried in the ground creating an all wooden framework. Back-in-the-day (uh-hum, so I’m told) that’s what the outbuildings (or machine sheds and such) used to all be made of before posts and the metal construction became available. Everything was called a pole barn – except a real “barn” which was . . . just a barn. Nevermind.

I like this one better in black and white as well.

See, more poles!! They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere!!

Can you say poison ivy, oak or sumac?!! Close but thankfully not too!

LOVE this one!!

LOVE this one too!

Didn’t want to crop the sides on this one. I thought the truck was too important.

Well, that’s it. Hopefully I’ll have more to show another time. If you have ANY suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Okay, you may be asking yourself, yet again, why on earth would I make my own flour tortillas when I can buy them for about $2.00 a package?! Because I can make them myself!! Haven’t you ever planned on having burritos or soft tacos for dinner only to find you forgot to buy the tortilla shells?! I have, lots of times. And what did I do? I scratched that menu and scrambled to think of something else to make with the thawed hamburger that would go with chips and salsa for dinner. Well no more!!! Come on you guys!! You can do this and it only takes a few ingredients that you already have on hand. Just read on and see if you’re not convinced. I betcha you’ll be making these in no time. DISCLAIMER: I will say this; it would be faster if you had a tortilla press (and more fun!! Everybody in the family’ll want to help!! You may even have to keep it a secret that you’re making them!).  I don’t have one, but, as of this writing, my wonderful hubby is in the process of designing one to build for me. I know what you’re thinking already – don’t you people ever buy anything ready-made? Yeah – cars and Q-tips. Anyway, reading the reviews of the aluminum, and even cast iron, tortilla presses, the handle breaks off within the first 60 days!!!!  And the handles seem to be a pretty key component!! Why would I put myself through that?!! So, until I can show you my super fantastic press, this is how I make them – for now.

Here’s the lineup of what you’ll need:

3 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3.5 ounces of vegetable shortening (that’s just one tiny dollop over 1/2 cup)

1 cup hot water (not boiling, just hot from the tap)

Note: The onions behind the shortening are not part of this recipe. They’re just hangin out.

I need to say something about measuring your flour. Before you start to measure, use a large spoon and stir the flour in the canister a few times. This will aerate the flour to help you get a more accurate measurement.  Flour “settles” over time and it will pack more in the measuring cup. That’s not for just this recipe, it’s for all recipes. Don’t roll those eyes at me; it’s an important fact. This has been a Public Service Announcement. Now, after the flour has been carefully measured, add the salt and baking powder.  Use a whisk it to get everything combined well.

Now, one more thing; listen to your prairie godmother. I’m just sayin, I think it’s TERRIBLY important for EVERY home cook to have measuring scales in his/her kitchen. Did I say TERRIBLY important, I meant REALLY TERRIBLY IMPORTANT. The reason for this is, there are times like this, when the volume (measuring cup) of something is a little weird. Like a hair more or less than the measuring cup holds. The accurate measurement for the shortening in this recipe is actually 3.5 ounces. This, in measuring cup world, is a tiny dollop more than 1/2 cup. Now, is that tiny dollop more going to make or break this recipe, will your kids be stunted from exposure to a mis-measuring of this magnitude?!! Hey, it could happen, but not this time. I’m just sayin that scales should be included in your kitchen equipment inventory. And on that note, I’m not talking about the little $10 scales that measure in whole ounces only. I’m talking about perhaps a scale made by Salter (great RELIABLE brand. There was no compensation to the owner of this website for the promotion of this product – much to my dismay). You want a scale that measures in pounds/ounces, ounces and grams. Ask for it for Christmas!! Put a real gilt trip on your kids and ask for it for Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, for ALL you do for your kids, and have everybody pitch in!!! You can thank me later.  Once the shortening is measured just add it to the dry ingredients.

Next, add the hot water. This shouldn’t be boiling by any means, just hot from the tap. Just pour it right in there.

Now stir it all together with a wooden spoon (or you can dive right in with your hands) until you need to start using your hands. Mix it really well.
The dough comes together very nicely and really doesn’t stick to your hands much at all. Turn it out onto a countertop or table. Use ONLY  the slightest amount of extra flour should it start sticking to the counter. What’s on the counter here is PLENTY!
Now we knead! We won’t knead this as vigorously as we would bread dough. Just kinda gently, even with one hand, knead it around for 3 minutes so set your timer. T-h-e wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round, ’round and ’round, ’round and ’round . . . second stanza – girls only this time!
. . . early in the morning! There! Our three minutes are up and look at the dough, it’s nice and smooth and very supple!! Nicely done!
Now we let it rest. Roll it into a ball and put it back into the same mixing bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. Don’t cheat by rushing this step. This resting time is really gonna make the rolling out nice and easy (or the pressing if you have a press that still has the handle on it.).
After the 15 minute rest, it’s time to divide the dough into individual portions. Using your scale (I know you went out and bought one since we last talked about this), if you’re making the 6″ tortilla wrappers (what anybody can do with just a little ol’ 6″ wrapper is beyond me!!!), you’ll need a portion of dough that weighs 1.5 ounces (or a dough ball about the size of a walnut). I made the large tortillas, between 9″ and 9 1/2″, which started out as 3 ounce dough balls (this size is bigger than a ping pong ball but a little smaller than a billiard ball. It’s been a while since I’ve played either but I think that’s pretty close.).
Here’s the 3 ounce size for a better idea.
As you weigh them, put them back into the original bowl and keep them covered or they’ll dry out – that’s a bad thing.
 Make the ball as round as possible before you start to roll them out or press them. Put the dough on the counter (make sure there’s no flour on the counter) and cup your fingers around it, not too tightly but touching all around at the bottom. Move your hand in a tight circle making sure the ball doesn’t so much roll around but is kinda pulled tightly as it moves in the circle, making itself round and smooth. This takes a little practice but you’ll get the hang of it.
And . . . ta da!!!  Oh man, that’s just beautiful!!
As you become more and more comfortable making these, you’ll get the rhythm of rolling out (or pressing) and cooking. An electric griddle is really the best tool to use. I use a stove top griddle which works well but I can only do one at a time (since I make the large ones). A nonstick skillet also works well. For the electric griddle I would suggest a target temp of about 325 to 350 degrees. Experiment with it but stay close. For the stove top griddle and the skillet, medium to medium high is a good place to start but again, stay close! Remember to lift an edge often to check for browning. Before you start rolling out or pressing, get your griddle or skillet ready as well as either a tortilla warmer or a couple of kitchen towels to cover and keep them warm as they come off the heat.  For those of us who don’t yet have our press, flatten the dough ball slightly so it’s more of an oval. I know, after all that to get it so perfect and to just flatten it. Those of you who do have a press, celebrate that you get to keep your perfect sphere just a little bit longer – until you close the lid. Back to the manual labor of the rolling pin; apply gentle pressure and roll over the oval 4 or 5 strokes until it becomes an elongated oval. Try not to roll completely off the ends of the dough as you’re rolling – you don’t want the edges to be smashed to “see-through”.  Turn the dough a quarter turn and roll across it 4 or 5 more times. It’ll be a weird shape at this point but as you continue to rotate the dough a quarter turn, it will eventually become a circle. You may have to exert a little more pressure because they should be getting bigger and thinner. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, 2 or 3 more times and repeat rolling 4 or 5 times with each turn until you have a thin, flat circle measuring either 6″ to 6 1/2″ or 9″ to 9 1/2″, depending on the size of the original dough ball. These should be a little thinner than the finished product of the store bought tortilla wrappers. The circles will shrink a bit when cooked and they will become about the thickness as the store bought when done. Don’t worry about how thin the dough is; it’s really resilient to tears and won’t stick like glue to the  counter – maybe like Velcro, but just be kinda gentle and it’ll come right up. And remember, these are homemade which translates into they’re not all gonna to be perfect circles. If it makes you feel better, call them “rustic”. Rustic describes anything that didn’t turn out too purdy.  For you tortilla press people, you may now gloat over your perfect flat circles. Move the tortilla over to the griddle. Do not add any oil to the griddle!! These are cooked on a dry griddle (or skillet). As they cook, you’ll see bubbles (some will get pretty big) as the steam builds up and the tortilla separates inside. Don’t worry, they won’t split in two. Use your spatula to gently and slowly flatten them. Be careful getting too caught up in flattening them because they may burn on the bottom. Just take my word for it. Keep lifting the edge and checking frequently so they don’t get overly browned. You can flatten the bubbles from the other side as well. The lighter colored areas in the picture below are where the bubbles are starting to form.
When the bottom side is nicely browned, flip it to brown the other side. Ahhh. Nicely browned!
Voila!!  Now look at those!!! Any burrito, taco or fajita meat would be proud to be wrapped up in something that looked like those!!  And you made them!!! YOU made them!!!! Your family and friends will marvel over your culinary expertise!! So say good-bye to missing out on burrito or taco night just because you forgot to buy wrappers!! Don’t even put them on your grocery list any more! Walk with your head held high next time you walk down that tortilla aisle (well, unless you need the hard shells, or taco sauce, or a seasoning packet). But anyway, you can walk past the flour tortillas and say, “Oh, I’ll just make my own”. Oh, heads will turn!!!
Here’s the whole recipe in quickie form. I hope you’ll give these a try!!
Cathy

Homemade Flour Tortillas

3 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

3.5 ounces of vegetable shortening (that’s just a tiny dollop over ½ cup)

1 cup hot water (not boiling, just hot from the tap)

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder with a whisk. Add the shortening and hot water. With a wooden spoon, combine the ingredients until it becomes too difficult, then use your hands. When fully combined, drop the dough onto a clean dry countertop or table. Knead the dough (no need to be as vigorous as for bread dough) for 3 minutes. Add as little flour as you absolutely need to keep it from sticking to your fingers and the work surface. At the end of the 3 minutes, return the dough to the original bowl, cover with a damp dishtowel and let rest for 15 minutes. DO NOT SKIP OR RUSH THIS STEP. Divide the dough into 1.5 ounce balls for small tortilla wrappers (6” to 6 ½”), or 3 ounce balls for large wrappers (9” to 10”). As the dough is weighed, return them to the bowl and keep covered with the towel. Roll one portion of dough into a ball, then flatten it with your hand into an oval. With a rolling pin, roll it into an elongated oval, then turn the dough 1/4 turn. Continue rolling and turning the dough until you have a thin circle. The dough should be rolled just a little thinner than the store bought wrappers. Carefully lift the dough from the work surface (no need for extra flour – the rolled dough will release easily – just be gentle) and place onto an ungreased hot griddle or nonstick skillet. Stay close, it won’t take long. You will see bubbles start to form. If a very large bubble forms, gently press it down but keep an eye on the bottom side so the tortilla won’t burn. Flip the tortilla when it has golden brown “spots”. The entire surface will not brown. Check the bottom side frequently. You’ll notice that only the raised areas are getting brown – that’s good. Flip one more time to the first side only for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and place in either a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a couple of slightly dampened warm towels.

Yields approximately 18-20 small or 8-10 large tortilla wrappers.

Just Messin Around

Just Messin Around

Typically I’m not a fan of black and white pictures. Ansel Adams is a superb photographer but his photographs would be so breathtaking in color! I agree the detail is so much clearer in black and white but, I love color, particularly in things that are truly colorful!! What a shame to take away their natural beauty and vibrance! Recently I saw some pictures that our niece, Trish, took that she had edited in black and white. I LOVED THEM!! She’s a wonderful photographer and her work has completely changed my thinking – in some cases. She has truly inspired me. Well, here are some pictures I took and was able (made myself) to edit to black and white. Thanks Trish for your encouragement and great examples!


Believe it or not, this elevator is still operational in the fall. Trucks and truck traffic through our little “burg” double the population! Well, our population of trucks anyway.

This is the front of the “shop” where my hubby’s father, uncle and grandfather had an Oliver dealership/repair garage. This building was finished in 1946 and remained in business until 1971. I often wonder how many hundreds of gallons of coffee had been consumed during that time. A time when folks had time to visit, when someone’s word was all it took to seal an agreement and an honest day’s work was really hard work. The stories these wall could tell. I’d like to hear every one of them.

Now I must say that the detail of the grass by the tires and to the left where the sun is shinning on it is absolutely remarkable!! It’s things like this that you don’t notice in a color photo because the colors distracts your eye.

I particularly like this picture because of the detail in the grain of the planks as well as the grass between the support beams. Black and white. Gotta give it credit for bringing out the details.

This is just my favorite. Our neighbor’s old pump and bucket.

Glad you’re sitting down for this one. Looking from the bottom up of a grain bin. If it feels queazy to you, you should’a seen it from my lens. But again, due to the black and white, you notice the shadows from the rungs, the sandy looking texture of the concrete and the imperfections in it. I compared it to the original and it’s like you see it but then you really don’t notice it so much.

Ok. That’s it for the black and white. If you’re still with me, I wanted to show you a few full color just to reset your eyes.

Yes, he’s a turkey but he’s really quite the ham. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Just some of the things you see in small towns.  Personally, we just have a dog.

Looking at this picture you may be thinking perhaps I was leaning or my camera was crooked but, “nope” to both. This cob burner (looks like a grain bin) is actually leaning and yes, the tree is growing from the center of it. But, that’s not why I shot this picture on a warm April afternoon at about 4:30/5:00. When I stumbled onto this scene I was transported back into time; I was 10 years old again standing in the backyard of my grandparents’ farm. The long shading shadow from the sprawling stand of trees on the left was very similar to the canopy in their backyard. The breeze coming from the north carried the scent of the freshly worked field and the aroma of grass and plants that had long been damp without sun.  It’s an earthy smell, a rich smell that can’t be defined or described adequately. It’s just what it is. It’s comfort. It’s reminiscent of a time that I miss.

I like this in color much better just because I think the rust color really contrasts the concrete as well as the grass. Don’t think I’ll switch this to black and white.

Before I went totally black and white, I tried taking the saturation and vibrance down just a bit. I started gradually and came up with these.

It became easier and easier just to slide the indicator to less and less color.

I love this one with the old bike.

Well I hope that these pictures have inspired you as our niece, Trish, inspired me. Go grab your camera and get out there and start shooting pictures! Try different angles (opposite side of “the right side”, from the bottom up, from the top down, from the front and from the back).

Offset the “subject” so it creates a bit of a blank canvas to one side. Just use your imagination. Look on Instagram and PBase for inspiration as well. Shoot sunrises or sunsets, clouds and the shadows the sun’s backlighting provides. Shoot eye level pictures of dandelions, both yellow and those going to seed. If you don’t like the way they turn out, erase those and go out again. You’ll eventually get to where you wanna be. Just have fun with it. Discover new ways of editing but most importantly, have an open mind and be willing to try new things!! I did and I’m glad I did.

Please, if you can give suggestions/constructive criticism to either the pictures that I’ve taken or tips and tricks that you’d like to share, please feel free!!! I’d love to hear from you!

Indoor Smoked Pulled Pork BBQ

Indoor Smoked Pulled Pork BBQ

I AM BACK and do I have a BUNCH of things to share!!!

Our oven has been on more than off lately. I LOVE this oven. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this oven!!! Several of us were talking about the things we would grab first if our houses ever caught on fire. While everybody else was talking about grabbing photo albums and this keepsake and that, I said the first thing I’d do is figure out how to strap that oven onto my back and get out!!  Of course then my hubby explained that’s what insurance is for – for replacement, then he further explained I’d have to go in the basement (shudder) to shut the gas off or else the stove might beat me out the door!! Well, ok, so then maybe the pans – hey, they’re perfectly seasoned pans now!!

Let’s see what I’ve been workin on lately.

INDOOR SMOKED PULLED PORK BBQ

If you’re a Facebook friend of mine, you probably saw, back in December or January, where Tommy and I made Indoor Smoked Pulled Pork BBQ, a recipe I saw on America’s Test Kitchen. I HAD to try it!! As I posted on FB, I’m not a fan, at all, of liquid smoke but, I have to say this recipe is absolutely FABULOUS!!! Three exclamation point worthy.  It is time consuming so it’s not something you want to start at 3:00 in the afternoon for dinner that night. Noooooo, no, no. You gotta start while breakfast is cooking. Well ok, maybe you can wait until after your third or forth cup of coffee but then get crackin. WAIT!! Before you decide you’re not interested in this recipe because of the time involved, its about 80% waiting; waiting while the pork is brining, waiting while it’s baking covered and waiting while it’s baking uncovered. There really isn’t that much involved as far as hands-on work BUT, the whole process is very rewarding. This recipe also has the best of both worlds as far as rubs: both a wet and a dry.

The recipe calls for pork butt roast. A pork butt is not located anywhere near the, well, let’s just say its terribly confusing (or someone was when they named this portion) because it’s the top portion of the FRONT legs. It’s also called pork shoulder which is so much more accurate and certainly less confusing!! I prefer to ask for help finding a good pork “shoulder”  rather than asking for help finding a good pork . . .  well hey, have a giggle. If possible, you want it boneless. If you can’t get it boneless, that’s not a problem, we’ll address that in a little bit.

Ingredients: Water, Natural Hickory Smoke Concentrate. Nothing more.

Liquid Smoke. There are several brands out there. The brand ATK recommends is Wrights. You want a liquid smoke that, when you read the ingredients it says: water, natural hickory smoke concentrate, the end. Don’t buy one that has anything else in it. We found it at County Market and it was under $2!! Yay!!

I HIGHLY recommend this recipe. It’s good for summer or winter.  So now, if you don’t own a smoker, you no longer have to wait for your neighbors to go on vacation to sneak over to use theirs.  You can make easy and delicious smoked pulled pork BBQ, rain or shine, right in your own kitchen. Expand your culinary horizons and prove to yourself you CAN do this!!!  Trust me! It really is very basic, very simple. So, with no further ado, I present the recipe and step-by-step instructions.

The list of characters:

Brining:

5 pound pork shoulder/butt roast

4 quarts water, cool to tepid

1 cup table salt (not Kosher on this one folks)

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons liquid smoke

Wet Rub:

1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard

2 teaspoons liquid smoke (don’t worry – it’s not over the top)

Dry Rub:

2 tablespoons cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt (either regular or Kosher)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

Finishing BBQ Sauce: (NO COOKING)

1/2 cup of juices from the roasting pan

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/4 cup molasses

2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce

1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)

1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper

As I mentioned earlier, a boneless roast is preferred. However, if you’re like us, the sale was for “bone-in”.

The reason boneless is better is because the first thing you need to do is cut the roast in half width-wise.

If you have a bone-in (like below – the start of it is right below my index finger), just cut up to, and roughly around, the bone just to get the two halves to spread apart so you can see it.  Using a paring knife, cut it out as best you can. If you have a boneless roast, just cut straight through as straight as possible. It doesn’t have to look purdy so don’t worry about it.

You should have 2 equal size slaps o’ pork.

There you have it. It’s not rocket science but you just need to try to cut them as close to even thicknesses as you can so they’ll cook evenly. The reason these are halved in the first place is so the liquid smoke will penetrate the meat all the way through. If we left it whole, just the outside would be smokey. When you actually smoke meat in a smoker, both the inside and out are smokey. Can I say smokey a couple more times?

The Brine:   Salt, sugar and liquid smoke.

You’ll need 4 quarts of water, cool to tepid is fine, just not hot and not cold. Be careful when deciding what size container to brine the roast in because by the time you add the roast halves, it will significangtly raise the water level. Add the salt and sugar into the water and stir until dissolved. It’ll be cloudy but just make sure there’s no “puddles” of salt and sugar sitting anywhere on the bottom.  I admit, I was surprised that it dissolved so easily.

Stir in the liquid smoke,

Everybody in for a long soak. They will float, however. That’s not a good thing.

Use a saucer or a plate to keep it completely immersed.  Nothing too heavy; it needs to allow enough room so the brine can get in between all sides of the pork.

There you have it. It looks a little weird but you can see there’s plenty of room to move about the cabin. It’s now ready for the fridge.

Set your timer for 2 hours. That’s enough time to get into a really good book, take a nap, do a couple of loads of laundry, ya know, 2 hours worth of stuff. When your timer goes off, pull the pork from the pool and put it on a kitchen towel for a good patting to get them all dried off. Be sure to dry them well so the wet rub will stick. No need to get the hair dryer out but just do the best you can.

Begin preparing the rubs. First the wet. Add the liquid smoke to the prepared mustard,

and stir well. Set aside.

Now for the dry. Add the pepper, sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika,

and mix well. Set it aside too.

Using a spatula, just for this part, scoop out only half of the wet rub on the first side of the pork.

Now for the really messy part. This should explain why I didn’t suggest a manicure during the 2 hour wait. With your hands, rub that mustard mixture all over, get it nice and schloppy, make it extra schloppy even. Make sure you get the edges too. I know it looks like I’m almost afraid to touch it in this picture but I was just getting warmed up. It’s actually fun. Call the kids in and let them try it! Oh, well I did say there wasn’t much hands-on for all the time it takes but, involving the kids, well that may take the full baking times for clean up. Yikes!! Never mind.  Oh, and I’d suggest letting your phone go to voicemail.

Then, flip the halves over and repeat with the remaining wet rub. Don’t forget the edges!

Sprinkle half of the dry rub right on top of the mustard rub. Massage it in. Now THIS is messier ye!  But it’s still fun. The first time I did this I wore my kitchen gloves; they’re still stained. Its a given that your nose will itch or that you’ll sneeze during this part. Just wear something with sleeves.

Flip the halves over and massage it “real good”!!! Again, don’t forget the edges. Make sure those flavors are everywhere!!

Our pork has now gone from the pool to the massage table and now is ready for the sauna!! Hey, I think I’m missing out here!!!

Move the oven racks to the middle, with plenty of clearance above. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Choose and prepare your pan. There are a couple of types of pans to use. You could use a cookie sheet with sides or a roasting pan.  We’ve actually used both and the jury’s still out as far as which we liked best. Whichever you use, be sure to line the bottom with foil. You’ll need a piece of foil wide enough to cover your pan without just overlapping it (that’s a MUCH bigger clean up job). To do that, use 2 sheets of foil and lay the first sheet on the counter.  Put the second, same size sheet, directly on top of the first, making sure both shinny sides are facing each other.   Along one of the long edges, using both sheets as one, fold the sheets over, about 1 1/2″ to 2″ deep. Use your finger and slide it along the fold to secure it. Then fold it over itself again, same direction, same width. Run your finger along that fold as well. Gently open the sheets and VIOLA!!! You now have a very wide “single” sheet of foil. Keep in mind that lining the pan won’t keep all the juices from running onto the bottom of your pan or cookie sheet but it’ll sure make clean up a whole lot easier!

A rack is a must. Nonstick cooking spray is a must as well. Whether it’s cooling racks or a rack that came with the pan, just make sure they’re long enough to fit both halves of the roast.

Place the halves side by side. Don’t let them overlap. If they don’t want to fit, scrunch them up a bit but do all that you can not to overlap them. I know, I know, they gotta a lot a rules about baking a pork roast!

Because you want these to stay moist while baking, we’re gonna cover them TIGHTLY with foil to make the sauna effect. However, before the foil goes on, you’re gonna need a barrier between the roasts (with the acidic rub on them) and the foil – the rub will pit the foil against the roasts – not a good thing. ATK suggests using parchment paper, which we did the first time. It still pitted the foil but not the parchment paper so it was all good next to the roasts.  What pitted the foil was that the acidic liquid from the roast soaked through the parchment paper and touched the foil. It didn’t affect the parchment paper, just the foil. This time however, we used a nonstick silicon liner like what you bake cookies, rolls or biscuits on. It worked great! It didn’t hurt it at all and no liquid penetrated the liner so no pitted foil! And, the liner wiped right off!! It’s not good to have anything pittin on your food! That’d just be the pits. Sorry. That was pit-iful. That’s it, I promise.

Now for the wrapping. Just as for making one big sheet for the bottom, do the same for the top sheet. Try to fold the top and bottom foil sheets together around the edges. You want the absolute best seal you can. If the top and bottom sheets won’t reach, just get the top foil sealed around the outside of the pan as tightly as possible, especially at the corners. You want to keep that sauna as air tight as possible. Now into the oven for 3 hours. Go finish that book!

At the end of the 3 hours, CAREFULLY remove the top foil from the pan.  It’s gonna look kinda drab, nothing too exciting, certainly nothing like a smoked pork roast. Don’t worry, it’ll transform in this next baking time. Drain the liquid from the bottom of the pan into a bowl (or a fat separator if you have one). You wanna keep 1/2 cup for the sauce. Return the roast to the oven to bake, uncovered, for about 90 more minutes. The inside temperature of the roast should reach 200 degrees. The outside of the roast should have a “bark” on it and it should look kinda dried. IMPORTANT: (but difficult to do) Allow the roast to rest on a cutting board, loosely covered with foil, for 20 minutes. But, that will give us time to make the barbecue sauce.

Remove the separated grease from the drippings and measure 1/2 cup of that devine sauce. In a medium mixing bowl pour in the drippings, ketchup, molasses, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (optional) and salt and pepper. Whisk until combined and set aside. That’s it. No cooking!!!

Using 2 forks, start shredding the pork. You’re wanting kinda thin strands. Doesn’t that look FANTASTIC!!!!!! But it’s not finished yet!!! It needs to be dressed!!

Depending on how saucy you like your pulled pork, start with just a cup. Reserve the remaining to add to your sandwich, or if you’re like us, throw it all in there!!! The messier the better!!

And there you have it! It’s ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!!  See, that’s not much hands-on, huh?!!  Ya just gotta trust me!!!!  You’ll love it, you’ll invite your friends over and they’ll love it!!  They’ll suggest you do it again next weekend and every weekend. Careful, they’ll probably be calling to let you know that pork shoulders are on sale!!

Enjoy!!

Simplify Seasonal Closet Wardrobe Changing

Changing out the clothes in our closet for the season is always a VERY daunting task to say the least. Well this year, I had an epiphany that did, and will forever, make this job nearly stress free and the most organized EVER! The great news is, I didn’t have to buy anything extra to do it, (my hubby says he likes this idea). The whole concept of this process is to contain the mess and keep it from becoming overwhelming. The typical scenario is to pull all the passing season’s clothes outta the closet, throw them on the bed to later be folded and put in the then empty bins. Sounds ok so far. All the incoming season’s bins are then delivered, full of clothes of course, and stacked three and four high along the wall for everyone’s well being, particularly children and small animals. All the incoming clothes are taken out; questionable ones tried on, pondered and argued repeatedly whether or not to keep them, while others are put in piles designated “not sure yet”. Now all the outgoing and incoming clothes are getting reacquainted all over the room – but that’s okay because I know what/where everything is. Then the doorbell or my phone rings or someone has a crisis which requires only my ability to resolve it. At any rate I’m pulled away from my organized mess for awhile. While I was gone, the CLOTHING BLOB HAS COMPLETELY OVERTAKEN OUR BEDROOM! Oh the humanity!!! I’m so overwhelmed!! I slowly back out of the room and close the door. That’s when I inform the hubs we’re sleeping on the couch or going to a motel for the night! Oh my word, just mentally reliving that gives me such a headache! Wait, do you think I just confessed to something?!!! Nah!

MY BRAND NEW EXPERIENCE:

I ask my guys to bring up the containers from the basement. Well, okay that part doesn’t change, sorry guys. While the guys are trying to out do each other with who can carry up the most (now that part is new), I first make sure they have clear and easy access to where I want the bins stacked. I make sure everything’s off the bed so I have an uncluttered “workspace”, so to speak. Since the incoming containers are already full, those clothes need to come out first. I pull out one stack at a time, put them on the bed and sort the clothes into various piles: “keep”, “try on” and “give away” which is actually a box or bag, oh, and a garbage bag for those, “why on earth did I waste the space putting this in there!”. I try to keep the “try on” pile as low as possible; you’ll see why in a minute. Once I have everything sorted from the first stack, I repeat the process, making sure that the “give away” things are put directly in the box or bag. Doing this prevents the “on second thought-itis”. Once the bin is empty, now is the time to quickly try on the clothes from my short “try on” pile. I deal quickly with these items putting them either in the “keep” pile or the box or bag for “give away”. If I have too many items in the “try on” pile, I spend too much time and get distracted thinking about what shoes go with this or that, what accessories I need, until I’ve spent 20 to 30 minutes on 1 pile!!! I gotta just put it on, if it fits, put it in the keep pile and move on.

So now there’s only the “keep” pile and an empty bin that’re visible. I have a TV tray (but a chair would work too) and my “give away” bag setup just outside our closet door. Just one item off a hanger at a time, rather than the usual emptying out the whole closet! This is the key to my sanity. Each item gets folded (obviously I use that term very loosely – what the heck, it’ll need steaming this fall when it comes out!), and put it either on the TV tray to put in the bin or put it directly in the “give away” bag. I had to remind myself NOT stop and have a lengthy debate whether I should keep something I don’t like or don’t wear just because Great Aunt Millie’s brother’s best friend’s neighbor got it for my birthday 7 years ago! If I don’t like it, I won’t wear it, so I have to give it! This has to be a quick process. Rinse, repeat. When the TV tray’s full, I grab the stacks and put them in the bin and repeat ’til its full; then just slide it outta the way. Now its time to put the incoming “keep pile” away. I keep the extra hangers organized as well (except that unruly one there). The incoming clothes need to be freshened and wrinkles removed. May I have a commercial here? I would HIGHLY recommend a steamer. Whether its specifically a garment steamer or something like the Shark steamer, a steamer is such a timesaver and well worth the money. If you don’t have a steamer (are you counting how many times I can say “steamers”?), a damp towel and a dryer sheet in the dryer will do the same thing, its just not as much fun. With this new process, if I’d gotten pulled away from this project for any length of time, when I came back to it, NO CLOTHING BLOB would have overtaken our room!!! Yea!!!! On the down side, there’ll be no room service in the morning.

So, there you have it! Now can’t you see yourself adopting this process and making this year SO MUCH better than in years past?! Trust me!