Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Challenge - Part 3

(I'm a bit behind in my posting. This would have been technically last week? I can't remember). New items made this week: 2 loaves of bread, chicken stock, tortillas, refried beans, more yogurt, pumpkin muffins, museli.

I really enjoy shopping in this new regiment. It is much easier. I can skip whole sections of the grocery store, both the weekly sales flyer and the aisles themselves. I mostly focus on produce, meat (sparingly) and dairy. I have often read that that is where we should be shopping anyway, but felt that I was doing well with what I was purchasing. Now I realize what it takes to only shop the outside of the store. All those processed foods! Cereals, canned goods, crackers. I don't miss it as much as I thought.

The thing that has been most difficult is when I try to use my old recipes that included "convenience items" that I must first replicate before I can make the "quick" meal. The example this week was Roast Chicken Chimichangas. A quick recipe, usually, that uses precooked chicken, refried beans, and tortillas. I saved some chicken breast from the roast chicken I made on Sunday. So that wasn't a problem. It was the tortillas and refried beans. I cheated a bit on the beans and used a can I already had in the pantry. I then cooked up some chopped onion and added the canned beans. In no time at all I had some tasty refried black beans. Then we come to the tortillas.

I have made tortillas before. I recall that they took some time, but that they tasted good. Unfortunately, I did not allow myself enough time to make the tortillas. Life got in the way of my best intentions. So I did not start them until 5pm. The dough itself was easy enough to mix together: flour, salt, baking soda, shortening, and dried milk powder. As I went to get started, at 5pm, I realized that I had forgotten to buy the shortening and was pretty sure that butter would not work as a substitute. (This is why it is so important to check the recipes when making the list, Jenn!) So off to the store. By the time I got home, the toddler wanted my attention and was fussy. I quickly made the dough and let it rest while I took care of her. Then I divided the dough and got to work rolling and frying each tortilla.

Now I have seen tortilla making appliances. I really try to stay away from "uni-tasking" appliances and tools. The Baker's Catalogue had one that I've looked at from time to time, but could never justify purchasing it. I can now appreciate how handy one would be. I was able to roll the dough very thinly, but not very uniformly round. All the tortillas ended up looking like Africa or Deimos. They also puffed up as they cooked. The resulting texture was more of a flatbread or roti than the tortillas we are used to buying at the store. They were fairly simple to make and only cook for 1 minute on each side. But that's 2 minutes per tortilla x 16 tortillas = 32 minutes of time spent on one part of the meal. Not terribly convenient when you only have 30 minutes to make dinner.

By the time I finished, I opted to not make them into the baked chimichangas that we usually have. Instead we just topped the tortillas with the beans, chicken and cheese and cooked them up quesadilla style. Quite tasty in the end, but more work that I had anticipated.

So the lesson learned from this week was to stop trying to duplicate store-bought items. Stop trying to make it look and taste like what I can buy, but rather look for and make recipes that rely on simple cooking of real food. That is not to say I will not be making tortillas again, I just won't be thinking that it is a quick and easy dinner that I can throw together in less than a half and hour.

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