Wednesday, January 26, 2011

snack addicted and falling apart - or...homemade corn tortillas

So, I am addicted to snacks. Hard for me to admit, but i realize it's true. I often get home from work around 1am, having started sometime in the afternoon (or perhaps at 11am). I usually manage to eat one (or two, on days i'm just working nights, not a double) healthy meals before work - but they often look like breakfast. Smoothies, omelettes, egg (mc)muffins, scrambled tofu. Then after working 8 hours on my feet, running around bringing other people food and drinks, I am starving. Sometimes I manage to eat a little something at work, but it's usually not the healthiest option, I on-and-off hate my employers and don't want to give them money for food, or I simply don't have time. Then I come home and want the quickest, most satisfying option. And I also happen to be someone who prefers cooking from scratch, eating healthy (as much as its possible with this in-between life).

Last time I posted about homemade wheat tortillas, and I've been wanting to make corn tortillas since then, I was just house-bound with a flu and didn't have masa farina in my pantry. BUT today I made the trek to the REAL, value grocery store (thanks Mom for the Christmas gift certificate) and managed to lug home about 30 pounds of groceries. See, I live in what one might call a "food-desert" - in an area full of high-rise apartments mostly full of business-men commuters and young families- of which I am neither. Within walking distance yhere is a vegetable/fruit market downstairs where I do most of my shopping, and a sobeys express which is not a reliable, economical option for those of us who are struggling to make ends meet in this over-expensive city.

The point here, un-obvious as it may be, is that I like snacks :) Also, I bought 10 avocados (supposedly 2 bags of 5 for 5$) at Metro a week ago. The online flyer advertised 10 for 5$, I went (after midnight on my way home from a dinner party) and bought them and was told more than that, argued with the teller (which I NEVER EVER do) about the price - then realized the next day that flyer started the NEXT day (or perhaps after midnight the day I was there?!?!)

So - angry guacamole - check. Attempting to make corn tortillas by hand, discovering they are much more difficult to roll out than flour tortillas - and thus falling apart - check. Soon to be (crunchy, salty) snack food, made from scratch by my own hands - check!

4 small avocados (thought they would be overripe, but apparently not heating my kitchen kept them nice and green)
2 LARGE cloves of garlic, minced (seriously, I had almost 1/4 cup of minced garlic from 2 cloves)
juice of 1 1/2 limes (not very juicy limes)
**I like it garlicky, and acidic!
generous pinch or two of salt
1/3 of a jalapeno, chopped (I might be tempted to add more if not perhaps serving to those less heat-a-philic)

1 cup of masa harina
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup of warm/hot tap water

Mix together salt and flour, slowly add water while mixing with hands, in a circular motion, to bring the mixture together into a dough. Alternately add more flour and/or water to make the dough a workable consistency. I still haven't quite found this consistency, but did manage to roll out a few, a bit more thick that I would have liked. Then cook in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, ~45 seconds per side. These are VERY tasty, so much better than store bought, and its hard to even find store bought corn tortillas in Toronto (unless you venture into Kensington, which I do often, but its far enough from my house to not be a 1am, on the way home from work, option).
I then brushed one side with canola oil, sprinkled on more salt, and baked at 375 degrees farenheit for 8 minutes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stay at home vacation - or, an evolving soup and evolving me

I started this blog a little less than a year ago, posted just a few times, then abandoned it. There were a lot of (not so good) things going on in my life at that time, and I wasn't in the best space personally. I've changed some over this past year; my past two days of "stay-at-home-vacation" have shown me just how much. I've had a lot of time of lately, the restaurant industry is not exactly booming post-holiday madness, and I've found myself bored, apathetic, and unmotivated. Sure I still cook lots, spend time with friends, do a bit of yoga (not nearly enough) - but I didn't take pleasure in any of that. It felt a bit like just going through the motions, doing the things I thought I enjoyed, without gaining any actual joy from the process.

Yesterday I planned to catch up on some things at home, not having been here for most of this year so far. I cleaned, exercised, and made dough for homemade tortillas, did some research on holistic nutrition, then in the afternoon I started coming down with a cold. Having done all this reading on nourishing and healing foods, I knew I wanted to fight my oncoming illness naturally. I made a Mexican garlic soup with chipotle, drank tea with lemon and honey, and about a million glasses of water. I find it a bit funny that one of the few posts I made a year ago was also about making soup to combat a cold. There's just something about soup that is so comforting.

I generally lead a fairly unroutine lifestyle, with day shifts, night shifts and splits, and I find it hard to really be consistent with all the things necessary for true health. Having this time off lately has given me the chance to recommit myself, and to reconsider working in an industry that can be so detrimental physically and mentally. To end a long ramble - a year ago I wouldn't have been feeling so peaceful, refreshed and remotivated having so much ME time, but maybe I'm finally ready to start practicing more of the things I believe in. Not because I'm going through the motions, but because I recognize the positive impacts they can have on me, and I believe that I deserve it.

Hopefully this can be something I follow through on when I start working a crazy schedule again, or perhaps I'll finally take the steps to figure out what I want to do professionally that will make me more fulfilled. One thing is for sure, if I DO maintain this blog I need to get a working (non-cell phone) camera!

Mexican Garlic Soup with Chipotle and Lime

As usual I didn't exactly follow a recipe when I made this, or write one down after but the basic idea was to make a spicy, garlicky, broth to sooth my sore throat and cough. I found the lime kind of strange, as I was hoping for Mexican flavours, but it reminded me of Thai Tom Yum, so I tried to play it down by adding more chipotle, tomato, cumin and stock. I also thought the broth could use something else to add a focal point - chicken, tofu, beans - so today I added more stock, chickpeas, spinach and a bit of paprika.

The basic structure:

Saute in olive oil:
1/2 medium onion, diced
10 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced

3 canned roma tomatoes, chopped, along with their liquid (I ended up adding more like half the can in the end)
2 cups chicken stock
1.5 cups water
juice of half a lime
1 small chipotle in adobo sauce, minced, along with some of their sauce

Simmer 20-30 minutes, taste, season, and adjust seasonings. For me this meant adding more chipotle and adobo, more tomatoes, some chopped fresh parsley, and some ground roasted cumin seeds.

Today I added another 2 cups chicken stock, the remaining 3 tomatoes and juices that I had leftover, about a teaspoon of paprika, 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, a bit more adobo sauce, and cooked that for 20 mins, then added half a bundle of spinach, cut into bite sized pieces. And I served it with a homemade tortilla that I brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and minced garlic, then toasted in the oven on 450 until slightly crispy.

Homemade wheat tortillas
recipe from

I only had a bit of whole wheat flour so I used that and the rest was organic all purpose.

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Blend in (with pastry cutter, until it looks like fine meal/pea-sized butter chunks):
1/4 cup room temperature butter, cut into pieces

Slowly mix in (with a fork until it comes together):
1/2 cup of room temperature water

Knead with your hands a few minutes until a dough forms. It will be fairly soft and sticky. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 4-24 hours. In my case after I started feeling sick yesterday I left it until this morning and then made fresh tortillas for a black bean and egg fajita for breakfast. Just let the dough warm up again, divide it into 8-11 balls, and roll each one out as thin as possible, then cook in a frying pan or skillet over high heat, about 2 minutes on each side.