Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How To Warm Corn Tortillas

This summer I made it my quest to find a decent packaged corn tortilla. We tried a number of different brands with varying ingredients, and all of them were disappointing. No matter how fresh the package indicated they were, all of them had a rubbery texture, and many of them crumbled in half when folded for a taco.

Then, my husband suggested we try warming the tortillas. It was as if lighting had struck--I don't know why we hadn't thought of this before!

There are a number of ways you can warm corn tortillas--here are a few in the order of my preference:

1.) Heating in a cast iron skillet. I've had great success with this, and its simple and not very messy. I warm the skillet with a bit of olive oil, and heat each side of the tortilla for 30 seconds - 1 minute depending on how warm it feels and how crispy I want them. As each tortilla is heated, I place them in a stack on a plate, wrapped individually in paper towels to keep the heat in. The paper towels also absorb any excess oil. If you have a tortilla warmer (typically a round burnt-orange plastic container like those seen at restaurants), you can use that as well.

This method greatly improved the taste and texture of the tortillas and they did not fall apart when folded for tacos.

2.) Steaming. This is Chef Rick Bayless' preferred method, and seems like it would be better if you have to heat a large number of tortillas at a time (say, for more than 2 people). Bayless describes the method here.

3.) Toaster Oven. This method is nice if you're warming tortillas for just one person or if you like your tortillas extra crispy.

4.) Microwave. Some cooks like to wrap their tortillas in damp paper towels and then microwave. I have not tried this method but in a pinch I'm sure it would be better than a straight-from-the-fridge tortilla.

In conclusion, if you love corn tortillas but haven't had success with them at home, give warming them a try!

Photo credit: Gringologue

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Delicious, Easy Black Beans and Rice Recipe

Mango Salsa w/Avocado

This is a great weeknight recipe when you want something healthy, cheap, delicious and easy. If you're like me you have most of the ingredients on hand anyways.

(serves 2-3, can be doubled to serve more)

  • 1 can black beans, drained (or can use prepared dry beans)
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced
  • 1 small red chile, diced
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • dash of paprika
  • 1 tsp ancho chile powder
  • fresh or dried cilantro, if desired
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 mango, diced
  • spritz of lime juice
  • diced onion, if desired
Serve with:
  • avocado wedges
  • rice or tortillas
Directions: (If you are serving the beans with rice, start the rice first). While the rice is cooking: Mix drained beans with spices and diced peppers. Mash the beans to desired consistency with a potato masher. Heat in a skillet over medium heat. Serve over rice or with tortillas. Enjoy!

Black beans in the pan.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Recipe Review--Pioneer Woman's Stuffed Mushrooms

Even though I'm not generally a mushroom fan, the Pioneer Woman's Stuffed Mushroom's, Baby recipe called to me. They were quick and easy to make. We didn't have sausage, so I seasoned some carne de soya (dehydrated soy protein crumbles sold at our local grocery, Casa del Pueblo) with fennel and other sausage-like flavors. I enjoyed them, which says something considering I'm not a mushroom fan. My husband enjoyed them as well and finished all the leftovers. They're a bit much for two people, but would make an excellent appetizer for a party or other event. I could see them being a big hit with guys watching football games, for example. Overall, a fantastic recipe.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Recipe Review: Gobi Matar Masala

Last week I tried this recipe for Gobi Matar Masala from Vegan Yum Yum. Gobi Matar Masala is a type of Indian dish with cauliflower, tomatoes and spice. It was inexpensive and relatively easy to follow, but ultimately wasn't very exciting. I don't think I'd make it again.

  • If you have all the ingredients on hand, you can get dinner on the table relatively quickly.
  • It is nutritious and inexpensive.
  • The recipe is not difficult to follow.
  • The finished product isn't bad, but its not exceptionally tasty either. I much prefer aloo gobi.
  • The recipe requires a number of spices that novices to Indian cooking may not have on hand (although if you enjoy Indian food, they are worth picking up!).
  • No real protein source, so may leave you craving something more. Could be OK if served with a hearty grain and a big salad.
Bottom Line:
  • If it sounds good to you, give it a try! I'll stick with aloo gobi when I get a craving for Indian style cauliflower.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Patty's Favorite Red Beans and Rice

Earlier this week I made red beans and rice for my Aunt Patty. I knew they'd be safe for her gluten-free diet, but I did not know that they were one of her favorite foods and something she makes nearly every week. She said that our beans were the best, and "better than Popeyes."

I started with this recipe from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and made a few modifications. Here is the recipe I followed:

  • 1 pound dry red kidney beans
  • 1 green pepper (chopped)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1-2 tbs freeze dried chopped shallots (fresh are OK too, or can sub onions and/or garlic)
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 2 small red chiles (chopped, seeded)
Prepare the beans (either by soaking overnight or by boiling for one minute and then soaking for at least an hour; drain and rinse the beans when done soaking). Put beans in a pot and cover with an additional 2 inches of water, add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low for 2-4 hours or longer as needed/desired. Remove bay leaves. If desired, use a stick blender to puree the beans in the pot to a smoother consistency. Serve over rice.

Optional condiments:
  • fresh cilantro
  • chopped red onion
  • tabasco
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chopped fresh tomato
Notes: I really liked the addition of the fresh cilantro. This went really well with a side of homemade vegan/g.f. coleslaw.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Easy Gourmet Trick--Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

One of my favorite, easy gourmet tricks is to make balsamic vinegar reduction. Its quick, cheap, fun and can really make a difference in your meals. The first time I had balsamic vinegar reduction was served over pumpkin ravioli. Since then, I've used it on roasted root vegetables, and I suspect it would be delicious anywhere you would consider using regular balsamic vinegar (on strawberries, over salad, with avocado, etc.).

To make it, pour some balsamic vinegar into a pot (aim for about twice as much the final volume you would like in syrup), then heat over a medium flame, stirring occasionally, until the vinegar is reduced to a syrup consistency. This doesn't take very long. Some people suggest various additions (brown sugar, salt, butter) as desired, but I like the syrup as-is.

Have you tried making balsamic vinegar reduction before? If so, do you have any tips or favorite variations?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Easy Rhubarb Raspberry Pie Recipe

I adore rhubarb, and buy it at the Farmer's Market just about every week during its short season. To be sure we have some when its not in season, I like to marinate clean chopped rhubarb in a bit of sugar and keep it in tupperware in the freezer.

This week, I made a delicious, relatively healthy raspberry rhubarb pie with a homemade graham cracker crust.

-1 small package raspberries, rinsed
-1 bunch rhubarb, rinsed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
-1/4 cup white sugar (or more as desired)

-approx. 8 oz graham crackers, crushed
-2 tbps butter (or more as desired)

To make the crust, I first crushed the graham crackers using the same method that I rely on for Ardelle's Dirt Cake: I place a few graham crackers at a time into a sealed ziplock bag, and smash them either with my hands or a tool such as a rubber mallet. Then, lightly grease the pie dish and arrange the graham cracker crumbles. Melt the butter and drizzle over the graham cracker crust (you may need to mix the crust a little with your fingers to even out the butter distribution).

Then I simply mixed the raspberries, rhubarb and sugar and let them marinate in the fridge for a few hours. I didn't use a lot of sugar, because the berries are sweet and I like the tart tang of rhubarb--but you may prefer more sugar. While the berries/rhubarb were marinating, I also let the crust chill.

Finally, preheat the oven to 375 and bake for 40 mins or so (depending on your oven) until the rhubarb is soft. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Recipe Review: Vegetarian Meatloaf

My husband recently made this vegetarian meatloaf recipe posted by Flickr's Moonlightbaker. It was fabulous. The only modifications he made were using only 1 kind of veggie crumbles (Boca, I think, whatever our grocer had on hand), and omitting the onion. The green peppers added a really nice flavor/texture, and the glaze on top was outstanding. The leftovers were really terrific as well. Even my omni husband enjoyed it! Definitely a recipe to make again.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Make a Dirt Cake

Dirt cakes were a fixture at just about every birthday party or other celebration my sister and I had growing up. They were hugely popular with us and with our cousins. My grandma, Ardelle, would make them using the recipe below (in her own handwriting).

Recently, I inherited the planter and spade that were dedicated solely to dirt cake. Since my wedding shower was in spring and had a gardening theme (my mother filled about 25 planters with cuttings from her plants as favors!), I decided to try my hand at making a dirt cake to bring to the party.

I have to admit that I didn't follow Ardelle's recipe to the letter. For example, her recipe called for an entire stick of butter and I only used about a tablespoon. I used one package of vanilla pudding and one package of banana because its what my partner brought home from the store--this did give the cake a slight banana flavor but people seemed to really like it. I omitted the Cool Whip (which mysteriously appears in the directions but not the ingredients list) entirely. Also, instead of smashing the Oreos between two sheets of wax paper, I sealed them in a large ziplock bag (a few handfuls at a time) before attacking them with the rolling pin.

Here is the final result:

Complete with gardening spade and flower, exactly as Ardelle would have served it. Although I didn't add any gummy worms, which she liked to do.

While there weren't any children in attendance at the shower, the dirt cake was a universal hit with the guests, and was more popular than any of the other desserts we had. Leftovers, if you have any, hold up well in the fridge for a few days, although you may need to transfer them to a smaller container.

Enjoy, and if you give this recipe a whirl, let me know what you think of it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

In Memory of Ardelle

Its been quiet for the last few months here at Devil's Workshop Crafts as my grandmother, Ardelle, was ill from a stroke, and much of my free time was spent visiting with her. She passed away just before Easter, at the age of 89.

Here is a eulogy that I wrote and read at her funeral. I think it sums up a lot about who she was and what she meant to me.

This is a pendant I made from the photo above and wore to the wake and the funeral. I purchased the supplies from Collage Stuff if you're interested in making one of your own.

Lastly, here is a link to a recipe I posted a few month's ago for Ardelle's Sweet and Sour Green Beans.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Link Love--Rainbow Swirlz Giveaways

If you're not familiar with Rainbow Swirlz' Blog, Daily Finds and Giveaways, definitely check them out. Blogger/Etsy store owner Mendy highlights various Etsy store owners through interviews and fabulous giveaways. She also posts tutorials, sales and other items of interest. Through tomorrow you can enter to win a fantastic necklace from Punky Bunny Designs, and there are other contests as well. I've had the good fortune to win a beautiful throw pillow and fun print, so I definitely encourage you to join in the fun!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recipe Review: Simple Dollar's Homemade Pizza

When I found Trent's Guide to Making Inexpensive and Delicious Pizza at the Simple Dollar, I had to give it a try. Trent has two young children, and since this is a recipe he makes frequently, I figured that it must really be inexpensive and delicious (as well as hopefully relatively painless).

I am pleased to report that the guide is fantastic, and his recipe is customizable, inexpensive, delicious and easy-to-follow. So far I've made this pizza twice. Each time I've added a number of herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary to the dough.

Overall, I thought the recipe was terrific. If you are going to use vegetables with a high water content, such as bell peppers, or frozen vegetables, its best to warm them up first in the microwave so you can drain off the water before putting them on the pizza. Also, while Trent recommended pre-baking the crust for about 6 minutes, if you prefer a crisper crust or you oven is difficult to predict, you may wish to pre-bake it a little longer.

As you can tell from the photos, its not imperative that you get the dough rolled out perfectly symmetrically. Once you're done its fairly easy to cut into "normal" looking pieces. Enjoy!

Veggie Side: Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts

This week I decided to make brussels sprouts for the first time, since I'd never tried them and I generally like related vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. To be safe, I figured that I would mix them with a vegetable I love, asparagus.

First, I halved the sprouts and parboiled them for about 2 minutes. Then, I placed them on a baking sheet and drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper. I then roasted them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

While the sprouts were roasting, I washed and chopped the asparagus. I spritzed with olive oil and left to grill on our stove-top grill pan. While the asparagus was grilling, I also chopped a few cloves of garlic, which I quickly sauteed in olive oil.

When all the veggies and garlic were done cooking, I combined in a bowl with some additional salt and pepper. I added 1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts for protein, crunch and flavor, although you could omit these or substitute another kind of nut if you prefer.

Although the results were definitely edible, I did prefer the asparagus pieces to the brussels sprouts pieces. If you're in the mood to turn this into a main dish instead of a side, add some whole wheat pasta and fresh chopped basil for a veggie-pesto-pasta dish.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Low Fat Crustless Vegetarian Skillet Quiche

  • Whatever veggies you have on hand (I used broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and red, yellow and green bell peppers).
  • 6 eggs
  • Cheese if desired (I added a few pieces of pepper jack).

Dice veggies and add to lightly greased skillet, saute. Turn on broiler. In a separate container, whip the eggs together (can add milk, cream, chives, salt and/or pepper if desired). Pour eggs over vegetables in skillet. Once the bottom of the eggs has set, add cheese if desired and place under broiler for a few minutes until eggs are cooked to desired consistency. Enjoy!

Recipe pros: Quick, uses up veggies, low-fat/low carb.
Recipe cons: Not as fun as other skillet recipes. Would have been better with some potatoes or a crust!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ardelle's Sweet and Sour Greenbeans

As a vegetarian, I've shied away from a number of my German grandmother's favorite foods and recipes. One tried-and-true recipe that I've always adored, however, is her sweet and sour greenbeans. These are a snap to make, and keep well in the fridge.

-3/4 cup of white vinegar
-3/4 cup of water
-3/4 cup of sugar
-1 can of french cut greenbeans*, drained
-chopped onions, if desired

*Note: Fresh peeled and sliced cucumbers can be substituted for the greenbeans.

Combine vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan. Heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Combine with greenbeans (or cucumbers) and onions if desired. Refrigerate, serve chilled. This lasts a long time in the refrigerator and is better if made a day or two ahead of serving.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Recipe Review: Homemade Girl Scout Cookies: Samoas Bars

Recently, Baking Bites, a fantastic baking blog, has posted a series of recipes for making your own Girl Scout cookies. When I saw a recipe for Samoas bars, I had to give it a whirl. (If you prefer more authentic looking Samoas, there are instructions for that too.)

The recipe was fairly straightforward, and aside from the coconut and caramels did not require anything I wouldn't otherwise have on hand. Unwrapping each individually-wrapped caramel took a long time, and next time I would consider making my own caramel sauce. Toasting the coconut was a snap, and I was able to do it at the same time that the shortbread cookie base was baking.

I liked that the recipe had a number of helpful reminders/tips throughout (stop and stir the chocolate frequently when melting, use parchment paper and a wire cooling rack, a ziplock with a hole in a corner can be used as a pipette, etc.) I think it would have gone more smoothly had I followed the directions more closely and waited for each stage to cool completely, but I was impatient and rushed and the cookies turned out mostly OK (a little crumbly, and not as pretty as the Baking Bites ones, but still delicious.)

I definitely recommend this recipe for Samoas fans and will be making it again. If you've never had a Samoa, but love toasted coconut, caramel, and/or shortbread, I'd give it a whirl.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Make Your Own Caramel Sauce

If you're a caramel lover, few things are as gratifying as making your own caramel sauce. I like to make mine using part of a recipe for Grandma Ople's Apple Pie.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add sugars and water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

While this sauce is fantastic on apple pie, as in the original recipe, it would also be amazing served warm over ice cream or as a dip for fresh cut fruit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mulled Wine

Mulled wine can be a quick and easy treat on a winter evening. Since last Friday was the final Friday of winter, I decided to make some to enjoy.

  • 1 750 ml bottle red wine (inexpensive wine is OK)
  • one orange
  • mulling spices (I used Penzey's mulling spices mix, but you can use a combination of cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice, cardamom, mace and/or nutmeg.)
Directions: Pour wine into large pot. Squeeze juice of one orange into pot. Add mulling spices (Penzey's: 1 tbs per bottle) to taste. Simmer on low for 25 minutes. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vegan Pho

Having never made pho before, I started by reviewing the recipes here and here.

Based on what we had on hand, this is the recipe I followed:

1/4 white onion
8 cloves garlic
dash of dried shallots
dash of ginger
dash of cinnamon
2 pods star anise
5 cloves
8 cups vegetable stock
3 tbs soy sauce

1 pkg extra firm tofu, fried
1 pkg rice noodles (I used mung bean noodles)

crushed peanuts
lime wedges
chili paste

Heat large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, garlic, and spices and dry roast, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to char. Add stock and soy sauce and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. Strain solids out with slotted spoon and discard.

While broth is simmering, fry tofu and set aside. Prepare rice noodles according to directions.

When soup is ready, divide tofu and noodles among the bowls. Ladle hot broth into the bowls. Serve with platter of toppings (spices, lime wedges, etc.). Enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Aloo Gobi

One of my favorite Indian foods is Aloo Gobi, a delicious mix of potatoes, cauliflower and spices. It is delicious served with naan or rice. When searching for an aloo gobi recipe, I was thrilled to come across Manjula's Kitchen. Manjula is a grandmother who relocated to the U.S. from India and who blogs her authentic Indian vegetarian recipes. Her aloo gobi recipe is here, and, like many of her recipes, includes a video.

I followed the recipe as closely as I could, omitting a few ingredients such as mango powder which I didn't have. It turned out delicious and the leftovers held up nicely. Definitely check Manjula out!