Friday, September 7, 2012

From the Missionary Kitchen

Several people have suggested to me that I should write a cookbook. I've thought about it - actually even signed up for one of those "Write-your-own-book" websites (Lulu I think it was?) and tried to design one several years ago. Not that I am some kind of special cook or anything, but I was thinking it would be a great thing to pass down to my daughters. It might also be helpful to new missionaries who will have to learn to cook all over again in a new country. So...maybe I should do it. Someday. :)

People ask me from time to time for a recipe that I have cooked here or there. When our guests visited us in July, I got lots of recipe requests (which I have failed to respond to...sorry!) and so I thought it might be a good idea to do a post from time to time "from my kitchen." I'm not going to be one of those fancy bloggers who posts professional looking pictures for each step. Although...maybe sometime I might give it a try. But, because I am a busy mommy, especially with school in session (how do I keep up with all these daily grades!?!), it will more than likely be the recipe itself with the instructions on how to follow it.

Speaking of school...we are back in full swing, but I want to save that for another full post once I take our school pictures! Hopefully I can do that next week.

Back to food. Today I had a hankerin' for some chips and queso. Well, since I don't live down the street from Taco Bell, or my favorite Mexican restaurant, Amigos, this meant that I needed to get busy in the kitchen. Denise packed me some Velveeta when she visited in July, and I have been hoarding saving it for a special occasion. Today is a special occasion....after all, it is Friday! "There is no better reason to indulge," I told myself. So I dug out my tortilla recipe. Actually, I have this one memorized, so there really was no digging involved.

2 c. all purpose flour
6 TB butter (You can use margarine, but since that stuff is a molecule away from being plastic...I'd avoid it. Ok, that is actually not true...but it really is much worse for you than butter.)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. water

Stir flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. With a pastry blender cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir the water in and mix until a smooth dough forms. (I dig my hands in there and mix it up real well. Probably because I like to get messy.) Divide the dough into 8-10 pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll each ball of dough into an 8 inch round circle, or as round as you can get it - mine are never perfectly circular. Keep adding flour as needed. It can get very sticky.

Cook your tortilla in an ungreased skillet that has been pre-heated on med.-high heat. Once bubbles begin to form, flip the tortilla and cook for about 30 seconds to one minute on the other side.

Once you have cooked all of your tortillas you will preheat your oven while you prepare your chips. I am not really sure what temperature because I don't have a thermometer on my oven. My oven thermometer is a picture of a small flame...a medium flame...and a large flame. Not exactly precise. I guess I'd start with 350 and see how that works.

Brush each tortilla with some melted butter, sprinkle on some salt, and cut into 8 wedges with a pizza wheel. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until they are nice and crisp. Not sure on the time either since my oven doesn't have a thermometer. You can tell they are done when they get to be a nice golden brown...or when you touch them they are crispy!

And there you have it - yummy homemade tortilla chips! I didn't cut my tortillas into eighths...only fourths because I was in a hurry. But they will obviously go farther if you cut them into eighths. I enjoyed mine with some melted velveeta queso...but all you need to do is pop the top off a jar of Frito Lay Cheese dip and enjoy!

For some crazy variations, try substituting plain salt with:
Fajita seasoning
Powdered Ranch Dressing Seasoning
Taco Seasoning

Go lite on some of those powdered seasonings as they are very high in sodium, but I've sprinkled McCormick's fajita seasoning on my homemade chips before and they were YUMMY!

Would you like to know another little trick I learned from my field director's wife? If you don't, you can just stop reading here. However, this tip has seriously saved my life. Two little words...Sour Cream. I love sour cream! I don't eat it like soup mind you, but it is such a great ingredient to have for so many things in the kitchen. When we first moved here I was so depressed because Cameroon doesn't sell sour cream. I found a recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook that said to stir lemon juice into heavy cream. I tried it. It didn't work. I gave up.

When Steve and Martha Anderson visited us the very first time, she told me how to make my own sour cream. I was very skeptical, after having a complete failure with the cream/lemon juice mixture. But, I humored her and put a cup of cream in a glass measuring cup. This time, however, I stirred in 1 Tablespoon of vinegar into the heavy cream. I was stirring and thinking, "Yeah...whatever," when the most amazing thing happened! The cream began to thicken!! I mean really thicken, just like sour cream! And it tasted just like sour cream! My life in our kitchen has never been the same. Thank you Martha. I doubt I have ever said it to you - but you changed my life that day! *grin*

So, if you want to get really adventurous - you can make your own chips and your own sour cream to dip them into! Bon Appetit!
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