Monday, October 19, 2009


Cinnamon Sugar flour tortilla chips with fruit salsa
I'm not Mexican, or Hispanic of any kind, so I'm not an expert on tortilla making. But I am a person who consumes tortillas. I think it is a good policy to know how to make some of the foods I buy. One reason for this is because there may be a day it won't be available at my local grocery store. Another reason is that I can decide if I want to keep buying it, or I can choose to make it from scratch from now on. It's a good feeling knowing how to make things, especially those things that come out much better than store bought.
My oven broke. Very sad for me, but alas, it will be repaired soon. Nevertheless, I had to decide what to talk about on my radio show on BTO. Anything that involved an oven was out. Last time I talked about flatbread and how wonderful it is. Elena did mention corn tortillas during that discussion, but I didn't know much about making them then. Now I do. I wanted to know how to make them, and now I want to share how wonderful it is to make them!
First I made flour tortillas. Flour tortillas are not that much different from the flat bread I talked about last week, pretty basic. You do need to roll them pretty thin to resemble tortillas. But it's easy and they make great chips. I fried these babies up, sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar and served them with fruit salsa. This dish is a real crowd pleaser. I think I'm going to make this for an appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner.

corn tortillas
Then I made corn tortillas. I am so happy I decided to make these. These are extremely easy as well. 2 ingredients, that's all it takes.Masa Harina which is corn flour, and water. You almost don't need directions, mix to make a dough, roll them up, cook them and they're done.
They have a great fresh corn taste, much better than store bought. My plan is to become a pro at making these. Never again will I have to run to the store for tortillas, with the Masa Harina in the cupboard, I will be ready at a moments notice to make these scrumptious treats.
Flour Tortillas
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon softened butter- or lard if you have it
3/4 cup water
Whisk dry ingredients together in bowl. Mix butter or lard into the dry ingredients with your fingers or 2 knives until it resembles cornmeal. Add water and mix until a dough forms.
Place on lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, just a few minutes. Then divide the dough into 12 equal portions. This is an easy task when you divide it into 2, then divide that one in half, then in thirds. Roll the portions into a ball.
On the floured surface, use a rolling pin, (or something that resembles a rolling pin) to roll out the dough into a thin round tortilla, about 6 inches across. If the dough is too sticky, use a little more flour. Repeat until you've rolled out all of the dough balls.
Preheat a sturdy pan to med high to high heat, or use a griddle. (I used a griddle on the highest heat it would go which was 400 degrees.) You want the pan hot enough so it blisters the tortilla to form little brown dots on the surface.
Cook the tortillas one at a time in a dry pan. (on my griddle I could do 2 at a time.)
On the first side cook 1 minute or so. Then flip it over and cook for about 30 seconds on the second side. Don't cook them too long, or your tortilla will become hard. If you aren't getting any color on them, (the little brown spots) you need to turn up the heat.
I made chips of mine by cutting them into triangles using a pizza cutter, then frying them in hot oil for just a minute or 2 until crisp. Then I sprinkled them with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar when just out of the oil. I flipped them over and sprinkled the other side as well.
Alternately, you can brush the tortillas with some butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture then cut into triangles with a pizza cutter and bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until crisp.
Fruit Salsa
This recipe is really just the fruit of your choice, try to use fruits that complement each other while being different, (i.e. sweet and tart) mixed with a little jam to bring the flavors together, some sugar if you think it needs it, and some lemon to keep the fruit from browning. Here's what I used this time.
1 apple
2 kiwi fruit
some strawberries
about 1 tablespoon of jam (whatever flavor you like that you think would meld well with the fruit)
1/2 lemon

Dice up the fruit into small bits. Add the juice of the 1/2 lemon. Add the jam and stir. Taste it to see if you think it needs anything else, it may need sweetener, add sugar or honey or whatever you choose. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors meld and serve.
This is wonderful the next day on yogurt or cereal.
Corn Tortillas
Since this recipe is only 2 ingredients, it's best to use good Masa Harina. I used the Bobs Red Mill brand which can be purchased at a health food store, or some grocery stores. Mexican or Hispanic markets will carry other brands as well. Try to get a brand where the only ingredients are corn and lime.

There are directions on the back of the package of the Bobs Red Mill brand, that's what I followed. I will put them here with some notes.

2 cups Masa Harina
1 cup water
a little salt (optional)
Mix them together in a bowl until a dough forms. Add a little water if necessary. Shape into 14 balls. and cover with moist towel to prevent from drying out. (they mean this, it does dry out pretty quick, but it's also forgiving. If you add a little water you can rehydrate it again easily.)
Place 1 ball between sheets of plastic (a gallon size heavy duty freezer bag cut in 2 pieces works well for this and is stronger than plastic wrap) and flatten into 6 inch disc. If you have a tortilla press, by all means use that. You will get more consistent results. I don't have one so I used a rolling pin. You want to get them pretty thin (especially if you are making them into chips) but if you are using for a taco or something else, reasonably thin is fine. The more you do this the more you will get the hang of it and how thin you want them to be.
You can work the dough over and over again if needed. Corn does not have gluten in it, so it's not like a typical dough where it would get tough if overworked.
Continue to roll out the tortillas and keep them on a plate between 2 damp towels. Or you can roll them out and cook them as soon as you roll them. Then roll another and cook it, etc.
Cook on a preheated dry griddle, or sturdy pan on medium high to high heat, one side for one minute, then flip to other side and cook for 30 seconds more. They should be pliable when done. If they are crisp, you've cooked them too long. Store them in a tortilla holder, or between 2 towels.
Tortillas freeze well and thaw quickly so it's a good idea to make more than you plan to eat and keep them in the freezer for the future.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

A few months ago I made my own laundry detergent, and I am super happy about it! Yes, this is a baking blog, and this subject is off topic, but it's something I really like to spread the word about.

Making your own laundry detergent has many advantages. The biggest of them all is how much money you save. A typical American brand of detergent, Tide, costs about 20 cents a load. Homemade detergent costs 2 cents a load. Big difference. Also compared to Tide, it works equally as well. I have been using mine solely for months now and I haven't noticed a difference in the quality a bit.

The second reason I love it so much is it really cuts down on my consumption of using plastic. I used to buy liquid detergent. Of course, it comes in a plastic container. I wanted to cut back on my usage of these plastic vessels. I know they are recyclable, but recycling takes energy. I just want to cut back where I can, where it's easy for me. And since I'm the do it yourself type of a gal, this seemed like something I wanted to do. I saved my last bottle of said detergent, and now I fill it up when I need more. (from the bucket I made it in.)

Another plus is the ingredients are relatively easy on the environment, especially compared to a typical in store brand.

It's really easy to make, and when you make it you won't have to make it again for months.

I found the recipe at The Simple Dollar. I did re write the recipe below, but I recommend you go to his website, he has a step by step detailed guide to making it here as well as the cost breakdown and a comparison test he did with both detergents.

I will speak about the details of the ingredients. He uses soap, plain soap. I used Fels Naptha. It's a bar soap used specifically for laundry. If you use another brand make sure it isn't a brand that has a bright color, or has moisturizing cream or oils in it.

Another ingredient is Borax. This is easy to find at most grocery stores in the laundry aisle. He claims it's optional, I used it.

The next ingredient is Washing Soda. Washing Soda is very close to baking soda but not the same. it's processed differently, and a few atoms away from baking soda. More about that here at Planet Green. Usually it's made by Arm and Hammer, it's in a yellow box and reads, "Super Washing Soda." For the locals, the only place I've found that carries it, is the Fred Meyer store in Lacey, I think most Fred Meyers carry it because I've seen it at different locations. It is located in the laundry aisle next to the Borax and Fels Naptha. I've asked the Yelm Food Co op to carry it, but they told me their distributors don't have it available. I've also asked Safeway, but haven't received an answer.

The Recipe
1/2 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
1 bar soap
3 gallons of water
First thing, put about four cups of water into the pan and put it on the stove on high until it’s at boiling, then lower the heat until it’s simmering.
While it’s heating up, take a bar of soap and cut it up into little bits. I found a lot of success using our box grater, which resulted in a ton of little soap curls.
When the water is boiling, start throwing in the soap. I recommend just doing a bit at a time, then stirring it until it’s dissolved.
Stir the soapy water with a spoon until all of the soap is dissolved. Eventually, the water will take on the color of the soap you added, albeit paler.
In the end, you’ll have some very warm soap soup.
Next, get out your large container and add three gallons of warm tap water to it.
To this bucket add a cup of the washing soda, the Borax the soap solution you made and stir.
Let the soap sit for 24 hours, preferably with a lid on it. At this point I poured the soap into the old detergent bottle I saved, and stored the rest in other containers I had. You may also store it in the bucket you made it in, covered. Then add it as needed in the detergent bottle.
The soap after sitting for a while may become seperated, mine did, in the storage bottles. I do shake the detergent bottle a little before using. If the soap in the storage bottles seperates, just use a long spoon the stir it up.
More links on making your own detergent

Stretcher talks about using homemade detergent with HE machines

10 different recipes for homemade laundry detergent

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fabulous, Flexible Flatbread

Navajo fry bread type of flat bread

I am so excited about this bread! It's so easy and simple anyone can do it. It takes maybe 10 minutes (I'm being very generous here) from beginning to end, it's delicious and dirt cheap. (Well nothing is cheaper than dirt, but almost.)
Flatbread is the most elementary type of bread. It has hardly changed in thousands of years. When people started cultivating grain, flatbread was an obvious solution of how to turn hard grain into edible food. The grain was pounded into flour, mixed with water and cooked on a hot stone. The earliest method of cooking flatbread probably involved spreading the dough over a very hot rock then peeling the dough off the rock when done cooking. This method is still used by the Hopi Indians in making their blue corn piki bread.

mixing up the dough (seriously this took 2 minutes tops)
I'm going to post a basic recipe here, but really there is no recipe. If you add flour and water together to make a dough, roll it out to your desired thickness, heat it, you will have made flatbread.
The versatility of this is phenomenal. You can roll it out to any thickness you desire. Thinner it will resemble the middle eastern bread, lavash, or a tortilla, or Indian naan bread. Thicker, (about 1/4 inch thick), it will be like a Navajo fry bread.
It may be cooked in a pan like I did, with butter, oil may also be used, or it could even be heated in a dry hot pan. It may be grilled on a bbq, cooked over a camping stove, over an open flame, in an oven, or old school style, over a hot rock.

rolling out the dough to make a flatbread, this one is a little thinner, similar to naan or lavash

It can be flavored any way you can possible imagine. Just mix it into the dough. Here are some examples.
*Garlic and Rosemary
*cinnamon and sugar
*flaxseeds and sesame seeds
*Italian herbs, or oregano and basil
*Parmesan cheese and minced onion
*finely chopped kalmata olives
You can also experiment with different flours, use any type you like!

frying it up!
The uses for the bread are endless as well. My husband likes to use it to dip into stew. It can be served with dip instead of crackers, used as a taco shell, a pizza crust, or used to wrap a sandwich.

Basic Flatbread
this recipe makes 2 or 3, if you need more, just double or triple it.

1 cup white unbleached flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup water (to start, you may need more)
a tsp olive oil (optional, will make the bread more elastic and easier to roll and deal with as well as adding flavor)
oil or butter for frying
In a large bowl add all ingredients (except the butter or oil for frying, or course.) Mix with a spoon until it becomes a dough.
Take out the dough, on a cutting board covered in flour knead the dough a few times. If it feels too wet, add a little more flour, conversely, if it feels too dry, add a little more water. Roll it out into rounds, or the shape you desire.
Heat a pan to medium high heat. Add butter or oil (if using) (you can also cook these in a dry pan, if cooking dry, you will need a pan on high heat) If using butter, you need a med high heat, because butter will burn on high heat.
Cook in hot pan, about 2 minutes on first side, then flip and cook another 1 min. or so on the other side.
That's it! Eat and enjoy! Could it be any easier?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Triple Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Triple Chocolate zucchini muffin/cupcake
O.K. if you are lucky enough to grow zucchini or know someone who does and is happy to gift you with the lovely vegetable this bread is quite a worthy recipient.
I have been growing zucchini for the past 3 years, mostly to use for baking yummy items such as this. I shred quite a bit of it in my food processor, (you can also use a box grater for this task) and freeze it in gallon size freezer bags so I can use it for baking throughout the year.
This bread is delightfully moist, rich and very chocolaty due to the three types of chocolate involved. You would never know the zucchini is in there, you can't taste it but it adds moisture, fiber and nutrition.

Triple Chocolate Zucchini Bread


2 (one ounce) squares of unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (or whatever type of neutral oil you prefer)
2-2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (with the moisture squeezed out of it)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups white unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips (plus more for sprinkling on top of bread)
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C. ) Lightly grease 2 loaf pans, (or 1 big loaf pan plus 2 or 3 small loaf pans, or muffin tins if you prefer) If using a large loaf pan I recommend greasing the pan then using a parchment paper sling as show here. Grease the parchment paper also. The reason for this, is the chocolate chips like to stick to the bottom of the pan, no matter how much grease I use. It's not too bad with the small pans.

Melt the unsweetened chocolate in a pan over low heat, stir until smooth, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and melted chocolate.
beat well with electric mixer. In another large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and chocolate chips. Add to wet mixture, beat until combined well, 2 minutes or so. Add sour cream or yogurt mix until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pans 3/4 of the way full, sprinkle extra chocolate chips on top of loaves before baking if desired. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out clean. For muffins it will take about 25-35 minutes, for small loaf about 35 minutes, for large loaf it will take about an hour, (give or take 5 or 10 minutes.)

When loaves have cooled, remove from pans and wrap with plastic wrap or foil to keep airtight.this recipe made one big loaf, the 2 small ones and one muffin/cupcake (above)
or it will yield 2 large loaves

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Strawberry Bread and Butter

Strawberry bread and butter

It's late Spring, and here in the Pacific Northwest that means it's Strawberry Season! I absolutely love fresh strawberries. I think it's my favorite thing about the season.

I bought, well, way too many strawberries from a local farm. This strawberry bread and butter is a lovely manifestation of that wonderful excess.

Strawberry Bread

You will get a lovely moist quick bread bursting with strawberry flavor from this loaf.

Strawberry Butter

The strawberry butter is a delicious, decadent way to bring all of that fresh strawberry flavor home.

Strawberry Quick Bread
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup fresh strawberries, washed, stems removed and chopped into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x4 loaf pan, set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, in medium bowl, set aside.
In large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beat 1 minute or until light and airy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in sour cream and vanilla.
Stir into flour mixture only until dry ingredients are moistened.
Fold in strawberries.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let stand 10 minutes in pan.
Turn out on rack to cool.
To make Strawberry Butter
1 cup fresh strawberries, stems removed and washed.
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup softened butter
Place strawberries and sugar in bowl and stir. Let sit for 20 minutes or so. After 20 minutes is up the sugar should have turned to liquid. Drain the liquid from the strawberries, and set aside for another use. In the bowl of a food processor, add drained strawberries and butter and whirl. Put in a jar or container in refrigerate to firm up.
Serve with strawberry bread. This would also be great on toast for breakfast.

Beer Bread

original beer bread
I'm all about baking things that are 1. easy and 2. have a huge payoff. Beer bread is one of those things. It may just be the easiest bread in the world to make. It has a minimum of ingredients, and I'm not kidding when I tell you it takes literally 5 minutes to get the dough together for the oven which means you can decide to make it when you start making dinner and you will be rewarded with a sumptuous loaf of warm, homemade, absolutely delicious bread to enjoy with your meal.

Beer bread is a quick bread, meaning it gets it's rise from baking soda. The yeast in the beer gives it a boost while adding a nice beer flavor, how much or what kind of flavor is up to you and the beer you decide to use.

garlic, Parmesan and fresh basil beer bread made with pale ale
The possibilities are endless when it comes to deciding on what type to make. I made a plain loaf (pictured above) with a mild beer (Miller Genuine Draft to be specific) and the taste of the beer did come through. It was mild, but still delicious. It produces a slightly dense loaf great along with a soup or stew, or even cut for sandwiches.

garlic, Parmesan and fresh basil beer bread ready for the oven
Next I made the garlic, Parmesan and fresh basil variety. It was absolutely delicious. This bread I made with a pale ale. I used a beer with a more pronounced flavor to stand up to the strong flavors I used. I thought about using it to make a grilled cheese sandwich, or how about an open faced chicken sandwich? Or I might just eat it all warm with butter, this bread is so good!
banana beer bread made with a mild beer
O.K. I know this sounds weird, but I even made a banana beer bread. The results? A distinctly banana flavored bread with a slight background taste of mild beer. I thought it was yummy. A nice snack bread for sure.
So go ahead! Use your imagination and create a one of a kind beer bread of your own!
(I'll give you some more suggestions below to get your ideas flowing.)

Basic Beer Bread
3 cups unbleached white flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 12 oz. bottle or can of beer (use whatever type of beer you like. just keep in mind that the stronger the beer, the heartier flavor it will give the bread.)


1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease an 8x4 inch loaf pan, set aside.

2. Get a large bowl. Place a fine strainer atop bowl (to use as a sifter). Place all dry ingredients in strainer and sift into bowl. *

*Or alternately, if you don't have a strainer, place all dry ingredients in bowl and stir with a whisk. The point of sifting or whisking the dry ingredients is to incorporate some air into the flour, because when you add the beer it's going to get sticky. We want to keep things as light as possible so our bread doesn't turn into a brick.

3. Pour in beer and mix, making sure to incorporate all of the dry ingredients with the beer.
Put dough in prepared pan. Bake 45 min. or until a toothpick inserted into bread comes out dry and clean. That's it!

You can brush some melted butter onto the hot bread when it comes out of the oven to give it a nice shine if you wish.

Flavor Options

garlic Parmesan, basil bread- add 3 cloves of chopped garlic, or a few teaspoons of dried garlic powder, 1/2 cup or so of grated Parmesan cheese along with 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil, or 2 teaspoons dried basil to the dry ingredients.

banana beer bread- add 3 mashed very ripe bananas to the dry ingredients.

garlic and herb- add 1 teaspoon dried rosemary , 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme with 3 minced garlic cloves, (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder) to dry ingredients. If using fresh herbs, use 1 tablespoon each.

onion cheese- add 1/2 cup finely diced onion (you can cook the onion if you like on the stove and let cool. or use raw)or you can also use scallions. along with 1/2 cup of the cheese of your choice to dry ingredients.

Feta and Olive- add 1 cup diced olives (kalamata or black) along with 1/2 cup feta cheese to dry ingredients.

Bacon and cheese-add 1/2 cup cooked diced and cooled bacon along with 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese of your choice. Sharp cheddar would be good.

Sun dried tomato- add 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes with 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan to dry ingredients, also a few teaspoons of dried Italian seasoning would be good here.

Basically you can add any herb you like, or any flavor that suits you. Just stir into the dry ingredients before adding the beer.

Also if you'd like to use whole wheat flour, you can substitute 1/2 white flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour with great results. Also you can replace 1 cup of the white flour with oats.