Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

Making tortillas

We made tortillas to use in our quesadillas the other night. Once again, it’s something that is remarkably easy to make at home and is cheaper and tastier when you do. Of course it  takes a bit more time and planning than opening a package, but it’s more fun, too.


One of my helpers rolling out tortillas. Good help makes it much quicker!


They’re almost round!


The recipe is really quite simple:

Flour Tortillas

Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon garlic or onion salt. Then add 2/3 cup water and knead until smooth. Make 12 small balls and roll flat. Cook over medium high heat. 


But why do it? I mean, quesadillas are supposed to be my easy go-to fast meal when everyone is tired and hungry. Is it really just about feeding the independent, stubborn streak in me that just likes being able to do it myself? Am I just making life difficult for myself for no good reason? No and no. The tortillas we find in the store here are all imported from the USA. That’s a whole lot of food miles. And they are name brands, big corporate brands, and our corporate system is my least favorite investment! Those are the real motivating reasons.

Slowly, I am trying to wean us off of corporate and imported food. There’s the garden, of course, and locally grown fruits and veggies, but I’m talking about the dry goods and stuff we can’t grow ourselves. I find it much harder to convince my family to embrace alternatives to the pasta, tortillas, rice, etc. that we use pretty often. As expats, it can be easy to want and buy familiar American brands of food, much of which you can get here if you are willing to pay the price. I’d rather not and the food miles really put me off.

Here’s a list of some of the things we like and some alternatives we’ve either switched to or I am in the process of slowly, unnoticeably converting to (don’t tell the girls!).

  • Tea – We mostly use teas that we gather or grow, like sage, lemon balm, and mint. I am trying to add more herbs for teas, and buy fair trade tea if we want some black or green tea.
  • Maple syrup – This was hard to give up! But the cost here is crazy and it comes from so far away. So, we use homemade jam instead. Two years ago we started making jam from wild plums and I think the girls actually prefer it now. The other substitute is dandelion honey, from foraged dandelions, of course!
  • Dairy products like milk, butter, eggs, cheese  – You can buy local dairy products easily, even in the big chain stores. But we get almost all of our dairy products from a local organic dairy called Biovavrinec. I started buying at the Farmer’s Market, but this dairy also has an e-shop. Several folks from my work joined together to place an order every week to save on delivery charges and now we can get these products all winter, too.
  • Pickles – We’re not huge pickle eaters, but we (my mother-in-law, actually) canned 11 quarts last year from our own cucumbers!
  • Tortillas – we’ll make them most of the time now. It’s really quite quick.
  • Pasta – I suppose I could make this, too, but there is a vendor at the farmer’s market that makes wonderful fresh pasta. My favorites are the whole wheat tagliatelle and the spaghetti.
  • Rice – This doesn’t actually grow here, so getting local rice is not an option. And we love risotto and sushi and stir fries, so what to do? One strategy is to use other grains. With our stir fires, we often have millet, bulgur or buckwheat. We like quinoa, but that comes from even farther away. For risotto, I’ve started using barley.

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Not a dog. Not a commercial for cat food.

A Pennsylvania Dutch traditional food. I can remember my mother and grandparents raving about it.

Commercial chow chow

Commercial chow chow

It’s pickled vegetables – beans, corn, carrot, cauliflower. Here’s a typical recipe.  I’d try it as a kid, but I never really like it.

I’m just not much of a pickle fan. I don’t like relish (except my zucchini relish!!) I don’t like pickled anything, really.

But in late summer, with a glut of cabbage and green tomatoes, I was paging through an old Pa. Dutch Cookbook I stole from my mother* and came across a recipe for chow chow that was unlike the chow chow I knew. No beans, no corn, no carrots…instead, green tomatoes, cabbage and onions. And lots of mustard and ginger.

Desperate to do something with my produce, I gave it a try.

Revelation! Chow chow is delicious!! I love it. Olivia loves it. We eat it on sandwiches and with hot dogs (you know those horrible vegetarian hot dogs that even your dog won’t eat? Chow chow makes them taste great!!) and with potatoes or just as a side dish with anything, really.


Chow Chow Recipe

2 quarts chopped cabbage (I shredded mine)

1 quart chopped green tomatoes

6 large onions, chopped (I shredded these, too)

3 sweet red peppers, chopped

2 lb. sugar

4 Tbs. dry mustard (I didn’t have quite this much, but it still tastes mustardy)

3 Tbs. white mustard seed

1 1/2 Tbs. celery seed ( I only had ground celery seed and threw in a bunch)

1/2 Tbs. ginger (I used more to make up for the missing mustard!)

vinegar to cover (about 8 cups)

1 Tbs. cloves

Put each kind of vegetable in a separate bowl and sprinkle a small amount of salk over each. Let stand for 4 hours. Press juice from each vegetable and combine. Mix the dry ingredients and rub into a pete by using a small amount of vinegar. Then add all the vinegar and heat to boiling. Put in the vegetables and cook slowly for 20 minutes. Pack into sterile jars and seal. Cover jars with boiling water and process for 15 minutes. Makes 2 1/2 quarts.


*This is the stolen cookbook.

AAAA photos of cookbook and recipe

On the inside cover is a price tag – $1.00 at the Provident Bookstore, now the Friendly Bookstore in Quakertown, PA. It’s copyrighted 1978, but in a quick Google search,  I couldn’t find  the publishing company, so I presume it no longer exists. You can still get copies of it, though, even on Amazon.

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Monday Menu

The great thing about summer and all the vegetables available is that you don’t really have to do anything complicated or labor-intensive to have a great meal. I suppose the most work in this whole dinner was slicing the vegetables… Even the cooking took less than about 10 minutes!


Tomato*, mozzarella and basil* salad

Green salad of lettuce° and cucumber*

Grown-up additions to salad: baby chard*, beet*, turnip* and arugula* greens

Yellow squash* and onions°

Corn on the cob°

The first salad is a classic combination, but with tomatoes and basil fresh from the garden it is sublime!

When I was a kid, we used to have zucchini quite often in the summer and we always had it the same way, sliced into  rounds and  sauteed with onions, then topped with melted American cheese. I made this version without cheese and loved pairing the yellow squash with the red onion.

Simple but delicious!

The corn on the cob was a disappointment. I got it at the farmer’s market so it was pretty fresh, but it is not the Jersey sweet corn we enjoyed back home. Still, it wasn’t bad and I think the leftover corn will make great fritters! And we got to use our special corn on the cob boats with cob holders. Last summer when they saw these for the first time in the US, the girls thought these were the neatest things they’d ever seen. So we brought a set back with us!

Classic, cheap, plastic, kitsch…

Oh, the green salad was not photo-worthy. Just salad and cut up cucumbers. I ate the additional grown-up greens too fast to photograph them!

Hope you enjoyed your dinner tonight!

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Monday Menu

Due to celebrating with friends Monday evening, the second installment of my new feature is a day late. Well, it was  a good run while it lasted!

Today’s featured menu comes from Sunday night.

buckwheat kasha with mushrooms° and onions

sauteed grated carrots° with spicy peanut sauce

green salad (meant to have fresh greens from the garden*, but it was raining, and well, you know…)

pumpkin* ice cream

Ack! No photo…but at least a couple of recipes:

All my American cookbooks say to mix buckwheat groats with egg, cook until dry and then add water. But buckwheat is quite common here and the cooking instructions much simpler. Add to boiling salted water, let boil for a minute or two, take off the heat and wrap the covered pot in a towel. Drain and serve. I drained and added to sauteed mushrooms and onions. Two big thumbs up from the peanut gallery on this one! (It made a ton, so I used half in this meal and half the next night in a sort of hamburger helper stove-top, one-pot meal, using buckwheat instead of hamburger. No enthusiastic thumbs up, but they ate it without too  much grumbling!)

The carrots are easy. Grate, saute in a little butter until slightly soft but somehow still crisp. The girls had it plain, but I added spicy peanut sauce.

Spicy Peanut Sauce, from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

3 Tbsp peanut butter

1/4 cup water

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 to 1 fresh chile*, minced

2Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/4 cup diced tomatoes (I skipped this ingredient – didn’t have any)

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (skipped it – don’t like it)

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Puree in a blender until creamy. Keep in the fridge.

Like I said, the intention was to add the fresh arugula and mustard greens to the store-bought romaine, but I didn’t feel like going out in the rain to get it. If you’re looking for a perfectionistic purist, look elsewhere!

The pumpkin ice cream is so good. It’s your basic ice cream custard with pumpkin puree added. I used the last of my pumpkin from the fall. I added fresh ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg and it s sublime!

Happy eating!

°= from farmer’s market

*= from our garden

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Potato Candy

During International Cultures Week at our school, parents are invited in to share stories, songs, games and food from our home countries. I used to think that the goal of this week was to share our own cultures with others, but now I see it is also a way to share my culture with my own children!  So, I always make an effort to teach them and their classmates something about Quakertown or Pennsylvania or Pa. Dutch folks.

A favorite activity from my childhood was making cookies and sweets for Christmas and probably the most unusual thing we made was potato candy.  It’s the perfect thing to make with kids because it’s fun and easy and magical things happen while you’re mixing.

Here’s what you do: mix about a tablespoon of mashed potatoes (the thicker the better) with LOTS of powdered sugar. Seriously, like almost a cup… [So, okay, it’s not the healthiest thing in the world…but low-fat, right?!]

Add the sugar by spoonfuls and mix. The magical part is how first it almost liquefies, but as you add more sugar it turns into a play dough like consistency that you then can roll into balls. The balls can be rolled in coconut or cocoa powder or nuts or sprinkles to finish them off. Or you can hide treats in the center – we always made some with peanut butter inside! You can also roll it flat, add something on top like peanut butter, then roll jelly-roll style and slice. Refrigerate before eating (if you can keep the kids from gobbling them down).


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