Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! tortillas edition

I know, I know it's Wednesday. Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! is a day late (and a dollar short?) because, despite supposedly having a lighter schedule this week, I still had a meeting to go to last night at the kids' school and by the time I got back, I didn't have it in me to write a blog post. 

Also, I'm emotionally kind of drained. I found out yesterday that a friend of my parents lost her husband to leukemia on Monday evening, only hours after receiving a diagnosis and being admitted to the cancer treatment center. Yes, you read that right; he was diagnosed and died on the same day. While I didn't know him particularly well, I grew up knowing the woman he widowed and I can't imagine what she is going through this week. She has many of friends and plenty of support, but still...

And in addition to that, yesterday was District Attorney Ismael Ozanne's decision on whether to bring charges against the police officer who shot 19yo Tony Robinson to death in March. I watched the news conference on live feed and it was excruciating. No charges were brought, as you may know if you follow the news, and the reaction has been nonviolent (so far) but tense. The whole situation is just awful and no one in my city can feel good about any of this. 

Somehow, I just couldn't write a blog post about making tortillas with my kids yesterday.

But tortillas, we did make, and they were delicious! I only have a few phone pictures of the cooking process, but I have included a recipe at the bottom of the post, as always, with pros and cons and next-time. 

Tortillas aren't as difficult to make as you'd think, and it's really fun to make them with kids. You do have to let go of the notion that tortillas should always be perfectly round, but once you get past that, it's all good.

Because I was feeling so drained and emotional yesterday, I mixed up the dough myself, whereas I normally would have had the kids help with that part. Stuart and I took care of the fillings; his Tuesday night work obligation is over for the time being, so he'll be participating in many of the family cooking projects now.

But the kids did a superb job with rolling out and cooking the tortillas. It turns out they each really like certain aspects of tortilla making. Anya, for example, loves separating the dough into little balls...

...and then rolling them out. She did a really good job with this! Rolling out tortillas can be a little tricky, especially if the dough wants to stick to the table or the rolling pin. But she had this part down. Some of her tortillas were shaped a little like Texas, but we didn't mind.

Daniel, on the other hand, didn't want to roll out the tortillas, but he really likes being in charge of flipping them at the stove. He has been doing this since the age of 4, if you can believe it, so he didn't need much help here, other than a reminder with the first one about how long to let it cook on each side. Don't let his facial expressions in the pictures below fool you. He was actually enjoying himself.

Stuart pitched right in as soon as he got home, shredding cheese and refrying the beans for filling. This was enormously helpful and meant we were all ready to sit down and eat before 6:30, which is quite an accomplishment for a meal with so many components.

I'm afraid the camera on my phone seized up and I didn't want to futz with it, so there are no pictures of my plate full of food this time. Next time, I promise!

Our schedule is shifting a bit with Stuart available on Tuesday evenings now, but since it's the one day of the week we don't have after school or evening activities (like soccer, sigh), I plan to keep going with Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! We may tack on some additional family cooking nights on weekends when Stuart can be more directly involved, but I'm not promising that every week. We did it that one time we made banh mi and I think it's safe to say we've got a little ways to go before we figure out a really good rhythm there (i.e. Suze needs to let go of control, i.e. Stuart needs to learn how much patience is required when you set kids with kitchen tasks). It's all part of the process. 

Homemade Tortillas 
This recipe is a hybrid of corn tortillas (which tend to be stiff when homemade) and flour tortillas (which tend to be a little too rich), and is my adaptation of the cornmeal wraps from the King Arthur Flour Baking Book.
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup masa harina 
  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3 T. shortening or butter
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup milk
  1. Mix the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, masa, yeast, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
  2. Cut in the shortening until the mixture is grainy.
  3. Mix the milk and water in a cup or heat-proof measuring container and warm up a bit.
  4. Add the liquid to the flour mixture and mix up, kneading just a few times. The dough should hold together without being sticky.
  5. Cover the dough and let it rest for about an hour.
  6. When you're ready to cook the tortillas, divide the dough into balls about the size of golf balls (or a little larger or smaller, depending on how big you want the finished flatbreads to be). 
  7. Heat a cast iron pan or griddle over medium-high heat.
  8. Using extra flour if necessary to prevent sticking, roll the balls out one at a time to a thickness of about 1/8". They need to be thin, but not so thin they'll rip apart.
  9. Carefully peel the tortilla off the surface where you rolled it out. Cook on the cast iron for 10 seconds on one side, then flip and cook on the second side for 20-30 seconds, then flip back to the first side for 10-20 seconds to finish up. Your tortilla should be slightly browned on both sides but still soft and pliable. Cooking time may vary by 10 seconds per side depending on how thick you end up rolling it out to begin with.
  10. Repeat with each tortilla until they're all made. Enjoy with fillings of your choice! We had pulled pork, refried beans, salsa, shredded cabbage and queso fresco. Other good things to try are scrambled eggs, fajita filling, stir-fried vegetables, guacamole, freshly made salsa, fish taco filling...the possibilities are basically endless.
Pros: Tortillas are fun to make. The kids really got into their roles here, and I didn't have to referee as much as usual. They're also delicious and we eat them about once a week here.

Cons: It can be a mad rush at the end to get everything ready, especially if you have lots of different fillings. Of course you can make the fillings as simple or as complicated as you like, but once you get started cooking the tortillas, there really is no down time for clean up or extra prep, especially when you're supervising someone at the stove.

Next time:  I need to have Daniel and Anya help mix up the dough. Whenever they measure things into bowls, it tries my patience, but they need to learn how to do it. Also, I need to get a little more adventurous with fillings instead of just beans all the time. Maybe we can do fish tacos or something.


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