Thursday, May 29, 2014

Soaked Whole Wheat Tortillas

chicken tacos with homemade pico de gallo and avocado

Before I left for my year in China, I was excited to get to know authentic Chinese food and sample the country's regional cuisines, but I also knew it would be challenging going a whole year without access to western food. After living here for nine months, I feel like I can really empathize with my fellow expats in that missing home largely means missing the comfort of the foods we grew up with.  What I did not anticipate was feeling grateful for the lack of these comforts.

First off, as with all things, with scarcity comes increased value -- so that when I do decide to splurge on cheese, or get pizza, or travel to a big city to eat Tex-Mex (erm.. I mean, to see pandas), it is truly a treat, something to be savored and most definitely not taken for granted. For example, it wasn't until I lived in China that I realized that Americans put cheese on almost everything! Seriously!! Sandwiches, pizzas, burgers, chili, soup, pasta, heck, we even pile it on our salads. Now, I love myself some cheese. But after going a year recreating a lot of American food in my own kitchen sans cheese, I feel like I've come to appreciate the other flavors that cheese sometimes covers up. I've really come to love pickled vegetables and I've especially gained a new appreciation for avocados which can provide richness where cheese is absent, hehe :)

That said, my first meal when I get back to the states is going to be a reuben sandwich. Loaded high with corned beef, sauerkraut and topped with ooey-gooey melted CHEESE.

Even more, not having these food items readily available has prompted me to do some experimenting in the my lil' kitchen to recreate them. This brings me to today's recipe. A few weeks ago, my friend Ayan was over and she showed me how she's been making some impromptu tortillas in her apartment when she gets her Mexican food cravings. It turns out tortillas are the quickest and simplest things to make! Her version involved tossing flour with water and adding a bit of pepper, garlic salt and cumin, tossing it all together until it forms a dough then rolling it out and throwing it on the frying pan. These were so easy and so delicious!

The version I am showing you today is a smidgen more involved, but that is only because I am using 100% whole wheat and the extra step helps to soften up the wheat and make it tastier and easier to digest :)

 I got the recipe from one of my new favorite blogs, Weed 'Em and Reap, written by a chick who owns goats and writes about urban farming and healthy living. Her content is really interesting and she has insanely cute pictures and stories about her animals (you might die from cuteness overload when you read this story about her baby goat

Anyway.. *ahem* back to the tortillas. These are really yummy and really good for you. I don't need to tell you what you can do with them because they're tortillas..
Although I will tell you that sometimes to curb my sweet tooth I will warm one up on the frying pan and drizzle on some honey and finish with some cinnamon. And man.. those two things combined with the slight tang of the soaked whole wheat fit together like a charm. Did not expect that combo to go over so well!

So without further ado, here is the recipe from Weed Em' and Reap. I included her recipe notes too so you can understand the whole soaking process. Yay for food knowledge!!

Homemade Soaked Tortillas (to blow your mind!)

  • By soaking the flour in water + an acidic medium (apple cider vinegar or whey) this breaks down the phytic acid, an anti-nutrient found in all grains, legumes, nuts, & seeds. It also makes the gluten more digestible, so bonus there. If you have trouble digesting wheat, then trust me, you’ll feel a huge difference with this recipe.
  • Something magical happens when soaking. Instead of whole-wheat being heavy and dense, by soaking the flour for 12-24 hours, you change the design of it, and it turns into a fabulously light product.
  • Traditional societies have prepared their grains properly by either soaking, sprouting, or sour leavening. It’s true, they’ve done it literally for THOUSANDS of years. The practice has since been ignored, around the time when the industrialization of food came about and our dependence on companies to make our food for us became the norm. 
  • It makes my life easier. I know it seems arduous to soak something for 12 hours before cooking it, but seriously you guys, it makes my life easier. I simply mix it up in the morning, and by dinner time I have dough waiting for me to roll out in tortillas and cook. All it takes is to train that ‘ol brain of yours to remember to start it soaking and you’ll be set!
Now, on to the recipe!

Homemade Soaked Tortillas (to blow your mind!)

Makes 8 delicious tortillas
2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/4 c. lard, tallow, coconut oil, olive oil, or butter
3/4 c. water + 1-2 tablespoons if it seems dry.
1 TBS. of an acidic medium (apple cider vinegar or whey works best in this recipe)
1 tsp. salt
Arrowroot powder, for rolling out your tortillas
1. Mix the flour with the fat/oil of choice by cutting it in with either a pastry cutter or a fork. You can even work it together with your hands. Mix until the fat/oil is well incorporated. and there are no large clumps.
2. Add water & acidic medium of choice. Mix together with a fork and make sure all the flour gets wet. You can use your hands and roll it around in the bowl to get all the flour.
3. Cover with saran wrap and leave on your counter for 12-24 hours. I know if you’re new to this, it could seem weird or gross. Get over it like I did! It won’t grow bacteria and make you sick, or grow legs and kill you in your sleep.
4. After 12-24 hours, add the salt and work it in the dough with your hands by kneading about 5-7 times. Don’t overwork it, just mix until the salt is incorporated. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
5. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and heat a pan over medium-high heat.
6. Dust your counter top with arrowroot starch and roll out a tortilla and then cook in an un-greased pan for about 30-40 seconds on each side. Slightly underdone is best.
7. Repeat for the remaining tortillas.
8. Eat warm or store in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can even freeze them for future use.

Now, making these tortillas is a weekly routine that I really look forward to. I make them every Sunday night so I can incorporate them into my meals or snacks throughout the week! My only tip would be to not stress over the rolling out portion. It's kind of difficult to get perfect circles. Or maybe I am just impatient? I get something resembling a circle maybe 30% of the time. The rest of the time they end up more square-ish or "splat-"shaped as you can see in my picture above. In my mind, if you can wrap it around some breakfast burrito fixings or fresh pico de gallo and avocados without all of it spilling out then there really is no problem.

After a few goes, this recipe takes maybe 4 minutes to throw together the night before, and then 10 minutes to roll out and cook the tortillas the next day. It's so easy and so cheap and you have complete control of the ingredients, so what are you waiting for?? If you aren't a crazy person with no soul I can bet you will start opting for homemade tortillas more often after you try these!! Let me know how it goes :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vanilla Cherry Quinoa-Oat Pancakes

It's exam week, and that means marathons of one-on-one interviews with my students usually accompanied by a sore throat and a melty brain. So this morning I decided to fix myself a breakfast that would be indulgent but also give me enough energy to last through my first morning of testing. This pancake recipe uses whole wheat flour, quinoa, rolled oats and flax seeds and contains lots of iron and vitamin B, as well as a good serving of complex carbs and protein. I bought these cherries at my neighborhood wet market and their flavor lends just enough tartness cut through the nutty flavor of the quinoa and just enough sweetness to allow for less sugar in the batter. Enjoy and let me know if you make these / how they go! 
Recipe notes:
  • I soaked the rolled oats in a bit of water overnight but you could do this half an hour in advance if you wanted and it'd probably do the trick
  • You need to used cooked quinoa. Most of the time the recipe on the bag calls for a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water but I prefer 1:1.5 so the quinoa isn't too mushy. For this recipe, a drier quinoa works best so it doesn't weight down your pancake. 
  • It will take a bit longer to cook these because they have some heavy ingredients in the batter, but be patient and wait for those bubbles to pop before the first flip, just like you would with normal pancakes. Otherwise you might end up with doughy pancakes! Yuk. 
Calorie cutting and substitutions: 
  • I used a tablespoon of butter in the batter but you could omit this if you wanted to cut down on the fat content a bit
  • Sub two egg whites for whole egg if you want to cut the calories even more
  • I used brown sugar but I think next time I will use honey. I think the flavor would pair nicely with the almonds and cherries. Also, in my opinion, 1 tablespoon brown sugar was too much. The cherries already provided enough sweetness. You could probably cut it down to 1/2 tablespoon. 
  • If I were in the States, I would most definitely sub greek yogurt for the "buttermilk" 

Vanilla Cherry Quinoa-Oat Pancakes
Makes about 4 medium-sized pancakes

1/2 Cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
2/3 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Whole-Wheat Flour
1 tbsp Flax Seeds
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1 Pinch Salt
1/2 cup Cooked Quinoa
1/2 cup Milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 Egg
1 tbsp Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
2/3 cup Cherries

1. Soak oats in water overnight in fridge
2. In the morning, stir 1 tbsp lemon juice into the 1/2 cup of milk. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. This will make your "buttermilk." You can also just use buttermilk instead of this lemon-milk mixture if you have that on hand!
3. While that is sitting, mix the dry ingredients (whole wheat flour, flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a large mixing bowl.
4. In a separate, medium mixing bowl, mix together your egg, butter, vanilla and brown sugar. Once combined, add your buttermilk, cooked quinoa and soaked oats.
5. Mix the wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, then fold in cherries. Don't overmix!!
6. To cook, heat your skilled on medium heat and pour a 4th a the batter in at a time. Flip it once bubbles appear on the top of the pancakes (on the side and the middle) and once they pop you can flip 'em over!
7. The pancakes should puff up a bit. Once they stop puffing up, that means all the air bubbles are formed and they are cooked through.
8. Move to a plate and top with chopped almonds and syrup, honey, PB, or any topping of your choice!