Tasty Tortillas

I refuse to buy any more cheap tortillas – even if they are only .88 cents at the local grocery store.

No matter how long I microwave them or how slowly I try to peel them apart, I end up either shredding them to bits or wearing them to paper-thin thickness in the center.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t eat a juicy taco on a paper-thin tortilla. And heaven knows my little boys can’t.

I should just stop at Costco and get the jumbo pack of quality tortillas for less than $5. But I haven’t dared brave that store since the arrival of our newest baby.

So a couple weeks ago I tried my hand at making homemade tortillas. My boys and I were craving cheesy quesadillas after church on Sunday but we only had a couple of store bought tortillas left. (Why I thought to do this right after church when we all were starving is beyond me.)

Anyway, I found a super easy 5-ingredient recipe here here.

After mixing the stuff together and letting the dough sit for half an hour, I was ready to roll.

I am definitely not a pro at using the rolling pin. Most of the tortillas ended up looking anything but round. I actually think the shapes got weirder with each tortilla. But no matter the shape, they all taste the same, right?

My oldest son helped me roll the dough into balls. Here’s what my table looked like when he was done.

My husband came home just after I finished toasting the last tortilla. I think he ate 1/3 of the batch right then. That meant either they were really good or he was really hungry.

It turned out to be so easy that I thought I’d share the recipe. If I can do it, ANYONE can.

Now I don’t know that I’ll make them all the time, and I’m definitely not ready yet for a job at Costa Vida, but it was really nice to have a success in the kitchen for a change.

No Cookie Dough Love

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I love making sugar cookies and I love my boys. But I do not love making sugar cookies with my boys.

That is one more activity I am going to add to my I-wish-I-had-the-patience-to-do-that-with-my-kids list.

I have tried a few times to make yummy treats with my little ones’ “help.” But it never happens the way I think it should. The way I daydream it will. I guess it’s too much to ask a 3 and 5 year old to whip out their Martha Stewart skills.

My sons have no sense of order. No sense of tidiness. And when it comes to making cookies I swear they think our kitchen has transformed into an evil scientist’s lab. Either that or a Playdoh making factory – especially when we get to the cooking cutting part.

Last Sunday I decided to make heart-shaped Valentine’s cookies with the boys. It was going to be a great reverent Sunday afternoon bonding experience.

Yeah right.

We hadn’t been cooking five minutes before the first splash of flour rained down on my recently mopped kitchen floor and the stress sunk in. Our reverent activity turned into a nagfest as I tried to control them as they dumped ingredients into the Kitchen-Aid bowl.

Things only got worse when we started rolling out dough. I turned my back for a split second and they shoved their hands into the can of flour. I turned back around to a puffy white cloud and four pint-sized flour mountains on top of their “cookies.”

That’s when I lost it. I yelled at them for making a huge mess. All of a sudden our “fun” family activity had taken a turn for the worse.

My husband offered to help the boys finish. I am sure he could tell I was nearing a breaking point. But I was too stubborn to stop our fun-filled activity.

I had a giant ball of dough to roll out, cut and then bake and I realized my children weren’t going to be any “help.” So I gave up on getting their help. I gave up on keeping order.

I gave each of them a ball of dough and let them have at it. They rolled and cut and mixed who knows what into their dough samples for a long time. They each made their own “delicious” cookie filled with all kinds of goodies and topped with cherry fruit snacks.

Giving up on the perfect cookie-making experience did wonders for my nerves but it was a devastating for my poor, innocent kitchen. When we were finished I swept up an inch of flour from off of the floor.

I have fond memories of rolling out dough and helping my mom make treats. Those memories don’t include my mom ever yelling at me for the dough sticking to the table or for flour getting on the floor. How did she do it? How did she keep her cool? We always had a great time. I am worried my children won’t have any memories like that. I wish I were more patient.

I think a lot of times I set my expectations far too high. I should have realized that making cookies with two little boys was going to be disastrous.

Maybe someday I’ll be ready to try making sugar cookies with them again. But probably not until I can get on some anti-anxiety meds.

Take That Turkey

It’s no secret that I struggle in the kitchen. I set off the smoke alarm every time I make French toast or pancakes. So I was probably being a little ambitious when I decided to try cooking a turkey.

Right before Christmas I saw a killer deal on turkeys at my local store. I rummaged through the pile of frozen birds and found the smallest 97-cents-per-pound one that I could see. I took it home and chucked it in my freezer.

I thawed it out a few weeks later and got ready to put it in my Crock Pot. But no matter how I arranged it, it was not going to fit. At least three inches of the bird’s backside was still sticking out the top.

Not only did the turkey not fit in my pot, I couldn’t find the giblet packet. The instructions said it would be by the gravy pouch, but they were nowhere near each other. No matter how many times I peeked inside that naked bird, I couldn’t see it.

So the giblets were still inside and I had nowhere to cook my turkey. I found a broiler pan in the drawer under my oven and decided to try to cook it on that. I was going to cook the turkey all day in my Crock Pot, but it only needed to cook a few hours in my oven. So I cleaned everything out of my fridge’s bottom shelf and stuck the pan and the bird in there to stay cool.

When it came time to throw it in the oven I didn’t have an oven bag so I poured some sautéed celery and onions on top and brushed some vegetable oil all over the turkey’s skin.

I was scared to death that we would cut it open and “poof” it would be hollow like the one on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. So every 45 minutes I opened the oven door and brushed more oil on top.

Success! Several hours later it was done and it was juicy. My husband even found the giblet packet. It was near the turkey’s rear, not front.

Those burnt looking things on top are the onions that I used to season the bird. And no, we did not eat those.

My family had a great turkey dinner and we ate sandwiches for days.

But the best part about my turkey turning out was the fact that I was able to use the cooked meat for two other main dishes. I made Creamy Chicken (Turkey) Noodle soup and Chicken (Turkey) Enchiladas from the leftovers. Two of our family’s favorite meals! I’ve included the recipes below if you want to try them.

The turkey-cooking success was a step in the right direction. I’m not ready to cook prime rib or anything, but I am getting better. I just need to keep trying.

What have you made lately that has been delicious?

Here are the recipes for the soup and enchiladas. I got them from two of my best friends who really do know how to cook .

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

2 quarts water
5 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
3 cups cooked cubed chicken
celery and carrots (as much as you like)
1 box of mini farfale (butterfly) pasta noodles or a bag of egg noodles

Chop celery, carrots, misc. Boil vegetables with the water for the pasta noodles. Cook the noodles in the water with the vegetables as directed on their box. Then put 2 quarts of water in a different pan with bouillon cubes until cubes dissolve. Then add cream of chicken soup and sour cream. Drain the noodles and vegetables and add them too.

Chicken Enchiladas

Sour Cream
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
Small can of chopped green chilies

Take about one cup or so of sour cream and mix it with a can of cream of chicken soup and a small can of chopped green chilies. Pour a small amount of milk in until it is creamy. Take a tortilla, line the middle with a small amount of the sauce, a handful of chicken and some cheese. Roll it into an enchilada shape then put in a baking dish. When you have used up all of the chicken, take the remaining sauce and pour it over the top of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the top with cheese.

Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes.

Easy, Oven-Free Recipes Roundup

I HATE cooking in the summer. I’m hot, I’m tired and I don’t feel like doing or eating anything. Not to mention the fact that my kitchen is probably the least energy-efficient room on earth.  If you even think about pre-heating the oven the temperature in that room rises by at least 5 degrees.

This summer we have been getting creative with easy, fast, oven-free recipes.

But the summer is coming to a close and I am running out of ideas! You can only have hot dogs so many times in a 90-day period.

If you have any great EASY, inexpensive and fairly “normal” ideas, I need them! (Notice I said easy recipes. We all know that I struggle in the kitchen.)

I thought it would be fun if we all share a couple of our family’s favorites with each other. Please post in the comments section below.

Here are a few of our oven-free favorites:

Tangy Ranch Chicken –

2/3 cups Ranch
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup yellow mustard
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Mix the dressing, mustard and sugar in a bowl to make a sauce.
Pour 2/3 cup of the mixed sauce over the chicken.
Marinate the chicken in the fridge (I usually put mine in a plastic bag) for 30 minutes.
Grill or broil the chicken 10-15 minutes until done. (You could also bake the chicken at 350 for 25 minutes if you want but I wouldn’t recommend it in the summer.)
Serve the remaining mustard sauce with chicken.

Barbecue Ribs and Baked Potatoes –

4 or 5 boneless pork ribs
1 small bottle of honey barbecue sauce

I take my small, slow Crockpot and put the meat inside. Then I pour the bottle of barbecue sauce over the chicken and let it cook all day. Meanwhile I scrub a bunch of potatoes, poke holes in them with a fork and place them in my large Crockpot. I cook them on high for a couple of hours and then low for a few more hours (until they are tender).

Crunchy Ranch Chicken Tacos –

2 to 4 boneless chicken breasts or tenders
¼ cup ranch dressing
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
A handful of tortilla chips
Shredded cheese

I put the frozen chicken breasts in to my small, slow Crockpot cooker. I let them cook for a few hours until done. Then I cut the chicken into cubes and set it aside. Next I mix the ranch dressing and barbecue sauce in a bowl. In a separate bowl I crunch up a handful of tortilla chips. I take a tortilla, line it with the ranch/barbecue sauce and then spread chicken, cheese and chips in the middle. Then I roll up the tortilla and set it on a small baking tray. I do that for the remainder of the sauce and chicken. Then I put the tray in my toaster oven and toast until the tops of the tacos are barely brown. You could also serve with lettuce, tomatoes or sour cream inside the tacos.

Shredded Roast Tacos –

3 to 6 pounds boneless pork or beef rump roast
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup salsa

Put the roast in a large Crockpot (Sometimes I brown the edges of the roast in a pan on my stove before putting it in the Crockpot, sometimes I don’t). Then pour the salsa and sprinkle the brown sugar over the meat. Cook on high in the Crockpot for 8 hours. Shred before serving. We like to eat the meat on tortillas with sour cream.

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