Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Warm Tortillas in a Snow Storm

I was looking back through my posts and I owe a lot of stories that I've promised. So here's the deal on the tortillas. (Really, this is just nervous tension while I watch the Rangers play game number 4 against the Yankees-ALCS.) The mercado on Jefferson, near Marsalis Ave. (yes, near the Dallas Zoo), make the absolute best homemade tortillas on-site, that you have ever put in your mouth. Oh, I've tried to make tortillas before--that was the most rubbery ball of dough once I got through with it--and not fit to eat, I might add. Anyway, I appreciate a good tortilla. Like, 4 at a time, but let me back up a bit. Last Winter, we decided to host the Rehearsal Dinner for our son's wedding (yes, the one who put us all on a diet last week!) as we had 60+ people to entertain from all parts of the US, and decided we'd have Mexican fare. Fajitas and all the fixings; even a Margarita Machine. So we were scoping out places to get bulk amounts of meat, chips, tortillas, etc. And one of our scouting buddies, Bob Cummings, turned us on to the "Super Mercado," and it's been tortilla bliss ever since. So after the wedding in January (and the dinner was awesome, I might add), we had a really big (for north Texas anyway) snow-storm in February. Over 14 inches of snow at my house in about 30 hours. In the course of that time, we went on to work with only an inch or two on the ground, with every intention of leaving in the early afternoon to get home before the "big stuff" got to falling. It was a Thursday as I recall. All good. Kim and I left the office (we carpool, by the way--that was a previous blog) in plenty of time, but I suggested we stop for warm tortillas and a few groceries at the Mercado on the way home. I even took my computer home, knowing we wouldn't make it in the next day. Anyway, we might have stayed a little long at the store. We kept finding things we needed--you know--in case we were snowed in for days. (North Texans always think that!) I think Kim even booked someone (we work for a talent agency) while standing in the middle of the produce aisle. So we left a little later than expected. (we ate a few tortillas in the parking lot...) The snow was really coming down and it was heavy. We decide to go into my neighborhood from a different than usual way, only to find out there's a huge tree down in the street and we can't enter that way. So we go back around to the "normal" way to take me home and there's a school bus trying to make a maneuver that there's no possible way it can, and we have to turn around and take us a little bit of a different way. There's a huge hill at the bottom of my neighborhood and we need to get there before the snow gets any thicker. We didn't make it. After several tries, we landed at the bottom of the hill and my husband had to come down the hill and pull us out of the ditch. And not towards the house. We ended up going to Kim's house and leaving her and her van there. So now we've transferred all my groceries and computer and random work stuff to our Suburban. And we're further from home than before. So we go into the neighborhood from the other direction. The first direction--remember--there's a huge tree down that way. After much waiting, we figure out that an emergency vehicle is stuck near where the tree is down, and someone (an emergency worker) has a broken ankle. Can it get any worse? We're in a huge traffic back-up. I could get out of the car and walk home. (I actually did walk around and got pretty close to home, while checking out the situation--but I had all those tortillas and groceries in the car--not to mention my computer and my husband...I couldn't just leave...them?) So the snow is falling harder and getting deeper, and oh yes, it's getting darker, and we're nowhere near getting home. Kim calls and she's all tucked in at home and her groceries are put away and she's cooking dinner and watching TV. She was appalled that I wasn't home yet. And further appalled that I spotted a guy in a Kilt and was describing him, and then had to let her go because as it turned out--I KNEW HIM! One of the old boy scouts from our troop! Snow falling, getting dark, very surreal...
But soon though, it all turned out fine. Just when I thought we were going to have to hide all the groceries in a snow bank and come back for them later, Don made the daring move of just turning around and going back, yet again, to the treacherous hill he had pulled us from hours before--only to make it up the hill and get us home! Everything survived, and we were safe and sound by the time it was truly dark. And I might mention, no tortillas were harmed in the process. So no recipes or pictures--just a true story of women who won't be deprived of their tortillas.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weight Watchers Feast

Okay, so (Oh Queso! Little joke between Kim and I...), our eldest son put the hammer down and the whole family is either back on Weight Watchers or counting calories. We've got several pounds (between the six of us) to lose. So I'm reverting back to my Weight Watchers program. It really is awesome; I started the program last year right around this time, Halloween as a matter of fact, and by the time my son's wedding came around on January 9th, I'd lost 15 pounds. It was a wonderful feeling. And I kept it off for a while, but with all this cooking and wine, and wine, I've gained 10 pounds back. I've never really dieted before, didn't even start seriously thinking about it until I turned 39 when my metabolism starting playing horrible tricks on me. So this is an eye-opener. I think what I love the most is the science of it. I like to be able to break foods down and figure out exactly what's in there. I also like re-styling recipes to work with the program, using low fat ingredients and sugar substitutes. And besides Weight Watchers, there are so many good, reputable programs out there and great helps, like "Hungry Girl," -you have so many tools at hand, you can't go wrong. Okay, sorry, sounds like I'm doing a commercial.
The point is, tonight's dinner was really good, filling, good for us, and based on
Weight Watchers recipes. In the picture above, the thing that looks like a meatball is really a Turkey Meatloaf Muffin (I know, sounds weird) but it's so good. It's one of the currently featured recipes on the Weight Watchers site. The only thing I did differently was I made half-batch, added less salt, but added a small packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Dressing. For you point counters, that's 3 points per muffin and the dressing packet didn't add any!
The "salad" is Apple and Carrot Salad and here's that link:

That one's only 1 point per serving.

And the blanched asparag
us is drizzled with some of my friend Julio's "Go-To" dressing, and here's what he said if I blogged it: "If you blog the Cilantro-Basil dressing make sure you give credit to LA FONDA SAN MIGUEL in Austin. It's from their cookbook. It's a dressing I rely on when we have last minute guests!!"
Well Julio, you were totally correct. That dressing is awesome! I haven't fi
gured the point value for it in Weight Watchers--I'm sure it's a few just for the fact that it's oil based, but it is so flavorful and fresh that I'm sure it's worth it. And I only used a tablespoon or two for the drizzle. I can't wait to use it tomorrow on a salad. Just look at the color!

So enjoy these recipes and feel good about eating right! Thanks to all the contributors.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Evolution of a Dill Pickle

Well, not the entire evolution. Fast forward from the cucumber growing on the plant, getting picked and getting "pickled." This is "life after dill pickling." We haven't made these pickles in a while, and I don't know why, because they are SO good. There are commercial "Hot-Sweet" pickles on the shelf at the market, but these are so good and so easy to make. And economical, too.
Start out with a gallon jar of whole dill pickles. Drain and cut up the pickles in pretty good-sized chunks. The thicker the slice, the crunchier they'll be later. Once you cut up all the pickles, start adding them back to the gallon jar and layer in approximately 3 lbs. of white sugar. (The recipe I have calls for 5--but that's really too much. Be my guest if you want to experiment.) Also add 5 large, peeled garlic cloves, more if they're smaller. And the original recipe calls for one small bottle of Tabasco sauce, but Don doesn't like Tabasco, so I use a few good squirts of Sriracha sauce. This is the hot sauce you find at your favorite Chinese restaurant--it's in the Asian section of any store.
So that's all layered together in the gallon pickle jar. Make sure the lid is on TIGHT. I actually like the plastic jars as they have a better seal. Why? Here's why:
Place the jar somewhere out of the way, not too cold, not too hot, and place a tray or pie plate under it. Because every day for one month, you're going to turn the jar once. Monday-right side up. Tuesday, upside down. Etc.
The pickles evolve from your everday dill pickles, into these awesomely crunchy hot sweet yummy snack pickles! They make standing around eating just pickle chunks stylish. Okay, whatever.
After the month is up, place the jar in the fridge to add extra crispiness. And oh yeah, start the next batch immediately, because these will be gone in no time!