Thursday, March 07, 2013

Recipes: Homemade Tortillas and My Favorite Soup

Cooking is my favorite of all of the household chores.  I love it so much that I think of it as a hobby rather than a chore.  In recent years, since I have become Mama, I have taken my hobby to a new level by making everything I possibly can at home.  I love knowing that a pantry stocked with flours, dried beans and grains, an ample spice rack, and some meat and vegetables can make me just about any meal I want.  There is also the added benefit of knowing exactly what is in my food - no trans fats or artificial flavors are to be found in my kitchen.  Plus, food cooked fresh and from scratch just tastes better.

Tonight for supper I am making my favorite soup.  My mom gave me this recipe last spring and ever since I have been making it and tweaking it, depending on what is in season and in my pantry.  I make it so frequently that when I say we are having soup for supper, everyone knows that this is what they will be getting.

Before you read the recipe, you should know something about my cooking - I rarely measure anything and I take lots of liberties when following a recipe.  I have tried to include some of the substitutions I have made in the past without overwhelming the recipe.  Feel free to make your own substitutions, additions, or eliminations based on what you have, and don't worry too much about exact measurements.  That said, if you follow the recipe below exactly you will end with an amazing pot of soup.  

Vegetable Barley Soup

2 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes or 1/2 of a winter squash or 1 summer squash, peeled (not the summer squash) and chopped
1 large onion, diced
1/2 c cooked greens, or approx. 2 c raw (spinach, kale, collards, etc.)
1 c barley or other grain (rice, quinoa, wild rice, millet, etc.)
1 can diced tomatoes, juice included, or 2 large fresh, diced
1 can or approx. 2 c cooked chickpeas or other beans, drained
2 quarts vegetable broth or water 
3-5 cloves garlic, finely diced, or 1 t garlic powder
3 bay leaves
1 t parsley
1 t curry
1 t paprika
1 t worcestershire sauce
1/2 t pepper
1 t salt (this can be omitted or lessened if you are using broth)

Throw everything in a big pot (6-8 quarts) and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cover and turn to medium-low.  Let it simmer for 90 minutes, stirring whenever you pass through the kitchen.  This will make about 4 quarts of soup; enough for my family of 4 to have supper twice, or one supper and several lunches.  It will keep in the fridge for a week or so, and it freezes well, too.  

I like to make this soup vegetarian in the pot, but my meat-loving kiddos and husband would be disappointed if I served it without a side of sausage.  I cook ground sausage separately and then we add it to the soup once it is in our bowls, keeping the leftovers meat free for my lunch.  

To me, the perfect accompaniment to a steamy bowl of stew is some cheesy bread.  Tonight we will be having grilled cheese, but an equally delicious alternative is a cheese quesadilla, or cheese tortilla as we call it around here.  Here is my recipe for unbelievably easy flour tortillas.

Flour Tortillas

3 c flour (whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, all purpose, or any combination)
1 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1 c hot tap water
3 T oil (olive, coconut, or non-hydrogenated lard - yes, lard - are good choices, but any oil will do)

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add the water and oil and knead until it all comes together, then form it into a ball-like mass.  Tear off balls about 1.5-2" across (think a ping pong ball).  You should get about 12 balls, give or take a few.  At this point, warm a dry skillet on medium heat.  Take a ball and roll it out on the counter.  Don't use any flour, sticking to the counter will help keep it from sticking to your rolling pin.  When it is as thin as you can manage, peel it off the counter and throw it in the hot pan.  Cook it for a minute or so on each side, rolling out the next while one is in the pan.  Wrap the cooked tortillas in a towel and keep them in a covered pot until you are ready to eat them.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge; they will keep for at least a week.  Enjoy!


  1. Those are great picture of the kids!

    So can you make corn tortillas the same way? Would you use a corn/flour mix or all corn?

    1. Corn tortillas are even easier - just buy a bag of Masa Harina (it is in the same section as flour and cornmeal usually, or if not in the Mexican section). It is cornmeal, but the corn is treated with lime before it is ground. All you do is add water and a pinch of salt (a recipe is on the bag) then flatten into tortillas and cook the same way. The only tricky thing about corn tortillas is that a rolling pin doesn't work too well. I used to just smoosh them in wax paper under a plate until I found a tortilla press at the Goodwill. Also, in my experience corn tortillas don't taste good when they aren't fresh, so don't make more than you will eat in a meal.