The little things, and some corn tortillas

Evenings in my house are beyond exhausting.  With both of us working full-time and both kids in daycare/pre-school, the whole family stumbles into the house already weary from the long day, the hairy commute, some serious playing, and two demanding jobs. Sometimes it's all we can do to get the kids fed and in bed before we collapse into bed ourselves - and yes, there have been quite a few nights when I've fallen asleep in my 3-year-old's room while trying to read him a book at 7:30pm. 

Dinnertime often means a debate between takeout and cooking, simplicity and completeness, sitting down to eat whatever or cooking on our aching feet. Given all this, it's no wonder that any real creativity in the kitchen has been limited to weekends only - and even weekends often end up being too packed for cooking adventures.  

So: I'm learning to choose the little things, to embrace convenience where it won't ruin a meal, and to make the effort where it will really make a difference.

All that to say: I made my own corn tortillas from scratch, y'all!

Wife and I have been trying to make time to check out the Portland Mercado for months, and we finally made it there last weekend.  I spotted a big bag of corn masa - which just looks like a big bag of flour, but smells SO MUCH like corn - and snagged it.  Upon returning home, I promptly headed right back out to buy my first tortilla press.

After a bit of trial and error (noted: toddlers are not great at making really thin tortillas, parchment paper is less sticky than plastic wrap), I made one awesome batch.  Wife and I ate most of them in minutes with just some avocado and salt* - they were so much more delicious than the usual package of tortillas from TJ's.  The next time I made a batch, it was to make the BBQ tempeh tacos** pictured here.  The taco innards were easy as (store-bought) pie to put together, so the extra 20 minutes of tortilla-making was absolutely worth it.

*Note: during these days of parenting young children, hardly remembering what a full night's sleep felt like, and barely holding it together through the epic tantrums of The Threenager (oh, how I hate that annoying-yet-totally-accurate made-up word), a meal of tortillas and avocado - eaten standing up over the still-hot stovetop - qualifies as straight-up culinary elegance.

**Stay tuned for future posts on No Meat Athlete's new meal planning program - Meg and I are both trying it and plan on sharing results soon!

Now that I'm totally an expert and all...

Cait's Tortilla-Making Hints:

Follow the directions on your bag of masa, which you can get at most grocery stores.  Here are a few extra things I've learned:

  1. You want your dough to feel like Play-Doh.  The instructions on my bag of masa said to use 1.75 cups of water for every 2 cups of masa flour, and that ratio was basically perfect.
  2. Make your dough balls on the small side - they're less likely to fall apart when you pick them up to add them to the pan.
  3. If you've got a tortilla press, awesome - you'll have thinner tortillas - but if you don't, a heavy plate will do just fine.
  4. Get your pan really hot before you add the tortillas - like so hot you think it might start smoking.  It makes a huge difference to how well and quickly the tortillas cook.
  5. While still warm, top a tortilla with a few slices of ripe avocado and a sprinkle of salt.  So simple and seriously good.

How about you?  Where does a little effort make a big difference in your life / kitchen / work?  Perhaps more importantly, when and where is it totally worth it to choose convenience?