Friday, February 20, 2009

Homemade Tortillas: Simple!

For the past week I've been hosting two very welcomed, yet somewhat unexpected out-of-town guests. G & R were two of my college roommates and are still two of my favorite people. We have similar interests in food. Cooking and eating together have always been two of our common pastimes.

One of the simple, but amazingly yummy things we made this week was a "Mexican" feast. Homemade tortillas & guacamole made it even better.

It's amazing how simple tortillas are to make. I confess that they are something I made for the first time only recently. In addition to being easy to make, homemade tortillas taste superior to practically any store-bought kind, and cost substantially less, other than a bit of time and elbow grease. I wonder why I hadn't try to make tortillas sooner!

    Easy as Pie Tortillas Recipe
  • 2 c. AP flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 3/4 c. water

    Mix dry ingredients, then cut the shortening into the mixture with your fingers until smooth. Add water slowly till a non-sticky dough is formed by kneading. Let dough rest for at least ten minutes, then divide into balls the size of large gum balls (about an inch in diameter). Flatten dough balls with your hands, then roll out with your rolling pin. Let dough rest another ten minutes, then roll a second time.

    To cook, simply place dough on your pre-heated cast iron pan for about 30 seconds on each side.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Happy Hour at Tafia

With its dim lighting and hip decor, Tafia looks and feels like the place to be for happy hour in Houston. What makes it even better is the tasty and free food that comes with your happy hour drink. Did I mention it was free? And tasty.

I went with a decent sized group, and we tried the Macaroni and Cheese, Chickpea Fries, Edamame, Chili Noodles, Truffles, and Maple Marscapone-stuffed Dates. I feel like I'm forgetting something (or somethings?), but you get the picture. There is quite a selection to choose from, especially considering it's free and unlimited. It's undoubtedly some of the highest quality "free" food that you can find while drinking.

Since it was happy hour, I should speak about my beverage, too. I tried my very first Ratafia tonight. In some ways, it reminded me of a sangria, but less fruity and more better. I had a vodka-lime flavored one, so it was pretty much meant to be. Me, vodka, and lime are a pretty awesome triad of fun. Next time, I might get the flight of Ratafias, so I can try the more traditional cherry one and the pineapple one that sounded pretty good, too. The other ladies' drinks all looked very good, too. Next time, I might try the Square-Oh (to feed my basil love) or the Cherry-Key Lime Caipirihna, which also sounds pretty unique.

Tafia is definitely a place I want to go back for a full meal. I hear it's a bit pricey, but it may just be worth it. The food was innovative, tasty, and fresh. Plus a fun atmosphere, which is like the icing on my cake when it comes to dining out.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

mm, Squirrel?!

Of all topics vegetarians blog about, dining on squirrel probably does not come up very often. Today, this post may be the exception to that rule (this is Random Yummies, afterall).

In college, I met a guy who actually had eaten squirrel. At the time, I think he was the only person who had tried this little creature. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure that I've met anyone since him who has admitted to trying squirrel meat. That's mostly beside the point. I think this chap came from a poor family and ate squirrel meat that they hunted themselves, when they weren't able to feed themselves from a grocery store.

Vegetarianism aside for a moment, I don't think I could eat squirrels for their cuteness factor alone. To me, eating a squirrel wouldn't be that far off from eating a cat or dog. And while I know a lot of people will disagree with me on that point, I think the fact that squirrels come from the rodent family is enough to turn off a lot of Americans from eating the furry little guys.

The British, however, have stronger stomachs than Americans. They are not above eating their share of rodents. And it seems that eating squirrel is becoming an act of patriotism.

What I mean is that the British are trying to save their darling species of Red Squirrel... by culling the invading North American Gray Squirrel species. Apparently, the Gray Squirrels carry diseases harmful to the Red Squirrels in addition to destroying their natural habit and eating more than their fair share of the food supply. So, the people have stepped in on this turf war in support of the Reds. And suddenly, it is trendy, lest forget Patriotic, to eat the pesky Grays.

I am curious to see if this is just media hype, a temporary trend, or an eating habit that will actually gain in popularity. Only time will tell.

{Image Source: NYT}

Adventure in Parsnips

The parsnip is not a vegetable that made a common appearance in my household growing up. In fact, I can't remember a time when we ate parsnips at home. Maybe I had parsnips when we went to grandma's for dinner, inside a stew perhaps. During a visit with cousins in England nearly two years ago, I found myself eating--and thoroughly enjoying--parsnip "fries".

Sometime during the chewing of tasty parsnip fries, I think I told myself that this was a vegetable I needed to eat more. Back in the States, however, I did not encounter parsnips in my regular grocery store haunts. Whether they were truly non-existent or I simply did not look well enough could be a point of discussion. However, it may be a moot point, since I did pick up some parsnips on my latest trip to the grocery store.

There were some potatoes on hand that I needed to use up, so I decided that they could share the spotlight and mash together with parsnips. I cooked the parsnips and potatoes together, and mashed them into a good consistency. Surprisingly, the flavor of the parsnips took over the dish. I only used a couple parsnips and six medium sized potatoes. Luckily, the mash was to accompany another strong flavor, Buffalo Tofu Triangles. If it had been anything else, the parsnips would have definitely stolen all of the attention.

While I do like to try new foods and am an advocate of getting variety in one's diet, I am a stubborn lover of mashed potatoes who will be not be tainting my mash with parsnip again. Perhaps next time I should try homemade parsnip fries next time, because I'll at least have a better idea of what I'm getting myself into!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Food News Roundup

I've seen a lot of food-related things in the news lately (or maybe I've just been paying attention to it more?). Either way, here are some fun, some serious, mostly random links for you to catch up on your food-related news reading: