Born in the '50's. (Sourdough Tortillas and Mock Empanadas.)

I sometimes feel like I was born in the 50's. (Cue the Police.)

That was always one of my favorite tracks on Outlandos d'Amour, which I had (and who am I kidding, still have) on cassette. About the time that was in constant replay (about 15 years after it's 1978 release), I remember thinking how it could be possible that Sting was roughly the same age as my parents. C'mon, he was my age, right?

When I look back on my formative years, I do feel like it was a different era... and I suppose I get to thinking about this the most when Sundays roll around. We were a family who ate together every night, except for Sunday nights. Every weekday, there was one thing we could count on: that around 6:30 we would all be sitting around the dining room table. I didn't really know too many other people who did that, and it is probably true that I still don't. Even in my own 3 person family unit, only 2 of us are often eating meals together, since my Husband works strange hours (and has a strange appetite).

On most of my childhood Sundays, we would usually eat a later lunch. One that was often set on time-bake in the oven, to be ready approximately 30 minutes to an hour after we got home from church. Sunday nights were different, since we didn't usually have a planned dinner. We would pick at leftovers or make sandwiches, usually as a family. It may seem idyllic that my family life was like a postcard of the 50's, but it's true to some extent, and I wouldn't be half the person I am today if it wasn't.

My Sundays now are quite different than the ones I knew growing up. After church, we come home and I have no idea what I'm going to make for lunch. Usually it's just the Boy-O and I (especially during football season), and something always emerges from the kitchen in relative short-order fashion. Today, however, I planned ahead.

About a week ago I started feeding my starter more "adequately", half it's weight in flour and water every day. Not only does this give me tons of extra starter, it is so active it's frightening. I had to move to a larger container, since it regularly doubles it's volume. And, today I had to ditch some for the first time in a long time. With huge amounts of starter (and English muffin perfection behind me), I got it into my head yesterday that I had to try making sourdough tortillas.

They require planning ahead, about 12 hours, and are made entirely with wheat flour. I didn't really know what to expect flavor-wise, and was pleasantly surprised - especially when I thought of folding them over into makeshift empanadas. The bitterness of wheat flour disappears completely as it cultures. I had leftover "beans and meat", which is now the only animal protein my son will eat. About a month ago, I made tacos with ground meat (my Husband's favorite). After much coercion, my son had a single bite of meat and his eyes widened: "I can't believe I never tried this before! I love it!" were his remarks and now he asks for this food nearly every day. We had "beans and meat" tacos last night and leftovers for today. I still have leftovers, so I may pop them into the freezer for quick dinners when our weather finally breaks for good.

The recipe is from GNOWFGLINS. I thought since they were tortillas, I could roll them out with flour like ordinary tortillas - but actually the dough fell apart and stuck miserably when I tried rolling in my traditional way on a wooden board. Oiling the rolling pin and using the slick surface of the counter top worked much better, but there was still a learning curve for the feel of the dough. The pictures on the GNOWFGLINS site show a very thin tortilla, and I was not able to roll that thin. I'm betting that with a bit of practice they will be easier to roll.

About halfway through the griddling, I got the idea to sandwich my filling, creating a mock empanada. I actually preferred it better than eating them as tortillas. Tortillas are specific to me, and these were good, but tasted a bit too bread-like for my personal classification of "tortilla". That said, they are a great all-purpose flat bread that I'm looking forward to making again.

Mock empanada.

I made a half recipe of the amounts listed below and my yield was a dozen, plus 4 empanadas. (However, I did roll them a bit thicker.) I also mixed the dough up by hand with no trouble. I just kneaded the dough by hand in the bowl for several minutes until it was smooth.

Sourdough Tortillas with Mock Empanada variation (dough recipe from GNOWFGLINS)
  • 6 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups pure water
  • 1 1/2 cups fed starter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • butter or oil for the griddle
Begin 12 hours or more before you want to eat tortillas.

Combine water, starter, salt and oil, and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Keep mixing, and add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough is not too sticky to handle by hand. Knead gently by hand for several minutes until dough is not too sticky and forms a cohesive ball.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, and rotate the dough around so all sides get coated with the oil.

Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap (I use the lid from a large pot).

When ready to make tortillas, heat a cast iron skillet to medium heat. Roll dough into balls, about golf ball size and put back into the bowl, covering them so they don't dry out. Pour a little olive oil on a smooth-surface counter (non-wood), and also oil the rolling pin.

When pan is hot, place a rolled out tortilla in the pan. Let it cook until there are several bubbles in the tortilla. Flip the tortilla with a spatula and cook the other side until the bubbles are browned.

Remove tortilla from pan and place between towels to stay warm and moist. Then, roll out the next tortilla. Repeat until all of the balls have been rolled out and cooked. Add oil to pan and/or rolling pin as needed, and oil (I used a touch of butter) the griddle to prevent sticking as needed. Store in a zipper seal freezer bag in refrigerator or freezer.

To make mock empanadas, roll out tortilla, and place a small amount of desired filling on half of the circle. Fold dough over (it is very moist, and will seal itself up without issue - you don't need to crimp the edges, unless you want to for aesthetics.) Carefully transfer to the skillet, and cover the pan with a lid to trap in some of the heat. Keep an eye on them, and flip after side one is nice and brown, about 4 minutes. Cook the second side for about the same time, monitoring heat levels to prevent burning.

I ate them with addicting cilantro-raisin chutney and candied jalapenos.

The mystique of my childhood and my confusion over the actual era is something I love thinking about as I get older. When I'm out of range of my favorite radio station, I can be found flipping around to find an "oldies" station, which sadly is becoming less 50's and 60's music and more 70's all the time. My 70's era is when I was more in my 20's... funny how I'm always about 30 years behind.

Today in Milwaukee, it was an unseasonable mid-80 degrees, so we spent most of the afternoon and evening outside soaking it into our Winter weary bodies. When we got back in the house about 5:30, I suddenly realized I was starving. I heated up that same trusty skillet I cooked the tortillas on earlier and seared some peppers and onions in a touch of coconut oil and a sprinkling of the spice mix I keep on hand thanks to Rick Bayless (1 t. Mexican oregano, 1/2 t. black pepper, 1/4 t. cumin, 1/8 t. cloves, 1 t. sugar and salt to taste, I mix enough to last me several occasions).

I laid a sourdough tortilla on top of the peppers to warm, and when eaten with more candied jalapenos, a slice of feta cheese (for lack of proper queso) and a smidge of cultured heavy cream I had to say that I was indeed satisfied. Later this evening, I popped the remaining two empanadas in the toaster oven, cloaked in foil, to heat up for my Husband who also liked them, doused in red Valentina sauce, confirming that I will make other versions in the future.

I am so thankful I was raised as I was, in a kinder, gentler era that I mistake for America's heartland in the 1950's. Maybe it was the watching of Back to the Future far too many times to count at my cousin's house, or my Dad's old records and 8 tracks convincing me that the Beatles and the Turtles were actually current music. (That changed with Madonna's True Blue, the first cassette I owned personally - it came with my first cassette player as a Christmas gift in 1986.) At any rate, those are days I love thinking about, especially on Sundays. I actually told someone today that I'll turn 35 this year, and while that is still a half year away I felt shocked at myself. Maybe that's why I'm all nostalgic this evening, I well remember my Parents specifically at 35. There you go: I've turned into my Parents. That, friends, is a very good thing.

Drinking Horchata.

The first time I ever had horchata was about 10 years ago with my friend Frankee. We were at a little Mexican place in Kankakee, Illinois, and her husband ordered a pitcher for us to share. She actually didn't drink it, since she doesn't like it, but I was hooked. Ever since, I usually ask for it whenever I try out new Mexican places. Until recently, I'd only score once or twice a year, but happily it now seems easier to find. Some are thick, some light, and others gritty. Some are so sweet, and others barely sweetened at all. I like them all, poured over huge amounts of crushed ice or ice cubes. Basically, I don't care what kind it is, since it all appeals to me equally.

Really, there are three reasons for my horchata making yesterday. Last night, I went to see Vampire Weekend and the title track on their sophomore album is Horchata. I'd be hard pressed to get the opening lines out of my brain, since it has been running through my head for the past 2 days now. I also checked out this post from Glutster yesterday, and decided that his photos were so great I had to have some horchata immediately. I have a car today, and am half thinking I'll run over to El Rey and find some pureed red cactus fruit (tuna or jiotilla), so my next glass can be as delightfully rosy as Javier's. Reason three is that my Spanish teacher, Rosa, was telling me that she is eating gluten free and sugar free right now. Rice is gluten free, and I figured you could probably sweeten horchata with stevia if you felt the need, so this could be an easily adaptable drink for allergen conscious people.

Making horchata is really as easy as drinking it, you just have to have a bit of patience. One of my Rick Bayless cookbooks had a recipe using almonds, but since I was nearly out of them, I adapted his method to this recipe, by Chelsey Kenyon. Really, I ended up using both recipes, since I added milk. The beauty of horchata is that you can do whatever you like best, to concoct a result that suits you. I did use plain old refined sugar, but knocked it way back to about a 1/4 c. Rick's recipe called for 1 cup, and Chelsey's recipe for 1/2 cup. Like I said, it is purely a matter of taste.

Rcakewalk Horchata (inspired by Rick Bayless and Chelsey Kenyon)
  • 1 c. white rice
  • 2 1/2 c. drinking water
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick (canela)
  • scant 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. milk (2% is what I used)
Grind the rice in a blender, or a coffee grinder like I did, until it is finely ground. You can leave the cinnamon stick whole, or break it apart if you like more cinnamon flavor. Heat 2 1/2 cups of water until hot but not boiling, and pour it over the rice and cinnamon. Let it come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

After refrigeration, pour the mixture into a blender. I left the cinnamon in, since I'm crazy for cinnamon, but you can fish most of it out if you prefer less. Add sugar, and mix on high for about 3 minutes until the rice is finely ground. Pour through a fine sieve (or through layers of cheesecloth and a regular sieve) to remove most of the rice pulp. (I actually like a bit of grittiness, but you could make this absolutely grit-less by using a finer sieve and perhaps running the liquid through a muslin bag.) Transfer to a pitcher.

Stir in milk. You could add more milk, or more water, or some of each, but I liked the result with just a cup of milk. You could also add additional sugar at this point if you like. Serve on ice and dream of warm weather.

"In December drinking horchata
I'd look psychotic in my balaclava
Winter's cold is too much to handle
Pincher crabs that pinch at your sandals


Addicting lyrics indeed, almost as addicting as the horchata itself. My milky glass below doesn't pack the same visual punch as the rosy, pecan garnished one that Glutster enjoyed the other day, but it sure hit the spot for me.

The Ultimate Playlist (aka: mixtape #1)

I would say that I probably love music. Most likely more than the average everyday person. I would also say I couldn't nail down my favorite genre; I am as likely to listen to Miles Davis as to Billy Idol...though I guess Miles would win if it came down to it. He does claim the ring on my cell phone after all. For a couple of years, I kind of fell out with music purchase, and came rather late to the electronic music revolution. I was sticking to my guns with hundreds of cassette tapes, an ample vinyl collection, and of course the CD. I think I may have been stubborn.

9/14/2007 at 8:49 p.m. changed all of that. That was my first foray into the downloading universe. And I'm sure that I only began because I got an iTunes gift card for my birthday in September. It all began with Carmen McRae's You Took Advantage of Me.

Some time ago I read Stephen King's article on his top 20 most played songs in Entertainment Weekly. I never looked at my play counts until after his article. Then I realized that there is something to it. Tracking songs that you listen to again and again seems to show you what you already know to be true about yourself. It's no secret that every song somehow transports you to another place or time, either one you experienced firsthand, or one that you somehow missed out on due to age or morality.

So without further delay, my top 10 most played songs (maybe the next ten will appear in a day or two). I will preface with the fact that I have only included purchased music since 9/14/07 - and have not included the collection of CD's that I have imported. I may make an exception as I keep writing, but I'll try not to. In the instance there are ties, I will pick my favorite or list both.

  • #1 You Took Advantage of Me - Carmen McRae. 59 plays.


I know that I have included this song on mixtapes sent out to at least 2 people for their listening enjoyment. I love Carmen McRae. In college, I was addicted to her songs in The Subterraneans soundtrack, which I still have and listen to on cassette. This song was playing in the opening credits of Real Genius. I guess I was too young to see this movie in 1985. I didn't see it until 2006. While the theme of the song, written in 1955 according to this discography: has nothing to do with high IQ college students in the 80's, it immediately endeared the movie to me.

  • #2 Almost Like Being in Love - Nat"King" Cole. 50 plays.

The greatest thing about downloading is that you can be thinking about a song you don't have somewhere either on cassette or album or CD and then for $.99 you can download it in your kitchen from your iPod. That's how this song makes the cut. Again, a movie motivator. This was the closing song from Groundhog Day, a film I saw in the theater 3 times when I was in high school. I have other versions of this song, the Charlie Parker version being a distant second with only 19 plays. I think this song is great, but the play count is probably also high because the length of the song is only a minute and 56 seconds...

  • #3 Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes. 49 plays.

Another song that popped into my head one day after remembering and reseeing the movie Duets. Not Good. Please don't go and watch it because you saw it here. But this song is addicting, as you can see.

  • #4 Destination Unknown - Missing Persons. 44 plays.

My husband actually downloaded this song, and I think the plays are up there because I played Genius playlists of other songs (probably Bette Davis Eyes) and it automatically plays this song like every 5 minutes. I like the song fine, but I think I'm a little over it. Kind of like Gary Neuman's Cars.

  • #5 Paper Planes -MIA (Kala Bonus Track Version). 38 plays.

It's important to know the version of this song - because seriously, there are like 200. Every other version is not as good. This has the Clash's Straight to Hell sample predominately out in front like it should be, making the reason it's so catchy and good to begin with. I am rather out of touch with mainstream music, and originally thought this song became so popular due to Pineapple Express. But this song wasn't in that movie to my knowledge, and I really don't know why it became so popular. I'm sure someone does - if you do, please let me know.  (Postscript: it was Slumdog Millionaire.)

  • #6 Lovesong - The Cure. 37 plays. 38 as I write.

I can not get enough of this song. I had to hit play when I saw it. I'm sure I was just a smidge too young when this originally hit the airwaves.

  • #7 Night and Day - Charlie Parker. 36 plays.

I really do love Charlie Parker, and this song in particular I guess. I think most jazz is amazing because how can you really tell who is playing an instrument? But you can, and Charlie Parker is one of the most amazing. It requires attention to listen to this in my opinion because it seems to change and I hear it differently each time.

  • #8 28 Butts - Little Jackie. 34 plays.

I heard Little Jackie on the radio when I was driving around last summer, and got totally addicted to this song. She's funny too: "I think back to the days I was smoking Kerouac -it was really kinda like an addiction, nonfiction, just reading my days and nights away". Maybe I identify with that.

  • #9 Kiko and the Lavender Moon - Los Lobos. 33 plays.

I can't get enough Los Lobos. I'm sure this playcount would be higher, but I recorded this to a CD and listen that way alot of the time. This track is the title of the album, but I think the whole album would rate as high. Tied at 31 plays are Wake up Dolores and Saint Behind the Glass (which I noticed was in the movie Nacho Libre - which I will endorse here and tell you to go and rent it now...).

  • #10 La Receta - Kemo the Blaxican. 28 plays.

Downloaded 11/28/2008 after seeing 10 Items or Less - another great movie. If you listen to this song, you keep hitting the replay. It's got a horn section, enough said...and anything in Spanglish... The recurring theme here seems to be that on the occasion that I am able to watch movies, the music is just as important as the film, or maybe that they go hand in hand, are better than the film, or are the reason for the film.

So maybe you will go and do as I did to Stephen King's playlist and preview them in iTunes to see what it is that made him write about them. Or link here to see his top 20 on the EW website:,,20198509,00.html