Tacos with Mom

Meet my mom, Laurie:

file1-1It always seemed it was a dark evening in winter or fall when my mother would make tacos. If not fall then at 11 pm in the summer when us three kids were asking her again what was for the second dinner. The tacos were never anything fancy but there was something about them that has stuck with me. I learned recently, after 24 years of eating tacos with my mom, that she learned to make them that way from her mom, Carmen Nevada Walker. Carmen left home a little earlier than most in life. She ended up befriending a Mexican family who taught her how to make tacos this way. Somehow I have taken for granted the earthy beauty of my ancestry. They really still give me everything I am, even the things I eat. I had no idea I was eating tacos that have no-doubt been handed down for generations.

Now you get them too!

You’re going to need:

  • Corn Tortillas
  • Ground Beef (depending on how many you’re cooking for, but a pound is usually good)
  • Tomatoes (1-2)
  • Sweet Onion
  • Cheese, shredded
  • Salt and Pepper and Garlic to taste

Chop the onion and tomatoes according to taste. I always chop mine pretty small.file3

Shred the cheese if you don’t have pre-shredded cheese. At home my cheese normally comes from the block and for some reason my pre-shredded cheese just wasn’t the same this time around. Go figure.

Brown the meatfile-1

Here I would like you to stay away from all taco seasoning. Just don’t. Salt is perfect.

After the meat is browned fry the tortillas in the leftover meat fat. If this makes you cringe fry the tacos in vegetable oil. If that still makes you cringe, you can always skip the oil and toast them in a pan, but don’t come crying to me when your taco isn’t as good as the Mexican family that taught my grandmother intended it to be.

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Once you have everything browned, chopped, and fried put some meat on the tortilla, add some cheese, put a healthy amount of tomatoes and onions and maybe some salsa if you’re feeling adventurous and there you have it folks!

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Another thing, if you want authenticity you better have this dish with grape kool-aid. That was a crowd favorite for my mother growing up. It was always pork chops, macaroni and cheese, applesauce, and grape kool-aid. Add tacos and grape kool-aid to the list as well.

Happy Cooking!

Popcorn with Brittania

This one will be short. I have a dear friend Brittania and interestingly enough her memory foo for her dad is popcorn. I asked her about different kinds. Is he into kettlecorn? Stove popped? Air popped? Carmel Corn? It had to be anything but microwave. To my surprise I was wrong. That microwave popcorn was exactly what she was referring to.

Brittania remembers sitting with her dad and a shared bag of popcorn slowly opened, the steam rising from the top. Whenever she eats popcorn now she can’t help but think of her father. The man who gave her her last name, her eye color, her sense of humor, and half of her genetics.

 

Small and simple things.

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Apple Galette with Kristl

I had a friend of mine teach me a meal that reminds her of her mother or father and she didn’t tell me exactly what we would be making in advance so I was prepared for anything. I walked in the door of their busy family home and Kristl (pronounce Crystal) said I was in for a treat because the people this meal reminded her of were there to help us make it. There stood her glorious parents Pinky, and Judy. They were so much fun to cook with. Kristl would start telling a story and then Judy would chime in with her side of the memory and Pinky would come and give me grandpa sayings. I don’t know how to exactly describe grandpa sayings but he was appropriately full of them.

Kristl made simple red sauce pasta, a wonderful rustic loaf of bread, and an apple galette. The galette is what I will focus my post on. It was what we spent most of our time on. Kristl is apparently the pie crust master. She learned from this book:

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The idea here is butter tastes better but Crisco is better for baking LUCKILY Crisco now makes butter flavored baking sticks for the best of both worlds combined. Kristl ALWAYS adds all the possible water to the recipe. It will be crumbly but you’ll be good. After you make the dough, put it in a plastic bag and chill it.

 

For the filling we peeled, cored, and cut about 6 apples. The tart kind are best for baking. We used Honeycrisps…yum. Make sure you cut the apple pieces to the same size for proper and even cooking. I would suggest slices and not cubes or chunks. Put the slices in a bowl and add in the ingredients from this page:file-2 (2)

With the crust you are going to want to work fast  I have an instructional video from the master herself for you:

Bake this bad boy until golden brown and it’s 10x’s better than any pie you will ever eat.

Kristl is one of the youngest children in her family and grew up in sets of children rather than all at once. In each set of kids they all had names starting with the same letter, so the first three were all “J” names and the next two were “C” names an the last two (this set including Kristl) were, you guessed it, “K” names. I asked her mother if Kristl ever had nicknames in their home and the only one was K1. I must have looked a little dumbfounded because Judy quickly explained that her kids would look through the toy catalogs and mark what they all wanted and so they would shorten their names to C1, C2, C3, J1, J2, K1, and K2. Even now Judy will abbreviate Kristl to K1. Your standing in the family order never dies.

Their family LOVES pie. Judy told me that Pinky, her husband, likes only two kinds of pie, and right at this point in the story Pinky chimes in, “yes, hot and cold.” So this galette was warmly welcomed.

This family has always cooked from scratch as long as Kristl can remember. Amazingly Kristl has kept this tradition as often as possible. She is a full-time professor with 4 kids under 7 and one on the way. She says I’m invited back for more lessons and stories. Look out for a falafel and naan bread post.

Mother’s Danish Cookies

First off, these cookies are not my mothers. I’m not really sure whose mother they belong to, but I do know that they remind me of my father.

Meet Dad: yeah, the picture is grainy. But you get it.file2-1

I recall him remembering these cookies his mother would make. He said they were big and lightly iced and that one was pretty much a meal. This is the kind of cookie that would actually ruin your appetite. My dad went on and on and on and on about these things and casually telling we should make them. We means me. I wasn’t much of a cook back then and it hadn’t dawned on me that he wanted me to make these cookies until one day he went and got my grandmother’s cookbook (yes, my grandmother has her own cookbook, it was strictly for family but maybe it’ll get famous or something) from the shelf and prompted me to try and find the recipe (which was harder than I originally though given the strange set up of the book). It was then I realized. My dad wanted me to make them for him.

“Dad, when you say ‘we should make these’ you really mean ‘should make these’.”

Hands up, palms up, looking ever so innocent, he replied, “Well…?”

Fine. Fine fine fine. I will make them.

  • 5 C. Flour
  • 2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg (I like the freshly ground but pre-ground will do)
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 1 C. shortening (1/2 of this will be butter, cold, the other half vegetable shortening like Crisco)

That’s pretty much it. You sift the flour, sugar, and nutmeg together and then cut in the shortening as you would a pie crust. Then you chill the dough (at least 2 hrs, or 30 min in the freezer) and then roll it out to about 1/4 of and inch to 1/3 of an inch and cut with a biscuit cutter or into rounds of about 2 1/2 inches. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 10-13 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

P.s. the less you handle the dough the better. Trust me.

I had NO IDEA what the heck cutting shortening was. My family is not a pie family, we prefer cake. No one had ever taught me so I went on a short quest and found some tutorial online. It’s easy as apple pie…

Here are pictures to guide your course:

If you don’t have a pastry cutter you can use two knives, I think it actually works better this way.

Now, my father is a cookie monster. He doesn’t eat a lot of sweets unless it’s cookies.

He works in a shop behind our house and when these cookies, snicker doodles, or really any other cookie, have been made he suddenly takes a lot more trips to the house and every time he comes in he nonchalantly whisks a cookie from the plate on his way out. I love him more than words can describe. This is one of my favorite things to make for my dad and I do at least a few times a year. When I can’t be home for a year I always make him some and send them his way. It’s interesting that this is a cookie that has spanned the generations and will continue to as I will make them for my kids and maybe they’ll be pleading (nonchalantly) to their kids to make them as well.

Dutch Pancakes with Amanda

 

Isn’t interesting that some of our strongest and most fond memories are tied to food? Try as we might, we as human beings, can’t not eat. From birth forward we are fed by our loved ones and memories of those moments in time stay with us and are passed from generation to generation.

Amanda, My Dutch Pancake Professor. She is the lovely mother of 4, the daughter of an American mother and a fully Dutch father. They met on a plane. Her mother was the stewardess. They quickly fell in love and married. Her mother adopted the Dutch culture as quickly as she fell in love. When I asked Amanda what dish reminded her most of either her father or her mother she quickly replied “Dutch Pancakes.”

Dutch Pancakes also called Pannenkoeken (Do not ask me how to pronounce that), are a happy mix between the French Crepe and the American Pancake. Not as eggy as the crepe and definitely not as fluffy as the pancakes of America. Though recipes exist Amanda’s father never operated with one. He simply eyeballed the ingredients, their amounts changing from time to time, and when asked would just give the ingredients and never the exact measurements. Amanda has given me what we used that day and I’ll attach a link to another recipe in case you pancake makers out there don’t feel comfortable with eyeballing or inexactitude.

  • Eggs first. 3 of them. Whisk them, we don’t want meringue but we do want thoroughly beaten.
  • Add 2 C. milk. Stir well.
  • Add 2 C. Flour. This you will want to add slowly (who wants to clean up flour that’s been flung around by vigorous mixing?)

That’s it. Seriously. But it is an art. As we were making them Amanda was shaking her head and commenting,

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“Oh no, I’ve already messed them up. This isn’t right. Sorry Dad. He would not approve.”

 

The not-quite-right mix: For some reason there are lumps…which would have offended Amanda’s dad. The pancakes still tasted superb, so don’t worry if your batter isn’t perfect.

  • Turn the burner for your medium-sized skillet to medium heat.
  • Get out the butter, you’re going to need a stick of it. Yes, a whole stick. If you’re wondering a stick is equivalent to 1/2 C. of butter.
  • Swipe about a 1/4 of a tsp. of butter into the pan and swirl around. You will need to do this every time.

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After the butter is thoroughly melted (be careful not to burn your butter by having the heat too high, Amanda’s dad would be severely disappointed, potentially even offended) add the batter:

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Think crepes right now. Swirl the batter to cover the bottom of the pan. If you have done it right there will be a characteristic swirl on the bottom of the pancake:

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Do you see the swirl?

The age-old adage is that the first pancake goes to the dogs because it never quite turns out right. Growing up, Amanda always wanted the first pancake, but in later years realized the first pancake was usually nothing special. This first pancake, pictured above, was an exception to the rule. Look at the beauty and grace. The perfect swirl.

after both sides have been nicely browned turn out the pancake and quickly add more butter to the top of it like so:

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If you wait too long you have ruined the pancake because now, the butter won’t melt appropriately. Amanda was working on getting into the groove and realized she had waited too long too add the butter. Hand to her forehead She laughingly kept repeating,

“Oh no, he would be so disappointed. Sorry Dad, sorry Dad!”

That being said, there are rules to eating these besides butter on top. There must be sugar and fresh squeezed lemon. There shouldn’t be nutella, strawberries, whipped cream, peanut butter, ham, cheese, egg, nothing. Nothing but fresh squeezed lemon and sugar to taste.

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***DISCLAIMER*** this doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with these things, it just means Amanda’s dad would not approve, and it would not be a “real” Dutch pancake.

Roll it up and you have your very own dutch pancake. Remember to go big on butter.

Amanda kept saying her dad would be shaking his head at these pancakes but I think he would be proud. Proud that his daughter loves him, that she wants to share the things he taught her, proud of her family and her love for them, proud that he will forever live in the lives of those these pancakes touch. I don’t really know of any other thing one should be proud of.

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If you would like a different recipe that has more exactness, I’ve linked you one right here: Joy Love Food Dutch Pancakes