Friday, March 28, 2008

Eating Mexican style frugally

We enjoy Mexican food around here and though that might be cheap compared to eating steaks or something like that, when you have a meal of tacos all the fixings can make your meal cost add up pretty fast. I thought I would share with you some of the things I do to help keep the cost down.

I have known how to make tortillas for quite some time but I am sorry to admit until recently I had been a little lazy about it and had been buying tortillas regularly. Recently though I have experimented with making large batches and then either refrigerating or freezing the extra and it works. That way I don't have to have the mess of making them each time we have tacos or whatever. Also I have been experimenting with adding whole wheat to the tortillas. While I love the flavor (and the health factor) of whole wheat it does tend to make the tortillas less flexible. I have found that I can have 1/3 of the flour whole wheat and it stays flexible, when I went over that very much they seemed to crack a lot. Do you have any experience and suggestions for making whole wheat tortillas? Anyway here is the recipe:
Fresh Tortillas
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
Mix dry ingredients together. Then add the oil and mix like you would a pie crust. Add the warm water and mix. Dough will be sticky add more flour while kneading until dough feels soft and light and looses its stickiness. Using a handful of dough at a time, roll out on a floured surface. Roll out several then heat dry pan (iron skillet is good) to medium heat before setting tortilla in pan. When the it starts getting a lot of air bumps flip to the other side. It will have a few brown spots. Watch them carefully as they cook quickly. This recipe makes 8 (10 inch) tortillas. They are quite yummy.

Another cost that can be avoided is the Mexican seasoning mix. I usually just use spices (which I usually buy from the bulk containers at our local co-op where it is pretty inexpensive) and don't worry about a mix but here is a recipe for a taco seasoning mix which is quite good and easy to make and it also makes a nice gift.
Taco Seasoning
1/4 c. dried onion
1/4 cup chili powder
1 T. Salt
4 T. cornstarch
1 T. dried minced garlic
1 T. cumin
1 T. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 t. oregano
Mix everything together. It makes 1 cup enough for 8 lbs of meat. Use 2 teaspoons and 1/2 cup water for each pound of meat.
Another thing that is quite easy to make and very economical is refried beans. First cook your beans. (They pretty much always have directions on the bag.) I have found many kinds of beans can work. Usually I use pinto but I have also used field peas with good results and I believe lentils work fine as well. I would use ones that are brownish in color or you might have some interesting looking refried beans ( I am imagining using navy beans and ending up with white ones) but who knows? They might taste wonderful!
I don't have a written down recipe for the refried beans so I will just give you the basic idea and hopefully that will work. I take the beans I am going to use as well as a little of the water that the cooked in and I blend them up with my hand held blender (you could also use a regular blender or my mom has used a potato masher). Then in a pan I lightly saute some chopped garlic in some oil. Usually I used about 2 cups of beans and 2 cloves of garlic. After that is sauteed then add the beans to the pan and then stir it and cook it while adding spices(you also may need to add some liquid off and on as it can get dry. You can use the bean water or some tomato sauce or salsa). You can use the taco seasoning above. I like to make sure it has plenty of cumin and plenty of chili powder and enough salt as well. I just keep tasting it as I go to make sure it turns out as I like. After it is seasoned and warmed completely through then it is ready to eat. I like to make enough so that I can freeze containers of it for later so I don't have to make this every time. I like this in tacos and It also works well for bean burritos ~ a very economical meal!
I also usually make homemade salsa every summer and can it so that helps on cost there as well. I don't really have a recipe though, I just use what I have and sometimes it is really good and sometimes it is not so much.
One thing I am interested in learning how to make is cultured sour cream. Has anyone done that? Is it hard?
For more Frugal Friday ideas visit Biblical Womanhood.


Mary Ann said... has a great recipe for whole wheat tortillas which are flexible. (Look in her recipe section.)I believe her secret is the extra oil. Those were the first tortillas I ever made and we love them!

Sonshine said...

Yummy! I would suggest for the tortillas esp. with whole wheat flour added you want to increase your liquid(either oil or water). WW flour tends to soak up the liquid in a recipe quite fast! :)

I tried making homemade tortillas once and got thumbs down from the hubby so I have gone back to buying them! Going to have to try again using your recipe!

Thanks for sharing!

CC said...

These look so yummy!!!!! I want some right now for lunch (but without the work LOL!)

Bobbie said...

Thank you! That was very interesting and informative. I too like mexican food. I had heard that you can make your own tortillas, but I never had a recipe and never stopped to look one up. I might try to make them myself. Thanks again. I enjoyed my visit with you!

Abbi said...

Thanks to all of you for stopping by. I appreciate you taking the time to share with me your thoughts and ideas.

Martha A. said...

If you want to make some super easy refried beans- take 2 c. beans (pinto) 2 cloves garlic and 2.5 qts water and put in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 1 hour. Drain off liquid and save. Mix with hand mixer until smooth with some of the liquid added back in. Salt to taste and add some cumin if you want. I do not re-fry these, and they are low in fat, really easy and taste really good! We really like them!

Another way to cut down on the costs, tortillas are pretty cheap here and flour is not always that cheap lately, so I buy them for $1 a dozen, but then I mix only one pound of meat or less with a bunch of cooked black or pinto beans (home cooked) and that stretches the meat and tastes really good! We have a family of 6 and one less than a pound of meat, $1 for tortillas and some cheese, it is about $3.50 for a very filling dinner.

Niki said...

Wow, I've never made my own tortillas before. You go, girl!


Candace said...

I was just thinking about making my own tortillas, they are $3/10 at the grocery. I'll have to try these out, and then go on to add some ww. I know some use a press, any experience with that?
Also, Passionate Homemaking did a post on cultured sour cream recently. I did buttermilk.

Candace said...

I was just thinking about making my own tortillas, they are $3/10 at the grocery. I'll have to try these out, and then go on to add some ww. I know some use a press, any experience with that?
Also, Passionate Homemaking did a post on cultured sour cream recently. I did buttermilk.

eally said...

Hi! I got to your blog through the WFMW link you left yesterday (about gardening? I think)- anyway I've enjoyed reading your blog. I too homeschool and love to shop at Walgreen's and CVS!! I just had to leave a comment here though because I have ALWAYS wanted a recipe for the taco seasoning so I wouldn't have to purchase those little packets anymore since I KNEW I had all the seasonings in my cupboard...I just didn't know how to put them together to make the seasoning! So thank you for this awesome post!! I am definitely going to try to make the tortillas too.

The Eckerts said...

I am never able to roll out the tortillas flat enough. And then when I do get them thin once I pick them up to transfer to the pan they shrink up. What am I doing wrong?

Abbi said...

I think my tortillas shrink a little too. I don't worry about getting the tortillas super thin. I guess I am not sure what to tell you. I do roll them out with plenty of flour and then I shake the flour off before putting them in the pan. I think I have gotten better at making them as I go along. I hope it works for you too!


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