In my new cookbook, Shoestring Quick & Easy, we use two main strategies to make things, well, Quick & Easy: 1. Kitchen Shortcuts, which are all about using slightly different techniques to get from here to there in less time and with less fuss; and 2. Making smart use of some Store-Bought GF Packaged Products. Since I really want you to get the most of My Cookbooks, and the most out of this blog, and since I know that most of us are not ladies (and men!) of leisure, I’m introducing a new blog series called Make It … Or Buy It?
How “Make It … Or Buy It?” Works
I do the heavy-lifting, making homemade versions of these products, then comparing them to the best example I can find of their store-bought counterparts in 4 categories, which will be summarized in a simple grid:
1. Ease: On a scale of 1-10. For the homemade version, that includes everything from the time it takes to the difficulty level to the availability of the different ingredients. For the store-bought version, that includes ease of finding the product and ease of storing and using it, too.
2. Quality: On a scale of 1-10. Quality is pretty self-explanatory.
3. Taste: On a scale of 1-10. Taste includes smell, taste, mouth-feel, you get the idea.
4. Cost: Cost is actual, and preferably by individual unit. It will be like the Shoestring Savings in My Cookbooks. So useful!
What Products and Recipes Will Be Tested & Compared?
The first product in the series (today!) is Gluten-Free Soft Corn Tortillas. I also plan to test and compare different gluten-free crackers, cookies, breads of different sorts, and plenty of other kinds of gluten-free baked goods. Even boxed cake mixes!
Most of the recipes for the homemade versions will be on the blog. Some will be in My Cookbooks. Please don’t yell at me when they’re only in cookbooks. If you prick me, do I not bleed?
La Banderita Corn Tortillas are the specific reliably gluten-free brand I chose for this first entry in the series. There, frankly, aren’t as many reliably gluten-free brands of soft corn tortillas as I would like. Most, like Mission Tortillas, for example, are at real risk of cross-contamination despite having no gluten ingredients. La Banderita is somewhat widely-available, at least near me and in some regular grocery stores, and is of relatively good quality. I use them frequently, and they’re often pressed into service as my lunch. I roll them with some turkey and cheese, spread some hummus on ’em, then put them in the toaster oven. They fare pretty well, although you can see that they peel when you roll them and again when you heat them. Whether I use the microwave, the oven or the toaster, as soon as I roll & heat them, the very top layer peels off. I really like how they stay soft, though, and that they have a nice long shelf life in the refrig. There is a faint glue-like aftertaste, though, that I can’t ignore (and believe me I’ve tried). And you can’t beat the cost with a stick. 7¢ a tortilla!
Gluten-Free Fresh Corn Tortillas are a true favorite or mine, as they are little more than gluten-free masa harina corn flour (a precooked cornmeal), salt and water. I can even sometimes find Bob’s Red Mill GF masa harina in my regular grocery store, which certainly makes things easier. And you can’t beat the taste and quality of freshly-made corn tortillas. But instead of opening up a package, you’re stuck with the 15 minutes or so that it takes to reconstitute the masa and roll out and cook the tortillas. It’s a super easy recipe, but it’s a recipe. Not a package to open. And since gluten-free masa harina is a bit of a specialty product, this is one of those rare instances where making the product yourself is more expensive (even twice as expensive!) than buying it. Keep in mind, though, that each fresh, homemade corn tortilla is thicker and more substantial than each packaged soft corn tortilla, so it’s something of an unbalanced comparison.
Here’s the summary:
My Make It … Or Buy It? GF Soft Corn Tortillas Conclusion
BOTH. Make it & buy it. Make it sometimes, when you really want your tortillas to take center stage in a meal and you have the time to fuss a wee bit. Buy it often, to have on hand for a quick snack, breakfast burrito and/or lunch wrap. It has its limitations, but it also has its place. I always have a package in my refrig, and I’m always glad I do. But I also always have a stock of GF masa harina. Even raw, it just smells … like Mexico to me.
So, what do you think? Is this going to be a useful series? If there is a particular product you’d like to see in this series, let me know! I really think this will be a useful tool, to help you save money and shop smart.
P.S. If you haven’t yet, please pick up a copy of both of My Cookbooks! I can’t keep the blog going without your support!