Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Balancing Act & Hearty Whole Wheat Tortillas

Loving baking can be bad for the figure.  Especially when you're someone who likes to bake with real butter and eggs.  Full of flavor AND fat.  I've been experimenting with many bread recipes recently but my body does not do well with scores of carbohydrates across the day.

So in order to create a bit more balance with my love of carbohydrates and my desire not to gain 10 pounds, I often eat whole wheat tortillas.  Tortillas are a great base for hundreds of meals, especially on the go meals.  I do breakfast wraps, make lunch wraps to bring to work, burritos for dinner, and I've eaten many a peanut butter and banana wrap.

You may not have thought about it, but food in the VI is really freakin' expensive.  Anything that is not made here (i.e. most packaged things you buy at the grocery store) has to be shipped in which ups the costs.  I once asked J to pick up a jar of almond butter at the store, maybe a few months after we moved here.  He brought it home but had never looked at the price.  Unpacking the grocery bags I saw on the lid the sticker - $21.98.  Seriously!!  You always have to price compare here - it is not worth $22 for a jar of almond butter.

So we try to shop local for what we can (fortunately you can grow fruits and veggies year round here and there are some amazing local farms) and cook some things from scratch.  So we make our whole wheat tortillas at home - super easy, fun, and tasty!

I tweaked the recipe recently and changed the all purpose to bread flour and this resulted in a heartier tortilla, able to hold more robust contents.  Yum!  In these pictures I doubled the usual size to make a larger deli sized wrap, but usually we make the smaller ones and they are perfect for small burritos, wraps, or enchiladas.  For my typical breakfast wrap to go, I keep it simple - fried egg on top of sliced Parmesan with fresh greens (usually arugula - my fave) on top.


Hearty Whole Wheat Tortillas
Recipe modified from Troy Hakala's recipe at
 - makes 4 large tortillas or 8 small tortilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour (can use all purpose here)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp canola oil
2/3 cup + 1/2 Tbsp room temperature water (if using all purpose flour just use 2/3 cup water)

1)  Whisk together dry ingredients (flours, salt, baking powder).

2)  Make a well in dry ingredients, pour in canola oil and water, and mix well.

3)  As the ingredients begin to come together, put hands in to finish combining ingredients.

4)  Form into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface to roll out tortillas.  Split ball into 4 or 8 small balls depending on how large a tortilla you desire.

5)  Flatten ball into a disk and then roll out into thin "round" tortilla.  These may not be perfectly formed but that's the beauty of homemade.  It has more character.  While I'm rolling it out, I'm picking it up and turning it a quarter turn every few rolls to get it more evenly shaped.  I also turn the tortilla over about halfway through.  I usually roll out one at a time, while the one before is cooking.

6)  While you are rolling out the first tortilla, preheat a frying pan (no oil needed!) over medium heat.  Place rolled out tortilla on pan and cook about 30-45 seconds per side.  When a side is done it will have golden brown specs.  Can use immediately or save in the fridge for later, wrapped in plastic wrap.

7)  Top with your favorite ingredients, roll it up and enjoy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013


There are so many other terms for it.  I like to call it itchy feet and there’s this awesome song by The Be Good Tanyas that calls it the wandering blues.  

I get it about every two years.  That’s probably how we ended up on this quirky little island in the middle of the Caribbean.  Midwifery here is very different than on the mainland – some ways better and some not.  One thing I love is that everyone knows what midwives are and it is never surprising that your baby may be caught by a midwife.  Also there is an extremely low epidural rate, mostly based on the fact that women here don’t want them and have the inherent knowledge that they can have a baby without it.  There are downsides however.  Working as a staff nurse midwife at an extremely short staffed hospital where an old school hierarchy prevails means that I am responsible for nursing and midwife duties (sometimes both for one patient), a ridiculous amount of paperwork, and simultaneously have both a lot and next to no autonomy.  This is also a high risk population, one of the reasons being that many women do not receive adequate, or any, prenatal care. 

A little side note on my choice of working in a hospital.  I love out-of-hospital birth, but often those options are not available to the underserved populations – clients who are uninsured or have government insurance.  This is because many will most likely have to pay out of pocket to have a birth at a birth center or at home.  Before I knew about midwifery, I knew I wanted to provide good care to those who may not get it otherwise and that is why I choose to work as a staff nurse midwife at a hospital.

Wow.  When I actually type those words out, it is actually kind of reinvigorating.

But there are days when my feet get itchy and I dream of other jobs or other places.  When I was a new midwife and nervous I might accidentally kill someone, I would sometimes think – I could always quit and be a bus driver.  Sure there is a lot of responsibility in driving a bus, but there are days when you just want to do something else.  Recently I’ve been daydreaming about starting a bakery.  Or teaching.  My dream before we came here was to just travel the world, or work at a clinic in rural Honduras.  Some dreams are obviously more fantastical that others. 

I love being a midwife and connecting with women, not only is it a perk of my job but I actually (not to be too boastful) think I’m pretty good at it.  But unfortunately working can be hard (whine) and my father was right when he said as much to an idealistic 16 year old determined to always enjoy her career.

I’m not sure yet what the solution is yet but my 2013 Resolution is to stay positive and not bring the stress of work home with me.  I’ll expand that to remind myself why I do this.  I came to the Caribbean because they needed health care providers and in that situation you know there will be challenges to overcome.  And I guess when I can’t stay positive I will bake the sorrows away or go enjoy some of the plethora of beauty here.

Ha'Penny Beach

Enjoying our walk

Sunset off the F'sted Pier

Friday, January 25, 2013

Getting Back to Blogging...

So clearly I've been gone for a while.  It seems to take me about a year to get settled anytime I move somewhere new.  But I've still been baking and catching Cruzan babies and I'd like to start sharing that again.

I haven't really written much about our new home in the Caribbean so here are a few updates.  We spent the majority of our first year on island living in a one room cottage in the rainforest built into the ruins of a Danish schoolhouse for slaves from the 1800s.  Obviously very cool and very cozy, but unfortunately we were cohabiting with some natives to tropical climates - cockroaches and roof rats.  There was also a very startling encounter where we woke up to squealing, which turned out to be a frog being killed by a centipede.  Yes.  That happened.

The other downside was the drive - it took about 35 minutes to get to the hospital and a large portion of this was down a road affectionately called "Pot Hole Preserve".

So we started looking for a new place and found a larger, bug free apartment with a gorgeous view.

Along with gorgeous view unfortunately came about 5 minutes of arguably the worst road on St. Croix - and if you've been here, you'll understand how bad that is.

We love it though and the plus side to living up a rocky hill is that it sure keeps the traffic down.  Downside - it also keeps some friends with small sedans away and I have a fear that any future babies could get brain damage.  I guess we'll cross that bridge at a later date.

Other exciting news - in the spring of 2012 we went to our favorite farm stand to buy tomatoes and ended up adopting a kitten!  Fitzgerald, who was a mere 2 pounds when we got him, has now taken over the house and forced everyone, some reluctantly, to fall in love with him.  He is our daily alarm clock and entertainment.

Photo courtesy of Justin Shatwell

I hope to stay more consistent about blogging and post a little more about midwifery in 2013.  But my other passion - baking and cooking will also get plenty of attention.  I have a lot of recipes I'm excited to write about and more I plan to explore.  I have a new pizza recipe that I'm in love with that includes a special ingredient; plus I've been baking a lot of bread and experimenting with lots of Indian recipes.

Here is a photo of a Cranberry/Pomegranate Rustic Tart (with a rye tart crust) that I indulged in for Thanksgiving as a little preview.

Hope you'll stick around for the journey!