Zucchini, Tomato and Onion Tortillas

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The star of today’s post is the tortilla. The uncooked tortilla. When freshly cooked on the stovetop, tortillas are light, moist, tender, and infinitely tastier than the premade, dry and inflexible ones that come stacked in a bag at the grocery store. Doesn’t this look appetizing?!

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Had these been around when my children were young, they would have been in my weekly dinner rotation for those days when my afternoons were swamped with afterschool activities. And, for picky-eaters, let the children pick the fillings!

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There are no preservatives in these tortillas, only wheat flour or cornmeal, depending on which variety you purchase, water, canola oil, and salt. They cook in under a minute, and you can buy them in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, or in bulk at Costco.

How To Cook a Tortilla

Preheat a non-stick, ungreased sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is good and hot, add the tortilla.

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The tortilla should start to puff up and bubble within a few seconds, but only if your pan is preheated. If it puffs too high, pop the bubble with the edge of a spatula.

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After about 30 seconds, use tongs to flip it over. Either fill the tortilla immediately with toppings of choice or, if you plan to make a few tortillas, go ahead and cook five or six and keep them warm in a towel.

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The Fillings:

There are so many ways to fill a hot tortilla, or not. You could just brush them with olive oil or butter. They can also be eaten for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.

Zucchini and Onion Filling (my fave!)

My favorite way to make tortillas is with this zucchini and onion filling. This recipe makes a lot (4 cups) but can easily be halved. It stores well in the fridge to keep available to make tortillas or bruschetta with melted cheese on top.

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil
4 cups unpeeled, shredded zucchini (1¼ pounds)
4 cups chopped tomatoes (2 pounds)
1 cup diced onion (6 ounces)
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
Shredded cheese such as a Mexican style blend

Mise en Place

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Instructions:

Saute olive oil, garlic, and onion together for two minutes on medium heat. Do not brown the garlic (ever!). Add veggies and sauté for ten minutes on medium-high heat.

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The high heat helps cook down the liquid in the pan.

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Next, spread the filling on half of a cooked tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, fold the other half over and enjoy!

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Scrambled Egg Filling

Here are the tortillas filled with eggs — soft taco or quesadilla style.

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The mise en place of making scrambled egg-filled tortillas.

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I scrambled the eggs in olive oil first. Next, I added the zucchini and onion mixture, but you could just as easily use jarred salsa, or skip both and add bacon or sausage.

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Next, I added chopped rotisserie chicken and shredded cheese and topped it with another tortilla to make a quesadilla.

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You could just as easily fold a single tortilla in half or roll it up as a wrap.  With children, it’s always nice when you can give them this kind of unimpactful choice that doesn’t create extra work for Mom.

Other Recipes Children Like
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
@judyschickens Everyday Salad Dressing
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
The Biscuit King

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog. It’s free!

You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram: @JudysChickens

Thank you!

© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. No photos or text may be used without written consent.

The Tobacco Barns of Trigg County

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It was the smoking barns that first drew me down the rabbit hole of learning about the tobacco plant, Nicotiana. I had no idea the billows of smoke that hovered around these barns came from a curing process that has been used to preserve tobacco leaves for hundreds of years.

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In retrospect, I’m so glad I didn’t call the fire department!  My friends who grew up on farms with smoking tobacco barns said strangers were always coming to their door to inform them their barns were on fire.

These alluring barns with their hovering fog-like smoke are everywhere in the agriculturally rich fields of Kentucky.

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It wasn’t until I opened the door of this historical barn that I became enamored with the mottled leaves hanging on racks that rested on a series of ever-rising rafters and the low-burning fire beneath.

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The architecture of the barns, the tantalizing smell of the drying leaves, and the agricultural history associated with the growth and harvest of tobacco have captivated my attention ever since.

The Tobacco Barns

There are two types of barns built for curing tobacco in Kentucky: those specifically constructed for air-curing and those built for wood-firing. Which barn one uses depends on how the tobacco will ultimately be finished. Flavored tobaccos like those used in pipe blends, snuff and tobacco chew, are smoke or fire-cured in barns that are tightly sealed and have smokestacks. Cigarette and cigar blends, which use a higher grade tobacco known locally as Burley, are simply air-cured in barns that allow for a cross breeze.

Air-Curing Barns

Tobacco that is to be air-cured goes into barns built for air-circulation with small open spaces between the wall slats that allow air to blow through.

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They do not have smokestacks.

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Here is another one. This air-curing style barn is my favorite.

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Notice the light coming in through the open spaces in the walls. And the rafters. Notice the rafters. So beautiful! When I am standing in this barn, I feel like I am standing in a church.

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Here is a photo of the same barn filled to the ceiling with tobacco. There are six levels of rafters to hang the tobacco.

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When the wind is blowing, the sound of the leaves rustling is lovely. Add to that the smell of the tobacco and the whole thing is intoxicating. Take a look at this video.

 

Wood-firing Barns

There are a few telltale signs that a roadside barn is built for wood-firing. Besides the smokestacks, there is always a stack of wood,

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and a hill of sawdust near the barn, which are used to build and keep a low-burning fire smoldering on the floor of the barn for weeks.

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Here is the interior of a historic wood-burning barn at The Land Between the Lakes HomeplaceThe smoldering fire is built in ditches on the ground.

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Compare that to the interior of a commercial wood-burning barn. Same concept, but in this barn, there is about six inches of firewood covered by a full 18 inches of sawdust.

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To create the low-burning fire, the farmer makes a series of evenly spaced holes in each row of sawdust for the entire length of the barn. He then stuffs straw in each hole and pours a little diesel fuel into the holes. Once he ignites the straw, it burns and connects with the wood stack underneath. The fire gently smolders for about a week. At this particular barn, the entire process is repeated later for another week to finish off the dehydration and smoke-curing process. I’ve read that the goal of curing tobacco is to get the moisture count of the leaves down to twenty percent so they can be transported for finishing without crumbling.

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Growing Tobacco

I haven’t witnessed how the seeds are started, but a farmer told me they are started in seed trays and planted in the ground in May.

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In July, the farmers “top” the plants, removing the flowering seed heads to encourage more robust leaf production. Any new leaves that try to grow are individually suckered off by farmers, or they are sprayed to halt new growth.

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That brings us to late August. The plants turn yellow indicating they have ripened and are ready for harvest.

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You can read up on the different varieties of light and dark tobacco leaves, and the sugar content of the leaves here.

The Harvest

The farmers begin the harvest process in late August or early September depending on the weather and ripeness of the tobacco leaves.

Here are the tools of the trade for harvest: a tobacco knife, a tobacco spear and a rack of tobacco sticks.

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First, the stalks are chopped down at ground level with a tobacco knife. Meanwhile, someone goes up and down the rows of tobacco plants and places a tobacco harvesting stick on the ground about every six feet.

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Next, a farmer comes through, picks up a stalk and pierces it with a black tobacco spear placed over a tobacco stick. The farmer threads up to six stalks onto each stick and then moves onto another stick. This process is called “sticking.”

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This farmer kindly allowed me to take a video of him sticking. It follows.

 

The many speared piles look like a row of small haystacks when seen in a field.

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Curing

Next, the stalk-laden sticks are gathered and laid across the top bars of a metal tobacco transporter.

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The transporters are pulled by a tractor to the curing barn where the racks of stalks (on the sticks) are hauled up into the rafters of a barn for drying.

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I thought for sure the farmers had some sort of lifting machine to do the job of raising the sticks up to the ceiling, however, they do not. It is all done by hand.

Another farmer named Ernesto graciously showed me how he and his team of men passed the sticks, loaded with stalks, up to the top row of rafters, by hand. I love this video. It shows the hard work that goes into climbing up the rafters, passing the sticks up, and ultimately hanging the tobacco stalks to dry.

 

I am so grateful to the migrant farmers who allowed me to film them at what is a very hard job done in very hot weather.

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Dear Reader,

I have enjoyed learning about the harvest and curing of tobacco. I would love to hear your stories, so please feel free to include a comment if you ever worked or lived on a tobacco farm and can shed more light on the practice of raising and harvesting tobacco.

I have other posts on commercial farming in Kentucky and Tennessee:

Raising Sorghum Cane
How Canola Oil is Made (from plants grown locally)
How Local Canola Crops are Grown
Farming Equipment 101: Harvesting Winter Wheat

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog. It’s free!

You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram: @JudysChickens

Thank you!

© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. No photos or text may be used without written consent.

 

Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts

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When I wake up at five in the morning with a little bit of panic and think, “I’ve got a crowd of people coming for Labor Day. What am I going to serve?” I approach the menu by considering my entrées first. My go-to’s are grilled Premio sweet Italian sausage from Costco, hamburgers, and marinated chicken breasts. Next, I consider my sides, which I prepare depending on what is in season. Often, though, I delegate the “sides” to guests. The beauty of that approach is you get to try other people’s specialties and that is always a fun and tasty option. Desserts are my favorite food to cook and for a summer cookout, I like to make a hotel-size pan of bread pudding using whatever fruit is in season, and also everyone’s favorite cookie, Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies.

I was never a fan of grilled chicken breasts until I saw my good friend, Sheila Foley, a master at feeding huge crowds at her summer fests on the Sakonnet River in Tiverton, Rhode Island, pull out bags of pounded-flat marinated chicken breasts. The light bulb went off for me. Brilliant! A way to prepare chicken breasts so that when they are grilled they cook quickly and evenly throughout. I’ve been pounding chicken breasts ever since.

Ingredients:
Whole chicken breasts
@JudysChickens Everyday Salad Dressing
Lemons

Mise en Place:

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Instructions:

Rinse chicken breasts and trim off fat.
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Pat dry with paper towels.
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Place each chicken breast in a thick bag and pound flat with the smooth side of a meat mallet.
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Marinate pounded breasts in @JudysChickens Salad Dressing with sliced lemons. You could add a little white balsamic vinegar and Grey Poupon for even more flavor if desired.
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Seal the bag and allow to marinate in the fridge for one or two days.
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Grill for no more than ten minutes. If I’m feeding a large crowd, I usually cut each breast in half before serving.
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Favorite Flavor-Enhancers: The Acids!

My mother always kept a bottle each of white and red balsamic vinegar in the fridge. She especially loved the white, as do I. Add a few shakes of white balsamic vinegar to the marinade for an extra flavor burst.
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Other Foods That Are Good To Serve At A BBQ
Sliced Beet Salad
String Bean Salad
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Marlin’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
The Classic Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

Dear Reader,
If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to my blog. It’s free!
You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram: @JudysChickens
Thank you!

© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. No photos or text may be used without written consent.