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Category: winter

Borscht with Beef, From Russia with Love

If there’s one place in the world that I could say is on my proverbial ‘bucket list’, that’s Russia, that land that was once prohibited to Westerners, the land shrouded in mystery and spy stories, the land of an intensely resilient people who have survived hardships most of us cannot even imagine, and the land of snowy Siberia.

The mere thought of standing in the famous Red Square in Moscow and seeing St. Basil’s Cathedral with its colourful onion-top domes and Byzantine architecture and being feet away from the Kremlin, I know will one day make me giddy with glee. I will have to pinch myself to believe what my eyes will be seeing.

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Once Upon A Table {Two Calamari Recipes – Papas con Chocos & Habas con Chocos}

I’ve not posted anything since last year November, so first things first: Happy New Year 2016 & Happy Chinese New Year! May it bring us all good health, happiness, and prosperity.

Yesterday the air was crisp, and the sky was so blue it seemed as if someone had taken a brush to paint it just perfectly so. There was not a cloud in sight. And the sunshine was so warm that it encouraged me to take off my jacket and walk about in short sleeves, something that normally at 14C I wouldn’t be doing. As Kiko (our mini schnauzer) and I got closer to the forrest we go through every day, we were greeted by yellow and blue butterflies bouncing around us and a couple of tiny little birds, whose feathers were iridescent in the rays of the sun, and who startled by our steps flew quickly away, chirping. I had the fleeting sensation of being in a Disney fairytale …

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A Frog in Boiling Water & Lamb Shanks

2014: My Annus Horribilis

I will never forget this year. From the beginning to the end, there has been little respite from health and personal issues. But all in all, I’m grateful that my mom is still with us, improving, albeit slowly, and things are moving forward (although currently she’s still in hospital and still in ICU once again). I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time with my parents than I have in the last 10 years, for which I’m grateful. Yes, unfortunately it’s been under a very stressful, painful and heartbreaking situation, but still I’m thankful to be able to be by their side and be able to help them every day.

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Cream of Pumpkin Soup aux Herbes de Provence

The butternut squash had been laying on the counter for a couple of weeks and I kept moving it closer to the preparation area near the sink as a reminder to myself to do something with it. I love pumpkin almost anything, but I really wanted to avoid making another soup.

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A Saturday Pork Roast & A Farmer’s Market

I’ve been meaning to visit the Barnes Farmer’s Market since we moved near the area, but as it falls on Saturdays, I always seem to have something else better to do instead, like visiting some part of the UK or exploring London… Today, however, I went for a very refreshing walk with a friend of mine, whom I’ve known since our high school years back in Spain, and we ventured into the village, where we bumped into the farmer’s market. Well, in all honesty, we could’ve missed it had I not turned around to look behind me and see it…oftentimes my curiosity pays off! It’s located across the street from the pond in downtown Barnes.

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Beef & Kale Stew, and I’m Baaaack!

I’ve been somewhat neglecting the blog since before our trip to Spain for the holidays. I’m sorry about that, but sometimes life catches up with us in ways that are unpredictable. And then we have to prioritise. And it’s then that in my case, the blog must be put on the back burner (pun intended) for a while.

Over the holidays, I wrote up a bunch of recipes very excitedly to share with all of you; and I hope I will be able to put those up on the blog soon. I actually did a lot of home cooking with my mother whilst in Sevilla and some of the things we made are very traditional dishes from my childhood, with influences from Spain, of course, and Portugal.

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Paleo Dutch Pannenkoeken

If you have ever tried a Dutch pannenkoek, you know how much fun they are to make and eat. Dutch pancakes are a watered-down version of the American pancake, with both sweet and savoury toppings. The Dutch eat them for lunch and dinner, instead of breakfast.

In fact, my Dutch husband won’t eat a pannenkoek or any pancake before lunchtime…he keeps telling me he’s Dutch, not American, remember? I have to smile of course because he loves sweet pastries after his savoury first meal of the day.. but not the pannenkoek. 😉

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San Nicolas and Chestnut & Drunken Raisins Muffins

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

…are synonymous with wintery days and nights and the Yuletide season that’s upon us. For me, roasting chestnuts also brings back memories of growing up in Chipiona and my Spanish grandmother, whom we all called Tita Paca. She was one of the biggest influences in my life and someone that continues to be very important.

Today, which is the holiday of San Nicolás (Saint Nicholas), I remember her even more than other days. For Tita Paca, San Nicolás was very special. We used to do the traditional 3-Monday journey many times during the year, and on December 6th especially, we’d always try to go to church to visit him.

I’m not a very religious person, and in many ways, neither was my grandmother. Yet, she truly believed in Saint Nicholas and how he had helped many people during his lifetime, and as a saint, also helped our family steer away from harm…

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Salisbury Steak with Quick & Easy Paleo Gravy

Although I’d love to say the contrary, there are days or evenings that getting into the kitchen to cook a meal is more of a chore than a pleasure. When that’s the case, I want to make something quick and easy, yet still healthy and Paleo.

The other night was one of those evenings, which tend to happen right after a trip. The house is not spic and span, I’m tired and with a million things on my mind, and concentrating on creating a entire feast for dinner is just not going to happen. I want something that can be done in 30 minutes or less… this recipe is great for a situation like this.

Salisbury steaks are a step up from a hamburger (my original idea) and yet they seem more elaborate.

Bon Appétit!

SALISBURY STEAK WITH QUICK & EASY PALEO GRAVY

Ingredients, for 6 steaks:

800g minced beef
3-4 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
butter or fat of preference, for frying

Method:

Mix all of the ingredients together by hand until well blended. Form steak-shaped patties and set aside. You should have about 6 medium-sized patties.

When you’re ready to place the steaks into the gravy, melt some butter or fat of preference in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the steaks on each side. Then transfer to the gravy, as per below instructions.

Ingredients for the Gravy:

3 leeks, cleaned and finely sliced – or – 3 medium onions, julienned – or a mixture of the two
2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or fat of choice
3-4 medium mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 – 2 cups filtered water

Method:

In a skillet over low heat, melt the butter or fat of choice. Add the leeks and/or onions and poach until the leeks/onions are tender. Add the mushrooms and sauté about 1-2 minutes. Add the arrowroot powder and sauté 30 seconds.

Then add the white wine and mix well. Cook for a minute and then add the water, first 1 1/2 cups and increase to 2 cups if necessary. Season to taste.

Now add in the browned steaks and cook, turning a couple of times, about 10 minutes. Serve alone or with your favourite side dish.

*****

“FILETES” SALISBURY CON SALSA GRAVY

Ingredientes, para 6 “filetes”:

800g de carne de ternera picada
3-4 dientes de ajo, picados
1 cucharadita de tomillo
2 cucharaditas de hierbas de la Provenza
1 cucharadita de sal marina, gorda
1/2 cucharadita de nuez moscada
1 huevo
mantequilla o la grasa que prefieras, para freir

Como hacer los “filetes” Salisbury:

Amasa con las manos todos los ingredientes hasta que estén bien mezclados.  Con las manos, haz una hamburguesas en forma de “filete”, o sea, no redondas, sino ovaladas y alargadas. Ponlas en un plato hasta que las vayamos a cocinar.

Cuando la salsa gravy este lista, pon un poco de mantequilla u otra grasa a calentar en una sartén. Doramos los filetes Salisbury por ambos lados y los incorporamos a la salsa gravy, siguiendo las instrucciones de abajo.

Ingredientes para la salsa “gravy”:

3 puerros, limpios y cortados a rodajas finas – o – 3 cebollas, cortadas en juliana
3-4 champiñones medianos, cortados a trozos
2 cucharadas grandes de mantequilla o la grasa que prefieras (como la de pato/ganso/aceite de oliva)
1 cucharada grande de harina de tapioca o arrurruz (tambien se puede usar maicena, pero al ser de maíz es un grano y no es Paleo)
1/4 de cucharadita de pimienta negra, molida
sal, a gusto
1/4 taza (60ml) de vino blanco
1 1/2  – 2 tazas (375ml – 500ml) de agua

Como hacer la salsa:

En una sartén, derrite la mantequilla, y a continuación, pocha los puerros y/o las cebollas hasta que esten tiernos. Añade los champiñones y saltealos unos minutos.

Agrega la harina de tapioca/arrurruz/maicena y frie la unos segundos. Echa le por encima el vino y deja cocer unos minutos. Ahora añade el agua, primero los 375ml, y si hiciera falta, el resto. Mezcla bien y sazona.

Ahora incorporamos los filetes, previamente dorados. Cocemos unos 10 minutos hasta que la salsa espese y los filetes esten hechos por dentro, dando le la vuelta a los filetes de vez en cuando. Se puede servir con puré de patatas, coliflor o la guarnición que nos guste.

Basic Paleo Almond Flour Pancakes With Plums and a Quick Euro Trip

Last week Tuesday, I was wandering around the streets of Frankfurt, our former home, while my husband was at work nearby. That evening we drove to Austria for a workshop of his. I tagged along for this trip, as I do on others, especially when he travels by car.

I simply love a road trip particularly anywhere in Europe, where it’s easy to see a few countries within a week. Plus, it’s a great way for us to spend some quality time together and talk. Our road trips may sound a little crazy, as we pack in a lot of events, essentially work for my husband and meetings in different cities, and sometimes countries, and we also try to include some fun time. For me the journeys always mean some sightseeing on my own and lots of local food!

On this trip, we drove from London, crossing the Channel via train, and sleeping the first night in Gent, Belgium. Over the weekend, we were in the Netherlands visiting family and friends, and I even had the opportunity to write a post and share a recipe. I usually don’t take my laptop with me, but I knew I would have some free time and wanted to make sure I would get the recipe to you before returning home. I also picked up the Allerhande form “Apie Heijn” from which I plan to make a few dishes. The supermarket, really named Albert Heijn, is probably my favourite in Europe, and has the prettiest produce, meats and dairy products. They also have a lot of bio (organic) products; and it’s always a delight to shop at them in the Netherlands.

On Monday, we were near Groningen, where my husband had a dentist appointment and we later drove to Frankfurt that evening. It feels like coming home in many ways when we are in Germany, at least it does for me. And this time of year is even more special, as the Christmas markets are starting to pop up everywhere. So while my husband worked, I wandered around the city, visiting my favourite shops, enjoyed a delicious Paleo breakfast at the Hauptwache Cafe and later a Thai lunch at Coa in the Zeil Shopping Center. If you’ve been to Frankfurt, you know this building is incredibly cool. The façade is made of glass plaques, as is the ceiling and parts of the interior.

The architecture in the center of Frankfurt is an interesting mixture of renovated old buildings and very modern structures, such as this one, and the Jumeirah Hotel behind it. The city is known as “Mainhattan” as it’s probably the closest thing to Manhattan in Europe, being a financial business center with many skyscrapers. (Main is for the River Main.) By the way, when we lived here and visited the city museum, we learned that over 60% of Frankfurt was bombed and destroyed during World War II. So many of those old buildings that look like they were built in centuries past are actually rather new.

From the center of Germany, we drove to Seewalchen, in Austria, where my husband had a meeting the following day. We had been to the Salzkammergut area before, visiting Gmunden on the Traunsee, so I knew that we were headed to beautiful scenery and landscapes. And I wasn’t disappointed. Seewalchen is right on the northern tip of Attersee, a beautiful lake surrounded by the Austrian Alpes. The water is crystal clear and drinkable!

So, on Wednesday, I enjoyed a day to myself and explored the neighbouring villages and a visit to the Gustav Klimt Center in Schörfling am Attersee.

Klimt is one of my favourite artists. When I worked in NYC at a private bank, my team and I processed the loan for the famous Adele Bloch-Bauer painting, which now hangs at the Neue Gallerie in NYC. Since seeing that painting in person, I was hooked on anything Klimt. Yet visiting the Center on Attersee helped me learn a lot more about the artist himself and his lifestyle. He was a very interesting and bohemian person, designing women’s clothing and even wearing many of the gowns himself (oftentimes without undergarments!). Many of these gowns, designed by Klimt and created by Emilie Flöge, his lifetime partner of sorts,  “show up” in his illustrations and portraits of women.

Gustav Klimt, along with number of Austrian artists such as Egon Schiele, was one of the most important spokespersons and artists of the Jugendstil art movement in Austria. He spent many summers at Attersee, where he mostly painted landscapes, including the Schloss Kammer.

Walking in Klimt’s footsteps in the towns of Attersee am Attersee, Schörfling and Weyregg and bringing to life many of his paintings was an incredible experience for me. Unfortunately the Center doesn’t have any original works on display; due to conservations reasons, the illustrations are all lithographs. To see the fascinating originals and especially the works of his “golden phase”, one must visit museums or be lucky enough to see a special exhibit or have the money to purchase pieces of his oeuvre…

The day after my excursion through the summers of Klimt, we drove off early in the morning to squeeze in a little bit of skiing at Obertauern in the Austrian Alps. There was fresh snow with some ice patches and chilling temperatures of -12C, but we managed to go down the slopes a few times. Well, my husband did. I went up and down once, as it was a bit too cold for me and the “bunny slope”, where I like to start off only offered a T-bar lift, which I hate.

We spent the evening and night in Nürnberg, where we walked around the Christmas market, had some Nürnberger sausages, a glass of Glühwein, and dinner at the Barfüßer Bräuhaus. We ate a very typical German fare of Schweinehaxe (pork knuckle) and suckling pig accompanied by Kloß (called Knödel in other parts of Germany) and red cabbage. Needless to say, we were satiated after dinner. 😉

Friday morning we took off early in the morning again, so that my husband and a colleague could be in time for a meeting near Mannheim. And I strolled around along the Planken, the main shopping street, and the Christmas market. It had been around 20 years since I was last in Mannheim, back then for work with Elizabeth Arden. I didn’t recognise a thing…

On Saturday, we once again were in the Netherlands, where we visited family in Arnhem and ate the best and most fresh, raw herrings at Gamba, a beautiful fishmonger, which is quickly becoming our favourite and a ritual. I indulged in two harings, one right after the other, whilst my husband also enjoyed some kibbling, deep fried cod. Dinner was very traditional Dutch for this time of year: some hutspot (boiled potatoes, carrots and onions with bacon bits of course) and boerenkool met worst (boiled potatoes and kale with Dutch sausage), which my husband’s cousin made for us. It was delicious. We used to make it often at home, and both are the first Dutch dishes that I learned to make after meeting my husband. They are hearty and perfect for a cold winter evening. I promise to make them at home soon and share the recipes with you.

We returned to the island on Sunday, with a short detour on our way to London via the Cliffs of Dover. When we were relocated to the UK in January of 2012, our first trip over with our car was onboard a ferry from Calais to Dover. I was very apprehensive of the Chunnel back then and figured that a boat crossing would be much safer than going inside a train that’s inside a tunnel that is below the earth that is below the water…since then, we’ve used only the Chunnel for making the road trip back to Continental Europe, and I must say that I love it. Well, love may be too strong of a description… more like I tolerate it with more pleasure than originally thought since it’s a very quick journey of about 35 minutes in that train that is inside a tunnel under the earth that’s under the water… (it’s best not to think about all that).

The Chunnel takes off from Folkestone; so, we had not been back to Dover since our first crossing. And after this excursion, we have promised ourselves to return as there is so much more to see than we thought. I hope to make a weekend out of it and see the surrounding area as well.

On our detour, we had time to walk on top of the cliffs, where there are a number of paths through beautiful fields filled with rabbit holes, some sheep in the distance, and the gorgeous and grey North Sea just below the White Cliffs. The scenery is magnificent; and although one walks almost on the edge of the cliffs at times, it’s actually not even scary, but rather peaceful and energising. If you do go, remember to wear proper footwear, as it can be muddy. I was wearing clogs (not the right footwear) and slipped on our way back to the parking lot and ended up with muddy pants, shoes and hands. 😉

Coincidently, we ate lunch at the same hotel where we spent the first night in the UK, the Dover Marina. They were serving a Sunday roast carvery lunch and were all primped up for Christmas… just the perfect ending to a perfect trip just before the holidays.

On Monday, it was back to reality of an almost empty fridge and longing for someone else to prepare my breakfast. Fortunately, we still had eggs left (I checked them in water before using them) and plenty of almond flour. So, I invented these pancakes on the spot. I guess you could call them a basic recipe, since you can add more ingredients to them and experiment with different toppings.

Hope you enjoy!

BASIC PALEO ALMOND FLOUR PANCAKES, WITH PLUMS

Ingredients, makes 8 medium-sized pancakes:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 4 plums, peeled and cut into slices or chunks (optional)
  • butter, coconut oil or fat of choice for frying

Method:

Heat a skillet over low heat. Lightly beat the eggs with a hand whisk or fork.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add the butter to the skillet and melt. Pour the pancake mixture by spoonfuls onto the skillet. Cook until the pancakes start to bubble, then flip over and cook all the way through, about a few minutes on each side. Serve with maple syrup, if desired.

*****

TORTITAS AMERICANAS, TIPO PALEO CON ALMENDRAS MOLIDAS Y CIRUELAS FRESCAS

Ingredientes, para como 8 tortitas americanas:

  • 4 huevos
  • 1 taza (250ml) almendras molidas (muy finamente molidas, lo que se llama harina de almendras)
  • 2 cucharaditas de zumo de limón
  • 1/2 cuchardita de bicarbonato de soda
  • una pizca de sal marina
  • 4 ciruelas, peladas y cortadas a lascas o pedacitos (opcional)
  • mantequilla, aceite de coco o la grasa que prefieras, para hacer las tortitas

Como hacer las tortitas americanas:

Calienta una sartén sobre fuego lento.  Bate un poco los huevos con un tenedor o una batidora de mano. Añade los demás ingredientes y mezcla todo bien. Pon un poco de mantequilla o aceite de coco sobre la sartén hasta que se derrita. Pon una cucharada y media (de las grandes) de masa por cada tortita. Deja que la masa empiece a hacer burbujas y entonces dale la vuelta. Se fríe o cuece unos minutos por cada lado. Se sirve con sirope de arce, si se desea.

Paleo Beetroot Cake

The other night, I made the most delicious duck with roasted beetroot and sweet potatoes. We love duck, but usually are boring and only make it a l’orange. But in my search for something different, I stumbled upon a recipe to make it with lavender and I was hooked! I bought some edible flowers last year and every chance I get to use them, I jump on the opportunity. I love the aromas and the gourmet touch they provide.

However, I didn’t take good pictures of the duck dish. So that means, we’ll have to be making it again (darn ;-P) for lunch this time, and then I’ll be able to share with all of you the exquisite, aromatic recipe!

Anyway, I had a bunch of left over pre-cooked beets and really didn’t want to use them in salads and such. Google came to the rescue and I found an interesting flourless cake from Elana’s Pantry. I made it immediately and although I loved its flavour and texture, I did find it somewhat too moist to serve as a cake.

Here’s what I consider my improvement upon the original. I’ve made changes for a number of reasons, aside from the moisture issue: I used olive oil, instead of grapseed oil, which I’ve read about and it is not considered a healthy fat; I used raw honey, instead of the agave nectar, which is also not considered that healthy, and here’s why; and finally, I added spices, coconut flour for the moisture, and baking soda to make it more of a cake.

I hope you give it a try and let me know what you think. We loved it!

For original recipe from Elana’s Pantry, please click here.

PALEO BEETROOT CAKE

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of grated, cooked beetroots
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raw 100% cacao powder
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour (for a slightly fluffier and dryer cake, use 1/2 cup coconut flour)*

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 170C (350F).
  2. In a food processor or blender, beat the beetroots, eggs and olive oil.
  3. Add the honey, vanilla extract, baking soda, sea salt and spices. Blend well.
  4. Add the cacao powder and coconut flour and mix until well incorporated.
  5. Pour into a greased cake pan of choice. I used a 9-inch diameter tart pan.
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely before cutting and serving. Garnish as desired.

*I’ve made this cake both ways, with more and less coconut flour. I really can’t say which I prefer, as I love both. I would suggest making it both ways and deciding for yourself too!

Spanish Sweet Potato Tortilla

This is a dish that everywhere you go in Spain, you can find in all the bars and restaurants. Spanish tortilla is the typical “go-to” meal when you’re in a hurry or have nothing else to make. In fact, we call it “un plato socorrido”, which means when you’re in a bind, you make this.

It’s the dish mothers make to take on beach picnics (usually inside a crusty loaf of Spanish bread), on camping trips, to El Rocio pilgrimage… and the best part about Spanish tortilla is that you can make it in a variety of ways, depending on the ingredients you have on hand or that you want to put in it.

The traditional one is made with white potatoes and eggs only, and it’s the one combination of which I’m not really fond. I seem to be the “weird one” whenever I say that… but it just doesn’t do it for me. Growing up, my friend Inma’s mother, Kety, used to make the best “pizza” tortilla with some pretty cool herbs and spices that resembled a pizza so much more than even the real pizza itself, plus ten times healthier without the wheat dough, of course.

Whenever I make tortilla, I’m always looking to innovate, since as I’ve just said the tried and traditional one is just not my cup of tea….

The one I’m sharing with you today is a far cry from the traditional, but all the tastier and more fun to enjoy!

The rule to keep in mind when making Spanish tortilla is that for every cup of potato or ingredient, you should use one whole egg. I also like to add an extra beaten egg white or two to create a spongier or fluffier effect.

SPANISH SWEET POTATO TORTILLA

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, diced (about 2 large sweet potatoes)
  • 1 cup white potato, diced (about 1 medium potato – optional)
  • 5 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1 egg white, beaten to soft peaks
  • 2 cups wild rocket & lambs lettuce mix (you can also substitute with spinach leaves or another green of choice)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, cubed
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • additional olive oil

Process 

  1. Locate a plate or a lid that is about the same circumference as the nonstick skillet pan you will be using. This will be used for flipping the tortilla.
  2. In a wok or deep pan, heat the 1 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the sweet potato and white potato and a pinch of sea salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, but not brown.
  3. In the meantime, whisk the eggs (if using egg whites, whisk those separately until very soft peaks) in a medium bowl.
  4. Drain the potatoes from the oil and add them to the beaten eggs, along with the wild rocket & lettuce lamb (or spinach). Add the feta cheese and give it all a stir to incorporate well.
  5. In a nonstick skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and make sure it is well spread across the skillet and all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  6. While cooking, with a spatula or wooden spoon, press the sides of the tortilla inward.
  7. Cook about 2 minutes. Then place the plate or lid on top and flip the tortilla. Slide it back into the skillet with the uncooked side towards the heat.
  8. Cook an additional 2 minutes. And while cooking, once again, press the sides of the tortilla inward.
  9. I flipped mine twice on each side, cooking about 2 minutes each time, for a total of about 8 minutes. (I like my tortilla well done and not runny. Should you like yours a bit more runny, cook less time on each side.)
  10. Gently slide the tortilla onto a clean serving plate. Allow to cool about 10 minutes before cutting. It can be eaten warm or cold.

tortilla for breakfast the next day… just as yummy cold!

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