Saturday, April 28, 2018

Going Zero Waste, Part 2: 5 R's of Zero Waste

Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer on Unsplash
Once we learned that our recycling wasn't actually being recycled like we thought, we began to really look at our lifestyle and evaluate what we were doing well and identify areas of improvement. I used the zero waste principles of 5 R's, often credited to Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home:


Refuse

Refuse means to refuse to accept or bring in materials that create waste, things that you do not need. This means not purchasing items packaged in non-recyclable or non-compostable materials (plastic), single use items such as plastic straws or utensils, paper cups (bring your own reusable service items), freebies such as samples in plastic bottles, etc.

Did you know your favorite coffee place will probably fill your coffee bean canister with new coffee beans if you bring it in? Alan discovered this with Peet's Coffee--his favorite--they are thrilled to grind up beans for him and put it in the bamboo Peet's Coffee canister we've been dumping the bag of ground coffee into right after we'd gotten home and then tossed the bag. They even give him a discount for doing it as it saves them on having to use a costly coffee bean bag. I'm sure it also helps that he announces, "I'm saving the planet!" with outstretched arms when he's greeted at the counter to place his coffee bean order (anyone who knows him can totally picture this, I'm certain)!!

Reduce

Downsize, limiting yourself to the things you really do need, reducing quantities to what you need, reducing consumption. This includes resisting the urge for shopping as therapy, only buy things you really need, limit length of showers, run full laundry loads instead of multiple smaller ones, walk instead of drive, checkout books from the library instead of buying them, read books and newspapers online or on a personal device like a Kindle. Also buy food from bulk bins in your own containers or mesh bags rather than in packaging.

Reuse

Select things that can be reused over and over for the same or different purpose. Use reusable containers for food storage and service, carry a reusable water and/or coffee cup with you, use cloth napkins and towels instead of paper napkins or paper towels, repurpose used or worn out items, like turning old socks or towels into rags, have furniture reupholstered instead of replaced.

Rot

Compost! Build a compost bin or even a worm bin to build beautiful compost for your garden and landscaping. Paper napkins and paper towels are compostable (although using cloth napkins and towels reduces production energy use and conserves trees), as are bamboo toothbrushes, walnut dish scrubbies, loofah sponges, floor sweepings, vacuum bag dust, hair, and even clothing made from cotton, linen, and denim (cut into small pieces and add to your compost). You can build a food digester and put outside that animals can't get into and nourish your soil. Most communities have yard debris/food waste pickup too, which they turn into compost you or others can purchase back later.

Recycle

Choose recycled products, buy items from a secondhand store, thrift store, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace instead of buying new--and sell or donate your things this way rather than throwing them out. Use rechargeable batteries.

As I mentioned, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau adds three more R's to her list:

Replace

Replace disposable/throw-away items with durable, high-quality items as they wear out. For example, perhaps you're using a restaurant take-out container to take your lunch to work. When it wears out, find a durable replacement, like a metal bento box or glass container that will last years and years. Buy items with lifetime warranties, like Briggs & Riley luggage (Alan travels for work and his bag has flown over a million miles over ten years; it has been damaged several times when checked, the zipper has broken, and rolling wheel bearings have gone out. Briggs & Riley gives him a spare and repairs his bag for FREE!).

Repair

Dental Plastic handle!
We've become a disposable society--when things wear out, we toss them and buy new. But oftentimes, things can be repaired. Take shoes to a cobbler for new soles, for example. The library system where I live recently hosted a repair clinic where you could bring a broken or non-working item in and they had tools and experts to help fix them--communities are hosting these all over the place.

My grandfather was the poster child of this concept--as a retired oral surgeon, he fixed or made everything with dental plastic, including an electric mixer I had in college, my grandma's electric slicer (made from parts he found at Goodwill), and my parents' first dishwasher. I still have a standard screwdriver with a half denture-gum-pink repaired handle he made decades ago! While I realize using dental plastic is just more plastic, I just want to share how the concept of repairing something rather than tossing it is something previous generations valued and we've lost. This screwdriver will certainly live for the next 500 years!

Rely

Become more self-reliant. Learn how to cook dried beans instead of buying canned beans, make bread, learn how to can food, grow herbs and vegetables in containers on your patio, etc. It doesn't have to be difficult and I find it really satisfying to do these things.

The key is to take small steps--you can't make this change overnight. We're all going to start out with heaps of non-Zero Waste things, the key is to transition to better options as we use those up. If you have a new package of paper towels from Costco, don't throw them away, use them up, compost after use, and then don't replace them when they're gone. Same with paper napkins, use what you have and switch to cloth. Little changes can make a big difference, and many little changes make a big change.

We're not perfect. We're finding things we are struggling with and have to figure out how to accommodate the change. But already we've found it satisfying, fun, and even saves us money! Have fun and have more money?!? Sign me up!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Going Zero Waste, Part 1

Photo by Denise Johnson on Unsplash
I want to share with you my journey in my relationship with garbage, how it has changed over the years, and what I am doing now. It is a continuum, a learning curve, and a paradigm shift over the years as I have learned really what happens to garbage and recycling (just more garbage). My goal is to share with others what I have learned, what I'm changing, and that the journey to zero waste is challenging, rewarding, humbling, and an imperfect process. I may not ever get to zero waste, but I'm sure working to reduce our waste to tiniest amount we can actually achieve, and that's awesome.

Nine years ago I embarked on a journey to reduce trash at my house. It wasn't necessarily due to a desire to reduce my carbon footprint or save the planet, I was newly divorced and trying to find ways to save money. Garbage was expensive, buying brand and packaged items was expensive, so I thought I'd try to find ways to reduce all that and shrink my monthly expenditures.

I was very successful in reducing my commercial garbage pickup costs. In fact, the first thing I did was to cancel garbage service altogether...before I really figured it all out. Fortunately, I lived in an unincorporated area of the county and was not required to have garbage service, so I actually could cancel it, but not every place allows that. I could do this because I lived just a couple miles from a regional garbage transfer and recycling cycling center that allowed self-hauling of garbage and recyclables.

In order to self-haul my garbage and recycling, I had to sort all my refuse and I mean down to the brown glass from green glass from clear glass, batteries, pop cans, tin cans, etc. So I bought some handy stacking bins and turned an area of my garage into my refuse sorting area. Non-recyclable trash went into a big garbage can and food waste all went into a big compost bin I built in my garden. Being vegan, there was no food waste in my garbage as I could compost any food waste I had, so my garbage didn't stink. I stored up all my sorted (sordid?) trash until the bins were full, then loaded them up in my utility trailer and took them to the transfer center. Recycling was free to drop off, so that went first, then I took the generally single bag of trash (non-recyclables) I had to the garbage side, paid the minimum weight fee of $17 and dumped that. It took seven months for me to acquire enough refuse to make a run to the transfer station, effectively cutting my annual garbage bill from $450 to $30. That made this single gal very happy indeed!

Besides reducing my garbage bill, I also decided to make my own cleaners. My mom was a great resource as she was working on a volunteer project with the health department in her town to teach people how to reduce indoor air pollution, so I got recipes from her as well as researching online. I made my own laundry detergent, cleaning spray, linen spray, dishwasher detergent, etc. for pennies on the dollar spent on commercial products.

The final step was reducing trash when purchasing things I needed from the store. There were several facets to this. Being in a metro area, I had access to some stores that had a large amount of bulk bins. I changed to reusable grocery bags, acquired mesh produce bags when I realized just how many plastic produce bags were filling my non-recyclable garbage bag, and filled these up with things from the bulk bins. Being a canner, I had a mass amount of canning jars and used those to store these things in my pantry. I grew my produce, canned and froze what I needed for winter, and shopped at local farmers markets for items I didn't grow myself.

I felt pretty dang good about myself! And I saved a good chunk of change that made single life easier.

And then I met Alan, retired, and moved up to live with him. This changed things because now I lived in an area where we were required to have municipal garbage service. And we lived in a condo that didn't allow for a big compost bin on the back patio (plus we had bears). Furthermore, we didn't have room in the garage for my garbage sorting activities and the transfer station was miles and miles away. Talk about making a girl sad... However, I did things to help reduce our garbage bill. I called our garbage service and got a smaller sized garbage can, got a larger recycling bin, and signed us up for the smallest yard debris container available so we could send our food waste to compost instead of tossing in the trash. That third step, the yard debris container, turned into a disaster. We put our food waste in it, set out the can diligently the night before garbage pickup day, and week after week the garbage hauler failed to pick it up. We called every week, they accused us of not putting it out on time, but in the end, it turned out that being the ONLY yard debris container on a dead-end street in a condo complex, they just wouldn't come down and pick it up. It literally turned into a rotting, stinking mess and we had them take it away permanently, which infuriated me.

We have since moved out of the condo and still have garbage service, but now the garbage hauler picks up our yard debris container weekly. We have downsized our garbage can to the smallest size and they have out a 20-gallon insert inside, but we don't even come close to filling that. We usually have about 2-4 cups of trash a week, and as we are learning, we can do better. We'd prefer that they only pick up our trash once a month, to reduce cost, but they don't have that as an option. But, I have just learned that garbage service is not mandatory where we live now, so in theory, we could get to the point where we can shut that off and take what little we accumulate to the transfer station ourselves, much like I did when I lived alone. We have the largest size recycling bin which is picked up every other week and large yard debris container that is picked up every week, but are making steps to reducing those. Our goal is to compost more at home and have less waste to put in the recycling bin, thus just keeping a small recycling service and stopping garbage and yard debris.

Alan and I have been really proud of our waste reduction, really proud! Our garbage can was nearly empty every week and our recycling bin full of paper and recyclable containers. But then two things happened: The Seattle Times reported the reality of our paper recycling and we attended a Seattle Zero Waste event and learned the actual recyclability of the things we put into our recycling bin.

The Seattle Times articles (Oct. 30, 2017 and Mar. 29, 2018) were shocking! Turns out, all the paper we have been putting into our recycling bin had been shipped to China (we thought it was recycled here in the US and even locally). But what's worse, is that because our paper recyclables are so soiled, China won't even accept our paper recycling anymore and the paper we have been sending off in our recycling bin has been going to the dump, not recycled at all! We were horrified and realized we hadn't been paying attention to what happened to our waste once it left our bins.

Then we learned the truth behind plastic recycling. Of all the plastic that is sent to recycling, only about 9% of that is actually recycled, the rest is put in the dump (see this National Geographic article). And if the plastic is recycled, it is made into products that aren't even recyclable in the future, such as plastic furniture. Like paper, plastic recyclables are sent to China where air quality standards are not as stringent, allowing fumes from plastic incineration and processing into the atmosphere (more info here). The oceans are becoming full of plastic, a material that we guess will take over 400 years to degrade, in fact NOAA reports there are multiple "islands" of plastic floating on Earth's oceans. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2050 plastic in our oceans will outweigh the fish population, if we keep our current rate of consumption.

Talk about popping our bubble of thinking we were doing the right things! Turns out, simply recycling materials is not the answer, there's more to the solution than that. Zero Waste principles, the 5 R's, look at other means of waste reduction, putting recycling low on the list:
  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle
  • Rot
I will go over these principles in detail a later post about applying zero waste principles to your life. Interestingly, a vegan author I've followed for years, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, has just embraced zero waste and has started podcasting and blogging about her transition too. She adds a couple more R's to the list above, which I think are very pertinent, and also moves Rot up in importance:
  • Replace
  • Repair
  • Rely
Again, those will be discussed in the next part.

Thank you for sticking with my long-winded story of my relationship history with trash. My next post will cover what we are doing now and what we are planning to do in order to become more zero waste and better stewards of our planet.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Vegan Yogurt


When I went vegan 10 years ago, vegan yogurt didn't exist, at least where we lived. In fact, I remember my mom telling me she was going vegan but that she was going to keep eating dairy yogurt because she enjoyed it and had no other alternative. Several years later commercial brands showed up in our stores--yay! But, like most processed foods, they often contained a lot of sugar and additives I just didn't want to eat, although there are some plain, additive-free vegan yogurts out there now.

However, making your own vegan yogurt isn't all that difficult! And you don't need to go out and buy a fancy yogurt making machine...you likely have what you need at home already!

The things you need when making vegan yogurt are soy milk, vegan yogurt starter, and a way to keep the mix warm while it turns into yogurt.

The Milk

What I and many people have found is that soy milk makes the best vegan yogurt without having to add thickeners. I've tried coconut milk, cashew milk, blends, etc., and pure soy milk has the best outcome. You want an unsweetened organic soy milk that is made only with soy beans and water, no sugar, no oils, no additives whatsoever. I can get Westbrae where I live. You want to make sure that you buy the Westbrae with only filtered water and organic soy--they have another carton that looks just like this but it has additional ingredients, so make sure and check the ingredients label.

Right now, we buy this soymilk by the case (our local IGA will do that for us and we get discounted pricing for it). Even though I can recycle the tetra pak container where I live, I hate having that much waste, so I am getting ready to purchase a soy milk maker and organic soy beans in bulk to be more zero waste in my yogurt making. 

Vegan Yogurt Starter

You can buy vegan yogurt starters or probiotic capsules to start your yogurt process, but what I have found to be the easiest and best way is to use already made vegan yogurt--yes, use yogurt to make more yogurt! Probiotic capsules can be tricky because while the packaging tells you how many live cultures there are, that is generally the amount at the time of manufacture, not at the time you buy or use it. Why does matter? Well, there's no guarantee that the product was shipped or stored in a way that kept those cultures alive--you may be buying dead cultures. I have found yogurt to be much more consistent. Just make sure the container you buy has live, active cultures. It doesn't have to be soy or plain vegan yogurt, it can be flavored and sweetened. And after your first batch, you no longer have to buy starter yogurt, you'll just use some of yours you made! 

The Incubator

This is where you have lots of options. You can make yogurt in an Instant Pot that has the yogurt setting (it won't work in an Instant Pot that doesn't have this setting, it gets too hot and kills the cultures), a crock pot, or a food dehydrator. The directions vary just a bit depending on what device you use.

In any case, I've found that a 1:3 ratio works well for me, that is 1 part yogurt to 3 parts soy milk. I make large batches with 1 quart yogurt to 3 quarts soy milk, but you can easily do smaller, like 8 oz. yogurt to 24 oz. soy milk. So as we go along, that is the ratio I would be using in the directions.

Instant Pot - Simply combine the starter yogurt and soy milk (1:3 ratio) and stir to incorporate. You can either pour this starter liquid into jars or directly into the Instant Pot (I just pour into the Instant Pot because I like to strain the yogurt later for really, really thick Greek-style yogurt and then put into jars). Put the lid on the Instant Pot, it doesn't matter if the sealing ring is in or not and doesn't matter what position the vent is in either because you're not pressure cooking this, just using the Instant Pot to maintain a temperature to grow yogurt cultures. Do NOT put the trivet in and do NOT add any water to the Instant Pot around the jars. Hit the "Yogurt" button and set the time you want it to go. I use 6 hours. You'll want to experiment and see how tangy you want your yogurt to be and how long it takes before it goes too long and separates (6-12 hours, but most people do about 6-8. Mine separates out at 10 hours).
Crock Pot - Put your soy milk (3 quarts) in the crock pot and turn the crock pot to low for 2-1/2 hours to slowly heat up the milk. Then turn the crock pot off and let the milk sit in the crock for 2 hours. Then add the starter yogurt (1 quart) and stir to combine. Remove the crock from the cooker, wrap it in towels and keep in a warm place for 6-10 hours (some people put the towel-wrapped crock in their oven with the oven OFF for this time, but with my firefighting background, I just can't do that!!). You can keep on your kitchen counter if your kitchen is warm and not drafty, or set by a fireplace, away from getting too hot. This is how my mom makes her vegan yogurt with Westbrae organic soy milk and some of her own yogurt as starter and it comes out beautifully!
Food Dehydrator - I have an Excalibur food dehydrator which has lots of room for jars and others do too. For this method, I combine the starter yogurt and soy milk (1:3 ration), stir, and pour into clean jars. I put the lid on the jars and set them in the dehydrator and turn it on to 100 degrees. Let them go for 6-10 hours, checking to see when they are tangy enough for your taste. Note, if you set it too hot, the mixture will separate and curdle and not make good yogurt.
Once the yogurt tanginess is to your liking, you can put into jars and refrigerate, unless you already have it in jars, then just refrigerate!

If you like thick, Greek-style yogurt, you'll want to strain the liquid "whey" off; you can do it now or after refrigerating. It's super simple. I line a mesh strainer or regular colander with a flour sack towel or paper towel (my flour sack towels were stained so I used paper towels for the photo!!), set it over the sink or a bowl, pour in the yogurt, and let drain until it gets to the desired thickness, then spoon into jars.



You can store your yogurt plain or doctor it up. We like "fruit on the bottom" yogurt, so I use little 8-ounce containers, put frozen or fresh fruit on the bottom, sprinkle on ground flax seed (because it's a great way to get flax in your daily diet), cover with plain yogurt, and drizzle on a bit of maple syrup for sweetness. After a few hours, the yogurt settles into the fruit and things get all happy. When you want yogurt, just pull the container out, stir, and eat, just like store-bought.

Enjoy! Just make sure you leave enough to make your next batch!


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

SAC Sprint Tri 2018


It's been a long time since I did a triathlon race report! This was my first triathlon since Ironman Tahoe 2012, after which I had health issues that have prevented me from participating in a lot of sport activities that I love. I've been feeling really good this winter and had been swimming since my late-December surgery and had started running again after being cleared the beginning of March.

The SAC Tri came across my Facebook page mid-March and it seemed like a great one for me to ease back into triathlon. Like the Beaver Freezer that I've done several times at Oregon State University, this tri has a pool swim with an outdoor bike and outdoor run and it was a Sprint distance. It was held at the Snohomish Aquatic Center, a pool I had recently heard of, and it is a phenomenal facility! This was the inaugural event for this triathlon, so that made it even more fun!

The Swim - 500 yards - 11:22.8 (Includes exiting pool and run into T1)

The swim started immediately after the race briefing, and for some reason this threw me a little bit. Generally you have about 15 minutes between the briefing and starting, so this made me feel rushed. They had two swimmers per lane, side-by-side, so you didn't have to try to pass a slower swimmer in your lane. My swim felt good, Alan stood at the side and cheered. Because I felt rushed, I guess, I kept looking at my lap counter ring on my finger, which drove Alan crazy. So I could've shaved some time off my swim if I had been more confident in my lap counting!

The pool is a competition pool, so it's deep to allow swimmers to dive off the starting blocks. They instructed us to pull ourselves out of the pool at the end of our lane when we finished our swim or swim over to the ladder on the side to exit. Well it's deep and I just decided that being in lane 9 out of 10 it would just be more efficient for me to take a moment to swim to the ladder to get out. I'm glad I did as some people struggled with getting out at the end of the lane.

T1 - 2:02.5

Being an early season tri and 39 degrees at the start, I had a lot of clothing options set up in transition. But, the sun was out and despite choosing loose things that I could try to put over my wet tri kit, I ended up forgoing most of them. I put on my winter cycling jacket, an under-helmet beanie to keep my wet head warm, but couldn't get my winter cycling gloves or socks on, so I went sockless and gloveless! But in my exasperation in trying, I forgot to put on my racing glasses, but it turned out okay, thankfully (no bugs, no pollen).

The Bike - 13.5 miles - 59:57.3


No glasses--oops!
So I haven't been on my bike since last summer and hadn't even been in a spin class since my surgery! That being the case, I figured OJ the road bike would be the best choice for this race, and it was so the right decision! My goal was to complete the bike in an hour, and I did exactly that. But my gearing was terrible and I even dropped my chain on a downhill after a short little climb (it totally made me laugh as I got off my bike to fix it)!

My legs and hands were cold during the ride, which I expected since I didn't put riding pants or gloves on. The legs felt ok after a while and only my thumbs were frozen...

T2 - 2:04.3

I took the time to sit and put socks on for the run, as I don't ever run without socks. However, I packed my running socks, not tri socks, so they were a bit of a struggle to put on in a hurry. Oh the things you remember during your first tri back after a six year break! But I did get my racing glasses on for the run this time.

The Run - 3.1 mile - 31:43.9

As I hadn't cycled for a while and it was cold, my legs were like lead during the run. I felt like I was standing still most of the time but my Garmin said I was running a 8:35-9:00 mile, which is too fast for me during the run of my first sprint tri back. I couldn't regulate my speed at all, so I ended up doing intervals of running  0.2 miles and walking 0.05 miles for most of the run.

About 2.25 miles in I started my walking interval and a runner behind me shouted, "NO! Don't walk, you're doing this, RUN!" I know he had the best of intentions, but I was running MY race, knowing my body and what I'd been through the past six years. So I simply shouted back, "I AM doing this!" and he replied, "Yes, you are." At the time I was a little pissed off about it, but I know he meant well. It was a great reminder to me about how to motivate people and that you don't always know their story. Just being in this race was a monumental accomplishment for me and took a lot of humility to not be upset for being slow or walking occasionally.


I did it! Back into Triathlon!

Lessons Learned
  • Thank goodness I had my old laminated checklist I made years ago in my tri bag so I knew what to pack! There were things I hadn't remembered were important and I would've been sunk without!
  • Try not to get rattled. This is unusual for me in a triathlon, but was due to having not done one for a long time. Getting rattled made me not trust my lap count and forget racing glasses during the bike. Just relax!
  • Pack triathlon socks! They're so much easier to put on when feet are damp!
  • Maybe get winter riding gloves in a larger size for early season triathlons so I can get them on!
  • Always run your own race and let others run theirs.
  • Be thankful for the ability to be out there doing it!
  • Oh...and get back on the bike training!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Sweet Potato Tortillas!

Purple Sweet Potato Tortillas (left) and Flat Bread (right)

As promised, here are the directions and recipe for the Sweet Potato Tortillas I posted on Facebook earlier this week. They are soooo delicious and worth the little bit of time it takes to make them. We never buy tortillas at the store anymore, these are just too good. And bonus, they freeze great, so I make a big batch and freeze them after they've cooled.

For this batch, I used Stokes purple sweet potatoes. These are purple on the outside and purple-fleshed on the inside. But you can use any type and color of sweet potato. You can even use squash--kabocha squash is actually my favorite for making tortillas because the flesh is so meaty, sweet, and a beautiful orange. Stokes purple sweet potatoes are kind of hard to find, I usually find the Japanese sweet potatoes which are purple on the outside but creamy white on the inside. I found Stokes at PCC Market in Redmond, Washington and typically buy Japanese sweet potatoes by the case at Uwajimaya in Bellevue, Washington (you can buy them individually but we eat a lot of sweet potatoes at our house!). Many grocery stores and Asian markets carry different varieties of sweet potatoes.

The first thing you need to do is cook your potatoes or squash. It's up to you what method to use. You can peel and chunk the potatoes up and boil them or cook in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot until soft. For the Instant Pot, add 1/4 cup of water, put the potato chunks on the trivet or in a steamer basket, cook on high pressure 2-3 minutes and then quick release. You can also roast the potatoes in the oven, leaving them whole, slicing an "X" in the peel, and bake at 400 degrees F until soft on a piece of parchment or silicon baking mat on a baking sheet (the potatoes will ooze a sticky liquid from the "X" cut while baking and will get all over your oven if you just bake them on the rack. It's easier to clean your baking sheet if it's protected with parchment or silicon mat.). If you use squash, I typically roast them in the oven, cutting them in half, scooping out the seeds, putting cut side down on parchment paper or silicon baking mat on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F until soft, about 45-60 minutes.




Once baked, mash the sweet potatoes or squash. I like to use a ricer so I get a really nice mash without lumps or stringy fibers. I've found they mash better when warm, so let your cooked potatoes or squash cool a bit and mash them up.












Next you'll add an equal measure of flour to your mash, i.e. if you have 4 cups mash, add four cups flour. So it makes it nice for adjusting the recipe if you only want to make a few or a lot. I use whole wheat pastry flour, but you can use any flour you like, even gluten-free flour mixes. Add a pinch of salt too, if you'd like. 

Then mix with your hands. It's a gooey mess at first and you'll think it's never going to come together! I use one hand to mix and keep the other hand clean so I can scoop more flour to add if I need to.






It eventually turns into a beautiful silky dough! You want a smooth consistency that is not sticky but not dry. I turn the dough out of the bowl and knead on the counter on flour, a little at a time, when the dough is no longer lumpy and chunky like the picture above. This way I don't get too much flour mixed in. And I knead for a few minutes to develop the gluten, like with mixing other bread doughs.

Next the dough needs to rest for about 15 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb moisture from the sweet potato and allow the gluten to relax. I simply flip my mixing bowl over to cover or you can use a towel or plastic wrap.








After the dough has rested, you'll notice it seems more moist, but it's not sticky. Cut your dough into equal sizes and roll into golf-ball-sized balls. Cover the balls so they don't dry out.

If you want to make flatbread, use more dough to make the balls.








To roll out the tortillas, flatten a dough ball in your hands and then put on floured surface. Flip to get flour on both sides. Then roll out with a floured rolling pin. You'll need to flip the dough every couple of rolls so you get a nice floured surface, otherwise the dough will stick on your counter. 

You can roll them into round shapes, but mine often come out square and odd-shaped--we love them that way! Actually, we think they roll up into burritos easier if rectangular shaped! That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!





Plop those bad boys on a preheated griddle or pan. After a minute or so, they'll start to puff up, letting you know it's time to flip. Use tongs to flip them as those puffed areas can release steam and really burn your fingers badly (speaking from experience!). 

You'll notice they get the characteristic brown spots on them just like store-bought tortillas. Once both sides are cooked, stack them on a plate while you cook the rest. 







If you want to make flatbread, just roll them out to your desired thickness and cook the same way. They will take a couple minutes longer per side. We use thicker ones for naan, pizzas, pitas, etc.









I am experimenting now on making Sweet Potato Corn Tortillas, thanks to a friend's suggestion. I did try just subbing masa flour for whole wheat pastry flour, and they came out good, but I think I need to research this a little more as they weren't as tender as I would like. But they tasted awesome! So stay tuned....




Recipe:

Sweet Potato or Winter Squash Tortillas
yields approx. 24 tortillas

4 Cups mashed sweet potatoes or winter squash
4 Cups flour of choice (whole wheat pastry or gluten-free), plus extra for rolling out
pinch of salt, optional, to taste

Knead together all ingredients to achieve a non-sticky dough. Cover and let rest 15 minutes. Roll into golf-ball sized balls for tortillas, or larger for flatbread. With a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll dough to desired thickness. Cook on preheated griddle until puffy and have characteristic brown spots, flip and cook other side.

Freeze great!