Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Food and Cooking: Make-ahead Frenzy for Back-to-School

Way back in 1991 (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) I was in MOS training for the Army in Aurora, Colorado.  It was a mixed-branch class, with Army and Navy represented.  Every morning before instruction started, a young woman would show up with grocery bags full of breakfast burritos of various ingredient combinations.  Chorizo, italian sausage, ham, beef and cheese.  We cleverly named her the "burrito lady".  She charged a dollar apiece, and she never went home with anything but our cash (we were not the only class... there were eight others in various stages of training).

Apparently she was operating without a food service license, because in my sixth or seventh month, she disappeared, banned from selling on-base.  I never forgot how her burritos were damn near perfect every single time, and completely delicious.  No-one ever got sick, or found something disgusting in them... I think it's just another example of over-rigid thinking.

After spending a couple of days this past weekend making and wrapping my own attempts for the freezer, I think I should have happily paid two dollars, or even three.  It's darn hard work.

I'm using this book:  Fix, Freeze, Feast  I made twenty breakfast burritos with ham, and twenty beef and bean burritos.  The breakfast burritos, filled with a mixture of scrambled egg and potato, then moistened with sour cream, were hard to fill and roll properly.  Maybe I needed to cut the potatoes even smaller, or I was over-filling them.  I was already dubious about the sour cream, and they tended to unfold on the ends.  I should have warmed the tortillas slightly.  I was going nuts trying not to lick my fingers (don't worry, I washed my hands instead).  And worst of all, they would not all fit into my stacking container OR a one-gallon freezer bag.  I had to divide it between two.

If I hadn't already written on a one-gallon with a Sharpie, I would have gone for the two-gallon bag instead.  I managed to remember that for the beef and bean burritos, and the entire batch fit into one two-gallon bag.

I sampled one of each for lunch on the Monday after.  I baked from rock-solid frozen as per the instructions, and although the beef and bean burrito was completely done, the breakfast burrito was still cold in the middle.  I would increase the baking time by ten minutes if you decide to try these.

This was not the only thing I accomplished that weekend.  We got home from vacation at a quarter to four on Friday morning.  After sleeping in (yay!) I went to work and got the following done over our three-day weekend before school started:

  1. Grocery shopping (the house was bare... I mean, really bare.  I thought I was moving up until a week before we left, plus I always clean the fridge before a vacation)
  2. Ten quarts of red sauce (think Marinara for the freezer)
  3. ten pounds pre-cooked ground beef, some bagged in quart bags as loose meat
  4. two full-size lasagnes (again, from the book above using the red sauce.  I would check very, very carefully what size noodles you use though.  They use three noodles for every layer, and they did NOT cover the width of the size of pan they listed.  I filled in around the edges with rigatoni, as I only had enough noodles as required by the recipe, and did NOT want to have to go back to the store)
  5. Saturday was ground beef day.  I pre-cooked a bit more loose meat, made a gigantic batch of meatballs and pre-cooked them, and divvied up the rest of the raw ground beef into one-pound portions in quart freezer bags, and pre-formed burger patties.
  6. Sunday was burrito-palooza.  I did breakfast ones in the morning, took a long lunch break, and did the beef and bean in the afternoon.  I also managed to fit in one batch of orange-glazed chicken breasts (six pounds worth) for the freezer.  There is a raspberry-glazed recipe in the book, and I adapted it since I did NOT want to use my last jar of raspberry jam and have a dozen of orange marmalade.
  7. And because I'm a masochist, I snuck in a batch of oven-roasted (paleo inspired) chicken breasts on Monday night.  I don't like when chicken is in my fridge for longer than that, so it had to be done.  For that, I used Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat.  They do it with thighs, but have alternate instructions for b/s breasts, and it worked fine.
 So Monday night we had spaghetti and meatballs, all from the freezer.  Last night we had chopped roasted chicken breasts over a bed of spring greens.  Tonight?  Not sure.  Perhaps one of the lasagnes if I'm feeling indulgent.

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