I’ll use those NaBloPoMo prompts at some point, I’m sure. In the meantime, I’m riffing off the “where do you get your energy” question. Being someone who has been accused more than once of “keeping things real” my most realistic answer is: FOOD (duh).
Here’s a Kitchen Adventure from Chez Journey this week.
Back in September when we were raising funds for our trip to Guatemala we had a silent auction and meal. LS, one of women who went on the trip volunteered to do the cooking and she made these amazing oven baked chicken burritos. When we raved to her about how wonderful they were she told us that they make them by the hundreds and always have them in their freezer.
JH and I were fascinated. We kept pressing her for a recipe. She kept looking a little panicked when we did because, like most good home cooking, there are lots of variables and not a lot of requirements. Finally I pinned her down on approximate quantities and JH and I made a batch today. Or I should say, we made half a batch. It took a while because of the crock pot chicken but most of the time was spent waiting for the chicken to cook and not time spent putting them together….although that wasn’t a short process either. We spent about an hour and a half to make the first 50 (you heard me!) and another 45 minutes putting the wrapped burritos into food-saver bags and vacuuming them closed.
These burritos came to about $1.20 each and we didn’t buy ingredients at Costco, although this would be the perfect excuse to shop at a warehouse store! Now that we know how this goes, J and I will be watching for certain ingredients to go on sale. The most expensive were the chicken and the cheese. Frozen cheese works just great if you’re going to shred it anyway so when the local Monterey jack (or queso!!) goes on sale, I’ll have an idea of how much I’ll need for the next round. Although, I’ve got to say, I don’t know that we’ll need quite so big a batch next time.
JH is single and I’m an empty nester. Why in the world do I need 100+ burritos? Well, we split the batch for one thing. Another is that I have a friend who needs a hand with some dinners, so I can send her a couple of dozen and feed her family of five for a couple of meals of very easy prep on her end. These go frozen into a 350-degree oven for an hour. Add a salad and a glass of milk and you have dinner without breaking a sweat. If you want to get fancy, take them out of the tinfoil and sprinkle more cheese on the top and pop them back in the oven until the cheese melts. Top with your favorite burrito garnishes.
Here’s what we did this time. If you try it, remember these are all approximate and if you know what you like in a homemade burrito, go for it!
- 24 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 32-oz Salsa Lisa (fresh salsa)
- 6 Cups uncooked brown rice
- 8 15-oz cans black beans
- 4 green bell peppers, chopped (we used approx.. 1/4″ chop)
- 2 8-oz bags frozen corn
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 64 oz shredded cheese (we used a pre-shredded Queso)
- 2 15-oz cans refried beans (I had 1 can of refried black beans and 1 can of pinto beans which we mixed together)
- 100 large flour tortillas
- tin foil squares
- Freezer bags (If you use zipper style bags, use a straw to remove air before putting in the freezer. We used my Food Saver vacuum sealer and varied the number of burritos per package depending on where they were going.)
Put the chicken into a large crockpot. Pour the salsa over the chicken. Cover and cook on high until tender and you can shred it with two forks. We did this in two batches because we didn’t know what we were doing. 12 thawed chicken breasts took 4 hours to cook. I cooked the 12 frozen chicken breasts for almost 5 hours.
It looks like there’s way too much liquid in there and you’ll be tempted to remove the chicken, shred it on a cutting board and put it into a separate bowl. Don’t bother. Shred it right in the crockpot. Or shred it on the board if you have to but put it back into the salsa/liquid.
While the chicken is cooking, cook the rice according to package or rice cooker directions. We cooked the rice on the stove and I think I should have taken it off the heat a little sooner – more al dente, if that makes sense. I had approximately 18 cups of cooked rice but it was really dense because it was maybe too well cooked and that much rice doesn’t cool off very fast so I think it kept cooking. Anyway, we ended up with very stick-to-your-ribs burritos.
While the rice is cooking, chop the green peppers, mince the cilantro and grate the cheese (if you didn’t buy it pre-grated. I’m cheap and don’t like the non-clumping agents they cover pre-grated cheese.)
When the rice is done, transfer it into a new bowl combining it with the minced cilantro. Then add the drained and rinsed beans and the chopped green peppers. Mix in the frozen corn just before you’re ready to start assembling. I figured we were going to put these into the freezer so it wasn’t necessary – or desirable – for the ingredients to be that hot.
Take the refried beans out of the cans and give it a good stir to loosen them up and maybe get rid of any lumps. I didn’t add anything to the refried beans.
When the chicken is done, shred it with a couple of forks.
Arrange your burrito assembly line. Include some sort of container for the finished wrapped burritos. You wouldn’t want them rolling off the pile on to the floor where the dog would get them. Really. You wouldn’t.
To assemble the burritos:
IMPORTANT TIP: Warm the tortillas before attempting to wrap them. I warmed them on a griddle but you could wrap them in a damp towel and put them in the microwave for 1 minute. Whatever your favorite method but don’t use them at room temperature or (worse!) cold. It will make you cry and the ends of your burrito won’t be beautiful.
Place a warm tortilla on a tinfoil square.
With the back of a spoon, smear refried beans on the top edge of the tortilla.
Place about 1/3 cup of rice/bean/corn mixture in the middle of the tortilla.
Place a squeezed out pinch of shredded chicken on top of the rice.
Place a pinch of shredded cheese on top of the chicken. (See how precise and scientific this is?)
Fold the bottom half of the tortilla over the filling, smearing some of the refried beans with the bottom edge (this is the “glue” that holds the fold together.)
Fold in the two sides and finish rolling up the tortilla.
Wrap the burrito in the tinfoil square and place in a cake pan or tray.
Repeat. And repeat some more.
Send someone out to get more cheese and/or tortillas.
When you’ve used up all the tortillas and filling stop.
Pack the foil wrapped burritos into your chosen freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Now, I’ll be honest. I didn’t let the Food Saver take out all the air because it squished the burritos. It probably would be fine, but I didn’t like it. So I took out only most of the air and then hit the seal button.
LABEL THE BAGS WITH CONTENTS AND DATE. Don’t skip this step. I know you think you’ll know what those tinfoil things are, but in six months (or a year when you’re cleaning out the back corner of your freezer) you won’t. And if you give these away consider writing the directions on the bag, too.
We ate some for dinner the day we made them. We baked the unfrozen burritos at 350-degrees for 20 minutes, then sprinkled some Queso on top of them and put them back in the oven until the cheese melted.
To cook frozen burritos:
Frozen Option 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove desired number of burritos from the bag and place, wrapped in tinfoil on a baking sheet. Cook for 1 hour. Unwrap and eat.
Frozen Option 2: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove desired number of burritos from the bag and place unwrapped burritos on baking sheet. Cook for 1 hour. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Return to oven until cheese melts.
Frozen Option 3: Remove burrito from freezer. Remove tinfoil. Wrap in damp paper towel and place plate. Microwave for about 3 minutes. Let it cool a little before biting into it.
(I don’t know how these would work to thaw them first. I’m a little worried they’d be soggy on the bottom. But give it a try and let me know.)
We got 100 burritos out of this. If I’d had more refried beans and tortillas we could have gotten at least 25 more.