Category Archives: Cooking

Burritos – The Ultimate Convenience Food, Infinitely Riff-able

I loooove me a good burrito! Be it all snuggled in its foil wrapper, easily eaten on the go, or slathered in sauce and the size of a small infant, I am there for it, baby! I am a frequent visitor of taco trucks and hole-in-the-wall taco joints. This truck and this taqueria in my home town of West Seattle are two of my favorites. However, there is something to be said for not having to leave your house and having a delicious burrito ready and waiting for you in your freezer, mere minutes away from your mouth after a quick trip through the microwave (or in my counter-space challenged and thus microwave free home, a slightly more lengthy stay in the oven). Regardless of how you heat ’em up though, freezer burritos and breakfast burritos can seem like small miracles when you just can’t even but want something delicious and comforting to fill your belly.


Zoe can’t even…

Over  the years, I have played around with this convenience food, trying different recipes and filling combinations and have discovered that the beauty of the frozen burrito is that there is no ULTIMATE RECIPE but rather, it is a dish that endlessly customizable and delicious in its many iterations so long as you follow a few basic principles of burrito making and a couple small but important freezer guidelines.

Burrito Principle #1: Have a variety of textures – No one enjoys a burrito that is just all mush. I mean, I love hella cheese and refried beans as much as the next person, but part of the joy of eating is variety – in texture as well as flavor. So, toss some cooked rice into that tortilla along with black or pinto beans that have been cooked and mashed slightly. Or leave your beans whole, but for the love of all that is sacred, make sure that they are cooked fully. No one likes under-cooked beans in their burrito. Then balance out the relatively soft textures of the rice and/or beans with some veggies like bell peppers and onions cooked to the point where they maintain a little crunch. And of course cheese and salsa to your liking!

Corollary of Burrito Principle #1: For breakfast burritos, replace beans and/or rice with hashbrowns and eggs scrambled with a little cheese, salt and pepper. I like to defrost some frozen hashbrowns or even tater tots and toss them with the cooked veggies.


Hashbrowns and veggies in the background and scrambled eggs with ham and cheese in the foreground destined for Denver Breakfast Burritos.

Burrito Principle #2: Don’t muddy the flavors – It may be tempting to really raid the spice cabinet here. I mean, when else are you going to use that artisanal ancho chili powder that you got at the farmers market last year? Or was it two years ago? First, check the sell by date. Odds are, many of your spices are past their prime and won’t be doing you any favors in whatever dish they land in. Second, be judicious about when and where you spice. For example, I like to use a boxed Mexican or Spanish rice for convenience sake when making my burritos. Near East is a brand that is readily available at grocery stores and makes a flavorful light (read: not gummy) rice for burritos. If I use a boxed rice, I ease off on the spices elsewhere. Maybe just some chili powder added to the veggies along with a splash of lemon juice and a half teaspoon each of cumin and coriander added to the beans. However, sometimes I will do a cilantro lime rice a la Chipotle and in that instance, I may add some more spices to the vegetables like paprika (sweet or smoked) and ancho or chipotle chili powder.

Burrito Principle #3: When it comes to cheese, its all about location, location, location! – Don’t just toss a handful cheese into your burrito and call it a day. You have been so thoughtful up to this point. Don’t leave, what is arguably the most important part of the burrito, to fate or your questionable rolling technique! It is always a little disappointing when we get to the very bottom of our burrito and there sits a large glob of cheese that would have been put to much better use lovingly woven throughout the whole. Slightly better, though not ideal, is when we bite into the burrito and see the clear demarcation if rice and beans and other fillings to cheese. Battle lines were drawn and the cheese stands alone to one side. Yes, it all comes together in your mouth, but perfection it is not. The answer to this, is to lay out your tortilla and then sprinkle shredded cheese all over that bad boy. Then add your other fillings to one side and get rolling. This way, the cheese is distributed throughout. It is cozying up to your other fillings but it is also hanging out between layers of tortilla, a happy cheesy surprise that makes every bite perfectly balanced. And, if you want to get REAL crazy, dollop some cheese sauce on top of your fillings to create a molten cheesy core. Take care: This technique is only for advanced burrito rollers and cheese fiends.


Ok, so you have got your burrito with all the fixins’. Is it ready to be rolled and frozen? Wait, step away from the burrito and attend to these two freezer guidelines:

Freezer Guideline #1: Don’t go crazy with the dairy – I mean, you went crazy with the cheese and that’s fine, but for these frozen burritos, leave the sour cream in the fridge. The water content in more liquid dairy products does not lend itself to home freezing, which is a slow process, inviting the formation of water crystals. No one wants ice in their burrito, which will melt and, separated from that fat, can turn your tasty creation into a soggy mess. Check out this really interesting article on the science behind freezing ice cream where the same fundamentals apply. You are totally welcome to heap sour cream on your warmed up burrito (or eat it straight out of the carton alongside…). I won’t judge.

Freezer Guideline #2: Keep the avocado on your toast and out of your burrito – Freezers do weird things to our favorite hipster health food.  I am sure there is some science behind the phenomenon, involving enzymes and oxidation. Perhaps, I’ll do a deep dive into this in another post, but for now, trust me, just don’t do it. As with the sour cream, feel free to go crazy with the guac when it is time to eat the burrito. On top, on the side, EVERYWHERE!

Now you have filled your burrito and followed the freezer guidelines like the A+ student that you are, and now it is time to roll those babies up and toss them in the freezer, a down payment on your future happiness. If you plan on baking them in the oven later, roll up in foil and then stack in a gallon freezer bag. If they are destined for the microwave, roll in parchment paper, then foil and the gallon freezer bag.


That’s it! Happy rolling! Below are a few articles that I found online and used as inspiration for my burrito adventuring. – Freezer Friendly Denver Omelet Breakfast Burritos

Good Cheap Eats Freezer Burritos

The Kitchn How I Make Burritos to Freeze

A Sweet Summery Reminder

I don’t know if you remember, but a couple years back, Icebox cakes were the thing. From Food and Wine to Redbook, dessert lovers and mommy bloggers extolled the virtues of these no-bake sweet treats. I never really got on the bandwagon, being more of a savory gal myself, but lately, after cutting back on my alcohol consumption, I find myself leaning more into the sweet side of things. Oh, and I got my first cavity. Funny how that works…

Earlier in the summer I made this Banana icebox cake and it turned out fiiiinee. It may be because I am not a huge fan of bananas or Nilla wafers, but I didn’t love it. I didn’t feel guilty eating it though (there’s fruit!) and it seems like something that can be easily modified to taste. Chocolate cookies, strawberries and jam instead of banana. The possibilities are endless!

Banana Icebox

Camping and other summer excursions got in the way of further experimentation until recently, when I discovered Nigella Lawson’s Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce.  It languished on my Trello board for about a month before I got around to making it a few weeks ago. The Summer heat (and smoke, thank god!) had dissipated so the recipe didn’t feel as necessary as it had been just a few weeks earlier but, boy was it a treat! It had the consistency of very fluffy ice cream, flecked with barely sweet chocolate and covered in a drizzle of boozy chocolate sauce. The store-bought meringue cookies (I ordered these on Amazon because they don’t seem to be a common item in local grocery stores), crushed up and combined with whipped cream, provided and very airy consistency and I felt like I was eating a barely sweetened cloud, studded with crunchy chocolaty bits. That by itself would have been just grand, but blanketed in a lovely warm chocolate sauce spiked with dark rum and Kahlua…heaven! I highly recommend this dessert any time of year and, at the tail end of summer on a cool Friday evening, it was perfection; a reminder of summer warmth and and a hint of cozy Fall days ahead.


Cooking is my Love Language

They say that there are five love languages: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. This article on She Knows has a good overview. We all tend more toward one of these than the others. Cooking is my love language. It is an act of service, but also quality time, the creation of something to be shared, with love. As a lifelong introvert, an only child and someone who would rather spend Friday night with a good book than out on the town, cooking appeals to me because it is something that I can do alone but also share with the world. It is my contribution to the larger dynamic of human relationships. I may not be the life of the party, gathering everyone around me with a thrilling story or funny joke, but I will gather you around my table for a delicious meal.

The act of gathering together to share sustenance is as old as human memory and therefore deeply ingrained as an essential part of our collective consciousness, our sense of order and comfort. This article in The Atlantic goes into some depth about the history of communal dining and is an interesting longer read. By facilitating this communal experience, I feel as if I am a part of something greater than myself, that I am making a contribution to a greater dialogue. An artist creates a painting or a piece of music for people to enjoy and thus brings them together. I roast a chicken and enjoy it with my husband and some friends. We eat at the table and talk about how our week went and what we are looking forward to. Why would we sit at this table talking about this and that if it was an empty table? We might instead watch a movie or go on a hike, both admirable activities, but less focused on one another than on the activity at hand.

I hug and kiss my husband when he gets home from work, but it is when he smiles in delight at a dish that I have prepared, or texts me in the middle of the day to say that he is enjoying the sandwich I made him, that I feel his love in a truly elemental way. One way of expressing love isn’t better than another, it is only important to stay true to your own love language while being receptive to those of others.

Sunday Brunch

Brunch is probably one of my favorite meals. The fact that it often happens after noon, allowing one to sleep blissfully in, usually involves booze and can feature a smorgasbord of delicious breakfast and lunch items, makes it, I think, the perfect meal. Yesterday we ate at Poquitos and had some left over fried chicken and gravy. A good start. We also had, as usual, eggs and cheese and scallion – the components of a simple yet delectable scramble. Add to that a few pieces of bacon and some fresh bagels from Eltana down the street and we were in business. I always feel good when I am able to make use of leftovers, It is a kind of frugality that feels less penny pinching and more culinary creativity. The results were delish. No booze but I do have some coffee left and some Jameson and Baileys in the liquor cabinet. It’s never too early to start celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, right?


Pasta Healing



We have been sick for the past three days, subsisting on canned soup and leftover Indian food. I went back to work today (whether that was a good idea or not is still up in the air) and since I ventured out into the world, I decided that I should at least be able to put together a normal dinner. One of my new years resolutions was to waste less food. We had half a pound of beef and half a bag of Italian blend shredded cheese so of course I thought, Skillet Baked Pasta! The ultimate spaghetti comfort food recipe courtesy of America’s Test Kitchens Best of 2009 cookbook. I picked up some spicy Italian sausage, cream, basil, canned crushed tomato, spaghetti, green beans and garlic bread at the store and we were in business!

It’s a pretty basic dish: Cook the meat, saute garlic, oregano and hot pepper flakes, add half a box of broken up spaghetti, 2 cups of water, a generous pinch of salt and a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and cook until the pasta is al dente. Then add a quarter cup of cream, 6 tablespoons of basil cut in a chiffonade and a handful of Italian cheese blend. Mix and cover with more cheese and set it under the broiler for about three min until it gets nice and brown and crusty. I served with store bought (lazy, I know, but I AM still sick) garlic bread and green beans sauteed in sweet chili sauce (one of my favorite easy veggie accouterments) and voila! Dinner in 30 min or less and only 2 pans and a cutting board dirty.

Maybe all that cheese wasn’t the best for me but it was sure comforting…AND, while I was cooking, I am pretty sure I forgot I was sick!

On another note: I signed up for Full Circle Farms today. Looking forward to my box of veggies next Friday!