Friday, September 25, 2015

Bad-Mood Breakfast Burritos

I was recalling recently a thought I had when I was in labor with Ben. And it was: “This is like a mechanical bull!” And I couldn’t stay on. But I couldn’t get off, either. And sometimes that’s kind of how it is.

Anyhoo. Where was I? Oh yes. School mornings. Here’s a confession: they have not historically been frantic at my house. I mean, yeah, it’s a school morning. Are folks brimming over with extra time and joie de vivre? No. They are not. But we try to get up early enough that, should the kids want to crawl into bed for a few minutes with the cat and me, well, there’s a little time for snuggling and the admiring of clean fur, for warm, sleepy conversation. Which I love. 

But these days, that’s mostly Birdy. While Ben. Ben. Ben is falling into paroxysms of starvation and judgment, and the combining of the two into pronouncements of his own hungry grievances. What’s that you say? Welcome to teenagerland? I know! But guys, it’s Ben. The sweetheart of sweethearts. Whom I typically love to feed and feed, but who has become a person who says, irritably, “Are we out of dried cherries?” like this missing ingredient from the muesli he’s assembling constitutes a serious incident of neglect.

The face of RAVENOUS MONSTROSITY! On the way to a Stromae concert with his Ava friend.
He is starving. He is standing in front of the refrigerator, accusing me. “We have no food in the house!” “I’m not totally sure what you’re looking for,” I say, reasonably. “We have toast and eggs. Cheese and ham. Cereal and yogurt and fruit. I heard Birdy offer to share the smoothie she was making.” Ben is visibly exasperated. Clearly, I do not understand what is needed. 

“I feel like you want to put out your hand and have an Egg McMuffin fall into it,” I say, and he admits that this is kind of true. “What about toast with melted cheese?” I say, as if this is a problem that could actually be solved, and he groans. “I think that pea under all your mattresses really got to you last night!” I say, which is a funny joke, which Ben doesn’t laugh at, because I’ve said it in a meaner way than I intended. I kiss his starving, irritated cheeks. “Let’s make breakfast burritos this weekend,” I say. “Like we did last spring, when you were in another one of your princessy fits.” “Okay,” he says. “That would be great.”

And so we do! The end. 

Only not really, because a kind of overcaffeination takes over while we’re making them, and the hash browns stick—which remind me that they stuck last time too—and then I burn a tortilla, and Birdy is pissed at me because I’m raging around cursing, and she doesn’t like it. Also I suggest that she’s washing the sandy arugula poorly—“Not in a colander. In a sinkful of water,” I sigh, like what kind of idiot? 

By the time we’re done with the burritos, two of us have cried. “Enjoy these,” I say to Ben, cramming the bag into our too-stuffed freezer, from which two empty pints of ice cream drop to the ground. “Think of all the love that went into them."

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Makes 8
These are great! Seriously. It’s the thing you’re starving teenager really wants to eat in the morning, and if you don’t use those damned sticking hash browns, they come together very quickly and easily. Plus, they can be varied pretty widely: use ham, sausage, or chorizo instead of the bacon—or whatever veggie versions of those things you like best. Add sautéed onions and peppers. Skip the hash browns (!) and add black beans instead, along with a spoonful of salsa. You might want to add the salsa—or a few shakes of hot sauce—anyway.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 20-ounce shredded bag hash browns
12 (or 16) ounces bacon
8 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
 3 tablespoons butter
1 heaping cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Jack, or a blend)
8 (8-inch) wheat tortillas (make sure they’re fairly pliable or you will end up killing somebody)

Heat the oil in a wide pan and sauté the hash browns until they are tender and brown, or according to the package directions. If you have a nonstick pan, NOW IS THE TIME TO USE IT. These stick maddeningly. Aaaaaaagh.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon and drain it on paper towels.

Beat the eggs with the water and salt. Heat the butter in a medium pan and cook the eggs, scrambling them until they are cooked through but still nice and soft.

Heat the tortillas to soften them: I do this by stacking them right on top of a low burner, and flipping and rotating them so that a new one is always on the bottom. There are doubtless better ways than this, especially because I tend to burn at least one.

Now lay the tortillas out on a clean counter. Divide the bacon among them, breaking up strips as necessary to equal it all out. Arrange a scoop of hash browns over the bacon  (you may have some leftover hash browns). Dive the eggs over the hash browns, keeping the filling in a fairly even strip down the middle of the tortillas and leaving about an inch free at the top and bottom. Divide the cheese over the eggs.

Now roll the burritos up. I do this by wetting my hands in a bowl of water, then folding over the top and bottom inch of plain tortilla before rolling it up tight, tucking in the filling as I go, and compressing it tightly. We your hands again, then put the burrito seam-side down on a baking sheet, pressing it down a little to secure. Continue with the folding and rolling, wetting your hands to help compress everything. The water also helps the burritos freeze solid so that, after the whole pan of burritos is frozen overnight, you can move them into a large freezer Ziploc bag, and they will keep their shape.

To heat one up, put it on a plate, lay a wet paper towel over it, and microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through. Or wrap in foil and heat in a 350 oven for around 20 minutes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Any-Jam Oatmeal Bars

If you made Any-Berry Jam, then you could make Any-Any-Berry-Jam Bars, which is a fun idea (on Mars). 
Before I forget: I've moved over a few requested recipes, from back in the day: Michael's Pesto, Homemade Burger Buns, and the semi-tutorial on how to teach your kid to make salad. Thank you so much for asking. Please keep your requests coming, and please forgive me if you asked for something and I forgot to post it. My intention is to post everything.

Also before I forget: my friend Debbie has started a new craft blog, Ink & Glue, and I am in love with it. It's just the kind of low-cost, high-gorgeous crafting I love. Her first post, on using the color registration boxes from packaging, is so brilliant. But there is lots more (all) to love over there.

Now: Any-Jam Bars! This is based on a Pioneer Woman recipe, but I use (wait for it) SPELT FLOUR! I also use (wait for it) A FOOD PROCESSOR! But you don't need to do either of these things. Dree Rummond (I am leaving that typo because it's funny, but correcting it here: Ree Drummond!) makes them with strawberry jam, but part of the reason I am making these, besides the obvious of (sigh) September lunch boxes, is that I have years and years of weird jams to use up.

If I had to pick a single photograph to illustrate the concept, "first world problem," this would be it. My jam pantry. And yet, it is my particular cross to bear, this having of so much jam, some of it unidentifiable, much of it from too many years ago, and most of it *grape.* Because the wild grapes! I pick them and pick them, how could you not? They intoxicate me! Their smell! Their color! The way they make everyone's lips itch. And also, the jam sets up so beautifully and is so. . . free! But, full disclosure, grape is not everyone's favorite jam around here. People like it fine, definitely, but if you're seeing an absence of peach in that pantry shot, if you're seeing an absence of apricot and plum, well, that's because those are the chosen flavors. (My mother is probably squinting at this photograph to see the word "Gooseberry" in her own handwriting. I love you, Mom!) Grape is a little more eh, a little more likely to have a piece of tape on it that says "2012."

So I'm making jam bars to use it up. And because they're delicious: buttery, brown-sugary, oaty, like the crumble part of a fruit crumble, with just enough sticky (grape) jam to fruit it up, to hold it together. Yum, yum, yum. These are best the first couple of days and, as the week wears on, they get a little less crisp. But then at least it's Thursday and there's a soggy jam bar in your lunch, instead of on Monday, when you really need a nice fresh one. Right?

Thank you for your kind word last. . . uh. . . the other week. The nights are getting cooler, the mushrooms are coming up everywhere, Birdy is adapting to middle school, and life is looking up. Plus, Michael put an abject little Dobby stamp on our taxes, which made me fall in love with him all over again. Which is different from a few months ago, when I raged around the house saying, "Really? You had to buy Harry Potter stamps? I have got to be the only person who has ever put a Voldemort stamp on a fucking *condolence* note." Sigh.

Any-Jam Oatmeal Bars
Makes around 24 bars

In Ree Drummond's original recipe, you mix these by hand, probably to keep the oats whole. Feel free to do that if you prefer, or if you don't have a food processor. Me? I'm lazy.

1 1/2 cups flour (I use half or more spelt)
1 1/2 cups oats (old-fashioned rolled or quick are both fine)
1 packed cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 3/4 sticks salted butter (cold-ish) cut into pieces
One 8- to 12-ounce jar of any kind of jam or jelly (except Green Tomato Marmalade)

Heat the oven to 350 and butter and 9- by 13-inch pan.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, briefly whir together the dry ingredients just to mix. Add the butter and process until a clumpy dough starts to form.

Put half the dough in the pan and press it evenly to form the bottom crust. Spread the jam over this layer, then crumble the remaining oat mixture over the top.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until nicely brown. Eat a couple "tasting" bites warm, but then cool completely before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Mini Ricotta Frittatas

This is and isn't a photograph of the kind of week I'm having.
There's something so funny about a food blog. Because: Mini Ricotta Frittatas! It's so cheerful. It's got that nice double-T consonance going for it. Plus, they're mini! They've got ricotta in them! How could I possible be having such a terrible week?

Oh, but I am. It is one thing and another, and yet all the things are manageable things--bad work stuff, my annual back-to-school grief, non-catastrophic family health issues--because, please. You know. My dearest friend of 43 years died in February! Is this that? No. It is not. Although it's true that I have been wearing all her clothes in a terrible melancholy way. There's one shirt I especially like, and Ben offered to silkscreen it for me: "My best friend died and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." So, you know. There's that.

I should be showing you a lunchbox or something similarly seasonally festive, but fuck it.
That kid. And the other kid. And my friends and partner and parents. And all of the beautiful, wonderful things about my life. There was actually this crazy moment yesterday, when I was so distracted by this one particular stressful work thing that I was picking tomatillos with Ben, distracted. And then I was making enchilada sauce, distracted. And I was eating my favorite dinner, which is enchilada casserole, with my favorite people, who are Ben and Birdy and Michael, distracted. And then I was playing Agricola, my absolute favorite game, distracted. And then--because I am the Dalai Lama--it occurred to me that work is a means to and end, and the end is leading the kind of life I want to lead, and enjoying the things I enjoy, and those are all the things I love most, so why was I missing out on them? I know. It's crazy.

Anyhoo. Mini Ricotta Frittatas! Because the kids started school, and Birdy requested something fun for her lunchbox, and then got to flipping through this sweet book, which we'd gotten a review copy of, and picked out these little egg cups (the fact that all the photographs in the book were of preschoolers did not seem to daunt Birdy in the slightest). They're delicious, and I know, because I ate one, and then right after that I ate another. They're kind of weighty and cheesy, in a good way, as opposed to dry and fluffy. Two, cold in a thermos, makes a perfect lunch for her, and would really make a perfect lunch for anyone. I'm going to try doubling the recipe and baking it in a springform pan for dinner.

Mini Ricotta Frittatas
This is adapted from the recipe for “Spinach and Ricotta Egg Muffin Cups” from the book Little Bites. I added dill because it seemed like they were begging for herbs. Also, the book suggested that 2 cups of chopped spinach was 8 ounces, but really it was more like 3 ounces. I chose to wilt the spinach in the pan rather than adding it raw. Another great variation, I'm positive, would be fresh corn kernels and cilantro (which I'm trying next) instead of spinach and dill, with maybe Monterey Jack swapped in for the mozzarella. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
1 cup whole-milk ricotta (Calabro is the kind I like to use, after extensive research)
¾ cup grated whole-milk mozzarella (I like Polly-O or Trader Joe's)
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
2 cups chopped spinach (around 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (or another herb of your choosing: cilantro, mint, basil, parsley, chives, or a lesser amount of thyme or marjoram)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper

Heat the oven to 350 and grease 8 of the wells in a standard muffin tin.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and browning, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute, then add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the cheeses and stir. Add the spinach mixture, the dill, and the salt and pepper, and stir well. Season this aggressively. If you're too shy to taste it raw (fair enough), microwave a tiny bit and check for salt.

Divide the mixture in the muffin cups (I used an ice cream scoop, but a 1/3-cup measure would work well), and bake 15-20 minutes until puffed, deeply golden, and set. Eat right away or refrigerate--or try a little of both.