Monthly Archives: August 2013

Burritos! For Breakfast!

Every once in a while, on my way to work I’ll swing by McDonald’s and get a couple of their sausage burritos for breakfast. They’re small, but they’re only a buck. The only issue (well, one of the issues) is that while it seems like a simple burrito – just sausage, cheese, eggs & peppers, I don’t really know what all is in there. I’m guessing that there’s a pretty good amount preservatives and fat in there that wouldn’t be there if I were to make my own.

Breakfast-Burrito

I know I said a good burrito doesn’t need a plate, but for the sake of showing the burrito innards, I’ve used a plate.

This got me to thinking. What if I just made a bunch of my own burritos and froze them. Then I could just pop one into the microwave before I leave for work, and voila! Instant breakfast! And that’s what I did.

Instead of using pork sausage, which naturally has a high fat content, I used ground turkey. It’s surprising, ground turkey, when it’s browned, has almost the exact same texture as hamburger. It tastes a bit different, but not much. Plus it’s naturally something like 95% lean. With the ground turkey, I used eggs, onions, green peppers, jalapenos, and shredded mild cheddar. It took about an hour and a half to cook everything and fold and wrap the burritos, but it was worth it. Sixteen frozen breakfast burritos can last quite a long time.

On a side note, about year ago, I was eating at Taco Bell fairly regularly, and as I would wait for them to prepare my order, I would watch them speedily fold their burritos. From that consistent and regular observation, I was able reverse-engineer their burrito fold and copy it. This method – I call it the air-tight seven fold burrito – makes sure that everything that’s inside the burrito stays inside the burrito. I’ve found it to be very effective. I’ve illustrated it for you, so you too can fold burritos like a boss!

If this idea has you inspired to do the same, you can find the recipe on the recipes section of the blog.

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Spaghetti Sauce Right Off The Vine

Here in Kansas, it is apparently tomato season. Let me be more specific. It is apparently freakishly high-yield tomato season. We’ve had about a month of arid, relatively hot weather, with almost no rain or precipitation of any kind. Everything was really dry. Those with gardens were having to fight with every hose they had to keep the things alive.

Fresh Tomatoes

Courtesy of The Corner of Awesome & Bombdiggity

That dry spell finally came to a close, and with a welcome deluge it rained for 3 days straight and since has rained on average one out of every three days. The result of this has been all the tomato plants that were fighting just to stay green have now starting producing tomatoes like they’re going out of style. It’s wonderful!! My friend’s garden, which only has three tomato plants, has produced enough tomatoes to feed 4 different families and me!

Here’s a little secret about tomatoes – well, it’s not really a secret, just something some of you might not be aware of. Tomatoes that you get in the store are not actually ripe. It’s true. Most of the tomatoes that you find in the grocery store are picked while they’re still green by illegal and often times enslaved immigrants and then shipped to their destinations. In route, the tomato container is saturated with a gas called ethylene, which causes the tomatoes to turn red. It doesn’t make them ripe, just red. That’s why most of the tomatoes you buy at the store taste like they’re not ripe. Because they’re not!

Garden-Fresh-SpaghettiAnyway, with home grown, delicious, ripe garden fresh tomatoes, recipe’s take on a whole new character and explode with flavor and color! With the tomatoes I received from Tomato Lady, I made up a batch of simple spaghetti sauce. Only 4 ingredients plus spices, but oh the flavor! Combine that with a plate of angel hair pasta, top with an avocado, and you’ve got a wonderful meal! If you’d like to try this for yourself, you can find the recipe in the recipes section of the blog.

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Turkey + Birthday Cake

Today is August 6th, and it is my birthday. It marks the beginning of my 4th decade. It was filled with well-wishing friends and Facebook messages from people I haven’t seen for years. I even got flowers from a friend. It can be argued that a friendship is resting on pretty solid ground when flowers can freely be exchanged. Anyway, there were many things about today that were really fantastic, but it is yesterday evening that will be the focus of this post.

On top of receiving a wonderful pre-birthday birthday cake filled with chocolate cake, ice cream, and love – upon which I will reflect a bit later – I also experimented with something I’ve never tried before … and it was a smashing success!

Yesterday was, of course, Monday. That meant I was hosting the weekly Monday night dinner group with a good friend. As I was thinking of what we could offer our attendees this week, I thought it to be a good idea to fire up the grill and make some cheeseburgers. However, having just recently finished an uber-healthy diet, I didn’t really want something terribly fatty and heavy like greasy, cheesy grilled beef, delicious though it is. What came next was the inspiration for a concoction not yet tried, or even dreamt of in my culinary repertoire. A fusion between grilled summery deliciousness, and lean, relatively healthy poultry; the turkey burger!

The idea was sound. I’d start with ground turkey, add some diced red bell pepper, minced onion and garlic, finely shredded zucchini and yellow squash, and fresh minced chili pepper, and season it with a little lemon-pepper and salt. TurkeyBurgers1This would make for a juicy and delicious – not to mention healthy – beef burger substitute.

There was, however, a hick up. After I’d added all these wonderful fiber-filled ingredients to the already goopy ground turkey, the mixture became somewhat … schmoopy. This stuff was just as likely to stick to my hands as it was to stick to itself, which made forming it into patties somewhat difficult. It also had a slightly runny quality to it, so it might likely run through the rack on the grill before it had time to set up over the heat of the flames, rendering it somewhat less than appetizing.

Upon seeing the state of our soon-to-be dinner,
TurkeyBurgers2
my friend, possessing an unparalleled brilliance, quickly suggested that we form the patties and give them a little more cohesion with a skillet on the stove before moving them to the grill. Like I said… Brilliant! So that’s what we did. In a magnificent display of teamwork, she formed and firmed the patties, and I grilled them up to perfection.  Add a little cheese, slap ’em on a wheat bun with some green leaf lettuce and fresh-from-the-garden sliced tomatoes (so good!), and what you’ve got is a juicy, tender, delicious, absolutely mouthwatering turkey burger! It doesn’t happen very often, but I was astounded at how wonderfully these little poultry patties turned out (if you’d like to try these turkey burgers for yourself, you can find the recipe over in the recipes section of the blog). TurkeyBurgers3Add a delicious garden salad, and a spectacular fruit salad – both provided by our guests – and these simple turkey burgers turned into a splendid meal.

But of course, as the evening progressed, the splendidness increased all the more as I was informed that there was still dessert to be had in the form of an ice cream cake. Being the sharp individual that I am, I quickly deduced that this must be a birthday cake. My birthday cake. An unexpected, but not unwelcome surprise!

It was delicious. Not too much cake, not too much ice cream, but a perfect balance between the two, with a creamy chocolate sauce spread lightly beneath a thin crispy chocolate shell.  All the textures and tastes blended seamlessly to make one of the best ice cream cakes I’d even had.

Reflecting on this and looking back on my 29 previous celebrations, of all the birthday shenanigans and all the parties thrown on my behalf, I think this one was, quite decidedly, the best. It wasn’t top on the list because of an eloquent speech, a grandiose gesture, or even a generous gift. The reason for this one taking the cake, as it were, is simply the fact that it was simple. It was just a cake and a song. That’s it.

I am, by nature, an introvert, and being such, I naturally tend to draw back from being the center of attention. Birthday parties, where the soul purpose of the gathering is to focus all attention on me, have always made me a bit uncomfortable. I’m a listener, an observer. When everyone is listening to and observing me, I feel somehow forced to be someone that I’m not, expected to entertain or become the life of the party. But this birthday celebration, a simple ice cream cake, was perfect.

All of us were there, not to celebrate my birthday, but simply to be together for dinner and some friendly discussion. My becoming a year older was brought up, acknowledged and celebrated, and then we moved on. That’s really all I need, to be acknowledged, to be seen. Anything more is getting into territory that, for me, is reserved for my more intimate and close relationships.

Although the cake and the song may have felt to some like an insufficient tribute to the occasion, rest assured and be encouraged, it was exactly what I wanted. And I am deeply grateful. Thank you.

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Gooey Cheesy Community

cheesygooeyenchiladas Yesterday I emerged, relatively unscathed, from the fruit and vegetable desert! The trek was long, the terrain difficult, but the journey has at long last come to an end. To celebrate this momentous occasion, my good friend who was in the desert with me, threw a grand party, featuring her culinary acuity in the form of delicious gooey cheesy chicken enchiladas! And oh my word they were quite possibly the best gooey cheesy chicken enchiladas I’ve ever had in my 30 years of existence! They were exquisite! GoodPeople1But in the process of celebrating the departure of my dietary restrictions, I also found myself celebrating and greatly appreciating the community that I’ve come to be a part of. Because, as you may know, the quality of our lives is not determined by the possessions we acquire, the delicacies we consume, or the wealth we accumulate, but by the friends we pick up along the way and the life we experience by their side. Without people to share all the treasures and pleasures of life with, it all can quickly become empty or hallow. GoodPeople2

As I looked around the room and saw friends gathered, if for no other reason than to share a meal together and help three of their friends mark the end of a season of self-imposed difficulty, it hit me afresh: my friendships, the people I love, admire and respect are so incredibly important to me! There have been many times in my past, some more recent than others, where I’ve felt like I was on the outside of community looking in. It’s those times that help me to appreciate what I have here and now.  I’m part of a community that cares for one another, encourages one another.  We celebrate together, laugh together, and even cry together.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Life is meant to be shared. There’s no getting around that. We were all, all of us, created to be in community. When we’re not doing that, we’re leaving behind and neglecting a vital part of who we are, letting an important piece of what it means to be human atrophy. The best part of being alive is being alive with other people, and the best part of eating great food, is sharing it with the people you love.

GoodPeople3So I’d like to drop a few names. Keisha, Ben, Kenee, Catherine, Katie, Vickie, Livie, even though I don’t see some of you as much as I might like, you are all excellent people and I am filled with gratitude that you number me among your friends. Even though the enchiladas were of the highest calibre I’ve tasted, it was the company that made the evening such a great gathering.

So you, whoever you are reading this right now, I sincerely hope that you know the blessings of community and friendship. Because without it, even something as enjoyable as great food can lose it’s worth. Food without the life around it is merely sustenance. In order to truly enjoy great food, you need great people to enjoy it with. It’s Life. Plus food!

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