We drove out to the pumpkin patch last weekend, a lucky little stretch of time in between me traveling to see my sister in Maine and Sam traveling briefly for work. And really, to say it’s a pumpkin patch is misleading as it’s one of those spots with farm animals, apple picking, a corn maze, cider donuts and roasted corn — these people are all in when it comes to fall.
It’s funny as a parent how you sort of project your own desires and traditions onto your kids at an early age: we’ve gone to a farm to pick pumpkins with Oliver since he was a baby, but this was the first year that he, too, was all in. He raced from pumpkin to pumpkin, asking for help putting them in the wheelbarrow – even saying to me at one point, “mom, this one’s beautiful!” So that we didn’t end up buying 27 pumpkins, I’d follow behind putting many of them back without him noticing, snapping a few pictures when I could but also trying to just be there with my people, not my phone. When we got home, O helped me put the pumpkins out on the stoop, arranging them just how he wanted them.
We’ll carve them sometime this week, and Sam will probably insist we roast the seeds. And I’ll grumble about how messy it is and how much work it is but ultimately be really, really happy to snack on them in the days to come. A little gift to our future selves. Which is exactly what these freezer burritos are: a guaranteed way to make your upcoming week easier with just about an hour’s worth of prep time.
While we still have a few months before baby #2 arrives, I’ve been slowly starting to clean out the freezer and pantry and use up little bits of odds and ends we have laying around. And in doing so, I’ve started to think about what I’d like to stock the freezer with this time around. I remember after I had Oliver, friends generously brought over things we could warm for dinner and I’d made soups and casseroles in advance, but when it came to morning or mid-day meals, I was often trying to make a slice of peanut butter toast while holding a newborn baby — not the easiest endeavor. So this time around, on the agenda are more morning meals and (far) less one-handed peanut butter toast.
Let’s talk about freezer burritos for a minute. First off, you can totally make this recipe and not freeze them if you’ve got a family slightly larger than ours. And the great thing about these is you can really add whatever fillings you’d like. In fact, I hesitated to make this an actual “recipe” with specific inclusions because you should just add what makes you happy and what you’ve got around that you’re perhaps trying to use up. As a general rule, keep the amount of eggs, milk, seasoning and tortillas the same in the recipe below, but then feel free to add 2 – 2 1/2 cups of other add-ins and you’re good to go. Roasted veggies, beans, leftover shredded chicken or pork, ground beef or sausage or bacon, finely chopped hearty greens. Go to town. All that said, there are a few good guidelines to keep in mind when putting your freezer burritos together that I’ve learned the hard way (helllooo, soggy Burrito Town). First, avoid veggies with a high water content like mushrooms, tomatoes, or spinach (some people add spinach but I do find it can get a bit watery). Also, remember that you’re ultimately reheating these, so you don’t want to add anything you wouldn’t want to eat hot (i.e. no avocado, romaine or iceberg lettuce, to name a few).
The magic of these burritos is you simply fold them up, wrap them in foil, toss them in the freezer and then reheat in the microwave any time you’d like for just 3 minutes. I’ve been eating them on my drive to work and Sam’s been warming one when he gets home from dropping O off from preschool. They’re little handheld lifesavers, and I can’t wait to make another batch this week. Anything to make life easier now … and in the future, when we’ve got another monkey in the mix.
A lot of people put potatoes in these burritos to bulk them up a bit, but I’m using whole grain farro instead, which I love, so I went without. You could always use rice or any leftover grain you have in the fridge instead. Be sure to buy the larger tortillas to give yourself some space to work with; the smaller ones work just fine but you’ll have quite a demure little burrito bundle.
Add the farro and broth (or water) to a medium saucepan and, over high heat, bring to a simmer. Once the liquid is simmering, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until grains are tender and chewy. If you’re left with liquid after the grains are fully cooked, feel free to just strain it away.
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute, or until fragrant. Fold onion mixture into cooked farro and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper.
In a large non-stick skillet, warm remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the egg mixture and cook – stirring occasionally – until eggs are barely set, about 2-3 minutes. Fold in the cheddar cheese, farro and green chiles and stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.
To assemble: Working with one tortilla at a time, lay the tortilla on a flat surface and scoop 1 1/3 cups of the egg mixture into the center. Fold the top and bottom sides of the tortilla over the filling and proceed to roll the burrito, moving left to right, until it looks like a little burrito bundle.
Place burrito seam side down on a large sheet of aluminum foil and wrap. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place in large freezer bag to keep them all organized and handy. Burritos are good for 6 weeks in the freezer (sometimes I’ll date them, but they never last that long in our freezer, so I’ve stopped bothering).
To reheat: remove burrito from the freezer and remove the foil wrapper. Wrap the burrito in a slightly damp paper towel and place on a plate. Microwave for 3 minutes, or until heated through.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)