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.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.