Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Breakfast Burritos

Folks, I finally did it.  Inspired very much by Julie's morning workouts on Peanut Butter Fingers and by the time constraints of the full time job/grad school madness that is now my life, I switched to morning workouts.  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, I chug down a cup of coffee and hit the gym hard.  Side note: it's been such a great experience that I started looking for something to do on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, which is how Thursday AM became house cleaning morning.  I'm not fully awake at that hour, so it's kind of like the cleaning just happens without any effort on my part.  I almost feel like I have a maid.  Unable to find a similarly productive project for Tuesdays, I guiltlessly lie around like a slug and read magazines.  But I digress...there is a downside to this system.

You see, I've always been a fan of the complete breakfast.  Due to time constraints, it's not possible to eat, let the meal settle, and then go into a workout.  Working out on an empty stomach isn't a problem, but afterwards I'm hungry like a beast.  The kind of hunger that can't be cured by yogurt or cereal, only a cooked meal will do.  In the search for a portable breakfast, I came across freezer black bean burritos and never looked back.  Initially I was skeptical that eggs could be frozen and then nuked back to life in the microwave, but having nothing to lose except my hunger, I tried it anyway.  And I venture to say that you will be as glad as I am if you take the leap and try it yourself.

Yield: 6 burritos
(Adapted from Budget Bytes)
  • 15 oz can black beans, drained
  • 8 oz salsa, drained (extra chunky recommended)
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 tortillas, 8"
  • 3 oz cheddar cheese
  • Additional hot sauce and red pepper flakes as needed
  • Fresh cilantro, optional
  • Burrito glue: 1 tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons water (optional)


Fresh cilantro is by no means a required ingredient, but if you happen to have some at hand, grab a little for garnish.

Drain and rinse the black beans.

If your endorphin levels will support it, add a little extra heat to the beans.

Drain the salsa. 

Beat the eggs.

Scramble in a lightly greased skillet, adding a pinch of salt and optional red pepper flakes.

Set up a burrito assembly station.

Assemble burritos.

If you would like an assist in keeping your burritos closed, mix up a batch of top secret burrito glue.

One tablespoon flour to two tablespoons of water.  I forget where I came across this tip, but it changed my life. 

Brush around the edges of the tortilla.  It won't "glue" right away, but as soon as you toast the tortilla, it will fuse together.

Roll 'em up and place seam side down.

Now let's make some magic happen!  Toast them for a few minutes on all sides in a skillet on medium heat.  If the skillet looks "dry", I might spray it with a little oil, but for the most part you shouldn't need any help to get a nice tan on the burrito.

Wrap the completed goodies in saran wrap.  Allow to cool in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer.

Place them in your corporate freezer, packaged and labeled according to company policy.

Retrieve when ready to eat. 

Unwrap one of the frozen treasures and reheat in the microwave.  After much experimenting, I usually start seam side up for one minute, and then flip seam side down for the remaining two minutes.  The cooking time will need to be adjusted to your particular corporate microwave.

 Add salt and pepper and take your burrito to your work area.

And start the work day satisfied!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

A few years ago cold brewed iced coffee hit the food blog circuit hard.  I appreciated the smoothness and high caffeine content, but it was never a regular part of my routine until this summer.  The reasons:
  • Calories!  I'm a big fan of eating them, not so much for drinking them.  Too many of the versions I've seen suggest adding sugar, cream, and/or sweetened condensed milk.  A big ol' rush of fat and sugar is not a good way to start the day.  But cut out the fat and sugar, and you lose the taste, and hence the point of this little drink. 
  • Time.  Homemade takes less time and is much cheaper than stopping to see the barista, but no one can deny that home made iced coffee is a heavy.

Fueled by the desire for a cold treat on hot summer mornings, I finally found the right combination of ingredients to get a sub-100 calorie beverage and made peace with the equipment requirements.   Let's check it out.

Recipe from The New York Times
Yield: 2 drinks
  • 1½ cups cold water
  • ⅓ cup ground coffee 
For each drink, add:
  • ¾ cup sweetened almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon (or less) sugar
  • 4 ice cubes

The night before, fill a sealable container with 1½ cups cold water and ⅓ cup ground coffee.  I've had good results with all brands of coffee and would venture to say it doesn't matter where your coffee falls on the Starbucks-to-Folgers index.  The magic is in the brewing, not the ingredients.

Stir in the grounds.

Seal the container and place it in the refrigerator overnight. 

The next morning, rise and shine!  Retrieve your coffee and set up a filtering system based on the available equipment in your kitchen.  My coffee filter in a strainer basket set over a mug may not be the most photogenic approach, but it's what I've got to work with.

Strain the coffee.  The original recipe calls for double straining through cheesecloth.  Single-straining through a regular coffee filter has always worked just fine for me.

Now it's time to make a drink.  The original recipe is designed to be diluted one-to-one with water.  Think about it: an overnight brew time makes for a strong cup of coffee.  However, I didn't care much for this approach.  What can I say, it was just too watery for my taste.  I needed to find something else besides water.

So my solution is to dilute it one-to-one with one of the finest substances on earth, sweetened almond milk (not to be confused with unsweetened almond milk, which is just OK).  Place ¾ cup coffee and ¾ cup almond milk in a blender.

Add four ice cubes and a pinch of sugar.

Give it a whirl.  And yes, the blender lives up to its name.

Transfer coffee to cup.

And transfer the cup and yourself to a better place.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies - simply the best cookie ever

My friends, there are no words to do these cookies justice.  Peanut butter - check.  Chocolate - check.  Gooey softness - check.  The pleasure of scooping peanut butter straight from the jar packaged into one polite little cookie.  Please do yourself a favor and make these ASAP.

(Recipe from The Smitten Kitchen)
Yield: approx 4 dozen small cookies

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup peanut butter chips
½ cup chocolate chips
Extra sugar for sprinkling


First, the boring part.  Measure out dry ingredients and set aside.  Whew, thank goodness that's over.

Lightly grease a measuring cup and scoop out a cup of peanut butter.  Why grease it?  Because otherwise the peanut butter will stick to the cup, and ain't nobody got time for that.

Beat the peanut butter and butter together until smooth and fully combined.  Add the sugars and beat to combine.  Follow up with the egg, milk, and vanilla.

Add the flour in small batches and mix lightly until just combined.

Finally, add in the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips and give it a final mix.

Sample dough as needed to make sure it tastes OK.

Spoon out small pieces of dough (approx 1 tablespoon per cookie) and lightly roll into a ball.

Preheat oven to 350° and roll the balls in sugar.

Space generously on cookie sheet.

Give each cookie a gentle love pat.  You don't want to hurt the cookie, just encourage its shape a little.

Bake for exactly 10 minutes.  No more, no less.  At the end of the 10 minutes, the cookies will still look a little raw and you will not be able to take them off the sheet.  That's OK, just let them sit a minute and then remove them to a cooling rack.  Let's review: 10 minute cooking time, 1 minute on sheet cooling time.

And with that my friends, our work here is complete.