The Freezer Chronicles: Quesadilla Edition

I’ve been working on prepping more freezable meals for this busy fall season; some tested recipes, some soups and sauces, and some total experiments. This experiment is so tasty, that I just had to post the recipe!

I’ve made breakfast burritos for the freezer before, with egg & cheese, sausage and egg, and some with rice. These were intended to be really meaty, hearty dinners, so I started with a rough estimate of amounts of each ingredient, calculated the nutritional information, and started prepping — and then adjusted as follows.

Beef:
Starting with 2# of 90%/10% ground beef, cook in a skillet (cast iron is excellent for this), with no added fat. When it’s nearly all cooked, add a packet of of your favorite taco seasoning (I used Ortega, which is supposed to be a packet for 1# of meat, but ok as I didn’t want these super spicy). Mix in well, and cook until browned. Turn off the heat, scoop the meat into a bowl and weigh it (for portioning later) For what it’s worth, it lost 4 oz in cooking (1# 12 oz. cooked), and I calculated the nutritional information (using Calorie King) based on the cooked weight.

Sauteed Vegetables:
After cleaning the grill pan, heat with 1 T. olive oil on medium-high, and add 1 medium yellow onion, chopped. Once the onion starts to soften a bit, add the peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Or you can do them all at once, but I like my grilled onion a little more caramelized. When they’re done (nice and brown on the edges), dump in a bowl, and decide whether to weigh or measure or just eyeball it later. I recommend doing one of the two, so that you distribute everything evenly. Then repeat with the mushrooms, but without adding any more oil to the pan. Note: before you add these to the tortillas, you may want to drain the vegetables, as they’ll release some liquid while they wait.

Assembly:
I used medium-sized tortillas — they were labeled for burritos, but they’re not the giant burrito wraps. I think they’re 8″ in diameter. See, my intention had been to make burritos, but that was a big FAIL — there was just too much stuff to wrap up. Oops! So my sister had the brilliant idea to just fold in half and call them quesadillas. Brilliant! They’re stuffed full, but they actually hold together really well as fold-overs.

First thing is to spoon out some refried black beans, and spread onto half the tortilla. You can weigh each spoonful, or just eyeball it after the first couple. Then add 4 oz of the ground beef, 1/2 c. of the sauteed vegetables, and 1 oz. of the shredded cheddar cheese. Spread everything out as much as you can; it’ll make it easier to close.  I found it worked well to have one small bowl for the meat and one for the cheese, and just pre-weigh a portion of each before starting on the next tortilla.

Carefully fold in half, trying to keep everything inside. Wrap tightly in cellophane, place in a large freezer bag, and freeze. That’s it!

 Ingredients Protein   Carbs  Fat  Calories
4 oz ground beef (90% lean) 30 0 7.4 194
2.25 oz refried black beans 3.2 9.6 1.3 58
1 oz shredded cheddar 6.5 1.1 9.8 120
1/2 c. sauteed mushrooms, onions & peppers  1 4.2  8.4  13
tortilla 5 30 5 190
totals: 44.7 40.7 23.5 562

To thaw and warm:
Unwrap each quesadilla (this is important – don’t microwave your saran wrap!) and defrost in microwave for 1.5 – 2 minutes on 50% power (your microwave may vary on times). Once thawed, place in a hot skillet until it’s slightly crispy, before carefully flipping to repeat on the other side. Don’t rush this part; the crispy tortilla is one of the best parts. We’ve enjoyed ours served with some chopped lettuce and tomato and cilantro, and sour cream.

The nutritional information above might make this recipe look rigid, but you can make yours however you’d like, to meet your needs. Use ground turkey, or chopped chicken, or eliminate the beans if you don’t like them. And 1 oz of cheese isn’t a lot, so you might want to bump that up, or bring down the amount of the ground beef (it’s a beefy recipe!)

If you make them with variations, let us know on our facebook page!

 

Planning Ahead – Locally

For many of us (your co-authors included!!), it’s just about that time of year when the academic calendar takes over our lives again. Or at least for a little while, until we regain our balance. Having some food prepped for the coming week helps to take a little pressure off at the beginning of the term.

Whether it’s you or your kids or spouse who are headed back to school, check out some of our ideas below for prepped meals to help you out. And if no one in your house is headed back to school, then I hope you’ll relish your continued summer and this lovely weather!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I’ve wanted to try making stuffed bell peppers for a while now. The peppers in our CSA basket this week were gigantic, so it was a great time to try! My sister was game and offered the use of her kitchen, so we each made a big batch to freeze.

Sometimes I don’t feel like following a specific recipe, so this is more a report on how I made them. I kept track of the ingredients in case you want to try replicating it, though!

the peppers. Between the CSA and market, I had 10 giant peppers to stuff!  I sliced off the tops, pulled out the core and gently removed the white ribs with my fingers. I diced up the good parts of the tops to add to the filling, since I wasn’t putting the tops back on after stuffing. And because I was going to freeze these, I decided to blanch the peppers first. I only put them into the boiling water for a minute, but I’d probably follow this chart (which recommends 3 minutes for peppers) next time. After blanching and draining, I set them in small foil loaf pans in pairs, to get ready for assembly. tip: spring-loaded grabbers are quite handy for dunking and removing the peppers without getting burned.

the meat. I figured a pound of ground beef was enough, and though it was sufficient, twice that would have been better. Cook the meat thoroughly in a skillet and drain the fat from the pan.

the filling. Make a pot of brown rice — 2 c. rice, 4 c. water. Set that aside in a large bowl once it’s done and cooled. In a large skillet, sautee a diced yellow onion and the diced pepper-tops together with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add this to the rice, and mix well.

assembly. You can mix the ground beef into the rice mixture if you like, but honestly I wasn’t sure the rice was all going to fit, and I wanted to be sure that all the meat made it in. So ground beef went into the peppers first, then the rice mixture. The foil containers had thin plastic lids, so I used those for now. But once they’re frozen, I’ll take the covers off and put them in foodsaver bags, since the covers aren’t very sturdy for keeping in the deep freezer.

For what it’s worth, my sister used 2# of ground beef for her batch of 6 peppers, and she added a large can each of black beans and crushed tomatoes to her rice-meat-peppers-onions mixture. It made more than would fit into her peppers, so she just put those portions in their own containers.

small laundry baskets make great (washable!) containers for transport!

nutritional info. As made above, with 1 Tbs. of canola oil (to cook the diced peppers and onion), and with 2 stuffed peppers counting as a serving, these have approximately 384 calories, 20g protein,
25g carbs, 17g fat
(using CalorieKing.com).

They’re quite large, so add a bit of cheese and you have a pretty hearty meal!

 

 


Breakfast Bowls

I’ve made some version of these many times over, and the potential for variation is great — you can customize them for whatever flavors you like. Maple pork sausage with eggs and shredded potato is a particular favorite in my house.

Another thing your co-authors share is a significant daily work commute, and the ability to pop a breakfast in the microwave and eat it on the road or once I get to my office is a huge plus. I’ve made sandwiches and burritos before, but they’re hard to put down and pick up again. I find a bowl and spoon is actually easier to manage without spilling.

The batch that I made today was designed to be pretty heavy on the protein. I use 2 c. glass containers with lids from Anchor that do well from freezer to microwave, and this recipe stuffs them pretty full.

Ingredients:

2 dozen eggs
2 dozen egg whites (or the equivalent)
3 9.6-oz packages of turkey sausage crumbles
1 1/2 c. brown rice
olive oil spray

Cook the rice with 3 c. water, and set aside.

2 dozen eggs + 2 dozen whites!

The eggs are going to be scrambled, so crack 1 dozen whole eggs and 1 dozen egg *whites into a blender jar, add about 3 Tbs. water, and blend until slightly foamy. Heat a large skillet (nonstick is best) and add a quick spray of olive oil. Scramble the eggs in batches — about 1-2 c. in each batch, depending on the size of your pan. I’ve tried doing the whole thing at once, and it’s kind of been a mess. Your mileage may vary, of course. Set the cooked eggs aside in a large bowl/pan. When the first dozen is done, crack your second dozen of whole eggs and whites, and repeat the process.

Using pre-cooked turkey sausage feels a bit like cheating, and I’d rather not do it. But it is a huge time-saver. I need to seek out some local turkey that I can get ground, though; I’d love to try making my own turkey sausage, and cooking it at home.

12 breakfasts!

Assemble the bowls in layers: rice first, then meat, then eggs. I use a measuring cup for the rice (1/4 c. each), and weigh the other ingredients for each bowl.

To figure out the nutritional information for the eggs, I used the total number of eggs and whites — but knowing that number doesn’t help with portioning! So I divided the total weight of the cooked eggs (we found a pan that would fit on the kitchen scale!), and divided by 12 to get the weight we’d need for each bowl. It sounds like a hassle, but it actually goes pretty quickly.

nutritional information:
Using only cooking spray for the eggs, and no other added fat, these have approximately 316 calories, 34g protein, 14g carbs, and 15.8g fat. I was going to add cheese, but they’re stuffed into the bowls already!

These actually come together pretty quickly, and you can cook the components ahead of time. Straight from the freezer, these take a little more than 2 minutes in my microwave to heat fully. Friends have asked about the consistency of the egg, and honestly I don’t mind it. If anything, I slightly undercook the egg when I’m scrambling, since they’ll get cooked some more in the microwave. But they’re definitely better than the texture of egg in most drive-through breakfast sandwiches.

 

*If you’re going to separate your eggs, you might be wondering what to do with all those yolks.  Might I suggest making some salt-cured egg yolks? I’ve heard excellent things from friends, though I haven’t made them yet myself. You gently place the yolks in a little well of a salt-sugar mixture, and cover with more of the mix. For 5 days, they sit in your refrigerator, presumably releasing a lot of water into the salt mixture, and maybe taking in some sugar? After 5 days, you brush them off and dry in a 175F oven (or a dehydrator) for a couple of hours. Then, grate on pasta or toast. If you try it, be sure to report back!!

Week 6 Market Menu: Cukes and Zukes, or Cucurbit Time!

Welcome the Cucurbits! These are among my favorite summer vegetables. With the exception of tomatoes, I think it’s what I look forward to the most. Even zucchini 🙂

Seasonal: Greens: Arugula, Dandelion, LOTS of Lettuces, Mustard, Swiss Chard, and Spinach.  Brassicas: Kale, Collards, Cabbage, Kohlrabi.  Cucurbits: Cucumbers and Zucchini!  Root Veg: Beets, Carrots, Potatoes, Radishes, and Turnips. Also green onions, green garlic and garlic scapes. Herbs: Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Mint, Oregano, Sage, Thyme.    Fruit:  Strawberries!!!!

All Summer: Eggs, chicken, beef, oats, wheat, cornmeal, pork, cheese, honey, baked goods, lavender, mushrooms, popcorn, and much more. See the complete list of vendors at this year’s market for more information about produce and products.

 

Fun fact about Swiss Chard: it’s actually a variety of beet! The varieties we cook and pickle has been bred for its roots, and the varieties whose leaves we chop and lightly cook have been bred for their large leaves! The greens from your beet roots are also tasty.

This week, it looks like we’re back to pretty warm weather… so crock pot and no-cook and leftovers galore are my plans for meals.

Breakfast Ideas:
I’ve been loving Chad Sanders’ sesame bagels for breakfast, toasted, with a little salted butter and a little fresh ground peanut butter. So delicious! Add a hard-boiled egg and maybe some fresh strawberries, and that’s a lovely breakfast!

Here’s a frittata recipe that features fresh cilantro and pretty much whatever you have in your fridge. When I first saw the picture, I thought the thin pink slices were sausage, and now I’m totally imagining making this with some local pork brats or crumbled sausage. And swiss chard or beet greens.

Frittatas used to intimidate me, I’ll be honest. Putting it all together and then just trusting that the eggs would be done made me nervous. But once I tried it, it became a regular in our easy-dinner rotation, not to mention brunch. I like using a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet for this; the iron heats evenly, and cooks the inside of the eggs without burning the bottom.

Lunch Ideas:

Pickled Cucumber Soup – Ottolenghi

Some cucumber-heavy dishes from Smitten Kitchen:

And two from Food and Wine:

Zucchini Agrodolce – 101 Cookbooks (if ever there was a zucchini recipe to get me excited about zucchini, this is it!! honey, garlic, evoo, walnuts and dates!)

Dinner Ideas:

Slow-Cooker Tacos! Start with your meat, choose flour or corn tortillas, and then a variety of vegetables! A few options for meat:

Other Taco ingredients:

Or.., try this Food and Wine recipe that uses a rotisserie chicken to cut down on cooking!

Week 5 Market Menu: Summer is Coming!

This week at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market and Artists’ Alley:

Seasonal: Greens: Arugula, LOTS of Lettuces, Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach and Collard Greens!  Root Veg: Beets, Carrots, Potatoes, Radishes, and Turnips.  Summer squashes, including Zucchini!!  Herbs: Cilantro, Dill, Mint.  Kohlrabi and Cabbage!  And Strawberries!!!!

All Summer: Eggs, chicken, beef, oats, wheat, cornmeal, pork, cheese, honey, baked goods, lavender, mushrooms, popcorn, and much more. See the complete list of vendors at this year’s market for more information about produce and products.

 

 

It’s a short one this week!!

Breakfast Ideas:

I’ve been starting to crave smoothies in the morning, now that it’s getting warmer. And it might be all in my head, but I do feel like greens in the morning help keep me awake and alert until lunch. A quick trip in the blender, pop it in a cup and I can hit the road with my breakfast, which is an extra plus for me. I usually wing it, as far as a recipe. I start with around 12 oz milk (almond or soy milk works, too!) and protein powder. Then, flavor!  Frozen bananas and a handful of kale is my go-to, but I also like kale with frozen peaches, or spinach and frozen mango and banana!  Citrus is a nice balance to the green. I use a regular blender, and just start with a handful of greens at first. Search “Green Smoothie” and you’ll find literally dozens of recipes/combinations. Check out this list from DailyBurn.com.

 

Lunch Ideas:

Last week, I mostly stuck to a bagel or crackers, some Little Bloom on the Prairie with a touch of honey, and a handful of greens for lunch. Add just a touch of good olive oil and a splash of your favorite flavored balsamic vinegar to the greens, and you’re good to go! Here are a few other ideas for enjoying local produce in your lunches this week:

  • Radishes with garlic scape butter – add some crackers and cheese, and you have lunch!
  • Roast chicken (whole or parts) w/ a little olive oil, cool, then break down and portion out
  • Wheat berries are delicious in salads!
  • Hard-boil some eggs over the weekend, and add them to your lunchboxes during the week

 

Dinner Ideas:

  • If you’re grilling burgers or brats, slice up some turnips (less than 1/4″ thick) and put the finished grilled meat on top of the slices. The heat (temperature) of the meat softens up the turnips and dulls the heat (bite!) of the turnip. For someone like me, who’s not accustomed to the flavor of turnips, it’s a nice way to enjoy their flavor without the spiciness.
  • Pasta salads are a lovely way to avoid having the stove on at dinnertime. You can cook the pasta the night before, and dress it with your favorites. This one with swiss chard and garlic scape pesto looks delicious. Green garlic or garlic scapes would be great, especially with a little lemon zest and radishes.
  • Did you remember to pull some meat out of the freezer for tomorrow’s dinner? I wish I could consistently remember to do that!
  • Double up on things that require the oven, like casseroles or roasted veggies or meat. Plan to have leftovers for dinner the next day! Something like this chicken and kale casserole, or this spinach and egg strata.
  • If you grill or roast veggies and have leftovers, and are wondering what to do with them, why not try a Buddha bowl? Just add some grain and your favorite things from your fridge, basically. It works. Surprisingly well.

 

 

Week 3 Market Menu

This week at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market and Artists’ Alley:

Seasonal: More greens, more vegetable plants for your gardens! Arugula, Asparagus, Carrots, Chard, Collards, Kale, Mint, Potatoes, Radishes, Rhubarb, Spinach, Turnips, and more!

All Summer: Eggs, chicken, beef, oats, wheat, cornmeal, pork, cheese, honey, baked goods, lavender, mushrooms, popcorn, and much more. See the complete list of vendors at this year’s market for more information about produce and products.

Coming Soon:

vegetannual (1)
the mythical vegetannual: an imagining of all the vegetables we harvest, as if borne from a single plant, over the course of the year. More on this idea later, but for now, keep an eye on the vegetables that branch out near the “June” label above — they’re coming next!

 

 

Breakfast Ideas:

Muesli! It requires no heat, no chopping, and no prep. As close to “cereal and milk” as you can get with whole foods. 4 parts flaked grain (oats, wheat, etc.), 1 part nuts or seeds, 1 part dried fruit. My favorite is a combo of flaked rye and oats, flax meal (lightly ground seeds) and raw pumpkin seeds, and dried apricots. I may have to switch to it soon, when the heat comes back!

 

Lunch Ideas:

little bloom on the prairie, by prairie fruits farm

Greens w/ cheese and fruit and crackers – boom, lunch!  Last week, I went through a round of Prairie Fruits Farm’s Little Bloom on the Prairie at work with some of their homemade crackers, some local honey, milk and carrot sticks and apples.

But if you’re looking for something more, well, MORE, I’m very partial to The Kitchn at the moment for salad ideas.

 

Kale and Quinoa Salad – The Kitchn
This is a simple variation of the grain-kale salad. No having to choose your combo, just make it as is, and it’s a super tasty one. I’m not sure on local sources for the dates — I love the whole medjool dates that I know you can get at Fresh Market, but check Green Top and Common Ground!
Pantry check: onion, quinoa, lacinato kale, dates, almonds, orange, lime, maple syrup

 

Golden Beet and Barley Salad – The Kitchn
No need to wait for golden beets, this is just as delicious with red! Another easy grain salad that you can make ahead and have waiting for packed lunches for at least a couple of days.
Pantry check: beets (golden or red), barley, red onion, swiss chard, lemon juice, feta cheese

 

“Airplane Salad” (The Kitchn) – so easy, I’ll post the basics here. It’s not that different from the Oh She Glows mighty protein salad, or other grain/green salads; it’s simple and eminently packable, even if you’re traveling.

  • ~ 3 c chopped kale
  • ~ 1 c chopped carrots or chopped steamed broccoli
  • 1/2 c chopped frozen blueberries or peaches
  • 1/4 c cooked and cooled grain brown rice, wheat berries, or farro
  • 1/4 c nuts (I like pecans), seeds (flax or sesame) and/or craisins
  • 2 T. evoo
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

 

Dinner Ideas:

I don’t know about you, but when it’s as hot as it’s been recently, I don’t feel much like standing over a stove after work.  Grilling, though? Maybe. So this week, I’ve gathered a handful of non-stove recipes that I like. Grill on!

Garlic-Mustard Glaze – Bobby Flay / Smitten Kitchen
Deb (of sk) uses this on skewered chicken, but it’s great on any meat!
Pantry check: Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, rosemary, paprika

  • Lemon-Parsley Bean Salad – Cookie and Kate
    Quick and pantry-friendly this time of year — w/ the exception of the tomatoes! Just don’t bother, until you can find them locally.
    Pantry check: kidney beans, garbanzo beans, red onion, celery, tomato (not this time of year, but later!), cucumber, parsley, fresh dill or mint, lemon juice.

 

Split Whole Cumin Chicken – Food Network
Wondering what to do with a whole chicken from your chicken CSA? Here’s one option!
Pantry check: 4-6# whole chicken, honey, cilantro, buttermilk, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, fennel seed

  • On the side: a quick carrot salad:  Grate 2-3 carrots, add a bit of minced garlic, toss with evoo, lemon juice, salt and pepper, parsley, and a little cayenne if you like some heat.

 

Chicken Salad w/ Arugula, Lemon and Pine Nuts – Food and Wine
I haven’t made this one before, but I’m definitely going to this week! It’s too early for zucchini around here, so I’ll probably leave it out. There will be PLENTY of time for zucchini-friendly recipes later in the season!!
Pantry check: currants (or raisins or craisins), cumin, lemon, zucchini, shallot, chicken breasts, pine nuts, arugula

 

Perfectly Grilled Steak – Bobby Flay
Pantry check: steak!!

  • Cowboy Caviar – Cookie and Kate
    SO much better than dumping Italian dressing on beans, which I’ve done to great disappointment.
    Pantry check: black-eyed peas, black beans, corn (I suggest frozen), bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, red wine vinegar, oregano, basil, honey, red pepper flakes