Casserole-Style Burritos: Everything.

The primary components of these burritos are: chicken and onions, Spanish rice, cheese, tortillas (using yesterday’s recipe and method), spicy sauce, and cheese sauce (covered in another post).

Burrito Filling (adapted from Don Miguel’s “Black Bean Chicken Burrito Recipe“)
1 T oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
10 oz pulled chicken in bite-sized pieces
1 C diced tomato or canned tomato
salt and pepper to taste
1 C jack cheese, shredded

1.    Lightly saute the onion in the oil until it is translucent and add the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes. 
2.    Add the chicken and cook until heated through.
3.    Add the tomatoes and season, then heat through again.
4.    Use the chicken and cheese when assembling the burritos.

Spanish Rice (my personal recipe)
2 C white rice
1/2 diced sweet onion
2 T olive oil
1-2 t each dried oregano, dried basil, chili powder, paprika, cumin, optional red pepper flakes
1/2 C canned crushed tomatoes
2 C water

1.    Place the oil and spices in a deep saucepan or rice pot.
2.    Saute the onions in the oil and spices.
3.    Place one cup of rice in the water and add the other cup to the pot.
4.    After the rice has been heated through in the oil, add the rice, water, and tomatoes. Cook until most, but not all, of the water has boiled off, then cover and simmer over very low heat for 10-15 minutes.
5.    Use when assembling the burritos.

Note: this is a lot of rice and you will probably have some left over.

Spicy Sauce (adapted from Cooks.Com “BAKED BURRITOS WITH SPICY SAUCE“)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 C water
1/3 C canned green chilies
2 T chili powder
1 t cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 C water

1.    Cook the onion and garlic in the 1/2 C water for about 5 minutes and add the spices.
2.    Add the chilies, tomato, and water, then simmer for about 15 minutes.
3.    Use when assembling the burritos and over top of the burritos before baking.

Final Casserole Assembly
Chicken filling and cheese
Spanish rice
Spicy and/or cheese sauce
8+ tortillas, depending on size

1.    Oil one or two pans big enough to hold all the burritos. You will want separate pans for each sauce.
2.    Place a tortilla on a large plate, then fill with chicken, cheese, rice, and a little sauce.
3.    Roll the burrito and place in a pan, then repeat for all the burritos.

4.    Top the burritos with their respective sauces, adding more cheese to the top, if desired.

5.    Bake the casserole(s) until they are heated through, then serve.

After getting fresh basil from the cafeteria because everything in the greenhouse had been picked, we ran into our first major problem. Since our knife choices were butter, steak, and 10-inch chef’s, cutting the bone out of chicken thighs was very difficult. So, rather than continuing to fight the raw chicken, Alex suggested that we bake the chicken. Baking the chicken reminded me that making the burrito filling works very well with any leftover cooked chicken; you don’t need to cook your chicken specifically for this meal.

For our sauces, we used canned tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes. I blended the diced tomatoes a little to remove the large lumps of tomatoes and we used them in just about everything. To avoid opening more cans, I improvised some on the spicy sauce. I’m not sure how the sauce would turn out if I used the exact ingredients specified, but I think it would be good. I think both casseroles would have turned out better if they had both had the correct amount of sauce and spare space in the pan. While there was a good amount of cheese sauce, there was too much space in the pan and the spicy casserole was lacking both sauce and space.

Cheesy Sauce

Spicy Sauce

Personally, I prefer plain wrapped burritos to a casserole, but there are reasons to make one instead of the other. In significant support of the casserole is the awkward shapes of the tortillas. Since we weren’t cutting the dough after rolling it, no two tortillas were the same size or shape. Since the burrito only needs to hold together long enough to be put in the pan for a casserole, the tortilla only has to be strong, not carefully shaped. However, the casserole took a long time to bake in comparison to assembling burritos from hot ingredients and serving immediately.

Overall, both burrito casseroles were successful. Everyone in our class and other classes who came in to eat some of the burritos appeared to like them. However, in addition to getting the amount of sauce correct, Alex thought the burritos could use more chicken and I thought the burritos could use more rice. When we make more burritos, we can see how we want to do the filling ratios.

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Looking Towards a Week of Mexican Food (Now with tortillas)

Today, we will be investigating the Mexican tradition of burritos, using homemade tortillas, homemade sauce, and our very own homemade spiced chicken. Our group will focus on this for the entire week. We will be sticking with the same meat, the same tortilla, and the same rice recipes, but changing between sauces to see which fits best. This process begins today. Along with this, we are making authentic Mexican rice, using a family recipe from Thomas.

Tortillas (adapted from Hillbilly Housewife’s “Flour Tortilla“)
4 C flour
1 t salt
2 t baking powder
5 T lard, shortening, butter, or vegetable oil
1 1/2 C water

1.    Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder, then cut or mix the fat into the flour.
2.    Mix all the water into the flour and fat in stages until the dough comes together.
3.    Split the dough into 8-16 pieces, depending on the size and thickness of tortilla desired. Some experimentation may be necessary.
4.    Lightly flour a counter and roll out the dough. The goal is to make the tortillas as thin as possible without tearing or folding the tortilla.
5.    Cook the tortillas on a hot griddle or pan without any grease. If you can roll the tortillas fast enough, you can cook and roll tortillas simultaneously. If not, you can roll a set of tortillas and layer them between pieces of waxed paper.
6.    For hard tortillas, serve immediately. To make tortillas soft for burritos or soft tacos, place the tortillas in a large sealable plastic bag and leave them there until you are ready to prepare the next dish.

It took quite a few tries to get these tortillas to turn out. Notably, you do not want to use any grease on the cooking surface because the tortillas will cook and not stick. Depending on the desired size of the tortilla, a pan might be large enough, but for burrito wrapper sized tortillas, you will need to use a very large cooking surface. Also, depending on how long the dough sits out, it may be necessary to wet the each ball before rolling it.

Figure out how step six in the above instructions worked was quite an interesting procedure. After some “quick fix” attempts using wet paper towels and a microwave or making slightly wetter dough didn’t work. Since we aren’t planning on serving the tortillas immediately (they will be burrito wrappers), the plastic bag method seems to be the most effective and useful way to soften the tortillas.

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Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Basic Chicken Soup
2 T oil
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 quarts chicken stalk
2 C diced chicken
1 T poultry seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1.    Saute the onions in the oil until they are translucent.
2.    Add the remaining vegetables and saute for anther 2-3 minutes. Add the poultry seasoning and about a teaspoon of salt to the vegetables.
3.    Add the chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for half an hour.
4.    Add the chicken to the soup and stir well. Let the soup continue to simmer for ten minutes.
5.    Add the dumplings from the following recipe and cook accordingly.


(adapted from “Mom’s Simple Dumplings“)

1 1/2 C flour
2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
3 T shortening
3/4 C milk

1.    Whisk together the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening
2.    Slowly add the milk into the mixture. Be sure not to overmix the dough.
3.    Drop lumps of dough into boiling soup or stew. The dumplings should remain on top of the soup. Cook covered for ten minutes.

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Twice Baked Potatoes (and that last bit of panic while cooking a whole meal)

Twice Baked Potatoes (adapted from Simply Recipes)

4 large potatoes
1/2 C milk
2 T butter

Additions to mashed potatoes (optional)
1/2 C sour cream
1 T cream
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings (optional)
grated cheese
green onion
ham or bacon
sour cream

Baking Potatoes (oven at 400°F)
1.    Wash the potatoes and pierce the skins with a fork.
2.    Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until they are cooked through. You can prepare additional toppings during this time, if desired.
3.    When the potatoes are finished, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.

Making the Filling and Twice-Baking (oven at 350°F)
1.    After the potatoes are cooled, there are two options for cutting them open. For large and well stuffed potatoes, cut the top third of the potato off. For more individual servings, cut each potato in half.
2.    Spoon out the inside of each potato piece for the mashed potato filling, being sure to leave a layer of potato inside the pieces that will be used as the base later.
3.    Mix the potatoes, milk, butter, and other mashed potato additions. You can use an electric mixer if you want fluffier potatoes.
4.    Spoon the mashed potatoes into the potato bases on a baking sheet and layer the toppings on the mashed potatoes.
5.    Bake the potatoes for 15-20 minutes until warmed through and the tops or toppings are lightly browned.

The potatoes turned out excellently. We didn’t follow this recipe exactly, substituting more smaller potatoes (which I forgot to oil before baking) and opting for Greek yoghurt in place of sour cream. Alex and Luke got everything nicely topped in a variety of combinations using cheese, green onion, and ham. The second baking took about 25 minutes and produced nice potatoes covered in browned cheese and more.

Impromptu Gravy
Pan drippings from two chickens
1-3 T flour
1/2 C milk

1.    Place pan drippings in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
2.    Add the flour and whisk like crazy.
3.    Slowly add milk, whisking continuously.
4.    Bring back to a simmer and serve.

This was the very last thing to get cooked for our meal because I realized the potential for gravy only after the chickens came out of their ovens. My method was rather ineffective and required a massive amount of whisking (with help from a spatula) to get rid of flour lumps. The gravy came together very nicely as I added the milk to the strange combination of roux and the water component of pan drippings as the remaining flour lumps quickly vanished. Despite whipping it up at the last moment, the gravy came out very well without the need for additional salt or pepper.

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A Tale of Two Chickens

Group 1:   Today, we are cooking two different chickens with completely different origins. One, short-legged, fat , and slightly square, comes from an unknown factory in America. The other, long-legged and lean, comes from the backyard of our instructor, Ms.Baker. These chickens have nothing in common except for the fact the they are chickens.  The differences between a homegrown chicken and the industrialized one are great.

Local, Free Range Chicken (Left) vs. Industrial Chicken (Right)

The home-bred one has been allowed to roam in a large area, and has been fed healthily with grass and chicken-feed, and also corn on cold winter nights. This makes the chicken leaner and long-legged.

The factory chicken had only eaten corn for two months before it was slaughtered for its tender meat. It has rarely been allowed to move to maximize the amount of meat on the bird. The lack of movement gives the chicken a larger breast and shorter legs.

There is a large difference between the taste and texture of the two chickens. The home-bred chicken, though leaner, was much less stringy and had a lot more taste to it. That is probably because of the healthy diet it ate with grass and a few different types of grain. The home-bred chicken also had some juices still in it. The store-bought chicken was much more stringy, and was pretty bland and tasteless, but there was also more of it.

This would bring up the question of what type of chicken should a person buy if they wanted chicken. Well, if you wanted more chicken to feed a larger group, you might want to buy one, maybe even two, store-bought chickens. But if you are a party of two or three, a home-bred chicken would do you just fine, and you would also get the delicious flavor. All in all, I liked both chickens, though I did like the home-bred chicken a little more.

Group 2:  There were many differences between the two chickens set before us on the counter. Firstly, one was free-range, and the other was an industrial chicken. You would almost have thought that they were two different species of birds. What people don’t know is that they practically are. The ways that industrial chickens are processed before they are put into stores seem disgusting. Firstly, chickens are bred and fed to grow so fat and weak that they no longer will be able to walk and barely move. By the time they are taken to the slaughter houses, the chickens would not be able to last much longer if they were left to live.

     The visual differences included the fact that the free-range chickens had longer, more muscular legs, versus the industrial chicken, which had perfectly poised stubby legs that folded right into the breast of the bird. The color of the two different birds were also very different; the industrial chicken had almost a yellow tint to it while the free-ranged chicken was white. The holes in the skin are still left on the free-range chicken where the feathers had previously been, but on the the other chicken, the skin is very smooth and appears to not have had any feathers whatsoever.
     The industrial chick had much different proportions: the breast was much fatter and full, by far surpassing the size of the free-range chick breast, though the actual sizes of the bird revealed that the free-range was larger as a whole. The free-range chicken was much more shapely: it had more angles and more points, and was more proportional in terms of the breast and legs.
     The free-range chicken had been slaughtered and had been left with the internal organs still inside and the neck, which is used for stock, still attached. Since the industrial bird had all of these parts in a small little bag, included in the chicken package, we also assumed that it had been drained of blood before being wrapped up and sent out. The difference between the amount of blood produced by the two birds was surprising, yet most Americans think nothing of the processing that their chicken must go through before it hits their table.
Group 3:

The previous question regarding chickens was related to which came first, the chicken or the egg. Technological advances have allowed the human race to directly manipulate the chicken to increase yield drastically. When juxtaposing a factory chicken with a homegrown chicken, the differences are drastic. The size and shape of the differing birds is the most obvious. The homegrown bird appears skinny, with long, well developed legs. It also has small breasts and wings, the more meat around the legs. The factory chicken is almost boxed shaped, with a large amount of meat everywhere. The bird is obese, only able to be living for two months before the overfed and caged birds become so large that their legs break under the weight of their own bodies. when comparing and contrasting the two birds, one begins to wonder if the new, more important question regarding the chicken is centered around the treatment of the birds, and which is healthier for human consumption.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stock made from each chicken.

Two Pie Day: Pecan Pie

Flaky Pie Crust
from How to Cook Everything, 10th Anniversary Edition, p. 928
1 C + 2 T + extra flour
1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
8 T butter, cut into pieces
3 T cold water, more if necessary

1-2 C rice, beans, or pie weights (for precooking)

Preparing the dough
1.    Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor.

2.    Add the pieces of butter and process until the mixture looks like cornmeal.
3.    Move the mixture to a bowl and carefully mix in the ice water with your hands. If the mixture is too dry, you can add another tablespoon or two of cold water.
4.    Form the mixture into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for half an hour or freeze for ten minutes. The dough can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

Forming the Crust
1.    Prepare a counter top and rolling pin by dusting each with flour. Place the dough on the counter and sprinkle it with additional flour.
2.    Roll the dough out into a disk, dusting with flour as necessary. If the dough becomes soft and sticky, cool in the refrigerator or freezer again before continuing to roll it.
3.    When the dough is about 2 inches in diameter larger than the pie plate, transfer it to the pie plate by draping it over the rolling pin.
4.    Firmly press the dough into the plate and refrigerate for an hour or freeze for half an hour.
5.    Trim the excess dough from the edges of the crust and from the edges by pinching the dough or pressing a fork into it. Freeze the dough for ten minutes or refrigerate for half an hour.

Blind-Baking the Pie Crust
preheat oven to 425°F

My first homemade pie crust!

1.    Immediately after refrigerating the crust, prick it with a fork to allow steam to escape while it is baking
2.    Lightly grease a piece of aluminum foil and line the pie crust with the greased foil, butter side down. Chilling the pie crust again will help the crust turn out well.
3.    Fill the foil with rice, beans, or pie weights and bake for 12 minutes.
4.    Remove the foil and weights, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake until the crust is a light golden brown (about 10 minutes).
5.    Fill the pie and finish baking according to the pie recipe.

Pecan Pie Filling
from Karo® brand corn syrup, Ach Food Companies, Inc.

1 c dark corn syrup
3 eggs
1 c sugar
2 T melted butter
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 c toasted pecans
1 blind-baked or frozen pie crust

1.    Preheat oven to 350°F
2.    Combine the corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.
3.    Place one layer of pecans on the bottom of the pie crust, then set them aside.
4.    Chop the remaining pecans.
5.    In a small bowl, coat the whole pecans in a few tablespoons of the syrup mixture.
6.    Add the chopped pecans to the syrup and pour into the pie crust.
7.    Place the whole pecans in a radial pattern on the surface of the pecans and syrup in the pie crust.

The pie before baking.

8.    Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the center of the pie springs back if pushed down.

The completed and baked pie.

Making a pie from the bottom up was a great experience. We didn’t have a food processor, but I was able to make the dough relatively easily. After chilling for a while, the dough was not difficult to work with and only stuck to the counter a little bit. The pie plate I was using didn’t have a large lip, so I didn’t make a very decorative edge for the crust. Precooking the crust worked pretty well, but it still had a few air bubbles that I pressed out after lightly browning the crust.

After that new experience, I just had to finish the familiar routine of finishing a pecan pie. It turns out that the lack of a decorative edge on the crust, coupled with the walls of the crust shrinking slightly helped because there wasn’t enough filling to completely fill the pie plate. After baking for an hour and cooling for another, the pie was still slightly warm and I got to serve it to a bunch of the MSSM staff.

It became apparent that I should have greased the pie plate before baking the crust, but I managed to pry the first few slices out successfully. Now, I can look forward to having more pie for breakfast tomorrow.

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Considering Pies


Since I was about 7 years old, I have been crazy about pecan pie. My mom made a pie every Christmas, and I am excited to try my hand at it. We have a limited amount of ingredients, so I doubt it will be anything fancy. This is something I worry about tomorrow’s apple pie, because it lacks molasses. However, a pie does not require numerous, fantastic ingredients to be tasty. My biggest worry with the pie is burning it because I never have been a particularly gifted baker, especially because pecan pie is filled with sugar and can easily crisp up and be ruined. I’m also concerned about proportions and making sure the pie isn’t overwhelmingly sweet or nutty. However, if we follow our plans and keep a careful eye on the pie while it is baking, success should not be too hard to grasp.


Making pies is easy, right? Well, making a pie is easy when you just make the filling and drop it into a frozen prepared pie crust. I’m confident that today’s pie fillings will come out nicely, but preparing crust from scratch seems much more difficult. After this, I would like to see if a homemade pie crust seems better than store-bought. Ingredients-wise, it’s probably better for you, but making the crust takes a great deal of time. Since the apple pie we are making today has a crust top, it should be worth the time to make the complete pie, but the pecan pie doesn’t need such a complex crust arrangement.


When making pies, the most “American” pie would be the apple pie. The image that comes to mind is a old grandmother pulling a delicious smelling pie out of the oven and putting it on her windowsill. My expectations for the apple pie is just that. The perfect pie: its smell making your mouth water. For the pecan pie, I’m going to try it for my first time, which is exciting.

Bull’s-Eye Eggs (Egg in Toast)

Time Commitment: <15 Minutes

Yield:  1 Bull’s-Eye

1 Egg
1 Slice 12 Grain Bread
2 T Butter

This is how you want to cut the bread before buttering it.

1.    Cut a 2-inch in diameter hole in the slice of bread.
2.    Butter both sides of the disk and ring of bread.
3.    Melt about a teaspoon of butter in an 8-inch frying pan over medium heat and heat the butter until it bubbles.
4.    Place the two pieces of bread next to each other in the frying pan and crack an egg into the ring of bread. If the yolk breaks, scramble the egg lightly. 
5.    Cook both pieces over low heat until the bread disk is well browned, shaking the pan to prevent the egg from sticking. Then flip the disk.
6.    Lift up the bread and egg with a spatula and drop a little less than a teaspoon of butter on the pan and turn the Bull’s-Eye onto the melted butter.
7.    Remove the pan from the heat, let the egg finish cooking (about 20 seconds), and serve.

Cooking the first side

This time the egg broke after I added it, so I scrambled it.

Normally, I cook with nonstick pans, but I didn’t have one today. Despite my efforts to keep the egg from sticking by shaking the pan, the egg stuck repeatedly. I was able to prevent some sticking by adding a little cooking oil to the pan each time I added butter. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a foolproof solution and the egg still stuck to the pan, even with the oil.

The Final Product
This is how the dish is served. Notice how there is egg that leaked onto the pan after it was flipped. This is normal.

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