Antioxidant Alert! Collard Greens with Rice and Kielbasa

I've talked before about how some of the best recipes come from the most unassuming places. This one is a personal record for unassuming.

I spend a lot of time rooting through the various greens in the produce department of my grocery store. It's a habit that I seem to have unwittingly inherited from my father. Fortunately Laura not only tolerates it--she strongly encourages it. When you live with an eye doctor, you regularly hear health-related lectures about how an antioxidant-rich diet can protect you from things like macular degeneration and cataracts.

On this particular day, I struck green. I mean gold. Our local supermarket was selling 99c bunches of collard greens that were so enormous I had to use two hands to pick them up. You could feed a family on half a bunch.

And attached to the little wire tie that was tenuously holding this huge bunch of collards together was an unassuming little plastic label with an even more unassuming recipe on it. I could see the recipe would pass the Five Easy Questions Test and would be both laughably cheap and preposterously easy to make.

Sold! I brought the collards home with me. And today I’ll share that recipe with you.

Collards with Rice and Kielbasa

1 lb collard greens

1 cup rice
Several pieces of kielbasa or sausage, chopped into chunks
3 cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube
black pepper (or cayenne pepper) to taste

1) Wash collard greens well, remove stems, and chop the leaves into medium size pieces.

2) Place all ingredients into a deep, non-stick saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serves 4-5

A couple of brief closing notes:

1) This dish can be very easily reheated for lunches or leftovers using a microwave.

2) Here are the vegetarian options: replace the meat (duh) and add one can of kidney beans or pink beans, and use vegetable bouillon in place of the chicken bouillon cube. Then, replace one or two of the cups of water with liquid vegetable stock.

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by purchasing items from via links on this site, or by linking to me or subscribing to my RSS feed. Finally, you can consider submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon. Thank you for your support!

How to Make a Mole Sauce: Intense, Exotic and Surprisingly Easy to Make

Chicken Mole is one of the most popular recipes in our filebox. It was one of the first recipes I ever posted in this blog (way back in December 2006), but it was buried at the end of my Seven Ways to Get Faster at Cooking post. Although that turned out to be one of the most heavily viewed posts in this blog, the recipe itself was almost an afterthought, lost at the bottom of the page.

So today I'm going to expand on my mole sauce recipe by giving it its own standalone post, and by adding several new photographs that will show, in detail, all of the process steps in making the recipe. Hopefully this will assist you in mastering this exotic and surprisingly easy to make dish.

Let me start with two brief points of trivia: 1) It's pronounced "MOH-lay" and 2) The secret ingredient is of course chocolate. I've never known anybody to figure it out just from tasting the sauce, unless they already knew what a mole sauce was.

This recipe is one of the heavy rotation mainstays in our kitchen. It can be made vegetarian-style with only minor adjustments. It is easily scaleable (I’ve cooked it for 27 people at a family reunion), freezable and reheatable, and it can be made from start to finish in about half an hour. I hope that you find this dish as fun to cook and eat as we do.
Chicken Mole:
(Modified beyond recognition from an old issue of Bon Appetit Magazine)
Spice mix:
2 Tablespoons mild chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon
A few shakes of cayenne pepper if desired

1 1/2 lbs chicken (prefer chicken breasts or boneless thighs, cut into chunks or strips)
Cayenne pepper and coarse ground black pepper for seasoning
4 cans (14.5 ounces each) stewed tomatoes
1.5 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

1) Season raw chicken with cayenne pepper and coarse ground black pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of olive on high heat in a large, deep (4 quart) nonstick pan. Add chicken and sear at high heat until just done (do not overcook!). Set chicken aside.
2) Reduce heat to medium-high and add a few more tablespoons of olive oil to pan. Shake spice mix into the olive oil and stir with a plastic spatula. Add more oil (if needed) until all of the spice mix is moistened in the oil.
Heat spices until they are blackened and smoking, about 6-7 minutes or more (be sure to have your overhead fan on for this part!).
3) Lower heat to low and add unsweetened chocolate. As the chocolate is melting, stir it into the blackened spices with a spatula. When the chocolate is fully melted, add in the stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked chicken into the sauce and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Serve over white rice. Serves 5-6.

Let's take a detailed look at a series of photos that will help you see how the dish gets made. This section of today's post will be a bit long, but I'm going to err on the side of including more detail rather than less because the visuals are fairly important for this recipe.

First, seasoning the chicken is one place where you can adjust the spiciness of the dish--the rest of the spices in this sauce are mild. If you want some extra heat, use a ton of cayenne pepper here, like we did:

Be sure to mush the chicken pieces around in the spices so that they are liberally covered on all sides.

Then, use the "use high heat to sear the meat" method, and be prepared for a bit of splattering. This cooking technique will keep the chicken tender, yet still cook it fully and safely:

Set the chicken aside, but leave the oil and liquid in the pan.

Note: If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish, just skip the chicken cooking part and just add five or six tablespoons of straight olive oil to the pan and proceed to the next step.

Turn the heat back down to medium/medium-high. Then, add the spices...

... and stir them around until they are mixed in with the oil in the pan. Feel free to add more olive oil such that the spice mixture is totally moistened.

Be sure to stir the spice/oil mixture so that everything gets heated evenly. After doing this for a few minutes you'll see the spice mixture begin to darken....

...and then turn almost black and start smoking. If you have an overly sensitive smoke detector in your home, consider disconnecting it temporarily.

If it's the first time you're making this recipe, I know it may seem like you burned the spice mixture (which you did) and therefore irreparably ruined everything (which you did not). It is precisely this part of the process that infuses the mole sauce with its signature smoky, sweet taste.

Now you're nearly done! Turn down the heat to low, add the chocolate, and swirl the chocolate around the bottom of the pan to melt the chocolate fully. This also stops the spices from blackening any further:

Once the chocolate is fully melted, add the stewed tomatoes, return the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

The rest of the recipe is pretty self-explanatory after that.

Related Posts:
Ten Tips to Save Money on Spices and Seasonings
A Recession-Proof Guide to Saving Money on Food
How to Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking With Five Easy Questions
How to Modify a Recipe: The Six Rules

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by purchasing items from via links on this site, or by linking to me or subscribing to my RSS feed. Finally, you can consider submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon. Thank you for your support!

Three Easy, Delicious and Inexpensive Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes

Store-bought salad dressing is a rip-off.

It’s typically made with cheap soybean oil, emulsifying agents, dehydrated processed vegetable bits and excess sodium. Can you believe an 8-ounce bottle of this stuff can cost up to $2.00?

But the worst part is, when you drench a salad in this industrially manufactured goo, you cancel out all the good health points you’d otherwise earn by eating a big bowl full of fresh greens.

Today I’ll share three easy, inexpensive and reasonably healthy salad dressing recipes with you. My goal is for it to be easy for you to make your own inexpensive dressing at home, so you’ll have a tasty and healthy range of homemade choices for your salad. No need to waste your hard-earned money at the store for a bottle of dressing that’s 1/3 full of soybean oil.

These recipes all taste great, they’re easy to make, and they’ll all keep for a long time in your fridge.

Sue's salad dressing:
Mix together first:
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Then add:
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh (or dried) parsely
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Shake well.

Jet Fuel:
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (can substitute 1 pressed garlic clove)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water

Shake well.

Finally, here’s the ridiculously simple, yet still delicious, dressing from my Fattoush Recipe.

Fattoush Salad Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of two lemons
black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Stir or shake well.

How to Write an Effective Complaint Letter

It's not often that I write complaint letters. But every once in a while, when a particularly poor product combines with me being in a particularly combative mood, I'll fire one off. This time around it was a package of bizarrely mangled bacon that got me riled up.

From the outside of the package it looked like totally normal bacon, but once I opened it up I saw that I had been tricked. The top few slices were smushed all around the rest of the bacon stack, and there was a huge gash in the middle of the stack, essentially severing all of the slices in half right through the middle. No way was I going to be able to make bacon slices here. Try bacon shreds.

Was I annoyed? Yes. Was this the end of the world? No--because I channeled my annoyance into a terse and manipulative complaint letter.

So, today I will share six tips on how to write an effective complaint letter. I’ll also share the text of my “bacon letter” below so you can look over an example.

1) Do it NOW
There are two key reasons why you want to bang this letter out now and get it over with.

First, tackling the complaint letter immediately makes more efficient use of your time. The details are fresh in your mind and the faulty product, receipts and paperwork are right there in front of you. Even the irritation and annoyance is fresh in your mind, so you can capitalize on it by channeling that negative energy into pounding out an impassioned complaint. You’d be surprised how easy it is to write when you’re truly annoyed by something, and that’s far preferable to letting those frustrations eat away at you. If you wait a few days, the details will begin to fade, the emotional immediacy is no longer there waiting to be channeled, and as a result it will take you much longer to hammer out the letter.

Note that I suggested that you write the letter right away, but not mail the letter right away. Let the draft of the letter sit overnight so you can look at it with fresh eyes the next morning. This will stop you from sending out a letter that’s excessively harsh or brutal (some people call this the “Harry Truman rule”), and you’ll be better able to catch any malingering typos and grammatical errors you’d otherwise miss.

Second, a timely complaint letter helps the company too. In our bacon example, it doesn’t really help a company to hear about a mangled bacon problem if they sold the last of that product lot off the shelves three months ago. Timeliness is especially important for mass-produced products where a production problem can quickly grow out of control and affect thousands, if not millions, of products. If your complaint gets to them in a timely manner, you’ll be alerting them in time for them perhaps to do something about it before it cascades out of control. Of course, if they choose to ignore you, that’s their own fault.

2) Start off by killing 'em with kindness
I always open a complaint letter with a sentence or two about how dedicated a customer I am. I typically don’t have to stretch the truth to say this. If I weren’t a dedicated customer I wouldn't bother to write the letter in the first place--I'd just vote with my feet and change brands. In the example letter at the bottom of this post you can see that I start of by saying how my wife and I are "happy shoppers" at the company's store. Opening with a positive lead like this makes you sound like a customer that's worth the company's time and effort to keep happy.

3) Be concise and keep it simple
Keep your letter as brief and as simple as possible and only stick to the facts. Use simple sentence structure. As obvious as this advice may sound, you'd be surprised how rarely it gets followed--in any form of writing.

You are not the Apostle Paul sending a 20-page epistle to the Colossians; you're trying to get a few bucks in coupons. You can hold back on the purple prose and you can save the tortured metaphors and multiple clauses for your novel. If you can’t state your problem in a couple of brief paragraphs (or heck, in a couple of brief sentences), you’re overthinking things and wasting what little precious time you have on this earth.

4) Include the purchase date, package code, sell-by date and any other identifying codes, and include a copy of your receipt
Believe it or not, many companies actually want to fix quality problems and make customers happy. You need to include as much specific purchase information as you can in your correspondence so the vendor vendor can identify from which lot the product came and in which factory or location it was made. It allows them to track down the origins of the problem. Thus it is absolutely critical that you supply them with all of the dates and codes that you find on the product packaging as well as where and when you bought the product.

5) State specifically what you want in return
I'm not looking for a multi-million dollar windfall here--I usually just ask for a refund of my purchase price. Usually companies have standard practices they follow for consumer complaints, and typically they will refund the price paid. Fair is fair.

But that doesn’t mean that given unusual circumstances you can’t ask for more. My all-time personal favorite complaint letter moment came several years ago, after lengthy and repeated periods of poor TV and internet service from our (unnamed) cable provider. I chose to capitalize on a moment of extreme irritation (I think we had just lost service right in the middle of a brand new X-Files episode) to pound out a particularly harsh complaint letter. And in blatant contravention of the Harry Truman rule, I mailed it out right away and left most of the vitriol in there. On top of that, I copied the letter to the state cable TV regulator's office. Talk about channeling your frustration!

I asked for three free months of cable and internet service and I actually got it. I received in that one refund more value than I'll probably get in refunds over the rest of my life. Ah, it was my finest hour, complaint-letter-wise at least. I wish I still had a copy of that letter somewhere!

6) Make it fun!
Life is too short to stay bitter for long on something like a faulty product or customer service experience. Use the complaint letter as a way to let off steam and channel your frustration. And certainly recognize that you can’t really do this to make money--you're not going to earn a meaningful return on your time if you spend it writing letters for $2.99 refunds like the one I wrote below.

Do this for fun. If the words aren’t flowing, just let it go. Obviously your time is the most valuable asset here, and if a task like this takes you an inordinately long amount of time, you have to question the point of doing it at all, unless you want to use it as an opportunity to improve at business letter writing.

Finally, I've included the text of my "bacon letter" to share with you a typical example of a complaint letter. I wrote this letter in about 15-20 minutes. You could argue, based on a $2.99 refund request and 20 minutes of time spent, that I am trading my time for less than $9.00 per hour in compensation. But let me add that in those 15-20 minutes I went from an emotional state that I can only describe as “highly annoyed” to a state of smug self-satisfaction. Heck, people pay therapists $150 an hour to do the same thing!


January 6, 2008

(unnamed grocery store), Inc.
123 Whatever Street,
City, ST 10270

Dear Sir or Madam:

My wife and I have been happy shoppers at the (unnamed grocery store) for several years. However, I wanted to let you know that I purchased a one pound package of (unnamed grocery store) brand bacon on December 29th that was in unsatisfactory condition. I’ve included the purchase information below.

The problem was with the slicing and stacking of the bacon. First, the top two or three slices of bacon were mangled and twisted around the remaining stack of bacon slices. Second, the entire package of bacon looked like it had been accidentally cut almost totally in half, right through the middle. There appears to be some quality control problems with the slicing mechanism used by your bacon manufacturing contractor.

The bacon tasted fine and was otherwise satisfactory. However, it looked highly unappealing coming out of the packaging. Furthermore, because of the condition it was in, the bacon could not be cooked in slices. Each individual slice of bacon fell apart into multiple pieces when I attempted to peel it off the stack.

Again, we remain happy customers of (unnamed grocery store) and of (unnamed grocery store) branded products. I wanted to notify you of this one quality failure and request a refund of my $2.99 purchase price. My receipt is enclosed.


Daniel Koontz

Purchase Information:
Store Location: (redacted)
Purchase Receipt Information: 12/29/07 12:48PM 284 12 329 129
(Company name redacted) Sliced Bacon Lot #: EST 7202 N2
Sell-by date: Feb 25, 2008

Quite Possibly the Easiest Lentil Soup Recipe You’ll Find Anywhere

I’m not the first food blogger to post a lentil soup recipe, obviously. But I take a lot of pride in the fact that my recipe is quite possibly the easiest one you’ll find. The prep work takes 15 minutes at most, and then you just need to give the pot an occasional stir while it’s simmering.

This soup is equally good in either vegetarian form (leave out the ham/bacon and bouillion) or carnivore-form.

Lentil Soup
(modified from June Koontz)

8 cups cold water
2 cups dried lentils
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves

2 onions, sliced or chopped coarsely
1 8-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 stalks celery, chopped coarsely
2-3 carrots, sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
black pepper, to taste

Ham or bacon (fried and broken into bits), optional
1-2 cubes beef bouillion, optional

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Bring water, lentils, whole cloves and bay leaves to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Then, add all other ingredients (except cider vinegar), and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Finally, add the cider vinegar, stir, and serve.

Serves 8
Three final notes:

1) This is another one of those recipes that takes laughably cheap to a new level. If you make this soup in vegetarian form, the entire pot of soup costs about $4.75. That works out to about 60c per serving. And people think it costs too much to cook a meal at home.

2) A funny thing about this soup (and many other soup recipes) is that they taste noticeably better the next day. Sometimes a soup needs a day for the ingredients to blend and settle in. That’s why soups like this can be ideal for company--you can get all the work out of the way a day in advance, and when the company comes all you have to do is spend a few minutes reheating the pot.

3) Regarding energy density: despite the fact that this soup is surprisingly filling and hearty-tasting, it is not energy dense. In other words, this is an ideal meal if you’re on a diet or trying to lose weight, but it’s less than ideal if you’re fueling up for feats of endurance. Don't expect a big bowl of this soup to sustain you for tomorrow’s 10-mile run.

Related Posts:
Two Useful Cooking Lessons From Another Cheap and Easy Side Dish
An Easy Granola Recipe
Six Secrets to Save You from Cooking Burnout
Ten Tips to Save Money on Spices and Seasonings

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by subscribing to my RSS feed, or submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon.

How to Handle Raw Chicken So That You’ll NEVER Get Food Poisoning

I've been told the way I handle raw chicken borders on abject paranoia. But I've also gone my entire life and never had, and never caused anybody to have, a case of chicken-related salmonella or food poisoning. In today’s post, I’ll share with you my routine for the safe handling of raw chicken in the kitchen.

Even a cursory look at large scale chicken processing techniques reveals them to be pretty messy, to put it diplomatically. And this recent data on salmonella prevalence isn’t exactly encouraging. The bottom line is that salmonella and other food-borne bacteria are commonly found in and on raw chicken.

My goal today isn’t to disgust you so thoroughly that you’ll never eat chicken again (although some of the links above might do exactly that…). Instead, I want you to have a good grasp of how likely it is that you’ll meet up with microorganisms when you handle raw chicken, or any raw meat for that matter. Hopefully, this will give you all the reason you need to apply the following seven rules of chicken-handling safety. You too can have confidence that nobody will get sick on your watch!

1) Thaw Carefully
It goes without saying that if chicken isn’t all that clean when it comes out of the processing plant, it can become a perfect culturing medium for bacteria if you don’t take precautions when you thaw it.

Usually the best way to thaw frozen chicken is to put it in the fridge overnight. If you must speed things up, you can leave the chicken out on the counter for a few hours at most. Certainly never leave raw chicken out at room temperature for much longer than that. It’s never a good idea, for example to put raw meat out on your counter in the morning, take off for work, and then come back in the evening to cook it. That’s simply too long for uncooked meat to sit out at room temperature. Don’t risk it.

2) Rinse the chicken thoroughly in extremely hot tap water
Chicken, especially when it is mass-produced, is often sprayed with disinfectants or detergents and then rinsed (hopefully rinsed well) before being packaged for consumption. So we don't just have salmonella or e. coli to worry about--we also might be ingesting cleaning chemicals along with our chicken too.

You never know for sure how clean your chicken is. I solve this issue by running hot water (as hot as I can stand it) out of my kitchen sink tap, and I rinse each individual piece of chicken well under the faucet. Then I’ll place the fully rinsed chicken on paper towels on a plate before seasoning them and cooking them. If I’m cooking a whole chicken (or turkey for that matter), I run hot water in the inside of the bird too, just to make sure there aren’t any pockets of bacteria or anything else where I might put stuffing.

You’re never going to sterilize a piece of meat perfectly. We ingest bacteria all the time by eating all sorts of foods. What makes you sick, however, is when you get exposed to a critical mass of bacteria at one time. Rinsing under hot running water is a great way to kill off and physically remove most (if not all) of the bacteria so that this can’t happen.

3) Pay careful attention to everything the chicken touches
There’s a scene in “The Bourne Identity” that (weirdly) describes my philosophy on handling raw meat. It’s the scene where Jason Bourne and his girlfriend Marie wake up after spending a night in a youth hostel in Paris:

“You've already cleaned the room?”
“I wiped the whole place down for fingerprints.”
“Can I walk around or is that gonna leave any footprints?”
“You can walk around. It's no problem. But we'll just keep track of everything we touch. I just think it's better if we leave a room that we're not gonna leave a trail.”

Setting aside all my personal issues with paranoia about being chased by bad guys, I actually think it helps to think about raw meat in this way too. Any time you take meat that might be contaminated, touch a surface with it, and then touch that surface to anything else, you risk spreading food-borne bacteria. Therefore, I pay careful attention everything that the chicken touches and everything that the packaging touches. I also try to limit the workspace area I use when I’m handling raw meat of any kind. And then I carefully wash with hot soapy water (see #7 below for more on this) every surface, every dish and every utensil that came in contact with the raw chicken. I don’t want to leave a trail of food-borne bugs.

4) Be an obsessive hand-washer
Of course you should always wash your hands before beginning to cook any food. You should also wash your hands immediately after handling any raw meat, and before touching any other food or utensils. And then, I suggest you wash your hands one or two extra times, just for kicks, at various other times while preparing the meal. Here’s one instance where Lady MacBeth had it right. Of course, use hot running water and lots of soap.

5) Use high heat to sear the meat
When I’m making my house favorite Chicken Mole recipe, or searing the chicken pieces for Thai Pasta Salad, I of course want to cook the meat thoroughly enough so that I kill whatever hardy bacteria might survive steps 1 through 4.

But I don’t want to have to gnaw on dried-out, overcooked chicken. So I needed to strike a reasonable balance between healthy cooking and tender meat. I think I’ve found it. If it’s a dish where I need chunks or pieces of chicken meat, I sear it for a short time in very hot olive oil.

Here’s my technique: I heat up a quarter-inch layer of olive oil to high heat on the bottom of a non-stick pan. Once the oil is good and hot (at this point it will just be starting to smoke a little), I’ll dump in the chopped chicken pieces, cover it, and let it sizzle violently for 3-4 minutes. Theh, I’ll lift up the lid and flip over the chicken pieces so they can have both sides directly exposed to the hot oil. The process is a bit splattery, so I suggest using a deep non-stick pan if you have one. Searing chicken meat at high heat will kill ALL the bacteria, but it will also seal the juices into the meat and prevent it from tasting dry.

Granted, not all recipes allow for cooking chicken this way. If I’m broiling chicken parts, or roasting a whole chicken, I’ll make sure to follow the old adage: cook until the juices run clear. But I’ll also use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken is at least heated up to 185F in the center, just to assuage my paranoia and make sure I kill off any potential bad guys in there.

6) Dispose of everything carefully
Once again, you need to pay attention to everything the chicken touches, and this means everything. Put all remaining chicken parts, disposable packaging, paper towels and any other disposable items that came into contact with the chicken into a grocery bag, tie a knot in the top of the bag, and then put that bag into the garbage. Now you and anybody else in your household will have absolutely no risk of inadvertent contact with raw chicken, even if you need to reach into the garbage can! Total safety.

7) Clean and sterilize your workspace
Remember, we’re being paranoid here. Everything that the chicken touches could potentially have bacteria-laden chicken goo on it. This is where we take Lady MacBeth to a new level and clean everything that the chicken may have touched:

a) Wipe EVERYTHING down with hot soapy water.
b) Wash EVERYTHING that touched the chicken in hot soapy water.

You can see now why I told you in step #3 to minimize your raw chicken workspace, right? The more space that you use, the more surface area that needs to be carefully washed. Finally, all you need now is a last, careful wash of your hands in hot soapy water.

Congratulations! You can enjoy your chicken with complete safety and confidence that you’ll never get sick.

How to Make Burritos

Today, I bring you a food that is flexible, freezable and easy to carry with you, and makes for a simple and inexpensive lunch.

Today's burritos are the perfect commuter food: you can make these guys in volume over the weekend and eat them at work during the week. You can take them with you in the car, train or bus without them getting smushed or manhandled. And they are easy and convenient to eat during your workday--heck, you don't even need a utensil to eat them.

Every couple of months we'll whip up a huge batch of 30 of these guys, freeze them up en masse, and then we've got lunches (or even an emergency dinner if necessary) for weeks, just waiting for us in our fridge.



24-30 flour tortillas (depends if they come in packs of 8 or 10)
3 lbs ground beef
Approx 1 lb cheddar cheese, sliced (can also use monterrey jack or even jalapeno jack cheese)
2 1lb-13 ounce cans black beans, drained
3-4 cups cooked rice

1) Brown ground beef in a skillet, drain off fat. Then season the ground beef very generously with a couple of heaping tablespoons of mild chili powder, and depending on how much "heat" you'd like in your burritos, add cayenne pepper, Tabasco and/or black pepper.

2) Set up the black beans, rice, beef, cheese and any other ingredients you are including in your burritos into an assembly line, such that it is easy to spoon each ingredient onto the tortillas.
3) Heat each tortilla for 10-15 seconds on each side in a non-stick skillet set on medium high heat. This will make the tortilla pliable (you
should only brown it very slightly if at all). Place the heated tortilla on a plate, and spoon each of the ingredients from your "assembly line" onto the tortilla, being careful not to overfill it.
4) Fold the tortilla over lengthwise and crosswise
as shown in the pictures to the right.
5) Place in a 9x13 pan or a large cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 275F.

6) Eat and enjoy!
These burritos freeze very well, and can be microwaved (2 minutes on high) for a quick, healthy and balanced meal.

Also, be sure to consider any recipe modifications that might strike your fancy with this dish. You can certainly add in sauteed vegetables like onions or peppers. Also you can consider other meats like chicken or chorizo. Vegetarian or even vegan burritos would also be a snap--just include more veggies and legumes and of course leave out the meat and/or cheese (note you'll also have to make sure your tortillas aren't made with lard--fortunately most store-bought tortilla brands like Tyson are made with vegetable shortening). Burritos are a flexible dish and they allow for all sorts of substitutions and improvisations.

Also, calling all serious purists out there! If you're interested in a great blog post on how to make homemade flour tortillas, then run--don't walk--to Homesick Texan for a clinic on the subject. Her work looks absolutely amazing.

One other note: if you are so lucky to be the king when you are making this dish, here's a job you'll want to make sure to delegate. :)

Ready to go into the oven:

And ready to eat!