Who doesn’t love a good burrito? They’re simple, they’re fun, they’re customize-able and they’re easy! This week, my husband and I thought it would be fun to take on the task of batch cooking over 20 of these suckers. Yep, you read that right. Around 20 veggie burritos, plus a few chicken ones (for him). I want to start out by saying, if you’re hungry, eat before you work on this, because it all smells so incredible, that you’re going to pick at it as you go, and you’ll have uneven proportions. Something else I’d like to note that this was not 100% Zero Waste. I had bought the tortillas from a regular grocery store. I’ve made them fresh in the past, but I have not gotten good enough with keeping the elasticity, so they break and make better chips. That being said, I did use the bags for the tortillas to store the burritos once they were finished, and I intend on using them as many times as I can until they’re absolutely finished. Once I find a bakery who makes fresh tortillas, this won’t be an issue anymore, but until then, I’ll keep to my system.
So to start this process, we had several stations and a few things were pre made. I’m going to break down each system and briefly explain how to make that item. Note: You can add as much or as little of each station to the burrito as you’d like! It’s really up to you!
Station 1: Refried beans
To make the refried beans, take a cup and a half of cooked pinto beans. I used some that I had already re-hydrated and that had been in the freezer (to learn how to hydrate beans check out http://live-waste-free.com/easy-peasy-bean-prep/). Add the beans to a small pot and add some vegetable broth (I used homemade), almost covering the beans. Let them simmer on medium for about 15 minutes to make sure the beans are nice and soft, and then blend them using an immersion blender. You can also use a potato masher if you’d like. I added a teaspoon of cumin and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and wait for the prep to start.
Station 2: Whole grain rice
In a large pot, add 4 cups of vegetable broth (again, I used my homemade broth) and bring to a boil. Then add 2 cups of whole grain rice (bought in bulk) and reduce the heat to medium. Let it cook for about 15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is no longer crunchy. Remove from heat and wait for the prep to start.
Station 3: Proteins
Use your choice of protein. Personally, I am a vegetarian so I use the lentils; but my husband isn’t, so for him, we used the chicken mixture.
I used leftovers (we made tacos the day before), but if you’re making everything the same day, start these first! To make them, cook up 4 cups of dried lentils in approximately 6 cups of water. First, bring the water to a boil, then add the lentils. Let them cook on low and covered for around half an hour or until all the water is absorbed. Stir every so often and test the texture of the lentils as you go. You’re looking for soft, just before being mushy. My husband swears that it has a super similar texture to ground beef, but I find it a bit less chewy (back from what I remember of the texture of meat anyways). If you notice the lentils are still hard but there is no liquid left, a trick I use is to boil separately, in a kettle, about 3 cups of water and add the hot water in gradually. The texture is important here, you really don’t want hard lentils, they will be too hard to digest. Once you’ve achieved the texture that you want, add in the spices. For a batch of this size, use 3 tablespoons of cumin, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 tablespoon of chili powder and 2 tablespoons of garlic powder. It’s basically my version of a store bought taco mix, but without the package and extra sodium. Mix it up and give it a taste, adjust the quantities if you need for your own tastes. Remove from heat and wait for the prep to start.
I buy my chicken from the butcher with my own containers, to avoid the styrofoam and plastic. To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then slice the meat into chunks approximate 3 inches by 3 inches and add salt and pepper (note: for our quantity, we used about 4 chicken breasts and it made approximately 8 burritos). Add the chicken to a covered glass baking dish. Add about a cup of salsa and mix in. Cook for approximately 20 minutes covered. Remove from oven and shred the meat with 2 forks. Return to the oven uncovered (to cook off some of the liquid from the salsa) for another 15-20 minutes. If there are still large chunks, shred the rest with the same process as before. Remove from heat and wait for the prep to start.
Station 4: Fried vegetables
I cheated a bit on this one; I used my food processor to do the heavy lifting. Prep 6 bell peppers of various colors (remove the seeds) and 1 large onion (vidalia). Chop the vegetables into strands (not diced, I prefer the pieces to be about 2 inches long by about 1 cm thick). Fry in a large pan using a bit of olive oil (bought in bulk) and let cook on medium until the peppers are soft and the onions are translucent. Don’t forget to stir, you don’t want to burn them. Remove from heat and wait for the prep to start.
Station 5: Shredded cheddar cheese (omit this step for vegan wraps)
We had bought our cheddar cheese using our own containers from a fromagerie (cheese shop) at the farmer’s market. You can really use as much or as little as you’d like. We shredded up about 5 cups of cheese and there was a bit leftover.
Station 6: Wrap and stack
Wrap the burritos up and stack them on a tray, single layer with a bit of space in between them so they don’t freeze and stick together. Check out this link if you’re unsure of how to properly fold a burrito: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAbpVXEUt_c .
To freeze them, you can leave them flat on a tray in the freezer for about an hour or two; but it’s important to not forget them. Put them in an airtight container or a bag (we reused the bags the tortillas came in). We worked as a team and did all this in less than 2 hours, including the cooking and the prep of the wraps. It was weirdly fun and super rewarding. Now, for those nights where we’re both too exhausted to cook, or for the lunches that we forgot we needed (I call them uh-oh lunches), we can go to the freezer, grab a quick burrito, pop it into a container and go. If you keep it out of the fridge, it will thaw in a few hours. Or you can pop it into the microwave (or oven like we do).
I love the concept behind batch cooking. You do the work once, and profit from the rewards later on. It may take a bit more time initially, but considering you’ll have food stashed away (in some cases, weeks’ worth), I find it to be super worthwhile. Especially now, I have so much happening in my life that I have so little time to cook. This keeps me eating healthy and fueling my body with good nutrients with no excessive waste!
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