Laptop Lunches #59

What a week I've had! And a computer virus to boot. (Scareware of the worst kind--it's called "Security Scan" and every time you try to do anything it jumps out and tells you you can't because you have  a virus--unless you pay them some money to make this go away. Luckily, I have our on-campus computer techs to make it go away.) On a side note, why is it that when you go in for anything on your computer, the techs "helpfully," without asking, do obnoxious things like emptying your recycling bin? It's a recycling bin for a reason. I still don't know if I have all the files I wanted, and I do know my computer has about 3 gigabites less stuff on it than it did before all this. And today is only Tuesday...

I've tagged this as a vegetarian lunch, although technically it isn't, because one could easily do a vegetarian version of it (I'll explain below). Mini bean-and-cheese burritos, yellow rice with cilantro, homemade tortilla chips, and homemade salsa.

I had a roommate once who always made her own tortilla chips; never bought them. I used to mock her for this but I now think she was brilliant--one, because homemade tortilla chips are far superior to the bagged kind, and two, because by making them yourself you limit how many are available on hand for you to eat. They are the sort of thing you can eat 400 calories of without noticing if you are not careful. They're pretty easy to do, especially in small batches--cut, fry in vegetable oil, remove to paper towels, salt.

The beans in the bean-and-cheese burritos are homemade refried beans. I have a recipe I swear by, but it does take a few days--yes, days--to prepare. Still, the hands-on time is minimal, and the rewards...anyhow, my recipe involves bacon fat, so if you wanted to do this vegetarian, obviously you'd go with shortening or vegetable oil. And it also involves beef stock, but you could use vegetable bouillon, too.

Start with 1/2 pound of pinto beans. Pick over, rinse, then soak overnight in enough water to cover generously. In the morning, drain put into a slow cooker. Add enough clean water to cover by about an inch. Turn on low. Check in about 5-8 hours or so; they should be very soft. Stir in a teaspoon of sugar and about a teaspoon of beef base (see here) and turn off the slow cooker. When cool enough to do so, transfer to a covered container and stick in the fridge. (If you're a bean person, you can make more, and have bean soup. I'm not into that but my mother loves it with cornbread and fresh pico de gallo.)

When you're ready to fry the beans, melt a tablespoon of bacon fat in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Do not use a non-stick stillet or you will ruin it with a potato masher later (and also, the pan should be super easy to clean if you do it right). Add 1/4 of an onion, chopped, and cook until very deeply browned but not burned, stirring very frequently. Add 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped, and cook about a minute. Add a few spoonfuls of the beans at a time with a slotted spoon, and mash before adding more, about two cups of beans. Add 1/4 cup of bean juice and stir. Simmer until the beans are just a little runnier than you want. Turn off the flame. Add salt to taste.

As for the burritos, using fajita size tortillas is a perfectly managable way of making burritos for lunch. They are tiny, but two fit very nicely into one compartment in my Laptop Lunches lunchbox. Figure about 2-3 tablespoons of filling per burrito, max. I did about 2 tablespoons of beans and 1 tablespoon of cheese (Colby-Jack). If you don't serve them with salsa, though, you'll need to spice them up a bit.


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