Tabouleh, Take Two

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Mid-September in Ottawa is when the garden tomato harvest is at its peak.  For as long as my parents have lived in this house, they’ve had more tomato plants and therefore more tomatoes than they really know what to do with.  This year, however, was a different story.  Having spent a large chunk of last winter and spring in Florida, my parents got their plants in too late to have a particularly good yield.  In previous years, my parents have given plants and tomatoes to everyone who will take them.  This year, those recipients are paying them back.  So the next two dishes this week will be tomato based while I try to get the tomatoes used before they go soft.  This is my second tabouleh recipe here on the blog (first one is here), and this one is more or less traditional, though I added a few extra spices just for fun.

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Start with 1 cup bulgur, and about 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Stir those together in a medium-sized bowl.

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Cover the oily bulgur with 2 cups boiling water; give it a stir and set it aside for at least 15 minutes.

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Now grab yourself an enormous hunk of fresh parsley (probably about 2 cups total). We have two kinds in our garden — this fluffy one:

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and this more flat-leaved variety.

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You also want a hunk of fresh mint (about half a cup).  This has seen better days (it was the only survivor of our weed-burning escapade at the back of the house), but it’s still good.

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I was feeling lazy so I chucked all those things in a food processor.

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So much easier than mincing!

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Now comes the annoying part: you have to dice AND SEED all your tomatoes.  If you don’t seed them then your tabouleh will be mushy and that’s just gross.  I used about 10 medium-sized tomatoes for this particular recipe.

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When you’ve got all the tomatoes done, season them with salt and pepper.  I also threw in a dash of ground coriander and another of cayenne.  I figured the coriander is also a parsley sort of thing so it could only boost the flavour.

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Chuck in your other herbs.

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Your bulgur has by now absorbed all the water that it’s going to, so you’re going to need to drain it.

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Use either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to get as much water out of it as you can.  I find the cheesecloth helps because I can just pick it up and squeeze it.

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Add the bulgur to your tomato mix and add a few dollops more olive oil.  Stir in lemon juice to taste.

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Serve garnished with a piece of parsley, or stuff a bunch into a pita for a quick snack!

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Quick Quesadilla

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It’s very hot.  And we’re moving so very soon.  The last thing we want to do is cook up elaborate suppers for ourselves.  But the blog must go on, right?  So congratulations, today you’re getting a quesadilla.

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I didn’t eat my first quesadilla until I was in my mid-twenties, but I understand that they’re staple fare for the teenaged set.  Or at least, that was pretty much all Mags could cook for herself when I met her at fourteen.  In any case, if you’ve got the munchies, this one is for you.  It makes two hot and crispy quesadillas.

First, we sautéed a handful of mushrooms, about a dozen.

Quick Quesadillas 1

Then thinly sliced up half a white onion.

Quick Quesadillas 2

Then sautéed those up as well.

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I was going for caramelized onions, but then I forgot about them and so they were slightly charred instead.  Oh well.

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I also whipped up some guacamole with avocadoes, lime juice, salt, pepper, and some tomatoes.  Grate about 1 cup cheddar cheese while you’re at it.

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When you’re ready to cook, plop a dollop of olive oil or butter into a pan on medium high heat.

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Lay on top of that one large tortilla.  Allow that to heat until you can see bubbles of air forming between the tortilla and the surface of the pan.

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Lay on half of your mushrooms and onions.

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Sprinkle with half the cheese.

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Plop the other tortilla on top and let that sit for a minute so the cheese starts to melt and stick everything together.

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Then, very carefully, with the largest spatula you have (or two), flip the whole thing over.

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Allow the quesadilla to cook on this side for about two minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn, then slide it onto a plate.  Use a knife to cut the quesadilla into wedges. Make the other quesadilla up while you wait for the cheese on the one you just cooked to become less molten.

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Serve with sour cream and quacamole.

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Ooey gooey goodness!

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Petite Piglet Patties

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I was going to call these things “savoury sausage sliders,” or even “summer savoury sausage sliders,” but then the Pie suggested the above title and for some reason I started to laugh so hard I needed a tissue and had to sit down.  And then he suggested that, since we used hot italian sausage meat, we call them “picante petite piglet patties” and I may have told him to shut up at that point.

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Anyway.  These are sliders, if you hadn’t gathered that by now.  I picked up a package of ground sausage meat the other day and this is what we did with it.  Basic ingredients are about 1lb ground pork, 1 egg, half a white onion, and some fresh summer savoury.

Petite Piglet Patties 2

Mince up the savoury and the onion and chuck them in a bowl with the sausage meat and the egg.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Give that a good stir with a spoon and then mix in about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (or whatever kind of bread crumbs you have on hand).

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Form the goo into balls slightly larger than a golf ball but smaller than a cricket ball and flatten them into patties (I ended up with eleven patties).

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Fry those suckers up.  For some reason the light was such in my kitchen on this particular afternoon that it took us twelve tries (the Pie tried to help) of blurry patty photos before I gave up and used flash.

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While that’s on the go, why don’t you have yourself a salad, too?  Here we have a mixture of baby spinach, a small hunk of plain goat’s cheese (chevre), a handful of sliced almonds, another handful of dried cranberries, and a diced ripe pear.

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Then the dressing is 3 equal parts vegetable oil (I used almond, because we’re trying to use it up), rice vinegar, and orange juice).

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Toss it up!

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Top your sliders with whatever floats your boat.  I used mayo, tomatoes, avocado, and spinach.  The Pie voted for barbecue sauce and cheese.  We had them on some picnic buns I grabbed in the bakery section.

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All in all, a good summer meal. Don’t forget to eat your veggies! You see them peeking at you in the background? Don’t forget them!

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The Family Sammy

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You may not like this sandwich.  It’s a bit of an acquired taste.  It’s also freaking weird.  But bear with me.  It’s really good once you get past the weirdness.

So this sandwich is actually a family recipe that goes back a few generations, to one set of the great-grands on my mother’s side.  Maybe even back to Scotland.  Hard to say.  Origins shrouded in mystery and all that jazz.

Family Sammy 1

Legend has it that my mother made this sandwich for my father as a token of her love back when they were first together.  She packed it into his lunch and sent him off on his day.  When he discovered this — thing — in his lunch he was absolutely horrified.  My mother was offended that he would be disgusted by such a beautiful sandwich.  Forty years later, it’s one of my dad’s favourites.

(Is any of this making you want to try this yet?  I thought so.)

So first you take some rye bread.  I like the swirly stuff, which is pretty mild but you can get a hint of the rye.  My parents prefer the super dense stuff that slices about a centimetre thick.

Family Sammy 2

On one slice of bread, spread some nice mayonnaise.  On the other slice, some peanut butter.  Crunchy is best, but we have smooth on hand for Papa John so that’s what is on offer.  Don’t worry, it’s gonna get weirder.

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Slice up a tomato and slide that onto a slice of rye.  Garnish with salt and pepper.

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Add a few pieces of red onion (I usually forego this part but I’m sticking with tradition here, just for you).

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Then a few thin slices of cheddar cheese.  The cheese, like the onion, is optional.  The main essence of the sandwich is mayo, peanut butter, and tomato on rye.  But I like it with cheese.

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And that’s the sandwich.  I know it seems rather icky, but if you are on the lookout for something a little bit different, I suggest you give it a try.  The combination of tangy mayo with crunchy earthy peanut butter, the burst of flavour from a good tomato on the faint bitterness of rye is actually quite good.  Give it a shot, I dare you.

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What’s your favourite weird sandwich?

Twisted Bee Ell Tee

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I love taking classic dishes and putting a little something extra in them to add just that little bit more to their perfection.  And there is nothing more perfect than the classic BLT (that’s a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, for those few of you uninitiated).  But is that actually true?  No.  Because you can always add.  There’s the BELT, for instance: bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato (on a biscuit, no less).  And a variation of the grilled cheese that we like around these parts, the BTC (bacon, tomato, cheese).

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As I have learned, adding avocado makes pretty much ANYTHING better.  In fact, I think I’m going to make a decree here for the Avocado Rule, which parallels the Pie’s Banana Rule, wherein adding a banana to anything (shakes, smoothies, pies) makes it better.  So this one is the same rule, but, you know, with avocados.  So we’re making a BALT (bacon-avocado-lettuce-tomato).

B-A-L-T 1

We don’t do a lot of sandwiches here at Ali Does It, but with the Pie away for the weekend it’s all I can really muster up the energy for.  This sandwich is at the high end of my give-a-crap level for the next few days.  So stand back in awe.

First you take a nice ripe avocado.  And you cut it open.  And you get rid of the pit.

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And you empty it into a bowl.  I know, this is heady stuff.

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And you mash it up with some garlic and some lime juice.

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Until you have a marvellous guacamole.  I would use a whole avocado for one sandwich but the Pie doesn’t let me so I would recommend one avocado for TWO sandwiches.  Leave that alone for a bit.

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Then you take a couple teaspoons of mayonnaise (whatever kind you want, it’s your sammich), and add a sprinkle or two of chipotle seasoning. Give that a stir.  Tada.  Now you have chipotle mayo.  CAN YOU EVEN HANDLE IT?  Me neither.

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Slice up a tomato while you’re at it.  And wash and dry some lettuce.

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Now you need some bacon.  However much you want, cooked however you like it.  I would recommend at least two slices of bacon per sandwich, but you can do what you want.  I’m not your mother.

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Slice up some bread of your choosing.  This is a simple ciabatta.  Regular sandwich bread is standard.  What is the total BEST though is a nice fresh croissant (it might be my favourite thing ever, especially if you add some gooey Brie to your BALT).  Like the BEST.

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Now you put it together!  Smear on some spicy mayo and soothing guacamole, then layer on your bacon, lettuce, and tomato and you’re good to go.

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Did you need a DIY on how to make a sandwich?  Perhaps not.  But I don’t care.  Because now I get to eat this. With a salad that is mostly comprised of exactly the same ingredients: lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and bread. Oh well.

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A Little Lettuce Trick

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I’m sure you all knew this, but I didn’t.  I missed out the day that they taught life hacks in class. So I thought this one was nifty.

For some reason the Pie and I don’t really eat a lot of lettuce.  We need one or two leaves of it every once in a while, but if we buy a whole head, no matter how many different ways we try to preserve it, it goes bad.  I mean, this is Newfoundland, after all.

But I learned, from the internet, that you can re-plant your lettuce stubs and grow new leaves.  Novel.

So I have a lettuce stub here, which I’ve left to sit in a bowl of water on my windowsill for a week.

Lettuce Trick 1

You can see that already a new baby leaf is growing out of the stub.

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And on the bottom it’s all swollen and weird.  I suspect these will become roots.

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So now you plant it. Stick it nicely in potting soil with good drainage. And set it somewhere sunny.

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And wait for your lettuce to grow.  Again. And it will!

Antojitos!

Sorry again about the picture glitch folks! I thought I fixed the problem but I guess not …

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Happy Thanksgiving!  Let’s celebrate by making Tex-Mex food.  Seriously.  It’s been raining solid for like two days.

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I need something to remind me of warmer times and milder climes.

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There’s a restaurant chain here that we used to go to all the time.  Recently, we’ve been getting short-changed by them, with bad service, bad food, and, well, short change.  So we’ve stopped going.  The only thing we miss is their recipe for antojitos, a bizarre appetizer made of cream cheese and peppers.  It’s heavenly.  Fortunately, my hero Karen over at The Art of Doing Stuff, knows someone who knows the recipe and she posted it.  With a few modifications to reflect what was in our cupboards at the time, here it is.

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FINELY dice up a red pepper, a bunch of green onions, a jalapeño pepper or two (I used two fresno peppers because when I cracked open the jalapeño there was a WEEVIL in it), some pickled pepperoncini, and some parsley.  Also, not shown, is a diced red onion, which I didn’t have.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and find yourself a baking tray.

Take a large flour tortilla and spread it with softened plain cream cheese, all the way to the edge.  Not too thick, but don’t be stingy.  Use your judgment.  Then take some hot sauce (we used Tabasco) and dot it all over the cream cheese.  Use a knife to spread the sauce out so it covers everything evenly.

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Then take all your ingredients and sprinkle them evenly across the tortilla.  Not too much.  You’re going to need to roll this up later.

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Then add some grated cheddar cheese.

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Now roll the whole thing up tightly.  Shazam.  At this point you can wrap them up tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them to bake at a later date.  You know, if you don’t want to just stuff them all in your face.

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Put the roll on the baking sheet, seam side down, and do it all over again with another tortilla.  Using an entire block of cream cheese and the ingredients at hand we ended up making about six of these rolls.  Bake them for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool for a little bit.

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With a sharp knife (serrated helps), slice the rolls diagonally into 6 pieces or so and serve with sour cream.

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We had a few leftover, and boy were they good the next day!

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Get Your Fix at Re-Up BBQ

Re-Up

You may recall a while back that I mentioned my cousin’s food cart being featured on the Food Network’s Eat Street.  

Re-Up

What started out as something to do on a lark by my cousin’s husband Michael and his friend Chester, both former professional chefs, has turned into a wildly successful enterprise, with two food carts operating in downtown Vancouver and, most recently, an indoor restaurant in New Westminster’s River Market (they own the crab shack next door, too!).

Re-Up

When we were out west, we were finally able to taste the southern barbecue goodness that Re-Up has to offer.  If you were wondering, the food carts got their name from the proprietor’s favourite show, HBO’s The Wire.  To “re-up” is to replenish your stash of drugs when dealing on the corner.  And, as Michael says, this pulled pork is addictive, and the carts are on the corner, so it made perfect sense.

We made a visit to the new restaurant and enjoyed a fantastic family lunch.

Re-Up

Even baby Ari made an appearance, and Ando held onto her while my cousin Lindz had her own lunch.

Re-Up

We also got a tour of the premises, which included a gaze into the magic smoker.

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And a sojourn into the freezer. Lindz wanted to see if the whole family would fit.

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Where we got to look at stacks and stacks of bacon.

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And brought some home with us.

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We also enjoyed the commissioned graffiti that only restaurant employees can see.

Re-Up

I went with the traditional pulled pork sandwich for my lunch, and was not disappointed.

Re-Up

The Pie had two.  He was mighty full.

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The girls enjoyed biscuits with chili.

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Tego especially enjoyed the fresh coleslaw.

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And a pile of brisket on mashed potatoes.

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Washed down with Re-Up’s own custom sodas.

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At that point it wasn’t just Ari who needed a nap.

Re-Up

You can visit Re-Up’s website, “like” them on Facebook, and/or follow them on Twitter.  And if you’re in the Vancouver area, make sure to pay them a visit in person.  Enjoy!

Re-Up

Life-Changing Burritos

Life-Changing Burritos

I know.  We just had a burrito post recently.  But when we were in Portland, and I was busy doing wedding related things with Doodle and the other bridesmaids, the Pie was often left to his own devices.  Luckily, Portland is a very walkable city, and there was a good Street Fighter tournament on the web for him to watch when he got bored with walking about.  One afternoon, he happened upon a place called the Burrito Bar.  The burrito he had there, according to him, changed his life forever.  So last week, he recreated what he had eaten there and I got to enjoy it as well. Plus, we had to do something about our raging onion population.

Life-Changing Burritos

First, he started by making up a batch of his famous Mexican rice.

Life-Changing Burritos

While he was doing that he gently poached 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then he put me to work as his sous-chef.  I had to make the “salad” component.  First, I opened up an avocado.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then I cubed it.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then I found a tomato.

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And cubed that as well.

Life-Changing Burritos

Chopped up a handful of cilantro and added that in, as well as some salt and pepper and lime juice.

Life-Changing Burritos

Toss that and set it aside.

Life-Changing Burritos

Open up a can of black beans and drain and rinse them well.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then he had me finely chop a jalapeno pepper, to go in his cheese sauce.

Life-Changing Burritos

Life-Changing Burritos

The cheese sauce is made by melting a tablespoon butter with a tablespoon flour to form a paste, then adding a half cup of milk.  When that is well-mixed you can add your grated cheese, about 1 1/2 cups.  The Pie used a mixture of old cheddar and spicy Monterey jack.

Life-Changing Burritos

Once the cheese was melted he dropped in the jalapenos and let that sit for a bit.

Life-Changing Burritos

At this point the chicken was ready to be shredded. Just pull it apart with some forks. It’s pretty fun.

Life-Changing Burritos

We added a few tablespoons salsa to the chicken.

Life-Changing Burritos

So now we are ready to make these burritos, baby.  We have Mexican rice, salad, salsa-y chicken, black beans, cheese sauce, and some sour cream as well.

Life-Changing Burritos

You’re going to need the biggest flour tortillas you can find.  These ones are ten inches, though the Pie says the one he had in Portland was THIRTEEN inches.  Set your tortillas on a sheet of aluminum foil.

Life-Changing Burritos

Start piling on your ingredients in the centre of your tortilla.  Be generous.

Life-Changing Burritos

To properly fold a burrito, we looked to the internet.  If you’re not sure, try YouTube.

Life-Changing Burritos

Take the opposite side of your tortilla and bring it towards you, so the ingredients get all jumbled together and pushed to one side. This also leaves a bit of food sauce on the empty side of the tortilla, which provides a bit of friction to keep things stuck together.

Life-Changing Burritos

Unfold the tortilla and lift up the sides, to sort of hold everything in. Take the side of the tortilla closest to you, with all the ingredients, and flip it up and over on itself.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then, tucking in the top of the tortilla, start rolling towards the end.  Try to get it as tight as possible.

Life-Changing Burritos

Make sure your ends are tucked in and slide the rolled tortilla to one side of your aluminum foil.

Life-Changing Burritos

Tightly roll the burrito up in the foil, and twist off the ends when you are finished, to hold everything together.  That is your burrito, all wrapped up.  We had enough ingredients to make seven of these puppies, and we tossed a few in the fridge for a later meal, and a few in the oven for about ten minutes to heat up a bit.

Life-Changing Burritos

To eat, just peel off some of the foil and you are all set. Take a bite.

Life-Changing Burritos

This is one of the burritos the next day, cut in half.  Look at that lovely combination of ingredients!

Life-Changing Burritos

Quick Mini Dips: Tzatziki and Chipotle Mayo

Quick Mini Dips

I get into trouble often with the Pie for making too much of something, which means we are left with leftovers well past the time when such leftovers retain any appeal.  As a result, I’m trying my best to cut down on the size of things I make, even if I’m not using a recipe.  I have discovered, when it comes to dips and sauces, the best way to keep them small is to actually construct them WITHIN the container in which you plan to serve them.  It even saves you having to wash an extra bowl.

Quick Mini Dips

These two dips can be made in minutes, and they provide a great side for fried or baked chicken, potatoes, burgers, na’an … you name it.  Making them in sealable containers meant that we could take them outside for a Victoria Day picnic.

For the Tzatziki:

In your container, place a dollop of minced garlic (about a teaspoon) and another of fresh chopped dill (this stuff came in a tube, so it’s a generous squirt, if that helps with your measurements).  I wouldn’t use dried dill, if you can avoid it.  I don’t think the flavour would be strong enough.  Then you want to grate up about 4 or 5 inches of cucumber.  It gets messy.

Quick Mini Dips

Squeeze your grated cucumber to get out the excess water and plop it in your container.

Quick Mini Dips

Fill the rest of the container up with Greek yogurt.  You can use plain Balkan-style yogurt but the Greek is thicker.

Quick Mini Dips

Give that a stir and let it sit for a little bit.  Yum!

Quick Mini Dips

For the Chipotle Mayo:

In your container, plop a few shakes chipotle seasoning, together with a couple drops tabasco sauce and a dollop of minced garlic.

Quick Mini Dips

Fill the container up with a combination of mayonnaise and sour cream or Greek yogurt.  I used half mayonnaise, then a quarter yogurt and a quarter sour cream.

Quick Mini Dips

Stir that up well (make sure to scrape up all the goodness on the bottom) and let that sit a bit.  It’s got some kick!

Quick Mini Dips