Friday, September 25, 2015

Bad-Mood Breakfast Burritos

I was recalling recently a thought I had when I was in labor with Ben. And it was: “This is like a mechanical bull!” And I couldn’t stay on. But I couldn’t get off, either. And sometimes that’s kind of how it is.

Anyhoo. Where was I? Oh yes. School mornings. Here’s a confession: they have not historically been frantic at my house. I mean, yeah, it’s a school morning. Are folks brimming over with extra time and joie de vivre? No. They are not. But we try to get up early enough that, should the kids want to crawl into bed for a few minutes with the cat and me, well, there’s a little time for snuggling and the admiring of clean fur, for warm, sleepy conversation. Which I love. 

But these days, that’s mostly Birdy. While Ben. Ben. Ben is falling into paroxysms of starvation and judgment, and the combining of the two into pronouncements of his own hungry grievances. What’s that you say? Welcome to teenagerland? I know! But guys, it’s Ben. The sweetheart of sweethearts. Whom I typically love to feed and feed, but who has become a person who says, irritably, “Are we out of dried cherries?” like this missing ingredient from the muesli he’s assembling constitutes a serious incident of neglect.

The face of RAVENOUS MONSTROSITY! On the way to a Stromae concert with his Ava friend.
He is starving. He is standing in front of the refrigerator, accusing me. “We have no food in the house!” “I’m not totally sure what you’re looking for,” I say, reasonably. “We have toast and eggs. Cheese and ham. Cereal and yogurt and fruit. I heard Birdy offer to share the smoothie she was making.” Ben is visibly exasperated. Clearly, I do not understand what is needed. 

“I feel like you want to put out your hand and have an Egg McMuffin fall into it,” I say, and he admits that this is kind of true. “What about toast with melted cheese?” I say, as if this is a problem that could actually be solved, and he groans. “I think that pea under all your mattresses really got to you last night!” I say, which is a funny joke, which Ben doesn’t laugh at, because I’ve said it in a meaner way than I intended. I kiss his starving, irritated cheeks. “Let’s make breakfast burritos this weekend,” I say. “Like we did last spring, when you were in another one of your princessy fits.” “Okay,” he says. “That would be great.”

And so we do! The end. 

Only not really, because a kind of overcaffeination takes over while we’re making them, and the hash browns stick—which remind me that they stuck last time too—and then I burn a tortilla, and Birdy is pissed at me because I’m raging around cursing, and she doesn’t like it. Also I suggest that she’s washing the sandy arugula poorly—“Not in a colander. In a sinkful of water,” I sigh, like what kind of idiot? 

By the time we’re done with the burritos, two of us have cried. “Enjoy these,” I say to Ben, cramming the bag into our too-stuffed freezer, from which two empty pints of ice cream drop to the ground. “Think of all the love that went into them."

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Makes 8
These are great! Seriously. It’s the thing you’re starving teenager really wants to eat in the morning, and if you don’t use those damned sticking hash browns, they come together very quickly and easily. Plus, they can be varied pretty widely: use ham, sausage, or chorizo instead of the bacon—or whatever veggie versions of those things you like best. Add sautéed onions and peppers. Skip the hash browns (!) and add black beans instead, along with a spoonful of salsa. You might want to add the salsa—or a few shakes of hot sauce—anyway.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 20-ounce shredded bag hash browns
12 (or 16) ounces bacon
8 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
 3 tablespoons butter
1 heaping cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Jack, or a blend)
8 (8-inch) wheat tortillas (make sure they’re fairly pliable or you will end up killing somebody)

Heat the oil in a wide pan and sauté the hash browns until they are tender and brown, or according to the package directions. If you have a nonstick pan, NOW IS THE TIME TO USE IT. These stick maddeningly. Aaaaaaagh.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon and drain it on paper towels.

Beat the eggs with the water and salt. Heat the butter in a medium pan and cook the eggs, scrambling them until they are cooked through but still nice and soft.

Heat the tortillas to soften them: I do this by stacking them right on top of a low burner, and flipping and rotating them so that a new one is always on the bottom. There are doubtless better ways than this, especially because I tend to burn at least one.

Now lay the tortillas out on a clean counter. Divide the bacon among them, breaking up strips as necessary to equal it all out. Arrange a scoop of hash browns over the bacon  (you may have some leftover hash browns). Dive the eggs over the hash browns, keeping the filling in a fairly even strip down the middle of the tortillas and leaving about an inch free at the top and bottom. Divide the cheese over the eggs.

Now roll the burritos up. I do this by wetting my hands in a bowl of water, then folding over the top and bottom inch of plain tortilla before rolling it up tight, tucking in the filling as I go, and compressing it tightly. We your hands again, then put the burrito seam-side down on a baking sheet, pressing it down a little to secure. Continue with the folding and rolling, wetting your hands to help compress everything. The water also helps the burritos freeze solid so that, after the whole pan of burritos is frozen overnight, you can move them into a large freezer Ziploc bag, and they will keep their shape.

To heat one up, put it on a plate, lay a wet paper towel over it, and microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through. Or wrap in foil and heat in a 350 oven for around 20 minutes.


  1. Anonymous11:38 AM

    I have the same (probably worse) petulant and ravenous almost- 16-year-old son, and we (mostly I) have been pre-making biscuit breakfast sandwiches since school started. It has helped tremendously to ease our 6:30 a.m. sniping matches about the food we *don't * have in the house. Well worth the time and effort to assemble a bunch to put into OUR too-full freezer. But now thanks to this, I can mix it up a bit and make burritos (which sound easier than having to make biscuits AND assemble all the egg/cheese/meat stuff). Thanks!

  2. This is SOOO our 13 year old son right now! Thanks for the laugh and the tip on the breakfast burritos. I will definitely be stocking our overflowing freezer this weekend!

  3. So hungry right now. Wish I could go into the past and make these and then return to microwave one!

  4. Ha! The same is true with an almost-14-yr-old daughter. These sound great, but how to get them into MY too-full freezer?! :)

  5. As usual you made me laugh (but no coffee spitting this morning). So familiar. I am daily faced with a 12 year old who is so weak and feeble from sheer starvation that he cannot get up from the table, walk 3 feet to the freezer, grab a bagel, shove it in the toaster and then butter the stupid thing. My response is to remind him that if he's old enough to use the toilet himself, he's old enough to toast and butter an expletive bagel. I have referred to him as "princess," too, but will have to remember to ask him about that pea. Thanks Catherine!

  6. Francine3:58 PM

    Me again. You really made me laugh about the pliable burritos and the risk of killing somebody. (What is she doing, my God, commenting and commenting on Ben and Birdy? Not doing her work is what she is doing.). Anyway, I wanted to say how incredible it is (or maybe not, he is famous, after all...) that Ben went to see Stromae, because that's what we are doing next Monday, Odile and I. She is going with me, and not her friends, and I know that it won't last for another year, her and me, going out together...
    As for Teenagerland, I know, we have the peas and the princess day here too, and the bad moods flying all over the place, from all directions. And crying too, about the new violin teacher, who is not as nice as the other one, and the quantity of school work, and the (lack of) food. Thank you for putting it so acurately in words, as always.It makes me feel better.

  7. I can relate to this in every way, except that my starving grump is only eleven. The teenage years are looking bleak on our horizon. Thank you for the reminder to make breakfast burritos. I need to squeeze some into our freezer! Our favorites have a base of yams and sausage with a good dousing of smoked paprika. Have a peaceful weekend!

    1. Help! My starving morning grump is only 7! And I suck at cooking and doing things ahead of time! But this has inspired me to try, because he's wasting away on his preferred breakfast of cinnamon toast.

    2. Mine is nine. And it's been going on for a couple years now. Maybe we'll luck out and they'll be easy-to-feed teens?

  8. You HAVE to write a book about teenagerhood. Please? Your book about babyhood saved my life, because I felt less crazy when I read your experiences. I knew that you felt the same way I did when you were pregnant and then in the midst of the wonderful, heartbreaking, blissful, terrible stage of babyhood. But now? I need you to validate that yes, your son is pissed at you as well for not making bacon and pancakes every single day for breakfast. And imagine: I have two preteens in the house. Boys. It's a hard job, that.

  9. When I make my breakfast burritos, I mix the eggs and hash browns together and microwave them (is that horrible) because then I don't get the dreadful half stuck on the pan issue (if you don't mind the hash browns not being browned). My 9 yr old boy has days when he eats like a starving wolf but others where he seemingly survives on air. I'll have to start clearing out space in the freezer to be prepared!

  10. Thanks for the great recipe! They make a great breakfast freshly made too. I made my own hash-browns. I peeled 2 large russet potatoes, grated them and rinsed until the water was clear. Dry well in a dish towel. Heat up duBuyer pan and when hot, add butter and throw the potatoes in. They didn't stick a bit. I didn't heat my tortillas, they were very soft. I rolled them up and put them on a cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes to melt the cheese and heat through. Teenagers. I have 3: 13yo boy, 15 and 17yo girls. So far no one is eating me out of the house. But angst there is in spades. Keep writing!

  11. While these sound lovely, I'm sitting here boggling - you make these on a school morning???? My time limit for making a breakfast (on a good day) is 5 mins to make oatmeal.

    1. No - they made up a batch on the weekend, froze them, and they can be pulled out on a school morning for a quick heat and eat.

  12. dale in denver10:39 AM

    This was the observation from my princessy 14-year old boy with celiac when school started. "All we have is food that is used to make other food - there is nothing to eat!" A pretty fair observation - I didn't realize actual prep and assembly would be more than he could muster, despite having been preparing much of his own food for several years. His hangry moodiness drives me CRAZY. I try not to take the bait, but sometimes I succumb. And I've got 12 and 9 yo boys following his footsteps. Ugh.

    Thanks for dropping the knowledge that I'm not alone on this journey.

  13. Aw this is why I love you!

  14. I have nothing but love for you all. Thank you for sharing your crankiness with us and reminding me, yet again, that we are all in this thing together. We will be making breakfast burritos soon!

    We've been making regular burritos to freeze (spoiling my already-plenty-spoiled children against ever eating a store-bought frozen burrito again), and my freezer isn't big enough to freeze them on a tray. I wrap each freshly-made burrito in a waxed paper square, then freeze them all in the zipper bag the tortillas came in.


  15. Princessy fits....I love it! You always crack me up, even when you are in a bad mood. I can totally relate to the mood swings, I have a 16 year old boy/man at home and he can clean out the fridge in no time! I think I will make these tonight, and save for the weekend. Thanks for sharing your recipes with us, even when you have cranky people at your house. Love you and your gorgeous kids<3!

  16. Jennifer5:00 PM

    Thank you for this recipe! Making my grocery list immediately!
    My 15-year-old Ben has been starving and surly lately as well. Thanks for the laugh. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone in teenagerland.

  17. A viable substitution for the maddeningly sticking hash browns is tater tots.

  18. Ah, yes. In my house they have no suggestions as to what I should buy at the grocery store but they're pissed that I didn't get it. Maddening.

    1. That right there is my life. Ahhh fun.

  19. God I remember this phase in myself. My vegetarian mom tried her best to feed me meat, bless her heart, but it was mostly blood raw steak in the toaster oven. Memories.

    Now back to you. I love these! I am still on easy street with my two elementary-age girls, so I end up using most of a giant batch for quick dinner so often that if I make them at breakfast, they will ask quizzically, "Breakfast burritos for breakfast?!" as if the concept never occurred to them. I like to dice potatoes (skin on), plunking them into a giant bowl of cold water as I go, then dry off on a tea towel, move to a foil-lined, sprayed baking tray and sprinkle with s&p, cumin & smoked paprika, drizzle with olive oil, something like 400 deg for 30 min, but you'll figure that part out.

  20. Thank you so much for the honesty. Really. We all have those times and it's so reassuring to read them about people I admire.

  21. My teen is so hungry, and so disdainful of all available foods. Thank you for writing this. I am going to make the burritos, which look delicious and people love hash browns so I'll even do that frustrating/sticky part. But probably by the sheer fact of being an available food, they will be rejected.

  22. Totally going to make these for the pre-teen who is also starving/cranky/hangry - (my mom tells me 'its the Pubening!!!') Our Trader Joe's recently started carrying frozen hash browns and I found that if I use a deliciously obscene amount of olive oil and let them cook untouched for a long time - long enough to form a crispy crust they don't stick - and if I'm lucky I can even flip the whole thing over like a giant potato pancake and then break it all up once it is crispy on both sides - but it usually breaks in the flipping process.

  23. Marycath1711:49 AM

    I have been reading you since the beginning, Catherine, and my almost 13-year-old daughter heard me laughing last night, and said "Mom, what's so funny? "I let her read your blog with me, and we were both in stitches and crying, laughing so hard! Thank you, Catherine, for your wonderful writing and refreshing honesty! Can't wait for your new book!