For a household that makes so many things from scratch there are a few dirty secrets lurking in our cabinets and freezer. One of the worst atrocities is Tina's frozen burritos. For those of you not familiar with them they are incredibly inexpensive and not so healthy. Unfortunately they are so deeply ingrained in my Dad's routine that I saw no hope of weaning him off of them.
But since the two of us have so much free time on our hands (unemployed and retired respectively) I figured we could make our own passable substitute. The challenge wasn't making a better tasting burrito but one that worked out to being as cheap.
For cheapness using dry beans is essential. When I am diligent in my bargain hunting I can usually find pinto beans for no more then $1 a pound. Although we could have left them meat free I decided I wanted some pork in them and at $1.99 a pound for pork loin I figured it wouldn't jack up the price too much either.
The first step was to pick through a pound of dry pinto beans. Does everyone else do this with their dry beans?
My parents make me look through for rocks although I don't think I've ever found one. I do however find some pretty funky looking beans with holes that look suspiciously like they were formed by worms. These pathetic looking ones got discarded:
Then I rinsed them and covered them with water. I also added some ground cumin and some epazote. If you are not familiar with epazote it is an herb used in Mexican cooking, often with beans. All I really know is we get it at Mexican markets and I had to pick some twigs out of it:
But wait! Didn't I forget to mention letting the beans soak overnight? It's because I didn't! My parents insist that it works just as well to bring the beans to a boil, let them simmer for a few minutes, turn off the water and let them sit for an hour and then cook them. And that is what I did.
And in the mean time there was the pork loin to deal with:
If you find that awkward to look at you're not the only one. Let's move on to cooking it:
Dad cut off a two and half pound piece (I don't really do meat butchering) and we browned it in my fake Le Creuset dutch oven. We then added some wine (which is totally optional) and a couple cups of water and cooked it in a 200 degree oven for awhile. I say that because I don't remember how long it took. What I do know is that we cooked it until it was all nice and falling apart. (The pork loin we get for $1.99 a pound is kind of tough so stewing it like that is really one of the only options.)
If it sounds like we did this all in one day we didn't. But we can pretend we did. So...later that day (or like two days later) we mashed the cooked beans. Dad has a thing about mashed beans so I wasn't allowed to totally mush them up but I mashed enough that it was kind of like refried but with a few whole beans floating around.
Also that day (yeah right) the meat got shredded up:
This all went together in a big pan with the addition of a few ingredients, one of which was these:
I have only recently been converted to using canned jalapenos when fresh one's aren't available and I've got to say, I'm a true believer now. Although for most things I usually prefer fresh I've got to say that sometimes even when we can get fresh jalapenos they are so crappy (ie they are either scary and wrinkly or they are so mild they might as well be a green pepper) I'd rather just use canned.
So a third of a can of jalapenos went into the mix along with a couple teaspoons of ground cumin, oregano, chili powder, sweet paprika and a touch of hot smoked Spanish paprika. The mix still didn't seem beany enough so in went a can of black beans at the last minute. (I was secretly rooting for black beans all along, they are my favorite.) I also threw in a cup or so (don't really remember) of frozen corn. And then there was more seasoning: garlic powder, black pepper and about 3 tablespoons of lime juice to freshen it up.
Once the mix was done all that was left was to wrap up the burritos. What we actually ended up doing was refrigerating the filling and wrapping them the next day. Although the tortillas need to be heated to make them pliable the filling was actually easier to deal with when cold. I think we did about a half cup of filling each and we ended up with quite a few. The picture below is only about half of them. We froze them quickly on the tray and then later went back and packed them into bags to keep in the freezer.
Since we did this a while ago and have had time to eat most of them I can tell you the results of this experiment. The burritos are delicious, much better than Tina's. But as for price, well they weren't so great. Although they worked out cheaper it was by maybe only 20 cents or so. The disappointing part is that the biggest expense was the tortillas themselves. They ended up being about half the total cost of the finished burritos. This could be avoided by making your own flour tortillas, if you can get them to come out as nice big circles, which I never can.
So is this going to save you a ton of money? Not really, but it will taste so much better and probably be better for you.
P.S. If any of you ever try to follow these as actual cooking directions I apologize in advance.