Freezer breakfast burritos

Freezer breakfast burritos | RISING*SHINING Freezer breakfast burritos | RISING*SHINING

When Cedric was tiny and new and up all night I would get up in the morning and be far from ready to be awake. But Chris would hand me hot coffee and I would remember that I had a stash of freezer breakfast burritos and I would feel like I could make it.

Recently I remembered the glory of freezer breakfast burritos when Chris was preparing to go out of town and Sarah gave me some sage advice to "be sure you eat!" And so I assembled the ingredients and spent a surprisingly short amount of time in the kitchen making and wrapping half a dozen burritos. While Chris was away I would shower the night before and then be up with our early bird.

The morning with young children is constant transitions. You don't realize how many transitions until you have a small person fighting and negotiating every single one. But in the midst of all the negotiations and looking wistfully at the garage door - the finish line - that seemed so far away I would throw a frozen burrito in my lunch bag and imagine eating it in the quiet of my office. 

I usually vary my breakfast burrito recipe whenever I make it depending on what I have in the fridge and freezer. It's a great way to use up veggies or leftover quinoa or rice. A batch of frozen burritos is my new go-to recipe to deliver to parents with a new baby. 

Freezer breakfast burritos
makes ~10 burritos 

12 eggs
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup cooked chopped spinach (from frozen), with excess water squeezed out
grated cheese
roasted potatoes with peppers and onions (from frozen, heated up*)
10 flour tortillas

If planning to freeze burritos prepare 10 squares of tin foil in a stack. Or you can plan to make these for a crowd and eat right away!

Crack eggs and mix well with cooked quinoa. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Pour eggs into hot skillet along with cooked spinach and scramble. When eggs are done remove from heat and set aside, sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Wrap stack of tortillas in a clean dish towel and sprinkle generously with water. Place wrapped tortillas in the microwave and microwave for two bouts of 30 seconds. 

Prepare your burrito assembly area with the tortillas, eggs and potatoes close by. Lay a tortilla on the top of your foil stack and scoop about 1/3 of a cup of the eggs onto the tortilla towards one side. This is an important tip for getting a great burrito fold: don't put the ingredients in the middle, put them to one side!

After the eggs, scoop some potatoes onto the eggs. Fold the tortilla edge over the eggs and roll the burrito over one time, keeping a tight roll. Next, fold in both sides of the tortilla and then keep on rolling until the end, trying to keep everything tucked in. You'll find that you can't load up the burrito too much or you'll compromise a good burrito roll. It takes practice but you'll get there! Also, even ugly burritos taste delicious.

If you are freezing the burritos, place the rolled burrito at one corner of the tin foil and roll long ways across the square of tin foil, mimicking the burrito rolling technique of one roll over, then tuck in the sides and complete the roll. Put burritos in the freezer, high five to your future self!

To prepare a frozen burrito: remove tin foil and wrap in a clean dish cloth. Sprinkle dish cloth with water and microwave ~2.5 minutes. Then, if you have time, put the burrito into the over or toasted oven directly on the rack. Bake at ~350 degrees for a couple minutes, just to give the outside of the burrito a little crispiness.


*Each time I've made these I first cook the potatoes in a skillet. But then I realized that I refreeze them in the burrito within 30 minutes so maybe you should just use these frozen if you are planning to freeze the burritos. Haven't tested this out yet myself, though!


Making my work days more productive


I work full time as a science writer and at any one time I have several projects or tasks on my plate with varying levels of priority. Some, like writing a new article from scratch, take hours and I need to be fully immersed in the task to do my best work. Some tasks come in suddenly and must be done right away, putting everything else on hold. Some tasks aren't difficult but they require coordinating between several people - writing emails, waiting for a response, figuring out a time everyone can meet and then finding an available conference room.

I've always sought efficiency and productivity at work but as a working mom I think about making the most of my work day even more. I don't want to bring home any (or at least very little) stress from work and definitely want to avoid doing actual work at home. I guard the hours when I'm home with my family fiercely and it's important to recharge. I also want to leave work early enough to pick up the boys and be home before six so I want to accomplish as much as I can quickly while maintaining a high level of quality.

Recently my work days have felt especially full and I found that I would be busy with tasks and projects all day but wasn't getting the bigger chunks of time for writing and developing projects. I was starting to think about work projects at home a little too much. My work ebbs and flows and so this is not out of the ordinary but I wondered if I could implement any tactics to help. 

Inspired by Laura Vanderkam's time tracking I decided that it might help me if I track what I work on throughout the day. For the past several months I've been trying to maintain a nearly paperless desk situation and had moved my written to-do lists into Office Outlook Tasks. This has been working fairly well, and I do love deleting an email after creating a task from the subject matter, but I thought that writing some things down during the day would help me.

I spent a lovely post-bedtime hour at Target browsing the office supplies and found a perfect little mint notebook (which I can't seem to find online but it's Cambridge brand) and the next day implemented my time tracking system. Three weeks later and I'm still really happy with it!

Here's what I'm doing:

Each day I start a new two-page spread. This notebook has all the months and days at the top of each page and you can circle the date - I love this. I keep the notebook open and on my desk throughout the day.

On the right-hand side I write the tasks I want to accomplish during the day and track my time. When I arrive at work I look over my main tasks for the day (I try to write them the day before), jot down the time and start on a task. I jot the task I'm working on next to the time. I update the time/task about every 30 minutes but sometimes it will be longer. My objective with time tracking is not to rigorously track each minute of my day but to check in throughout the day and make sure I'm making progress on the things I want to finish. 

I jot notes and non-work related ideas and tasks on left-hand side of the page. During the day I inevitably think of something not related to work that I want to look up, remember to buy, remember to do etc.,  Writing these things down, instead of trying to ignore them, lets me stay focused on my work task but also relax about whatever it is I need to remember.

Before I leave work at the end of the day I write my main tasks or objectives at the top of a new two-page spread. I really like this because I can come into the office and start working on something right away, which sets the tone for my work day. It's easy to open up email first thing and feel productive but not actually make progress on projects. I loved the perspective that someone shared recently at a staff meeting, "Email is always the easiest and worst choice of how to spend your time."

One thing I've noticed is that this system is helping me finish those pesky not-very-difficult tasks that just aren't fun to do like writing a longer email or calling someone to follow up. Seeing the task at the top of the page, just waiting to be highlighted (signifying "complete") motivates me to just do it. 

This system also helps me balance workload. When a request to take care of something, "really quick" comes in I can glance over my tasks and assess the priority level of the new task against what I'm working on. Sometimes it's more effective to finish what I'm working on a put off a new task for a few hours. At other times I do need to break off from my current task, but it's easier to pick up where I left off seeing it written on the page.

This is certainly not a very sophisticated system but often the best solutions are not. I'd love to know what tactics you use to stay productive at work!

Making good on a promise

The best chocolate ice box pie - perfect for summer potlucks | RISING*SHINING

A year ago I brought my favorite chocolate ice box pie to my friend Becky's Fourth of July party (it's her favorite holiday, which I love about her). It was a patriotic hometown affair where chocolate pie was right at home and I promised her the recipe and I do believe I've been teasing you, lovely readers, with it as well. Well, I'm here to finally make good on that promise! 

I have this recipe handwritten on a folded sheet of lined paper in my recipe binder and it is boldly titled Kelsey's Favorite Chocolate Ice Box Pie. I know that I made this pie for the first time after moving to Arizona and I have a vague memory of making it for the first time in this house, which we bought eight years ago. I'm not sure how discerning I was in my declaration of this being my favorite chocolate ice box pie - I can't say for certain that I've made other recipes. But this one is darn good and so I guess I just knew a favorite upon first meeting. 

Cookie and cake desserts are almost always, in my opinion, improved with a scoop of ice cream and I like the way a cream pie sort of replicates the dessert + ice cream combo. While this pie is quickly earning a repeat appearance at the Fourth of July (you know I know a good tradition) I also think of it around Thanksgiving and usually make it then. So it inspires patriotic and thankful thoughts; you really can't go wrong with chocolate ice box pie.

(I found a plugin that will let me share recipes that you can (hopefully!) easily print!)

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Kelsey's Favorite Chocolate Ice Box Pie
adapted from Southern Living
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup + one handful (for garnish) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 pre-baked pie crust, homemade or store bought (I used Trader Joe's pie crust, from frozen)
In a bowl, whisk together corn starch and water and then add sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla. Whisk to combine and set aside. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it gently bubbles around the edges, taking care not to let it boil. Add the chocolate chips to the milk and whisk until melted. Add the sweetened condensed milk mixture to the milk and chocolate and whisk. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for one minute, whisking vigorously and frequently to keep any lumps at bay. Remove pan from heat and spoon mixture into prepared pie crust. Allow to cool until you can cover the pie without inducing copious condensation and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Before serving, combine heavy cream and powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Spread the whipped cream on the pie evenly and sprinkle with roughly chopped chocolate chips.

P.S. The light in my bathroom is the best for food photography:

The best chocolate ice box pie - perfect for summer potlucks | RISING*SHINING

Things that are awesome no. 5


Trader Joe's. Had to do it, guys. This little grocery store brings me so much happiness and shopping there is something I look forward to every week. I didn't grow up with a Trader Joe's and only really discovered it about four years ago when I became friends with someone who does her weekly shopping there. Thank goodness TJ's is in my life now!

I could go on and on (and on) about my love for Trader Joe's but here's the highlight reel: there's a steady stream of new and seasonal items, a free coffee and sample station where a friendly employee fills up tiny paper cups with animal crackers or cinnamon letter cookies for the boys, their greeting cards are THE BEST (and only 99 cents!!), they have kid-sized shopping carts, the small store size means I'm not overwhelmed as soon as I walk in the door, great wine at a great price, affordable bouquets of flowers, and the atmosphere is friendly and helpful: employees readily recommend recipes to try with items that you are buying or offer to sample something for you and many of them recognize our family when we shop and come to say hello.

On a recent quick trip Dash pushed a small cart and collected items (looking so proud and taking his job very seriously), both boys got cups of animal crackers and Chris and I grabbed tiny samples of wine. When grocery shopping can be a relaxing and fun family outing you know you've found a great store.


Goals - July 2016

Goals - July 2016 | RISING*SHINING

Since we've lived here the summer has been something to endure. Eight years later and we've found so many things to love about living in the desert and continue to choose to stay here despite the hot, hot summers. And so I've decided to change my attitude about summer: I'm going to love it and not just endure it. Recently, Erica and I chatted about the concept of summer cozy and that perspective is helping. 

Once I started looking for things to love about the summer I found many: Chris has a very relaxed schedule which slows the pace of life for our family (probably the best reason to love summer), swimming, summer recipes like chocolate cream pie and cooking on the grill, monsoon rain storms, Fourth of July and trips to the mountains to get out of the heat are a few.

Chris will give me updates like, "We're already 20% of the way through summer!" (we count end of summer at Halloween - which I know sounds crazy!) and so far I've stayed positive, even through temperatures above 115! We're still able to get a couple of hours of playing outside in the morning before the heat and blazing sun really get going and that helps. And the heat being "a dry heat" does make a difference; I'll take a dry heat at 105 over 95 and humid any day.

This month I have FOUR stints of solo parenting but I'm feeling pretty positive. The boys are becoming easier to manage on my own - the improved sleep definitely helps! - and I'm planning some outings like to the children's museum and maybe a new local Lego Land. The fact that these kinds of outings sound doable on my own and not completely overwhelming speaks volumes.

Big things happening in July:

+ Fourth of July! I'm starting to love this patriotic holiday. A great excuse to get together with friends and family, bake a pie, grill something and enjoy a day off work. We've also developed a family tradition of heading to our favorite The Coffee Shop when it opens, getting coffee and treats and wandering around the community gardens. 

+ Lots of solo parenting. Chris will be out of town four times but at most for three nights at a time - I got this!

+ Deadlines at work. I have two big reports due at the end of the month and I'm also working on recording new podcasts about university research as part of my full time job. It's feeling really busy I'm taking it one day at a time.

July goals:

+ Perfect grilled fish tacos. This is a summer-long goal of mine. I'm not a super confident griller (although I make killer grilled broccoli) and I'd like to build my grilling repertoire. Grilled fish tacos are the perfect summer meal and I'm off to a great start. Two weekends ago I marinated mahi mahi all day, grilled it and then served in in corn tortillas topped with TJ mango jicama slaw and a salsa-lime-Greek yogurt dressing - YUM. But I'd still like to make improvements - do you have a great recipe?

+ Make a killer key lime pie. Another summer-long cooking goal. Chris always tells me he doesn't like pie but then somehow manages to eat lots when I make one. Hmmmm.... Would love a recipe recommendation if you have one!

+ Meet our new neighbors. You know I love being neighborly! New neighbors moved in two houses down and I've been meaning to walk over with a loaf of bread from our neighborhood bakery and introduce my family.

+ Plan Dashiell's rooms update. This has been languishing on our to-do list for awhile. I take forever to make decisions and buy things! We want to add some art, a reading corner and clothes baskets to Dashiell's room. We kept it really simple when we moved him in and we'd love to give them room more personality.

+ Month-long spending freeze! A meal out here and there, new stamps for my Get To Work Book planner, new shoes for Dash...there's always something to buy. Chris and I are both committing to NOT buying anything extra this month. Oh man, wish us luck! And we'll definitely give updates on Matrimoney

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Exercise three times per week. On Monday and Friday mornings I go to Orange Theory. Fitting in the third work out has been inconsistent but I'm still aiming to do it and have hopes of an early morning run once a week.

+ Publish to RISING*SHINING on Mondays and Wednesdays. Recently I've been able to get a couple of early weekend morning work sessions and get back into the blogging groove. It's a really happy place for me to be.

+ Record and produce new episodes of The Girl Next Door Podcast and Matrimoney on schedule.


Happy July, happy Fourth of July and happy summer!