Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas

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This recipe from the kitchn came with so many caveats about how these are not your ordinary baked enchiladas, and how they end up being a gooey mess but they’re still good, that it was almost worth making them just to see if they lived up to all the anti-hype. They’re easy, they’re tasty – they’re messy and not crispy at all. And still good. So give them a try.

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They are a great way to use up weird leftover bits of things. This is what tofu does when you freeze it. People like to freeze it because it goes crumbly, so we tried it as an experiment after making stir fry one night.

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Start by chopping up 1 small onion. Dice up 1 red bell pepper. Drain and rinse 1 16oz can of black beans. Divvy out 1 cup frozen corn. Mix all those together in a bowl. Grate up 1-2 cups good melting cheese, and add in 1/2 cup of that cheese to the bowl.

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Mix together as well some spices: 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. I find often that this sort of food genre is benefitted by adding in 1 teaspoon cinnamon as well.

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Tip that into the mixed veg.

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Add in any leftover ground meat or chicken you have, if you have any, or this weird crumbled spongy thawed tofu. I really felt like I was breaking up a sponge. Later, I felt like I was EATING a sponge.

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In the bottom of a 4-6 quart slow cooker, spread enough of a 30oz jar of salsa to coat the bottom. You’ll note here that we have a very bowl-shaped slow-cooker. This probably works a bit better in a more flat-bottomed version.

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Ker-SPLAT.

Grab a package of flour tortillas (ours were the small size, pack of 10). Scoop about 1/3 cup of that vegetable filling into each tortilla, roll it up, and lay it seam-side-down in the slow cooker.

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Once you’ve got a layer (with our shape of bowl, that didn’t take long), sprinkle with more salsa and some more of the cheese.

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You should probably end up with only two layers but because of the shape of our bowl we had three, so it was a good thing I grated more cheese. Any extra filling can be piled on top.

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Then add in the rest of the jar of salsa. Resist adding on the rest of the cheese – keep about 1/2 cup of it back for the end bit.

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Cook on high for 2-4 hours (or on low for 8 hours if you’re prepared for extra mushy enchiladas). In the last 15 minutes of cooking, take the last 1/2 cup of cheese and sprinkle that over top, close the lid, and let it melt.

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Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro, or whatever else floats your enchilada boat!

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Meals en Masse: Beef Lasagna

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In preparation for the fact that in two months my life is about to get turned upside down and I won’t have any time or energy to do much, I’m trying to make it a little easier on myself. At least once a week I’m trying to prepare a meal that I can do in triplicate, where we eat one version and store the other two in the freezer. This week I made up a hearty lasagna to feed Papa John and Mrs. Nice, and the other two went into the freezer for some night this summer when we’re willing to brave the heat to get our pasta fix.

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Of course I never measure anything when I make lasagna, but I’ll try to give you some approximations here for a triplicate recipe if you’re interested in trying it for yourself (and feeling very smug later when you realize you have two giant lasagnas sitting in your freezer).

First I mixed up the cheese layer, which was 2 750g tubs of cottage cheese (you can use ricotta if you prefer, but if you’re buying in this amount the cottage cheese is way cheaper), 3 rectangular packages of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained, the equivalent of 2 heads minced garlic (or however much you prefer), and a smattering of freshly ground salt and pepper.

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Creamy cheesy goodness.

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Then you can chop up your veg. I like to choose vegetables that add substance to the lasagna without competing with individual flavours, so mushrooms (8-10), eggplant (1), and zucchini (2 small) are favourites of mine, together with sweet red peppers (2) to boost the colour.

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Next, a giant sweet onion gets chopped up and added to a large stock pot with a few tablespoons olive oil and a knob of butter.

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Once those are soft and fragrant, break up your ground meat with your fingers and tip it in. This is about 2kg extra lean ground beef. If you use medium ground you’ll probably want to drain the fat off once it’s cooked.

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When it IS cooked, tip in your veg and let those soften. Add in some of your favourite spices, like oregano and basil.

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Next, about 3 jars tomato sauce.

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Let that simmer down for a little bit.

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Grate up about 2 large bricks mozzarella. When in doubt, err on the side of too much cheese. Always.

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Now get your stuff organized for assembly. you’ll also need 2-3 boxes uncooked oven-ready lasagna noodles. Be smart and spray your pasta dishes before you use them. The glass one is the one I’m making right away, but the disposable aluminum pans are for the freezer – I don’t own enough Pyrex to put them all in the freezer at the same time. Plus the aluminum ones make great frozen tasty gifts for those of your friends who are in a similar situation to myself. HINT, HINT.

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Layer on some noodles, flat in the bottom, then a generous helping of tomato sauce. You’re aiming for about 1/6th of your sauce for each pan.

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More noodles, and then divide your cheese evenly between your three pans.

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More noodles. I ran out of noodles at this point because I only had two boxes, so I had to run out and get more. And it was cold. Hooray for expectant mother parking spots.

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Finally add in the rest of your sauce and smother it lovingly in cheese.

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The ready-made version can be cooked in about 45-60 minutes at 350°F.

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I’m putting in this same photo again so you can see how saucy and liquidy the sauce is, despite its thickness – that extra liquid means the noodles will cook through properly without drying out the dish.

The others need to be wrapped well and frozen. I recommend thawing them before cooking, and they’ll probably take about twice as long to cook through because they won’t already be nice and warm. Enjoy!

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Fast Tip Friday: Singleton’s Pizza

Singleton's Pizza 11When I was younger, and my dad was away at sea and my brothers had gone out for the evening, my mother and I would sometimes take it easy from dinner preparation for one night and do something quick and dirty with the leftovers we had in the fridge. Now that I’m a grown-up, it’s the perfect thing to cobble together on nights when the Pie is out of town and all I want to do is plant my butt on the couch with a beer and watch the game. You just need three things: leftover spaghetti sauce (the chunkier the better), cheese, and rice cakes (this also works on pita, na’an, and any other form of flat bread). Singleton's Pizza 1

Heat up the sauce a bit and grate some cheese.

Singleton's Pizza 2Gren has realized I have the cheese grater out. Singleton's Pizza 3

Gren is trying to inhale the cheese from where he’s standing. I love it when he wrinkles up his face like that because I know if he could see himself doing it he’d be totally embarrassed.

Singleton's Pizza 4Line a baking sheet with parchment, move your oven rack to the middle, and turn on your broiler (don’t move it to the top or you will simply set all this on fire). Place your rice cakes(or flatbread) on the baking sheet. Top the rice cakes with your warm sauce. Singleton's Pizza 6

Add grated cheese. Give some to your dog or he won’t go away. To make it less sad singleton, I added some fresh basil out of the garden and that made me feel a little less lazy and pathetic.

Singleton's Pizza 7Broil until the cheese is melted to your satisfaction. Singleton's Pizza 10

Eat!

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Five-Minute Frittata, for Two

This is my favourite quick dinner when you want something a little bit better than a cold bowl of cereal but you want to apply pretty much the same level of effort. This dish serves two but I was so hungry after all my efforts in the garden that I ate the whole thing myself.

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First I grabbed some fresh herbs out of said garden. Then I preheated my oven to broil and grabbed an oven-safe nonstick skillet. Nonstick works best for this particular eggy dish, but you have to make sure that it has been approved for use in the oven so you don’t end up killing yourself with chemicals or burning the handle off.

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I chopped up the herbs.

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Then I grabbed a tomato and chopped and de-seeded it as well.

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Now you can start heating up your skillet, with a nice big pat of butter in it to melt.

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Then I cracked 4 eggs into a bowl. I proceeded to beat the crap out of them.

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Add in a big dollop of sour cream. You can use milk or cream but I have recently discovered that sour cream in eggs makes them light and fluffy and flavourful so I like using it.

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Then I poured the mixed eggs into the hot skillet.

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Let that sit for a moment.

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Then start pulling the egg away from the bottom of the skillet. You’re not really stirring the egg, so much as exposing more of the raw stuff to a hot cooking surface.

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Stop scraping before all the wet stuff is scrambled.

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Now you can top it with all the goodness you’ve prepared. This is salt, pepper, chopped herbs, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.

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And then go ahead and shove it under the broiler for about two minutes, until all the wet egg is now solid. Please don’t judge me for my dirty oven.

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You can see I actually overdid this one a little bit.

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Then you hold the pan over a plate and start to slowly tip it so the whole thing starts to slide out.

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Keeeeeep sliding.

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When you’re about halfway out, lift the pan so that the second half of the egg flips over and covers the first half.

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Top with more pepper and garnish if you like.

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As I said, you can cut this in two and share it. Or if you’re really hungry it makes a great meal for one!

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Mini Wonton Quiches

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I finally did get to have that finger-food brunch I was trying for. These wonton mini quiches were a big hit.

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I enjoyed cutting up all the vegetables super small to fit in the tiny muffin cup spaces.

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I did scoop the seeds out of the tomatoes to avoid mushiness.

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And I couldn’t decide on cheeses, so I went with both.

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I grabbed some fresh herbs from my very own backyard, because it’s actually spring now.

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In the end I had one set of quiches with mushroom, spinach, chives, and goat cheese, and the other was tomato, onion, cheddar, and cilantro. For amounts I kind of winged it, sorry.

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Anyway, preheat your oven to 350°F and line your muffin tins with two wonton wrappers each. Align them so they are at 45° angles to each other for the largest surface area. I didn’t do this but I would recommend greasing the muffin tins before you do this.

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Then I stuffed the tins with my vegetable-cheese mixtures.

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Then I started cracking some eggs. For 24 mini quiches I used about 14 eggs. I also added in a few tablespoons cream, some salt and pepper, and some grated parmesan. Gave that a good mixing.

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Then I ever so carefully poured the egg goo into the muffin cups.

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It’s hard to get it so it doesn’t go around the seal of the wonton.

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I baked them for about 15 minutes, until they were cooked through.

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Because I didn’t grease the pan it took some persuasion to get them out.

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But they were so good!

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And even great for a cold quick breakfast or lunch the next day!

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Taco Cups

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To celebrate the success of our Bench Cover Thingy, Cait and I held a wee taco party afterwards. These are inspired by Kevin & Amanda, and I think I’ll be cooking these up pretty often. They’re easy and provide a tidier option to those of us who like hard-shelled tacos. Plus kids will love being able to make up their own custom tacos in advance. Also tacos always remind me of my favourite joke, but I don’t wanna taco ’bout it. You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean. This recipe makes enough for 24 taco cups, which feeds four hungry adults quite nicely.

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Start with half a large sweet onion and dice that up.

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Grab 2 tomatoes and dice them too.

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Why yes, that IS dog hair on my tomatoes. Thank you for asking.
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I swear that I removed the dog hair before dicing. I promise. Maybe.

Scoop up some spices: 2 tablespoons chilli powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon chipotle, and some ground black pepper.

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You’ll also need some meat. I used about 3/4 kilogram extra lean ground beef.

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Sauté your onions in about 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent and amazing-smelling. Tip in the meat and stir, breaking it up into little pieces, until it’s browned all over. Drain it if necessary (the bonus of extra-lean is you don’t need to drain).

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Remove the meat and onions from the heat and tip them into a large bowl. Dump in your spices and mix them around.

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Tip in the diced tomato as well and give that a good stir. Set that bowl aside for a spell.

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Now preheat your oven to 375°F or thereabouts. Grate up about 2 cups cheddar cheese (you can use more or less if you like).

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Grab a muffin tin and generously brush the whole thing with olive or vegetable oil (or use cooking spray). I did the 24 taco cups in two separate batches so they were fresh and hot, so I only needed the one tin, but if you’re doing them all at once you will obviously need two tins.

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Now you need some wonton wrappers. Square ones are probably best.

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Press a wonton wrapper into the bottom of each hole in the muffin tin.

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Spoon a small amount of meat, onions, and tomatoes into the spaces as well.

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Top with a wee bit of grated cheddar.

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Then jam on ANOTHER WONTON WRAPPER. Press everything down underneath it so you still have space to put stuff.

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Spoon in some more meat/onions/tomatoes and top with additional cheese.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the wonton bits that you can see are brown and the cheese is melty and bubbly.

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Cait and I found that about five minutes on a cooling rack after baking made them a bit more solid and easier to handle. Just be careful when you’re scooping them out and run around the edges with a spoon to make sure nothing is still attached to the tin.

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Top with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh chives and you are golden.

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Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli

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Oh Jamie Oliver, you rarely let me down. Today is no exception. This recipe takes your standard cauliflower with cheese sauce to the next (actually, the highest) level with very little effort. Plus it involves SO MUCH VEGETABLE. A great source of good food in these final days of winter. I like to buy the flash-frozen vegetables at the supermarket, especially in the winter, because I know that they were at their freshest when they were frozen and haven’t spent days or weeks rattling around in a truck to get to me before they rot.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Grab 1kg cauliflower florets (A WHOLE KILOGRAM) and dump that in a large baking dish. I used half frozen florets on the bottom …

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… and half fresh ones on top.

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Scoop up a decently medium-sized pot and dump in about 4 tablespoons butter and the equivalent of 2 cloves of garlic (you can peel and slice it, but I used it from a jar here and I’m not sorry). Heat that on medium until the butter is melted and the garlic is sizzling.

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Sprinkle in about 4-5 tablespoons flour and stir that until it forms a gummy paste, like in the picture.

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Now, drizzle in, a little bit at a time, 2 cups milk. Whisk it all the while as you add so you don’t get lumps.

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Tip in 500g broccoli florets (fresh or frozen). Let those simmer away until they’re pretty much mushy.

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When they’re nice and mushy, you should mash ’em. I found the potato masher didn’t quite cut it so I used my immersion blender.

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Glorious.

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Now add in like 1/2 cup grated cheddar (or any cheese of your preference). Turn down the heat a bit and let that melt.

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Now pour your green creamy mixture on top of the cauliflower.

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Dig the cauliflower up a little bit to make sure the sauce gets into the middle.

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In a food processor, whaz together about 2 slices stale bread, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, and about 2-3 tablespoons flaked almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Bread crumb topping!

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Sprinkle another 1/2 cup grated cheese over top of the cauliflower, then top with the bread crumb mixture.

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Bake the whole thing for an hour, until the crumbs are golden and everything is bubbly. I found that it was best to cover the crumb topping with foil so it didn’t burn.

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Sooooo good!

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