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: Honey Chicken with Quinoa

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Here’s another quick-to-make slow-cooking easy-to-freeze recipe that is highly satisfying and adaptable (which I adapted, of course, from i heart naptime). You can use fresh or frozen chicken breasts in the recipe, which means that even if you didn’t plan ahead you’re still going to be just fine.

Honey Chicken 1

Take 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (mine are frozen) and plop them in the bottom of a slow cooker pot turned to low.

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Chop up 1 sweet onion into bite-sized pieces (the original recipe calls for onion powder but I think real onions are better).

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In a bowl, dollop 1 tablespoon olive oil, the equivalent of 2-3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a bunch of ground pepper, as much as you like.

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Add to that as well 1/2 cup soy sauce and 3/4 cup honey and give it a good stirring.

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Pour the sauce over your chicken and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

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And if you happened to have additional chicken breasts, you can chuck those in a freezer bag with more onions and more sauce (I made the recipe in triplicate) and chuck those in the freezer for later.

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I realized just now that I wrote “April ’17” on these bags. I hope future me isn’t too sleep-deprived to think that they were made by an even more future-me.

The chicken is done when it falls apart on you.

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I decided to go whole hog and shredded it with a fork to expose all the chickeny bits to the sauce.

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I served it on top of a quinoa-bulgur blend that I cooked with just a little bit of lemon juice added to the water, a little bit of extra sauce, and garnished the whole thing with a pinch or two of white sesame seeds.

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Wingin’ it Wednesday: Standard Stirfry

Me: What do you want for dinner?

Pie: I dunno. What do YOU want for dinner?

Me: I dunno. Stir fry?

And that, ladies and gents, is how 85% of our weekday meal conversations go. Usually we end up making a stir fry – it’s an easy, relatively easy, and healthier alternative to a whole bunch of the pre-made meals you get at the grocery store.

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First, cube up some chicken. Or beef. Or tofu. Whatever floats your boat.

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Then brown it in a pan with a dash of olive oil, some minced ginger, and minced garlic.

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While that’s going on, chop up some vegetables – any kind you like. Slice them thin so they will cook quickly. We used carrots, sugar snap peas, red peppers, onions, and broccoli here. If you want, you can also cook some rice or noodles to serve as a base for the stir fry.

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When the chicken is cooked, haul it out of the pan and put it aside in a bowl.

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Tip your onions into the pan to soften first.

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Then add in the rest of the veggies.

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Whip up a quick sauce of about 2 tablespoons plum sauce, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, and 1 teaspoon peanut oil. Feel free to experiment with proportions and different sauces – we’ve experimented for a few years and this is the combo we like the best.

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Pour the sauce over the vegetables, stir it in, and pop a lid on the pan so the vegetables have a chance to steam a bit. How long this takes obviously depends on the amount of vegetables you have. You want them tender but not soggy.

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Toss your chicken back in to re-heat, then serve immediately over your rice or noodles.

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Yum!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Chicken Soup with Rice

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This is a “quick” soup in that I didn’t spend all day simmering it on the stove, but it still took a little bit of time, as all good soups do. I was cleaning out the freezer when I found a bag of 5 chicken drumsticks that needed something done to them, so I dragged them out, defrosted them, and dusted them with salt and pepper in a baking dish.

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I roasted them at 350°F for about 40 minutes.

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Make sure that the juices are running clear and the flesh is cooked all the way through. Soup that gives you salmonella is not good soup.

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I let them cool, then pulled all the meat off the bones and set the meat aside in a bowl for a while.

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I took all the skin and bones and chucked them into a large pot with some concentrated chicken broth and about 8 cups water and I let that simmer for about an hour.

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Then I used a slotted spoon to remove the skin and bones from the pot.

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I grabbed myself some vegetables. You always need vegetables in soup.

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I also had about 2 cups cooked brown rice leftover from a canine digestive issue that needed getting rid of.

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Flickr would not let me upload this picture until I cropped it and added contrast and vignetting. Apparently an unedited picture of leftover rice does not count as a valid photo to the Flickr Uploadr people.

All the goodness in your carrots is in the skin, so if you’re putting them in a soup, consider just giving them a good scrubbing instead of peeling them, then slice them up. Three carrots went under the knife for this recipe.

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Green onions, on the other hand, are cleanest if you remove all the outer layers and wash them thoroughly. I used 2 green onions here.

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I only used half an onion in this recipe, because I wasn’t making that much soup. Did you know that an onion is less likely to make you cry if it’s come out of the fridge? The cold slows down the chemical reaction that releases the eye irritant into the air.

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I chucked all the vegetables and rice into the steamy broth and then diced up the chicken meat before chucking it in as well.

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My compost bin earned some new additions.

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Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened, and then serve it hot. Possibly with biscuits. It’s up to you.

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Sizzling Summer Skewers

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Skewers are fun to eat and simple to construct; however, if you make a large number of them, then you will probably get annoyed with both the assembly and cooking, because it will take forever.  If you’re making skewers in large numbers I suggest making it a team activity.

Start with a marinade.  I had chicken and pork, so I decided on two different marinades.

For the pork: I peeled the membrane off this pork tenderloin and cut it into bite-sized cubes.

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Then I assembled the marinade: buttermilk as a base (and tenderizer), sriracha, teriyaki, pineapple juice, fish sauce, and garlic.

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Mix that sucker up and shove it in the fridge overnight.

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For the chicken: I trimmed the fat off several boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cheaper than breasts) and cut them into chunks.

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This one I cheated and used a store-bought teriyaki marinade that I got from Farm Boy.  It was worth it.

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Pour that over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

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I also set a package of bamboo skewers in water and left those to soak overnight as well. This is so they don’t catch fire on the grill.

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Assembly time!  For the pork I used onion chunks, fresh pineapple and some red pepper.

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I always use two skewers to prevent the food from rolling around when I’m trying to rotate the suckers. It’s a bit trickier to put together (I did stab myself with one of the skewers) but worth it in the long run.

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For the chicken I had onion chunks, button mushrooms, and cocktail tomatoes.

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The button mushrooms turned out to be too small and kept breaking off, so I would use a bigger mushroom next time.

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Grill!  I made so many skewers I had to do about four batches.  It took FOREVER.  Make sure to check that the meat is fully cooked before serving.

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Tada!  All lovely and crispy!

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Spicy Chicken Salad (Sandwich)

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Now, while nothing can really top my chicken salad that can change your opinions on chicken salad, some other versions come close (especially when I make them).  I had defrosted three chicken thighs with the intention of doing something else with them, and then I didn’t. So I had three pieces of raw chicken in my fridge that needed cooking — and soon.

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I roasted the thighs (45 minutes at 350°F) the night before with some cajun spices sprinkled over top.

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Then I dismantled them by removing the bones and chopped them into small pieces.

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I grabbed a knob of fresh ginger and cut off a bit about the size of a loonie.

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Peeled it and sliced off paper-thin slices.

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Which I then minced.

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Sliced up some green onions.

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Tossed the ginger and the onions in a bowl with some cajun seasoning, curry powder, cinnamon, and lemon juice.

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Added the chicken.

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Then a generous helping of mayonnaise (everyone’s preference for how much is different so I’ll leave that to you) and a vigorous stirring.

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I decided to put some in a sandwich, so I made a nice cucumber base …

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… and topped the salad with some chopped tomato and grated cheese left over from a taco night in recent history.  Waste not …

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It was a GOOD sandwich.  Hit the spot perfectly.

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Jamie Oliver’s Get-Ahead Gravy

I’m here to present to you a miraculous concept: you can make your gravy for Christmas a few days or even a few weeks ahead of time.  Then all you need to do is heat it up on the big day.  Gravy needs a lot of time to be truly excellent, and time is something you have much less of when you’re setting out a feast for the family.  So why not make it ahead of time?  Jamie Oliver does, and, last year, the Pie and I tried it for the first time, to fantastic results.

First, preheat your oven to about 400°F and get out your big turkey roasting pan.

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Roughly chop up 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, and quarter 2 onions. Don’t even worry too much about the onion paper. That stuff will just make the gravy darker. Huck all those in the pan.

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Add in as well about 5 bay leaves, 5 sage leaves, 2 sprigs of rosemary, and 2 star anise.

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Then you need some chicken wings, about 8 whole ones. Bash them with a rolling pin or break the bones with the back of a sharp knife to release the marrow. Add those to the pan.

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Slice up a few rashers of a nice bacon and add that to the mix. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and stick it in the oven.

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Roast for about 1 hour, until the vegetables are tender and the meat is falling off the bone.

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Put the pan on the stove element on low heat and take a potato masher to the contents. Start squishing and shifting around everything in the pan. It will smell glorious, and the longer you do this the darker your gravy will be.

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When you get bored with that, sprinkle about 4 tablespoons flour across the mix and stir it in.

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Then pour about 2 litres of hot water into the mix. Raise the heat to high and bring it to a boil.

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Turn it down to a simmer and let that go for about 25 minutes. Continue to mash that around with your masher.

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When it’s ready, scoop everything out into a sieve and push it through to get all the gravy goodness.

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Let your gravy cool to room temperature, then chuck it into the freezer.

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When you want to use it, simply defrost it and add it to the other juices from your roasted turkey, like an instant boost!

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