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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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Rooty Toot-Toot Soup

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I made this as a fridge clean-out soup back before Christmas.  I had some beets left over from making lip gloss and I sure as heck wasn’t going to eat them as-is (because beets, to me, taste like dirt).  Couldn’t waste them, though.  Nope.  So I thought I would chuck them in a soup, hide the flavour that way, while revealing the lovely colour that they do have going for them.

First I chopped up an onion and sautéed it with garlic in olive oil until it was soft.  Then I added in chopped carrots, parsnips, and a sweet potato.

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We’d had some steaks the night before and I’d fried up three from the package.  The leftover one had been rather runty and was so marbled I thought the Pie might find it too tough, so I basically minced it and chucked that in as well, with some beef broth.

Simmer that down until the vegetables are soft, then purée them with an immersion blender and shazam, cheery, rosy soup! If you find it a little thick, feel free to thin with water or more broth.

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Peanut Butter Spaghetti

This recipe is actually called something like “Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Snow Peas and Carrots”, but the Pie and I have made it so many times that our version is better.  It came out of an Every Day Food from eons ago, and it’s kind of like a lazy man’s pad thai.

We made it for Kª one night when Kº was off gallivanting in Russia, leaving her alone with Il Principe and the Incredibly Little Hulk.  Served with our crispy won ton crackers, it was a great and easy meal.  Even Il Principe approved.

Start some water a-boilin’.  Like enough to cook about 8-10oz of whole wheat spaghetti (to serve 4).  Then you can, you know, cook that there spaghetti for about ten minutes, or according to your package instructions.

While you are waiting for the water to boil and for your pasta to cook, prepare the following mis en place:

3 medium carrots, shaved with peeler

8oz snow peas, tough strings removed

1 (300g) package of firm tofu, cut into small cubes (if you’re not a fan of tofu it’s conceivable that you could replace this with thin strips of cooked chicken or steak)

Prepare as well this wee bowl of sauce:

5 tablespoons organic peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, it’s your choice)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce

Stir that all together.  If you can’t get the peanut butter to go, don’t worry, the heat from the pasta will melt it.

When your pasta is cooked, scoop out about a cup of the pasta water.  You may or may not need it later.  I like to keep you guessing.

Drop all the vegetables and tofu into the pot with the pasta and let sit in the boiling water for 2 minutes before draining the whole thing.

Toss the pasta to make sure everything is mixed around.

Pour in your peanut butter sauce and toss to coat.  If the sauce is too thick and won’t coat properly, pour in some of the reserved pasta water to thin it out a bit.

Garnish with crushed peanuts and serve.  Fantastic cold the next day.

Savoury Beef with Shiraz Gravy

This recipe is an improvisation from start to finish, and if I hadn’t taken photos of it on the slight off-chance that it was going to work then I would never be able to tell you what I did.

Fortunately for you it got the Pie’s Official Seal of Approval (in that he nodded with his mouth full and muttered, “this is really good”), and I have the photographic evidence to jog my memory.

Beef I get on sale is never the best that red meat has to offer.  More often than not it contains a lot of gristle and tends to fry up awfully tough.  However, I am willing to put up with a lot for three dollars.  These three steaks cost me $3.47 in total, which wasn’t bad at all.

Rather than simply fry them up, as per Pie’s plan, and then drown them in barbecue sauce (also as per Pie’s plan), I decided to cube them up instead and make something a little … saucy.

The original plan was to create some panang-like concoction with red curry and coconut milk.  Upon closer scrutiny it came out that I had no coconut milk so had to go with a more European approach.  I picked four herbs to accompany me on this journey: ground corriander, dried parsley, Hungarian paprika (which, after tasting the completed recipe, I would have left out, as it was overpowered by everything else), and pure Newfoundland savoury, grown at Mt. Scio Savoury Farm, not ten minutes from where we live.

In a small bowl, mix together about 3 tablespoons flour with your paprika, coriander, parsley, and savoury.  Use whatever amount you feel is appropriate.  I probably added 2 teaspoons or so of each.

Before you cook your meat, make sure to pat it dry with a paper towel.  I learned that from Julia Child, and it’s totally true.  If your meat is damp it won’t brown properly.  And yes, that is totally a Spiderman Band-Aid.  I had a run-in with my bread knife and now it has a taste for blood.

In a cast-iron skillet sear the beef at high heat until the cubes are browned on all sides.  A non-stick pan won’t give you half the brownness you’re looking for on this, and if you have the skillet super hot, with just a drop of butter sizzling in there, you don’t have to worry about the meat sticking at all.

Reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle the browned meat with the flour mixture and stir until the cubes are evenly coated with the flour.  You will notice that it sticks to the bottom of the pan at this point, but that’s a good thing.  The reason you add the flour mixture at this point is so it forms a paste with the meat juices, and when you add more liquid to it, it doesn’t get all clumpy and gross.

Pour in about a cup of beef broth.  For this I dissolved a bouillon cube in a cup of boiling water.  Give it a good stir with a wooden spoon and make sure to scrape up all the pasty stuff from the bottom of the pan.

Let that simmer for a bit until it starts to thicken. That’s the flour working away.  Aren’t you glad you mixed it in early so you have no lumps?

Add about a cup of Shiraz or any other red wine (sorry enthusiasts/aficionados/snobs, but I can’t tell the difference with reds – they all taste like cat pee to me) and let it simmer until the sauce is a thick, dark brown and is reduced by about half.

This should take about twenty minutes from start to finish and serves three or four, depending on how hungry you are.

The Pie has suggested also substituting for the red wine with a nice porter or stout beer.  Could work.  Maybe we’ll try that next time.

Serve over rice (we used our favourite Brown Rice Medley my parents smuggle us across the border from Trader Joe’s) and accompany with your favourite vegetables (in this case, imported broccoli and local rainbow carrots).

Broccomeat/Broccofu

Did I mention that we are broke students who live in Newfoundland, a rock in the middle of the north Pacific Atlantic Ocean?

This recipe arose out of necessity, when the only vegetable we could get in the winter that was half decent was broccoli, and the only protein we could afford was a block of tofu or a thin frying steak that cost two dollars.

Fortunately, we take after our respective parents, and do not lack for condiments.

This is a Pie recipe, and until the night he let me photograph it, I never knew the secret.  Of course, as he says, improvisation is quintessential, and the recipe is not exactly the same every night.  Accordingly, I have provided you with alternative ingredient options: the tofu option (“broccofu”), the steak option (“broccomeat”), the teriyaki version (sweeter), and the black bean version (more sour).

Separate two small heads of broccoli into individual florets, and slice up the tender part of the stem, while you’re at it.

Cube a block of firm tofu — the firmer the better, because it will disintegrate on you.  I love cutting tofu.  It’s like extra hard Jello.

Alternatively, slice a thin uncooked steak into strips.

In a large pan or wok, heat up two tablespoons of peanut or other frying oil with a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger from a jar.  If you are doing the teriyaki version, omit the ginger.

When your oil is sizzling with your minced herbs, add your tofu or your steak and allow to brown for a few minutes.  While it’s doing its thing, mix together, in a small bowl, a tablespoon of each of the following (2 if you’re feeling saucy):

black bean sauce (it’s more of a paste) / alternatively / teriyaki sauce

garlic black bean sauce (it’s more of a liquid) / alternatively / sweet and sour sauce

peanut oil

soy sauce

hoi sin sauce

garlic chili sauce

plum sauce

I know.  Everything seems to have garlic in it.  Trust me.  It works out.  Don’t be afraid to improvise with what you have and experiment to cater to your own tastes.  Stir fries are meant to be made up.

Pour the sauce into the pan and stir the tofu/steak until coated.  The Pie wishes to point out that the reason he adds the sauce before the broccoli is because he finds that the florets act like sponges and suck all the sauce away unless it has a chance to coat the other ingredients first.

After mixing in the sauce, drop in your broccoli florets and stems, and heat until the broccoli is bright green.

Serves 2 over rice.  With the rice, the whole thing costs you less than $4.  My cheap brother Kristopf would be proud.