Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up

Another slow cooker recipe…I know, I know, you’re all shocked! In fact in honor of the fact I seem to love my slow cooker lately I’ve added an entirely new category dedicated to just that! Now all of those fabulous slow cooker ideas will be in one place. I don’t know about you, but I likes me some organization! ;o)

This dish was inspired by an advertisement I saw in Taste of Home for a slow cooker Mexican lasagna type deal. The picture looked so yummy that my mind went into overdrive and the very next night I set out to create my own version of Mexican stacked heaven! So sit back and relax and let’s talk a little spicy slow cooker goodness!

What You’ll Need:
Corn tortillas
1 – 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 small red onion, chopped
1 – 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed (Note: You can use red beans if you prefer or a mix of the two.)
1 – 16 ounce jar of taco sauce (Note: Whatever heat level you want will be fine. I used hot.)
Chili powder
Onion powder
Sea salt
Textured Vegetable Protein
Frozen corn
Cheddar, shredded (Note: You can use Monterrey Jack instead of or mixed with the cheddar.)
Sour cream for topping (optional)

Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick spray and layer in corn tortillas to cover to bottom. (Note: In my slow cooker the first few layers take 2 tortillas and then as it expands as the cooker goes up you need 3 or 4.)

Once the bottom is covered with tortillas cover them with a layer of diced tomatoes:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Diced Tomatoes

Then add some chopped onion:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Red Onion

Next add a layer of beans:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Beans

After the beans add some taco sauce:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Taco Sauce

Now you want to add a generous sprinkling of seasonings and a tiny bit of salt:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Seasoning

Now sprinkle on some textured vegetable protein:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Textured Vegetable Protein

Next add some corn kernels:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Corn

Sprinkle on some shredded cheese:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Cheese

Then top with more tortillas:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Stack It Again

And repeat to process until you run out of tomatoes.

For the top of the stack up you want to top the corn tortillas with taco sauce:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Taco Sauce

And then cover generously with cheese:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Ready to Cook

Set your slow cooker to high and cook for 2-3 hours or on low for 3-4 and you’ll have this:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Cooked

Turn off the slow cooker and let sit for 15-20 minutes and then serve!

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up

Notes: If you wanted you could add shredded chicken, ground beef or even shrimp instead of the textured vegetable protein. You could also top this with avocado and/or additional taco sauce.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup

Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup

This is going to be another quick and easy post and recipe. My finger is finally feeling well enough to type without wincing, but I’ve got a ton of things to catch up on! Tomorrow things should get back to normal! So pull out your slow cookers and get ready for some fabulous Cheesy Potato Soup!

What You’ll Need:
1 large potato, cubed
1 small red onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Some freshly ground black pepper
1 quart of broth (Note: I like to use chicken broth for potato soup, but what ever type of broth you prefer will work.)
1 cup of half and half
2 cups of Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes (Note: This is the perfect way to use up left over mashed potatoes! You can use plain potatoes too, but the cheesy version give the soup the cheesy aspect.)
Cheddar, shredded for topping (optional)
Bacon, chopped for topping (optional)
Scallions, chopped for topping (optional)

Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup: The Veggies

Place chopped veggies in the bowl of your slow cooker and toss to mix. Add a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, broth and half and half and stir to mix. Next stir in mashed potatoes and stir to mix.

Set slow cooker on high and cook for 4-5 hours until soup has thickened slightly and potatoes are tender. Serve immediately with toppings or plain.

Notes: If you wanted to add in mushrooms and/or corn you could. Leeks would also be fabulous.

Loaded BBQ Baked Potatoes

Loaded Barbeque Baked Potatoes

We’re going to wind out the week with another quick, easy post. Hopefully my thumb will be more on the mend by Monday! It’s doing much better, but still very sore!

This recipe is a great way to use up pulled pork or chicken! You’ve got all the elements of a fabulous barbecue dinner all rolled into one! What’s not to like?

What You’ll Need Per Person:
1 russet potato, baked
Sea salt
1/3-1/2 cup of pulled pork or chicken, warmed
1/4 cup of barbeque sauce, heated
1 ounce of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded
1 scallion, chopped
Sour cream (optional)

Slice open baked potato and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Top with pulled pork or chicken, barbeque sauce, cheese, scallion and some sour cream. Serve immediately.

Loaded Barbeque Baked Potatoes

Notes: Pair this with a salad and you’ve got the perfect meal! If you want to make it vegetarian you could use mushrooms in place of the meat.

Baked Buttermilk Chicken

Baked Buttermilk Chicken

Another easy one today…The thumb is still throbbing! It’s more of a hunt and peck deal than typing right now!

Katherine requested Fried Chicken for her birthday dinner so I put the chicken in to marinate the night before. When Nelson got sick and they couldn’t come I decided to see how it would bake up instead and it turned out great! The chicken was tender and the spices made it just perfect! If you are looking for a little different way to make chicken then this is the perfect method for you!

What You’ll Need:
Chicken with the bone in
1 quart of buttermilk (Note: You need enough to cover the chicken completely. If you are making more then you might need more milk, if you’re making less then you might not need the whole quart.)
Seasoning of your choice (Note: I used Old Bay Seasoning.)

Place chicken in a container an cover with buttermilk. Place in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Remove chicken from buttermilk and sprinkle generously on all sides with seasoning of your choice. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour or so until chicken is done through and browned on the outside. (Note: If you’re worried about it you can check the internal temperature of the chicken, but if it sticks tender with a fork it’s most likely done.)

Once chicken is done remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Baked Buttermilk Chicken

Simple, easy and delicious!

Notes: The buttermilk makes the chicken super tender. Thyme and/or rosemary with sea salt and black pepper would be good on this too. Cajun or Creole seasoning also would be fabulous!

Lemon Custard Bars with Blueberry Sauce

Lemon Custard Bars with Blueberry Sauce

The weekend didn’t turn out quite as we had hoped, but still it was busy! I’ll say it again…Two days just isn’t enough for everything that needs to be done on the weekend!

Yesterday we ran some errands, I got my hair cut (finally!) and Jamison even treated Alexis and I to lunch out. Then we came home and I finished up lesson planning and getting everything ready for this week’s lessons. That alone, usually takes up 5 or 6 hours, even with pre-planning!

On Saturday we went to the Fall Festival that I mentioned on Friday, but in all honesty it was a bit of a let down. Saturday evening my sister, her husband and the boys didn’t make it over after all. Nelson got sick (get well soon buddy!) and needless to say that put a damper on things. I had already made dessert though.

My sister requested “something lemony” for dessert, but not cheesecake, which is amusing given when she said lemony, cheesecake never even entered my mind, and that in of itself is weird given I’m the Cheesecake Queen, but for some reason I’ve never really fancied Lemon Cheesecake. I know…I know…How is that even possible?!??! But there you go!

I had been wanting to play around with lemon bars for a while, so this is what I came up with! It’s creamy, tangy, yet sweet! I hadn’t originally planned on adding blueberry sauce to the top, but blueberry/lemon…What’s not to like about that?? All together it was simply just the right mix of flavors!

So happy birthday Sister Pooh and many more! And maybe if Nelson feels a little better later in the week I’ll share your birthday “cake” with you! ;oP

What You’ll Need for the Crust:
1 sleeve of graham crackers, crushed
1/3 cup of organic cane sugar
1 stick of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until incorporated. Press into a 13 X 9 inch dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 10-15 minutes until crust is slightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside.

Leave oven on and proceed to custard.

Lemon Custard Bars with Blueberry Sauce: Sliced

What You’ll Need for the Custard:
2 cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of fresh lemon juice
The zest of 2 lemons
8 egg yolks

Mix all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer until slightly thick. Pour over baked crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes until custard is set. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Once cooled refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.

To serve top with powdered sugar and/or blueberry sauce. (See below).

Lemon Custard Bars with Blueberry Sauce: A Bite

What You Need for the Blueberry Sauce:
2 pints of blueberries (Note: I used some I had frozen earlier in the year when they were in season, but fresh berries will work perfectly too.)
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
The zest of 1 lemon
The juice of 1 lemon

Dump ingredients into a medium sized sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until blueberries start to pop and sauce forms. Remove from heat and cool completely. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Notes: If lemon is not your thing you could do this with orange or lime juice.

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Lasagna

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Lasagna

As we progress on Jamison’s gluten free journey we often come back to pre-Celiac favorites such as pasta. We finally found some spaghetti noodles that are very good in terms of gluten free products, but at first I wasn’t able to find any gluten free lasagna noodles in stores locally. Finally however My Organic Market started carrying a rice lasagna noodle from DeBoles that really is comparable to a version made with wheat! With this discovery lasagna was back on the menu!

Jamison and Alexis LOVE pasta. Seriously, they could eat it at every meal! While I like pasta too, I would tend to be this way more with Mexican food than Italian, but that is neither here nor there. This past weekend Alexis and Jamison both had asked for lasagna and I had fully intended to make it for them, but we had a crazy/busy weekend (which I might add hasn’t seemed to stop!) so it just never happened.

On Saturday the day slowly got away from us as we did things that needed to be done and ran errands. Soon it was time for dinner and there wasn’t time to put together lasagna so I bumped it to Sunday. On Sunday I ended up spending the majority of the day lesson planning and getting things ready for this week’s classes. Dinner time rolled around and again no time for lasagna. On Monday I was determined we were actually going to have lasagna for dinner even if I had to get creative!

For a while now I’ve wanted to try to make lasagna in the slow cooker, but I just had never gotten around to actually trying it out. When Alexis and I ventured back down stairs from the school room for lunch on Monday I decided this would be the perfect time to test out my theory!

What I ended up making was gluten and dairy free, but given it was for Jamison it did have ground beef, but you could just as easily make it a vegetable version as well. The lasagna turned out perfectly! If you haven’t tried this method I highly recommend giving it a whirl…I think you’d be impressed!

What You’ll Need:
Gluten Free Lasagna noodles (Note: You can use any type of lasagna noodle that you want if gluten is not an issue for you. If I were making this for Alexis and I alone I would use whole wheat.)
A large jar of spaghetti sauce (Note: Again this is up to you. Jamison is extremely picky as I’ve mentioned before so I use Ragu Traditional Organic sauce, but any type of sauce will work. I like some of the other organic sauces that are heavy on garlic and/or mushrooms.)
Rice mozzarella, shredded (Note: I used a block of this type of cheese. Again had I been making this for Alexis and I would have used regular mozzarella, some Parmesan and perhaps some goat cheese. What you use is up to you.)
1 pound beef, cooked and crumbled (optional)

Spray the bowl of your slow cooker with non-stick spray or brush it with olive oil. I didn’t do this, but next time I will. It wasn’t a huge issue, but there was some sticking.

Next you use your basic layering process that you would use for regular lasagna. I didn’t get a picture of the layering of the noodles, but just put a layer of noodles in the bottom of your slow cooker. Don’t worry if they aren’t whole or anything, just make sure the bottom is covered and if you have to break them up that’s ok too!

Next add a layer of ground beef:

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Lasagna: Second Layer

(Note: You could also use ground turkey or if you wanted a completely meat free option you could add in textured vegetable or soy protein. You could also add onions, mushrooms and peppers if you liked.)

Next add a layer of sauce:

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Lasagna: Third Layer

If you wanted to get really creative you could make your own sauce using tomato sauce, some garlic, oregano, basil, etc.

Next top with a little cheese:

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Lasagna: Fourth Layer

Now keep repeating that process until you run out of sauce.

Next completely cover the top generously with cheese:

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Lasagna: Ready to Cook

Now place the lid on and cook for 3-4 hours on low and voilà you have lasagna for dinner!

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Lasagna

Dinner is served!

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Lasagna

Notes: I was really surprised how fast this cooked on low so watch it and make sure it doesn’t go too far!

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad

I love watermelon. Alexis does too. In fact when I was pregnant with Alexis I craved these things: Watermelon, cucumbers, chicken salad, beans and baked Cheetos. Alexis currently eats all of the things on that list except for chicken salad, and in all honesty I don’t think that it is that she doesn’t like chicken salad, she just has never shown any interest in trying it, but let’s get back to watermelon.

Watermelon is one of those things that nine times out of ten you will find in our fridge. Now don’t get me wrong, I love watermelon too, but there also is only so many times you can eat something without getting bored with what you are eating. Watermelon has of late fallen into that category with me.

For years I’ve seen watermelon salads and nine times out of ten they are paired with Feta. It’s been on my list of things I’ve wanted to try for a long time, but I get side tracked easily, who doesn’t? One night last week when Jamison was in class, Alexis wanted watermelon as part of dinner so I decided it was high time to try my hand at some watermelon salad and I must say I was highly pleased with how it turned out!

What You’ll Need Per Person:
1 1/2 cups of watermelon, chopped
1/2 an avocado, cut into chunks
1 small cucumber, sliced (Note: I’m talking pickle cucumber size here. You want about 1 cup of cucumbers.)
1 ounce of feta, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a bowl toss together watermelon, avocado and cucumber. Sprinkle with feta, some freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and then top with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

How easy is that? But trust me no one will know! 😉

Watermelon Salad: A Bite

Notes: You could use chopped mint in place of parsley if you wanted, but I was out.

Milk Chocolate Cake with Caramel Icing

Milk Chocolate Cake with Caramel Icing

On Labor Day some friends of our came over for dinner and I made a Milk Chocolate Cake with Caramel Icing for dessert. Growing up this icing was paired with a chocolate cake on my father’s birthday, only then we called it German Chocolate. I’m not quite sure why it was called that, given German Chocolate cakes normally have coconut added into the mix and the icing is a bit different, but it was something we did every year and my mom still does for my dad now most years.

When I moved out into the world I started making this cake more often than just once a year. No matter who I’ve served it to, it’s normally a hit. I’ve adapted it slightly as time has passed and I no longer use a cake mix, but make a cake from scratch now too. This definitely is a crowd pleaser. It’s sweet, rich and oh so sinful, but sometimes you just need a little sin on a plate!

What You’ll Need for the Cake:
1 – 11.5 ounce bag of milk chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 cup of organic cane sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 3/4 cup of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a glass bowl in the microwave melt chocolate and butter together until smooth. (Note: My microwave has a chocolate melting setting. If yours does not, you can use a double boiler or you can melt the chocolate on medium power in your microwave at 30 second intervals until melted and smooth.) Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large glass bowl stir together flour, sea salt, baking powder and sugar until well mixed. (Note: If you want to go to the trouble of sifting this you can, but I have a strict don’t sift unless you just have to rule and for a cake you really don’t have to! ;oP) Once the dry mixture is mixed add eggs, vanilla, buttermilk and melted chocolate and stir until completely incorporated.

Now is the fun part…What shape cake do you want to make? You can make a 13 X 9 inch sheet cake, you can make a round cake, you can make a square cake or you can even make cupcakes! I chose to make a square cake and used 2 – 8 inch square pans.

Spray your pan(s) generously with non-stick spray and pour the batter evenly into your pan(s). If you are using two pans then make sure the batter is spread evenly between the two pans…If you are making cupcakes fill each hole no more than 2/3 of the way full. Place your pan(s) into the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until cake sticks done and remove from oven. (Note: Cupcakes would take roughly 20-30 minutes.)

Let cakes cool in the pan(s) for roughly 10 minutes and then turn them out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Cool completely and then ice or frost.

Notes: You can use any kind of chocolate that you like. I had milk chocolate on hand, but semi or dark will work fine too.

What You’ll Need for the Caramel Icing:
2 1/2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups of natural brown sugar
1 cup of half and half or heavy cream
4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, sifted (Note: If your powdered sugar isn’t lumpy then you can skip this step…As I mentioned above I’m about the not sifting unless you just have to! ;))
1 tablespoon of vanilla (optional)

Note: This mixture has to be cooled before you make the icing so you can make it well before you bake the cake or while you’re baking the cake. But it must be completely cooled before the icing is made.)

In a medium sized pot melt butter and sugar with half and half or heavy cream until completely melted. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla if desired. Set aside and let cool completely to room temperature.

Once mixture is cooled, add to the bowl of a mixer or using a hand mixer, add powdered sugar and beat until thick and spreadable. Use icing to ice the cooled Milk Chocolate Cake.

Notes: Given the base of this icing is butter on a hot day it can not want to cooperate. Store in the fridge if you have the room to keep it from running. If you can’t get it to set up then add more powdered sugar 1/4 of a cup at a time until it gets thick.

Veggie Joes

Veggie Joes

So you want a Sloppy Joe, but you’re not really in the mood for meat…Now what? Why not make some Veggie Joes instead!

A few years ago when I was experimenting with being a pescatarian, I found out that mushrooms are the perfect substitute for meat! You can use button mushrooms or a combo of different kinds of mushrooms and make some really fabulous dishes that are meat free, but trust me…You’ll never miss the meat!

How about a Mushroom and Onion Soup that tastes a lot like French Onion! Or how about making some mushroom broth that can be used in place of beef broth? You can even make Mushroom Stroganoff instead of beef! Mushrooms are very versatile in case you didn’t know! ;oP

But for today let’s focus on Veggie Joes…Let’s get started shall we?

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced (Note: You can use button mushrooms, which I used here, or baby portobellos, or a mix of both. The baby portobello mushrooms have a beefy taste when cooked and are just perfect for this dish. I usually use a combo of the two, but I was out of baby portobellos this go round.)
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of organic ketchup (Note: Why organic? Because organic ketchups do not have high fructose corn syrup in them. I use Heinz Organic Ketchup because that is the brand Alexis prefers.)
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of natural brown sugar

Veggie Joes

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and sauté onion and bell pepper in a little extra virgin olive oil until slightly caramelized. Add mushrooms, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and cook until just tender. Stir in ketchup, vinegar and brown sugar and stir to mix. Cook for 5 minutes on low to let flavors meld.

To serve place mixture on a whole grain bun and eat just like you would a regular Sloppy Joe!

Veggie Joes

How easy is that?

Notes: If mushrooms aren’t your thing then you can use textured vegetable or soy protein instead. You can also use this method using ground beef or turkey for a more traditional Sloppy Joe.