So let’s talk a little about slow cookers first. If you’re new to slow cookers and this theme week is baffling you so far – slow cookers are electrical appliances built to cook food at a relatively low temperature over a longer period of time. A good machine will have a ceramic cooking pot that fits into the metal, electric part and can be removed for easy cleaning and at least a low and high temperature setting. Slow cookers are NOT pressure cookers, which cooks food in a sealed device.


Why use slow cookers?

  • It’s easy! You can throw some vegetables, uncooked meat and spices in the pot before work, and come home after work with a well-seasoned, fully-cooked meal.
  • No pots and pans to clean! When you’re cooking everything together in the slower cooker, there’s not as much clean up.
  • Such long simmering times can increase the flavor.*
  • blackbeansaddseasoning

    So why don’t we use slow cookers all the time?!

  • *Such long cooking times, while it generally won’t overcook your meats, can cause your vegetables to have their good nutrients cooked out of them.
  • The slow cooker is not great with all types of meats. Fish, for example, doesn’t do well in the slow cooker.
  • Mush – if left too long, some vegetables or meats can turn to mush
  • combinesalsamixsalsa

    But at the end of the day, slow cookers can really be a blessing. The recipe I’m sharing today, in fact, turned out pretty awesome, and I’m not really sure how I ever made chicken tacos before without the slow cooker.


    I love chicken. You may have noticed from the plethora of chicken recipes here on DC! Cooking it in the slow cooker creates the perfect consistency for tacos – the meat shreds effortlessly and it really picks up the flavor of the seasonings. Dry, rubbery chicken is a common problem with cooking chicken; the slow cooker is an easy fix!


    Shredded Chicken Tacos with Homemade Salsa
    adapted from The Pioneer Woman

    2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    15 oz can of black beans
    grated cheddar for sprinkling on finished tacos
    optional – shredded lettuce, sour cream

    for the salsa:
    2 fresh jalapenos, diced (remove seeds for less heat!)
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 yellow bell pepper, diced
    2 15 oz cans Ro*tel tomatoes (I used Mild – Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles)
    salt, black pepper, garlic powder to taste

    for the seasoning:
    chili powder, paprika, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, black pepper

    Added canned black beans, undrained, to the bottom of the slow cooker. Combine seasoning ingredients in a small bowl (I was heavy on the chili powder, paprika, and black pepper; then gave about 5 shakes of cumin; and 3 shakes of onion powder, garlic powder, salt, oregano and cayenne). Sprinkle seasoning over the black beans, then set the chicken breasts on top.

    Combine salsa ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Spoon salsa over chicken breasts.

    Cover and set to low for about 6-8 hours (my cooker runs a little hot, so my cook time was 6 hours). Makes enough for about 3 people.

    A Mexican Mini – Mini Black Bean Taquitos

    I never ate much Mexican as a kid. In fact, I hated mexican for quite some time. These days, I’m quite fond of the stuff; though I admit not all of it being authentic (I draw the line at Taco Bell, however. That stuff isn’t even food). A friend of mine held his wedding in Mexico a few years back and I was fortunate enough to attend. Excellent food; not only at the reception but at this excellent taco stand where we met one of the coolest vendors I’ve ever met. I had never eaten cactus before, but that was some good stuff.

    Preparing your Taquito

    So now I dabble with the style every now and then, admitting whole-heartedly that my German/Italian heritage gives me no special skills. But hey, I can pump out a few easy tasty Americanized treats. And when I’ve been snacking all day? Good to go with minis.

    Mini Black Bean Taquito

    Mini Black Bean “Taquitos”

    12 5-6 inch tortillas
    2 cups cooked black beans (1 can); drained
    1 cup cooked rice
    1 cup guacamole
    1 onion; chopped
    1 green bell pepper; chopped
    2 tablespoons oil
    Pinch of salt

    Saute your onion and green pepper in oil for 10 minutes with a pinch of salt then move to a separate bowl. Heat your pan to medium low and heat your tortillas one at a time for 10-20 seconds. Add a bit more oil if you need. Add rice, onion and peppers, black beans and guacamole on a thin strip. Roll and enjoy.

    Heather and I tend to talk about food pretty often; so often in fact that we have rules. One of the more recent ones is no talking about food before noon. Why? Cravings. When you’ve got a craving for baked goods or something loaded with cheese at 10am in the morning, you’re in trouble. Wednesday’s craving (albeit not at 10 in the morning, thank god) was fries. Some cravings cannot be denied.

    Adobo Seasoning

    Maybe it’s the whole swine flu thing, but I felt like taking this cravings in the Mexican direction (bet you didn’t see THAT coming!). I’ve never actually heard of Mexican fries though so I decided to make up my own. Overall, I felt the seasoning was mild until I added a spritz of lime. Don’t ask me why, but that addition definitely made it a winning combination.

    Mexican Potato Wedges

    Mexican Potato Wedges
    This recipe is is only for one potato, so be sure to scale it up when considering how many people you’re serving.

    1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon chili powder
    1/4 teaspoon oregano
    1/2 teaspoon paprika
    1/2 teaspoon cumin
    1 garlic clove; minced
    a pinch red pepper flakes
    a pinch cayenne (optional, for a bit more kick)

    1 tablespoon oil
    1 russet potato
    1 lime

    Preheat the oven to 375. Mix all your spices and garlic together in a small bowl and set aside. Wash and dry your potato then cut it into eights wedge then cut each wedge in half. Throw your wedges, oil and spices together and mix until well combined.

    Place your wedges on a baking sheet covered in foil and roast for 35 minutes; tossing halfway through. Your wedges should be browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes and serve with a spritz of lime juice. Enjoy.

    SusanV of Fatfree Vegan Kitchen posted a dish that looked pretty rockin’ the other day: No-Queso Quesadillas. I really love some of the recipes she writes, they were pivotal when I was making the move away from meat, but I don’t think I’ve ever made something of hers that I’d call comfort food. This, however, had potential.

    No-Queso Queso

    I think I’ve mentioned before that the lady friend gave me Fresh Food Fast, a book that’s yielded me pleasant results thus far. Inspired by one of its recipes, I decided to take a shot at souping up SusanV’s recipe and make it a true comfort food.

    Preparing Our Quesadillas

    The non-queso queso is good, but won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s a cheese. The zucchini and black beans add a meaty-ness to the dish and work well with the queso; not overpowering. Next time I intend to try adding onion if I can do so without overfilling. I recommend you give this dish a shot and let us know what you think.

    Black Bean and Zucchini Stuffed No-Queso Quesadillas

    Black Bean and Zucchini Stuffed No-Queso Quesadillas

    2 cups black beans; drained (one can)
    1 jalapeno pepper; diced (with or without seeds depending your spice preference)
    1 medium zucchini (10oz); shredded
    8 6-inch tortillas; any kind

    1 cup water
    1 cup milk
    2/3 cup nutritional yeast
    7 teaspoons corn starch
    4 teaspoons lemon juice
    1 teaspoon salt
    8 garlic cloves minced
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
    2 tablespoon tahini
    1/2 teaspoon tumeric
    1/2 teaspoon onion powder

    Put your drained black beans and jalapeno pepper in a small mixing bowl. Take one handful of the shredded zucchini at a time and squeeze out much of its liquid, adding it to your beans. Mix until well combined.

    Whisk your “queso” ingredients together until smooth. Add to a medium or large-sized non-stock pan and, while stirring occasionally under medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly until queso is think and smooth; approximately 2-4 minutes.

    Brush a small amount of oil on one side of four of your tortillas. On the other four tortillas, spread your queso followed by thin layer of your bean mixture. Bring a large-sized pan to medium heat. Add one of your oiled tortillas, oil side down, and cook for 2-3 minutes; until browning. Remove from the pan and add one of your bean/queso topped tortillas to the pan, adding your precooked tortilla, oil side facing down (touching the bean mixture). Cook for 2-4 minutes, until other side is browned, and remove. Repeat with your remaining tortillas. Enjoy.

    Seven Layer Tortilla Pie

    I have to be honest with you, Internet. Right now I am angrily biting the nail polish off my nails. I have extremely breakable nails, so I try to keep clear nail polish on them; you know, the super thick stuff. This stuff is also great fun to peel off when irritable. Come on, you know you’ve done it before… please?

    red peppermashed black beans

    I had big plans to bake something to bring to work tomorrow for some upcoming and recently passed birthdays, and I needed it to be flourless. But at this point I’m feeling like God made flour for a reason, and we just shouldn’t fight it.

    layer onelayer one with black beans

    I know, I can’t even believe it myself, but I tried those cursed black bean brownies again. No changes or alterations, just completely by the book. I was low on agave syrup, so I used half agave and half honey. They came out tasting so strongly of honey that it’s practically oozing from them. Don’t worry, my curiosity about these things has been sated. I’m burning the recipe – never again!

    shredded chicken

    Next I tried a flourless chocolate cake. The recipe stressed to gently fold in the beaten egg whites to the melted chocolate. Maybe I was too careful, because now it just seems completely bland.

    Ghost failures twice in one night!!!

    layer one completelayer two

    I don’t even want to think about baking anymore right now. Let’s talk about dinner, okay? Dinner, unlike tonight’s stupid desserts (grrr!), turned out quite well.

    top layer

    A few years ago I tore a recipe out of a magazine for some kind of tortilla pie. The tortillas were stacked high and stuffed with cheese and black beans; it looked great. Unfortunately, I lost this recipe before ever getting to try it. So instead I tried to create something similar but with less cheese and more beans.

    tortilla pie

    Seven tortilla layers total – I alternated layers of black beans and refried. I also included shredded chicken, diced red pepper, garlic, a combination of diced tomatoes and salsa, and the tiniest bit of cheese on each layer. I just included spice on the top layer, but feel free to mix the spice throughout. I also cooked mine in a springform pan to avoid any potential toppling problems, but I think that you could get away with using a pie plate or cake pan as well. My husband really loved this and kept making trips back to the kitchen for leftovers. Enjoy!

    tortilla pie inside

    Seven Layer Tortilla Pie

    1/2 pound chicken breast, baked and shredded
    1 can black beans, drained and mashed
    1 can fat free refried beans
    1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated fresh
    3 cloves garlic
    1 can diced tomatoes
    1/2 cup salsa
    1 red pepper, diced
    7 flour tortillas
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper, optional

    Preheat oven to 375F. Measure and prep ingredients and bake chicken (if looking for a way to bake the chicken, you can use my style found here. Because it’s only one half pound you will not need to bake it as long. Be sure to cut into the middle of the thickest piece to make sure it’s fully cooked. Shred with a fork). Combine diced tomatoes and salsa in the same bowl.

    Lay one flour tortilla in the bottom of a springform pan (or pie dish or cake pan with high sides). Spread a thin layer of the mashed black beans over the tortilla. Follow with shredded chicken, garlic, red pepper, salsa mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Be a little careful near the edges so that your filling doesn’t spill out. Lay another tortilla over this and push down gently to level it. This time spread refried beans over the tortilla, then include other ingredients as before. This recipe makes just enough, so don’t make your “filling” too thick or you will run out. I was especially stingy with the cheese.

    Continue to alternate layers. On very top layer, sprinkle remaining ingredients evenly along with 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and cayenne for some heat. Be sure to take the salsa mixture to the edges of the top tortilla so that the top does not dry out and become too crispy while baking.

    Bake for 25 minutes. Serve in wedges.