Enchilada-Stuffed Poblanos

I think sometimes healthy or ‘clean’ food gets a bad rap. Many assume that it has to be bland and boring. Plain chicken and steamed broccoli, coming up! But in my research I’ve quickly learned that is not at all true. You can eat healthy food that still tastes good. Focus on flavors and quality and you’re in the money. Look at not just calories, but carb, sugar, and protein counts as well. Make substitutions when you can. You can still have your favorites just by making swaps to lower the bad and raise the good in your meals.
 

And don’t let anyone tell you not to add a little cheese. Like in this dish below.

*Note: I used leftover pulled pork from the 4th of July. You can use chicken, turkey, beef; shredded, chopped, ground. Leftover or fresh made. All vegetarian, even. Whatever floats your boat. This is also a great make-ahead dish. I would suggest adding seasoning to whatever meat you use, especially if you are making it fresh as opposed to using leftovers.

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

½ yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ tablespoon cumin

½ tablespoon chili powder

½ bag frozen corn

1 can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

1-2 cups worth of whatever meat you are using (see note above) Eyeball this to your preference.

1-1/2 cups enchilada sauce, divided (homemade or store bought; use what you like)

Salt and pepper to taste

5 poblano peppers (make sure they are nice a fat, not too skinny)

Shredded cheddar cheese

Over an open flame on the stovetop, char your poblanos. Put the charred peppers in a plastic bag and seal. Steam for about 10-15 minutes.

Please ignore my messy stovetop!

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft and fragrant. Add in the cumin and chili and mix together. Add in the corn and black beans. Mix all veggies together and cook until corn is thawed and the mixture is heated through.

 

Add the cooked meat to the veggie mixture along with ½ cup of the enchilada sauce. Let simmer until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

While the filling is simmering, take the poblanos out of the bag and wipe the skin off with a paper towel, careful not to tear the pepper. The skin should just wipe right off.

Cut each pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds. You should have two pieces of pepper that look like leaves.

 

Pour ½ cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Spoon a healthy amount of the filling into each pepper half and place in the baking dish. 

Pour the remaining ½ cup sauce over the top of the stuffed peppers and top with cheese.

 

Bake at 350 covered in foil for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

 

They may not be the prettiest looking dish, but they are super tasty! 


Enjoy!

Black Bean Brownies

Let me guess. The title of this post made you think I was crazy? Thought so. I thought I was crazy at first too, but I promise you all, Black Bean Brownies are totally a thing. 

I’m not a huge health food stickler and I am about as far from a granola mom as you can get, but I’ve been really looking into eating cleaner and removing unnecessary things from my life. That includes my food. I figure, if we (my family and I) eat cleaner and healthier the majority of the time, it won’t be as bad when we do go get a cheeseburger or a slice of pizza every once in a while.

So I began my research and in doing so discovered black bean brownies. At first I was super skeptical. I mean, how good could they be? They are made out of black beans, for crying out loud. But, I figured if they worked out, I’ve figured out a way to make brownies with no flour or butter and get extra fiber and protein into my kids. 

I’m so glad I stuck with it and made the brownies. They turned out delicious! And my kids loved them! They don’t even know they are full of beans!

I couldn’t really find any one recipe that I loved so I made my own. The whole thing makes 16 brownies at 160 calories a piece. There is still regular sugar in the brownies, but I’m not really very familiar with sugar substitutes yet. I did do a little research and you don’t really save too many calories on something like Agave syrup vs. Regular sugar. Everything in moderation.

I would definitely recommend making these. They are perfectly cakey and chocolatey. You would never guess they had beans in them. They are a great way to get added nutrients into your day, especially the kids. 

Black Bean Brownies

1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

3 eggs

1 T coconut oil

¾ cup sugar

½ t salt

1 t baking powder

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided (you could use cocoa nibs too and save even more calories)

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients except the chocolate chips until smooth.

Gently stir in ½ the chips and pour into an 8×8 greased baking dish. Top with the rest of the chocolate chips and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

It’s May. Memorial Day is coming up and everyone knows what that means: Summer Kickoff!! 

I’ve found that as I’ve grown older, summer doesn’t have that same feeling to it like it did when I was in school. Don’t get me wrong, I still love summer with the pool parties and BBQs and warm weather. But there was something about getting out of school for 3 months that made it extra special. I still have to get up and go to work every day, and stare out the windows at the beautiful weather and the beach. So, yeah, not quite the same. 

When we first bought our house back in 2008, the backyard was, to put it nicely, horrendous. I couldn’t even go back there, it was so bad. I really wanted to be able to entertain and have a place for my eventual kids to play. It wasn’t long before we started to rip out everything. And by “we” I mean my husband. I helped a little with the bricks, but it was a lot of sweat equity on his part. We finally got everything all cleared out and called in a company to level it all out and put in pavers and grass. We added a BBQ and, most recently, a smoker. Some patio furniture rounded it all out and we now have ourselves a really nice space for entertaining. 

There are some more things we want to do with the space (like update the furniture, get something to replace our gazebo because the top keeps getting ripped to shreds whenever it gets really windy, and find space for a garden), but we are pretty happy with what we’ve created and like to entertain during the summer and other warm months (which we get often here). 

My husband tends to man the grill and smoker while I’m in charge of sides. This recipe I’m about to share was born out of necessity. OK, that may be dramatic, but I stand by it. I needed a good baked beans recipe. I love baked beans but I just couldn’t get a recipe just right. I like the Bush’s beans in a can, but I would prefer to make them from scratch. 

After playing around with ingredients for a while, I think I’ve finally got a winner on my hands. My husband even said they were the best baked beans he’s ever had! They are sweet and soft and perfectly compliment any BBQ. And you know what’s even better? You make them in the slow cooker!! And do most of the prep work the day before!! So while the hubby is out over the hot grill, my beans can be cooking away without me even being there! 

Slow-Cooker Baked Beans 

1 pound dry white beans (or navy beans)

6-8 slices of bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, diced finely

3 cups of water (plus more for soaking the beans)

½ cup of ketchup

¼ cup molasses

½ – ¾ cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it. I erred on the side of more.)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons whisky or bourbon *optional

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon salt

½ tablespoon black pepper

Pinch of cloves

1/8 -1/4 cup cornstarch 

Day before prep work:

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Add the beans to a big bowl and cover completely in water. Let them soak overnight. *Don’t skip this step or your beans will not be soft enough*

In a skillet, crisp up your bacon pieces, set aside. Saute your onions, set aside.

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Mix together your sauce: Ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, whisky (if adding), mustard, salt, pepper, cloves. Set aside. 

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The next morning, drain the beans and add them to the slow cooker. Discard the “bean water.” Add the bacon, onion, and sauce. Top with 3 cups of water. 

Set it on low for about 10-12 hours. 

When they are just about done (about 30 minutes or so left), skim out a little bit of the liquid and whisk in some cornstarch to make a slurry. I say between 1/8 and ¼ cup because it all depends on how thick you want the sauce to be and how much water had already evaporated during the cooking process. Just use your best judgement for how you want it to be. 

Add the slurry back into the slow cooker and stir it around. Put the lid back on and let it finish cooking and thickening up. 

These are my new go-to bean recipe for any BBQ. I am so happy with the way they turned out!

   

Breakfast Burrito, Take 2

So, if you remember, back in July I posted a recipe for a somewhat healthy breakfast burrito. I still haven’t posted my favorite breakfast burrito that I make (not at all healthy), but here’s another one I came up with after being inspired by an airport breakfast burrito.

Yes, you read that right. An airport. The more I travel, the more I realize how crappy of an airport LAX is. I mean, I suppose it’s fine as far as airports go, but I’ve been places. I’ve seen what’s out there. LAX, you need to get it together. And I’m weird, I really like airports, so I have standards. 

*Note, the international terminal is pretty great. And they are doing a lot of construction, so they get points for trying. I’ll reserve further judgement until the construction is done. 

Now, moving on. Our flight to New Orleans left pretty early, so we got breakfast at the airport. They are doing a lot of construction in the Southwest terminal, so there weren’t too many food choices outside of the super packed food court right outside the security lines, but it looks like put in a Rock & Brews since the last time I flew, so we decided to have breakfast there. They had breakfast burritos that were surprisingly tasty. They had a lot of flavor and were actually decent size. Everything costs way more at the airport than anywhere else, so I was glad they made up for the cost with a decent portion. 

Those burritos are where I got the inspiration for this recipe. Like with my previous burritos, these are very freezer friendly and actually pretty healthy as-is. Of course you can make adjustments to your tastes.  

½ pound turkey breakfast sausage

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

7 eggs

Milk

Low-fat mozzarella cheese (you can change this up if you want. Pepper jack would be delicious)

Salsa of your choice

Tortillas 

  
In a skillet over medium heat, brown your sausage and add your black beans. 

  
In a bowl, whisk your eggs and a big splash of milk together until combined. Add them to the skillet with the sausage and beans and stir around until cooked through. 

  
Add egg filling to your tortilla. Top with shredded cheese and some salsa. 

Done! Super easy. And really good.

  
I used the “soft taco” size tortilla and got 9 burritos out of this batch. They freeze really well, too. Like the other burritos, I just wrap them in foil and put them in a freezer ziptop bag. 

When ready to eat, just remove from the foil and put in the microwave for a couple minutes (2-3). Then I put them in a skillet for a minute or two. This step is optional. I do it because I find the tortillas get a little soggy on the outside and I’m a big texture person, so I like to crisp it up a bit. At work, I use the toaster oven since we don’t have a stove. 

It’s a nice change of pace from oatmeal and English muffins.

Mexican Lasagna 

A while back, I posted a recipe for Ropas Viejas which came from one of my favorite actresses Eva Longoria’s cookbook Eva’s Kitchen. (PS: Eva, I know you are busy being amazing, but when are you going to crank out another cookbook??) 

I actually met Eva once back in 2011 when she first published this book. She was doing a book signing at Willams-Sonoma, so my son, who was only 1 at the time, and I went to the mall to meet her. 

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She is teeny tiny. Like, pocket size. But she is just as beautiful as you would imagine she would be and she was very sweet. The more I read interviews with her, the more I like her. 

Over the past 5 years that I’ve had this book, I’ve made many of the recipes in it. The Mexican Lasagna is probably my husband’s favorite of the bunch. He requests it often and since it is so delicious, I have no problem adding it to my menu plan. 

There are many great things about this recipe: 1. it freezes really well, so make two and freeze one; 2. it passes the leftovers test; 3. it is completely adjustable to your preferences. Sometimes when I make it, I follow the recipe to the “T”. Other times, I wing it and change things up a bit. You can change the meat, you can change the cheeses, you can change the veggies. Do it how you want to and it will most likely be just as delicious as Eva intended. I would suggest doing it the way the book says first and then make your adjustments. 

Here’s my simplified take on Eva Longoria’s Mexican Lasagna: 

2 pounds ground beef (well, 2 packages. You know they aren’t always exactly 1 pound. I just got 2 packages so it’s probably somewhere between 1.5 & 2 pounds)

1 packet of taco seasoning (or make your own: 2t garlic salt, 3t cumin,1.5T chile powder, 1.5t onion powder)

1/4 cup water

4oz cream cheese

1 can low-fat refried beans (or you can make a batch of my healthier slow-cooker beans)

1 jar of salsa (whatever you like, just not pico de gallo or similar style. It should be more of a picante style salsa)

2 cups of cheddar cheese (which is really an arbitrary number. Use a lot, use a little. I usually err on the side of more cheese)

2 tortillas

In a skillet, brown your beef. Add your taco seasoning and stir to combine. Add your water and bring to a boil, then to a simmer until the water evaporates. Add the cream cheese and stir until the cream cheese is melted into the beef and all combined. Adding the cream cheese just really takes this filling over the top. I sort of “stole” the idea from these Mexican Stuffed Shells that are another family favorite over here. The cream cheese makes this meat mixture dreamy.

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Now you can assemble:

Spray a round baking dish or pan with cooking spray. Start the first layer with one tortilla. Spread with a layer of the beans, then a layer of the meat mixture, then top with salsa and cheese. Top that with a second tortilla and repeat the layers ending with cheese. 

You could probably do less fillings per layer and do more layers, but I liked it this way. img_7986img_7987

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until all the cheese is melted and gooey.

  
  

This is a very easy dish, perfect for busy weeknights. You can make it ahead of time and even freeze it.

 

Chili

I’m sure you were all on the edge of your seat after my previous post, so I thought I would let you know the good, oh-so-important news: I did get my slow cooker. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas (see? I was right about that box I saw!) and it is every bit as glorious as I hoped it would be.

You can use the insert on the stove top to cook anything that may need to be precooked beforehand (like ground beef or searing meat), it has a timer you can set so you really can set it and forget it. No more “Wait, what time did I start that again?” Also, once the time is up, it automatically switches over to the “warm” setting so it stops cooking! It’s pretty magical and I highly recommend it to any and every one.

Of course, I had to use my new toy as soon as possible, so we had some friends over for game night and I made a big pot of chili. It was perfect for the cold El Nino weather we’ve been having.

There seems to be at least 7,000 recipes for chili out there. Everyone has their own special twist to it and most are really good. I don’t think even I make it the same every time, but this one is a pretty basic recipe that was warm, comforting, and delicious.

Here is my basic chili recipe. It makes a lot, so be prepared for leftovers, which is perfectly alright with me! It also freezes really well.

1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
2 15 oz cans water

In a skillet (or the insert of your crockpot, if you can), heat up the olive oil and add the pepper, onions, and garlic until almost soft. Then add the ground beef and cook until brown. Drain off rendered fat. (Fun fact: I forgot to do this step, so after it was all cooked, I had the fun task of skimming it all off the top. It worked out, but man that was tedious!)

Put the meat and veggies in your slow cooker, and add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and beans. Mix together. Then fill up one of your 15 oz cans with water twice and add it to the mix.

Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6.

Top with some shredded cheese or your favorite chili toppings and make your favorite cornbread recipe (here is mine).

I don’t have a “final” picture because right as game night was getting started our power went out! We ate chili and played Cards Against Humanity by candlelight. You’ll have to trust me that food looked and tasted quite delicious!!

Not Quite Refried Beans

There is this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place (“place” because it’s not quite a restaurant, not quite a taco stand) here in Culver City called Cinco de Mayo that my hubby and frequented quite a bit in our younger, more metabolism-friendly days. It’s right next door to another, much more famous Mexican food place called Tito’s Tacos. The line at Tito’s is always a mile long. The line at Cinco doesn’t get that long until Tito’s closes (Cinco is 24 hours). They are both very, very delicious (isn’t that usually the case with hole-in-the-wall places? As long as there’s a A in the window, I’m good).

So anyway, we still will go every so often, but these days, I try to make my Mexican food at home since it isn’t exactly the healthiest choice going to one of these restaurants.  It’s sometimes a challenge to “lighten” up Mexican dishes, but I think I’ve done a good job for the most part. Everything in moderation, right? These beans are perfectly lightened up. They are just as good as the “real thing” but there is no added fat. Its just beans and seasoning. A great, healthy carb source chock full of protein.
I don’t know how long I’ve been making these beans, but I make them a lot. Refried beans, traditionally, are not very good for you and are full of lard (the good ones anyway!). These have no added fat at all. They are not really refried, but they taste just like them and the texture is almost spot on.  They are perfect for bowls and burritos, nachos and tacos, I’ve even put them in enchiladas.  And the best part? They are made in the slow cooker! Set it and forget it, my friend. Couldn’t be easier.
The recipe amounts tend to change each time I make these, so I tried to write this down exactly as I did it this time. Hopefully that helps. I have posted these before and the amounts may be a little different, but the process and the end result are the same, so don’t call me out on it. Please?
2-1/2 cups of dried pinto beans
1/2 a diced onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt, to start
1 tsp pepper, to start
1 tsp cumin, to start
8 cups of water (started with 6, added a couple more later in the cooking)
In a slow cooker, add your beans, onion, garlic, and seasonings. Top with water. It will look like a lot, but trust me, you need it.  The beans will soak it all up and it is better to have too much, that you can drain out, than not enough, which will cause the beans to become dry and burn.
Set the slow cooker to high and cook for 8-10 hours. Mine went 10-1/2 because that’s when I got home and they were perfect.

  When the beans are ready, turn off the slow cooker and drain most of the water out. Save this in case you need to add more for texture.
 

Mash the beans. You can use a potato masher, which works well. If you have an immersion blender, use that. If you don’t have one, get one because they are amazing kitchen tools. I love mine!

If your beans seem dry, add a bit more of the cooking water. Make them the texture you like.
At this point, I also do a tasting. They may be pretty bland still, because I don’t add too much seasoning at the beginning. Taste them and see what you need to add. I almost always add more salt and cumin, sometimes a little garlic powder. You do what you like. Be careful not to make them too salty though. You will ruin the whole batch. Don’t ask me how I know that. That’s why I just add a little at a time.
We put these in a sealed bowl in the fridge and eat them throughout the week.