FOOD | Slow Cooker Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

One of my goals in this new year is to use our slow cooker more on Sundays. We have always had a pretty hectic evening routine on this particular day of the week because my husband and I both participate as band members for the youth mass at our parish. While this has been a part of our Sunday norm for almost nine years now we haven’t ever really had a regular Sunday night supper tradition.

In college, when it was just me singing at mass and going to the weekly Newman Catholic Ministry meetings on campus – pizza satiated my appetite on a regular basis. Then as a young working and engaged couple my husband and I both volunteered as Core members with our parish LifeTeen ministry so we always ate what the teens ate after mass. Then we got married and continued volunteering and it wasn’t until having a child of our own, and giving up other commitments after mass that I realized that we hadn’t established a Sunday meal ritual as a family. I also didn’t realize how important that was to me as a mother. I don’t want to give up our time singing and worshiping on Sunday evenings but I also want to provide a warm, delicious meal for my family to gather around as we begin a new week together.

Now here’s the kicker…after rehearsing songs, attending mass, cleaning up sound equipment, chatting with friends, etc. by the time we make it home it’s really hard to get the meal of my dreams on the table without someone getting hangry in our family (usually it’s a toss up between me and the toddler)…so in comes the wonderful, magical, fantastic invention that is the slow cooker. It’s a kitchen tool I use so often, yet I feel like I’m seeing it in a new light ever since mentally committing to making an effort toward Sunday night dinners. Seriously, it’s such a beautiful thing to be able to toss some ingredients together earlier in the day, give it a little stir, and then that evening be the domestic goddess I have always dreamed of being by serving my family a yummy meal. If I wore an apron and matching oven mitts while plating everyone’s food then I would really be achieving some major goals.

A few weeks ago we tried this fun little enchilada casserole/bake in the crockpot. I was inspired by this recipe that I initially found while browsing the wonderful world that is Pinterest. I really liked the idea of mixing it up a bit by using quinoa instead of rice when cooking a Mexican dish. I honestly was a little nervous to see how it would turn out or be received by the rest of my family but I can now say that the quinoa cooked perfectly and the recipe was an all around winner with both my husband and my toddler! We also had leftovers for dayssss so plan accordingly.

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Slow Cooker Quinoa Enchilada Casserole
Adapted from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen – Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Quinoa

Ingredients: 

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s Organic White Quinoa)
  • 1 15 oz. can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn (I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Frozen corn and it added some really good flavor!)
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans – drained and rinsed
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 chopped medium yellow onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 16 oz. jar of mild salsa (if it were up to me I would have amped up the spice a bit – but tried to keep this as toddler friendly as possible)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups Mexican Cheese blend divided (1 cup will be mixed in and leaving 1/2 cup for topping later)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro for garnish (optional – we opted out this time around and instead used up some halved cherry tomatoes!)

Instructions

  • Brown ground beef in a skillet until completely cooked through. Add ground beef and remaining fat in skillet to slow cooker.
  • Add the following ingredients to the slow cooker: quinoa, fire roasted tomatoes, frozen corn, black beans, garlic, yellow onion, green bell pepper, water, and salsa. Stir until completely combined.
  • Add spices: chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper to taste – mix once again until well combined.
  • Add 1 cup of Mexican Cheese blend and mix until completely combined.
  • Put lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 3 hours until liquid is absorbed.
  • Then stir casserole one more time to ensure there’s no liquid on the bottom of the slow cooker and to fluff the quinoa. Top with remaining cheese and put lid back on slow cooker for about 10 minutes or until ready to serve.
  • Plate by topping with cilantro for garnish.
  • This casserole can be eaten by itself or served with tortilla chips for dipping. It’s also really great the next day spread over a flour tortilla and cooked as a quesadilla!

Happy eating!

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new week, new recipe: southwest loaded sweet potatoes

I think I should start this post by being completely honest and admitting that I have never been one of those people who has been able to come up with a recipe off the cuff.

My creativity in the kitchen has always been limited to altering seasoning amounts or adding more chocolate chips than necessary when baking. I am always so jealous of those creative minds who so effortlessly create these amazing, healthy, delicious meals…without a book or Pinterest or family recipe to fall back on. Seriously people, how do you do it? I feel like I could pull the teacher excuse and safely say that by the end of the day all of my creative juices have been put towards making math lessons more exciting and breaking up tattle-tale fights…

Well, I’m not sure what happened but while grocery shopping this weekend I had a sudden burst of foodspiration in the target canned food aisle and came up with the following recipe all. on. my. own. Applause? High Fives? Please?

Anyways, I will say that I was somewhat inspired by Lauren’s Instagram and her super adorable blog that I just recently started following. I am always drooling when I scroll through her IG and am always wondering how she can make a sweet potato look so delicious in so many different ways!

So behold my Southwest Loaded Sweet Potatoes (while they may not technically considered “clean” I thought we got pretty darn close!)

Ingredients:

-1.5-2 Chicken breasts (I used about a pound and a half)

-Two medium sweet potatoes (I actually went ahead and made three so we would have leftovers)

-Plain greek yogurt (I used two single servings of 2% Fage)

-1 can of black beans – drained and rinsed

-1 can of whole kernel corn -drained and rinsed

-half of a yellow onion – diced

-1 green bell pepper – diced

-1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip seasoning

-Sharp Cheddar Cheese

-Cilantro (unless you are one of those unfortunate people who thinks cilantro tastes like soap and for that I am very sorry…use parsley)

-A few glugs of olive oil

-Salt/Pepper

1. Ok, so start by chopping up your chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper and saute over the stove in olive oil. Like so:

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2. While you are cooking your chicken bake/soften up those sweet potatoes in the microwave. I poke a few holes in my taters, put them in the microwave for about 3 minutes, flip over and then finish them off for three minutes. Then they are perfectly cooked and ready to go.

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3. After your chicken is done remove it from the pan, add a few more glugs of olive oil and pour in your canned corn, black beans, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. (I had already made this beforehand for another recipe).

4. In a small bowl combine your greek yogurt with your ranch seasoning to make your “sour cream.”

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5. Then load it on up! Slice open your potato, slather on your fake yet delicious “sour cream” concoction, spoon on your black bean/corn/onion/bell pepper mixture, some chicken, a little sprinkling of cheddar cheese, and a spring of cilantro (unless you lead a sad soapy tasting cilantro life – again, I’m so sorry for you!).

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Happy eating!