Soyrizo Mushroom Hand Pies

I love empanadas. I used to love when my cousin would make them when I'd come over for a visit. I think that was one of the few things I actually cooked as a teenager. Once I got married and moved away, I continued to make them. However, now that I've given up meat, I haven't been able to find a recipe that I like as much as the original one I used to make as a teen... until now.

One thing I ate before I had even given up meat was soyrizo. I love chorizo with all of it's flavors and spiciness but I have never been a huge fan of sausage, hot dogs, or any other sort of processed meat that leaves you not wanting to question what it's made out of. Soyrizo has all the same flavors as chorizo without any of the gross, questionable ingredients.

These hand pies are super easy to make. All the ingredients are readily available at pretty much all super markets and it's really quick to throw together. The only item that I wasn't sure I'd find was the Cotija cheese. For some reason my grocery story put it over by the ricotta cheese. If you can't find Cotija cheese, you can substitute it with either Parmesan or feta cheese. Cotija tasted like a combination of the two, so either of those should work if you can't find it. You can make the filling ahead of time to shave off half the prep time for these or you can make the hand pies ahead of time and store them in your refrigerator on a baking sheet until you are ready to pop them in the oven. I've done both and they turned out great. These are definitely going into my "keep" pile of recipes.

Recipe adapted from Comowater

  • 1 package Soyrizo (vegetarian chorizo)
  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced 
  • 3 1/2 cups sliced button mushrooms 
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil 
  • salt 
  • pepper 
  • 1/2 cup cotija cheese
  •  4 roll out pie crusts 
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • 1 tsp. milk 

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a saute pan and heat over medium heat. Cook soyrizo until slightly crunchy (about 7-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Set aside and let cool completely.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the same sauté pan and heat over medium. Add onions. Saute 2 minutes. Add mushrooms. Saute over medium until onions and mushrooms are soft; about 5 minutes. Add a small pinch of salt and a few grinds black pepper.
  4. Mix the cooled soyrizo with the onion/mushroom mixture and let cool completely before beginning hand pie assembly.
  5. Lightly spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Lightly flour counter. Roll out pie dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out circles of desired size. Add filling to center of dough circle, leaving a 1/4-1/2 inch border around the edge of the dough. Wet the edge of the dough slightly with water. Top with second dough round and seal the hand pies closed. Lightly beat egg with milk to create an egg wash. Brush the top of the hand pies with egg wash. Add the hand pies to the cookie sheet. Bake approx. 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool and enjoy!

Shrimp Tacos with Garlic Cilantro Slaw & Spicy Black Beans

It's still been pretty hot here. The heat just doesn't want to let up. Which means I've been eating a lot of grilled or quick dinners so as to not heat up the whole house. One of the dishes I've recently made were these delicious shrimp tacos. I know they don't look all that great in the photo, but trust me, they were amazing. The Mister and I ate kind of ate the whole batch and I used the leftover slaw for breakfast tacos the next morning.
I wanted to show the tacos without the extra sauce and cheese on them

This was a quick and easy dinner to throw together. You can make the slaw and spicy black beans ahead of time and then just cook the shrimp when it's time for dinner. Just be sure to reheat the beans. The original recipe called for shredded cabbage but I went with a bagged coleslaw mix so that I didn't end up with a ton of cabbage leftover in my refrigerator. Plus, I liked the added bonus of the carrots in my taco. Made me feel like I was eating super healthy. If you can't find Cotija cheese (mine looked like a round wheel of cheese) I would substitute it out with feta, but I would really try to find Cotija.  I've never had Cotija cheese before but it reminded me of a mix between feta and Parmesan cheese. I have to say, I'm a huge fan of this cheese. I was putting it on everything.

recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum

For the Garlic Cilantro Lime Sauce
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ½ cup plain fat-free yogurt
For the Shrimp Tacos
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper  
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 cups coleslaw mix
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • 1-2 avocados
  • Cotija cheese and additional cilantro for topping
  • lime wedges for serving

  1. Pulse all the sauce ingredients except the sour cream in a food processor. When mostly smooth, add the sour cream and pulse until combined. Taste and adjust as needed. Set aside.
  2. Heat a drizzle of oil a large skillet over medium high heat. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and sprinkle with the spices, and a little salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the hot pan and saute for 5-8 minutes, flipping occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through.
  3. Toss some of the sauce (not all) with the cabbage until it the cabbage is coated to your liking. It should resemble a coleslaw - you want it to be enough sauce so the cabbage is weighed down a little bit. Use leftover sauce on top of the tacos or in other recipes.
  4. To serve tacos, smash a spoonful of avocado on the tortillas, top with a few pieces of shrimp, top with coleslaw, and finish with Cotjia cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges.

For the Spicy Black Beans
recipe adapted from Tyler Florence
  • 2 cups (about 1 pound) dried black beans, picked over, soaked overnight
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large pot, soak beans overnight covered in water by 2 inches. Drain and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and bay leaf and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and cover with water by about 1-inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Taste the beans and season with salt and pepper.

Slow-Cooker Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I don't know about you but when it gets hot here, the last thing I want to do is spend time in the kitchen. Especially when we're going through a heatwave and I don't have air conditioning to cool down the house. When it comes to moments like these I usually do one of two things, cook on the grill or cook with my slow-cooker. Now I know what you're thinking, running a slow-cooker heats up the house, too. You would be correct. However, I put the slow-cooker in our garage or out on the back patio where it won't heat up the house. It's a little abnormal but I end up with a delicious home-cooked meal that's full of flavor and I didn't have to heat up my whole house to make it. ;)

I'm a big fan of stuffed peppers. There's so many different ways you can make them. I've had the traditional version, enchilada version, and even a lasagna version. All were very delicious and filling. However, one thing they all had in common was that I would boil the peppers before assembling them and then bake them in the over to finish them off. Neither of which is happening when it's in the 90's. This recipe requires neither of those things since it's all made in the slow-cooker. However, because I had to make the quinoa, I wound up making it the night before after it had cooled off some, and stored it in the refrigerator until the next morning.

recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum

  • 6 bell peppers
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 (14 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1½ cups red enchilada sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1½ cups shredded cheddar, colby jack, or pepper jack cheese
  • cilantro, guacamole, salsa, avocado, sour cream, for toppings

  1. Cut the tops off of the peppers and scrape out the ribs and seeds.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, beans, enchilada sauce, spices, and 1 cup of the cheese. Fill each pepper with the quinoa mixture.
  3. Pour ½ cup water into the bottom of a slow-cooker. Place the peppers in the slow-cooker so they're sitting in the water. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Remove lid, distribute remaining cheese over the tops of the peppers, and cover again for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
  4. Top the stuffed pepper with your choosing. 

Slow-cooker S'mores Cake

 You may not know this about me but I love all things S'mores. ALL things. I have tried various versions of S'mores, I've made them in a microwave, in the over, on the stove, and of course over the fire. I've have S'mores cheesecake, cupcakes, cookies, pastries, Pop-Tarts, you name it. I even have a mini S'mores Christmas tree with mini S'mores snowmen ornaments. Trust me, I'm a fanatic about S'mores and this is definitely a MUST if you are anything like me. ;)

One thing I LOVE about this recipe is how easy it is to put together. There's not a whole heck of a lot of work that you put into this but even if there was, I feel like it would be worth it. This is kind of like a S'mores lava cake mashup. You get all the flavors of S'mores but with this gooey, fudgy center. Mmm! Now one thing I did change in the recipe, and I do it all the time when a cake calls for oil, is I swapped out equal parts natural apple sauce for the oil. Trust me, this is an amazing cake that you don't have to fuss over. I even had leftovers, and after a quick zap in the microwave they were just as good as they were the night I made it.

adapted from A Savory Feast
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 (15.25 oz) box chocolate cake mix
  • Water, egg and oil as directed on cake mix box
  • 1 (12 oz) bag chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  1. Grease a slow cooker.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, and butter. Mix until well blended.
  3. Press the graham cracker crust down evenly in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  4. Mix the cake mix according to the directions on the box. Add 1/2 of the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the cake mixture into the slow cooker.
  6. Cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Top with marshmallows and the remaining chocolate chips. Let melt before serving.

Baked Lentil Ziti

I'm always on the look-out for recipes that take a well-loved dish with meat, and turn it into a meatless version. I'm also a huge lover of beans. Even when meat-free dishes don't call for beans, I'm usually adding them in anyways. So I was really excited when I saw this recipe that took one of my favorite family dishes, baked ziti, and not only omitted the ground meat, but also added in lentils. It's been a very long time since I've had baked ziti but that's all about to change with this recipe. I thought it was delicious and I will definitely be holding onto this recipe for later.

This is a super easy dish to make. I feel like I say that all the time but I am a lover of easy recipes. You can cook the lentils and pasta ahead of time and set them in the refrigerator until you're ready to make the dish. You could even make the whole thing, put it in the casserole dish and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat, and then just pop it into the oven. Either way, it's as easy as cooking pasta and lentils, mixing everything together in the casserole dish, and baking it until it's bubbly. I loved the taste of this and definitely used a little bit more sauce than the recipe called for but that's because I don't like dry pasta.

 There are a couple things I want to point out that I did differently from the recipe. I used gluten-free pasta. I've tried using gluten-free pastas in the past for various dishes and have found that they don't always hold up, especially when it's a one-pot recipe where the pasta cooks in the liquid with everything else. However, the pasta worked great in this dish, but I did under-cook it by about 2 minutes, so it still had some bite to it before I added it into the casserole dish to bake. So, if you plan to use gluten-free pasta just be sure to under-cook it a bit so that it holds it's shape and doesn't turn to mush while the casserole bakes. I also didn't put the cheese on the casserole for the initial baking process. Mainly because the casserole came right up to the top and if I put foil on it, the cheese would have stuck... and I didn't feel like rummaging around my cabinet looking for toothpicks. So, I put the foil on the casserole without the cheese for the first half of baking and then when it was time to crank the heat and remove the foil, I put the cheese on and baked it until it was bubbly.  Like I said before, I really enjoyed this dish and it will be a winter staple in our house from here on out.

recipe adapted from Cookie and Kate

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic,  minced
  • 1¼ cups regular brown lentils, picked over for debris and rinsed
  • 3 cups water
Pasta and everything else
  • 12 ounces ziti, rigatoni or penne pasta
  • 2 cups grated part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (omit if sensitive to spice)
  • 24 ounces spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup cottage or ricotta cheese

  1. To cook the lentils: In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is turning translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the lentils and water, and stir to combine.
  2. Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer until the lentils are tender and cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain the mixture well in a fine-mesh sieve and return the lentils to their pot. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta just until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and return the pasta to the pot. (if using gluten-free pasta under-cook the pasta. It will continue to cook in the oven)
  4. Add the lentils to the pasta. Add ½ cup of the cheese, reserving the rest for later. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using).
  5. Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce into a 13x9-inch baking dish. Spread the sauce around with a spatula so the base of the baker is evenly coated. Pour the lentil and pasta mixture into the baker and spread it so it’s evenly distributed. Using a spoon, dollop cottage or ricotta cheese in big spoonfuls over the pasta, then just lightly swirl the mixture a bit so the cottage cheese is still concentrated in those areas.
  6. Drizzle the rest of the sauce evenly over the dish (adding extra sauce if you’d like) and gently spread it over the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella evenly over the dish. Cover the baker tightly with aluminum foil—don’t let it touch the cheese—or stick a few wooden toothpicks down the center and place a generously sized piece of parchment paper, folded in the middle to make a “tent” over the baker.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the covering, increase the heat to 450, and continue baking until the cheese on top is golden and spotty, 3 to 9 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.