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.

Three Bean Slow Cooker Chili

We've been experiencing a very wet and cold winter here in SoCal. So, I've been breaking out all my favorite winter recipes lately. One thing I love to make on a cold miserable day is chili. I don't know why those two things go together but they do. It's kind of like being sick and having soup. However, chili takes a lot of time to make, and depending on the style of chili you make, it can also be time consuming to prep. If you haven't noticed by now, I'm a lazy cook. I don't like to spend a ton of time in the kitchen slaving away. Which is why this slow cooker chili is my favorite. It's bursting with flavor, takes minimal time to prep, and the slow cooker does all the cooking for you.

I usually always make my chili in the slow cooker just because chili needs to simmer low and slow for some hours in order to really develop flavor. I don't know about you, but I don't hours to spend stirring a pot of chili making sure it doesn't burn or bubble over. I can put it all in the slow cooker and go to work, run errands, clean the house, read a book, binge watch my favorite shows and not have to worry about dinner. I love it! I used to soak and cook my beans before putting them in the slow cooker but I've recently discovered that you don't have to do that. You just have to rinse the beans to clean them, and then you just pour them in the slow cooker with your ingredients and extra broth to cook them. Making chili has never been easier than this. Now, I don't eat meat so this is for a vegetarian three bean chili. However, if you would like meat, I would brown a pound of ground beef and add it to the rest of the ingredients already listed.

  • 1 large carrot (about 2 cups), peeled and grated
  • 1 large zucchini (about 1 cup), grated
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 c. dried kidney beans
  • 1 c. dried black beans
  • 1/2 c. dried garbanzo beans
  • 1.5 c. frozen corn
  • 2 Tbsp. hot sauce
  • 1 packet low-sodium chili seasoning mix
  • 7 c. vegetable broth
  1. Rinse beans and make sure there are no rocks or debris mixed in.
  2. Add all the ingredients into your slow cooker and cook on high for at least 8 hours or until the beans are tender and the flavor has come together. 
  3. Top chili with toppings of choice (shredded cheddar cheese, avocado slices, chopped onion, or corn chips)

Tamale Pie

One of my favorite dishes that I make probably at least once a month is this tamale pie. Since I gave up meat some time ago, I haven't really been able to find and therefor eat a traditional tamale, and let's be honest, tamale making is no joke. It's definitely not something I'd want to do since I tend to be pretty lazy when it comes to cooking. So, when I saw a recipe that converted the tamale into a skillet bake, I knew I had to give it a shot.

The recipes I was finding online all had meat products in them and even though vegetables aren't normally in tamales, I wanted to incorporate more sustenance. So, I did some tweaking and kind of made my own tamale pie. One thing that I love about this dish is that it's so easy to make and yet it's bursting with flavor. It's also versatile and ingredients can be swapped out. For instance, if you don't want beans and in fact want meat, then use a pound of meat of your choosing. If you don't like bell peppers and instead want to use mushrooms, or omit all vegetables from the dish, you can do that, too. Like I said, I make this dish just about once a month and every month I made it a little different depending on what I have on hand. Sometimes I use plain diced tomatoes (not as flavorful as the tomatoes with chilies in them), sometimes I add a diced jalapeno, sometimes I've even added a mixture of beans because I didn't have enough of one kind on hand. You can also change the ratio of toppings as well, as long as the cornbread base stays the same, the ingredients you put on top can be changed around to your liking.

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt (sour cream also works)
  • 1 cup corn, thawed if frozen and if canned be sure to drain and rinse the corn
  • 1 (10 oz) can Rotel diced tomato with chilies (I use habaneo but they have other varieties)
  • 1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 3 cups cooked pinto beans (or 2 cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F
  2. Mix the first nine ingredients (from flour to diced tomatoes) and pour into a 14 in round skillet or cast iron pan. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from heat.
  3. Meanwhile, saute the onion and bell pepper, add the cumin and chili powder, and saute for another minute.
  4. Stir in cooked beans and cook until vegetables start to get tender. Mix in the salsa and removed from the heat.
  5. Poke holes in cornbread with a fork and pour the enchilada sauce over the top.
  6. Pour bean mixture on top of the cornbread and spread it out to evenly cover the cornbread.
  7. Top with cheese and bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot.