Saturday, August 31, 2013

Slow Cooker Tamale Pie

I adore tamales.  But, the task of making them is about as much fun for me as getting a root canal.  They are time-consuming and messy and labor-intensive and tedious.  (Yes, I just threw a major run-on sentence at ya!)

So, when fate brought me together with making tamale pie in my slow cooker, I was super ecstatic.  I started the day planning to make a Mexican lasagna in the slow cooker - layers of seasoned beef, black beans, corn and cheese all tucked between flour tortillas.  But, when I went to grab the package of flour tortillas, I remembered that I had just used all but three of them whipping up some quick quesadillas for the kids before the school football game the other night.  So, I turned to the internet and some of my favorite recipe blogs for inspiration.  Thus, PLAN B was born. 

I keep masa harina (a finely-ground corn flour) on hand to thicken chili.  It is what is used to make up the "dough" portion of traditional tamales.  I kept with the beef, black beans and corn mixture that I initially had planned for the lasagna, but turned it all into a "tamale pie" that cooks wonderfully in the slow cooker.

One could easily change up the recipe to suit their tastes.  If you like things spicy, throw in some hot peppers.  You could substitute shredded chicken or pork for the beef.  Salsa could probably be used in place of the enchilada sauce.  And, store-bought taco seasoning may be a quick substitute in place of the spices called for in the recipe.

Yields 6 servings.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back-to-School Recipes

I thought I'd gather up a collection of some kid-friendly recipes and ideas as many of us embark upon a new school year this time of year.  Some of these are breakfast ideas while some are more after school snack-centered.  You'll find ideas for creative ways to pack lunches for your kiddos and a few ideas for quick, fun dinners that will be sure to please picky palettes.  Some of these work great, too, if you're assigned to bring snacks for the classroom - the Broken Glass Jello is perfect to make using your school colors or holiday colors.

The links below correspond to the numbered photos above for easier reference.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

(Not-So-Traditional) Cobb Salad

Although a Cobb salad can truly be made with whatever tickles your fancy (I really don't believe in too many rules regarding food), there are several key ingredients that are usually found in traditional Cobb salad.  Avocado and Roquefort cheese are two of those items.  I usually omit them since a couple of my kiddos don't care for either of those ingredients. 

My main purpose for writing this post was not to necessarily provide you with a recipe or exact ingredient list for Cobb salad that must be followed verbatim, but rather I was looking to inspire you to get creative when presenting a salad - whether it be simply for your family table on a weeknight or to wow special guests at a party.  Arranging your salad this way and utilizing whatever fresh, healthful ingredients are available in your area (or garden) can really elevate the sometimes-mundane tossed salad from drab to fab!

More simply put ... I want you to BE INSPIRED about salad ... and know that it's okay to serve this as your complete lunch or dinner once in a while.  We get so caught up in the whole meat-and-potatoes thing.  At our house, we actually enjoy "loaded" salads as a full meal - especially in the warm summer months - often along with a little crusty bread.  With lots of protein, veggies and dairy included in this salad, it really can be a satisfying and complete meal.

From my experience and research, a Cobb salad is usually dressed with some sort of red wine vinaigrette or a French dressing.  Serve it up with whatever dressing you like (store-bought or homemade).  (I've provided the traditional red wine dressing recipe at the bottom of this post should you care to follow it.)

Serves 4.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Collection of Slow Cooker Recipes from Joyously Domestic

With the arrival of a new school year upon us, I thought I'd round up some of Joyously Domestic's slow cooker recipes.  Utilizing your slow cooker can be super helpful during those busy days when it's sometimes difficult to find time to get a home-cooked meal on the table at the end of the day.  I use my slow cooker a ton during the summer, too, just so that I can keep the oven off and still have a wholesome meal ready come dinnertime. 

The recipe links below are correlated to the numbers shown in the photos above - for easier reference.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Smoked Salmon Spread

My eleven-year old son, Zayne, has an adventurous palette and loves to try new foods. As a huge fan of all fish - especially salmon - he begged at the grocery store this week to buy a small package of smoked salmon as we passed the fish counter. When I told him that we had simply ran in to pick up a couple of items, he offered up purchasing the salmon with his own money that he had brought along.  Since he is usually pretty careful with his spending, I knew he meant business and must have had a strong desire to bring home the fish. So, I obliged and allowed him to make the purchase. He was so anxious to get the salmon home and try it on some crackers with just a little spritz of lemon. To my surprise, he declared that he really didn't care for it due to the smoky flavor. I, on the other hand, adore smoked salmon and jumped at the opportunity to reimburse him for the fish. Doing so meant that I could make one of my favorite dips!

This is a Martha Stewart-inspired recipe that I've adapted to my liking.  If you're wondering where to find smoked salmon or about the cost, I believe most grocery stores carry it these days in their refrigerated fish section.  A four-ounce portion (the amount needed for this recipe) runs around $5 dollars in the supermarkets here in Michigan.

This is a great dip/spread for parties or to nibble on while catching up on some DVR recordings late one night while the rest of the family is in bed (although I wouldn't know anything about that). 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake

My fourteen-year old, Allanah, gave this cake "two thumbs up" and announced that it's as good as Oreo Dirt Dessert. That, my friends, is HUGE. Oreo Dirt Dessert is her all-time favorite and is requested at EVERY one of her birthday parties in place of a traditional cake. So, rating this dessert on the same level is pretty significant. It may not be the prettiest or most-vibrant of desserts. It certainly isn't the most complicated or labor-intensive sweet treat to make. And, it, admittedly, is not the healthiest or from-scratchiest {that's a thing, right?} of desserts. But, it's damn tasty and kinda magical, to be honest.
Allanah and my six-year old, Ayvah, helped me assemble this cake. Putting it together is so stinkin' simple and quick. {Frankly, my girls did it almost completely on their own. So, yeah ... easy peasy.}
While making this dessert is a breeze, waiting overnight to devour it is the another story. {Patience, grasshopper.}
Yes, the key to this recipe is waiting, at least, twelve hours {I know!} before serving the cake. The crackers must soften up in order for the cake to resemble the texture of an éclair. {If you've got twenty-four hours, even better.}

NOTE:  This cake can be made using only graham crackers, but we throw in one layer of saltines, too, to give it a slightly salty kick. The saltiness is in no way overpowering or in-your-face. It's subtle and perfectly balanced. If you prefer, you can use only graham crackers for every cracker layer, however.

Serves 12.