Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas.

Perhaps it’s becoming obvious that I love spinach? Maybe you’ve noticed that I quite enjoy recipes that include black beans? Here we go again..

Oh, enchiladas!

Oh, enchiladas!

Gooey, spicy, tasty enchiladas with homemade sauce. Ridiculously easy to make and only 20 minutes in the oven. The recipe looks long but most of it is spices – because you can never, ever have too many spices.

Here’s the recipe:

Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients:
Enchiladas
15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups of corn
1 block of frozen spinach, thawed
2 tsp. cumin
3 cups shredded spicy cheese (habanero!)
8 tortillas (whole wheat or white will work)

Sauce
3 cups low (or no-) sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
salt and pepper (to taste)
3 tablespoons of corn starch (+ water)
1 cup of shredded cheese to top

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients, other than the corn starch and cheese, in a large sauce pan. Whisk over medium heat until the tomato paste has been fully dissolved into the liquid. Adjust spices to your preference!
  2. In a small jar with a lid, combine 3 tablespoons of corn starch with enough cold water to create a liquid. Shake the jar until the corn starch is fully dissolved.
  3. Slowly pour the corn starch into the sauce while whisking everything together. Continue to heat the mixture until the sauce has thickened. (If needed, add more corn starch.)
  4. Let the sauce remain on a low heat on the stove while you prepare the enchiladas.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375F.
  6. Combine all of the enchilada ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix well.
  7. Spoon some filling into the middle of the tortilla and roll it up like a burrito! Repeat for the remaining filling and tortillas.
  8. Spray a 9×13″ baking pan with nonstick spray and add one cup of the sauce to the bottom, spreading it evenly.
  9. Place the rolled-up enchiladas into the pan with their folded sides on the bottom.
  10. Pour the remainder of the sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  11. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the stove and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Note: I find that the recipe often makes 10 enchiladas, so I just cram the extras into the pan. Leftovers are ‘okay’ but not fantastic – they can be reheated in a microwave or toaster oven.

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Super Easy Sweet Pea Salad.

I have been known to eat an entire can of peas, drained and lightly rinsed, in place of an actual meal. I love snowpeas and sugar snap peas. I like peas that are cold and I like peas that are warm.

It surprises no one, then, that I really enjoyed eating this pea salad.

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Mmmmm.. pea salad!

The recipe for this is similar to one that my mother used to make – but hers involved broccoli and raisins and cider vinegar and red onions. This one is much lighter tasting and didn’t involve chopping broccoli. I hate chopping broccoli.

Super Easy Sweet Pea Salad

Ingredients:
20 oz. frozen peas, thawed, rinsed, and drained
1 cup of craisins
1 cup of unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup of chopped green onions
1/2 cup of crumbled bacon (I cheated and used pre-cooked and pre-crumbled from Costco)
1 cup of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of white sugar
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together mayo, sugar, pepper, worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce.
  2. In a larger bowl, combine peas, craisings, peanuts, green onions, and bacon.
  3. Pour the mayo mixture over the pea mixture. Stir to coat.
  4. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour, but preferably a few hours (to let flavours combine).
  5. Eat it. Exclaim about how it tastes SO GOOD.

 

 

Secret Litterbox.

We have 4 cats and 2 dogs.

We keep our cats indoors which means they poop in litter boxes. The dogs, and the beagle in particular, believe these little poops-in-boxes are a delicacy and will do almost anything to get to them.

Since we have 4 cats, we need more than one litterbox and, ideally, it’s a good idea to have them in different parts of the house – so the cats can have some privacy to do, uh, their business. There are only so many tiled places in our house to put a litterbox and I refuse to put a litterbox on carpeting.

So, cats who need litterboxes and dogs who want to eat out of the litterboxes (but who get sick all over the place if they do).

Can you see the challenge?

My husband made this:

Front hall cabinet.

Front hall cabinet.

More specifically, I picked out a bookshelf from Canadian Tire and my husband assembled it. He then bought some wood, stained it to match the bookshelves, added hardware, and attached them to cover the bottom shelf areas.

So far, so good.

Then we found a big plastic bin – with high sides – that fit (with a bit of trimming) into one of the lower sections.

Big blue litterbox!

Big blue litterbox!

We cut out a portion of the side of the bin and a matching hole was cut between the two lower sections. If we open the right-hand door and look in, it looks like this:

Passageway between the right and left sides.

Passageway between the right and left sides.

Then we cut a hole in the lower, outer portion to give the cats a way to get in and out – but keep the dogs from getting in at all. Thankfully, our dogs are larger than our cats.

Little cat entryway!

Little cat entryway!

Ta-da! A fancy-shmancy place to hide cat litter in plain sight!

Apologies for the dusty pictures – the good news is that everything is easy to wipe down. Once the cats are a bit more accustomed to using it, we’ll add a small holder for the litter scoop and the hand broom/dustpan in the right-hand lower section. For now, we don’t want to startle anyone at an inopportune moment..

The Best Meatloaf Ever.

Growing up, I hated meatloaf. In fact, I wasn’t much of a fan of it in my younger-adult years; I ate it, but I didn’t like it.

Eventually I found a meatloaf recipe that was okay – but which literally took hours to cook in the loaf pan. Then, when it was time to eat, there’d be grease around the edges and the loaf would either fall apart when I tried to plate it or would seemingly glue itself into the pan.  I tried to adjust the ingredients, the cooking time, and.. nope. Since the taste was “okay”, but not awesome, I eventually just stopped making it.

Then I found a new recipe – it looked easier, used ingredients that I already had (and no dry bread crumbs or crackers were in it), and didn’t require me to prise it out of a loaf pan at the end.  I gave it a shot and, over the past year-ish, have made it multiple times. It’s SO good, and SO easy, and clean-up is a breeze.

The only catch is that it looks awful when you remove it from the oven – if you’re serving it to guests, don’t let them see it until it’s ready to eat.

Seriously, here’s what it looks like when it’s fresh out of the oven:

U-G-L-Y, right?

U-G-L-Y, right?

This is a bit flatter than how I normally make it – so it’s also a bit wider – but you can see how some of the glaze has slid off and burnt onto the foil. It does this every time. Quite frankly, this does not look at all like something I’d want to eat.  (One of the great benefits to cooking the loaf this way is that the foil underneath can simply be tossed – leaving no pan to clean after dinner!)

But here’s what it looks like plated:

Mmmmm!

Mmmmm!

Much better, right? A nice sticky-sweet-spicy glaze on top of the moist, but firm, meat. Seriously – this stuff is SO GOOD.

Here’s a closer look at the meat itself:

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Absolutely perfect meatloaf.

Here’s the recipe. The only substitutions that I make are that I use ground chicken instead of turkey – chicken is easier to find and much cheaper around here – and basmati rice (because we always have that around).

Everyone in my family loves this recipe and would happily eat it every week if I made it. My husband gleefully eats the leftovers (which we don’t often have) for lunch the next day. And in all the times that I’ve made it, nothing has ever gone wrong. It’s foolproof perfect meatloaf!

(Is it becoming obvious that I’m a HUGE fan of BudgetBytes? I am.)

Crackpipe Cosy.

One of the things that I do at my job is manage a harm reduction distribution program. Amongst other things, we hand out needles and crackpipes to people who are using drugs – science has shown that handing them out is a good way to prevent the spread of diseases and infections like HIV and Hepatitis C.

During outreach last night, I commented on how I’ve been greatly enjoying my crocheting lately – maybe even getting better! – and it was decided that I should try to crochet a crackpipe cosy. Not for actually handing out, but because, y’know, why not?

As it turns out, the answer to “why not?” is “because it just looks obscene.”

Side view (pipe inside!)

Side view (pipe inside!)

Top view! Pipe inside.

Top view! Pipe inside.

I think I’ll just call this an “experiment” and move on.

(For the sake of conversation, I made it by slightly modifying a pattern for a crocheted chapstick holder that I found on Ravelry. )

Ruby Slippers.

Ruby Slippers!

Ruby Slippers!

I am not very good at practicing things without a reason. I also wanted to see if I could make a pair of slippers. And, so, here I am wearing my new ‘ruby slippers’. All told, they took about 2 hours – much of which was spent swearing and googling for help.

But they turned out reasonably – I could point out all the various mistakes and I could show you where my tension went nuts, but they’re on my feet and no one is looking, so I’ll just smile. If they were a gift for someone, that would be a different story (and I’d have ripped out the stitches and started over in that case!)

The pattern for them is here. The yarn that I used is Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in Poinsettia. You can’t see it very well in the picture above, but the yarn has a tinsel-like metallic thread running through it that makes the slippers look a tiny bit sparkly. I’m happy!

I might make a second pair just to see if I can improve on my speed and avoid some of the mistakes.

Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese.

jalapeno

I  love jalapeños.

I love macaroni.

I love cheese.

I do not love the way any of the photos I took of this dinner turned out, so you’ll have to use your imagination.  Picture a bowl filled with perfectly cooked pasta, coated in a creamy sauce, dotted with jalapeños. Imagine eating something that has the flavour of a deep fried jalapeño popper, but without the deep frying.

The recipe can be tweaked depending on your personal preferences for heat. Add more, or substract some, of the jalapeños. Use regular shredded mozzarella in place of the habanero cheese if you want to tone down the heat!  We use low-fat or “light” versions of the ingredients whenever possible – the recipe turns out just fine with low fat and with the full-fat ingredients, so use whatever you prefer. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave.

Here’s the recipe:

Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese

Makes enough for about 12 servings for normal people – or one dinner plus a bit left over for our family of hungry wolves.

Ingredients:
  • 24 oz. uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups milk (we use 1%)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (light)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan (light)
  • 1 cup sour cream (light)
  • 8 oz can sliced jalapeños, drained and diced (or leave them large if you prefer)
  • 2 cups shredded habanero pepper cheese (or your preference)
Instructions:
  1. Cook your pasta in a big pot of boiling water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, grab a second pot and prepare your sauce. Heat the vegetable oil up, add garlic, and stir it around for a minute or two. Add the milk, cream cheese, and parmesan – use a whisk to get everything well-mixed.
  3. Once the cream cheese has fully melted and the mixture is hot, turn the heat to low and add the sour cream.
  4. Add the jalapeños into the sauce, stirring to combine and warm them.
  5. Drain the cooked pasta and return to the pot (remove from heat). Pour the sauce onto the noodles, stir until well mixed, then add the shredded cheese and stir until melted.