Reader Request: Pumpkin Enchiladas

Good things happen to those who finally have time to cook, and end up cooking something awesome!

I took a day off on Friday and lo & behold, did nothing work-related the entire day. Thus I now feel recharged, refreshed, and ready to get some major work done this week for our holiday concerts coming up on December 11 & 12. It’s amazing what a day off can do for the soul.

With the turn of the weather heading towards winter (and who would believe that, as it was storming at 60* out today), I’m finding myself getting anxious about vegetarian meals again, so the making of this recipe is accidentally perfect timing. Since I finally had some major free time to myself on Friday, I decided to finally tackle a reader’s request that I had been sitting on for a few weeks. A friend of mine from our community garden “nominated” me to try a recipe out and “report back” how it went, and if it was any good. 


At first I was like, “ew, what?!” All I could immediately think of was Mexican flavor fused with pumpkin pie spice – bleh. But then, I clicked on the link & saw that it was a) a crockpot recipe, and b) did not use pumpkin pie spice at all. Challenge accepted, Cyndi 🙂

Pumpkin Enchiladas

adapted from Eat Local Grown

Into your crockpot/slow cooker, add the following & stir:

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 16-oz bag frozen corn
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 dashes of cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water or broth

Cook on low for 6-8 hours (the original recipe says high, but my slow cooker is kinda evil & will burn if left on high that long). When you get home or start getting a rumbly in your tumbly, move on to the next part of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375*. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray – depending on the number you want to make, use either 8×8 or 9×13.

To make the enchiladas, fill a tortilla with some filling, plus a sprinkle of cheese if you so wish (in my house, that is a necessity). If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try some salsa-flavored cream cheese in there (we had it lying around so I figured why not?!) Wrap up the enchilada and place it seam-side-down in the pan. Repeat until the pan is full. Top the enchiladas with enchilada sauce. I had a taste for tomatillos so I used the green chile sauce made by Frontera. Sprinkle with some cheese (if you’d like) and bake until the sauce is nice and bubbly, and the cheese is melted.


I honestly don’t know what excited me more as I dug into these enchiladas – that I now had another use for the stash of pumpkins in my dining room, I had a new vegetarian recipe that didn’t suck, that someone requested a post for my blog and it actually worked – maybe a bit of all of those.

I topped my enchiladas with sour cream & some habanero hot sauce – because I’m awesome like that and love the heat. You could easily add chicken or beef to these enchiladas if you really want some, but truthfully, the meat wasn’t missed. These had great flavor and were very filling. Since we’re big fans of leftovers in our house (for use in lunches), I made a big pan of them and so far they’ve reheated quite well.

So, thank you, Cyndi, for the challenge! I hope you enjoy the results and that you’ll enjoy making/eating these enchiladas as much as I did.

P.S. If any of my lovely readers out there have a recipe for me to try out on here, let me know anytime!


Rice and Bean Enchiladas

This dish was a great ‘teamwork’ dish. I had Open House at one of my schools this week, and wouldn’t be getting back home til about 7:30/8:00. Getting dinner started at that point in the evening doesn’t work very well for my husband who needs to get to bed around 9:30.  Since I knew what I wanted to eat (enchiladas), I decided to prep the dinner halfway so that he could finish making it once he was home from work and done biking. He wasn’t stuck waiting for me to finish dinner, and there was something ready for me to eat when I got home.

Rice & Bean Enchiladas

As prepared by The Spicy Simmer

  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • cilantro (fresh or dried, whatever you have in the fridge)
  • paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • optional: cayenne powder
  • optional: shredded Mexican blend cheese (or whatever you have in the fridge )
  • tortillas
  • Enchilada Sauce
  • optional: green onions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375* and spray a large baking pan (9×13 is best) with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the rice, beans & corn together. Add the spices and about 1/4 cup of the cheese, if you’d like. Mix well so that all the ingredients are well-distributed.
  3. Assemble the enchiladas – spoon some of the filling into the tortilla & roll up. Place each one seam-side down into the pan.
  4. Coat the enchiladas with the enchilada sauce.  Optional: Top with a few sprinkles of cheese & some green onions.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly (and the cheese is melted).

For prepping this dish the night before, I made the filling & stored it in the refrigerator, with the enchilada sauce in a seperate container, ready to go. Once Mike got home from work, he got everything out of the fridge and finished cooking. I rolled into the driveway around 8:00 that night and very hungry – everything was done, Mike was relaxing with a game of Madden, and all was well.

I love teamwork 🙂

Chicken & Waffles – The Quick, Unauthentic Version

Last week my husband mentioned that he wanted some sort of breakfast for dinner. I wasn’t too keen on the idea; I had some chicken breast in the refrigerator that I knew needed to be cooked up soon. After going back & forth for a few minutes, the idea of Chicken & Waffles came up. We had this combination for the first time on our vacation this summer, and since then have told many friends & family about how much we enjoyed it. I figured that making it for dinner would be the best way to combine the flavors that Mike & I both wanted for dinner that night.

It’s not like the original – hell, it’s pretty unauthentic – but it was thrown together at the last minute and really hit the spot!

Chicken & Waffles – The Quick, Unauthentic Version

What You’ll Need:

– frozen waffles – then again, if you have a good waffle recipe and a nice waffle iron, feel free to make your own

– pieces of chicken – whatever cut you want; they can be bone-in or boneless

– flour, a beaten egg, & breadcrumbs for breading

  1. Heat a large skillet with some canola oil.
  2. Dip the chicken in flour, then the egg, then into some bread crumbs. Set into the hot pan to fry (boneless chicken breast took us about 5 min/side).
  3. Meanwhile, toast or make your waffles.
  4. Once everything is ready, serve the chicken atop of the waffle. From here, you can add some butter, as well as some maple syrup if you want. You can even put a dash or two of hot sauce on your chicken.

The most unauthentic version of chicken & waffles ever.

We had some lacinato kale in the fridge that needed to be cooked up, so we made our own version of “greens”. Cooked with bacon 🙂

To the left is my husband’s plate: He has butter on one waffle, locally made maple cream on the other, with the chicken on top. My plate is on the right; you can see that I didn’t want to put my chicken combined with the maple – I also have some hot sauce on my chicken.

It’s such a weird combination, but I love it because of the combination of sweet & savory. It’s truly a unique dish that is great to have when you want something a little out of the “ordinary”. I’d love to try making my own waffles for this dish, but we haven’t been able to successfully make good waffles in our waffle iron. Someday, though…

Grilled Cilantro Lime Shrimp Kebabs

I have to admit that it’s very rare that I make two new dishes at the same time. If it’s a new main dish, I make a ‘typical’ side dish. If it’s a new side dish, I make a ‘typical’ main course. While perusing my usual motherload of blogs  I came across this recipe on Skinnytaste. Through reading through the comments section, I saw that others had recommended making the fiesta bean salad to go with this.

It was band camp week, we had limes & CSA cilantro to use up, we had shrimp in the freezer,  and I wanted to use my new grilling skewers. All signs were pointing to “make this recipe!” (as cheesy as that sounds, but then again we all know I like cheese so it’s quite apropos). It was a no-brainer, easy, and delicious!

Grilled Cilantro Lime Shrimp Kebabs

adapted from Skinnytaste

  • cooking spray
  • 1 bag large raw shrimp (15-20 per lb), peeled & deveined
  • 3 gloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 limes, sliced thinly
  • a dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • skewers (I’ll explain my new ones after the recipe)
  1. Heat up the grill on medium and spray the grates with the oil.
  2. In a bowl, season the shrimp with the garlic, cumin, salt, and half of the cilantro. Toss so that the shrimp gets coated with everything.
  3. On your skewers, thread the shrimp & lime slices, alternating so that you start with shrimp & end with shrimp.
  4. Grill the shrimp, turning occasionally, until they are cooked (they’ll be pink!) – usually this is takes anywhere from 1-3 minutes a side.
  5. Remove from heat & serve hot!


I have never grilled limes before, let alone any type of fruit (though I think Mike has grilled peaches or pineapple once; two fruits I don’t like). I was amazed by how the lime flavor was infused into the shrimp, simply by grilling it on the skewers.

Speaking of skewers, thanks to a great review over at the Ranting Chef, I decided to purchase these skewers. I never had liked using the bamboo, and both my husband and I have burned ourselves before on the long metal ones. These were easy to turn both because of their shape (they form a loop), and because there was also a small loop to grab onto with your tongs, if you wanted. They also cooled relatively quickly. I agree that I don’t think I can ever go back to regular skewers again; since they only came in a package of two, I need to order another set in case we decide to do kabobs for company.

These kebabs, served with the Fiesta Bean Salad, are a great meal for the dog days of summer where you really don’t want to use your oven. It tastes great, it’s fast, and hey, it’s even healthy, too 🙂


BBQ Chicken & Quinoa Salad

Alright, I admit it – any salad that doesn’t include lettuce in it is a salad that’s up my alley. Then again, I’m learning to broaden my horizons and eat lettuce-based salads in an attempt to be a tad healthier…the flavor combination that’s gotten me through band camp is pickled beets & goat cheese (maybe it sounds weird, but it tastes pretty good to me!)

One of my new favorite blogs to peruse is How Sweet It Is.  Jessica posts a lot of great recipes and I absolutely adore her writing style. She posted this one a few weeks ago and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I had, had had to make this or else I knew I’d be missing out.

 BBQ Chicken & Quinoa Salad

adapted from How Sweet It Is

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa**
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly torn cilantro
  • 4 green onions, sliced

** To cook quinoa, rinse 1 cup of dry quinoa for about 30 seconds to rinse off its bitter coating. Cook with 2 cups of water, just as you would with rice (I actually use my rice cooker)

  1. In a large skillet, over medium-heat, cook the bacon until it is a bit crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside, atop a paper towel (to drain the excess grease).
  2. In the same skillet, add the red onion and toss to coat in the bacon grease. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low and cook until the onions begin to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside in a small bowl.
  3. Season the chicken with the salt & pepper, as well as the paprika & onion powder. Add it to the same skillet and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked through, stir in the 1/3 cup of the BBQ sauce and turn the heat down to low. Add in the cooked quinoa, red onions & garlic mixture, the chickpeas, corn, and roasted peppers, plus half of the cilantro & green onions. Mix it all around so that the ingredients are well-distributed.
  5. Right before serving, add the bacon. Serve, topped with the remaining cilantro & green onions.

Hubba hubba!

I decided to add pinto beans instead of chickpeas because i had them on hand. We both really, really enjoyed the flavor combinations of this dish and the house smelled amazing while it was cooking. The chicken itself, with the smoked paprika & onion powder, was fantastic! I could probably have eaten that all by itself.

It also helped improve my husband’s mood, as he had had a rough day at work – he wasn’t too keen on the idea of having a ‘salad’ for dinner, but I think the bacon & barbecue sauce changed his mind. 🙂

This dish will also be perfect for when fall rolls around and we don’t want to fire up the grill for barbecuing.  The flavors blend together very well and really are “summery”. I highly recommend it!

Black Bean Burgers

The veggie burger is a very foreign territory for me. Very foreign. I like my traditional cheeseburgers – just made out of beef, or even turkey (chicken burgers are okay, too), with some mustard and dill pickle. Alright, and the occasional red onion ring or two. And, there’d better be cheese on it 😉

Thus, when my husband suggested that we bring veggie burgers to our weekly garden potluck, I was a bit unsure of what to do. In our attempt to start eating healthier, I knew I had to give the veggie burger a chance at some point or another. I suppose I had always been under the impression that a) they were expensive and b) probably tasted like cardboard.

I found this recipe online (as I do like 75% of the time) and noticed that I had all the ingredients on hand – SCORE! I wanted to make 8 patties, total, so I doubled the recipe to suit our needs. I plugged in my Kitchenaid mixer (my new favorite way for mixing burgers & meatballs), and got to work.

Black Bean Burgers – adapted from Cooking Light

For 4 ‘burgers’:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • garlic & onion powder – a few swirls around the bowl will do
  • 1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp grated lime rind (about the entire rind of a small lime)
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp greek yogurt
  1. In a food processor, combine the oil, garlic & onion powder, and beans. Pulse until the beans make a thick paste. *If you don’t have a food processor, smash the beans in a bowl with a potato masher. Trust me – it works!*
  2. In a large bowl, scrape in the bean mixture, along with the breadcrumbs. Add rind & remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  3. Divide the bean mixture into 4 equal portions, and form patties. From here, you can seperate them with wax paper and refrigerate, or put onto a plate and wait to either pan-fry or grill.
  4. PAN FRY METHOD – Heat some olive oil in a skillet, on medium. Add patties to pan; cook for 4 min on each side until the bottom edges are browned. Flip and repeat.
  5. GRILL – Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray. Lay that onto a grill and let the grill heat up. Cook the burgers on each side until browned.

Hey, it looks alright!

My husband walked in the door just as I was fixing these up – and right away he was impressed by the fact that I was making them on my own and not just buying them from a store. I told him that I had all the ingredients on-hand and that they were, well, easy! And even better, budget-friendly. They have a southwestern flavor to them, but tasted great with some cheese and some spicy ketchup (HINT: try mixing sriracha and ketchup. You won’t be disappointed).

They were also very well-accepted at our potluck later in the evening. 🙂

Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet with making black bean burgers, I can easily see different ways of adapting them for whatever ‘tastes’ we’re feeling that particular evening. If I can make and eat a veggie burger and like it, I think that anyone can!

Polenta with Swiss Chard

During our trip to NC, we were having a discussion with my brother-in-law about foods that a) we like to cook, and b) we like our significant others to cook. He mentioned how his fiance cooks this great dish of salmon with polenta.

For those of you who don’t know, polenta is “coarsely or finely ground yellow or white cornmeal boiled with water or stock into a porridge and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled” (thank you, Wikipedia). It’s a lot more delicious than it actually sounds. I’ve had it before at a local restaurant or two, but up until now had never tried cooking it before.

Tammy over at Agrigirl commented on my Week 1 post of this summer’s CSA about how well polenta went with swiss chard; I was looking for recommendations for how to use chard in my kitchen as I was a bit stumped. With both of these people giving their input on polenta, I simply had to try it out.

Polenta with Swiss Chard – adapted from Agrigirl

  • 1 tube polenta, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
  • 1 large bunch swiss chard, washed & trimmed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2  tbsp olive oil
  1. In a separate pan, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and garlic. Then, add the swiss chard. (You do this step first, as the chard will take longer to cook than the polenta.
  2. In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of  the olive oil.  Add the polenta and sauté. Remove polenta from pan when each side has a nice golden brown to it.
  3. On a plate, top the polenta with the chard. Serve.

Served with chicken on the side!

I think what I liked best about this dish is that the polenta & chard pair really, really well together. Swiss chard, being the leafy green that it is, is a tad bitter. The polenta cuts the bitterness and makes the chard so much more palatable. As I said before, the dish is also very filling and can be used as either main or side dish. It was also a very quick and easy dish to make; I had community band in the evening and was able to make this with plenty of time to walk out the door, rather than rush.

Thank you, Clay & Tammy, for the recommendation of polenta and how to eat it! I’m looking forward to using it more in my cooking.

Asparagus & Prosciutto Panini

I’ve said it before, and as this blog continues, I’ll continue to say it again:

“All of humankind has one thing in common: the sandwich. I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.” ~ Liz Lemon

I love, love, LOVE Liz Lemon. And sandwiches.

One of the first blogs I ever started following was Panini Happy – probably around 2007 or 2008. I love Kathy’s writing and she has some fantastic ideas for not only grilled cheese, but uses for your panini press. We registered for and received one as a wedding shower gift and it has given us nothing but amazing results over the past several years.

While doing my nightly perusing of my favorite blogs, I came across her recipe for an asparagus and prosciutto panini sandwich. I had just picked up some asparagus at a local farmer’s market and was looking for a fun idea for how to use it. This panini caught my eye – using flavors and ingredients that I absolutely adore. And, of course, it’s a sandwich!

Asparagus & Prosciutto Panini – adapted very closely from Panini Happy

  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends broken off (bend each spear; it will break in the ‘right’ place)
  • 8 slices of asiago/parmesan bread – I used Pepper Parmesan from our local breadworks
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • 8 oz fresh mozzerella cheese, sliced into about 1/4″ (make sure you have enough for all the bread!
  1. Turn on your panini press (mine doesn’t have a heat control – if it does, Kathy recommends a medium high heat).
  2. Lay the asparagus spears in a single layer onto the press, and grill for about 3 minutes until they turn a bright green. Remove from heat & wipe down the grates.
  3. To assemble the sandwiches: On one slice of bread, lay a slice of prosciutto, followed by about two slices of cheese. Then, add as many asparagus spears as will fit onto the bread without falling off. Top the sandwich with another slice of bread.
  4. Grill each sandwich for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is nice and crunchy.


The “asparagus and prosciutto” combination is one that I’ve had before, and really enjoy – and it definitely works between two slices of really good bread. I think I would like to make this again sometime, but with a different kind of cheese – not sure what would work, or what would be too overbearing? Hmm…

…either way, this sandwich is fantastic, easy to make, and is on the lighter side. I ate one before heading out to rec soccer – and once I started unwindulaxing (awesome word, thank you Lemon!) it was time for another one since I was pretty hungry. It definitely hit the spot! So while asparagus is still in season – and time is running out – go make this sandwich.

Pork Schnitzel

It’s always a good feeling when you find a ‘light’ recipe and make it – only to find out that not only is it better for you, but it tastes pretty friggin’ amazing. We found it in a recent issue of Cooking Light, as I was rattling off recipe ideas for the coming week. This dish sounded so delicious – and granted, we hadn’t had German/Polish food in a while – that we decided to make it that very night (Saturday) rather than during the week.

Pork Schnitzel – adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1/4 cup lowfat sour cream
  • 1/2 tbsp dried dill
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • garlic powder
  • 4 boneless pork chops, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine sour cream, dill, and some salt & pepper. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the breading: In a shallow dish, combine milk and egg; whisk to combine. In another shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic powder, and some more salt & pepper
  3. Prepare the pork: Using a meat tenderizer, pound each chop until it is about 1/8″ thickness.
  4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tbsp of the oil (1 tbsp for two chops).
  5. Dip each pork chop into the milk mixture, then dredge into breadcrumbs. Place into hot pan and cook on each side until done (flipping only once if possible). Repeat procedure with the remaining pork chops.
  6. Serve nice & hot, with sauce on the side.


I served the schnitzel, as you can see, with some peas and roasted potatoes. I also added some red cabbage to my plate after the photo was taken (nothing like some sour red cabbage to go with your schnitzel, mmm).

Making this dish was relatively easy, and not very time-consuming at all; perfect for a future weeknight when we don’t have something to do. It tasted, though, like I had spent quite a bit of time on it. Always a plus when you love to cook 🙂 As I write this post, I’m finding that I would not mind making this dish again sometime soon, perhaps with some vegetables that will arrive with this summer’s CSA in a few weeks! Yum!

Buffalo Chili

This post is long overdue – I made this recipe over a month ago and just never got around to blogging about it. But trust me, it will be worth the wait.

One of the guys my husband works with owns a bison farm – Jordan Valley Bison. Random, right? Well, a lot of people up here do farming, canning, or hunting of some sort – so I suppose in retrospect it’s not too strange. My husband & I are not hunters by any means, but I did start canning last summer; we also have a vegetable garden once again this year which I hope will be much more plentiful than last year’s.

We purchased some bison at our local farmer’s market and my husband made sure to say hello to his friend’s wife, as his friend was working at the foundry that morning. She had lots of great suggestions for how to use the bison that we were purchasing – and gave us probably 3 or 4 different recipes. We chose this one! 🙂

Buffalo Chili – adapted from Jordan Valley Bison

  • 1 lb bison burger
  • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 peppers (red, yellow, orange or green)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp dark chili powder (I used powdered smoked adobo chiles)
  • 2 tbsp mild chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 46 oz. tomato juice (low sodium)
  • 28 oz stewed tomatoes (chopped fine)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 can light red kidney beans (drained & washed)
  • 1 can dark red kidney beants (drained & washed)
  • 1 can black beans (drained & washed)
  1. In a large stockpot, carmelize the onion & celery with a good splash of olive oil.
  2. Add the bison burger on top, flipping/mixing once, and breaking into smaller 1-inch chunks.
  3. Add garlic & peppers. Stir to combine.
  4. Add remaining ingredients & simmer for two hours on medium heat. Enjoy!
The photo is unappealing, but the flavor is delicious!

The photo is unappealing, but the flavor is delicious!

If you are not adverse to trying bison/buffalo, I highly recommend it. It has a bit of a gamier taste than beef, but is actually very lean. As you know, locally raised is definitely the way to go on this one 🙂

We made this dish on a cold, chilly Sunday – and it really hit the spot! I liked how many vegetables were incorporated into this chili. It also made a lot of leftovers, which were great the next day or two for Mike’s lunches.

It’s really neat to be able to really KNOW where your food is coming from and to know the people who are taking care of food for you. The amount of local products (and the quality!) available up here in northern Michigan still astounds me – and I love it.