Leftovers can be exciting!

So you know I’ve been trying to branch out by trying new flavors … not just for dinner but for bbq’s as well, hoping to prove that eating healthy is yummy! There are plenty of skeptics out there but come over to the dark side, I promise you won’t regret it 😉

My new go-to dip is cucumber salsa – people stuff their faces and about 5 scoops in I hear “what is this… it’s awesome!”. Just note that you should really use English cucumbers. The last 2 times I have but the 3rd time I picked up regular cucumbers … let’s just say it became a soup! Regular cucumbers are full of so much water; I had to drain the salsa before serving it. Even 1 day later (I prepped the day earlier), having 2 drains, and serving it up in smaller bowls … each bowl was filled 1/2 way with liquid after an hour 😦 Spend the extra $1 and buy an English cucumber.
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Next on deck .. chicken wings! You don’t have to make hot wings/fatty ranch for dipping or greasy fried wings for football Sunday, check these out – no breading, no “bad for you” ingredients, just 100% yumminess! I forget the site I found this recipe on so here is the check list:
To make apprx 24 wings –
2 cups lime juice (1 large bottle)
4 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp crushed red pepper (use more or less depending on your tolerance of heat!)
4 tsp minced garlic (I used 3 medium garlic cloves OR you can buy pre-minced garlic & measure … either is fine!)
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups olive oil
MIX everything in a large bowl, pour over chicken, and marinate for 30 min-2 hrs
We grilled them or you can bake them … enjoy!
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Ahhhh, the pasta salad. It’s such a familiar dish that you don’t even have to tell people what’s all in it … all you say is “there will be a pasta salad” and you know it will be devoured.  I don’t know what it is about this comfort food but everyone likes it.  This version is: 1 box of low carb rotini pasta (Dream Fields / black box), 1 medium “summer sausage” log cubed into even chunks, frozen corn (microwavable steam bag, cook for 6 min & let it cool), 1 large block of cheese cubed into even chunks (use your favorite cheese!), and roasted red peppers (I had a jar in my fridge already opened, may as well use them!), and top with Italian salad dressing (1/2 at prep time and 1/2 before serving it … mix well!).
Cook the pasta FIRST, drain/let it cool … then start slicing and dicing the ingredients. Once the pasta is cooled, combine ingredients into a large bowl & stir 🙂 EASY

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Now I’m just going to overwhelm you with a ton of photos … recipes will be in links!

IMG_7886 Tater tots! Toss tots with hot sauce, crumbled blue cheese, chopped celery and diced chicken.  I left the chicken out because I used this recipe as a side dish to smoked sausages … it was out cheat night 😉

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steak with french onion sauce! We have mostly red wine in our collection so I bought this cute picnic white wine cup; it was perfect for the recipe so if you are not a big wine drinker, look for one of these guys. Also have no fear if you can’t fine veal consomme … I used beef stock and it turned out a-okay 😉 Since the main dish took some extra energy (it was difficult but you have to keep your eyes on it!) I opted for canned green beans and frozen/oven baked bread sticks. An easy meal that you could order from a steak house … at your own kitchen table, LOVE!

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It was cooler last week and I busted out my immersion blender to whip …er, rather blend up some sweet potato soup. It’s from my favorite magazine, Cooking Light. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these guys! Rather than pouring hot things into a blender and risk burning yourself just keep everything in 1 large pot and blend together. I paired a yummy smoked gouda grilled cheese sandwich and the dinner was perfect. In with the new … you don’t have to use Kraft singles for grilled cheese! I love using new cheeses each time we make grilled cheese – yes, a good cheese will cost a few more dollars but it’s so worth it as a splurge meal.

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Saw this on an episode of Barefoot Contessa and it couldn’t have been easier! Cripsy mustard chicken and cheesy grits (again I opted for microwavable veggie since the 2 other items took some energy). Another must have gadget, I love my pint sized food processor. It’s easy to store since it’s small and it’s perfect for our family (there’s only 2 of us) however if you only want to spend $30 and have a larger family – just make recipes in small batches & combine in a large bowl, you have to dump most mixtures into a bowl anyway! The grits will need your attention as it must be stirred every few minutes as to not burn on the bottom of the pot, it is an easy recipe though. I used those ‘5 minute’ grits – just not the instant (comes in packets), you don’t have to buy anything crazy. Trust the recipe and use 1/2 & 1/2, the grits are beyond creamy. These are 2 yummy recipes you can impress your guests with … hello, holiday season is around the corner!

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Okay these 2 dinners are buddies … one night it was garlic shrimp & potato/onion pouches and the other was meatloaf with the same pouches.  I made 2 pouches to be grilled on the same night so I could have a plan ahead dinner 🙂 Who says everything has to be cooked fresh each night?! Yeah so this meatloaf was the bomb dot com. Yes, I went there 😉 A little over 2lbs and we still have leftovers! I have found a dish that has outsmarted my husband, lol! I made/cooked the meatloaf earlier in the day (Friday morning) and reheated it for dinner; I hid the leftovers in the back of the fridge so we’d have dinner for Sunday … he had no idea! Plus we still have 1/3 of it left. Leftovers can be fun, take these open-face meatloaf sandwiches: toasted bread, thinly sliced tomatoes, meatloaf (reheated first), a fried eggs, and ketchup or gravy.

IMG_7968 Pizza night! My husband got spicy Italian sausage and I got mild … everything else was the same: sliced red bell pepper, moz & parm shredded cheese, sauce… done. I love pizza night & trying new toppings!

IMG_8023 Okay this was our splurge meal last night … a 3lb brisket ($20!) which was actually a good deal but it’s the smallest guy I could find so I took it. Into the slow cooker it went and 6 hours later, dinner was ready. We had leftover pasta salad and veggies … I love clearing out the fridge.

Last but not least … brats simmered with onions and beer. One of my husband’s favorites (that he actually cooks! I’m not allowed to help w/ this one… okay 😉 !)
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Simmer for 30 minutes and throw the brats on the grill to crisp the skin … pour the leftover ‘sauce’ (beer/onions) into a large dish, place grilled brats on top, and let people serve themselves. Oh, I should mention we cooked this up for a bbq (along with the pasta salad & cucumber salsa). I also made burgers and they were devoured. We had 2 sausages leftover so of course we took the cheesy grits and cubed the sausages for breakfast the next day. I LOVE LEFTOVERS.

It’s been a good few weeks of leftovers … It was a bigger grocery trip than usual HOWEVER we had and still have meals ready to go. Whether it’s making over a dish (meatloaf turned into sandwiches) or just throwing things together (sausages in grits), don’t think leftovers have to be boring. Same for dishes that you’ve made 10 times … try a new sauce or seasoning. Making something seem “new” can make dinner or any meal for that matter, exciting!

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Beautiful Disasters

Sometimes the best meals come to you when you’re not even thinking about … A few days ago I was getting excited about football season beginning this weekend and in the mix of things I quickly missed Pittsburgh and all of my yinzer friends. Lightbulb, peiorgies and kielbasa! Let’s pay homage to a wonderful city, beautiful friends and family, by eating a yummy meal that can be served with a side of fabulous memories. We love pierogies. LOVE. My husband will think this is silly but when we first started dating, he cooked pierogies a few times and it was ‘his thing’, no one was allowed to help. He’d be so proud of how perfectly they were cooked and would brag all night about dinner, that’s just sort of how he is but I loved watching him cook.

Another bonus for this meal, I can make a double batch and freeze them for a friend who is expecting a baby annnnnny day now (hurry up little one!!). Not all delivered meals have to be casseroles, spaghetti, or lasagna. I mean can you imagine? 5+ nights in a row of essentially the same thing. God Bless people who volunteer to bring meals over (whether there was a loss in the family, a birth, major surgery, etc.) but it’s okay to turn those offers down … I know the meals are meant to be quick and easy to reheat but real meals would be nice. Anyway, who wouldn’t love homemade pierogies and kielbasa?! I know my friend will as she’s a fellow yinzer friend, friends with benefits, HA 😉 !

Let’s take a look at some meals from the last few weeks … I had leftovers *whhhhaaaaat?!* but made sure to revamp them. There is a ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad, it’s entertaining, just wait. My husband also made a request and over of course I couldn’t pass it up. ENJOY!

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A simple meal, smoked sausages (Oscar Mayer, they are so yummy … and better for you!), green bean salad, and roasted potato wedges.

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Chicken and spinach quesadilla and a corn/grape tomato/lettuce salad with Dijon vinaigrette.

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This was one of my revamped leftover dishes.  I made a slow cooker lasagna the previous week and had plenty leftover, I used it as a side dish and baked a quick chicken Parmesan.

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Here is the original dish – Lasagna Soup … which wasn’t soupy at all … so yeah, don’t let the name freak you out. Oh, I couldn’t find a single bottle of V8, small bottles came in 6 packs and we don’t drink that stuff so I used a can of plain tomato sauce.

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We love our pork chops! This version: honey & Dijon ‘sauce’ is the key component to pretty much everything on the plate. I coated the chop in a nice layer of the sauce, let it sit for an hour. While that was going on I pan-cooked mushrooms, bacon (already baked in the oven), and onions – drizzled more of that sauce and just let it simmer for 20 minutes until the onions were really soft. I added the chop into the pan and cooked everything for another 10 minutes, cover the pan so it steams, less splatter and faster cook time! On to the baked sweet potato which took 2 hours to bake. Really. I let my husband pick them out and of course he picked the most gigantic potatoes. As I sliced them open I went to the fridge and realized we were out of butter. Oops. No biggie, we had cream cheese and honey! Oh it was so good… think about it, what do you add to a sweet potato casserole? Usually cream cheese and brown sugar; we had brown sugar but I didn’t want the grittiness opting for honey instead.

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This is how I do corn when the husband isn’t home to man the grill. Salt, pepper, Old Bay (if you’re not from the East Coast you are truly missing out), and 3 blobs of butter. Loosely wrap each ear of corn in foil and bake for 40 minutes … I think I put the oven to 350.

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Another revamped leftover, quinoa stuffed peppers.  I served the corn with it, usually I cook Spanish rice … so just by changing up the side it appears to be a new meal. So if I didn’t tell you I used quinoa it may look like ground meat; I’ve made this one other time with white quinoa and it’s totally an image thing – using red quinoa made the meal look better, closer to using meat, it’s okay to trick the brain. The color really does help! Back story on the quinoa: we got a cute ‘thank you’ bag from a friend after keeping watch on her house while she and the kiddos were out of town and the red quinoa was included. I mean talk about a thoughtful gift, I’d say she knows us pretty well!

A few other cute items that were included was a Parmesan seasoning, add olive oil and it’s ready for bread to be dipped in it. Oh man it was sooooo good!  This shot glass was hiding as well …
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How fun is that? I’ve used it a few times already … so much easier than measuring spoons. I didn’t have to worry about spilling or pouring too much as I measured. It’s now best friends with my wine glass measuring ‘cup’. Greatly appreciated gifts! There are a few other things that I still need to use but I’m sure they will be yummy and fun!

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This was my husbands request … breakfast for dinner! I jokingly suggested chicken and waffles and husband loved the idea, so there that is.
Here’s the waffle recipe

Beer Waffles

2 cups Original Bisquick™ mix
1 egg
1 1/2 cups regular or nonalcoholic beer (12 oz)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

The beer made the waffles so light and fluffy – usually 1 waffle fills us up but being lighter we scarfed down 2 waffles each! Please don’t judge. You couldn’t really taste the beer, we used Dos Equis which is a very light beer. For the chicken, I covered tenders in panko seasoned with cayenne pepper, not too much though, just enough for a tiny kick of flavor.  DRENCH in your favorite syrup and dinner’s ready!  Not exactly a diabetic friendly dinner but we’re allowed to cheat every now and then. I’m considering this meal for when my husband’s family visits next month, I see this being a crowd-pleaser.

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Tell me this doesn’t look yummy.  It’s a cucumber salsa. Healthy and delish. Easy to prep and even easier to enjoy.  Keep this in your back pocket for game days; nasty, greasy food is typically served up along a riveting football game. Opt for something like this! It looks like avocados but when it hits your taste buds it’ll be light and tangy.  I can’t remember what I served this with, I used it as a side for dinner one night. Yes it’s okay to use a ‘dip’ as a side.

AS PROMISED, the tale of the ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad.

Friends invited us to their lake house for Labor Day weekend (the same friend who is STILL pregnant 😉 ) … I offered to bring a pasta salad. This wasn’t just any pasta salad, it was inspired by an Italian hoagie. We’re talking red onion, pepperoni, sausage, olives, red wine vinaigrette … the works. After making an early trip to the grocery store I slave over the counter slicing and dicing and boiling 8 cups of pasta:
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I combine everything and let it chill in the fridge:

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Beautiful, right? This is only a half serving, for photo purposes only, lol; aluminum tins don’t look pretty in pictures.

Back to the story, after everything was wrapped and ready to go, the salad was on the corner counter; my husband told me to get the lake house address … I went off to text my friend (my purse was in the car because we were pretty much ready to leave). I send the text and my husband gets in the car, we leave. Surely you know what’s about to happen. 45 minutes later we arrive at the lake house, I start walking to the house and my husband asks “aren’t you going to get the food?” OH SH*T. It was still sitting on the counter!  I got sidetracked, thought my husband would have seen the 10lbs of pasta salad to bring to the car.  Well that’s not what happened at all. He then asked if I wanted him to go back and get the salad, I said “yes” without hesitation, lol! I offered to do it since I forgot it but he’s the best and began his journey to save the salad.  Friends at the house asked if anything would go back in the salad, my response: the cheese, meat, onions …everything that made the salad cost $40. That’s right, I spent $40 on a pasta salad. D’oh. It’s not like we left behind a bag of chips. So he made the 45 min drive home and 45 min drive back to the lake house, hence the newly named ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad. It was a beautiful ALMOST disaster of the night which is okay because it was delish and all of it went. Well thank goodness … I mean, if it were out of pity then only some of it would have been consumed but not 1 noodle was left.  In the end, I’m glad he went back for the pasta and thankful I have such an awesome husband. LOVE YOU BABE!

 

what happens in Vegas …

Sous Chef Geno has been getting the royal treatment lately.  He got into some trash (not our doing or fault… don’t get me started, I have the issue under control and have spoke to the appropriate people) and hasn’t been feeling or acting like himself. 3 trips later [to the vet] and slowly his usual cuteness is returning. The royal treatment per meal: 2 spoon fulls of pumpkin pie filling, 1 tummy ache pill, 1 steroid, and 1 pro-biotic … plus us having the pleasure of watching him go to the bathroom. I know I know, this is close to TMI (especially for a food blog) but I started off mentioning all of this because a dog eating trash and getting sick was similar to us eating crap … resulting in not feeling well. Could it be a metaphor for life? Maybe. STOP EATING TRASH! What’s that saying… you are what you eat? I think it totally holds true.

<end rant>

So I’m home from Vegas and I’ll tell you what, I went against everything I’ve been working hard at since last year – eating right, not eating as much, etc. I did manage to not snack although it was tempting. You’re on vacation and you think “I can cheat”. DON’T DO IT. You’ll thank me later! I cheated, big time. I had fast food, sweets, soda, and mega-carbs. You name it, I ate it. Boy did my stomach hate me (maybe I could have used some of Geno’s pills.. JUST KIDDING. Chill). It was all so delish though! Geeze did I miss the flavor of grease and the sweetness of real sugar. Then again, I ended up with massive headaches and my guilt kicking in. The next vacation I really do need to stick to my new eating habits, not feeling well for 4 days while I was supposed to be enjoying time off, was definitely not worth it. Listen, in moderation I think all of things are okay but not jammed packed, back to back for each meal, 4 days straight.

Okay, okay – I’ll give you menu for this past week.  Thank you for sitting through my venting.

Tuesday- Zucchini Lasagna.
“When you said zucchini lasagna I didn’t know you meant no noddles” Josh. Who didn’t listen when I explained that this zucchini lasagna used NO NODDLES; the zucchini becomes the layer separation. Which also means he took too much insulin because he thought there’d be a lot of carbs. I did serve garlic bread though to help balance veggies vs. carbs but it wasn’t enough; he went hunting in the fridge for more food. MEN! 😉

This is not a vegetarian lasagna, it calls for ground beef (I used turkey). I’m sure you could remove the meat because there are a ton of veggies in it, or just double what the recipe says and there will plenty of “sauce” to add between the layers.

My dish did not come out as pretty as the allrecipes.com post, of course. It’s incredibly messy but it was sooooooo good! Bit of a change to the recipe: I forgot the thaw the spinach so it didn’t get added. Oh well. I honestly ran out of stacking space so it worked in my favor (Take out the meat and use spinach? You’d have the room for it). I think next time I might grill the zucchini (on the g.f.), the dish needed structure which stiffer/thicker noodles typically provide. By grilling, I’d think that it’d firm the veggies, giving it more structure instead of just slopping onto my plate.

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Wednesday was a slow cooker repeat, our favorite enchilada meal. I used baby shrimp this time around – so good! I love that recipe, it’s the easiest and tastiest. I didn’t double it, just made enough for one night. Thursday had shrimp planned again and I didn’t want insane leftovers of shrimp dishes although my husband wouldn’t care. He’s my garbage disposal after all!

Thursday brought on a new recipe via Paula Deen which we all know means there was a TON of butter in the recipe. I cut it by half and you wouldn’t know the difference (my arteries did and thanked me).  This was my best creation yet. I’m still trying to figure out the correct amount of s & p to use; I know that sounds ridiculous but I honestly can’t get it right! It’s either too much and I feel like I’m licking a brick of salt or there’s not enough and I may as well be eating cardboard. Cooking takes work on balancing spices, keep at it and one day, voila, success! I wanted to go back for seconds but I knew better. ImageImageImage

To make eating easier, I cut all of the shrimp tails off PRIOR to cooking. I don’t feel like working for my meal … either way I’d cut them, may as well do it before I sit down. On top of the called for ingredients I added my last zucchini, rather use it than toss it! You can add any veggie to this, at least that’s my opinion. We have leftovers which I’ll be enjoying tonight – Josh is off to Austin for a JROTC competition, only 1 night so he won’t get to enjoy that weird city (so many great food options out there!). 

That’s my week, feel free to wear it [the recipes] out! Bonus: my tummy is almost back to normal. I think my body absorbed more than I thought…

P.S. that enchilada recipe was my first pin on Pinterest … what was yours? Comment below! Also, how many of you actually make the things you pin? Sure, I have my “one day” kind of board, like artwork I’d love to create or furniture I’d love to own … but I stay true to my “yum-o” board. I’ve cooked almost everything pinned.

Don’t forget my IG food tags #kitchentails to see my current cooking adventures!!

 

Where’s that take out menu?

Yesterday was a whirlwind of a day. I had been waking up sans alarm around 7-7:30am for the last few days and of course the one day I needed to wake up early, my body turned against me and I slept in until almost 9am. Drat! Oh well, I’ll just get my coffee and be about my day. I decided to call Josh’s sister, Jess and all of a sudden it’s 12:30pm. D’oh! I wouldn’t trade that chat session for the world, it was good to catch up with her.  When family and friends live hundreds of miles away you take any phone time you can get.

Get off the phone, shower, GO! I had exactly one hour before my first music student arrived.

I had to run to the grocery store for rotisserie chicken and corn bread (essentials for dinner!); I like to buy it fresh.  I don’t know what I was thinking but I went to the commissary. Retreat (something to do with basic training graduation) turns the base in to a zoo… no, airport… no, post office.  Common sense has gone out the window; as soon as visitors come on to base I kid you not, they forget what their right hand is vs. their left foot. It takes forever to go through the gate and the driving slows down to about 15-20mph (30 is the usual) … ohhhh airplanes! YES! You’re on an Air Force base! What were you expecting?! The base needs a pull off area so people can stop to look at the planes; I think those are called parking lots. BT-dubs, there are parking lots all over base but then again visitors don’t know what the paved open lots are for as their brains have been beamed up to space.  P.S. NEVER EVER EVER EVER go to Lackland on any given Thursday or Friday.

Here’s the rest of my afternoon in a nut shell:

My teaching schedule changed without prior knowledge and I had to roll with it.  I would have 20 minutes to get dinner ready … originally 35 minutes. Listen, as a music teacher I live by 30 minute increments.  Ask any private teacher, it’s how we plan our lives; needless to say 20 minutes to do something is like turning a 30 minute TV show on about half way through… what’s the point of watching it now?

With those 20 minutes I managed to get dinner ready… opening cans & rinsing beans is obviously easy but I had to shred the darn rotisserie chicken. Those chickens are always greasy so I like to pat the meat dry but time didn’t permit for that. In went the greasy chicken, oh well … hopefully the enchilada sauce would cover that taste. At the 19 minute mark, I was washing my hands and wiping down the counters. PHEW, MADE IT!  We won’t have to order take out.  Why did I bore you with this side story? To prove that you don’t need a ton of time to prep a decent meal.  Crock pot meals are essential in this house when I have marathon lessons; yesterday was 9 lessons from 2-9:30pm.  I did omit the corn bread topping only because I didn’t know if I’d have time to make it (it goes on half way through cooking); hence the muffins I ended up purchasing. The topping is totally necessary; the casserole didn’t taste as sweet (maybe it was the greasy chicken) but it was still really good.  I could have actually made it, I found myself with 30 minutes between two other lessons since traffic wasn’t bad however I always plan for traffic. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I’ll leave you with pictures from my first attempt cooking this meal, cornbread topping included.  It was so delish, everyone went back for seconds proceeded by games of naps (that’s the name for nap time in our house).  I’ve made this dish with FROZEN shrimp as well which I added to the crock pot right before pouring the cornbread mixture on top. No one likes rubbery shrimp.

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I always double the recipe so we have leftovers. You can make it as spicy as you’d like, opt for HOT enchilada sauce and HOT salsa.  I use MEDIUM enchilada sauce and MILD salsa, I also get the gourmet salsa with added veggies and beans, so tasty. The rice was a side dish… not part of the crock pot recipe; you’ll be too full to eat it.

RECIPE: the original blogger won’t get credit due to the page not working half of the time.  Too bad.

1 small can diced green chiles, divided
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
3 to 4 chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (or omit for vegetarian)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn with red & green peppers, drained (or 1 1/2 cup frozen)
1 (10 oz.) can enchilada sauce

1 (8.5 oz) package corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy… follow the box recipe for corn bread!!! You’ll need eggs)
2 T chopped roaste red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded Mexican cheese
for garnish – sour cream, more sliced cilantro

1. Place half the chiles and the rest of the ingredients through enchilada sauce into the cooker; stir well. Cover with lid and cook on LOW for 4 hours.

2. Combine the rest of the chiles, corn muffin mix, and chopped red pepper in a bowl. Spoon batter evenly over the bean mixture in the cooker. Cover and cook 1 hour until the crust is done. (2 hours if you double the recipe!!!)

3. Sprinkle the cheese over the corn bread, turn off the crockpot and let it sit 5 minutes until the cheese melts. Top each serving with a tablespoon of sour cream and additional cilantro, optional. Makes about 6 servings.

**in my opinion: 6 small servings… doubling the recipe is the way to go.