Smitten Saturdays: Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout

This will be a very quick post because I am in the thick of finalizing (read: writing practically from scratch) four course syllabi for the spring semester, which starts on Monday.

(Side note: I am terrified by how much preparation a couple of these courses I’m teaching will require. I will definitely not be getting paid enough for my services this semester.)


This week’s recipe is the Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout (p. 137). I didn’t make the spaghetti squash and black bean tacos as anticipated because I just couldn’t do that to my family. But I loved this recipe (beans in a slow cooker? What’s not to love?). The spices were perfectly balanced and the beans tender and not at all mushy. Maybe an entire large onion was unnecessary; I’d probably go with a smaller one next time.

I served these beans with taco fixings, even though my husband and I were the only ones who ate them (when the Big Kid complained about the beans having onions, my husband said, “well, I don’t even like beans,” which was news to me). This means that I’ve got several servings of black bean ragout for my lunches this upcoming week (I’ll freeze them and space them out over the next few weeks for everyone’s sake), and that’s totally okay. I’ve got a heap of corn tortillas (and a neglected spaghetti squash) and a busy schedule ripe for a grab-and-go lunch. Some lettuce, a little dab of guac and sour cream, plus some sliced olives and jalapenos added to the beans make for a healthed-up (read: no fried, edible bowl) taco salad. Or you can just heat up the beans and eat them with a hunk of multigrain bread for a wholesome peasant’s meal. Black bean ragout: Versatile!


Next time: Baked Potato Crisps with the Works (p. 296), which will a dry run for a potential contribution to Sally and Chad’s annual Super Bowl commercial-watching potluck!

Processing (Chocolate Cobbler in the Crock Pot)

I’ve been quiet. I haven’t really had much to say, really. I put up my most recent entry two months ago and since then, I have survived another incredibly busy SXSW, started a temp proofreading/copyediting job, applied for jobs and fellowships, traveled to Boston for a conference, finished out the semester (probably my last at this Large Southern University), written a ton of freelance stuff, started a bunch of really cool projects, and done a bit of walking the black dog, if you will.

The completed PhD candidate with no academic job prospects is a curious creature, especially when that dearth of prospects is a bit self-created (say, you’ve got a husband with a really good non-portable job and retirement and kids in school and aging parents nearby and deep community ties; in that situation, you’re not really in the position to go chasing far-flung one-year postdocs or visiting jobs or other contingent employment with shit pay). Some people are supportive, some people think they’re being supportive but are actually twisting the knife with their words, and some won’t make eye contact when they pass you in the halls or at parties.

So, I’ve been doing a lot of processing. I hit a rather low point a week or so ago; the last day of classes, actually. It had been a pretty melancholy week. My husband’s elderly grandmother had passed away and he was about to leave for four days to go pay his respects. MCA died, a loss that truly felt like a bit of goodness had just left the world. And, it was the last day of classes. That was it, done, goodbye, no more teaching (maybe). I went to a party at the house of one of my committee members and I just … broke. The combination of wine and pity and avoidance just did me in.

And then my husband left for the weekend and the kids and I had a (mostly) perfectly lovely time together and something shifted. I was happy and content. I realized that have everything I ever wanted: a loving husband, two adorable (and maddening) children, a nice house, a pretty solid writing career, and I’ve achieved the one major goal I’ve ever set for myself, which was to get the PhD. I have a lot of friends and a supportive family.

I have a bright future. I just have to choose to see it that way.

I hope I’m not coming across as complaining or having a pity party. That is not the intent. I’m just trying to communicate my mental and emotional process over the past couple of months.

Sometimes the process isn’t pretty.

But things start to come together.

And then you have dessert.

I first saw this chocolate cobbler recipe on Tasty Kitchen (sorry, no link; it’s my policy not to send any traffic to Ree Drummond) a couple of years ago and thought, “Oh, that could do nicely.” And then I forgot about it. Then I found this crockpot-friendly adaptation while idly perusing Pinterest, and since I am home sick(ish) with a sick(ish) kiddo and it’s been raining, I decided to give it a whack.

Once upon a time, the Alamo Drafthouse had a molten chocolate cake that I ordered pretty much every time I went to see a movie there (pause for reflection on the closet full of pants that don’t fit…). They’ve since done away with it and have something called “brownie cookies” in its stead. They’re close, but no cigar. This chocolate cobbler comes close. Dangerously close. 

I won’t replicate the recipe here because I followed it as written. I will note, however, that the cook time as written might be a bit long, based on your slow cooker. My Crock Pot runs hot and the cobbler was sizzling after 2.5 hours. Served warm, it is a spongy cake interspersed with a chocolate sauce evocative of warm pudding. Top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ve got a perfectly satisfying dessert, the result of a long and sometimes-ugly process.

Slow Cooker Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

Oh, this life as a food writer (and as someone who is surrounded by other food writers/bloggers and lovers of food) is wearing on me. And by “wearing on me,” I mean “I have to log 15-20 miles per week running or on the elliptical in order to fit into what few items of clothing I have that still fit me.” Sometimes you just have to clean that mess up. And with the weekend ahead of me — lunch tomorrow at Lucky J’s and dinner at Lucy’s, plus a baby shower here and a Super Bowl potluck on Sunday — I suspect I will be on an all-juice diet at least one day next week!

But tonight was all about vegetables, getting some fiber down the hatch in a pleasurable way. I had planned to make these for a vegetarian mommy meal, but a casserole presented itself for that family and we wound up having these all to ourselves. I like these because they are not super heavy in cheese (although they could be if you wanted them to) and they are mostly vegetables. I found these via Pinterest, and tweaked the recipe to suit what I had on hand (primarily a large bundle of spinach I’d bought at the farmers market and needed to use up). Once they’re cooked, they more closely resemble chilaquiles than enchiladas, but what is really important is that they are really, really delicious with the bonus of being incredibly easy.

(And we shall not speak of the peanut butter brownies and lemon sponge cake in the fridge.)

Slow Cooker Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

adapted from The Kitchn

1/2 white onion, diced
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a blend of cheddar and monterey jack)
3 cups salsa (I used Mrs. Renfro’s)
12 small corn tortillas

Mix together the onion, spinach, beans, spices, sour cream, and 1/2 cup cheese in a bowl.
Pour 1 cup salsa into the slow cooker and cover the surface of the crock.
Make a single layer of six enchiladas by filling each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of filling, then rolling it and placing it on top of the salsa.
Spread a cup of salsa on top of your first layer, then sprinkle it evenly with 1/2 cup of cheese.
Make the second layer of enchiladas with the remaining filling and six tortillas.
Top with the final cup of salsa, but do not top with cheese.
Cover the crock pot and cook on high for about 3 hours.
15 minutes before serving, top with the remaining cheese and allow to melt.

Meal plan, May 15-21

Oh hey! Here’s a meal plan for the first time in months! I’ve been remiss in blogging, yes, and in making a weekly meal plan. This has led to many impromptu, less-than-balanced meals, many shortcuts, and just a general sense of chaos. I just completed my first three weeks of a temporary full-time copyediting job that lasts through the end of June, which means that I’ve spent the past three weeks juggling the end of the semester (tonight = paper grading marathon!) with working full time, trying to squeeze in workouts, and trying to live life. I’ve missed having the sense of order that having a plan provides. I also miss having a proper family meal.

Sunday: Richardson Farms sausage, crispy potato roast, steamed broccoli, watermelon
Monday: black bean tostadas with portabellos
Tuesday: pork tenderloin, mac and cheese (with whole wheat pasta), salad with greens from Tecolote Farms
Wednesday: baked chicken, rice, carrots (or maybe leftovers)
Thursday: crockpot short ribs, whole wheat fettucine from Pasta & Co., salad
Friday: tilapia, potatoes, broccoli
Saturday: dinner out

Menu plan: January 31-Feb 6

photo snagged from

I confess: I wrote out this week’s menu plan during the sermon at church yesterday, but only after I updated my Facebook status expressing my joy that the offertory music was a Nick Drake song. #churchfail

We’re supposed to get an ARCTIC BLAST this week, so I’m going for the warm and comforting/get all of this freaking soup OUT OF MY FREEZER NOW.

Monday: leftovers
Tuesday: salmon, spinach, roasted new potatoes and winter veg like purple cauliflower, carrots, and beets procured from the farmers market
Wednesday: barbecue pulled chicken in the crockpot, tortillas, broccoli, perhaps some taco fixings
Thursday: panini, soup, crunchy veggies
Friday orange-dijon chicken sausage, brown rice (cooked in the Zojirushi I gave Matt for Christmas so that I don’t ruin it), salad
Saturday: TBA. We’re going up to Ft. Hood for my nephew and niece’s joint birthday party (at Chuck E. Cheese, blarfgh) at noon; I’m hoping to have dinner out after the fact.
Sunday: Super Bowl party at a friend’s house; they’re grilling sausage and I’m bringing radish butter with multigrain bread and also sweet and salty brownies.

What’s on your menu?

Aloo gobi in the crockpot

This week has been hectic. Between trying to maintain what fragile traction I have on my fourth dissertation chapter, jumping “once more into the breach” of the Spring semester, and dealing with Week 2 of the toddler’s virus(es), I haven’t had much time for blogging (or exercise or knitting or reading or doing much other than staring slack-jawed at the TV after the kids go to bed). But I did want to share this recipe for Aloo gobi, which was on the menu this week for Meatless Monday.

I really love Indian food, but have had middling luck making it at home. A couple of years ago, I made a full Indian meal for some friends, including biryani, saag paneer, and kheer (plus premade samosas and naan). I roasted and ground the spices and refused to cut any corners in assembling the food. (Which is probably why I haven’t done such a stunt since.) A few months back, I made chicken tikka masala and it was pretty good. And a while back, I made palaak tofu in the crockpot and it was blandy bland blanderson. But yummy.

So, I approached this recipe with measured expectations, hoping it would be good, but fully cognizant of the fact that it may well be awful. Surprise! It wasn’t! The only problem was that I needed to either cook it longer or cut the potatoes smaller because they weren’t done after three hours. But the leftovers are delicious and next time I’ll add tofu for a bit of protein.

Crockpot Aloo Gobi
adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker

1 large cauliflower, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 medium tomato, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used a garlic press)
1 largeish serrano (the original calls for 3-4 green Thai peppers or serranos, but I’ve got to mind the Scovilles with the small ones around.) (Not that they ate any of it.)
1 T cumin seeds
1 T red chili powder
1 T garam masala
1 T salt (I was so relieved to see this much salt in the recipe! I am so sick of underseasoned recipes!)
1 t turmeric powder
3 T canola oil (make sure you’re using non-GMO canola oil; I use Spectrum. I reckon if you’re anti-canola in general, you could use butter instead or regular old vegetable oil)

(The cookbook also calls for a heaping T of chopped cilantro, but I don’t know why you’d want to ruin your dish with that foul herb.)

Put all the ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on low for three hours (or more, if necessary). Stir occasionally. Don’t worry if the cauliflower seems crunchy; it will eventually soften and release liquid. (Here’s where you add cilantro, if you want to ruin your meal.) Serve with rice or naan, or if you’re me, both. Yay, carbs!

Menu plan: January 17-23

It’s cookbook week! I’ve decided to plan this week’s menu from my cookbook archives, especially since I have some that I’ve barely used! However, tragedy has struck! I just got back from this week’s shop (done a day late because I was out of town) and left my menu plan at the grocery store. D’oh! So, I’m cobbling this together from memory.

Monday: Meatless night! Aloo gobi from my new copy of The Indian Slow Cooker, a Christmas gift from my brother and sister-in-law.

Tuesday: Tilapia fish tacos, beans, salad

Wednesday: leftovers/fend for yourself

Thursday: Quiche Savoyarde a la Tomme from Joan Nathan’s Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous, which was sent to me via the inimitable Jodi Bart. I tragically missed out on the opportunity to see Ms. Nathan at the Jewish Book Festival back in October because of my stupid email filters. I’m still kicking myself over it. Salad and crusty bread.

Friday: Soup and sandwiches. I’ve got a ton of soup in the freezer from a soup swap I attended back in December. Probably veggie minestrone for the kids and a curried groundnut for me and Matt. Also, Matt bought a new panini press at the Macy’s closing sale down the street, so we’ll probably give that a whirl.

Saturday: I just picked up some center-cut pork chops at the grocery, so we’ll have those along with some couscous and maybe some salad or veggies from the farmer’s market.

Sunday: Roasted chicken with potatoes and onions from The Lee Bros. Simple, Fresh, Southern, which Matt gave to me last Christmas. I’ve not cooked much from it apart from the pimiento and cheese gratin, but I’ve got my eye on the radish butter to take to my friend’s Super Bowl party. (Because nothing says SUPER BOWL like radish butter!)

(Pausing to say here: You may be scoffing at the idea of radish butter, but I say that you have not lived until you’ve had a thick piece of multigrain bread with a generous shmear of good butter and sliced radishes. HEAVENLY.)

There you have it! What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Chicken Delicioso

This is quite possibly the easiest dinner you will ever make for your family. This week is crazy bananas busy for me, so I planned the menu accordingly.

Here are your ingredients, plus a pound or so (I used 1.75 lbs because my chicken was an impenetrable frozen-solid chunk) of chicken breast, frozen, and a chopped-up bell pepper:

Toss it all (don’t drain the beans and corn) in a crockpot (sans bell pepper, which you will add during the last hour or so) and cook it on low for 8 hours. Before serving, shred the chicken with two forks. Serve with tortillas, cheese, and a big green salad.

Soup’s on. Matt came up with the name when Harry asked what we were having for dinner. It must have worked, because I heard not a single whine or complaints of dinner being “disGUSTing!”

Makes 8 servings, 4 Weight Watchers POINTS per serving.