Restaurant-Style Slow Cooker Refried Beans

Why are refried beans so good at Mexican restaurants and so NOT good when you buy them canned at the grocery store? It’s because any truly good Mexican restaurant makes their own refried beans. Homemade refried beans made from dried pinto beans are not only leaps and bounds tastier than their canned counterparts (though I can hardly even make this comparison in good faith), they are insanely economical. For just a few dollars, you can make enough delicious beans to last your family for quite a few meals. 

This recipe for restaurant-style slow cooker refried beans really couldn’t be more simple and hands-off. Throw together the ingredients in the morning and leave them to cook while you’re at work, and you’ll come home to a wonderful-smelling kitchen and super yummy beans that taste great in burritos, tostadas, tacos, or on the side of your Mexican favorites. Don’t buy canned beans. Make them yourself, and your family will thank you.   


1 lb. dry pinto beans, rinsed

1 onion, peeled and quartered

6 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 serrano pepper, quartered

2 tsp. cumin

2 Tbsp. olive oil

8 c. chicken broth or water 

Salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a large slow cooker (except for the salt and pepper). Set to high and cook for 8 hours or low for 12 hours. 

Drain the beans in a colander (reserving about a cup of the water) and place them back into the slow cooker. Using an immersion blender, blend until the beans reach your desired consistency. If the beans are too thick, add some of the cooking water until they are just how you like them!

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or store in an airtight container for later use.

Desserts/Sweets Vegetarian

Good Old-Fashioned Zucchini Bread

Is it just me, or is zucchini bread the best bread? It’s not sickeningly sweet, but it’s sweet enough to eat for dessert. I really don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I just can’t resist a warm-freshly-baked slice of zucchini bread with lots of butter on top. The perfect little green morsels of zucchini add just enough moisture and balance out the sweetness of the sugar to make the most yummy bread ever. 

This good old-fashioned zucchini bread is so delicious that a loaf rarely even lasts for an hour after coming out of the oven, which is exactly why I designed this recipe to make two loaves. If you’re lucky, both loaves may last you 24 hours. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Ingredients (Makes two loaves):

2 c. zucchini, grated

2 ½ c. sugar

3 eggs

3 c. flour

3 Tbsp. vanilla

1 c. olive oil

3 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine the zucchini, oil, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix again. Then, add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder slowly and mix to combine thoroughly. 

Grease two bread pans with lots of oil so your bread doesn’t stick to them later. Pour the mix into two bread pans evenly. 

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick into the center of the bread and it comes out clean. Allow the loaves to rest for a few minutes, and then carefully loosen the sides of the bread with a rubber spatula. Flip the loaves onto a plate. 

Enjoy warm with butter on top!

Vegan Vegetarian

Crispy Harissa Tofu with Almond-Mint Quinoa and Feta

While tofu has gained a lot of popularity in the last decade or so, many people still shy away from making it on a regular basis. I’m guessing that some people just can’t get over the fact (yes, fact) that the white, jiggly cube of wet stuff that is tofu can actually be one of the best-tasting foods ever if it’s prepared well. 

Enter this crispy harissa-coated tofu with almond-mint quinoa and feta. If I was going to write a song about tofu, this would definitely be my muse. This perfectly crisp on the outside, tender on the inside tofu is so flavorful, full of exotic spices, and FUN. Yes, fun! The depth and spiciness of the harissa tofu is balanced by the fresh-tasting, mint-essenced quinoa, fresh cucumbers, and feta cheese; and what results is one of the best meals you can even imagine. So go buy yourself a jiggly white block of tofu and make some magic with it!



1 package of extra-firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted

¼ c. harissa sauce (store-bought or homemade)


1 c. quinoa, uncooked

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

Juice from ½ lemon

3 green onions, sliced

¼ c. fresh mint leaves, torn

¼ c. almonds, chopped or whole (your preference)

Salt and red pepper flakes to taste


Feta cheese (or vegan feta)

Sliced cucumbers

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. About 30 minutes before cooking, drain the tofu, wrap it in a kitchen towel and press it. You can do this by placing a plate on top of the tofu, and then a heavy item, like a stock pot, on top of the plate for about 10 minutes. This will help remove excess water from the tofu. 

Combine the cornstarch and salt in a small bowl. Combine the coconut oil and tofu in another bowl and mix together until the oil coats the tofu. Then, add the oil-coated tofu to the bowl with the cornstarch and salt and coat the tofu cubes evenly. 

Spread out the tofu on a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until the tofu is crispy and golden. Remove the tofu from the oven, place in a large mixing bowl and toss with harissa (you control the amount of harissa, it’s a taste preference thing). Place the tofu back onto the baking sheet and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until they are nice and crispy. 

Cook the quinoa according to directions, but add the olive oil and garlic when you begin cooking the quinoa. When the quinoa is finished cooking, remove from the heat and place in a serving bowl. Add the lemon juice, green onions, mint, salt and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. 

Divide the quinoa among two bowls. Top with the tofu, and serve with cucumbers and feta cheese. Enjoy!

Sauces/Dressings/Broth Vegetarian

Fennel Frond and Almond Pesto

When you cook fennel, do you throw the fronds away? If so, break that habit – stat! It’s not just the fennel bulb that is delicious, the fronds are also pretty amazing. Some people use the fronds to add a little extra oomph to salads, but have you ever considered making fennel frond pesto? 

Pesto is one of those foods that can be created using ingredients that are often thrown away, like fennel fronds. If you’ve never ventured outside of making traditional basil pesto, it’s time to expand your pesto horizons. 

This fennel frond and almond pesto is so fresh, clean, and earthy. It adds so much depth and flavor to pastas, sandwiches, pizzas, seafood, chicken, and veggies. And because you probably usually throw away those fennel fronds, it’s sort of like getting a free meal. A super delicious, healthy meal that your family will love.


3 c. fennel fronds, rinsed and stems removed 

¼ c. almonds

2 cloves of garlic

⅓ c. olive oil

¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated

Juice from one lemon

Salt and red pepper flakes

Combine the fennel fronds, almonds, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are mixed together. Add the oil a bit at a time and process until the pesto reaches the desired consistency. Season with salt and red pepper flakes and mix together again. 

Use in pasta, on fish, chicken, pizza, sandwiches and as a dip for veggies or crackers. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze.

Pasta Vegetarian

Pasta with Lemon, Fried Leeks, Peas and Goat Cheese

This light and veggie-filled pasta is bursting with all kinds of delightful springtime ingredients that will certainly make you smile when you taste them all together. This pasta with lemon, fried leeks, peas, and goat cheese boasts all of the fun flavors of delicious, carby pasta but with a much smaller calorie load. 

The surprisingly-small amount of goat cheese added into the pasta creates a creamy and satisfying taste without the guilt. The strong flavors of the leeks and onions are complemented by the sweet peas and tangy lemons. This delicious pasta dish is perfected with fresh herbs and sharp Parmesan on top. All of those ingredients work together to get you a ton of flavor bang for your taste buck. And it’s all ready in under 30 minutes. 


8 oz. fettuccine or linguine

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 leeks, halved, cleaned and sliced

2 green onions, sliced

1 c. peas

Juice from ½ lemon

2 Tbsp. chives, chopped

2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

2 oz. goat cheese

Salt and pepper

Parmesan,for topping

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Reserve ¼ c. pasta water.

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the leeks and green onions and cook for 7-8 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Add the peas and heat through until they are bright green, about 1-2 minutes. 

Add the cooked pasta and pasta water to the skillet and toss. Add in the lemon juice and goat cheese and continue to toss until the ingredients are mixed evenly throughout the pasta. Season with salt and pepper and mix again. 

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Top with parsley, chives, and Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Sandwiches Vegan Vegetarian

Chickpea Summer Wraps with Hummus Dressing

If you’re craving a super-fresh veggie wrap that is satisfying, flavorful, healthy, and takes basically no time to make, skip the trip to the expensive sandwich shop and make this instead. The warm, soft tortilla and the crisp, clean veggies are perfectly married thanks to the meaty, hummus-flavored chickpeas and tangy cheese that tie all of the flavors and textures together. 

This vegetarian wrap is perfect for a work-ready lunch or a quick and easy dinner that would be great with a side salad or some hot, salty french fries. If you prefer a vegan version, just omit the cheese. With or without cheese, these hummus-coated, garlicky chickpeas are divine and make this wrap very special indeed.


2 large tortillas or wraps

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 small tomatoes, diced

2 green onions, sliced

1 avocado, sliced into thin strips

½ cucumber, chopped

Handful of spinach 

¼ c. hummus dressing

2 slices of baby swiss cheese or vegan cheese

Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine the chickpeas with the hummus dressing. Season with salt and pepper as needed. 

Heat the tortillas or wraps until they are warm and pliable. 

Cut each cheese slice in half and spread out over the middle of the tortilla. Place the chickpeas lengthwise in the center of each tortilla. Top with tomatoes, onions, avocado, and spinach. 

Add more hummus dressing and season with salt and pepper, if desired. 

Fold the sides in and then roll like a burrito. Cut in half and enjoy!


New Mexican Hatch Chile Relleno

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not December. It’s Hatch chile season, and that is truly an exciting annual event. Once you get sucked into Hatch season, holiday food pales in comparison. If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating Hatch chiles, do yourself a favor and try them. They are worth the hype, trust me. 

As soon as the season kicked off around here and the bins of Young Guns chiles appeared in our local stores, I was right there with a huge cart buying literal cases of these green beauties. I have been making many of my favorite green chile dishes, but the crown jewel is the ridiculously delicious Hatch chile relleno. 

These crispy, yet tender, cheese-filled peppers are so good that you will not be able to stop thinking about them, which may be a good thing during chile season. They’re inexpensive and easy to make, and everyone loves them. So be like me, and buy cases of these. Roast them and save them up for winter, because there’s only one Hatch season per year. 


6 large Hatch chiles (or poblano peppers), roasted, peeled and seeded

6 strips of your favorite cheese: Muenster, queso asadero, Oaxaca cheese, Monterey Jack, or any other favorite

1 c. flour

3 eggs

2 c. frying oil

Salt and pepper

Serve with:

Green chile, red chile, salsa, cheese, cilantro, green onions, or any other favorite toppings

If you need to roast the peppers, preheat the oven to broil. Place the chiles on a lined baking sheet and broil them for 5 minutes. Flip them over and broil them until they are blistered and blackened (but not burned). 

Place them in a glass bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let the chiles rest for about 10 minutes. This will make them easier to peel. Carefully peel the skin off of the chiles, make a slit in each one lengthwise and remove the seeds. Set aside. 

Stuff each chile with the cheese very carefully. The chiles are a bit fragile after roasting, so be gentle. If they tear a little, it’s no biggie. You can place toothpicks through them to hold them together if necessary. Just don’t forget to take the toothpicks out prior to serving! 

Prepare the oil for frying by heating it in a deep, large skillet over medium high heat. Set a paper towel-lined plate next to the stove so that you can place your chiles there to drain after frying. 

While the oil is heating up, combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a large plate. Set aside.

Separate the egg whites and yolks in separate bowls. Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff. Whisk in the yolks until they are well combined. Season with a little salt and pepper and whisk one more time. 

To batter the chiles, roll each one in the flour mixture and then dip them into the egg mixture. 

To fry the rellenos, carefully place two at a time into the hot oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until they are browned and crispy. Turn them over and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side. Place them on the paper towel-lined plate to drain. 

To serve, place the chile rellenos on a plate and serve smothered with red or green chile; or if you prefer, alone with your favorite accompaniments on the side. Enjoy!


Super-Fast Hummus Dressing

We often have hummus around the house, and there are usually no leftovers. But sometimes there’s that rare occasion when there’s a bit of hummus left in the fridge for a couple of days that needs to get used up. Do NOT throw that hummus away! Take that little extra bit and turn it into a super tasty salad dressing that requires virtually no effort to prepare. Then, whip up a beautiful salad, drizzle this dressing on, and boom – you’ve got an awesome lunch! 


½ c. hummus (homemade or store-bought)

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Juice from ½ lemon

1 tsp. honey or agave

2 Tbsp. water

Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients except for the water in a bowl and whisk together until combined. Slowly add water and whisk until the dressing reaches the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.


Low-Carb Cabbage and Egg Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce

Do you ever really crave peanut noodles but you’re currently “behaving” and trying to eat healthier? Maybe you’re really burned out on zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash, but you REALLY need to get those veggies in? Well, this low-carb cabbage and egg stir fry can help you stay on track, eat your veggies, and satisfy your craving. And eggs are included, so there’s no problem fitting in your protein boost. These peanut-sauce covered veggies are so good, you may momentarily forget about the missing noodles. 


1 Tbsp. olive oil

4 c. shredded cabbage

½ c. shredded carrots

½ red bell pepper chopped

¼ c. green onions, sliced

¼ c. peanuts

3 eggs

Two-Minute Peanut Sauce 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the cabbage, carrots, and red peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until soft. Add the green onion and cook for one more minute. 

Make a space in the center of the skillet and scramble the eggs. Stir to mix the veggies and eggs quickly. Add the peanut sauce and heat through for about one minute. Divide into bowls and top with peanuts and additional green onions, if desired. 

Breakfast Vegetarian

Squash Blossom and Goat Cheese Frittata

Squash blossoms are one of those things that are ubiquitous in backyards during the summer. Many of us like to grow squash because it can pretty much grow everywhere. The squash blossoms that show up on these amazing big-leafed plants are not only beautiful, happy flowers, they also tell us that our harvest is coming soon. Most people never think about picking and eating the blossoms, but they are one of the most delicious, tender parts of the plant. Who knew you had such a delightful ingredient growing in your yard?

There’s a trick when it comes to harvesting squash blossoms: you want to eat the male flowers and leave the female blossoms on the plant because those are the ones that produce your food. How do you know the difference? The male flowers have long, skinny stems attached to them and the female flowers have a bulb-like protrusion underneath the flower. Simply find the male flowers, cut them below the flower, remove the spindly pieces under the flower, and get rid of the stamen (it’s bitter). Run the flowers under cool water to clean, and they’re ready to be eaten. It’s that simple!

This squash blossom and goat cheese frittata is full of drool-worthy summer ingredients that are perfectly matched. The richness of the shallots and zucchini paired with the eggs and the tender sweetness of the blossoms and goat cheese are fuel for future daydreams about this meal. This frittata is simple and fast to make, but tastes like absolute heaven and looks pretty fancy, which is a nice little bonus.  


2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

1 c. zucchini, chopped into small pieces

6 eggs

½ c. milk

6 large squash blossoms or 8 small 

2 goat cheese

¼ c. green onions, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Combine the eggs and milk together in a bowl and whisk together. Season with salt and pepper and combine again. Set aside. 

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet and cook the shallots and zucchini together for about 5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. 

Make sure the shallots and zucchini are fairly evenly distributed in the skillet and then pour the egg mixture over the top. Allow the eggs to cook for about a minute until it begins to set around the edges. Then, take a rubber spatula and run it around the edges of the skillet so that the frittata doesn’t stick to the edges. Cook the frittata for another 3-4 minutes, or until the eggs are fairly set on the bottom. 

Remove from the heat. Arrange the squash blossoms in a circular pattern on the top of the frittata. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle evenly on top. 

Place the frittata in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, though, because you want to make sure the top is set but you don’t want it to be overcooked! Once the top is set, remove from the oven and allow the frittata to rest for about 5 minutes. 

Top with green onions, slice, and serve!