Pita Tree Appetizers

From the Pillsbury site (original here), this appetizer is all about clever assembly. There’s no cooking involved! As the note with the recipe explains, “Plant a forest of pita bread trees on your table in less than 30 minutes by topping wedges with store-bought guacamole.” Pita Tree Appetizers are the seventh of my 25 Appetizers of Christmas.


  • Pita Tree Appetizers4 flavored or plain pita folds or pita (pocket) breads (about 6 inches in diameter)
  • 16 thin pretzel sticks, halved
  • ½ cup fat-free sour cream
  • ½ cup guacamole
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic-pepper blend
  • ¼ cup very finely chopped red bell pepper


  1. Cut each pita fold into 8 wedges.
  2. Insert pretzel stick half into center of bottom of each wedge to form “tree trunk.”
  3. In small bowl, mix sour cream, guacamole, parsley and garlic-pepper blend.
  4. Spread about 1 teaspoon sour cream mixture on each pita wedge.
  5. Blot bell pepper with paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  6. Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon bell pepper on each wedge or arrange to form a garland.
  7. If desired, cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours before serving.


  • For variety, use cilantro in place of the parsley.
  • If you have time, make your own guacamole. Simply mash a ripe avocado and throw in a dash of salt, lime juice and chopped garlic.

Time Required: 25 minutes

Servings: 32 appetizers

Slow-Cooker Enchilada Casserole

I’m always intrigued by the stacked tortilla recipes that I see, but I often wonder how difficult they are to serve. This recipe from the July 2011 issue of All You (original here) is different from others that I’ve seen because the tortillas are toasted before going in the crockpot. I can’t wait to give it a try.


  • 9 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 1 15-oz. can can or jar enchilada sauce
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar


  1. Place an oven rack about 5 inches from broiler and preheat broiler to high.
  2. Toast tortillas under broiler, turning once, until lightly spotted, 2 to 3 minutes total. Set aside.
  3. Reserve 2 Tbsp. enchilada sauce.
  4. Combine beans and remaining sauce in a bowl.
  5. Mist slow-cooker insert with cooking spray.
  6. Place 3 tortillas in bottom, breaking one into pieces if necessary to cover bottom.
  7. Spread half of bean mixture over tortillas.
  8. Sprinkle with 1 cup corn and 1/2 cup cheese.
  9. Repeat with 3 more tortillas, remaining bean mixture, remaining corn and 1 cup cheese.
  10. Top with 3 remaining tortillas, reserved sauce and remaining 1 cup cheese.
  11. Cover and cook on low until cheese has melted and is beginning to crisp on edges, 2 to 3 hours.


  • I’m not sure the vegetarian meal would pass the Board of Inquiry at this house, so I will probably add some canned chicken or browned ground beef with the beans and sauce mixture.
  • I suspect that a Mexican blend of cheese would be a nice substitute for the Cheddar.

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup

This recipe came with a 5-can package of Member’s Mark chicken breast from Sam’s Club. It’s a simple, fast soup that’s perfect for a chilly evening—and it could easily sit in a crockpot on low a few hours if you prefer.


  • 2 cans drained chicken breast, 13 oz.
  • 1 can enchilada sauce, 15 oz.
  • 1 can evaporated milk, 12 oz.
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed, 15 oz.
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup, 10.5 oz.
  • 1 can cheddar cheese soup, 10.75 oz.
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper
  • ½ cup chopped red pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat on medium until the soup is hot, stirring occasionally.
  2. Serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheddar, and sliced black olives, if desired.


  • The original recipe called for pinto beans. Mom isn’t a fan, so we chose black beans. Any bean would really work—pinto, black, kidney, whatever you prefer.
  • The original recipe also used Nacho Cheese Soup, instead of Cheddar Cheese Soup. Our nearest Kroger doesn’t carry Nacho Cheese anymore, so we substituted Cheddar Cheese Soup. Those who wanted a spicier soup just added a dash of hot sauce.

Easy Mexican Black Bean Casserole

A recipe from the November 2010 issue of All You (original here). The note with the recipe explains, “This is a tasty vegetarian meal, but you can please meat eaters by cooking a few slices of bacon until crisp and crumbling them into the slow cooker with the beans before warming.”


  • 16 ounces dried black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 16-oz. jar salsa, plus extra for serving, optional
  • Salt
  • 6 ounces shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack
  • Tortilla chips for serving, optional


  1. Stir together beans, 4 cups water and salsa, if using, in slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook on high until liquid is absorbed and beans are soft, 4 to 6 hours.
  3. Season with salt.
  4. Sprinkle cheese over beans, cover and continue to cook until cheese is melted, 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Spoon into bowls, top with additional salsa and serve with tortilla chips, if desired.

Variations from the Original (listed as “Kitchen Tips”)

  • Change the flavor. Tomato salsa works well with black beans, but you can also try a different type. Chipotle salsa lends a smoky taste. Or try a pineapple or mango salsa for a touch of sweetness.
  • Turn up up the head. Add a few dashes of hot sauce if you like a kick, or use a spicy salsa. Sprinkle pepper Jack cheese on top.
  • Use more veggies. Sauté a chopped onion and a diced, seeded jalapeño until tender and stir them into the beans before sprinkling the cheese on top.
  • Make it meaty. This is a warming vegetarian meal, but you can please meat eaters by cooking a few slices of bacon until crisp and crumbling them into the slow cooker with the beans before cooking.
  • Wrap it up. Instead of chips, serve the beans with tortillas, more salsa, rice, lettuce, cheese, and guacamole, and let everyone make their own burritos.

Time Required: 7 hours

Servings: 6


A recipe from the Chef Boyardee (original here). This meal is a fast and simple way to take a pantry basic and jazz it up into something new.


  • 2 cans (15 oz each) Chef Boyardee® Beefaroni®
  • 1 can (14.5 oz each) Hunt’s® Diced Tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz each) Rosarita® Premium Whole Black Beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup shredded reduced fat Mexican cheese blend
  • 1/2 cup broken yellow tortilla chips


  1. Place Beefaroni, drained tomatoes, beans, corn and cumin in large saucepan; stir to combine.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese and broken chips just before serving.

Taco Soup

We loved this soup so much that the first time we made it, we ate it three days in a row. It’s one of those meals that sits in the crockpot on the kitchen counter taunting you all day long.
A definite treat for a cool fall or winter day, the soup can be easily modified to your tastes—just add or remove any of the ingredients. Because several family members have difficulty with spicy foods, for instance, we modified the recipe to make it a bit less spicy than Paula Deen’s original recipe. This is how we serve it at our house.


  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 1 (15 1/2-oz) can pinto beans
  • 1 (15 1/2-oz) can red kidney beans
  • 1 (15 1/2-oz) can black beans
  • 1 (15 1/4-oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (15 1/4-oz) can white corn, drained
  • 1 (14 1/2-oz) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (14 1/2-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 (4 1/2-oz) cans green chiles, diced with no seeds
  • 1 (4.6-oz) can black olives, drained and sliced
  • 1 (1 1/4-oz) package taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (1-oz) package ranch salad dressing mix
  • Corn chips
  • Sour cream
  • Grated cheese
  • Chopped green onions


  1. Brown the ground beef and onions in a skillet. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Transfer the browned beef and onions to a large slow cooker or a stockpot.
  3. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, black olives, green olives, taco seasoning, and ranch dressing mix.
  4. Cook in a slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours or simmer over low heat for about 1 hour in a pot on the stove.
  5. Garnish bowls with corn chips, sour cream, cheese, and green onions. Add tabasco sauce, if desired.

Time Required: 6 hrs

Servings: 10–12

Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)