You may not know this about me, but I eat a mostly vegetarian diet. Yes, I love love love the succulence of a perfectly seared steak, the sweet smokiness of pulled pork, and the way lamb seems to melt on my tongue after a day of slow cooking, but truthfully I could go days, weeks, even months without ever really missing those tastes.
Day in and day out I eat nuts, seeds, nut butters, beans, tofu, tempeh, and generally anything that would make my mother cringe. Oh, and cheese. Lovely, lovely cheese. And butter. It’s my sustaining life force here in Seattle.
In fact, if it weren’t for this blog and my nagging urge to diversify the dishes I share with all of you, I wonder how often I’d really buy or make chicken. I wonder how often I’d share cake for breakfast. Pie for lunch. Trade water for hot cocoa.
I know that there are volumes to be written about the merits of going without meat even once a week. The impact on health, wealth, and the environment. But I’ll let others write those pages. Sometimes I wonder if we haven’t missed at least one aspect of the point behind letting go of meat-centricity. What if instead of praising our smaller carbon footprint and going easy on our arteries, we simply said, “Hey, did anyone realize that plant-based dishes can be different and absolutely delicious?” The point being that we don’t need to find the reason why we’re stepping out of the box, but instead the reason why we’ve limited our culinary creativity in the name of tradition. Not the why, but the why not?
I get that kobe beef will always taste as luscious as butter and that turkey, carved on Thanksgiving, will be nostalgically and physically satisfying. But the frontier for vegetable exploration is still fairly unsettled in my book. Who says lentils aren’t as lovable? Grilled portobello mushrooms as “mmm” inducing? Well, no one.
I’ve experimented up a storm. A few failures of note. A few, “Let’s never try this again.” The hard part isn’t pleasing my palate, but the one belonging to my boyfriend, Daniel. Convincing him that tofu isn’t a savory marshmallow has been grueling. Perhaps trickery was involved. A wink as I placed the top bun on our “burgers.” Fingers crossed behind my back while presenting a bowl of chili missing the carne. Whatever white lies I may or may not have told have been worthwhile. Our kitchen now is a much more adventurous place. And not just because I have a penchant for throwing pots and pans and swearing.
Daniel is totally in love with these enchiladas. They’re one of the few vegetarian dishes that he requests all the time. And I hope Sandra Lee will forgive me for stealing her thunder, but…they’re sort of semi-homemade. Delicious and eeeeeeeaaaasssssyyyy to boot.
A few recommendations: Never buy enchilada sauce again; it’s completely unnecessary when salsa is a world more flavorful and the chunkiness adds such great texture. And you must embrace those packets of taco seasoning, as long as they’re a kind that doesn’t have 57 tablespoons of MSG and funky ingredients galore. Trader Joe’s makes a fabulous version. Also, Mexican blend cheese is tasty tasty tasty.
Dinner is served.
In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups brown rice, 1 can of black beans, a bag of defrosted pepper strips, 1 packet taco seasoning (I recommend the one from Trader Joe’s because it’s got a short, identifiable ingredient list), and 3/4 cup medium salsa. Mix well.
Lay your tortillas on a clean work surface and divide the rice and bean mixture evenly among the center of each tortilla.
Roll the tortillas tightly and place, side by side, into a greased casserole dish with salsa covering the bottom. Some of the filled tortillas may have to fit horizontally. Spread remaining 1 1/4 cups salsa evenly over the top of the casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.
Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serve with sour cream and hot sauce!
Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas
2 cups cooked brown rice
1, 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16oz bag frozen pepper strips, thawed and drained of excess water, or 3 cups sauteed peppers
1 packet taco seasoning
2 1/2 cups medium salsa, divided
12, 6” flour tortillas
1 ½ cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a large, 13×9″ casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup salsa all over the bottom of the dish.
In a large bowl, stir together rice, black beans, peppers, taco seasoning, and 3/4 cup salsa. Mix well. Lay your tortillas on a clean work surface and divide the rice and bean mixture evenly among them. Roll the tortillas tightly and place, side by side, into the prepared casserole dish. Some of the filled tortillas may have to fit horizontally. Spread remaining 1 1/4 cups salsa evenly over the top of the casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
Nutrition info for 1 serving:
Calories: 491.8, Fat: 15.1g, Fiber: 9.6g, Sugars: 2.6g, Protein: 19.6g