Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Vegetable enchiladas

Are you familiar with the Meatless Monday movement? We have been followers for about five years now. The movement's history is actually quite long but it has gained a lot of popularity recently.

We don't eat a lot of meat to begin with. We have meat about four times a week and it's rarely red meat. This is partly for health reasons but it's mostly for cost-savings. We also don't eat out or get convenience or take-away food very often. It's a very special treat when we do. We live a comfortable life but we keep ourselves on a relatively tight budget in order to allow me to stay at home, pay for everything we need and still save money too. I have learned a lot of ways to be frugal while still having good, healthy meals at home. Meatless Monday has become a staple of our lives.

I am always looking for interesting meatless meals and I have a good rotation of recipes now. It's important to me to cook larger meals a couple of times a week which will ensure leftovers for the Bear's lunch at work. Lasagas, soups and casseroles, like these enchiladas, are common dishes here.

This recipe is not exactly my own. It was adapted from one I saw a couple of years ago in Sunset, a magazine specially tailored to life in the American West. I love this magazine, it's one of my favorites. I'm a transplanted Easterner, having actually grown up in New York, and I have learned so much from this magazine, especially pertaining to gardening, seasonal eating and cooking, decorating and other pursuits, domestic and otherwise. I do love living in the West, as I am sure I will discuss more in the future. The Bear is a Colorado native and he is thrilled to be back home in the West himself.

Now for the recipe. My adaptations mostly have to do with the means of assembling and cooking the enchiladas. The recipe was originally meant to be made as individual servings in small crockery baking dishes. I have a couple of dishes like that but not enough to serve the whole family that way. There had been a note in the recipe about making it in a large dish as one big casserole but their directions didn't work well for me, so I improvised. Here's my version:


Half an onion, chopped
8 oz. fresh baby spinach or a cup of frozen spinach
14.5 oz can of corn kernels, drained
Assorted spices such as chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder
14.5 oz can of fat-free, vegetarian refried beans
14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
Two 10 oz cans of red or green enchilada sauce (I prefer mild)
About 15 to 20 corn tortillas
1 and 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese (reduced-fat works fine)

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chopped onion in a skillet with a little olive oil. Cook the onions on medium heat until they begin to turn golden. Drain and rinse your black beans and set them aside.

While the onions are cooking, you can start preparing your refried beans. If you've never used these, they are cooked pinto beans which have been mashed and then cooked again in their mashed state. You can get excellent ones in a Mexican restaurant made with bacon and you can even find them made that way and canned. I prefer to get the fat-free, vegetarian type because it's quite a bit healthier. They can be hard to work with, though. I like to add a couple of tablespoons of water to them in a bowl and whisk to loosen them up. You're going to be spreading the refried beans on the tortillas so you may want them thinned a little.

When your onions seem ready, you can add whichever spices you like (I only do a pinch of each because I don't want it to be too spicy for my small Bears but you can make it as spicy as you like), along with the fresh or frozen spinach and drained corn kernels. Let this saute in the pan for a few minutes, either until fresh spinach has wilted or frozen has thawed.

In the meantime, you can prepare your baking dish. I use a 9-inch by 13-inch glass Pyrex pan but you could use anything similar that you like for casseroles. I spray my dish with Pam and then I spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of the dish. If you've never used enchilada sauce before, this is what to look for; there are many brands available, but I chose the generic brand from Walmart this particular time. Enchilada sauce is made from cooked, pureed peppers. You may want to pour both cans of sauce into a measuring cup with a spout to make it easier to add it to the casserole.

As it looks spread around in the dish:

Take your skillet of vegetables off the heat when they're ready and bring it over to wherever you're working (don't forget a trivet or hot pad if your counter-top requires one!). Start by placing a layer of corn tortillas on top of the sauce. I like to tear some in half to layer fully but you could just overlap them if you wanted to.

Next, put a few dollops of your thinned refried beans on the tortillas and spread to cover them. I like to use an offset spatula for this. When they're covered, spread some vegetable mixture over the refried beans and then sprinkle about half a cup of your drained, rinsed black beans over that. Now all your veggies are in place.

To finish the layer, pour a small amount of enchilada sauce over the whole thing and sprinkle some cheese over the sauce.

Continue in this fashion until you have three layers of filling and tortillas and a layer of tortillas on top. Then you can pour enchilada sauce over the top of the whole thing (make sure you save at least half a can's worth of sauce to be used here) and sprinkle your remaining cheese over too.

Cover your dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven. I let this bake for about 40 minutes until it's very bubbly and the tortillas have gotten soft. 

Allow the pan to sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to set; this will make it much easier to slice for serving. I like to cut this into eight pieces. We will eat three to four for dinner that night and the rest will be packaged up for the Bear's lunches that week. It reheats beautifully in the microwave. The slices should hold together fairly well, like a lasagna.

And that's my vegetable enchilada casserole! It's delicious and very satisfying. Plus it's very affordable. The whole dish costs about $6 and it makes a ton of food. My children like it too, which is always a good thing when you're serving a veggie-only meal.


  1. I make these all the time but never thought to add spinach - what a brilliant way to get the kids to eat their greens!

  2. Hi Jenny! I agree. They eat it right up without complaining too, which is a nice change of pace. :)

  3. This looks so good. When we make enchiladas I roll them up in little rows, with their contents inside, then cover with sauce and cheese and bake - I never thought to layer it like a lasagna. My husband use to be vegetarian so we're used to meat free meals and try to have two or three meat free nights a week, like you.

    Gillian x

  4. Thank you. I have made them rolled up in the past but then I found this recipe and it's so much easier. I am glad to hear you have meat-free meals too, it has been really good for our family.


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