One day last week I actually had time to look up some new recipes. I was starting to get in a rut with my usual recipes and the joy of cooking was starting to fade. Then I found this recipe for a vegan enchilada pasta casserole. I read through it and it looked pretty simple and good. I will tell you that it is VERY easy and yummy.
When I was buying the ingredients for this, I ran across some vegan “meat” crumbles (vegan equivalent to ground beef). Most of the vegan “meat” out there will have gluten, wheat, or some other crap in there that’s not really all that good for you. I refuse to use TVP because it’s not good for you at all. When I saw the ingredients for this one, I had to try it. I thought they would be perfect for this recipe. When they say “excellent source of dietary fibre,” they mean it. I was farting like crazy for a few days afterwards.
So, to start off I diced my vegetables and set all of those to the side. I didn’t use any tortilla chips because I’m trying to be good. I’m addicted to chips. Seriously. I have a problem and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Hi! My name is Elizabeth and I’m addicted to chips…any kind.
I started out with the enchilada sauce. The recipe provided is a bit different from what I’ve cooked in the past because it calls for maple syrup, but I gave it a shot. To substitute the brown rice flour, I just used regular gluten-free flour. However, you can use rice flour if you have it, or you can use regular flour. Then cook everything until it starts to thicken up a bit, and then set it to the side.
Then go ahead and sauté your vegetables. Here’s where I added my vegan “meat” crumbles. The brand I bought is Big Mountain Foods, and it’s pretty good. If you buy this it’ll come in two packets, which was perfect because you can save the other packet for something else.
Then you add taco seasoning.
I’ll tell y’all this: don’t buy taco seasoning from the store. There are all kinds of additives in it that your body just doesn’t need. It’s VERY simple to make at home and you’ll know every single ingredient.
Let’s take Old El Paso for instance. That brand is synonymous with Mexican dishes…if you want to make them at home. You see their products all over the place in the Mexican section at the grocery store. Let’s take a look at the ingredients for their taco seasoning.
First off, maltodextrin is something I don’t ever want to see. It’s basically a thickener and comes from plant sources. However, for me, I don’t know if it comes from rice, corn, potatoes, or even wheat. One of the reasons why I stay away from it is simply because I’m allergic to wheat. Also, it’s highly processed. Silicon dioxide is an anticaking agent. So the powder stays nice and pretty like. Another thing is you don’t ever want to have any oil that’s hydrogenated. It’s not natural and can lead to health problems.
Because oils have a shelf life, food manufacturers want to make their products last. They don’t want their product to spoil. One way to do that is by hydrogenation.
During this process, a canister of hydrogen gas is positioned below a vat of oil, and under controlled circumstances, the hydrogen gas is allowed to bubble up into the oil. In this way, some of the oil can be convinced to soak up more hydrogen and unsaturated fatty acids can be transformed into saturated ones. This transformation produces a semi-solid fat that is less likely to go rancid.
Hydrogenation not only lowers the quality of the oil by removing some of its delicate unsaturated fatty acids, it actually converts some of the unsaturated fatty acids into a new form (called trans fat) that increases blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, as well as the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
So, there are 11-12 ingredients in the taco seasoning from Old El Paso. If you make your own, you’ll likely have 9. Out of those 9 ingredients, you’ll be able to pronounce them, you’ll know exactly what they are, and they’ll be in your pantry and not made in a lab.
Back to the recipe. Once you’ve cooked your vegetables and meat (if you’re using it), mix in your taco seasoning and cooked pasta. Mix everything together and add your salsa. Put it in a casserole dish, or any oven-proof dish, and spread some cheese and the chips on top.
Let it bake for the typical 20 minutes and then you’re in business. I added more salsa to mine because I found that it was a bit dry. Other than that, the dish is good. It’s simple, quick, and easy. The enchilada sauce wasn’t off-putting in the least. You don’t taste the maple syrup.
You can easily add real meat for the meat eaters in your house, and you can use real cheese if you’re so inclined. The recipe calls for mozzarella but you can probably add some cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. You can add black beans and any kind of chili pepper as well. I am DEFINITELY going to make this again. Next time I’ll add black beans and I won’t put the vegan cheese on top. The Hubs isn’t a fan of it. So, I’ll just mix it in my plate.
If you make this, holler at me and tell me if you put your own spin on this.
Source: Haas, E., with Levin, B. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York: Celestial Arts, 2006