I’ve been thinking of going vegetarian again. It’s been nearly nine years since I fell off the veggie wagon, which I rode happily for about a decade previously.
I wasn’t a PETA pusher. I wasn’t a Food Inc. convert. I wasn’t even especially doing it for any sort of diet benefits. Initially, I just got sick of the taste of meat, and the idea of going without struck me as something interesting to do, something that required some discipline, and something that might be good for me.
On the whole, it was. I liked being vegetarian for all these reasons, and I liked that I felt more energetic. I had no trouble with my weight. But, as I say, this was nearly 20 years ago and when you’re 30, or at least when *I* was 30, keeping weight off wasn’t any problem at all. Now, eh. I weigh a lot more than I’m comfortable with, and, remembering how good I felt when I wasn’t consuming animals, I’m thinking I might do it again.
But things are different now. Tras, while a good sport in general, isn’t a bit interested in giving up meat. He’ll eat some meatless meals, and no matter what I do he’ll support me … but he just isn’t interested in giving up his PETA status — People Eating Tasty Animals. And hey, I do admit, even in my veggie years, I found it hard to resist pepperoni, of all things. Trassie, who’s 8, is a grazer and eats probably 60 percent of what I cook. He’s more malleable but he’s still in that “I hate X” phase, where X represents anything the recalcitrant child has never tasted before.
So there’s that. In the previous vegetarian years, my older two, Claire and Christopher, were in the macaroni and chicken nugget years; that’s about all they’d consume.
They did eat a lot of bean burritos, too, but what they were eating was easy to whip up, and I could make my stuff separate, any way I wanted to. Their dad covered his own food.
Now, I like to cook and experiment. I do enjoy making some meats; cooking a whole turkey for 20 at Thanksgiving, for instance, was interesting. I once made roasted goat thanks to the generosity of a Muslim neighbor, who knew I’d like it when she found out I’d cooked and eaten lamb in the past.
In a valiant effort to create something the whole family might enjoy, I dreamed up a vegetarian enchilada casserole, which bears only a passing resemblance to a genuinely Mexican dish. But it turned out great. Both Tras the husband and Tras the son liked it, as did Christopher the Beginning to Eat a Whole Lot More Variety Now That He’s 15. It hasn’t yet been tested on Claire, who these days dines most often in the company of Mssr. Le Boyfriend.
So here, my friends, is the recipe. Give it a try and see if you like it as much as we did. It sort of looks long and involved, but truly it’s not. Bon apetite!
Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole
8-9 small corn tortillas
1 can red beans, drained & rinsed
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 container large curd cottage cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
3 tsp onion salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground sea salt
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh spinach
1 small can sliced black olives
Red pepper flakes
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Sliced green onions
Plain yogurt or sour cream
Queso blanco or feta
In medium mixing bowl, stir together tomatoes, beans, cottage cheese, cheeses, eggs, and spices, reserving 1 tsp onion salt. Set aside.
Coat bottom and sides of oblong glass baking dish (8×10) with oil or cooking spray
Wrap tortillas in damp paper towels; microwave for 30 to 45 seconds until soft. Lay 4 tortillas in the bottom, overlapping as necessary.
Spoon half the bean mixture over tortillas. Layer half the sliced zucchinis over mixture, top with spinach.
Place next layer of tortillas over spinach and press into place. Layer remaining zucchini and the rest of the bean mixture.
Top with some shredded cheddar, olives, queso blanco (or feta), red pepper flakes and onion salt.
Cover with foil and bake in 375-degree oven for 1 hour, removing foil after 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice into squares.
Serve topped with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and fresh tomatoes and green onions.