“It’s killing us.”
What my high school aged daughter seems to be learning from her science classes is that we’ve screwed up the world, and as a result, too many things in our environmental lives now have negative repercussions. In many respects, I understand and agree with what the teachers are saying. On the other hand, it’s not easy to feed the family when your daughter seems to think everything she eats will cause cancer or heart attacks or just general bad health. As her list of what she thinks we shouldn’t eat anymore grows, her father and brother find themselves devoid of the foods which they would rather eat, despite the risks. Throw in food allergies, and you can see the dilemma I’m facing with the “What’s for dinner?” question.
Tonight the family was in the mood for enchiladas, something we actually haven’t had in a while. My son and husband would have preferred a nice pork or beef enchilada but my daughter wanted nothing to do with those “cancer-causing” meats, as she expressed. I’ve always loved enchiladas but since developing a life-threatening dairy allergy, I’ve not found a cheese substitute which comes anything close to what is needed for a cheesy enchilada casserole. But enchiladas were what was wanted, so I needed to put my thinking cap on and get to work.
The first question was how to make a vegetarian enchilada which would have the umami without the actual meat. Mushrooms have always been a good “meat” substitute, but only my oldest and I like mushrooms so if I was going to use them, I would need to disguise them. I also didn’t want to simply have mushroom enchiladas. I’d like a variety of vegetables. So I chose to combine spinach, mushrooms, yellow and red peppers, and cauliflower. Cauliflower may seem an odd choice, but like the mushrooms, they have a meaty component to them.
Because enchiladas require time and effort, I lessened my work by using frozen and canned versions of the veggies. It meant I could more quickly begin the assembling process without all the cooking beforehand. I also used my food processor to finely chop everything together to both disguise the mushrooms but also to create a texture that would be more like ground meat.
The second question was how to create a cheesy taste and texture without actually using cheese. The filling was easy because the use of tofu cream cheese could impart the impression of cheesy-ness. The topping, however, required a bit more thinking. Usually a vegetable enchilada calls for a white sour cream sauce and then a liberal topping of cheese, which when baked forms a nice crust for the enchiladas. I began the process of creating a sour cream sauce using tofu sour cream and unsalted vegetable stock from my freezer (if you don’t make your own, it’s easy enough to purchase at the store, or you can use vegetable broth, but you’ll want to omit the salt in the recipe then). As I looked at the mixture, it occurred to me that if I added a gluten free flour to the sauce, it would not only thicken the sauce for me, but when it baked, the flour would slightly separate from the sauce to create a crusty top. I decided to give it a try.
In the end we had a delicious vegetarian enchilada with a meaty texture and a cheesy, crusty facsimile which we’ll make again.
two 4 oz cans of mushrooms, drained
1 cup thawed frozen cauliflower
1/2 cup thawed frozen mixed red and yellow peppers
1/2 cup green onions
10 oz thawed frozen chopped spinach
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
“Cheese” for Filling:
8 oz tofu cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted vegetable stock
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cup unsalted vegetable stock
12 oz tofu sour cream
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground onion powder
1/4 tsp white pepper
12 to 16 corn tortillas
- In a food processor combine and process the mushrooms, cauliflower, peppers and green onions. Add to the chopped spinach and mix well.
- Add the cumin, oregano, salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Set aside.
- In a pan put the tofu cream cheese, vegetable stock, lemon juice, cumin and garlic, and slowly melt the cream cheese over low heat, stirring continually until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the vegetables to the cream cheese sauce and combine well. Set aside.
- In another pan combine the vegetable broth, tofu scour cream, sorghum flour, lemon juice, cumin, onion powder and white pepper. Over low heat, stirring continually with a whisk, let the mixture slowly heat and thicken.
- Grease a 9 x 13 pan and cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/3 of the sour cream sauce.
- Wet a paper towel and wrap the corn tortillas in the wet paper towel. Heat the tortillas in the microwave 20 seconds at a time until the tortillas are warm, soft to the touch and pliable enough to bend. (Mine took 40 seconds total).
- Divide the vegetable mixture among the tortillas evenly. (I had enough filling for 16 tortillas but I opted to fill twelve and then use the leftover filling to cover the top of the twelve tortillas to increase the “taste coverage” of the filling, but you can simply fill all 16 tortillas if you’d like.)
- Cover the tortillas with the remaining sour cream sauce.
- Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.