Tex-Mex Casserole Without Cheese? (Vegan)

Do you think it would be impossible to make a casserole, a Tex-Mex Casserole without cheese? Well, let me show you how I did it for this recipe.

I chose corn tortillas to keep the recipe wheat-free (aka gluten-free).
And guess what? If you have someone that just loves cheese, they can top their serving with the cheese of their choice (…even vegan cheese ūüôā

Alternative to cheese, but creamy?  Add avocado, guacamole or this cashew cilantro cream sauce.  

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (or 2 cups freshly diced)
  • 1 15 oz can of pinto beans (or 2 cups home-cooked), rinsed
  • 1 15 oz of black beans (or 2 cups of home-cooked), rinsed *
  • 1/4 bell pepper (any color)
  • 1 small onion
  • 8 ounces of your favorite salsa
  • 1 15 oz can (2 cups) of enchilada sauce (or see homemade recipe below)
  • 6 corn tortillas (or flour)
Directions:
  1. Cook onions and bell pepper.  If using ground meat add at this step too.
  2. Add other ingredients except for the enchilada sauce and tortillas, mix together.
  3. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 casserole dish. 
  4. Tear (or cut) the 2 tortillas into smaller sizes and place on the bottom of the dish.
  5. Layer 1/3 of the filling over the tortillas.
  6. Try to repeat steps 4 and 5 twice, but it doesn’t have to be that structured.
  7. Mix the enchilada sauce and thickener of choice together and pour over the casserole.
  8. Bake at 350 for about 20  – 30 minutes, until bubbly and sauce has thickened.
Homemade Enchilada Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 cup broth
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar (really almost any vinegar can be substituted here)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (or 2 Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp oregano (or even Italian herb spices)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 – 2 TBS chili powder (or TACO Seasoning works well too)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 – 2 slices of jalapenos for added flavor
  • 1 TBS of thickener (tapioca, potato starch, gluten free flour or cornstarch -organic/Non-GMO please)
Directions: Place all ingredients into blender and blend well. You can  also add a tablespoon of thickener at this point for easy mix-in.

Served topped with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!

Cashew Cilantro Cream Sauce

I had just bought a new bunch of cilantro and I removed all the stalks and leaves that were loose because I didn’t want them to go “bad” at the bottom of the jar. (This is how I keep my herbs fresh in the fridge.) So I was left with a bunch that I wanted to use up in a hurry. I decided to make an alternative to the cheese topping for the variety of plant-based tacos that I eat very often – so I searched the internet looking for a cilantro sauce. This was the first to appear. I found it at The Baking Fairy’s website (see below), but here is my recipe. I think next time I will definitely try fresh garlic (1/2 to 1 clove) and fresh onions (1/8 inch slice), yet this recipe is still a good one.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soaked cashews
  • 1/4 cup cashew milk (or any unsweetened nut milk, I used almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup or more of cilantro (packed tightly)
  • 1/4 cup of lime juice
  • 1/2 jalapeno (I only had jalapeno juice from my homemade pickled jalapeno peppers)
  • 3/8 – 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/8 – 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 3/8 – 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • a little pepper is also a nice addition
Directions:
  1. Add all ingredients except for the nut milk to a blender and blend.
  2. Add nut milk as needed until you get to your desired consistency.
The original recipe for this sauce was found at https://www.thebakingfairy.net/2017/05/sofritas-tacos-cashew-cream/.

Buddha Bowl using Leftovers

I think I have been creating these all along prior to the term “Buddha Bowl” becoming popular. This is my second “go to” option when trying to determine what to eat next. My first is plant-based Tex-Mex meals. (I live in Texas y’all!)

The Buddha Bowl I prepared today uses quinoa as the base! I love quinoa for so many reasons and healthy ones too. It’s gluten-free and high in protein (a concern for some when embarking on a plant-based eating plan). I had roasted sweet potatoes using my favorite recipe. I had a bunch of colorful Swiss chard that I needed to prepare and hummus (which I practically keep on hand at all times). So I threw all of these “leftovers” together and created a very satisfying lunch.

Preparation Notes:

Quinoa
pre-soak 1 – 2 hours for better nutrient absorption

Sweet Potatoes
Diced and seasoned with cumin, turmeric, salt, paprika, chili powder, garlic (sprinkled on as you like). Toss with a little coconut oil (barely oil them) and bake 350 – 400 degrees Farenheit
Swiss Chard
Saute green onions and bell peppers in water until soft. Add tomatoes and Swiss chard until wilted. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top

Hummus
Seasonings: cumin, lemon juice, tahini, roasted red peppers, salt/pepper and sometimes olives
Hey, here are some ingredient ideas for a Tex-Mex Budha Bowl!
  • Mexican “brown” rice
  • Black or pinto beans
  • Fresh spinach, kale or romaine lettuces
  • Roasted corn
  • Salsa or Pico de gallo
  • Lemon/Lime Juice
  • Avocado (or guacamole)
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions
  • Not-so cheese (a Vitamix recipe)

Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Marinara Sauce

This was really yummy. The texture of the eggplant mixed with diced tomatoes was right on target in this marinara sauce. I made the sauce in my InstantPot (love that appliance).

I cut the eggplant into cubes and just added it to the pot along with tomatoes and other seasonings and voila! I was done…

…except for the cooking of the pasta. Sometimes I cook the pasta in the Instant Pot too, but lately I seem to have trouble with getting perfect pasta …and my guess is that it’s probably because I was cooking gluten-free pasta. I think the better outcome has been with wheat pasta. (If anyone has any helpful hints on cooking gluten-free pasta in the InstantPot, please let me know. Thanks in advance.)

Back to the sauce..I cooked the eggplant until it was mushy. I liked it best this way because it was easy to combine with the tomatoes. The mixture of these two vegetables are superb. Yet, I call this a marinara because it’s very light vs. being more dense and doesn’t have any tomato paste which would make the sauce thicker.

This recipe makes about 2 – 3 servings. You can easily double it.

Ingredients:
1 small eggplant
1 small can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced onions
1/8 cup of chopped bell peppers (your choice)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp or so of dried herbs (basil, oregano, Italian herb mix,

spinach to stir into pot after cooking or directly onto the plate (I prefer fresh)

Instant Pot Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients into the inner pot.
  2. Press manual, then adjust settings to 6 minutes.
  3. Allow natural release (if you have enough time to wait)
  4. Adjust seasonings
  5. Stir in spinach (optional)
Stove-Top Directions:
  1. Cook onion and garlic on low heat until soft. I prefer using water to steam the vegetables, so that I don’t have to add oils to cook with.
  2. Add eggplant and a little salt to help soften, then cook about 5 minutes while stirring frequently.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and remaining seasonings. Cook, covered over low heat until everything is very soft and (I prefer) mushy. Make sure your pan isn’t too high and use a small burner so the sauce doesn’t burn. This step may take about 10 more minutes. 
  4. Adjust seasonings
  5. Stir in spinach (optional).
Note: That is a corn-based pasta in the photo. Gluten free pastas that contain corn seem to cook the best.

Sweet Potato Coconut Milk Curry

I prepared this in my InstantPot. But I’m sure a pot on the stove top will work just as well. This was quick and easy. The perfect warm and satisfying meal for the cold night on which I prepared it. (Note: this recipe was based on a recipe I saw at Pinch of Yum, but I added a few things.)

Ingredients:

  • 4 green onions (about 1/3 cup),¬†chopped
  • 1¬†jalape√Īo,¬†minced¬†(add depending on the spice level you want)
  • 1-2 cloves¬†garlic,¬†minced
  • 3 medium¬†sweet potatoes,¬†peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup garbanzo/chickpeas, cooked
  • 1 14-ounce can¬†fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can¬†coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup¬†water for InstantPot or up to 1 1/2 if on stove top
  • 1 teaspoon¬†salt
  • 1 teaspoon¬†curry
  • 1 teaspoon¬†turmeric
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup¬†chopped peanuts (or cashews)
  • 2 x 2 strip of Kombu for added minerals
After cooked:
  • 1/4 cup¬†peanut butter (or cashew butter)¬†You can also take some of the soup broth and blend with peanuts (or cashews) to thicken the soup.
  • 1-2 cups¬†kale,¬†stems removed, chopped¬†(or any other dark leafy greens: collards, chard)
  • 1 – 2 tsp miso paste¬†(for added flavor)
Directions:
  1. Place all ingredients in InstantPot and cook for 10 minutes or add to a pot on the stove top and cook until potatoes are tender.
  2. Add the “after cooked” ingredients. If using InstantPot, after quick or natural release.

Black Bean Corn Tortilla Tacos (Plant-Based, Vegan)

I usually cook a large batch of beans and freeze whatever I don’t use immediately. So, for this recipe the only ingredient that I had to make was the “Not-So” Cheese Sauce that I found in the Vitamix recipe book. If you have the opportunity to purchase a Vitamix you should definitely do so. You won’t regret it. I think I’ve owned mine for about 7 years and the only part I have replaced is the rubber top recently because it wasn’t fitting as snugly as it did when I first purchased it (6 years ago).
I pulled these tacos together rather quickly. The corn tortillas are Tortilla Land brand that I find in my local. The are uncooked and I prepare them on the griddle that I keep on the left side of my stove-top mostly for this purpose (and cooking pancakes just as often).
Ingredients:
  • Tortilla Land corn tortillas (or make your own using masa flour)
  • black beans (red beans or pinto beans would also be good, canned is fine – just rinse them)
  • fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • green onions
  • avocado (or guacamole – see recipe below)
  • Not-So Cheese Sauce (the recipe I follow uses potato starch to create a thicker version) or Forks Over Knives No Cheese Sauce
Other possible toppings: salsa, cilantro, pico de gallo, your favorite vegetables, etc
Directions:
  1. Cook tortillas according to package directions
  2. Warm the beans on the stove top – using a bit of water to prevent from burning
  3. Add your toppings

My Guacamole Recipe

Add all of the following ingredients to a food processor and give it a whirl!

  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 lemon or lime, juiced
  • 1 green onion stalk (Low FODMAP and I like them because they are milder.)
  • 1/2 – 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 of jalapeno (I usually remove most of the seeds for a milder version.)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of “tightly packed” cilantro

Homemade Catalina Dressing – Oil-Free

I had a mango and a red bell pepper and recall making a dressing out of the two a while back. But this time, I added a few more ingredients. Then end result is a dressing that reminded me of Catalina Dressing, but this one is Oil-Free.

Catalina was my salad dressing of choice when I was a child and likely when I was also a teen. Of course it was from a bottle and one that is a very popular salad dressing brand. (OKAY, I feel a bit uncomfortable sharing that, but there are really more healthy options…such as the one I’m about to give you below.)

Granted, my salad as a child only consisted of cucumbers, tomato and iceberg lettuce. Yeah I guess, it’s a good start for anyone, but I finally learned that I love all vegetables and now I rarely eat a salad made of only 3 vegetables. Okay…enough of reminiscing about my childhood, here is the recipe.

Ingredients:
1 small mango (Ataulfo mangos are the perfect size)
1/4 of a small to medium red bell pepper
1 TBS apple cider vinegar (use lemon juice instead for Sadkhin Diet)
1 clove garlic, small
1 – 2 inch piece of zucchini or cucumber (if more liquid is desired)
salt to taste (approx 1/8 tsp, optional)

Other possible add-ins:These are optional add-ins that are similar to most recipes that you will find online for Catalina Dressing.

  1. Honey (if you need it sweeter, but Ataulfo mangos are usually very sweet)
  2. If you want/need the extra “good” fat, add some extra virgin olive oil
  3. Tomato slice or 1 tsp tomato paste
  4. Onion slice or onion powder
  5. Dash of paprika
Directions: Blend all the ingredients together in a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix.  Use as desired.
I just poured it all on top of my salad and dug in. YUMMY!

Sadkhin Cabbage Salad – Three Ways

Recently I prepared three cabbage salads for the Grand Opening Event of¬†Sadkhin Houston. ¬†Sadkhin is a weight loss program that doesn’t require any special foods, just mainly fresh fruits and vegetables.
 
One highly recommended vegetable for the Sadkhin Diet is raw cabbage. Also, since the diet suggests having no more than three vegetables/fruit combinations in each dish, we created the following cabbage salads for client sampling. (Note: Herbs, most spices, onions and garlic may be used freely. Also allowed are lemon juice and honey.)
 
Mexican Slaw
1 large head of green cabbage
1/2 – 1 pound of carrots
1 – 2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 – 1/2 bunch of cilantro (about 1/2 cup, packed)
For dressing, whisk together juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 1/4 cup) and 1 lime, 1/2 of small jalapeno (seeds removed), 1/2 tsp cumin, salt (about 1/2 – 1 tsp) and a dash of granulated garlic, cayenne and honey to taste Optional: Add a fruit – mango would be good in this one also.
 

 

Mexican Slaw
 
Apple Slaw
1 large head of green cabbage
3 -4 kale leaves, thinly sliced
2 medium Granny Smith apples
For the dressing, whisk together juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 1/4 cup), 1/4 Р1/2 tsp ground mustard, 1/2 tsp dried dill,  salt (about 1/2 Р1 tsp) and honey to taste
Apple Slaw

 

 
Asian Slaw
1 small head of green cabbage
1 small head of purple cabbage
1 – 2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 – 2 Ataulfo mangos, diced small
1/2 tsp fresh ginger juice (or 1/2 tsp dried ginger spice)
10 leaves of fresh mint
For the dressing, whisk together juice of 1 1/2 limes (about 1/4 cup – also can add lime zest if you like) about 1/2 – 1 tsp salt and honey to taste
Asian Slaw
 

I also put together an Italian oil-free salad dressing. (Simply omit the apple-cider vinegar and possibly use more lemon juice to make this oil-free dressing Sadkhin Diet compliant.)

Zucchini and Vegetable Lasagna (Dairy Free and Grain Free)

Lasagna, a classic favorite, right?

I used sliced zucchini in place of the noodles and created my own version of cashew cream sauce in place of cheese. This is a meat free dish, but feel free to use a meat sauce if you prefer.

I prepared this in a small 5 x 7 casserole dish. Makes 2 servings.

Ingredients:
2 medium size zucchini, sliced thin lengthwise
2 – 3 carrots, shredded or sliced
1/4 of a colored bell pepper, chopped
5 – 6 dehydrated tomato slices (my preference) or sun-dried tomatoes
15 ounce pasta sauce from a jar or make your own (See “Really Quick Pasta Sauce” option below.)

1 cup of cashews, soaked at least 30 minutes and no longer than 30 would be ideal
1/2 tsp lemon juice

2 fresh sprigs of parsley or 1/2 TBS dried parsley
garlic and onion powders, 1/8 tsp or less of each
Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp
salt and pepper to taste

other optional ingredients:
yellow squash, mushrooms, grilled onions

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Create cashew sauce by pureeing drained cashews with lemon juice, herbs and spices. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper also. I would start with 1/4 tsp of salt. You can add a little water (or stock) if needed to thin. Set aside.
  3. Using a mandolin slicer, slice the zucchini lengthwise.
  4. Spread a small amount of pasta sauce on the bottom the casserole dish.
  5. Create layers with zucchini, cashew sauce, vegetables, pasta sauce then repeat again and end with zucchini and pasta sauce.
  6. Cover with parchment paper, oven-safe lid or covering of your choice and bake for about 30 minutes.
  7. Top with fresh herbs like parsley or basil and serve.

Really Quick Pasta Sauce: 

This is a pasta sauce that I would use to create pizza sauce, but it was very handy when I needed a sauce for this dish and I didn’t have much time.

Using a high-speed blender (I use a Vitamix), blend the following ingredients:

  • 6 oz can of tomato paste, 
  • 1 tsp Italian herbs
  • 1/2 cup of water (or stock)
  • 1 clove of garlic, 
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 TBS Honey (or other sweetener).

Orange You Happy Smoothie

This morning it took me a while to get around to preparing my first meal around 11 am. I had already had 32 ounces of water (mixed with barley green powder and 1/2 of a lemon which has now become my regular morning routine.) But at this hour of the morning,  I felt like I wanted more than just juice. So I mixed together this quick smoothie.

You can use frozen pineapple, mango* and/or blueberries which are easy to find in the frozen food section of the grocery store these days. Actually, I purchase most of my blueberries frozen because that’s almost the only way I find organic berries. But I prefer fresh pineapple and fresh mango, especially the Ataulfo mangos that are plentiful in the beginning of summer time.

This recipe will make 28 – 32 ounces and can easily be doubled.

Ingredients:
3 oranges
1 – 2 cups of pineapple (slices or chunks, and any of its juices)
1 mango*
5 mint leaves
1 cup blueberries

*High FODMAP food – remove from ingredients to achieve a Low FODMAP recipe.

Directions:

  1. Juice oranges (I used a manual juice press)
  2. Peel and remove seed from mango
  3. Toss all ingredients into a high speed blender (I use my all-time favorite, the Vitamix)
Optional Add-ins:
I added a handful of greens (kale & spinach are my favorite).