August 1, 2012

Quick-prep Mexican meals and Spanish Rice

GF vegan enchiladas using rice paper sheets and salsa.  Behold, the beauty of
the cheese alternative, Daiya Vegan Shreds!

Whew.  It's been an action-packed summer.  From family visits to day camps, birthday parties to decluttering the house -- a long-standing task that never ends -- every week there has been a lot of "busy-ness" to take care of.  It can be hard to keep up with cooking healthy meals especially on the days when our to-do lists are particularly daunting.  Plus, it's been in the 90s in my town.  The heat has been another deterrent to cooking up a storm.

If I don't end up picking up some of these for the kids, I often whip up some Mexican food.  Mexican food is a great fit if you need to avoid some or all of the top 8 food allergens.  Enchiladas are pretty easy to put together with the basics being filled and rolled tortillas covered in sauce and baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.  Below is a quick, meatless filling I like to use for enchiladas.  It's adapted from Karina Allrich's (aka Gluten-Free Goddess's) sweet potato black bean enchilada recipe:

Vegan enchiladas.  I used Trader Joe's enchilada sauce (contains wheat) for these.

Enchilada filling:
2 cups sweet potatoes, cubed and steamed in the microwave
14-ounce can of black beans or roughly 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup corn kernels (I use Trader Joe's frozen corn)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Fresh lime juice
salt to taste

Got a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance?
When I made the enchilasagnas, I used rice paper sheets like sheets of lasagna noodles.  I figured out quickly afterwards that it's actually easy to roll fillings in the rice paper sheets like traditional enchiladas.  I use the rice paper in stacks of two instead of one corn or flour tortilla.  Before filling and wrapping, be sure to soften the rice paper by immersing them in a shallow dish of warm water.  The added thickness of having two sheets makes it sturdier for holding the filling and rolling them.  Square or circle sheets work fine.  I love how the baked rice paper takes on a silky texture.  It goes perfectly with a melted cheese or cheese substitute.

Most store-bought enchilada sauces contain wheat which is used as a thickening agent.  If you need to avoid wheat or gluten, use jarred salsa to line your pan and cover your enchiladas.  I've done enchiladas both ways and the kids haven't noticed!

Can't have milk products?
Daiya Vegan Shreds are, hands down, the best cheese substitute out there.  They are free of the top 8 food allergens and, by golly, THEY MELT!

Not a fan of beans?

For a meaty dish, you can use shred up store-bought rotisserie chicken.  I highly recommend keeping the sweet potatoes in your filling.  They are full of vitamins including A, C, manganese, and fiber.  It doesn't take long to peel, chopped, and steam two sweet potatoes to tenderness.  Use a couple tablespoons of water and microwave-steam in a covered dish for 5 minutes or so.  While they are steaming, you can use those several minutes to get your beans and other fixings ready.

Remember your fixings!
My usual quick and fresh fixings include chopped green onions (put them on before popping your enchiladas in the oven), mashed avocado, and halved sugar plum tomatoes.

Now if you have a little more time at home (let's say an hour), think about making a side of Spanish rice!  With a short list of ingredients and a little bit of chopping, you can leave your rice to simmer on the stove while you complete other important summer tasks like hula-hooping, fort-making, sprinkler-hurdling, and Lego-building.  I prefer brown rice over white because of brown's added fiber.  If you prefer to use white rice, reduce the liquid by 1 cup.

Spanish Rice
Adapted from ilovetocook's recipe on
1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
1 small onion or half of a medium onion, chopped 
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup prepared chunky salsa
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste
Squeeze of lime juice
  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  
  2. Add garlic and onions.  Cook until tender.
  3. Add brown rice.  Cook rice mixture, stirring often to prevent burning.
  4. When rice begins to brown, stir in broth, salsa, and cumin.
  5. Completely cover the saucepan.  Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. Rice will be ready when all the liquid has been absorbed.  (This takes me around 40 minutes.)  The rice might start sticking to the bottom of the pan, too.  Taste-test.  If your rice still too hard, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more broth, cover again, and simmer until the new liquid is absorbed.
  7. Once the rice has been cooked, add salt and lime juice to taste.  I use low-sodium vegetable broth and find that adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt is a good amount.

Hope you are enjoying your summer days as much as I am.  As busy as they are, I know I will be sad to go back to the routine of the school schedule.  Wishing our readers with kids in year-round schools a safe and happy start to the new year!

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