Recipe: Southwestern Black Bean, Cheese, and Spinach Casserole

1 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 big handfuls baby spinach
15-oz can seasoned black beans, partially drained
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
4-5 tortillas

salsa to top with when serving

1. Saute the onion in the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until translucent.

2. Add the spinach, and cook until it starts to wilt.

3. Add the black beans, with some of the liquid from the can. I opened the can and let some of the liquid drain out, but didn’t rinse the beans or shake the can upside down like I would if I were totally draining the beans. Cook until most of the liquid cooks off, and remove from heat.


4. In a casserole dish, make a layer of torn or cut tortilla. Top with half the cheese, then half the bean-spinach-onion mix. Add another layer of tortilla, then the rest of the cheese and the bean mix.

5. Cook at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

6. Serve with salsa on the top or side. Sour cream would also be good!


This comes out really, really cheesy, so if you want it less so, either reduce the amount of cheese, or add a layer of something else. A can of diced tomatoes would go well, or a jar of salsa if you want it spicy.


Recipe: Indian-African Red Lentil Stew


I made this up using a combination of berbere and curry spices I had on hand, so it’s sort of a mix of both. It’s especially delicious with crusty French bread to dip into the stew.

spice mix:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp black mustard seeds

mix together:
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp each:
cayenne pepper
black pepper
ground ginger
nutmeg (freshly grated/ground if possible)
1 star/clove/thingie of star anise

3 T or so ghee (or butter or olive oil), split 1/3 to 2/3 (I used ghee because I had just made some)
1 1/4 cup or so dried red lentils
1 onion, diced
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes (I used the fire-roasted kind; they’re delicious), undrained


1. In about a T of the butter/ghee/oil, saute the mustard seeds and garlic in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the seeds start to pop. Add the mix of the other spices and heat, stirring continuously, for about another minute. It’ll be thick, like a paste. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Heat the rest of the ghee/whatever in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent.

3. Add the spices and stir, then add the veggie stock and lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils turn golden and tender.

Serve with buttered bread and/or topped with chopped cilantro, which I meant to add but totally forgot.

Recipe: Vegan “Boozy Beef”

Found here and tweaked a bit.

It’s a version of the absolutely delicious “Chili Colorado” from Epcot’s 2012 Food & Wine Festival. It didn’t taste exactly like that, probably due to my tweaks, but it was pretty close. (At a guess, I’d say the Epcot version had a slightly more molé-ish type sauce, and, as noted in the linked recipe, included chopped bell pepper, too.) What it really reminded me of was a recipe my Gram used to make that she called “Boozy Beef,” which is one of the only meat dishes I still crave as a vegetarian. It was basically beef tips in a very thick red sauce that I think involved burgundy, and we ate it over rice.

This probably isn’t much like that, either, but it comes awfully close to my memory of it, and it’s really, really tasty.


1 package of Gardein Beefless Tips

2 dried chipotle chilies (the original calls for milder guajillo chiles, but I could only find chipotles)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

2 T. balsamic vinegar

1 finely chopped small onion (I used about 3/4 of a medium-sized Vidalia)

2/3 cup vegetable broth

2-3 cloves garlic

1/4 c. tomato sauce


Because my kitchen isn’t well-ventilated, I hesitate to dry-toast chiles in it, and I had chipotles, so I figured they were smoky-tasting enough. So I cut the stems off the chiles, put them in a saucepan with 3 c. water, brought it to a boil, then took it off the heat and let the chiles soak while I prepared the other ingredients. I didn’t seed the chiles, and I didn’t find the final dish too spicy. You might want to seed them if you’re sensitive to spiciness.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and frozen fake beef.

While that’s cooking, put the chiles in a food processor with the garlic and veggie broth, and process until smooth. Add the chile-soaking liquid if the sauce seems too thick–I didn’t need to use any of it.

Once the onions start to caramelize, add the balsamic vinegar to the skillet, along with the pureed chile mixture and the tomato sauce. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce reaches the consistency you want. Having noticed the aforementioned resemblance to Boozy Beef at this point, I reduced the sauce well past “sauce,” into the realm of “really thick glaze.” 🙂

Try not to taste it too much, or you won’t have enough to eat! I kept picking bits of fake beef out as it was cooking.

Serve over rice. I originally intended to put grated cheese on it, but it was so good without, I didn’t bother. I don’t have a picture, because even though I made it last night, it’s already all gone!

Recipe: California Casserole

– about 2 cups cooked white rice
– oregano, salt, and pepper to taste, added to the rice
– 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
– 2 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
– 2 tomatoes, sliced
– 1 cup sour cream
– 4-oz. can mild diced green chilies, drained

This is a recipe my grandma used to make a lot. Hers had chicken in it, but it works just fine if you simply omit the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Get the rice started cooking, if you don’t have some handy.

In a skillet, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Fry the zucchini slices in batches, with just one layer in the skillet at a time. This is by far the most time-consuming step of the recipe. The oil will pop and spatter, so use both tongs and caution. I usually salt and pepper each batch sparingly as I add them to the skillet. As you finish each batch, place them on a paper-towel-covered plate to drain off the excess oil.

I tried to speed things up by slicing one of the zucchini I used today super-thin with my mandoline and frying those pieces all up at once. They tasted fine, but the slower method, alas, makes them taste much better. You want them to get nice and brown on both sides. My mom, who has more patience than I do, gets them very brown, and they’re delicious and worth the wait. (You’ll want to guard the fried pieces from snitchy fingers. Many of them often disappear before making it into the casserole!) Mine looked like this:

my fried zucchini bits

I usually use a small casserole dish and do one layer of each ingredient. Spray or butter the casserole dish and layer the rice, cheese, zucchini, and tomatoes. Mix the chilies into the sour cream, and spread this mixture over the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.

The casserole just out of the oven

These edges might be a smidge too brown.

If your casserole dish is bigger, or if you just feel like it, repeat the rice, cheese, zucchini, and tomato layers again before adding the topping.

My Gram would put garlic salt in this, too, but I didn’t have any, and it still tasted right to me without it.

I’m not sure why it’s called California Casserole! Maybe she learned the recipe while she lived there, or maybe it’s because of the Monterey Jack cheese!

Recipe: White Bean Pasta

Another really easy one!

– a healthy handful of sun-dried tomatoes
– 16 oz. farfalle or other pasta
– 15-oz. can cannelleni
– a couple big handfuls of baby arugula
– grated parmesan, asiago, or romano

Pour boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes, let them sit for 20 minutes, then drain and slice.

Meanwhile, make the pasta according to the directions.

Once the pasta’s done, drain it and return it to the pot. Drain and rinse the beans, and stir them and the tomatoes into the pasta. Season to taste. I added some red pepper flakes, about a T. of olive oil, and salt and pepper. I didn’t turn the heat back on, but added the arugula to the pot, and the leftover heat of the pasta and everything was enough to just wilt it and make it a lovely bright green. Serve sprinkled with the grated cheese.

Recipe: Crazy-Lazy Tamale Pie

This is so easy, and comes out so hearty, rich, and yummy. I didn’t even add seasonings to anything, and it worked perfectly. All you have to do is make the rice and open a few cans. I really do recommend using corn tortillas in it; they add a nice, subtle, buttery flavor.

– 1 box Spanish rice mix (I used Rice-a-Roni)
– about 2 cups grated cheddar and Montery Jack cheese
– a few corn torillas
– 15 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, liquid drained off
– 15 oz. can refried beans
– 8 oz. sour cream
– 4 oz. can diced green chiles

Make the rice according to the package directions. I’m so lazy, I didn’t even cut the tortillas. I just tore them. I did a layer of tortilla on the bottom of a smallish casserole dish, then the rice, then half the cheese, then the refried beans, which I spooned on right out of the can. Another layer of tortillas, then the tomatoes and the rest of the cheese. Mix the sour cream and chiles together and spread them over the top. Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.

If I’d had more than the two tortillas, I probably would have made more layers!

Some Tips for Disney World Resorts

I haven’t stayed at all of them by any means. I’m working on it! My family always stays on-property when we go. At first, this was because Little Sis had a cast member discount. Now it’s because, given that we travel with two toddlers, the bus service is practically a necessity. Plus, the resorts have more character, and they have food courts. But you can eat at a resort food court even if you’re not staying there.

– The dirty rice at Sassagoula Food Works, at Port Orleans, looks like it isn’t vegetarian, but it is. The “meat” in it is actually soy crumbles. (This is just about my favorite sneaky thing I know!) They’ll also do their chicken quesadillas with only cheese, if you ask, and you have to have the beignets at least once. They’re so good.

– Individual or family-size cheese pizzas are an option at just about every resort food court I know of, as long as it’s one of those walk-up-and-order ones. Most places also have marinara and alfredo sauces that are vegetarian. They’re usually on the menu with something including chicken or meatballs, but you can get the dish without the meat. The pasta and sauces don’t touch the meat ’til it gets plated, so you don’t have to worry about contamination.

– You’re pretty much totally screwed if you’re trying to get food at the Yacht or Beach Club after about 9 PM. It’s room service or nothing at that point. Luckily, you can get pizza and pasta and the like this way. I found their Caesar salad yummy, though I know that’s cheating.

– Riverside does a create-your-own-pasta bar, which means you can have it any way you want. It has pesto, alfredo, and marinara sauce, and all kinds of veggies. They’ve looked at me a little funny when they ask “chicken or shrimp?” and I say “neither,” but it’s really good, and it’s a staggering amount of food, at least two servings for most people. They use vegetable oil for sauteeing, so you can easily make this a vegan meal.

– Riverside also does create-your-own-omelet in the morning. Oh yeah.

– Animal Kingdom Lodge has an Indian-inspired restaurant called Saana, with an extensive vegetarian menu. Their counter-service food court has really tasty falafel, too. (I’ve gone over there to eat lunch even when we’re not staying there.) I love them a lot, because the first time we stayed there, I wanted the falafel again the night before we left, and they were out. The food court chef went over to the restaurant and made some for me. ♥

– Pop Century and the All-Stars have a nice variety of stuff at their food courts, mostly all-American, but, like every place at Disney World, they make sure to have at least some options for vegetarians. Pop has a vegetarian calzone, hummus, and veggie lo mein; the All-Stars have cheese pizza and pasta with sauces, as mentioned above.

– If you’re a fishetarian, or you cheat from being strictly veggie the way I sometimes do on vacation, Wilderness Lodge has really great Northwest-inspired seafood at their restaurant.

– If you’re planning to eat at Victoria & Albert, they’ll do a vegetarian menu if you notify them when you make the reservation (which you have to do about six months in advance!). Obviously, I need to sample this in the name of research. It has nothing to do with just plain wanting to eat there…