A Green Life and Enchilada Casserole


When I was in Southern California visiting colleges, my views on what I wanted to do with my future took kind of a radical turn.

See, for a while now I’ve been saying I wanted to major in psychology and minor in nutritional science (or double major). I said I wanted to work in a recovery facility for girls with eating disorders, because I remembered how much more relatable and helpful those therapists were who admitted they had struggled in the past as well -it was like I could trust them more.

But I started to question myself once I visited my first college (UC Santa Barbara). I realized I have a love for the Earth. I want to learn more about it, to love it, to save it. My favorite class junior year was by far AP Envrionmental Science. I loved learning everything I did in that class, and I felt so empowered learning how much my diet helps the earth, and how much more I can do to help it. Being on a campus that was so environmentally friendly, spending a week by the ocean, being surrounded by hippies,  I realized that I don’t want to be a psychologist, sitting in an office, listening to other people’s problems (not that I don’t think they are wonderful!). I realized what I really want is to help people. To make a difference.

I got to thinking whether it was really me who wanted to work in a recovery facility, or if that was another outlet of the disorder that has plagued me. Yes, I wanted to help people, but is that the best way? Or is that simply me trying to find another outlet to let the obsession with food continue? While I love learning about nutrition, and disorders of the mind are interesting to me, is that really the best option for me to move forward from this stage in my life, to move forward from the hyper focus on food and lifestyle? Or is that me deciding, subconsciously, that I am not quite ready to let go? I am not saying that dietitians and psychologists are disordered, or that they are holding themselves back and settling. I am in awe of each and every professional for their passion to help people! They have helped me! They are incredible, and I will always be interested in those subjects. What I am saying, though, is that I realized I don’t want to spend the rest of my life focused on the same thing as my past, or be surrounded by clients that could potentially be a trigger for me, should I encounter a tough time in the future. After the final college I visited, I realized that I don’t want to focus on nutrition and health for the rest of my life, I want to spend my life making a difference in a bigger way. (After I decided this, I went and got some vegan ice cream. A large, since I decided not to focus anymore 😉 )

I want to major in environmental studies, maybe minor in sociology. I want to learn how to save the earth, I want to teach other people how they can do the same. I want to move forward in my life, to do something, to be out there, making changes, making my voice –MY voice, not any lingering disorder -heard.

After I decided this, I discovered the most amazing opportunity. It’s called Youth Empowered Action Camp (YEA), and it is a week long summer camp for youth aged 12-17 who want to make a difference in the world, whether it be animal rights, the environment, social justice, what have you. They help you develop leadership skills, knowledge, confidence and community. They help you discover your passion, and then develop a plan to make it happen. You are set up with an adult mentor to help guide you after the camp in making a difference, and are set up with local and national organizations focused on the same issues you are passionate about so that you can become an integral part of the movement. This is a program that has turned out youth with unlimited futures, making changes at their schools, speaking at public events, starting their own businesses (Ever heard of Clara’s Cakes?), and getting involved with organizations like Stop Child Trafficking Now and Compassion Over Killing. Oh, and the camp is vegan and eco friendly too. This was seriously like a break-in-the-clouds, I-absolutley-have-to-do-this moment for me, and I found out about it the last possible summer I could have. I am 17, so it is my last chance, I found out about it 3 weeks before the camp, and I managed to squeeze in and secure the last spot in the camp. I am going -I am doing this. I am changing my life -I am about to make a difference. Go check out their website here: www.yeacamp.org

And….shameless plug, if you want to help me out a bit, I could use a little help getting there 🙂 >donation site (big thanks if you want to help me:) )

Now, what does all of this have to do with enchiladas???

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Well, like myself, these enchiladas have undergone quite a bit of change…and they are green -like the environment.

That was a painful transition.

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We have been making these enchiladas (well, cheater enchiladas) for many years now, and they have evolved right along with us. Originally, you see, they were fish enchiladas with cream cheese. Instead of black beans and mushrooms, the filling was made with potatoes, onions, asparagus and mahi mahi. Instead of spreading each tortilla with refried beans, it was with cream cheese. So why in the world would I be giving you a recipe for fishy, cheesy enchiladas?

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When we went dairy free, we switched the cream cheese for tofutti. Then we went vegan. so we just switched the fish for yummy beans and mushrooms! The more we moved toward whole foods, we changed over to refried beans instead of cheese, and other brands of enchilada sauce (some of them have chicken stock and corn syrup solids-how about no) -and discovered green salsa works in a pinch!

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These are really customizable! I love them with asparagus (thats our original recipe) diced into discs, but any green veggie you have on hand works! Broccoli, zucchini, nopales (cactus), anything! Also, if you aren’t a wimp like me like spicy foods, use a medium or spicy sauce!! My sister and I are just to scandinavian to appreciate spicy (thats also why these aren’t traditional rolled enchiladas, we just aren’t that authentic haha!), so my mom has always made these mild for us! All the flavor, none of the burn! And if you really, really want to, make them the way we used to with Mahi Mahi and cream cheese -just spread each tortilla on both sides with cream cheese before layering into casserole.

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So you see, sometimes things change -diets, life paths, majors, ideas…But all that means is a chance to make something good and turn it even better!

Green Enchilada Casserole

or Green Enchilasagna, as I like to call it. But my mom said that was silly.

vegan, serves 9-12. Feel free to change to fit your diet preferences, or try it like it is!!

Filling:

  • 5-6 small/medium yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 7-8 mushrooms (or 2-4 portabellas), diced
  • 1 4 oz can diced mild green chiles
  • 2 small/medium zucchinis or 1 bunch asparagus, diced
  • 1/2  16 oz package frozen spinach (about 8 oz)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-1.5 C. green enchilada sauce or green salsa (till it tastes good to you!)

Enchilada layers:

  • filling
  • 5-6 large whole grain tortillas (brown rice, teff, Ezekial, corn, etc.)
  • 1-2 cans vegetarian refried beans
  • 2-3 C. green enchilada sauce or green salsa (depending on how thick/thin you spread it)
  • non dairy cheese (optional)

Gather your ingredients

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Preheat oven to 400.

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Wash and chop your potatoes into bite sized bits and steam them

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Dice your onion and garlic and sautee them with a little veggie broth, water, or oil until the onion is translucent. Add your mushroom and continue to cook until they are all brown and fragrant and delicious. 🙂

Add your zucchini (or asparagus), then your beans, spinach, and peppers. Once the zucchini is somewhat cooked, add the steamed potatoes and enchilada sauce. Mix it all together (and whaddya get?! haha sorry)

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Now comes the fun part! In a large casserole dish, spread a layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom and sides. Add a layer of tortillas.

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Spread a layer of refried beans on the tortillas

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Then a layer of filling (about 1/2), followed by another layer of sauce, tortillas, beans…

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Repeat:)

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After your second filling layer, top with tortillas and spread the top with more sauce. Add some nondairy cheese if you would like!

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My stepdad likes the cheese, I don’t care for it.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, broiling for a few minutes at the end if you would like. We were in a rush and didn’t have time

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Also, my mom added more cheese, as you can see. I dealt. These would also be delicious with a dollop of guacamole to serve, but I was all out of avocados (the horror!!!)

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These are, without a doubt, my favorite dinner recipe. Its something we’ve been making for ages, and I watched my mom make them so many times that I didn’t even ask her for the recipe before I made it myself. They are so easy and simple to make, and incredibly delicious.

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like a fine wine like soup ( 😉 ), these babies get better with age! I’ve always thought they taste even better the next day (Yay leftovers!!), and even cold! They are delicious any way you slice ’em!

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Enjoy!!

What did/do you want to do when you grow up?

What are some dinners that have evolved through the years?

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7 thoughts on “A Green Life and Enchilada Casserole

  1. I love everything about this post: your openness and honesty, your candid voice, your justification and description of the mental shift, your “transition” ;), and, of course, the casserole (totally Pinning!). I’m still thinking that I personally would like to go into the psychology/nutrition thing, because I know how crippling mental disorders can be and I think it would really give me a strong sense of purpose to help some people work through them, but I’m still pretty far off and who knows, that may change for me as well…
    *TRANSITION* Do you think the casserole would suit suspicious Standard-American-Diet-raised parents? (They are scared away by anything with TOO many vegetables…) 😉

    • Thank you!! I know exactly what you mean about the sense of purpose, that was my reason too! I just took a step back and asked myself if that was what my passion was, or if I thought it was what I ‘should’ do, you know? And yes, of course SAD Dieters would love this! Heck, my mom somehow got me to eat this during my middle school, Don’t-make-me-eat-health-food, I-wont-even-go-10-miles-near-tofu, hiding-halloween-candy-under-my-bed years 😉 Although I might recommend going ahead and spreading the tortillas with cream cheese or tofutti, and topping with cheese, if you don’t want it to be too out of the box for them, you know?? But yeah, this is a family favorite so I’m sure they will enjoy them!!

  2. I am so glad that you have decided to reevaluate what you want to do in the future; that takes a lot of thinking and courage!! I think it’s wonderful that you want to major in environmental science–that is a fantastic field, and I can definitely imagine you making a huge difference in the world:) I completely understand that you might want to steer away from careers relating to nutrition and/or eating disorders, in order to prevent yourself from obsessing over the same things that led you to develop the disorder in the first place. Yes, those people who work in such careers are incredibly strong and wonderful people, but I understand that it might not be your preference. I actually wanted to be a psychologist after taking AP Psychology my junior year of high school, but have changed my mind since then. I still love psychology, but what I truly want to do is something dance-related. I dream of joining a professional company, even though I know that is a completely unrealistic goal. But even though I am not talented enough to dance professionally, I can’t lie to myself and say “Oh, you don’t REALLY want a career in dance.” Because I actually do. Still, I have also considered being a doctor or nurse, since I am fascinated by medical science. Yes, I have finished my first year of college and STILL don’t know what my career path will be. Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful time at that camp–it sounds like it will be a truly unforgettable experience! Oh, and those enchiladas sound fabulous, as do all of your recipes:)

    • Thank you!! I say go for your dancing dream!! You love it so much, and even if you don’t necessarily join a company (which you still can:) ), there are SO many options as a dancer! You never know, maybe you should try out for SYTYCD or something? Or become a teacher, start your own studio, try out for a dance team (yes I know basketball dancers aren’t quite ballerinas, but hey? dancing is dancing right? 😉 ) I would be interested in the medical field if I wasn’t so squeamish! I can’t even handle a blood blister or changing a new ear piercing without passing out haha! And don’t worry about changing your mind, my sister changed her major like 4 times before her junior year of college! Nobody said you have to make up you mind about your life right out of high school, or even in your 50’s for that matter!! And, I hope you try the enchiladas:)

  3. Pingback: Hey Hey YEA Camp!!!! | Life Hands You Limes

  4. Lacy, I am sooooo lucky I got to hang around with you all week. I learned to love my body oh so much more, and I am so glad you came to YEA camp and I could meet you!

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