Meatless Mexican Meals

Sizzle Simmer Sauté
by Jen Ruple

Jennifer Ruple

Whether you are a vegetarian or just looking to add a few more meatless meal options to your weekly dinner rotation, make it a fiesta! Mexican food, with all its fresh ingredients – peppers, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, corn, cheeses – is quite conducive for meatless and vegetarian diets.
Here are three recipes that are so hearty and flavorful you’ll never miss the meat! In Avocado and Black Bean Quesadillas, warmed flour tortillas are folded over melty cheese, sautéed veggies, smashed avocado and beans. These quesadillas make a festive start to any meal, however, they’re also substantial enough to stand on their own as the main course. For an alternative to traditional meat-filled tacos, try potatoes, poblano chiles and spinach wrapped up in soft corn tortillas. Mexican Rice and Black Beans makes a great side dish, but with lots of add-ins, it becomes a plentiful and filling one-pot meal.

Avocado and Black Bean Quesadillas
So many delicious ingredients are packed into these quesadillas, and the cheese binds it all together. Feel free to use any Mexican melting cheese. Try asadero, chihuahua, queso quesadilla or a combination of all of them. If those varieties aren’t available, Monterey Jack is a good option. Serve quesadilla wedges with salsa and sour cream or Mexican crema. Serves 4.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt to taste
2 avocados, halved and pitted
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
1 cup shredded Mexican melting cheese
4 medium flour tortillas

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion and pepper until soft. Stir in beans and seasonings and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Mash avocados to desired consistency (I prefer mine somewhat chunky). Sprinkle with lime juice and chopped cilantro.

To one half of each tortilla, add 1/4 of the avocado mixture, beans mixture and cheese. Fold tortilla over filling. Cook each quesadilla over medium heat until lightly browned or 3 to 4 minutes, turning once.
Place quesadillas on a baking sheet and keep warm in 300 F oven. Repeat with remaining quesadillas.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Potato, Poblano Chile and Spinach Tacos
These tacos are a throwback from time spent in New Mexico. My husband and I made these during one of the cooking classes we participated in at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. The class featured several types of tacos – and this was the vegetarian version we made. Instead of adding the cheese into the filling mixture as in the recipe, I opted to crumble queso fresco (which means fresh cheese) over the filling. Serves 6-8.
1 pound red or white potatoes (about 4 or 5)
1 white onion, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches fresh spinach, stems trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
4 poblano chiles, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 cup heavy cream, sour cream or Mexican crema
1 cup grated cheese such as Monterey Jack, cotija, Parmesan, fontina or a mixture of them
Salt to taste
Corn tortillas
Peel potatoes and dice into 3/8-inch cubes. Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until potatoes are soft but not falling apart, about 10-12 minutes.
In a medium-hot skillet, heat oil. Sauté peppers until soft. Add onion and cook until lightly brown. Add garlic and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes more. Add spinach a handful at a time, stirring with tongs to wilt.
When greens are wilted, add herbs and cream. Cook on a low boil, stirring constantly until liquid is reduced by a third. Stir in cheese and continue cooking until smooth and thick. Adjust salt if needed. Serve with warm, corn tortillas.
(Recipe adapted from the Santa Fe School of Cooking)

Mexican Rice and Black Beans
The perfect one-pot meal, this satisfying dish is packed with protein and vegetables. It’s also a great option for meatless meal nights. Serve it with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream. Plus, warm tortilla chips are a great vehicle for scooping it all up.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
1 cup corn kernels
14-ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
4-ounce can diced green chiles
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups cooked brown rice
Juice from 1 lime
8 ounces enchilada sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese

Shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream and tortilla chips for serving
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic and bell pepper until soft.

Stir in corn, tomatoes and chiles and cook for 1 minute.

Add beans, rice, lime juice, enchilada sauce, spices, cream cheese and 3/4 cup Mexican cheese.

Sprinkle with additional cheese and cook until cheese is melted. Serve with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and tortilla chips.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

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