Early in 2013, my father-in-law was diagnosed with bladder cancer. If that wasn’t startling enough, tests to determine whether the cancer had spread revealed lung cancer; different from the bladder cancer. Which turned out to be a good thing, in the hierarchy of cancer goodness that is.
Needless to say, it’s been a long, bumpy ride. As we head into fall, I’m visiting my in-laws to help as best I can with recovery from a radical surgery (fingers crossed, the final major medical hurdle in his journey back to health), one that hopefully has kicked this unwelcome visitor to the curb.
We’ve got a recovery team in place, with each of us playing to our strength. As the dietitian/nutritionist/chef/personal trainer, I’m in charge of meals and walks. I confess, the opportunity to cook up nutrient-rich, plant-powered and delicious meals each day has me giddy.
A long-time follower of a vegetarian/vegan diet (with fish rotating through on occasion), I’m a huge advocate of plant-based meals for preventing and managing disease. Not that my cooking will be the ultimate cure, but it certainly can’t hurt. For the last 90 days or so, I’ve been experimenting with a 100% vegan diet, so I’ve packed those principles along for this trip.
Several days into my stay, we’re raving about the taste and the EFFECT of my cooking. My father-in-law is gaining strength daily, experiencing a perkier appetite, has color returning to his cheeks, and a small but perceptable pep to his step on our daily stroll. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not running a marathon any time soon – but by his own account and what we’re observing, he’ll be tough to hold back!
I’m featuring one of my “get well dishes” here; vegan enchiladas. I made a huge batch, which with leftovers makes it easy to simply reheat and eat (they’re just as delicious the next day)!
1 medium red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
1, 6 ounce bag organic baby spinach
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
8 ounces extra-firm, water-packed tofu, drained and crumbled (I used sprouted tofu)
2 cups cooked pinto beans (I cooked my own, but you can use 1, 16 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1 cup cooked quinoa
12 whole wheat tortillas
2, 12 ounce jars low-sodium salsa
1. In a large skillet, saute onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons water (add more water to prevent sticking/burning). Cook and stir 10 minutes, or until onion is soft.
2. While onion is cooking, place the sweet potato and 3 tablespoons water into a glass bowl; microwave 8-10 minutes, or until soft. Mash with a fork or potato masher, set aside.
3. Add bell peppers to the pan, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the sweet potato, mix well. Tear the baby spinach leaves in two, toss them into the pan with the other vegetables. Stir and cook until spinach is wilted. Remove the cooked vegetables from the heat.
4. In a large bowl, mash the tofu and beans together (it’s ok to leave some of the beans whole). Stir in the quinoa.
5. Combine the vegetables with the bean/tofu/quinoa mixture; mix well.
6. In a 9 x 13 glass baking dish (larger if you have one), spread enough salsa to cover the bottom of the dish (save some for topping). Place ~ 1/4 cup filling on the long side of a tortilla, then roll tortilla around filling and place in the pan (I used an additional smaller dish, 12 enchiladas won’t fit into a 9 x 12 pan).
7. Spread remaining salsa over top of filled tortillas. Cover pans tightly with foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
8. Serve topped with chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, and sliced avocado, or if you’re feeling ambitious, the following avocado “cream”.
In a food processor combine 2 large avocados, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 cup packed fresh cilantro, 1/8 cup water. Blend until creamy, adding additional water as needed to thin into a pourable consistency (from “Oh She Glows” food blog).