Black Bean, Squash, and Spinach Enchilada Casserole

So, how’s your January going so far? If you had any goals or resolutions, have you been keeping them? This black bean, squash, and spinach enchilada casserole is helping me with my 2017 goals.
This black bean, squash, and spinach enchilada casserole is vegan and gluten-free, but full of flavorful veggies

You might remember that a big goal of mine for 2017 is eating vegan. So maybe when you look at these photo you think I’m totally cheating already, but I’m not! The cheese and sour cream are vegan versions. I’ve been testing the options, and I thought the vegan mozzarellas I tried were totally good. While I think I’ll lean more heavily towards homemade versions of substitutes in the future, I like to know what’s available, and how to use it.

This black bean, squash, and spinach enchilada casserole is vegan and gluten-free, but full of flavorful veggies

For one thing, I’ve learned that vegan cheese doesn’t melt the same way as dairy-based cheese. So while this vegan mozzarella didn’t melt in the oven, it did melt when I re-heated it later in the microwave. I think it might be the temperature, because I think I successfully melted vegan cheese on pizza when I baked it at 450°F. Anybody have any vegan cheese-melting tips to share?

This black bean, squash, and spinach enchilada casserole is vegan and gluten-free, but full of flavorful veggies

Cutting dairy out of my diet has been the biggest challenge of eating vegan, but it’s going well. I’ve had to find alternatives to cheese and crackers as a snack (or lazy meal), and I’ve been eating a lot more nuts. To ease into things, I’ve been veganizing recipes I’d have made with dairy in the past, which is where this enchilada casserole comes in. It’s basically a big pile of delicious tex-mex veggies, plus some corn tortillas, so it’s a great hearty winter meal.

This black bean, squash, and spinach enchilada casserole is vegan and gluten-free, but full of flavorful veggies

And don’t worry if you’re not into vegan cheese, or can’t get it–you can totally make this enchilada casserole with regular cheese.

Black Bean, Squash, and Spinach Enchilada Casserole

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 can (15 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes, not drained
2 cans (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup diced squash (I used acorn squash)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups red salsa
1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
6 to 8 corn tortillas, torn into quarters
2 cups (about 2 big handfuls) baby spinach leaves
2 cups shredded vegan mozzarella cheese (or Monterey Jack cheese or Mexican blend conventional cheese)

Optional:
Chopped fresh cilantro
Vegan sour cream (or dairy)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place olive oil in large skillet and heat on medium. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté for 5 minutes.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, squash, and garlic, and cook, covered, for 5 minutes more, stirring halfway through. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and spices and cook 10 min more until squash is tender. Stir in the black beans.

Lightly grease a 9″ square baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the salsa and enchilada sauce.

To assemble, spread 1/2 cup salsa-enchilada sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Add a single layer of halved tortilla pieces, arranging them so they completely cover the salsa.
Top with a third of the vegetables, half of the spinach, and a third of the cheese.
Top with a second layer of tortillas, then add half of the remaining salsa, half of the remaining vegetables, all of the remaining spinach, and half of the remaining cheese.
Make a third layer of tortillas, pressing down the previous layers to make more room if necessary. Top with the remaining salsa, vegetables, and then cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes. If you’re using conventional cheese, you may want to cover with aluminum foil for the first 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until heated through.
Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle the top lightly with additional chopped cilantro.