Laptop Lunches #307

Spanish rice I improvised (and it was fantastic--but I'll have to wait to give you the recipe until I actually measure things), a few tortilla chips, veganized beef taco casserole (recipe below), non-dairy sour cream garnished with cilantro, and some golden berries.

I don't know what I think of golden berries, but there they were, looking all unusual and blast-from-a-past-I-haven't-lived in the produce section, and I picked them up. They're not as tart as cranberries but they're pretty much just slightly sweeter, yellow cranberries. (Speaking of which...don't eat plain raw cranberries unless you're the sort of person who eats raw lemons straight up. Learn from my mistakes.)

In America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2012, there is a recipe for beef taco casserole that I made before I was vegan. I liked it because it was so different than most of the America's Test Kitchen recipes (which is not to say that I didn't like their typical recipes, but they were a lot of work). Instead of an elaborate set of steps and dirtying up a dozen dishes, this recipe was refreshingly quick and easy and one could imagine finding it in one of those midcentury women's group cookbooks. It does have a kind of long ingredient list but there aren't really very many steps.

It occurred to me, when I had some broken tortilla chips I wanted to use for something, that this used to be a good way to use them up, and that it should be easy to veganize. It was really successful! Also, if you're avoiding gluten, it's gluten free.

I like to have this with some of the unbroken chips, or with flour tortillas, and non-dairy sour cream. The sour cream is really important because this turns out to be pretty spicy, but you can just leave the hot sauce out if you want to make it a little less fiery.

TVP Taco Casserole (aka Veganized Beef Taco Casserole)
Serves about 3

1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon boiling vegetable broth (I made my own with Better than Bouillon)
1/2 cup TVP
1 cup canned refried beans (check to make sure it's vegan--I used Goya traditional refried pinto beans)
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chiles (such as Ro-Tel), drained with liquid reserved and divided
2 1/2 tablespoons minced cilantro (dried is fine, but fresh is great if you have it), divided
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Up to 3/4 cup shredded vegan Monterey Jack cheese, divided
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 1/3 cups tortilla chips, broken into 1-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour boiling broth over TVP. Stir well and set aside to reconstitute.

In a mixing bowl, combine beans, half of the drained tomatoes, 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, and hot sauce. Stir well.

Smooth beans into a small casserole dish (an 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inch baking dish works well, or something that will hold the same amount). Sprinkle a layer of cheese over the bean mixture.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onion and about 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, and coriander. Cook until fragrant (usually about half a minute).

Stir in reconstituted TVP and mix well. Add tomatoes, about half of the juice from the can (or more if you want the heat!), vinegr, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture is nearly dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle the TVP mixture over the beans and cheese, taking care to cover evenly, then follow with another layer of cheese. Scatter the chips on top of the cheese, then add your final layer of cheese.

Bake about 8 to 10 minutes, until the filling is bubbly. Let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cilantro and serve.


  1. I have never heard of golden berries before. I googled and turns out they are also called inca berries, which I have seen here in the dried form only. We don't often get many exciting berries available here, just the standards.

    1. I don't think I've ever seen them in the store before, but I have gotten some from a farmer's produce stand once. I'm not an impulse buyer of things like potato chips, but unusual produce? Sign me up, even if I regret it. I don't think I've ever seen them dry!

    2. I love unusual produce too! If I see something new, I must have it!

  2. Oooh the taco casserole sounds absolutely delicious, thanks for sharing the recipe! I've heard mixed reviews on the golden berries but it doesn't really sound too pleasant!

    1. I feel like I need to know what to do with them other than eating them plain. Cranberries are awful fresh, raw, and plain, but if you do things to them they're great. I have to believe golden berries have a purpose. I just don't know what it is.

  3. Your veganized beef taco casserole sounds great; I love finding fun ways to use up broken tortilla chips! Looking forward to your recipe for Spanish rice!

    1. I hope you like it if you decide to try it! And yes, broken tortilla chips deserve to be elevated from the sadness they are alone.


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