The Whole Enchilada

We love, love, love our TexMex! One of our favorite TexMex dishes is enchiladas.

Enchiladas Are Traditionally Served Alongside Rice and Refried Beans

In a good TexMex restaurant, you’ll typically see a choice of cheese, beef, and chicken enchiladas on the menu. My favorite local TexMex restaurant also offers a deliciously decadent spinach enchilada.

I myself have several variations on enchiladas that I choose from, depending upon the flavors I’m craving and how much time I want to spend puttering with them.

While we order enchiladas in restaurants from time to time, they aren’t the healthiest of fare, as they’re usually overladen with fat and calories. But as I feel a life without enchiladas isn’t a life worth living, we enjoy them fairly often at home — not only is it more economical to make them at home than eating out, but by choosing and controlling the ingredients and cooking methods, I can make them healthier (or, if you prefer, not as “bad” for you 😉 ) than the ones we can get at a restaurant or in the frozen/convenience food section of the grocery store.

To improve the nutrition of this dish while keeping the flavors we love, I:

  • Use leaner, healthier ingredients — lean meats (93/7 or greater), reduced-fat cheeses, reduced-fat sour cream, canola oil, and such;
  • Employ lean cooking methods — meats and veg (if sautéed) are cooked in a non-stick skillet with little, if any, oil;
  • Steam the tortillas in the microwave between two damp paper towels on a reduced power setting (as opposed to heating them in oil, as is more traditional); and
  • Use fajita-sized Carb Balance (high fiber, lower carb) flour tortillas in place of the more traditional corn tortillas. Don’t get me wrong — I still use corn tortillas sometimes (I get hankerings for them), but the combo of the flavor, texture, and nutrition of Mission Carb Balance tortillas is pretty difficult to resist: one tortilla is 80 calories, 2 grams of fat (1 saturated), o cholesterol, and 12 grams of carbs — 7 of which are fiber (28% of your recommended daily allowance!), meaning there is only a total of 5 net carbs per tortilla!

We’ve declared tonight to be enchilada night at our house. Usually, I make a single type of enchilada —  all cheese or all meat (beef, turkey, or chicken), say. But today, I’ve got a wild hair (or is it a wild hare? 😉 ) and have decided I’ll make half meat and half cheese. The meat that goes unused in the enchiladas I’ll use later on in taco salad, or nachos, or soft tacos, or Mexican omelet, or some such.

And, of course, I’ll serve it along with my easy Spanish rice (to which I’ll add some of the corn left over from when we had corn on the cob the other night) and refried beans, even though, with the fiber content of the carb-balance tortillas, the beans aren’t really needed from a nutritional standpoint to balance out the meal. I also have some home-made reduced-fat queso (cheese dip) leftover from the other night (I used it to top our chili fries), which I’ll drizzle over the top of the tortillas instead of grated cheese (‘though grated cheese will still go into the enchiladas, of course).

Oh, a note on cheese: I nearly always grate my own because 1) it’s fresher, 2) it has more flavor, 3) it’s less expensive, and 4) it isn’t coated with flour or chemicals to keep it from sticking together, giving it a smoother texture (as opposed to grainy) when melted in recipes.

Here are the two enchilada recipe variations we’ll be enjoying in our casa tonight.

CHEESE ENCHILADAS WITH RED SAUCE (Makes 8 enchiladas)

  • 1 packet enchilada sauce mix (you’ll also need an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce as per packet directions and 1 ½ cups water) OR canned enchilada sauce (two 10 or 12 ounce cans or 1 large can)
  • 3 or so cups (12 ounces) shredded and/or sliced cheese (I like to do a combo of reduced-fat sharp cheddar, Monterrey jalapeño Jack, habañero cheddar, etc.) (I’ve also used sliced cheese, folding it into “strips” to fill the enchiladas)
  • 8 corn or flour tortillas (we like to use the 6” “fajita” sized carb-balance tortillas, and the flour tortillas are easier to work with)
  • Sliced green onion or diced onion (red, yellow, white, whatever), to taste
  • Sliced or diced black olives, if desired
  • 1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies, if desired
  1. Prepare enchilada sauce according to package directions. We really like things spicy, and so I sometimes like to use either a spicy tomato sauce – we can get an El Pato sauce from Mexico here that’s spicier than regular tomato sauce – or use a regular tomato sauce and substitute part of the 1 ½ cups water with salsa, taco sauce, or some such, or maybe add in a bit more chili powder, cumin, and/or garlic powder. Actually, El Pato is delicious enough that you could probably use it as the enchilada sauce if you prefer.
  2. Lightly spray or oil an 11” X 7” pan. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the pan.
  3. Steam tortillas in microwave between damp paper towels. (Depending upon your microwave’s power and settings, suggest doing just a couple of tortillas at a time on a reduced power setting – 60 or 50% — for about 10 or 15 seconds.)
  4. Fill center of tortilla with some cheese (about 1 to 1 1/2 ounces), sprinkle with some sliced/diced onion; add some diced green chilies and/or black olives, if desired. Roll tightly and place, seam side down, in pan.
  5. Once pan is full, pour enchilada sauce over all, making sure that each enchilada is covered in sauce.
  6. Sprinkle with more black olives, if desired, and sprinkle with more cheese.
  7. Bake at 350F until bubbly and heated through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  8. Let rest about 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

MEAT ENCHILADAS WITH RED SAUCE (Makes 8 enchiladas)

Make as cheese enchiladas, above, except:

  • Reduce cheese to about 1 to 1 ½ cups (4 to 6 ounces).
  • Brown 1 pound extra lean (93/7 or greater) ground beef OR ground turkey. (Turkey substitutes beautifully in this dish.) We like it spicy, so I season the meat with taco seasoning according to packet directions. Once the meat is seasoned, stir in about ½ cup or so of taco sauce or salsa.
  • Prepare as directed above, dividing meat evenly among tortillas, filling them with meat and a bit of cheese; then green chilies, black olives, and diced/sliced onion, as desired.

Whichever you make — cheese, beef, or turkey — your cocina (kitchen) will sure smell yummy!

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About MissieLee

I love tasty food prepared in a healthy way with a budget in mind.
This entry was posted in Main Dish, TexMex, Turkey, Vegetarian/Meatless and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Whole Enchilada

  1. Pingback: Late to the Party | That Smells Yummy!

  2. LinnieGayl says:

    I really need to start shredding my own cheese for things like this instead of buying pre-shredded. I’ll be very curious to see if you come up with a healthier version of spinach enchiladas, because they sound wonderful.

    • MissieLee says:

      Linnie, honestly, once you start shredding your own cheese, you don’t wanna go back. 😉

      Spinach enchiladas are really, REALLY good. What makes them “bad” for you is that they’re in a creamy, heavy white/cheesy/cream sauce kinda thing. I did a bid of Googling on recipes this evening, and I’m thinking that if I research it enough and am willing to experiment a bit, I could probably come up with something that would have all that wonderful flavor, but without being quite so decadent health-wise.

  3. biz319 says:

    I love enchiladas – never thought to make a veggie version with spinach though!

    My grocery store has what they call “cheese ends” which is the little nubs they can’t slice anymore – they sell these for $1.99 a pound – while you never know what you are going to get, I just throw it in my food processor and for $2 bucks I have shredded cheese at the ready.

    (although I do have to pick out any pepper jack cheese – my hubs can’t handle the heat like me!)

    • MissieLee says:

      Biz319 — cheese ends for $1.99/pound? AWESOME!

      I’ve never tried making the spinach enchiladas, but one day, when I’m feeling adventurous, I might give it a go. The restaurant serves it in a rich (and no doubt incredibly fatty) cream-type sauce. I’m betting I could “health it up” a bit if I’m willing to experiment.

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