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March Healthy Dinner Blog: Enchiladas

Welcome to our March healthy dinner blog! Every month we feature recipes that provide protein and veggie rich options for families. This month we’re tackling enchiladas. This recipe has a few more steps than some of our previous ones, but they’re pretty simple and the results are delicious and healthy.

If you are looking for a restaurant style traditional enchiladas, don’t make this recipe. I love traditional enchiladas, but I made them one time. The sauce started with a couple tablespoons of oil and each tortilla had to be fried before you rolled around the filling. Aside from all the extra fat, I made a mess in my kitchen. Plus, rolling up each tortilla was very time-consuming. I decided to see if I could do better.

First up, the sauce. It’s the perfect place to get in some vegetables. Instead of starting with oil and flour, we start with tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

Next, the filling. Chicken is great, but why not add some vegetables? Personally, I love spinach enchiladas, but I’m looking for something I can sneak past my kids. I don’t know about yours, but my children can spot a leaf from a mile away. I went with shredded zucchini instead.

Tortillas and cheese are the final element. We stick with corn tortillas, but we skip the frying step. We also cut down on the total cheese and introduce queso fresco to top the dish.

To make this whole process easier, we eliminate rolling up the enchiladas. Instead, we use the tortillas to create a crust in a pie plate and layer the filling in.

Here’s your ingredient list…

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

1 can diced green chilies, 4 ounces

2 baby bell peppers, no stems or seeds

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/2 Tbs olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsps minced garlic

5 corn tortillas

1 medium zucchini

1 1/2 cups of cooked beans

12 oz cooked and diced chicken breast

(Or another 1 1/2 cups cooked beans for a vegetarian dinner)

1 cup shredded cheese (I like Oaxaca, but any mild cheese works)

3 oz crumbled queso fresco

1.) Dump the tomatoes, chili, onion, and bell peppers into your blender. Purée until smooth. You can use a food processor here, as well.

2.) heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add all the spices and garlic. Stir and cook for 2–3 minutes. Pour in tomato mixture. Stir to combine and let simmer while you prep the other ingredients.

3.) While the sauce simmers, shred your zucchini and transfer it to a microwave safe bowl with a lid (I use a cereal bowl with a plate on top, it doesn’t have to be fancy). Microwave the zucchini for 3 minutes. When it’s done, dump it onto a couple paper towels and let the excess water drain.

4.) Start layering your dish! Put one corn tortilla in the center of the plate, break two in half, and arrange them around the edges so that you cover most of the dish.

Spread your layers evenly around the dish in this order…

2/3 cup sauce

Zucchini

Beans

Shredded Cheese

Chicken (or more beans)

2/3 cup sauce

2 tortillas, broken into pieces

2/3 cup sauce (or whatever is left)

Crumbled queso fresco

5.) Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!

Tips and tricks

This recipe serves four, and comes in at about 500 cal per serving. It’s one of the higher calorie dinners that we’ve made, but if you stick to steamed veggies or a lightly dressed salad on the side it’s a healthy meal.

My kids complained that this was a little bit spicy, but it’s really not. If you have kids with sensitive palettes, you could eliminate the green chilies. I served it with some sour cream and avocado and that seemed to solve our problem.

This recipe is so easy to convert vegetarian or vegan! Just use all beans instead of adding chicken for vegetarian enchiladas. If you want to go vegan take the extra step of swapping out your favorite nondairy cheese.

This took me about an hour total to prepare, but half of that is spent baking. The prep work is pretty quick, especially if you use the shortcut of pre-chopped frozen onion and pre-minced garlic. I get my frozen chopped onion at Mariano’s, but I have seen it other places as well. Such a timesaver!

Bring your kids in the kitchen for this one! I called mine in to help layer the ingredients after I had hidden the zucchini with beans.

You might want to adjust the seasonings in the sauce to fit your family. My family doesn’t add a lot of salt to food, so you might want a little bit more of that. If you like spicy food, a little cayenne pepper would be delicious. Also, you could probably substitute 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning for all of the spices if you need to, but I haven’t tried that.

I hope you enjoy this meal! It’s one of my favorites. Next month we’re going to change things up with some tasty variations on chicken salad. Spring and summer are on the way, let’s get our recipes ready!