Hearty but healthy chicken enchiladas
December 31, 2007
If you’re at all like me, you’ve just spent the holiday season indulging in a monthlong feast and are prepared to pay the price by starting the new year with a healthy diet.
But the last thing I want to eat on a blustery winter day is salad and light fare. I want warm and hearty.
One thing I’ve learned in my relatively recent forays into the kitchen is that with some tinkering you can turn a caloric catastrophe into a healthy option. To do this, I turned to Devin Alexander, who has made a career of taking artery-clogging, pound-packing recipes and turning them into yummy diet food.
She taught me how to make grilled chicken enchiladas from her Discovery Health channel show, “Healthy Decadence with Devin Alexander.” Yes, those cheesy, saucy, sloppy Mexican restaurant favorites. Her version has is lighter by 20 grams of fat and 300 calories, according to her calculation.
“Honestly, I swear you’d never know the difference in recipes,” Alexander said. “It tastes hearty but it’s not heavy.”
Rolled tight and packed with several finely chopped ingredients, enchiladas wouldn’t usually be my first choice of dish to tackle. They look daunting.
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But store-bought sauces and packaged chilies can make it easier, just be careful to choose brands that are low salt or salt free.
The secret to Alexander’s fat-cutting recipe is using 75 percent reduced-fat cheese and grilling. Grilling the chicken helps keeps the fat content down because much of the fat drips off during cooking. And you don’t even need a stove or a grill. You can use a non-stick frying pan coated with a little olive-oil spray.
Grilling usually scares me off because I’m afraid of failing to cook the chicken all the way through. But this recipe is idiot proof. Feel free to cut right into the breast to check because you’re going to be chopping up the meat anyway.
Wrapping the tortilla is the trickiest part of making the enchiladas. I can think of several occasions, including a first date, where taco or burrito night ended in a shirt full of filling when the tortilla broke. At Alexander’s urging I wrapped the tortillas in a damp, lint-free towel and microwave them to make them more pliable.
Serve enchiladas with a small salad – I’m not opposed to salad – or grill some vegetables and you’ll have a meal that might just trick you into thinking the party is still on.
GRILLED CHICKEN ENCHILADAS
Start to finish: 50 minutes (30 active)
2 teaspoons salt-free Southwest or Mexican seasoning
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-1/4 cups canned medium traditional enchilada sauce (red)
1-1/4 cups canned medium green chile enchilada sauce
3-1/2 ounces (about 1-3/4 cups) finely shredded 75% light cheddar cheese, divided
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup drained, sliced black olives
2 tablespoons canned, drained, chopped chilies
8 (6-inch) yellow corn tortillas
Preheat a grill to high heat. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
In a small bowl, mix the seasoning, garlic and salt. Rub the mixture evenly over chicken breasts to cover. Let stand 10 minutes, then place the breasts side by side on the grill or in your pan.
Turn the heat to medium and cook the breasts for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until no longer pink inside. Remove from the grill and let stand 5 minutes.
In a medium pan over medium heat, combine the enchilada sauces. Stir occasionally until simmering.
In a medium bowl, mix 1-1/4 cups of the cheese, the cilantro, olives and chilies. Set aside.
Coarsely chop one chicken breast. Repeat with remaining breasts and keep each resulting pile of chopped chicken separate from the others.
Spoon 1/2 cup of the sauce into a 13-by-9-by 2-inch baking dish, spreading it evenly to cover the bottom.
Wrap the tortillas in a damp, lint-free dish towel and microwave until just warm and pliable, about 30 seconds. Dip one tortilla in the remaining sauce, then place 1/8 of the cheese mixture in a 2-inch wide strip down the center of the tortilla. Top with 1/2 of a chopped chicken breast.
Fold the sides of tortilla into the center so they overlap, creating a tube, and place the tube seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, chicken and cheese mixture, placing them side by side in the dish. Ladle the remaining sauce over the top then sprinkle the tops evenly with the reserved cheese.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake the enchiladas an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted both on the top and on the insides.
Makes 4 two-enchilada servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 366 calories, 38 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat (2 saturated), 75 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 1151 mg sodium.
(Recipe from Discovery Health channel’s “Healthy Decadence with Devin Alexander.”)
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