Chicken Enchiladas Verdes: Or As the Locals Would Say ‘Enchiladas Verdes De Pollo’

Enchilada VerdesSaucy, cheesy, spicy goodness. That’s all I can say when I think of any type of enchilada dish. Even though I love all types, my favorite is made with the “verde” or green sauce. The sauce is pretty easy to find in most grocery stores too. I usually locate the one I like in the international isle. And make sure you get the BIG can if you like saucy!

One thing I observed about the way that enchiladas are traditionally made throughout the years though, is that the corn tortillas are usually quickly fried in oil to make them a little more pliable and easier to fold. I was almost positive there was a way to achieve the same effect by using a more low-cal approach without noticing a difference in flavor. I found one! So this is how I pay my homage to yet another classic, family-friendly Mexican-style dish that’s pretty darn easy to make after work.

Ingredients:
– 12 corn tortillas
– Cooking spray
– 2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken breast (maybe left over from the night before, or if you can manage baking a couple of chicken breasts the same night with salt and pepper for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees)
– 1 32 oz. can of green enchilada sauce
– ¼ cup diced red onion
– 2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
– Shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cilantro, diced green onions and sour cream to top.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

First, line two large baking sheets with foil. Then evenly lay out six tortillas on each baking sheet with as little overlap as possible. Spray each tortilla lightly with cooking spray, flip and spray the other sides. Bake the tortillas in the oven a few minutes until they are soft and pliable but NOT crispy (they will only get crispier when you take them out of the oven.) This will give you the ability to easily roll the chicken and cheese inside the tortillas without them breaking or splitting.

Reduce the heat of your oven to 400 degrees.

Pour all of your sauce into a shallow bowl so you can dip each side of the tortillas. Next, line up your cheese, chicken, onions and sauce in an assembly line fashion and grab your largest rectangular baking pan. Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray.

To roll the enchiladas, take a tortilla on a cutting board or large plate, coat both sides with sauce, fill it with 2 tablespoons of chicken and a small handful of cheese, spoon about a tablespoon of sauce over the mixture, and sprinkle with onions. Roll by tucking one side of the tortilla over and then under the mixture and continuing to roll into a cylinder. Place the enchilada seam side down in the baking pan. Repeat for all twelve.

Pour the remaining sauce over the whole pan of enchiladas and top with the rest of the cheddar cheese–I like to top with green onions before baking. Bake about 15-20 until bubbly and brown on top. Top with your favorite toppings! Muy delicioso!
minutes.until bubbly and brown on top. Top with your favorite toppings! Muy delicioso!

Mexican Fish Stew to Warm Your Soul

The first time I tasted Mexican fish stew was at a little taquria in the small town of Alpine, Calif. Now if you know Alpine, there’s really not much going on there. A very active Kiwinis club, an even more active corner liquor store and some major Indian reservation casino action. There’s more but those are the main attractions.

But when you’re somewhere like that and you are stopped dead in your tracks by the smell of freshly, homemade corn tortillas wafting out of a small restaurant storefront, mixed with a savory carne asada and lime aroma, you are remiss if you don’t poke your head in and see what you can possibly dig in to for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.

See, most of the time in Southern California these little Mexican restaurants are owned by Mexican families that have their abuela (grandma) working in the kitchen and preparing recipes that go back generations. And I had one of those specialties at that taqueria. The best Mexican stew ever.

And what a relief it was. We were all coming down with the worst case of the flu and this was just the dish to lift my spirits. We ordered a big bowl of it and shared it family style–ladeling out big helpings of white fish delicately simmered in chicken broth perfumed with lime and cilantro, chunky tomato, shrimp, crab claws and corn on the cob. Heaven. And so simple.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I attempted to make this recipe. I wasn’t sure where to start and I began researching ingredients. I found some recipes with potatoes, fennel and other heavier ingredients. Which I love. But maybe not for this stew in particular. I liked the lightness of this stew and decided to create my recipe based on the simple ingredients that make this dish so delicious.

Here is what I came up with.

Ingredients: 

-4 medium-sized tilapia fillets, each cut into bite-sized chunks
-8 large peeled and deveined shrimp
-1 15 oz. can of roasted diced tomatoes
-1 large onion finely chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 bay leaf
-3 limes. Juice two and leave one quartered for garnish.
-1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
-1 tbsp. of Mexican or California chili powder (not too spicy)
-1/2 tsp. of fresh thyme taken off the stem and chopped
-2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
-2 15 oz. cans of fat-free chicken broth
-2 cups of water
-Salt and pepper to taste

 Preparing

Place the chucks of fish in a bowl and mix with the juice of two limes. Set the fish aside and start heating a dutch oven on medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil, chopped onion, bayleaf and garlic and saute until onions and garlic are soft.

Next, add the chili powder and roasted tomatoes and stir together with the onion mixture. Then add in the marinated fish and add a good amount of salt and pepper. Simmer in the tomato broth, turning once, for about three minutes total.

Then add the chicken broth and water and bring to a gentle simmer. Once simmering add the shrimp, adjust salt as needed and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Ladle the soup into four separate bowls, top each with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge. Muy delicioso!

Mini Tostada Night: Bring the Family to the Table!

 

I’ve written before about my undying love for tostadas! The combination of crunchy from the tostada shell with the creaminess of refried beans or spiciness of beef or chicken–all mixed with the coolness of lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream! It’s more than food, it’s an experience! And why not involve the whole family in making this classic Mexican dish by gathering them around the table for a weeknight or weekend family dinner experience?
I’ve seen television food shows featuring little stands in Mexico that rock classic tostadas made from ingredients that span decades of Mexican family recipes. Some are topped with civeche, a lime-cured fish, or other exotic ingredients like cactus or squid. When it comes to the kids and family night, I like to keep things a little more simple.
Our family tostada night several weekends ago consisted of store-bought mini tostada shells, which are already fried, and a plethora of mini bowls spread around the table filled with toppings including cubed grilled chicken, steaming hot canned refried-style beans, shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, sour cream and salsa. Now that the kids are almost 4 and 7 and can use spoons to scoop up food and place it carefully onto their plates (or in this case tostadas), it was easy to call everyone to the table and create our own tostada masterpieces–and our own family experience! My suggested ingredient list for this crunchy, cool dinnertime experience includes:
-One package of pre-fried tostada shells (I prefer the authentic Mexican brands if you can find them)
-Four seasoned, grilled chicken breasts cut into half-inch cubes
-One small can of refried beans (I like the nonfat-type seasoned with lime since you can’t tell the difference between this type and the type with tons of fat!)
-Half a head of romain lettuce, shredded
-Three tomatoes, diced
-One package of shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
-Sour cream
-Green or red salsa
Lay out all of the ingredients in a family-style setting at your dinner table and dig in! The kids like to feel like they’re making their own dinner and have so much fun in the process. Watch out, it can get messy! But that’s okay! Throw in a “how did your day go today?” and you’ve got a traditional sit-down dinner that brings your family that much closer.

It’s Fish Taco Night!

Have you ever thought about the things you could do with an ordinary fish stick or even fancier frozen fish like beer-battered halibut? What about making fish tacos out of them? Why not! Fish sticks aren’t just for kids anymore.

Now days, people are pretty familiar with fish tacos since many chain fast-food restaurants include them on their menus. They usually consist of battered fish inside a flour or corn tortilla, shredded cabbage and a creamy dressing with salsa on the side. How much easier does it get?

Here’s what we did last night for our fish taco extravaganza with the following ingredients:

-One package of good frozen, battered halibut filets (you could use frozen grilled fish too)
-One package of flour tortillas (taco size)
-One head of regular cabbage
-1/4 cup of lite mayo
-1/4 cup of lite sour cream
-One lime
-Siracha hot sauce
-Any type of salsa (green or red) that you like

First, I pulled some frozen battered halibut filets out of the freezer and started baking them according to the directions while the kids jumped up and down on the couch, begged for snacks and asked if I wanted to watch magic tricks. Once I told them to stop jumping, gently denied the snacks and watched two magic tricks (performed by no other than my six-year-old son who is infatuated with magic and on the prowl for unsuspecting spectators), I started to cut up the cabbage so that it is thinly shredded–enough for five or six tacos.

Next is the sauce. I thought I’d get a little creative and copy the technique of one of my favorite sushi restaurants by adding siracha hot sauce to a combination of lite mayo and lite sour cream. Just a squirt will do but if you like it hot go for it! Add a little lime juice and some salt and pepper and you’re ready to go. You could forgo the hot sauce and add a little lemon pepper or just plain lime juice and season with salt and pepper or even paprika.

Then all you have to do is assemble the tacos by placing the crispy, hot fish on one side of a tortilla, topping with the shredded cabbage and sauce and pouring on some salsa. Don’t forget to squirt on a little lime–that’s a tradition here in Southern California. Then fold them up and enjoy! Meal done.

Flap Meat Carne Asada Burritos With Mango Salsa and Guacamole

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while–waiting for summer to come around when mangos are in season! There is a type of magic that happens when you combine beef with mango that I really can’t explain. In the case of these flap meat burritos, the sweet and tartness of the mango and lime salsa cuts the richness of the salty, seasoned beef perfectly. Add a little guacamole to the whole thing, wrap it in a tortilla with some caramelized onions and it’s pure heaven.

In fact, we had this meal last night since my husband’s nephew was in town with two of his 20-something-year-old friends. It’s a good BBQ meal to make and a nice way to unwind in the backyard after a work day during the summer while playing with the kids. And the kids really like the bits of cut up steak and LOVE the mango–a great way to incorporate some fruit into their diet. Instead of wrapping the kids’ meat into a burritos, I cut triangle wedges out of the tortillas and butter them and then serve the meat, salsa and guacamole on the side.

Here’s what you’ll need for a meal for four people:

– A pound and a half (or more, if you like) of flap meat beef
– Chef Merito carne asada seasoning (Check to see if your local grocery store carries it. I love the tang, and I prefer it because it doesn’t have the strong cumin taste that some of these types of seasonings do.)
– One red onion, cut in half and sliced. Chop about a tablespoon and reserve for the salsa.
– A handful of chopped, fresh cilantro. Save a tablespoon for the salsa.
– Two tablespoons of vegetable oil
– Two mangos
– One serrano pepper, seeded and cut into tiny bits
– Two avocados
– One lime
– Tabasco sauce
– A bag of flour tortillas

The night before your BBQ, lay all the pieces of flap meat out flat and fully season both sides of the meat with the carne asada seasoning and with black pepper. Make sure you don’t coat too heavily, but try not to be skimpy either. Then put the meat into a zip bag with the sliced onion and cilantro and add the two tablespoons of oil. Zip the bag and massage the meat with the other ingredients until it’s well mixed. Put the bag onto a plate or dish and refrigerate over night.

The next day, start to prepare your salsa and guacamole before putting the meat on the grill. Stand the mango upright and slice it from the top downward on both sides. Next, cut lines down and across each slice of the mango and then bend the peel backward and cut the chunks loose into a bowl. Cut any other eatable chunks off of the pit and use for the salsa. Then add the chopped red onion, cilantro, serrano pepper and squeeze the juice of half of the lime into the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

To make the guacamole, cut each avocado in half by running a knife around the circumference of the avocados. Once you have two halves, stick the blade of your knife into the pit and twist. The pit should come right out. Take a big spoon and scoop out the inside meat and put it into a bowl. Mash the avocado with a fork, making it as chunky or creamy as you like. Add the juice from the other half of lime and some Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Place the flap meat on a high-heat grill and add the onions from the marinade to a metal, grill-safe bowl in order to caramelize the onions on top of the grill. Grill the meat until it is well done (no longer springs back to the touch) or you can grill more rare, if you prefer. Keep mixing the onions to cook them.

When the meat is done, allow it to cool a bit. Remove caramelized onions from the grill and set aside. Now, the trick to getting tender, bite-sized pieces of meat is cutting against the grain. Gently pull on each piece of the meat and you will see a natural grain appear. You want to cut the meat in thin strips going the opposite way of this grain. Once you have strips, cut these slices into bite-sized pieces.

Now all you have to do to make your burrito is place some meat in the middle of the tortilla, top with caramelized onions, salsa and guacamole, roll it all up and take a scrumptious bite. I can’t even tell you how good this is. It’s definitely one of my favorites. Enjoy!

A Giant Low-Cal Tostada for Lunch Equals Sheer Happiness

Mexican food is absolutely my favorite type of food–hands down. I remember when I was young, a friend of the family used to bring over authentic, crispy beef for breakfast! The golden-fried treasures came from one of the original Roberto’s tacorillas in San Diego, Calif. that stayed open 24 hours and offered the best Mexican food north of the boarder. They were (and still are) made with corn tortillas and shredded braised beef with peppers and tomatoes folded inside and then fried in lard. The tacos are topped with tons of shredded lettuce and queso fresco (a soft, mild milk-based cheese). Heaven. Pure heaven. And the smell! There’s just nothing like it. They’re especially yummy with the thin-textured hot sauce that only Roberto’s makes. Ok, enough of my trip down memory Mexican food lane.

My only problem is that if I let myself, I would eat beef tacos, tostadas, rolled tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and chips with cheese and guacamole every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner….and my husband and kids would be seeing two of me!

So, like I do with many recipes I come up with, I created a low-calorie version of my second-favorite Mexican food item. The crispy tostada. Yum. And this is especially satisfying and fast to make for lunch. Luckily, I live two miles from my job so it is so easy to make, eat and be back to work during my lunch hour.

In this case, spray oil (my good friend Pam) is the hero. Here are the ingredients I use. But the next most important thing is the technique you use in order to make it as yummy and enjoyable as the more “fattening” version.

-1 flour or corn tortilla (or enough for as many tostadas as you want to make)
-1 can of fat-free chile and lime beans (refried-style) or you could use drained black beans, cut up chicken, crumbled and seasoned hamburger or any other type of protein you like
-1/2 cup of shredded lettuce
-1/4 cup of shredded 2% cheddar cheese
-Any brand of hot sauce or salsa that you like
-Lite sour cream

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place foil on a baking sheet pan and spray both sides of a flour tortilla with spray oil. Place on the baking sheet and back on the middle rack. Check the tortilla at about the two minute mark to make sure bubbles haven’t formed on the tortilla. If there are bubbles, take a knife and pop it and push it down so that the tortilla lays flat. Once it has browned up you might want to flip it to make sure the other side is brown and crisp.

While the tortilla is cooking, heat up the amount of beans you would like to put on it (or other protein) and prepare the other ingredients. Top the crispy tortilla with all of your toppings and enjoy a yummy, fast, filling, low-cal lunch that is pretty nutritious too!