Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

Our family--my husband specifically--likes anything that can be called a "spicy gross mixture." Mexican fare often fits that description, but healthy food rarely does. With these enchiladas, I was able to put together a spicy gross mixture with some redeeming nutritional value.

Whole wheat tortillas are better for you than white flour tortillas, but Art doesn't really like them. I used corn tortillas instead. I exchanged the typical Spanish white rice for my own spiced-up version of brown rice. Brown rice is much better for you than white rice, and, in Art's opinion, this recipe combined the brown rice's flavor with the spices quite nicely. Instead of sodium-laden canned enchilada sauce, I quickly whipped up my own with items I regularly have on hand. Finally, I added just enough mouth-watering cheese to create the desired "goo factor," but I didn't add so much as to make it heart-attack inducing.

My number one challenge when fixing dinner every night is the fact that Jacob needs constant attention. Being able to focus on food preparation for more than five minutes at a stretch is never guaranteed. That's why I really like meals that can be prepared in short bursts. On days we spend at home, I have time to cook a little here and there throughout the day.

I started tonight's enchiladas this morning. I began marinating the chicken after breakfast. I put the chicken in the oven and made the rice and sauce during Jacob's oh-so-short afternoon nap. Shortly before dinner, I combined it all together and baked it.

My version of chicken enchiladas turned out to be satisfying and flavorful. As a bonus, they are lighter and healthier than what you would typically find at a restaurant. In our experience, restaurant enchiladas have usually been drowned in sauce and smothered in cheese. Art pointed out that he liked how these enchiladas weren't overpowered by either.

1 1/2 lb chicken thighs, skin and bones intact
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon each of salt, black pepper, and garlic powder
1 small yellow onion, diced, divided
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked according to package directions
1/2 of a 6oz can of tomato paste (Freeze the other half to save for another use.)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
15 oz can tomato sauce
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups torn baby spinach
16-20 corn tortillas


Shredded Chicken:
Place chicken in a gallon size freezer bag. Combine 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a bowl. Add 1/4 of the diced onion. Pour marinade over chicken and seal the bag to close. Shake the bag to cover all the chicken. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 24.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken in an iron skillet or other oven proof dish. Pour marinade over chicken. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. De-bone chicken. (Throw javascript:void(0)the bones in a Ziploc bag and freeze for making chicken broth later.) Shred chicken and place in a medium sized bowl. Refrigerate until ready to make enchiladas. Or, proceed with the recipe.

Spiced-up Rice:
In a saute pan, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add the remaining diced onion and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic cloves. Cook and stir about 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook until heated, about 1 minute. Remove half of onion mixture to a medium sauce pan for use in the enchilada sauce. With the remaining onion mixture, reduce the heat to medium and stir in cooked rice until combined. Add to the chicken and refrigerate, or proceed.

Enchilada Sauce:
Add the can of tomato sauce and bay leaf to the onion mixture you set aside earlier. Stir over medium low heat until combined. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes. Stir in cumin and remove bay leaf. Season to taste. Set aside.

Enchilada Stuffing:
Combine shredded chicken, rice, 1 cup of cheese, beans, and spinach. Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray a large oven proof dish(es) with cooking spray. (I used a 9x13" and a 8x8" dish.) Heat a skillet over high heat. Heat the tortillas on hot skillet until warm. Place stuffing down center of warmed tortilla and fold each side in. Place in prepared dish, seam side down. Repeat until all stuffing is used. Spoon sauce over enchiladas and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and top with remaining 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Makes about 16 enchiladas.


  1. The enchiladas were also pretty good as leftovers tonight.

  2. Are you suppose to drain and rinse the beans?

    I am a grad student with little time, so I usually cook in bulk and freeze for later reheating. For this reason, chili is my favorite food (solo, over pasta, with tortilla chips, in a taco name it, I've tried it). I make about 7-8 servings at a time and do this about every two weeks.

    That said, I have never once drained and rinsed the beans. ...should I be posting this on WebMD?

  3. For this recipe, I like to drain and rinse the beans so the extra liquid will not water down the enchilada stuffing. This extra step also helps control the sodium content of the dish by removing some of the extra salt added to the beans during the canning process.

  4. Thanks. I didn't think the juice (which i assume is a preservative) would be harmful. I had just never thought of draining it.

    Thanks for the heads up.