Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Comfort Food Makeovers: Chicken Enchiladas

It's getting closer to beach season. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is having some regrets about my food choices over the long winter :) It's never too late to start eating healthier, but the toughest part for me is giving up the comfort foods I love most.

Although I enjoy eating fresh vegetables, my heart often yearns for macaroni and cheese. A fruit smoothie is nice and fresh, but it certainly doesn't beat out a decadent slice of chocolate cake.

Fortunately for all of us who fall into the same camp, there is a book for that. Thanks to America's Test Kitchen, Comfort Food Makeovers is now my go-to book for finding ways to cut down the fat and calories from my favorite guilty pleasures without sacrificing flavor (or portion size). It is important to note that this is not a diet book. The recipes are not necessarily "healthy" but they are (sometimes significantly) healthier.

One thing I LOVE about this book is that it doesn't use artificial ingredients and fat-free items made from chemicals as fillers to cut the fat. I know some other cookbook authors *cough*Hungry Girl*cough* do things like that, and the food doesn't benefit anything from it. Especially not flavor. I had to test some of Hungry Girl's recipes while I was an intern at the Food Network and she uses some weird ingredients and the results were disgusting.

The key to this book is that it manages to cut down the fat and calories significantly from classic versions of the dishes while maintaining as much flavor as possible. I can't stress that enough. You  may find a lighter version of Shepherd's Pie elsewhere, but it won't taste as good. That's the key.

Another great thing to note about this book is that each and every recipe starts out with a discussion of "Why This Recipe Works." Here, the authors clearly explain why they made the choices they did to tweak the recipe into what it is.

I must say, I'm a big fan of the book and can highly recommend it to anyone interested in cooking healthier versions of their favorite comfort foods. Every once in a while, it's fine to indulge, but if you rely heavily on any of these comfort foods, it may be a good idea to include these recipes in your repertoire.

It was difficult to select a recipe to start off with because there are so many that I wanted to try. I honestly could just open the book to any given page and be pleased with the result. I toyed with a variety of options before settling on the chicken enchiladas. Why? Because I had corn tortillas in the freezer. It seemed like a good way to use them up! And these are just in time for Cinco de Mayo as well ;-)

The recipe uses minimal fat and maximum flavor to poach the chicken in homemade enchilada sauce, and then strains the aromatics from the sauce and adds it back to the chicken filling along with reduced fat cheddar cheese and canned jalapenos.

Honestly, these enchiladas had a lot of flavor. I am always skeptical about using reduced fat cheese because I find they never melt as well, but this cheese did a good job for a cheesy dish.

Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 6
(From Comfort Food Makeovers)

1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups water
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all visible fat
8 ounces 50 percent light cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 (4-ounce) can jalapeno chiles, drained and chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Vegetable oil spray

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine onion, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large saucepan, cover, and cook over medium-low heat until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a carving board, let cool slightly, then shred into small pieces. Strain sauce through medium-mesh strainer into bowl and press to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer strained bits to a large bowl and stir in shredded chicken, 1/2 cup strained sauce, 1 cup cheddar, jalapenos, and cilantro. Season chicken filling with salt and pepper to taste.

Stack tortillas on a plate, cover with damp towel, and microwave until warm and pliable, about 1 minute. Spread warm tortillas over clean counter. Spoon 1/3-cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla, roll up tortillas tightly, and lay, seam side down, in 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Lightly spray tops of enchiladas with oil spray. Pour sauce over enchiladas, covering tortillas completely. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheddar evenly over top. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake until enchiladas are hot throughout, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

*Nutritional information per serving*

BEFORE: 560 calories, 31 g fat, 17 g saturated fat

AFTER: 340 calories, 11 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrates, 32 g protein, 6 g fiber, 750 mg sodium

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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