Comfort food, low-cal and super easy: Chicken Enchiladas

photo c/o myrecipes.com

Who doesn’t love Mexican food? Especially easy, tasty, low-calorie Mexican food.  My mom’s been making this dish for quite sometime and it’s a favorite comfort food of mine.  However I’ve taken her recipe and found a few tricks to make it even more low-cal, protein packed and full of flavor.

Here’s what you will need to get started.

  • 9×13 baking dish
  • 2 large Chicken Breasts
  • 10 oz Frozen Chopped Spinach (thaw, drain all water) + a couple handfuls of raw spinach
  • 4 Scallions, diced. (save some for the top of the dish)
  • 4 tbsp Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 can black beans, drained (optional)
  • ½ cup Plain Fat Free Yogurt
  • 8 oz low-fat Sour Cream
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • ½ Tbs Salt
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 1/2 cup of onion, sauteed(do not heavily brown, this will change the white sauce color)
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced and added to onion saute
  • 1 can of Green Chiles, drained (you pick your heat!)
  • 1.5 cup of Colby Jack Cheese or Queso Fresco (again, your choice)
  • 2 pkg flour tortillas (6-8 count each)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350*F

2. Season the chicken with S&P. Sauté, let rest and cool, then pull apart (shred).

3. Combine all sauce ingredients in a large bowl. Taste to season (might need more salt or cumin depending…)

4. In your 9 x 13 dish add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom.  Filling one tortilla at a time, gently add a dollop of sauce, chicken and a few pinches of cheese, roll then layer side by side in the pan. repeat, repeat, repeat.  Disperse the remainder of the sauce on top of the enchiladas cover every inch*. Sprinkle with scallions and add cheese.

Note*covering the entire dish will prevent burning, drying or, or unpleasant, rock hard, tortilla sections.

Bake at 350*F for 30 minutes

Easy, peasy!  Serve with Mexican rice and margaritas for best results.

Ole!

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Biere-Gruyere soup with fall ale foam and sourdough toast

I’m on a soup kick and this Indian summer that’s been in Boston for the last 8 days is driving me crazy.  Hellooo Mother Nature,  I’ve put most of my summer duds away and the AC is out of the window, so could you please change the leaves, turn down the temps and make it fall already!   There is a rumor it’s coming. The ever-so-non-accurate Dylan Dreyer (our local Boston meteorologist who cares more about her Banana Republic outfit than accurate forecasting) is predicting fall like temps and rain this weekend so I hope she’s right.  Sunday sounds like it’s going to be rainy with a high of 61/ low of 47, so it will be a perfect day to try and replicate Sel de la Terre’s Biere-Gruyere soup with fall ale foam and sourdough toast. HOLY CRAP, this was pure taste bud ecstasy.  If you don’t like cheese,  stop reading.  If you don’t like beer, stop following me all together.

This past Sunday, Dan picked me up from the airport and took me to a place he’d been wanting to try out, Sel de la Terre on the Wharf.   A bottle of wine, some apps… it was a perfect Sunday evening. We started with their Petit Gouters; (bread accompaniments)  Balsamic roasted shallots and garlic confit, french olives, and an Eggplant-goat cheese puree with toasted walnuts.  We were starving but not blown away; they were however, nice little nibbles to start with.   I like to ease into meals, I like to take my time, and I like to take in the flavors while enjoying my company.  I’m the slow eater, pain-in-the-ass servers do not like to wait on, but I’m polite and I also order bottles that I most often tip you on, so whatever.  Since I like to take my time and enjoy a night out to dinner, I’m often frowned upon by management as I do not provide them the burn and turn rate they’d like.  I’m also not often an entree orderer because I get full fast and then wind up being the jerk who’s taken two bites of her meal. I’ve parted ways with entrees for sometime now. I’m all about small plates, taste variety, and eating until I’m 80% full, so I can go out that night, duh!

Because I gravitate towards  small bites, apps and soups, I am a firm believer that if you have good soup, everything else on your menu will be good.  It’s hard to make a good soup.  It requires an enormous amount of time to carefully simmer a stock to the right taste and in a big enough batch. Soups, in some cases also require a lot of straining, which in large volumes isn’t easy! Having the right consistency, flavor profile and depth of flavor can also be tricky.   If you make a soup from scratch (not one poured out of a Cisco bag), you more often than not care about what you are cooking, take pride in your culinary skills, and have the chops to give me hope for the rest of your menu. This may be a biased opinion, but out of all the soup I have had in my life, I can think of one other that is memorable and a favorite: The Sherwood Inn’s French Onion.

Sel de la Terre’s  Biere-gruyere soup with fall ale foam and sourdough toast, described as ecstasy above. is. just. that.  It is a creamy, clean, perfectly seasoned puree of cheesy goodness with a pale ale finish.  After the first spoon full I had an instant vision of my feet up, in ski gear, next to a fire after a few beers, with this soup in hand.   It was amazing and for a moment it felt like real fall. I’ve been scouring the internet for a recipe remotely similar and after a few twitter convo’s back and forth with someone who updates the @SeldelaTerre feed we are now in negotiation for the real recipe. If I don’t get it, I think I am going to try a version of the following:

  • 2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
  • 1 (12-oz) bottle ale such Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada or Harpoon pale ale
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lb grated Gruyère
  • 4 bacon slices (3 1/2 oz total), cooked and crumbled  (optional)

Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating water, then lift out leeks and drain in a colander. Get the dirt out!

Cook leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf in butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderately low and sprinkle flour over vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add milk, broth, and beer in a stream, whisking, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper.

Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes (do not boil). Discard bay leaf.

To make the beer foam you need:

  • 1 Cold pale ale beer
  • Immersion Blender
  • 1 gram of Lecithin

In a cup, combine 1/2 of the cold beer, sprinkle in the lecithin, and blend with the immersion blender.  The foam will begin to form and the lecithin acts as a stabilizer, keeping the foam intact.   Drink the rest of the beer.

Dollop the foam on top of the soup and serve with grilled sourdough points drizzled with truffle oil.

If you decided to try this out, I hope you like it.  I plan to give it a shot this weekend, so I cannot attest to the complete accuracy nor amazingness that this recipe may or may not offer.  It does however sound very close to the flavors I enjoyed. As a side note, I would strain the soup and serve it as a creamy, fluid, puree without the vegetable chunks.  Good luck!

Thanks for reading! xo-G

Japanese Lasagna… say what?

For years I’ve been cooking for one.  Ok fine, depending on relationship status, sometimes two.  But still, there are not many things I like to cook that don’t come with a good amount of leftovers.  I also am a self-proclaimed hater of leftovers, I don’t know why really.  I think my main argument against leftovers is that I’m not really tempted by eating or reheating food I just had within the last 24 hours.  It’s a good thing I have an office full of people who like and want to eat my food; it doesn’t make me feel as wasteful.   I can only think of a few leftover foods I will eat; thanksgiving dinner- no brainer, cold pizza always,  steak, heavy on the A1 in a baguette, and lasagna.  These dishes get even better with a night in the ice box, I think. 

In an effort to waste less, spend less and eat healthier, I tried to think up a few new ways to cook more individualized meals.  You see, now that I am back on my 7am to 7pm schedule, the absolute last thing I want to do when I finally get home at 7:30pm is continue to cook dinner for myself, so I must start to get along with leftovers.

My inspiration actually came from baking cupcakes a few weekends ago.  I started thinking about savory cupcake dishes, there’s gotta be more to this 12 slot pan than just baked goods?  [Lightbulb],  Lasagna!   With a few swipes on my iPad, I quickly discovered that this was not a new idea, shocker… Apparently it was quite popular to make individual lasagna’s in a cupcake tin. Nonetheless, this great idea, whomever’s it was,  would still be a fun project to take on, and fulfill my purpose of cooking on a smaller scale, eating well, and saving me time and energy.

By no means is this a culinary breakthrough, or what I am being taught in school, this is a simple, new package design, on an American favorite.  I am cooking and tasting so extravagantly in school most of the time that offal, veal, or fish are not what I want when I am hungry at the end of the day, nor would most.

After gathering some pointers from others who have done this, I decided to take a stab at it with ingredients I like in my lasagna.

Looks good right?

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A life without cheese, is not a life worth living!

With Uncle Kent Torrey at the Wine and Cheese Shop in Carmel, CA

I love cheese.   It is simply one of the best things on earth to me.  If you have a party and you don’t have some sort of cheese spread, I will judge you and assume you have no idea what you are doing.  I’m not talking Kraft slices wrapped in cellophane or flour dusted shredded Sargento Mexican blend,  I’m talking aged forever,  sometimes gritty, burns-your-nostrils stinky good.   Nothing could make me more happy than a finely aged Gorgonzola with jams, 10 year old mild cheddar, or a smoked Gouda so smokey it tastes like beef jerky.  I haven’t met a cheese I didn’t like, but…  I will say I have had a small problem with goat cheese for sometime.  However,  today is the day I write to let all of you know, my hate for the goaty byproduct is no longer. I’ve crossed over!   I can hear some of my friends hoooorrrray-ing as I write this.    It’s true!   It all started a few months back while in class one day… A Garde Manage student dropped off some cheeses they had just made to sample. Being a culinary student,  I had to taste.  As I reluctantly scooped the small goat cheese portion into my mouth I became rather surprised.  It didn’t have the piney gritty taste that I think was what threw me off the whole goat bandwagon in the first place.  It was smooth and with no detection of a pine nut taste.  It also had a saltier note to it, which I liked!   Let me disclaim myself for saying “pine nut taste”  I realize this is my own palate talking here.  No one has ever been able to agree with me, (well maybe ONCE before), that I think goat cheese typically tastes gross and piney (some goat cheeses, to me,  just do).   After a few recent sampling’s and since that one day in class, I have come to know that not all goat cheeses are piney and thus my new revelation!

a little back story…

My love for cheese has some history, perhaps its even in my DNA!   Mom’s been feeding me the stuff for as long as I can remember; it was always a part of my diet, because I’ve always had an aversion for milk.   I need calcium you say! Alright, skip the milk Ma, I’ll have more cheese. Easy.    It makes sense after all these years, that I’d have a long-lost family member in the cheese business for over 37 years (‘long-lost’ is a bit of an embellishment,  my parents have always known him,  I just haven’t and it makes this story better).  We’ve now dubbed him “Uncle Kent”, but he’s actually my second cousin.  1st cousin to my pops, and son of my Grandpa’s brother.   It was fitting last March, when my girlfriends, Laura, Rebecca and I went on a 10 day trip up the PCH.   It was a girls getaway mystery tour as we planned to be in LA the first weekend and San Fran the following with no reservations, directions, or plans in between, we were as they say “on the open road”.   It was suggested by my dad that we look up “Uncle” Kent.  Back then he had a shop in Santa Barbara, so that was our first stop for cheesy bliss.  It didn’t work out, he wasn’t at that location that day.  His [attractive, surfer, burn out] shop employee told us he would give him the message that we came by and that we’d be heading to Carmel in the next day or two on our journey north.

We arrived in Carmel a few days later on a surprisingly cold day for late March.  Upon tracking down the tucked away cheese shop and with only one foot in the door we were instantly filled with robust smells of divine cheeses.  The kind of smell that only comes from a rooted foundation which The Cheese Shop has been building upon in Carmel since 1975.   The walls the counters, the tables, shelves, you name it,  nook or cranny, and all you see is cheese!  “Is this heaven”, I wonder to myself.  After introducing myself as a member of the famed Torrey Clan, their equally attractive, surfer dude, part educated cheese monger, minus the visible burnout symptoms,  employee,  is already carving off  slices and talking family, our travels, small businesses, inbetween more cheese talk.

I think we were probably there for 45 minutes before we decided to shop around and wait for Kent to return later that afternoon.   We were also stuffed to the brim with more cheese than is normal for the average 130lb girl.

Later that afternoon, we headed back to the Wine and Cheese Shop for one last attempt to meet my cousin.  Success! He was there, long lost “Uncle Kent” had been found.  What a delightful man!  He was extremely warm and inviting, fitting the image that I have of all Torrey men-  extremely nice and with bright blue eyes!    Uncle Kent welcomed us all with hugs and laughter. We talked cheese, wine, our travels, family, and the love he has for what he does.  This is a man who loves wine, cheese (obvioulsy), traveling the world, entertaining friends, guests and customers, his smile is warm and his words are as equally so.  It was an inspiring visit, and a nice old nod to the family tree.  It makes me realize that not only is cheese perhaps in my DNA, but that my love of food and the culinary world, definitely is too.

I highly recommend you check out Uncle Kent’s cheese shop @ http://www.thecheeseshopinc.com/  They have some truly fabulous stuff!

If you’re ever in the area, you can find them located @

Carmel Plaza (lower level)
Ocean and Junipero
Carmel, CA 93921

Hours: M-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-5:30pm (PST)
Phone: 800.828.WINE(9463)
Fax: 1.831.625.2853