These have all the sinful gooeyness and flavor of a Mexican Restaurant without the white flour or processed cheese. Plus the sauce is so flavorful no one will ever know there’s almost a whole bag of spinach hidden in it! This recipe was modified from a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Cook's Illustrated The Best Light Recipe.
There are two schools of thought for freezing enchiladas. I like to make them and have them for dinner and then freeze the extras. Other people like to assemble them and freeze them prior to baking them and then defrost and bake them prior to serving. Instructions for both methods are below. If you are not going to be baking them right away don’t bother preheating the oven to 400. Also, for less hands on time, see the alternate cooking method for making the filling in the crockpot/slowcooker.
- 1 medium onion cut into slices
- 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
- ½ tsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced (1 Tbsp)
- 3 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups raw spinach leaves (3 big handfuls)
- 2 - 8oz cans tomato sauce
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts), trimmed of excess fat
- 2 cups 50% light cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 - 4oz can chopped green chiles, drained
- ½ cup minced cilantro
- 12 6-inch whole wheat tortillas
TWO: Pour the water into a blender or food processor and add spinach; puree. Add the tomato sauce and spinach-water mixture to the saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
THREE: Cut each chicken breast in half and plop them into the sauce so that they are fully covered. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate; set aside to cool. Using a slotted spoon scoop the veggies out of the sauce (or pour it through a medium mesh strainer); set the veggies aside.
FOUR: Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use two forks and shred it into bite-sized pieces. Toss together the shredded chicken, cooked onions and peppers, ½ cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup of the cheddar, drained chiles, and cilantro.
FIVE: Preheat the oven to 400. Pile the tortillas on a plate. Place about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of the top tortilla. Tightly roll the tortilla around the filling and place seam side down in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. You’ll have to snuggle them pretty closely together in the pan to fit them all in but it’s doable. Otherwise you can use two baking dishes. (TIP: If the tortillas are too stiff or start to crack, place them on a plate between two damp paper towels and microwave them for about 30 seconds to soften.)
SIX: Lightly spray tops with cooking spray and pour 1 cup of remaining sauce over them covering them thoroughly, especially the edges. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheddar down the middle.
SEVEN: Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese browns, about 5 minutes longer. Serve with the remaining sauce.
TO FREEZE: Freeze the remaining sauce using the small portions method. Freeze the enchiladas using the flash freeze method. Reheat in the microwave and serve one enchilada with 2 cubes worth of sauce. Alternatively, do not preheat the oven and complete the steps up until laying them in the baking dish. Use a disposable baking dish and freeze the rolled, unbaked enchiladas in the dish. Freeze the sauce and cheese separately. Defrost pan, sauce, and cheese overnight and follow remaining instructions.
**Alternate Cooking Method:
Throw everything except the cheese, chiles, cilantro, and tortillas into a crockpot and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. If possible, vent the lid during the last hour of cooking by placing a wooden spoon between the lid and the crock. This will help thicken the sauce. Remove the chicken and set aside. Strain the sauce as described above. Shred the chicken and continue to assemble the filling as directed above. If your sauce is still fairly liquidy simmer in a saucepan uncovered on the stove while you shred and mix the chicken, about 8-10 minutes.
Follow the above directions for assembly and baking. This method significantly cuts down on the hands on time and is good if you are going to be busy all day and want to be able to throw dinner together relatively quickly. You will lose some of the texture from the peppers and onions, though, as they will be very soft from being in the crockpot.
Per serving (2 enchiladas) - 465 Calories (102 Calories from Fat), 11g Total Fat, 4g Saturated Fat, 68mg Cholesterol, 1239mg Sodium, 58g Carbohydrates, 10g Dietary Fiber, 7g Sugar, 37g Protein, 78% DV Vitamin A, 74% DV Vitamin C, 42% DV Calcium, 27% DV Iron
NOTE: Based on the nutrition analysis tool I use, this recipe is VERY high in sodium. When I make it I use plain tomato sauce with no salt added and a whole wheat tortilla with very low sodium. I know that my version doesn't have nearly as much sodium as listed above but I'm limited on the ingredients I can choose on the nutrition analyzer. If you are worried about your sodium intake, make sure that each ingredient you choose is low in sodium.