Mexican is the answer for healthy, tasty, easy dinner

In my kitchen, Mexican food is the answer. What can I make that doesn’t require an extra trip to the market? Mexican food. How can I comfort exam-freaked kiddos? Mexican food. What did the dog get into? You know. Whether I’m whipping up authentic sopes, or unabashedly Tex-Mex tacos, the only challenge of this crave-worthy cuisine is the fact that it’s so darn easy (and delicious) to pile on extra calories, fat and sodium. For this column, I reconstructed my go-to weeknight chilaquiles recipe with an eye toward fresh ingredients and thoughtful preparation.

Traditional chilaquiles (chee-lahkeel-aze) is a quickie dish that’s a gift to harried cooks and starving teenagers. Chopped up tortilla pieces are fried, then cooked in a spicy red or green mole and topped with your favorite add-ons. In desperate times, I’ve cheated by drowning half a bag of stale tortilla chips in a trough of warmed jarred salsa, and topping them with fried eggs to up the protein and hide my shame. Skipping the oil by baking the tortillas was a no-brainer first step. Even better, I cut up low-carb, fiber-rich whole-wheat tortillas, which contain only a fraction of the usual calories. These light, tasty triangles toasted in just 8 minutes, which is less time than it takes me to heat up the fryer. If a gluten sensitivity banishes wheat from your table, you can still skip the oil bath by oven-baking your favorite corn tortillas.

I used to think prepared salsa was as healthy as a salad, because, you know, it’s all veggies. That was before I took a gander at the sodium content on my jar of choice. The salt from the salsa alone in my cheater chilaquiles hits the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit of sodium. So instead of pulling a few jars off the market shelf, I grabbed a pint of freshly chopped pico de gallo from the refrigerator section of my produce department. In an ideal world, you would make the pico yourself, since it’s just chopped tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, white onion and cilantro. However, I’m very comfortable adding “not a weeknight vegetable chopper”to my list of imperfections and moving on. The pico was fresh and tasty, but when I tossed it with the baked chips, my test recipe was too dry. Two cans of no-salt-added diced tomatoes added liquid and savory flavors without the extra sodium. Not a fan of canned tomatoes? A splash of low-sodium chicken broth works, too.

A little protein rounds out the dish. I used half a pound of lean ground turkey in this recipe, but you can substitute virtually any leftover that’s currently residing in your refrigerator. A cup of shredded baked chicken, some warm pinto beans, and yes, fried/poached/ scrambled eggs all pair beautifully. Instead of finishing with “fat” (I’m looking at you, fistfuls of cheddar and sour cream), think “flavor.” Fresh lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno and a flurry of queso fresco brighten your chilaquiles without literally or figuratively weighing it down.

What’s for dinner that’s healthy? Indeed, it’s Mexican food.


Fresher, lighter Turkey Chilaquiles

Contributed by Kellie Hynes

This dish has 219 calories per serving.

2 (8-inch low-carb) whole-wheat tortillas

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup diced white onion

1 small jalapeno, diced, seeds removed (optional)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 pound ground white meat turkey

2 cups fresh pico de gallo

2 (14.5-ounce)cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes

2 ounces queso fresco, crumbled

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice(optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut each tortilla into 16 strips. Spray a baking pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the tortilla strips in a single layer. Bake the strips 4 minutes per side, until toasted. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and jalapeno (if using) until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin. Stir and cook 1 minute longer. Add the ground turkey and cook 6 to 7 minutes until no longer pink. Stir in the tortilla strips, pico de gallo, and diced tomatoes with their juices. Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Cook an additional 5 minutes until heated through. Serve hot, garnished with a sprinkle of queso fresco, fresh cilantro, and optional lime juice.

Serves 4.

Per serving:

219 calories (percent of calories from fat, 30), 18 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 8 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 38 milligrams cholesterol, 218 milligrams sodium.

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