Healthy Cooking: Mexican is the answer for healthy, tasty, easy dinner

  • Kellie Hynes
  • For the AJC
12:00 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 Food
Low-carb tortillas and fresh pico de gallo lighten chilaquiles, a weeknight favorite. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

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-lah-keel-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.

For the AJC
This chilaquiles recipe uses low-carb whole-wheat tortillas. If gluten sensitivity is an issue, you can use corn tortillas. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES