Money Matters: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Last week, the weather in Ohio was…terrible. It was damp and wet, and no where near summer temperatures. I was craving comfort food, and this came to mind, as I had just organized my recipe binder of tear-outs from the many food magazines I peruse each month.

I was especially intrigued by the amount of onion in this recipe, which I consider to be a very good thing. Onion is a relatively cheap, very flavorful, and versatile ingredient. I’m not sure the dish would be the same without it.

Comfort food in June…at its finest. Healthy, at least!

I wouldn’t say this dish was “easy” to make – but not difficult, either. The hands-on time is about 35-40 minutes, which I still find to be reasonable…even for a work night. The portion is plentiful and the dish reheats beautifully.

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole very slightly adapted from Cooking Light, March 2011

Cooking spray
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups chopped onion, divided
6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup salsa (verde or red)
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp pickled jalapeno pepper, chopped
9 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/2 cup (2 ounces) 2% cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Boil several cups of water in a large sauce pan. Add chicken and boil to cook through. Once cooked, shred using 2 forks. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, corn, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) to chicken; toss to combine.

Return sauce pan to medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup onion; saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 garlic cloves; saute 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add onion mixture to chicken mixture; stir to combine.

Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups onion, remaining 3 garlic cloves, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup water, and jalapeno in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Carefully pour mixture into a blender; add 2 tablespoons cilantro. Process until smooth.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove tortillas from pan; repeat procedure with remaining tortillas. Cut tortillas into quarters.

Spread 1/2 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture. Spoon half of chicken mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Top with remaining cilantro. Yield: 4 large servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 442 calories; 10.5 g. fat; 80 mg. cholesterol; 835 mg. sodium; 49.5 g. carbohydrate; 7 g. fiber; 38 g. protein

Result: Delicious! I loved this meal! This would qualify as comfort food in my book, but in a healthy take on comfort food 🙂 You could certainly spread this recipe to feed more by adding additional corn or black beans. Similarly, you could omit the chicken and add pinto beans and/or black beans.

Money Matters: The chicken breast were organic, purchased on sale for $3.99/lb. The cilantro used was about 1/2 of a bunch ($0.25), the corn was bought on sale for $1 for 2 cups (frozen, Kroger brand). The cream cheese was $0.22/ounce, for a total of $0.66. The onions (1 1/2 used) were $1.99/lb (ouch!) for a total of $1.50. The corn tortillas for a HUGE pack were $2.19 and we used 20% of them for a total of $0.43. The shredded cheese we buy on sale (Kraft) when Kroger holds their 3 for $5 sale, making the cost per ounce $0.21. The total cost of the recipe was $9.49 making the cost per serving $2.37.

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Luckily, the weather has warmed up since this dish was made last week. But I’m not one to shun comfort food at any point in the calendar year, no matter what the weather!

Question: Are casseroles a fall/winter only item in your kitchen?

Bring on summer,

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26 Comments

  1. June 27, 2011 / 9:02 am

    I don’t think of casseroles as fall/winter items. Even the hefty ones can be modified slightly to become a great lighter dish for a summer evening.

  2. June 27, 2011 / 10:31 am

    casseroles are typoically something I only think of in the fall/winter, usually I make lots of salads and sandiwches in the summer bc it’s easy and I don’t want to turn on the oven! I have made this dish before though and it was a hit! I love cooking light!

  3. June 27, 2011 / 11:17 am

    I love casseroles all year long. My parents have a lot of parties in the summer, and people always bring casseroles, so I think they can be summer appropriate too.

  4. June 27, 2011 / 11:19 am

    Hey…great minds! I posted an echilada dish today too!
    Boy, you are not kidding about last week’s weather. NOT really typical of Ohio though…I think one of my fb statuses was…( I think it might snow today…haha) yes, it was awful.

    I would definitely make this dish. My family loves mexican. It would be an easy sell. Although, I do reserve casserole type dishes for cooler weather…probably why I made the enchiladas last week too! lol

  5. June 27, 2011 / 12:41 pm

    It sounds delicious. I love onion in anything 🙂 We eat a lot less meat now because it’s so much cheaper to go without it. Or I’ll just use a little less and make it stretch further by bulking it up with veggies 🙂

  6. June 27, 2011 / 1:31 pm

    Oh no! Casseroles are never a “Winter Only” item in my kitchen! I love them so much that I make (and eat!) them year-round!

  7. June 27, 2011 / 2:24 pm

    I am looking away from all those onions – ew! 😀 Meatloaf and beef stew are pretty much fall/winter only items – but I can have soup and casseroles all year long – this one looks delicious, sans the onions!

  8. June 27, 2011 / 6:46 pm

    So excited to see this, Nicole! I have a HUGE pack of corn tortillas that I’ve been wondering what to do with…and I love onion! 😉

  9. June 27, 2011 / 8:47 pm

    Casseroles are definitely not a fall/winter meal for me – although, with the 80s and 90s we’ve been having here in CT lately, I think I’ll save this dish for cooler weather 🙂 In the meantime, I’ll be craving that gooey cheese, mmm …

    Have a lovely week, Nicole!

  10. June 28, 2011 / 12:24 am

    This is a must try, and definitely worth the extra effort. I like that it can I can make a vegetarian version for my daughter too!

  11. June 28, 2011 / 2:27 am

    wow so we’ve been getting ripped off at restaurants?! 😛 haha. I like that you put up the price for it! I think casseroles are good annnyyy day no matter what

  12. June 28, 2011 / 4:31 pm

    Love enchiladas! Casserole is a great idea!

  13. amanda
    July 29, 2011 / 4:12 pm

    made this last night – it was delish! thanks for sharing! and i love casseroles all year long as they are usually simple & quick! plus, so cal doesnt gets the heat/humidity like the east coast does … =)

    • Nicole
      Author
      July 29, 2011 / 5:24 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this 🙂 It wasn’t the easiest thing to make…but worth it!

  14. Tiffany
    February 23, 2012 / 8:35 am

    Hi! I am loving your recipes! I have two questions about this casserole. Do you think it would freeze well, and if so, should I assemble and cook after freezing, or cook then freeze? I would also like to use a disposable 13×9 pan-would you make any adjustments if doing that (maybe double the recipe??) Thank you so much!!

    • Nicole, RD
      Author
      February 23, 2012 / 10:46 am

      Thanks, Tiffany! Hm. I am surely not an expert here, but I would double the recipe, add a few minutes of cooking time, and freeze after being baked. When you heat it, defrost overnight in the fridge and bake through until hot – if thawed completely, I would think 350F for 20-25 minutes would work well (covered with foil). I hope that helps!

  15. Anne
    April 1, 2013 / 6:51 pm

    I made this last week and my husband and I loved it!!! It is described perfectly as “comfort food”. It was great leftover too. I think next time I will add black beans.

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