Kate shows you how to replace the traditional Taco Night with an Enchilada Fiesta. She also suggests rice cookers and other Gifts for Moms, Dads 'n' Grads, plus more Mexican recipes in What To Eat This Month.
Replacing Taco Night
by Kate Heyhoe
The traditional weekly "Taco Night" has long been a fun and tasty way to enjoy thrifty meals, but consider swapping out tacos for another Mexican staple: enchiladas. They're festive, fun, and perfect for Cinco de Mayo and Days of the Dead celebrations, too.
Basic Enchilada Tips
The recipes below give you specifics, but here's a few hot and handy tips.
- The process is easy and goes even quicker if you follow an assembly-line approach. Use flour tortillas as is, or microwave for a few seconds to make them more pliable. Corn tortillas should first be fried in hot oil just until soft; they're tasty but this requires an extra step in the process.
- Spread out the tortillas, drop in the fillings, roll them up and place them seam side down in a baking dish as you go. (Invite helping hands to join in, especially kids.) Cover them with a sauce, some cheese and onions. You can even assemble enchiladas in advance, then transport them as a potluck dinner or bake them later that day.
- To bake, pop the enchiladas in the oven, bake them for about 20 minutes (uncovered), and serve with a few fresh garnishes (roasted pumpkin seeds for crunch, cilantro and green onion add color and flavor). For a greener profile, bake them in a toaster oven; they turn out great. And as with all casseroles, turn the oven off a few minutes early to save fuel and be greener; the casserole will continue to bake in the residual heat.
- Stock your pantry. With so many good quality sauces and salsas now readily available, enchiladas can be even speedier to make than tacos, at any time. And even supermarket cheeses come in a wide variety, so experiment with everything from Muenster to Feta, both in and on top of the enchiladas.
- Depending on how you fill them, enchiladas can be a great way to go meatless for a night, use up leftover chicken, or go upscale with fancy fillings for guests to enjoy. You can even fill enchiladas simply with cream cheese, then top with green sauce and bake, Take your pick of all kinds of tortillas these days, too: whole wheat, spinach, sun-dried tomato, traditional flour and corn.
Fiesta time! Try out these tips with my recipe featuring fresh cheese and toasted garlic, and with the collection of enchilada recipes below. And for a South of the Border cheese guide, check out Mexican Cheeses: The Whole Enchilada.
Green Chile, Queso Fresco, and Toasted Garlic Enchiladas
By Kate Heyhoe
Serves 4; makes 8 enchiladas
Skillet-toasting brings out garlic's sweetness, with a slightly nutty bite, and takes less time than oven-roasting. The toasted garlic adds a luscious layer of flavor to this fresh cheese filling, but even without it, these enchiladas come together as an easy, tasty meal. A few ingredient notes: Queso fresco is a fresh, mild cheese, and whole milk ricotta makes an acceptable substitute (different, but still tasty). Queso quesadilla is a traditional Mexican melting cheese, or try other melting cheeses, like Monterey Jack.
- 1 head garlic
- 1 pound queso fresco
- 1 (7-ounce) can diced roasted green chiles
- 8 flour tortillas
- 1 (10-ounce) can green chile enchilada sauce
- 4 ounces shredded queso quesadilla, or Monterey Jack
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
1. Separate the garlic into cloves. Heat a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the unpeeled cloves and cook, flipping the cloves occasionally, until lightly toasted with brown spots and slightly soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Slide them out of the pan. When they're cool enough to handle, slip off the peels and finely chop.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking dish.
3. In a mixing bowl, break up the queso fresco until crumbly. Mix in the chiles and garlic.
4. Fill each tortilla with some of the queso fresco mixture. Roll the tortilla up and place seam side down in the baking dish. Continue until all enchiladas have been made. Pour the enchilada sauce over the top, sprinkle on the queso quesadilla and red onion.
5. Bake about 20 minutes, until the cheese topping melts and the sauce sizzles around the edges of the pan. Let the enchiladas rest 5 minutes before serving.
More Enchilada Recipes
- Days of the Dead Chicken Mole Enchiladas
- Vegetarian Enchiladas in Pumpkin Seed Sauce
- Chili Queen Enchiladas
- Turkey Enchiladas with Creamy Tomatillo Sauce
- Mexican Cheeses: The Whole Enchilada (cheese guide)
Gifts for Moms, Dads 'n' Grads:
Rice Cookers and iPod Stands
Need affordable gifts for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Graduation or other occasion? Consider these practical but nifty ideas for all sorts of lifestyles.
Rice cookers are high up on my green-o-meter. Cook with them often enough to offset their manufacturing impact, and they'll shrink your cookprint by consuming less power and releasing less heat into the room. Plus, the good ones yield perfect cooking results. Two new models from Aroma perform additional one-pot-cooking tricks: they come with steamer trays, so you can steam other foods while cooking rice or grains. And one of them, the Sauté-Then-Simmer Rice Cooker ($29.99), lets you sauté right in the pot, not on the stovetop, so there's no extra pan to clean up. In sauté mode, the cooker senses when liquid is added and switches to simmer/steaming, then automatically shuts down when done. Admittedly, the pot's base is small, meaning you can't really brown large amounts of meat or vegetables without releasing gobs of liquid (unless you cook in stages). But small pieces (like chopped onion, garlic, bacon and such) cook quickly and add flavor. You can also sauté your dry rice in butter or oil, for a pilaf or risotto for instance.
If you don't care about the sauté function, the Aroma 6-Cup Rice Cooker ($14.99) also comes with a steamer tray and is a compact, handy size for a couple, small family or student. Both models feature nonstick, dishwasher-safe pots, and cook all types of rice, but try them with other grains, too, like quinoa and barley. These models lack removable power cords (which makes serving at table more convenient) but you can manage by tucking their short cords through the generous handles. The company's green initiative also promotes eco-friendly packaging. Sold at Target.
idox: iGadget for Kitchen, Travel, or Desk
The idox Traveler is a hard case with a lid that doubles as a stand, and holds your device upright, so you can view videos, like cooking videos, on your iPod Touch, iPod Nano and iPhone. Or, use it to convert your device to a bedside alarm clock, or when flying. One drawback: if you use a rubber or neoprene sleeve, you'll need to remove it before snapping the device into the idox Traveler. But it's a nifty gift for the mom, dad or grad who's in the kitchen or on the go. It comes in black, platinum or pink, and costs $34.95 for the iPhone and iPod Touch models.
Buy an idox Traveler.
What to Eat This Month
Chicken of the Month
More Mexican Recipes...
Copyright © 2010, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified May 2010