I apologize in advance for the long post, but I’m talking about Mexican food so it’s impossible for me to not ramble on about it.
I LOVE Mexican food. I would have to say that cuisine wise, it’s definitely my favorite hands down. I’d guess that goes back to childhood when my parents would take my sister and I out to dinner at Trini and Carmen’s back on the east side of Michigan and I’d order bean burritos with rice. I remember the crispy cheese that almost burned onto the plate and how I looked forward to peeling it off every time we were there. One of those food memories for me that I can taste just by thinking of it. Casa Lupita was another place we frequented. I don’t remember what I ordered there but I remember their chips and salsa and how the salt stuck just perfectly because they were still warm when they arrived at the table.
I’m a big advocate for giving my kids as many opportunities as possible to explore their palates. I feel like all the different ethnic cuisines to try in our world allow for that to happen just by the nature of the flavors that go into them organically. What I love about this is that not only does each individual dish encourage the use of ample flavor, but you can easily put a spin on any of them once you get comfortable enough making them the first way you try.
I would say I’ve been making quesadillas for my kids since they could eat finger foods. It was a quick and easy thing to make and since they’d grown up eating avocados since they were eating purees, I could just cut them both up and lay them out on their high chair for them to eat with their hands. Then as toddlers they just became a part of the rotation for me to make them. They used to be pretty basic…just cheese and chicken at first. Simple and relatively plain tasting. A glorified grilled cheese if you will. As the years went on I started adding in things like black beans, refried beans, rice, spinach, corn, sweet potatoes…the list goes on.
Then we started eating variations of tacos and nachos, two favorites around here. Then I found this amazing salsa at Costco called Mateo’s maybe a year ago, and it started to accompany pretty much every Mexican dish we eat. When I say amazing, I mean it is the best salsa I’ve ever found in a jar. Every time I’m at Costco, even if I have jars stocked in the basement, I end up buying two more because I’m afraid that one day I’ll go back there and then they won’t have it anymore. Some people go to the jar of peanut butter with a spoon. For me, it’s this salsa.
For whatever reason maybe a month ago I realized I’ve never made dishes like enchiladas or burritos or tamales for the kids before. I’d make them for others, but it never crossed my mind to make them as a family meal. I think it may have been out of fear of them not liking them for some reason when I really wanted them to. Regardless the reason for not doing so, I decided one day when I was talking about making tacos to instead make enchiladas. Now, I’d love to say I always make everything from scratch. I do try to. But let’s be honest, it’s not always possible. Of the go-tos that I have when it comes to help from something pre-made, Frontera Grill’s enchilada sauces are one of them. I didn’t discover them until maybe a year ago, but I’m so glad that I did.
I fell in love with Rick Bayless (the owner of Frontera Grill) when he was on Top Chef All Stars many years ago. He already spoke my language with the food he creates, but I also found him to be one of the most humble and respectable chefs I’d seen on the show or in interviews. I then fell in love with the idea that when I bought his product line, they were connected with someone that I highly admired. Hence the reason that I will use the enchilada sauces any time I am in a pinch.
So this go round I used the green tomatillo and roasted garlic sauce for the first time. I usually use the roasted tomato and roasted garlic red sauce when I don’t have homemade on hand so I was a little hesitant about what the kids would think about the green one. Two out of three LOVED it. I had a bit of a challenge with Sophia. She didn’t like it before she even tried it. Sound familiar? Once I finally got her to take a bite, she still didn’t like it. I understood…it’s quite tangy, which I LOVE. She’s just not quite there yet. I can’t force the kids’ taste buds to like everything I make for them. But I can continue to offer them new flavors to try in hopes that even if they don’t love it right away, as time goes on and they try more and more new things, they will eventually acquire a very large palate.
I love this recipe because you can assemble it in the morning, or even the night before, and throw the sauce on just before you bake it. I’m a lover of anything make ahead especially during the week. After school can be such a crazy time and who wants to be in the kitchen for a couple hours multitasking homework and dinner and lunches for the next day, and, and, and…..I aim to get my cooking done during the day as much as possible to alleviate my stress level after school. Every night I’m successful in a make ahead, I thank myself. So even if you don’t make this recipe, or you do and decide add your little tweaks to it to accommodate your people at home, I hope that it encourages you to try and do the make ahead too, when possible. I would bet that if you do you will, like me, thank yourself.
- 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (or meat from one rotisserie chicken)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon salt (omit if using a rotisserie chicken)
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- 6 large flour tortillas
- 1 16 ounce can of refried black beans
- 1½ cups cooked whole grain rice mixed with ½ cup salsa
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 4 ounces colby jack cheese, shredded
- 1 cup cooked baby spinach, chopped
- 1 pouch Frontera Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
- 1 jalapeño sliced into thin rounds, seed omitted if preferred for lighter palates
- In a small bowl, mix the salt through the oregano and set aside. If roasting your own chicken breasts, pre-heat oven to 375. Evenly rub the olive oil over both sides of the chicken and then do the same with the spice mixture, being sure to get underneath the skin. Roast the chicken breasts for 35 minutes, skin down on a roasting sheet. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to remove the skin and shred the meat. Set aside.
- *If using a rotisserie chicken, place all of the meat into a small bowl while still warm, and use your hand to shred the meat and mix in the spices, omitting the salt. Set aside.
- If baking right away keep oven preheated to 375. If prepping for later, follow steps 4 through 6 and then cover tightly with plastic wrap until ready to bake.
- Place 6 tortillas on a flat surface and layer the refried beans, rice, sharp cheddar cheese, spinach, and chicken, evenly distributing each in the center of the tortillas.
- Fold the sides of each tortilla in towards its center, the fold the bottom over the side folds to create what will look like an envelope fold. Roll up each tortilla to the top and place seam side down in a 9 by 13 baking dish.
- Pour the enchilada sauce evenly over top of the enchiladas and then the colby jack cheese over that. For those who like a little more spice, place the jalapeño slices over all or have of the enchiladas.
- If baking right away, place in the oven for 20 minutes, then broil for 5.
- If baking prepped enchiladas from the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 25 minutes then remove the foil and broil for 5 minutes. ENJOY!