Enchiladas, Tacos & Soup, oh my! (3 great Mexican-inspired recipes)

Well we kicked off May with a fun Mexican food trifecta, so why not end it that way, too? I can't really believe that May is already about to end, though I'm thankful that the weather has finally decided to catch up with the months, which are hurtling at top speed into summer. I feel a twinge of...guilt? regret? that I'm here bragging about the clear, sunny skies outside my bedroom window as I type this, while so many people are still battling weather so destructive that I half expected Rapture-ites to come out with an "I told you so" PSA. Hopefully everyone who I touch with this blog has been left untouched by these tornadoes and intense storms.

I have a feeling that most of you, though, are happily preparing for a fun, relaxing Memorial Day Weekend. Although these three meals are not picnic or barbecue fare and the soup in particular is bordering on inappropriate for this 80 degree weather (though hot, spicy meals are thought by some cultures to be healthy in the heat, and are often consumed in the summer months), they are all meals that can be easily made for if not a crowd, then at least a family. 

Let's start with the enchiladas - sour cream chicken enchiladas, to be exact. This dish does take a bit of time to assemble, but if you do it in parts ahead of time, it's really not bad. And, get this - I wasn't actually wowed by the recipe until the leftovers sat in my fridge overnight. So when I heated my second enchilada up for lunch the next day? Heaven. This means that you can absolutely, positively, 100% get away with preparing this way early in the day or even the night before, so that all you need to do is pop it in the oven. If you allow time for the sauce to mingle with the rest of the ingredients, you'll get a spicy, mildly sweet (maybe too sweet) enchilada bursting with saucy flavor. The cheese plays a very minor role here, so if you're of the mindset that cheese must be melting and oozing all over the place, you might want to up that ratio a bit.

Now let's move onto the tacos, which were vegetarian and certainly different from what you'd normally expect. They used a ricotta-spinach mixture as the filling, which might get some crinkled-up nose reactions amongst some kids (and some adults I know, too!), so this one might not be for everyone. I added chicken just to make it more filling, though I think they'd be fine, especially as a lighter meal, without any extra protein (or with beans, tofu, beef, etc.). These were ridiculously easy to prepare but, ultimately, disappointingly bland. It was such an interesting idea and the textures were spot-on, but the flavors just were not there. I almost didn't even share this with you except I had some leftover filling that I used for a stir fry the next day, and it came out much better. I really just threw in ingredients that I had on hand - dried basil, some parmesan, roasted red peppers, extra jalapeno pepper, and garlic - and I forewent the tortilla. All this to say that these tacos are redeemable, just don't be shy with the flavors. In the recipe below I've added the spices and flavorings that I used the following day, which should help.

And lastly, that brings us to the Spicy Tomato Soup, which I adapted from a Taco Soup recipe. This was so easy to put together and so tasty that I marked it in my notes as "definitely a repeat recipe." It was simple with a small kick, not huge, and would be just as excellent ramped up with some corn, chicken/beans, and tortilla strips (homemade preferably!). There's really not much to say about this soup other than that - it's just plain good eats, and I have to encourage you to give it a try. Eat it with a grilled cheese sandwich, serve it as an appetizer before taco night, or just eat it on its own - you really can't go wrong.

Now, onto the recipes!

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, adapted from Gluten Free Goddess
Yield: 4 servings
(printable recipe)

The Ingredients - The Enchiladas
3 cups cooked & shredded chicken
1/2 cup roasted green chilies, chopped
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 - 1 tablespoon lemon juice
cracked pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 cups Quickie Enchilada Sauce (recipe below)
4 whole wheat tortilla wraps
light olive oil, for cooking
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
cilantro, chopped, to taste

The Ingredients - The Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 3/4 teaspoon cumin
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounces whole tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
splash of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
The Method
Lightly grease a 13x9" baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Combine the chicken, chiles, sour cream, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with pepper and cumin and set aside while you prepare the enchilada sauce.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and spices and saute for 5 minutes before adding in the garlic, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and cilantro. Stir well, bring the mixture to a simmer, and gradually crush the tomatoes with the back of your spoon until you obtain a chunky consistency. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Once your sauce is ready, brush your tortillas lightly in olive oil and heat in a skillet to prepare for filling. Set the tortilla into the baking dish and spoon some of the chicken mixture into the center before rolling it up and placing it seam side down in the dish. Repeat for all of the tortillas. Pour the sauce over the filled tortillas and top with cheese and cilantro.

Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted, the sauce is bubbling, and the tortillas are warmed through.

Ricotta-Spinach Tacos, adapted from The Food Network
Yield: 4 servings

The Ingredients
8 ounces low-fat ricotta cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 white onion, sliced into 1/2inch rings
8 ounces green chile peppers, drained
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & diced
3-4 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper
approximately 1 pound fresh spinach
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried basil 
1 1/2 cups cooked & shredded chicken
2 teaspoons lemon juice
8-12 corn tortillas
salsa verde, for serving
The Method
Mix the ricotta, cilantro and 1 clove of garlic in a medium bowl, season with salt, and set aside.

Place the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat and add the onion, cooking without stirring until lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Stir briefly and allow the onions to soften, cooking an additional 2 minutes. Add in the chiles, jalapeno, red pepper, cumin, basil, chicken and spinach (in batches if necessary) and stir until the spinach begins to wilt. Add the remaining cloves of garlic and lemon juice and continue cooking until the spinach has completely wilted, approximately 3 additional minutes. Season with salt.

Meanwhile, warm the tortillas in a dry skillet before dividing the spinach mixture among them and topping with ricotta and prepared salsa verde. Fold the tacos and serve with extra salsa on the side.

Spicy Tomato Soup, adapted from The Food Network
Yield: 4 servings

The Ingredients
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups low/no-sodium chicken broth
28 ounces no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2-4 tablespoons cheddar cheese

The Method
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion, cooking & stirring occasionally until it is soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, cumin, and oregano and cook for 1 more minute before adding in the broth and tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to low; allow to simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and remove the pan from the heat. 

Either puree with an immersion blender or in batches with a regular blender, looking for the soup to lighten in color without losing all of the chunks of tomato (approximately 30 seconds). Serve with cilantro and cheddar cheese.

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