Tasty Words: Trial and error leads to an easy enchilada recipe

Photo courtesy of Lauren Kudlawiec / This shortcut to tasty enchiladas is a keeper for the recipe box.

Like most working moms, I rotate through the same dinner meals from month to month. Quick, easy and healthy is my dinner mantra. Sometimes, I like to explore outside my comfort zone and try out a new dish.

I started experimenting with enchiladas about two years ago, and the journey has been quite a learning process. Usually when I make something for the first time, I consult Pinterest or my cookbook stack. This time, I was determined to master this Mexican specialty alone.

My first attempt took a great deal of time. Roasting the chicken, layering all of the ingredients one by one and the long bake time took hours.

Upon the first few bites, I realized that sauce should have went both inside and outside of the tortilla wraps. The next time, I employed my cousin Kate to join my assembly line; it still took a while, but they tasted much better with sauce inside.

Recently, my brother Ian was craving a batch. I mustered the energy to take on this dish once again. Back to the drawing board: How can I turn these enchiladas into a quick supper?

I thawed leftover pork from the freezer and mixed all of the filling ingredients together except the sauce. Between the two of us, we had the enchiladas ready to bake in the pan within 15 minutes. They were amazing and easy.

I discovered the three keys to enchilada perfection were using a leftover protein, add­ing a thin layer of enchilada sauce before adding the filling, and mixing the remaining filling ingredients all together for faster assembly. I love to find shortcuts to accomplish tasty dishes and this one is a keeper for the recipe box.

Easy Enchiladas

Prep time: 30 minutes

Bake time: 45 minutes

Makes 14 enchiladas

3 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast or pork tenderloin

Two 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed well

One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano or 2 cups jarred mild salsa

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, divided

2 tablespoons taco seasoning

14 whole wheat tortilla wraps, about 8 inches in diameter

28-ounce can red enchilada sauce

Chopped scallions and sour cream for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 13×9 baking dishes with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, black beans, diced tomatoes, 1 cup cheese and taco seasoning; this will be the enchilada filling. Lay out tortillas on a clean counter top. Spread 1 tablespoon of the enchilada sauce over the surface of the tortilla, as if putting sauce on a pizza. Lay 1/2 cup of the filling down the middle of the tortilla. Wrap the left and right side over the filling and place in the prepared pan. You will have seven wraps in each pan. Feel free to push them together to fit in an even layer, but do not stack them on top of one another.

Top the finished pans with the remaining enchilada sauce and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove foil and bake uncovered for 15 additional minutes. Remove from oven and serve with chopped scallions and sour cream.

If you would like to freeze half of the enchiladas, prepare only one baking dish for immediate baking. Place stuffed enchilada wraps inside freezer bags. Do not add the additional cheese or enchilada sauce on top of the wraps. Freeze in a single layer for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, remove from freezer, thaw 15 minutes and place wraps into prepared dish. Cover with enchilada sauce and cheese and bake 45 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered.

Nutritional information: calories, 340; total fat, 11 grams; saturated fat, 5 grams; sodium, 728.2 milligrams; carbohydrates, 36.7 grams; fiber, 7 grams; sugar, 3.3 grams; protein, 23.1 grams; cholesterol, 47.2 milligrams.

Lauren Kudlawiec is the author of “Cooking with Lauren K,” a cookbook featuring healthy and affordable meals. Books are available on her website laurenkcooking.com, Smithmyer’s Superette or at the Altoona Mirror building. She teaches at Penn Cambria High School and appears monthly in her own cooking segment on WTAJ’s Central PA Live. She lives in Ebensburg with her husband and son.