Quick chicken enchiladas

I need meals I can put together quickly.  This chicken enchilada recipe took me about half an hour from start to finish.  The result is cheesy and a little decadent!  And yet it’s simple and filling. The secret is sour cream and low carb tortillas. 

Cooking and Keto

Even with lazy, dirty keto, people have more success if they cook their own food.  Control over the ingredients is critical.  But most of us live “Standard American Lives.”  We work all day –and we don’t really know how to cook that well.  I myself was raised on canned, frozen and take out everything. Moving to a different standard, a higher standard, takes some conviction and help.   This is a good recipe to start out on. 

Fortunately there is Pinterest.

Pinterest, Youtube, and other Internet resources are out there to teach us how to cook. I haunt the food blogs looking for easy, tasty meals that don’t require a certificate from the Culinary Institute of America to prepare. I came across this recipe on Pinterest but there were several others, nearly identical.  

Differences from the main recipe.

I used fresh chicken, not cooked.  Rotisserie chicken would be rather dry (if leftover) and they’re so often overcooked to begin with.  My son said he would agree to “taste” but wouldn’t commit to eating a full meal of it.  I found a package of chicken breast tenders for $3.48  When I make this again, I’ll be using a package of chicken thighs — and save the leftovers as this is a really great recipe. 

I used a small can of El Paso (rather than a larger can) because really, I was making this mostly for myself.   My son was very unsure of this recipe.  I made three for myself with enough leftover for two for my lunch tomorrow.  As it happened, my son ate (and enjoyed) one of the three enchiladas. He was hooked on the first bite!

I added fresh red peppers.  This made the fresh flavors pop and added to the sweetness of the onions. 

Cheese and Time.  The original poster used about 3 to four CUPS of cheese.  And she cooked this for half an hour. I’m sorry but the chicken is ALREADY cooked and so you’re just melting cheese and reducing the sauce a little.  Half an hour and that much cheese?  Not really necessary. 

The ingredients

  • A package of chicken breast tenders (thighs will also work)
  • El Paso red enchilada sauce (I used the small can but I’d think the large can would be a little better if making more than the five enchiladas I made. I had to skimp on the sauce as it was.)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of chopped sweet onion
  • a clove of garlic (or a teaspoon of garlic paste)
  • low carb tortillas (I used La Tortilla brand)
  • shredded Mexican cheese (about a cup)
  • olive oil (2-3 tablespoons
  • 1 pat of butter
  • Optional: chopped red pepper (a  half will do) and / or chopped mushrooms 
  • I sprinkled some cilantro on the finished product (see photo) before serving — to make it pretty. 🙂 

Yes, that’s all.  

Just out of the oven!

The directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a large skillet, heat up the oil and butter together til hot. 
  3. Add the garlic and the onions to the pan, set it at a medium level of heat. Brown the onions.  This might take five minutes. 
  4. Cut the chicken into small pieces.  I took a tenderloin and cut it into three pieces; if I had used thighs, I would have done three or four. 
  5. If using the red pepper and mushrooms, add to the skillet and cook for another three or four minutes. 
  6.  Add the chicken to the skillet and brown, cooking until it’s all the way done. 
  7.  Add the sour cream to the skillet and about half the can of enchilada sauce.  Set the can aside, you’ll be using that later.
  8.  Combine the sour cream and enchilada sauce with the chicken and let that all cook for maybe two minutes.  Then turn off the heat. 
  9.  Take an oven-safe casserole dish and line it with aluminum foil. 
  10. Add a little more olive oil OR spray the foil with cooking spray (I use coconut oil spray).   This is to help slide the enchiladas out later. 
  11. Put 2-3 of tablespoons of enchilada sauce from the half can you’ve reserved (from step 7) on the aluminum foil. 
  12. Dip a tortilla in the sauce and coat on the outside. You want it just a little wet with enchilada sauce. 
  13. Add a tablespoon or so of chicken and sauce from the pan in the tortilla. 
  14.  Add a tablespoon or so of shredded cheese.
  15.  Roll up the tortilla.
  16.  You’ll repeat steps 13-15 til you run out of chicken.  Should make between four and five enchilada, possible six.  (If you use a large can of enchilada sauce and thighs, then you can get as many as eight. )
  17. Pour the rest of the sauce over the chicken enchiladas.
  18.  Scatter shredded cheese on top of the sauce. 
  19.  Put in the oven til the cheese gets hot and bubbly and slightly brown.  This will probably take ten minutes.  To be honest, I cooked these for five minutes in the oven. 

Dinner is done.   My son said “add this to the dinner rotation!  I heartily approve!”    He thought it was as good as or better than our favorite restaurant. There is no higher accolade in the house.  

Carb Facts

  • Enchilada sauce: 4g net carbs per servings
  • La Tortilla low-carb tortillas 6g net carbs per tortilla

Thus the two enchiladas I had were a total of 20 net carbs.   I’m going to work on a lower carb enchilada sauce to see if I can get these down to 7 carbs a piece.   That’ll take more effort on my part, but for a quick and easy dinner, this one works 

Recipe: Trader Joe’s Chicken Schawarma Thighs

On a busy week-night, I want food fast, easy and with as little fuss as possible.  Trader Joe’s chicken schawarma thighs fill the bill nicely. Schawarma is essentially an olive oil marinade with the essential ingredients of turmeric, onion, paprika and garlic, with some lemon and vinegar for acidity. Trader Joe’s version is not quite as delicious as, say, this NYT recipe, but for something I can throw in the oven for half an hour at 400 degrees F? Hey, this is my go-to meal for tired days. My picky son loves it (though he won’t eat the mushrooms).

Turmeric is a wonderful anti-inflammatory root with a delicate flavor.  Trader Joe’s almond butter and turmeric salad dressing reminds me slightly of Thai peanut sauce — but without the overpowering sweetness. I added it to this recipe to give it a creamy finish.

I pair this with Trader Joe’s reduced carb tortillas, two colors of peppers, onions and mushrooms– and baby spinach — and I have a fast meal that is almost restaurant quality. It’s kind of like a soft taco or a loose “wrap.”   To be honest, my son is no fan of vegetables (especially not mushrooms).  I often make the garnish just for myself, halving the amount of peppers, onion and mushrooms in the recipe below if it’s just him and me.

This recipe makes about five “tacos.”

What You Need:

The Chicken:
1 package of Trader Joe’s chicken schawarma thighs
1 lemon, cut in halves (optional)

The Garnish:
1 red bell pepper
1 orange pepper
1/2 onion
2-4 fresh white mushrooms (optional)
1 pat of butter
2 tablespoons of oil oil
1/4 tsp turmeric (or a good sprinkle)
1/4 tsp paprika (or a good sprinkle)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup (or a good handful) of baby spinach

Trader Joe’s Reduced Carb Tortillas
a spray can of coconut oil  (optional) — You can substitute spray olive oil or other oil as well.

Salad dressing (optional) – My personal preferences are Trader Joe’s “Almond Butter Turmeric” salad dressing or “Gorgonzola Pear Champagne Vinagrette”

The Prep

  1. First I preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. , then I start prepping the ingredients. This isn’t entirely throw the meat in the oven and forget it!

2. I remove the chicken from the package and cut the thighs into similarly sized, smaller pieces.   They come packaged together, with about three large thighs and a couple of smaller thigh pieces.  I cut each large thigh into about four pieces.  The smaller pieces can usually be cut into half and then they’re all mostly the same size — so they will cook in around the same time.

3. I put aluminum foil on a broiler pan and set the pieces on the foil.  I often squeeze half a lemon over all the pieces, to wake up the flavor, before putting it in the oven when the temperature hits the mark.   The thigh pieces will cook in about thirty minutes.

The Garnish

4. While the chicken’s in the oven, put the pat of butter in a saute pan, along with the olive oil. Turn on medium heat, letting the butter melt. Add paprika and turmeric to the oil while its heating.

5. Chop the onion into a small dice (small pieces) and mince the garlic.  Add to the pan. Cook on medium heat and let those onions brown.

6. Chop the red and orange pepper, (and the  mushrooms if using).  Add to the pan.

7. Saute the peppers and mushrooms with the onions and garlic in the oil/butter/spice mixture over medium heat for about five minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper.

8. Add the baby spinach. Cook til it just wilts–that takes less than a minute!   Take the saute pan off the heat and set it aside. I keep the garnish in the pan while I work on the tortillas.

Prepare the Tortillas

9. I use a grill pan or a skillet, heating it up to a medium high temperature.

10.  I spray each tortilla on each side with coconut oil and put them on the hot grill pan, about a minute on each side. They should get a nice hot scorch mark on them, but not much!   Set aside.

11. When the chicken comes out, assemble them like tacos:  a spoonful of garnish, three to four pieces of chicken per “taco.”

12. I add a small squeeze of lemon or often, a small spoonful (or “dollop” ) of salad dressing before eating. My favorites are Trader Joe’s pear gorgonzola salad dressing or the the especially lovely almond butter turmeric salad dressing.

The Salad Version

If you’re not a fan of the tortilla idea, you can put all of this on top of fresh greens for a wonderful salad.  I do this with leftovers of this recipe — if there are any (often not!). That takes off a few net carbs.

The Nutritional Info:

Trader Joe’s Chicken Schawarma (from the package):

Serving size 4 oz (112g) | Amount per serving: Calories 160
Total Fat 7g (9% DV), Saturated Fat 1.5g (8% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 100mg (33% DV), Sodium 440mg (19% DV), Total Carbohydrate 3g (1% DV), Dietary Fiber 0g (0% DV), Total Sugars 0g—Includes 0g Added Sugars (0% DV), Protein 21g, Vitamin D 0mcg (0% DV), Calcium 20mg (0% DV), Iron 1.2mg (6% DV), Potassium 290mg (6% DV).

The Trader Joe’s Reduced Carb Tortillas
Serving: 1 tortilla | Calories: 10 | Total Fat: 1.5g | Total Carbs: 10g (7g fiber, 0g sugar) | Protein: 4g

<Trader Joe’s Almond Butter Turmeric Dressing (serving 1 tbsp).

Yes, it has a little cane sugar in it (it’s the fifth ingredient) but the rest of the ingredients are pretty good for you– almond butter, ginger, turmeric, black pepper and lemon juice — 4g of fat, carbohydrates, 4g, fiber 1g,  2g of sugar and 2g of protein in a tablespoon.

Here’s my admittedly rough calculations for my two tacos:
Chicken: 6 g net carbs
Tortillas: 6 g net carbs
Salad dressing: 6 net carbs
Peppers:  about 2.5 g carbs
Onions: about 2 g net carbs
Spinach: 2 g net carbs
Mushrooms: 1 g net carbs

This gives me a total carb accounting for this meal at 25.5 net carbs.