Posts Tagged 'Mexican'

Chicken Empanaditas

An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry eaten in many countries of Latin America and the south of Europe. Typically it has a doughy crust (like a pie crust), folded into a half moon shape,  and is either fried or baked. I wanted to make a diminutive empanada – an empanadita – a little dumpling that was more finger food than a hand-held snack. I also wanted to eliminate the high fat pie crust-like dough so I that had a low fat, tasty nibble. I decided to use round gyoza wrappers, which can be folded into little half moons. Gyoza are the usually the wrap for Chinese or Japanese pot stickers, so perhaps these are actually Mexican pot stickers.

At any rate, the first time I made these I followed a Food Network recipe for the filling, with appropriate fat-reducing changes, such as using fat-free cream cheese and low fat Mexican cheese blend. These first empanaditas were just awful. The filling was dry and flavorless; the gyoza skins were both tough and chewy at the same time. Even the dogs eyed them suspiciously. But they looked good!

So I tried again, adding some salsa to the filling to give it a bit of zing, and some non-fat sour cream to make it creamier. I also used wonton wrappers, since I was out of gyoza skins. They were fantastic. And it was not only the filling that was better. The wonton wrappers were crisp and vaguely buttery. And they still looked good.

(I have since learned that the dough for the gyoza and wonton wrappers consists of different ingredients; gyoza wrappers are also thicker than wonton wrappers). Now that I have gotten the recipe right, I crave them constantly. Good thing that I froze a bunch.

This recipe makes a large number of empanaditas – almost 100. But they are quite freezable before they are baked, although you might have to bake them for a few minutes longer just out of the freezer.  And once the filling is made, you can make them assembly line fashion, laying out 3-4 wrappers, dropping the filling in the middle, painting the edges with water and pressing them shut.

Chicken Empanaditas

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 (7 to 8 ounce) package shredded low-fat Mexican cheese blend
4 ounces non-fat cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups non-fat sour cream
1 cup salsa verde (any green salsa – heat depends on your tolerance)
about 100 square wonton wrappers
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two large cookie sheets with cooking spray (this will not be enough to cook all the empanaditas, so you will have to repeat baking if you want to make them all at once.)

Place pepper, chicken, and jalapeno in food processor and pulse until chopped. Add Mexican cheese blend, cream cheese, cumin, salt, pepper, sour cream and salsa to food processor. Pulse until well blended. Lay several wonton wrappers on a flat surface. Place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of wrapper (you will have to get a feel for how much goes in each wrapper without overfilling them so you can’t seal them.)

(This is a picture of assembling the first batch – but you get the idea. Imagine this is a square, not a circle.)

Brush edges of wrapper with water. Fold in half to make a triangle. Press edges firmly to seal. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month).

Arrange empanaditas on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. You will need to check on these so they don’t burn. My first batch wasn’t brown enough, so I left them in for 10 more minutes and they got too well done. Makes about 100 empanaditas at 0.5 grams of fat/tasty little dumpling. (That means you can eat 6 of them sitting in front of the tv, dipping them in salsa if you’d like, and just have 3 grams of fat.)


Turkey Taco Meatballs

Yes, you read that right – taco meatballs.  The recipe, such as it is, was on the back of a package of ground turkey breast.  And I thought – why not.  All you do is thoroughly mix a package of ground turkey breast (usually one and a quarter pounds), a package of taco seasoning (I used chicken taco seasoning) and ¼ cup egg substitute.  Form into balls.  Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add meatballs and sauté for 5 minutes. Add hot water about 1/3 of the way up the meatballs, This lets them cook thoroughly without drying out like so many ground turkey breast things do.  Cook for another 5 minutes and turn over, cooking until the meatballs are cooked through and are no longer pink.

I made my meatballs kind of golf ball size and ate them with warm soft tortillas, green salsa, and sour cream.  I made 17 meatballs, with about .5 grams of fat/meatball.  I ate 3 to a tortilla.

I think there are a lot of things you could do with this recipe.  You could add a tablespoon or two of finely chopped onion and/or cilantro. If I do these again, I will definitely add onion, because I think it will give a better texture. You could add chilis. I think they would be adorable little appetizers, if you made them smaller and served them with toothpicks to dip into salsa or sour cream. You could cook them in salsa verde (homemade or from a jar) instead of water and serve them over rice or noodles.  I did this with a jar of salsa verde when I reheated them for another meal.

Taco meatballs in salsa verde over rice.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

My neighbor and I have been taking turns making dinner to eat as we watch the presidential debates.  This is a handy casserole because you can make it a day ahead if you need to and cook it when you get wherever you’re going to eat it.  Also, it is large, and of course, I’m always looking for something I can eat another day (and leave some with Florence as well).  An additional benefit is that it used up an excess of corn tortillas in my refrigerator.  The original recipe, from Cooking Light, set aside this and that for garnishes to be added in the last 5 minutes of cooking.  I was less interested in glamour than tasty and quick to bake, but you could hold back a bit of the green onions, olives, and cheddar and put them on 5 minutes before the casserole is done.  I also lightened the recipe up a bit.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

The chicken filling

1 1/4 pounds cooked, shredded skinless chicken breast (about 4 cups) see Note
1 large onion (about 1 1/2 cups) chopped
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of beer
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
2  14 ounce cans (or 1 28 ounce can) diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup of thinly sliced green onions
1  2 1/4 ounce can of sliced ripe olives, drained
2  4.5 ounce cans of chopped green chilies, drained

The white sauce

5 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cups non-fat milk
6 Tablespoons egg substitute (or 2 egg whites)

The rest of the assembly

Cooking spray
6  6-8 inch corn tortillas, cut in half
6 ounces reduced fat cheese (I would have just used that pre-shredded reduced fat four cheese Mexican cheese mix, but I only had 2 ounces of it in the refrigerator.  So I added whatever reduced fat cheese was there, mostly cheddar and a little Swiss.

Serve with:
Fat free sour cream

If you are going to bake the casserole right away, preheat oven to 350 F.

Note on the shredded chicken:  You can use any cooked chicken breast you have, like from soup, etc.  I defrosted a couple of chicken breasts and put them in a shallow bowl with about a cup of water.  I microwaved them, covered, on 7 for about 4 minutes on each side.  They were ugly, but very juicy, and could easily be shredded with a fork.

For the chicken filling:

Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Place over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender but not brown, stirring occasionally.  Add shredded chicken, beer, red pepper, and tomatoes. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. (Confession, after 20 minutes, my liquids hadn’t evaporated enough, so when I used the filling, I used a slotted spoon to drain it a little more.) Remove chicken mixture from the heat. Stir in green onions, olives, and chilies.  Set the mixture aside.

For the white sauce:

Put eggs substitute in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk together flour, salt, cumin, and coriander in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk, stirring until it is well-blended (be sure no lumps are clinging to the sides).  Place over medium heat and cook for 8-10 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly.  Yes, I know it is boring to stand and whisk. Pour yourself something tasty to drink and think of far away places.  Just don’t stop whisking or you will have a lumpy mess.  Believe me, I know.  When it is nice and creamy and thick, gradually add the hot milk mixture to the egg substitute, stirring the eggs substitute and milk mixture constantly with a whisk.  Set aside.

To assemble:

OK, now the fun begins.  You should have a big pan full of chicken mix, a bowl of white sauce, a bowl of shredded cheese, and tortillas.  Spray a 2 1/2 quart round casserole or soufflé dish with cooking spray.  Put a half cup of white sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish.  Arrange 4 tortilla halves over the sauce, top with 2 cups of chicken mixture, 1/2 cup of white sauce, and 1/2 cup of cheese. Repeat the layers twice more – you will wind up ending with cheese – sprinkle all the remaining cheese over the top.

If you are baking this right away, bake for 40 minutes at 350, or until bubbly.  If you are putting it in the refrigerator ahead of time, bake for 1 hour (mine took about 15 minutes longer) at 350, or until bubbly.

Serve with salsa and low fat sour cream.

This makes 8 servings with about 6 grams of fat per serving.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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