A healthier enchilada?These tips are great for a lighter take on the classic Mexican dish

The weather we’ve been having this winter has me craving some stick-to-your ribs comfort food. Since I grew up in Tucson, Ariz., comfort food was always something Mexican or southwestern, involving tortillas, rice, beans, cheese and a tasty sauce to drown it all in. Which is a long way of saying: enchiladas are pretty much my dream food. So it became my goal to create a version of enchiladas that mimicked the flavors and comfort of my childhood but didn’t make me feel weighed down and searching for my elastic waist-band sweatpants.
I swapped out white rice for brown rice to boost the nutrient profile, and used black beans without added fat (I almost don’t miss the lard). While cheese enchiladas are honestly my flavor of choice, I added chicken to give heft and protein, which enabled me to reduce drastically the amount of cheese. Without the extra fat, I needed some moisture to keep the filling luscious and tasty. Surprisingly, finely chopped baby spinach worked great, adding nary a calorie but a little boost of vitamins (A, C, folate) and iron. Win-win.
I whipped up a simple enchilada sauce using canned whole tomatoes. And my final victory? I used large chard leaves instead of tortillas. Chard is an incredible source of vitamin K (one cup has 4 times your daily requirement), while also providing vitamin C and A. And, one cup of chard has, get ready: seven calories.
Using chard as a casserole-wrapper is way easier than it sounds. Trim away the thick stem and then boil the leaves for two minutes, which softens them just enough to fill and roll without falling apart. Try today’s recipe for enchiladas, and once you master the roll-up technique, try swapping chard leaves for pasta in Italian dishes like manicotti.
Start to finish: 1 hour
Servings: 8
For the sauce:

  • 1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 3/4 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained if canned
  • 3/4 cup cubed or shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 3/4 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch cayenne (optional)
  • 8 large chard leaves
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Make the sauce: place all the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered with a lid, for 20 minutes, gently smashing open the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Turn off heat, allow to cool a little.
Carefully blend sauce with an immersion blender or in a regular blender (be very careful of steam if using a regular blender). Prepare the chard leaves: cut away the stems below the leaves (you can chop and saute stems for another side dish). Then, if the stems are tough, gently cut out the first inch or so of stem within the leaf, cutting it out in a “V” shape with a knife.
Parboil the leaves in a large pan of simmering water over medium-low heat until tender, but not falling apart, about 2 minutes. (Err on undercooking; not overcooking.) Make the filling: combine all the filling ingredients (through cayenne) in a large bowl and stir. Roll the enchiladas: Place the softened chard leaf on a cutting board with the stem end closest to you. Place about 1/4-1/3 cup of filling on the leaf, about 1 inch from the bottom of the leaf. Gently fold the sides of the leaf inward and then roll up the leaf from the bottom. (Note: if the stem is still a little tough, go ahead and let it “break” as you roll; it will be in the center of the rollup, so it won’t be visible.)
You should have a nicely-shaped enchilada-like packet. Repeat with remaining leaves. Spray a 9-by-9 or 2-quart baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread about 1/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the pan and then lay the 8 enchiladas in pan. Pour the sauce on top, tightly cover with foil and bake until hot throughout, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil, top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes. Top with yogurt and cilantro and serve.