EATING FOR LIFE

Mexican flavors make a delicious mainstream

Updated: 2014-01-22T00:32:40Z

By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA

The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: This column originally ran in 2007.

When we eat out, Mexican ranks just behind Italian as our favorite ethnic food. But when we eat in, Mexican is numero uno.

If you need evidence that Mexican has gone mainstream, look no further than the school cafeteria, where sloppy Joes have been edged out by tacos, nachos and fiesta-style pizzas.

The Star’s Enchilada Casserole is a Mexican-style family meal with a lighter touch. The recipe starts with a layer of ground round (about 11 percent fat). While the lower fat content would produce a dry, tough burger, ground round works well in casseroles.

Corn tortillas also make this casserole a smart choice. Unlike flour tortillas, they do not typically contain added fat, which means fewer calories and more fiber.

Reduced-fat cheese and leaner garnishes, including fat-free sour cream, also boost the dish’s nutrition.

•  Shopping tip: Read labels. We used an 11.5-ounce jar of taco sauce that contained 2,600 milligrams of sodium — more than a day’s worth of salt. But that is divided among 8 servings, reducing the total sodium to a more moderate 516 milligrams per serving.

•  Pump it up: Whether eating Mexican at home or ordering it in a restaurant, skip the chips and salsa and add a side dish of rice and beans instead. Avocado slices, once thought to be a purely caloric addition, actually add healthy unsaturated fat to the meal.

Enchilada Casserole

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 pound ground round

1/2 cup chopped onion

4 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup water

1 (11.5-ounce) jar mild taco sauce, divided

6 corn tortillas, divided

1 1/4 cups shredded 2 percent sharp cheddar cheese, divided

2 green onions, finely chopped

Shredded lettuce, chopped fresh tomatoes and fat-free sour cream for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook ground round and onion in skillet over medium heat until meat is browned and cooked through; drain. Add chili powder, cumin, pepper, garlic and water. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until water has evaporated and meat mixture is thick.

Lightly cover bottom of 9-by-13-inch pan with half of taco sauce. Place 3 tortillas in bottom of pan, cutting tortillas to fit, if necessary. Spread meat mixture on top of tortillas. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Drizzle remaining taco sauce over cheese and top with remaining 3 tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 additional minutes. Garnish with green onions and serve with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and fat-free sour cream if desired.

Per serving, based on 8: 253 calories (46 percent from fat), 13 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 43 milligrams cholesterol, 17 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 516 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, The Star’s food editor and restaurant critic, call 816-234-4347, send email to jsilva@kcstar.com or follow her on Facebook. Follower her on Twitter: @kcstarfood and @chowtownkc.

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