As women of a certain age, we find we’re increasingly cooking for 2 or even 1 after decades of cooking for a full house. We not only had our own kids but their friends, study groups, and even roommates from college. We also hosted dinner parties for our friends and colleagues. Now, we face the unenviable task of cooking for our diminished household, which may be just us. After years struggling with how to cook for 1, I decided to follow the newest trend in cook — meal prepping.
Meal prepping isn’t really that new — people meal prepped for hundreds of years. Rather than combining leftovers or preservation techniques like pickling, canning, etc, meal prepping involves a conscious effort at portion control, while offering sustainability to your cooking because you eliminate leftovers while saving time and money. Likely, the meal prep fad (and, it officially qualifies as a fad now), traces its roots to restaurant kitchens that routinely prep food to ensure prompt service once a guest orders their food. The same practices work in your home kitchen and, with the pandemic, what else do we have to do besides cook?
Leftovers versus meal prep
I grew up in a household where leftovers were the norm. Since my mom’s cooking wasn’t great the first time around, the thought of eating leftovers left me pretty cold (LOL). Seriously, I grew to hate leftovers and I still have a hard time consuming them. I also can’t stand eating the same thing more than a couple of days, with the exception of Thanksgiving dinner, which I could eat for a solid week. Probably because I only get roasted turkey once a year and turkey stuffing is one of my all-time favs.
So, the thought of making an entire week’s worth of meals at one time wasn’t something in my realm of possibilities.
Until I realized I was spending a fortune on take-out from local restaurants and that meal kits (and I tried a bunch of them) tasted more like the cardboard they were shipped in than real food. But taking hours to prepare a meal I would finish in 20 minutes, then dealing with the leftovers wasn’t my idea of a fun time.
Enter meal prep.
Now, instead of preparing fresh meals every day or, more likely hitting up Grubhub for delivery, I just prep meals once a week, then freeze them in handy containers I bought on sale from Amazon with depressions for an entre and two sides.
Meal prepping enchiladas
My family loves my chicken enchiladas. After spending nearly a decade along the US/ Mexican border, Mexican food is a family favorite. My recipe makes enough for a family of 6 and, as I said, there’s just me. So I make the dish, then plate individual enchiladas with some corn and some refried beans then pop them in the freezer where they stay fresh for weeks (or months). By alternating my favorites, such as baked mac n’ cheese, veggie chili, and a few others, I have a freezer full of food and I can alternate between meals, eating whatever strikes my fancy on a particular evening.
Chicken enchiladas recipe
This is a recipe I developed over the years by combining ingredients from several other recipes.
- 2 lbs of chicken parts
- olive oil
- 1 can chopped chilis or 6 oz of fresh
- green onion (scallions)
- 2 T fresh or processed jalapeno peppers (to taste)
- 1 T ground chili powder
- 1 T garlic (optional)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 large can mushrooms
- tortillas, burrito size
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 C sour cream
- 12 oz pepper jack cheese
- milk, as needed
Make the filling by browning the chicken parts (I use boneless, skinless thighs or breasts) in a little olive oil (or any other type of oil) with the greens of the scallions. After the chicken is cooked, add the remaining ingredients and warm.
Fill tortillas with a couple of tablespoons of the chicken mixture. Fold in the bottom and sides, then place with the seam down in a large lasagne-type pan. If your tortillas are cold, pop them in a microwave a few seconds so they don’t break as you fold them. If find flour tortillas work best if you want your tortilla intact at the end of the process. Corn, for my money, breaks too easily.
Don’t worry about overstuffing them. The more the merrier.
Using the same pan you used to make the filling (don’t worry about cleaning it or scraping out any remaining filling) stir together the sour cream and pepper jack cheese until melted. You might add a little milk to reach the consistency you want — a nice, firm pancake batter
consistency is what you want.
Pour over the filled tortillas and top with whatever floats your boat — scallions, chili powder, diced jalapenos, even hot sauce. Bake for 20 minutes in a 350º oven. My family likes the enchiladas crispy and brown on top, so I bake them a little longer. You’re just going for something warm.
I eat what I want, usually, one enchilada then let the rest of the pan cool since the chances of getting an entire enchilada out of the pan intact are greater if they’re cold. Place a single serving in your freeze-safe container along with some corn smothered in butter and refried beans (I use canned beans mixed with some spicy salsa). Pop in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat them, I find the flavor is better if heated in the oven for about 40 minutes versus microwaving the meal.
This recipe is easily adapted for other preferences. My daughter is vegan so I substitute tofu for the chicken and I use vegan cheese, cream, and cashew milk. You could even eliminate the tofu and just increase the amount and variety of veggies included in the enchilada.
The sauce is optional if you prefer or add a nice green sauce made by combining jalapenos, cilantro, tomatoes, and lime juice in a blender.
OK, enough for today.
See you back here soon.