Friday, 8 March 2013

Food Friday - Layered Mexican Chicken

One of the things I find most challenging about trying to lose weight is finding the time to eat properly.  Working full time, having a few outside obligations, trying to make time to exercise and other real life things often puts meal prep on the back burner.  I find it especially difficult when I am cooking for only myself.  It seems so much easier to “grab something” on the way home and be done with it.  I know that is a major pitfall as take out is notoriously bad for diets and equally bad for the budget.

Although I belong to TOPS, I am constantly scouring other diet sites and organizations for ideas and recipes.  One of my TOPS group members once belonged to Weight Watchers and brought this recipe in to share at our meeting.  I loved the concept of cooking once and having dinner all week.  My one concern was … wouldn’t this get boring?  You know what – surprisingly it didn’t.  The food was tasty enough that I could actually enjoy it the second and third night.  Admittedly, I did halve the recipe so that I didn’t have to eat the same thing ALL week.  I changed it up a little by having a side salad with it one night, some pickles another and some cut up veggies on the next.  If you really do not like the thought of eating the same dinner several nights in a row, have it for one or two and freeze the rest.  The recipe is freezer friendly for 4 – 6 months.

Another major plus for me was that I didn’t have to think about what to have.  There it was in the refrigerator waiting for me when I arrived home.  No mess, no fuss and no thinking involved.  A healthy, tasty, low calorie, nutritious meal ready to go, so I was not tempted to eat something less diet-friendly.  What could be easier?  I sit here thinking back to the days when both my girls were involved in rep sports and food was often a sandwich in the car on the way to a game, or take-out on the way home.  Sometimes, even both!  This would have been great to have on hand back then. 

This “Mexican lasagna” will last in the fridge for 5 days.

Layered Mexican Chicken

(my personal comments are added in blue italics)

I am not familiar with the weight Watchers point system, but this recipe has a value of 8 on the Points Plus system

1 spray olive oil cooking spray
2 pounds uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast(s) (I prefer dark meat so I used boneless chicken thighs, which are also more budget friendly and once even used the pre-cooked chicken available at the meat counter.  Also an excellent place to use left over roast chicken … cuts down on the cooking time)
30 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups fat-free sour cream
2 cups shredded, reduced-fat, Monterey Jack cheese, or Mexican-style cheese blend
8 ounces chopped green chilies, two 4-ounce cans (I do not like spicy foods so substituted this with sliced green pepper)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (again, not a fan, so left this out completely)
½ teaspoon black pepper
12 medium corn tortillas, cut into 2-inch strips
1 cup fat-free salsa, your preference of mild medium or hot.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat lasagna pan with cooking spray.

Place chicken in a medium saucepan and fill with enough water just to cover chicken.  Set pan over high heat and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes; drain.  When chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch pieces.

Transfer chicken to a large bowl and add beans, sour cream, 1 cup shredded cheese, chilies, cumin, and pepper; mix well and set aside.

Arrange half of tortillas in bottom of prepared lasagna pan, overlapping pieces to cover surface.  Top tortillas with half of chicken mixture, layer with remaining tortillas and then top with remaining chicken mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining cup of cheese.

Bake until filling is bubbly and cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before slicing into 12 pieces.  (I preferred to cut only what I was going to eat and leave the rest intact for the storing in the fridge.  Thought it would prevent drying out of the edges.)

Serve with salsa on the side.

Store in the refrigerator covered with a casserole dish cover or tightly with plastic wrap.


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