If you’re craving enchiladas but looking for a healthier version, I have a recipe you must try! Last weekend, I made Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Quinoa. I give it 5 stars. There are many things that I appreciate about this recipe. It tastes scrumptious, I didn’t have to eat an enormous portion to feel full, it’s bursting with Tex-Mex flavor, it made enough for leftovers, and I got to try out a new ingredient, quinoa. I’ve never cooked with quinoa before, but this recipe has me hooked. I’ve been wanting to try it in a recipe ever since eating my mom’s Baked Pepper Jack Quinoa Skillet last summer. It was one of the many delicious meals she cooked while I was staying at home. Her quinoa skillet had spinach, broccoli, pepper jack cheese, and sour cream in it, all combined to create a flavorful and healthy one-dish concoction.
Chicken Enchilada Quinoa is almost what I like to call a “true” Crock Pot meal. The entire meal is cooked in the Crock Pot, but, before you let the appliance do its magic, you have to cook the chicken. It’s not quite a “dump dinner.” Trust me, once you taste it, you won’t mind the extra work.
I found the recipe on Pinterest, and it’s from the Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen food blog. You can find the original recipe here. I included it below with details and explanations about what I did differently.
1 pound ground chicken (I don’t do ground chicken; I just used chicken breast tenderloins)
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn (I dumped the entire bag in our Crock Pot)
1 can (15 oz.) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used garlic powder and dried minced garlic)
1 medium onion, chopped (as you can predict, I left out the onion and used onion powder)
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (I used 3, and will use even more next time)
1 cup water
1 can (10 oz.) enchilada sauce (I used the Old El Paso brand, the only kind available in our Cincy Kroger)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (I ended up not using these last 2 ingredients)
1. Since I didn’t use ground chicken (and never will!), I cooked the chicken breasts in the oven, in oven bags, at 350 degrees for 1 hour. See the end of the post for more on oven bags.
2. Once the chicken is cooked, shred it into pieces with a knife and fork. Pour 1 cup of water into the Crock-Pot. Then, transfer the shredded chicken into the Crock Pot. Add the quinoa, black beans, frozen corn, diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, enchilada sauce, cumin, and coriander. Stir all the ingredients together.
3. Cook on High 3-4 hours, or until all the moisture is absorbed by the ingredients.
4. When the quinoa is ready, stir half of the shredded cheese into the mixture and sprinkle the other half on top. Close the lid and allow the cheese time to melt. (For this step, we just sprinkled the cheese on our own quinoa servings at the table and did not stir it into the Crock Pot.)
5. Sprinkle the green onions and cilantro on top of the quinoa and serve.
We really enjoyed this zesty Tex-Mex meal. The Chicken Enchilada Quinoa had a texture similar to enchiladas, and was nice and spicy. Michael added some sour cream to his first bowl, but then decided it really didn’t need it since it had cheese on top. Quinoa expands quite a bit when it cooks, and the recipe made a generous amount. I portioned out the leftovers in containers for healthy yet solid lunches at work this week. Reheating it in the microwave worked well and did not dry out the chicken.
The blogger who shared this recipe tells a funny story of how she got her husband and kids to eat quinoa by sneaking it into dishes under the cover of lots of cheese. It’s definitely not a grain you commonly find in American comfort food. I think the Bud Light NFL commercial where the guy is making fun of his wife’s quinoa patties on the grill may give some people the wrong impression of this wonderful whole grain. The quinoa commercial is really funny, and you can check it out on youtube here. I know Michael had some reservations when he heard that quinoa was coming out to play in our kitchen. Fortunately, he likes couscous, and the two are very similar. When the quinoa made its debut, he was open-minded and an easy convert. Well maybe not a convert, but he said he would enjoy it in an occasional meal. In contrast, I want to start substituting quinoa for all my meals that have rice. I like the taste and texture, but I’m more impressed with the nutrition facts. The”mother of grain,” as the Incas called it, has 3 grams of Fiber, aka roughage, a whopping 6 grams of protein, and only 3 grams of sugar per serving. Now I know why it’s so filling and satisfying. The brand I selected at Kroger is Village Harvest.
Before concluding this post, I have to give a little shout-out to oven bags. Michael and I started using them a few years ago and still do for many of our chicken meals. You can buy just the bags, or you can buy the bag along with a seasoning packet. Since the meat is cooked in a closed bag, there’s no pot or pan to clean up after cooking. But the thing I like the most about oven bags is how they cook the chicken. When I take the chicken breasts out of the bag, I slice into moist, tender, and juicy meat every time. I’m never cooking chicken in a skillet again. They’re amazing!
If you are cooking chicken to add to a dish like the quinoa, just use the oven bag from Reynold’s.
All you do is place the chicken breasts in the bag, sprinkle them with some olive oil, and use your hands on the outside of the bag to spread the olive oil around so it is covering all of the chicken. Then, tie the bag shut, poke one or two holes in the top with a fork, set it in a baking pan, and cook at 350 degrees for an hour. We usually cook about 1-2 pounds of chicken for this amount of time.
The other option is to use an oven bag that comes with its own seasoning packet. We enjoy the savory flavors in the McCormick Bag N’ Season cooking bag and seasoning mix set. McCormick has several flavors to choose from including Original Chicken, Country Style Chicken, and Italian Herb Chicken. Just sprinkle the seasoning packet into the bag on top of the chicken, add the olive oil, and bake. The Bag N’ Season kit makes an easy meal when served with rice and a side of vegetables. Michael likes to pour the juices from the bag over the chicken and rice on his plate to make a delicious gravy.