Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

Before we start:  Please don't judge this book by it's cover.  This casserole may not win any casserole beauty pageants, but didn't your mother ever tell you that looks are deceiving? 

I'll admit it.  I was skeptical when I first saw this recipe.  A casserole cooked in the microwave?  Impossible!  Surely the finished product must come out mushy or hard as a rock.  Keep reading...

I recently went to a Pampered Chef cooking show and the consultant said that she regularly uses her stoneware in the microwave.  Now, having been a PC consultant myself at one time, I knew that stoneware is microwave safe, but I really only thought it applied to reheating things.  Not cooking from scratch.  Boy was I wrong!  I was pleasantly surprised with how this turned out, and after only 15 minutes of cooking in the microwave. 

My sister Julz was with me while I made this...she watched the kiddos while I assembled dinner.  Perfect partnership!  Here's what she had to say about the finished product:

I thought it was like getting a healthier version of restaurant style dish at home.  If we had a side of refried beans and fresh salsa, I would have been in heaven.  Mexican heaven.  Except Mexican Heaven has a quite a bit more gas!
Leave it to Julz to tell it like it is!  Anyway, I need to explain a bit about the cooking vessel:  it is the Pampered Chef Deep  Covered Baker.  See how pretty and shiny it is?

If you don't have one of these, try any microwave-safe stoneware baking dish.  (Perhaps an 8 x 8 or a 9 x 13.)  What? No stoneware? Don't worry!  Just use any 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 baking dish you have.  However, if you are making this in a regular pan, I would skip the microwave altogether.  To be on the safe side, I would just pop it in the oven at 350 until it is hot and bubbly all the way through.  But that's just my opinion.  Feel free to walk on the wild side, if you wish. 

Another thing:  since this is a lasagna, it takes a little time to prep and put together. It took me about 35 minutes from start to finish to chop everything and put it all together.  When I do it again, I will probably put it together on a Saturday or Sunday and keep it in the fridge until later in the week when I decide to bake it.  The prep is a tad bit too involved for me to put together for a weeknight meal.  But it's definitely worth doing ahead of time.  Note:  if you are going to refrigerate it, expect to add extra time to the cooking.  Or, better yet, pull it out of the fridge a few hours early to let it all come to room temp. 

Microwave Mexican Lasagna
Servings:  8
Points per serving: 6

  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced 
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 28 ounces enchilada sauce
  • 1- 8 ounce package fat-free cream cheese
  • 2 cups shredded reduced fat Mexican cheese blend
  • 1- 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (I used 3- 10 ounce cans of chicken breast, purely because I was feeling lazy and couldn't be bothered with the extra step of cooking the chicken.  It turned out great.)
  1. Put cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl, and cook on HIGH until soft.  Add chopped cilantro and 1 1/2 cups of Mexican cheese to the softened cream cheese and mix well. 
  2. Squeeze as much water as possible from the thawed spinach.  I pop the spinach in the microwave to thaw.  And then I plop it in a clean dish towel and squeeze.  You'll be amazed how much liquid comes out. 
  3. Add squeezed spinach to cream cheese mixture and mix well.  This combination will look too thick, but don't worry.  Even though you squeezed the dickens out of the spinach, there will still be some liquid left and it will loosen up when it cooks.  Just keep mixing till combined.
  4. Spread 2/3 cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of stoneware or baking dish.  Swish around to coat the bottom.  
  5. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce into a seperate shallow baking dish or bowl for dipping the tortillas.  
  6. Here are the layers of lasagna:
    1. 4 Tortillas dipped in enchilada sauce.
    2. Half of cream cheese, spinach mixture, spread over tortillas.  
    3. 1 cup or 1 can chicken
    4. 1/3 of the chopped onions
  7. Repeat layers a second time.
  8. Add last cup or can of chicken and last 1/3 of chopped onions.
  9. Pour remainder of enchilada sauce over lasagna.
  10. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over lasagna.
  11. Cover and cook on HIGH in microwave for 15 minutes, until hot and bubbly all the way through.  (I ended up having to cook mine for 20 minutes.)  
  12. Let casserole stand for 10-15 minutes to set up a bit.
  13. Cut into 8 servings.
  14. Enjoy. 
Recipe adapted from: Pampered Chef Season's Best

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