Chicken Enchilada Casserole

By Wendy Monro

This week we were blessed with a visit from my friend’s daughter, Mackenzie. The minute she landed, her father brought her straight to my house for dinner as per my instructions. Robert’s daughter, Mackenzie, is a sweet young teenage girl. Every time she comes to town, we have to have her over. She has celebrated with us at countless dinner parties. Her big smile, warmth, and enthusiasm for life are intoxicating. We all love to spend time with her on her visits to Vegas. This time was no different.

I made a vegetarian curry and a chicken korma with rice. It was an Indian themed dinner. We had a great time catching up since I haven’t seen her in a few months. Inevitably, the discussion turned to food and cooking and we discussed several recipes. Turns out, “Kenzie” has a new found passion for cooking. I told her, I would love to have her over to cook one of her favorite dishes for us one evening. She told me that she would love to make, “Kenzie’s Enchilada Casserole”. I said, she could come and create that dish in my kitchen any evening.

The following day, she and her dad showed up to our house with bags of ingredients. That was quick! I was delighted. It is not often that I get to sit in my kitchen and watch somebody else cook a meal for my family. I poured myself a glass of wine, turned on some music and witnessed this young cook go to work. We still had guests here from England and my daughter, Daphne, was here with her boyfriend. So, the kitchen was full. Kenzie’s dad, Robert, knew where everything belongs in my kitchen, which meant I didn’t need to help with anything. It was very relaxing.

Mackenzie whipped up a beautiful vegetable platter and placed a bowl of homemade guacamole right in the center. We all dug right in. This was the perfect appetizer for our Mexican dinner night.

I was delighted to discover that she was making a vegan version of the casserole for Daphne. Kenzie is an amazing young girl who absolutely adores animals. She spends most days riding her horse in her hometown, San Francisco. She rescues dogs and shelters them in her home until they find a permanent family. She adores cats. However, I have heard that she usually ends up keeping the animals she rescues. I think that is a common side effect of animal rescue. I wasn’t surprised at her thoughtfulness in making sure Daphne could join in enjoying her cooking by making a vegan version. She has so much compassion for a young teen girl. I just love her.

As she and her father cooked, the house smelled amazing. I should say that her father was more of the sous chef, because this was really Kenzie’s project. She was in charge. I tried hard not to fill up on guacamole, but it tasted so delicious with all of the fresh vegetables. I couldn’t wait to try her food. Soon, the casserole dishes came out of the oven. Everyone grabbed a plate and dug in. I went for the vegan casserole. I was a little skeptical because vegan cheese isn’t always very good. I took the first bite and realized I was wrong. This was incredible, even with vegan cheese. All of the people around the table ate their casseroles and raved about how good it all was. I was very impressed with Kenzie’s skills. She fed a family of eight with an appetizer and two types of casserole dishes. I wasn’t surprised, but I was impressed.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole:

(If you want the vegan version, substitute vegan cheese and vegan chicken)

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Serves: 6

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cups enchilada sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, divided

1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded, divided

cup and 1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly chopped, divided

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 6 inch corn tortillas

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a deep skillet, add minced garlic and enchilada sauce. Heat until boiling. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the chicken breasts and place into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Remove chicken from the sauce and set aside. Turn off the heat. Shred the chicken with a fork. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, half of the enchilada sauce, cup of Monterey jack cheese, cup of the cheddar cheese, and cup of cilantro. Mix well. In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Lightly fry each tortilla. Place on a paper towel to cool and soak up the oil. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray. Fill the center of each tortilla with the chicken mixture. Roll each tortilla up and place into the baking dish with the seam side facing down. Place into the oven, uncovered for 8 10 minutes or until the tortillas turn golden brown. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Cover with foil and place back into the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another five minutes or until the cheese is golden. Remove from oven and top with cilantro for garnish. Serve with sour cream, chopped green onion, salsa, guacamole or whatever Mexican c