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trials, goals, and bucket lists

Recipe: green chile chicken enchiladas

peony tulips for kris on may 1

While it might seem quiet around here, it has been anything but. Three months ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and began medication that sent my GI system on a 6-week roller coaster ride. I changed my diet, increased my exercise, and researched how to get my health and blood sugar under control. There were lots of bonks while navigating energy needs with more intense workouts and GI distress from the meds. But after weaning myself off of certain foods (the carbs, I do love them), consulting a nutritionist who specializes in diabetes, and converting some of my favorite recipes to healthier versions, I am meeting my health goals and feeling so much better.

last year: mother’s day, may 2021

last week: may 2022

In January 2022, I began planning a trip for my parents that should have happened in 2020 when my dad turned 80. Yosemite National Park was on my parents’ bucket list. Jeremy and I have camped, hiked, backpacked, ski toured, and photographed in Yosemite over the past 30 years. We knew enough to find a comfortable window for my parents to see the main sights without too much risk of snow or wildfires outside of the insanely crowded peak season. And because I had no way of knowing what the pandemic would be doing in May, I booked stand-alone luxury lodging with en suite dining space (for take out meals).

mother’s day on the lovely deck of our cabin

kicking off happy hour with mother’s day champagne

upper yosemite falls and the merced river

mom and dad at tunnel view

Mom and Dad enjoyed exploring Yosemite Valley, taking in waterfalls full of spring runoff (Bridalveil, Horsetail, Ribbon, Upper and Lower Yosemite), the giant sequoias, the great granite monoliths of El Capitan and Half Dome, the dogwood blossoms, and learning about the geologic history of the region. But the second half of the trip was what Dad was looking forward to the most: wine country. Jeremy tasted wines with my dad and I was the designated driver. All of the tastings were outdoors or open to the outdoors and all of our meals were either outside or carry out. Ultimately the whole adventure was a success because my parents were happy.

wine tasting at joseph phelps winery

the stunning entrance at joseph phelps

in the opus one courtyard

the garden outside our cottage in st. helena

I made sure to have healthy snacks on hand, ordered wisely at restaurants, and got out for hikes or trail runs most days, but it did involve a great deal of effort and planning to pull it all off and cater to my parents’ wishes while making sure the itinerary never went sideways. It was exhausting and I could not have done it without Jeremy’s support (logistical, moral, and otherwise). It’s good to be home with the pups, getting back to my exercise routine, living a simpler life, and eating my own food again.

these two have no idea how much we missed them

Knowing how to cook is probably the most important skill I bring to my dietary pivot. It gives me the ability to turn a generally unhealthy dish into something more nutritious, but still tasty and satisfying. Sometimes I make the indulgent recipe for Jeremy and create a diabetic-friendly mini version with substitutions for myself (because portion control). Other times we both eat the same healthier adaptation. And there are days when we eat completely different meals. It’s all fine.

We have been loving these green chile chicken enchiladas since last year. I’m happy to report that it is still a meal I eat – simply with less cheese, chicken, and oil – in a smaller portion. The original recipe uses flour tortillas which Jeremy can vouch for because I ran out of corn tortillas once. But we both prefer the taste of corn tortillas which are better for me than the refined carbohydrates in a traditional flour tortilla.

There are many shortcuts you can take to make this an easy weeknight meal like shredding the meat from a rotisserie chicken. [I buy an organic rotisserie chicken and use the meat for various soups, salads, sandwiches, nachos, and then use the carcass to make broth.] Fresh or jarred salsa verde works great here. And while I draw from my stash of roasted green chiles from my freezer, feel free to use canned green chiles.

cheese, cilantro, chicken, salsa verde, onions, corn tortillas, green chiles, oregano, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper (not pictured: canola oil)

add oregano, cumin, and garlic to the sautéed onions

stir in the green chiles

mix the cilantro, chicken, half the cheese, and some of the salsa into the filling

Prepping the filling is the biggest hands-on part of the recipe. Once that is complete, you’re well on the road to Enchilada Town. If you are using corn tortillas, you should know that they aren’t terribly pliable unless you give them a quick pan fry in a little oil. Trust me, I tried steaming them with a zap in the microwave, but frying is the best way to avoid busted corn tortillas.

a little oil on a hot skillet and a quick fry on both sides

i use about 1/2 cup of filling per corn tortilla

enchiladas, assemble!

After rolling each tortilla, nestle them into the baking dish with the seam-side down to let gravity hold them closed. Don’t pack them too tight if you are using a smaller baking dish (like the one I’m using here). Just get another baking dish for the extras. Spoon the salsa verde over the enchiladas and then layer with cheese.

Alternatively, you could skip rolled enchiladas altogether and make stacked enchiladas which do not require frying of the tortillas. Just layer tortillas, filling, salsa verde, cheese, and repeat until you end with tortillas and some extra salsa and cheese on top.

Then bake!

spoon the salsa verde over the enchiladas

finish with cheese and maybe some pretty diced red onions

i like to bake until the edges get crisp

Now, I haven’t been off living my life entirely neglecting the food blog – just mostly. I DID try a few vegetarian versions of this recipe where I tested green jackfruit and mushrooms in place of the chicken.

king oyster mushrooms and green jackfruit

Jackfruit has a nice stringy, meat-like texture that works as a stand-in for shredded chicken or shredded pork. I used canned green (young or unripe) jackfruit in brine from the Asian grocer. If you go this route, be sure that you aren’t grabbing a can of ripe jackfruit in syrup because it’s a different beast.

green jackfruit out of the can

shred it and rinse well

squeeze it dry

cook it up with spices

The jackfruit carries a slight flavor of its own, but if you prepare it with barbecue sauce or other flavorful condiments, the texture is what stands out. The jackfruit enchiladas were good, but they weren’t my favorite because I sure do love mushrooms. King oyster or king trumpet mushrooms are commonly sold in the produce section of well-stocked Asian markets as well as Whole Foods and other grocery stores with good mushroom selections. You could use regular oyster mushrooms, too. The prep involves peeling the mushrooms into chunky strips and frying them in a little oil and salt and pepper. The texture is less like chicken than the jackfruit, but the flavor is that of mild mushrooms. I like it as much as, if not more than, the chicken enchiladas.

peel the king oysters into strips

sauté in a pan until browned and slightly crisped

two vegetarian options

Not only did I want to get this recipe up for everyone who had inquired about it on my Instagram posts, but I’ve made it so many times now that it truly deserves a spot on the blog. This way I no longer have to lug my big recipe notebook into the kitchen, but can pull the recipe up on my kitchen laptop or phone as needed.

served with sour cream and cilantro

party-in-your-mouth goodness

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas
[print recipe]
adapted from Damn Delicious

4 tbsps canola oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
8 oz. diced green chiles
3 cups shredded chicken*
16 oz. salsa verde (fresh or from a jar)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
8 corn tortillas (original recipe calls for 8 flour tortillas, in which case use 4 cups of chicken)

* Vegetarian substitutions for shredded chicken include king oyster (or king trumpet) mushrooms or young (green) jackfruit. See below for preparation tips.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with vegetable oil.

Make the filling: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the onions until they are soft (about 2-3 minutes). Stir in the garlic, oregano, and cumin and cook for a minute until fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the green chiles, chicken, 1/3 cup salsa verde, cilantro, and half of the cheese. Set aside the filling.

Fry the tortillas: Heat a teaspoon of canola oil in a small frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place a corn tortilla in the pan (it should sizzle) for a few seconds, then flip the tortilla and let it cook until it begins to bubble with air pockets (less than 30 seconds). Remove to a paper towel. Repeat for the remaining tortillas.

Assemble the enchiladas: Fill each tortilla with 1/2 cup of filling. Roll the tortilla up and set it seam-side down in your baking dish. Spread the remaining salsa over the enchiladas and top it with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is bubbly and golden. Serve with sour cream, cilantro, and red onion. Serves 4.

shredded king oyster mushrooms
9 oz. fresh king oyster (king trumpet) mushrooms
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Shred the mushrooms with your hands by peeling sections off along the length of the mushrooms. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and sauté until the edges brown and crisp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. 9 ounces will yield about 1/2 cup of filling. You can store this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

shredded jackfruit
20 oz. can young or green jackfruit in brine (don’t get ripe jackfruit which is canned in syrup)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Drain the brine from the jackfruit and shred the fruit with your hands. You can remove the round seeds if you don’t like their texture, but I tend to leave them in. Rinse the flesh well under water. Squeeze excess water from the jackfruit meat with hands or a towel. Set a sauté pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the jackfruit and cook for a minute. Stir in the seasonings and cook for a couple of minutes then flip the jackfruit and cook another 2 minutes. A 20-ounce can yields about 3/4 cup of filling. You can store this in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

beer chicken green chile enchiladas hot cheesy green chile dip green chile cheeseburger mexican grilled corn salad

12 nibbles at “trials, goals, and bucket lists”

  1. Sherry R Englehart says:

    I can’t wait to try jackfruit in enchiladas, I know it will be great and not send my sugar up, I’ll use lettuce in place of tortillas. Thank you for this recipe. It sounds like your taking care of yourself smart lady. Thank you Sherry

  2. monica says:

    hi jen!
    i‘ve missed reading your writing and seeing your fabulous photos! it is so nice to see you (your lovely parents, jeremy and the pups) back here!
    may i wish you all the best with this new challenge in life or is that too personal? my husband was diagnosed with D-type2 several years ago and i‘ve been trying to adjust/tinker with our favorites over the years to better suit the new life style. though i shan‘t be able to make this particular recipe (i live in a tiny town in austria, where salsa verde was never heard of and even corn tortillas are a mail order item), i am looking forward to all the recipes „with a twist“ you‘ll be posting in the future that i might be able to adapt to the severely limited availability of products here in tiny town. sending you (and „your pack“) all the very best wishes! lots of love, monica

  3. M.K. says:

    Oh Jen, your “transformation” is so inspiring. You look wonderful! I, too, was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and am on a low/no carb diet. Giving up potatoes was especially difficult for this German! I am eager to make these enchiladas and happy that our little farmer’s market has opened for the season so I can purchased freshly roasted chiles. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

  4. Cheryl Mohr says:

    Hi, Jen, I have been following you since 2015. I have loved your photos and your recipes are always stunning. I appreciate that you are sharing of yourself and the battles you, and we, fight. I love Yosemite and was so happy to see it and the surrounding area. St. Helena is a favorite of mine. Thank you for sharing. Cheryl

  5. Engrid says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for so long you feel like a friend in my ear. Love your posts and have very much missed them and the peeks into your life. So glad that you are feeling better. I look forward to more recipes like this as I am always looking for lower-calorie options for entrees. I cook for 4 people and matching up all of their likes and dislikes is a challenge. I know that the chicken version of this will be a hit.

  6. Bette says:

    So good to see a post from you again. I’m with you — mushrooms in my enchiladas, yum! Or, my #1 choice, spinach. And I’m here to testify that, living in a southeastern US beach town far from NM chiles, Trader Joe’s roasted Hatch chile salsa verde works fine for most recipes. Finally, thank you for sharing your diabetes story — it seems you have taken charge of your health in the best possible way.

  7. Kristin says:

    I can’t really express how much I admire your determination to take charge and manage your health (of course it’s not a surprise). I would be a whiny mess if I had to give up or severely limit carbs. I can’t wait to try this recipe with mushrooms. I am trying to decide if my husband would figure out that it was mushrooms, and it sounds as if he would, so I guess I will have to make both versions. I already told you on Instagram, but I also admire the thought and care you put into this trip with your parents. Fortunately, my grandparents were climbers, so my mom’s been to Yosemite more than once, so I don’t have to take her. My husband and I definitely need to get there, however, and I will be glad to follow your tips. Finally, Kris’s tulips are absolutely stunning. <3 Thanks for sharing everything Jen, and i am glad you are doing so well!

  8. Michelle says:

    I’ve been following your website (and now Instagram!) for years and love your photography, recipes, all of it! Glad to hear you are wrangling your health issues. We’ve also been trying to eat a bit healthier – hard for us since we LOVE white rice, but two books I’d recommend are The Obesity Code by Jason Fung and Metabolical by Dr Lustig (I’m partial since he’s also an MIT alum). They’re informative and interesting and I have no affiliation other than that I enjoyed them. Onward and upward! :)

  9. Anna says:

    Jen – so lovely to see you smiling. My mother turned me on to your blog a couple of years ago and I have looked forward to your writings each month. I know now you’ve slowed down (good for you) and are enjoying some ‘life time!’
    I love seeing pictures of Yosemite and my hometown of St Helena. I grew up there….all 18 years until I left for college and even took my basketball team photos on the steps of St Supery Winery. LOL who does that?!? My parents are still there and I visit often. Its such a lovely space and I’m delighted you were able to share with your parents.
    You look wonderful and your healthy eating tips are great for me to incorporate into my life! As my co-workers say, ‘Keep fighting the good fight!!’

  10. jenyu says:

    Sherry – Lettuce instead of tortillas sounds great. I might try cabbage (I like the crunch and better durability!) – thanks for the idea! :)

    monica – Not too personal at all. I am sharing here in the hopes that others who may also have these issues can benefit from my trials and experiences! I understand the struggle of finding good and reliable information. And ultimately, this is to document the recipes that I like. If it helps anyone else, that is extra bonus! :) xxoo

    MK – Yes, the potatoes… I DO love the potatoes :(

    Cheryl – California has a special place in my heart and I’m happy that it does in other people’s hearts, too! xo

    Engrid – Oh, I like to think of the blog as a quick conversation with a friend, “Hey, I recently tried this recipe…” so I am delighted if my random recipe path can give other people ideas!

    Bette – Thank you! And yes to mushrooms! I think we don’t eat enough mushrooms in this world :)

    Kristin – Ha ha, I love that your grandparents were climbers! How awesome is that?!?!

    Michelle – I am a fan of Dr. Lustig! Thanks for the recs xo

    Anna – What an exceptionally special place to have grown up. It has changed so much in the last decade, it must be even more drastic for your timeline to see it evolve. Lucky you <3

  11. FC says:

    Hi Jen,
    Thank you for sharing your life with us on your blog — not just your ups but downs and everything in between. We as a family found the YouTube channel Low Carbs Down Under very helpful. We love our carbs, still do but it’s possible to win this battle.

  12. Colleen M says:

    Jen, I miss you! Also struggling with diabetes. Eating less, moving more and weight loss has helped. Have changed what we are eating, adapting favorite recipes and adjusting portion sizes to small, smaller and tiny bites. I clicked to your Instagram – no account :( – to see you, J, N and Y! Please come see us soon (here :) I’ll keep checking back! Take care, Colleen

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