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Muy rico: chipotle and whole wheat tortilla-quiles

Eating well doesn't have to be rough. Quality ingredients and fresh flavours are a good place to start.

A few days ago, I went for a run after about a year without regular gym activity. A laughably impressive mile was ran before I sounded like a chronic smoker marching up the Grouse Grind, panting and wheezing. I may or may not have coughed up a lung and left it in the grassy field; it was dark and I couldn't see that well through foggy glasses.

In any case, stronger efforts are to be made toward a more balanced life. I decided to forgo making a New Year's resolution this year, only to allow myself to slack for another month and make a Chinese New Year's resolution, of eating healthier and getting more exercise to become quick like a bunny. If anybody finds that lung and traces it back to me, I'm going to have to be able to run away.

Many people dread the idea of eating healthier and exercising. Today's recipe will show you that there's an easier way to reach that goal than taking spoonfuls of bland, nasty gruel while doing one-armed push-ups as an army drill sargeant berates you. Using flavourful ingredients and balancing your meal so that it is filling, satisfying, and contains all food groups, is what will ensure that you feel energized, rather than deprived.

One of my favourite food bloggers, Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites, adapted a recipe from Rick Bayless, an American chef who spent years learning about authentic food in Mexico, and then brought his love for it back to the United States. A few days ago, Matt wrote a post about Chef Bayless's chilaquiles, which are fried corn tortilla chips cooked in a tomato-chili sauce and topped with cheese, onions, crema, and fresh herbs.

I don't usually gravitate toward Mexican food unless there is a tamale-eating contest, but the simplicity and freshness of this gorgeous dish had me hooked, and Matt has this incredible ability to make everything sound fun. In order to properly determine whether my own adaptation would be a hit or a spectacular failure, I asked my boyfriend to judge. His background is Latin and he also wants to eat healthier, so I didn't have to threaten him with sleeping on the couch if he didn't like it. Also, I don't have a couch.

Note that this can be a vegan meal if you substitute veggie stock for chicken, soy yogurt for sour cream, and remove the cheese. Corn tortillas can also be substituted if you are gluten-sensitive. If you don't like soft goat cheese, substitute crumbled feta.


Chipotle and Whole Wheat Tortilla-quiles
adapted from recipes by Matt Armendariz and Rick Bayless
Serves 2, with sauce leftover for more

3 large whole wheat tortillas

1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 whole chipotles in adobo sauce, plus one tbsp of the adobo (cans are in Latin markets and Famous Foods)
2 whole roasted red peppers

2 tbsp vegetable or grapeseed oil
1 large onion, finely chopped, 1/8 cup reserved
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
salt and black pepper to taste (start with a pinch of each)

1/2 cup light sour cream
1/8 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/8 cup crumbled goat cheese
a few large pinches of chopped cilantro leaves

Optional: Shredded or roasted meat (examples: Chicken thighs, pork shoulder)

Preheat your oven to 350°F and move the racks to centre level. Cut the tortillas into wedges (I cut eighths), and spread them in one layer on baking sheets. Toast until firm and slightly golden brown in spots, remove to cool.

Sauté the large portion of onions in the oil with a pinch of salt, in a large, deep saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat, until brown. Buzz the tomatoes and peppers in a blender until smooth. Add the garlic to the onions, and cook for another minute, without letting the garlic turn brown.

Add the tomato and pepper puree, cover with a splatter screen, and simmer over low-medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chicken stock and boil over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, to reduce the stock. Take the pan off the heat, taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Add the tortillas, and stir to coat fully. If you like them crunchy, move them to a plate immediately, if you want them soft but still with a toasty flavour, let them sit and cook longer.

Once plated, sprinkle them with the remaining onion, green onions, cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. If you are eating with people who hate cilantro, put a lot on so you have it all to yourself, and feign apologetic forgetfulness.

The meat in the pictures is leftover from a braised pork shoulder that was made a few days ago. It was zapped in the microwave, but if you choose to use a meat, it can be added into the sauce. Make sure to be careful with the chipotles. They don't look scary, and after tasting the sauce with 2 inside, I added a third. I'm not a wimp when it comes to spiciness, but it wasn't such a good idea. If you're a firebreather, by all means, go for it.

After downing a few glasses of milk, we decided that this one was a keeper. Enjoy!

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