When I was growing up, one of my favorite dishes made by my mother was a traditional New Mexico cheese and red chile enchilada casserole. Served with a side of larded pinto beans, and topped with crunchy iceberg lettuce and tomato, those enchiladas were just about the most satisfying meal I remember having. I loved coming home from track practice to a plate of them. The only problem with this recipe, of course, is that the main ingredient is…cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Cheese in the enchiladas, cheese on top. Cheese equals fat, and cholesterol. The beans had lard in them, and the lettuce was nutritionless.

To make matters worse, mom softened the corn tortillas by dipping them in hot oil or lard before rolling them into enchiladas. And while there was a bit of onion mixed into the enchiladas, there wasn’t a lot of veggie value to them.

So here’s what I’ve come up with, to approximate the flavor and satisfaction of my mom’s enchiladas, but without all that fat and all those empty calories. Meaning no disrespect to my mother, of course, I will happily report to you that these are just as good, and a lot better for you.

Alisa’s Mushroom & Squash New Mexico Enchilada Casserole
(Serving size 2 enchiladas)

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped Mexican Squash or zucchini
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped portabella mushroom
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Mesquite steak seasoning to taste
1 1/2 cups nonfat or low fat ricotta cheese
1 1/2 16-oz cans red chile enchilada sauce
1/2 cup grated low fat yellow cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan and saute the squash, onion and mushrooms in the oil until tender. Add salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, cumin and mesquite seasoning. Add the ricotta cheese to the vegetables, saute 1 minute and remove from heat.

Warm 1 cup of the enchilada sauce in a small frying pan. Dip the tortillas one at a time into the sauce (instead of oil) to coat and soften, set aside.

Healthy New Mexican-Style EnchiladasCoat the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish with 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce. Spoon about 3 tbsp of the vegetable ricotta mixture down the middle of a tortilla, and roll into an enchilada. (The chile should help the tortilla keep its shape.)

Place enchilada in the baking dish.

Repeat with the other tortillas, stacking in two layers. Pour all remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and top with the grated cheese. Bake for 25 minutes.

Serve hot, with whole pinto beans, spinach and tomato. For an authentic New Mexican flavor, top with a sprinkling of raw, finely diced onions.