The Unexpected Logistics of Nutrition

Pair the Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe below with this Butternut Squash Enchilada Recipe

By: Sheila Amir

As much as I hate to admit it, nutrition is NOT always easy. There. It’s out for all to see. It’s not easy, even though it really ought to be. Before we had nutrition problems we had well rounded nutrition.

No, I’m not referring to any fad diet with prehistoric sounding name. I’m referencing our current conundrum of not being able to make simple, healthy choices because of our crazy-hectic lifestyles, a food industry gone beyond south and marketing gone mad. We’ve reached the point where the choices that seem healthy actually aren’t and what may seem simple is complicated.

Even with all my years of nutrition education and working in the field (not to mention a lifetime of obsessing over food), I run into difficulties. Some are annoying and mundane, but others are a bit more adventurous to say the least. One of my most recent logistical challenges was all of that and a bit more.

Earlier this year the awesome folks over at America’s Test Kitchen hooked me up with a copy of Foolproof Preserving shortly before it hit the shelves. I poured over the pages nearly drenching them in drool and tempted to eat some of the pictures they looked so good! It could be said that I was eager to test drive some of these recipes and finally learn a thing or two about preserving.

Around that same time I had one particularly hectic Friday. It takes a lot for me to be run ragged to the point unwinding by cooking doesn’t sound good. The only thing that sounded good was enchiladas, rest and watching a Stallone film — you know, the way everyone copes with a buggered day. I opted to treat myself to ordering some enchiladas for pickup and choosing my Stallone film on my way. Before I could even get down to the serious business of choosing between Expendibles or Rocky, I was hit with an equally difficult challenge.

The sweet lady who was taking my order noticed that I asked if the tortillas would be wheat or corn, following up by letting her know I cannot have the wheat ones. She politely asked if I had a problem with wheat because the enchilada sauce there was thickened with wheat, in fact, in this neck of the woods she said thickening enchilada sauce with wheat is the norm.


While I’m thankful that she gave me the heads up, this brought my enchilada loving ways to an immediate halt here in the South. I’ve asked at many other establishments since and have been repeatedly let down that they took thicken their sauce with wheat flour. Checking the store bought canned variations has left me swearing up and down the isles about their ridiculous sodium content and all too often random toxic food additives thrown in.

Hark! There was a glimmer of hope. I distinctly remember book marking (I’m not one of those people that dog-ear’s pages) a recipe for homemade enchilada sauce in the copy of Foolproof Preserving America’s Test Kitchen had gift me. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel! I read through the recipe again and was thrilled it was both gluten-free and lower in sodium than any store bought version I have come across. Oh happy day!

I could make it with all organic ingredients to boot, especially since we had tomatoes (the largest ingredient by volume) growing out back in the garden. That’s when the adventurous, or at least random, part of the nutrition logistics came in: an evil squirrel.

While most gardener’s will complain about wayward squirrels, this one was particularly evil and may have also committed squirrel homicide in addition to eating 9 out of every 10 tomatoes in the garden at their exact peak of ripeness. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, the devious rodent of doom would eat half of each tomato leaving the other half to taunt me.

Lessons learned:

Be thankful for having an amazing local farmer’s market.

Even the most avid animal lover can be pushed to their limits.

Continue to limit eating out as much as possible and ALWAYS ask what’s in the food. Nothing is sacred anymore — not even enchiladas.

America’s Test Kitchen was nice enough to share their Red Enchilada Sauce recipe with us. I highly recommend making a batch and ordering yourself a copy of Foolproof Preserving. While you’re waiting for your copy to arrive, check out a couple other recipes they shared: Homemade Sriracha Sauce and Grilled Chicken Tacos.

Red Enchilada Sauce from Foolproof Preserving from America’s Test Kitchen

Photo and recipe courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Process: 40–55 minutes

Yield: four 1-pint jars

Why This Recipe Works: In pursuit of the perfect red enchilada sauce, made with height-of-the-season tomatoes, we surveyed existing recipes. Knowing that we wanted to process our sauce, we needed to avoid using oil for safety reasons.

We swapped out the usual chile powder for fruity-tasting dried ancho chiles and smoky chipotle chile powder. Blooming the dried chiles along with the spices softened them, and their complex flavors infused our sauce. To safely can our sauce, we needed to acidify it, but we found that lemon or lime juice distracted from the deep chile notes. Instead, we turned to the clean, bright flavor of cider vinegar, which rounded out and enlivened our rich enchilada sauce. Five tablespoons of ancho chile powder can be used in place of the whole dried chiles.

5 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and torn into 1/2-inch pieces, seeds reserved (1 1/4 cups)

1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder

2 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

½ cup water

1 onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon salt

5 pounds tomatoes, cored and chopped coarse

6 tablespoons cider vinegar

1. Set canning rack in large pot, place four 1-pint jars in rack, and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then turn off heat and cover to keep hot.

2. Toast anchos with reserved seeds, chile powder, coriander, and cumin in Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in water, onion, garlic, and salt and cook until onions and anchos are softened and water has evaporated, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and bring to simmer. Cook, stirring often, until mixture measures 10 cups, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Working in batches, process mixture in blender until very smooth, about 1 minute. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into clean pot, firmly pressing solids with ladle to extract as much juice as possible; discard solids. Return sauce to brief boil over medium-high heat, then remove from heat.

4. Place dish towel flat on counter. Using jar lifter, remove jars from pot, draining water back into pot. Place jars upside down on towel and let dry for 1 minute. Add 11/2 tablespoons vinegar to each hot jar. Using funnel and ladle, portion sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Slide wooden skewer along inside of jar to remove air bubbles.

5a. For short-term storage: Let sauce cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 months. Before using, simmer sauce to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes.)

5b. For long-term storage: While jars are hot, wipe rims clean, add lids, and screw on rings until fingertip-tight; do not overtighten. Return pot of water with canning rack to boil. Lower jars into water, cover, bring water back to boil, then start timer. Cooking time will depend on your altitude: Boil 40 minutes for up to 1,000 feet, 45 minutes for 1,001 to 3,000 feet, 50 minutes for 3,001 to 6,000 feet, or 55 minutes for 6,001 to 8,000 feet. Turn off heat and let jars sit in pot for 5 minutes. Remove jars from pot and let cool for 24 hours. Remove rings, check seal, and clean rims. (Sealed jars can be stored for up to 1 year. Before using, simmer sauce to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes.)

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