Chimichangas

Deep-fried, restaurant-style chimichangas can have 760 calories, 34 grams of fat and 1,930 mg of sodium -- this baked version has a fraction of that.
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The chimichanga, or chimi as it's affectionately termed in the Southwest, is a deep-fried burrito stuffed with meat, vegetables and spices. Once fried to perfection, chimichangas are often topped with cheese and served with a variety of condiments, such as green onions, diced tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and black olives. Sounds delicious, right? It is delicious, but  consider that one restaurant-style chimi has around 760 calories, 34 grams of fat and 1,930 mg of sodium. With that much sodium, you're done for the day  -- you'll have reached your daily max in sodium in only one meal. Store-bought frozen chimichangas fare slightly better, with around 300-500 calories, 25 grams of fat and 1,200 mg of sodium per serving. Filling aside, it's the deep-frying that does most of the damage. Regular burritos have about 200-300 calories and 10-20 grams of fat each, but drop them into the deep-fryer and you can add 225 calories and 21 grams of fat to each burrito. Yes, the deep-fried, crunchy exterior is great, but not worth the health consequences, especially when a healthier version is so easy to make.

You can stuff flour tortillas with delicious ingredients and then bake the chimichangas in the oven for the same, amazing result. Try this recipe and let me know if you agree.

Beef and Cheese Chimichangas
Cooking spray
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup picante sauce, regular, medium or hot, plus extra for serving on the side if desired

6 medium flour tortillas (soft taco size)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 beefsteak tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons sliced black olives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and preheat to medium-high. Add the beef to the pan and cook until browned, breaking up the meat as it cooks.

Drain away all fat and return the beef to the pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and oregano and cook for 3 minutes, until the onion is soft and the oregano is fragrant. Add the picante sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, stir in the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the tortillas on a flat surface. Spoon the beef mixture onto the center of each tortilla. Fold over half of the tortilla to cover the filling, tuck in the ends and continue rolling up. Transfer the stuffed tortillas to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down, and spray the surface with cooking spray. Top the tortillas with the cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, until the tortillas are golden brown and the cheese melts.

Serve the chimichangas with the green onions, tomato and black olives.

Serves 6

Nutrition Info Per Serving
Calories: 279
Total Fat: 9 grams
Saturated Fat: 3 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 32 grams
Sugars: 3 grams
Protein: 18 grams
Sodium: 551 milligrams
Cholesterol: 38 milligrams
Fiber: 1 gram

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

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