We trim down a 30-year-old casserole recipe for a Nevada reader with a heart-healthy goal.
Credit: Randy Mayor

The Reader: Diane Webber, 55, bookkeeper and office manager at a biotech company in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Recipe: Swiss Enchiladas

The Story: This easy and filling casserole originated with a recipe clipped from a newspaper in the 1970s, when Webber's husband, Robert, was a graduate student at the University of California at Los Angeles. In recent years, Webber prepared the casserole for tailgate parties and other get-togethers since it can easily be doubled, and the unexpected nutty flavor from the Swiss cheese in a familiar tortilla-chicken combination made it a hit. However, the two have become more health-conscious and strive to incorporate more vegetables, chicken, and fish into their diets. "We use a number of different cookbooks to show us how to lighten foods we thought we couldn't eat anymore," she says. But the casserole proved challenging, so Webber asked for our help to lighten it since, she jokes, "it was so fattening, you could feel yourself gaining weight when you ate it."

The Dilemma: "I felt guilty about all the fat in the recipe since my husband and I are trying to follow a low-cholesterol diet," Webber says. The half-pound of Swiss cheese for the enchiladas, pint of heavy whipping cream, and additional cheese sprinkled over the top of the casserole validated Webber's concern: One serving of the dish contained nearly all of the daily fat allotment for someone on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, as well as more than half the American Heart Association's recommended dietary cholesterol intake. And more than half the fat was saturated.

The Solution: We wanted to maintain the cheesy creaminess of the casserole, but without using the heavy whipping cream, which accounted for almost 55 percent of the fat and more than a third of the calories. Instead, we made a sauce by cooking two percent reduced-fat milk with flour to maintain some of the richness while trimming 28 grams of fat (and 102 milligrams of cholesterol) per portion. To compensate for the reduced amount of fat-and flavor-we added just a touch of salt to the sauce. And since regular flour tortillas can contain nearly three grams of fat per tortilla, we used a fat-free version. These two major changes were key in allowing us to keep a generous two cups of Swiss cheese in the recipe. Additionally, we doubled the amount of diced green chiles and garlic to boost the flavor. A quick run under the broiler browned the cheesy sauce topping.

The Feedback: "We absolutely loved the healthier version," says Webber. She prepared it for her family, and there were no leftovers. They liked the light version better because the casserole was healthy but still had rich taste. "Now I won't feel guilty serving it again. I can't wait to try it at our tailgate parties or at a potluck with margaritas."

Before | After

Serving size
1 enchilada

Calories per serving
783 | 419

54.2g | 13.2g

Percent of total calories
62 percent | 28 percent

To the Rescue. Do you have a favorite recipe that needs a healthy makeover? Maybe we can lighten it up. Send it to us, along with your reasons for wanting a healthier version and any interesting stories or traditions about the recipe. Include your name, address, and daytime phone number with the recipe, and send it to CL_Web@timeinc.com with "Lighten Up" in the subject line. We can't lighten every recipe we receive, but if we adapt yours, we'll send you a Cooking Light special edition. We reserve the right to edit all recipes. All recipes submitted become the property of Cooking Light and may be republished and used for any purpose.