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Sabbath at the Spectrum Café: New Mexican Enchiladas


My favorite Sabbath meal was passed down through our family from my great-grandparents, who were ranchers and chile-growers in the New Mexico desert near the Mexican border. Having grown up on their ranch, my mother brought the New Mexican food ethic to our kitchen: Always have a pot of beans on the stove, add green chiles to everything and invite people home for Sabbath lunch! 

During those meals of years past, everyone would crowd into the family kitchen, English and Spanish words mingling with the aroma of home cooking, and load up their plates—often, more than once—with stacked enchiladas and pinto beans. 

Two generations later, and several states away, my mama continued the tradition by putting on a pot of beans each Friday night in our kitchen. Sabbath afternoons after church, my younger brother and sister and I would invite our friends over for lunch. We too crowded into the kitchen and formed an assembly line: one person on tortilla duty, another chopping the toppings, another frying the eggs. Everyone jostled and joked in the tiny space, passing enchiladas through the crowd to the table, where we’d eat them one at a time as they slid out, highly anticipated, from the hot skillet.

But even better then authentic New Mexico food memories, served piping hot, were the conversations that drifted from the kitchen to the dining room table, then headed for the living room couch after lunch: discussions about the ranch, our childhoods and the day’s sermon. 

As a new Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, I live on a different continent, thousands of miles from my family’s kitchen and green chiles. My favorite local foods, such as arepas (corn cakes) and “Trial Mix” (a “trail mix” typo) are delicious—and I’ll be taking them back to California with me. But any time I’m feeling far away, I buy a can of enchilada sauce, invite my new friends over and dish up the taste of home. 

Shanna Crumley is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia, and blogs at She interned at the US State Department in Washington, DC, and is working toward a career in international affairs and development. Her other experiences include a summer as a volunteer videographer for ADRA Argentina, as well as traveling to Cuba, Brazil and Indonesia for mission trips. 

Image: Shanna Crumley, “embellished” enchiladas.


New Mexico Enchiladas

This week’s recipe for New Mexico Enchiladas comes from Shanna Crumley. She notes, “This recipe is very simple and flexible, and can be adjusted for diet and taste preferences. Experiment with your own flavors and family favorites!” For those who prefer milder flavors, Crumley suggests, “Half my family doesn’t like spicy foods, so my mother often adds a can of regular tomato sauce to the spicier enchilada sauce.”

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes 



1 cup red chile sauce or 1 10-oz can enchilada sauce 

Fresh tomatoes, chopped

Fresh lettuce, chopped

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 2.25-oz can black olives, sliced 

1 avocado, sliced

Extra salsa (recipe from Mexico):

1 bunch fresh cilantro, diced

1 white onion, diced

2 fresh-squeezed lemons

4 corn tortillas

Optional: extra-virgin olive oil, or expeller-pressed canola oil

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, plus extra if desired as a topping (or queso fresco, found in Hispanic markets, or vegan cheese) 

2 eggs

Optional: 2 tablespoons sour cream (or vegan alternative), if needed to cut the spicy heat


  • In a saucepan over medium heat, pour in the enchilada sauce and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, warm a skillet over medium heat for the tortillas and assemble your toppings of choice: tomato, lettuce, onion, black olives, avocado, extra cheese, etc. If using the extra salsa, combine the cilantro and onion, then squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture.
  • To soften the corn tortillas, pour a small amount of oil into the heated skillet, then add the tortilla, turning it almost immediately. Hold it up to drain (you want to soften the tortilla, not cook it). Alternatively, wet both sides of the tortilla with water and soften it in a dry, hot skillet. Repeat for the remaining two tortillas.
  • Once soft, dip two tortillas at a time into the simmering enchilada sauce. Place one sauce-covered tortilla on a plate, layer with cheese, then add the second tortilla to the top. Repeat, on a separate plate, the softening and layering process for the second set of tortillas.
  • In the still-warm skillet, fry an egg sunny-side up, making sure to coat the skillet with olive-oil cooking spray beforehand, if using the no-oil softening method. While the egg cooks, build the enchilada. 
  • Layer the enchilada with your preferred toppings. It’s also optional to add more tortillas and toppings to make a taller stack.
  • Place the fried egg on top of your creation, add a dollop of optional sour cream and dig in.

Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal!)

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