The Florissant Formation Enchiladas

¡Hola a todos! Les quiero presentar a los Yacimientos Fósiles de Florissant en Colorado. Éste lugar tiene muchísima importancia geológica la cual puede ser conectada con la cultura latina. Por ejemplo, puedes comparar comida con las diferentes capas de suelos. Les voy a enseñar cómo hacer enchiladas y asi podrán ver cómo este plato esta relacionado con las diferentes capas de roca en los Yacimientos Fósiles de Florissant. 

¡Espero que tengan hambre!

Hi everyone! I want to introduce you to the Florissant Fossil Beds! This area has a lot of geologic importance, and I can connect it to Latino culture. For example, you can compare food to different rock layers. I’m going to show you how to make enchiladas, and you’ll see how this dish relates to the rock units of Florissant Fossil Beds. I hope you’re hungry!  

This is an overview of one of the diversified activities that I’ve created for FLFO’s virtual geology and paleontology camp. I also created a stop motion video of the process that you can watch here: FLFO Formation Enchiladas

Enchiladas originated in Mexico. The Real Academia Española defines the word enchilada as a rolled maize tortilla that’s stuffed with meat and covered with a tomato or chile sauce. The world “enchilar” means to add/season with chili pepper. Rolling tortillas around food dates back to the times of the Aztecs. 

My mom taught me this particular recipe. I miss cooking with her. We would always talk about life while chopping vegetables and making our favorite dishes. She taught me many different recipes that I still make. This meal reminds me of my childhood, so I hope you enjoy it too! 

Try this traditional Mexican dish while also learning about geology! As you prepare the ingredients and assemble your enchiladas, think about the different ways the rocks and fossils of the Florissant formation are layered to form what we see today at Florissant Fossil Beds. 

Stratigraphic column illustrating the rock layers of the Florissant formation. The units at the bottom are the oldest, which are the Pikes Peak Granite and Wall Mountain Tuff. The units on top are the youngest. 

Feel free to substitute any of the ingredients for whatever you have at hand. You can always improvise the recipe to accommodate your taste. 

This recipe yields 20 enchiladas with a total cooking time of about 45 mins.


For Enchiladas:

  • 20 Corn tortillas 
  • 8 oz Ground beef/plant-based ‘beef’/chicken (shredded)
  • Cooking oil 
  • Seasonings 
    • Salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and your favorite spices 
  • 2 small Tomatoes 
  • ½ Onion
  • 2 small Potatoes 
  • 2 small Carrots 
  • Optional – add according to preference 
    • Almonds (chopped) 
    • Raisins (whole)
  • For toppings – 
    • Lettuce 
    • Queso fresco

For Red Chile Sauce: 

  • 6 Chiles 
    • 1 Pasilla  
    • 5 California 
  • 4 tbsp Sesame Seeds
  • 3 Whole Cloves
  • 1 clove Garlic 
  • 2 tbsp White Vinegar
  • 2 1/4 cups Leftover Beef Stock 
  • 2 squares Authentic Mexican Chocolate 


Prepare your Ingredients 

  • Peel potatoes and carrots then rinse vegetables
    • Dice/cube potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and onion 
    • To prepare almonds, heat them up to remove the outer skin and chop into smaller pieces – can also purchase already blanched almonds
  • Remove seeds from the chiles (Pasilla and California)

Meat and Veggies 

On stove top – cook on low to medium heat; Make sure your vent fan is on

  • Add diced potatoes and carrots to a pot of water to boil until tender then drain  
  • In a separate pot, boil ground beef/plant-based ‘beef’/chicken until fully cooked 
    • Set aside leftover beef/chicken stock for red chile sauce 
    • In a pan on medium heat, add cooking oil to sauté diced onions then add diced tomatoes after onions are sauteed and clear in color 
    • Add the ground beef or shredded chicken to the sauteed onion and tomato then cook altogether for several minutes then season with salt, pepper, and any spices of your choice   
    • Leave on very low heat to keep the meat filling warm  

Red Chile Sauce 

On stove top – low heat; 

  • On a comal, heat up the chiles until slightly toasted, do not burn!
  • Toast the sesame seeds
  • Once the chiles and sesame seeds are toasted, add to a blender with cloves, garlic, chocolate, vinegar, and your leftover beef or chicken stock
  • Blend until smooth. Make sure the sauce isn’t too thick. If so, then add a little more beef or chicken stock.     

Assemble the Enchiladas 

On stove top – medium heat; 

  • Heat up tortillas on oiled comal 

Once the tortillas are heated

  • Roll up the meat filling with potatoes, carrots, almonds and raisins (optional) into each tortilla that’s dipped in the red sauce (this can get very messy, you can either dip the tortilla entirely or cover the inside in the red chile sauce and cover the outside after rolling the tortilla). 
    • Make sure to not overfill!
    • Add extra red sauce on top 
    • Cover with crumbled queso fresco and chopped lettuce

Dig In! 

Now, you’ve learned a new recipe. Enjoy this delicious meal with your family and friends!

This stratigraphic column shows how the ingredients or layers of the enchiladas correlate to the units of the Florissant formation. 

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