Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mexican cuisine

Add spice to your dinner with traditional foods that honor our neighbor to the south


Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, will be celebrated Friday.

And given the popularity of Mexican cuisine, why not take a few minutes to commemorate the occasion by preparing a festive meal with touches of the land to our south. Whip up a spicy entree or a fun appetizer, or try your hand at a Mexican-inspired dessert.

Enjoy some tortilla chips and salsa, or try your hand at guacamole for a rich treat.

And, of course, don’t forget a margarita or other beverage inspired by south-of-the-border cuisine.

Mexican fare was significantly impacted by the Spanish, who introduced many foods to the culture.

Today, Mexican cuisine is known for its varied flavors and variety of spices and ingredients. Foods can be sweet or spicy, with varying degrees of heat.

The cuisine is based on a few staples, among them corn and beans, as well as onions, rice, squash and peppers. Herbs and spices such as chili powder, oregano, cilantro, cinnamon and cocoa, also play an important role.

Mexican foods are widespread. It’s rare to see a snack table without chips and salsa or guacamole. Casual dining menus often include tacos, burritos and other Mexican entrees.

A tasty taco spice mix can be made at home. Just combine 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin and 1 teaspoon each sea salt and black pepper. Store in an airtight container.

And while some Mexican dishes can take a while, there are some time-saving recipes that provide a south-of-the-border taste in less time.

Following are a few recipes for Mexican foods from www.tablespoon.com.

Mexican Lasagna

6 to 8 large tortillas
1 pound ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1/3 medium onion, diced
1 19-ounce can mild red enchilada sauce
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1-1/2 cups cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
3 small or medium tomatoes, diced
Cilantro, optional
Black olives, optional
Sour cream, for topping
Shredded lettuce, for topping

    In a large non-stick skillet on stove, saute onions and beef until cooked through. Remove skillet from heat, drain grease and stir in taco seasoning. Set aside.
    Cover the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a thin coat of enchilada sauce. Layer tortilla halves in the bottom of the pan with the cut sides facing out toward edges of pan. Cut pieces of another tortilla as needed to fill in any gaps and create a solid tortilla layer in the bottom of the pan.
    Layer half the refried beans, enchilada sauce, beef mixture, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro and black olives.
    Create another layer of tortillas, then layer remaining beans, enchilada sauce, meat and onions, cheese, tomatoes, cilantro and olives — reserving some of the enchilada sauce and cheese for the top.
    Top with a final layer of tortillas, then cover with a thin coating of enchilada sauce and cheese.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until cheese is melted and tortillas start to crisp.
    Serve with sour cream, lettuce and additional toppings as desired.


Easy Microwave Chicken Enchiladas

1 19-ounce can mild enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon chicken taco seasoning mix
1-1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
8 corn tortillas
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup sour cream

    In medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup enchilada sauce, chicken, seasoning mix and 3/4 cup cheese.
    Spray 8-inch square microwavable baking dish with cooking spray. Place 1/2 cup enchilada sauce in bottom. Fill each tortilla with a heaping 1/4 cup chicken mixture, then roll to seal and place in baking dish, seam side down.
    Pour remaining enchilada sauce over tortillas and top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.
    Microwave, uncovered, on high for nine  to 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through. Garnish with cilantro and serve with sour cream.
    Makes four servings.


Stovetop Carnitas

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1-ounce package taco seasoning mix
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4-lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed, cut into 2  to 3-inch pieces
2 cups chopped yellow onions
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups water
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
Flour tortillas
Sliced radishes
Diced red onion
Queso fresco cheese
Fresh cilantro leaves

    In a large bowl, mix vegetable oil, taco seasoning mix, cumin, coriander and salt. Add pork and toss to coat
    Pour into a five-quart Dutch oven. Place onions and garlic on top of pork. Pour in water, orange juice and lime juice. Heat to boiling over high heat. Stir, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for two to three hours, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender.
    Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently and pressing on pork with spatula to shred meat, for 10 to 15 minutes, until sauce thickens and pork is coated in cooking liquid. Serve in tortillas with toppings.



Huevos-Carnitas Breakfast Biscuits

1 can  Grands biscuits
8 eggs
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cream or half and half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1-1/4 cups carnitas
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

    Arrange biscuits on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the bottom of a 2 1/2-inch cup into the center of each biscuit, creating a nest. Mold dough around the glass as needed to create a deep indentation surrounded by even edges.
    Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, press down the center of the biscuits once more, then return to oven to bake an additional 10 to 12 minutes, until golden.
    On stovetop, scramble eggs with cheddar, cream, salt and pepper. Warm carnitas in microwave or on the stovetop.
    Fill warm biscuit nests with scrambled eggs, top with carnitas and salsa. Garnish with cilantro.
    Makes eight servings.


Cheesy Chicken Elote Dip

For corn:
2 tablespoons butter
1 12-ounce bag frozen and thawed whole-kernel corn, patted dry
1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chiles
1/2 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
For chicken:
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cubed
1 .85-ounce package chicken taco seasoning mix
2 tablespoons water
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Tortilla chips, as desired
Lime wedges

    In 10-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add frozen corn, chiles, red pepper and salt and cook for five to eight minutes, stirring frequently, until corn begins to brown. Transfer to medium bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Clean out skillet.
    Spray skillet with cooking spray. Add chicken, green onions and cream cheese and cook over medium heat two to four minutes, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted and mixture is combined. Stir in taco seasoning mix and water. Cook over medium heat one to two minutes longer, stirring frequently, until mixture is hot and bubbling at edges. Remove from heat and stir in Monterey Jack cheese.
    Spoon corn mixture over chicken in skillet. Top with queso fresco cheese and cilantro.
    Serve with tortilla chips and lime wedges.
    Makes 12 servings.


Margarita Guacamole
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon flake salt
3 very ripe avocados
2 tablespoons tequila
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
1/2 shallot, finely diced
1 lime, zested
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 bag tortilla chips blue corn

    Rim the edge of a small glass serving bowl with agave and two tablespoons of flake salt. Set aside.
    In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash together avocados, tequila, jalapeño, shallot, lime zest and cilantro. If desired, garnish with a slice of lime and flake salt.
    Serve immediately with blue corn chips.
    Makes four servings.


Taco Cupcakes

1 pound ground beef
1 1-ounce package taco seasoning mix
2/3 cup water
36 wonton wrappers
1 16-ounce can refried beans
36 tortilla chips
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream, optional
Diced tomatoes, optional
Cilantro, optional
Onion, optional

    Brown beef in a skillet and drain the fat. Add taco seasoning mix and water, then simmer four to five minutes. Set aside.
    Place one wonton wrapper in the bottom of each of 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Layer about 1 tablespoon refried beans on top of each wonton. Crush one tortilla chip on top of the beans. Top with 1 tablespoon taco meat and 1 tablespoon shredded cheese. Repeat layers.
    Bake in a 375-degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from tin and top with taco toppings such as sour cream, diced tomatoes, onion or cilantro.
    Makes 18 servings.

Chicken, Peppers and Cream Cheese Taquitos

3 cups shredded chicken
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 4.5-ounce cans chopped green chiles
16 6-inch flour tortillas
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
Salsa, for serving

    If chicken isn’t already cooked, poach in simmering water for about 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
    Cool chicken, then shred it with two forks or roughly chop it. Stir chicken together with cheeses, hot sauce, and chiles.
    Place a few tablespoons of chicken mixture to the center of each tortilla. Roll tortillas tightly.
    Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add about four taquitos to the pan, seam side down, and fry two to three minutes per side.
    Once cooked, transfer taquitos to a 250-degree oven while you fry the other taquitos.
    When all the taquitos are cooked, serve with salsa.
    Makes 16 servings.




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