Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a spicy feast

Holiday on May 5 is a good reason to enjoy south-of-the-border cuisine throughout the day

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.

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 to prepare, 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 isabeleats.com.


Watermelon Margarita

3 cups cubed watermelon

1/4 cup tequila, gold or silver

2 tablespoons lime juice

For serving:

Lime wedges

Kosher or flaky salt

Tajin or chili powders

Run a lime wedge around the rim of two glasses. Dip the edges of the glasses in salt and tajin or chili powder.

Add watermelon, tequila and lime juice to a blender. Blend until smooth.

Pour into glasses, garnish with lime wedges and serve immediately.

Makes two drinks.




Roasted Mexican Zucchini

4 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch half moons

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese

Juice of 1/2 lime

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Place diced zucchini, olive oil, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder and ground cumin in a large bowl. Toss until evenly coated.

Transfer to a large baking sheet lined with foil and spread evenly in a single layer. Roast in a 450-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until zucchini is fork tender.

Top with cotija cheese, lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

Makes four servings.



Cheesy Sheet Pan Nachos

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound ground beef, chicken, turkey or plant-based protein

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

10 ounces tortilla chips

4 cups Mexican-blend shredded cheese

1 cup cooked black beans

1 cup cooked yellow corn

For topping:

Diced roma tomatoes

Pickled jalapenos

Sour cream or Mexican crema

Diced red onions

Chopped cilantro

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, tomato paste, chili powder, ground cumin, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and dried oregano. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into smaller chunks and cook six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned.

Layer half the tortilla chips on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Add half the ground beef, half the shredded cheese, half the black beans and half the yellow corn. Repeat.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for four to six minutes, until the cheese is just melted.

Top with desired toppings and serve immediately.

Makes five servings.



Easy Steak Fajitas

For meat and marinade:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 pounds flank steak or skirt steak

Coarse kosher salt

Black pepper

For pepper and onions:

2-1/2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 medium white onions, sliced

1 large poblano pepper, sliced into strips

3 large bell peppers, sliced into strips

1 pinch salt

Optional toppings:


Sour cream


Flour or corn tortillas or lettuce cups

In a large resealable plastic bag or a large mixing bowl, combine olive oil, orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, paprika, cilantro and steak. Toss to combine. Cover and marinate in the fridge for two to eight hours.

Remove meat from the marinade, transfer to a clean large surface or cutting board and pat dry. Generously season both sides of the steak with coarse sea salt and black pepper.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon oil. Add steak and cook on each side for three to five minutes.

Remove the steak from the skillet, transfer to a cutting board and lightly cover with aluminum foil.

Place remaining oil in the skillet. Add onions, peppers and a pinch of salt. Cook about eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft.

Slice steak against the grain and at an angle into thin slices. Serve along with the veggies in tortillas, on a salad or in lettuce cups.

Makes eight servings.




Margarita Cupcakes

1-1/2 cups flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 lime, zested and juiced

1 tablespoon tequila

For frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

Place flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Place butter in a large bowl and beat on high using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until smooth. Add the sugar and beat two minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter and sugar have fully combined. Add eggs, milk, lime zest, lime juice, and tequila. Beat for 30 seconds until combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix together until just combined.

Evenly pour or spoon batter into 12  paper lined cupcake cups, until two-thirds full. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely.

Place butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat on high using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until smooth. Add vanilla extract, lime zest, lime juice and salt and beat 30 seconds to combine. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat until the frosting is smooth and thick.

Frost cupcakes and decorate with lime slices, lime zest and white sugar sprinkles, if desired.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.




Chicken Taquitos

2-1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon onion powder


1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese

18 small corn tortillas

Oil, 2 to 3 cups for frying or 1 to 2 tablespoons for baking

Combine shredded chicken, chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, onion powder and salt in a medium bowl. Toss together, taste and season with more salt if necessary.

Wrap tortillas in a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave for one to two minutes, flipping tortillas halfway through, until all of them are warm and pliable.

Place a heaping spoonful of shredded chicken and shredded cheese onto each tortilla. Tightly roll up the tortillas and secure by threading a toothpick along the seam.

To fry the taquitos, pour enough oil into the bottom of a deep skillet or frying pan so the oil reaches halfway up the taquitos. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it’s 350 degrees. Place three to four taquitos in hot oil and fry 1-1/2 to two minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer taquitos to a large plate or baking sheet lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.

To bake the taquitos, place them on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Lightly brush the tops of the taquitos with oil. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until crispy and golden brown.

To air fry the taquitos, place the taquitos in a single layer in the basket, seam side down. Spray the tops with cooking spray, air fry at 400 degrees for five minutes, flip, spray again, then air fry two more minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining taquitos.

Remove the toothpicks from the taquitos and serve with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, Mexican crema and guacamole.

Makes 18 taquitos.




Queso Fundido

2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese (mozzarella, queso asadero or queso chihuahua may be substituted)

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

8 ounces Mexican chorizo, casing removed

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 small white onion, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced

1 diced roma tomato

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Tortilla chips or warm corn tortillas

In a medium bowl, combine shredded Oaxaca and Monterey Jack cheeses. Set aside.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and crumble with a spoon, cooking five to seven minutes, until sausage has browned. Transfer cooked chorizo to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.

Remove any excess fat left in the skillet and place skillet back over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, onions and jalapenos and saute six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent.

Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the onions and peppers to a small bowl.

Place half the shredded cheese on the bottom of the skillet, followed by all of the chorizo, onions and peppers. Top with remaining shredded cheese.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes, until cheese has completely melted. Remove from the oven and top with diced tomatoes and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Makes eight servings.



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