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One of the most-recognized celebrations in the United States, Cinco de Mayo is comparable to the Chinese celebration of Chinese New Year and St. Patrick’s Day for us Irish folks.
Cinco de Mayo in Spanish means the fifth of May, which is the date of the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
The best part of all these celebrations, though, is the daylong traditional Mexican dishes that are served and enjoyed by everyone. Not all of us can handle the spicier versions, so many of the traditional dishes have been updated to appeal to everyone tastes.
Throughout the week of May 5-11, enchiladas, fajitas, margaritas, tacos, tamales, nachos, empanadas and much more will be enjoyed by millions of hungry and enthusiastic people.
A few years, I presented my wife, her sister and my niece with a breakfast nacho the day before the big event, just to get everyone in a festive mood one day early. We indulged on some beef empanadas for dinner along with a few Mexican appetizers and, of course, adult cocktails!
If you haven’t already, try some of these Mexican favorites and mine, too. I’ve included a breakfast dish, an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. These foods can be enjoyed all through the year, but are just special when celebrating Cinco de Mayo.
8 oz. chorizo sausage (or your favorite breakfast sausage, if preferred), cooked, drained and crumbled
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 tsp. Mexican seasoning (optional)
2 cups tortilla chips, coarsely crumbled
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups chunky salsa, drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sausage, eggs, green onions and seasoning. Spray a medium-sized baking dish with non-stick spray. Add sausage/egg mixture. Top with chips and then sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until eggs are set and cheese is melted; top with drained salsa. Makes 4 servings.
Pico de Gallo
An authentic Mexican salsa made with tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos, this dish is usually served as an appetizer along with tacos, nachos, black beans, refried beans or your favoriteMexican dish.
1 medium tomato, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh lime
In a medium bowl, combine tomato, onion, jalapeno pepper, cilantro and green onion. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir until evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Before serving, add a fresh squeeze of lime. Makes 4 servings.
Mexican Chicken Enchiladas
Serve them with sour cream and a side of Spanish rice.
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pint sour cream
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) cantomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
8 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1 (12 oz. jar taco sauce
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium, non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook chicken until no longer pink and juices run clear; drain excess fat. Cube the chicken and return it to the skillet. Add the onion, sour cream, cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano and ground black pepper. Heat until cheese melts. Stir in salt, tomato sauce, water, chili powder, green pepper and garlic.
Roll even amounts of the mixture in the tortillas. Arrange in a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover with taco sauce and 3/4 cup cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.
Apple Cinnamon Empanada
These are a great finish to a hearty Mexican meal, especially served with some vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. I found the frozen empanada dough at Food Lion in the Mexican food section.
1 large can (21 oz.) apple pie filling
8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
3 pkgs. (12 shells ea.) Goya Tapa Empanada Dough Shell (defrost according to package directions)
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
Lightly grease two baking sheets. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla; mix until smooth. Spoon 1 tablespoon of cream cheese mixture and 1 tablespoon of apple pie filling onto lower half of dough shell. Brush edges with milk. Fold in half and crimp edges with a fork. Repeat with the remaining shells.
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush each empanada with butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes 36 desert empanadas.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.