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 Sunday.

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.foodiecrush.com.



Tiny Taquitos With Avocado Cilantro Sauce

2 quarts vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups finely shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup salsa
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
24 small corn tortillas
For avocado cilantro sauce:
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime

    In a large pot, heat oil to 350 degrees.
    Place chicken, salsa, adobo, chili powder and cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle honey over mixture and gently fold to incorporate.
    Place 1-1/2 tablespoons filling onto each tortilla and carefully roll into a long, thin tube. Secure with toothpicks.
    Fry taquitos for four to six minutes, until crisp and lightly golden brown. Drain on paper towels and remove toothpicks.
    To make sauce, combine sour cream, avocado, cilantro and lime juice in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, about one minute. Season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate.
    Serve taquitos with avocado sauce for dipping.
    Makes 24 taquitos.


Crispy Panko Fish Tacos

For tacos:
1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless white fish fillets
15 corn tortillas
Grapeseed oil
For panko coating:
1-1/2 cups beer or seltzer
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/4 cups panko breadcrumbs
For topping:
2-1/2 cups shredded cabbage
2 ripe avocados, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
Fresh lime wedges for garnish

For sauce:
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon lime zest

    Cut fish into chunks that are two inches long and one inch wide.
    In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together beer, flour, cornstarch, salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. The batter should be thick like pancake batter, but if it appears clumpy or overly thick, add more beer until mixture is thin enough for dipping.
    Pour panko into another bowl.
    Dip each piece of fish into the batter, letting excess batter run back into the bowl, then gently roll in panko crumbs to coat.
    When all the fish is breaded, heat 1/2 inch cooking oil in a skillet over medium high. Fry breaded fish pieces in batches of six, flipping when they turn dark golden brown. It will take two to three minutes per side.
    Whisk together your sauce ingredients. Set aside.
    Place fried fish pieces on a wire rack to drain or place fish on a double layer of paper towels.
    Heat the corn tortillas in a skillet until they are warm, fragrant and flexible. Place two pieces of fried fish in each, top with shredded cabbage, diced tomato, two slices avocado, and one tablespoon sour cream sauce. Serve warm with fresh lime wedges.


Crockpot Carnitas Tortilla Burrito Bowl

For carnitas:
5 to 6 pounds pork shoulder roast or butt
1 tablespoons canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoons smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
12 ounces Mexican beer
1/2 cup orange juice
2 limes, juiced
1 large or 2 small chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
For rice:
3 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
For tortilla bowls:
6 to 8 4-inch whole wheat tortillas
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
For pico de gallo:
2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 lime, juiced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt

    For carnitas, mix salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, onion powder, chipotle chili powder, oregano, cayenne, chili powder and garlic powder in a bowl.
    Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Rub pork all over with about one-third of the seasonings. Place pork in skillet and sear on all sides until golden brown.
    Place pork in crockpot and sprinkle with remaining seasonings. Pour in beer, orange juice, lime juice and chipotle chilies and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours.
    Before serving, use forks or kitchen tongs to shred pork in the crockpot. Mix to combine with the remaining liquid in the crockpot and keep warm.
    For bowls, combine smoked paprika, garlic powder and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Heat tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds., then rub each with a little olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with a little of the seasonings, then gently press each tortilla, seasoned side down, around the outside of an oven safe bowl. Place bowl on a baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven about 10 minutes, until browned and crisp. Set aside.
    To make pico de gallo, mix one teaspoon salt with a pinch of sugar in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes gently with the salt mixture. Add onion and jalapeno and combine. Place avocado on top of the tomato mixture and squeeze with lime juice to coat the avocado. Sprinkle with cilantro and stir to combine. Set aside.
    Toss the rice, cilantro and lime juice. Divide rice evenly among four tortilla bowls. Top with some of the pico de gallo and shredded lettuce, then add warm carnitas. Sprinkle on cheese and spoon a dollop of guacamole on top. Finish with chopped cilantro.


Mexican Churros
8 ounces whole milk
8 ounces water
1 cup unsalted butter
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cup flour
5 to 7 eggs
Cinnamon sugar, as needed
For chocolate fudge sauce:
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound bittersweet chocolate

    To make sauce, combine cream, corn syrup and sugar in a saucepan and heat until it just begins to boil, stirring frequently. Chop chocolate and add to the mixture. Stir until completely melted. Keep warm if making churros immediately or store well covered and refrigerated.
    For churros, melt butter in a medium saucepan, then add milk, sugar and salt. Heat just to a boil, then remove from heat. Mix in flour and stir until it becomes a thick paste. Return to medium heat, stirring continuously for several minutes. When paste starts to leave a residue on the saucepan, place paste into the bowl of an electric mixture, mix on low and cool until 180 degrees or below.
    Once cool, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition, until mixture is shiny and comes off the beater in thick strands. You may not need all of the eggs to get to this stage. Put paste into a piping bag and pipe into six-inch lengths on a paper towel and chill.
    Bring a heavy-bottomed pot filled with vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Place paper towel with churros face down into the oil and, using a tongs, peel towel from churros.
    When the churros are browned evenly, remove from oil and drain momentarily on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Roll them in cinnamon sugar and serve immediately with chocolate fudge sauce.


Chicken Enchilada Cups

24 wonton wrappers
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
2 green onions, thinly sliced
For topping:
Chopped green chiles
Black beans
Chopped fresh cilantro
Diced avocado

    Press wonton wrappers into the cups of a mini muffin pan, being sure the edges to not fold in. Bake in a 350-degree oven for seven minutes, then remove.
    Stir together chicken and enchilada sauce until combined. Divide chicken evenly among baked wonton cups. Sprinkle each cup with a pinch of shredded cheese, then bake five to seven minutes, until the cheese is melted and the chicken is heated through.
    Remove and garnish with sliced green onions and other toppings.


Margarita Cake

For cake:
1-3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-1/2 cups flour
1 cup plain or lemon flavored yogurt
For glaze:
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon tequila
Whipped cream, optional
Lime slices, for garnish

    In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine sugar, butter, baking soda and salt. Beat until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Mix in lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the flour and yogurt alternately, beating well after each addition.
    Spoon batter into a greased and floured 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
    Combine the sugar, lime juice and water in a saucepan and mix well. Cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the tequila.
    Invert warm cake onto a serving platter and brush with glaze until it is absorbed. Let stand until cool.
    Slice and garnish each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and a twisted lime slice.


Chunky Citrus Guacamole

5 avocados, chopped
1/3 cup white onion, diced
1/3 cup tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds and veins removed, finely diced
1 small orange juiced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
Kosher salt

    Mash three avocados in a medium bowl. Add remaining chopped avocados to bowl with the chopped, onion, tomato, garlic and jalapeno. Squeeze orange and lime juices over the avocado mixture, then add the chili powder, smoked paprika and salt. Mix well.  Add more of the juice mixture to taste.
    Serve with tortilla chips, sliced fresh vegetables or as a sandwich topping.


Chipotle Shrimp Burritos With Simple Avocado Crema

For shrimp:
1 pound medium shrimp, shells and tails removed
4 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups cooked white rice
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1 lime, juiced
4 flour tortillas
For avocado crema:
2 avocados
1/2 cup crema or light sour cream
1 cup Hatch green chile enchilada sauce

    Blend chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, garlic, honey, 2 tablespoons olive oil and cinnamon in a food processor until smooth. Place shrimp in a gallon zipper-lock freezer bag with chipotle mixture and marinate in refrigerator for one to two hours.
    Place avocado halves, crema and Hatch green chile enchilada sauce in a blender and mix to combine. Add a tablespoon water or more enchilada sauce until desired consistency. Refrigerate.
    Cook rice according to directions. Fluff and add juice of one lime and cilantro leaves. Keep warm on low heat.
    Heat a heavy bottom skillet or cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add remaining olive oil. Once hot, add shrimp in batches, taking care not to overcrowd pan. Cook two minutes, then flip and cook an additional minute. Remove from pan and cook remaining shrimp.
    Microwave tortillas for 30 seconds. Place 3/4 cup rice on warmed tortilla, add 10 to 12 shrimp per burrito and top with avocado crema. Squeeze fresh lime and garnish with additional cilantro leaves. Roll into burrito and top with additional avocado crema as desired.


Game Day Chicken Nachos With Avocado

1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup canned mild enchilada sauce
1/2 bag white tortilla chips
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
10 ounces Mexican mix shredded cheese
2 avocados, chopped
4 ounces cotija cheese
1 4-ounce can sliced black olives
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
Pickled jalapeno, for garnish
Sour cream or Mexican crema, for garnish

    Bring a medium skillet to medium-high heat, then add vegetable oil and onion and sauté three to four minutes, until onion is translucent. Add chicken and enchilada sauce and cook five minutes, until warmed through.
    On a baking sheet, layer one-third of the tortilla chips and top with one third the black beans, chicken mixture and shredded cheese. Repeat two more times. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until cheese is melted and chips are lightly browned along the edges. Remove from oven and top with avocado, cotija cheese, olives, black olives, green onion and pickled jalapeno. Drizzle with sour cream and serve immediately with salsa on the side.


Tasty Tomatillo Shrimp

1/2 pound pasilla or poblano chilies, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound large shrimp
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

    Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chilies and half the garlic and cook about five minutes, until chilies soften. Add tomatillos and one teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook eight to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatillos start to break down. Transfer to a blender and puree. Set aside.
    Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp, salt, pepper and remaining garlic. Cook about two minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Add tomatillo sauce and saute two more minutes, until shrimp is opaque. Serve sprinkled with cilantro leaves.


Stacked Breakfast Enchiladas

2 cups red chile sauce or enchilada sauce
1/2 cup canola oil
12 to 16 white corn tortillas
1 cup cotija cheese
4 green onions chopped
Cilantro leaves for garnish
4 eggs

    Warm red chile sauce or enchilada sauce in a skillet over medium heat, then lower heat to simmer.
    In a non-stick skillet, heat canola oil. Drop one tortilla at a time into oil and fry until softened, turning once while frying, then drain on paper towels.
    Place a fried tortilla into the skillet of warm red sauce, coating it on both sides. Place on a plate,, then top with cheese and a sprinkle of green onion. Place another tortilla on top and repeat until you have a stack of three or four tortillas. Continue to make stacks until all ingredients are used.
    Heat a small non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray, then fry the eggs. Place one egg on each tortilla stack. Add another egg if you’re extra hungry. Top with more cotija, green onion and cilantro leaves, if desired.




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