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Recipes to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

April showers bring May flowers and Cinco de Mayo! On the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo isn’t widely recognized in Mexico; however, it commemorates an underdog military victory and provides Americans a great excuse to eat tacos and toast with a margarita. But, Americans don’t need a national celebration to feast on fajitas or burritos. Taco Tuesday has already become a popular staple in households and restaurants. While you might not think of Mississippi as having Mexican-inspired agriculture, our summer harvest is ripe with tomatoes, corn, hot peppers, and fresh herbs galore. Don’t forget the Mississippi Delta’s delightful rice and grains.

Mexican cuisine isn’t typically associated with being nutritious. Commercial Mexican menu items are notorious for being fried and greasy with full-fat sides and enormous portions sizes. Most customers don’t realize that it is a gram of fat for every tortilla chip that gets eaten. Mexican restaurant food can indeed be a trap for calories, fat, and sodium. Healthier Mexican dishes include chicken fajitas, bean burritos, grilled entrees with peppers and onions, hold the cheese, and reach for a soft taco. But, preparing your favorite Mexican fare at home opens up the opportunity to control the ingredients and boost nutrition without losing any of the flavors.

Take the traditional taco kit up a notch by adding sautéed vegetables, such as bell peppers, and onions. Add a touch of Mississippi by including yellow squash and zucchini to your fajita saute. Make your ground meat go further with fiber and protein-rich beans like pinto beans or black beans. Skip the cheese dips and let your homegrown Mississippi tomatoes shine by making fresh salsa. Roast or grill whole sweet corn for a tasty side or cut it off the cob to add to Santa Fe salads or tacos. When choosing canned vegetables or pre-packaged spices, opt for lower sodium options, it makes a real heart-healthy impact.

While the taco shell, whether soft, hard, or fried, is connected with Mexican cuisine, it’s the flavors and spices that make it a family favorite.  Bypass the wraps or shells altogether and use rice or quinoa as a whole-grain base for Mexican casseroles or meatloaf, utilizing herbs like cilantro, chili powder, cumin, and cloves with garlic, onion, sweet, and hot peppers. Mexican food doesn’t have to be off-limits when trying to live healthier. Give these flavor-packed, nutritious recipes a try at home.

Enchilada Casserole 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
  • 2 cups cooked chicken shredded  (I used a rotisserie chicken.)
  • 1 ½  cups salsa
  • 1 (4 oz.) can of chopped green chiles or ½ cup of chopped fresh sweet or hot peppers
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels, canned or roasted
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste, as needed
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, divided
  • Optional garnish; diced avocado, tomato, and fresh cilantro

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and spray an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine whole-grain of choice, shredded chicken, salsa, green chiles, corn, black beans, all the spices, and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Spread mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Bake uncovered until bubbly and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. If desired, serve immediately, garnished with avocado, tomato, and cilantro.

Mexican Meatloaf 

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds of ground meat
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • small onion, diced
  • taco packet, low-sodium
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup mild red sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine beef, tortilla chips, cheese, onion, and taco seasoning in a bowl. Whisk eggs, milk, and taco sauce together in a separate bowl. Add to the meat mixture and mix well. Press mixture into a 9×5-inch loaf pan and top lightly with taco sauce or salsa. Bake in the preheated oven until the internal temperature reached 160 F at the deepest point and browned on top for 45 to 60 minutes.

Fresh Tomato Salsa 

Ingredients

  • 5-6 fresh tomatoes
  • ½  cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • ¼  cup red onion
  • ¼ cup sweet onion
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch of granulated sugar

Directions

Wash tomatoes and cut out the core, slice into fourths. Use a spoon or your hands to gently remove the seeds from the tomatoes. The tomato pieces will look empty, and that’s ok! Slice onions into 1″ chunks. Lightly chop the fresh cilantro.  Add tomatoes to a food processor or high-powered blender. Top with cilantro, onion, garlic, lime juice, and salt. Place the lid on and pulse 5-10 times. Pulse until you reach the desired salsa consistency, more for thinner or less for chunkier salsa.  Transfer salsa to a Mason jar. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before serving. Salsa stays fresh if refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 week.

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