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Mark Cinco de Mayo ‘tastefully’

May 1, 2013
Weirton Daily Times


Food editor

A holiday that is celebrated more in the United States than its native land of Mexico will take place Sunday with Cinco de Mayo.

Article Photos

CELEBRATE?WITH?TILAPIA?TACOS — On Sunday, Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated by more people in the United States than its native land of Mexico. The Tilapia Tacos look very festive for the holiday and are easy to make. Add your own hot sauce or more salsa to suit your taste.
-- Esther McCoy

This is an observance of the Mexican army's victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.

The festival atmosphere includes spicy foods, chocolate desserts and much gaiety.

Chia seeds are a staple of the Mexican diet and continue to be a healthy choice. Spanish rice is a common side dish in Mexico and in the southwestern United States, although it is not native to Mexico but was brought there during the 1500s.

The terms Spanish rice and Mexican rice are the same, just different ways of declaring the dish. The white rice is browned in a fat, such as lard or cooking oil, and onions and garlic are added for flavor. When the rice is opaque, chicken broth and either canned tomatoes or paste are added for color. Sometimes vegetables such as chiles, peas or carrots are added.

Here is a recipe for Spanish Rice from the Kitchen Keepsake Cook- Book. My mom made it much like this but would put several slices of bacon, used for fat to brown the rice, on top of the casserole.

Spanish Rice

1 cup rice

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

16-ounce can stewed tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper (more if desired)

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups water

Fry rice in bacon drippings until browned. Add onion and garlic and saute for a minute. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. This is excellent with pork chops, according to the cookbook.

This rice dish from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook is a combination of chicken, black beans and tomatoes with green peppers, plus cayenne pepper for spice. It is a one-dish meal that goes together quickly.

Chicken with Black Beans and Rice

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/2 to 3 pounds meaty chicken pieces, breast halves, thighs and drumsticks

2 tablespoons cooking oil

15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with onion and green peppers, undrained

1 cup tomato juice

1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

2/3 cup uncooked long grain rice

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine flour, 1 teaspoon chili powder, salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces, half at a time. Seal bag and shake to coat. In a large skillet, brown chicken on all sides in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside, discarding drippings. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, beans, undrained tomatoes, tomato juice, corn, rice mixture. Bake covered in a 375 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, 170 degrees on a meat thermometer and 180 degrees for the chicken thighs and drumsticks and the rice is tender.

Here is another rice dish with a ground pork and sausage filling and put into flour tortillas. It is an adaptation of a Better Homes and Gardens Recipe.

Tex-Mex Skillet

8 ounces ground pork

4 ounces of bulk chorizo sausage

10-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained

1 can frozen whole corn

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup sweet red pepper

1 cup instant rice, uncooked

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese, 2 ounces

Flour tortillas, warmed

Dairy sour cream, optional

In a large skillet, cook pork and sausage until meat is brown. Drain off fat. Stir in undrained tomatoes and green chiles, corn, water and sweet red peppers. Bring to a boil. Stir uncooked rice into mixture in skillet. Remove from heat. Top with cheese. Cover and let stand about 5 minute or until rice is tender. Serve in flour tortillas and top with sour cream.

Pasta is not one of the staples of Mexico, but this recipe for wagon wheels done in a spicy cheese sauce seemed rather South of the Border.

I cut the recipe in half, and it was Lamont's dinner, lunch and dinner this week. It is from Family Circle magazine.

Mexican Wagon Wheels and Cheese

1 sweet red pepper and 1 green pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

4 scallions, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

1 quart 2 percent milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

2 cups reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend

2 cups reduced-fat shredded mozzarella

1 pound wagon wheel pasta, cooked following package directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high; coat with nonstick cooking spray and add red and green peppers, scallions and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until peppers soften. Set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute; gradually whisk in milk and bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Turn off heat and stir in salt, chili powder and 1 3/4 cups of each of the cheeses until smooth. Add cooked pasta and pepper mixture and stir until combined. Turn out mixture into prepared pan and scatter remaining 1/4 cup each of the cheeses over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned. Makes eight servings, with 465 calories each serving, 16 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Note: To spice up the dish, try chipolte chile powder for a layer of smoky flavor.

Tacos are usually filled with a spicy ground beef or pork filling. This one is different as tilapia fillets are the main ingredient.

Tilapia Tacos

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon green hot pepper sauce

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 tilapia fillets, 4-ounces each

4 teaspoons olive oil

15 ounces black beans

8 corn tortillas, warmed

3 plum tomatoes, chopped

2 cups shredded cabbage

1/2 cup salsa verde

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

1 medium lime, cut into 8 wedges

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a shallow bowl, whisk egg, milk and pepper sauce. In another shallow bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, cumin and pepper. Dip tilapia in egg mixture, then in cornmeal mixture, patting to help coating adhere. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Drizzle tops with oil. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, place beans in a small saucepan; heat through over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Serve tilapia in tortillas; top with beans, tomatoes, cabbage, salsa verde and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

This recipe came from my Kitchen Keepsakes Cookbook. It has refried beans, chilies and chili powder. This makes 4 cups.

Rio Grande Bean Dip

16-ounce can refried beans with green chiles

3 ounces cream cheese

4 1/2-ounce can ripe olives, chopped

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/3 cup sour cream

3/4 cup grated cheese

In a small baking dish, combine beans, cream cheese, olives, chili powder and sour cream. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips.

Nothing can make a party lively like Margaritas. They can be made as strong or light as desired by adding more carbonaded drink. The limeade gives it a nice touch.

T Lazy Margaritas

3 shots tequila

1 shot triple sec

6-ounce can limeade

12-ounce can 7-Up, gingerale or Sprite

20 ice cubes crushed to make 1 1/2 cups ice

Coarse salt

Lime slices

Pour tequila, triple sec, limeade and 7-Up in a blender. Add ice and continue blending until slushy. Rub the rims of glasses with a slice of fresh lime and dip rims in coarse salt. Pour mixture into prepared glasses being careful not to disturb the salt decoration. Makes four to six servings.

Chocolate is another favored ingredient in Mexico. Here is a cake made without flour that is gooey and taste tempting.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 stick sweet cream butter, melted

1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

4 eggs, separated

1/2 cup, plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

Heavy whipping cream

Additional 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8-inch springform pan with cooking oil. Line bottom with a circle of wax paper and spray paper with cooking oil. Slowly melt butter and 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar and rum extract. Mix a few spoonfuls of yolk mixture into melted chocolate. Pour combined chocolate and eggs into bowl and mix well. Beat egg whites with clean beaters. Beat until soft peaks begin to form. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Mix a bit of egg white mixture into the chocolate and egg yolk bowl. Pour entire chocolate mixture into the egg white bowl and fold gently until it is a uniform color. Pour batter into a springform pan and bake for 35 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes.

Run a knife along the sides of the pan and turn it over onto a serving plate. Cool for another 10 minutes. Release catch on pan and remove entire pan, top and sides. Remove wax paper when the cake has completely cooled. The cake is going to fall no matter what, so fill the crater with homemade whipped cream made with the heavy whipping cream.

To make the whipped cream, beat 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream with clean beaters until peaks and valleys form. Chop the remaining 1/3 cup of chips and sprinkle over the topping.

Note: To crush the chips, put the 1/3 cups in a heavy plastic bag and hit them with a wooden mallet or meat tenderizer. Makes six servings.

(McCoy can be contacted at

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