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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Bring on the Burritos — Cinco de Mayo is One Week Away!

Unlike last year, there will likely be  much celebrating on May 5 as we walk alongside our Hispanic friends in honoring their Mexican heritage and their pride over defeating French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

For many years, I thought Cinco de Mayo was Mexico’s Independence Day — the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico, but I learned that event takes place each September 16. 

Hopefully, we can help keep the tradition of celebration strong and plan for safe revelry with family and friends in the coming week.

Following are a few ideas that might help with your home-based menus.


Easy Mexican Casserole

1 lb. lean ground beef  

2 cups salsa

1 (16 oz.) can chili beans, drained

3 cups tortilla chips, crushed

2 cups sour cream

1 small can sliced black olives, drained

½ cup chopped green onion

½ cup chopped fresh tomato

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground beef until no longer pink. Stir in salsa, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in beans, and heat through.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread crushed tortilla chips in dish, and then spoon beef mixture over chips. Spread sour cream over beef, and sprinkle olives, green onion, and tomato over the sour cream. Top with Cheddar cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.


Simple Guacamole

4 ripe avocados

¼ cup diced onion

1 fresh serrano or jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced

2 Tbs. cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Optional: ¼  cup sour cream

1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice 

Salt and pepper to taste

1 medium tomato, seeded and diced

Peel two avocados, remove pits and mash. Cut the other two into small cubes.

Mix mashed avocado with diced onion, pepper and cilantro. Fold in sour cream and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add in the diced avocado and tomato, mixing lightly.

Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap ,refrigerate, and use within a few hours.

Note: It will not keep long, so plan to eat within the same day or the next. Keep leftovers in an airtight container and press plastic wrap directly onto the exposed surface of the guacamole to minimize discoloration. If the guacamole does turn brown on top, just scrape off the dark top layer before using.

To make this recipe more authentic and vegan at the same time, omit the sour cream.


Creamy Chicken Enchiladas 

2 cups pre-cooked rotisserie chicken or 3 or 4 cooked chicken breasts

8 oz. cream cheese

½ cup sour cream

1 Tbs. finely chopped onion

½ tsp. chili powder

½  tsp. cumin

1 ½  cups shredded cheddar cheese

4 oz. can green chilies

10 tortillas

Jar of red or green enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shred (deboned) chicken into small pieces

In a large skillet, combine chicken, cream cheese, sour cream, chilies, chopped onion, seasonings, and 3/4 cup cheddar cheese. Heat until the cheeses are completely melted. 

Coat baking pan with cooking spray. Scoop a large spoonful of chicken mixture onto tortilla, roll, and place it into the pan with seam side down.

Repeat until all of the filling is used. Pour enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of enchiladas and bake at 350 uncovered for 20-25 minutes.


Restaurant-Style Refried Beans

2 cups dried pinto beans, rinsed and sorted

6 cups water

2 bay leaves

¼ cup bacon drippings

1 bunch cilantro stems, chopped

½ cup chopped onions

3 tsp. chopped garlic

½ tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. salt

Cover beans in a pot with water. Bring to boil and then lower heat to simmer, covered, for about 2½ hours or until beans are done. 

Saute bay leaves, cilantro stems, chopped onion, and garlic cloves with bacon drippings until onions and garlic are softened, and onions are translucent.

Discard bay leaves and add the mixture to the beans.

Mash or blend beans carefully until desired consistency.


Tres Leches (Milk Cake)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup white sugar

5 eggs

½ tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups whole milk

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup white sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Cream butter and 1 cup sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs and ½ tsp. vanilla extract; beat well.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture; mix until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Pierce cake several times with a fork.

Combine all milk together. Pour over cooled cake.

Whip whipping cream, the remaining 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla together until thick. Spread over top of cake. Keep cake refrigerated.