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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

By Sherrie Norris

Many of us celebrate Cinco de Mayo with our Hispanic friends without really knowing what it’s all about. For many years, I thought it was Mexico’s Independence Day, but later learned that the holiday actually celebrates Mexico’s unlikely, but victorious, battle against the French army in 1862.

Most everyone, it seems, has gotten into the great food, music and fun of the festive Cinco de Mayo celebration, whether we hail from south of the border, or not.

It has become a big deal here in the High Country, especially within the Hispanic culture, which includes several amazing restaurants that specialize in tasty authentic Mexican food.

If, by chance, you don’t want to fight the crowds on Saturday, May 5, plan to have your own celebration at home. Hopefully, our recipes this week will help jumpstart your party planning.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate, at all. You can simply start with a tortilla: corn, flour, soft or crisp, and stuff it with your choice of meat, cheese and/or beans, and add all the trimmings to your liking.

The tortilla is the star in many southwestern dishes, and considered the “Mexican bread,” a thin, flat, unleavened and amazingly versatile food that can be used as a plate, shaped into a bowl, wrapped, folded, but most of all, enjoyed.


Chicken Quesadillas

2 cups cubed, cooked chicken

1 cup shredded taco-flavored cheese

2 cups salsa, (thick and chunky works best)

2 Tbs. margarine or butter, softened

8 large flour tortillas

½ cup sour cream

Heat large skillet. In large bowl, combine chicken, cheese and 1 cup of the salsa. Spread margarine on 1 side of each tortilla. Place 1 tortilla, buttered-side down, in hot skillet. Top with ¾ cup chicken mixture. Place second tortilla, buttered side up, on chicken mixture; cook until bottom is lightly browned. Turn quesadilla over; cook on second side until lightly browned and chicken mixture thoroughly heated. Repeat with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture.

To serve, cut each quesadilla into fourths, top with remaining 1 cup salsa and sour cream. Makes 4, but can easily be doubled as needed.


Beef and Bean Burritos

1 lb. ground beef

1 med. onion, chopped

¼ cup taco sauce

1½ tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 cup refried beans

10 large tortillas, warmed

1 cup shredded lettuce

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 tomato, chopped

½ cup salsa

In large skillet, brown ground beef and onion, drain. Stir in taco sauce, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir in beans. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

To assemble burritos, spoon about ¼ cup hot filling onto center of each warmed tortilla; top with lettuce, cheese and tomato. Fold bottom (1/3 of tortilla) over filling; fold sides in toward center; leaving top open. Serve with salsa. Makes 10 burritos.


Sherrie’s Mexican Dip

(Always a hit!)

1 can refried beans

2 cups sour cream

1 cup of salsa

½ chopped red onion

2 cups cheese of choice

Chopped tomatoes

Chopped chilies

Sliced black olives

Layer ingredients in order listed in a 9 x 13-inch glass dish, the latter three of which do not require complete cover, but rather simply sprinkled over the top for a colorful, decorative touch. Store in fridge until time to serve. Great with corn chip scoops, tortilla chips or other chip of choice.


Simple Salsa

2 lg. tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 or 2 hot chili peppers, seeded and chopped

1/3 cup chopped green onions

2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tbsp. lime juice

¼ tsp. salt

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Can be stored in refrigerator up to a week.


Homemade Guacamole

1 medium peeled, mashed avocado

¼ cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup chopped tomato

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. hot sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

Combine all ingredients, stirring until blended.