If there’s a colorful holiday to be had, Cinco de Mayo qualifies. Although not a major celebration in Mexico, it has evolved in the United States as a day to give a nod to Mexican heritage and culture, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Its roots actually go back to May 5, 1862, and the victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. It is also known as the Battle of Puebla Day. Do not make the mistake of assuming it is Mexican Independence Day, a popular misconception. That major observation is reserved for Sept. 16.
Cinco de Mayo thoughts usually first take us to food and visions of our favorite ethnic eateries. It’s a reason to indulge in guacamole, tacos, burritos, churros and the like. If you’re planning a cultural twist in the menus leading up to your celebration next Wednesday, May 5, recipes below add some simple variations that might inspire an “Ole” at your dinner table. Bring out the most festive napkins and vibrant place mats, decorate the table with a bit of flair, pour up a pitcher of margaritas, if you like. Happy Cinco de Mayo.
MAKE-AHEAD MEXICAN ROLL-UPS
1 can (15 ounce) beans (black, pinto, chili, etc)
2 cups frozen corn
3 cups brown rice, cooked according to package directions
2 cups cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, or hot pepper) shredded
1 cup salsa
12 (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
■ Place beans in a colander and rinse to reduce sodium. Transfer to a large bowl.
■ Thaw frozen corn in the microwave. Drain and add to the bowl.
■ Stir in rice, cheese, and salsa.
■ Spoon 1/2 cup filling on each tortilla and roll up.
■ Wrap each burrito tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
■ Seal wrapped burritos in a freezer bag when they are frozen.
■ To reheat frozen burritos: Remove the plastic wrap. Wrap burrito in a damp paper towel. Set microwave on medium power. Heat burrito for 3-4 minutes.
Note: You can serve this filling mixture on lettuce, kale or spinach for a salad, or use as a dip.
BLACK BEAN BURGERS
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
■ Preheat oven to 350 F.
■ Mash drained and rinsed black beans with a fork or potato masher.
■ Stir mashed beans, egg, bread crumbs, dried onion, garlic powder, and oil together until combined.
■ Shape into 4 equal-sized patties, then wash hands.
■ Bake patties for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through.
■ Heat a skillet over medium heat, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
■ Place baked patties in the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook patties for 5 minutes on the first side, then flip patties and cook for 4 more minutes on the other side.
Note: Serve with your favorite burger topping.
LEMONY CHICKEN IN BROWN RICE
Makes 4 servings
2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon*
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 garlic clove, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery
1/2 bunch (2 cups) broccoli
1/2 cup canned (3 ounces) or 1 cup sliced raw mushrooms
1 1/3 cup cut green beans, canned
1 1/2 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
* Zest is the grated yellow peel of the lemon.
■ Slice chicken and marinate in lemon juice and zest in the refrigerator for a half hour.
■ Cook brown rice according to package directions. (Brown rice takes 45 mins.)
■ Slice all raw vegetables thinly.
■ Start cooking garlic in enough chicken stock to cover the bottom of a nonstick skillet.
■ Add the rest of the vegetables in the order in which they appear (from the longest to the shortest cooking time).
■ Add chicken broth as needed to keep vegetables moist.
■ Add the sliced chicken last and cook thoroughly.
■ Add warm rice; mix together, heat briefly.