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Eating Well: Beef enchiladas perfect paired with Pico de Gallo

For the past week or two, local Mexican eateries have been promoting the annual Cinco de Mayo observance with a variety of specialty items.

For anyone interested in the history, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican Army's defeat of the French forces on May 5, 1862, in the Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla). During the battle, General Ignacio Zaragoza led the vastly outnumbered Mexican army to victory over the French forces of Emperor Napoleon III. The triumph of Mexican forces at the Battle of Puebla became a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. The French returned to Mexico with a large army and conquered the country in 1863. The Mexicans first celebrated Cinco de Mayo under French rule, which lasted until 1867, and they changed the name of the city where their victory occurred to Puebla de Zaragoza.

More than you probably needed to know, but so often we celebrate dates without even seeming to really know why.

Part of any good celebration is excellent food, and no matter what day of the week it is, the following recipe has a delicious 'south of the border' flavor when paired with the perfect accompaniments, i.e. rice, refried beans and all the colorful side toppings.

Although certainly not an authentic 'enchilada' recipe, this dish fits the bill nicely if you are looking for a hearty, filling meal. This is also an excellent selection in that it can be prepared the night before and refrigerated until you are ready to pop it in the oven the following evening.

The enchiladas can either be served individually or the 'casserole' can be cut into serving pieces. This also makes a wonderful potluck choice. I can assure you there won't be any of it left to take home. This recipe also freezes well, but if you are going to freeze it, don't add the chili and cheese until you are ready to bake it.

If you are preparing this recipe to entertain guests, use any of the great brands of Mexican rice that you prepare from a bag or a box to go with; along with any of the canned varieties of refried beans. I like to add a can of chopped chilies (mild, warm or hot, your choice) to the beans, mix well, and then top with cheese and bake in a small casserole alongside the enchiladas.

Make sure when you are serving the enchiladas you have ample toppings to accent the meal. Musts are sour cream, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, garden onions, and pickled jalapenos to spice it up.

An excellent side dish, in lieu of the separate tomato and onion garnishes, is my savory pico de gallo recipe that is delicious served alongside the enchiladas. The easy recipe for that also follows.

Until next week, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!

Beef Enchiladas

Brown together one small onion and one pound lean hamburger


½ package taco seasoning

1 small can enchilada sauce

½ cup water

1 can cream of chicken soup

You will also need:

8 large flour tortilla shells

1 can chili with no beans

1 bag mild Cheddar cheese

Mix the taco seasoning, enchilada sauce, water and cream soup with the hamburger and onion and simmer well. Fill the flour shells with meat mixture, add some grated cheese, roll and place in 9x13 baking dish or cake pan. Pour over the top: one can of chili mixed with one can of water. Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Last ten minutes add more cheese to the top and finish baking. Let stand ten minutes before serving.

Pico de Gallo

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

3 fresh jalapenos or 1 red chili or 1 habanera, depending upon degree of hotness, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro

1/4 tsp. salt

Juice of 1/2 a lime

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well. Cover and chill at least an hour, or until ready to serve.