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South of the border flavor

This week I'm featuring four excellent recipes that incorporate a 'south of the border' flavor, thanks to the interesting mix of seasonings, green chilies and tortilla shells.

All are absolutely delicious and relatively easy.

The "Chicken Enchiladas" are fantastic and can easily be made ahead of time. I prepare them the night before, refrigerate them, and then add the creamy topping and cheese right before placing them in the oven. Doing it this way requires baking them a little longer, so keep your eye on them. Just make sure that they are piping hot through the middle. I like to remove them from the oven and then let them sit for five to ten minutes before serving.

You can either stuff the soft shell tortillas and roll them leaving them open on both ends, or place the filling in the center and then wrap up all four sides in a neat little bundle. I prefer doing it this way. If you wrap them tight, the filling doesn't leak out and they are very neat and tidy when you serve them. I used eight 10-inch soft shells and that filled a 9x13 baking dish nicely. I had a little topping left over so I served it later over Tostitos chips, topping it with lots of cheese, making for some wonderful nachos.

The enchiladas are a complete, hearty meal on their own, but especially filling when served with a side of your favorite Spanish rice (the packaged versions are good) and refried beans, both of which I also complement with extra green canned chilies and lots of shredded cheese of your choice on the top.

I also make sure I have sour cream, fresh chopped tomatoes and lettuce, and guacamole dip on the side. Salsa is also fantastic.

The "Taco Hot Dish," "White Chili," and "Chicken Chili Stew" also live up to expectations and are wonderful for satisfying the appetites of large groups with varying tastes.

So cook, sit back, eat and enjoy.

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

Chicken Enchiladas

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp. margarine

1 cup chopped onion

2 tsp. chili powder

4 cups cooked chicken

2 (4 oz.) cans green chilies

8 flour tortillas

2 cups shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Mix sour cream and soup together. Saute margarine and onions. Add rest of ingredients with 4 Tbsp. soup mixture or enough to make it moist. Fill soft shell tortillas. Pour rest of soup over and cover with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. (Longer if refrigerated)

Taco Hot Dish

1 pkg. Pillsbury crescent rolls

2 cups sour cream

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef

1 pkg. Doritos taco chips

1/2 lb. Cheddar cheese

1 pkg. taco seasoning

Unroll crescent rolls in 9x13 in. pan. Brown hamburger and taco mix. Crush chips and put 1/2 on top of crust. Put hamburger on next, then add sour cream, cheese and rest of taco chips. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

White Chili

5 cups chopped, cooked chicken

3 (15 oz.) cans Great Northern beans, drained

1 (32 oz.) box chicken broth

1 (16 oz.) jar mild salsa

1 (8 oz.) pkg. Monterey Jack cheese with peppers, cubed

2 tsp. ground cumin

Garnish: Cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapenos

In a 6-qt. electric slow cooker, combine chicken, beans, broth, salsa, cheese and cumin. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with Cheddar cheese, sour cream and jalapenos if desired. Serve with corn chips. Makes 10 to 12 servings

Note: To make a quick chili dip, combine all ingredients except chicken broth. Cook as directed.

Chili Chicken Stew

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 in. cubes

1 cup chopped red onion

1 green bell pepper, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 (14.5 oz.) cans Mexican-style stewed tomatoes

2 (15 oz.) cans pinto beans, drained

1 (16 oz.) jar medium salsa

3 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

10 (8 in.) flour tortillas

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese with peppers

Garnish: Cheddar cheese, sour cream, minced green onion, sliced black olives

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion, peppers and garlic; cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomatoes, beans, salsa, chili powder and cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes.

Place 1 tortilla into each of 10 shallow bowls. Sprinkle cheeses evenly over each tortilla. Spoon chicken stew evenly over cheese. Garnish with Cheddar cheese, sour cream, minced green onion and sliced back olives, if desired. Makes 10 servings.