I was introduced to Cinco de Mayo my first year in college. I hastily accepted two-for-one margaritas and free salsa and chips at a local restaurant as a legitimate reason to take a break from studying for spring semester finals.

As time went on, my husband and I marked our newly married years with an annual Cinco de Mayo potluck party at our tiny apartment. Eventually we, and most of our guests, purchased houses and had children. Life got a little too hectic for us to slow down and sip the margaritas, let alone enjoy our favorite Mexican-style snacks and dishes.

Nowadays, Cinco de Mayo sneaks up and dawns on me in the middle of a spaghetti and meatball dinner. Just in case this has happened to you, I have a couple of recipes that you can make from some basics you may find in your fridge or pantry.

I bought some carrots and ground beef at the farmers market on Saturday. I had those on hand to whip up a dinner that didn’t require a lot of time after work. All that led to a simple Mexican-inspired dinner to mark the occasion at home with my favorite people, and left plenty of time for sipping a margarita.

Cheesy Baked Taco Filling

Yields 8-10 servings. Recipe is by Teresa B. Day.

2 pounds ground beef

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 (8-ounce) jars salsa

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

3 cups shredded cheddar, divided

¼ cup green onions or 2 tablespoons fresh chives

8 to 12 soft taco tortillas or crunchy taco shells

1 (16-ounce) container sour cream

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch casserole.

2. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef until done. Drain and return to skillet.

3. Season with salt, garlic, chili powder, cumin, black pepper and cayenne.

4. Stir in salsa, beans and corn. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Stir occasionally.

5. Remove from heat. Stir in 1½ cups cheese and green onions or chives.

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6. Spoon meat mixture into greased casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

7. Bake for 20 minutes.

8. Spoon into soft or crunchy taco shells and serve topped with sour cream and fresh cilantro, or as desired.

Mexican Street Style Roasted Carrots

Yields 4 servings. Recipe is by Teresa B. Day.

1 pound (6-8 carrots)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon flaky kosher salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons cotija cheese

2 tablespoons queso fresco cheese

1 tablespoon lime juice

¼ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

½ teaspoon granulated garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1. Heat oven to 425 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

2. Peel and cut the carrots in half, lengthwise and place on the prepared pan.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, salt, cumin, chili powder and paprika.

4. Brush onto the carrots. Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning in the middle of the cooking time.

5. Sprinkle cheeses onto the carrots before serving.

6. To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic, salt, pepper and chili powder. Serve drizzled over carrots or on the side.


Teresa B. Day is a local food writer and author of the “I Eat BR” blog. Contact her at ieatbrla@gmail.com.