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Community Cookbook: Celebra, es el Cinco de Mayo

 (Stephen Templeton/The Spokesman-Review)
By Dick Sellers For The Spokesman-Review

Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May) is a perfect time to celebrate Mexican food and culture. Eastern and central Washington, and much of Idaho, are blessed with many Mexican restaurants, bakeries, taquerias and mobile food vendors. Please visit them and enjoy their excellent food, service and festive music. Experience these cultural treasures during Cinco de Mayo and year-round.

For slightly less than authentic Mexican-style food prepared at home, with an emphasis on ease and convenience, check out the recipes below.

Red Enchiladas

These may be my favorite homemade red-sauced enchiladas. Once the shredded meat is ready, they’re quick and easy to make. Use leftover or store-bought cooked meat, pre-shredded cheese, and canned enchilada sauce for even more convenience.


1 tablespoon cooking oil

1¼ cup chopped onion

⅛ teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped bell or other peppers or chilies

3 cups shredded cooked pork, beef or chicken

3½ to 4 cups red enchilada sauce

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas

6-8 ounces shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Finely chopped cilantro leaves for garnish


Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and salt. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers and cook until the vegetables are tender but still slightly firm, stirring occasionally. Combine the meat and vegetables in a medium bowl. Add enough sauce to moisten and flavor the filling, about 1 to 1¼ cup.

Warm 6 tortillas until pliable (a microwave oven works well). Place a warmed tortilla on a dinner plate and spoon a scant ⅓ cup of the filling along and just below the centerline of the tortilla. Roll the closest edge up, then over the filling, rolling it up tightly enough to squeeze the filling to just short of the ends of the tortilla. Place the filled tortilla, seam-side down, into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Repeat with the remaining 5 tortillas, leaving a little space between each.

Using a second pan, repeat with the remaining ingredients. Bake, uncovered, on the middle-low rack of an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes. Pour the desired amount of sauce over the enchiladas (I like to leave about half-inch of the ends clear) and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Continue to bake, uncovered, until the cheese melts and the enchiladas are hot, about 8 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle cilantro over the top. Let rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot with shredded lettuce and salsa, if preferred.

Yield: 12 enchiladas

No-Fat, No-Cook Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada sauces often contain a lot of oil. Homemade enchilada sauces usually require cooking, and canned sauces are frequently too thin. This quick and tasty enchilada sauce has no oil or fat in it at all. Only a blender is needed to make the sauce, and it takes very little time to prepare.


1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes

¾-1 teaspoon ground cumin

¾ teaspoon chili powder

¾ teaspoon chicken, beef or vegetable bouillon powder

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

¼-½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder


Put all of the ingredients in a blender and purée. Cover and let rest for an hour or more to allow the flavors to blend. Stir well before using.

Note: To use the sauce as a table condiment, enhance the flavor by slowly simmering the sauce for 3-4 min., stirring frequently. Cool to room temperature and stir in some broth, if too thick. Double or triple the recipe, if needed.

Yield: Makes 1¾ cup

Gringo’s Ceviche

Traditional ceviche involves marinating raw seafood with citrus juice. The acidity of the juice “cooks” the seafood. This practice has always bothered me a little. What if there is too little citrus juice, or enough time to cook the raw seafood isn’t allowed? A person would be eating sushi on a tortilla chip without knowing it! This recipe takes a safe shortcut by using imitation crab and cooked shrimp. It tastes pretty good and is easier to make than traditional ceviche. Serve this delicious seafood appetizer/salad with tortilla chips or lettuce cups.


¼ cup fresh lime or lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¾ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. black pepper

⅓ cup, white, red, or sweet onion sliced into ⅜-inch pieces

⅓ cup, yellow bell pepper, sliced into ¼-inch pieces,

3-4 tablespoons serrano chiles, seeded and sliced into ⅛-inch pieces, (optional)

1 cup Roma tomatoes, seeds and juice removed, sliced into ⅜-inch pieces

8 ounces imitation crab coarsely shredded or ⅜-inch cubed

8 ounces cooked shrimp, shelled, deveined, sliced into ½-inch pieces

½ cup cilantro leaves, very finely chopped


Make the dressing by combining the first 4 ingredients (through black pepper) in a medium bowl and refrigerate. Prepare the next 4 ingredients (through tomatoes), adding to the dressing as completed to marinate. Prepare the imitation crab, shrimp and cilantro. Add to the bowl and stir well (there should be some standing liquid in the bottom).

Cover and refrigerate for a couple hours or more, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to blend. Stir well and taste.

Add citrus juice and/or salt, if needed. Stir well before serving.

Note: Keep the ceviche cold. Louis Kemp Crab Delights, Trans Ocean Crab Classic and Kanimi are top-rated imitation crab brands (flake-style is the easiest to shred). Other types of cooked seafood can be substituted or used along with imitation crab and shrimp.

Yield: Makes about six cups

Dick Sellers is a freelance writer found at