Lighten up your Cinco de Mayo celebration

May 1, 2013 

As a majority of readers know, Hispanic food is a passion of mine. My mom took me to Mexican restaurants by the time I could sit up, insisting that beans and rice were healthy.

When she was pregnant, she ate spicy shrimp jambalaya, Mexican food and spaghetti and meatballs. She said that Mexican food was good for whatever "ails you."

Even before it was a popular belief, Mother claimed that jalapenos and salsa were good for you and actually helped with colds and stomach bugs. Every time I had either ailment, Mom was there with Mexican food. My husband will testify that I now do the same thing.

Guess what? Mom knew best. She was right about beans and rice being healthy unless they are laden with fats. Capsicum, the fruit of tropical pepper plants, is considered to help with sinus, digestive and stomach conditions as well as helping boost the immune system.

Since Sunday is Cinco de Mayo, I thought I would share two healthier Mexican recipes today.

Cinco de Mayo in the United States is a celebration of the culture, achievements and experiences of people of Mexican heritage. It also commemorates Mexico's victory in 1862 in a battle for independence from France.

Here are two easy, healthy dishes to try that I have not previously shared. Just watch what toppings you use. Remember to use lower fat cheeses, light sour cream, less fatty meats for a healthier Cinco de Mayo.


1 small package dried pinto beans

Boneless pork shoulder roast, with fat trimmed, chopped

1 to 2 cups low-fat chicken broth

3 large cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon oregano leaves

1 (6-ounce) can diced green chilies

3 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes

Flour or corn tortillas

Various condiments: avocado, lettuce, lower fat cheese, light sour cream, tomatoes, olives, salsa, onion, cilantro

Clean and rinse dried pinto beans and put into slow cooker.

Add boneless pork shoulder roast with fat trimmed, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, diced canned chiles, salt, red chili flakes. If you like it hot, use medium hot green chiles and more red chile flakes.

Cover roast, barely, with chicken broth and mix by turning roast over a couple of times without bringing dry beans to the top of the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or low for 12 hours (can be put in slower cooker the night before). If doing overnight, shred meat and mash bean before work and put in the fridge for dinner.

When beans and meat are pull-apart tender, remove meat and shred with a fork, removing fat as you go.

Use a potato masher to mash beans and remaining fluid, if any. Add shredded pork and mix.

Taste for appropriate saltiness and spices.

In a corn or flour tortilla, place mixture and top with your favorite toppings. I prefer mine with simply chopped cilantro and onions.

The following recipe was one given to me by the late R. L. "Bob" Whitmyer. The empanadas are tasty and healthier. I substitute chicken breasts because I like them better, and they are lower in fat. Some would say chicken breasts lower the flavor, too.


6 broiler-fryer chicken thighs, skinned, boned, cut into small pieces (about 1- 1/2 pounds meat)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

2/3 cup chopped green onion, tops included

2 teaspoon chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tomatoes, peeled, chopped

1/2 cup chopped black olives

1/2 cup seedless raisins

1 potato, cooked, peeled, chopped

3 refrigerated (9-inch folded) pie crusts

1 egg, beaten

Sprinkle chicken with ginger and garlic. In 10-inch non-stick frying pan, place oil and heat to medium heat. Add chicken; sprinkle with onion and cilantro. Cook about 5 minutes without stirring, then stir and cook 5 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; add tomatoes and olives. Raise temperature to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in potato and raisins; remove from heat and set aside for about 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Unfold each pie shell and cut 4-inch rounds from each shell; make one more circle from scraps from each shell (total of 15 rounds). Place1/4 cup chicken mixture in center of each round; fold pastry in half to make half-moon shape (like a turnover). Seal edge by crimping with fork. Brush tops with beaten egg; place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 375-degree oven about 20 minutes until brown. Serve hot.

Five servings of 3 each.

More on slow cooker turkey

"I just read your article in today's paper about turkey breast and agree completely," Virginia Newton said. "I bought two of those birds from Winn-Dixie last week. Years ago, a friend shared a tip with me that I still use: Wash the frozen, bone-in turkey breast, dry it, season as you please and place it in your slow cooker with a quartered onion and a few garlic cloves. Cover and cook about 7 hours, or until the internal temp reaches 165 degrees. Delicious! It makes its own liquid that I make into gravy."

Fudge recipe needed

"Every week I look forward to reading your newspaper article, and I am looking for a good recipe for chocolate fudge," said Bernice Strickland of Bradenton. "Not the one with marshmallows or one that has to be kept in the refrigerator."

Readers, please send me your favorite fudge recipes that meets Strickland's criteria: no marshmallows or marshmallow crème and no refrigeration.

Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at, takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567. If requesting a recipe, include the name or describe it.

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