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Cyndee’s Cooking Corner

Memorial Day is the official first day of summer for me.  It means picnics, gatherings, boating, and lazily reading a book by the pool. Easy, quick, great taste and appearance is what you will find in the 5 recipes.  Some I created, others were shared.  With these recipes I believe you will have more time to play this first major holiday of the summer.

The Taco Dip Casserole can serve two purposes.  It can be a dip or an entrée, whatever meets your need. It has a secret ingredient that sets it apart from the oodles of other taco dips out there. Cheesy Mex Rice combines a box mix with some extras and no one will know you didn’t totally make it from scratch.  Easy Enchilada Casserole is so easy recipe and everyone can pitch in and help put it together. Great for a small group or you can increase the ingredients for a crowd. This entrée can be made quickly so you can get to Arnolds Park or on the boat sooner. Impress your guests with Guacamole Bites.  This eye appealing appetizer is not only easy on the eyes it is another simple starter for any gathering this summer. End your meal with a fresh Fruit Salsa that pairs wonderfully with the homemade cinnamon crisps.

I had originally planned some authentic Mexican recipes for this issue. My original plan was to create these tasteful, time consuming, but worthwhile recipes. I was going to razzle dazzle you with my culinary voodoo! I planned to share my world travels, organic food capabilities and impress you with my infinite pantry space used to create these yummy dishes.

I have lived in Mexico several times over the years, for as long as three months or as short as one month. This year was a month long stay during the worst of the arctic blast in February. As I strolled through the open markets and chatted with a variety of local people, my head was thinking about the next group of recipes I was planning. But for each recipe I thought about, all sorts of “probably don’t” came to mind. “That’s a great idea, but my reader’s probably don’t have a tortilla maker made out of iron or mesquite wood like I do.”  “Yes you can purchase tamale corn husks locally sometimes to make tamales but most people probably don’t want to do that.” And the list continued to grow.  I scrapped my traditional Mexican idea and decided quick and easy was the way to go because I am planning to spend my Memorial weekend enjoying all that the Iowa Great Lakes has to offer and not be a prisoner to the kitchen.

OH! In regards to my infinite pantry space, please note that I am looking for a nice guy, 55-65, positive, handy, loves the water, willing to use recyclable materials, respectful, and single who can assist me in turning a large closet into a larger pantry space.

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Easy Enchiladas

Serves: 8

1 1/2 lbs — Ground Beef

10 oz — Mild/Medium Enchilada Sauce

10.5 oz — Cream of Mushroom Soup

3 C — Mixture of Shredded Cheddar & Queso Cheese

8 — 10" Flour Tortillas

1. Brown ground beef and drain off fat. Add enchilada sauce, cream of mushroom soup and 2 cups of the cheese mix.

2. Spread 3 heaping tablespoons of this mix on the bottom of an approximately 9x12” casserole dish.

3. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of mixture in the center of the of the tortilla shell. Starting at one end roll the shell up, place seam side down on the bottom of the casserole dish. Continue till all shells are rolled and placed in the casserole dish.

4. Spread remaining meat mixture on top of enchiladas. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of cheese on top.

Enchiladas can be made 2 days ahead of time then baked.  Or 2 weeks ahead of time and frozen, then baked.  Add 15 to 25 minutes to baking time to frozen enchiladas. Serve with sour cream, avocados, salsa and shredded lettuce. Add you own variations such as chopped green chilies and black olives. Chicken can easily be substituted for the ground beef. My sister Debbie gave me this recipe many years ago, and it used to be in my menu rotation when I was raising my family. Several years ago my daughter Brinn asked for the recipe. I had totally forgotten about it!  It is quick, easy and will soon be a favorite in your menu rotation too!

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Guacamole Bites

1 Bag — Tostado Scoops Chips

1 Batch — Guacamole (Homemade or Purchased)

1 Pint — Cherry Tomatoes

Pinch — Fresh or Dried Cilantro

1. Arrange chips on serving tray. Scoop guacamole dip into a zip lock bag and snip off ½” of one corner of the bag. Squeeze about two teaspoons of guacamole into the scoop.

2. Cut cherry tomatoes into slices. Place slice on top of guacamole topped Scoop chip.  Garnish with fresh or dried cilantro if desired.

These outstanding appetizers look chic yet take seconds to assemble and taste delish. Put these together just before your guests arrive or take the fixin’s on the boat and assemble on the water.  Your passengers will be super impressed with your entertaining skills. I found this recipe on Pinterest and couldn’t resist sharing it with you. Check out mygluten-freekitchen.com.

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Fresh Fruit Salsa

2 C — Fresh Strawberries

2 — Kiwi

12 t — Medium Granny Smith Apple

1/4 C — Sugar

½ — Fresh Lemon

1. Remove caps from berries, peel kiwis and apple. Dice.  I used a “Chop Wizard” to make the job quick and easy. Plus the pieces are all even. You can find this non-mechanical chopper on line.

2. Add sugar and lemon juice. Stir all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Cinnamon Crisps

6 — Flour Tortillas

1/4 C — Butter

1 C — White Sugar

2 T — Cinnamon

1. Melt butter. Stack 3 tortillas together. Cut into eighths using a pizza cutter. Arrange on baking sheet so they do not overlap.

2. Using pastry brush spread butter on both sides. Generously sprinkle cinnamon and sugar mixture on both sides of tortilla wedges. Bake at 400 degrees for 4-7 minutes till light golden brown. Check oven often as to not over-bake. Cool. Store in an airtight container.

The summertime fruit salsa is refreshing and light. It is a great ending to a Mexican meal or even at a breakfast buffet. Personally, I enjoy pairing this with my favorite fine white Chardonnay. The best part is you can make the salsa and chips ahead of time. OMG! This is so good you will want to eat it with a spoon! 

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Cheesy Mexi Rice

Serves: 6

6.8 oz — RICE-A-RONI Spanish Rice

2 T — Butter

14 1/2 oz — Diced Tomatoes

1/4 C — Diced Onions

2 C — Shredded Cheese (Suggestions: Queso, Cheddar, Monterey Jack)

2 C — Frozen Corn

1. Prepare RICE-A-RONI according to package directions, adding onions with the rice. Pour cooked rice mixture into a 4-quart casserole dish. Stir in 2 cups of cheese.

2. Cook frozen corn in the microwave for 60 seconds. Sprinkle corn around the edge of the casserole dish.  Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of cheese on top.

This rice casserole will be a hit with all ages. The dish is a different take on the usual very dry rice that you order from a Mexican restaurant in the USA and Mexico. You better make a double batch as I guarantee that you will run out since everyone will love this rice. It is moist and flavorful and is even great when reheated but I doubt you will have leftovers.

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Taco Dip Casserole

2 lbs — Ground Beef

1 Pkg — Taco Seasoning Mix

8 oz — Tomato Sauce

8 oz — Cream Cheese

1 C — Sharp Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1 C — Mayonnaise

1 — Tomato

1/2 — Green Pepper

1. Brown ground beef and drain off fat. Add taco seasoning and tomato sauce. Spread in an approximately 9x12 casserole dish.

2. Beat cream cheese till fluffy, add mayonnaise and sour cream. Spread on beef mixture evenly.

3. Spread on finely chopped tomato and green pepper in rows on top of cream cheese layer. Sprinkle cheddar cheese in-between the rows.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips. Serve as an appetizer or an entrée.

You ask, “What makes this dip better than all the rest?” Well. it’s the mayonnaise.  Somehow it makes everything in the dip taste fabulously creamy and yummy and what more can I say, it’s ADDICTIVE! Great for potlucks, picnics or just anytime you want a snack! Plus it reheats exceptionally well!