Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Side Dish

IMG 3508 Edited Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Side Dish

The younger version of myself disdained Mexican food. This was a bit of a problem given everyone else in my immediate family really enjoyed tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and all Mexican food dishes in between. The only thing I liked about taco night at home was that we got to use a large, divided plate to hold the toppings. That’s right, I liked the plate that held the tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and black olives in individual compartments rather than the tacos themselves.

When Mom and Dad took my sister and I out to eat, I’m fairly certain my vote for where to dine was “any place but Mexican” instead of a vote for a specific restaurant. This was a lost cause. The only thing I really liked eating at the Mexican restaurants where we ended up was the Mexican-style rice.

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Since quinoa seems to be popping up all over the place lately, I decided to turn my favorite Mexican dish – Mexican-style rice – and apply it to a different grain –  quinoa. Except quinoa isn’t a grain, it’s a seed.

The really cool thing about quinoa is it is one of only two plant sources of complete protein that supplies all nine essential amino acids.  The human body can make 13 of the 22 amino acids found in protein, but it needs to get the other nine from food. Quinoa, along with soy, is a one-stop shop for those nine essential amino acids. As I’m sure you have deduced, I am neither a medical professional nor nutritionist, so I learned all of this information at

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I started to recreate a Mexican Rice dish using a recipe from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen, but two ingredients in I realized I was doing it completely wrong. Or rather, I was making the dish as I imagined one would make it rather than follow a recipe. That usually ends in a fail dish more often than not, but in this case, I liked what I came up with.

If Mexican-style Quinoa is not your thing, but you would like to try cooking with quinoa, check out my Quinoa board on Pinterest to see more recipe ideas. Until tomorrow, enjoy!

Day 1: The Appetizers
Day 2: The Main Dish
Day 3: The Side Dish
Day 4: The Drink
Day 5: The Dessert
Mexican Quinoa
Recipe type: Side
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ½ cup diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup sliced carrots
  • ½ cup peas
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges for serving, if desired
  1. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions.
  2. When the quinoa is tender, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Place the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté until fragrant, about one to two minutes.
  4. Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet, then stir in the tomato sauce, vegetables and salt, to taste.
  5. Stir until well blended, then remove from heat.
  6. Add the cilantro just before serving to avoid wilting, and serve with lime wedges if desired.
Kick up the flavor of the quinoa by cooking it in chicken or vegetable broth rather than water.

Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Main Dish

IMG 3508 Edited Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Main Dish

Yesterday we covered the appetizers and the history of Cinco de Mayo. Today we will discuss the main dish, homemade Black Bean Burgers, and the why behind Cinco de Mayo. describes Cinco de Mayo as a “relatively minor” holiday in Mexico that has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage in the U.S. Oh really? Because it seems to me it’s just an ordinary day celebrated with an obligatory Corona, Tecate or shot of tequila. I’m pretty sure the evil geniuses in the marketing departments of these companies are behind the popularity of Cinco de Mayo in the states. (Thank you?)

Cinco de Mayo first hit my radar screen back in college. Ohio State was still on a quarter (rather than semester) schedule when I was there, so Cinco de Mayo fell right around the mid-way point of the quarter. A party was a natural reprieve from the five weeks of school we had left until summer break.

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Creating homemade dishes instead of relying on packaged meals has been on my mind a lot as of late. It’s so easy to grab a frozen veggie patty out of habit and perceived convenience, but what’s really in those things? And where does all of the food come from? Though I don’t always have the answer to the latter question when cooking or baking from scratch (i.e. I don’t know where the chicken farm that produces my egg is located), I really like knowing how things come together. And the sense of satisfaction I get from pulling scratch meals together is just the icing on the cake.

The recipe I used came from Whole Foods Market. For the most part, I followed the recipe as written (I used fresh herbs instead of dried herbs) to establish a baseline for future homemade black bean burgers. I was really impressed with the consistency of the burgers – they really were like a thick, juicy hamburger. Since I am trying to stay away from meat, the black bean burgers were a very satisfying substitution.

As for the flavor, the recipe calls for quite a few herbs and spices, and you may need to stray from the measurements below to suit your own tastes. I really regret not adding cumin to the black bean mixture, and I suspect chili powder would taste pretty good in them as well. I also thought about adding a few whole black beans to the patties, and I bet adding a different variety of beans like pinto, or even corn, would make for a nice modification.

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This is a great basic recipe that lends itself to experimenting with flavors and toppings. I enjoyed my burger with tomatoes and cilantro left over from the guacamole and salsa appetizers, and a I bet a nice slice of avocado or a dollop of sour cream would have tasted equally delicious. Try the recipe sometime, and you are sure to have a delicious homemade black bean burger ready in a matter of minutes.

If you would like to see more Mexican-themed foods before tomorrow’s post, check out my Cinco de Mayo board on Pinterest. Enjoy!

Day 1: The Appetizers
Day 2: The Main Dish
Day 3: The Side Dish
Day 4: The Drink
Day 5: The Dessert
Homemade Black Bean Burgers
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 egg
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • olive or other vegetable oil for cooking
  1. Place the rinsed and drained beans in a large bowl and use a fork to mash to the desired consistency.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well to combine.
  3. Shape the mixture into patties.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Arrange patties in a single layer (working in batches, if needed) and cook, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  6. Serve as desired.

Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Appetizers

IMG 3508 Edited Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Appetizers

It’s Cinco de Mayo week! For the first five days of May, I plan to share a Mexican-food themed recipe to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, or perhaps just enjoy a nice snack, dinner or dessert.

According to, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This battle occurred during the Franco-Mexican War, which came to fruition when France (along with Britain and Spain) sent ships to blockade Mexican ports after Mexican President Benito Juárez quit paying interest on his country’s foreign debts.

Long story short, France decided it wanted to conquer Mexico. Mexico did not want to be conquered, so it fought back. When the U.S. got involved after the Civil War, France decided it did not  want to take on two countries, so it simply quit sending reinforcements to its imperial government in Mexico. And Mexico got to remain Mexico.

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Let’s start with some starters! First up is homemade guacamole. I consider making guacamole more of a process than a recipe, but nevertheless I have included a recipe below. I substituted a yellow onion and green chilis in place of a green onion and jalapeno pepper called for in the original recipe simply because I had them on hand. I also added tomatoes because I love them. It’s a process, not a hard and fast recipe, remember?

Homemade Guacamole

1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 very small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons green chilies
juice from 1/2 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
tortilla chips, for serving
Halve the avocado lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a small bowl.
Use a fork to mash the avocado to a desired consistency. 
Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
Serve with tortilla chips or as a condiment to a main dish.
Author: adapted from Cooking from the Farmers’ Market as seen on What Megan’s Making

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Next up is salsa made with roasted green tomatoes and tart apples. I found this recipe in Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster’s Market. The cookbook contains many other unique salsas, like roasted red pepper salsa and grilled pineapple salsa, that I would also like to try. Since I really like tomatoes, I opted for a green tomato salsa this time around. (I found green tomatoes at my local farmer’s market).

The salsa tasted good…but different. I like fruity flavors, like Riesling wine and Lambic beer, so the sweet, fruity taste of this salsa worked for me. However, if you are a spicy, red tomato salsa traditionalist, this salsa will likely be better served as part of sampler rather than as a meal’s main salsa.

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If you would like to see more Mexican-themed foods before tomorrow’s post, check out my Cinco de Mayo board on Pinterest. Enjoy!

Day 1: The Appetizers
Day 2: The Main Dish
Day 3: The Side Dish
Day 4: The Drink
Day 5: The Dessert
Roasted Green Tomato & Apple Salsa
  • 4 medium green tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons green chilies, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  1. Mix all of the ingredients except the cilantro and the lime in a bowl.
  2. Place the mixture on a baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes until the tomatoes are soft to touch.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. When cool, scrape all of the ingredients, including the juices, into a large bowl.
  5. Add in the cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice.
  6. Stir to incorporate, season with more salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
It's best to use a baking sheet with sides (I call this a jelly roll pan) to hold in all of the juices. The original recipe called for red onion and one jalapeno pepper in place of the yellow onion and green chilies seen here. I also used apple cider vinegar in place of white vinegar. The salsa should keep refrigerated in an air tight container for up to one week.