Cinco de Mayo falls on a Saturday this year so for all of you who want to put up a party, I’m providing you with a few easy recipes you can make at home. Add some tequila concoctions and/or Dos Equis and a piñata and you’ll have it going on. Everyone will want to be at your house.

For the main course, try Creamy Cilantro Chicken. Although these ingredients may seem strange together, believe me, this is exceptionally delicious as well as incredibly easy and completely addictive.

I sometimes serve this main dish over rice but more often, I just have a side of something green. It’s also yummy wrapped in a flour tortilla with chopped tomatoes and a bit of bottled salsa verde swirled over the top.

If you want to serve the chicken in a wrap, Tortilla Soup is a perfect accompaniment. Feel free to kick up the heat by increasing the amount of chili powder and cayenne, adding more jalapeño, or serving hot sauce on the side.

As you probably know by now, I eat a lot of soup. It really is my favorite “fast food.” This tortilla soup freezes well so you may want to make a double batch.

In my mind, the ultimate way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo is with a margarita on the rocks (with a salted rim) and this gorgeous salsa served with homemade tortilla chips. Now I have tried fruit salsas in the past and was always somewhat dismayed, but this right here is a winner.

Hang on to the recipe because you’ll want to trot it out again during the summer when the berries are ripe. Experiment by adding raspberries and blueberries, too. Why not?

You’ll be piling this vitamin-packed, brilliantly colored salsa on to your morning toast, serving it to all your guests, and standing over the kitchen sink eating it at midnight. It’s THAT good. Believe me, you’ll be making new friends and influencing people with this bowlful of deliciousness, unless you decide to keep it all for yourself.

Creamy Cilantro Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
3/4 cup cream
3/4 cup cilantro, divided
Juice from 1 lime
Salt & pepper to taste

Pound chicken breasts to 1-inch thick. Season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, brown chicken in olive oil over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Combine cubed cream cheese, cream, half the cilantro, and lime juice in a glass measuring cup. Add to skillet and simmer over medium heat until cream cheese is melted and smooth.

Place chicken back into pan. Cover and cook on low heat for another 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and top with remaining cilantro. Yield: 4 servings

Tortilla Soup
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 (24-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 box (4 cups) vegetable broth
2 1/2 tsps. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked rice (optional)

Toppings:
Sliced avocado
Toasted tortilla strips*
Fresh lime juice
Fresh cilantro
Sour cream or plain yogurt

Heat oil over medium heat in a stock pot. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in red pepper, jalapeño, corn and zucchini. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté for 10 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes, broth and spices.

Bring the soup to a low boil then reduce heat to medium, simmering, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Stir in black beans and simmer 2 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and garnish. Yield: 4 servings

*Toasted Tortilla Strips
2 large corn or flour tortillas
2 tsps. olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut tortillas into 1-inch-wide strips. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with seasonings. Bake for 5-7 minutes, until golden. The chips will crisp up more as they cool.

Sunshine Salsa
2 avocados, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 mango or 1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1 1/2 cups strawberries, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1-2 tbsps. lime juice
Sea salt, to taste

Rinse and drain the onion really well after chopping to keep it extra sweet. Combine in a bowl with all the other ingredients. The jalapeño can be seeded if you want the salsa to be milder. Yield: 3 cups

Your questions and comments are always welcome and will be answered. Send your letters to [email protected] or in care of the Coastal Journal.

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