Mexican Food Americanized


Do you like Mexican food?  I sure do!  Unless you are Mexican or eat in a Mexican restaurant what we prepare at home is probably  what I call “Americanized” Mexican food. Remember all the taco casserole recipes that were popular in the recent past?

Mexican food has such a variety of flavors, colors, textures, and is just generally satisfyingly great!  I have one friend who won’t eat Mexican food because she thinks it’s “too spicy” but to enjoy Mexican food you really don’t need a fire truck sitting by to put out the flames!

Mucho pleasure can be derived from eating a variety of spices, herbs, sauces, marinades and seasonings.  Mexican food, even the Americanized version, fits the bill for food with great flavor.  The first recipe, Pinto Beans Enchilada Stack, first appeared in Southern Living magazine, but I’ve added to and tweaked the original recipe. Flavor intensifiers include garlic, taco seasoning, onion and many of the optional suggested toppings.


Pinto Beans Enchilada Stack
Serves 6
An interesting way to serve enchiladas, stacked vertically instead of placed in a pan horizontally! Serve by cutting stack into wedges like you were cutting a cake or pie. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and optional suggested toppings.
Write a review
Save Recipe
  1. 1 onion, chopped
  2. 1 bell pepper, chopped
  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  4. 2-3 tablespoons oil
  5. 1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey)
  6. 1 (1.25 oz.) envelope taco seasoning mix
  7. 1 (16-oz.) can refried beans
  8. 1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  9. 5 (10-inch) burrito-sized flour tortillas
  10. 2 1/2 cups (10 oz.) shredded cheese (Mexican, cheddar or your favorite)
  11. 1/2 cup canned enchilada sauce
  12. Toppings: chopped tomatoes, chopped green onions, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Saute onion, bell pepper, and garlic until softened over medium heat in a large skillet. Remove from skillet.
  3. Brown ground beef in skillet over medium high heat 6-7 minutes until meat crumbles and is no longer pink.
  4. Add taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water and cook 1-2 minutes or until thickened.
  5. Stir together refried beans and pinto beans.
  6. Place 1 tortilla on a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined pan. Top tortilla with half of the meat mixture and 1/2 cup cheese; top with another tortilla, half of the refried bean mixture, half of the enchilada sauce and 1/2 cup cheese.
  7. Top with another tortilla and repeat layers once. Top with remaining tortilla.
  8. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 16-18 minutes or until thoroughly heated and browned.
  9. Top tortilla with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake 2-3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
  10. Cut into wedges and serve with desired toppings.
  1. A deep pan just larger than the tortillas keeps the "stack" together better. Otherwise the stack may tend to shift when being moved into and out of the oven.
Adapted from Southern Living
Adapted from Southern Living

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake is wonderfully caramel.  This recipe is from Nestle who makes La Lechera, their brand name for Dulce de Leche. Dulce de Leche is traditionally a mixture of milk and sugar that’s slowly cooked until the sugar caramelizes.  In the past some have made it by cooking sweetened condensed milk in the top of a double boiler over boiling water for 40-50 minutes until it becomes thick and caramel-colored.  That sounds like a lot of trouble to go to when there is dulce de leche in a can readily available at Walmart as well as other retail stores.

I prepared this recipe once in a chocolate crumb crust but I found that I prefer the way it tastes in a graham cracker crust.  Either way, it’s heavenly!


No-Bake Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
Serves 6
A wonderfully caramel no-bake cheesecake made with readily available La Lechera Dulce de Leche.
Write a review
Save Recipe
Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
  1. 1 envelope (7 grams) unflavored gelatin
  2. 1/2 cup hot water
  3. 1 (13.4 oz.) can Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche
  4. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  5. 1 cup whipped cream + 1 tablespoon sugar, whipped until soft peaks form
  6. 1 prepared 10" (9 oz.) graham cracker crust
  7. Optional: Chocolate Syrup
  1. Mix gelatin and hot water in a small bowl until gelatin is dissolved; set aside.
  2. Beat cream cheese and dulce de leche in a large mixer bowl until creamy.
  3. Stir in gelatin mixture and vanilla extract.
  4. Fold in whipped cream.
  5. Pour into graham cracker crust.
  6. Refrigerated for at least 3 hours or until set.
  7. Optional: Serve drizzled with chocolate syrup.
  1. Knox gelatin makes an unflavored gelatin which is usually located near Jello in the supermarket.

By the way, did I mention this recipe is No-Bake?  This is a great recipe for summer since no oven is involved in the preparation.  Whipped cream, chocolate syrup and/or chocolate curls may be added to garnish the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake.  If you like caramel, you will love it!

If you’ve never tried Mexican food, please be adventurous and try it! 

Remember to Savor the Flavor!



Marinades as Flavor Intensifiers

Adding flavor intensifiers to our food enhances the taste, which is important in people over 60 who have some loss of the taste sensation.  Immersing food in a marinade for a period of time is a great way to give food a flavor boost as well as adding moisture which results in a juicier end product.  Marinating food is a technique that has been used throughout history as acidic mixtures have been used to preserve foods as far back as the Renaissance.  The technique of adding flavor by immersion in liquid is also part of the pickling process when food is submerged in brine. 

Marinades are commonly used to intensify flavor in foods and/or to tenderize tougher cuts of meat.  Ingredients used in marinades vary with different cuisines using different marinades.  An acidic element, such as vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or wine, boosts flavor and causes tissue to break down, allowing more moisture to be absorbed in meat.  Oil coats the food, carries flavor and helps food stay moist.  Other ingredients, such as soy sauce, herbs, spices, garlic, and fresh ginger, enhance the savory qualities of meats, fish and poultry.  A good marinade has a balance of acid, oil and spices.

Maximizing surface area maximizes flavor.  Small, thin cuts of meat and poultry are wonderful for marinating. (Larger cuts offer less surface area.)

For easy clean-up perhaps the best way to use a marinade is to place the item to be marinated with the marinade in a zip-top plastic bag.  The bag can be turned over and over until all the food is coated.  Glass, ceramic, and stainless steel bowls or pans can be used also.  Avoid using a marinade in anything made of copper or aluminum however, because these metals may react to the acid in the marinade and give food a metallic taste as well as discoloring the food.

Always place marinated foods in the refrigerator for the specified time indicated on the recipe.  Refrigeration will prevent or inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the food.  Meats may marinate for a day or so but chicken, fish and shellfish usually marinate for several hours.  Refer to the recipe for the specific time for marinating.

Flavor can be added to vegetables, olives, cheeses, and other foods by marinating them.  Today’s recipe focuses on chicken fingers marinated in soy sauce, honey, ginger and other Asian-inspired spices. (I love these spices!)  Following the recipe for Grilled Chicken Fingers with Peanut Sauce is another recipe for a unique way to prepare green beans.  Bon Appetit!

Grilled Chicken Fingers with Peanut Sauce

Yield:  6 servings


1 1/2 pounds chicken fingers (you can cut your own from chicken breasts)

6 tablespoons soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon honey


Place chicken and marinade ingredients together in a large zip-top bag, turning the bag over to ensure all the chicken is coated with the marinade.  Place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

                Chicken Fingers in Marinade

Prepare Peanut Sauce while chicken is in the marinade.  Grill chicken on outdoor grill, indoor stove top grill pan or broil for 12-15 minutes.  Grill chicken until done.

                          Chicken Grilling

(Time depends on the temperature of your grill.)  Serve with rice and peanut sauce.

   Chicken Fingers with Rice and Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce


4 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons peanut butter

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Combine all sauce ingredients and serve with chicken.  Serve in individual ramekins (if available) for a nice presentation. 

                    Peanut Sauce Ingredients

A friend gave me some fresh green beans out of her garden this week and this is the recipe I used to prepare them.  I think it’s quite an unusual way to prepare green beans but very good!

Roasted Green Beans


3/4 pound fresh green beans, trimmed

1 small onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil


Place beans in a saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil.  Cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Drain.

           Green Beans draining in a colander

Place beans in an 11″x 7″x 2″ baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Top with onion and garlic.  Drizzle with vinegar and oil; toss to coat.

Drizzle green beans with red wine vinegar and olive oil

Bake, uncovered at 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes.  Stir and bake 5 minutes longer.

                         Roasted Green Beans

Marinades are a great way to ramp up the flavor in certain foods.  Spices and herbs added to the marinades intensify the flavors of the finished product.  Try marinating meats, chicken, seafood, vegetables, cheeses – whatever!  You’re sure to enjoy the intense flavor imparted by the marinade.

Remember to savor the flavor!


Some Like it Cold / Ice Cream & Sorbet

Some of our fondest memories of childhood focus around ice cream.  Immediately I think of ice cream cones, ice cream sandwiches, Eskimo pies and the little sherbet push-ups we enjoyed only at the drive-in movies.  All the children’s birthday parties we attended served birthday cake with ice cream.  For a few years … Continue reading →

Some Like it Hot / Summer Soups

Did you ever see the 1959 comedy “Some Like it Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis?  When I saw this as a youngster, I thought it was simply hilarious.  Curtis and Lemmon portrayed 2 musicians who witnessed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and were desperately trying to … Continue reading →

Glazes as Flavor Intensifiers

In relation to food, a glaze is an element that covers a food with a smooth, shiny coating or glossy finish.  Glazes are also great flavor intensifiers, often the “icing on the cake,” pun intended.  Consider the difference in a baked ham without a glaze and one that has been … Continue reading →

Simple Savory Summer Suppers / Part 2

A meal I always associate with summer includes Salmon Patties and Fried Potatoes that my paternal grandmother used to prepare for me.  In this menu, I’ve exchanged the Fried Potatoes for Savory Oven-Roasted Potatoes.  My grandmother always cooked green beans to go with this meal but I’m making Zucchini-Tomato Parmesan to … Continue reading →

Simple Savory Summer Suppers / Part 1

Preparing meals that are simple, light and that don’t require long periods of time spent in a hot kitchen always appeal but never more so than in the summer months.  Today’s post features 2 complete supper menus with recipes and photos.  These recipes utilize foods that are available in the … Continue reading →

A Pilgrimage for Peaches / A Summer Tradition

Peaches and nostalgia!  For many summers my parents and I drove to Filbert, South Carolina annually to visit The Peach Tree Orchards  to buy fresh, delicious peaches.  Now that my parents are gone, my husband Dave and I continue the tradition, making the 40 mile trek yearly. Peaches are my … Continue reading →

A Salute to Simple Summer Beverages

Tall icy beverages are the very symbol of summertime refreshment.  In my last post, I emphasized how important it is for those of us over 60 to make sure we are drinking enough water and other liquids. There are many delicious summer beverages that we can also enjoy in addition to water, … Continue reading →