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Easy Tex-Mex Recipes

by Corina Miller

The aroma of roasting chili peppers, simmering borracho beans and fresh tortillas is a welcoming odor for any Tex-Mex food aficionado. And luckily, it's a treat that even serious Tex-Mex food lovers can savor any night.

While experienced cooks describe the dramatic details involved in preparing chicken enchiladas with green poblano and tomatillo sauce, the intense labor behind spicy pork tamales or the efforts used to hand roll sopapillas, there's an easier path to Tex-Mex treats.

Tex-Mex cuisine is characterized by the presence of common ingredients, including tortillas, meat, beans, cheese and such seasonings as cumin, red and black pepper and garlic. Fortunately, many of those ingredients come ready-made. For example, rather than devote time to cooking your own refried beans, substitute canned beans instead. Or leave your rolling pin alone and pick up a package of ready-made tortillas. Canned stewed tomatoes, canned chicken, grated cheese and pre-blended taco seasonings also add ease to weeknight cooking.

Still not sure how to use those ingredients to recreate your favorite Tex-Mex dishes in minutes rather than hours? Look to books for help. One such book, Mr. Food – Easy Tex-Mex by Art Ginsburg, is chock full of ideas and information on how to whip up speedy chimichangas, pepper jack quesadillas or tortilla soup. Books that specialize in quick and easy meals, such as Easy One-Dish Meals by Barbara C. Jones, also include recipes with a Tex-Mex twist.

So load up on packaged tortillas, jarred salsa, canned beans and grated cheese and hit the kitchen. It's Monday night, and the family's in the mood for something with a pinch of Tex-Mex punch.


Enchilada means "chilied" in Spanish. To make this Tex-Mex staple, Mexican chefs often take the time to steam or roast chili peppers, blend them into a sauce, then use the sauce to top corn tortillas filled with meat, cheese, or both. Enchantingly easy and delightfully delicious, Quickie Chili-Cheese Enchiladas are a weekday answer to a weekend meal. This fast feast pairs canned chili and jarred salsa together to make a sauce that's good enough to sop up with a helping of traditional Mexican rice, while the cheese mellows out the red pepper that brings the chili to life. Add a side of canned refried beans, and you have a complete meal.

Quickie Chili-Cheese Enchiladas

  • 1 can Wolf brand chili
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 16 ounces grated Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • cooking oil
In a small saucepan, heat the chili and salsa and keep the mixture warm. In a large skillet, heat approximately three tablespoons of oil until it is warm. Place tortillas one by one into the warm oil until they are softened, and drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Fill each softened tortilla with approximately one-quarter cup of cheese, then roll. Place the rolled enchilada in a casserole dish. Once all the tortillas are filled, pour chili-salsa mixture over enchiladas and sprinkle any remaining cheese on top. Bake 15 minutes in a 325°F oven. Prep time: 15 minutes; bake time: 15 minutes.


Flautas is the Spanish word for flutes, which accurately describes the shape of this whimsical dish. Paired with a side of canned refried beans and a salad topped with slices of fresh avocado, these flautas are a hit among young diners. Their crispy shell and tube-like shape make them a fun finger food, easy for kids to eat. Mom and Dad will love them too, primarily for their savory, moist chicken filling, accented by mellow green onions and tangy cheddar cheese.

Easy Chicken Flautas

  • 12-15 corn tortillas
  • 2 cans cooked chicken
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • three green onions, chopped
  • toothpicks
  • oil for deep frying
In a large bowl, mix chicken, taco seasoning, cheese, green onions and water. Set aside. In large skillet, heat enough oil to deep-fry food. Cover three to four corn tortillas in a soft cloth and microwave them for one minute. Spoon approximately two tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto the middle of each warmed tortilla, then roll tightly and secure with toothpicks. Fry rolled tortillas in hot oil until golden brown and crisp, turning so that each side has a chance to cook. Drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Keep finished flautas warm. Repeat until all filling has been used. Salt lightly before serving. Prep time: 30 minutes.

Seafood, or mariscos, is popular in Mexican cuisine. Considering Mexico's many miles of gorgeous coastline, it stands to reason that fish and shrimp are found in many Mexican households as well as Mexican restaurants. Mexican cuisine's Tex-Mex relative also includes a special place for seafood. While grilled shrimp is a favorite dish among many Tex-Mex diners, even the most devoted fans sometimes want a change. That's where Red Snapper Vera Cruz comes in. Delicate flaky fish combined with a flavorful tomato sauce, seasoned with a hint of cumin and garlic, make this dish a welcome edition to any table. Serve the fish on a bed of rice and top it with extra sauce, then watch it disappear. A tossed salad adds extra zest to this fish dish.

Red Snapper Vera Cruz

  • cooking spray
  • 4   4-ounce red snappy or orange roughy fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1   8-ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Coat a skillet with cooking spray and place it over medium heat until warm. Using paper towels, gently wipe any excess moisture off of fish, then sprinkle one side of each filet with cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place fish fillets, seasoned side down, in the warmed skillet. Cook three minutes, then turn fillets. Pour in tomatoes and salsa. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for approximately five minutes, or until fish flakes easily. Transfer fish and sauce to a serving dish and garnish with chopped cilantro. Prep time: 20 minutes.

Although not a true Tex-Mex dish, Mexican Turkey Skillet has definite appeal. Spicy and stew-like with its bits of hearty turkey, tender pasta and zippy taco seasoning, it's the type of meal that works best on a cold day. It's also the kind of meal that busy cooks look for, as it's easy to make. Better yet, this recipe also cooks up plenty of leftovers to enjoy at the end of another busy day, so save room in the freezer. With its list of ingredients, there is little need to serve a side with this meal. But if a side is in order, a heated can of black beans or slices of fresh avocado wrapped in packaged flour tortillas work well.

Mexican Turkey Skillet

  • 4 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1   14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces frozen corn, thawed and drained
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 8 ounces grated Cheddar cheese
Cook the pasta according to directions. While cooking the pasta, set a large iron skillet on the stove and heat on medium high heat. Brown the turkey and drain. Stir in the tomatoes, corn, taco seasoning and cooked elbow noodles. Mix thoroughly. Top with cheese. Allow the cheese to melt, then serve. Prep time: 20 minutes.

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