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Spice up your Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with tasty dishes
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Spice up your Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with tasty dishes

Each year, the U.S. celebrates the contributions and influences of its diverse Hispanic population with the observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

And with the U.S. Hispanic population reaching a record-high 60.6 million in 2019, its culinary influences have never been more relevant.

Depending on which historian you ask, tacos either predate the arrival of 15th century Spanish explorers in Mexico or were created by Mexican miners in the 18th century. Regardless of their backstory, tacos have become a cultural phenomenon and are among the most popular foods in America.

Though lesser known in the U.S., empanadas are hugely popular in Spain and Central and South America. The pastries have been a staple of Spanish cuisine since the Middle Ages, and many Latin American cultures provide their own spin on the dish with local ingredients.

With easy recipes that call for little more than seasoned beef and simple toppings, here’s your chance to discover the savory tastes of Latin American and Spanish cooking using Virginia-grown products.


Steak Street Tacos with Spicy Pico De Gallo

3 flat iron steaks (about 1½ pounds)
½ cup Italian dressing
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
12 5” flour tortillas
spicy pico de gallo (recipe follows)
8-ounce package shredded Mexican cheese blend


Cut steaks lengthwise in half, then crosswise into ¼” strips; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine dressing, lime juice, honey, cumin and chile powder. Place beef and marinade in a food-safe plastic bag; turn to coat. Close the bag securely, and refrigerate 30 minutes to 2 hours. Remove beef, and discard the marinade.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add half of the beef; stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until the outside surface of beef is no longer pink (Do not overcook). Repeat with the remaining beef.

Evenly distribute the beef on the tortillas. Top each with 1 tablespoon pico de gallo and 1 tablespoon cheese.

Spicy Pico de Gallo

1½ cups chopped tomato
½ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper
¼ cup hot picante sauce or salsa
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


In a large bowl, combine tomato, onion, cilantro and jalapeño. Stir in picante sauce or salsa and lime juice. Cover; refrigerate 1 hour to let flavors blend.

Source: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association


Mini Beef and Cheese Empanadas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
½ pound ground beef
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 refrigerated pie crusts
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
egg wash


Preheat oven to 400°. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add chopped onion and cook until tender. Add ground beef and seasonings, and stir until well combined. Cook ground beef until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat, and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie crusts. Using a 3” circular crust cutter, cut dough into circles. On one half of each circle, place a spoonful of beef, then top with a small spoonful of cheese. Fold the pie crust over, then press a fork around the edges to seal the pie crust. Repeat with remaining ingredients, then brush all empanadas with egg wash.

Bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.

Source: The Dairy Alliance

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