Make it fresh for your family

Tex-Mex Sides from Scratch

by Alison Wood

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Tex-Mex Cuisine has become well-loved by many Americans. Food manufacturers are not ignorant to this fact and have begun creating Tex-Mex foods that are easily heated and enjoyed. However, cooking from scratch can save you some extra cash as well as ensure that you are getting fresh ingredients every time you eat!

The next time a Tex-Mex craving hits your family, try these recipes to create fresh-tasting, frugal-friendly and healthy recipes for your bunch!

Re-fried Beans

Don't let the ease and conveniences of store-bought re-fried beans trick you into overspending on your favorite Tex-Mex side dish. Just try cooking a pot of homemade re-fried beans and see if you don't become a believer!

8 cups cooked pinto beans (canned or fresh)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon or chicken seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water

In a large pot, saute onion and garlic in one Tablespoon oil. Once onions are soft, remove from heat. Add all additional ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer until smooth. Return to large pot and heat through. Add water if you desire a thinner consistency.

Chunky Tomato Salsa

Tortilla chips just don't taste quite right without amazing salsa. Don't you love the fresh, homemade salsa all the Mexican restaurants serve? If your budget is tight, you can still enjoy some homemade tortilla chips and salsa in the comforts of your very own home. A simple tortilla chip recipe follows this one.

3 1/2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 serrano pepper (California Green Chile), seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine everything except the tomato paste, vinegar, and lemon juice into a large sauce pan. Stir until thoroughly incorporated. Then, add the tomato paste, vinegar, and lemon juice. Stir again and bring salsa to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for one hour, uncovered. Let cool and refrigerate. Serve with homemade tortilla chips. Yields: 4 servings

Easy, Homemade Tortilla Chips

One of our family's favorite side dishes is tortilla chips. However, they are too pricey for our budget. After several attempts at making these yummy munchies at home, I came up with an easy restaurant-style tortilla chip. You will kick yourself for not thinking of this earlier!

10 store-bought flour tortillas

Cut tortillas into triangles. Six triangles per tortilla will give you a good-sized chip. Next, heat two inches of oil in a frying pan. Once hot, add tortilla triangles. Fry until golden brown, turning once. Drain. Then salt to taste just before serving. Yields: 6 servings

Nacho Cheese Sauce

If you're a cheese lover, you'll love this cheesy dip that doesn't use processed cheese! No cans or Velveeta blocks here, just freshly grated cheese! Ready in minutes, your family will enjoy your Tex-Mex feast!

8oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4oz shredded pepper jack cheese
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 can evaporated milk
1 dash salt
Dash of hot sauce

In a medium sauce pan, toss the shredded cheeses with cornstarch. Stir in the milk and salt and allow cheese to melt over low heat. When cheeses are melted, it's ready to serve! Keep the sauce on a warmer while serving so it stays soft and creamy. Yields: 6 servings

Simple Mexican Fried Rice

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons your favorite taco seasoning
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
Dash of hot sauce

In a large sauce pan, place the butter. Heat the sauce pan on medium heat. Once butter is slightly melted, add rice and stir constantly. Add garlic salt, cumin and taco seasoning. Continue to cook until rice is golden. Once the rice is golden, add onions and continue to cook until onions are tender. Now, add your tomato sauce and chicken broth. Bring rice mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low until rice is tender. Stir in a dash of hot sauce before serving. Yields: 4 servings.

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Alison Wood is a writer for several online parenting resources, a missionary in Southeast Asia, mom to six kiddos and blogs about parenting, pregnancy and frugal living at Pint-Sized Treasures. Visit Alison on Google+.

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