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(Family Features) When the school year is back in full swing, families often find themselves battling the mealtime crunch. Mexican-inspired meals bursting with flavor are known family-friendly picks that can be easily prepared and put on the table on those frenzied weeknights.

These simple ideas from the experts at Ortega can help make “taco night” and other Mexican meals better than ever.

Encourage kids to get hands-on. It’s no secret that kids like finger foods, and many Mexican dishes are best enjoyed by hand. Tacos are an obvious favorite, but other options like quesadillas, taquitos and Ortega Fiesta Flats are also easy to enjoy sans silverware.

Step outside of tradition. If you’re looking for something that makes mealtime feel extra special, skip the basic taco and choose a meal kit that lets you serve up a restaurant-style experience at home. For example, Ortega’s Bakeable Tortilla Bowl Kits bring a new and simple way to change up your Mexican meals. Just bake and fill with your favorite ingredients.

Offer a variety of ingredients. One of the benefits of a Mexican meal is all the ways each family member can customize plates to their own tastes. Try setting out a wide range of ingredients and encourage the kids to experiment with toppings they may not have tried before, like olives and guacamole.

Don’t forget the sauce. Taco sauces can bring unique, unexpected flavor to recipes. One to try is Ortega’s line of bold and creamy Flavor Craver Taco Sauces. Varieties include Taco Ranch, Chipotle and Jalapeno Lime, all perfect for tacos, taco salads, dips, burgers and more.

Stock Your Pantry for Mexican Cooking

You can enjoy the flavors of a Mexican cantina in your kitchen anytime if you’re stocked up with the right goods.

Pantry and Dry Goods

  1. Keep dried or canned chiles of all sorts on-hand. Dried chiles include ancho, chipotle, guajillo, negro and mulato.
  2. Expand your spice rack with Mexican staples like chili powder, cayenne pepper and paprika, as well as oregano and cumin.
  3. Buy white rice in bulk so you can create Spanish rice to accompany any dish.
  4. Stock up on canned refried beans, black beans and pinto beans for use in your favorite Mexican dishes.

 

Refrigerator and Produce

  1. Keep ready-made salsa and spicy sauces chilled and serve them alongside chips, tacos and other Mexican dishes.
  2. Always have garlic, onions and fresh cilantro handy. Keep lemons and limes within reach to add bright flavor to your dishes. Also, buy fresh chiles like jalapeno and pasilla to spice up a variety of dishes. If possible, grow them yourself.
  3. Store flour and corn tortillas in your cupboard or refrigerator to create burritos, tacos, enchiladas and wraps.
  4. Keep Monterey Jack, queso fresco and cotija cheese on-hand to include in enchiladas and burritos.

Find more recipes and ideas to add a unique twist to any Mexican meal at Ortega.com.

Poblano Ranch Tacos

Makes: 8 tacos

  • 2          tablespoons olive oil
  • 4          poblano peppers, sliced
  • 1          yellow onion, sliced
  • 1          tablespoon fresh lime juice (optional)
  • 1          box Ortega Yellow Corn Taco Shells
  • 6          radishes, sliced
  • 1          cup corn kernels
  • 1          cup cotija cheese
  • 1          bottle Ortega Flavor Craver Ranch Taco Sauce, to taste
  1. Add olive oil to skillet over medium heat. Add sliced poblano peppers and yellow onion to pan. Saute until cooked through. Add squeeze of lime to pepper and onion mixture, if desired.
  2. Bake taco shells according to package directions. To assemble tacos, add poblano and onion mixture to base of taco. Top with sliced radishes, corn and cotija cheese. Finish with taco sauce.

Steak Fajita Burrito Bowl

Makes: 4 bowls

3          tablespoons olive oil, divided
1          pound skirt steak
1          red pepper, sliced
1          yellow pepper, sliced
1          package instant rice
1          tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2       packet Ortega Original Taco Seasoning
1          Ortega Bakeable Tortilla Bowl Kit
3          cups green leaf lettuce, sliced
2          avocados, diced
1          cup corn kernels
1/2       cup cotija cheese
1          bottle Ortega Green Taco Sauce, to taste

  1. Add 2 tablespoons oil to skillet over medium-high heat. Cook skirt steak 5 minutes on each side. Remove steak from pan and let rest. When cooled, slice into strips.
  2. Add remaining olive oil to skillet over medium-high heat. Saute red and yellow peppers until cooked through.
  3. Prepare rice as directed on package. Add squeeze of lime and taco seasoning. Stir to combine.
  4. Prepare tortilla bowls as directed on package. Fill with rice, shredded lettuce, sliced steak and peppers. Top with diced avocado, corn and cotija cheese. Finish with taco sauce.

Southwest Chicken Salad

Makes: 4 bowls

  • 2          tablespoons olive oil
  • 4          chicken breasts
  • 2          teaspoons chili powder
  • 1          Ortega Bakeable Tortilla Bowl Kit
  • 3          cups green leaf lettuce, sliced
  • 1          can Ortega Black Beans
  • 1          cup corn kernels
  • 2          avocados, diced
  • 1          tomato, diced
  • 1          cup cotija cheese
  • 1          bottle Ortega Flavor Craver Ranch Taco Sauce, to taste
  1. Add olive oil to skillet over medium heat. Coat chicken with chili powder. Cook chicken 8 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and let rest. Slice chicken into strips when cooled.
  2. Prepare tortilla bowls as directed on package. Fill with shredded lettuce, black beans, corn and sliced chicken. Top with diced avocado, tomato and cotija cheese. Finish with taco sauce.

SOURCE:
Ortega

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