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Whether we're prepping for the holidays, one of the kids' birthday parties, or just having some friends over on a Saturday night, food is almost always the main event. And deciding what to make is often the biggest battle. Making sure the guests enjoy what you chef up, while simultaneously trying to live up to mami's reputation of being the best cook ever can be a really daunting task.

It's like moms and grandmas have some sort of special superpower for making delicious meals. But guess what? While we may want to attribute all of the yumminess of our favorite Latin dishes to our loved one's abilities, it's also all about the ingredients. Latin dishes are usually bursting with flavor because of what goes into them.

More from MamásLatinas: 40 Homemade baby food recipes made with Latin ingredients

From cooking with plátanos to coconut, we know how to infuse Latin flare into our meals.

These ingredients are often subtle reminders of our culture and many times the places we used to call home. Walking into a house where someone's cooking and catching that whiff of ajo, peppers, jalapeños, and whatever else they mixed together to make that delicious meal is an experience that never gets old.

But even if we can't get mami's recipes just right, we can serve up some new dishes that still include some of those yummy ingredients. From bacon olive wraps to plantains stuffed with guava and cheese, there's no limit to the kind of meals you'll be able to serve up at your next event or family dinner. Here's a list of 20 recipes using ingredients commonly found in Latino dishes that'll have your guests packing up that to-go plate.

Olives are heavylifters in Latin dishes. 1

Olives are heavylifters in Latin dishes.

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You either love them or hate them, but olives go well with almost every dish, from rice and beans to salads. They’re full of healthy fats and function as antioxidants, aiding in the prevention of illnesses like heart disease. You can eat them alone, as snack or part of a bigger meal. Best of all, you usually don’t have to prep them or cook them.

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Whip up these bacon olive wraps for a blend of fun flavors. 2

Whip up these bacon olive wraps for a blend of fun flavors.

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Fun and simple to make, these bacon olive wraps function as an appetizer that’s super easy to make. You only need three things: pitted green olives, sliced bacon and cheese sauce. The olives and cheese sauce are wrapped in bacon, that is then broiled for 10 minutes. Prepped and cooked in only 25 minutes, this olive snack is perfect for when you’re on a time crunch.

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Potatoes are the perfect complement to all of our favorite dishes. 3

Potatoes are the perfect complement to all of our favorite dishes.

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It’s hard to think of something you can’t do with potatoes. Mashed, French fries, roasted or boiled, you can have them anyway you like and best of all, they’re pretty easy to prep. In many Latin dishes, potatoes serve as the perfect accompaniment. We put them in soups, eat them for breakfast, pair them with steaks, adorn them with cheese. There’s not a thing we haven’t tried.

You might never throw your potato skins out again after tasting this dish. 4

You might never throw your potato skins out again after tasting this dish.

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We often opt for our potatoes without the skin, but prepared the right way, they’re just as delicious as what’s underneath. By the right way, we mean stuffing them with your choice of ingredients, anything from bacon to onions. This particular recipe calls for chorizo and cheddar, but any choice of cheese will do. The potato skins are brushed with melted butter and seasoned to make them extra tasty once they’re finally out the oven.

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Yuca makes a great substitute for potatoes when you’re into trying something different. 5

Yuca makes a great substitute for potatoes when you’re into trying something different.

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Sometimes referred to as cassava, yuca plays the perfect side to almost anything. Eat them as fries, with a meat like churrasco, or inside a stew like sancocho, they make a meal complete when you’re not into going for the typical rice and beans or a side of french fries. Yuca even packs amazing health benefits. Since it’s rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, the vegetable is great at boosting the immune system and improving overall health.

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This yuca snack will be your go-to guilty pleasure from now on. 6

This yuca snack will be your go-to guilty pleasure from now on.

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Yuca serves as a great ingredient for making appetizers, like these cheese-filled cassava balls, also referred to as bollitos de yuca. In this recipe, the yuca is cooked and turned into a mixture. The mixture is portioned and each piece of yuca is then stuffed with a cube of cheese and rolled into a ball. The bollitos, coated in flour, are then fried, leaving you with a soft, yet crispy snack oozing with cheese.  

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Coconuts are tasty both on vacation and in our everyday foods. 7

Coconuts are tasty both on vacation and in our everyday foods.

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It feels like coconut is popular now more than ever. Coconut-based products including oil, beauty products and drinks seem to be flying off the shelves, but Latin cuisine has long known just how special the fruit actually is. Products like coconut milk have been used to prepare a variety of dishes including rice, fish and desserts.  It’s refreshing, healthy and, of course, reminds us of how much we wish we were on vacation. But for now, we may have to settle for a meal prepared with hints of the tropical fruit.

Try shrimp in coconut milk if you want to have something light, yet tasty. 8

Try shrimp in coconut milk if you want to have something light, yet tasty.

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If you’re a shrimp lover and someone who likes whipping up quick meals, then you might want to bookmark this recipe. To make this meal, season extra large shrimp with lime, salt and pepper. The shrimp are then cooked in a mixture of spices, coconut milk, vegetable broth and tomato sauce. Serve them with the sauce over a side of your choosing, like rice or mashed potatoes, to soak up all the goodness of the soupy mixture.

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Ajo is essential to almost every Latin dish. 9

Ajo is essential to almost every Latin dish.

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It’s hard to name a Latin dish that doesn’t have at least a hint of garlic, or ajo. It’s what gives our meals flavor and that wonderful smell that emanates from our pots once we get the cooking going. Aside from maybe a case of bad breath, garlic is also good for our body. It’s low in calories, improves heart health by aiding in stabilizing cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure and can help fight illnesses like the common cold.

When mixed with butter or other ingredients, garlic can make a great coating. 10

When mixed with butter or other ingredients, garlic can make a great coating.

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In this easy-to-make recipe for honey garlic pork chops, garlic is mixed with ketchup, honey and soy sauce to produce a glaze. The glaze is then brushed onto the seared pork chops as they cook. Once the pork chops are no longer pink in the middle, you’re done! You’ll have tasty pork chops that are ready to be served with anything from French fries to veggies. 

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Not only are plantains easy to make, but from pastelóns to maduros, there’s so many ways you can have them. 11

Not only are plantains easy to make, but from pastelóns to maduros, there’s so many ways you can have them.

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Plátanos, or plantains, are usually eaten in the form of tostones (fried plantains) or maduros (sweet plantains), both popular sides in our culture. Plantains are a part of the banana family but are a lot less sweeter and have a higher starch content. Plantains pack a number of health benefits including being high in potassium, much more than bananas. The potassium and fiber they contain help regulate things like blood pressure and cholesterol, making them a great choice to snack on.

Patacones are a great substitute for when you’re looking for more than just a regular sandwich. 12

Patacones are a great substitute for when you’re looking for more than just a regular sandwich.

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They’re actually very similar to sandwiches, but meat is packed inside two large pieces of fried green plantain instead of bread. The plantain sandwich is then stuffed with your choice of items, ranging from chicken to beef and complemented with lettuce, tomatoes or other veggies. The hardest part of this recipe will be making your meat and prepping the platano pieces, but trust us everything else is super easy and mouth-watering.

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Jalapeños add that burst of heat to any dish. 13

Jalapeños add that burst of heat to any dish.

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Popular in Mexican dishes especially, jalapeños aren’t for the faint of heart. The spicy pepper is used to kick up the heat in many dishes from quesadillas to pizza. If you’re into spicy food, then meals cooked or topped with jalapeños are the way to go since they’re helpful in boosting the body’s metabolism and fat burning properties. Those who consume jalapeños regularly are associated with lower risks of becoming overweight.

These buffalo wing poppers will be a hit at your next dinner party. 14

These buffalo wing poppers will be a hit at your next dinner party.

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If you’re looking for heat, then this dish is packing it. These buffalo wing poppers serve as a great appetizer or snack and will definitely have your guests coming back for more. In this recipe, jalapeño halves are stuffed with a buffalo wing mixture and then baked. The longer they are baked the milder the dish will turn out, allowing you to cater it to your preference.

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Cilantro is the green of choice in many Latin dishes, like tacos. 15

Cilantro is the green of choice in many Latin dishes, like tacos.

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We use cilantro to give our dishes that extra something it needs. From using it to prepare rice to adding it to soups, cilantro is a versatile herb. Cilantro also packs many health benefits that include increased energy and healthier skin and hair. The herb is a great way to add flavor to any dish, without also adding on the extra calories.

This chicken in creamy cilantro lime sauce will become one of your go-to recipes. 16

This chicken in creamy cilantro lime sauce will become one of your go-to recipes.

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Cilantro is often used as the finishing touch that not only adds flavor to the dish, but also makes it really pretty to look at. This recipe calls for cooking chicken in a creamy cilantro lime sauce. Aside from plenty of cilantro, the sauce is also made with chicken broth, a bit of cream and a host of other spices. Best of all, this dish is prepped and cooked in 40 minutes using only one skillet for those that aren’t really into washing dishes.

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Mamey’s creamy texture and sweet flavor makes it ideal for snacks and desserts. 17

Mamey’s creamy texture and sweet flavor makes it ideal for snacks and desserts.

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Fruits serve as a great addition to the end of our night’s menu, whether we’re eating them straight or in some prepared way. Mamey is a sweet fruit that’s usually eaten in the form of a smoothie or shake. The fruit is hard to find as it is native to the Caribbean and Central America and easily spoils once ripe. But the fruit is definitely worth the search.

You might want to eat this entire mamey flan in one sitting. 18

You might want to eat this entire mamey flan in one sitting.

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If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some mamey, then this flan is a delicious choice for a dessert. The flan is made with mamey puree and all the other yummy ingredients that usually go into making a flan, like vanilla, cinnamon and condensed milk. The dessert is pretty easy to prep, but cooking it may run you from 45 min to an hour. Still, it’s definitely worth the wait.

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We often eat guava as cake filling, but it’s so good in other prepared foods, too. 19

 We often eat guava as cake filling, but it’s so good in other prepared foods, too.

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Of course you can eat guava straight as a fruit, but it’s also available as a jam, as a juice flavor and even in candy. It’s a tropical fruit, possibly native to either Mexico or Central America. Nutrients within the guava fruit are believed to help with a host of issues including poor eyesight, diarrhea and constipation.

 

This Colombian treat involving guava filling and cheese is worth every bite. 20

This Colombian treat involving guava filling and cheese is worth every bite.

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Known as plátanos asados con bocadillo y queso, this food is essentially a baked plantain filled with guava paste and mozzarella cheese. Whole ripe plantains are slit down the middle, brushed with butter, stuffed and baked. Just the process alone sounds mouth-watering. This meal can either be prepared as an appetizer or snack.

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Whether you eat them raw or cooked, onions are a staple ingredient in almost any Latin dish. 21

Whether you eat them raw or cooked, onions are a staple ingredient in almost any Latin dish.

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Whether they’re pickled red onions as a topping on mangu or caramelized atop a bistec encebollado, onions pack an extra kick that’s bad for our breath, but good for our meals. Onions come in different colors liked red, yellow and white and all differ in taste from sweet to spicy to pungent. They’re also nutrient-dense and low in calories, making them a great pairing to many dishes.

Though the actual onions might make you shed a few tears, this recipe won’t. 22

Though the actual onions might make you shed a few tears, this recipe won’t.

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Onions always make a good burger topping. This recipe calls for caramelized onions atop a chorizo/beef patty. The patty is made by mixing ground beef, chorizo, adobo, and grated onion until they’re all thoroughly combined. The onions are are caramelized in a mixture of salt, pepper, jalapenos, and brown sugar in heated olive oil for 15 minutes. The burger comes together on a potato roll spread with red pepper mayonnaise to make a delicious meal.

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From dips to inside our rice, our Latin dishes are packed with beans. 23

From dips to inside our rice, our Latin dishes are packed with beans.

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Whether pinto, black, kidney or any other kind, we love cooking beans. Sometime we cook them with rice, seasoned on the side and sometimes even mashed into a filling for a food like pupusas. Although beans are notoriously associated with flatulence, they’re packing more positives than negatives. Beans are high in protein and fiber, which both aid in weight loss. They also promote heart health and can aid in fighting type 2 diabetes.

Beans can serve as either an appetizer, entree, or even a dessert like habichuelas con dulce. 24

Beans can serve as either an appetizer, entree, or even a dessert like habichuelas con dulce.

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Beans don’t always have to be a part of the main entree. Sometimes they’re perfect as a snack, like a refried bean dip. While this particular recipe calls for canned refried beans, you can always make your own if you’re up to the task. But if you’re on a time crunch, canned ones will do. This bean dip mixes plenty of tasty ingredients like cream cheese, taco seasoning, and green onions with the refried beans to make a dip that’ll have others leaving with the recipe.

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Corn is such a common Latin ingredient, we’re probably eating it, even when we don’t realize it. 25

Corn is such a common Latin ingredient, we’re probably eating it, even when we don’t realize it.

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Though we love eating corn right off the cob, in our salads, or cooked with rice, so many dishes are made from corn products. Tortillas, cornmeal and arepas are just a few examples. It’s a veggie we don’t mind eating. Corn is mostly carbs, but it’s a decent source of protein, too. Depending on the corn type, the vegetable is also rich in vitamins and minerals, like magnesium and potassium.

This recipe for cheesy corn poppers might become one of your new favorites. 26

This recipe for cheesy corn poppers might become one of your new favorites.

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In order to create the poppers, mix corn, mozzarella, cream cheese, green onions, chili powder and salt and pepper. In order to make the mixture consistent enough to turn into balls that will later be fried, add cornmeal, flour and eggs to the bowl. Though we know you can’t wait to eat these treats, be patient in frying the poppers since overcrowding the pot will lengthen frying time and make the balls greasy.

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Cheese can take any dish from regular to mouth-watering. 27

Cheese can take any dish from regular to mouth-watering.

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Cheese is such a universal ingredient that it might be central to any cuisine, but especially Latin. We eat it for breakfast as part of a tres golpes dish or sprinkled on our enchiladas or refried beans. The type of cheese you’re having will determine its calories or benefits, but keep in mind cheese is a high-fat and high-calorie food. Though it’s so good no matter how you have it, if you’re watching your weight or health, it’s best in moderation.

Queso fundido might be every cheese lover’s food dream. 28

Queso fundido might be every cheese lover’s food dream.

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Queso fundido is a blended delight of several Mexican cheeses. But since some of these may be hard to find, this recipe uses monterrey or oaxaca cheese, though mozzarella and muenster cheese also work. The cheese is baked over chorizo in an oven-safe dish to make a treat that's perfect for an appetizer or game night snack. Queso fundido is a scoopable dip and can be eaten with plenty of tortilla chips.

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Though we’ve known avocado as a vegetable, it’s technically a fruit and that must finally explain why it’s so tasty. 29

Though we’ve known avocado as a vegetable, it’s technically a fruit and that must finally explain why it’s so tasty.

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Eaten as a side to the main entree, in a salad or as guacamole, we might never get tired of avocado or aguacate. Besides the taste, what makes them even better is that they’re incredibly nutritious, full of all the healthy fats that are actually good for our hearts. Done in the right ratios, it’s even possible to substitute some butter for avocado when baking. This will kick up the nutritious levels of the sweet goods you’re making.

Salads don’t have to be boring and this avocado watermelon salad proves it. 30

Salads don’t have to be boring and this avocado watermelon salad proves it.

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Refreshing and easy to make, this avocado watermelon salad is both good for you and yummy. Cut up some watermelon, avocado and radish, and add feta, red onions, mint, chives and salt and pepper, and you have your salad. Serve this up as a snack or as a side salad to your favorite entree, and your menu’s a guaranteed winner.

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Though known as the Mexican husk tomato, tomatillos are not tomatoes. 31

Though known as the Mexican husk tomato, tomatillos are not tomatoes.

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Often used in Mexican cooking, tomatillos appear to be green tomatoes but they’re actually their own fruits. They are more acidic and less sweet than tomatoes making their tangy flavor perfect for vinaigrettes and sauces. Tomatillos are also often used to make salsas or as a topping for foods, like tostadas. Not only are they tasty when eaten, but they’re also believed to fight inflammation and prevent the formation of blood vessels that promote cancer growth.

Tomatillos are the perfect addition to the mix of peppers prepared for fajitas. 32

Tomatillos are the perfect addition to the mix of peppers prepared for fajitas.

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Not only are fajitas super delicious, but all that veggie content makes them a lot more healthy. To add in some more flavor, throw in some sliced pieces of tomatillos. The tomatillos are cooked in a dry pan over medium-high heat until they’re slightly charred all over. Once the chicken and peppers are cooked, fold in the tomatillos and serve over tortillas. The plate’s yumminess will have you going back for seconds.

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If there’s one plate you associate with Latino culture, it’s rice and beans. 33

If there’s one plate you associate with Latino culture, it’s rice and beans.

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We can eat it for days at a time with meat or fish and not get tired of it. It’s filling and though rice can get tricky, it's easy to make it, once you’ve mastered the water to rice ratio. Rice is a cereal grain and comes in more than 40,000 varieties ranging from jasmine to black pearl. It’s also believed to stabilize blood sugar levels and to slow down the aging process, among numerous other benefits.

Rice picks up flavor easily, allowing you to make it with any ingredients or spices of your choice. 34

Rice picks up flavor easily, allowing you to make it with any ingredients or spices of your choice.

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A locrio is a great dish to make when you’re feeding a bunch of people, but don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. The dish is similar to paella, except instead of a variety of seafood, the rice is prepped with anything from chuletas to pollo. First, the chicken is marinated and browned. The rice is the last thing thrown in, but once it’s cooking it’s very low maintenance. You just sit back and wait until the meal is done, occasionally checking its progress.

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Lime usually adds that sprinkle of extra zest our plate may be missing. 35

Lime usually adds that sprinkle of extra zest our plate may be missing.

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We squeeze lime onto and into everything from our margaritas to our soups. It’s typical for dishes like sancocho or tacos to be served with a side of lime. Limes are also used during cooking to further enhance the flavor of what we’re making. Aside from adding flavor, limes are also helpful in weight loss, improving digestion, lowering cholesterol and risk of stroke and preventing certain heart diseases.

Lime is a great ingredient for preparing most types of fish, like this baked honey cilantro lime salmon. 36

Lime is a great ingredient for preparing most types of fish, like this baked honey cilantro lime salmon.

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Ready in just 30 minutes, this salmon recipe packs a bunch of flavor. In order to prepare the glaze for the salmon, just mix freshly squeezed lime juice, melted butter, garlic and honey. The glaze is poured over the salmon and the salmon is wrapped in foil and then baked until ready. That’s it. Not all tasty dishes require hours in the kitchen.

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Chayote, a fruit often used in Latin American cuisine, can be eaten raw in salads, but is usually cooked. 37

Chayote, a fruit often used in Latin American cuisine, can be eaten raw in salads, but is usually cooked.

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The chayote, or tayota in Spanish, is basically a squash that appears to look like a pear. It’s native to central Mexico and there, it is usually served with mole. But there’s so many ways you can prepare chayote from cooking it inside soups to preparing out-of-the-box recipes like stuffed chayote. Chayote’s high in fiber, making it a great fruit for those that want to control their blood sugar levels and cholesterol. The fruit also has anti-inflammatory properties that help treat kidney stones, indigestion and high blood pressure.

Chayote with eggs is a simple, yet oddly gratifying dish. 38

Chayote with eggs is a simple, yet oddly gratifying dish.

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The chayotes are cooked by boiling them in salted water until they are tender. They are then peeled and cut into small cubes and simmered over low heat with a mixture of pepper, tomatoes and garlic. The eggs are then added and cooked until they set. This dish is popularly served with rice and beans, but if you’re feeling like just having a snack, it’s yummy all on its own.

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No matter what flavor you’re craving spicy or sweet, peppers will help you achieve it. 39

No matter what flavor you’re craving spicy or sweet, peppers will help you achieve it.

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Peppers come in all sizes, flavors and colors. Some are spicy, like jalapenos, and others are sweet, like cherry peppers. In Latin cuisine, they’re used to liven up a dish by adding both color and that extra something that takes the meal to the next level. Eaten raw or cooked, peppers are also good for you. They’re low in calories and pack on potassium, folic acid, fiber and vitamins A and C.

Stuffed peppers are a filling meal that can be catered toward what you like. 40

Stuffed peppers are a filling meal that can be catered toward what you like.

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These taco-stuffed mini peppers are light and healthy, but also offer up a lot of flavor. To make them, sweet mini bell peppers are stuffed with ingredients like ground turkey, cheese and taco seasoning. But the recipe is very flexible and you can stuff them with ingredients of your choice. Once stuffed, the peppers are baked for 15 minutes, then topped with cheese and baked for another 5. These peppers will taste so good, they might become a staple in your home.

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