In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the state of Puebla.  It has major significance in that part of the country because it commemorates an initial victory of Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 6, 1862.

There is a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day when in fact September 16th is the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico. In the early hours of September 16, 1810, father Hidalgo, accompanied by several conspirators (Iganacio Allende, Doña Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez to name a few), rang the bell at his church calling on everyone to fight for liberty.  This was the beginning of the Mexican Independence War, which lasted 10 years.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on meaning beyond that in Puebla, Mexico. Regardless of their own ethnic descent, Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day and Oktoberfest (among other holidays) to honor those of Irish and German descent.  Similiarly, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated to honor the culture and experience of those of Mexican descent.

Especially in cities with large populations of those of Mexican ancestry, such as Los Angeles, San Fransico and San Antonio, Cinco de Mayo is grandly celebrated. This is the perfect occasion for planning a home theme party so I thought I would help you get started by sharing a few of my favorite Cinco de Mayo recipes.

Appetizer--Warm Chipotle Cheddar Dip

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1-8 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained (3/4 cup) 1-4 oz. can chopped green chili peppers, drained 2 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce (or to taste) 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped (3/4 cup) 1/4 cup sliced green onion 2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro Vegetables, crackers or chips

I found this dip when I was on a low carb diet and was looking for a party appetizer that would work well with vegetables.  Something with a robust flavor that would perk up the veggies.

Well this one definitely fit the bill. This appetizer has become a favorite among my friends. It's served multiple times throughout the year at various parties that I either host or attend.

You can make it as smokey and spicy as you want by adjusting the amount of chipotle peppers (smoked jalepenos) but watch out. You can easily go from mildly spicy to blow-your-face-off hot by adding too much!

Steps to Make Cheddar Chipotle Dip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together cheeses, mayonnaise, corn, green chili peppers, chipotle chili peppers and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl. Spread mixture into a 1 quart, covered dish.

Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly.  Top with tomato, green onion and cilantro.  I like to make a pattern out of the toppings so I put the tomatoes all in the middle, make a ring around them with the green onion then sprinkle the cilantro over all.

Serve with vegetables, like red, green and yellow peppers.  Tostido and Frito Scoops work well too.

Main Course--Chicken with Chocolate Sauce (Mole Poblano)

4 tablespoons olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 6 chicken breast halves, skinless and boneless 1 onion, chopped 1 green pepper, chopped 3 slices canned pimento, chopped 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped 2 tablespoons chili powder (or to taste) 2-1/2 cups chicken broth 1/4 cup slivered almonds 1/4 cup raisins 1/2 teaspoon cumin 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon sugar Grated rind of 1 orange 2 squares bitter chocolate, chopped 1/4 cup light rum (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a casserole, heat oil and cook garlic for a few minutes to flavor the oil.  Add chicken just to brown (it will finish cooking in the oven) and then remove it from the pan.

In the remaining fat, cook onion, green pepper, pimento and tomato over gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add chili powder, blending well.

Add broth, almonds, raisins, seasonings and rind.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes then add the chocolate and stir until melted.

Add chicken back in and spoon sauce on top.

Cover and bake for 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Warm rum, ignite it and pour over contents of casserole.  Allow to stand for a few minutes until flame is extinguished and then serve on a large platter.

Serves 6.

Cocktail--Golden Margarita, Vero Beach Style

1-1/2 oz. Gold Tequila 1/2 oz. lime juice 3 oz sour mix 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier (can use Cointreau or Triple Sec) Dash of orange juice Lime wedge for garnish Salt for rimming glass (optional)

Several years ago, my husband and I were sitting at a cute little beachfront bar in Vero Beach, Florida.  The bartender asked us for our order and I wanted to try something new.  He told us that he makes a "mean margarita."

I told him that my experience with margaritas up to that point was not very good.  Every time I tried one, they were either so tart that my face would pucker up or the sour mix was so acidy that it burned going down.

He claimed that his "Golden Margarita" would be different. He was right and I have loved them ever since.

To make a Golden Margarita, Vero Beach style:

Dip the rim of a margarita glass in water then salt.

In a shaker, combine tequila, lime juice and sour mix with ice cubes. Shake well. Pour contents, with ice, into the glass.

Gently pour the Grand Marnier and then the orange juice on top of the tequila mixture. Garnish with the lime wedge.

When you take a sip of this drink, first you get the sweet taste of the orange liqueur and juice then you get the tartness of the lime and sour mix. The combination makes a perfectly smooth Margarita.

Now that you know the meaning of Cinco de Mayo and have a bunch of great party recipesFree Reprint Articles, start planning your party now. May 5th will be here before you know it.