One day of celebration that has fallen by the wayside is referred to as “May Day” or “May Basket Day.”  It used to be the custom for children to pick spring flowers and arrange them in baskets (which were often made of pretty paper).  Sometimes the baskets contained candy and/or small trinkets as well as colorful blooms.  These special gifts were hung on the doorknobs of friends and neighbors, after which the giver would knock on the door or ring the doorbell and run away.

Several years ago, Adam and Molly (the younger two of my three children) had learned about May Day at school.  At the time, we had some huge spirea bushes in our front yard.  On the first day of May, they were conveniently loaded with blooms.  An older lady lived in the house behind us; her home faced the street that ran beside our corner property.   Her side door exited close to the alley between us, and she had placed a couple of lawn chairs near it so she could enjoy time sitting outdoors.  Molly could frequently be found chatting with this neighbor when she was outside.

Armed with their newly-acquired knowledge of May Day traditions, Adam and Molly created a basket for their across-the-alley acquaintance.  Unbeknownst to me, they hung it on her side door, rang the doorbell, and fled.  “Mrs. G” came out, looked around, and seeing nobody, she went back inside.  The doorbell scenario repeated itself a couple of times.  Adam and Molly didn’t want to ruin the surprise, so they stayed hidden when Mrs. G checked to see who was ringing her bell.  However, she must have caught a glimpse of them because their mother received a telephone call.

When I answered my phone, a very perturbed neighbor was on the other end of the line.  “Your children are ringing my doorbell and then running away,” she informed me.  “I want them to stop!”  “I’ll take care of them,” I told her.

Stepping outside, I called my offspring to come inside.  They obeyed, and when questioned about their actions, they sheepishly told me what they had done.  Their May Day surprise had turned into a seemingly aggravating prank.  Because her storm door opened outward instead of inward, Mrs. G never spotted the flowers they had meant for her to find.  She thought Adam and Molly were only playing tricks on her.  I dismissed them to go back outside and play, then I proceeded to let Mrs. G know to look on her door handle, as it was May Day.  Thankfully, the whole scenario turned out well, as Mrs. G was pleased to realize that my children made an effort to brighten her life.  Her “mayday” phone call turned into a special May Day!

Another special day occurs in the first part of the month – Cinco de Mayo.  It is a Mexican celebration of the “Batella de Puebla” which ended with a poorly equipped Mexican militia defeating the invading French army on May 5, 1862.  From what I have read, it is more widely celebrated north of the Mexican border than it is in Mexico, where the festivities are more regional.

Although I don’t care for foods that are spicy hot, I do very much enjoy Mexican food.  With that in mind, the recipes this week go that direction.  Some are from past columns, but I tried the Super-Fast Tamale Pie on Sunday evening.  Not only was it quick to make, it was quite tasty, too!

Super-Fast Tamale Pie

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 pound ground beef or turkey

1 onion, chopped

2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce

1 (15-16 ounce) can  corn, undrained

1 (4-ounce) can  chopped green chilies

1 cup sour cream

1 cup corn meal

Sliced black olives (optional)

Salt and pepper

2-3 teaspoons chili powder

1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese (May use Mexican blend)

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet.  Sauté ground meat and onion until meat is browned.  Drain any grease.  Stir in tomato sauce, corn with liquid, sour cream, cornmeal, chilies, olives, and seasonings.  Mix thoroughly.

Sprinkle top with shredded cheese.  Cover and simmer on low 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.  Spoon out to serve.  Yield: 6 servings.

Note: Leftovers reheat nicely.  They can also be “recycled” as a dip for tortilla chips or topping for nachos.

Nacho Grande Casserole

1 pound lean ground beef

2/3 cup chopped onion

1 (15.25-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15.25-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, pureed

1-1/4-ounce package taco seasoning mix

2 cups finely shredded 4-cheese Mexican blend, divided

2 cups crushed tortilla chips, divided

Toppings: chopped tomato and green onions

Cook ground beef and onion in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain.  Add beans, corn, tomatoes, and seasoning mix; stir until blended.  Simmer over medium heat 10 minutes.

Pour half of beef mixture into a lightly greased 8-by-8-inch baking dish.  Top with 1 cup of cheese and 1 cup crushed chips; top with remaining beef mixture and remaining cheese and crushed chips.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden.  Sprinkle with chopped tomatoes and green onions, if desired.  Serves 4 to 6.

Cubed Steak Mexicana

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon olive oil

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 beef cube steaks

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies

4 slices processed American cheese, torn into small pieces

Combine eggs, milk, and 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Stir together flour, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in shallow dish.  Dip beef cube steaks into flour mixture, egg mixture, and into flour mixture again.  In large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add meat; cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes per side.  Remove to platter; keep warm.  Cook onion in same skillet in 1 teaspoon olive oil until tender, stirring frequently.  Add undrained tomatoes with green chilies; heat through.  Stir in cheese until melted.  Pour mixture over meat.