News from Illinois CancerCare

Celebrate With A Healthy Twist

2020 has sure been one for the books so far. These days it’s hard to not dream about sitting down at a nice restaurant and ordering all of the food that bring us comfort – especially on Cinco de Mayo for those craving Mexican cuisine! For now, carry-out from your favorite local spot will have to do.

Looking to do the cooking yourself? Good for you! Our dietitians recommend these plant-based recipes for a healthy twist on Cinco de Mayo. Plant-based meals are both delicious AND they provide vital protein and cancer fighting nutrients.


Servings: 32


  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 ¼ lbs), halved and seeded
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp chipotle chile powder or cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (2 c)
  • 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 c)
  • 2/3 c pico de gallo or fresh salsa, drained
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp toasted pepitas


  1. Wash hands with soap and water.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 ° Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Place squash cut side down on the pan. Bake until tender, 50 min – 1 hour.
  4. While the squash bakes, combine oil and onion in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook on medium heat, stirring often, for 10 min.
  5. Uncover onion and continue cooking until onion is soft and browned, 8 – 10 min more. Reduce heat and add 1 tbsp of water at a time if onion begins browning too quickly.
  6. Stir chili powder and chipotle (or cayenne) into onions. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 10 min.
  7. When squash is done, reduce oven temperature to 350 ° Turn squash over and let cool slightly. Scoop flesh into a food processor and add salt. Puree until smooth. Measure out 2 cups of the puree. Set aside.
  8. Coat a medium cast-iron skillet (10-in) with cooking spray.
  9. Toss cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses in a large bowl. Stir 1 cup of the cheeses (1/4 of mixture) into the reserved squash puree. Spread half of the remaining cheese in the prepared pan.
  10. Add in the squash. Spread half of the caramelized onions over the squash. Add the remaining cheese and top with the rest of the caramelized onions.
  11. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling along the edges, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  12. Top with pico de gallo (or salsa), cilantro, and pepitas. Serve with tortilla chips or sliced jicama.



Servings: 6


  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 can no-salt-added tomato sauce (8 oz)
  • 3/4 c reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained (15 oz)
  • 1 can no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed and drained (15 oz)
  • 3/4 c chopped green sweet pepper (1 medium)
  • 1/2 c chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1 can diced green chile peppers, undrained (4 oz)
  • 9 (6 inch) corn tortillas, cut into wedges
  • 2 c shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese (8 oz)
  • Optional: sliced lettuce, sliced olives, chopped tomato


  1. Wash hands with soap and water.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 °
  3. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, stirring until smooth.
  4. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cinnamon. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for one minute more. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl combine black beans, pinto beans, sweet pepper, onion and chile peppers. Set aside.
  6. Coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/3 c of tomato sauce mixture on the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  7. Layer one-third of the tortillas on top of the sauce. Top with one-third of the bean mixture.
  8. Spread one third of remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle 2/3 c of cheese.
  9. Repeat layers twice, starting again with tortillas. Save the final 2/3 c of cheese on the side.
  10. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake for 35 min.
  11. Sprinkle with reserved 2/3 c of cheese.
  12. Bake, uncovered, about 10 min more or until cheese melts.
  13. Top with lettuce, olives and/or tomato as desired.


Both recipes adapted from