With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, a lot of you are busy planning menus for your various fiestas.  For me, Mexican entrees are no trouble to come up with.  Most involve some combination of tortillas, peppers, onions, possibly chicken or another protein, wonderful spices, and certainly cheese.  With that combination, it’s really hard to go wrong.  Personally I always find side dishes more challenging – how to best complement your entree and keep the meal well rounded yet doable is not an easy task.  Mexican rice and refried beans are the classic side dish staple served with practically every restaurant dinner combo out there.

In the past I mostly ignored the beans and rice entirely, pushing them to the side, until a fabulous Mexican restaurant in my hometown changed all that.  We love their entrees as well as their rice and beans…and their amazing queso dip…and the two dollar margaritas on Tuesdays don’t hurt either!  Anyway, I started liking refried beans – a lot.  But as you all know by now what I don’t like is opening cans to prepare our food.  Thankfully Elly provided an awesome base recipe that I have since made countless times and tweaked to our liking.  Homemade refried beans are very simple to make, requiring less than 20 minutes of your time.  As a bonus, they reheat very well so if you are entertaining and want to focus on your guests rather than food prep, just make them in advance and reheat when you are ready to serve.  If you like them chunkier, you can mash them up with a fork or potato masher.  For a smoother texture (my preference), a food processor works wonders.