Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta!

Hola Mi Amigos !!

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo! A day of celebration. A fiesta! We've celebrated the day with friends many times over the years, but I'm ashamed to say that until recently, I had no real knowledge of exactly what it was that we were celebrating. So, to set the record straight, I did a little research and found out that....

Cinco de Mayo is not technically a Mexican holiday. Nor is it (as many people assume) Mexico's "Independence Day".  It's a day that was created by Mexican settlers in California, to commemorate the Mexican army's victory on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. While the holiday is embraced widely here in the US, it's celebrated more regionally in Mexico, primarily in Puebla ~ where they call it El Día de la Batalla de Puebla. So, now that we all know the reason why we celebrate the 5th of May, I have a few recipes for your Cinco De Mayo festivities!

When I think Mexican themed celebration, my brain immediately conjurs up big bowls of creamy Guacamole and chilled glasses filled with sweet, tangy Margaritas. They're both a lot easier to make than you might think and they've always been staples at our Cinco de Mayo parties over the years.

Mary's "Green-go" Guacamole 
  • 3 Large Ripe Haas Avocados
  • 1 Large Green Onion, chopped fine
  • 2/3 Cup Salsa, either homemade or your preferred brand
  • 1 Clove Fresh Garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 1 Small Jalapeno or Chipotle Pepper, minced (optional)
  • 2 Tbls Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley or Cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • Zest of 1 Large Lime
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • Several Dashes Hot Sauce
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
Cut the avocados in half, lengthwise, remove the pits (**see note, below) and scoop the flesh into a mixing bowl. Using a fine hand grater or microplane, zest the lime and set it aside. Squeeze all of the juice into the bowl with the avocados and toss the pieces, coating them well. (this will help to keep them from turning brown) Using a large fork, mash the avocados, juice and zest until you get the consistency that you like. I prefer mine to have a bit of texture, so I leave it a little chunky.

Finely chop the green onion, grate or press the garlic and chop the parsley or cilantro. (People usually either love cilantro or they hate it. Hubbs loves it. I hate it. So, I compromise and use half parsley and half cilantro)

Add the green onion and garlic, salsa, hot sauce, cumin and salt to the avocado mixture and stir until well combined. {also add the jalapeno or chipotle, if using} Cover tightly with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic wrap down onto the surface of the dip. Avocados turn brown from exposure to the air and this is another step to help keep that from happening. Chill until ready to serve. You can garnish the top with a little sour cream and some additional chopped herbs if you like.  Serve with your favorite tortilla chips, veggies, or anything else you like to dip into Guacamole. (like a spoon, maybe?)

** They say that putting the pit(s) in with the finished Guacamole while chilling/storing it, will keep it from turning brown. I tend to freak out a bit if the food I've prepared looks unappetizing, so whether it's fact or an old wive's tale, I do nestle one of the pits down into the dish and remove it just before serving.

What cocktail goes best with a big bowl of Guacamole???  A frosty, tangy, salty Margarita, of course!

Senor T's Mucho Macho Margarita's
(makes one drink)
  • Juice of 1 Lime (approx 1 oz fresh lime juice)
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier or Cointreau (orange liquor)
  • 1 oz *Agave Nectar or Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz Premium Tequila
  • Lime Wedges
  • Kosher Salt
  • Cocktail Shaker, with strainer
  • Lots of Ice
* Agave Nectar can be found in the Natural Foods Section of larger grocery stores or Latin Markets. If you can't find it, you can make a simple syrup by slowly heating equal parts granulated sugar and water in a medium sized heavy saucepan, until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup begins to thicken. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and refrigerate in a covered jar or bottle.

The most important part of the perfect drink is the alcohol you use. Don't skimp on your booze, people!  It doesn't have to be the most expensive brand on the shelf, but do try to get the best quality that your budget will allow.

Before mixing your cocktail, fill the glass(es) with ice and set them aside to chill. Prepare the garnishes ahead of time by slicing your lime wedges, pouring some good coarse salt on a plate to rim the glasses and if you're using a simple syrup, make that and pop it in the fridge to chill. The syrup can be done earlier in the day or even a few days before, so you're ready to go at party time! Make extra simple syrup for sweetening fresh brewed iced tea and homemade lemonade, etc.

Put a large scoop of ice in your cocktail shaker. Add the Tequila, Cointreau/Grand Marnier, Lime Juice and Agave Nectar. Cover and shake vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds. Empty the ice out of the glass. Take a lime wedge and run it around the rim of the glass and then dip the glass into the plate of salt. (it's a good idea to leave some glasses "unrimmed" for those who don't want the salt) Using the strainer, pour the drink into the chilled glass and serve! (or enjoy it yourself!) Garnish with a slice of lime too, if you like.

Here's a festive main dish that will happily serve a hungry crowd of fiesta-goers:

Senora M's Latina Lasagna 
  • 8-10 Flour Tortillas
  • Vegetable or Light Olive Oil
  • 1 and 1/2 Lbs Ground Beef, Chicken or Turkey
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 Cup Chicken or Beef Broth/Stock
  • 1 12-14oz Can Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14oz Can Diced Tomatoes, drained
  • 1 28oz Can Tomato Puree
  • 1 Can Niblets Corn, drained
  • 1 16oz Container Sour Cream
  • 1 8oz Brick Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 Small Can Mild Chopped Green Chilies
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3-4 Cups Jack Cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbls Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbls Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Green Onion (scallion), sliced, for garnish
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, add enough oil to just coat the bottom. Add ground meat and cook over medium-high heat until it's no longer pink and lightly browned, breaking it up with a spatula or fork as it cooks. Add the onions and garlic, stir well to combine and saute for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the broth or stock, corn, green chilies, pinto beans, chili powder, cumin and cayenne and stir well to combine.  Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes, puree and salt & pepper to taste. You don't want this mixture to be watery, but it should be somewhat loose ~ like a meat sauce that you'd use for a traditional Italian lasagna. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. It will thicken up a bit as it cools.

With a sturdy fork or hand mixer, mix the softened cream cheese and sour cream together in a bowl, until it's smooth. Set it aside.

Brush the bottom of a large casserole/baking dish (approx 13x9x2) with about a tablespoon of oil and lay out the tortillas, cutting them into pieces if necessary, to cover the bottom of the dish. Spread about 3 or 4 tablespoons of the sour cream mixture on top of the tortillas, then about a cup to a cup and a half of the meat, bean & veg mixture, spreading it out relatively evenly. Sprinkle with about 1/2 Cup of the Jack cheese. Continue building the layers, repeating the same process until you get about 2 inches from the top of the baking dish. Make sure that you end with a final layer of tortillas. Spread the top with the remainder of the sour cream mixture and top with the remaining cheese and some sliced green onion. Bake at 350 until it's bubbly and golden brown on top. (about 20-30 minutes) Allow it to rest about 5-10 minutes before cutting it.

It can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until you're ready to cook and freezes very well, tightly covered, for up to 3 months. If you do prepare it ahead, remove it from the fridge about 10-15 minutes before putting it in the oven. It might need a few more minutes of cooking time, too. I serve it with bowls of salsa, sour cream, chopped scallions and extra shredded cheese. I usually also make a big green salad with romaine, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, sliced avocado and crumbled queso fresco. (for information about this cheese, click here) I like to make my Honey Lime Vinaigrette and serve it alongside the salad at the table. (recipe follows)

Honey Lime Vinaigrette
  • 2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/4 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 2 Tsp Honey
  • 1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 Cup Light Olive or Vegetable Oil
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients and whisk, shake in a jar; or blend it in a food processor or blender for a creamier consistancy. Pour into a container, cover and refrigerate.

Now, you should be all set for your Cinco de Mayo Fiesta!  I hope if you decide to try any of the recipes, that you'll come back and let me know how they turned out! Pop some Los Lobos in the CD player and eat, drink and dance your maracas off!  Here's a little example of these amazing Mexican-American music icons to get you started....


  1. OH....this all looks so yummy...I no longer am a drinker.....BUT I AM AN EATER!!! LOL AND I LOVE....GUAC!!



  2. Oh YUM! I love guacamole - and that margarita looks mighty inviting....

  3. Oooooh, this is making my stomach growl. LITERALLY. Yum!!! I LOVE Mexican food!!!!!!!! Um, most go grab a snack now. ;)

  4. I am going to have to have a margarita sometime soon!

    when avocados finally come down in price, I will be making guac STAT.

  5. You always have the most amazing recipes! My mouth is watering right now.....


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