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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Time to think of your menu...

Before you begin to plan, you have to keep a few things in mind.  How many people are coming?  (Remember, if you haven't heard from all your invitees, it's OK to pick up the phone, or send a quick email to see if they plan on attending.  Just let them know, you are in the menu planning process and want an accurate count)  What type of party are you having? a sit down dinner? informal buffet? just snacks and cocktails?  It is COMPLETELY up to you.  Jo and I have done all of the above.  But, in order to have a successful menu, you have to know what you are cooking.  We are going to provide you with some ideas, and recipes, but by no means is this an all inclusive list, and you don't even have to use them.  If you have some recipes you would like to share, PLEASE DO!  We are always willing to try some new savvy recipes.

Growing up in the southwest, I often have Mexican themed food at my parties (whether it's Cinco De Mayo, or Game Night).  A huge success, and very little work is a...


Here's what you need, all suggestions:
  • Taco shells (either store bought, or handmade)
  • small flour tortillas (for those who like the soft tacos)
  • assortment of meats (here are some ideas: ground beef, shredded beef, pork and/or chicken, diced chicken, etc)....stay tuned for recipes
  • shredded cheese 
  • sour cream
  • guacamole...stay tuned for recipes
  • salsa...stay tuned for recipes
  • shredded lettuce
  • diced tomatoes
All you have to do, is set this up buffet style, with the shells/tortillas at the beginning, the meat in the middle (preferably in a crock pot/slower cooker to keep warm), and all the fixings at the end.  Your guests make their own plates, and enjoy!

Here are some tips for sides:
  • Refried beans:  Don't get scared!  I NEVER make these from scratch, but here are some Savvy Tips to make your beans leaving your guests asking for the recipe (I'm serious...I'm always will be up to you if you divulge my your secret).  Place the canned beans in a pot and warm on the stove.  Add garlic powder (to taste, I use probably more than the average Joe José) and a generous amount of shredded cheese (I use cheddar).  Stir to combine, and heat through until cheese melts.  Sorry I don't have an exact recipe, I make this weekly, and just eye ball it.  You can never have too much cheese or garlic (at least in our family).
  • Black Beans:  Another dish, where I'm always asked for the recipe, and I actually do have a recipe for this LOL.  This is another staple dish in my family (outside Mexican themed nights) because my VERY picky 4 year old will actually eat these:  

    1 Tbsp olive oil
    3/4 c. onion, chopped fine (Savvy Tip...I use frozen onions...shhhhh...they're in the frozen section)
    1/2 c. green pepper, chopped fine  (Again...I use frozen peppers...shhhhh...sometimes you can find them in frozen section WITH the onions included)
    1 c. diced tomatoes (I use canned, drained)
    1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drain and rinse
    1/2 tsp thyme
    1 tsp garlic salt
    3 Tbsp cider vinegar
    Dash of Tabasco (optional...but even my 4 year old doesn't object)

    In large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Cook onion and green pepper until crisp tender. Stir in tomatoes, beans, thyme, and garlic salt. Cook 3 minutes; add vinegar and Tobassco. Cook for 5 minutes. 
  •  Rice...ALWAYS a necessity for Mexican food.  There are many types of Mexican rice, but here is Jo's secret...cook it with salsa.  We also have another Savvy Tip when cooking ANY white rice.  Substitute water with CHICKEN BROTH.  We promise, promise, promise, will never cook your rice with water again.  Here is our white rice recipe:

    For a serving of 4 (You will have to adjust to how much you want for your party):
    1 cup uncooked white rice (I personally LOVE Jasmine rice)
    2 cups canned/boxed chicken broth

    Bring chicken broth to a boil.  Add rice to the boiling broth, and stir with a fork.  Return broth and rice to a boil, and stir once more with a fork and cover.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Every stove top is different, for example, it takes my rice 17 minutes :)!

    Substitute 2 cups chicken broth with 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and 1/2 cup salsa (either jarred or homemade).  Follow the same directions...we don't think you will be disappointed.  Both Jo and I have tried MANY Mexican rice versions, and by far Jo's is the best!
  • Shredded Meat (this can be made the day before, and just reheated in a crock pot for the party):  Whether I use, chicken, pork, or beef, I prepare it all the same way.  For the beef/pork find a boneless roast you like, for the chicken, I always use chicken breasts, but that's just my preference.  This recipe is like the above refried beans, in that I don't follow an exact recipe, but it really is hard to mess up.  PLEASE contact me if you have questions.

    Protein of choice (beef, chicken, pork)
    A couple cups of diced onions
    2 cans of green chilies
    Salsa, either homemade or jarred

    Wrap your protein of choice in aluminum foil and place in a shallow baking dish (to catch any leaks).  Place in a preheated oven of 300 degrees.  Cook for 4-5 hours. 

    Right before the meat finishes cooking, in a large pot saute onions and green chilies in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the meat is finished cooking, place in the pot with the onions and green chilies, and shred with 2 forks.  Add your salsa, and stir to combine.  That's it!
  • Ground beef:  If you choose ground beef, brown your beef in a skillet.  Drain the fat.  Add onions, green chilies and salsa, and combine.  That's it!
  • Carnitas:  Mexican for SUPER yummy pork!  Check out onelovemama's blog for a mouth watering recipe leaving you wanting more.
    Here are some other recipes to keep in mind:


    Salsa Picante
    4 medium tomatoes
    1 medium onion
    1/4 cup cilantro
    1 to 2 fresh jalapenos or serrano chili peppers, seeded and halved (Savvy Tip:  Handle peppers with gloves.  When I was in high school, I was making salsa, and handled the peppers bare handed, and then touched my face.  My face was on fire for HOURS!)
    2 cloves garlic, minced (I use jarred)
    1/2 cup chopped green sweet peppers
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    1 Tablespoon fresh oregano or one 1 teaspoon dried
    1 bay leaf
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    FYI...although I am ALL about the frozen onions and peppers in the above recipes, I always use fresh when making salsa!

    Place tomatoes in a blender or food processor.  Cover and blend or process until coarsely chopped.  Add onion, cilantro chili peppers, and garlic.  Cover and blend or process until finely chopped.

    Transfer tomato mixture to a medium saucepan.  Stir in sweet pepper, lemon juice, oregano, bay leaf, sugar and salt.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer uncovered about 30 minutes or until salsa reaches desired consistency.

    Discard bay leaf.  Cool salsa slightly.  Cover and chill for 1 hour up to a week before serving.

    Salsa Verde (my personal favorite!)
    12 ounces fresh tomatillos, husks removed, or one 13 ounce can tomatillos, rinsed and drained
    What are tomatillos:  Also called Mexican green tomatoes, the fruit within the tomatillo husk, is firm herby and slightly lemony. 
    1/4 cup cilantro
    2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
    1 fresh jalapeno or serreno chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon sugar

    Finely chop tomatillos.  In a small bowl stir together chopped tomatillos, cilantro, red onion, chili pepper, salt and sugar.  Cover and chill for 4 hours to 3 days before serving.


    Chunky Guacamole
    2/3 cups finely chopped, roma tomatos
    1/4 cup sliced green onion
    2 Tablespoon lime juice
    1 Tablespoon olive oil
    1 to 2 garlic, minced (again, I used jarred)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 fresh jalapeno or serreno chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
    2 very ripe avocados, halved, seeded, peeled and coarsely mashed

    Combine all the ingredients together and stir together.  Savvy Tip:  SAVE YOUR AVOCADO PITS...once your ingredients are combined, add the pits to the guacamole.  This will prevent you guacamole from going gray!

    Stay tuned tomorrow for drink ideas, from the coveted Margarita to Agua Frescas.


    1. Hi! Stopping by from MBC. Great blog.

      Have a nice day!

    2. I'm now following your wonderful blog! Thanks for adding my carnitas, I hope everybody enjoys them on Cinco de Mayo, or any day for that matter!

    3. I live in L.A. and there are a lot of vegetarians and vegans living here. The refried beans were a great idea! I was planning on having a taco bar for my teen daughter's b-day but I was worried about how to incorporate a veggie option. Now I will add the bean recipe as an option.

      It will be about 20 kids (mostly her female friends from school) and about 30 adults (family and some parents of her friends). So a taco bar for 50 guests sounds very manageable and the bean recipe was just what I needed. Thank you!


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