May 5th is Cinco De Mayo – originally celebrating the 1862 victory of a small Mexican militia over a large French army, but today, a holiday celebrated mainly by the large population of Mexican-Americans and others who like Mexican food, music and a good celebration!
A unique way to celebrate would be to invite your friends to a Cinco de Mayo Tea Time. Many of the staples of Mexican cuisine adapt well to finger foods, so why not incorporate them into a tea time. Here are some of the ingredients found in the Mexican pantry as well as a few recipes using them adapted for tea time.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes were first domesticated by ancient Mayans and Aztecs. From there, they were carried to the rest of the world. Mexican cooks use tomatoes in fresh and cooked salsas, in rice dishes, and stews.
Chile peppers: There are some 60 varieties of chile peppers, from jalapeños to habañeros, and they all have their uses in Mexican cuisine.
Citrus: The Spanish introduced citrus into Mexico. The bright flavors of lemons, limes, and bitter Seville orange are integral to many Mexican dishes, from salsas to tortilla soups to ceviches.
Avocado: The avocado has been cultivated in Mexico for at least 5,000 years. Mashed, avocadoes are the main ingredient in guacamole. Sliced avocados are often added to soups. The leaves of the avocado plant often flavor stews or are ground and added to moles and other sauces.
MEXICAN CEVICHE: Dice 1/2lb firm white fish fillets, add 1/2lb cleaned shrimp and marinate in the juice of 5-6 limes in the fridge overnight – stir often. Pour off the liquid and add the following ingredients:
1c diced fresh tomato
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
4Tbs chopped parsley/cilantro
2Tbs white vinegar
1 dash Tabasco sauce
Salt & pepper
Mix well and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. To serve as an appetizer, line small bowls with leaf lettuce, add seafood mixture and garnish with avocado and sliced black olives.
Tortillas: For centuries, corn has been ground, turned into dough (masa) and then shaped into small, very thin cakes called tortillas. After the Spanish introduced wheat into Mexico in the 16th century, flour tortillas became known, mostly in the north.
Salsa: Ancient Mayans and Aztecs were making salsas centuries before European contact. The word simply means "sauce," and can refer to both cooked sauces and those made from raw ingredients.
TEX-MEX SALSA PINWHEELS: Combine 8oz cream cheese, 1/4c salsa, 2tsp cumin, then add 1/2c cheddar cheese and 2c cooked chicken. Spread the mixture onto flour tortillas and roll up tightly, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Cut each into 1” slices and garnish with a dollop of salsa to serve.
MEXICAN SPIRALS: Combine 8oz cream cheese, 1/2c salsa, 1/3c chopped green olives, 1/3c chopped black olives and 6 chopped green onions. Spread on tortillas, roll up, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Cut wraps into 1” sections and garnish with chopped olives.
Cumin: Cumin is characterized by a strong musty, earthy flavor which also contains some green/grassy notes.
Cilantro: Introduced by the Spanish, the herb cilantro is the green leaves of the coriander plant. Fresh cilantro is featured in many Mexican dishes and is a must in salsas.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER EGG SALAD SANDWICHES: Combine 12 chopped hard boiled eggs, 1(4 1/2 oz) can chopped green chilies, 2Tbs minced red onion, 1/4c mayonnaise, 1 large mashed avocado, 2tsp lime juice, 1/4c chopped fresh cilantro and 1/4tsp cumin. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors then spread on whole grain bread, remove crust and cut into 4 triangles.
Pork: Introduced by the Spanish, pork is a primary meat in stews and as fillings for tortillas in tacos and enchiladas. Fresh ground pork is also used in Mexican chorizo sausage.
Cotija cheese: Dairy foods entered the Mexican diet after the arrival of the Spanish, who brought cattle and goats. Cojito cheese is dry and crumbly with a salty taste and is typically added at the end of cooking or as a garnish.
MINI TACOS: Combine 1lb shredded pork with 1pkg taco seasoning mix and 1/2c salsa or picante sauce. Press wonton wrappers into 24 mini muffin cups, spoon in pork mixture and bake at 425 degrees for 8 mins. or until nicely browned. Serve topped with Cojito cheese, sour cream or guacamole.
Corn: Maize or corn, "the Gift of the Gods," is the cornerstone of Mexican cuisine. It appears in almost everything.
CORNY QUESADILLAS: Cut kernels off 4 ears of corn with a sharp paring knife. Sprinkle 6 corn tortillas with Colby-Jack cheese, top with the corn, more cheese, then top with 6 additional tortillas. Grill, turning quesadillas carefully with a wide spatula, about 3 minutes on each side until cheese melts. Cut in quarters and serve warm. Planning Tip: Quesadillas can be assembled up to 4 hours ahead.
Jicama: This root vegetable looks like a giant turnip and has the same crisp texture of a raw potato with a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
Chili Powder: Mexican chili powder is a particular spice blend made from different dried chiles, Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, and sometimes garlic, cloves, and salt.
JICAMA CHILI STICKS: Peel 1 large jicama and cut into French fry-sized sticks. Combine with the juice of 1-2 limes and 1tsp chili powder in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Serve ice cold sprinkled with fresh cilantro as finger food.
Vanilla: Made from the bean of an edible orchid, vanilla has been enjoyed in Mexico since ancient times. Real Mexican vanilla extract is deeply fragrant and flavorful.
Chocolate: The world's love affair with chocolate began in Mexico, where for centuries pounded cocoa beans were frothed into a foamy drink that was usually bitter, not sweet.
MEXICAN WEDDING CAKES: Beat 1c butter and 1/2c powdered sugar until creamy, add 1tsp vanilla and then gradually add 2c flour, 2tsp cinnamon and 2/3c chopped nuts. Stir in 1 1/2c chocolate chips until well combined, roll into 1” balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 mins. Cool on wire racks. Melt 1/2c chocolate chips and drizzle over cookies, then refrigerate until chocolate is set
MEXICAN BROWNIES: In a pan over low heat, combine 3/4c brown sugar, 1/2c butter, 6 1/2oz chopped Mexican chocolate and 1oz chopped unsweetened chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and beat in 2 eggs, 1tsp vanilla and 1/4tsp cayenne pepper until blended. Mix in 1/2c flour and 1/2c toasted pine nuts and pour into a lightly greased 9” square pan. Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 mins.
DULCE DE LECHE BARS: Break up 2 rolls cookie dough into bowl and add 1 3/4c oatmeal, 2/3c brown sugar and 2tsp vanilla and mix well. Press half of the dough into an ungreased 10”x15” pan to form crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 mins. In a pan heat 1(14oz) bag of unwrapped caramels, 1/2c butter and 1(14oz) can sweetened condensed milk over medium low until melted and smooth. Spread mixture over baked crust and crumble remaining dough over the mixture. Bake again for 20 mins. or until golden. Cool completely then drizzle 4Tbs caramel topping over top and sprinkle with 3Tbs toasted and chopped almonds. Cut into bars.
Plus here are a couple cold tea beverages to serve:
TEA MOJITO: Brew 2 heaping Tablespoons of peppermint tea and 1/4c sugar in 2c boiling water for 10 minutes, then stain and cool. Combine with 1/2c lime juice and 12oz lemon-lime soda. Pour over crushed ice and garnish with a slice of lime and sprigs of mint!
TEA SANGRIA: Brew 2 heaping Tablespoons of an herbal fruit tea and 1/4c brown sugar in 4c boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and pour over cut fruit (peaches, oranges, strawberries, etc.), then refrigerate to chill. Add cold water to make 1 gallon before serving.
“Above all, love each other deeply,
because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
I Peter 4:8-9