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In my opinion, you can often turn an ordinary meal into a "feast" by choosing a theme, and making all the foods fit the theme. To complete the touch, try playing music and laying out any knickknacks or other things that suit the theme.
I wanted to make a nice meal the other day. The way I did this was making it into a Mexican feast. Pick a theme from a country that generally has low cost meals (relying on lots of cheap cuts of meat or vegetarian/vegan options) to make these extra low cost, like having an Indian theme (all different types of curries and chutneys), harvest festival (with seasonal autumn veggies, similar to what we serve on Thanksgiving), Ethiopian or Eretrian meal, etc... The meal will automatically be more "fun" and "fancy" than if you'd served the same ingredients, just not packaged into a pretty theme this way.
My family really enjoyed our Mexican (or maybe Tex Mex- who knows?) Feast; I thought I'd share some pictures and the menu for our delicious, frugal, (gluten free and dairy free) meal.
The first course was this soup called Albondigas. It's Mexican meatball soup, and I used the recipe I found here. I used home ground chicken breast (the breast from a whole chicken I bought on sale and then stuck in the food processor until it was all chopped up) in place of the ground meat, used dried mint and parsley instead of fresh, and left out the peas. It was absolutely awesome! I will certainly be making it again!
For the second course, we had burritos/tacos/stuffed "tortillas". Honestly, my knowledge of Mexican foods is minimal at best, so frankly, I don't know what the difference is between those different things, I just know we had a "tortilla" bar, and served the following foods with which people could fill their "tortillas".
Now you may wonder why I keep on putting the words "tortillas" in quotations. That's because they weren't tortillas. I only have been successful in making wheat tortillas (haven't found the proper masa harina needed to make corn tortillas), but those are out of the picture for me now because of gluten sensitivity. Instead, I made a variation of these gluten free crepes for myself (don't use that recipe as is- it didn't hold together nicely as a crepe- I needed to add 2 eggs and xanthan gum and water for it to actually not fall apart), and since I was looking for the lazy way out, I just made wheat crepes for my husband and other gluten eating members of the household- those didn't require the use of a rolling pin the way wheat tortillas do. They actually held together beautifully, and were flexible even hours later, so I actually recommend crepes to people who want to make Mexican but don't feel like rolling out the dough. (I didn't follow an exact recipe, just played it by ear, but here is a precise tried and true recipe if you're not an experienced crepe maker- just leave out the sugar, both for health reasons, and because you don't want these to be sweet, trust me.)
What did we use to stuff our "tortillas"?
Tex Mex Rice. I made this with my home canned homemade tomato salsa and homemade chicken broth, and added a chopped green pepper to the mix. I also left the garlic in it; I didn't see the reason to remove it. It was terrific.
Refried beans. Just took some white beans that I cooked, fried a bunch of onions until browned, added the beans, mashed them, then added salt and cumin.
Fajita Seasoned Chicken. I took a whole chicken, chopped it into parts, and rubbed it with my homemade fajita seasoning mix. I poured some lemon juice on the chicken (no lime juice available here) and let it marinate. After marinating, I chucked the lot into my pressure cooker with about 3/4 of a cup of water, and steamed the chicken in the pressure cooker that way. The white meat stayed soft as anything, and the whole chicken was heavenly. Once cooled, I deboned it all and then let the meat marinate some more in the lemon and seasoning mixture.
Fresh tomato salsa. I left out the cilantro, and just used regular hot peppers to taste. I used white onion instead of red. Was a hit!
Cucumber Tomato Purslane Salad. I used the purslane I had growing in my window box that I grew from seeds from purslane I foraged in the area this past summer. I used slightly less hot pepper than it called for- I added it to taste. Salad was awesome.
Guacamole. Mexican avocado salad. What's not to like?
Each person filled their "tortillas" as they so chose, and then devoured it (or two or three!).
Desert was Gluten Free Cornbread.
I must say, the meal was an absolute smashing success! I certainly will be doing it again, especially now that I discovered all these terrific Tex Mex recipes that suit my budget and my food restrictions and aren't too much work at all!
Do you serve themed meals at your home? Are they generally regular supper, or fancier occasions? What types of themes do you usually make, and what foods do you serve to suit those themes? Do your themed meals end up being cheaper or more expensive than your regular suppers?
Do you serve Mexican/Tex-Mex often? What do you serve in your Mexican/Tex Mex meals?
And can anyone please explain to me- what's the difference between tacos, fajitas, stuffed tortillas, burritos, enchiladas, empinadas, and all these other stuffed Mexican stuff?
Clueless about Mexican names but love the food anyhow!
Linking up to Fight Back Friday,