Let’s be honest here: some Christmas holiday “traditions” get a bit old after awhile. The opening presents at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. The shopping – oh, the endless shopping! – from October until December 24 just to get the “perfect” gift. The fruitcake, the eggnog, the candy canes, the chocolate (well, the chocolate we like), and on, and on, and on.
You understand what we mean: the too-much Muchness that is Christmas in the U.S. today!
The holidays in Mexico are different. They’re more in tune with what the holidays are supposed to be about: being grateful for what we have been given, spending time with family and friends, presenting gifts to children more than to adults.
So take a look below at traditional Christmas traditions in Mexico and see if you could incorporate one or more into your own celebrations this year.
Christmas traditionally is celebrated in Mexico between December 12 and January 6. December 16 is the start of the traditional Posada processions performed by children, during which they carry candles and a board that has clay figures on it of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay for the night.
The children go to neighbors’ homes and sing a song about the couple’s search for lodging. Each house tells those in the procession that there is no room at the house, until the last house welcomes them in. The children then say a prayer or more of thanks and a party commences with games, food and possibly fireworks. Many post-Posada parties also see the children hitting a piñata filled with candy.
Swinging at the piñata.
A different house hosts the party each night until Christmas Eve, when the children place a manger and shepherd figures on their boards and then place a baby Jesus into the manger when they reach the final house and are welcomed in.
Everyone then heads for a midnight Church service and celebrates afterwards with fireworks to mark the start of Christmas.
Christmas Eve (also known as Noche Buena) is a day for family. Many families take part in the last Posada and then have their main Christmas supper, which usually consists of rice, tamales, chiles rellenos, roast pig or turkey, menudo, as well as cider or hot fruit punches.
Christmas trees are becoming more popular in Mexico, but large nativity scenes (called Nacimiento), are displayed prominently in Mexican homes. These scenes use large clay figures – sometimes life-sized – of Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, etc. with the baby Jesus added on Christmas Eve and the Three Wise Men added at the Epiphany (January 6). It’s also traditional to eat Three Kings Cake on Epiphany.
Christmas decorations in Mexico include poinsettias in the home and evergreens decorating the home’s front door.
Unlike in the U.S., children in Mexico don’t open their gifts until the Epiphany, January 6.
All Mattito’s locations will be closed Christmas Day, but we’re open regular hours on Christmas Eve. We look forward to serving you!
Image courtesy of Yavidaxiu via Wikimedia.com and Creative Commons License 3.0.
When you think of your favorite Tex Mex burrito, is it always filled with beef? Or at least chicken or fish?
Take a walk on the burrito historic side and try one with rice and beans instead.
Placing beef in Mexican foods is something of a United States “invention,” because folks in Mexico first pretty much used beef as a side dish or sort of as a garnishment, not as the main ingredient in their meals. So burritos often were filled with beans and rice.
If you’d like to try a beans and rice burrito, we’ve come across a nifty recipe, courtesy of Kim Hardisan of Florida, via TasteOfHome.com.
You will need (for eight servings):
- One and a half cups of water
- One and a half cups on uncooked brown rice
- One medium diced green pepper
- Half a cup of chopped onion
- One teaspoon of olive oil
- One teaspoon of minced garlic
- One teaspoon of ground cumin
- One tablespoon of chili powder
- One-eight teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- One 15-ounce can of black beans. Rinse and drain them.
- Eight 8-inch warmed flour tortillas
- One cup of your preferred salsa
- Reduced-fat sour cream as well as shredded cheddar cheese are optional
To make (should take about 25 minutes):
- Take a small saucepan and bring the water to boil, then add the rice and return to boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for five minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand for five minutes, or until rice absorbs the water.
- At the same time, take a large skillet and sauté the green peppers and onions in the oil for three to four minutes, or until tender.
- Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Stir in the chili powder, pepper flakes and cumin until combined.
- Add the beans and rice and cook and stir for four to six minutes, or until thoroughly heated.
- Take about half a cup of the filling and place it off-center on each tortilla and then top with two tablespoons of the salsa.
- Fold the tortillas’ sides and ends over the filling and roll up.
- Serve with sour cream/cheddar cheese, if desired.
A rice and bean burrito is very healthy. It’s low fat and provides good carbs (the beans). One burrito (without cheese/sour cream) is 290 calories, has no cholesterol (although it does provide six grams of fat, one gram of which is unsaturated fat) and provides 9 grams of protein.
We don’t have beef and bean burritos listed here on our Mattito’s menu, but if you’d really like one, just let your server know.
Check out a Mattito’s location near you soon. We look forward to serving you!
Image courtesy of Justin Smith via Flickr.com
When it comes to Tex Mex food, aficionados know a great restaurant when they taste its food.
But if you’re not someone “in the know” when it comes to great Tex Mex cuisine, how can you know when a restaurant is tops at preparing these delicious dishes.
To help you, we’ve put together a short “cheat sheet” of sorts to help you find the best Tex Mex food in your town.
- Look for Tex Mex “staples.”
Tex Mex cuisine pretty much is known for fajitas, cheese enchiladas, chili con queso, and margaritas. If a restaurant says it’s Tex Mex, you’d better see those dishes on the menu!
- Great Tex Mex restaurants make their guacamole fresh each day, if not for each serving.
In other words, if a Tex Mex restaurant offers to make your guacamole dip right in front of you at your table, you’ve more than likely found a great Tex Mex restaurant. Making guacamole at the table isn’t a requirement, of course, but seeing it made before your eyes lets you know your dip is as fresh as it can be.
- Unless you request otherwise, the cheese enchilada you order should be gooey with cheese.
Enough said, but extra points if the cheese-slathered enchilada also includes chili gravy.
- Beans should be made with lard.
If they’re not, if they’re made with something healthier, they may be better for you, but it’s not great Tex Mex.
- The Ice in your margarita should be sharp!
As in, shard-like. That ice could cut your mouth if you’re not careful!
- The longer the Tex Mex restaurant has been in business, the better.
If you find a Tex Mex restaurant that’s been in business for at least 20 years, that’s an excellent sign you’ve found a good one. If it’s been serving customers for 50-plus years and/or if it’s been in business 20-50 years under the management of the same family, it’s a must visit!
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Many people who love Tex Mex cuisine love it good and hot. As in, spicy hot.
But many of us who love Tex Mex food don’t like our dishes spicy. We like it hot, of course, but spicy? NO!!!
Yet when we look at our friends and family members who pile on the chili peppers and the hot sauce – asking the waiter for the muy caliente level of hotness, and the more caliente, the better – we wonder: what are we missing? Surely the spicy flavor must be adding something wonderful, we should try it.
But, we tell ourselves, we just don’t like spicy food. Never have and never will.
Well, we say it’s time to fling that cloak of wimp-hood and embrace the spice!
Take a look below at some steps you can take to start enjoying spicy hot Tex Mex cuisine.
- Start slow and small and start with non-Tex Mex foods you eat regularly.
For example, sprinkle extra black pepper onto your steak. Crush some red peppers and put a pinch or two into your cup of soup. As you start to like the extra zest these spices can bring, keep adding them to your meals. Don’t go overboard: just add one spice to a dish at a time so that you can start differentiating their different flavors.
- Go slow and enjoy the added flavors the spices bring.
As you eat, aim to savor the new flavors you’re experiencing. Note how routine dishes are changed and how their flavors are enhanced.
- As you adapt, slowly add hotter spices to your dishes.
Move slowly, but start adding, for example, hot spices such as chopped chiles to your dishes. You could start with the milder ones such as poblanos, for example. But don’t be afraid to go too hot every now and then. You’ll build up your tolerance more quickly if you occasionally “burn” your mouth.
- Pair the spicy dish with milder dishes.
Make sure you have a dish to eat that can “cool” you down during your meal. In addition, you could mix some cream into your salsa to make it milder.
- Not everyone comes to love spicy food; there’s no shame in being one of them.
If you give it your best shot but find that you just don’t enjoy spicy food, be proud that you at least tried and go on and keep enjoying the delicious Tex Mex cuisine you love!
Have you eaten Tex Mex this month? If not, visit a Mattito’s near you to enjoy hot and spicy (or just hot) Tex Mex cuisine! We look forward to serving you.
Image courtesy of jk1991/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As the holiday seasons approaches, it’s never too early to start planning your holiday parties. And if you live in Texas, why not celebrate the season this year with a Tex Mex theme?
Let’s start, for example, with your Christmas decorations. Instead of a traditional pine wreath, why not take some larger leaves from succulent plants and even non-needled cactus plants and create a lovely wreath with a true Southwest feel? Prickly pear leaves work well (after removing the barbs).
For centerpieces, take a large clear vase and place small round cacti balls inside, replacing the traditional green/red or silver/gold balls.
Don’t forget to fill a piñata with candy for some after-dinner fun.
The Christmas tree is next. This year, make your home extra special by adorning it with tiny serapes and straw sombreros; purple, green and blue strings of shiny, tiny balls for garlands; and colorful (bright pink, blue, red and green) flowers shaped from tissue paper.
And don’t forget the poinsettias! Place several of them throughout your home.
As for your holiday supper, here’s a meal idea:
- Start with quesadilla melts, margarita punch and queso dip.
- The main dish could be deep-fried turkey with chorizo cornbread stuffing.
- Or just go whole Tex Mex with tamales , tacos and enchiladas.
- Forget the tacos – serve sizzling hot fajitas
- Finish with Mexican ice cream balls or pecan pie. (Why not have both!?)
- For some real dessert fun with a Tex Mex theme, create individual no-bake cheesecakes in margarita glasses.
Whether you have young ones at home or not, have some fun after dinner by offering your guests the chance to take a whack at a Christmas-themed piñata.
If you’re having your party on Christmas Eve, go full on Tex Mex/Mexican and head to midnight mass and then have a feast of turkey or ham with the adults drinking cider after dinner while the children open presents.
All of our Dallas-region Mattito’s locations are open for our regular hours on Christmas Eve, but we will be closed all of Christmas Day. If you’d like to celebrate with some Tex Mex food for the holidays, but don’t want to cook, come visit us on December 24.
Many people love spicy-hot Tex Mex foods. That “hot and spicy” often comes courtesy of the judicious use of chili peppers.
Chili peppers, in fact, can be added to many “regular” Tex Mex dishes or even those everyday meals of scrambled eggs at breakfast, hamburgers, soups, and more.
Take a look below for some ideas as to how you can add that all-important “heat” to some of your favorite foods – whether they’re of Tex Mex in origin or not – with the chili pepper.
A variety of chopped chili peppers.
The go-to chili pepper for many people is the jalapeno pepper. It’s a medium/large-sized chili pepper that gets its name from the town of Xalapa, Veracruz (Xalapa is pronounced with the X as an “H” sound). Probably the most common of peppers in the U.S. and Mexico, the jalapeno comes to us from the Aztecs, who historians say smoked the chilis.
As an easy way to kick your first meal of the day, chop up some jalapenos (removing the skin and seeds) and simply throw them into scrambled eggs. We recommend that you go easy on the amount of jalapenos you throw in until you have an idea as to how many peppers will make the dish too hot. After all, it’s much easier to add chili peppers to a dish than it is to remove them.
Many people add bread crumbs or other ingredients to their ground chuck when making up hamburger patties. That said, it’s also very easy to add some chopped jalapenos to the ground chuck as you shape the patties (with or without the bread crumbs). As mentioned above, go easy on the amount of jalapenos you add until you feel you’ve found your burger “hot spot.” This may entail having to try adding jalapenos a few times with your burgers, so if you feel one batch isn’t hot enough, you can always add tabasco or another hot sauce atop the cooked patties as you eat the hamburgers.
Remember that if you feel the peppers as nature made them are too hot, but you still want to add some spiceness to your dishes, you can use jalapeno pepper jelly in many recipes. For example, spice up the old standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some jalapeno pepper jelly! Take your vinaigrette salad dressing to another “hot” level by whisking pepper jelly in with your red wine vinegar, olive oil and mustard.
Love stir fry? Season your sautéed chicken and vegetables with crushed red pepper teriyaki sauce and then swirl in some jalapeno pepper jelly until it all melts together.
Here at Mattito’s, we understand that not everyone loves hot and spicy Tex Mex cuisine. That’s why, if you do like your food spicy, let us know so that we can make sure we can accommodate your taste buds. Stop by soon at the Mattito’s location nearest you.
Image courtesy of Piyachok Thawommat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So you make some guacamole in preparation for your Tex Mex-themed dinner party. It’s done, it’s ready and so you grab a tortilla chip and dip it into the green, gooey goodness that is guacamole and….meh.
What happened!? Guacamole isn’t at all hard to make, how could things have gone bad?
It’s not that things “went bad.” It’s more that you didn’t start with the right ingredients.
Take a look below for four reasons your guacamole wasn’t as good as it could have been.
- Were the avocados you used fully ripe?
Choose avocados that are firm but ripe. How can you know if an avocado has the right degree of ripeness? Press its stem end. If it gives a bit but isn’t mushy, it’s perfect. Too mushy? It’s too far gone. Too firm? Wait a day or two before using it.
- Did you use the type of avocados that are best for guacamole?
The best type of avocado to use is called a Hass avocado. These avocados are a very dark green (almost black), have bumpy skin and are small.
- Watch the ratio among ingredients.
The best guacamole includes avocado as well as lemon or lime juice, onion, tomato, cilantro, and hot pepper. A good recipe has you using three or four avocados, half an onion, one or two hot peppers, one or two tomatoes, one or two tablespoons of the lemon or lime juice, three or four tablespoons of cilantro (chopped), maybe one clove of garlic, and pepper and salt to taste.
- Speaking of onions….
Most people prefer to use sweet white onion in their guacamole recipe. Red or yellow onion tends to give the guacamole too strong of a garlic flavor.
A fifth reason your guacamole isn’t as “good as it could be” depends on who is making that assessment. Guacamole lovers tend to be passionate about whether the dip should be “chunky” or “mashed.” If your guacamole critic loves her dip chunky, and you prefer your avocado dip mashed? There’s the “problem.” After all, one can rarely make everyone happy!
Looking for some great guacamole to eat with your tortilla chips? Make sure you ask for some the next time you visit Mattito’s! Stop by the Mattito’s location nearest you to satisfy that hankering for guacamole you’ve been experiencing lately.
Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The U.S. loves to honor people and things with special and national days. We have the Mother’s and Father’s days, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Secretary’s Day, and hundreds more. There’s even “Eat a Red Apple Day” (December 1).
We also love to celebrate weird things for entire months. We have Fall Hat Month (September) Sarcastic Month (October), Peanut Butter Lovers Month (November), and so on.
So naturally there’s National Dessert Day (of course!); it falls on October 14 this year. While we couldn’t find much about its history (why a day about desserts, who set it as a national day, and why is the day in October), but we heartily endorse it. After all, what’s not to love about desserts? They should be celebrated!
Therefore, in honor of National Dessert Day, we offer you a quick and simple recipe for flan, one of the most popular Tex Mex desserts ever. This dessert comes to us courtesy of Food.com and its creator is C. Taylor.
You will need (for 8-10 servings):
- Three-quarter cup of sugar
- Four eggs
- One 14-ounce can of condensed milk
- One tablespoon of vanilla extract
- One 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
- Boiling water (you will place the flan in it while the dessert is baking)
- A pie plate and a large pan in which the plate will fit
- A large bowl
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
- Place the sugar in a saucepan and brown it until it turns a nice, dark, golden brown (don’t burn it).
- You will need to swiftly transfer the browned sugar to the pie plate. Use some tablespoons of water to help melt it.
- Get the bowl and beat the eggs. Add the milk and vanilla extract. Mix well and pour the mixture into the pie plate.
- Take the large pan (the one for the pie plate) and fill it halfway with boiling water. Place it in your oven and then put the pie plate in the middle of the pan.
- Bake it in the oven between 45 and 55 minutes, until the flan’s center is soft, but firm enough that it’s not too goopy.
- Remove it and let it cool. Once cool, run a knife along the pie plate’s edge and then flip the flan onto a serving dish.
Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Essential” Tex Mex dishes is the topic of this post. So what do we mean by “essential?”
Well, because Tex Mex meals are – essentially – Americanized versions of traditional Mexican dishes as brought to the U.S. via Texas’ Tejano culture (people of Mexican or Spanish descent who moved to Texas before it became a republic) , we’re talking about tacos, fajitos, enchiladas, and tortilla chips. Lots and lots of tortilla chips!
Oh, and melted cheese. Tons of melted cheese!
But what are the essential dishes of Tex Mex, the ones that, were you to see them on a menu you’d say, “Ah, ‘traditional’ Tex Mex!”?
Here are four:
- Refried beans.
Many lovers of Tex Mex cuisine consider refried beans to be the mashed potatoes, the macaroni and cheese, the comfort food of Tex Mex! This thick and hearty side dish is not exactly healthy fare, but just like mashed potatoes and a bowl of mac and cheese, it’s heaven.
- Fajitas. More to the point, steak fajitas.
Fajitas definitely didn’t originate in Mexico: they are a true Texas/U.S. creation. This combination of sizzling hot skirt steak (and it should be sizzling hot), paired with red, green and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes and garnish of your choosing, is indescribably delicious.
- Cheese. Particularly yellow cheese. Preferably melted yellow cheese.
In fact, queso (a dip comprised of melted yellow cheese, with chilies for extra zip) is so much a Tex Mex staple in Texas that your Tex Mex party or barbecue isn’t complete without this beloved dip.
- Nachos. The more melted cheese and jalapenos and even refried beans, the better!
Tortillas covered in melted cheese, sliced jalapenos, smothered in refried beans, tomatoes, even ground beef? Many people look to nachos as an appetizer, but others know them for what they truly can be, a most satisfying meal in and of themselves!
Those are just four Tex Mex dishes we feel are “essential.” What are yours?
Image courtesy of Glory Foods/flickr.com
Tacos have become so popular in the U.S. that it almost seems appropriate to change the well-known saying to “American as Mom, baseball and tacos.”
So how did this small meal of beef, beans, chicken, or fish, topped with shredded cheese, lettuce and tomato, spooned between the opening of a curved, crunchy, corn taco come to take over the American landscape?
Read below for a very short history of the taco in the U.S.
Smithsonian magazine back in 2012 wrote that the taco comes to us from the silver mines of Mexico. (They “likely” invented it, according to the magazine.) “Taco” actually was the word miners in the 18th century used to describe the small charges they used to evacuate ore (hence the belief that miners created a dish they called a taco).
Fast forward to the 19th century (the 1800s) and the taco’s first appearance in print was a dictionary that described the dishes as tacos de minero (or miner’s tacos). Again, the miners…
Tacos apparently migrated to working class neighborhoods and then to the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s as Mexican migrants made their way north working in mines and on railroads. The taco’s first mention in a U.S. newspaper is in 1905.
The taco is still seen as a food for the lower classes and remains so for several decades. Yet as the children and grandchildren of the original Mexican immigrants start to rise economically, “street food” rises a bit – just a bit – in esteem.
In addition, descendants of Mexican immigrants are using American ingredients in their dishes, such as beef instead of offal, for example.
Many people believe Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, “invented” the u-shaped, crispy taco shell taco (Bell himself believed so). But, according to the Smithsonian, his contribution to the rise of the taco in America was to make Mexican food “ok” for non-Mexicans to eat. He also made the tacos ahead of anyone ordering them, thus making the process of feeding many people go much more quickly (“fast” food). In fact, the article adds that references to the u-shape, hard taco shell was in evidence a full 10 years before Bell opened his first restaurant.
As Taco Bell grew in popularity among Americans of non-Mexican heritage, so did the taco.
And that, in a nut (corn taco) shell, is a very short history of the taco in America.
Attribution: Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/nebulux/9055162205/