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How Mexicans Get Ready for the Holidays

With Christmas just a bit less than five weeks away, many of us already are in the throes of getting ready for it.

We’re purchasing gifts, planning meals and parties, sending out holiday cards….and working hard to be good 24/7 if we’re still a believer in Santa Claus.

While the idea of Santa Claus and live Christmas trees in the living room have made their way south of the border, traditional Mexican holiday celebrations are a bit different than in the U.S.

For one thing, the holiday season generally lasts from December 12 through January 6 (the day of the Epiphany, a day that celebrates the revelation, as Wikipedia.com puts it, “the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ.”

The Epiphany also is the day Mexican children get the majority of their presents (rather than on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, as they do in the U.S.).

The holiday season really goes into full swing from December 16-24, as children participate in Posada processions, of which there is one each evening over nine days. A Posada procession honors the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph looking for a room in an inn. Homes along the Posada route often are adorned with paper lanterns, evergreens and even moss.

As they walk in the Posada, children are handed candles, clay figures of Mary and Joseph and a board to place them on. They visit the homes of neighbors and friends, signing songs about the couple asking for a room in the home.

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During the Posada, children walk with a board on which they place Nativity figures such as these (although the Posada figures are made of clay).

The last house they visit finally tells them there is room and they enter the home to have a party with friends and family, plenty of food, games and even fireworks. Breaking piñatas filled with candy is a favorite, traditional game at these festivities

The final Posada takes place on Christmas Eve. It’s now that the children place figures of the shepherds on their board and when they arrive at the house that lets them in, they place a baby Jesus in the manger and then head to a midnight church service with their families.

The celebration of the Epiphany (January 6) also includes eating a cake specially made for the occasion called Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Cake). A figure of the baby Jesus is hidden in the cake and the child who has the baby Jesus in their slice becomes Jesus’ godparent for the year.

As your own family prepares for this year’s holiday season, don’t forget to treat them to a night of delicious Tex Mex food at a Mattito’s location near you. Feliz Navidad!

Image courtesy of franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Eating Tex Mex for Thanksgiving

Sure, Thanksgiving traditionally is a time of turkey, breaded stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, string beans, and pumpkin pie for dessert.

But traditions sometimes should be broken, if only to enliven one’s days a bit.

So why not skip the bird this year and give thanks for all that you have by serving your family and Thanksgiving Day guests with a Tex Mex meal?

In fact, you needn’t give up the turkey at all. To transform a traditional Thanksgiving meal into one with a Tex Mex ‘tude, all you need to do is substitute Tex Mex dishes for your traditional sides.

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If you want to try a Tex Mex Thanksgiving meal, you can still enjoy turkey as your main course; just add some Tex Mex side dishes to liven the menu up a bit?

For example, why not try these ideas for your Thanksgiving Day menu:

  • Stuff your bird with chorizo apple stuffing
  • Serve your guests grilled rosemary sweet potatoes
  • A delicious side dish is roasted chili-lime broccolini
  • Try roasted chili cornbread
  • Provide guests with cranberry, apple and orange relish to spread on their turkey slices

To make the grilled rosemary sweet potatoes, you’ll need seven large sweet potatoes (about 6.5 pounds total; they should be scrubbed. You’ll also need about a half cup of extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup of rosemary leaves (fresh and finely chopped), one tablespoon of salt (kosher, and one tablespoon of pepper.

Heat your grill to 325 degrees. After cutting the potatoes in half lengthwise, cut each of those halves into three long wedges and then put the wedges onto two rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle them with 1/3 cup of the oil. Turn them to coat. Then sprinkle with the salt, pepper and rosemary.

Grill the potatoes covered (you can grill them in batches, if necessary), turning them every 10 minutes until they are brown and tender, for a total of 15 to 20 minutes. Move them to a serving platter and drizzle them with a bit more oil just before serving.

All Mattito’s locations will be closed Thanksgiving Day, but we will be open the day before and after. Come on the day before (and after you’ve been prepping for the big day) to relax with some delicious Tex Mex food.

Visit a Mattito’s location near you. Contact us today for more information.

Image courtesy of Tom Curtis/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6 Mexican Food Myths

How well do you know your facts about Mexican food?

Did you know, as just one example, that a real taco is one that’s made with carne asada or bistek, not ground beef.

Read below for the truth about five other Mexican food myths.

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Americans believe a few “facts” about Mexican food that really are myths. Read below for the truth about five myths about Mexican cuisine.

Myth 1: If you’re pregnant, you can’t eat salsa because the spices in it will hurt the baby. It’s OK to eat salsa when pregnant – or at any time. But, like anything else, overeating salsa isn’t a good idea – for anyone. Remember, moderation in all things.

Myth 2: Menudo smells terrible when cooking so it must taste terrible! Menudo (cow intestines) does smell terrible while being cooked. Yet it’s a delicious food. Like the proverb about not judging a book by its cover, or a person by the way he or she dresses, don’t judge Mexican food – or any food – by how it smells when being cooked. Judge it only by how it tastes once it’s been cooked.

Myth 3: Everything red in a Mexican dish is very hot and spicy. Are tomatoes spicy? So why should everything else red be spicy as well? Mexican food, actually, can be very mild. It all depends on how much salsa is in a dish. The less salsa, the less hot and spicy.

Myth 4: Mexican food is just tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, and so on. In truth, Mexican cuisine has many complex dishes, including cabrito (a dish using the meat of baby goats), mole, pozole, sopa de lima, ceviches, tamales, and on and on and on.

Myth 5: Mexican food is unhealthy and is laden with fat. Mexican food here in the United States does tend to be swathed in cheese and fatty meats (the ground beef), and thick sauces. But it needn’t be this way. Tacos made with fish or chicken (with a bit of cheese sprinkled upon it), can be very healthy. So can fajitas. Burritos made with chicken or fish also can be very healthy. So it’s not Mexican food that’s unhealthy, it’s how it’s prepared.

For some delicious – and healthy – Mexican cuisine in the Dallas area, visit a Mattito’s location near you. Contact us today for more information.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Day of the Dead Explained

The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) takes place every year on November 1 and 2 (which are the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day) in Mexico and places in the U.S. where many Mexican immigrants and their descendants live (such as the Dallas region).

While somewhat similar to Halloween (in that both holidays occur very close to each other and both deal with the dead in some aspect), the Day of the Dead is different in many ways.

The holiday originated in Mexico hundreds of years ago and is a mix of Spanish Catholic and pre-Hispanic indigenous beliefs. Its main premise is the celebration of the cycle of life, with death being just another part of the continuance of life (on another plane). It is, in other words, a celebration of the afterlife.

Dia de los Muertos is a day to celebrate and honor loved ones who have died. It’s a happy time and is Mexico’s most important holiday.

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Many family members erect small altars filled with favorite foods, mementos and photos for deceased loved ones.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated with the favorite foods (and lots of them) of those who have died, music and keepsakes saved by living family members. Small altars are erected in homes, which are decorated with pictures and other mementoes of the deceased loved ones. Some families picnic and feast by the deceased persons’ graves (if possible). Living family members tell funny and/or heartwarming stories about their dead loved ones. Celebrants may paint their faces as smiling skeletons (the holiday’s symbol). As mentioned above, the Day of the Dead is a day of joy and celebration.

It’s believed that those who have died return for the day, to celebrate their lives with their loved ones. The holiday serves as a way to stay connected with the afterlife, a realm to which everyone someday will travel.

We hope you’ll celebrate Halloween or the Day of the Dead at a Mattito’s location near you. Contact us today for more information.

By Chuchomotas (Own work) [GFDL CC-BY-SA-3.0 or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

Halloween and the Day of the Dead

Halloween takes place October 31, while in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 1 and 2.

Halloween has its origins in old Gaelic celebrations regarding the end of summer and the storing of the summer harvest and getting ready for the cold days ahead, while Dia de los Muertos got its start as an Aztec celebration dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. It is a way to honor the lives and deaths of one’s ancestors, family and friends.

Halloween’s activities are meant to ward off dead spirits by scaring them by wearing frightening costumes and masks while celebrations on the Day of the Dead honor the memories of those who have passed on and encourages those spirits to visit living relatives.

The jack-o-lantern (a carved pumpkin with a candle inside) is the main symbol of Halloween, while the skull symbolizes the Day of the Dead.

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The skull is the symbol of Dia de los Muertos .

Scary images abound in Halloween, while images of skeletons and cheerfully decorated graves are prevalent during Day of the Dead celebrations.

Halloween takes place on the traditional Christian All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saint’s Day on November 1, while Day of the Dead celebrations coincide with the Catholic All Soul’s Day of November 2.

Food is a big part of both celebrations, with children in the U.S. going from door-to-door on Halloween asking for “tricks or treats,” with the treats being candy. During the Day of the Dead festivities, many families set out a deceased loved one’s favorite foods by an altar/shrine decorated in their honor either in the home, or at the gravesite. Many families in Mexico and other South American cultures will set up huge picnic lunches and dinners by the loved ones’ gravesites.

The most striking difference between the two is that in Halloween, death is to be feared, while in Dia de los Muertos celebrations, death (or the memories of those who have died) is celebrated.

Whether you celebrate Halloween or you prefer to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, do so at the Mattito’s nearest you.

Image courtesy artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

America’s current way of celebrating Halloween originates from the ancient Celts and their celebrations of the end of the harvest season.

But we also get a lot of our traditions from Mexico: the practice having of decorating with skeletons and/or dressing like one the night before the Day of the Dead, which is November 1, is a big one. Thus, on Halloween (the night before the Day of the Dead), we dress as spooks and goblins.

So it’s very appropriate to serve Tex Mex food at a Halloween party.

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Celebrating Halloween with ghosts and skeletons comes to us from Mexico. Therefore it’s completely appropriate to celebrate the day before the Day of the Dead (that would be Halloween) with some great Tex Mex dishes.

Read below for a Halloween Tex Mex dish idea to treat your little ghouls and goblins.

If you’re hosting a party for teens, why not spice the party up with some Tex Mex lasagna?

For ingredients you’ll need a pound of lean ground beef; a cup of frozen diced onion, red and green bell pepper and celery; 3 minced garlic cloves; one tablespoon of chili powder, one tablespoon of chipotle seasoning blend,; a 24-ounce jar of mild salsa; a 15-ounce can of dark red kidney beans, drained; a 10-ounce can of enchilada sauce; a 10-ounce package of frozen white kernel corn (thaw it); 16 six-inch corn tortillas, four cups of shredded cheese; and sour cream and chopped tomatoes.

Cook the beef, diced onion, peppers, celery, and garlic cloves in a large skillet (non-stick) over medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring often until the veggies are tender and the ground beef is no longer pink and “crumbles.”

Stir in the salsa and the chili powder, the chipotle and the kidney beans. Cook another 5-10 minutes.

Take two tortillas (overlap their edges) and place one cup of the beef mixture and ½ cup of cheese into a lightly greased baking dish. Repeat the layers. Then repeat the procedure with three more baking dishes. Cover the dishes in non-stick aluminum foil.

Bake (keep the dishes covered) for 30 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. Then uncover and bake another 5 minutes or until their bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving with your desired toppings.

Celebrate All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) the right way: by coming to the Mattito’s nearest you for some great Tex Mex food. Go ahead and dress in costume!

Image courtesy Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When Your Picky Eater Won’t Eat Tex Mex Food

All children are picky eaters at one time or another. There’s the 4-year-old who won’t eat the crust of the pizza and only picks at the toppings. There’s the 6-year-old who won’t eat a hot dog, but happily devours the buns. There’s the 7-year-old who will only eat a tuna sandwich whenever you go out to a restaurant. (No tuna sandwich on the menu and the kid decides to go hungry.)

All of these are normal behaviors.

But then there’s the child who refuses to eat a taco, or a burrito…

We know; hard to believe. But these “No to Tex Mex, thank you” children definitely are out there.

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She’ll eat everything on her plate – except a taco! Don’t force the issue and let her try a bite of yours, but only if she wants to.

Read below for some tips on how to get your picky eater to love Tex Mex meals.

  • According to the Mayo Clinic, the most important thing to do is not force your child to eat something she doesn’t want to, because this probably will result in a power struggle. The same goes for bribing a child to eat something. She’ll come to know she can get something from you she wants if she puts up a fight. Forcing a child to eat also can lead her to feel that dinner time is a time of anxiety and disagreements. Don’t fight about it.
  • Be very patient when introducing new foods to your child, including Tex Mex. Let her place a small bite of the burrito in her mouth. If she doesn’t like it, let her spit it out.
  • Make it fun. Show the child how much you enjoy the food and let her know how tasty it is. Again, don’t force her to try it. Let her know she’s allowed to take a bite from your plate if she’d like, however.
  • Cook some tacos or burritos at home, but don’t force her to eat them and don’t have an argument about the fact that she refuses. Have a dish that she likes handy. It’s Ok to say how much you’re enjoying your taco, but don’t tease her and don’t scold.
  • Eventually, as you enjoy Tex Mex food yourself, as she grows older, she’ll grow out of her picky eating phase and we can practically guarantee that she’ll come to love Tex Mex food as much as you do.

We have several, non-Tex Mex dishes here at Mattito’s for your young picky eater, including chicken strips, PBJ, cheeseburgers, and more. Find a Mattito’s location near you and bring the whole family!

Image courtesy stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Make the Perfect Salsa

The salsa you use as a garnish or side with your Tex Mex dishes can make or break that dish.

Salsa first appeared within the Inca culture and made its way to the Mayans and Aztecs. Spaniards’ first encounters with tomatoes (the main ingredient of salsa) took place after Spain’s conquest of Mexico (1519-1521). They also first came into contact with the old Inca combination of combining tomatoes with ground squash seeds and chili peppers, eating the mixture mainly as a condiment eaten with lobster, fish, turkey, and venison. Alonso de Molina is said to have given this combination the name of salsa in 1571.

New Orleans’ manufacturer Charles E. Erath started putting out jars of salsa (which he called Extract of Louisiana Pepper, Red Hot Creole Peppersauce) in 1916 and a year later, Los Angeles’ La Victoria Foods started selling Salsa Brava

Henry Tanklage, founder of La Victoria Sales Company (created specifically to market a new salsa line, named La Victoria), introduced the first salsa hot sauces in the U.S. in 1941. He created red and green taco and enchilada sauces

Salsa sauce sales took off in a big way between 1985 and 1990, growing by 79 percent: Americans love their salsa.

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A great salsa starts with fresh tomatoes, making the garnish/salad a very healthy addition to a Tex Mex meal.

Salsa is fairly easy to make yourself. Here’s one of our favorite recipes (makes five cups):

You’ll need 3 cups of chopped tomatoes, ½ cup chopped green bell pepper, 1 cup of diced onion, ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 4 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (including the seeds), ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve.

We love salsa here at Mattito’s. I you love it as much as we do, we urge you to find a Mattito’s location near you and sample some yourself!

Image courtesy Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vegetarian Tex Mex Dishes

Most people think of meat when they think of Tex Mex food. From steak in fajitas to the ground beef, pork, chicken, or even fish in tacos, meats tend to be a mainstay of any Tex Mex dish.

But vegetarians can take heart: there are plenty of terrific non-meat/vegetarian Tex Mex dishes available for you to enjoy.

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Roast these vegetables, mix them with black beans, place them in a tortilla, and you have a great Tex Mex vegetarian wrap!

Read below for six vegetarian Tex Mex dishes you may want to try.

  1. Try vegan tacos. Mix chickpeas (garbanzo beans), sweet potatoes and finely chopped walnuts together to use as the “meat.” Place the sautéed vegetables of your choice on top of the mix.
  2. Make enchiladas with a mix of black beans, zucchini and corn instead of meat.
  3. Pack tiny taquitos with sweet potatoes that have been “spiked” with lime.
  4. If you adore avocadoes, place fried avocadoes as the meat in your taco, rather than chicken or beef.
  5. Use roasted sweet potatoes and black beans as your taco filling.
  6. Preheat our oven to 400 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of refried beans, sliced tomatoes and then black beans in a folded tortilla (you can opt for a gluten-free tortilla, if you desire) and bake for 10-15 minutes. Voila! You now have a very healthy quesadilla, one that’s baked, not fried in a pan.

Are you a lover of Tex Mex food who has decided to follow a vegetarian diet? Don’t worry about eating at Mattito’s: let us know your dietary needs and we’ll be sure to whip up something absolutely delicious for you (we have a great vegetarian menu available; all you need to do is ask).

Visit a Mattito’s location near you soon!

Image courtesy Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Eating Tex Mex Food on the Paleo Diet

If you’re adhering to a Paleo diet (one in which followers eat no grain, breads, starchy vegetables and fruits, mostly eating meats, vegetables and some fruit), Tex Mex food will easily accommodate your dietary needs.

For example, you can start off your meal with tortilla soup. Tortilla chips, of course, are not allowed on a Paleo diet, but you can easily ask your waiter to hold the tortilla chips, sour cream and cheese. You could ask the waiter to tell the cook to add some chicken (make sure it has no sauce on it) to the soup for a heartier repast.

Fajitas to the rescue! Why not order a taco salad, minus the shell bowl? Ask for fajita meat rather than ground beef. Again, opt out of the cheese and the sour cream. Ask that the waiter forgo the corn and beans, as well.

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Fajitas and the Paleo diet go together like peanut butter and jelly, minus the carbs and sugar.

Salad dressings can be problematic on a Paleo diet. So skip the dressing and ask for salsa instead.

Dying to have a margarita but worried about all the sugar (which you should be, if eating Paleo). You can still enjoy this wonderful drink, but you’ll need to be very specific when you give your order to your waiter. Don’t ask for a margarita; instead ask the waiter for a shot of silver tequila to be mixed with two shots of freshly squeezed lime juice (make sure it’s freshly squeezed), in a salted glass over ice.

If you’re following any type of diet and/or have certain food restrictions, we’ll do everything we can here at Mattito’s to accommodate you. Just talk to your waiter. Visit a Matitto’s near you.

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