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Celebrating the New Year in Mexico

Mexico is a country filled with people who love a party. Celebrating the New Year gives Mexico’s residents a good reason to celebrate in a big way.

Just as in the U.S., most celebrations take place the evening before, on New Year’s Eve.

Families decorate their homes in festive colors, with each color representing what the family hopes for in the coming year. Yellow connotes better employment conditions, and green is a sign the family wants to have a better financial situation. Red means family members want an overall improvement in their lives. White means improved health.

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What do grapes have to do with celebrating the New Year in Mexico? Keep reading.

The family serves Mexican sweet bread that was baked earlier with a charm or coin hidden in the dough. The guest who receives a slice of the bread with the coin/charm is supposed to have good luck throughout the coming year.

A popular activity is to write a list of all of the unhappy or bad things that happened in the previous 12 months and, at midnight, throw the list into a fire. This symbolizes removing negative energy from one’s life as the New Year arrives.

Mexicans celebrate the New Year with a late dinner with friends and family. A traditional New Year’s Eve meal is pork loin or turkey. Once done eating, many families head outside to attend parties.

In the U.S., we count down the seconds right before midnight. In Mexico, people eat one grape at each of the last 12 seconds as the clock moves toward midnight, making a wish as they eat each one.

All Mattito’s locations close at 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and we’ll be closed all of New Year’s Day. If you’d like to celebrate early, stop by the Mattito’s closest to you and enjoy some great Tex Mex dishes to ring in the New Year!

Image courtesy of satit_srihin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Christmas Dinner as Done in Mexico

Christmas Eve tends to be the day in Mexican homes when it comes to Christmas, as it’s on Christmas Eve when the primary holiday celebrations take place.

Noche Buena is heralded with the ringing of church bells, fireworks and blowing whistles. Once the final Posada ends, celebrants go to churches and attend what is known as the Mass of the Rooster (Misa de Gallo).

After mass, everyone heads home for the traditional Christmas Eve feast, which includes tamales, chiles rellenos, rice, menudo, and possibly turkey or roast pig. Diners also feast on hot fruit or cider punch. Alcoholic beverages might include spirits such as rompope, an eggnog-like drink which often includes rum as a main ingredient.

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Tamales and other foods traditionally are served in Mexican homes right after midnight on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning.

Celebrants also gather around a personal nativity scene, which is a recreation of Jesus’ stable birthplace,. Construction starts several days before Christmas Eve and finished on Christmas Eve itself.

Christmas Eve ends with the opening of gifts, breaking open a piñata, and more activities.

Christmas Day itself traditionally is a day of rest.

If you’d like to recreate a Mexican-style Christmas Eve dinner here – again – is a listing of the foods included within it:

  • Tamales
  • Chiles Rellenos
  • Menudo
  • Spanish Rice
  • Maybe Turkey or Roast Pig
  • Hot Fruit or Cider Punch
  • Rompope (for adults only, if spiked with rum)

If you’d like to enjoy Tex Mex food on the holiday, our Mattito’s locations are open regular hours Christmas Eve. We are closed Christmas Day so that our employees may enjoy the holiday with their loved ones. Contact us for reservations.

Image: “Tamale Trail, Helena-West Helena, AR 001” by Southern Foodways Alliance – Flickr: tamales simmering in pot_detail 2. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Typical Foods Served During the Christmas Season in Mexico

Let’s say you’re heading to Mexico and will be there over the Christmas holidays.

Let’s further say that you won’t be staying in a hotel or renting a home/apartment, but instead will be staying with a Mexican family.

What kinds of food might you expect to eat during the holiday season?

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Santa arrives in Mexico, too. Looks as if this one may have been drinking some spiked ponche.

Some of the traditional holiday foods in Mexico include:

  • Russian potato salad is especially popular in Mexico’s northern states. It’s served as a side to…
  • Pavo, a roasted stuffed turkey served with gravy.
  • Ensalada de Noche Buena is Christmas Eve Salad served on… Christmas Eve!
  • Menudo is a tradition for Christmas morning in Mexico’s northern states. It’s a tripe and hominy soup. It’s often made on Christmas Eve as cooking time can be as much as five hours.
  • Bacalao with Romeritos is a Christmas tradition of Mexico’s central region. Romeritos are tiny green leaves and often mixed with mole and potatoes. Bacalao is a cod dish. It’s traditionally eaten in Mexico’s southern states, as well as the central states.
  • Tamales sometimes will replace the bacalo or turkey.
  • Pineapple upside down cake often is served as a dessert during the holidays.
  • Ponche is a drink made of sugar cane, prunes, apples and the fruit of the tejocotes (a hawthorn bush). Adults often are served ponche with a bit or tequila or rum mixed in.

If you’d like to sample some foods traditional served in Mexico during the holiday season, visit the Mattito’s location nearest you.

Image by Fluous (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Why Isn’t Dessert as Popular in Mexico as in the U.S?

Actually, the title above is a bit misleading: it’s not that Mexico residents don’t like desserts as much as Americans do, it’s just that they like desserts that are more subtle in their sweetness. U.S. desserts tend to be exceptionally sweet – a bit too much so by Mexico standards.

Traditional Mexican desserts usually were pudding, custard or cooked fresh fruit. Dessert was served after what often was a six-course meal, so desserts tended to be much lighter than what is considered to be a typical American dessert such as ice cream, pie or cake.

Another thing you’ll notice about traditional Mexican desserts: they aren’t fried. This may surprise Americans, considering that tacos and tortilla chips are fried. The only Mexican dessert that’s fried is a dish known as crema frita which is thick custard that’s sliced and then rolled in flour, eggs, bread crumbs, and then fried in oil.

Mexicans do enjoy their sweets at breakfast, however. Cookies, fruit and sweet rolls often are served at the first meal of the day. They also enjoy a sweet treat at mid-afternoon. It even has its own name: merienda and it includes sweet rolls, hot chocolate, cakes, cookies, and a corn porridge known as atole, which is eaten with milk, eggs, sugar, and fruit.

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Anyone up for at breakfast? It’s popular in Mexico!

(Are you seeing a fruit-with-dessert pattern here? What’s more, Mexicans often like their fruit with a bit of kick: many street vendors sell fruit curbside…along with red hot chili powder to sprinkle on it.)

A dessert known as a dulce is especially popular in Mexico. A dulce more than likely is a pudding. Tortas (cakes) often have a lovely subtle sweet and are made with chick peas, carrots and cantaloupe. (Again with the fruit!)

Mexicans also love chocolate (not surprising, since they introduced this sweet treat to the world). They love hot chocolate and use chocolate in baking and in candies, as well as in meat dishes.

Check out our desserts the next time you visit one of our Mattito’s locations. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Image courtesy of samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Nov3_Nativity

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