Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Casual Mexican Dinner Party

My husband and I rarely get the opportunity to have people over to our home, so when we do I like to make it a big deal.  I always want people to feel special when they come here.  I want them to feel like they are worth being put on for.  When I started planning this dinner party for friends of ours, I knew Mexican food was the way I wanted to go.  We were feeding not only adults, but teenagers and children as well so it had to be something that crossed the age gap.  So here is what our plates looked like....

Yum!  Our dinner consisted of a salad with some interesting add ins, open face chipotle cheese quesadillas, mexican cheesy rice casserole, refried beans, and steak fajitas.  Then for dessert we had chipotle chocolate toffee!  Party in your mouth!

This toffee was sweet and spicy and crunchy and creamy and a whole bunch of other delicious words too.  It was such a taste adventure.  You see candy and start out tasting sweet and then the subtle spicy bite kicks in and is such a surprise.  Everyone LOVED this.

Let's start out with the recipes and then I'll give you a game plan.

Red Onion, Avocado, Mint Salad

2 heads romain lettuce, chopped
one red onion, sliced thinly, halved, separated
3-5 oranges, peeled and separated
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, sliced
8 mint leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch sugar
1/3 c. olive oil

Chop lettuce and place in a large salad bowl.  Prep and add onion, oranges, and avacados.  Toss.  Top with mint leaves.  Mix remaining ingredients well and dress right before serving.

Open Face Chipotle Cheese Quesadillas (the kids call these Mexican Pizza)

4-5 large flour tortillas, burrito size
Olive oil
2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 tsp adobo sauce from can
1/2 c. roasted red peppers, finely chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, minced
Monterey Jack cheese, about 2 cups

Brush olive oil over the tortillas.  Mix next 5 ingredients together well and spread over the tortillas in desired amount.  Please know that this can get spicy quick if you put too much of this.  Top each quesadilla heavily with cheese.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 6 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden.

Mexican Cheesy Rice Casserole

2 packages Mexican Rice Mix (I used Knorr's Fiesta Sides)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup sour cream
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

Make rice according to directions.  In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, half of the cheese, onions, sour cream, salt, and pepper.  Transfer to a 9x13 dish and sprinkle with paprika and remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Serve hot.

Refried Beans....dump....heat....serve...yeah, I cheat sometimes too.  :o)

Steak Fajitas

1/2 c olive oil
12 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c lime juice
4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 lbs flank steak (unless something better is on sale...this time I got to use sirloin)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 large bell peppers cut into thin strips (use different colors for a prettier display...I had green and red in the freezer)
2 large onions, sliced and separated
1 1/2 tsp oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c minced fresh cilantro
10 inch flour tortillas
Any desired toppings: salsa, guac, sour cream, etc

Combine first six, cover, and chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.  Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add peppers, onions, and oregano.  Cook until translucent (around 12 minutes). Add remaining minced garlic and cook 2 more minutes.  Stir in cilantro and set aside, keeping warm.  Remove steak from the marinade and grill for 5 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting.  Cut into thin strips.  Serve with onions and peppers on tortillas with desired toppings.

Chipotle Chocolate Toffee

1 1/4 c butter (I like to use salted for contrast)
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/3 c water
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle pepper plus 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce from can
2 c almonds, chopped
1 c dark chocolate morsels

Melt butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt.  Cook until sugar dissolves.  Place a candy thermometer in the pan, increase heat to medium and add pepper and sauce.  Boil for 10 minutes, stirring constantly or until thermometer reaches 290.  Remove from heat and pour onto a jelly roll pan spreading to 1/4" thickness.  (I find it helpful to have the pan be warm so that the mixture doesn't harden too quickly)  Sprinkle chocolate morsels over toffee mixture.  Let stand two minutes, then spread the chocolate with a spatula.  Let cool completely, then break into pieces like brittle.

This all sounds like a good bit of work, but with a well laid out plan, it can be pretty simple.  Here is what I did...

Day Before:
Marinate Beef
Assemble Cheesy Rice Casserole and refrigerate
Prepare Toffee

A few hours before:
Prep and bag salad ingredients and dressing and refrigerate

1 hour before:
Saute Onions and Peppers for fajitas

30 minutes before:
Bake Mexican Cheesy Rice
Begin cooking refried beans

Last Minute:
Grill and slice steak
Prepare Quesadillas
Toss & Dress Salad

ENJOY!  We had so much fun sharing this meal with our friends.  I wish I had gotten pictures of all of us together.  Afterward, we built a fire in the fire pit and let the kids roast marshmallows.  I hope your guests or family will enjoy this meal as much as we did.


  1. I am so happy to say we were the guests at this dinner party and everything was amazing!!!!!! The food was delicious...I think I ate about 5 servings of the mexican rice dish..no lie! Thank you so much for having us over! We are truly thankful for you and your family!

    1. We so enjoyed having y'all over, and the kids had a blast. We have to do that again sometime.

  2. Seems to be a good dinner party. I am in search of excellent Seattle venues for arranging my cousin’s dinner party. Searched on internet and came across few amazing venues. Looking forward to book perfect venue for this occasion.