Easy Mexican dinner for 12

May 09, 2021

If quarantine taught us anything, it's how important it is for us to socialize; human beings are social animals after all. Things have eased up and having friends over for dinner is back on and I'm so ready to jump back into entertaining.  For the last decade I've been a fan of easy entertaining, but after taking a year off, I feel like pushing the restart button on my entertaining style and make things even easier, because another thing I learned this past year is that less is more, and most importantly, it's all about gathering together the people we love and not the toiling and obsessing over what food we serve them. So, with easy entertaining in mind and using a few shortcuts in my recipes, come along with me while I cook for our first party in over a year. 


We were very lucky with the weather. It was gorgeous.

The roses were at their best. I'm planning a garden post soon.



Next to the drinks table I had a tin cooler full of ice, white wine and beer.


Use garden flowers if you have them, but grocery store flowers work well too.
Add a little bit of neighborhood greenery and your flowers will go twice as far.

Sitting inside a cupboard for over a year, my glasses were cloudy and the
plates were dusty. I had to run everything in the dishwasher before I could set the table.


The charred skin adds extra flavor.

Unfortunately, I'm always in such a mad rush to get the food on the 
buffet table that I forget to take a picture. This picture is from Creme de la Crumb
and her recipe looks delicious!



I plan to use this menu several times this summer for other parties big and small because it's rather frugal, unfussy, and perfect to serve buffet style. 


Nuts, Snow Peas, Cheese Toasts

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Green Salad, Lentil Salad

Cookie Platter


Easy Cheese Toasts:

For the nibbles I placed a bowl of nuts on the drinks table and fresh snow peas with ranch dip. I also had a bowl of Jalapeno Cheetos which made my husband very happy. The cheese toasts are something my mother made again and again and never wrote down a recipe because it changed each time depending on what cheese and other ingredients she had on hand. Basically it's grated cheese, usually sharp cheddar or gruyere or a mix, plus a good amount of grated parmesan cheese, lots of black pepper and enough cayenne to give it a wee kick. To the above add one or two of the following: thinly sliced green onions, chopped chives, diced jarred pimento, diced red bell pepper, minced red onion. To this add enough mayonnaise to make it spreadable.   Spread the mixture about 1/4" thick on slices of baguette. Broil for a few minutes until the cheese has melted into a lovely, toasty color. You'll need to make more than you think as these little bites are addictive.  Can be assembled a few hours ahead. Broil them right before serving.


Salad: 

I cheated with the salad. Taylor Farms Southwest Chop is a salad kit that comes in a bag with pre-washed and chopped cabbage, lettuce and other vegetables, tortilla chips, seeds and dressing. Pour, toss and serve--that's it, and it's good. I bought 3 bags for a side for 12 people and it was just right. Previously I avoided all pre-washed salad kits until I was served this at a dinner party and became an instant fan. I have since tried many salad kits, some we love, some we don't. My favorite quickie weeknight dinner for the two of us is to share one salad kit and grill a piece of salmon. 


My Stuffed Poblanos: 

If you're not familiar with the flavor of the poblano pepper, you are in for a treat! Poblanos are mild and flavorful (our favorite pepper) and at about 5 to 6" long with thick walls, they are perfect for stuffing. Most poblanos are mild but every once in a while a spicy one will turn up making eating poblanos a bit of a Russian roulette. With that said, we eat them all the time and have never found one even come close to being too hot. My stuffing mixture changes as to what I have on hand and embraces shortcuts with taco seasoning sachets and canned corn. I use ground beef, chicken or pork but this would be a good vegetarian dinner too. 

For 12 people, 24 pieces: Slice 12 peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the stem, membrane and seeds. Wash your hands well as the membranes and seeds leave a residue that can irritate skin. Place cut side down on baking sheet and broil until charred, about ten minutes, but keep your eye on it. No need to remove the charred/bubbled skin as it adds flavor. Brown 4 pounds ground chicken, beef or pork. Drain. Add 4 packets taco flavoring mix and 1 cup of water, stir. Add 2 cans corn, drained, 2 cans diced tomatoes, 2 cans black beans, drained. Stir and heat through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper and cayenne to taste. When the peppers are cool, mound filling into the cavities, sprinkle with grated sharp cheddar cheese or a Mexican blend, and bake until heated through and cheese has melted, about 10 minutes at 350 F. To serve I put a spoonful each of pico de gallo, guacamole, chopped cilantro, and fresh Cotija cheese crumbles on each one. We can find this crumbly Mexican cheese in California but it might not be easily available elsewhere. A similar substitute would be Feta cheese.  Most people will have one or two and I did have some leftover. This recipe is a do-ahead.


Dessert:

I LOVE serving cookie platters for dessert and you should too. Hear me out. First, it's completely do-ahead and if you don't want to bake your own, you can buy your way out. I once served a platter of Thin Mints (a popular Girl Scout cookie that can only be purchased for one month, usually early in the year) at a dinner party and people were absolutely thrilled! Second, cookies cannot be easier to serve; think of yourself at the end of the night and give yourself a break. I make up the platters in the morning and cover them with saran wrap. For the first go around I pass the platter to each guest then remove the centerpiece and place the cookie platter in the center of the table for repeat cookie nibblers. It's nice to give each guest a wee plate to rest their cookie stash between bites, but I forgot about that last night and no one seemed to mind.

Last week I took a morning and made 6 recipes of slice-and-bake cookie logs for the freezer. For the cookie baking morning I set out all the supplies on the counter--baking soda, powder and salt, the extracts, nuts, and chocolate, and pounds of butter, flour and sugar.  I mixed one recipe, rolled the dough into logs, wrapped and labeled them and put them in the freezer. I didn't wash up but went straight to the next recipe. This took most of the morning but now I have about 30 logs in my freezer and only had to do one clean up. The day before the party I sliced and baked one log of each variety. The stand out favorites are always Cowboy Cookies and Currant Cookies and from now on I think I'm going to stick with those two, plus Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies. Those three are the bomb. I also put out a bowl of fruit such as sliced apples and manderines for those who would rather not eat a sweet.


It was a wonderful evening, especially after feeling isolated for so long. We gathered friends we had first met when our children attended the same nursery school (and now they all have nursery schoolers of their own.) We attended the same church, sang in choir together, went on countless waterski and snow ski vacations together and celebrated holidays together. We had so much to talk about and we lingered at the table well past our usual bedtime, nibbling cookies. It was magic and I hope you'll soon have many opportunities to revive your friendships over a good dinner. 


If you would like to make a comment, please scroll down or click here. xo Kristen





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10 comments

  1. Everything looks wonderful but what was the main dinner menu? I am curious.

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    1. Thank you. Stuffed poblanos! I guess I didn’t make that clear!

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  2. It does sound wonderful. Here in Canada we are not there quite yet.

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    1. Maybe a little too cold to eat outside in May, but maybe June? Or maybe it being vaccinated? Vaccines are readily available and that has made people more comfortable. I almost cried when I got my first shot, I was so happy. I don't know anyone over 16 who has not been vaccinated.

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  3. You did it up in style! I’m looking forward to my first time entertaining at home INDOORS with as many people present as I can cram in here!!!!!!!! It’s so nice that you have a covered patio. Makes it easier and more comfortable to entertain outdoors. Our deck is wide open, so we ROAST out there between 9:00 and 1:30. We’ve added large umbrellas this year. Fingers crossed!🤞🏽

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    Replies
    1. Entertaining inside the home sounds so foreign still, doesn't it? Something we took for granted for a lifetime is now something we are going to treasure! And yeah, we would cook outside without the roof overhangs and the large trees. Shade is wonderful!

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  4. Lovely, as always. I LOVE the idea of devoting a morning to making multiple cookie logs -- making one large mess but then only one clean-up. Brilliant.

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    1. Thank you Casey. Yep, I am pretty pleased with myself with all the cookies logs!

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  5. I love this menu. I made NY Times recipe for beef and almond stuffed Poblanos last night, but skipped making salsa verde and purchased a jar of it. Used the packaged Southwest chopped salad. We loved it. Will try your recipe for the stuffed peppers next time. Poblano peppers are the best!

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    Replies
    1. They are the best! Their flavor is unlike any other mild pepper. I'm glad you liked the Southwest Chop!

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