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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Did you do anything special for Cinco de Mayo?

Our Cinco de Mayo dinner on a budget

The dinner menu was chips and salsa, shredded turkey tacos, refried black beans, and carrot sticks. Nothing fancy, I'll freely admit, but festive nonetheless.

I used store-purchased corn tortillas to make both the tortilla chips and the taco shells. Corn tortillas keep for a long time in the fridge, so I buy the most economical package at the Cash & Carry (72-ct, for $2.18, that works out to 36 cents per dozen tortillas).

To make the chips:
I oil-fried wedges of the tortillas in a shallow skillet, until crisp, turning once, then drained on a paper bag. A pinch of salt is optional, and that's about it!

A word about frying oil and corn tortillas. The oil picks up the corn tortilla taste and this flavor goes very well in the rest of the Mexican dinner. I fry the tortilla chips first, then use some of that oil in the refried beans and the turkey taco filling. It's quite delicious.

To make the salsa:
This is budget, food processor salsa. I used canned, whole tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped fresh onions, garlic powder, lemon juice, lime juice and/or vinegar, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, dried oregano, salt and frozen hot peppers. I run all of this through the food processor till desired texture. I allow the salsa to sit for an hour, for the flavor to develop.

The taco filling was made from frozen, cooked white-meat turkey (from our most recent roasted, whole turkey), simmered with onions, chili powder, salt, and garlic powder. (I also add some of the tomato liquid from the canned tomatoes to the taco filling -- mentioning this now, as I don't add the tomato juice to the refried beans.) I fill the corn tortilla, fold over and oil-fry in the same pan in which I previously made the chips. Top with cheese and salsa and we're good to go! (*tip* corn tortillas can be a bit dry and crack when folding. I zap them in the microwave for 7 seconds each, to make them pliable, just before filling with meat, and folding into tacos.)

Refried beans are well, refried beans. I had some cooked black beans in the freezer (pinto beans would seem more authentic). I simmered these beans similarly to the turkey taco filling, in onions, oil, spices and water. I also add some of the black olive juice from the can, for a bit of flavor. When the onions and beans were quite soft, I used a potato masher on all. Top with shredded cheddar-jack cheese and some sliced olives. Yum!

Yesterday was another one of those super busy days. So, I didn't have time to put much together. No banners, decor or other festive atmosphere. The best I could do was Youtube some Mariachi music on autoplay, and get out my colorful Portuguese pottery.

How about you? How do you throw together a festive dinner on little time and on even littler budget?



  1. I made wet burritos! I had some thawed black beans that I pureed into "refried" beans, half pound of ground beef that I fried and mixed those two together. I found some tortillas in the freezer and half can of tomatoes in the refrigerator. I had a frozen container of enchilada sauce in the freezer and some cheddar cheese. I made the sauce with the enchilada sauce and tomatoes but added a can of cream of mushroom sauce since there wasn't enough sauce. I put the mix of beef and beans into the tortillas with a pinch of cheese and rolled them up. I only used four tortillas that I filled super full and put those in my pan and covered with the sauce and the remaining cheese. Wow, was that good! I did sprinkle a little shredded lettuce and a little bit of salsa that was left in a jar.

    I emptied a lot of little "this and that" items from the freezer and fridge to make this meal but it was a winner for sure!


    1. Hi Alice,
      That sounds yummy! And what a great way to use up odds and ends. I do need to do that soon. I'm accumulating many containers of this and that in both the fridge and freezer.

  2. We went out to a Mexican restaurant ... not only was it Cinco de Mayo, it was also my (insert significant half-century number here ... ) birthday! I refused to cook dinner on such a momentous occasion. :)

    1. Happy birthday, Kris! And congratulations on the birthday number! I'm glad that you celebrated in style and didn't actually cook!

      Most years, we eat at home on my birthday -- but on my 50th, I made sure we ate out! I chose Greek, as that's my favorite cuisine.

      Again, happy birthday! I'm sure you enjoyed your day and your family treated you very well!

    2. Kris, I forgot to add, check into "senior" discounts, now that you're 50. really. You qualify for AARP now! If you find your family traveling and staying in hotels which offer the AARP discount (and you don't already have AAA -- same discount amount), it might be worth buying the annual AARP membership.

      I'm 55, now, and yesterday was my first opportunity to use my "senior" discount at a local store, Fred Meyer. I saved 10% on everything I bought, even things that I used a coupon for, or were on sale already. I've now got my calendar marked for next month's "senior" day, and have told the family to let me know what we're needing as the month progresses.

    3. Ha! I remember your comments about Fred Meyer. I'm not sure which will win first ... my pride (admitting I'm eligible for a "senior" discount) or my cheapness! That being said ... I have a AAA membership due to my work commute (it's come in handy a few times) so for the time being, I'll continue to use that discount. We are fortunate in that my husband's brother is in the hotel/motel industry--we rarely stay at a hotel, but when we do, it tends to be with family, and he has gotten us some downright amazing deals when we have taken a family trip together.

      Thanks, as always, for the savings tips. I forgot to mention it, but your fiesta dinner looked marvelous. Oh ... my daughter and I visited my parents over the weekend and mom took us out to a new restaurant after church. The restaurant had lots of Greek food items so I indulged in that. I'm right there with you--Greek food is yummy!

    4. Hi again, Kris,
      Well, with the pride thing and taking advantage of the senior discount -- I know that I am "young at heart". And it's not as if they announce over the loudspeaker, "Lili is here today, getting her SENIOR discount. Did everybody hear that? Lili is a senior, now!" It's all rather discreet. You just tell them you want your senior discount, and they give it to you.

      Another 3 years, and my husband gets to come fabric shopping with me. Jo Ann Fabrics has 60 as the "senior" age. I'll need him along for the discount!

  3. I love Mexican food, so I wish everyday was Cinco de Mayo lol We did some bulk cooking with 2 lbs of dried beans, brown rice, shredded shart cheddar cheese and 25 flour tortillas bought at Costco (50 tortillas for $5.59). We could have made our tortillas, but the price was right (maybe I should say not that high) and thought it was better to go with the uncooked premade even sized tortillas that were ready to go. Our daughter stopped by, so it was a perfect time to show her how I made my bean patties. I'm still in bean heaven lol

    I am learning to conserve our cooking oil too. I convinced my husband to save our leftover olive oil from pan frying salmon scraps to use in making our bean patties. He was opposed to the thought of smelly fish mixed in the beans, but we couldn't taste it one bit. I stored the leftover oil in the refrigerator for a day, so no chance of rancidity.


  4. Hi YHF,
    As you did with the salmon cooking oil -- Last night's tacos were fried in the oil with the turkey filling already in the shells. I saved this oil in the fridge, to use as cooking oil over the next few days. Normally, if I fry a bread product (donuts, chips) or fries, then I'm not as concerned with how long I store the oil. But with the turkey meat having had contact with the oil, I'll use this oil quickly (Most of it tonight). I don't expect it to taste much like turkey. But, tonight's dinner is turkey and dumplings. So, is it tastes like turkey, well . . .LOL!

    I am with you on sometimes buying the flour tortillas. Sometimes, that IS the cost-effective solution. Like last night, you know how much I cook from scratch. Well, I did use purchased corn tortillas. I would not have had time to make as much as I did, if I'd had to make the corn tortillas as well.

    There are some foods which I consider to be convenience foods, simply because I didn't make them from scratch. Tomato paste is one of them, so is dried pasta, and corn tortillas. But these are convenience foods that are a good use of my money. They aren't filled with nasty filler ingredients, and they save me enough time that I can do most of the rest of my cooking from scratch.

  5. Hi, Lili--

    I did end up using the last of the salsa I made from your oven-roasted canned tomato recipe as the main seasoning for some nachos with leftover beans and grind. I did make home-made corn tortillas. I think that the dough was a little too dry, so I couldn't get them as thin as they should have been. Then they didn't fry up as crisp as they might have. But they were still delicious. :)

    Your dinner sounded yummy, and Alice, yours, too! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Your dinner sounded wonderful, too! Sometimes corn tortillas have a chewy texture when fried, and not as crispy -- a texture which I like!

      I'm going to try making corn tortillas again, but using your technique of pressing instead of rolling out with a rolling pin. I'll let you know how it goes!

  6. Does serving plain old garden variety tacos, sans chips, guacamole, and beans in any way, shape or form constitute fanfare? If so yes, we celebrated

    1. Hi Anne,
      That sounds delicious -- garden variety or not!! LOL! I'm sure the tacos were very tasty and appreciated by your family!

  7. Nothing special for Cinqo de Mayo here, but we did celebrate my husband's birthday over the weekend with a cookout and yummy leftovers.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Oh, a very happy birthday wish to your husband! A cookout sounds like a lot of fun! And cookout leftovers are always delicious!


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