Cinco de Mayo (plus one)

We are having an old friend of mine and her family over for dinner tonight.  We decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo a day late and go with a Mexican theme.  Here is the menu:

Shrimp Ceviche

Chicken and Steak Fajitas with grilled vegetables, sour cream, salsa and guacamole; Spanish rice and refried beans

Kahlua Brownies

We’ll serve the entree buffet style so everyone will have their choice of chicken or steak, veggies and toppings and sides.  (My husband loves refried beans but I am not a fan.)  Here are the recipes:

Shrimp Ceviche

  •  1 1/2 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined and chopped into 5 pieces each
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 TB orange juice
  • 1 large garlic clove pressed
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 yellow pepper, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 TB minced red onion
  • 1 mango, peeled and finely chopped
Put shrimp in a large bowl with juices and garlic.  Add olive oil, peppers, cilantro and onion and stir well.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Add mango and refrigerate.  Serve with tortilla chips and plenty of napkins!

Chicken Fajitas

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 per person or extra if you want leftovers)
  • 6 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine all marinade ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.  Pour over chicken and marinate overnight.  Grill until done 10 – 15 minutes.

Steak Fajitas

  • 1 flank steak or skirt steak
  • 1/3 cup tequila
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients (except steak) and whisk together.  Pour over steak and marinate (at least 4 hours but up to overnight).
Fajita vegetables
  • 2 red peppers, cut in strips
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut in strips
  • 1 yellow onion, thick slices
  • Pam cooking spray
Spray vegetables with Pam.  Grill in a basket 15 – 10 minutes.
Fajita Accessories
  • Tortilla shells (1 -2 per person depending upon appetite)
  • sour cream (I use lowfat)
  • salsa
  • guacamole (optional – either store bought or see recipe below)
  • refried beans (optional)
Heat tortilla shells.  Distribute chicken, peppers and onions in shells and roll up.  Top with sour cream, salsa and guacamole.  Serve with refried beans as a side if desired.  (Also good with rice.)


  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 1 TB lime juice
  • 1 TB sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 TB salsa
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • cilantro (optional)

Mash avocados, add remaining ingredients and mash until well combined.  (This is the part of cooking where toddlers excel!).  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  This is one of the few recipes I make where I don’t skimp on salt.  Salt and the chili powder are the two “magic” ingredients that you should consider adding.  Let sit in a bowl with the avocado pits in the guacamole until ready to serve.  (That keeps it from turning brown.)

Spanish Rice

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 TB vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • pinch saffron

Heat oil.  Stir in onion and garlic and wilt.  Add rice and cook uncovered over medium heat until rice is translucent.  Add seasonings and broth.  Bake at 300 for 30 minutes covered.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Add peppers and tomatoes.  Can be made ahead.

Kahlua Brownies

These are the same brownies that I usually make with a little Kahlua added in.

  • 2 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 TB Kahlua

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Stir in flour, eggs and vanilla.  Transfer to a  baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit in pan for at least an hour before cutting.  Here they are cooling:

International Dining Take 2 – Mexican

Last night was our second installment of our eat around the world in 2012 initiative with our friends.  Mexican was selected from the basket of possibilities and the restaurant we chose is in Baltimore’s Federal Hill – Blue Agave.  None of us had ever been there before so it was a new experience.  One of the things that worked out well at the Persian restaurant was that between us, we got a lot of different things and all shared all of them and we wanted to do the same thing.

The restaurant is very pretty inside and we liked the fact that the tables weren’t right on top of each other.  We started with sangria for me, Dos Equis for Keith and margaritas for Christie and Kevin.  The chips with 3 salsas that they brought to the table were so good I was afraid we weren’t going to have room to eat anything else.

We split two appetizers – ceviche and guacamole.  The ceviche was good but seemed a little too sweet.  It was a little heavy on the mango.  Christie makes a wonderful ceviche and we decided we prefer hers.  The guacamole was fantastic – very flavorful with big chunks of avocado.

For the entrees we got some great advice from our server who was terrific.  We are all big fans of tuna so we knew we had to have an order of the tuna tacos – chile rubbed tuna seared rare with black beans, avocados, etc.  Kevin had the bright idea to ask them to make sure there were 4 tacos so we could each have one.  Not only did they accommodate our  request, they brought each of us a plate with a serving.  Christie wanted something authentic and the server recommended the pork carnitas.  They were outstanding.

Keith opted for the seared scallops with tequila lime butter and I chose Mariscada – shellfish in a garlic sauce over poblano chile black rice.  The Mariscada was out of this world and may have been our favorite of the evening.  Every entree was good and we were pleased with the variety of flavors.  One of the reasons that I tend to avoid Mexican food is that I don’t like refried beans and often they are a key part of dishes.  Christie said her pork had a side dish of beans but other than that, there were no beans in sight.

Although we were full, we felt obligated to check out the desserts.  We split a fried ice cream and a chocolate chipotle cake.  The ice cream was good but the cake was amazing.  I would definitely get it again.

We were all pleased with our Mexican culinary adventure and would definitely return.  When we came back we did our drawing to select our next cuisine and the lucky winner is Greek.  We’re planning our Greek dinner in May and I will update when it comes.