I love Mexican food and enjoy serving it on the fifth of May. Although I love the cuisine, I've never tried making it from scratch. Authentic Mexican food is delicious, but it's also time consuming to prepare.
Before I was born, my parents hosted a Cinco de Mayo party. Years later, my mother told me she spent two 12 hour days cooking before the party started. Even with all the work she did ahead of time, she still had more cooking to do the day of the party.
If you want to have a Cinco de Mayo party -- or enjoy Mexican food during the year -- but don't have a lot of time to cook, you're in luck. Although the recipes I'm sharing aren't authentic, they give the food a taste of Mexico without all the work.
For the entree, I prepare Mexican Deep-Dish Pizza. Whenever I serve this to someone the first time, they always assume it's a round pizza made in a pizza pan. This isn't the case at all. The pizza doesn't use a pizza crust, but refrigerated crescent rolls instead. The pizza also isn't made in a pizza pan.
The rolls are pressed into a 9 x 13-inch pan. The recipe calls for two cans of crescent rolls. Save some of the dough to build up the sides, if necessary, and to repair any tears in the dough.
The pizza toppings are layered on the rolls, beginning with browned hamburger meat and onion. A package of dry taco seasoning is combined with tomato sauce and refried beans and spread on top of the meat. I use mild taco seasoning, but you can make it spicier by using medium or hot taco seasoning. The pizza goes in the oven for 25 minutes before the cheese is added.
Whenever I use cheese as a topping, I always use fancy shredded cheese which is finely grated. It costs a little more, but it melts faster and smoother than regular grated cheese. You can use regular grated cheese, but it might take longer to melt. Once the cheese is added, the pizza goes back in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.
We like the pizza plain, but you can serve it with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and taco sauce, if desired.
I make a batch of Spanish Rice to accompany the pizza. One feature I like about this recipe is the rice is cooked ahead of time and refrigerated. Since the rice is already cooked, it only takes a few minutes to finish the dish.
Melt the margarine in a 2-quart saucepan and cook the onion and green pepper until tender. I always use fresh onion -- I don't think frozen onions have much flavor -- but I always use frozen green pepper. I don't use green pepper very often so the leftover always ended up in the garbage. Frozen green pepper is a good alternative for me, but you can use fresh green pepper if you prefer.
Once the onion and bell pepper are tender, add a can of whole tomatoes that have been chopped into pieces. The easiest and quickest way to chop canned tomatoes is with a pair of kitchen scissors.
Cook the ingredients until the liquid has been reduced, but don't reduce it too much. If there's not enough liquid, the rice will be dry. Add the rice and reheat it with the ingredients in the saucepan.