October began this week, bringing with it colder days, longer papers and fewer daylight hours to get everything done. This leaves the average off-campus cook with little energy left to plan out and prepare the perfect menu to please the palate. But this is no excuse to cancel a get-together with friends — in fact, this week’s dinner party can be thrown together with minimal effort, thereby putting to shame the “I’m too busy to make dinner” lame-o excuse.
The theme is Mexican Fiesta; brightly colored plates, jokes with friends, finger food and a little bit of spice are guaranteed to get you reenergized to take on the increasingly intense year. The beauty of it: 1. It’s very simple and quick to prepare (your guests do most of their own food assembling); 2. It allows everybody to have something different (i.e. a taco salad, a burrito, a fajita, etc); 3. It’s vegetarian/carnivore/picky-eater-friendly. All of this results in a dinner that’s extremely easy for you. There’s also a strong chance that there will be leftovers, and these can keep you eating happy for the next couple of days. So prepare for a fantastic meal with sides of guacamole and salsa. Cold Coronas, merry margaritas or sensual sangria make a pleasant addition.
This meal is perfect for a group of close friends because it requires a lot of passing and sharing (and reaching over people who are too busy eating to pass you what you want). It’s especially good if you can invite over that totally sweet hottie from section, because sharing food and eating with your hands is very intimate and suggestive, and a fiesta night is automatically a more relaxed atmosphere, avoiding that awkward first-date feeling.
So here’s the grub!
Mexican Fiesta (serves 6-8)
1 pkg. boneless chicken breasts, cut into long slivers
1 pkg. frozen raw prawns (Shaw’s is always having a special on these, so look into it)
1 can black beans (You can also get refried beans, or both if you like!)
3 bell peppers — assorted colors, seeded and cut into slices
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large pack of “Mexican blend” cheese (This comes pre-shredded, so you don’t have to worry about grating it.)
1 pack flour tortillas (We prefer the whole wheat ones as they have more fiber and wholesome nutrients to offset the margaritas.)
Head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 can corn kernels
2 cans salsa (We had Peach Chipotle and Spicy Black Bean. Choose whatever type you like, but remember it’s good to have a spicy and mild one available for your guests, as some people are very sensitive to spices.)
1 bag corn tortillas (There are so many great variations out there, try some of them! They’re not only tasty; they’re a lot prettier. We had chipotle lime and blue corn.)
4 packages of Mexican seasoning, 2 burrito and 2 taco
1 pack of guacamole (Note: It’s much better to make your own guac, but if you don’t have time we suppose it’s acceptable to buy the pre-packaged stuff. If you want to make it from scratch, it’s really easy: Smash together 4 avocados, 1 tbsp pure chili power, 1tbp limejuice, one half cup finely chopped onion, three-quarters cup chopped tomato, 1 can mild jalapenos, 2 tsp salt. Add more or less lime, chili and salt depending on personal tastes. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.)
1 pack of sour cream
Take the prawns out of the freezer and allow them to thaw. It’s a good idea to do this in the morning. If you forget (like we did) then fill the sink full of hot water and leave them in there until they’re sort of thawed and easier to peel.
Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.
Add peppers/onions, one pack of seasonings (follow the directions on the back). Keep an eye on them, and stir occasionally while preparing the other ingredients.
Repeat steps 3, 4 with the chicken.
Chop lettuce, tomatoes. Put on a large platter.
Add corn, cheese, and chips to platter, put on table.
Wrap tortillas in a damp warm dishtowel, place in oven.
Put the beans into the microwave and zap them for 2-3 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Repeat Steps 3, 4 with prawns. Once they have turned pink (about 5 minutes) remove from heat, place in bowl.
In the last couple of minutes, remove chicken, veggies from their respective pans, put in serving bowls, put on table.