Cinco de Mayo Fiesta on a Dime
Cinco de Mayo is associated with yummy food and even yummier drinks. While some may think Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day, it’s actually the celebration of their defeat over the French at the Battle of Puebla.
Over the years, Cinco de Mayo has become a celebration for even non-Mexicans who want to eat delicious food and make a toast in honor of the special day! If you’re desperate to throw a Cinco de Mayo party, but don’t have all the right stuff, read on for cheap but hilariously non-Mexican alternatives:
Skinny margaritas that save you calories
Skip expensive, preservative-laden margarita mix and pick up a bottle of the citrus juice of your choice. Orange, lemon, lime—even grapefruit juices make for a tasty (and cheap!) complement to the spirit of choice for Cinco de Mayo, tequila!
Simply mix 3 parts tequila, 2 parts triple sec (this part can be skipped if you don’t have it on hand) and 1 part citrus juice. Serve over rocks, or blended, salt rims optional. To make your life even easier, stir up a batch of several margaritas in one big pitcher, then pour, sit back, relax, and don’t get up again until you need a refill. Cost: $2-$3 per person
Quesadillas made from almost anything you have
Quesadillas are the ultimate last-minute party food. They can be made from any thin, flat bread. Think corn and/or wheat tortillas, split pita pockets, or lavash, all of which can be kept in the freezer to seriously lengthen their lifespans. All you need is cheese (literally any kind you have—even cream cheese will work), optional add-ins, like crumbled bacon, leftover cooked chicken, beef, pork or tofu, canned black beans (drained and rinsed), sliced scallions, black olives, canned green chilies, diced tomatoes, and any stray veggies you may have hanging around. To make the quesadillas, simply layer a little cheese and an add-in or two between 2 tortillas, split pitas, or lavash. Then cook in a little butter or oil (vegetable, canola or olive) over medium heat, until the outside is crispy and the inside is melty. If you want to cook a bunch of ‘dillas ahead of time (look at you, planning ahead!) just keep the cooked ones warm in a 200-degree oven, until you’re ready to cut them into wedges and serve. Cost: $2-$4 per person
Taco bar to satisfy the masses including vegans, say what?
My favorite way to keep guests with a variety of dietary restrictions happy (without springing for seventeen different menus) is to make a taco bar. I make a couple of simple ground or sliced meat options for the carnivores (like ground beef and grilled chicken strips) and sautéed or grilled veggies for the vegetarians and vegans.
I make or buy cheap and easy side dishes like rice, beans and Pico de Gallo, and serve the whole thing with flour and/or corn tortillas, and shredded cheese, sour cream and guacamole. The carnivores get their meat tacos, the vegans get their vegan ones, the paleo folks can make a meat and vegetable bowl, and the picky eaters can put only what they want on their plates. It’s cheap, easy, and a win for everyone! Cost: $3-$6 per person
Pizza dough makes for yummy churros
Storebought Mexican wedding cookies and dulce de leche ice cream makes a fine Cinco de Mayo dessert, but if you feel like doing some super simple baking, you must make Pizza Dough Churros.
While not exactly authentic, these sweet, twisty little guys totally capture the churro spirit. Even better, there’s no messy frying required, as with traditional churros. Just roll 1 pound of store-bought or homemade pizza dough out into a large rectangle (as close to 12″ by 8″ as you can manage), and cut it into 6-inch strips (about 1-inch wide). Dip each strip in melted butter, then toss in cinnamon sugar, and bake in a 375-degree oven for 16-18 minutes, or until golden-brown. Serve warm. I like to serve these with melted chocolate or even Nutella for dipping. Traditionally Mexican it is not, but delicious? It totally is. Cost: $1.50-$2 per person
So what are you waiting for? Pour yourself a homemade margarita and get cooking already!
Gabi Moskowitz is the editor-in-chief of the nationally-acclaimed blog BrokeAss Gourmet and author of The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook (May 2012) and Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious, Unexpected Recipes (November 2013). Most recently, she developed “Young and Hungry”, an ABC Family sitcom based on her life and writing. It premiers this summer (2014).