Jalapeno poppers.

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South of the Border

Dinner Party Menu

(12 – 16 guests)

I was honored last year when asked to help, plan and cook the Groom’s dinner for my cousin’s wedding in Minnesota. The couple to be were very clear in wanting a Mexican themed dinner. Working with my aunt and the bride to be, we came up with the below menu I then created the recipes that follow. I modified the amount in each recipe to serve 4 people as dinner portions. Please adjust, change, skip or pick as it suits your needs.

The recipes for the marinades can also be used to freeze the raw items, and defrost when you are ready to make them (See “To Freeze or Not to Freeze Post”).

All of the below are very kid friendly (just watch the jalapeno’s and margarita’s).

Raise those margarita glasses and enjoy!


Jalapeno Poppers

Chips and Salsa

Cinnamon Crisps

TACO BAR (Hard, Soft):

Shredded Chicken

Marinated Steak

Marinated Shrimp

Ground Beef




sautéed Onions


Shredded Lettuce



Taco Sauce


Sour Cream



Mexican Rice

Refried Beans

Margarita Links






Skirt Steak
1 skirt (or Flank) steak
4 TBS vegetable or Olive oil for marinade
¼ tsp allspice (Can be omitted if you don’t have it)
¼ tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves, break in half
1 TBS lime juice
2 TBS oil for cooking meat

Combine all and Marinate overnight in covered glass dish or 1 gallon zip lock bag with air removed (can be frozen at this point for a future date – allow 24 hours to defrost and the meat to marinade).

About 2 hours from service, remove from fridge, drain and pat with paper towels to dry. 45 minutes from service, season with salt and pepper and bring to room temperature. About 15 minutes ahead, add oil to a non-stick or grill pan, heat skillet on high (or cook on grill over high heat). When HOT sear steak for about 1.5 – 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing against the grain.

Good by itself, over rice, in tacos, burritos, fajitas, salad, etc..


2LBs of large to extra-large RAW shrimp (Can be frozen)
4 TBS vegetable/Olive oil
1 TBS lime juice
3 crushed garlic cloves
¼ tsp pepper
¼ white wine (optional)
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 TBS chopped garlic

  1. If frozen: thaw shrimp under cold running water, tossing often, peel.
  2. Place in gallon zip lock bag, combine all ingredients, for marinade and pour over shrimp. Close the bag, remove as much air as possible and mix shrimp around in the bag to make sure all have been coated. (Can be frozen at this point, remove the day before cooking to thaw and marinate)
  3. Refrigerate over night or at least 2 hours. Remove from fridge about 15 minutes before cooking.
  4. Remove from marinade, heat pan over med-high heat, add about 1 TBS olive oil, when hot, add garlic sauté for about 30 seconds, add shrimp and season with cilantro, salt and pepper. Shrimp only need about 1.5 minutes on each side.
  5. Can be done hours in advanced, refrigerated, then brought to room temp just before service.


1 LB Boneless chicken breasts or tenders
1 LB boneless chicken thighs
4-6 garlic cloves crushed
5 TBS vegetable/olive oil
1 TBS chili powder
½ cup chicken stock
¼ TBS Cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 200 degrees:

  1. Trim/separate chicken if necessary, combine all ingredients above, pour over chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (Can be frozen at this point, remove the day before cooking to thaw and marinate). Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking, leaving in marinade.
  2. Heat pan over med-high heat. Remove from marinade, but do NOT pat dry. Cook for about 3+ minutes on each side or until just done. Set aside on a plate or bowl. Do in batches as to not crowd the pan.
  3. When chicken is still warm, but cool enough to handle, shred either by hand or with fork. Place in oven proof container, cover and place in low oven until ready to serve.

Refried Beans

1 can refried beans
1 packet of low sodium taco seasoning

Empty the beans in a large sauce pan, add seasoning and turn heat to med-low. Stir regularly. This will stick and burn if not watched closely.
Ground Beef

1 LB Ground beef. I prefer 90% fat-free, as the amount does not shrink much. But 85% would be OK too.
1 packets of low sodium taco seasoning

Brown beef, drain if too much fat, follow directions on taco seasoning. Let liquid reduce and thicken. Can cook in advance, keep covered and warm in oven, or reheat in saucepan.

** If you prefer, you can use your own taco seasoning mix, when added to the beef, just add about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water to allow the seasoning to infuse with the meat. The reason not to add this with browning the meat, is so you do not lose the flavor when draining off excess fat.

Mexican Rice:

2 cups long grain rice (or any white rice will do)
2 beef bouillon cubes
1.5 TBS tomato paste
2 – 4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 large red pepper, diced
1 jalapenos, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Olive oil
1 large Spanish onions, diced
Salt and pepper
3 – 4 cups water (follow directions for the rice you use)

  1. Heat water, dissolve bouillon according to directions, add in tomato paste stir until combined. Cook rice according directions – substituting the bouillon for the required water. You may need to add more water or may not use all bouillon during the cooking process.
  2. While rice is cooking, sauté peppers, garlic, jalapenos, onions in olive/vegetable oil.
  3. When rice is done and has rested for at least 20 minutes, place in bowl and stir in sautéed vegetables. Toss in cilantro and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Can keep warm in oven, covered.

Cinnamon Pita Crisps

1 pkg of 6” pita rounds
1/4 cup sugar
1 TBS cinnamon
Butter flavored Pam spray

Preheat oven 350

  1. Cut pita rounds to make about 8 sections. Separate the sections, then separate the top from the bottom (so you have single triangle pieces)
  2. Mix the cinnamon and sugar.
  3. Place on a tinfoil baking sheet, cut side up. Spray with the Pam, sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  4. Bake about 12 – 14 minutes or until lightly brown and crisp

Sautéed Onions

2 Large Onions, sliced in cressant-moon shape
1.2 – 2 TBS Oil (vegetable/Olive)

Put olive oil in sauté pan, add onions, pinch of salt and pepper. Put heat to med-high. Sauté until it starts to wilt, lower heat, and continue to cook another 5 – 10 minutes. You want it wilted, but with a slight crunch and slight carmalization.


Juice of 1 lime
juice of ½ lemon
1 – 2 TBS Cider Vinegar
2 – 3 garlic cloves diced
½ – 1 tsp salt & fresh ground plack pepper
1 TBS olive oil
½ green/red pepper, seeded and diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 med white onion, diced
4 – 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded, diced, (add juice to bowl juice)
1 jalapeno diced (optional)
1 – 2 ripe avocados, diced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

1. Whisk the Lemon, Lime juice, Vinegar, garlic, Olive Oil, salt and pepper. Put aside.
2. Prep all the vegetables, add to same bowl.
3. Pour the “dressing” over the vegetables, toss together, taste and adjust seasoning (salt, vinegar, lemon or lime juice).

Jalapeno Poppers

.5 LB Jalapenos, halved and seeded
4 oz cream cheese
2 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
2 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ cup dried bread crumbs

For dipping:
1 cup ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease baking pan.

  1. Combine all put Jalapenos/ranch dressing in bowl.
  2. Fill Jalapeno halves with cheese mixture, roll in breadcrumbs, place on baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes
  4. Serve with ranch dressing

Creative Commons License
CulinaryEase by Nicole Lang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

About culinaryease

I am a single mother who loves cooking and providing tips, techniques, to get everyone out of the takeout lane and into the kitchen.

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