Cinco de Mayo Meals

¡Viva la Fiesta!
 A Cinco de Mayo Meal from the Kids’ Kitchen

Growing up in Southern California, I was blessed to taste some of the best Mexican food in the country. One of my family’s favorite restaurants was located on Olvera Street, the historic birthplace of the City of Los Angeles. There we would feast on carnitas soft tacos, fresh salsa, and delicious rice and beans. It was a predominantly Latino community, and festival days, such as Cinco de Mayo, were vibrant celebrations downtown with brightly colored dancers and festive music played by mariachi musicians.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations commemorate an important moral victory for the Mexican army against the invading French in 1862. While the US was embroiled in civil war, European powers attempted to gain control of Mexico. Five years later, they were expelled by the Mexican army. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is considered more of a regional holiday, mainly recognized in Puebla, where the battle was fought. However, in the United States it has been celebrated since 1863.

For modern Americans, this is a great opportunity to educate your kids about our friends south of the border. Check out books from the library on topics such as Mexico or Cinco de Mayo. Cruise down the Mexican food aisle at your local grocery store or visit your local Mexican food market. There you will find all sorts of items that may be new to you, such as horchata, a sweetened beverage made from grains or nuts. You might try a prepared mix for churros, a delicious fried pastry. Be adventuresome and taste a new treat. You might even purchase a piñata and candy to make your celebration complete.

As Mexican cuisine is one of the tastiest on the international buffet, make this an occasion to enjoy a great meal. The following recipes are not only kid–friendly, but they also allow your children an opportunity to participate in the workings of your family kitchen. Young ones will easily be able to mix the beans and season the pork. Older children can also help to open cans, stir the rice, and shred the meat. Use caution in delegating these jobs, small hands are easily cut or burned when care is not taken. Most of all, enjoy the experience, take some photos, and viva la fiesta!

Seasoned Pinto Beans
2 15.5 ounce cans pinto beans, drained
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper
1 T. butter or oil

Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. With a potato masher or a fork, mash beans until about half are mashed and half are still somewhat whole. Stir to combine well. Cook over medium heat until warmed through.

Mexican Rice
1/4 cup oil
2 cups uncooked white rice
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
4 cups chicken broth

In large sauté pan with lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring, until rice turns white and very lightly brown. Remove from heat and stir in tomato sauce. Be careful of splatters. Stir well. Stir in chicken broth and return to heat. Bring to bubbling. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until almost all liquid is absorbed. Remove lid and fluff with a fork. Continue to cook on low for about five minutes to remove any extra liquid.

Carnitas “Little Meats”
4 lbs. pork shoulder roast
onion flakes

Place pork roast in Crock Pot. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, oregano, and onion flakes. Add 1/4 cup water to pot. Cover with lid and cook for 6-8 hours on low. Meat should be fully cooked and easily fall apart. Remove meat from accumulated liquid. Allow meat to cool slightly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Children can help you shred the meat by pulling it apart with two forks. Place shredded meat in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Season. Cook in oven for about 15 minutes to crisp edges. Serve with beans, rice, and corn tortillas as well as toppings such as sour cream, guacamole or salsa.
Jessica Fisher is a wife, mother of six, and freelance writer, making her home in San Diego. She is blessed with a husband who makes homemade corn tortillas. She regularly shares parenting hacks at

Published: May 2011

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