Let’s Party…. Olé!!

It’s Graduation season and we are ready to host again! You don’t have to live along the southern border to make it a Mexican themed dinner. We might be the Montana State Bobcats, but who doesn’t like a little tequila and tortillas?

We are fortunate to have a Mexican market in town, so I plan to hit them up (the morning of) to pick up thier fresh made salsa, queso and guacamole, but the rest I was able to purchase at the neighborhood grocery store. Don’t forget an assortment of tortillas for your gluten free or vegetarian guests.

This was a super easy menu to compile because it started with a mainstay in our house… I have been making this burrito recipe for 30 years. Burritos Bellingham was a favorite of my husband’s from college. His mom would make large pans of the burritos and send them with the boys to college because they freeze beautifully. You can make two extra large pans at a time, serve one for dinner and freeze the second for a day when you don’t feel like cooking or have unexpected company. They are from a family favorite cookbook, Best of Friends, Etc. by Darlene Glantz Skees, which I’ve shared with you many times before, but of course, I am known to tweak for my own personal preferences.

Burritos Bellingham

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Darlene Glantz Skees


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 4 oz can chopped green chilies
  • 14-16 oz taco salsa sauce
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped (tops and all!)
  • 1 can chopped ripe olives
  • 20-24 flour tortillas
  • 16 oz can refried beans
  • 2 lbs Mexican mix shredded cheese
  • 2 cups sour cream


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Heat olive oil in skillet. Add chopped onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef and brown. Drain grease off.
  • Mix meat together chilies, taco sauce, green onions and olives.
  • Spread each tortilla with a tbls of refried bean; spoon meat mixture down center, top with shredded cheese and roll up envelope style.
  • Place in 2 large rectangular baking dishes, top with more cheese and sour cream.
  • Bake 30-45 minutes at 350°. (If you bake covered with foil, be sure to spray the underside of the foil with non-stick spray so the cheese doesn't stick. Remove for the final 10 minutes.)
  • NOTE: If you don't need all 24 burritos at once, freeze what you don't need without the sour cream. Wrap tightly and use within 2-3 months.

For non-beef eaters, or just a little variety in your menu, what’s easier to serve than fajitas? The guests get to personalize them as long as you have a good assortment of fixin’s — but don’t forget the warm tortillas, shredded cheese, fresh tomatoes, olives, sour cream, avocado and fresh lettuce. Have you heard about the easiest way to cook shrimp? Well, I’ve got the goods for you today and you’ll wonder why you never tried it before! The result will be some ‘melt in your mouth’ shrimp. Grill for a couple minutes just before serving if you want a slight char on the outside. Don’t forget to marinate your chicken the night before for extra tender tasty strips.

Perfectly Boiled Shrimp

Course: Appetizer, Main Course


  • 2 lb large shrimp, fresh or defrosted in cold water
  • 4 cups ice bath water
  • 2 qt water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 lg strips lemon zest
  • 1 bay leaf


  • If you purchased frozen shrimp, you will need to first defrost your shrimp in cold water. First, remove from the packaging and place the shrimp in a sealed Ziploc bag.  Submerge the bag in cold water for 10-20 minutes until fully thawed.  
  • Meanwhile, prep an ice bath before cooking, by filling a large bowl half full with ice and cold water. This will ensure that your shrimp are not overcooked.
  • In a stock pot, combine 2 quarts water, 2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp pepper, two large strips of lemon zest and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add your shrimp and turn the burner off. Stir the shrimp and watch closely for 2-4 minutes. For large shrimp, in about 3minutes, they should turn pink and start to curl. Plan for less or more time for medium or jumbo shrimp.
  • When they have curled, remove with a sieve and dump them into the ice bath to chill and stop the cooking. If you don’t have a sieve, pour into a colander first before adding to the ice bath.
  • Peel and de-vein the cooled shrimp. For fajitas, I recommend also removing the tails.

Chicken Fajitas Marinade

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 2 lbs chicken
Author: Tina Cusker


  • 1/4 cup Olivelle's Roasted Shallot olive oil
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp Ridgeline Spice's Sweet Bell Pepper Blend Seasoning
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed


  • Whisk ingredients together until well blended.
  • Pour into a gallon ziploc bag, add the sliced chicken breast tenderloins.
  • Marinate at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  • Discard excess marinade and grill chicken.

I like to make Spanish rice from scratch, but a box mix will work if you’re short on time; however I’m not up for scratch refried beans this weekend. If you want entertaining to be fun and enjoyable, find your balance. Do what you enjoy and outsource or find shortcuts where you can.

Spanish Rice

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8


  • 3 tbsp oil, canola or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 8 oz tomato sauce


  • Heat oil in a skillet; saute rice until it is golden brown.
  • Add the vegetables and seasoning; continue to saute for 1-2 minutes longer.
  • Add broth (or water) and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Cover; simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove rice from heat; let it stand for 3-4 minutes, still covered. Fluff and serve.

My favorite that I can’t wait to get into the kitchen to make — the sopapilla cupcakes! I should have started with these because life is short and it’s a good idea to eat dessert first.

Sopapilla Cupcakes

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 20 cupcakes
Author: MrsFisher0729 (AllRecipes.com), adapted by Tina Cusker



  • 1 (16.5 oz) white cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tbls Ridgeline Spice's Cinnamon Dessert Spice, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp clear vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white sugar


  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp honey, for drizzling


  • Preheat the oven to 350°; line 20 muffin cups with liners.
  • Mix cake mix, water, egg whites, oil, 1 tbls cinnamon seasoning, and vanilla extract in a bowl of a stand mixer on low for 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl before increasing speed to medium and mix batter for 2 minutes. Use a muffin sized scoop to fill with batter.
  • Combine white sugar and 1/2 tbls cinnamon seasoning in a small bowl. Lightly sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in a cupcake comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes to room temperature.
  • Beat butter in a bowl using an electric mixer until creamy and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add confectioner's sugar, 3 tbls honey, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon; beat until just combined. Mix in cream, 1 tbls at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
  • Spoon frosting into a piping bag or plastic bag with a snipped corner; pipe onto each cupcake. Lightly drizzle honey over each frosted cupcake. Sprinkle any remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture on top.

How do you top off the meal? With beer and margaritas, of course! We will serve both raspberry and traditional margaritas in addition to Corona & limes.

All that’s left to do is greet the guests…. What time will you be over?


Copyright © 2021 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.

Please join in the conversation so we can grow together...