Tex-Mex cuisine, as we know it today, is a fusion of Mexican and Texan culinary traditions, with a rich (and delicious) history that has its beginnings back to the 19th century. Sure, it’s loved worldwide, but still struggles to get the respect it deserves (like, perhaps, French or Italian cuisine).
“Just because Tex-Mex has humble roots — fajitas were born from farmers using very cheap cuts of meat — doesn’t mean that it’s not worthy of respect. Simple food doesn’t equate to ‘cheap and dirty.’ It’s delicious food that isn’t pretentious. Millennials are seeking truth and authenticity, and Tex-Mex is just that.”Jason Barrett, CEO of the Rio Grande Restaurants chain in Colorado, tells the Manual.
So, what are Tex-Mex’s humble roots?
The term “TexMex” itself, minus the hyphen, “originally began as an abbreviation for the Texas and Mexican Railroad, chartered in 1875,” the History Channel explains. “By the 1920s, some people were using ‘Tex-Mex’ (with hyphen added) to describe people of Mexican descent living in Texas — more accurately called Tejanos — and eventually the label would be applied to the Mexican-style food typical of the region.”
Foodies agree that the foundation of Tex-Mex cuisine lies in the cuisine of northern Mexico. Early settlers in Texas, many of whom were of Mexican descent, brought their traditional recipes and ingredients with them. Mexican dishes like tamales, enchiladas, and chiles rellenos were adapted to suit the ingredients available in Texas.
Then, as Texas became a part of the United States in the mid-19th century, Anglo-American settlers arrived in the region, introducing new ingredients and cooking techniques to the existing Mexican cuisine. For example, wheat flour tortillas became popular, replacing corn tortillas in some dishes.
Texas’s strong cattle-ranching tradition contributed to the development of Tex-Mex cuisine. Beef dishes, such as fajitas and chili con carne, became prominent, as did the use of shredded beef or ground beef in various Tex-Mex dishes.
Tex-Mex cuisine is known for its bold and flavorful seasonings, which were influenced by the use of spices common in Tejano cooking. Ingredients like cumin, chili powder, and garlic were incorporated into Tex-Mex recipes to create distinctive flavors.
Tex-Mex food solidified its place on the map during the mid-20th century with the expansion of the restaurant chain Chili’s and fast food giant Taco Bell.
Now, families throughout the world enjoy Tex-Mex meals at home, thanks to readily-available ingredients and easy-to-follow (yummy) recipes.
Here, to celebrate the cuisine we love and respect, Nuestro Stories brings you two traditional Tex-Mex recipes, with a Back-to-School twist: Mini Sweet Pepper Sheet Pan Nachos and Southwest Quiche Muffins Bento Box.
A Manageable Tex-Mex Back-to-School Menu
The hustle and bustle of back-to-school season has caused chaos in many of our homes – making sitting down for a meal seem like a far-off dream. So we bring you the Tex-Mex recipes, from the experts at Healthy Family Project. (Visit HealthyFamilyProject.com to find more back-to-school recipes.)
Mini Sweet Pepper Sheet Pan Nachos
Recipe courtesy of Healthy Family Project
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
8 ounces Pero Family Farms Mini Sweet Peppers, cut into chip shapes
7 ounces tortilla chips
1/2 cup sweet or red onion, diced.
1/2 cup canned or fresh corn
1/2 cup queso fresco cheese
1/4 cup black olives
1/4 cup jalapeno peppers, fresh sliced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish
1 lime, cut into thin wedges, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place peppers and tortilla chips on a sheet pan. Layer onion, corn, cheese, black olives and jalapeno peppers. Bake 3 to 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
Southwest Quiche Muffins Bento Box
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
8 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped Nature Fresh Farms Tomz tomatoes
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 small RealSweet sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1/4 cup granola
1/2 Zespri SunGold kiwi, chopped
1 Bee Sweet Citrus mandarin, peeled and segmented
Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Coat 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or use silicone muffin liners. Evenly divide beans, tomatoes, cheese and onion among cups. Pour eggs over top. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until eggs are set and lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and cool in a pan 2-3 minutes. Use a knife to loosen edges and remove. In a cup or bowl, mix yogurt, granola and kiwi. Assemble bento box with two quiche muffins, kiwi parfait and mandarin slices.
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