I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Mariano’s. All opinions remain my own#cbias #SocialFabric
With Little Miss in a Spanish immersion program, I do my best to get her to eat not just a wide variety of foods in general, but many traditional Mexican and Spanish foods, as well. Mister Man is also in a Spanish class, where his teacher frequently brings in different foods for them to try, too. So what is Cinco de Mayo other than another chance to eat some of my favorite ethnic dishes? Lucky me, I have a Mariano’s close by that makes it all so easy.
One of the best parts about Mariano’s is that I don’t even need to necessarily know what I’m going to make when I walk in. There are so many amazing options, and it feels like they carry everything I could possibly need. I always find inspiration when shopping there, and this time was no different. Even though it was a weeknight, I still managed to put together an amazing dinner that everyone loved.
It was super easy to decide what I wanted once I walked into the store, and I love that I could have chosen items that were prepared for me or foods that I could cook from scratch to make the meal. Because it was weeknight, I wanted to compromise and do a bit of both. Spanish rice is one of my favorite dishes to make, and it’s pretty quick and easy, leaving me time to focus on other parts of the meal. The roasted chickpeas are something that I made ahead, and yes, Little Miss continued to snack on them until I finally had everything on the table. Aside from that, I cheated a little – for me.
I debated purchasing some already marinated meats from the meat counter at Mariano’s, and there was plenty to choose from, but I wimped out. It was still chilly in Chicago, and I didn’t feel like standing outside and grilling. There were some truly tasty looking options, and I almost got some perfect looking marinated fajita fixings, but I decided the peppers might be too much for the wee ones. Instead, I headed down the Hispanic aisle. I absolutely adore how Mariano’s makes each section feel like a little store of its own. There is a cheese shop and an artisan bread shop and a bakery and more. Even the aisle through the middle of the store get special treatment you don’t see at other stores. I adore the flags they hang atop them to let you know what you’ll find down each aisle.
Just wandering the aisle is inspiring. I found some oh so fun sauces, and I picked up a chipotle salsa I hadn’t tried before, knowing that both my husband and I are huge fans of chipotle. Not surprisingly, he put it to good use that night with his dinner and pronounced it delicious. As I continued wandering down the aisle, I found a spice mix for Chicken Tinga that McCormick makes, and I was sold. It would allow me to “sort of” make dinner myself… and sort of cheat. It was super simple to make. I simply poached some chicken, sauteed some onion, added tomato and the spice pack, shredded the chicken and cooked a few more minutes.
I also found my favorite Jarritos Mexican soda (always with 100% sugar – no HFCS in there) and picked up a couple as a special treat for the wee ones. It’s so fun being a fun mom every once in awhile and surprising them with little treats they appreciate. The nice thing about giving them pop at dinner is that it means they don’t ask for any dessert because they already had something special, so that let me off the hook for figuring out a fancy dessert for our Cinco de Mayo party. See, I’m always thinking!
I also cheated by buying guacamole instead of making my own. I have an amazing guacamole recipe, but I didn’t have the time or energy to pull it together on a weeknight. Fortunately, Mariano’s is there for me and had several different kinds of guac to choose from. I ended up with a southwestern guacamole that was really tasty. And honestly, it was probably cheaper for me to buy the container of housemade guacamole from Mariano’s than it would have been for me to make my own. You have to love a good deal, right? Even better, I know that it was made fresh and at Mariano’s, just the way I would make it at home.
I will admit that I was slightly nervous that the wee ones might reject my Cinco de Mayo main course if I called it Chicken Tinga before they ate it, so I simply told them that they were having tacos, which they already know and love. Fortunately, it wasn’t an issue, and when I came clean about the Chicken Tinga part way through the meal, neither batted an eye between chews. Little Miss gave it not just two thumbs up, but two thumbs and two feet up. Now that’s pretty high praise!
It was so much fun to pull it together, and the wee ones asked if we could do it again for their friends so they could have a Cinco de Mayo celebration, too. Who am I to argue? Little Miss has her First Communion on Saturday – the day before the real Cinco de Mayo – so what could be a better theme? It’s a well-balanced meal with lots of veggies, some good and easy protein, and plenty of different colors. Even better, it didn’t take too long to make, and all of it would stand up well to being kept on a warming tray.
Oh wait, it gets even better! Mariano’s has such great prices on their produce and everything else I need that it will cost a fraction of what it would for me to cater it. The Mariano’s rewards card will ensure that I get all the in-store specials, too. I’ve already started to look to see what they’ll have on sale this week, and I already have some ideas. Pineapples are just $2.99 each this week, so I’ll cut up a bunch and leave them in their “shells” for presentation for a healthy dessert. Even better, the chicken I need for the Chicken Tinga – the most expensive part of the celebratory meal – is on sale for $1.69/pound thanks to an in-store special. I’ll definitely be able to feed the army I’m expecting. I love that the Mariano’s rewards card will make this so much easier for me – and when I forget to bring it (like I did this time since I cleaned out my purse but didn’t properly repack it), all I need is my phone number and I’m set.
Mariano’s makes it all so easy, and I know they’re paying attention to the little things, too. I am absolutely tickled each time I walk into the store and see how many different produce items they’re carrying. Can you even name 100 different produce items, let alone the 207 organic varieties and 946 total varieties they had that day? And every one of them is amazingly fresh. I see this, I hear the piano music, and I feel my zen coming on. Mariano’s is my kind of place.
It’s the little things like this that make me trust a store. I like food, but I like know what my food is more. And I refuse to shop somewhere that doesn’t make me comfortable. If I had my choice, I’d be living in Europe, shopping in little markets every day. Mariano’s is pretty close with its incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff that is all over the store, coupled with the division of the store into discrete substores filled with special creations I can’t wait to bring home.
So yeah, that’s why it isn’t just Mariano’s. It’s #MyMarianos. Because how yum is this plate? The guacamole they make in house (sold right next to the fresh orange juice that has the actual squeezer right there) was amazing, the chicken was yummy, my Spanish rice turned out great, and sadly, I got just one sip of Little Miss’s Jarritos before it was gone. Good thing I hid another bottle I didn’t tell the wee ones about. Yet.
Do you see how shiny those peppers are in that Spanish rice? That’s because they’re so fresh that even when cooked they retain a nice bite and great color. It isn’t surprising to me, however. I’ve seen them in the store, and I know how amazing they are then. Fresh food is always best. And how can this not inspire you to pick some up and create something delicious with it?
Me? I’m ready for another Cinco de Mayo feast with ingredients from Mariano’s. How about you?