In Your Easter Bonnet

March 12, 2019
I can hear Judy Garland
singing this song in my
head.
Easter is a time of
recognizing and
celebrating the
resurrection of Jesus
Christ.
Usually around January,
my family would start
collecting the washed
out eggshell of eggs
known as “cascarones,”
in preparation for Easter.
Mi Mama was so clean
she’d put diluted bleach
water inside the eggshell
to take away the egg
smell and turn upside
down to drain.
We had fun dying and
making the cascarrones,
we usually purchased
confetti, but, some years I recall cutting up strips of tissue into tiny pieces of the many color.It took us many hours.
And, also dying the hard
boiled eggs. In
anticipation of our Easter
egg hunt with our
cousins.
During Easter my Mama
loved making her famous
potato salad and chile
beans to accompany our
carne asada, ribs and
tripas, or whatever my
family had a craving for
that year. There was
always salsa, dips, chips,
cascarrones and way too
many candies. Our life
was  a blending of two cultures.
I remember our cute
Easter baskets. That
overflowed with candy,
treats and were topped
off with a large chocolate
egg or bunny wrapped in
shiny tinfoil. We would
get together with our
cousins the Garza’s to
play and eat, but we
never shared our candy.
I recall us “all” strutting
our Easter Best to
church. My Aunt Lupe
usually herded all four of us  into church. My Aunt Lupe was a devout Catholic and very involved in St. Francis Cabrini Church in Huron, Ca.
In retrospect, it must
have been very difficult
for her, since we didn’t
wish to be there and we
couldn’t wait to get
home, whether It was
Easter or not. I’m not sure why Mi Mama did not join us, but she must have been going through a soul-searching period.
Thank you and God
Bless you, Aunt Lupe.
Stay tune for my next
post on my Aunt Lupe.
Typically it was a pretty
pastel dress with a
matching new purse and
always a 2nd new outfit
of casual shorts and top
we changed into after
church. Allowing us to
run around like the little
“rascals” we were at
whatever park my family
selected for that year.
Many years it was Los
Gatos Canyon in
Coalinga. And,
occasionally Roeding
Park or Kearney Park in
Fresno. Before, the
gangs and drunks
started shooting at each
other. I also recall the occasional drunk husband smacking his wife. Not a good memory, but reality.
Now, I stop and reflect never quite understanding how our
family provided for us all 4 and later 5, with  not one, but two outfits on Easter, especially  since we didn’t have a  ton of
money.
Inevitably, by the end of
the day someone had
split their shorts or had
some kind of injury and
was crying. I tell you we
were wild ones.
My Aunt Lupe always
wanted us to understand
that this was a Christian
holiday and not merely
about cracking
cascarones on a person’s head and eating
Peeps.
As a child, these were
most important: family,
food, candy and cake, I
so enjoyed all of our
family traditions. I
couldn’t ask for more.
Now, as an adult as I
await and celebrate the
return of Jesus Christ,
it’s a time to look back on
all the memories I
enjoyed with my family.
Thank you, Father

Abrazos y Besos

Patience

February 28, 2019

A Progression of Home Next Door

Life moves so crazy fast. Regardless, I learned a long time ago to keep my “own” pace; I function much better. 

Then, at times, it seems like some things move so slow. Our builder, only builds one home at a time. He is currently working on a project and due to unforeseen weather conditions the project he is currently working on, will not be completed till this summer. At that time he will start our home. I have had fun meeting with our architect. She is an excellent listener and has completed the “first draft” of my vision with Mi Corazon’s input.
During our Boerne home remodel, I was quite instrumental during Augie’s absence of taking on the  responsibilities ofremodeling our home. At times it was very stressful; requiring multi-tasking of complex and technical scenarios. In dealing with the electrician, painters, carpenter, floor guys etc., or a combination of them at the same time. This was all Greek to me. But, I welcomed the challenge as I wanted to help and participate. Besides, I was learning new skills.
Obviously, this has been a much easier process of just researching “Pinterest” and “Googling” ideas for “Hug Hacienda.” 
Thank you, Mi Corazon for trusting in me and giving me free reign to make our home comfortable for us. 
I think cooking, designing and decorating are all similar to Arts and Crafts! I luv Arts and Crafts, this playing lifts my spirits and creativity feeds my soul. Thank you, Father for my gift; of being able to see the big picture and give attention to the smallest detail, creativity, color, design and vision to bring our Casita to fruition.

Abrazos y Besos

Olé Molé-The National Dish of Mexico

February 26, 2019

I have several obsessions, molé being one of them. I have had the pleasure and been blessed to travel and eat some phenomenal dishes, in our travels throughout many lands. But, I can say, no dish offers the layers, dimensions and complexities of flavors that molé does. I have seen moles dark as mud! Mole runs through my blood!It has also been called the “national dish” of Mexico. Augie and I had the honor of taking a molé negro cooking class in Mexico. It was an experience of a lifetime, comparable to our Tuscany cooking class in Cortona, Italy or our cooking class in Algarve where we made Cataplana. The Cataplana is a regional culinary classic. Its appearance may be unusual, but the unique cataplana is a true symbol of the Algarve’s culinary tradition of seafood. Named after the cookware in which it is prepared. Typically it was copper, but now made of stainless steel.

“Two states in Mexico claim to be the origin of molé. Puebla and Oaxaca, the best-known molés are native to these two states, but other regions in Mexico also make various types of molé sauces.”There are several legends as to the origins of molé. Many years ago, this is the one I learned and I like of the brief history of molé while in college. 
It goes along these lines, that 16th Century nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de Los Angeles, upon learning that the Archbishop was coming for a visit, went into a panic because they had nothing to serve him. The nuns started praying desperately and an angel came to inspire them. They used what they had and began chopping and grinding and roasting, mixing different types of chiles together with spices, day-old bread, nuts, a little chocolate and approximately 20 other ingredients.. 
This concoction boiled for hours and was reduced to the thick, sweet, rich and fragrant molé sauce we know today. Although many believe the word mole comes from the Spanish word moler, meaning “to grind” it actually comes from a Nahuatl (Aztec) word, molli meaning, “sauce” or “mixture.” 

They killed the only meat they had, an old turkey, and the strange sauce was poured over it. The archbishop was more than happy with his banquet and the nuns saved face. Little did they know they were creating the Mexican National dish for holidays and feasts, and that today, millions of people worldwide have at least heard of molé poblano.

Mole of Every Color
For your information and to my surprise, our teacher did not use a lot of chocolate in our molè negro recipe above, just a small piece. I was under the belief we would be using much more. Most of that dark, intense, rich flavor comes from all of the roasting of chilies, seeds, nuts, fruits, etc. And, secondly every family has their own molé recipe, passed down from generation to generation. For instance, my family in Guadalajara uses toasted BIROTE in addition to corn tortilla for thickening the molè.
Sorry, I don’t have a recipe for you. When I am asked for a recipe, I panic. Since I cook from feeling, taste, and Mi Corazon. I do not use recipes, for the food I learned to cook by Mi Mama. I can give you a list of ingredients. But, this dish is not about combining ingredients! You really need to have someone guide you; for instance on how long and desired color to achieve when roasting chilies, seeds, nuts, etc.  Mole is very complex and deep-rooted in history. If you are seriously interested in learning how to make molé I would suggest a class or researching “many” u-tube videos. And, then develop a recipe to make it your own. For example, I do not like sweet molés, I prefer mine a little picoso (hot) with the slightest hint of sweetness. Molé takes many practices and trials and errors, similar to tamales. Molé is not the type of dish you see or make once and that’s it! Just recently, I viewed Abuelita Esperanza from Oaxaca, making an almond molé “Estofada Almendrada,” on u-tube with Erik Kennon. I will attempt to make this next, I feel confident I can master it.
And, lastly I feel compelled to add, you can give five different people the same ingredients and recipe, and they’ll all come out tasting different. Every person has their own, I don’t know what you call it! Their own love, soul, touch, flavor. I have seen some very simple molès that start with a flour rue, a puréed mixture of chilies, tomatillos, garlic and a few spices that can be made in a few hours for dinner and are delicious. Of course different, to 40 ingredient molés; which require a days work, it won’t compare, but it will be good in a pinch!
Oaxaca boasts an impressive 7 kinds of mole. It’s not all chiles & chocolate in the land of mole. Here is a listing of them.
1. Negro

This is the granddaddy or king of all the moles. All of the ingredients were laid out when we arrived. With 6 kinds of dried chilies, raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sesame seeds, onion, garlic, tomatillo, tomato, tortilla, plantains, bread, marjoram, thyme, avocado leaves, cinnamon stick, oregano, chocolate, and more. 
2. Rojo or Poblano

This sweeter, spicier and more versatile version is amped up with several kinds of dried red chile like pasilla, guajillo and ancho as well as pulverized raisins and almonds or peanuts. When the sauce is done, browned chicken, pork or beef is typically added and stewed until tender.
3. Coloradito

Somewhere between rojo and negro in color, this brown mole shares the base ingredients of whole spices, onions, garlic, seeds and chocolate and features an awesome secret ingredient for thickening and sweetening: mashed ripe plantain.
4. Amarillo

Picture all the goodness of the first three moles without the sweet stuff and no chocolate. And you have a delicious basic sauce to pour over or use as a cooking base for myriad Mexican purposes. It’s not unlike a simple Indian curry sauce, the sky’s the limit.
5. Verde

Extra pepitas or pipian, along with fresh tomatillos, jalapenos and cilantro are the key ingredients in bright green mole verde. It can be diluted with chicken stock when it’s finished and poured over cooked chicken to make a soupy sauce mopped up with tortillas or bread.
6. Chichillo

This one’s a little more intense. Round up all the beef bones you can find, you’re going to need them. This dark, spicy sauce starts with rich, homemade beef stock. The stock rehydrates dried chiles de arbol, anchos and guajillos which you then blend with the usual slow-cooked garlic and onions. Mole chichilo is thickened with either masa harina, lime-cured corn flour, or crushed fresh tortillas. No chocolate here, either. Excellent for braises.
7. Manchamantel

This “tablecloth-staining” mole lives up to its reputation: between the bright red chorizo grease, tomatoes and ancho chiles, you do not want to get this stuff on anything white. Featuring fresh pineapple in addition to plantain, manchamantel is a sweet, spicy, fruity sauce any protein would be lucky to cook in.

 Buen Provecho 

Abrazos y Besos

#lavidahug

#molé

#comidamexicana

  Chile’s
Ingredients
Roasting chilies, nuts & seeds.
We Have Molé!

 

“La Olla de Amor”

I have one of these “cazuelas,” a clay pot or cazuela de barro, typically used for molé. Before you cook in it, it must be “seasoned” or “cured.” It entails a bit of necessary work, but well worth it. Quite different then seasoning your cast iron skillets where you add oil. Here you want to add moisture. 

Frijoles de Olla/Bean Pot

Pots are seasoned on top of stove, due to shape. I have always said, beans made in a “cazuela de barro” a clay pot, are a totally different flavor, and you will be hooked. Tagines can also be seasoned in oven. For Italian and Spanish cooking cazuelas, manufactures usually recommend merely soaking in water for 10-12 hours. Glazed pots are seasoned differently than unglazed. The glazed cazuelas are shiny. I will focus on unglazed molé cazuelas, as seen in picture above.

Unglazed Cazuela

For leaching white lead from the traditional clay cooking pots purchased in Mexico.
Fill the pot with water to about an inch or so from the brim, adding 1/4 c. of white vinegar to each cup of water used. (ex. 6 cups water/ 1-1/2 c. vinegar). Place pot in the oven at 100 degrees and leave overnight. Check the pot in the morning by dumping out the water and looking for a white or silver ring; the white residue is the lead leaching out of the clay. This procedure may have to be done several times until there is no visible lead residue.

Clay pots can go directly over stove or wood flame, but when using an electric stove use a metal diffuser under your pot.

As you know, I enjoy cooking. I also have an attachment to some of my favorite pots, pans or kitchen implements. I have some favorite pieces I inherited from Mi Mama. I also have Mi Abuelita, Elena’s rolling pin she used daily, to make flour tortillas.

Now go out and make some molé.

Abrazos y Besos

I Am Not A Food Writer

February 18, 2019


I don’t want to be viewed as a cook writing about food and sharing recipes! There are a thousand bloggers sharing recipes!

I stated this in a previous post: Navidad en Mexico y Aqui.

“It’s way to easy to Google a recipe for anything your heart desires! Although, my favorite topics are my “family memories” and “food” specifically comida Mexicana.” I once told a friend on Facebook, when he asked for a recipe that that “stressed me out!” Why? Because we never used recipes when cooking and I still don’t! I don’t measure anything! 

I was taught to cook by using my senses and heart! My sight, taste, smell, feel and even hearing. Yes, hearing! Recently, I had a conversation with a chef I highly respect. And, she shared that she does not allow music to play in her restaurant kitchen. Because she listens to the food! This blew my mind. I had never heard anyone express cooking that way. But, it is so true! You can tell the status of food by the sounds while on the stove; “it sings to you.” And, these sounds are only expanded in a restaurant kitchen. You can also tell what all the workers are doing, by listening to the “ music of the kitchen.”

 I have such fond recollections of helping Mi Abuelita, My Aunt Lupe and Mi Mama. It is a deep rooted passion. “La Cocina” is where I am most comfortable Hence, my “food memories,” and “food anthropology.”
And while I also enjoy knowing the history of food and a particular dish I don’t want to mix history while cooking. It gives me a headache!

 I am a story-teller and the thrill for me is in the “anecdotal meat,” if you will, no pun intended. Which makes it uniquely me! I also enjoy writing about so much more beyond Mi Familia, food and its history. I write about anything that grabs my fancy and touches my heart.

Abrazos y Besos

Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

 

Capirotada

Original Written February  18, 2015

Modified February 18, 2019

Every year, about this time, you can bet, I start thinking of Mi Familia’s y Mi Mama’s capirotada. A dessert made of toasted bread slices drenched in a sweet and spicy syrup. It is soft and sticky, but there were crunchy nuts, chewy raisins and a creamy tang to keep it from becoming cloying.
 Capirotada (the name comes from a friar’s hat). And, was originally eaten savory in Spain. Sometime after capirotada reaches Mexico it evolved into a sweet dish.
This is a traditional Mexican dessert that is eaten primarily during Lent. The actual ingredients in the dish all have a symbolism connected to Lent and Easter. 
The bread represents the Body of Christ, the syrup is his blood, the cloves are the nails of the cross, and the whole cinnamon sticks are the wood of the cross. The melted cheese stands for the Holy Shroud
There are many recipes on the Internet. As a young lady, growing up in the San Joaquin Valley of California, I recall families that added sliced onions or tomatoes and I was flabbergasted! But, women traditionally used the most basic of ingredients to make this old world traditional dessert. 
Many, do not toast the French bread or birrotes. Which causes your capirotada to be overly mushy. My family always toasted the bread on a cookie sheet in the oven, spread with butter. Made the syrup. And added different fruits such as apple slices, banana slices, raisins and nuts. My family’s recipe usually used a cheddar cheese. I have tasted many many variations, all good. But, some families add eggs and milk. Making  it more of a traditional bread pudding with a custard. Mine did not, the syrup was made with water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, piloncillio and other spices. Many families add a layer of corn tortillas on the bottom, my family did not. And many families also add Monterrey jack cheese, mine did not. This is one recipe I found that seems to be a good starter.

 Enjoy


Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

INGREDIENTS:

4 bolillo rolls or French rolls

4 1/2 cups water

12 ounces piloncillo or 1½ cups packed dark brown sugar

4 cinnamon sticks6 whole cloves

3 cups cheese (Longhorn Cheddar or Colby) shredded

1 cup raisins

4 tablespoons butter 

Add sliced apples, chopped apricots, bananas, prunes, etc.


DIRECTIONS:Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut rolls in ½ inch slices and butter both sides, layer on a baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes on each side, until lightly toasted and dry. Remove and cool.
Combine water, piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, creating a syrup. Simmer syrup uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep, covered for 2 hours. Pour through a strainer and discard cinnamon sticks and cloves. Set syrup aside.
Butter your baking dish. Layer ingredients in the following order: a third of the toasted bread, third of the raisins, fruit of your choice, third of the cheese, and 1 1/2 cups syrup evenly over cheese. Wait 15 minutes and layer another third of the bread, raisins, fruit, cheese, and 1 1/2 cups syrup evenly over cheese. Let soak for another 15 minutes, and again top with the remaining bread, raisins, fruit, cheese, and syrup evenly over bread. Before baking let set for another 15 minutes.Cover the dish with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick spray and bake 40 minutes, uncover and bake until cheese is golden brown about 10 to 15 minutes more. Serve warm.

Abrazos y Besos

Conserve and Preserve


February 17, 2019
Recently I learned of this career and it transported me back to my tour of the Louvre, many moons ago. I recall passing a room encased in glass to be visibly viewed by all. The workers were preserving antiquities and masterpieces of statues and paintings. I could have stood there for days watching them. My soul was happy as I became them and visualized myself gently chiseling and gingerly touching-up a nose as if performing surgery with the precision of a surgeon or a forensic reconstructor.

High-tech meets timeless craft in the Madrid workshop of Factum Arte, where they’re re-imagining the art of preservation. Efforts to conserve ancient architectural culture.

Had I only known as a child that this type of art/career even existed. But, I am not one to dwell on “what ifs!”

Madrid workshop of Factum Arte

Abrazos y Besos