Category: mexican

Dia de los Muertos/Noche de Altares.

I hope your Halloween was awesome! Mine was pretty good- tons of treats (& maybe some tricks). I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters, but what can ya do. I guess times are changing.

Each year, this particular time of the season is my favorite. I love fall weather, when it’s cool but not too cold yet (well, usually, this year we had snow before Halloween), the leaves are changing (again, usually, not so much this year), and of course Halloween & Dia de Los Muertos. The Mexican Day of the Dead has always been a holiday I’ve appreciated. The concept of it is one I think more Americans should embrace.

Dia de los Muertos is a traditional Meso-American holiday dedicated to the ancestors; it honors both death and the cycle of life. In Mexico, neighbors gather in local cemeteries to share food, music, and fun with their extended community, both living and departed. The celebration acknowledges that we still have a relationship with our ancestors and loved ones that have passed away.

- source

This year it especially hits home for me. Halloween marked the beginning of a long season of “first holidays” without my grandmother. My grandmother loved Halloween, as did her mother before her. And ever since I was a child, my Nana told me about All Saints’ Day/All Souls’ Day. She told me about all the superstitions her Irish grandmother & mother told her as a child. And those two holidays have a big tie-in with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The main difference being the Irish are very melancholy, sad and superstitious about it, whereas the Mexican view is much more celebratory: celebrating the dead AND the living, and reflecting but not being regretful. I love that! I’m not religious, not particularly spiritual, yet I find this to be a wonderful “holiday” that most Americans get totally wrong but could really, genuinely learn from. I also love the tradition of going to the cemetery & cleaning up & sprucing up the graves, decorating them & making them beautiful. Too many Americans forget about their deceased ancestors remains, and don’t bother to ever “visit” them… and trust me, the “Perpetual Care” you pay for ain’t so perpetual. Not only that, but opening yourself up to another culture & it’s traditions is so amazing. You learn so much, & not just about yourself.

Anyway, one of the most famous images of the Day of the Dead, aside from the sugar skull, is the Catrina, or the female skeleton. Popularized in 1913 by José Guadalupe Posada in a print/zinc etching he created of a figure he called La Calavera de la Catrinas or La Calavera Catrina.

© José Guadalupe Posada

On that same note, one of my favorite artists, Sylvia Ji, paints a lot of Catrina-themed women. I just adore her work and I think they’re so beautiful. The Catrina or Calavera is another aspect of Dia de los Muertos that makes me love it. I’m so inspired by these, as well as the imagery of Dia de los Muertos.

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Last year I made tres leches coconut cupcakes for Dia de los Muertos with little hand-painted sugar skulls. I still think they were completely amazing & adorable… but I didn’t want to repeat the same thing this year; I hate reruns. I wanted to do something a bit different. My friend Xenia asked me for my grandmother’s photo to add to her altar which was chosen for Noche de Altares (A Night of Altars), an event in Santa Ana that takes place tomorrow, November 5th. I was flattered that she would think of me… but also it gave me the bug. So I thought it was a great idea to make my own! It was a very small & simple one, but I think it served the purpose. I used the traditional marigolds, but some chrysanthemums too. So here are some pictures of my altar, and once the event is over I’ll add the pictures of Xenia’s as well, or a link to her post about it.

It’s just a small, simple altar, but I think it’s beautiful. Represented in the altar: my grandmother Agnes & grandfather Clarence, my great-great-grandmother Winifred Mackin, her daughter Mary & husband Thomas Rooney, my other great-great-grandmother Frances Hebrank & her husband Henry Sonnanburg, my great-uncle Pat, my great-aunt Winnie & her husband Sam Prybuski, my uncle Kenny, my great-aunt Eleanor Sonnanburg & her husband Frank Rooney, and my great-uncle Jack Sonnanburg; all deceased. I think it’s a gorgeous tribute. So in addition to creating my own altar this year, I also made Pan de Muerto. My grandma loved my baking, and my uncle Pat couldn’t eat a lot of sugar or carbs, being a diabetic, so as my offering to them this Day of the Dead, I thought this was appropriate on so many levels. Plus, it’s a day for celebrating life too, and what’s more celebratory than baking delicious bread & enjoying it!?

PAN DE MUERTO (BREAD OF THE DEAD) (from Look What We Brought You From Mexico! by Phyllis Shalant)

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup (half a stick) margarine or butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup very warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • ½ teaspoon anise seed
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:

  1. Bring milk to boil and remove from heat. Stir in margarine or butter, ¼ cup sugar and salt.
  2. In large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until dissolved and let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk mixture.
  3. Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast mixture, but save the white for later. Now add flour to the yeast and second egg. Blend well until dough ball is formed.
  4. Flour a pastry board or work surface very well and place the dough in center. Knead until smooth. Return to large bowl and cover with dish towel. Let rise in warm place for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Knead dough again on floured surface. Now divide the dough into fourths and set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining 3 pieces into “ropes.”
  6. On greased baking sheet, pinch 3 rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching ends together on opposite side. Divide the remaining dough in half and form 2 “bones.” Cross and lay them atop braided loaf.
  7. Cover bread with dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix anise seed, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar together. In another bowl, beat egg white lightly.
  8. When 30 minutes are up, brush top of bread with egg white and sprinkle with sugar mixture, except on cross bones. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

I made mine a bit differently. I used about a ½ teaspoon anise extract in the actual dough, seeing as how I had no anise seed. I used 100% butter, not margarine. Also, obviously, I made my bread in a round shape and covered it with a rough-shaped cut-out dough skull & crossbones. Of course, as the bread bakes & rises the shapes don’t exactly stay together but I think that adds to it. You can also paint the dough or color parts of it using food coloring. The anise didn’t make it overwhelmingly “licorice-y” at all, so don’t be afraid to do it. It actually was so subtle, I could barely taste it. I put this bread in the ‘quick & easy’ category because I was surprised at how simple it was to make. I think it definitely makes things easier if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, however. The crumb of the bread was fantastic, too.

I hope all my family had a wonderful Day of the Dead, wherever they are in the great beyond. Maybe they came to pay a visit & saw my altar for them.

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“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.” Leonardo da Vinci

You’re so fresh… you salsa fresca, you.

I mentioned this weekend that I can’t stand to have the oven on in hot weather. I need fresh, cold (or cool, or at least room temperature) food this time of year: salads, etc. Salsa is included in that list of cold foods. A jar of salsa & a bag of chips & I’m all set. Although the past 2 days have been pretty cool, temperature wise, I made this on one of the hottest days on record in New York.

I should state before continuing with the post/recipe for salsa that I am indeed a salsa fanatic. Salsa in almost any shape & form- salsa verde, chunky salsa, mild salsa, hot salsa, salsa with lots of cilantro, salsa with corn & black beans- you name it, I will love it. Except for peach or mango salsas. My salsa has to have tomato or tomatillo in it. So when I happened upon my new favorite blog (thanks mom), Food In Jars, I immediately looked for a quick salsa recipe. Salsa means ‘sauce’ in Spanish, and it’s basically a cold version of an Italian tomato sauce with different herbs, and often no cooking required, particularly with ‘salsa fresca’ or ‘fresh sauce.’ Salsa fresca is also sometimes referred to as ‘pico de gallo’ or ‘the rooster’s beak’, referring either to way it was eaten (with the thumb and forefinger, mimicking a rooster pecking) or the shape of the chili peppers used to make it. Although according to the almighty and always correct Wikipedia:

Another suggested etymology is that pico is derived from the verb picar, which has two meanings: 1) to mince or chop, and 2) to bite, sting or peck. The rooster, gallo in Spanish, is a common metaphor for the hyper-masculine (“macho“) male in Mexican culture. One example of such machismo is taking pride in withstanding the spicy burn of chilis.

However, neither theory can be considered definite, as they assume the use of hot chilis. In many regions of Mexico the term “pico de gallo” refers to any of a variety of salads, condiments or fillings made with sweet fruits, tomatoes, tomatillos, avocado or mild chilis — not necessarily with hot chilis, or any chilis at all. Thus, the name could be a simple allusion to the bird feed-like minced texture and appearance of the sauce.[2]

Although I always considered pico de gallo to be drier, drier as in not as liquidy as regular salsa, and this salsa is liquidy. However I chopped my onion kind of rough, not very fine, so I made it more like a pico. I also added a ton more cilantro because I love it. I also used two pretty small organic “on the vine” tomatoes as opposed to one large one, so it was definitely not as tomato-y. Yes, I know, there isn’t really much to making salsa, and yes, I could’ve figured it out on my own without a recipe (especially since it’s essentially the same as the pico de gallo I’ve made before… but I digress). But it’s easier when you’ve got an idea of exactly how much of what to put in the first time. I plan on experimenting with this, for sure. And next time I make those chicken flautas, I’ll have this on the side & in the filling, thankyouverymuch.

But for now, here’s the basic Salsa Fresca recipe from Marisa at FIJ. Make it & revel in the mouth-puckeringly acidic deliciousness.

HOMEMADE SALSA FRESCA (from Food In Jars)

Makes approximately one pint

Ingredients:

  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • ½ white/yellow onion, finely minced (I used about a little over ¼ of an extremely large white onion)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, washed and chopped (I just tore the leaves off, I didn’t chop)
  • 1 – 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced (you can leave the seeds in if you want a hotter flavor, I used one & omitted the seeds)
  • 1 lime, juiced (about 2 – 2 ½ tablespoons, for you measurement-obsessed freaks)
  • 2 big pinches of salt

Directions:

  1. Mix everything together in a glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving, but half an hour is even better.
  2. Store leftovers (if there are any) in a glass canning jar.

I used a washed-out spaghetti sauce jar to save the leftovers in, although the recipe’s author is right: there isn’t much left. Let me just say this is amazingly excellent with some Garden of Eatin’ blue corn tortilla chips. Heavenly, as a matter of fact. Or rather, since I don’t really believe in “heaven”, I’d like to think that my version of heaven would be unlimited fresh salsa & chips. Not sure how long this would last in the fridge, but mine didn’t even make it past the next afternoon. Also, if you’re new to cooking, and you aren’t sure how to dice a tomato, here’s a quick rundown of how it’s done; no judgement here. We all start somewhere! And make sure you roll your lime firmly on the counter before cutting & juicing it, that releases all the juice from the pulp and makes it easier to get every last bit out.

Also, an interesting fact I ran into on Wikipedia that I’d like to share with you all:

In a 2010 press release the Centers for Disease Control reported that during the 1998-to-2008 period, 1 out of 25 foodborne illnesses with identified food sources was traced back to restaurant salsa or guacamole.[5] According to a 2010 July 13 news item by journalist Elizabeth Weise, a 2008 outbreak of Salmonella was traced back to the peppers used in salsa.[6] Originally reported to the CDC by the New Mexico Department of Health, over the course of several months, the outbreak sickened a total of 1,442 people in 43 states and resulted in 286 hospitalizations.[7] Weise reports:

 

“Refrigeration is the key to safe salsa, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety, who published a paper on the topic earlier this year.[8] ‘An unusual finding was if you used fresh garlic and fresh lime juice, it prevented the growth’ of bacteria. ‘You couldn’t use powdered, it had to be fresh,’ he says.”

Crazy, huh? You learn something new everyday. That should ease the fears of some of you germ-phobes, though. Just make sure your salsa’s are made with fresh ingredients and you’re good. Besides, who’s afraid of a little E. Coli or Salmonella?

OH! I almost forgot: I am also now a member at Punk Domestics. So come see me over there & we can discuss canning & pickling & micro-farming. You know, all that hardcore punk rock stuff.

“Flautas? You don’t even KNOW us!”

Haha. CORNY. At least I know when I’m being corny, and I admit it.

I love all things Mexican; Dia de los Muertos, sugar skulls, calaveras, catrinas, Frida Kahlo, pinatas, etc, etc. But I  am a Mexican food fanatic. I make a lot of it at home, but just basic Tex-Mex or Americanized-Mexican stuff: quesadillas, burritos, tacos, tortilla soup, tres leches cake, etc. So this post is about my adventures in making flautas. Flautas are basically the same as taquitos, except apparently taquitos are longer, and flautas are typically made with flour tortillas and taquitos are made with corn tortillas. Or something.

Taquito (from the Spanish diminutive of taco[1]), is a Mexican dish consisting of a small rolled-up tortilla and some type of filling, usually beef or chicken. The filled tortilla is crisp-fried. Corn (maize) tortillas are generally used to make taquitos. Flautas are similar to taquitos but generally made with flour tortillas.

There are many varieties of taquitos in different regions. Taquitos most often contain beef, chicken, and sometimes include cheese, pork, potato, or vegetables. They are generally thin and tend to be about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Potatoes are usually involved in the breakfast form of taquitos, which are thick and come with eggs. Taquitos are usually served with a type of salsa and/or guacamole.

In the United States, taquitos are very popular as a frozen food.[2][3] They are also sold by 7-Eleven[4] and QuikTrip[5] convenience stores in a variety of flavors, as well as established restaurants such as Chico’s Tacos.[6] Taco Bell began to sell steak and chicken taquitos in 2006. Taco Bell’s versions are wrapped in a flour tortilla and grilled, rather than fried.[7]

Crispy fried taquitos sold in Mexico are often called tacos dorados (“golden tacos”) or flautas (“flutes“). Typical toppings and sides include cabbage, crema (Mexican sour cream), guacamole, green chili or red chili salsa and crumbled Mexican cheese such as queso fresco.[8]

I got the recipe from the newest Food Network magazine, which just came in the mail last week. It sounded simple and delicious and what with the chicken, avocado, sour cream, cilantro and salsa (not to mention the frying!) I was a goner. Best part of it is you can use up leftover chicken, or just make some. You can add things to it (cheese, black beans, rice, jalapenos, etc) or take things away (I know not everyone loves avocado- you crazy people!). Or, you can make different sides for it like yellow rice or refried beans and rice.

I kept it simple: just chicken & salsa inside, with the avocado-lime-sour cream and salsa on the side, with some slices of avocado. I used corn tortillas, but the smaller ones, so instead of folding & rolling them up like mini-burritos, I just rolled ‘em up like cigars. They look like the crispy taquitos at The Cheesecake Factory, actually, now that I think about it. They would be fantastic over a bed of rice with black beans on the side, and they’d also be awesome for a summertime meal with just this avocado-cream (or even fresh guacamole), salsa, & fresh cilantro. Mmm. Fuhgeddaboudit.

The avocado-sour cream was AMAZING. Just make sure you buy avocados that are already ripe (needless to say). The flautas were really easy, but just a few tips: make sure your corn tortillas are really, really soft. Otherwise they’ll crack and break and you won’t be able to roll them. Follow the instructions on the package for heating them in the microwave, and let them go a few seconds longer. They should be pretty floppy and malleable. Also, angle the toothpicks. Don’t just stick ‘em in… they won’t sit evenly in the pan and they’ll fry unevenly. And wait for them to cool before attempting to remove the toothpicks. Sounds like common sense, but sometimes hunger overrides that! Making sure the tortillas are soft enough is very important. But if you mess up and few of them tear, don’t worry. Save them on the side and fry the torn up pieces later to make homemade tortilla chips.

I had a hard time getting the first few to stay rolled up, my tortillas weren’t soft enough and I just kinda stick the toothpicks in haphazardly. I learned after that though. Make sure your oil is hot enough too!  Otherwise they won’t brown & get crispy, they’ll just be soggy.

CHICKEN FLAUTAS

Ingredients:

  • 1 Hass avocado
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 limes (1 halved, 1 cut into wedges)
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 ½ cups fresh salsa
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Scoop the avocado into a blender. Add the sour cream and the juice of ½ a lime, pulse until smooth. Season with salt.
  2. Squeeze the remaining ½ lime over the radishes in a small bowl and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Toss the chicken with ¾ cup salsa in a medium bowl.
  3. Wrap the tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave until soft, about 45 seconds (or a little longer, as needed). Spoon the chicken mixture down the middle of the tortillas. Fold in the ends and roll up like a burrito, secure with toothpicks.
  4. Heat ¾ inch vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until a deep fry thermometer registers 375° F. Fry the flautas, turning as needed, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with tongs; drain on paper towels and remove the toothpicks. Serve with the avocado cream, radishes, cilantro, lime wedges and remaining salsa.

I’ve been getting tons of inspiration from food magazines lately. No idea why. I’ve gone so long, or well, since October, without making much that I saw in any of my magazines. Now it seems every page is drawing me in. Maybe it’s the spring? Spring recipe fever? This is a great spring & summer meal. Use all those fresh herbs & veggies!

Needless to say I didn’t do the radishes thing, I’m not a big radish fan. However, I did put fresh cilantro in the flautas themselves as opposed to on top. If you’re going for a prettier presentation, lay them next to one another on a plate, spoon the salsa and avocado-cream on top, then the radishes and then top with the fresh cilantro. I basically just wanted to shove them in my mouth like a fatty, so presentation wasn’t a priority. Besides, like I said, food stylist I am not. My salsa was just jar salsa, which is lame I admit, but next time I’ll use fresh salsa or pico de gallo. Actually, I was really disappointed because I used Pace Thick & Chunky salsa… and it wasn’t so thick & chunky! BOO PACE! I had a Stop & Shop brand Southwestern salsa with corn & black beans in it that was bangin’… should’ve used that one. Pfft.

Side note, how much do you love that vintage poster!? I’m kinda obsessed with vintage travel posters & postcards, I’d love to have that full size!

Who needs turkey? Gimme the cakes!

Actually, I really like turkey. So give me both. Despite how I feel about Thanksgiving’s history, I do love this time of year. I don’t like winter much, and snow is my kryptonite, but I love autumn. I love fall leaves, and pumpkin picking, and fall baking. And fall clothes! They’re clearly the best. So there’s a lot to celebrate for me when it comes to October/November. Plus, I can’t deny I like to eat. And a holiday celebrated by stuffing ones face with various items of deliciousness? I’m there.

For those of you in other countries, or who really could care less about what us asshole Americans do, here’s a little bit on the holiday to get you acquainted:

Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God.[1]

It is thought that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive their first brutal winter in New England.[2] The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.[3] The feast consisted of fowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. William Bradford’s note that, “besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many,”[4] probably gave rise to the American tradition of eating turkey at Thanksgiving.

Of course there’s more to the story, and it ain’t pretty, but hey, whatever. I can’t lie- I like to eat. So I can’t hate on the tradition too much.

Anyway I did this for Halloween, and I thought I’d do it for Thanksgiving too since it’s convenient to have all my holiday (in this case, Thanksgiving-y) themed recipes in one spot. Here they are in no particular order; my top picks for Thanksgiving cupcakes!

These were amazing. Of course, purists may dislike it because the recipe asks that you use a box cake mix, but it’s worth it. They were dense, chocolate-y, had amazing spicyness and had a fantastic texture thanks to the addition of a can of pumpkin. They were excellent with the chocolate frosting, but would be equally excellent with a whipped cream topping, a seven-minute frosting or even a marshmallow Fluff frosting. The recipe can be found here: Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes

These cupcakes were a surprise, because I wasn’t anticipating them turning out as well as they did. The frosting was perfect too. The cinnamon in the cupcake makes it a great choice for Thanksgiving, but it’s not too heavy, so it’s a good idea for an after-dinner cupcake; after everyone has gorged on turkey & sweet potatoes. If you wanna read more about them, here they are: Snickerdoodle cupcakes with seven-minute frosting

Now these were amazing! I’m a big fan of brown butter, so I knew that these would make me really happy. Add to that cream soda and toffee? Forget it. Just fantastic. I ended up with none left after leaving Thanksgiving dinner last year- everyone insisted on taking some home with them. Take a peek at the recipe: Cream soda toffee cupcakes with brown butter frosting

Apple is a no-brainer for fall. And these just so happen to be the best apple cupcakes there ever were, EVER. Add to that the brown sugar buttercream and you have yourself a delectable treat. And I like to think it’s healthier because of all the apple. *ahem* Anyway, here’s the recipe: Apple cupcakes with brown sugar buttercream

Now you may not be looking for a cupcake recipe. Maybe you’re looking for a fall cookie, breakfast treat, muffin or a donut recipe? Well, you’ve come to the right place! The following just so happens to be Jay’s favorite cookie, and I’m sure you’ll love it too. And the rest? They ain’t bad either. You can’t go wrong with donuts, cookies, cinnamon rolls or scones in my opinion.

Delicious sugar cookies cut into leaf-shapes and topped with maple icing. How good does that sound? The recipe can be found here.

A tried and true fall favorite: apple cider donuts. And they’re really easy to make at home- trust me! A great baking project to do with kids. Go here for the full recipe.

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The best cinnamon roll recipe, ever. Hands down. I love these on Thanksgiving morning while watching the parade. Just make the first steps the night before, allow the dough to rest overnight, then finish it and pop it in the oven that morning. Then the icing goes on while they’re warm. Seriously, they’re amazing. Get the recipe & more here.

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Ahh, Ina. You never fail me. And these scones were yet another example of that. These were a HUGE hit with my family when I made them for Thanksgiving a few years back. The texture was perfect, the flavor was awesome and everyone loved the glaze. This is another really simple yet impressive recipe. Find out how to make them here.


There are tons more fall-themed and fall-flavored ideas on this blog. You just have to search for ‘em a bit. Although, many of the cupcakes I’ve made for Halloween could work for Thanksgiving too, specifically the pumpkin, apple, cinnamon vanilla or mocha ones, and even the french toast cupcakes (which I myself are planning to recreate for Thanksgiving). Apple dumplings arealso an excellent choice, and really quick and easy. And pumpkin muffins are another great idea for breakfast, but so is pumpkin bread; a nice slice of that, all warm from the oven… Mmmm. Pumpkin muffins made with rum are a nice adult alternative. And olive oil cake? Amazing, with it’s orange-y flavor and rich texture. Although anything is really good for Thanksgiving, though, because everyone just really wants to be fat & greedy & shove food into their face. Most of the time, people don’t even notice the fancy decorations on the pies or cakes because all they want to do is stick their face in it. It’s true. Have you ever noticed how much food is put on the plates at Thanksgiving dinner? It’s ridiculous.

Which leads me to my next thought: how about, this year, for every 3 items you plan on making for your Thanksgiving spread, you donate one food item to a food bank? Whether it’s a canned vegetable or a box of au gratin potatoes or whatever. It’s time we stopped being so damn selfish in this country. And in this economy, when so many people have lost their jobs and have to rely on Food Stamps & food banks for their meals, I think all of us can afford to donate two or three cans or boxes of something to those who need it. And if you’re really feeling generous, in some supermarkets you can buy an entire meal for a family that needs it; from the soup to the turkey to the side dishes. Consider it, really. It’s the least we can do. If you’d like to contribute, there are places like Food For Others that can lead you in the right direction. Also, a quick Google search can help you find other places in your area.

Tres leches cupcakes for Dia de Los Muertos.

Did you all have a good Halloween? Hope so. I’m sad it’s over, but there’s more fun holidays to look forward to, right?

I love anything Day of the Dead. Sugar skulls & “Catrinas” especially. I love the entire concept of the day, really. It’s like a last hurrah after Halloween, when it’s still acceptable to have skulls out on display. I know I’m late by a day, but I was busy, so I couldn’t post it yesterday.

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and by Mexican Americans living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration occurs on November 2 in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Due to occurring shortly after Halloween, the Day of the Dead is sometimes thought to be a similar holiday, although the two actually have little in common. The Day of the Dead is a time of celebration, where partying and eating is common.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday to indigenous observances dating back thousands of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl. In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe and in the Philippines, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

When I was young, my grandmother used to tell me about All Saint’s Day/All Souls Day, and although we aren’t Mexican, she’s Irish and the Irish have plenty of superstition and beliefs about the dead. I was just drawn to the way the Mexican’s celebrated it so boldly and not as melancholy or morbidly as the Irish do. It’s more like a celebration, and who doesn’t love celebrations? These dudes certainly do!

A few years ago I made sugar skull toppers and put them on cinnamon vanilla cupcakes with Mexican Hot Chocolate buttercream, and those would be an excellent choice for this day as well. But I’ve been there, done that. So here’s a new Mexican inspired cupcake idea.. tres leches cake! Tres leches literally means ‘three milks’ (which I’m sure you already knew). I love coconut so I thought this was a great way of doing the tres leches thing. Plus I had these little skulls made of sugar… so…

TRES LECHES COCONUT CUPCAKES (modified slightly from FoodNetwork.com)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup shortening
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed; add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating until all the yellow disappears. Add the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture beginning and ending with the flour.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into cake batter.
  4. Fill standard paper-lined muffin cups ¾ full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to wire rack that has been placed over a baking sheet to cool.
  5. While cupcakes are still warm, stir together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and the coconut milk. Using a meat injector needle, inject each cupcake in several different spots with about ½ to ¾-ounce of the mixture. Or, poke several holes in the top of each of the cupcakes with a ¼-inch wooden skewer. Pour the milk mixture over each cupcake while they are still warm, filling each hole. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight before frosting.

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.
  2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don’t worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.
Big thanks to Yoyo for sending me that awesome skull table runner!


Sugar skulls photo courtesy of school33.org

I topped them with a Swiss meringue buttercream sprinkled with cinnamon and little icing skulls by Wilton that I bought around Halloween. Typically, sugar skulls are white and brightly decorated with multi-colored designs. I just used some Wilton gel food coloring and drew on designs to mimic the sugar skull-style using toothpicks. It’s easy to do and you really can’t screw up. If you want to, you could make royal icing and tint it different colors, then use a very small round pastry tip to create the detailed pattern, but it would take a lot longer (and the way I did it took long enough!). You can also create the same effect using a candy mold of a skull and colored candy melts. There are also sugar skull kits out there, they might come in a mini-size that’s perfect for cupcakes.

These cupcakes were amazingly moist, super tasty… and a bit sticky. The milks make it really moist but they also make it messy to eat. Worth it, though. Just don’t expect your liners to last long. I used liners called Reynolds® StayBrite™ Baking Cups that looked pretty but were also thick enough and foil-lined so that the liquid wouldn’t soak through and ruin the liners. If you use paper liners, expect them to be soaked through with the tres leches.

*Psst, I made a mistake and posted this early this morning with no photos, so if you saw this, then saw it disappear… now you know why!

The “painted” Wilton skulls…

Sopa de Tortilla a la Mexicana, y guacamole.

If you know me (or follow me on Twitter, for that matter) you know I am obsessed with Mexican food. I could eat it everyday. Actually, I’m obsessed with all things Mexican. Sugar skulls, Dia de Los Muertos, guacamole, tostadas, tortillas, fajitas, quesadillas, carnitas, pico de gallo, Frida Kahlo- you name it, I love it. My favorite  Mexican thing ever has to be Yoyo, though. Have I mentioned lately how much she rocks? Anyway so when I got the Food Network magazine featuring 50 easy soups and I saw Spicy Tortilla Soup, I had to make it. Also, I had these gorgeous organic tomatoes crying to me to use them in something delicious. Look at them- how beautiful were they?! By the way, if you had told me 8 years ago I’d get excited over beautiful organic tomatoes and KitchenAid mixers, I’d have told you you were batshit crazy.

This really is an easy soup, I have to say. It practically made itself. This wins the easiest comfort food award of the year, I think. The crunchy tortilla strips are super-simple to make: just cut a corn tortilla into strips, heat some oil in a skillet, and throw ‘em in. Wait a few minutes for them to slightly turn golden brown and take them out. Put them on a paper towel to drain. And you’re done! But this post is kinda a two-for-one because in addition to an easy tortilla soup recipe, I’m going to show you that using 4 ingredients you can make an awesome guacamole in 5 minutes. PLUS you can make your own tortilla chips to eat it with using the same fried corn tortilla method as the strips.

SPICY TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 seeded ancho chilies
  • ½ cup cilantro (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 package corn tortillas
  • some shredded, cooked chicken
  • avocado
  • lime juice

Directions:

  1. Puree the 2 chilies, tomatoes and onion. Then fry in oil.
  2. Add 6 cups chicken broth, 4 torn corn tortillas, the chicken and ½ cup cilantro. Simmer until thick.
  3. Add salt to taste; garnish with crisp tortilla strips, Mexican cheese, avocado, cilantro and lime juice.

See? Easy. I used a shredded Mexican cheese mix (asadero, jack, cheddar) but whatever cheese you like you can use. You can also shred your own.

With the rest of my avocado, I made a quick guacamole, using 1 avocado, half a large onion chopped, chopped cilantro and lemon juice. Very simple: cute the avocado (in case you have no idea how: cut around the avocado in a complete circle lengthwise, then grab it in your hands with the slit down the middle, rotate each side into an opposite direction, they should separate themselves. Then pop out the pit, and cut first crosswise then lengthwise many times on each half to make “cubes” of avocado. Then, using a melon baller or small spoon, “pop” it out of it’s skin into a bowl), add the chopped onion and cilantro and douse with lemon juice (not too much, you don’t want it mushy). Then mash the avocado mixture with a fork until it’s the consistency you want. You can add more onion if you like, and even some tomato. Season with salt and it’s ready to eat!

The chips are done exactly like the fried tortilla strips: just tear a corn tortilla into four triangular pieces, then fry them in some heated oil until they’re browned and crispy. Let them drain on paper towels and then serve with the guacamole. ¡Orale!

And in case you forgot, here’s a friendly reminder to get in your entries for the Cupcake Rehab’s 2nd Birthday giveaway. You have until October 12th, but just until midnight EST! To view the entry, see the prizes up for grabs and view the rules/requirements, go here..  and good luck!

Onion rings, pico de gallo & chili-rubbed steaks.

I was going through some old magazines in the drawer of my mom’s coffee table and happened upon 3 old Bon Appétit‘s, two from 2000 (July and September) and one from 2001 (March). In addition to how different the magazine was then compared to now (it was much thicker then, but I think it had a lot more advertisements, also, the photography is beautiful but not as artsy as it is now) it got me contemplating how different the world was since then. First off, 9/11 happened. We’re in two wars, George Bush isn’t President anymore (I thought that would never end), the economy has tanked, a lot of the restaurants mentioned in the older magazines probably don’t exist anymore thanks to the tanked economy, and we made history by electing a black President. Fashion has changed considerably since then, also. I know my style has certainly changed. But food- food remains the same. Particularly barbecue. Sure there are variations on a theme, but a good recipe never goes out of style!

The three old Bon Appétit‘s, Sept. 2000, March 2001 and July 2000
July 2000 (left) and July 2009 (right)
..

The July 2000 issue was the annual Barbecue Issue. Now, 9 years ago I was 19 so I wasn’t really interested in cooking or barbecuing anything myself, nor was I really interested in Bon Appétit magazine (plus that was the year I met Jay so I was a bit preoccupied I suppose)… but I missed out on a lot looking back. This issue is chock full (did I just say ‘chock full’? I must be 90 years old) of amazing recipes and meal ideas.

The recipes I’m sharing today are from that very issue (and are also coincedentally the cover recipes for that issue): chili-rubbed steaks, pico de gallo and red chili onion rings. I didn’t use rib-eyes, which is what the recipe calls for, I used sirloins, but it doesn’t matter. You can use any steak you like with this rub. You could even use chicken or shrimp too. The steak rub was off the hook (wow, isn’t that a blast from 1999!). The homemade onion rings are AWESOME. A-W-E-S-O-M-E. And the pico de gallo? Amazing. But then again, I could live on pico de gallo, guacamole and tortilla chips for the rest of my life and be happy. I omitted the jalapenos because my 91 year old grandmother was eating this with us and probably wouldn’t have enjoyed that surprise.

Needless to say, it was another score for me in the cooking department. Thanks to chef Stephan Pyles who contributed these recipes to the magazine.

CHILI-RUBBED (RIB-EYE) STEAKS

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 4 14-16 ounce bone-in ribe-eye steaks, about 1 ½ inches thick (You can use any steaks you want, this is just what the original recipe was for, like I said I used sirloin)

Directions:

  1. Mix first 4 ingredients in pie dish. Coat steaks with spice mixture and transfer to another dish. Cover; chill at least 8 hours.
  2. Spray grill racks with nonstick spray; prepare barbecue (medium heat). Grill steaks to desired doneness, moving and turning occasionally to prevent chili rub from burnin, about 20 minutes for medium-rare.
  3. Serve with pico de gallo and onion rings.

PICO DE GALLO

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeno chilies (about 2 medium)*
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.

RED CHILI ONION RINGS

Ingredients:

  • 2 large onions, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, separated into rings
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Directions:

  1. Place onions in a bowl. Pour milk over; let stand 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  2. Whisk flour, chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Pour enough oil into a large pot to reach depth of 3 inches. Heat to 350 F.
  4. Working with a few onion rings at a time, shake off excess milk. Dip into flour mixture, coating lightly.
  5. Add onion rings to pot; deep fry until golden, about 45 seconds. Drain and serve.

I plan on going through and making things from these old magazines all summer. So stay tuned!