Posts tagged Cinco de Mayo

Try something new for Cinco de Mayo

“Holidays” are a great excuse to introduce your kids to new foods. Yes, I’m using air quotes as I type. Cinco de Mayo–literally, the 5th of May–is an American invention (granted, there was a battle in Puebla, Mexico, in 1862 where the much smaller Mexican army defeated a large French force). But you won’t find any big celebrations in Mexico, outside of Puebla, to honor Cinco de Mayo. Nope, as a couple of writers recently put it: “Cinco is as American as apple pie. So is the U.S. Hispanic melting pot.”

 

Whew, with that out of the way, it’s time to move on to the good stuff–getting your would-be picky eaters to sample something new.

 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

 

Swap the cheesequeso fresco

Queso fresco, a fresh Mexican cheese (I know, that’s pretty much a direct translation, but it’s true), tastes like a cross between feta and mozzarella with a hint of ricotta thrown in. The cheese usually comes in a solid circle that you crumble up to put on enchiladas, nachos, tacos, tostadas…you get the idea.

Picky eater tip: We call this ‘crumble cheese’ at our house for good reason–you have to crumble it before you use it. Perfect. Kid. Job. Ask your child to be the official crumbler and when she wants to sample what’s all over her fingers, say, Yes!

 

Bag the regular tortilla chips

My all-time favorite tortilla chips are El Milagro tortilla chips. No Tostitos. No Santitas. Not even Xochitl come close. Ahem, yes, I get a bit particular about my tortilla chips. Get this, there are all of four ingredients in El Milagro tortilla chips–stone ground corn, corn oil, sea salt, calcium hydroxide (it helps glue the corn together according to the all-knowing folks at Wikipedia). And the chips are thicker, heartier than your standard “restaurant-style” chip. Admittedly, El Milagro can be hard to find–I see them most often in Mexican grocers, but they’re starting to pop up in larger grocery chains too. Look for them!

Picky eater tip: Dip it! Give your kids some salsa for their chips and let them dip away. Milagro tortillas chips

 

Use corn tortillas

Toast them! Please. Corn tortillas are bland and caulk-like until you toast them and then something magical happens–they become entirely different in flavor, texture, aroma. It only takes a few minutes to toast up a stack of corn tortillas. Then try out your favorite taco fixins’ in the toasted corn tortillas instead of the stale, hard-shelled kind.

Picky eater tip: Break out the cookie cutters. You can make small shapes in the corn tortillas (before or after toasting). Granted, your filling may fall out of the tortillas with too many openings, so you might want to keep the cookie cutting to a few conveniently placed shapes. I use my linzer cookie cutters from King Arthur Flour.

 

Make your salsa

Homemade salsa is simple to make, really. You can keep it basic and just chop up tomatoes, onions, fresh jalapeno chiles, and cilantro for a pico de gallo. If you want more of a authentic salsa consistency, put all of the pico de gallo fixins’ into a blender with a little lime juice for a thinner salsa.

Picky eater tip: Have your kids help you make the salsa. When my kids have friends over, we often whip up salsa together. I let them cut up the ingredients and adjust the seasonings.

 

Bring on the cumin

Add something new to your standard Tex-Mex recipes–ground cumin. You can find cumin in pretty much any grocery store. Sprinkle in cumin with your taco fillings, guacamole, salsa.

Picky eater tip: Your kids aren’t likely to notice this subtle seasoning added in. But it will give your Mexican dishes and added depth and more authentic flavor.

 

Your turn: Are you planning a special meal for Cinco de Mayo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A taste of Mexico

Street fair in Tepotzlan

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to share some pictures from our family’s visit to Mexico City and the surrounding area. We took our trip a couple years ago but my kids still talk about their experiences there–from watching the famed voladores dancers fly through the air outside the National Anthropology & History Museum in Mexico City to eating a milenesa tortas in Chapultepec Park to stumbling into a street fair in a town on the side of a mountain and so much more.


To capture a little bit of Mexican culture at your dinner table, here are a few of my favorite authentic dishes you might want to try this weekend:

Roasted chile salsa

Homemade tortillas

Red chile enchiladas

Mexican rice

Rice pudding

Taking a breather after hiking up a pyramid in Cholula

Danza de los Voladores--the flying dancers of Veracruz

Sampling Mexican ice cream, nieves, in Tepotzlan

Eating a caramel filled churro in Puebla

Enfrijoladas (refried bean enchiladas) in Cholula

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How to toast tortillas

Please don’t eat hard taco shells. Soft, toasted corn tortillas are so much better. They’re cheaper. And they’re more authentic.


For some of you toasting corn tortillas might seem fairly basic, but for others you might still be clipping coupons for the hard shells. Put the scissors down.


Here’s what to do instead:

Look for white corn tortillas in the refrigerated section of your neighborhood store, or try to find a more local brand at a Mexican grocers. The brands at the store don’t tend to be as fresh or pliable, but they’re still an improvement over the hard shells.

If you have a gas grill you can go ahead and light the burner–or burners to medium heat (I use all four at once). Then place the white corn tortillas right on the grate. For those with electric ranges, it’s a bit harder to get the tortillas toasted; use a heavy-bottomed skillet that’s heated to medium-high heat.

The tortillas will begin to puff slightly as they bake, flip after about 1 minute then toast on the other side.

Last step, and this is important for flexible tortillas, place them in a tortilla warmer or a kitchen towel.

Often, when I’m serving tacos I’ll place the warmer in the middle of the table and then put a variety of fixings on each person’s plate.

More ideas for Cinco de Mayo:

Homemade corn tortillas

Fresh chile salsa

Lime-spiked shrimp

Your turn–are you already a toasted corn tortilla fan?

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Shrimp tacos

Use lime shrimp for tacos or tostadas

Yesterday I explained how to make your own corn tortillas at home, well today I wanted to give you an idea for a tasty, fast filling: lime-spiked shrimp.

The shrimp filling takes all of 15 minutes to make (an extra 15 if I need to thaw the raw shrimp and remove the tails). Here’s how I do it:

  1. Heat 1/2 tablespoon canola or grape seed oil in wok or heavy bottomed skillet to medium-high heat.
  2. Add 20-30 medium-sized raw shrimp to the hot oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and garlic powder; you can even add 1/4 cayenne if you want more of a kick.
  3. Cook until the shrimp are just beginning to turn pink (about 2 minutes) and squeeze all of the juice of a fresh lime during the final minute of cooking. Add salt to taste.
  4. Serve in toasted, corn tortillas with fresh salsa or as a topping for tostadas.
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Homemade tortillas in 5 steps

Your kids will love making tortillas

Cinco de Mayo is Saturday! I’m counting down the days until this American celebration of all things Mexican by posting ideas and recipes every day.

Today’s post is all about homemade tortillas. These are so easy and perfect for kids who want to help out in the kitchen.

These pictures will guide you through making tortillas. Easy peasy!

Step 1:

Mix water and PAN (white corn flour, NOT Masa which makes for harder tortillas) according to package directions.

Step 2:

Make dough into 1-inch balls and place at the center of your tortilla press that has been covered with plastic wrap on both sides (cutting boards will work too, but it’s a little harder to get the tortillas as thin).

Step 3:

Press the tortilla ball until thin.

Optional step: Use a large biscuit cutter to make the tortillas uniform in size.

Step 4:

Bake the tortillas on a preheated cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet.

If you've never purchase PAN, here's what to look for at the store.

Step 5:

Keep the cooked tortillas in a tortilla warmer or a clean kitchen towel until you’ve worked your way through all of the dough.

Here's what my $10 tortilla press looks like.

Looking for more specific directions? No worries, check out my detailed post about making homemade tortillas at Wandering Educators.

Having fun making tortillas

Kids’ reactions:

“Mom, we should have made more.” That says it all.

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Dinner ideas for Cinco de Mayo

My middle child happily eating tacos al pastor

Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow–are you ready? If you’re still making your dinner plans, here are a few recipes from MKES and some I’ve dug up to get you cooking something spicy.

Salsas & such

Traditional tomato salsa from Rick Bayless
If you can’t find (or make) fire-roasted tomatoes, regular varieties will work fine too. I substitute serrano peppers for the jalapenos here.

Guacamole from Cafe Johnsonia

Bring on the avacados!

Entrees

Authentic Red Chile Enchiladas

This sauce takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Plus you can freeze some for later.

Homemade Sopes and Tortillas

Making sopes

Hand-crafted tortillas are deceptively difficult to make, but the thicker, easier to flip sopes–so much easier!

Amish Nachos

Nothing authentic about ‘em, just an excuse to fuse really good bacon with some Mexican flavors.

Turkey picadillo tacos

So easy and a great way to use ground turkey.

Chili Relleno Tart from Urban Baker

Get the flavors of Chile Relleno without all the frying and mess (not that I mind frying…)

Chipolte Chilaquiles from Rick Bayless

Usually chilaquiles is made with a green salsa (and as a breakfast food) but I like the idea of adding smoky chipotles.

Tacos Al Pastor from Serious Eats

Sweet and spicy pork tacos are my all-time favorite. This recipe comes from Mark Miller’s excellent Tacos book.
Sweet Stuff

Rice pudding

So soothing after a hearty meal packed with chiles.

Mexican wedding cookies from the Joy of Baking

Melt-in-your mouth, buttery cookies that are covered in powdered sugar.

Dulce de Leche flan from Saveur

Deep caramel-flavored custard-like goodness.

Churros from The Food Network

Fried dough smothered in cinnamon & sugar. Yum!

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Why aren’t you eating…serrano peppers

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I’m celebrating Cinco de Mayo all week long with info and recipes all about my favorite Mexican foods. So let’s get right to it. Serranos. You have to look carefully at this picture, but the serranos sold at my local market are always green (squint and you’ll see ‘em in between the red ones).

I prefer the flavor and bite of serranos to jalapeno peppers in fresh salsas and guacamole. (And truth be told, serranos are much more common in Mexico than jalapenos anyway.)

See jalapenos have a strong initial heat at the front of your mouth. The zing is overwhelming to the point I can’t taste what I’m eating. But serranos have a different heat experience entirely. It comes at the back of your throat, a little sweet, tingling of heat, building as you munch.

I usually toss in a serrano or two whenever I want to add some heat to a Mexican dish. For a real kick, don’t bother seeding them. For you slow cookers out there–add these to the pot too (the heat will diminish the longer you cook ‘em).

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