Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking with Maizena

This is only my third installment of Two's-day, but I have to say that I am really enjoying itSo much so that today I'm giving you three delicious recipes to enjoy!

Atole

Atole is another tasty milk-based hot beverage.  Unlike ChampurradoAtole is usually thickened with cornstarch.  (Sometimes it is thickened with rice flour or oats.)   There are a great number of ways to prepare atole, but today I'm sharing the way my abuelita (grandma) prepared Atole.  (This is also the easiest way!)

My kids love to drink Atole as soon as the weather begins to cool.  It is especially popular during the Holiday season.

Maizena is the brand name of one of the leading cornstarch products in Mexico.  There are two presentations of Maizena


The boxed Maizena is plain (regular) cornstarch, that I use for cakes, cookies and sauces.  And the little packages are flavored cornstarch used to prepare Atole.  There are many flavors available including vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coconut and cajeta.  Each packet yields 5 cups of delicious Atole.

Atole de Maizena

Ingredients

  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 packet flavored Maizena
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions:
Heat 4 cups of the milk in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.


While the milk is heating, dissolve the contents of the flavored Maizena packet in the remaining one cup of milk.  Set aside.


When the milk is very warm,  whisk in the milk/cornstarch mixture and the sugar.  Continue heating for 3 to 4 minutes, until the milk has thickened slightly.  Turn off the stove, and let the Atole set for 5 minutes. 


Serve warm.  Enjoy!!!


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Pudding

I grew up watching Bill Cosby's pudding commercials and I constantly bugged my grandmother to make me some pudding.  Whenever we would go grocery shopping, I would stand next to the boxed pudding mixes with my saddest face, hoping to convince Gramm to make me some PUDDING!!!  One day, she picked up a box and noticed that it had directions.  She did not like to prepare anything that needed directions.  She was offended by any product that assumed she didn't know how to cook. 

She put the box back in it's place and told me to follow her.  We ended up in the "Hispanic Foods" aisle.  She grabbed a box that contained 3 packets of flavored Maizena, tossed it into the shopping cart and grumbled in Spanish that no box could teach her how to cook.

Once at home, I helped Gramm put away the groceries, all the while thinking, "When am I going to get my pudding?"

Gramm grabbed the box of Maizena and took out one chocolate flavored packet.  She poured the contents into a saucepan, along with milk, sugar and a couple of egg yolks.  I had no idea what Gramm was making, but it was distracting me from my pudding craving.  Then magically, or so I thought, all of that "stuff" that Gramm threw into her saucepan turned into chocolate pudding.

I still use Gramm's pudding recipe to make pudding for my kids.  And its a great filling for tarts, pies and even empanadas!

Maizen Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet flavored Maizena
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 to 3 egg yolks*


Directions:
In a medium saucepan, whisk all of the ingredients together until well combined.


Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thicken.  Remove from heat.  Immediately place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding.  (This is to prevent that yucky skin from forming.)  Let cool to room temperature; refrigerate atleast one hour before serving.


To serve, spoon desired amount of pudding into a cute little cup.  Top with a dollop or two of whipped cream.  Enjoy!!!



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Very Easy Banana Cream Pie

My favorite pie is Banana Cream Pie.  Its probably one of the easiest pies to assemble.  Here is my recipe for this tempting dessert!

Banana Cream Pie

Ingredients:
  • 1 package Maria's Cookies
  • 1/3 cup of butter, melted
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • Vanilla Pudding (I use the Maizena pudding recipe)
  • Whipped cream or Whipped Topping


Directions:
Grind all of the Maria's cookies in a food processor or a blender.  (I place the cookies in a large ziploc bag and let the kids have some fun with the rolling pin!)

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs with the melted butter.  Press mixture firmly onto bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate until ready to use.


If you haven't done so already, prepare the Vanilla Pudding; let cool to room temperature.

Slice the bananas and layer them along the bottom of the prepared pie crust.


Spoon the cooled Vanilla Pudding over the banana slices.


Top pie with whipped cream or whipped topping.


Enjoy!!!

*Note:  For a creamy pudding I use 2 egg yolks, but for pie or empanada filling I use 3 egg yolks.

With Love,
Leslie Limon

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Signs of Fall

Orange and yellow tinted leaves scattered on the ground and an abundance of pumpkins were always signs that Fall had arrived when I lived in the States. 

Now that I am in Mexico, I neither see the multi-hued leaves nor the pumpkins.  So, how do I know that Fall has arrived?  Guasanas!


Guasanas are fresh garbanzo beans that have been steamed.  They are kept warm in the specially equipped carts where they are sold.

Guasanas have a slight butery taste.  I like my guasanas seasoned only with salt. But Hubby and the kiddies like theirs topped with bottled Valentina hot sauce.

The way to eat guasanas is very similar to eating pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  You pop a whole guasana into your mouth, suck on the juice, then remove the outer husk and eat the round guasana.  Mmmm, mmmm, good!  


If you happen to see a guasana cart, I highly recommend that you try them! (You will look forward to them each Fall.)

With Love,
Leslie Limón

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quesadillas de Hongos {Mushroom Quesadillas}

I love mushrooms!  I love them in salads, with pasta, on pizza and in soups.  My favorite way to enjoy mushrooms is in Mushroom Quesadillas.

Every year, after the first rains of the season, my hubby takes the children to pick Hongos (wild mushrooms)(pronounced OWN-GOES).  Even if they only find a few Hongos, I'm always asked to make Quesadillas de Hongos (mushroom quesadillas). 

Its a simple recipe with very few ingredients.  Use your favorite mushrooms.  I use button mushrooms when wild mushrooms aren't available.

Quesadillas de Hongos*
(Mushroom Quesadillas)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • Oaxaca cheese, shredded (or your favorite Mexican cheese blend)
  • Flour tortillas
  • Butter

Directions:
In medium skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for 1 to 2 minutes.


Add the mushrooms and tomatoes.  Season with salt and saute for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.


Heat flour tortillas slightly on a comal or griddle over medium heat.  (Do not remove the griddle from heat.) Spoon desired amount of mushroom filling on half of the tortilla.


Top mushroom filling with 3 to 4 tablespoons of grated cheese.  Fold tortilla in half.


Heat 1 tablespoon of butter on griddle until completely melted.  Arrange quesadillas on griddle.  Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side until a light golden brown.


Top Quesadillas with Guacamole, Chile de Molcajete or sour cream.  Enjoy!!!


*Note: Mushroom are also known as Champiñones in Mexico.

With Love,
Leslie Limon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Encurtidos {Pickled Pigskins}


Encurtidos is the word used when referring to pickled vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onion, nopales (cactus), jicama, peanuts, and pickled pigskins and pigs feet. 

In Mexico, we call them Cueritos (pigskins) en vinagre, Papas (potatoes) en vinagre, Zanahorias (carrots) en vinagre, Patas (Pigs feet) en vinagre, and so on and so on.

En Vinagre, refers to the vinegar or pickling juice used to cure the veggies or pigskins.  The vinagre is made from pineapple and dulce macho (aka piloncillo), and seasoned with whole cloves, peppercorns, chile de arbol and just a hint of oregano.

The most popular of the Encurtidos are the Cueritos (pigskins).   There are two types of Cueritos en Vinagre available: Cuerito Grueso and Cuerito Delgado.

The Cuerito Grueso, is the thick pigskin that is obtained from the ears, face and feet.  (The top piece in the photo below is actually a piece of snout!)  My hubby loves Cuerito Grueso.


And the Cuerito Delgado, is the thin pigskin from the body.  My children prefer Cuerito Delgado.


Unlike Andrew Zimmern, I am not a big fan of exotic cuts of meat.  (Unless its deep fried.  I love chicharrones!)  My favorite Encurtido is Zanahorias (carrots) en Vinagre.

Serving Encurtidos is easy.  Season them with salt and top with fresh squeezed lime juice.  If the Vinagre isn't spicy enough for you, feel free to add a few drops of bottled hot sauce.  (Valentina or Tapatia brand hot sauce is best.)  Enjoy!!!



With Love,
Leslie Limon

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mexican Hot Chocolate & Champurrado


We are experiencing much cooler weather in the mornings and in the evenings, here in Mexico.  On crisp, cold days like today, nothing warms me up quite like a steaming mug of Mexican Hot Chocolate.  But not just any hot chocolate will do.  It has to be Abuelita brand Chocolate.

It's the brand of chocolate my grandparents always used to make Mexican Hot Chocolate or Atole de Chocolate.  Abuelita brand chocolate is flavored with a wonderful combination of chocolate, cinnamon and sugar.  Perfect for cold winter days.  Or whenever you're craving a little Mexican comfort like your grandma used to make.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 cups milk
  • 1 tablet Abuelita Chocolate (you can also use Ibarra brand chocolate)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (optional)


Directions:
In a 3 quart saucepan, heat the milk until warm over medium heat. 



While the milk is heating, cut the chocolate using the lines as a guide.




Add the chocolate to the milk and let it sit for a minute or 2, just until the chocolate begins to melt.  Using a wire whisk, break up the chocolate and keep stirring until chocolate has dissolved completely.



Once the Mexican Hot Chocolate is the desired temperature, turn off heat and whisk the milk vigorously with a wire whisk until foamy.  Sweeten with sugar, if necessary.




Enjoy!!! 



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Another delicious and comforting hot chocolate drink is Champurrado, which happens to be my absolute favorite.  One sip and I'm transported back to my childhood, when my grandpa would make this sweet concoction for no particular reason.

Champurrado is similar to Mexican Hot Chocolate, except that it is a little thicker, more along the lines of an atoleAtoles are a hot milk beverage thickened with cornstarch, and Champurrado is thickened with Maseca (masa harina/flour).

I like to make my Champurrado with equal parts of water and milk.  But traditionally, Champurrado is made purely with water and/or very little milk. 

Champurrado

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tablet Abuelita Chocolate, cut up
  • 1/2 cup Maseca
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar


Directions:
In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the water and milk until lukewarm over medium heat. 



Add the Abuelita chocolate.  Let soak for a couple of minutes, until the chocolate begins to melt. 



Using a wire whisk, beat lightly to dissolve the chocolate.  Keep whisking until chocolate has dissolved.  Stir in sugar.



Whisk in the Maseca.  Increase the heat to high and whisk the Champurrado until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat.



Serve with your favorite cookies or pan dulce.  My grandpa's favorite cookies were Barritas de Coco (coconut cookies).  Enjoy!!!



With Love,
Leslie Limon

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chile Relleno Two's-day

Since today is Two's-day, I'm going to show you 2 ways to enjoy chiles rellenos.  I'm considering making Two's-day a regular feature.   Every Two's-day, I will feature 2 ways to enjoy a recipe or a single ingredient. (What do you think? Is that something you would like?)  

Chiles Rellenos, just might be my favorite Mexican dish.  Roasted poblano peppers, stuffed with delicious queso fresco, coated with eggs and fried in oil.  Simply wonderful, served with a side of refried beans and mexican rice.

My grandpa made great chiles rellenos using Anaheim chilies and American cheese.  But in Mexico, Poblano peppers seem to be the chile of choice.  I like to use queso fresco, but a lot of cheeses work in this recipe.  Oaxaca cheese, string cheese, mozzarella or even a Mexican cheese blend will do, just slice or grate it.

Now for the twist to my chile relleno recipe...(drumroll)...Chile Relleno Soup!  I have never seen or eaten anything like this.  Its chiles rellenos in a very simple broth, but hubby describes it as being the epitome of Mexican comfort food.  (And I agree!) This is how my mother-in-law serves her chiles rellenos and I strongly urge that you try this recipe.

Chiles Rellenos

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 6 Poblano Peppers
  • 1 Queso Fresco, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • Vegetable oil for frying


Directions:
Heat a griddle over high heat. Arrange the poblano peppers on the griddle.


Roast the poblano peppers until the skin has blistered on both sides.


Place the peppers in a plastic bag. Set aside for about 10 minutes.


Remove skin from peppers.


Make a small incision on the side of each pepper. Using a small spoon, remove seeds from peppers.


Spoon 1 to 2 heaping tablespoons of crumbled cheese inside of each pepper.


Don't worry if the incision is too big. You can secure each chile pepper with a toothpick.  (Just remember to tell your guests to be careful!)


Place flour in a shallow bowl. Lightly coat chili peppers with flour. Set chilies aside.



Pour enough oil into a large skillet to measure 1-inch. Heat over medium-high heat.

Immediately, seperate the egg whites and yolks. Beat the egg whites, on medium speed of an electric mixer, until nice and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks just until combined.


Dip chili peppers, one at a time, in egg mixture.


Carefully place chili peppers in oil. Fry in oil until golden brown on both sides. Place chili peppers on a paper towel lined plate.


Serve with Mexican Rice and/or refried beans. Enjoy!!!


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Chile Relleno Soup:

Ingredients:

  • Chiles Rellenos
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth or water
  • Mexican Rice


Directions:
In a deep skillet, heat one tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and tomato; saute one minute.

Pour 3 cups of chicken broth over the onion and tomato.  If using water, add 1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon.  Add chiles rellenos.


Reduce heat to low. Cover the chiles rellenos and let simmer 10 minutes.

To serve, spoon one serving of Mexican rice into a bowl. Top with a chile relleno.


Spoon broth over chile relleno and rice.  Enjoy!!!




With Love,
Leslie Limon

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