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

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

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

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

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

Printable Recipe

Comfort Food Classics: Refried Pinto Beans

Frijoles Refritos (refried beans) were a constant at the dinner table when I was growing up. Mi abuelita (my grandma) made them every day of the week. No exceptions. And she always made a little extra so she could pack some for my lunch to take to school the following day. I remember wanting the bologna sandwiches that my friends took to school, but Gramm always insisted that "there's nothing better for a growing child than un taco de frijoles". And like most Mexican abuelitas, Gramm was right. Beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, and a slew of other vitamins and minerals.


Refried Pinto Beans - lacocinadeleslie.com

In Mexico refried beans are traditionally made with manteca de cerdo (pork lard), but Gramm preferred to use bacon fat. She had a small canister on the stove where she saved any and all bacon drippings just for that purpose. Both bacon fat and manteca add tons of flavor, but you can also use vegetable oil.

My grandmother's refried beans were known for being creamy and cheesy. That's because she always added a splash of milk and lots of shredded mozzarella cheese. Over the years, I've switched things up a little by substituting Mexican crema for the milk, which makes the beans even creamier, and using mozzarella's Mexican cousin, Queso Oaxaca. I also like to add a little spice by sautéing a fresh serrano chile pepper in the bacon fat before adding the beans.

Refried beans can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner... And not just as a side dish. You can serve them in Tacos de Frijoles, Molletes (open-faced refried bean sandwiches), or Bean & Cheese Enchiladas, just to name a few dishes.


Frijoles Refritos 
(Refried Beans)




Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons bacon fat, lard, or vegetable oil 
  • 1 fresh serrano pepper (optional) 
  • 3 cups Frijoles de la Olla (cooked pinto beans)
  • 1 cup bean broth
  • 3 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream 
  • 1 cup shredded Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese 


Directions:
Heat bacon drippings or oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fresh serrano pepper, whole or sliced, and saute until the skin on the pepper begins to blister. Carefully add the cooked beans, bean broth, and Mexican crema. Let simmer until beans come to a boil. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until desired consistency; season with salt.

Continue cooking the beans for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the beans thicken slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Serve refried beans with warm corn or flour tortillas and Chile de Molcajete (roasted tomatillo & arbol chile salsa). Enjoy!



Receta en Español 
















Caldo de Pollo for the Soul



The weather has cooled quite a bit, which can only mean one thing...Fall has arrived! Cooler weather just makes me want to curl up on the couch, with a blanket, a good book and a bowl of hearty soup.

One of my favorite soups is Caldo de Pollo (chicken soup). The Mexican way to prepare it is very simple. My grandmother always prepared her caldo de pollo with chicken drumsticks and whole carrots and potatoes. I prepare mine with a skinles, whole chicken, cut in pieces with a wide variety of veggies cut in large chunks.

Caldo de Pollo
(Chicken Soup)

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole, skinless chicken, cut up
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 whole onion
  • 1 sprig of Cilantro
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Chayote
  • Green Beans
  • 3 ears of corn
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini

Directions:
Place chicken in a 3 or 4 quart stockpot, with 2 quarts of water. (About 8 cups.) Add celery stalk, garlic clove, onion and cilantro to chicken. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ground 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Cover stockpot, and bring chicken to a boil over high heat.

While the chicken is cooking, cut the veggies into large chunks.

Once the chicken has come to a boil, carefully add the vegetables. Season broth with additional salt, if necessary. (About 1/2 to 1 teaspoon.)

Let chicken and vegetables simmer in a covered stockpot, over low heat until chicken and vegetables are fully cooked. (About 60 to 90 minutes.)

To serve, ladle chicken, vegetables and broth into a bowl. Squeeze fresh lime juice over caldo de pollo. Serve with plenty of warm corn tortillas. Enjoy!!!






Printable Recipe

For more soul warming caldos (soups) you might also like:
Arroz con Pollo Soup
Cocido Rojo (Mexican Beef Stew)
Mole de Olla