Skipping School / Elote Cocido

A couple of weeks ago we bought some fresh corn from a local market. My husband intended on cooking something with it – either his great-grandmother’s cornbread, or corn grits, or something else. Honestly, I don’t remember what he was planning to cook; but as the week progressed and life ensued, the corn remained on the countertop, uncooked.

So, the other day I was looking at that corn and decided to make a snack that speaks to my Mexican roots – Elote cocido

Elote cocido (cooked corn) is a Mexican street snack often consumed during national celebrations. It is boiled corn covered in a creamy, cheesy, spicy mix, eaten on a stick.

As my decision to make this snack recurred in my mind, one particular memory flooded into my thoughts: I remembered the only time I ever skipped school – back in my eighth grade year.

I was never really a bad student throughout prep school – I didn’t make bad grades; never failed a course. I was social; well-liked by classmates and teachers; participated in extracurricular activities; I even had a music group (I played the quatro, a stringed instrument like the ukelele).

I was an above-average student that made average grades – up until my ninth grade year when my grades began showing marked improvements.

One day, my friend, Paty, and I decided to plan a day of deceit. We were going to play hooky.

But it had to be perfect.

So we took a week to plan and prepare.

“Why skip school?” you may be asking. I was a church girl who got along with everyone and always played nice … but I loved adventures and challenges, and this, I knew, would get my adrenaline pumping.

So after our week of preparation, the Friday came when we would make our escape into freedom. It was just a few weeks before finals, so the school year was winding down. The week of the science fair – so there were many faces missing from classrooms. It would be hard for administrators to know that why we were not in class.

We left our homes dressed in our school uniforms and met outside of the school. We boarded a bus, and headed to the traditional hang out spot when kids would skip school at that time, Chapultepec.

Chapultepec is in the middle of Mexico City, and hosts a forest, parks, a zoo, a castle sitting atop a hill, a lake, a museum – plenty of fun things for us to do while not in class. It’s sometimes referred to as the “lungs of the city,” due to its vast green areas.

When we arrived, we looked around and realized a lot of other school kids had the same idea as us. There were tons of kids, clad in uniforms from schools on every end of the city.

Mexico City is the largest city in the world, with 30 million people living there, so the likelihood that there would be other kids deciding to skip school on that day was pretty high.

It was a cool place to simply go hide away for a day.

We walked around excitedly. We sat and had a picnic, eating what was supposed to be our lunches for breakfast.

We went to the zoo for a couple hours, and spent hours simply walking around the park.

Then we came upon the lake and decided to rent a canoe. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun. But renting one canoe proved to be expensive for us.

Luckily for us, while in line we had made friends with a group of girls from the southern part of Mexico City who were also skipping school that day.

They told us they could fit two more people in the two canoes they were renting, so we happily jumped in!

As we canoed around the lake with our new friends, a group of canoeing boys our age took notice of us and started talking to us. Our banter was innocent and friendly, and the boys asked if we wanted to switch boats – some of us go into their canoe, and some of them come into ours.

The idea was that the group of guys and the group of girls would hang out together the rest of the day.

I didn’t like that idea. I was skeptical. They were friendly, but I didn’t know them.

So I, along with a few of the other girls stayed in our canoe while the girls that wanted to mingle with the boys were in the other. They passed us their backpacks and other belongings to make room for the extra people that would be in the canoe. Pati was one of them.

As the boys and girls started intermingling in the canoes, a couple of the guys stood up and began rocking the boat.

I watched from a safe distance as the boat tipped over and everyone fell into the lake.

Including my friend, Paty.

Mind you, the lake was disgusting. It had a terrible smell and a thick layer of green algae.

After they fell in, we had to rescue them, which we did. The looks on some of the girls’ faces were filled with devastation.

I was less than devastated. Actually, I was laughing really hard!

They finally got out of the water. Very stinky. And we found some sprinklers around the park where all the girls, including Paty, were able to spray themselves clean.

Luckily, Paty brought an extra shirt that day, and she was able to change, so we walked around a little bit more before finding our way to get some food.

We were very hungry, so we stopped at a street vendor to have elote cocido. That was the perfect snack to end our day at Chapultepec, and we headed home.

Of course, on the way home, we made our way over the science fair. We made sure that we were seen so we’d have an alibi.

It was such a fun, memorable day for me. And what made it all the better is that we didn’t get caught! Our plan had worked, and we had a day of freedom, new friends, lots of laughs and a great snack.

Unfortunately, Paty had a bad allergic reaction on her skin from the disgusting lake water she had fallen in, so she was unable to leave her house for several days, but the memory of the day we skipped school will forever be forged into our memories.


 

ELOTE COCIDO

This one is really easy to make, but the flavors are the base of many Mexican foods, and there’s many different variations. So try it, and be creative!

 

Corn on the cob

Water

Salt

Pepper

Butter

Mayonnaise

Shredded Queso Fresco (If you can’t find queso fresco, use Parmesan cheese)

Chile Powder

Lime

Skewers to stick through the corn – I didn’t have skewers, so I used chopsticks

 

Shuck, clean and boil corn for about 15 minutes, or until corn is tender.

In separate shallow bowl or cookie sheet, place cheese

Remove corn from water and with a towel (so you don’t burn your hand) insert skewer into the cob. Holding with the skewer, spread butter on the corn then coat corn with a thin layer of mayonnaise.

Place corn in cheese and roll to coat.

Season with salt, pepper and chile powder, to taste.

Squirt fresh lime onto the elote cocido and enjoy!

Sweet Thailand, Sweet Sticky Rice

I love Thailand.

Everything about it, I love: the people, the scenery, the food. Oh, the food … I especially love the food.

So, a few weeks ago – toward the beginning of April – when the Thai New Year rang in, I wanted to celebrate with one of my favorite dishes from Thailand: Mango Sticky Rice.

In 2011, I spent a little more than a month in Thailand. I was living in Singapore at the time and had a contact in Thailand who ran an orphanage, so I decided to go help at the orphanage, but also to explore the country with the intention of moving there as a missionary.

And let me tell you – I really got the opportunity to explore.

When I landed in Bangkok, I called my sole Thailand connection from the airport to find where and when we could meet. She told me she had left. She wasn’t there. She told me to “come back later.”

Come back later?? As if I had just missed the open hours of a grocery store? But this was more serious than a store closing before you arrive – I was in an entirely new country and my only contact just told me to “come back later.”

I became afraid. This was my first trip alone to an unknown place.

I became frustrated. I tend to blame myself when things don’t work out.

I became numb. I thought – “go back,” but I didn’t have the money to go back. I just didn’t know what to do. Where to go. Who to call.

I didn’t even know how to get out of the airport.

My plan had failed.

Then I snapped back into reality – I needed to do something. I couldn’t just sit in the airport in Bangkok.

All my fears suddenly became a strength.

I don’t know if you who are reading this believe in God, but I felt an extreme courage come from within that can only be explained as a word from God. He said, “You came all the way here from Mexico. You better do something with the opportunity.” I knew God had brought me to Thailand for a purpose.

Plans change, but there’s always a purpose in it. And it’s usually good.

And just like that, things started happening.

The first few days in Bangkok I stayed in a room where all I could hear at night were rats scurrying around the room.

But I knew it was going to get better.

A couple of days after my arrival, a good friend saw a post I’d made on Facebook and contacted me. She said she had recently moved to Thailand and saw that I was near her and wanted me to come stay with her.

In a mere moment, I went from rats bedside to a house lakeside!

The events that took place in that time are what shaped my love for Thailand.

I realized that you don’t need to spend a long time with someone to be remarkable in their life.

I spent several weeks in Bangkok – the big city, Chiang Mai – the extremely touristic area, Mae Sot – bordering Myanmar, and Korat – the true Thailand countryside.

I decided I would move to Thailand.

The idea was for me to go back to Singapore, pick up my bags and return to Korat in two weeks.

But through certain circumstances, I never went back. To this day, that idea haunts me … wondering what could have been and what never was.

But like I said earlier, plans change. And I’ve always been the type of person who rolls with the punches.

I thought about all the highs and lows of that trip to Thailand. From the rigid fear that stunned me at the trip’s beginning to the first day exploring Bangkok and eating Mango Sticky Rice, the trip was full of beauty.

I remember walking around, taking “tuk tuk” rides, getting lost and finding myself over and over again, I stumbled upon a wet market. I took a chance and ordered the sticky rice dessert with mango.

It was so delicious that I ordered Mango Sticky Rice at every Thai restaurant (and I would probably buy it if I find it on a menu locally too).

So as these thoughts flooded my mind, I knew that I had to make this sweet treat, if for nothing else than to quench my own craving.

I wasn’t able to make the dish right away. It takes special equipment to do it properly. I needed to purchase a Bamboo Steamer.

I found one for sale locally at an Asian Market, but you can easily purchase one online for less than $10.

So try this recipe and fall in love with Thailand as I did. This one has a higher difficulty level than most other recipes I post. But push through … it’s worth it.


 

MANGO STICKY RICE

(feeds 3 people)

[Sweet coconut sticky rice:]

1 cup glutinous sweet rice

2/3 cup coconut milk

1/4 tsp Salt

1/2 cup sugar

[Salted coconut sauce:]

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/4 tsp Salt

1 tsp rice flour / corn starch

1Tbsp water

2 Tbsp roasted split Mung beans / Sesame seeds

2 Fresh mango peeled and carefully cut in thick slices.

[Sweet sticky rice]

Rinse rice in a bowl and dispel water until water is no longer foggy.

Allow to soak in water over night (or for a few hours before cooking).

Drain the water very well and put rice in the bamboo steamer.  Put a lid on top of the rice. (Note: I had a piece of cheesecloth, and put it on top of the rice before putting the lid, just to make sure it kept the vapor.)

Steam over boiling water for about 30 minutes.

In a separate small pot, on medium heat, mix the coconut milk, sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and turn off heat. (You don’t want to cook it for a long time. Use the heat only to mix the ingredients and set a side and keep it warm.)

Once the rice is done cooking, put it in a container and immediately pour the sweet milky mix.

Stir and cover very well.

It is important to work as fast as possible in order to keep the rice warm. This way, while it rests, the rice will absorb all the liquid.

Let sit for about 20 minutes.

After that time has passed, open and carefully stir again and let it sit for at least another 20 minutes.

If you don’t have a bamboo steamer, use a steamer with a cheese cloth to prevent the rice from falling to the bottom of the pot into the water.

Or you can try on the stove. I have never tried to make it this way, but here it is a suggestion:

1 Cup of rice: 1 1/4 Cup of water. Letting it boil with the lid on until it has absorbs all the water (Do not stir). Once it has absorbed all the water, take it out of the heat with the lid on and let it rest for more 10 minutes.

[Salted coconut sauce:]

Mix the rice flour/corn starch in water until it is smooth.

In a small pot, add the coconut milk, salt and flour mix and cook over medium-low heat

Stir until it starts boiling and thickening.

Turn off heat and let it cool.

(You don’t want to cook it too long, only until it boils the first time and starts thickening, otherwise the coconut milk will break down and you will have to start all over again!)

If your Mung beans or Sesame seeds are not roasted you can roast them!

To roast split Mung beans:

In a small pot, boil the split Mung beans until soft.

Once soft. Strain the water and place them on paper towels, the excess water can be absorbed. Roast beans in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Plate a portion of sweet sticky rice next to slices of mango and add some of the salted coconut sauce on top of the rice.

Sprinkle some of the roasted Split Mung beans/Sesame seeds.

 

Enjoy!

Tacos Dorados (Taquitos)

During the Easter season in most Latin American countries, many people refrain from eating meat. The month leading up to Easter is the Catholic season of Lent – and most Latin American countries have deep rooted Catholic backgrounds.

This is a time when lots of seafood is consumed.

Growing up, though, my family wasn’t Catholic. So during the Lent season, we were one of the only families around that was eating meat regularly. (Also, my mom didn’t like cooking seafood because of the lingering fishy scent.)

Last week, as I was thinking about Lent and seafood, and the fact that my family continued eating meats throughout the season, I was reminded of a time I was served some of the best fish soup I’ve ever eaten.

Before you get your hopes too high, I’ll tell you that this post is not about that delicious soup – though I am going to track down that recipe for a later date. Now, in Mexico we eat tacos dorados with soup, much like in many places soups are served with sandwiches or loaves of bread. Today’s post is about that delectable, crispy bite of comfort that’s often served with a soup and can stand alone just as well – Tacos Dorados.

It was a few weeks before Easter in the early 2000’s when a college classmate and friend looked over at me and said, “Hey, let’s get a group together and go to Acapulco.”

So, naturally, as I am full of spontaneity I said, “Yeah! That would be fun. Let’s do it!”

Within 24 hours, a group of five of us were on our way from Mexico City to Acapulco – about a 4-5 hour drive. In the group were my friend and his brother and sister, and my brother and me.

We had family friends that owned a house in Acapulco, and were away on a vacation of their own, who said we could use their house during our stay, so we were prepared for a non-expensive miniature beach vacation among friends.

The only expenses we would incur would be food and gasoline.

Then, on our way to Acapulco, I remembered that I had a friend who lived right outside of the city – in El Coloso. This friend, Eli (pronounced Eh-lee), would eventually become my best friend, traveling companion, and maid of honor. (In fact, we always talk about how, in that time, we never thought we’d be living in a Malaysian jungle together, or getting a free flight to Hawaii together, or getting lost together in different parts of the planet.)

I messaged her, and she replied telling me she would be in class on the day of our arrival.

Once we arrived in Acapulco and reached one of the most known beaches, we looked around and were all, frankly, quite disappointed. That’s when I decided to call Eli, who had just finished her college classes for the day.

Eli brought us away from the touristic areas and to the most beautiful local beaches with golden sands and crystal clear water nestled in between two mountain peaks. Needless to say, we were excited to find such a lovely area, and we decided that is where would continue our vacation the following morning.

That next day, Eli’s mother – Mama Berna – sent, with her daughter, some fish soup and tacos dorados for us to enjoy on the beach.

I grabbed a taco and poured some soup in a container and tasted both. As expected, the taco was perfection, but the soup surprised me with its delicate and intrinsic flavors.

Usually, fish soup is strong – it’s aftertaste and smell overpowers

This soup, however, was not that. The fish wasn’t soggy. It’s consistency was pure. The vegetables had a nice fish taste, but didn’t lose their vegetable essence.

I remember thinking a hot soup would not be good for a day at the beach, but it was actually light and refreshing and perfect for a beach day.

Seriously, I will get that recipe and make it for this blog one day.

Maybe the reason I thought the food was so good that day was because Mama Berna did not know us – we were just friends of her daughter – and she went out of her way to show us such love and hospitality.

Mama Berna really became someone very special to me that day – even without knowing her until later. She made that food with love and gave it to us without asking for anything in return.

That day changed all my thoughts on fish. It made me more open to seafood – as my mother didn’t cook seafood and we didn’t live in an area where seafood was fresh and readily available.

My little brother, Jorge, on the other hand, was not as open to anything seafood. He refused to taste the soup and missed out on a real delight. He didn’t care about the soup. So we didn’t care about him.

“Whatever,” I said. “Just eat sand.”

So we ate. We finished the soup and turned toward that heaping plate of about 50 Tacos Dorados, which I had already enjoyed eating one earlier, with my soup.

They were gone.

Jorge had eaten the entire plate of Tacos Dorados.

Still, to this day, when I think of Tacos Dorados, I think of what they probably would have tasted like after that delicious fish soup. And in my dear brother, this is one of his favorite dishes.

All that said, this is a great Mexican dish to enjoy with friends and family, especially with little ones who like to eat with their hands!

 

Enjoy!


 

TACOS DORADOS

The biggest issue of Tacos Dorados is that you must have access to corn tortillas, or at least MASECA corn flour.

Either purchase corn tortillas from your local grocer, or follow the instructions to make tortillas on the package of MaSeCa. I like to make my own tortillas, which is pretty easy.

 

— To make corn tortillas, add water to MASECA corn flour (use amount directed on package) and salt; then knead. Roll into balls and flatten to thin-ness of a tortilla. Place on dry skillet on medium heat and cook both sides. —

 

The tacos, traditionally, are filled with cooked shredded chicken, beef, or boiled and seasoned potatoes.

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat tortilla in microwave or stovetop, remove from heat, and place line of meat/potatoes in the middle of the tortilla.
  • Take one edge of the tortilla and reach toward the protein, and pull it toward the edge as you roll the tortilla tightly – Be careful not to spill out any of the meat/potatoes.
  • Once rolled, seal the end with a toothpick. The toothpick keeps the taco closed once placed in the hot oil. Use more than one toothpick if necessary.
  • Place oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.) in a pan and bring to medium-high heat.
  • Place tacos into hot oil and fry until golden and crispy on all sides. If you have a fryer, this process is much easier.
  • Put the tacos on a platter with napkins or paper towels underneath to allow excess oil to drain.

At this point, once cooled, remove toothpicks and the Tacos Dorados are ready to be consumed. You can eat them alone as a snack, with a soup, or as a meal topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, avocados, salsa and whatever else your heart desires.

10 Tips to make your rice better

“You are what you eat.”

I guess it’s true, in a sense.

Many times, you can tell the personality of someone by his/her favorite foods.

What is your favorite food? What does it say about you?

I, for one, am a chameleon of sorts.

I am strong when I need to be; tender when the time calls for it; vibrant and colorful, yet neutral. I’m passionate and determined, but have insecurities and fears. Sometimes I feel underestimated, and others have the potential to bring out the best (and worst) in me. I dare myself to do crazy things, conquer my fears, and understand that details usually tell a larger story.

One of the first things I ever learned to cook, and still one of my favorite things to eat, says a lot about who I am. It is something small, something often considered a complement instead of the “main dish,” something widely overlook, but has the potential to standalone and be incredible all by itself – rice.

We always ate rice. In Venezuela it’s basically part of the daily diet –

rice, beans and plantains. You find that in every country in the Caribbean.

During my first year in Mexico after moving from Venezuela, I decided to make rice.

I had seen my mother and grandmother making it, so I thought it would be a fairly simple task. All I needed was rice, water and salt. I thought that would be easy enough.

So I grabbed a pot and added water and rice and brought it to a boil. Then I grabbed what I thought was salt and added that while the water was boiling.

I made several terrible errors in that first culinary attempt.

First, I didn’t measure anything … and I actually ended up making all of the rice. All of the rice! An entire kilogram.

For reference, 1 kg of rice was about a week’s worth of rice for our family of 5.

It started cooking, and the rice almost grew out of the pot because there was so much and the pot wasn’t large enough for an entire kilogram of rice.

Grandma never measured. I had watched her. But now I know it was just practice; she had been cooking so many years, she had it down to an art. Rice was easy for her.

And I didn’t add enough water, so in the end I found some of the rice was overcooked while a lot of it was severely undercooked. The bottom was also all burned because I didn’t know how high or low the heat should be.

And the worst thing I did was that I did not use salt to season the rice. I accidentally sprinkled in Baking Soda.

It was a truly embarrassing effort on my part.

My dad and older brother – Julio – ate it out of respect (and hunger, I think), but my mom and younger brother – Jorge – wouldn’t eat it out of wisdom. Or fear. Or maybe both.

I’ll never forget their faces. Julio actually added mayonnaise to try to mask the nasty rice taste.

After that day, my mom decided to teach me how to cook rice. She started with an easy method to make it.

A 1:2 ratio of rice to water with added onion, garlic and salt.

Then, years later, when I was about 24, I moved to Asia.

One of the first times I encountered many types of rice all in one place, I was overwhelmed by the variety, styles and colors of rice down a couple of aisles in a grocery store in India.

I had never realized there were so many types of rice – hundreds of varieties.

Long-grain, medium-grain, short-grain, yellow, white, brown, Jasmine, aromatic, Chinese black, Basmati … that’s just off the top of my head.

My friend and I walked into the grocery store after having the idea to bring rice to an orphanage where we were working at the time, and asked an employee to point us toward the rice. He asked what kind of rice we desired and we answered, “just regular rice.”

“What kind of regular rice?” he asked as he pointed toward the two aisles completely filled with different types of rice.

That’s when I learned about rice. It’s many styles, flavors, and eccentricities.

Now, I’m in America. And have more than a decade of experience with cooking rice, and though I have never claimed to be the best at it, it’s something I truly enjoy.

Most people already know how to cook rice, so I won’t be sharing a recipe in this post, but I have compiled a list of tips to cooking rice, as it can take years to perfect the art.

I do not own a rice cooker – I’d rather cook my rice in a pot on the stovetop. While living in Singapore, someone gifted me with a rice cooker, but to be honest, I simply prefer the stovetop.

 

Here are 10 easy tips to making great rice:

  1. Respect the rice – Let the rice take the time that it needs in order to cook. They’re not mashed potatoes. Put the rice in the pot and let it cook.
  2. Exact double portion of water – rice should be cooked on a 1:2 ratio with water.
  3. Cook on low heat – be patient. If you try to rush the cook of the rice you will end up burning it and undercooking it.
  4. “No lo batas” – My mother and grandmother constantly told me this, which just means don’t stir it. You don’t want to end up making sticky, smashed rice. Once it’s in the pot, put on the lid and leave it alone until it’s ready.
  5. Don’t open the lid – The secret for a fluffy, perfect rice, is to allow it to steam. The steam inside the closed-lidded pot, while the heat is on low, is what actually cooks the rice. It’s not about the water boiling, it’s about the rice cooking correctly.
  6. Sauté or rinse the rice – rice has lots of starch. When you sauté with oil, it basically coats each grain, allowing the rice to be cooked and get fluffy without sticking to the other grains. It’s a beautiful chemical reaction. Make sure not to leave it in the pan too long (you don’t want to burn the rice before you start cooking it!). When you rinse the rice, the same happens because you’re cleaning the starch off, but you must rinse it several times, and very well, to assure the starch is rinsed off fully. Also, after washing, the grain is very sensitive, so you must be careful when you put it in the pot so as to not break the grains.
  1. Use chicken stock or beef stock – To make rice more flavorful, add a stock instead of water. Flavor your rice according to your meal instead of always merely having simple white rice.
  2. Add garlic, onion and salt – I always add these ingredients before I begin boiling the rice. I like to sauté the rice (see tip 6) with onion, garlic cloves and salt. I love the slightly more intense flavors I get from this practice.
  3. Use a good pot – Make sure the bottom of the pot is not too thin, and use a pot that’s size is proportionate to the meal. A thin pot will cause the rice grains to burn more quickly.
  4. Practice – “la practica hace al maestro,” or “practice makes perfect.” Keep going! And try adding your own special flavors to make the rice your own. Also, check out recipes for more advanced types of rice, like aromatic rice and risotto. In the future, I’ll post recipes of risotto, so keep an eye out for that!
  5. Have fun and enjoy!

Mama Juanita’s Tostadas de Tinga

My husband and I are on a pretty tight budget. We are actually living off of about $80 a week on groceries – that’s like $12 a day for two people; which is like $2 a meal per person, if my math is correct.

One way we’ve found that saves a lot of money on chicken is to purchase a whole frozen chicken and break it down ourselves, instead of buying packs of chicken breasts or wings or some other part already butchered.

I usually take the ribs, neck and other unused bones and boil them to make a stock, and then pick the meat off those bones to use in dishes.

Today, as I started separating good meat from bone and cartilage, I remembered family members doing the same as I was growing up.

I started thinking about my grandma.

Mama Juanita.

Mama Juanita was one of the most loving and caring women I’ve ever known. When my family moved to Mexico from Venezuela, we moved in with her and my grandpa for a few months, and I learned so much from her, and about her, in that time.

I learned that when she got married to my grandpa – whose mother died years prior to their marriage – she took on the responsibility of her husband’s young brothers, who were orphaned. She adopted them, becoming a mother of four immediately upon marriage.

She and Grandpa then went on to have six daughters and a son, and Mama Juanita’s job for most of her life was to be a mother and wife.

She showed love through actions … and through food.

I began thinking of one of the first foods she taught me how to make – Tostadas de Tinga, which is a common dish in Mexico made of shredded chicken and a tomato-based sauce on top of a fried tortilla.

I was a 14-year-old junior high student and had just gotten home from school. I looked around and realized that my mother had already bought groceries and uncooked food was in the kitchen, and I was home alone.

But I was hungry. I didn’t want to wait for mom to come home and cook.

I already knew how to cook rice, so I was pretty sure I could handle any other culinary challenge. So I decided, after seeing the ingredients at my avail, to make Tostadas de Tinga.

But the problem was that I didn’t know how to make the staple dish.

So I called Grandma, then walked about a block to her house, grocery bags in hand, knowing that she would teach me how to prepare the dish. Honestly, I was hoping that she would just cook the meal for me and I’d learn as she cooked.

So I brought the groceries to her kitchen and prepared to help Mama Juanita with the meal she would surely make for me.

Something she always said (and now my mom says) is that “Somebody that helps is always welcome,” and I was sure that I was going to be a good helper.

But Grandma had different plans.

She sat down and explained each step to me as I completed each task, from peeling and cutting onions to placing the meat on the tostada shell.

So that day, I learned how to make Tostadas de Tinga, and I’ve never forgotten.

Mama Juanita passed away in 2012, but she left plenty of great memories and great food. And it’s amazing how those foods can bring back those memories!

I loved my grandma; and she loved me. My name – Johana – actually derived from “Juana,” which I take pride in because I know I will always have a piece of her with me.


 

TINGA

[Tinga can be eaten several ways – in tacos, on tostadas (my preferred way, with sour cream and queso fresco), with rice and beans, or a myriad of different ways.]

 

1 Large chick breast, shredded

3 Tomatoes

½ White Onion

2 Cloves of Garlic

Small bunch of fresh Cilantro (not enough to make the sauce green, just try to use your common cooking sense)

1 Cup Chicken Stock

1 Chipotle Pepper in adobo sauce (canned chipotle or fresh)

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

1 tsp Cumin

 

Cut onion in thin slices and sauté on medium heat

While onions are cooking, blend tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, chipotle and about ½ cup of chicken stock

When onions turn translucent, add blended mix.

Add cumin to sauce and stir.

After about 5 min on medium heat, add chicken to sauce and continue stirring.

Add salt and pepper.

Let cook 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

*You will have about ½ cup of Chicken stock left over. This is so if/when the Tinga begins to dry out, add more chicken stock to keep saturated.

**If you want the Tinga spicier, blend more chipotle with some chicken stock and add to mix.