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January 16, 2013
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It’s true you can always buy frozen puff pastry at any grocery store. But, in less than the time it takes for the frozen puff pastry to thaw, you can make your own from scratch. I have a simple recipe I learned at L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, that is the one I turn to time and again. I just adapted it to make a larger quantity and also to give you a bit of a more detailed description.

The key to making good puff pastry dough, or any flaky dough for that matter, is keeping everything very cold (well the flour and salt are fine at room temp!). You’ll want to cut your butter into chunks while being very cold.

Begin by simply placing your flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add your chunks of butter and pulse several times (about 10 times) until the butter chunks are reduced to pieces about the size of peas. Feel free to use your hands to feel the mixture to estimate the size of the butter pieces.

Continue reading Hojaldre or Puff Pastry


February 25, 2013
pouring finished cajeta into jar

For years, I’ve managed to turn every Mexican vacation into a working trip. As soon as I touch Mexican soil, I set up interviews, plan research tours, library searches, cooking adventures, all the while trying to tweet and instagram. And facebook, pinterest and blog too… My appetite expands outrageously as if giving me a chance to try all that my eyes can see and my mind can gather. Even with the best of intentions to relax and disconnect, they only last so long.

My family had been enthusiastic about it until recently: my husband announced last summer he’s had it. He won’t travel with me to Mexico when he wants us to vacation, together.

So when I suggested we go visit for the December holidays, he said “no, no, no Pati, you can’t control yourself there.”  I kept pursuing Mexico because I missed it so bad, seeking out a place where I wouldn’t be tempted to work. San Miguel de Allende sounded like just the spot.

Continue reading Homemade Cajeta

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Homemade Cajeta

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October 10, 2013
Flour tortillas

There are so many ways that you can have and enjoy tortillas de harina at home. You can make them the traditional way, the fast-track-modern way (if you have an electric tortilla maker such as the REVEL…), or buy them ready made at the store. Different from corn tortillas, which rule Mexico’s south and are made with a base of nixtamalized corn, flour tortillas rule Mexico’s north and are wheat flour based. The latter also have an element of fat (either lard, vegetable shortening or oil) and are milder, sweeter and softer.

Sometimes both kinds of tortillas, flour and corn, work interchangeably for a dish, say cheese quesadillas or chicken tacos, and may depend on the preference of the eater. However, beware, there are other times when either the flour or corn tortilla should be the prime choice. Take Chilorio, it needs to be tucked in a flour tortilla. Yet any kind of enchiladas, enfrijoladas, or casserole must, REALLY MUST, be made with corn tortillas because they withhold the sauce much better than wheat flour ones, and sweetness may be uncalled for.

Continue reading Homemade Wheat Flour Tortillas


April 3, 2013
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Jello molds or moldes para gelatina are as versatile as Jello desserts themselves. Plastic, metal, ceramic, stoneware, porcelain, glass and silicone are all suitable materials for molding Jello. They can vary from multiserving ring molds to individual portions in plastic cups or ramekins (even water glasses or anything you can pour a drink onto!), or in silicon shaped, like anything from pyramids to cartoon characters. It’s important to make sure your molds are heat-tolerant to avoid warping when using hot liquids.

I tend to make my Jellos in clear and simple plastic cups like the ones you’d see on street stands in Mexico. It is simple, fast and you can see through all the colors and layers of your creations without having to unmold the Jello. It is also great for kids because they can just eat the Jello right out the cup. Also, in a way, servings are pre-measured.

But if you want to be artistic with the shapes, aside from the flavors of your Jello creations, the newest molds are made of high-quality silicone and come in elaborate shapes.

See below all the choices I could gather for individual servings of Jello…

Continue reading Jello Molds or Moldes Para Gelatina


April 19, 2013
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If you were to ask me what cooking tool I could not live without, I would tell you it’s my Mexican-style lime squeezer.

Limes are one of the most iconic ingredients of Mexican cooking. Not lemons. Limes! To me, limes have a much more concentrated citrus punch, and I like the fresh juice. I have a deep disregard for pre-squeezed lime juice bottles sold at the stores; they taste like airplane food.

What’s complicated about squeezing a fresh lime? Nothing much really. But when you use as many as I do, this squeezer is a delight: gets as much juice as the lime has in a snap, feels heavy and powerful in your hand, and it is easy to maintain and keep clean.

My lime squeezer is as common as common gets. You can find one easily in just about any Mexican kitchen. It is made of cast aluminum, which resists corrosion from the acidic juices. It is super simple to use: open it up, place a halved lime cut side down and just squeeze the juice wherever you want it to go, directly over food or into a bowl or measuring cup. Close and squeeze the long handles that give you leverage to extract all the juice and that’s that. Since it is so big, it works with lemons too… (continue for more information and photos)

Continue reading Lime Squeezer or Exprimidor de Limón


May 5, 2009
Homemade Corn Tortillas

Yes, you can buy them already made at the store… but there are few things that can compare to the nurturing and filling sensation of homemade corn tortillas.

And the great thing is: We can buy the premade corn tortilla flour of extraordinary quality in the US these days. So you don’t have to nixtamalize the corn kernels (dry in the sun, cook and soak in hot water with lime, peel and grind to a paste) through a process of more than 36 hours to make your own fresh corn tortilla dough. Here is how you make them:

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May 15, 2009

Tostadas and chips are very versatile ingredients to have in the kitchen. If you don’t want to make them at home, you can buy good quality already made tostadas and chips in the stores these days.

You can make your own tostadas and chips with home made corn tortillas or store bought corn tortillas. In either case, spread the tortillas outside of the refrigerator, in your counter, baking sheet or tray for a half hour and up to a couple hours, so they will dry out a bit before baking, toasting or frying. This helps achieve a nicer crispness as they bake, toast or fry.

If you are going to make chips, cut them into 6 triangles before letting them dry.

Continue reading Making Tostadas and Chips


May 5, 2009
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The molcajete is a cooking tool that although not absolutely necessary this day in age, it does have its uses, benefits and looks. Mexico’s version of the mortar and pestle (the pestle being called tejolote) it has been used for thousands of years to pound, smash, grind and mix ingredients such as herbs, spices and chiles, create rubs, pastes and sauces.

It it is traditionally made of basalt volcanic rock, which is very porous and rough and it makes it very heavy. There are however, newer versions of lighter material, that I am not so fond off. When new, there are many takes of how to “cure” them, so they can begin to be used. Some people grind white rice, while others grind peeled garlic cloves.  I like to do both. So just take either one or the other, or both, and grind them with the pestle. Then just wash with a soapy sponge and rinse under cold water.

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Molcajete

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April 22, 2010
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The molinillo is a traditional Mexican kitchen utensil, that has been used for centuries to make froth in hot chocolate. It is made of a single piece of wood. The top part, typically thick and round, has decorations and indentations. A number of loose, movable rings follow. Lastly a round handle that is soft and round making it easy to beat with your hands. All of the decorations, shapes and pieces are made to create the most froth possible.

Though it is not that easy to find molinillos outside of Mexico, any market in any part of Mexico will likely have not only one, but different kinds to choose from…

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Molinillo

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June 22, 2009

Pickled Jalapeños are a very popular garnish, topping or side for plenty of Mexican foods like tortas, tacos, quesadillas, grilled meats, rice, beans, tostadas… just to name some. So much so, that in many Restaurants, they are placed in the center of the table along the side of salt, pepper and a breadbasket. Many people nibble on them right out of the bowl… They are popular in Mexican Pizzerias too!

You can make your own or buy them already bottled or canned at the stores. They are so intensely used, that there are plenty of brands that carry them as a regular product. Taste does vary considerably from one brand to another, so try a couple, and see which ones you like more.

Continue reading Pickling Jalapeños


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