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July 14, 2014
lime pie

Not for nothing is there a saying that goes “as American as apple pie.” Pie in the US is American comfort food of the first order.

Pie in Mexico is pay.

Pay : a sweet taste of el sueño Americano, a bite of the ideal life en los Estados Unidos. Just like a milkshake, just like a Hollywood blockbuster, just like being able to wear a pair of laid-back Levi’s jeans.

In the 80s, when I was a tween like my son Sami is today, my school friends and I would go for a thick and tall slice of pay, right after watching an American blockbuster film. Which wasn’t often. Back then, you had to wait anywhere from a few months to a year for any of these movies to make their way down to Mexico, if they ever did.

Continue reading Así es mi Pay de Limón…Mexican Lime Pie


February 28, 2014
Yucatán Style French Toast

It’s ironic. The farthest away from Mexico I’ve been, the closest I’ve felt to my home country and the more I’ve gotten to know it.

Namely, there are 2,419 miles between my home in the DC area and the home I was born and raised in, in Mexico City (I’ve seen it in Google maps a thousand times with my boys), it’s a 44-hour drive if you go non-stop and a 5-hour flight with no connections.

Distance matters. It weighs, in tons of pounds of nostalgia that can be soothed in the kitchen. Distance has made my time in Mexico intense and adventurous, and the foods I am able to replicate in my American kitchen that much more precious.

Continue reading Yucatán Style French Toast: Ultra Decadent


April 5, 2013
tres leches and strawberry jello

Red, green, orange, blue… and all the colors you can dream up! Vanilla, cajeta, jamaica, chocolate, coffee, fruits, nuts… and just about any flavor you may crave. Smooth or chunky, creamy or foamy, heavy or light… choose any texture you like. Wait! We haven’t even gotten into shapes. Did you say your son likes Spiderman, your mom likes flowers or you want to go for a simple 2 layer design?

If you haven’t fallen for Jello, then you haven’t tried those in the Mexican repertoire. Forget about the 1950s-style-jello salads. Forget about the Jello you’ve seen people eat, or you may have eaten, in hospitals, too.

Mexican Jello is something to celebrate, to showcase, to boast about.

Gelatinas, in Spanish, many times come in individual servings with different flavors stacked in bright and colorful layers. Sold by street vendors who carry them in see through 2 to 3 tier covered stands, they are a common site in gas stations where cars wait for their turn and passersby can’t help but be tempted. Now you know why I always tagged along with my dad to fill up the tank!

It’s hard to show up at a kids party in Mexico and not see them. You will run into more sophisticated versions of them, standing tall, firm and proud at grown up parties, maybe with generous splashes of rum, tequila or rompope in their mix. There are simpler Jello creations brightening shelves at bakeries and grocery stores, too. In fact, Jello is such a big thing, that some cooks have elevated it to a complex art form with floral and abstract designs.

Continue reading Dream Big: Tres Leches and Strawberry Jello


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

Continue reading
Homemade Cajeta

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December 12, 2012
santa-clara-cookies

You know what happens when you eat a Santa Clara Cookie?

When you first bite into it, you go through a soft layer with grainy texture that tastes like a moist version of marzipan. But as your teeth sink in they hit the hard crust of a buttery cookie that breaks into the crunchiest of chunks in your mouth. It makes for such tasty contrast that you have to take more bites to understand their beauty. Since one cookie doesn’t explain it, you will reach for another one…

There you go! Another sweet concoction from the nuns of the Santa Clara convent in Puebla whose recipe has been passed down for over a dozen generations. Together with the nuns from Santa Rosa Convent (where Mole Poblano is believed to have been invented) and Santa Monica Convent (where many say Chiles en Nogada come from) they are much to blame for the baroque foods, which mixed European and Mexican ingredients with much passion and devotion, that shaped the cuisine of this city – and has made it an epicenter of gastronomy in Mexico.

Yet it was the nuns from Santa Clara who were most famous for their sweets. You can read what the plaque says outside of the standing convent which shut its doors long ago but left behind a strong legacy and a trail of sweets.

Continue reading Santa Clara Cookies


October 25, 2012

I wouldn’t be caught dead without Pan de Muerto during Day of the Dead.

One of the most meaningful, colorful and delicious of Mexican celebrations, Dí­a de Muertos has this bread as one of its trademark treats. It may sound strange to eat fluffy sugared up bread in the shape of bones, but then again, we also eat calaveritas, candies in the shape of skulls. This shows how crucial food is for Mexicans but also how it gets infused with our sarcastic sense of humor, generous spirit and gutsy attitude.

Not that Day of the Dead is such a big occasion here in the United States, but I notice an increased awareness. Teachers are starting to talk about it in schools, sugar skulls and decorations are popping up in stores…It’s becoming trendy. As it happens right on the tail of Halloween, elements from both celebrations seem to cross paths. They both include graveyards and a lot of eating, but they are quite different.

Day of the Dead, which is not one but two days, November 1st and 2nd, is when those departed have a license to come back and visit the ones they’ve left behind. And hey, if they are coming back from another world, it better be a feast worth the trip! Altars are decorated, filled with the visitor’s favorite foods and drinks, candles and flowers placed throughout, to help illuminate for a safe journey back home. There are visits to the cemetery, too, but of a different nature than Halloween: Day of the Dead is a bittersweet, sad and joyous time for gathering, feasting and remembering.

Pan de Muerto, has to be one of the sweetest sides of it, eagerly awaited by all.

Continue reading Make Pan de Muerto at Home!


December 21, 2011
bunuelos
When I was about 10 years old, my parents developed a habit of traveling during the December holidays without my sisters and I. Don’t ask me why they thought it was a good idea.
It was an awful, terrible, horrible idea.

The sweet highlight was that our babysitter Sari, whom we call Nana Tochito and who came from the mountainous regions of Oaxaca, prepared a full blown Christmas style meal to spoil and help us celebrate the holidays. No, we didn’t have the tree like our friends in school. But, thanks to my Nana we couldn’t care less. We exchanged gifts, ate lots of gelt, had the traditional big roasted turkey, drank ponche, and what we loved the most, ate buñuelos.

Mostly found around Christmas and New Year’s, buñuelos speak of nothing but celebration. And truly, what one has to celebrate is being lucky enough to find buñuelos at markets, fairs and street stands or having the time, patience and a reliable recipe to make them at home.

Buñuelos may be one of the most high maintenance treats one can make: but to cut to the chase, they are completely worth it.

Now with that said, you can skip to the end where I give you my most reliable recipe or read a bit more about why I – and everyone in Mexico- love them so, including their demanding and time consuming nature…

Continue reading Buñuelos: High Maintenance, But So Worth It!


November 19, 2011

Sliced bread brushed with melted butter, toasted until golden, layered with handfuls of nuts and dried fruits, drenched in Piloncillo syrup, topped with crumbled salty cheese and baked until it all comes together…. Once out of the oven, it tastes like a cross between French Toast and Bread Pudding. Crisp-on-the-top and moist-in-the-center, every spoonful a delightful mess.

That is Mexico’s most well known version of Capirotada. Being a lover of delicious Mexican style food messes, I am one big fan of it. But some newcomers to the dish are taken aback by the salty cheese on top. What -you may ask like many do- is the need for the cheese on top? Well, that salty tease makes the thick feel and sweet taste of the dish come out in bold strokes in your mouth.

It reminds me of how my father loves to slice sweet bananas over his savory lentil soup; or how my family goes crazy over piling ates (fruit pastes) with Manchego cheese, as so many Mexicans do; or how I used to love eating a handful of chocolate covered raisins right after a handful salty pop corn, and then repeat it again and again at the movies growing up, as long as the movie lasted. Capirotada has that same wild mix.

Once you finish your piece, I bet you will beg for a bit more of that addicting combination. That’s probably why I have received so many requests for a recipe.

Continue reading Going Nuts and Bananas for Capirotada


December 19, 2010

I had never heard the name Mexican Wedding Cookies.

Ever.

I was born and raised in Mexico City. I lived there all my life until I married my husband, another Mexican, and moved to the U.S.

There were no Mexican Wedding Cookies at our Mexican wedding (though there were a ton of roosters doing their Cock a Doodle Do thing next door, which made it hard for us to say our vows real loud…). Nor were there any of those cookies, at any wedding in Mexico that I have ever attended. None.

The first time I heard the name Mexican Wedding Cookie was once we moved to Washington D.C. Since then, I have been asked about them continuously. What’s more, once I started my blog, I began to receive a lot of requests, via lovely emails, for their recipe.

It took me a while to realize that those Mexican Wedding Cookies, so liked this side of the border, are what I love and know as Polvorones. One of Mexico’s most popular treats, consumed on an every day basis, and found in just about every Panaderí­a (bakery) and any grocery store throughout the whole country.

Continue reading You Say Mexican Wedding Cookies, I Say Polvorones


November 12, 2010

They go hand in hand, Autumn and Pumpkins.

In the US, I see them scary faced on Halloween, and then, sweetly dressed as pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Yet to me, one of their best impersonations is as Calabaza en Tacha: Pumpkin cooked in a Piloncillo Syrup.

Craving Tacha, I paired two things: The pumpkin I saved from my boys’ Halloween makeover and my new orange flamed French Oven.

It was a matter of time. The French Oven needed a sweet Mexican ride to become baptized in my kitchen.

Continue reading You have a Pumpkin? Turn it into Tacha!

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