Christmas Desserts-Mexican/Chicano Style

Mexican champurrado, flickr.com

Mexican champurrado, flickr.com

My friend, Evelyn Holingue, invited me to share my traditional Christmas dessert recipes. She’s written about Buche de Noel, a gorgeous French chocolate yule cake with chocolate whipped topping on her blog. Think of this as a virtual cookie exchange from different cultural backgrounds.

The weather outside is cold/rainy and alternately cold/sunny. And when I say ‘cold,’ I mean in the 40’s-50’s, which is lukewarm to those in the Mid-West and East Coast, but which is perfect Southern California December weather. Perfect for an evening of Mexican Christmas treats.

Besides the yummy tamales, of every size and filling, which we make during Christmas, we also enjoy making traditional desserts: Champurrado and Buñuelos.

Now the reason I say these Christmas desserts are Mexican/Chicano style is because they veer from the traditional recipes found in Mexico.

A bit of historical context: My family ranges from first to fourth generation Mexican descent, with smatterings of Irish, Scottish and Native American ancestry. But because all of us parents, the second gen’s, grew up in the 70’s, we identify as Chicano. As working mothers we often substituted ingredients or improvised the recipes.

FIrst, the hot beverage. Champurrado (cham-poo-rah-doh) is a Mexican hot chocolate drink married with an atole, a traditional masa-based Mexican drink. It is not Mexican hot chocolate- two separate beverages.

Masa harina is the flour used for making corn tortillas and can also be used to thicken this rich, chocolate drink. I use Maizena or corn starch. This thick drink is made with piloncillo (raw sugar cone), milk, Mexican chocolate like the Abuelita brand and whole cinnamon sticks. Sometimes anise star or vanilla bean is used.

Combine all ingredients into large saucepan, stir until chocolate, sugar are well blended.

8 cups whole milk*

2 disks (3.25 oz)Mexican chocolate

3 oz piloncillo cone

1/8 teaspoon ground anise seeds or one star anise

4 whole cinnamon sticks

Add:

3-5 tablespoons of Maizena stirred into 1/2 cup of warm water (this is for the thickness), add to hot mixture, use a whisk or molinillo (kids love this part) to stir frequently until it boils. Reduce heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Substitutions:
I use almond milk, but you can use evaporated or soy milk. Experiment with the thickness of the drink by using less or more of Maizena. For the deep chocolate factor add two disks.This also tastes very good when you use a vanilla bean instead of star anise.

The Real Deal Buñuelos-flickr.com

                                                             The Real Deal Buñuelos-flickr.com

The ‘real deal’ buñuelos are made with yeast. They look like the mass produced Mexican cookie above, but taste like donuts.  I made these once-very time intensive but worth the time.

Buñuelos of my youth consisted of making masa for tortillas, rolling out a tortilla, and frying it in hot lard until golden brown-about a minute on each side. On one plate, lined with paper towels, you set it to drain. On a second plate you mix 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (I like cinnamon). Sprinkle the tortilla with the sugar mix.

You could use canola or coconut oil to fry the tortillas. A drizzle of agave syrup and cinnamon on top makes a pretty dessert.

Tortilla Buñuelos-flickr.com

                                                                       Tortilla Buñuelos-flickr.com

You can use those uncooked ‘handmade’ tortillas from Costco and fry them, drain, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Or if you’re really in a hurry, take a ready made tortilla, fry, and dust with the cinnamon powdered sugar. For kids, you can cut tortillas into shapes and fry. Using ready cooked tortillas results in a cinnamon crisp texture.

Kid style buñuelos-flickr.com

Kid style buñuelos-flickr.com

Whichever recipe you use for the buñuelos, the fun part is in the process. Making these is easily a two person affair (parent/child; spouse; friend) where you can spend time creating, talking, and sharing.

And isn’t that what holidays are about?

Peace to you and yours.

20 Ways to Celebrate Before Christmas

 

Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com

Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com

We haven’t put up one Christmas bulb or decoration yet, but I am thinking of how to make Christmas more special this year.

When I say special, I mean remembering that “Christ,” is in the word “Christmas.”

The wheels began turning last night when I wandered through department stores looking for Christmas cards that ‘spoke’ to me. And I found them too, at Hallmark.

There are 20 days to Christmas and they’ll blur by if we forget to take the time to slow down and enjoy the hours and days of the holiday season.

This list is just a beginning. Perhaps you can share your ideas in the comments.

How to spend the remaining 20 days to Christmas:

 

1-Carry on a tradition and share. Mine is to make tamales and champurrado.

2-Hug more-and not just your spouse or significant other. Smile too.

3-Spend time with your parents or anyone one over 70 that has a story to tell you about a Christmas memory.

4-Scent your home with the inviting fragrance of cinnamon, pine, or sugar cookies. I like to stick cloves in oranges.

6-Decorate your home or someone else’s with a living plant. I found this colorful gem at Lowe’s.

 Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com


Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

7-Send out Christmas cards with a handwritten inspirational quote.

8-Forgive. Apologize. Try to understand.  

9-Read a Christmas book to your own or someone else’s children. No kids? Read to yourself, aloud. One of my favorites is Olive the Other Reindeer.

10-Wear something ‘Christmasy,’ even if it’s that not so pretty holiday sweater someone gave you. 

11-Buy or make a new holiday ornament for someone else.

12-Share a holiday drink with someone: Peppermint Mocha, mulled wine, champurrado.

13-Sing along to holiday songs, wherever you may be.

14-Try a new holiday food from a different culture: France, Spain, Germany, Italy…

15-Get out in nature. Taste falling snow. If you’re in Southern California, like me, find yourself some shaved ice or a raspada as we call them in Spanish. This year I’ll be in Denver for Christmas where I’m sure I’ll find snow.

16-Bake a holiday sweet that you’ve never baked before and share.

17-Visit a church or place of worship for their holiday message, choir, or play.

18-Say “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” twice as often.

19-Donate coats, sweaters, gloves to those in need. Drop your coins into the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute to Toys for Tots or similar program.

20-Pray and work for peace.

Enjoy your weekend!

Who Knew I’d Give Thanks For…

Boxed by Craig J. Sunter, flickr.com

Boxed by Craig J. Sunter, flickr.com

Twenty plus people arrive at my home tomorrow. Lots of cleaning, shopping, cooking. For that I give thanks.

We’re celebrating with my mom, who’s still kicking and funnier than she realizes, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends. For that I give thanks.

Growing up, my sisters and brother and mom lived in government housing. I didn’t really notice that we were poor until the holidays. For that I give thanks.

There are no more days like that for us, and never for our children. For that I give thanks.

Thanksgiving Poem

Cardboard charity box,

left on the back porch

on a dreary early morn.

 

A big mama chicken?

No, a turkey.

Our very own?

 

Green beans, corn,

lots of corn, cranberry jelly,

a bag of flour.

 

Potato flakes—

none of us ever tasted those before—

made flavorful with welfare butter,

a yellow block of sunshine.

 

A table

with more than two items

to go with the grape Kool-Aid

and tortillas.

 

One parent,

four children,

all together.

For that, I give thanks.

To all my readers, for sharing your generous comments, dialogue, blogs, and books, I give thanks.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and time spent with loved ones this holiday.

NaNoWriMo Madness or The Only Way to Write A First Draft

Yes, I’m slogging through the madness of NaNoWriMo.

The video above is a good indication of how we NaNo-ites or NaNo-etta’s feel about now.

I could only take three minutes of the video. She’s a good singer–sorta.

I’ve been typing words upon words,

compiling hundreds, then thousands.

Fifty thousand words is the goal; 1,667 words per day.

And I have a head cold. Been in my house for the past three days.

My oldest son feeds me cough drops, meds, and ginger ale.

I’m forcing myself to write. It allows me to not think about the 21 people I’ll have to prepare Thanksgiving for in a couple of weeks.

I’m writing a novel with multi-cultural characters, three generations of women and men, the Mexican culture of curanderismo (that means healers), and a love potion that goes awry.

By this time, I should be at the second plot twist, according to Storyfix. (give or take five pages).

I double checked my pages and yes, I’m close to that point.

Here’s a screen shot of my NaNo page—I don’t know about that novel cover increasing my odds, but could be, it is part of visualization— And, lest I forget, I do have some empty badge area sections:

Writing partner and halo. If anyone wants to be a writing partner, hit me up. I really don’t know how to do this step but I’ll figure it out.

Mona AlvaradoFrazier-New Adult Novel NaNoWriMo 2014

Mona AlvaradoFrazier-New Adult Novel NaNoWriMo 2014

Participating in NaNoWriMo is a great way to a first draft. Far from perfect yes, but useful.

And don’t refer to it as a “shitty first draft,” because it’s not. It’s raw, you put in some effort, yeah, it’s imperfect, just like your first time at bat, or your golf swing, or the first time you made a casserole.

Remind yourself that you started with a goal. You accomplished it. You now have something to build on.

You have words, lots of them, to play with after the first draft is completed.

Well, you probably won’t play with them, you’ll do the edit, delete dance. Then you’ll pull your hair out a few times, and laugh your head off while doing said hair pulling, because you’ll remember—‘member this now—it’s your first draft.

It’s okay.

It will take time and hard work to shape it up, revise, plug plot holes, revise, and love it into being better.

Remember, first drafts can be powerful. Remind yourself that you carved out time for your writing, you set your creativity loose and you were courageous until the finish line (whatever that is to you: 50K or 25K words).

Only 24,610 more words to go.

Write On!

(Please excuses any left out comma’s or other grammatical errors. I’m partially delirious now). Thank you.

Reading is the Best Way to Relax

pabloneruda_poetofthepeople      

      “A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic,” Carl Sagan 

The week has flown by, riddled with the everyday happenings, participating in the writing challenge of NaNoWriMo, and revising an old manuscript.

Like many of you (I’m assuming) I love to read: poetry, YA, Adult, and Children’s Books. I read during my down time, which is literally when I’m in bed, for an hour or two before I drift off to sleep.

I’ve read some extraordinary books lately: Jean Rhys “The Wide Sargasso Sea,” and Helena Viramontes’ novel, “Their Dogs Came With Them.”  Both five star books, IMHO. These highly emotive, descriptive books had an intensity to them that I loved, but that also exhausted me—in a good way.

Reading doesn’t just keep the mind sharp, possibly stave off Alzheimer’s, and help you sleep better (not if you read horror), but research says reading is the tops in relaxation. Really—they did studies. Here’s the conclusion from the UK-University of Sussex: 

Reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent, said cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis.

Subjects only needed to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles…it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started.

Listening to music reduced the levels by 61%, have a cup of tea of coffee lowered them by 54% , taking a walk by 42%, and video games, 21%. 

So today I was delighted to come across a children’s book I think I will enjoy. Maria Popova said this about the book she featured for the week:

I was instantly smitten with Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, with absolutely stunning illustrations and hand-lettering by artist Julie Paschkis 

Go have a look at the gorgeously illustrated pages that Popova has on her website: Brain Pickings. The colors delight the eyes, the illustrations and words relax the body.

An instant chill pill.

I’ve added this book to my public library list, which has grown now to 10 books on hold.

So relax everyone. Take time out to enjoy your favorite activity to help you gather yourself together and take on the coming week.

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