Champurrado, Latino culture, Latino Family Traditions, Mexican dicho, Vegan Champurrado

Champurrado-Mexican Comfort Drink, Vegan Style

Christmas came. It left me with a cold and cough. Unknown Mami recently blogged about her daughter, who “felt like cheese.” I know the feeling.  
Nonetheless, the tamales were wrapped, steamed and eaten. My sisters, mom, brother and boyfriend stayed up late chismeando, watching movies and snacking. This may have delayed my recovery from my cold, but our Christmas tradition carried on. 
Well, almost. 
The one thing I didn’t get to do was make Vegan tamales for my son or Champurrado for Christmas Day-oops, that’s two things. I did make a small pot on tamale making day, December 23rd, before the crux of the cold hit me, but one pot is never enough. Now that I don’t have to wipe my nose every two seconds and my sense of taste is coming back I’m going to make another batch for the kids.
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.
Ingredients for Champurrado
Ingredients for Champurrado

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 warm and thick drink is made with piloncillo (the raw sugar cone up there), milk, Mexican chocolate like the Abuelita brand and cinnamon sticks. Sometimes anise star or vanilla bean is used. It’s comfort food Mexican style.
All of these ingredients are in supermarkets in the Southwest. If you’re somewhere else you can find these in a Mexican/Latino market.
Champurrado is served most often at Christmas time with tamales, pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) or churros
Since I didn’t make the Vegan tamales, because I was feeling “cheesy,”  I gave Vegan Champurrado a try. I substituted cow’s milk for almond milk and Maizena (corn starch) for the masa harina. The results were delicious and passed the Nana (grandma) test. Here’s a recipe that will serve 8-10: :
Combine all into a large saucepan, stir until chocolate, sugar is well blended.
8 cups unsweetened almond 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
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 occasionally. 

Some people like half water, half whole milk, or all water. Experiment with the thickness of the drink by using less or more of Maizena. For a deep chocolate flavor add two disks. This also tastes very good when you use a vanilla bean instead of star anise.  

Mexican Champurrado
Mexican Champurrado

Pour champurrado into a small cup unless you need more comfort, then go for the big mug. By using the substitutions, you can make this recipe your own. Whip some up and enjoy something different this holiday season. Perhaps as you are sipping your cinnamony chocolate drink you can think about your resolutions for 2013. 

I don’t ‘do’ resolutions at the new year. Probably has something to do with this Mexican proverb (dicho): “Una buena resolución es como un caballo viejo, que a menudo ensillado pero rara vez montado.” 

Translation“A good resolution is like an old horse, which is often saddled but rarely ridden.”

Happy holidays and much joy, peace  and chocolate in the new year.

Champurrado, Chicano Christmas, Latino family tradition, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday food, Mixed Families, Tamales, Vegan Son, Wine and Tamales

Christmas-Chicano Style

Mexican Nativity
Mexican Nativity
It’s a Chicano style Christmas in our house. We blend Mexican traditions with the Anglo-American since my children are third generation Mexican Americans mixed with French and Blackfoot Native American on their dad’s side.
My mother was born in California from immigrant Mexican parents. I was born in California and grew up in the 70’s, hence the term I use to identify myself: Chicano/a. The kids identify as multi-cultural. So our traditions are a mix of all our mix.
During Christmas time we make traditional Mexican ‘red’ tamales(chile and pork), green ones: grilled, peeled California chiles with Pepper Jack and Monterey Jack cheese, and the modern ‘healthy’ ones:  roasted chicken and tomatillo sauce. 

I’m getting a little loca from the shopping and preparation. The tomatillos, cilantro, and jalapenos are on the counter ready to boil, grill and blend for salsa verde. Bags of New Mexican Red Chile wait to be toasted with flour and oil. The pork loin is roasting under mounds of garlic and onions.
Abuelita (Mexican chocolate) sits in the cupboard next to the piloncillo (raw brown sugar cones) and maiz (cornstarch) for champurrado while the milk and soymilk wait in the fridge.(I am making vegan champurrado too for Vegan Son).
The See’s Nuts and Chews and Peanut Brittle, our reward after finishing our work, is hidden from everyone. The Merlot and Cabs wait patiently on the buffet table.
We start the tamale assembly line bright and early…uh, maybe not very bright and not too early…tomorrow morning. For a couple of hours, there will be calm before the storm of family, kids, music, laughter, gossip, warmth, and familiarity. All the great things one could wish for during the holidays. 
In the past week, I’ve come across some funny Chicano style songs to accompany our tamale making fest. I wish I could have found some accompanying music. Use the same melody as you would with the American version and snap your fingers for some rhythm. 
Arte Y Loqueras

From the talented Unknown Mami:

On the twelfth day of Christmas

my Nana gave to me
doce pork tamales,
eleven full piñatas,
ten chiles rellenos,
nine Padre Nuestros, (Our Fathers)
ocho tostadas,
seven Tias chismiando, (Aunts gossiping)
six kinds of chile,
five nalgadas (I was bad), (butt spankings)
four jalapeños,
three pairs of chanclas,
dos saladitos,

and a perico in an aguacate tree.
And by Felipe Campos, here’s his Chicano version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: 
Tis the night before Christmas and all through the casa
Not a creature is stirring. Caramba, ¿que pasa?
The stockings are hanging con mucho cuidado
In hopes that St. Nicholas will feel obligado.
To leave a few cosas aqui y allí
For chicos y chicas (y something for me).
Los niños are snuggled all safe in their camas
Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.
Their little cabezas all full of good things,
They’re all esperando qué Santa will bring.
To all of the children, both buenos y malos
A nice batch of dulce and other regalos.
While mama worked late in little cocina
El Viejo was down at the corner cantina
Living it up with his amigos. ¡Carajo!
Muy contento y un poco borracho!
And soon he’ll return to his home, zigzagueando,
Lit up like the Star Spangled Banner cantando
Outside in the yard, there arose such a grita
I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrita
I ran to the ventana and looked out afuera,
¿And who in the world do you think que era?
St. Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!
And pulling his sleigh instead of venados
Were eight little burros, approaching volados.
I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:
“¡Ay Pancho! ¡Ay Pepe! ¡Ay Cuca! ¡Ay Beto!
¡Ay Chato! ¡Ay Chopo! ¡Muraca y Nieto!”
Then standing erect with his hands on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo.
With his round y gran belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.
Puffing, he finally stood in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala.
He filled all the stockings with lovely regalos,
(For none of the niños had been muy malos).
Then chuckling aloud, seeming muy contento,
He turned in flash and went like el viento.
And I heard him exclamar – y eso es verdad –
Merry Christmas a todos! Feliz Navidad!
‘Twas the Night before Christmas

Happy Holidays and may your traditions, old and new, find their way into your family festivities. Enjoy.

Champurrado, Christmas Traditions, Holiday Traditions, Latino Family Traditions, Mexican Holiday foods, Tamales

What are your Holiday Traditions?

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
 It came without packages, boxes or bags. 
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. 
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
‘What if Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store?’
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” – Dr. Seuss
In this season of holiday lights, rich foods and varied gift lists Dr. Seuss reminds us that the real spirit of Christmas is more than these tangible items. When you think of Christmas, what do you remember most? For me, it’s the memories of family, aromas, music, laughter and traditions. Sure there were some arguments in there, disappointments, and exhaustion, but I have to try harder to remember those things.

If you didn’t have positive memories, you have the ability to create new ones for yourself and your loved ones. Here are some that I have had the pleasure of hearing. These beautiful holiday traditions go back ninety years and others for five.

My mother told me about her childhood Christmas in the 1930’s. She remembers watching the Pomona Fire Department’s shiny red fire truck roll to a stop at 246 Newman Street, her house. She yelled for her four other siblings to come to the window. The firefighters jumped off the truck and waved at them to come outside. Every child received a gift, although her brother Catarino was mistaken for a girls name and given a doll. The other two sisters ran for the doll but my mom got there first. She clearly remembers the doll with a real dress, eyes of blue glass and silky hair. It was her first doll, she was seven. 
The family received their first Christmas tree that year. Her mother fashioned a crèche with the pine needles and cones. Each Christmas Eve the relatives and friends gathered over cinnamon atole (thinned corn flour, milk, raw sugar and spices) and red chile tamales. Right before midnight, her father asked a couple to accompany him to the crèche. Her father brought out the porcelain baby Jesus that he brought over from Guanajato, Mexico in 1918, given to him by his mother. This couple then became the compadres and they had to take care of the baby Jesus and build him a crèche to continue the tradition for the next Christmas Eve. 

The tradition continues, sans the porcelain Jesus, it ended up with my grandfathers sister’s family. But my family continues making tamales and champurrado (thickened chocolate atole). We have modernized this gathering with the addition of See’s candy and Cabernet.  

Some families have a Posada tradition where the relatives travel from one house to the next on the twelve days preceding Christmas Day. A friend of my mother’s sets out her  fifty year old Nativity Scene and gathers her grandchildren around it on Christmas Eve. The family sings songs and each child drops his/her money into a wooden box. The collected money is given to their church the next day. 

Several people have cookie exchanges with friends and family. Another has an ‘ornament’ party where friends decorate the tree with handmade ornaments. Others have tamale-making parties where you join in the assembly line and later enjoy fresh tamales. Some families take their children to the Nutcracker Ballet every year or watch Christmas movies together. Others bundle up and watch the Harbor Parade of Lights every year, come sleet or fog. And some buy funny Christmas sweaters and wear them one too many times.

What these traditions pass on are the gifts of family, charity, time, love and sharing. If you have a family tradition share it, if not start one, it’s never too late. What are your holiday traditions?