Latino culture, Mexican Cooking, Mexican food

A to Z Challenge: F is for Fideo, a Mexican side dish

A to Z Challenge for bloggers

Day Six, already? Today’s letter in the A to Z Challenge is F.

The first word I thought of was Fideo, not Fi-deo, but Fee-day-0; which is Angel Hair Pasta.

I was going to write about Fajas (girdles) or Flores (flowers) but food won out. So you know what’s on my mind.

Fideo is another ‘poor person’s’ dish, like enchiladas with cheese, but much easier and faster to make. However, it’s not the main meal, it’s a side dish.

Fideo may have been the first food I tried to make on my own, as a kid, for the family. I recall this dish as comfort food.

Some people called fideo the Mexican spaghetti, but don’t let a Mexican mom hear that comparison. Spaghetti is spaghetti and fideo is fideo: never the twain shall meet.

There are two types of fideo: seco as in dry and regular or ‘soupy’ as my mom says Fideo soupy (a great example of a Spanglish term to describe a dish).

Technically, it’s sopa de fideo.

Our household made fideo soupy only. The hot caldo (broth) was full of flavorful tomato sauce with onion and garlic flavors.

Dry fideo or angel hair pasta

This is how it looks when it comes out of the package. We never cooked the entire coils but broke them up into bite-size pieces, sauteed the fideo in hot oil, with onions, garlic, salt, maybe a dash of oregano.

After the fideo is toasty, you add four ounces tomato sauce and eight ounces of water, (you could use vegetable or chicken stock instead) bring to a boil, lower and test for to see if it’s soft after 10 minutes.

That’s it, the fideo is done.

Sopa de Fideo



Family, Family time, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday food, Mexican Vegan food

Beginning a New Tradition with Tamales-Vegan Style!

Christmas Stars by J. De La Cruz, cc
Christmas Stars by J. De La Cruz, cc

Five years after my youngest became a vegan, I now have another vegan son who has a wonderful girlfriend who is also vegan.

I began cooking vegan style for the youngest some time ago. My oldest son, David and his girlfriend, Laura ‘veganize’ all sorts of foods while educating people on their YouTube site titled “Hangry Vegans.” Their videos show their adventures shopping and creating vegan dishes. Recently, they created a Wix site, you guessed it: “Hangry Vegans.”

We made five types of tamales. And, this year I wasn’t the only one making vegan tamales. David and Laura sat at the table and learned from me and his aunt about the ‘how to’s” of making the masa (dough) and filling for tamales without lard or animal products.

They tried to manipulate the butter knife, masa to oja (corn husk) ratio, and fill the tamales without making them into fat burritos. I was impressed they kept at it, smoothing and fixing the ojas, laying on the right amount of chile and ‘cheese.’

A mother is impressed when her daughter cooks, but a Latina mother is doubly surprised when her adult son tackles a medium difficult project. For the trifecta, Laura said she and David would keep up the tradition. Maybe there will be some little ‘tamales’ in their future 🙂 (I’m going to get an OMG from them, but I’m joking!).

They both did well for first timers and now know why we complain of backaches the day after tamale making.

My mother stood by and asked what type of filling we’d use. When the words “Black beans” and vegan ‘cheese’ entered the conversation she gave us the familiar nose wrinkle. This is her polite way of saying “Yuck.”

You know millennials, they video everything. Here are the steps in motion:

Vegan Black Bean Tamales:


2 cups of Maseca Tamal corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together in a large bowl and add:
1 1/3 cup of vegetable broth

In another bowl, use
2/3 cup of coconut or vegetable shortening.
Mix until fluffy. Add this to the dry ingredients and stir until batter is smooth.
Knead the dough like bread until it’s smooth and slightly sticky.

You can also buy store-bought masa at a Mexican supermarket. Ask for masa sin preparada (not prepared with lard). To this masa add the vegetable shortening and knead.

Spread a thin to medium layer of masa on the oja/corn husk, leaving 1/4 from the top clear.

Add a tablespoon or more of drained and rinsed cooked black beans, shredded vegan Monterrey style Jack cheese, and diced green chiles or strips of chile. A teaspoon of salsa verde or salsa roja can also be added.

Fold each side of oja to the middle and fold over the top of the oja. Press the open ends of the oja gently together.

Take a deep pot (tamale) which has a steamer bottom or put an overturned foil pie pan with four ventilated holes at the bottom of the pot. Add water until it reaches the rim of the pie pan.

Stack tamales into the pot about 2/3 full and around the edges, leaving a small funnel in the middle. Or, you can basketweave the tamales around the edges, also with a funnel in the middle. Water, when needed, is added in this space.

Wet and wring out a clean cotton kitchen towel. Drape it over the top of the stacked tamales, put a lid on the pot and place on the stove, at medium heat. Add water when necessary.

Set a timer for 90 minutes. Use a potholder to lift the lid and check the tamales. The masa will be cooked solid if it’s done. If the masa is mushy, set the timer for another hour.

Any vegetable filling can be used: lentils and corn, spinach and vegan cheese, peas and carrots, butternut squash are some examples.

For our sweet tamales recipes: Pineapple, Coconut; Cinnamon Raisin; and Strawberry go over to Hangry Vegans website. Check them out, they’re so cute.

I have to say that, I’m a mom.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Mexican Cooking, Travel

Letting The Soul and Spirit Fly in Cozumel

Smell the Sea, Van Morrison quote. Carribean ocean.
Smell the Sea, Van Morrison quote. Carribean ocean.

…the end of summer. Too short for some, too long for others.

Road trips, camping, Denver, Cozumel, writing, reading, plays, and actually working out at a gym for three months consistently (hey, quite a feat for me) filled my summer.

I did manage to write my way to Cozumel but I still have plenty of writing to do. For now, I’m looking past the rejections emails from literary agents and concentrating on the few who wrote ‘good rejections.’ You know, those that give you positive input (not that they have to, but that’s always a bonus). 

But back to Cozumel or as the Mayan indigenous say, “Cuzamil,” which means the island of swallows. The island and sea are beyond “nice.” The ocean and beaches refreshed my eyes and spirit.

To get an idea of the island, here are some photos I took.

We (my best friend Pati who I met 20+ yrs. ago in an airport) mistakingly thought we arrived when we flew over Cancun. That place is huge compared to where we were actually going. Cozumel is a small island, population around 100,000, surrounded by the Carribean Sea.

Flying into Cozumel, Mexico
Flying over the Carribean Sea into Cozumel, Mexico

Stepping out of the airport proved frustrating with all the timeshare people rushing at you, on a ruse to get you a taxi, but really it’s to sign you up for a tour. Okay, so we got past that and stepped out into a wet oven of humidity.

The Cozumel Palace hotel was so unassuming from the entrance, but when those glass doors opened, we were met with a gorgeous view of the infinity pool stretching to the equally beautiful ocean. That and being embraced with cool air conditioning, an iced drink, and flowers made us forgot the airport arrival and weather.

View of the Carribean from the room, Cozumel Palace, Mexico
View of the Carribean from the room, Cozumel Palace, Mexico

Now, I’m of Mexican descent, so I arrogantly think I know Mexican food. It turns out I don’t know much about authentic Mexican food from Mexico. What I know is Mexican American food from California, Texas, and New Mexico.

Here’s the breakfast I chose, because of the name: Huevos Divorciados (Divorced Eggs). A thin line of black beans separate the two eggs and tortillas but the different salsa’s blur the line. There was also the traditional Mayan dishes: Poc Chuc (pork in source orange and vinegar marinade), Xni-pec salsa (haberno based), meats with achiote (annatto) and most foods topped with queso Blanco.

Huevos Divorciados-Divorced Eggs,
Huevos Divorciados-Divorced Eggs,

Forays into the town when the heat died down resulted in plenty of shops to see and a very nice gathering place in the center of town.

Clocktower and dancing fountains, San Miguel, Cozumel, Mexico.
Clocktower and dancing fountains, San Miguel, Cozumel, Mexico.

Although Cozumel is known for its diving and snorkeling because of its many reefs and cenotes, we didn’t partake of that, mainly because our hotel tour didn’t offer it during our stay and the other reason was because we don’t know how to swim. The activity we did partake in was a visit to the KaoKao Chocolate Factory.

I love chocolate and I was in heaven learning the history of cacao, grinding the beans, and making my own cacao bar. We had a tasting of twenty types of chocolate.

The cacao beans are ground three times in a hand cranked grinder until a soft paste forms. You knead it into a ball, press down, make a thumb imprint in the center, add pure vanilla, and knead again. Add whatever you like after that: ground nuts, chile powder, cinnamon, raw sugar.

Making cacao bar at KaoKao Factory, Cozumel.
Making cacao bar at KaoKao Factory, Cozumel.

The result was my own 70% dark chocolate disk with cinnamon which I patted into a disk and packaged to take home. This disk can be melted into two cups of hot milk or water.

KaoKao Chocolate Disk -
KaoKao Chocolate Disk –

Vacations over and now it’s back to work. Here’s a photo of our last sunset over the Carribean.

Sunset over Cozumel, Caribbean Ocean
Sunset over Cozumel, Caribbean Ocean

I hope you enjoyed the photos.

Family, Latino culture, Latino Family Traditions, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday food

Christmas Desserts-Mexican/Chicano Style

Mexican champurrado,
Mexican champurrado,

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


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.

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 Buñ
                                                             The Real Deal Buñ

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 Buñ
                                                                       Tortilla Buñ

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 buñ
Kid style buñ

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.