Latino culture, Latino family tradition, Mexican food, Mexican Vegan food

A to Z Challenge: O is for Olla

A variety of cooking pots, photo by Scott Umstattd for


I’ve passed the halfway mark of the A to Z Challenge. Yay me!

Today’s letter is O. O is for Olla.

An olla (hoy-ya) is a cooking pot. The pot can be any of the sizes above.

In my house, when Mom asked me to get her olla, the conversation was some version of this:

 “Small olla, big olla, the medium one?

“The one for the beans.” 

“Big olla then. Just say the olla for beans.”

“You’ve sat at that table cleaning beans for ten minutes, which other olla did you think?”

On a cold evening when Mom had more days in the week left before her next check, we feasted on frijoles de olla and hot tortillas.

The recipe is simple but not quick*:

1 lb. pinto beans, soaked for two hours. Rinse first.

6 cups water

2 garlic cloves

1 jalapeno

1/4 yellow onion

2 tablespoons salt

Combine all in a large olla, add the water. When it boils, cover and reduce flame to simmer. Check after an hour; salt to taste. When they’re soft they’re ready.

Cumin is also used but I hate the smell so no cumin in my recipe. Salt pork or bacon can be added.

If I’m making chile beans, like I am tonight, I add cooked soy chorizo, “beefless ground” (Trader Joe’s) and powdered New Mexican chile. The no meat recipe is for the vegans in my family.

The simple dish looks like this:

Frijoles de Olla, homestyle pinto beans. Photo by gailanng

Buen provecho! (Bon Appetit).


Here are a few A to Z Challenges that I’ve enjoyed reading:

For funny and weird French expressions see Evelyne’s blog.

Margo’s View: that little voice.

A blog of great DorkyMom doodles.

Short-short stories from Trina Balaka Looks Back.


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!

Family, Latino Family Traditions, Lent, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday foods, Mexican Vegan food, Roman Catholics

When We were Catholic-Lent

by J. Cobb
My mother is Roman Catholic. She baptized and raised us as such. We attended Catholic schools from first to twelfth grade. Everything you can imagine in the 1960’s-70’s era of Catholicism, in our Latino home, we had it: Virgen of Guadalupe, St. Jude, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus statues. We had an altar under the niche in the stairwell.Wooden crucifixes, lit votives, rosary beads, and brown scapulars dotted our rooms along with framed pictures of the Pope, JF Kennedy, and Cesar Chavez. The parish priest came to our house for dinner. That’s how Catholic we were in those days.  

Now, three of the four of us are Christian and the other doesn’t affiliate with any denomination. We don’t practice the Lenten season like we used to ‘back in the day,’ the Roman Catholic way. But my mom still asks us every Ash Wednesday “…where are your ashes.” Don’t you commemorate that Jesus died? Don’t you fast? Do you eat meat? Surely you give up something-chocolate? wine?
She’s legally blind so we could lie and say we had them but they smudged, but come on who’d lie on Ash Wednesday. For a couple of years we’ve explained that our Christian denomination doesn’t practice the marking of ashes on the forehead, but that soon leads to an argument. It’s her way (the Catholic highway) or no way. 
No use in arguing with my mother about religious doctrine versus biblical scripture. So we look for common ground. Yes, we assure her that we do believe Christ died and rose again, we can fast, we can make this a season of service, and introspection. “That’s good,” she says. “But what about the food?”
Yes, the Lenten food we made in the (Catholic) past will still be made during the Lenten season. But it’s not reserved for the Friday’s of Lent. The food has become part of our family tradition, except for the fish sticks.   
When we were Catholic we ate comida Cuaresmena (food of Lent): tortitas de camaron (shrimp patties), nopales (cactus), chile rellenos and Capriotada (bread pudding). We also ate a lot of potatoes, beans, and vegetable soup, but they weren’t half as good or as special as the one’s mentioned.  
Shrimp patties photo by
Capriotada-photo by Janie R.

This is my sister Debbie’s recipe for Capriotada:

sliced French bread( regular or sour dough), piloncillo (raw sugar cone), dark brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, raisins, walnuts, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, oil/butter or spray oil , and water.

Pour 6 cups water in large saucepan, stir in one piloncillo, 4 whole cinnamon sticks, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Use medium heat and bring to a boil. If you want it sweeter add 1/2 cup brown sugar. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add raisins during last 3 minutes if you want them softer. Discard cinnamon sticks before pouring syrup on bread.

Coat a 13x 9 oven proof baking dish with cooking spray, butter or oil. Preheat oven to 350.
Layer bread in pan and pour on syrup, layer with grated jack cheese and walnuts. Proceed with layering until the loaf of bread and all the syrup is gone. Bake for 30 minutes, if too soggy, bake another 15 minutes. 

Serve warm or chilled. For Vegan Son I use a non-diary cheese or leave out the cheese. Some people use only pillocillo, almonds, and Mexican Cotija cheese. It’s a matter of taste, just like it’s a matter of how you practice Lent. 

I’m hungry now, so I’ll post some of the other recipes at a later date.