Tag Archives: Mexican

Cinco de Mayo

I joke about Cinco de Mayo with Ben by saying, “my people” are celebrating today.  Now before I go any further, it’s more making fun of me as I have 1/4 Mexican blood in me & would just as much pass for being Mexican as I would Lebanese.  So when people find out that this “white girl” is actually Mexican (with my great grandmother on the last train into the US before the borders closed)–they give me second looks & start asking questions.  Ben pokes fun of my grandiose pride, because he thinks it’s a bit ridiculous how big I talk; yet, so little of the actual blood that runs through me (yeah so what).

However, in my defense, I grew up in a border town really understanding the culture, my grandfather lives in Mexico, my dad is bilingual (so I heard Spanish all the time–yet didn’t really learn it), my adopted family are 100% Mexican (so that counts for me for something), my surname is Soto/Sotomayor (long story), I know what real Mexican food (at least in Sonora region) tastes like, and although I speak very little Spanish–I have the accent & understand the Spanish alphabet.  All of these count for something–right?

With Cinco de Mayo happening tomorrow, I thought I should direct you towards a couple Mexican dishes worthy of making to celebrate. Even though Cinco de Mayo isn’t really that big in Mexico (Battle of Puebla against the French)–here in the U.S. it is, so now you have a reason to embrace Mexican culture.  So make some posole, machaca, or spanish rice.  And do yourself a favor by using corn tortilla with both, chopped up radishes, lime wedges, salt, shredded cabbage & fresh cilantro.  Really–for those of you who are flour tortilla lovers–pay homage on at least one day of the year to use the tortilla accordingly to the correct dish, while the relegating the flour tortilla for quesadillas, warmed with butter on top & rolled, or a bean burrito.

What is your tortilla of choice?  How do you use them?  And what are some of you most beloved Mexican dishes?


Mrs. Carrillo’s Spanish Rice

I’ve spoken of my adopted family the Carrillo before & again.  My love for genuine Mexican food is not something I can keep hidden.  In fact, just the other night I was having dinner at a friend’s house and someone asked where I grew up.  My answer going back to Yuma, Az, which inevitably leads to my love of Mexican food.  I was asked what type of Mexican food stood out as the best back in my hometown.  And it always, always goes back to the Carrillo’s home.

Mrs. Carrillo would make fresh flour tortillas on the comal.  Mr. Carrillo would eat jalapenos straight from the jar while watching soccer, while I would stare in amazement.  I learned by eating a jalapeno straight from the jar that you need to drink milk or pour some salt on your tongue to get that burning feeling away (I wanted to show everyone I too could be strong enough, but I only got so far as let it touch my tongue while running to the kitchen–while Mr. Carrillo would simply sweat from the heat).  I learned that not all Mexicans like menudo and Mrs. Carrillo would make a pre-cow tongue batch for Veronica.  Nopales con carne became my all time favorite dish (cactus with meat).  And that the only way you would get a recipe from Mrs. Carrillo was to watch her at her art.

She didn’t have these recipes on paper filed neatly away.  They instinctively ran through her person.  Still to this day, the only recipe Veronica has from her mom is her flour tortillas (which I don’t–umm, I really need that if you’re reading Mrs. Carrillo).  However, I did get the nopales con carne recipe, simply by watching her in the kitchen–her talking half in English and the other half in Spanish (Mrs. Carrillo a firm believer that I could really understand a lot more Spanish than I let on–but she didn’t let it get in the way).  I would even ask Veronica if she had any of her mom’s recipes, to which she would say, “I always ask her and she always gets sidetracked.”

So, I decided one day back in my college days that I needed a genuine Spanish rice recipe to make for dinner.  I called up Mrs. Carrillo & got it from her.  No sidetracking that I saw.  I think it still makes Veronica jealous (in that good sort of way) that I have one up’d her in the recipe department.  And now I pass it on to you.  Very simple, very good, and pure comfort.

Mrs. Carrillo’s Spanish Rice (printable recipe)

I changed this up a bit, but not much.  I will put her recipe as is and in parenthesis put my changes.


2 cups white rice (I used long grain)

1 big clove of garlic, or 2 smaller ones, crushed

2-4 Tb oil (I used canola, I wouldn’t use olive oil)

1-14 oz can tomato sauce

2 chicken bouillon cubes (I used 4 cups homemade chicken broth, unsalted)

4 cups water

1/2 of a small white onion, cut into four small pieces.


Put rice in a bowl and add enough water to cover it.  Stir it around with your fingers to clean & rinse the rise.  Drain the water and set aside.

In a heavy bottom pot (8 qt) over medium heat, add about 2 Tb oil and add the crushed garlic.  Stirring constantly to avoid browning it.  Add more oil if the pot is getting dry.  Cook garlic for about one minute.  Add the rinsed rice to the pot.  Stirring constantly, adding more oil if need be.  You want to toast the rice, cooking it till it’s a nice golden to medium brown color (not all of it will get toasted, it’s more of an overall appearance).  This will take around 8-12 minutes.

Slowly add in the tomato sauce, being very careful, because the liquid will splatter.  Add either the chicken bouillon cubes & 4 cups water, or 4 cups chicken broth.  Stir completely to get all the rice covered.  Add the 4 halves of onion.  Allow the mixture to reach a boil.  Once it boils, turn the heat to low & cover.  Cook for an additional 20-30 minutes.  You want to check on it to see how much of the liquid it has absorbed.  You’ll know it’s done when there’s still a little liquid resonating on the sides of the pot, but when you stir it around it disappears.

Remove from the heat, season with salt to taste if you used unsalted chicken broth (no need with chicken bouillon).


…and my daughter LOVES dinner.  When my oldest was a baby and young toddler she loved food.  The only food she rejected by 11 months was broccoli (still does & I still serve it).  I could count on her to fill mama’s affirmation piggy bank when it came to dinner time with her moans of glee.  When she turned 18 months, I thought I had it made because she never turned to the dark side (a.k.a. the food refusal face) and I must be doing something right.  She ate veggies and I rarely gave her sweets, then it was around 22 months or so and little by little…another food was on the banned list.

Now as we celebrate her birthday week (turning three or “free”), she continues to throw a curve ball during dinner time.  As I wait for her to say something like, “This is too gross for me!”  She says, “I like my Posole!”  Yes, I train my daughter in all things food.

A.) Don’t buy eggs with cracks…to which she continued chanting in the store to check-out.

B.) “Add a little cardamom & nutmeg”…she says this during pretend play (or was it while teaching a baking class about cardamom to her papa & auntie?)

C.) I say, “this is Posole, it’s part of your heritage,”…to which she replies, “more pork.”

And to that I say, “Eat more pork and make yourself some Posole!”  It’s like eating pockets of tamales in stew form…doesn’t get much better.

Posole (printable recipe)

Recipe is adapted from Gourmet.  As I said, I find the hominy reminiscient of the cooked masa found in tamales.  This is not overly spicy.  If you avoid spicy food, then add sour cream as dairy lessens heat.  Plus, my 13 month old & almost 3 year old ate it asking for seconds & then some.


2 dried guajillo chiles

2 dried New Mexico chiles

2 cups water

2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 can of stewed tomatoes, chopped

1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped (3/4 cup)

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes (I used about 24 oz)

2 (29 oz) cans white hominy, drained & rinsed


Stem and seed chiles.  Combine with 2 cups water in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer until softened, about 15 minutes.

Transfer chiles, with cooking water, to a blender.  Add remaining ingredients except pork and hominy and blend until smooth (use caution).

Transfer chile puree to a 4-quart heavy saucepan, stir in pork, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.

Add hominy and simmer, covered, until pork is tender, about 30 minutes more.  Skim fat from sauce and season posole with salt to taste.  Serve with sliced cabbage, corn tortillas, sliced radishes, lime wedges, sour cream, fresh cilantro, or tortilla chips.

My Roots

IMG_3194I’m notorious for asking people, “What would be your last supper? I mean if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, or on death row, what would be that last ultimate meal?”  Some people answer with something incredibly elegant (think five stars).  However, I think most people go back to comfort.  In fact, when Ben’s office had a celebration dinner for his five year anniversary, his co-worker called to see about his favorites.  All of them very simple comfort foods (garlic mashed potatoes, steak, chocolate cake with ice cream).

Mine are Mexican comfort foods.  Growing up in Yuma, AZ (a border town) has quintessential Mexican food.  There are the special Mexican restaurants in Yuma, the taco stand 10 miles west from Yuma in Algodones, Mexico or in my adopted family’s home, where Mrs. Carrillo taught me how to make nopales con carne & Mr. Carrillo taught me the value of using salt to suck out the flare of jalapenos on my tongue.  One of my favorites is Machaca, but not machaca huevos.  The best is the machaca burrito from the beloved Chili Pepper (sidenote: it’s great how people who grew up in Yuma and moved away still salivate hearing the words…a B&C burrito (bean & cheese)…and upon return will stop at Chili Pepper before seeing the folks).  The machaca burrito is a savory meat at it’s best.  Truly there is something comforting about sucking out flavorful juices from this slowly simmered shredded beef.

So if I had one last meal, I would definitely have a machaca burrito on the menu.  What would yours be?

Machaca Tacos (printable recipe)

I know many Americans prefer flour tortillas; but, please do yourself a favor and use warmed corn tortillas and you won’t regret it.  However, if you make burritos than use homemade flour tortillas.  Recipe adapted from http://www.texascooking.com

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • juice of two limes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil

Machaca Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lb Flank Steak
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for searing beef.

For the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a bowl then whisk to an emulsion.  Add the beef making sure every piece is evenly coated.  Cover & refrigerate overnight.  Before preparing, drain thoroughly and allow meat to come up to room temperature for about 30 minutes.

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat a few tablespoons of ol over medium-high heat until very hot.  Sear the beef until a rich brown color is developed on all sides, as well as bottom of pan.

When all the beef is browned nicely and removed from the pan, add the onions, peppers and garlic to the hot pan.  Saute for a few minutes then add the remaining ingredients to the pan along with the beef.  Bring to a boil, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer slowly for about 2 1/2 hours.  The meat should be very tender and should easily fall apart when pricked with a fork.

You can either take the meat to a cutting board to pull it apart with forks, or do it right in the pot.  Once you shred it, cook it on simmer for another 30-45 minutes.

Heat the tortillas on stove top for best results.

**I liked mine a bit liquidy, but you can cook in the last part until the liquid is reduced and very thick.