Eating out Mexican

So….imagine you were born and raised in Italy and you travel to the US. Someone invites you out for pizza and when you look at the menu, you notice the Cheeseburger Pizza. Crust, cheese sauce, ground beef and even pickles on top. Depending on how traditional was your upbringing, you might have a moment. Or A Moment.

Food reinventing can be a beautiful thing and there are amazing dishes out there as a result. I’m not a big fan of the crunchy taco, but I love Okinawan Taco Rice. A Mexican hot dog from one of the stands in my hometown, with its carrot slaw, bacon and other yummies is heavenly. Eating at a Mexican restaurant outside of Mexico, is always an experience. Sometimes the experience is exciting, when I find a little gem of a place. And sometimes…..well, let’s just keep it at interesting.

Bear in mind that I grew up in the Northeast part of the country. Think about where you grew up and then about the differences between your surroundings and the other side of your country. Some things might be extremely different. The same applies to Mexico, from its cuisine, to colors, music, speech, etc.

Based on this, it’s very hard to pinpoint what exactly is authentic and what is not.
Am I a chef? Nope.
Am I an authority on Mexican culture? Nope.
Am I an authority on Mexican cuisine? Ha! Nope.
Will I ever eat at places like Taco Bell, Taco John’s, Chipotle, Taco King, etc? Yep. They have food.
Do I fume, hate, b*tch, and otherwise stomp around when I find a non-authentic restaurant? Nope. Mostly, I find them amusing. If the food is good, I’ll continue eating there, I just don’t think of them as “authentic”.

So, why would I venture writing about something I’m not – nor will I ever be – an expert on?
I can only say that when you grow up with something, then someone else makes a mess out of it….it does make you a bit nostalgic to say the least.

Anyway………things that make me smile/frown when visiting a Mexican restaurant outside of Mexico.


Once in a blue moon, I’ll catch the show “House Hunters International”. I like to learn about cultural differences, and the show is for the most part fun. I remember one in particular, where a lady buying a holiday home in Mexico kept turning down perfectly nice houses because they were not “Mexican enough”. She kept looking for the “real Mexican experience”.  She ended up buying a very garishly painted, overly decorated home for about a million dollars. As the credits rolled, she excitedly spoke about finally being to experience the “real Mexico”.

Don’t get me wrong, I love color. The day we finally settle down somewhere post-military, I’d love to have a colorful kitchen with talavera tile. And yes, Mexico is a place full of bright and vibrant colors. Paraphrasing a character from ‘Boondock Saints 2’….”I hail from a colorful people”. BUT there’s a big difference between color and visually assaulting someone.

I’ve walked into places that made me want to turn around and walk out. Add overly loud music and then people who seem to be confused about the difference between Mexico and Spain. Yes, we have a history together. No, we are not the same.


While there are ancestors to the burrito in Mexico,  the behemoth, overstuffed, burrito as the modern world knows them is an American invention.

I think it was 20 years ago that first time I had one. We were in Colorado and this thing landed on my plate. Neither I, nor other Mexican-born people who came along had a clue of what it was. I think the northwestern Mexican states hail the burrito as their  original creation.

So when I look at the menu at an “authentic” Mexican restaurant and burritos are not monopolizing most of the page….smiley face.


Beans are gooooood. And yes, we like refried beans. We also like them whole a lot. We like a variety of bean types. We like them in soups, over rice, on their own, with a sprinkling of pico de gallo and queso fresco……alright, now I’m hungry.
Whenever my only choice of beans at a restaurant are refried beans, greasily oozing over the plate……sad face.



Mmmmmmmmm…….soup. One of my favorite foods. And a favorite in Mexico too. A caldo is basically a heartier soup, and while winter and spring are prime caldo season, some of us will gladly eat a large bowl of it regardless of the temperature outside. Even during the worst part of summer, we’ll sit at the table in flip-flops, sleeveless tanks and shorts, slurping down a bowl and sweating like crazy. A restaurant that offers at least one kind of soup or caldo makes me very happy. Do a Google image search for “Mexican caldo”. You might get hungry.


We like cheese a lot, and it’s present at all tables, from light snacking to main ingredients in our meals. Fresco, Panela, Oaxaca, Asadero, etc, etc. Receiving a plate of food that has American Cheddar cheese, earns a major sad face.


For the most part, that’s about it. I’m not picky about salsas, nor things like tamales (in my mind, anything other than my late Abuelita’s banana leaf wrapped tamales is doomed to failure. It doesn’t matter if the restaurant has magnificent tamales. I’ve eaten them but…..they’re just not the same. Most Mexicans have someone in their family who makes the best tamales and nothing else will do).
I’m not a drinker, but a restaurant that understands that there are more beers in Mexico than Corona is nice. Same goes for regular beverages. Anyone who has a decent horchata or agua de jamaica (slightly sweetened, iced hibiscus tea) gets kudos. The day I find a restaurant outside of Mexico that serves Escuis de Hierro, I might fall in love. Guacamoles with lime in them are not my cup of tea, and it’s always a bonus if I can order in Spanish and be understood.

Funny story…when the Bear and I were still dating, we went to a Mexican restaurant in town. The food was pretty good, the staff was mostly Mexican and at some point, I must have said something in Spanish and the waitress heard me. From that point on, she spoke to me and me alone, ignoring the Bear – who doesn’t speak Spanish -. Everything from “how’s your meal?” to “would he like more water?”. Far from being annoyed, the Bear found it hilarious and has decided that any Mexican restaurant where he gets ignored so they can speak Spanish to me gets extra points. Halfway through our meal, one of the cooks walked out, snuck up to our table and after making sure no one could hear her said: “We got some of the good salsa in the back, would you like some?”. I’m not the greatest spicy eater in the world, so I thanked her but declined and told her the food was great. After she left and I translated to the Bear, he busted out laughing. We went back to that place a few times before we changed duty stations.

So there you have it….going to a Mexican restaurant.

Have a great week!




Music to my ears….

I grew up watching and listening to my Abuelita make bread. The sounds and smells are embeded in my mind. I don’t get to do it often enough these days, but breadmaking is a form of meditation for me.

I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but the video alone is hipnotizing.


Poorman’s Meal. 

I ran into this video last night. My goodness, it’s like watching my Grandma Jennie in the kitchen. She made the best pan fried potatoes and onions in the world.  Her Great Depression tales mixed in with a sprinkling of Norwegian and Swedish were always memorable. 

From what I could see under the main account, Miss Clara passed away in 2013, at the age of 98. Rest in peace, Miss Clara your recipes shall be cooked. Poorman’s meal is on the menu this week. 

The dipped tortilla

The Mighty Enchilada.

You’ve seen them in most Mexican restaurant menus. You probably have eaten them. You might wonder if there’s more to them than just putting a spicy sauce on a tortilla.

There is 😀

You see, the enchilada is both a dish….and one of many variations on a method.

The prefix “en-” in Spanish means “in”.
Take the word enchilada: en + chilada. ‘En’ meaning ‘in’ and ‘chilada’ derived from ‘chile’, basically a sauce made with chilies. So an enchilada, is a tortilla dipped in a chile sauce.

Other dishes using this method:
– Entomatada : Tortilla in a tomato sauce.
– Enfrijolada : Tortilla in a bean sauce.
– Enmolada : Tortilla in a mole sauce.
– Enpipianada : Tortilla in a pipian sauce.
– etc…etc….

While the enchilada is the more popular version abroad, the most common form of these in Mexico is the Entomatada, and along with Sopa Aguada (which will appear later in this blog), a meal that appears at least once a week in most households. It’s also one of my favorite comfort foods.

But before we start….there’s one very important thing: Regardless of which type of sauce you dip your tortillas in, DO NOT, under any circumstances, use a flour tortilla. Just don’t. Corn tortillas are a must. Why?? They just are. Sorry if I sound snippy, but……yeah. Use a flour tortilla and you’ll get stared at by every single Mexican in the room.

Don’t say I failed to warn you……. 😉


The bits and pieces (see Notes below). 

  • Corn tortillas.
  • Tomato sauce.
  • Oil.
  • Crumbled cheese.
  • Optional: beans, finely chopped onion, shredded lettuce/cabbage, crema (or sour cream), avocado, salsa, etc.

How to

  1. Warm up the sauce.
  2. Heat up about 1/2-1 inch of oil in a pan. Stick the edge of a tortilla to test for temperature. If it sizzles, you’re good to go.
  3. Fry the tortillas one at a time for a few seconds on each side. You’re aiming for a nice, soft, pliable tortilla. Flip them carefully. Drain them on paper towels.
  4. Dip each tortilla quickly in the sauce to coat and stack/fold/roll them onto a dish or plate.
  5. Once all rolled, pour a little more sauce over the top and sprinkle with the cheese.
  6. Garnish and serve.


  • DON’T use a flour tortilla. Sorry, had to repeat it.
  • Stuffing your entomatadas (or any other type of dipped tortilla) is entirely optional. We usually don’t.
  • Plain tomato sauce works. In Mexico, Knorr has a product called ‘Caldillo’ sold in cartons that we use all the time. It’s basically tomato sauce with a bit of salt, parsley, onion and just a dash of garlic. I’ve yet to find the same thing in the US, so I just improvise with a large can of tomato sauce and spices.
  • Regardless of what kind of sauce you use for your tortillas, make sure they are on the watery side. A thick sauce will make your entomadas all pastey. This goes double if you use a bean sauce, as it thickens considerably as it cools down. I’ve seen bean variations, where people roll up the fried tortillas without dipping them in the sauce, then the sauce is spooned on top.
  • Crumbled queso fresco is the most used cheese for these. The closest cheese in taste found in the US would be feta. If you can’t find either, a shredded mozzarella or monterrey jack will do.
  • Why fry the tortillas? Two reasons: it makes them pliable and the thin coating of oil keeps them from getting crazy soggy after dipped in the sauce.
  • You can use tongs to flip the tortillas, just be aware that as they soften, they might easily break. I use a two hand approach: a  hamburger turner to lift them off the oil in one hand and the next tortilla in the other to sandwich the fried one against the turner. I let the tortilla drip as much as possible, then transfer to paper towels. When the last tortilla is in, I use the turner plus the back of a soup spoon.
  • Can’t be bothered with frying and rolling each tortilla by hand? Stack your tortillas and slice them into 1-2 inch pieces. Fry them in batches a little longer than you’d fry the singles. You’re looking for snack tortilla chip consistency. Let them drip over paper towels. Heat up your sauce in a pot. Add a handful of the tortilla chips, mix around and use a slotted spoon to fish them out and onto a dish. Repeat until you have them all coated. If needed, add more sauce on top, sprinkle with cheese and voila! You have Chilaquiles.

Quick Charros

Frijoles Charros (Charro or Cowboy Beans) are a staple of Mexican cooking. They are to Mexican barbecues, what baked beans are to American ones. But, while baked beans have a tendency to be on the sweet side (at least the ones I’ve tasted), frijoles charros are on the spicy side.

There’s many recipes for making these, as everybody has their own palate. This is just a quick version.

I started out with dry beans, but if you don’t have the chance to get them cooked, a few cans of beans will work in a hurry. Pinto beans are the norm here.


  • About one pound of dry pinto beans.
  • 1 package of Mexican chorizo.
  • Half an onion, chopped.
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies.
  • a good couple pinches of ground cumin.
  • Broth, as needed (chicken or pork, your choice).
  • Dry parsley.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • Serving garnishes to taste: sour cream, crumbled queso fresco, lime juice, pico de gallo, avocado, tortilla chips.


  1. If using dry beans, pick them clean, rinse and cook them with a bit of salt, pepper and a bay leaf. I like to leave them cooking overnight in a crockpot. You can also cook them ahead and freeze them.
  2. If using canned beans, drain the liquid off and rinse them well.
  3. In a large pot, heat up a tablespoon of oil on medium heat and add the chorizo. Break it up as it cooks. Add the onion and garlic.
  4. Once the chorizo is starting to crisp, add your beans (and their cooking liquid if you made them fresh. If you used canned, add water or broth to compensate. Your ingredients should be covered). Add the can of tomatoes (with juices), your spices and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let them cook until all flavors are well combined and the beans are mushy soft.
  6. Serve in bowls, with your choice of garnishes.


  • Mexican chorizo is different from other sausages with the same name, which are cured. It is a loose, raw pork and spice mixture caracterized by red color. You can find it in casings (which you’ll have to remove before cooking), or in trays as you’d find ground beef. For the most part, they’re usually sold in the same amount (10-16 oz). You can also find beef and soy chorizo out there if you want to substitute.
  • Other things sometimes added to frijoles charros: bacon, sliced hot dogs/sausages. Sautee them separatedly before adding to the pot. Also, serrano or jalapeño chiles.
  • As with all soups/stews, this tastes amazing the next day.
  • Feel free to skim the fat off the top as it cooks.
  • Chorizo can be salty. Keep this in mind as you adjust your spices.
  • ENJOY!

Of Food, logs and food logs….

Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor, nutritionist, nurse, physical trainer, nor anyone else you can think of who can give medical/nutritional/physical advice on a professional level. The views and experiences in this post are entirety personal. Please consult a professional before making decisions that will affect your health. 


The story can be long or it can be short. And sometimes it can be both.

It is not an uncommon reality for many women today. I have PCOS (poly cystic ovary syndrome). I’ve been battling it most of my life, between meds, diets and lifestyle changes.

After two miscarriages, I was tested very early on in my third pregnancy, confirmed for gestational diabetes and placed on a very strict diet, blood testing and med regimen for most of the 9 months. I started my pregnancy at 227 lbs, arrived at delivery day with 226 and weighed in at 204 after baby.

One thing that helped me a lot during my pregnancy to keep on top of things, was a food log. And, although calories are important, in this case it was the carbs that were my main enemy. So I kept track of the second and kept the first in the back burner (my nutritionist approved). It was hard trying to find the right combination of foods that wouldn’t cause a blood sugar spike, along with the meds that would help. Add pregnancy hormones to the mix, and my pregnancy wasn’t much fun. But EB makes the whole ordeal worth it. 

At this point, the facts stand as such: I’m 5’3″ and weigh 220 lbs. I’ve gained most of the weight back and I definitely feel it. 

So I’ve decided to make an effort and rerun to the food log. I threw it out after delivery, because as many mothers out there can confirm….it’s hard enough finding the time to eat while taking care of a newborn, much less the time to write it down. 

I know there’s newfangled apps that help you keep track of food. I’ve used a couple in the past, but I find them a little too constricting. These days, I use them only from a research point of view (looking up brands, specific foods or creating ‘recipes’ to see what’s their combined nutritional value). 

I’ll be returning to the style of food log I followed while pregnant (minus the blood tests). Because in my history of dealing with PCOS, it has been the one thing that helped me the most. 

My old logs were kept in Moleskines. I filled three of them up in little less than 9 months (I was crazy detailed, haha). 
I’ll be using my Hobonichi this time around so I can keep everything together from a planner point of view. 

Papas con chorizo

There are many dishes in Mexican cuisine that can serve a variety of purposes.

I bring you as an example, Papas con Chorizo. It’s a very basic dish that can be used in tacos, as a breakfast side, empanadas, sandwiches, etc.  When Taquizas happen, papas con chorizo are a vital element on the table.

What’s a taquiza? A taco potluck. The rules are basic: the host buys all tortillas and sometimes salsas and garnishes (though sometimes those are divided amongst guests too). Guests bring the taco fillings. Taco fillings are wide and varied: carnitas, papas con chorizo, scrambled eggs, pork cracklings in salsa verde, all sorts of grilled seasoned meats, etc. If you can chop it enough to be bite-sized in a taco, you can probably use it.

Need to clean out your fridge? Have a small leftover taquiza at home. Go wild 😀



  • Potatoes, cubed. Skin on or off is up to you.
  • Chorizo (see Notes below).
  • About a tablespoon of oil.
  • Half an onion, chopped finely.
  • About 2-4 garlic cloves, sliced.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Dry parsley.


  1. Put potatoes in a pot with some lightly salted water and set to cook.
  2. In a wide skillet, heat up the oil. Add the onions, garlic and chorizo. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the chorizo as it cooks. As the liquid evaporates and the fat renders out it will slowly start frying a bit. Stir often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.
  3. When the potatoes are just about cooked, scoop them onto the skillet. Save the boiling water they cooked in, in case you need to add some moisture to the dish.
  4. Fold the potatoes and chorizo until well combined. Don’t stir too forcefully or the potatoes will break apart too much.
  5. Taste the dish. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle on some dry parsley and fold in. If the mix looks too dry, you can spoon on some of the potato cooking water.
  6. Continue cooking, allowing the mixture to crisp a little, without burning.
  7. Enjoy!


  • Papas con chorizo means “chorizo and potatoes”.
  • There’s more than one type of chorizo. Many are cured and can be sliced. The one we’re working with in this dish is Mexican chorizo. It is a raw, loose mixture of ground pork and spices, characterized by a bright reddish color. It is traditionally made with pork, though you can find beef and soy varieties as well.


Quick chicken and peppers

Every week we plan a menu and almost every week, we have a moment when we run out of ideas. So we just write ‘chicken and veg’ in the empty spot. We never have a set idea of what this will be and it usually gets improvised on the day we’re having it for dinner.
This one came out better than I expected, so I thought I’d share.


  • About 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
  • 1 large red bell pepper.
  • 1 large green bell pepper.
  • 1 med-large onion.
  • 4 garlic cloves.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Your favorite seasoning blend.


  • Heat oven to 375°F. 
  • Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, your seasoning blend and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss well and set aside. 
  • Roughly chop the peppers and onions, then slice the garlic. Toss all together with olive oil, salt, pepper and seasoning blend. Spread vegetables on a baking dish and put in the oven. 
  • Heat up a skillet and sear chicken breasts on each side. You want a good char on them. 
  • Place chicken on top of the vegetables in the oven. 
  • Bake, uncovered for 40-50 min. Ensure chicken is cooked thoroughly before serving  
  • Serve with your favorite side. The pan juices are pretty good over it all. 


  • While I’m not a big fan of big store pre-packaged seasoning blends, I used Mrs. Dash’s Fiesta Lime on this dish. I like the flavor combination. 
  • Have leftovers? Chop the chicken in bite size pieces and make yourself a chicken and peppers taco. Or quesadilla. Yum!

Buen Provecho!

Caldo de Pollo

Do you remember that scene from “Kung Fu Panda” where the Goose says that they’re “noodle people. Broth runs in our veins”?

Growing up, we weren’t noodle people, but broth did indeed run through our veins. We…are Soup People. 

If you type “Caldo de pollo” in a search engine, you will get many variations on this dish.  It’s a popular comfort food, and as such, there are as many ways of making this as there are people who love eating it. The one I’m sharing here is the one I grew up with and there are not enough words to describe how much I love a bowl of Caldo. I make it when it’s cold, when its snowy, when any of us is feeling sick. It’s a permanent addition to our menu planning. 

I apologize for the lack of measurements in this recipe, but the amounts really depend on what you want to put in your bowl. Usually, I chop everything up and put it on the table, then let everybody mix their own and ladle on the broth. Also, after the initial bowl, I leave the pot of broth on a low simmer so it stays nice and hot for those who want seconds. 

I would recommend using a soup bowl that is slightly larger than the average.


  • Chicken broth (homemade, store-bought, your choice. Sometimes you’re in a rush). 
  • Cooked rice (white or brown, your pick).
  • Cooked chicken, shredded (a rotisserie chicken will do on busy nights). 

All of the following are optional garnishes. Mix and match to your heart’s content:

  • Tomato, finely diced.
  • Onions, finely chopped. 
  • Cilantro, chopped.
  • Lime juice.
  • Avocado. 
  • Chile piquín or diced chiles. 
  • Salsa. 


  1. Bring broth up to a boil.
  2. In a large soup bowl, add about two scoops of rice.
  3. Add shredded chicken, plus your garnishes.
  4. Pour hot broth on top of the whole thing.
  5. Season to taste.
  6. ENJOY!!


  • Because the garnish ingredients are cooler, your broth should be really hot, almost boiling when you pour it on top. Be careful with that first spoonful!
  • I have a friend who is allergic to chicken. This soup will work with turkey too (holiday leftovers! Yay!). 

From the Archives – “Life in cooking”

I wrote this about ten years ago, while still single. It’s funny, reading it now, that I pondered children at the end. And now I have a bouncing Energizer Baby. 

I can’t exactly remember when I became interested in cooking. In one of her books, Stephanie Pearl-Mcphee says that she knit constantly around her daughters and one day they just picked up needles and gave it a try.

I think something like that must’ve happened while I was growing up. Cooking was a very important part of my family. Not to mention that in some cases, you were expected to cook, no choice about it. But more on that later.

There’s a very cute picture of me as a little girl sitting on the kitchen counter, in a cute little dress, stirring something in a bowl with a spoon. My guess….cookie dough. Or something yummy like that. I will be forever grateful for the fact that my mother got me involved in her daily cooking. I never had any fancy formal training for the kitchen. I just watched, practiced and learned.

One of the earliest memories of cooking I have comes from my Abuelita Tere, my paternal grandmother. Mom dropped me and big bro at her house so she could go work and we spent the morning being children, running around like crazy and all. I think I was around 7. At some point, Abuelita asked me to slice up some olives for her, as she started her afternoon cooking. She handed me a jar of olives and a sharp knife. No explanation whatsoever, just the need to have the olives sliced. I nicked myself so many times while slicing them that I lost count. Abuelita never took the knife away from me, just told me to “quit playing” and get the job done. Over the years, she would have other chores for me that involved me sticking my hands into near-boiling water, using sharp knives, etc. I’m sure that many people would consider that cruel nowadays. Personally, I loved it. Yeah, I might have complained, but man, those were good days.

She even taught me to bake bread. I can still picture her, measuring the ingredients – always by weight – the care with which she did everything. Her hands kneading the dough. To this day, I love the feel of my hands after I’m done kneading the dough. They remind me of her hands. The smell of bread rising. Of bread baking. That first bite into bread fresh out of the oven. I think anyone who was around her when she kneaded her dough can remember the sound. She also had a special wooden board she kneaded her dough on – made by my Abuelito -. That board is now cured with decades of oil. I love it.

As time went by, my mother started trusting me with more things around the kitchen. I went from mixing things in bowls, to decorating food, to preparing salads, to taking on the task of making the daily meal. As a teenage girl, it was a matter of infinite pride, being asked to make a meal to feed the whole family. I still love cooking with my mother. No matter how far away we are, or how many years have gone by. There’s nothing like being in the kitchen with my mother. Moving around, preparing ingredients, seasonings, the sounds and smells, the conversation, the bond between mother and daughter.

It is happening a lot that people don’t allow their children into the kitchen because “it’s dangerous”. I think this is sad.

Yes…..the kitchen can be dangerous. Heck, I once sliced the very tip of my left index finger off. It was left hanging and after the shock of it, I just flipped it back, waited until the bleeding stopped, iced it and bandaged it. I got a lime popsicle and sat in the kitchen, watching my mother cook. I was back in the kitchen the next day – would’ve been back the same day, but any pressure on my finger would re-open the wound).

ANYWAY…..yes. It can be dangerous. But dang it…….IT’S SO MUCH FUN. You’ll get your knicks, burns, etc. You’ll learn from your mistakes and keep at it. You’ll burn food, cook things that not even the family dog would eat, and learn from that as well. The art of cooking should not be lost. Not just because of how amazing it is to create something from scratch – probably the same reason I like knitting and crocheting -, but also for the pride of knowing you’ve created something to feed yourself and your loved ones. For the joy of knowing that what you’re putting into your body is nourishing and good.

It can also result in some very interesting moments when you’re teaching others to cook. I cook by intuition most of the time. I got my brother frustrated when he asked me how much salt to put in the picadillo and I just poured some in my hand and said “this much”.

I’ll never be a professional cook. I wouldn’t know the difference between haute cuisine ingredients even if they stared me in the eye and introduced themselves. But I like to think that I can cook well enough to feed my loved ones.

Someday, I’ll have children. And they’ll be more than welcome into the kitchen. The day my children leave home, they will receive a copy of the family recipes. By gosh, they’ll know how to feed themselves, even if all they have for a stove is a toaster oven or a microwave.