Cafe de Olla – Mexican Spiced Coffee

The pumpkin spice latte in Starbucks is back. I am a big fan.  It taste like pumpkin pie and it is coffee. What is there not to love?  It is delicious, but apparently some people, according to the internet, are annoyed and baffled by the whole pumpkin spice obsession.  Well, if you are one of those people and are looking to do things a little different I have a great coffee option for you! Cafe de Olla, which literally means “coffee from the pot”, is a traditional Mexican coffee that uses cloves and cinnamon just like the pumpkin spice latte. It is traditionally made in a clay pot, hence the name, but being that I am 2nd generation Mexican I used a normal pot. It is made with the Mexican flavors of fall: cloves, cinnamon, piloncillo and orange peel. Mmmm…I can smell it as I type! Piloncillo is whole cane sugar. It is called panela in Colombia. You can find it in the Hispanic aisle by the bagged spices. You can use brown sugar as a substitute. I hope you enjoy this recipe. Maybe one day we will see Cafe de Olla at Starbucks!

I used 4 small pieces of piloncillo. Sometimes they are found in 4 inch cone shapes. Use 1 piece if you have the large cone piloncillo.
I used 4 small pieces of piloncillo. Sometimes they are found in 4 inch cone shapes. Use 1 piece if you have the large cone piloncillo.

Cafe de Olla: Makes 5 servings

5 cups of water

1/2 cup  ground coffee (I used instant ground coffee Nescafé)

1 cinnamon stick

4 cloves

1/2 peel of orange (more if you prefer)

4 oz piloncillo  (1/2 cup of brown sugar can be used as a substitute)

milk or cream if you don’t like black coffee

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a saucepan (or olla if you have one).
  2. Lower the heat and add coffee, piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and add 1 cup of cold water. Strain before serving and enjoy! No need to add sugar, but you may add milk or cream if you like.
Cafe de Olla- Mexican Spiced Coffee
Cafe de Olla- Mexican Spiced Coffee

I want to thank those who have sent me messages after they made one of the recipes. It makes me SO HAPPY!

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Tostadas: A Happy Meal for Picky Families

I love making tostadas. They are easy to make and so delicious! They are perfect for big crowds or for families where everyone seems to have different preferences. Family members can decide how they want to make their tostada and everyone is happy! Yes, everyone happy and eating at dinner is possible! What a concept!  I have a son who is an extremely picky eater. It started at 14 months while he was recovering from Hand Foot and Mouth disease. My little boy, who previously would eat everything under the sun (fruits, veggies, sauces), started to drop all foods until he was only eating crunchy, dry foods like breads, crackers and cereals.  After an evaluation when he was 2 years old we were told that his picky eating was due to sensory issues. Now he is 4 and a half and we have come a long way. A method called “food chaining” started us off on a path to expanding the foods he would eat, but when that was not enough my husband had to be extra persistent and stern with him.  It was a constant daily battle. Some say it is best not to battle with kids about food, but when your son is to the point that he is only drinking liquids one will do whatever it takes! For so long we played by the rules given to us by pediatrician and occupational therapist, just ignore it and he will eat when he is hungry, but our boy went months without dinner and did not care. Thank God we are in a different place now.

Tostadas are one of the foods my son never had a problem eating. The trick was getting him to put something on top.  For a long time the only foods he would allow to touch are peanut butter and toast. One day in hopes of teaching my son about his Mexican heritage and perhaps getting him to eat something different I prepared all of the tostada ingredients and displayed them on top of the counter. I showed him the tostada and explained to him all the things that could go on a tostada: beans, meat, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, avacado, salsa and lime. I asked him what he would like on his tostada. He replied “peanut butter”. I am serious my gringo boy said that! Ugh! Not only did I suck at getting my kid to eat, but my son’s lack of Latino culture awareness was never more obvious then in that moment. I impatiently told him that tostadas don’t have peanut butter and to please choose something from the counter to put on his tostada! He chose cheese. I asked him to choose two items at least.  He chose cheese and ground beef! Yay! Since that day tostadas have become one of my family’s favorite dinner meals. I hope this simple recipe brings your family peace and happiness during dinner time as it has mine!

Ground Beef Tostadas: Makes about 10 tostadas which serves 4.

Tostada Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef (you can substitute for ground turkey too)

1/2 tsp of each: pepper, salt, cumin and garlic powder (fresh garlic or dried minced is ok). *This combination of seasoning will bring authentic Mexican flavor to any meat.

1 can pinto beans

2 tbsp oil

2 cups of icburg lettuce thinly sliced

Bag of tostadas

3/4 cup Sour Cream

1 tbsp milk

10 oz of Queso fresco or mozzarella (they are totally different cheeses but my kids won’t eat Mexican cheese)

Store bought salsa or homade pico de gallo salsa. Recipe is below

Pico de gallo salsa:

1 cup diced tomato

1/2 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced jalapeno (I used pickled jalapeno)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 or 2 limes.

Salt

  1. Tostadas need a salsa on top. You can use a store brought salsa or you can make a pico de gallo salsa from scratch. It is the most basic of all Mexican salsas in my opinion. Dice all the veggies and mix. Add chopped cilantro, juice of limes and salt. Stir and let flavors mingle.

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2) Next, mix cumin, salt, pepper and garlic. Place ground beef in a pan with medium heat. Add the seasoning to meat. Stir to evenly coat meat and crumble the beef. Cook until meat is no longer pink and is cooked through. If your beef is still chunky you can use a potato masher to break the pieces.

Mexican Seasoning= Cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Use this and don't ever buy Mexican seasoning packets again.
Mexican Seasoning= Cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Use this and don’t ever buy Mexican seasoning packets again.

3) In a sauce pan warm oil in medium heat. When oil is hot add can of pinto beans. Once they boil mash with a potato masher.

Mash the beans with potato masher
Mash the beans with potato masher

4) Wash and thinly slice lettuce.

5) Pour 3/4 cup of sour cream into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and a pinch of salt. Mix with a fork. Now you have silky Mexican style sour cream with the perfect texture for drizzling. My mom taught me this 🙂

6) Crumble cheese if you are using the Mexican Queso Fresco

7) Display everything on your counter and tell each family member they must choose at least two items (on the counter) that they would like on their tostada. Sprinkle each item on the tostada. Make sure to only use about 2 tablespoons of each ingredients so that your tostada does not end up being too heavy and break. This is a pet peeve of my husband. He also hates that the tostada is too wide and hurts the edges of his mouth, lol. I buy smaller tostadas now and he is happy (sigh).

Tostada toppings: Refried beans, ground beef, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and salsa
Tostada toppings: Refried beans, ground beef, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and salsa
The tostada on the left belongs to my daughter (she used 4 toppings), the tostada to the right is my son's (he used 2 toppings)
The tostada on the left belongs to my daughter (she used 4 toppings), the tostada to the right is my son’s (he used 2 toppings)
They are sooo excited to start building their tostadas!
They are sooo excited to start building their tostadas!
This is my tostadas. I used ALL toppings!
These are my tostadas. I used ALL toppings!

Gorditas de Harina

Gorditas de harina are round individual sweet breads that taste like vanilla and cinnamon. They look like small pancakes, but they are hard like bread.  They are a comfort food that is perfect with tea, coffee or milk, not to mention, they make your home smell like heaven! You can eat them anytime as a snack. They are pretty filling so they are great for camping trips, road trips, hiking, etc. Eating them brings back memories of our family road trips from Chicago to Durango Mexico.  It would take us three days to drive 29 hours!  My mom would make these gorditas, and we would eat them as snacks during the long ride. On the way back to Chicago from Mexico, my step grandma would give us gorditas de cuajada, which are made of a cheese called cuajada (similar to ricotta cheese). The gorditas de cuajada are not as sweet as the gorditas de harina. They have more of an acquired taste, but I miss them. I will do some investigating and hopefully I can share the recipe to gorditas de cuajada soon. For now, I hope you enjoy the recipe translation and review of gorditas de harina that I found at http://magicasprincesas.blogspot.com .

The reason I searched the internet for recipe was because the recipe my mom gave me would never come out right. It is one of those things that she does by intuition, and apparently the author of this recipe does as well. They both stated to use a little milk, but could not specify what that meant! After my second attempt I finally figured it out and I am sharing the secret amount with you! These came out tasting exactly like I remember them. My kids enjoyed them and I hope you enjoy them too!

Ingredients

4 cups of flour

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 tbs cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbs vanilla

1 1/4 cup of boiled milk (you may need 1 1/2 cups)

Directions:

Bring milk to boil in a pot. Mix flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon, baking powder and vanilla with your hands. Gradually add warm milk and continue mixing with your hands. I used 1 1/4 of milk but you can use a little more. When dough is soft and not sticking to your fingers you can either cover it in plastic or cover it with a towel. Let it sit for at least 1 hour. Heat a griddle with medium heat. Roll out dough with a rolling pin. It should be thin (1/8 inch). If it is too thick the center will not cook without burning the outside. Next, you can cut out circles using a cookie cutter or bowl. Spray griddle with cooking spray and place gorditas on griddle. Turn them over after a 6-7 minutes. They will be medium brown like a pancake. Leave them on the griddle until the center is cooked through. Mine took a little long to cook through. I suspect it was because I used an electric griddle. You may have to leave yours less or more time. Break one to make sure it is heated through. Enjoy!

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Passing On The Legacy Of Flavors

My mom is an amazing cook, who has spoiled me with delicious food, and is the person I credit for my love of cooking. Now, I have my own kids, and sharing the flavors of my childhood with them brings me great pleasure.  As a 1st generation Mexican American, food and music are the only two things that remain of my culture. I know Spanish as well, but I tend to only use it when needed. My thoughts and dreams are in English but my taste buds crave saltly, spicy, sour and sweet all in one bite and I am only inspired to sing when I hear Spanish lyrics. That is my reality. Who knows what parts of the Latino culture will remain in my 2nd generation Mexican/Colombian American children? So far I am doing a terrible job in the language and music department so that leaves me with food.  It is my mission to pass on the biggest treasure of my family and culture to my children: cooking! I will share these recipes with you. I hope they help you reproduce flavors of your childhood, or maybe help you create new flavors and traditions in your family.

I will share family recipes and also recipes that I will translate from the internet.  You see, many “Mexican” recipes on the internet are modified to the point that they don’t look anything like what they are suppose to be. I am sure they are delicious, but what the internet is passing off as enchildadas is in reality just a tortilla casserole. If all I have to pass on to my children, as part of their heritage, is food then I want the recipes to be as authentic as possible! Sometimes in order to get an authentic recipe you have to do your search in Spanish. Makes sense.  Spanish recipes can be difficult to follow since the author usually uses the metric system (ain’t nobody got time for that), or they tend to leave out details assuming you are already familiar with cooking techniques. I am very excited to translate internet recipes and share my family recipes. I hope you find it helpful. If there is a particular dish you want me to share please leave a comment.

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