Sundays Are For Spanish: Foodie or Not?

As I sat and pondered my garden this morning, my stomach growled. Coffee just wasn’t cuttin’ it. I’m not a big eater and never have been. As an adult, I’ve barely managed to make it over a hundred pounds, except for during pregnancy. It’s partly genetic, partly my diet. I love my fiber, yogurt, and a good pasta but I don’t usually think about food for enjoyment. My husband, on the other hand, who is Mexican American, is almost obsessed with it. We often talk about what he’s eaten on the road. We fight about it when he’s home. But our best memories are in the kitchen, laughing about the cow tongue tacos we tricked my mother into eating, making tamales for the first time, watching our son spit out barely picante salsa.

Now, being a white person, and this probably won’t surprise many people of color, I haven’t grown up with a love for food. No one in my family is a “natural cook” or particularly likes the ritual of preparing, serving, and eating a hot meal with family or friends. I don’t want to make generalizations about any group of people, but take what you will from this. Nevertheless, I’m no “foodie.”

I’d like to say that I can cook. But I’ve had to study it and am constantly asking my husband, who cooks without fear or hesitation, for advice. However, planning and executing a meal is, in my husband’s opinion, my responsibility. El machísmo of my husband’s culture is something I have had to adjust to, but its present in any man’s ethnic background, so, whatever.

I started cooking and though I’m not always interested in eating, (a necessary, biological process for me) I’m always friggin’ hungry now.

My husband makes the best guacamole, carefully cubing the fresh avocados (not homegrown) rather than scooping it all out and mashing everything together. He leaves in the pit because it helps to keep it fresh. This guacamole casera takes a bit longer to make, but he does it for me because he knows I love it.

Maybe I’m enjoying this food stuff because I’ve achieved a pretty good tamal (aka tamales). The secret to the success of my tamales is a mystery to me, but it might be because I mix the maza (dough) by hand (por mano), something my husband insisted I do. It helps to make your own chicken broth, too, but I’m really no expert.

I think you can learn a lot by accepting and living with people of other backgrounds or cultural upbringings (I won’t call it “race” because there’s only the human one). Most important of those lessons being to eat with your family (familia) and cook something once in a while. Whatever the case, I’m lucky to be where I’m at, to have learned what I can.

And all that other inspirational jazz. I’m off to eat.

This is an upcycled post, meaning if you’ve seen it before its because it was published before. I may have edited or changed parts or all of the original post.

A Reminiscing Essay

With the spirit in mind that this blog is a record, a series of essays is to follow, written mostly for my own benefit. Maybe they’ll strike you in some way. This is the story of the first meal I ever cooked. I was 22, engaged, and living in a hotel room while my fiance worked construction during the day.

I had no tools, no pots or pans. I take that back. I had one knife, a cup, a plastic cutting board, and an electric griddle with deep sides and a glass lid. Our spice rack resided above the television on a shelf of the TV stand/dresser. Peanut butter, coffee filters, hot sauce, and the like were stored there also. I was pregnant with Sergio.

Now, I had only cooked a steak once or twice and though I know how to throw a salad together under any circumstances, that was about all I knew how to do. I had just learned to make guacamole actually, so I had about two recipes under my belt. I decided to make steaks and guacamole. Also I made Angel’s food cake, but that’s a no-brainer; I don’t count it as a recipe anymore.

I marinated the steaks in Caribbean Jerk Sauce (it’s in the dressings aisle, I think) by filling a plastic bag with the meat and the sauce. Then I stuffed the plastic bag into the mini fridge that our room also included. Bella was alive then, and was roaming free in the room (we paid extra for that). She reclined in an arm chair while I diced tomato, onion, and cilantro by the sink. I longed for more space. But there wasn’t any to be had next to the shallow sink basin and our accoutrements of the shower pushed neatly to the side.

I seared the steaks in the griddle thing and they turned out okay. We ate the steaks and the guacamole on the double bed. Only I had dessert. Bella had some scraps. S. drank a beer. I laid awake that night with insomnia and a sense of pride for having served my first meal.

There’s a few changes I would make now, but that night we ate good.

Baking has Begun

Photo by Cathy Scola from Gettyimages

I have begun to bake! As a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show, I’ve had an interest in baking for awhile. However, I lacked confidence to begin.

Well, I have successfully baked two cakes recently and the feeling of having conquered my fears is great. I have a lot to learn about baking, but at least I’ve begun the journey.

Do you like to bake? What is your favorite treat to make?

Eggs for Breakfast

As someone with a sweet tooth, (it may be more like the fang of a saber-tooth tiger) I love breakfast. There is always syrup, fruit, sugar, butter, and my life’s essence: coffee. Cooking breakfast has its challenges, however. The pancake bubbles never seem to do what the packaging claims they will, bacon is a splattering mess, and omelettes require chopped ingredients.

Eggs have become my go-to breakfast. Eggs are relatively easy (after you learn a few important tips) and there are several ways of making them. Before I begin, I will say this: don’t ask about poached eggs. My mother has sworn to me that they can be made in the microwave, but more eggs have exploded in my microwave than I care to admit. Terrified of third-degree burns, I say “Poach your own eggs.” Poaching an egg is an enigma to me, and hardly worth the trouble.

On the other hand, anyone would eat my scrambled eggs. They’ve caused fights between my son and my nephew, a child that has refused scrambled eggs many times in the past. Here are the tricks:

  1. Buy cast iron. Seriously, it works like they say it does. There IS care involved, so don’t buy cast iron if you’re not ready to work. Cooking with cast iron also takes some practice because the heat distribution is different than the frying pans we’re used to. I bought my favorite from an antique store, but there are many on the market that are well-seasoned and not too heavy to carry. The particular cast iron that I use for eggs (I have several cast iron pans, including a dutch oven from Holland) is small and well-used. This brings me to another important point: I only use the egg pan for eggs, and my other pans for searing or frying meat. Now that we have discussed the means of cooking, here is how I do it.
  2. You may have read that oil is needed to cook eggs. This is entirely correct. I don’t use butter because it always burns the eggs. Fill the bottom of the pan with oil and wait for it to heat. I watch for the smoke or pass my hand over the pan to feel for the heat. You may be thinking: that’s a lot of oil. Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and you shouldn’t have to worry so much. When everything feels hot enough (Cast iron does get hot, so be careful), you can toss in your eggs. Everything should sizzle, a sound I’ve come to love because it means I’ve got the temperature right.
  3. Now, I’ve been forced to learn to cook eggs sunny-side up. This is my least (after poaching) favorite way to cook eggs. This is the only way my husband likes them, however, so I have practiced to the point of near-consistency. To cook eggs with an unbroken yolk on top, follow the steps to follow. If you’re ready for scrambled eggs, follow your process for those and continue on (I don’t add milk or cheese to scrambled eggs, only salt and pepper. However you do it is just fine, I’m sure).
  4. Anyway, once your oil is HOT (heat is even more important for eggs sunny-side-up because you want a nice “sear” on the bottom of the egg. It won’t be flipped so your egg will cook from below), crack in your eggs. One side note: crack your eggs in a separate bowl, please. You can fish out shells that way and it’s not so messy on the stove-top. The eggs will sizzle for a time. Have some patience and watch for the white part to turn opaque. To keep that yolk from breaking, put down the spatula and use a spoon to baste the yolk with oil from your pan. Sprinkle black pepper on top and, once you’re sure the egg white is cooked, carefully remove from the pan. That’s it. It has taken years for me to perfect my eggs, but that’s all there is to it.

There are a few other pieces of advice that I have. One, eggs should be served with something, so start toasting bread when your eggs go in the pan. Two, omelettes are much easier if you use pico de gallo from the night before. Three, clean-up is something that I think, especially with eggs, should be performed throughout the task of making breakfast, so put your bowls containing raw egg into the sink as soon as you can. Finally, eggs are tricky and these tips don’t ALWAYS work. Sometimes the oil isn’t as hot as you think, or a slight breeze breaks your carefully guarded yolk. Life gets in the way too, and she’s not a good cook. Once, black peppercorns spilled into the entire pan of eggs I was making when the top of the grinder broke off. Another time, the salt turned them wonky. Still, eggs are good, easy fun for breakfast.

Lemonade Without the Plastic, Please

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I love you, Simply Limeade, but I don’t know what to do with the plastic bottles that contain your citric concoction. I have used the bottles as watering cans, but inevitably I throw them away because they’re not the most visually appealing garden accessory. This irks me, because I am concerned with stretching the lifespan of all plastic that enters my home (I paint old jars or coffee canisters to use as miscellaneous receptacles, cart compost to the pile in single-use plastic containers, and let my son use old shampoo bottles to practice ‘pouring’ and ‘dumping’ skills).

A few weeks ago, my husband suggested we make limeade the ‘real’ way, by squeezing our own limes and adding the juice to water with some sugar. I shrugged my assent, and gathered supplies. Lime and lemon are reversed in English and Spanish. Lime is limón and lemon is lima. Limonada is a beverage made from either, but my husband is usually referring to limes. When in doubt, you can always use colors to describe the correct fruit (amarillo vs. verde). So, I asked my husband to run for a bag of each, interested in trying homemade limeade and lemonade. When my husband returned with one of those mesh bags (made from plastic, I fear) of limes, I decided that I would find a way to make the beverages without touching a single plastic bottle or bag.

This may seem an obvious way of making lemonade, but as a millennial, I have been trained to search for the cheapest, most convenient options when grocery-shopping for my family. This often means that I buy food wrapped in plastic packaging. That’s all there is anymore. These days, we have to seriously commit to leaving the plastic behind. I am doing this in small ways, one change at a time. Limeade without plastic is my most recent exciting discovery on my way to a sustainable life. I am inventing my own solutions.

What You Will Need

  1. In order for this recipe to matter as an alternative to plastics, some items are necessary. I have a plastic pitcher, but I stopped using it when my mother brought home an authentic, Blenko glass water pitcher. It is a beautiful green, pictured right. I am lucky to have received this gift, but other glass pitchers are easily found. This pitcher is what inspired me to continue my green-living journey with ambition.
  2. Gathering the limes yourself, and placing them into a reusable, preferably cotton or canvas, sack eliminates the need for those plastic, pull-down bags at the store (My worst enemy. I despise to see them on my counter). I found sustainable options on Amazon.
  3. Visit your local co-op to find vegetables and fruit that are not trucked from miles away to your nearest Walmart. I have yet to see limes or lemons at the co-op where I live, but you never know who is growing what. If you have a bright green thumb, and maybe a greenhouse, you just might be able to grow your own in a few years (My lemon tree experiment failed horribly).
  4. None of the utensils pictured are made from plastic, except the lemon squeezer. However, I’ll cut the contraption some slack because, without it, I’d be squeezing limes and lemons all day. It’s not single-use either, so it’s okay.
  5. Keep a large glass or ceramic bowl around for the spent limes. This can go to your compost pile, where they avoid the plastic bag of the garbage can.

Some Tips on Selecting and Squeezing los Limones

  • Look for limes with smooth skin. The smaller the ‘pores’ appear to be, the better. My husband, a connoisseur of cerveza and tequila, knows quite a bit about limes, and has relayed this information to me.
  • Wash the limes beforehand. I always wash what I am about to cut into because bacteria (and probably insecticides or preservatives) can be transferred to the inside by way of the knife.
  • Roll those little green limes around your cutting board before halving and squeezing. This helps loosen the juice, I guess.
  • Squeeze the limes cut-side down in the juicer. You can use any method here, however.

The Amounts

  • About one pound and a half of limes (or lemons), you may have to gauge this
  • One cup of sugar (you can control this, too)
  • Two cups of freshly squeezed lime juice (any more and you might cauterize your mouth)
  • As much ice and cold water as you’d like (pro tip: don’t use bottled water. Remember, stay away from the plastics by using tap water or a water filtration system) This pitcher holds about 2 liters of liquid. It doesn’t have measurements so I have to guess. If something seems off, simply change your amounts and try again
I even use a wooden spoon. See ya, plastic

As for freshness, the sooner you drink it the better, but its great taste has lasted in my fridge for about two days. Other drink recipes are possible, so be on the look-out for ways to use glass pitchers, cotton sacks, etc.!

Make Your Own Damn Salad Bar

I love making salad. I’m a white person, so I like the plain stuff (my husband mexícano always looks at it like, “But what did you cook?”). Rather than discuss the fine culinary skills of my ancestors, I’d like to just say this about something I’ve made a lot. You can make your own salad bar at home. Just chop stuff up, put it in the bowls, and leave it on the counter. I mean, am I late on this? I’ve been making salads for years and never thought of it before. Well, here’s how I’m doin’ it from now on, or at least once in a while, because we’ll be having un caldo, las calabasitas, unos nopales, and maybe I’ll try my hand at gorditas this summer (my husband loves those).

  • That’s resting chicken, seasoned with the usual salt, pepper, garlic powder
  • Jalapeños from my garden (hot as hell, by the way)
  • Block of cheese I grated
  • Celery
  • Chopped Almonds (those things really fly away when you chop ’em)
  • Croutons (I love croutons but they make it kind of like a posh salad for me, I don’t know why. If you can’t eat a salad without croutons, get out of the game).
  • I always put broccoli and zucchini (calabasita) in a salad. Zucchini has a great texture but alas, it’s not in this picture.
  • And a green apple from yesterday that Sergio wanted, but then didn’t want. It was fine, and clean. But have you had fruit in a salad? It’s really good too, I swear.
  • We also had Pita bread, which I warmed and cut in half. Then you can open it up into a kind of pocket, to fill with what you choose. You can skip this or add something else!

A person could make so many salad combinations this way, at home. It’s a lot of bowls to wash, I know, but it encourages everyone to help themselves. The family liked it, and they ate, so my salad bar’s closed for the night.