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From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa has been awarded the honor of "WINNER" in the "Cookbooks: International" category of the 2014 International Book Awards!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Grilled Peppers with Herbs (Pimientos Asados con Hiervas)

September 15th is Mexican Independence Day.  Mexico is a very patriotic country so on this day all Mexican tables are dressed in red, white and green...the food, drink, decorations and often times, the children are dressed in festive traditional red, white and green costumes.  A couple of years ago, the Mexican government gave each houshold a new Mexican flag to fly on this special day.  Yes, it is that important!

 Today, I want to share a recipe that is fresh, and sure to be a welcome addition to your holiday table.  By the way, it looks like it would also go on your Christmas table!   

The pretty colors of this dish are just the beginning. Wait until you taste the tender, crisp slices of green and red bell peppers, and the poblano with a bite of grilled onion, fresh
herbs, and a light olive oil and lime vinaigrette! The poblanos add no heat, only a fresh, grassy flavor that complements the sweetness of the red bell pepper. Serve Grilled Peppers with Herbs as a side dish to just about any main course for lunch or dinner.

Grilled Peppers with Herbs (Pimientos Asados con Hiervas)

6 servings

3 medium red bell peppers
2 medium green bell peppers
4 medium poblano chiles
2 medium onions, cut into quarters
2 Tablespoons fresh marjoram or basil leaves
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice
freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste

Place the peppers and the chiles on a very hot griddle or grill pan. (When you char bell peppers, this is the best method.) Turn them over as their skin blisters on each side. Do this for all the peppers. When they have been blistered, put them in a large bowl with a lid, and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.

Remove the peppers one at a time from the bowl. Carefully remove the outer skin, being careful not to tear the pepper. Cut around the top of the pepper to remove the stem, seeds, and membrane. Slice each whole pepper across into 1-inch slices. These slices will be whole rounds.

Place the onions on the griddle, and cook 5 minutes, turning so each side gets golden.

On a plate, arrange the peppers, chiles, onions, marjoram, and thyme. Drizzle with lime juice, olive oil, black pepper, and salt.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Mainstream & Independent Titles Score Top Honors in
the 5th Annual International Book Awards
LOS ANGELES  –  American Book Fest announced the winners and finalists of THE 2014 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS (IBA) on May 21, 2014. Over 300 winners and finalists were announced in over 80 categories. Awards were presented for titles published in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest, said this year’s contest yielded over 1200 entries from authors and publishers around the world, which were then narrowed down to the final results.

Cookbooks: International  
From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa by Karina Ann Betlem
Infinity Publishing

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo – 5th of May
by Karina Ann Betlem

Mexico is a land rich in culture, fiestas and holidays but you may be surprised to learn that Cinco de Mayo is not one of those celebrated events.

Cinco de Mayo is a día de fiesta (holiday) commemorated solely in the town of Puebla, in the state of Puebla.  Not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day (September 16).  Cinco de Mayo celebrates the unlikely victory of a small Mexican army over a larger French army in El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla).  The actual battle is said to have lasted only four hours.

This particular battle may have changed the course of history.  If the French had won the battle at Puebla, Mexico would have eventually been ruled by Napoleon III and the French Army instead of Mexican leaders.  Further, it is well known that the French were supplying the U.S. Confederate Army with various supplies in support of their cause.  The defeat of the French brought a halt to that support and, as we know, the Confederates were eventually defeated by Union forces.

Although Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated in most of Mexico, it is celebrated in many other parts of the world, especially California because of it's Mexican* population.  Some revelers insist they are celebrating to keep the Mexican culture alive, while others sheepishly admit that it is an excuse for a fiesta!  Both are good reasons to me, ¡Ole!

In Mexico there are plenty of tourist destinations that do celebrate Cinco de Mayo,  but they are solely for the benefit of the tourists who expect a party.  If you are one of those tourists you will notice that the locals are not joining in the festivities with you!

As with any Mexican celebration, traditional food is important.  In Puebla, the most traditional food is mole (mow-lay). Puebla is known to be the birthplace of mole, a rich, spicy sauce often containing chocolate and up to 40 other ingredients, including chiles and spices.  All of the ingredients are ground together to form a paste.  The paste is then thinned with a liquid, either broth or Coca Cola (yes, you read that right).  Mexicans love their Coke  and use it today today to thin and sweeten their mole.  When the mole is finished, it is served with chicken or turkey.   As a point of interest, Mexico is the largest per capita consumer of Coca Cola in the world.

There are two simplified versions of mole in my book, From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa.  Either of these delicious versions can be whipped up in minutes without using 40 different ingredients.

In tourist areas outside Puebla, the traditional Cinco de Mayo fare consists of chicken mole, tamales, and any other Mexican food the individual chef wishes to make.  Of course, on any fiesta table there is always the fresh salsa Mexicana (also called salsa cruda or pico de gallo) containing the colors of the Mexican flag: red, green and white ...  a very patriotic dish!

In my personal life, if a holiday is celebrated somewhere other than my town, I celebrate it in my home!  My Mexican friends have begun to remind me that there is a holiday in Oaxaca, Veracruz or elsewhere in Mexico, and that we need to prepare for a fiesta!  Always remember … Simple food makes a feast when enjoyed and shared with family and friends......

*Note:  Mexicans prefer to be called Mexicans, not Latinos or Hispanics.  They are very proud of their Mexican heritage and do not want their heritage and culture diluted. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014



When you go to the local Mexican restaurant, you order nachos to munch on before you order dinner, right?  Why not make them at home for a special treat.  They are easy, and you can make them as healthy or ooooey-gooooey as you like.  Personally, I like them really loaded with as many ingredients as I can find in the fridge.  You cannot make a mistake if you keep adding on things like olives (all colors), green onions, fresh tomatoes, sour get the idea.  I have even taken stale chips – yeah like there is such a thing in my house – and melted the cheese on top of them using the microwave.  Seems the chips crisp up in there after just a few seconds.

You can even make these for a lazy dinner meal.  Put your feet up with a good movie and munch away! 


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ pounds (680 grams) lean ground beef, ground chicken or ground pork
¼ cup ground chili powder, if you have made your own, use ancho-guajillo combination
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
2½ cups black beans, cooked and drained (measurement is AFTER cooking) – canned is OK, but rinse    
        them first – those cans of beans have industrial sludge on the bottom
3 cups frozen corn, thawed or canned, drained
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

tortilla chips
green onions, sliced – white part only
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, leaves only
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
shredded Chihuahua or cheddar (or better yet, a combination) cheese

sour cream

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it is very tender, then add the garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.  Add the beef, chicken or pork and sauté until brown, breaking it up as it cooks, about 5 minutes.  Add the chili powder and oregano; stir 30 seconds. Add the beans, corn, and tomato sauce.  Cover; simmer until the meat is cooked through, and the other ingredients are hot, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Line 8 serving bowls with tortilla chips. Spoon the meat mixture over the chips.  Top with the green onions, cilantro, lime juice and then with cheese.  At this point you can eat it without melting the cheese, just add a few spoons of sour cream to the top.  OR you can pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese, then top with sour cream.

Many households here do not have microwaves or ovens, so the cheese is left unmelted.  It does, however, melt a little bit because the beans and meat mixture are hot. I prefer the melted cheese, you know that ooooey-goooey thing from before! 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mexican Potato & Chicken Salad

I know you are going to make me your new best friend with this recipe. You can make it ahead of time and just keep it in the refrigerator until you want to eat it. Pete and I have this at least once a week for dinner, which is between 2 and 3:00, the Mexican way. A snack of the leftovers in the evening after veranda time. Yummy.....

You will see that this salad is pretty healthy too. No added salt or mayonnaise.


4 large potatoes, (not russet), peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks
1 large chicken breast, cut into large bite-size cubes
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 large stalks celery, sliced into small bite-size pieces
1 large cucumber, seeds removed and diced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
2 Tablespoons capers
¼ – ½ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1-2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
¼ or more teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 avocado, peeled, seed removed and sliced (garnish)

I find that steaming the potatoes cooks them perfectly and allows some of the starch to stay on the potatoes. They don't absorb so much of the sauce and don't fall apart either. So, steam your potatoes for about 20 minutes. Put them in a large bowl and allow them to start cooling.

Sauté the chicken cubes in another pan until they are cooked through. This should not take very long, perhaps 7-8 minutes. Place the cooked chicken in the bowl with the potatoes. At this point, if you want your salad cold, then let the chicken and potatoes cool completely. I like it warm, so I start mixing it up right away. Either way, it is delicious.

Add all the vegetables to the chicken/potato mixture. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire and cayenne pepper. Give it a small taste and see if it has enough tang to overshadow the bland flavor of the potatoes. Pour that over the vegetables and gently stir to completely combine. Give it another taste – I like this part. Does the sauce need adjusting? Now is the time to do it. Add a little of the ingredient you think it needs and taste again. See what I mean, I like this part! Lots of tasting....

Serve with the avocado slices on top.

This is one of those recipes that you can embellish to your hearts content. Want carrots in the salad, no problem. Use your imagination, then tell us on this blog what you did and how you liked it.  Yes really, we all like feedback!  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Papa Loca (CRAZY Potato)

We went to the movies yesterday with friends and afterward we walked to a sidewalk restaurant serving different types of carne asada – grilled meat.  You could have grilled beef or chicken.  I had a Papa Loca which means crazy potato.  That means nothing to you, right?  It is a large baked potato flattened out on a plate, then topped with chopped grilled meat, butter, cheese and a wee bit of sour cream, then served with condiments such as pureed avocado, fresh salsa, roasted tomato salsa and tomatillo salsa.  I loved it and got the recipe to share with you. 

This makes a wonderfully easy meal if you are eating alone or feeding a crowd. 

Scrub the potatoes, poke about a dozen times with the tines of a fork and wrap them in aluminum foil.  Bake – yes, in the oven is still the best way – one large potato per person until fork tender, about 1 to 1½ hours at 350°.  Remove from the oven, open the foil making a foil plate. Slice the potato in half and smoosh it to make it relatively flat.  Dot with a little butter.

You can do this next part with any type of steak or chicken you have.  You can use marinated meat, meat with steak seasoning rub, or just salt and pepper.  Either on your outside grill or indoor grill-pan, cook the steak (or chicken) to your desired doneness, then chop into small pieces.  Sprinkle on top of the buttered potato, so it is totally covered in a layer of meat about ½ inch thick.  

Now, sprinkle the top of the meat with some shredded Chihuahua cheese.  If it does not melt immediately, place into the hot oven for 3-4 minutes.  Remove after the cheese has melted and drizzle a little sour cream on top and serve.

Always serve with bowls of a few different salsas.

As a side note:  I have also made these potatoes with shredded pork, only slightly salted that I have cooked in my pressure cooker.  Chopped pork roast or chops work great too.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mexican Burgers

Now that Spring is in the air almost everywhere, it is time for you to get that grill out, clean it up and test it out.  Burgers are an excellent 'test case'.  If something was critically wrong with the grill after a long winter, how would you finish those steaks?  Not quite the same in the broiler and definitely not impressive to your friends if you have to bring them in.  Burgers on the other hand, can be cooked indoors without much to-do..."I planned on finishing them in the kitchen".  (what's a white lie among friends?)  Better yet, don't invite company over the first time you use the grill this year.  Your reputation as the Grill-Commando would be irreparably tarnished.  

These burgers are not your old boring burgers either.  There is an easy trick to revving up these burgers ... chopped jalapeños.  Only a few burger recipes are actually a step ahead of the crowd and this one is running ahead of the pack!  Clearly there are ingredient variations that you can choose from, but the chiles are the 'kicker'.  Grill them outside or if you need to change gears quickly, cook them on a grill pan inside, they will be wonderful either way!

Makes 4 large burgers


1-1/3 lb / 605 grams  ground meat – remember you need a little fat in there to hold them together – not that 95% lean stuff

1-2 fresh jalapeño chiles
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ garlic clove, crushed then minced
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
¼ cup tomato puree or sauce
¼ cup dried bread crumbs
1 egg

Remove and discard the stem and seeds from the jalapeños. Chop the chiles finely.

Put all the ingredients in a bowl with the ground meat and knead until well combined.  Form the meat into 4 large patties and grill to your desired doneness. 

Serve on over-sized fresh buns with sliced canned jalapeños, sliced tomato, avocado, onion..............your choice. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Creamed Corn

corn in browned butter
I know that many of you think that the only Mexican vegetables are beans and chiles, but corn is a common side dish. This country relies heavily on corn, both sweet corn and nixtamal (corn for tortillas). It is no surprise then, to know that there are hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of recipes for corn. Wait a minute... why don't they serve corn to you in Mexican restaurants outside Mexico? Because YOU, the customer, don't expect to have anything other than beans and chiles!  (Give them a 'suggestion' so their menu is not so limited.)  True, authentic Mexican cuisine is more diverse than any other cultural cuisine, except perhaps Italian. Did you know that Italians don't eat pasta at every meal?

So, to broaden your horizons, food wise of course, here is an authentic corn recipe I learned from a family in a poor section of town. My husband and I always look for clean little, out of the way restaurants to try new food. This recipe is from one of those little eateries. Thank you Señora Josefina for sharing this recipe with me!

By the way, if you thought creamed corn always came from a can – blck blck – your horizons will definitely be broadened!!

Creamed Corn

Makes 8-12 servings (small eaters vs big eaters)

85 grams (6 Tbls or 3 oz) unsalted butter
900 grams (2 lbs) corn kernels – frozen
250 ml (1 cup) media crema (table cream or heavy cream can be added – do not use half and half)
salt to taste

Heat a large frying pan on medium for 5 minutes before adding the butter. When it is hot, add the butter and it will immediately begin to brown - this is what you want. When the butter is melted and sufficiently browned (not burned), add all the corn. You do not need to thaw the corn. Stir occasionally until the corn is thawed and covered with the browned butter. Add only enough salt to give it a little more flavor, NOT to taste the salt. (I use only about ½ teaspoon – but use your own tastebuds).

Add the media crema and stir. Do not allow to boil, just heat thoroughly and serve.

This can be refrigerated, reheated and served tomorrow or the next day. Personally, I have never had it last that long in the fridge. I find Pete eats it for breakfast.....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Huitlacoche - Corn fungus

Huitlacoche – how in the heck do you say that?  
weet/lah/KOH/cheh   And, what in the heck does it mean?  Corn fungus – eewwww – sort of like mushrooms that grow on corn.  It, in fact, tastes like mushrooms grown on corn.  Admittedly, I saw it on menus way before I was gutsy enough to try it.  Dang was it good!  Those Aztecs sure knew good food. 

Huitlacoche is sometimes called the 'Mexican truffle' and are considered by all (including me) a delicacy.  They look pretty disgusting if you dwell on how they look, so just don't stare at them.  You know what truffles are, right?  Truffles are sometimes called 'a diamond in the kitchen'.  It is a fungus!  OK, so we got that out of the way. 

About once or twice a year they are available to us in the grocery stores.  They are not expensive.  Today I bought a package for 29 pesos (about $2.25 US) for 350 grams.   I was so excited!!  So I need more of a life, what exactly are you saying?

Today's topic is probably more for the people living in Mexico than my readers NOB (north of the border).  If you are NOB and have an opportunity to try these, whether at a restaurant or in the grocery store, don't pass them by.  They are amazing and believe me, you will be hooked.  

I love to use them as I would regular mushrooms.  I always give a quick rinse to the fungus – you know me....  Chop them up and mix in with scrambled eggs, in a cream sauce for chicken, to stuff inside a chicken breast, make some mushroom soup by substituting these for the regular mushrooms in the recipe in my book.  They do not last more than a day or 2 in the fridge, but if you sauté some, they will keep in the fridge for several days.  Just use them in one of these ways and your imagination will run wild!!  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Chamorro - Pork Shanks to most people

Pork shank?  What the heck is that??  Shank is a leg,
or a portion of leg.  Much the same as a ham is also from the leg.  The shank is just uncured.  You may have to ask your meat man to order you some, or if you live in the country, as your local butchering company.  Many country butchers also sell retail meats, farm grown of course. 

I was having my friend, Carole, over for dinner last night.  Her husband is away for a few weeks on business and none of us wants to cook for just one.  She is a real meat and potatoes woman but had never had chamorro before.  The list of what she does not like to eat far exceeds the list of what she does like to eat, so I only asked her if she liked pork.  She didn't need to know the whole story. 

Friday is a busy day for me, so I opted for the untraditional method of cooking the shanks.  I dug out my trusty slow cooker.  Normally you need to cook the shanks for about an hour and a half to 2 hours in the oven, but I just didn't have the time to babysit them while they luxuriated in there. 

I rinsed them and packed them into my slow cooker. 
They fit pretty snug as you can see.  I mixed all the other ingredients and poured the mixture over the top and covered it with the lid.  No extra water added.  Carole doesn't like spicy food so I didn't use any chiles, but that is always an option for you.  Hopefully you made some of the chile puree I told you about a couple days ago.  The best to use in this recipe would be ancho, guajillo, pasilla or chipotle.   Just add one or two to the sauce and that's it, no other adjustments necessary. 

As a side dish, you can make some mashed potatoes or cook some rice by cooking in a few scoops of the broth from the cooker.  Yummy!!!

I am happy to report, Carole is now a fan of chamorro!  Don't think she will make them herself, but she won't be afraid to order them in a restaurant anymore. 

Pork Shank (Chamorro de Cerdo)

3 servings

3 pork shanks
½ small box achiote paste (look on the Mexican food aisle)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ white onion, chopped
1½ cups orange juice
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

Rinse each shank – no need to pat dry. Place the shanks as best you can to fit in the slow cooker.  Tight is OK because they shrink as the cook. 

Mix all the other ingredients and pour over the shanks.  Cover the pot and cook on high for about 7-8 hours.  Turn to low and keep warm until you are ready to eat.  Serve with an ample serving of either corn or flour tortillas. 

Note that each shank with the bones – of course you need the bones – weighs about 2 pounds each or 900 grams.  You always serve 1 shank per person even though there is a lot of meat on the bones.  Save some sauce from the slow cooker to give everyone a 'to go' plate and include some sauce with their leftover pork.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Make salsa at home - don't be intimidated!

You just had this amazing chile sauce at a nearby Mexican restaurant and want to make some at home....where do you start? It probably seems like some sort of magic that this sauce can only be made by 'Mexicans' in their restaurant. They are experts, right? You would be surprised! Most food at your local Mexican restaurant is the very basic of foods, red rice, beans, enchiladas covered in sauce and buried beneath a mound of cheese. Although you probably think this is complicated to make, they have a restaurant – so they must be chefs! Nope! Most come to the U.S. with one skill, cooking for their family. So they adapt their traditional family recipes to the Americanized version and voila! the U.S. version of Mexican food.

Most sauces are a combination of chiles, tomatoes (either red or green tomatillos), a slice of onion and sometimes a little garlic and a pinch of salt. Nothing more. There are a few creamy sauces that are usually even easier to make with fewer ingredients!

Don't be intimidated by those sauces. Many of my Mexican friends here in Mazatlán make up the sauces as they go, depending on the main ingredient of the meal, such as chicken, beef, pork or fish. You can do the same thing. I experiment with almost every sauce I make now on a daily basis. Some are amazingly delicious while others make you shudder. Even those nasty tasting ones can almost always be 'saved', so you aren't really wasting your time or ingredients.

Start by purchasing several types of dried chiles and a small can of chipotle chiles in adobo. For the dried chiles, wipe them off with a damp paper towel and put them into a small pan of boiling water to rehydrate. Count how many chiles you have of each kind. Only put one type of chile in at a time – dump the water and use fresh water each time you change chiles. After about 5 minutes of boiling, drain the chiles. When cool enough to handle, remove the stems and the seeds. Toss them into a blender and blitz them well. There can be some small bits but nothing big. Rinse the blender before blitzing the next kind. Do this for each type of chile you have, but keep them separate. For the chipotles, as you add the canned chiles to the blender, count how many chiles there are.

OK, now, cut some squares of plastic wrap. I use 6” squares. Use one square for the equivalent of 1 chile. If you have 6 ancho chiles, then use 6 squares. Just divide each blended chile into roughly the same size packet and wrap them up. Put each type of chile into a freezer bag and label it. They will keep forever in the freezer if you have wrapped them well.

The hard part is that was really hard!  

The first sauce we will try is a creamy sauce. You are having fish or chicken and want a great sauce. Personally, my favorite chile is a chipotle with it's smoky flavor. Since I am writing this, that is what I will use. Any of the chiles you just blitzed will work the same. BUT now that you have so many chiles prepared to choose from, why not make several different batches – small batches – and see which you like best.

You can use either mayonnaise or sour cream. I am not a mayo fan, so I use sour cream except when making the sauce for my potato salad. So, start with about ½ cup sour cream or mayo. Add a teaspoon or so of chile puree (or the whole packet) and stir well. Give it a taste. It will probably need a little 'zing', so squirt in the juice from ½ a lime or a bit of lemon juice. Stir and taste. Add more of either if you need. Stir and taste. I doubt you will need any salt but if you like, you can add some of that. Done. If you like potato salad like I do, and I make mine with cooked chicken cut into cubes for a main meal, I use ½ mayo and ½ sour cream with my chiles.

Making a red or green sauce is easy when you already have the pureed chiles too. Boil a couple of roma tomatoes or tomatillos for about 3 minutes, toss them in the blender with 1 small slice of onion and 1 teeny bit of garlic (like ½ a clove), puree then start adding some of your chiles. Stir and taste. Salt? Stir and taste. Use these sauces on chicken, pork, seafood or beef. Very versatile and very easy. These tomato type sauces also freeze well, but make sure to label them with which chile you used.

Once you make the first sauce, you can experiment with tons of other ingredients. Add some diced peaches or squished raspberries or blackberries to your creamy sauce. I know you have heard this before, but it really is true – you are only limited by your imagination!

Drop me a note if you 'invent' a sauce and want to share it here. I am always interested in new sauces!

Cooking is fun OR it should be. And food is one of the biggest pleasures in life OR it should be. And, remember, recipes are only a guideline never the rule.

¡Buen Provecho!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sweet Chile Salsa

Another wonderful cooked salsa to impress your family.  When I make cooked salsas, I always make a double or triple batch and pop the extra in the freezer.  I hope you make a habit of this too – it really simplifies dinners when you can just defrost a freezer bag of salsa and not have to assemble and prepare all the ingredients.   Last minute dinner guests will be 'wowed' by your culinary expertise!  Serve this salsa on the table with grilled, broiled or roasted meats such as chicken, pork or even a good burger.  Sit back and give them your 'smug' face....


Note:  the sugar you will use is either piloncillo (dark brown sugar cones) or muscovado sugar.  Both are unrefined sugars, thus both have high molasses flavor.  In Mexico, diabetics are allowed both of these sugars because they are unrefined.  Check with your own doctor if you are diabetic to see if either of these two sugars are permitted on your diet.

The poblano chiles do not add a significant amount of heat, just a lovely green-grassy type flavor!

Makes about 2 cups

10 plum or Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed and roughly chopped
4 poblano chiles, charred, peeled, stem and seeds removed, then chopped (same size as tomatoes)
1 medium onion (¾ cup) finely diced
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup muscovado sugar OR 4 oz cone (125 ml) piloncillo
½ teaspoon whole cloves, well crushed but not ground (use 2 spoons together)
½ teaspoon whole allspice, well crushed but not ground (use 2 spoons together)
½ inch (13 mm) whole cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon salt (more if you desire)

Toss all the ingredients into a saucepan and cook over low heat for 3 hours.  I use a screen over my pot because tomatoes tend to bubble and 'pop'.   Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.  The salsa will be thick and delicious!  Serve in a pretty bowl on the table for your guests to serve themselves.  Either refrigerate or freeze the left-over salsa. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reviews ...

Reviews – why would you take the time to write one?

Suppose you just finished a book that was well written, kept you engrossed in the pages and you hated for it to end.  You are excited about the book and want to pass that information on to your friends: 1. that you did like the book; 2. why you liked the book.  How many of us have told our friends, “I am reading a wonderful book, I bet you would like it too”.  A review passes on your information to others.

From an author's point of view, I get excited reading that you liked my book.  It makes me feel sort of 'warm and fuzzy'.  So much time goes into researching and writing a book that we want some feedback.  Of course, we really want positive feedback.  This positive feedback, in the form of a review, helps us get our book out there to the public.  Meaning … we sell more books.  It also lets us know that our time was not wasted; that we produced a good product. 

In my case, selling more books means giving more to the cooks represented in From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa. 

Therefore, I ask you, if you have read this book, please leave a 'review' on this blog in the comments section on any page.  If you can give it a 5 star rating, then please leave a review on  You need not have purchased the book on Amazon, just have an account with them. 

Thank you!!!  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fruit Filled Dessert Chimichangas

Tortillas are a cornerstone of true Mexican cuisine. Tortillas,
both corn and flour, are found on every table at every meal. It is no wonder that tortillas are also a favorite dessert component. They are such a huge part of the Mexican diet that the government regulates how much can be charged for corn tortillas. Today, I am making fruit filled chimichangas, using flour tortillas. You can make your own tortillas or purchase them. The only criteria is that they be very thin. Not those clod-hoppery tortillas that you can fill with 3 pounds of beans, but tortillas that are almost paper thin. If you have a tortillaria near your home, ask them to make some for you. It is just a simple adjustment on their equipment.

Fruit is also a staple of the Mexican diet. Some are more expensive than others, like apples which are imported. But many fruits are grown right here in Mexico, so those will be the ones we use.

I have chosen peaches....... I love peaches....... but you can choose apples, apricots, berries, pineapple, bananas – you get the idea.

I am only making enough for Pete and I today. So will use 4 flour tortillas – 2 each.

2 fresh peaches, peeled and seeds removed. Dice into large squares and place in a small pan with 1 tablespoon sugar. Gently sauté the peaches until the sugar melts. In a small cup, mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water. Add to the warm peaches and stir until clear and thickened.

Spread ¼ of the peach mixture in a line on each tortilla. Fold one end over the fruit, then each side to make a sort of pocket and then roll the other end to enclose the fruit.

Heat vegetable oil in a large pan to about 1/2” depth. Pop in a small square of bread and if it gets crispy, you are ready to fry the tortillas. Gently place the filled tortillas into the oil, seam side down. Fry until that side is golden brown, then turn and fry the other side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil.

Place 2 chimi's on each plate and sprinkle with some powdered sugar. May be served with ice cream or whipped cream too.

A word of warning: the fruit will be like napalm so let it cool slightly before digging in. You know how that first piece of pizza burns the roof of your mouth? This is worse!

Geez.......I had planned on taking photos of the beautiful chimi's I made, but Pete and a friend ate them while I was writing this!!!! Good grief!!! Is nothing sacred??? Photos to follow another day...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Besos - Kisses

February seems to be the 'month of love' or 'mes del amor' where I live.  Spring is in the air, at least the hope of Spring is in the air.  Birds begin looking for a mate and then go nest shopping.  When we are young we start to wonder if he (or she) likes me..... maybe I will get chocolates or a flower for Valentines Day.  Better yet, maybe I should give chocolates or a flower and let my intentions be known.  All are part of the rituals of February.  We even celebrate a Love your Pet Day, February 20th.  The possibilities for love are endless.  Blah blah blah........ 

You get the drift, right?  Today I will show you a simple recipe for 'Besos' which means kisses in Spanish.   The recipe is from my book and it is so easy and a cute and tasty gift to give to all your friends and loved ones.

From page 164, From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa


Makes about 48 cookies

Small one-bite shortbread type cookies, these are only  slightly sweet. The big burst of sweetness comes from the powdered sugar coating. They taste just as good without the  coating, but it would not be a true beso (kiss) without it. For  those cooks who own ovens, this little delight is usually  made around Valentine’s Day, sometimes two cookies  sandwiched with a filling of strawberry jam. Mexico is full  of traditions, and this is a sweet one!


2 cups flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter, or a combination of butter and solid vegetable shortening
powdered sugar for coating after baking

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F. Prepare a cookie sheet by greasing with shortening or lining with parchment  paper.

Knead together all the ingredients except the powdered sugar until fully mixed. Form into small balls the size of  hazelnuts. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten a little with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the  oven, carefully remove cookies from the cookie sheet (they are fragile), and cover them in powdered sugar.  Gently shake off the excess sugar, and cool on a wire rack.

You may need to make more than one batch though.  I find myself falling into the 'cheater' category when I make these because they never make it to the cookie tin! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Home made (NOT canned) beans

Happy New Year to everyone out there! I hope this year brings
everything your little hearts desire – and more. If you have made a resolution to eat healthier than last year, why not start with some great tasting food that is high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Yep, I mean dried beans.

Sure you can go to the store and pluck a can of prepared beans off the shelf, but have you ever compared their taste and texture to freshly cooked (by you) beans? They are flavorless and in the bottom of the can is this sludge stuff that you have to rinse away. Who in the heck knows what that is???

There are so many different types of dried beans that it boggles the mind. From garbanzo, to fava, lima, navy, cannellini beans, kidney, pinto and many others I don't even know about. In Mexico, we are very limited in the types of beans we have, so we use either pinto or Peruano beans.

I prefer the Peruano bean, a plain looking yellow bean. They taste almost the same as a pinto but they produce almost no gas – a definite benefit if you have a hot date! They cook in a little less time too.

You are probably thinking, yeah, she has all the time in the world to make homemade beans, but I work all day long. Surprise, surprise, so do I. There are many days I don't even get to sit down to write until later in the evening when my brain cells are on break. So, no excuses will be accepted..... If you have a slow cooker or pressure cooker, cooking dried beans is even more effortless.

Here is an excerpt for some homecooked beans from my cookbook. If you do not want refried beans, then stop before mashing and use whole. They are wonderful in salads, in soup or in any other recipe you usually add beans. Please give them a try and if you have any questions or comments, just contact me.

From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa, page 19

     …......The first thing I do with dried beans of any kind is sort them on a white plate, so that I can easily see the tiny stones or shriveled beans at a glance. Discard anything that looks foreign or discolored.

To soak or not to soak—in Mexico, it is not necessary to soak beans because they are not old beans. In other parts of the world, the turnover in dried bean supplies may not be as active, so if the beans are old, soaking is the way to go. If you choose to soak, then you will need to plan ahead, as they will need to soak overnight. Rinse the beans in a colander and then put them in a large pot. Cover them with cold water to about 7.62 cm/3 inches above the beans. Let sit until tomorrow. In the morning, drain and rinse again. They are now ready to be cooked.

Or ... 

Rinse the beans in a colander and then put them in a large pot with a well-fitting lid. Cover them with cold water to about 7.62 cm/3 inches above the beans. Heat the beans over medium heat until they have come to a rolling boil. Keep the lid on—no peeking. Turn the heat off, and let them sit undisturbed for one hour. After one hour, drain the beans and rinse again. They are now ready to be cooked.

Now, what you have been waiting for ... (drum roll) ...

Refried Beans ... THE RECIPE
Frijoles Refritos

2½ cups dried beans
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
½ onion, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon dried epazote (optional)
3 Tablespoons real pork lard (fresh, if possible; not that white canned stuff) or oil
(both are commonly used) - omit this if you are NOT making refried beans

After you have either soaked the beans overnight or hydrated them by cooking for an hour, you are now ready to really cook them.

In your pot, put the newly rinsed beans, the onion, and garlic and add enough water to cover by 5 cm/2 inches. You will salt them a bit later.

Over medium heat, cook the beans 1 hour. Add the salt and epazote. Cook for another hour. Test for doneness at this point. Taste one to see if it is totally soft. If it is, they are done. If it still has a bit of chew to it, keep cooking. Check them at 30 minute intervals.

NOTE: The times may differ, depending on the age of the dried beans. The older the bean, the longer the cooking time.

(continue with this step if you are making refried beans)

When the beans are done, drain them, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking broth. Now is the time to mash the beans, onion, and garlic. The way to mash them offers another choice: you can mash them with a potato masher and have some lovely little chunks of beans mixed with the bean purée, or you can use the back of a large wooden spoon to mash them for a smoother texture. I like them really smooth, so I use an immersion blender. If your beans are too stiff, add some of the broth you kept—not all of it, just a little at a time to thin them out.

When you have the consistency you like, heat the lard or oil in a large frying pan. When it is hot, add the beans and let them fry, stirring occasionally until they are heated thoroughly and all the lard/oil has been absorbed. Adjust your salt, if necessary. Serve.


If you are cooking with a slow cooker: Add the rinsed beans, and other ingredients. Cook per your manufacurers instructions.

If you are cooking with a pressure cooker: Place the rinsed beans and other ingredients except salt in the pressure cooker. Add enough water to fill just up to but not more than 2/3 full. Place the cover on and begin to simmer until it begins to 'fritz'. Allow to 'fritz' for 5 minutes then turn off the heat. Allow to sit until the pressure comes down and it is safe to open. Do NOT run the cooker under cold water to release the pressure. The beans will be cooking while they are sitting under pressure. After the pressure has released itself, open the lid and tastte one of the beans. Is it tender or could it use just a bit more cooking? If it needs more cooking, repeat the above process. Older beans will take longer so not to worry, your beans will get done but it might take 2 or 3 'fritzing' cycles.

Share with us your results and what you think of the difference between homemade and canned. We are all dying to know!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pumpkin Pie using - - it's a surprise........keep reading

UPDATE:  I told you I would let you know how Christmas dessert of carrot 'pumpkin cheesecake' was received at dinner.  Well, Mr. I-Hate-Carrots devoured the cheesecake saying it was the best one he had ever eaten!!!!  I opted not to tell him about the bad....

In a land where pumpkins are seldom seen and canned pumpkin
is never seen, I was grousing to a Mexican friend that I really wanted a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  The dinner was roasted chicken breasts, some homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Sort of Thanksgiving-ish.  But the dessert.......I REALLY wanted some pumpkin pie. 

After listening to me whine, my friend Carmen said 'why don't you make something that 'tastes' like pumpkin?  You know me, I am always up for a challenge.  Ok, so what tastes like pumpkin but isn't?  Are you ready????  Roasted carrots!  Yeah, I couldn't believe that one either. 

As a foodie, I had to give it a try.  I peeled a carrot, cut it in quarters (lengthwise) and put it on a dish.  I drizzled a bit of olive oil (not extra virgin) on it and roasted it in the toaster oven for about 30 minutes.  I took it out, mashed it up and gave it a taste.  Darn if it didn't taste like pumpkin! 

I wasn't sure how many roasted carrots it would take to equal a 16 oz can of pumpkin puree, so I started with 1 pound of raw carrots.  I roasted them, then put them on the scale.  Only about 8 oz after roasting.   I needed more, so I put another pound plus one extra carrot into the oven to roast.  The total weight of the roasted carrots was just a tad over 16 oz.  Perfect.  (note:  I weighed the raw carrots after I had peeled them and cut off the stem ends)

I put them in a colander over a bowl to cool, just in case there was any residual liquid.  I did not want to have 'liquidy' pumpkin – I mean carrots. 

While they were cooling, I prepared my crust and the rest of the filling.  I used the recipe from the Libby pumpkin website –I got off the internet. 

When the pie was served, we had guests but I had told no one including Pete. my secret, they were raving about the pie!  Where did I find the pumpkin?  Did I have someone bring it down for me?  After we had all finished our pie, I let them in on the secret. 

I have to admit that I would never have guessed carrots would taste so much like pumpkin, but the roasting is the trick.  My next dessert using carrots?  Pumpkin cheesecake for Christmas dinner AND one of the male guests hates carrots but loves pumpkin......... bet I can fool him!  I will keep you posted..

As seen on:

As seen on: