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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!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cinco de Mayo - May 5th

What exactly is Cinco de Mayo and why celebrate it?  

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. 

Now, for today's recipe:      Perfect Guacamole!

I love guacamole and use it for many different things, such as a sauce for chicken or pork.  Try it on your sandwiches instead of the usual mayonnaise or mustard.  

 I don't know how you feel about guacamole, but I make it often and use it on tons of things, including
chicken breast sandwiches, tacos of any kind, baked potatoes, eggs, refried beans, rice, on or in salads,
fish, canned tuna fish, gosh the list goes on and on. Avocados, guacamole's main ingredient, are
considered one of the perfect foods because of all the nutrients and 'good' oils they contain. Don't be
afraid to eat at least one every day......

The recipe below is for a small amount of guacamole, enough for 4-6 people, but you can make more
quite easily. Do not double or triple the entire ingredient list, use your taste-buds as your guide. It is
almost impossible to make a mess of guacamole, so play with it and see what works best for you. As
always, a recipe is a guideline not a rule!

Guacamole should be made shortly before serving. The lime juice will keep it from getting brown for
awhile, but if you need to make it ahead of time, place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the
guacamole's surface to keep the air out. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

2 ripe avocados
2 Roma tomatoes diced, seeds and juice discarded
1⁄4 white or red onion, finely diced
1 or 2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, very finely diced
1⁄4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 fresh limes, juiced (you can add more if your avocados are large)

Ok, you see through me don't you??? What you are really doing is adding Salsa Mexicana (raw salsa)
to smooshed avocado! Since I always, and I mean always, have some fresh salsa in my fridge, I just
add enough of the salsa to the avocado add a squeeze more lime and it's done! No planning necessary!

If you don't have pre-made salsa in your fridge, here is what you do:  Cut the avocados in half lengthwise. Remove the seed by tapping it with the sharp edge of a large knife
and twisting the knife. The seed comes right out, then press on both sides of the knife and the seed pops
off. Scoop the avocado pulp out of the skin using a large tablespoon and put it in a wide bowl.

Using a fork, mash the avocado, don't worry about over mashing, it is almost impossible to do with a
fork! Add all the other ingredients and stir well, using your fork. Give it a taste and see if you need
more lime juice or chiles. Some people add salt, I prefer not to because I like the freshness of all the
ingredients. Again, this is a guideline....if you want salt, or garlic or pepper, go for it! It IS after-all
YOUR guacamole!!!! Serve with lots of tortilla chips or any of the other foods described above.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Adriana Aguirre Ozuna

Adriana is the one without the hat!

Serves at least 20

This recipe comes from one of my dearest friends, Adriana.  We are like sisters and introduce each other as such.  She has been by my side through much that life has given me for the past 10+ years, good and bad. 

Adriana always makes this the day before Easter, and serves it cool, spooning out portions instead of slicing.  I always make it a few days ahead so we can munch on it most of the week.  I can be heated and served warm also. Any remaining capirotada can either be refrigerated for a few days or frozen. The recipe can be cut in half if you don’t need such a big portion, but since you are going to the trouble to make it, why not just freeze the leftovers?

Let's get started:

Begin by assembling all the ingredients on your work surface.  You will have 4 layers so if you need, divide your ingredients into 4 piles each, with the exception of the sauce ingredients.

These are your ingredients:


4 small packages Bimbo brand toasted white bread (14 slices in each package)
7 Tablespoons salted butter, melted

4 bananas, peeled and sliced crosswise into thin slices

4 apples, any variety, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
280 grams (10 oz) raisins
250 grams (9 oz) dried cranberries
400 grams (14 oz) pitted prunes, cut in half
250 grams (9 oz) pecans, whole or broken into large pieces
250 grams (9 oz) Cotija cheese, finely shredded or crumbled**

4 cones piloncillo (approx. 200+ grams/7+ oz each) *
1 stick cinnamon
10 whole cloves
2 liters (8.5 cups) of water

First of all, quit laughing.  The first ingredient, Bimbo (
pronounced Beem bow) brand toasted bread is making you snicker – I can hear you!  Bimbo is the largest bread maker in the United States and has outlets all over the world. The toasted bread is purchased already toasted, a big time saver.  It is delicious, crunchy and very addictive.  Have you composed yourself enough to continue?  If for some reason you cannot buy this pre-toasted bread in your area, any white bread, thinly sliced and toasted to a golden brown (not dark) will work.  There are 14 slices to a package so you will need to toast 56 pieces of bread. (Note: I use homemade whole wheat bread in mine). 

Any pan at least 10 cm / 4 inches deep and having at least an 8 liter / 8 quart capacity will work.  The pan we used (we both own one) is a small, 8 liter / 8 quart roasting pan about  10 cm / 4 inches deep with a lid.  (In the photo you can see how high the layers reach.)   Aluminum foil can be used as a lid if your pan does not have one. 

Begin by combining your sauce ingredients in a covered pan and simmer until all the piloncillo is dissolved.  Do not try to break it up in your blender, it is hard like a rock and will damage or ruin your blender.  Yes, Tom, even your beloved Vitamix will be damaged. 

Preheat your oven to 175°C / 350°F.

Brush melted butter on one side of 14 slices of toasted bread.  Place them in the bottom of the pan overlapping if necessary to fit them all in.  It’s ok to break them a bit if you have a corner to fill in. 

On top of the bread, sprinkle a thin layer, see photo, of banana, apple, raisins, dried cranberries, prunes, pecans and cheese.  Repeat for 4 layers, ending with cheese. 

Ladle the piloncillo syrup over all the bread and goodies, using all of the liquid.  Discard the cinnamon stick and whole cloves.  Cover the pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Check it after 45 minutes to see if the cheese is melted the top should be slightly browned.  Remove from the oven, do not replace the cover, and let it cool. 

* Each cone of piloncillo is a little different weight, they never weigh exactly the same.

** Cotija cheese – (co-tee-ha) – a white, salty, hard, aged
  cows milk cheese, often sold already crumbled.  It softens when heated but is not considered a melting type cheese.   I have heard it called “Mexican Parmesan”, but other than being salty, it has no resemblance or flavor similar to Parmesan.  If you cannot purchase Cotija cheese, you can substitute a good quality Panela – a salty fresh cheese.  The flavors are similar but the texture is not, but it is an acceptable substitution. 


I know, it has been too long since I have posted any new 'goodies' for you to absorb.  The reason is that I have moved out of the city to a very small 'pobladito', a bit larger than a village.  There are only 75 families here and that means no internet.  Lifestyle is mellow.  We have lots of space for a large organic garden, a few chickens for eggs and a couple acres for our dogs to run and not be on a leash.  So far, we have planted about 26 baby fruit trees with probably another 50 or so to go.  This is fun! 

Thanks to some wonderful friends, we will be able to use their internet so I can post some new recipes and good information for you to use.  Postings will be once a week....we have to drive about 35 minutes to their place for the internet.  The good thing about that is, you can try the recipes without being inundated with other recipes.  Once a week is not too much information.  When you do try the recipes, please give me some input or feedback: “yes I loved it” or “geez Karina what were you thinking??”

The first recipe I will share is a traditional Easter dessert called Capirotada.  Every household has a different version and of all the varities I have tasted and tested, I love them all!  This one seems to be the leader of the pack though.  I do make this during Semana Santa (Holy Week) but I also make it during other times of the year.  It just makes a nice dessert. 

I often make some small changes in mine.  For instance, I make my own organic bread.  I substitute this, sliced very thin, for the prepared Bimbo bread.  I sometimes add ripe plantains instead of bananas.  I prefer their taste.  Try both but make sure the plantains are ripe, not hard or they won't be sweet. 

As seen on:

As seen on: