Shelling out for agua de coco

I love fresh agua de coco and it’s relatively easy to find in many parts of Mexico. In Chicago, though, it’s less accessible (read: almost impossible to find).

So, I have a love-hate relationship with buying agua de coco in the store when I’m really craving it. On one hand, I’m grateful I can get it at all. But on the other hand, the dilemma for me is twofold: the mass-produced version lacks the same taste as the fresh kind—obviously—but also has a much, much higher price tag.

I’ve even gone so far as to throw away the receipt after buying it because I felt bad about how much I spent (…and maybe because I didn’t want the Mr. to know how much it actually cost).

But on several occasions, I’ve caved and bought a single serve juice box (like the one pictured here) to take with me to the office. Or if I see it on sale, I’ll sometimes buy two regular-sized tetra packs and treat myself.

I can’t help but wonder if I’m the only one who is subconsciously chastising myself for buying it, though. When we traveled through the Carribbean, South and Central America and Mexico on a family vacation in 2009 and we saw stands along the road offering fresh agua de coco all over the place—often for less than the equivalent of a single U.S. dollar—those images stuck in my head. I remember thinking, “if they only knew what we paid for this back home.” And those images stuck with me; they flash in my mind each time I pick up a tetra pack off the shelf at the grocery store and most of the time, I end up putting it back.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal from earlier this year, some industry estimates say U.S. retail sales for coconut water reached around $400 million in 2011. Furthermore, the industry has roughly doubled its revenue every year since 2005, largely due to endorsements and consumption by celebrities and athletes. Something about it seems exploitative to me.

Mexicans (and others throughout Latin America) have been drinking coconut water since long before it was deemed cool by the U.S., but it’s considered a luxury product here and comes with a luxury product price tag. When I have kids, I’m sure I’ll much prefer giving them natural juices and things like coconut water over sugary drinks, but I feel guilty about the cost. I know even if I make the personal choice not to buy it, that many others still will.

  • Do you struggle with this too, or am I crazy?

 

AGUA FRESCA: Agua de mandarina

As the weather starts to get warmer, I’ve gotten an itch for making aguas frescas. This happens to me just about every year. Toward the end of the winter, I always seem to fall into a rut in the kitchen as I wait for spring to arrive. And like clockwork, as soon as we get our first day of warm weather, I head to the store looking for fresh fruits to make aguas frescas. This year was no exception, and the first fruit I spotted was a large bag of mandarinas, mandarin oranges.

I love mandarin oranges both because of the refreshing, sweet juice they produce and their portability as a vitamin-packed snack. In fact, I’ve been carrying two mandarin oranges my purse at all times for the last few weeks so that I always have a healthy snack at the ready.

But I’ve also got some cherished memories of the early days of hanging out with my cuñada, when she used to take me out for aguas frescas and where we almost always ended up with agua de mandarina, one of her favorites—and consequently, now, one of my favorites too.

This is an incredibly simple recipe, but one I’ve been asked for time and again by friends. It’s perfect for serving with any meal, and any gathering—large or small.

A few notes: my husband likes his agua de mandarina to be a little sweeter, but I prefer mine to be more natural and without sugar. My advice: try it without sugar first and perhaps leave out the lime juice. If you feel like it’s not sweet enough for your liking, you can mix about 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/4 cup of warm water to get it to dissolve, and then mix it with the remaining 1-1/2 cups of cold water.

I also like to use a handheld citrus press for this recipe because I found that my electric juicer doesn’t always extract all the juice due to the small size of the mandarin oranges.

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Atole de fresa

Long, cold winter nights mean one thing in my house: we’re making hot drinks to warm us up! One of my favorite cold-weather drinks is atole, especially because it’s customary to drink with breakfast or after dinner. The two most common flavors are vanilla and strawberry—atole de vainilla y atole de fresa. If you make it with chocolate, it’s called champurrado.

It’s a masa-based drink where the dissolved masa acts as a thickening agent to make this hot drink the kind of hearty treat that will really stick to your ribs. I’ve talked before about the availability of atole that comes in powdered packets, but next to my champurrado recipe (which uses prepared store-bought masa from my local tortillería), this version using Maseca instant corn masa flour is even easier to make and a sure step above the flavor from a packet. It’s a homemade taste without all the work of grinding your own nixtamal or having to dissolve masa using cheesecloth. It’s what you might call a semi-homemade version, if you will.

This drink dates back to pre-Columbian times in Mexico and is well documented as a form of sustenance amongst the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Historical texts tell us it was often flavored with fruits, spices or chiles.

Sometimes atole is also made with different colors of corn (I’ve personally tasted atole made with white, yellow and blue corn bases) and milk or water as the liquid. I don’t like my atole to be too thin so I have a habit of making it very thick at the beginning and then thinning it out with milk or water as needed. If you prefer yours to be thinner, you can use all water instead of milk, and reduce the portion of Maseca instant corn flour to your liking.

If you want more berry flavor, you can add another whole cup of strawberries and use more water than milk so it doesn’t thicken too much or dilute the berry flavor.

This recipe produces the best strawberry flavor when you use berries that are very ripe. A trick to my recipe is that I macerate the strawberries before I put them in the blender (which just means I slice them up and, place them in a bowl and sprinkle sugar over them to allow the natural juices to come out).

If you won’t consume the atole immediately after cooking, store in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed to the top of the liquid so a skin doesn’t form over the top. If a skin does form, you can gently remove it with a spoon, but then you’re not getting to enjoy your whole batch. A final note: make sure the Maseca you’re using is specifically for tortillas and not tamales or you’ll get a different consistency.

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AGUA FRESCA: Agua de melón

Today on the Kenmore Genius Blog, I’m sharing a quick and simple recipe to make agua de melón in your blender. I especially love to drink this with breakfast.

The basic ingredients: Cantaloupe, a little sugar, water and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. If your melon is super ripe, you can also reduce the sugar by half or leave it out completely for a healthier, no-sugar-added version—it’s up to you. Hop on over to the Genius Blog for more on this recipe. This recipe calls for cantaloupe, but you can also use honeydew melon (melón verde).

Agua de melón

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 3 to 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a ripe cantaloupe
  • 1/4 cup of sugar dissolved in a half cup of warm water
  • 1 cup of cold water
  • Optional: juice of half a lime

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the sugar in a half cup of warm water to create a simple syrup. Set aside and allow to come to room temperature.
  2. Cut the cantaloupe into cubes and put it into the blender with 1 cup of water until it’s completely liquified and smooth.
  3. Place a fine sieve over a pitcher and pour the contents of the blender through it to strain. Use a spoon to press any remaining juice through the sieve.
  4. Add the simple syrup to the pitcher and stir well. If you opt to use the lime juice, add that after the simple syrup.
  5. Serve chilled or over ice. Yields 3 to 3-1/2 cups of juice, depending on the ripeness of your cantaloupe. Refrigerate any juice you’re not going to drink immediately and consume within two days.
http://theothersideofthetortilla.com/2011/09/agua-fresca-agua-de-melon/

If you want to read more about aguas frescas, check out some of my previous recipes here on The Other Side of The Tortilla:

Did you like this recipe? Please share it with your familia and amigos! ¡Gracias!

Wordless Wednesday: Pulque in a can?

A few weeks ago at the Mexican grocery store where I usually shop, something caught my eye in the refrigerator aisle… yes, a six-pack of canned pulque! Not only that, but multiple flavors! If you’re not familiar with it, pulque is a traditional Mexican beverage made of fermented (but not distilled) juice or sap of the maguey plant. It’s sort of a cloudy beverage with less alcohol content than beer or wine. More on this traditional drink another time, but I want to know…

  • Would you try pulque in a can?

Limonada

I love fizzy drinks. And my all time favorite fizzy drink is a Mexican limonada, of course!

Every time we go to Mexico, and particularly when we’re visiting the beach, a limonada is always the drink I choose to quench my thirst after getting my fair share of sunshine.

I’ve also been known to order it everywhere from poolside to fancy restaurants – I just can’t get enough.

This drink is so simple to make, yet I get so many emails and phone calls from friends asking how to make it. And with the Wordless Wednesday post last week about limonada y sol, I figured it would be cruel to not tell you how to make it. I’m finally sharing a recipe so you can have this sweet fizzy drink at home!

You can also make this drink with still water but the carbonated water gives it a little something extra to make it different. I typically use lightly carbonated water, but you can use whatever you like.

I like to drink limonada when it’s hot and sunny, but also when I’m really missing México lindo y querido…. 

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