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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Wordless Wednesday: Choco Zucaritas invade my mercado

Finally! The Choco Zucaritas cereal I love so much has, at last, appeared in my local market. I’m sure my friend Tracy will be thankful I can buy them in Chicago so she won’t have to send me another box from the Washington, D.C. area! If you’re in the Chicago area, I was shopping at Strack & Van Til on Elston when I spotted them this past weekend.

  • Have you seen them in your store yet? Have you tried them?

Wordless Wednesday: Choco Zucaritas

A few weeks ago, I visited Washington, D.C. for the 2011 Blogalicious conference, where I got to spend lots of time with my blog amigas from all over the country. My friend Tracy from Latinaish, who lives in the area and was also attending, found out before the conference that I was a huge fan of Kellogg’s Choco Zucaritas (chocolate frosted flakes) and brought me a box as a gift! Now THAT is friendship. I took it all the way home to Chicago in my carry-on luggage so that the box wouldn’t get squished in my checked baggage. I’ve been eating Choco Zucaritas in Mexico ever since I discovered them a few years ago and was always bummed out that I couldn’t buy them in the U.S.—until now.

¡Gracias Tracy! I’m almost out, so I’m headed to the super this week to see if I can find a box here in Chicago.

  • What foods do you love to buy in Mexico that you can’t find in the U.S.? Tell me in the comments below!

GARIBALDI

By now, you all know about my deeply rooted love for pan dulce, especially for a particular chochito-covered panque from El Globo called el garibaldi. In fact, El Globo is credited as the original maker of garibaldi, a little pound cake bathed in apricot jam and covered in white nonpareils. Many bakeries in Mexico try to emulate these little magical cakes, but nobody makes them quite like El Globo.

During our trips to Mexico City, we’ve always purchased them fresh to eat for breakfast. With a little café con leche, I can’t imagine a better way to start a day. On one occasion, we carefully wrapped a few to bring home with us to Chicago, but sadly they got slightly smashed in our carry-on luggage and from then on, we decided they didn’t travel well. And after eating garibaldi on countless visits to Mexico City, I returned from our most recent trip with a serious mission: to spend time in the test kitchen trying to recreate them so I wouldn’t have to wait until my next trip to Mexico to eat them. Looking at my calendar, five months is a long time – too long, if you ask me – to deny myself one of my favorite sweet treats…. 

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Back to basics with breakfast: avena y té de manzanilla

Since we’ve been back from Mexico, we’ve been very busy in the Tortilla Test Kitchen testing new recipes and having fun shooting new videos we’ll be sharing soon. But while we were in Mexico, we ate and ate…and ate and, well, you get the picture. I think I may have finally earned the affectionate nickname I’m sometimes called at home – Gordita, or Gordis, for short.

We decided we needed to bring a little order to our daily habits after eating to our hearts’ content for nearly a whole month. That’s not to say that healthy Mexican food doesn’t exist, because it definitely does and you will see more new examples of that on The Tortilla this year. However, it’s sometimes harder to make those healthy choices when most of the year I live in Chicago and can’t get some of my favorite Mexican foods.

It’s a bit like letting a kid loose in a candy store, only instead of a candy store, you’re dropping me off in a city full of taquerías that serve my favorite things like chicharrón de queso, tacos al pastor and Sidral Mundet apple-flavored soda. It’s hard to say no to all of that, knowing that in a short time, I’ll be back in Chicago without access to these things again until my next trip. There’s nothing wrong with eating or drinking all of those things if you do it in moderation, but sometimes we need a reminder that moderation is the key in order to stay healthy.

This year, we’ve decided to bring some good habits back from Mexico, such as eating breakfast daily. We started every day with a good breakfast during our visit and now I crave breakfast as soon as I wake up in the morning. In the past, I’ve been known to rush out the door in the morning without eating breakfast because I’m crunched for time, but I’m vowing to break that bad habit in 2011.

And for breakfast, there are so many healthy options. One of my suegro‘s favorites is avena con nueces o fruta y azúcar moreno, or oatmeal with nuts, fruit and a little brown sugar.  I’m a huge fan of oatmeal, but truth be told, I don’t like the instant stuff with the artificial flavors. Since I’m usually on the go in the morning during the week, I often have to prepare something the night before to take with me to assure that I get a good, healthy choice…. 

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