Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, I’m always looking for a way to infuse Mexican ingredients into our family’s holiday traditions. I came up with this turkey stuffing recipe that’s a riff on my mom’s traditional turkey stuffing, but with a little kick from jalapeño chiles and soy chorizo (aka soyrizo).
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In Chicago, we’re very lucky to have a lot of Mexican food and culture at our fingertips. But one of my favorite places, particularly around Día de los Muertos, is the National Museum of Mexican Art. Located in the Pilsen neighborhood, the museum is free (thanks to sponsors) and open six days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Every year, they have an excellent exhibit for Día de los Muertos. This year’s exhibit, titled “Hanal Pixán” which means “food for the souls” in the Mayan language, is no exception. And it runs until December 16 if you haven’t seen it yet.
Every year, I love going to the museum around Día de los Muertos not only for the exhibit, but also for the calaveritas de azúcar (sugar skulls) that are handmade and decorated by the famous Mondragón family from Toluca, Mexico.
But one of the things I love most about the museum is open year-round: the Tzintzuntzán gift shop, which has all kinds of Mexican treasures from art to books and music to home decorations and more. Especially during Day of the Dead festivities, the gift shop is filled with Día de los Muertos trinkets and goodies—they’ve got papel picado (that is actually reasonably priced), shadowboxes with mini ofrendas, sugar skulls, paper mache food for ofrendas such as paper mache pan dulce, and the list goes on and on.
Below is a slideshow of some of my favorite items for sale in the gift shop during a recent visit.
La Virgen de Guadalupe
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This shadowbox from the museum's gift shop is one of many dedidated to La Virgen de Guadalupe.
The National Museum of Mexican Art is located at 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago, IL 60608.
- Have you been to the museum? What’s your favorite exhibit or thing you’ve seen in the gift shop?
With the cold weather and the holidays approaching, I can think of nothing but comfort food. Arroz poblano is a staple comfort food in my home during the winter months and is a filling dish that can be served as a side or even as a vegetarian meal. Because the holiday rush has already begun and my schedule is getting tight, this is a great quick recipe because I use one big cheat to cut down on prep time: ready-to-serve microwavable rice.
This arroz poblano recipe also has a unique twist from the typical one you might be familiar with that has chopped poblano and yellow corn kernels mixed into white rice. In my suegra’s house they always add crema Mexicana, which is something I’ve adapted into my own version of this family favorite. My recipe uses a blended poblano crema to coat the rice and keep it moist and a thin layer of cheese both in the middle and on top. Read more »
The holidays are coming and the weather’s getting cooler, which means I’m already starting my countdown to Christmas and las posadas Navideñas in Mexico.
A few weekends ago, I attended the Kenmore blogger summit here in Chicago where I participated in a day of cooking challenges with some old and new food blogger friends. You can check out my team’s recipes at cookmore.com (but a heads up that they’re not Mexican recipes). My favorite team challenge was one where we had to create a beverage using a slow cooker. Naturally, I suggested we make a spinoff of my warm winter margarita recipe, but with a few modifications since tequila wasn’t an ingredient option.
Our creation was a spiced brandy apple cider that wowed the judges and won us the competition; my guess as to why the recipe was such a success is probably because it had more than a little piquete of brandy, wink wink. I’ve been tinkering with some new holiday recipes recently, and the challenge inspired me to adapt a ponche de tamarindo recipe with brandy that I’ve been working on for the slow cooker.
The punch has two tart elements: whole tamarind pods and flor de jamaica (hibiscus flowers), which are mellowed by the sweetness of the guava and piloncillo. The cinnamon and brandy give a woody depth, and overall, it’s a satisfying drink to warm you up on a cold night. And of course, it’d be perfect to serve for your posadas. Read more »
Día de los Muertos was this past week and as a special treat, I’ve asked some of my friends to send me photos and descriptions of their altars to share here on The Other Side of The Tortilla to show the variety of ways that people celebrate this holiday.
Today, I’m sharing the altar of my friend Danielly Lara from Un Dulce Hogar.
Danielly Lara from undulcehogar.com shares her altar for Día de los Muertos. PHOTO/COURTESY OF DANIELLY LARA
Where in Mexico are your family’s roots?
I am a first generation immigrant from the city of Cuernavaca in the beautiful state of Morelos, known for its spring weather all year long. All my family lives in Mexico, and they have been denied visas to come visit the U.S. so I literally live between two worlds. My dad lives in California, but he left me and my family when I was 8 years old. Although I’m glad he’s here, I haven’t lived with him in California.
Who does your altar honor?
My altar mainly honors my culture and my roots. I put together my altar at the last minute. I called my dad and asked him to expedite me a box full of sugar skulls (some of them arrived broken), marigolds, bread and papel picado. Then I went through my files and found pictures from two of my great grandmas and one of my tía abuela.
Why do you make an altar for Día de los Muertos?
I made the altar because I wanted my kids to learn about my traditions. This is my first attempt to recreate a Mexican tradition with them and it was a success!
How does it keep you connected to Mexican culture?
Last summer I had the chance to take my kids to Mexico to meet my family. They connected with my family in a very deep way, the Latin way. Saying goodbye to come back to the U.S. was heartbreaking, not only to me, but to them as well. They not only learned Spanish, but they also learned that there is an entire family that loves them in a different part of the world. They had never had many adults around in their lives who paid individual attention to them. Ever since we got back to Utah, they think that every airplane that goes by our house is either going to Mexico or coming back from Mexico. I know that they will forget those relationships they formed if I don’t maintain their connected to Mexico. I don’t know if they will continue these traditions, but I know that at least they will be exposed to them. They will have to decide for themselves if they want to pass them on or not, but I surely hope they do.
For more photos and a story about Danielly’s altar for Día de los Muertos, click here to visit Un Dulce Hogar.