Foodologie in April

Hi friends! I’m back after a month! Last time, I told you that fun-employment and trips were coming up, and those things came!  We’re half way through May, but let me tell you about April.

So here’s what happened… Jesse is now a doctor.  Not a medical doctor, a PhD doctor.  Because of that, we left lovely Southern California and made our way up to the Bay Area.  He finished at the end of March and didn’t start work until May.  Instead of paying rent, we decided the best thing to do would be to put our stuff in storage and travel.  All I can say is: this was a fantastic idea.

Our destinations: Guadalajara, Mexico and Guatemala.

We spent 10 days visiting Jesse’s family in Mexico and 9 days visiting my family in Guatemala.

Mexico was beautiful.

We spent some time visiting amazing churches….

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Cool sites in the city…

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With Jesse’s familly

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And eating tasty things on the street, like this waffle/crepe thingy with ham and cheese.

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We also visited Guanajuato, which was more beautiful than I could have imagined.

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And Dolores-Hidalgo, where Mexican Independence began (don’t quote me on that, but I think…)

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And San Miguel de Allende, which is probably the cutest town I’ve ever seen.

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Sadly, most days in Mexico I was sick.  As soon as we laughed, I developed a cough and completely lost my voice by day 3.  After that, Jesse’s uncle (who is a doctor) saved the day with medications!

Despite being sick, I had a great time in Mexico.  I ate tons of amazing food (one word: tacos) and got to hang out with Jesse’s family, which was great!

After Mexico, we headed to Guatemala to hang out with my family.   We mostly hung out at my grandma’s house but we managed to sneak in a few day trips so Jesse could get to know Guatemala a bit.

We went to Antigua

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Saw some beautiful sites

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One at which I almost thought would be perfect for our wedding, then I remembered all my friends are in the US and would never go to Guatemala…

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We made sure Jesse tried the national beer

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And made sure he ate some typical food, like Kaq ik (a turkey stew)

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We also did some hiking to the Biotopo del Quetzal… we didn’t see a quetzal (the national bird of Guatemala)

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And wandered around Panajachel.  And let’s be honest, pretty much my favorite thing is to walk around with my cousins

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Our times with our family were great.  Now we’re back in the US, we moved to the Bay Area and we’re trying to get settled here.

The only downside: I left my camera at my mom’s house.  No new exciting cooking adventures can be documented yet, but be sure to keep up with me on Instagram and Facebook because I post about a million picture per day.

 

What’s the last trip you went on? 

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Guatemala Trip 2013

Like I mentioned last time, I was in Guatemala the last two weeks visiting family.  About 95% of my family lives in Guatemala.  The last time I went was in 2009, so it was nice to see everyone, especially my grandma.  The last time I saw her was back in 2011, when she came with my parents to visit me in Italy.

That was then, this is now:

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I went with my mom, sister (Laura) and nephew (Graham).  There weren’t too many outings, mostly just visiting people and eating lots of foods I love (i.e. beans and plantains every single day for breakfast).  Since this is a food blog, let me tell you about my trip through food…

The first few days were mainly spent at home.  On Sunday, the best cook in Guatemala came to my grandma’s house to make Pepian.

IMG_3093That’s Tere.  She makes the best Chile Rellenos, Tamales, Rellenitos and Pepian on the planet.  True story.  She made some Rellenitos that I froze and brought home with me.  This time, she taught me how to make Pollo en Crema con Loroco (Chicken in loroco cream sauce).  I’ll give that recipe a whirl then tell you about it as soon as I can.

No trip to Guatemala is complete without two things:

1. Pollo Campero

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Ok this is totally silly, but we had to introduce Graham to Pollo Campero.  It’s Guatemalan fast food that I’m totally obsessed with.  When I was little I remember having a birthday party in their huge play place (when I was little I spent most of my birthdays in Guatemala since we went every summer).  It’s basically fried chicken, but wayy more delicious than KFC (which also exists in Guatemala).  I also just realized I didn’t take a picture of the food… fail.

2. Obleas

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They used to sell these at the entrance of the grocery store (Paiz), but now they sell them in boxes of 8.  My sister bought like 6 boxes to take home with her.

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We broke one open while we were there.  The best way to describe obleas is like the Eucharist.  I’m not saying that as a joke.  But you know in church/mass when you receive the Eucharist and it’s like a dry, bread-like cracker?  That’s sort of what the oblea tastes like, but then you spread it with arequipe (what we call dulce de leche)

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and then you put another one on top and you get a delicious, crunchy snack

IMG_3278 IMG_3273Oh and honorable mention for things you have to eat in Guatemala…

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Pan Dulce (and no it’s not like the Mexican one you find here in the US, although if you’re in LA, I’m pretty sure my mom get pan dulce here, if you go get gusanos and champurradas.  You won’t be sorry.).

Surprisingly, I only had Pan Dulce once, at my mom’s cousin’s house in Escuintla.  Escuintla is about an hour from Guatemala City, and it’s basically where my mom’s whole family is from.

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We spent some time exploring, like the main church and plaza.  Then we headed to my mom’s cousin’s house which is on the land my mom’s family used to own.IMG_1134Very pretty and tropical and HOT.  But our time in Escuintla was pretty short.  We headed back to the city to spend more time with family.

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Overall, it was a great trip.  I’m glad my grandma got to meet Graham.

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And I’m glad I got to see all my family that I rarely get to see. I hope we can make it back soon to see everyone again.

I promises there are more awesome recipes coming up soon!  Hope you have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

 

Goats in Guatemala

Hi friends! I’ve been MIA a few days (almost 2 weeks?). I apologize. I’ve been in Guatemala visiting family. I’ll tell you more about it when I get back but first… Goats

This morning we heard the neighbors dogs barking like crazy. So I peeked outside to look and it was a bunch of goats.

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So I got some goats milk because 5 quetzales for a cup of fresh milk (less than US$ 1) seems like a good deal. Plus I’ve never had fresh goat milk, so why not.

The guy milked the goat right there in front of the door

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Then handed me a cup of milk

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Then I realized I should probably try it and for some reason that freaked me out…

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I took a sip, then thought about it

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Tried it again

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I won’t lie. It was tastier than cow milk, but the fact that it was warm and foamy was a little off putting.
But in the end, glad I tried it.
See you all when I get back!

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Caldo de Pollo (Guatemalan Chicken Stew)

If you asked me what my favorite food is, I would spend forever trying to decide and ask you a million follow up question… is it my favorite food to eat all the time? or for a special occasion? Savory or sweet? Appetizer? Main dish?

If you were my boyfriend you’d probably just say, “answer the question.”

To which I would respond “Caldo de Pollo, if we’re talking about what I like to eat on a normal day.”

I have a habit of not answering questions, or if I do, qualifying that response with a million follow up excuses as to why I can’t really answer the question.

I’m very indecisive.  So here it is.  If I had to choose a favorite food to eat all the time, it would be this: Caldo de Pollo.

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That just means chicken stew, but this is how my family (and I think most Guatemalan families) makes it.

The vegetables are all in big chunks and there’s a bit of chicken in there.

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It’s probably the easiest thing in the world to make.  It’s also delicious and healthy.  Whenever I go home, I want my mom to make two things: black beans and caldo de pollo.  It’s just delicious.

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Caldo de Pollo

1 lb chicken thighs, bone in (boneless is fine too)
1 bunch cilantro
1 tomato, whole
1 onion, ends cut off and peeled
1 chayote (güisquil), quartered
1 cabbage, cut into 6 wedges
3 carrots, peeled and cut in half
1-2 celery ribs
a few pieces of fresh or frozen corn*
2-3 small potatoes
1 small bag frozen yucca
salt
Avocado, Lime, Sour Cream (for serving)

Fill a medium saucepan half way with water, bring to a boil.  Add frozen yucca.

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Boil until tender, it should take about 30 minutes.  This is crucial.  If you put the yucca in the water before it boils, the yucca will stay tough.  Make sure your yucca is tender and keep it in the freezer until the water is boiling, then add it to the water.

While the yucca cooks, start the rest of the soup.  The beauty of this soup is that it’s fast and doesn’t involve a lot of chopping.

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Big chunks of carrot and güisquil (güisquil in Guatemala, but chayote in Mexico so that’s what you’ll probably see it labeled as in US grocery stores) are appreciated.  But the cabbage is my favorite part.  Not familiar with guisquil/chayote?  It looks sort of like a pear from the outside:

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And sort of on the inside, just quarter it and cut out the seed in the middle

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In a large post, add all of the ingredients.  Add enough water to cover the ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes or until cabbage and potatoes are cooked through.  The take a fine mesh strainer, take out the tomato, peppers and cilantro.  Pour some of the broth on it and using a spoon, mash the tomato, peppers and cilantro to get the most flavor out of it, then discard.  Add yucca you cooked separate to the pot.

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Serve with lime, sour cream  and avocado.  I usually just eat it with lime and avocado, but sour cream makes it super tasty, just mix it into your bowl just before eating.

*I don’t like corn, so I never use it, but most people (including my mother) add it.

I like to pack mine up into 6-7 containers (that’s how many meals a big pot makes), and take them for lunch for the week.

Healthy and delicious lunch that is totally Paleo friendly if you omit the potato and yucca.  Even though yucca is a root, I think it’s too starchy for Paleo.

But seriously, what makes this delicious is the lime and avocado.

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It takes a regular soup and makes it out of this world.  Don’t skimp on that!

So what’s your favorite food?  Something you could eat everyday and not get tired of.

Pepian, a Traditional Guatemalan Dish

Today was election day in Guatemala.  I’m not a Guatemalan citizen and my parents left in 1979, but today turned out to be a super Guatemala day at Casa De Leon.

My cousin hung our Guatemala hammocks

and my aunt made Pepian.

Let me tell you about pepian.  It might be my favorite Guatemalan dish (even though I’m obsessed with black beans and plantains).  It’s basically meat and vegetables in a thick sauce made of pepitas and sesame seeds.  It has a distinct toasted taste that I can’t entirely describe because it doesn’t taste like anything else I’ve ever eaten.

But I will say, it’s absolutely delicious.  I’ll admit, it might be a bit of an acquired taste, but that’s probably because (like I said) it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted.  I definitely recommend giving it a try, especially if you make a trip to Guatemala, you have to try it.  But if you’re making it at home and are worried about finding the ingredients here in the US, find a latino grocery store.  I can almost guarantee they’ll have everything you need.

Pepian

1/2 cup pepitas, heaping
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 small piece chile pasa
1 small piece chile guaque
1 chile arbol
4 lbs pork ribs*
1 bunch of cilantro
2 onions
6 garlic cloves
6 roma tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 slices of toast, well toasted
2 carrots
3 guisquil (known as chayote in Mexican grocery stores)
2 cups green beans

*Note: This is also commonly made with chicken.  If you choose to use chicken, make sure you use drumsticks or thighs with bone-in.

Put the meat in the pressure cooker with the cilantro, 1 onion, 3 garlic cloves and salt.  Cover with water.  Cook 12-15 minutes, until meat is tender.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can boil it in a regular pot, it will just take longer.

In a pan, toast pepitas until golden.  Put them on a plate and set aside.  Next toast the sesame seeds and the three dried chiles (pasa, guaque and arbol),

until sesame seeds are a deep golden brown.

Now that your dry ingredients (pepitas, sesame seeds, dried chiles and toast) are all toasted, grill (or blacken?) the fresh ingredients.  In a pan, on medium heat (without any oil) grill the onion, garlic, tomatoes and red bell pepper.

The tomatoes will start to blacken and soften.  The tomatoes will fall apart, that’s okay! Turn off the heat.  By now, your meat should be fully cooked and tender.  Remove the cilantro and discard.  Now you need to blend together all the ingredients.

We do this in two batches since our blender is pretty small.  Using the liquid from the meat (we used all of it), blend together the toasted pepitas, sesame seeds, 3 chiles, bread, tomatoes, red pepper, garlic and onion (you can also blend in the garlic and onion used to cook the meat).  It will take a while to get smooth, about 2-3 minutes.   While it’s blending add salt to taste.  We actually don’t use salt, we use chicken bouillion. This is pretty common in Guatemalan cooking.

You can probably even find this brand at latin grocery stores. But in all honesty it’s probably healthier to just use salt.

Once you’ve blended all the ingredients together, you’ll get a thick sauce.  Pour the sauce and meat into a pot.

Add carrots and guisquil (chayote) and simmer until almost tender.  Lastly, add green beans (since those cook pretty quickly).  We were out of these so we didn’t add any vegetables, but I think it tastes a million times better with them.  If you’ve never tried guisquil/chayote.  Try it!  It’s delicious!  You can probably find it at any latin grocery store (it’ll probably be labelled as “chayote” since that’s what it’s called in Mexico).

Once the vegetables are cooked, serve over rice and enjoy!