Monday, July 30, 2007

Bishop's Palace~top of the hill in Monterrey!

John & I visited Obispado over the weekend. This well known landmark is at the top of a high hill called Chepe Vara Hill, overlooking Monterrey. In 1846, Monterrey like Mexico City and Veracruz, was invaded by U.S. troops and occupied by forces of General Zachary Taylor. A bitter battle of the war occurred at Obispado (Bishop's Palace)when Mexican forces held out for two days after the city surrendered. Later it became the provisional capital of the government of Benito Juarez when he was chased by French.

Palacio del Obispo was completed in 1789, it was originally built as a home for retired prelates. Today it houses a museum with artifacts, clothing & documents key to Monterrey's impressive history. FYI: for anyone wanting to check out this hitorical site, the climb on narrow steps is quite steep. The day we visited it was clear offering wonderful views of Monterrey. This is also a popular spot with newly married couples & we saw several posing for photographers in front of the beautiful stone structure.

Quite the climb up those steep stairs.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Monterrey Museum of Modern Art~the Macro!

Great view of Juan Soriano's Paloma in front of the Macro

Today for the John/Dee birthday celebration we toured the Museum of Modern Art (aka: the Macro) where we viewed some wonderful pieces by Picasso, Dali & Rufino Tomayo. There were special exhibitions by more contemporary artists such as Roberto Cortazar. I am very excited by the upcoming exhibition of Frida Kahlo's works which will arrive August 31!!! There was one artist who had an exhibition of art which existed of pieces where she used the mediums of pressed paper, hair & blood & other strange substances!!! It was enough of a turn off that I didn't view the entire exhibit. Not worth my time to view someone exercising their own personal demons. (although much art might be a form of exercising psychological or deeper expressions~just not enough to gross me out! Don't mind moving art, just not the ick factor.) Most of that particular artist's pieces I saw had the appearance of skin & body each his own! The rest of the exhibits were impressive. What I can truly say is that the Culture & Arts are alive & well in Monterrey Mexico.

Cathedral & Casino de Monterrey

The building was downtown in the center of the area around the Macro Plaza. The area is full of great architectural, public features & many other impressive government & art related buildings. The museum is directly across from the Metropolitan Cathedral de Monterrey built from 1600 to 1750 & one block from a personal favorite of mine. The Casino de Monterrey has ties to my family as it was rebuilt at the turn of the century by on of my great grandfathers when he was living & working in Mexico. The Casino still stands the test of time. Proudly it stands in the center of a lively government & arts center in downtown Monterrey known as Macro Plaza!
Awesome day spent with my favorite person!!!! Happy Bday: John:)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tepache, that drink they are selling in the barrel!

This weekend we purchased a clay Tepache pot in Santiago. The pots generally resemble a pineapple or at least the potter's suggestion of a Pina! Most of the Tepache pots I have seen are green or green with the barro clay glazed & showing through.

Tepache is a drink made out of pineapple core, some piloncillo (brown sugar) & sometimes beer. Tepache doesn't have a high quantity of alcohol, since it is left to ferment around 2-3 day time period. The alcohol in it comes mostly from the addition of beer, being this the most common way of serving it in Mexico. It is a drink better served cold both with or without the beer.

Tepache can be found in taquerias & on street corners in Mexico for a few pesos. Housewives sometimes prepare tepache to take advantage of the pineapple leftovers. In markets, you can usually find a vendor with a barrel full of ice cold tepache. If you are uncertain as to the water source it is a good idea to pass this beverage up! Speaking for myself many of this sort of drink may look great at the time but later the will be a physical price to pay if the water was of local variety! Whatever the case, below are two good summer recipes for both Tepache & Agua de Piña.

Mexican Tepache

1 whole fresh pineapple
12 c. water
21 oz. brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
3 whole cloves
Wash pineapple; remove stalks at each end; cut pineapple into large cubes, including the rind. Place the pineapple cubes in a large lidded container and add 8 cups of water, all the brown sugar, cinnamon and the cloves.
Cover and let rest at room temperature for 48 hours. Strain this resulting liquid, the “Tepache”, into a new, clean container and add the remaining 4 cups of water. Let rest another 12 hours. Strain again, adding 3 cups water. Serve cold with ice cubes and fresh pineapple slices.

I've also included a very fresh non alcoholic variety of Pineapple drink.

Agua de Piña
12 ounces fresh pineapple chunks
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
10 cups water
1 pound ice

In a blender, combine pineapple, sugar and water; blend until smooth. Pour mixture over ice in a 1-gallon container or two 2-quart pitchers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cucumber Shot Glasses?

Cucumbers are being served up many ways here in Mexico. I have discovered a bottled water sold here called Bensenze which is flavored with lime & cucumber. Strange as it may sound it is good! I can also now find Method brand soaps & cleaning products here that are cucumber scented. (I'm always thankful for one more touch of home!)

Not only are Pepinos plentiful but the excessive amount grown here makes for creative presentations with them in food as well. We had cucumbers carved into Tequila shot glasses at a birthday party not too long ago. The cucumber cups are hollowed out & served with tequila in them & a little salt on the edge.

A favorite Torreon spot called Hello juice & salad bar made some wonderful Agua Frescas with Cucumber. We tried a new Cucumber Salad recently as a cool dinner addition after a hot & steamy day. Cucumbers have a way of adding a little shot of freshness to a hot summer day!

Cucumber Salad

1 Cucumber, peeled & sliced thin
1/2 of 1 Jalapeno, seeded & cut into small thin slices
4 Tbsp. Lime juice
2 Tbsp. Sugar
1/2 c. Cilantro, loosely packed & chopped

Prepare Cucumber, toss with dressing made of Lime juice & sugar. Add Pepper, Cilantro & chill 1 hour before serving. Very cool & fresh for summer!

Cucumber Drink
1 Cucumber
Juice of 1 lime
Sugar- 3 tsp
Water /Club Soda-either is good

To prepare:
Peel the skin and cut the cucumber into small pieces.Blend it together with lime juice ,water/club soda& sugar.Strain it and serve.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rain that just won't go away....

Recently, the weather here is more like the Pacific Northwest than what one would expect in Mexico. In fact the weathermen are blaming the rain on climate changes being pushed over the mountains by Pacific frontal systems. Not sure I believe them since we are in fact closer to the Gulf of Mexico but it is rain, rain & more rain! Somehow between showers we are discovering places to go & things to do here.

Storms rolling over Santiago

One of our favorite local places to browse & visit. Full of wonderful things from all over Mexico~much the same as a wonderful place in Nuevo Laredo from days gone by called: Marty's! The former Quinta is full of beautiful pottery, glassware, artsy pieces as well as some downright strange items. A fun stop as long as you avoid the local car chasing dog. Jacqueline, Ash & I nicknamed him "Winn Dixie" for his similar doggie features as that dog in the movies. Cute, but a pain in the backside when you try & leave the parking lot!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Texas Favorite!

A true Texan.
Lady Bird Johnson ~ 1912 - 2007

Many of us grew up with these cool delicious summer treats.

Lemon Squares
Mollie Parnis Livingston, a dear friend of Lady Bird Johnson's, gave her this recipe for Lemon Squares. The cook at the LBJ Ranch kept them in the freezer so Mrs. Johnson could enjoy a snack or a delicious ending to a meal.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
Mix the flour, sugar and butter as for a pie crust. Pat evenly into a 9x18-inch (or equivalent) jelly roll pan. Bake in preheated 350°F degree oven until very light brown, about 15 minutes.
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 beaten eggs
juice and finely grated zest of 2 lemons
confectioners' sugar
Mix ingredients, except for the confectioners' sugar, in the order given and pour over the baked crust. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until set. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Okra South of the Border Style!

The new HEB opened on Humberto Lobo & we found okra & cooked it Texas style with a twist! FYI~the new store is awesome even by our Texas standards!!! That store is my beacon from the homeland. Got to love those things which are Texas reminders down here!!

Okra, Elote & Chipotle Stew

• 1/2 lb fresh okra, sliced 1/2” thick
• juice of 1 lime
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 5 roma tomatoes, chopped
• 1/2 cup chicken stock
• 2 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
• 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp & crumbled
• 1 cup corn kernels
• 2 Tbsp canned chipotle in adobo, chopped
• 1 cup long grain rice, cooked

Toss the okra with the lemon juice. Let sit for 15 minutes.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Saute the okra for 5 minutes, until golden. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium & cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the green pepper & the garlic, cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, cook for 2 minutes, stirring, and add the chicken stock, bacon, salt, and pepper. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, until thickened.
Increase the heat to medium, add corn & chipotle (taste & adjust according to personal heat preference). Stir the mixture well, add vinegar & stir again and cook partially covered for 15 to 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir with a fork and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, serve over rice.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Traveling to the Desert~dodging the rainstorms!

Somehow I was reminded of the old 70's America song lyrics: I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain....
Got to love those lyrics when they have clarity about 30 years later!! We weren't on horse back, but when we were out of the rain in the desert of Coahuila it did truly feel good!

We traveled back to Torreon this week & felt like we were surely in the midst of hurricane season right in the middle of the desert! We first encountered hours of rain & even hail on our way through Saltillo which pushed our trip to Torreon to a 6 hour trip. In Saltillo the waters on Blvd. Venustiano Carranza were rushing like a river as we tried to get gas & a quick lunch. That alone should indicate how crazy the weather was. During our second day in Torreon we experienced storms which dumped such huge amounts of rainfall; the water was washing under the wall our hotel & into the lobby!! Drainage in Mexico is not the strong suit of urban planning, especially in the arid, desert climates! Even Katerina's vet experienced some flooding at his clinic where she was lodging during our trip to town. The crazy & immense rain in a short time caused street flooding, quite a site for dry town in the desert. We practically swam to dinner that evening at Rincon de Befe but by the next day hardly a sign of rain showed other than the muddy areas in front of buildings & on the streets. We actually went about our business the next day as if the storms never happened...Just another day in Mexico!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Barrio Antiguo~fun place to check out!

We visited Monterrey's Old District today & walked the old worn cobblestone streets of Barrio Antiguo. The district is known for more night life than daytime activities but we strolled the area checking out a local artsy flea market & looking at the wonderful old architecture, the vivid colors and old barred windows & doors. The area went through a revitalization program with local businesses buying up the old buildings & opening a whole host of Restaurants, small shops, Coffee Houses, Bars & countless clubs. It reminded us both of the French Quarter in New Orleans; the whole lack of parking aspect was right there as well!!

The flea market street in Barrio Antiguo was much like the Renaissance market in downtown Austin, some things shabby & others kind of chic! We saw antiques, handcrafts, Beetles memorabilia & paintings being sold by local artists. I found some hip little earrings made by a local artist named Edgar Luna. They were quite cute with little miniature images of none other than Frida Kahlo!

Tiny Fridas for the ears, que bueno!!!

Friday, July 6, 2007

¡cumpleaños feliz Frida de 100 años!

“I must fight with all my strength so that the little positive things my health allows me to do might be pointed toward helping the revolution. The only real reason for living." -Frida Kahlo

Mexico & the art world celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Frida Kahlo's birthday.

Mexico City is hosting the largest ever exhibition of Frida Kahlo's works this week at the Museo de Bellas Artes to mark 100 years since the birth of the artist.

Frida Kahlo was the first Latin American woman to have a painting in the Louvre. Her work caused a storm in Paris in 1939, and the surrealists claimed it as supremely illustrative of their ideas.

To the average person, her paintings may often appear to be very dark. But a deeper understanding of her life gives her imagery a wider dimension, reflecting the psychological & physical pain she endured through her tortured relationship & marraige with Diego Rivera and countless failed surgeries which lead to her early death in 1954.

If you want to know more about Frida Kahlo read: Hayden Herrera’s Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo.

There are untold numbers of tourista items & bric-a-brac with Frida's image today in Mexico making her more recognizable than most of the current Latin American politicians.

I am including one of Frida's recipes on my blog. It is very similar to the Chiles en Nogada which I have posted as a recipe previously on the old blog. She was a woman of great talents & gifts in the kitchen as well as the art world!

Cooking up one of Frida's Recipes~

• 16 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and deveined
• Flour
• 5 eggs, separated
• Olive oil or lard
• Tomato Broth

Stuff the chiles with the Picadillo, then dust them with flour. Beat the egg whites until stuff. Beat the yolks lightly with a pinch of salt and gently fold together with the whites to make a batter. Dip the chiles into the batter and fry in hot oil until golden. Drain on brown paper. To serve, place the chiles in the Tomato Broth.


• 3 lb. ground pork
• 1 large onion, halved
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• Salt and pepper
• 6 tablespoons lard (olive oil is fine)
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
• 1 cup shredded cabbage
• 3/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped
• half cup raisins

Cook the pork with the onion halves, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste for about 20 minutes. Drain the liquid and discard onion. Heat the lard in another pan and sauté the chopped onion, carrots, and zucchini until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato, cabbage, almonds, raisins, pork and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture has darkened and the tomato is cooked through.

• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
• 10 medium tomatoes, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
• half cup vinegar
• 3 tbsp sugar
• Salt and pepper
• 2 tsp dried oregano

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Cicadas, The Alien Invasion South of the Border!

The Cicadas are here!!! It seems to be raining bugs!!!

Time & history tell us the Cicadas are here to stay. The Singing & Mystique of Cicadas was mentioned in Platos Phaedrus. Therefore the sound of Cicadas right now in Northern Mexico shouldn't be a surprise even if it is almost deafening around dusk. People have described their noise as singing, I doubt if I could call it such but it is very hard to ignore. One folk tail says that the sound of Cicadas is followed by rain~well, that explains the weather we have been having. We are ready for a change though:)
While the girls were here visiting we were rather shocked by how loud & invasive they were while we dined outside one evening. The large Cicadas here in Northern Mexico spend most of their lives underground & crawl out only every 17 years! There are some 2500 species of Cicadas around the world so I guess that is something so sing about if you are a big 4 inch bug with the aerodynamics of a Volkswagon!!!

Our Green Flying Friend!
Green isn't just for bugs! Okay, so this drink might make the whining bug noise easier to bear!

The Mean Green Cicada Martini~Call it what you want!!
6 parts gin
1 part chartreuse
Almond-stuffed olive

Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with an olive.

Salsa de Aguacate

3 Jalapenos (less if you want), blackened or raw, seeded & stems removed
1 -2 Avocados, diced
1 Tomatillo, cut into quarters
Cilantro, loosely chopped

Put all in a blender or molcajete then thin out with small amount Crema, or Sour Cream, salt & pepper to taste.
*Crema~ Crema Pura de Vaca is used in many dishes here. It just thins this recipe out, so it is easier to dip.
Garnish with Cilantro Sprigs & let those bugs sing on!!!
Enjoy this very green Appetizer & Cocktail Recipe!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Five favorite things! (some old & some new)

We made a mad rush home to Texas & back to bring one of the cars back to Monterrey. We had to take care of paperwork for the use of our vehicles in Mexico~alot of red tape in this excessively paper driven society, they surely must file all the documents somewhere & never to be looked at them again...

While home I had a few new discoveries of things that, in the words of Martha Stewart are: "Good Things".

1.) Family is the best balm for the spirit! (nothing new, just a favorite good thing!)

2.) Texas & all the good things that single word captures both in spirit & mind! An eternal favorite. We miss it dearly this 4th of July!

3.) After living in Mexico for a year now I have decided that I should re-read Sandra Cisneros' good book: Caramelo. This is a novel by the author who wrote The House on Mango Street. Caramelo is a wonderful epic story about a family full of rich characters that moves through a century of history from Mexico to Chicago & San Antonio, Texas. Sometimes the best books are the ones we have already read once!

4.) Wonderful Mascara by none other than Maybelline: Volum' Express mascara~Jackie & Ashley (who have eyelashes to kill for)introduced this new product to me, since it is their new favorite. Great stuff!!!

5.) Mango Splitter, good item for splitting that wonderful fruit away from the huge seed pod! This new kitchen gadget gets 2 thumbs up from me:) Thank you John & Lauren!!!

Short visit over~

We loved our brief visit with the girls. Between the never ending rain showers they were hanging out, eating (alot of fresh Salsa), drinking, making a couple of quick forays to Santiago for sightseeing, shops, traditional Mexican food & the Palacio de Hierro in Monterrey! The girls found that shopping in Monterrey is something they might just be returning to Mexico for. Girls & Shopping~imagine!!

Miss you mucho!!!

Villa de Santiago 1693

¡Vieja ciudad mágica hermosa!

The town of Santiago is actually where our house is located. Much history surrounds this area. The town was named, Villa de Sabinas, Hidalgo in honor of Miguel Hidalgo, the Mexican independence war starter. In 1971 it lost its villa status and is now considered a city. In Mexico people & maps tend to still refer to it as Villa de Santiago though. The little town has also acquired the designation of Pueblo de Magica. This status is something the government designates to few towns but most notably was given to San Miguel de Allende, the famed town of Tequila & Guanajuato. This title & status is given once a town has gained certain historical or tourism aspects. As we live very close John & I will probably become familiar with so much more in Villa de Santiago!

Another great place to explore~