Sunday, September 30, 2007

Monterrey says "Goodbye Frida!"

We went to Barrio Antiguo today & as it is near the Macro or Monterrey Metropolitan Museum we had to wade through heavy crowds to get near the Barrio Antiguo district. We had read this morning that 100,000 persons have viewed the Frida Exhibition during the month long visit in Monterrey. I seriously doubt anyone was prepared for the crowds that seemed to flock to the Macro by mid day to pay their last respects. We saw helicopters in the air & police on motor cycles trying to direct the crowds. What a tribute to the exhibit! Bravo, Frida!

A century after her birth Frida still knows how to draw a crowd. One of the strongest, if not the singular Mexican female Art figure of the 20th century. Eternally Frida!

Wonder if I will continue to see these interesting little Frida Dolls in Barrio Antiguo?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Little Burros~Burritos!

This Burro colt is too cute for words but little burro is also the name for a favorite South of the Border food. This recipe is better than any fast food drive through version. Buen Provencho!

Chicken and Black Bean Burritos

6 large (8-or 9-inch) tortillas
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large whole chicken breast, cooked, shredded
1/2 (15 1/2-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked long-grain white rice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes 8 ounces shredded Jack or Cheddar cheese
4 Tbsp. favorite Salsa
Chopped cilantro or green onions for garnish

Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven; heat to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring until softened. Stir in chicken, breaking up meat slightly. Stir in beans, rice and tomatoes & salsa.

Unwrap warmed tortillas. Spoon about ¾ cup of the filling in the center of the tortilla, leaving an inch at either end. Sprinkle ¼ cup shredded cheese on top, fold in 1-inch ends, then roll tortilla around filling. Place in a large shallow baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of burritos. Cover with foil and heat in oven for about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and filling is hot.

For a garnish, sprinkle with cilantro or green onions & serve with extra salsa & crema or sour cream.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Long day in the desert~

So, a man walks into a car rental agency....wait, that is no joke, in fact it wasn't funny & there is no joke!! If given the choice between burro & car in Mexico the choice might seem obvious but don't be so quick to decide...

What is a routine rental car experience in the states can turn to an awful nightmare in Mexico! That car doesn't belong to you but the problems could be all yours!! What was to be a 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive to Torreon, Coahuila through the desert turned out to be almost 8 hours by the time our day was finished. We noticed the car made strange noises as we were in Saltillo but couldn't find much truly wrong other than high mileage & general abuse rental cars take in Mexico.
Somewhere out in the desert between Saltillo & El Sol Coahuila we had a blow out on a tire, mind you there was a double trailer 18 Wheel truck barreling down the Cuota in our lane behind us.(very scary) John pulled, over called someone who told us the problem was by definition of rental policies in Mexico our problem!!! We then proceeded to empty the trunk of the rental car to find the jack & spare tire. Tire wasn't inflated & jack was inoperable. This was a huge problem as it left us stranded. Through many many phone calls John finally managed to convince someone we couldn't repair the tire, the car needed repairs & we needed a new car!! All of this seems a simple process in the US but here in Mexico is a different story entirely. Basically if you rent a car South of the Border it "sucks to be you" if there are problems.
Never one to take no for an answer, I think John was "¡cliente enojado en el desierto caliente!" or angry client in the hot desert~as the rental agency phrased it!
While we sat in the heat in the desert, miles from anything we did see the local farmers go by with their cattle & burros. What else can one do sitting in the desert but try & enjoy the local terra vista?
Long story short we were tired, cranky & both needed a bath at the end of our long day but we did arrive at our hotel in Torreon, many hours later.
Moral of the story: beware of car rental agencies in Mexico, especially if that company once had the "Juice" running through the airports advertising how customer friendly they are!!! Out of country car rentals? That can be a stacked deck, with the customer the ultimate looser!!!
My personal motto right now? I am getting tired of these personal growth opportunities, somewhere South of the Border...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

¡es las pequeñas cosas!

The New York Times in Mexico~Got to love it!!

Sometimes it is the little things we are so very thankful for here. I was thrilled to find a copy of The New York Times here on a news stand at our new HEB grocery store. I can almost feel connected with an actual newspaper on the day it was issued, in English no less! I say "Amen", to the powers that be~New York Times & greater. It's something I used to take as every day & common. Between that & Starbucks life is looking up! Yep, when you pick up that morning paper & have your cup of coffee think of the Ex Patriots around the world who take such joy in those little things!
the Arts section: A photo of Wayne Newton in the ABC fall lineup on "Dancing with the Stars", inspirational~God Bless America!! Oh, yes & the Cowboys did beat the Bears on Sunday!! 34-10, Page D6 Sports Section! Woohoo for America's Team!!! Those little pieces of "Americana"...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

?And what to my wondering eyes should appear?

We were having a relaxing brunch at poolside this morning when we were joined by a not so welcomed visitor! The Mexican Black King snake or Lampropeltis getula nigrita thought it was quite appropriate to drop in for a quick Sunday morning visit. Needless to say, breakfast was over pretty quickly at the Casa Kincke! The Mexican Black King snake is called the Poor Man's Indigo snake, since the Texas Indigo were managed by the King Ranch in South Texas to control the Rattle snake population. If that is this fellow's job, then so be it!

For more on the Texas Indigo; which this guy owes his life to at our house, check out the King Ranch site: Otherwise if this guy had fallen into the category of water moccasin & or been in the pool it would have been Adios! at the end of a shovel.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Doors of Barrio Antiguo

Charles Dickens once said, "Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence." There is much as evidence in Barrio Antiguo within the Monterrey Old District. Like Miss Havisham these aging beauties have often seen their better days & hang on by a single thread to a bygone era.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pot of Iced Tea & Hot dogs on Pizza!

Dining experiences abroad are what makes life a little more interesting. Northern Mexico is full of many great & surprising flavors but there some which defy explanation. We recently stayed at a hotel & ordered a Pepperoni Pizza along with iced tea. The iced tea arrived in a tea pot, normally when we order té helado, we are greeted with a glass of iced tea as we would in the states. (to each his own, the tea was cold & had to be sipped out of a small tea cup~) I somehow though Pepperoni was known the world over, after all it was on our dinner menu. However when the Pizza arrived we were quite shocked to see un-cooked hot dogs cut up on the top of a dough that was barely cooked & layered with an assortment of crunchy veggies. Surprised?? Yes, happy with our choice? Not!!! Destined to repeat this dinner choice again? The Chef getting a recommendation to be on "Top Chef" reality show from us? I think not! The look on my husband's face when he saw hot dogs? Priceless!!!! Living & learning down somewhere south of the border~

A not very good Pizza~although you have to smile at the odd choice of pepperoni substitution! Somewhere in Little Italy there is a pizza maker laughing!

Flaming Hot Queso~

This Mexican favorite has as many different recipes are there are varieties of cheeses. It is easy & best with some good white wine to break up all that cheese. Queso Fundido means Fused Cheese~try fusing your queso with these ingredients. Oh, this awesome looking doorway was one I spotted in Santiago. Beautiful colors!

Queso Fundido con Chorizo y Hongos
1/2 cup *Mexican Chorizo or one small link
6 to 8 ounces mushrooms any variety, discard any woody stems & slice ( about 2 cups)
Salt, pepper
10-12 ounces Queso Chihuahua or Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
dash of fresh ground black pepper
Fresh, warm Corn or Flour Tortillas
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet (preferably non-stick), heat to medium-high. Saute Chorizo about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir nearly constantly, saute 5 minutes longer. Season with salt, usually about 1/4 teaspoon. Transfer the mixture to a 9- or 10-inch shallow baking dish, Mexican cazuela or pie plate. When the timer goes off, stir the shredded cheese into the warm mushroom & chorizo mixture. Set in the oven & bake until the cheese is just melted, about 5 minutes, broil 2 min. to brown the top, then sprinkle with the thyme and black pepper and serve, accompanied by warm tortillas.

*I like to use at least 50% soy chorizo which I can find in Mexico, it is less greasy & lower in fat.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cumpleaños Feliz~

Cumpleaños feliz,
te deseamos a ti,
cumpleaños Lauren,
que los cumplas feliz.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Lauren's birthday of course included a trip to see the Frida Exhibit at the Macro & then Mom could not resist a photo opportunity at the large scale Frida painting of "The Bus", which is a great spot for a fun photo!

Viva Lauren~Feliz Cupleanos!

Even our canine friend, Winn Dixie seemed to be checking out Lauren when we took her to Artesania Deseno for a little birthday shopping! *Good thing too, it gave him a respite from chasing our car as is his normal routine when we visited the store...

Friday, September 14, 2007

All dressed up & ready for September 16th in Santiago~

Flags & banners were apparent all over town in both Monterrey & Santiago in preparation for September 16th which is Mexican Independence Day. The square in front of the 1754 Templo de Santiago Apostol in downtown Santiago, was a riot of activity today with the colorful carnival rides, flags & profusion of sidewalk vendors. Also known as Diez y Seis de Septiembre, this date celebrates when Father Hidalgo made the cry for Mexico's freedom from Spain with his famous Grito de Dolores.

Lauren & Romainian friend Mickie withstood the heat & humidity to view some of the sights & do a little shopping in Santiago & 7 Mile Market. There was a tense moment when I had to back up a narrow alley going the wrong way on a one way street~Viva Mexico, Baby!!!

Oh, the places she'll go!!!

Diez y Sies~National Holiday=Lauren's Birthday!!!!

Visits to Obispado & Chipinque seemed in order! Beautiful places for a beautiful daughter! Dad is having a hard time thinking about a little girl all grown up, the 25 year old daughter~how time flies, sweetheart!

Lauren is here for a quick visit for her 25th Birthday! Is that Monterrey's famous Cero de la Cilla behind your head?? Viva la Lauren!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mexican Flan with a dark side.

Dia y Noche, is the name given this dessert since there are two distictive layers within this Mexican Flan. This cake is sold in many of the local pastery shops.

Chocolate Flan Cake

3 eggs
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
1 can of evaporated milk (12 fl oz)
1 bar of cream cheese (8 oz)
1 tsp vanilla
1 box devil's food chocolate cake

Combine eggs, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream cheese, and vanilla in a blender and mix well. (this is the Flan for the top)

*Prepare devil’s food chocolate cake mix according to box directions.

Butter a Bundt pan (or other large, deep pan). The pan should be buttered very well; place the chocolate cake mix in the pan and carefully spoon the flan mixture from the blender on top of the cake mix.
Cover pan with aluminum foil and place in a water bath. The water should cover the pan about half way. Bake for approximately 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes at 375 F. Check the cake with a knife until it comes clean to make sure is cooked. The chocolate cake will be cooked, but the flan may take longer.

Remove cake from the oven let cool for 30 - 60 minutes and then flip onto serving plate. Refrigerate overnight for the flan to completely set.
Top with butterscotch, caramel, chocolate syrup, or any other sweet topping just before serving.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chipinque~Beauty from Above

We went to Chipinque Park over the weekend & were amazed by the cooler temperatures, pristine beauty & changing landscape the higher we drove up the mountain. Chipinque is a natural park above Monterrey, on the northern face of the Sierra Madre Mountain range. We arrived when the views were still cloudy & fog shrouded the top of the mountain peaks but the sun burned through the haze by the end of our visit. Monterrey spreads out below Chipinque but there are spectacular views once you arrive near the top. The park sustained heavy tree loss in 1998 when a forest fire destroyed many of the heavy Pine forests. In 2002 the forestry service planted 100,000 pine trees & they can be seen taking over the areas where the fire once marked the mountainside.

The entrance to the park has rather comical, gigantic insect sculptures which greet the visitors. The wildlife in the park though far exceeds mere insects, though. There are over 87 species of butterflies, countless reptiles & mammels in the 3200 acre park.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Albondigas en Salsa de Jitomate y Chipotle~That's a Spicy Meatball!

No Italian influence with these meatballs!
Albóndigas or Meatballs historically date back to the Moors crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa and for almost 800 years ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula (Modern day Spain). They dominated both the culture & the cuisine. Here in Northern Mexico there are a surprising number of Arabian & Lebanese restaurants which also feature a variety of meatballs in their menus. Albóndigas is believed to have originated from the Arabic term al-bunduga, meaning "ball." The Moorish influence followed the Spanish Conquistadors to Mexico.

Mexican Meatballs
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups dried breadcrumbs, plain
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper ground
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup water
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
*1-3 chipotle chile in adobo, canned
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 small onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together the ground beef and pork, eggs, bread crumbs, 1 t. salt, pepper, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and water. Form into 1 inch meatballs and set aside on a piece of waxed paper.
Pour the diced tomatoes into the container of a blender along with the chipotle chilies. Blend until smooth, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion; cook and stir until tender. Stir in the remaining garlic and cumin, and cook for a few minutes to release the aromas. Pour in the tomato mixture and chicken broth. Season with the remaining teaspoon salt, and mix well. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat while you brown the meatballs.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add meatballs, but do not crowd them. Fry them in 2 batches if necessary. Cook, stirring occasionally until browned on the outside. Remove from the skillet, and place into the pot of simmering sauce. Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 30 minutes. Longer will not hurt them. Longer means more flavor.
For special occasions, serve the meatballs and sauce in a chafing dish. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
*As always adjust heat according to taste!