Cook Book Entry (Chicken Mole)

Mexican Mole from Scratch

As a child I spent a lot of quality time with my grandmother, in fact she practically raised me. My mother was a single teenage mother who was obligated to spend a lot of her time working, trying to make ends meet. Since I spent most of my time with my lovely grandmother, she was the one who took the responsibility to make sure my needs were being met. In other words, she made sure my belly was always full. My grandmother would always be willing to cook me any meal I craved, she loved to cook for me. Not only because I was her very first grandchild, but because I wasn’t a very good eater when I was growing up.  One of favorite dishes I would constantly ask her to make me was her Mexican Chicken Mole (from scratch), a rich savory sauce that has complex layered flavors. Her recipe included:

10-12 Chile Pasilla (stems and seeds removed)                3 Green Tomatoes

8 Chile California  (stems and seeds removed)                 Peanuts (a handful)

4-6 Chile de Arbol ( Spicy)                                               ¼ cup Almonds

1/2 cup Sesame Seeds                                                       2 Garlics

2 tsp Pumpkin Seeds (Peeled)                                          2 Bay Leaves

1/3 Onion                                                                          1 Toasted Bread

Water or Chicken Broth                                                    ½ to 1/3 cup Canola Oil

½ Ibarra Chocolate                                                           ½ Platano Macho

Salt (to taste)

In brief, I was always amazed at all the ingredients she included in her tasteful Mole sauce; I would’ve never guessed what was in her Mole. Most people I know, typically cook with the Mexican Dona Maria Mole sauce that is pre-made and sold in Mexican grocery stores. I occasionally cook with the pre-made Mexican Dona Maria, but I add other ingredients to make it spicy.  However, it is nowhere near as tasteful as my grandmothers Chicken Mole. In fact, it is rare when I come across someone who cooks with precise ingredients, like my Grandmothers homemade Mexican Mole. This particular dish is one of my favorite meals my grandmother cooks because the recipe has been passed on from generation to generation within my family. For that reason, she refused to share her step by step instructions.

As an illustration, an Oaxacan-Style Mole Sauce:

  • Manteca(pork lard) or canola oil
  • 10-12 chile pasilla, stems and seeds removed
  • 8 chile mulato, stems and seeds removed
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 full teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • salt to taste



  1. Heat 1/3 to 1/2 cup oil to medium heat. After a few minutes, add two of the dried chiles. Cook for just about 20 to 30 seconds per side. They will become brighter in color at first, then start to darken in color. As soon as they become darker, take them out and transfer to a plate. Repeat until all peppers are done.  Once peppers are done, break them into smaller pieces(they should be very brittle) and cover them with boiling water. Let them steep.
  2. In that same pan, add a little more oil and heat to medium/low. Add the cumin seeds, oregano and garlic. Cook stirring often until the spices and garlic become aromatic and slightly toasted. Remove from heat.
  3. Drain the water from the chiles and transfer them to the blender. Add 2 cups of fresh water or chicken broth and all of the remaining ingredients, including the oil that you cooked the spices in. I prefer not to use the water that the chiles were soaking in. It can be bitter at times. Blend on high until smooth. Taste for salt. Strain sauce through a wire mesh strainer.

1 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano                                1/4 cup blanched almonds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds                                              1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 teaspoon anise                                                       1/2 cup sesame seeds

2 whole cloves                                                            1 large roma tomato

6 to 8 peppercorns                                                       2 to 3 chile serrano

1 inch piece of Mexican cinnamon                             6 to 8 cloves garlic

1/2 large white onion                                                  1/3 cup raisins

2 corn tortillas                                                             1 1/2 tbsp. peanuts

1 disc Mexican chocolate                                            8 to 10 cups chicken broth

Salt and pepper (to taste)



  1. In one skillet, combine the almonds and pumpkin seeds. Heat to medium and add just a drizzle of oil. When they begin to sizzle, stir as needed and cook just until lightly toasted. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
  2. Wipe out that same skillet and add the sesame seeds. Heat to medium and toast until golden in color. Stir as needed. Transfer to a bowl. Wipe out the skillet. Reserve 1/2 of the toasted sesame seeds for garnish on the mole.
  3. In the skillet, add the spices and heat to medium. When they become aromatic, stir often. Toast for just a few minutes and remove from heat. Wipe out the skillet. Again and finally in this same skillet, add the tomato, onion, serrano and garlic. Drizzle with a little oil and heat to medium. Cook until they begin to char in some spots and cook through. Remove the garlic after 15 minutes. If you feel comfortable toasting several ingredients at once using a few pans, you could do that as well.
  4. Using a coffee grinder or mini chopper, add the toasted nuts.  Grind by pulsing until it resembles a thick paste. Set side. Using a coffee grinder (I use mine strictly for spices) add the toasted spices and seeds. Grind until you have a fine paste/powder. Set aside.
  5. Once everything is toasted, roasted and charred, add the ground seeds, nuts and spices to the blender. Also add the charred tomato, onion and serrano. Remove skins from garlic and add them, along with the raisins, charred tortillas and peanut butter. Add 2 cups of broth. Blend on high until smooth. For a smoother sauce, strain sauce through wire strainer and set aside.
  6. In a large oven pot, add 2 tablespoons of pork lard (Manteca) or oil of choice, and heat to medium. After a few minutes when oil is hot, add the strained chile sauce (sauce from dried chiles). Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring as needed. Add the other blended sauce and 6 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add the Mexican chocolate. Stir as needed to melt chocolate. Cover 3/4 of the way and continue simmering the mole sauce for a good hour or two. The sauce will become darker and thicker as it cooks and reduces. Add extra broth (2 or more cups) depending on how thick you like it. Taste for salt along the way (, 2016).

Throughout the years and throughout the nation this Mexican Mole dish has been modified by many and continues to be modified. The sauce is made with numerous ingredients, chili peppers being one of the main ingredients. The original Mole is a dark brown or red sauce that is typically served over meat (preferably chicken). However, Mexican Mole sauces are well-known to come in a variety of flavors and colors. Mole can be anything from soup-like too thick paste like sauce and can be either bright green, brown, red, yellow, or black depending on the region. The different styles of Mole sauce depend on the ingredients you add; the dried chile peppers you decide to use determine the color and taste of the Mole sauce. Also, one can either toast or fry their ingredients which might make a slight different in taste.

Furthermore, Mole is a Mexican sauce that is originated in Mexico, in the states of Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, and Puebla. The dish is recognized as a culinary symbol of Mestizaje (a combination of both Indigenous and European heritage) due to the ingredients the sauce contained. The Mole sauce has a mixture of ingredients that represent either the indigenous or European heritage. This dish was inspired during the Colonial period, a period where people lived in panic because they lived in poverty. Giving them no other option but to gather the little they had and cook it together. For example, day-old bread, nuts, chocolate, spices, and chili peppers were mixed together to create an appetizing sauce to go with a turkey meal. Since the term Mole was an ancient word for mix the Mexican dish was given then name Mole (Mole, Wikipedia, 2016).

One of the main ingredients Chile Pasilla is a dark dried chili pepper that is typically narrow and long. It is recognized for its dark wrinkled skin; it is commonly 6 to 8 inches long and 1.0 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Pasilla is a species that falls under Capsicum annuum, a species native to South America and North America. This chili pepper is sold in the United States, United Kingdom, and Mexico; you can purchase the pepper whole (fresh or dry) or in powdered form. The Pasilla Chile is mild to medium-hot and is normally used to prepare sauces similar to Mexican Mole (Pasilla, Wikipedia, 2016).


Another ingredient that makes a difference in the color of the mole is the Ibarra chocolate. Ibarra is a Mexican chocolate produced by the company Chocolatera de Jalisco of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. This Mexican chocolate company produces several other chocolate products however, they are known throughout international markets for their famous Ibarra table chocolate. The Ibarra chocolate is about ½ inches thick and 3 ¼ inches in diameter it is shaped in a circle and molded into 8 pieces. This chocolate contains cinnamon flavoring, cocoa liquor (not cocoa butter), vegetable fat, sugar, and soy lecithin. It is typically used to make hot cocoa in a traditional Mexican form (Ibarra, Wikipedia,2016).

In addition, almonds seeds are also included into the Mole sauce to give it a slightly different kick to the favoring of the sauce. Almonds are edible seeds that are widely cultivated from the Almond tree itself. The tree produces a fruit by the name of Majorca which has an outer hull and hard shell with a seed inside (almond seed). These almond seeds can be purchased unshelled or shelled. The blanched almonds have to be treated with hot water to soften the seed coat given one access to the white embryo. In addition, the seed is a very nutritionally dense food; a good source of energy, carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, almonds contain campesterol and stigmasterol, which have been proven to lower cholesterol properties. Lastly, the United States is recognized as the largest almond seed producer. The production is based in California, making almonds the third leading agricultural product in California. In fact, California is known as the dominant supplier of almonds (Almond, Wikipedia, 2016).

To conclude, my grandmother’s Mexican Chicken Mole is a dish that has great significance in my life. It brings nothing but good vibrations and feelings. Every time I eat this particular dish, I recall my childhood. I picture my grandmother in the kitchen, wearing her bright green leafed apron, speaking to me as she takes her sweet time mixing all the ingredients together. By this I mean, the memory of my grandmother making Mole for me is the reason why this dish is so significant to me.








“Easy Mole Sauce Recipe -Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, MA.” Ixtapa

Mexican Grill & Cantina. N.p., 2013. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Kitchen. “Chicken Mole : Food Network Kitchen : Food Network.” Recipe : Food Network Kitchen : Food Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.


Schonwetter, Norma. “Mexican Chicken Mole.” MyRecipes. N.p., 2014. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.


Hughes, Chuck. “Estella’s Mole Poblano Chicken : Recipes : Cooking Channel.” Recipes : Cooking Channel. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.


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“Pasilla.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.


“Almond.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.


@almonds. “History of Almonds.” Almond Board of California. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

<> N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.


Cookbook Index


These are the cookbook entries / final project of the IDS 336 Food and Culture class for Fall 2016 at California State University Dominguez Hills.


Stuffed Deviled Eggs


Big Mama’s Hot Water Corn Bread

Spam Musubi

Vegan Dirty Rice

Avgolemono Soup


Sopa Verde

Gnocci with Grandma’s Sauce

French Toast

Gumbo 1

Gumbo 2

Guatemalan Tamales 

Butter Chicken

Molé Mexicano

Chicken Mole

Lobster Street Tacos

Tacos Dorados de Papa


Fried Chicken


Cajun Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Tostadas 1

Tostadas 2

Cuban Christmas Feast

Zuppa Toscana

Pasta with My Grandmother’s Sauce


Christmas Shoofly Pie

Milk Gelatins

Arroz Con Leche

Homemade Apple Sauce

The Tostada

Melky Aleman

Dr. A. Perez

Food and Culture

Food Analysis: The Tostada

                My tostada recipe is an homage to my Mother who’s resilience and social improvisation made me who I am today.  Not wanting to burden me with her adult problems, she ensure I got what I needed, a warm meal every day.  Not having much, she would “figure it out”.  She would cook a full chicken and make it last a week.  The first meal was a regular chicken dish with traditional Latino sides.  The second was a variation derived from the plucked chicken meat.  It would sometimes be taquitos or a quesadilla.  But, when we were really lucky, it would be the tostada!  The fourth meal would be a vegetable soup, based from the bone broth.  And Friday, well, whatever was left over from the week! It might be one tostada with a side of vegetable soup.

Nutritional Analysis

The Tostada contains anywhere from 170 – 330 calories, depending on how the actual fried tortilla, meat and beans are prepared and cooked.  Using lard at any point will exponentially grow the caloric intake. Sodium will also fluctuate.  Pre-made, store bought, products will always be higher in sodium because it is used as a preservative.  Store bought salsa, tostadas and canned beans will have 300% more sodium than home made.  Tostada toppings can help balance some of the bad.  Many people will mix their lettuce with kale and finely chopped celery.  Others, will use reduced fat yogurt instead of sour cream.

Political-Economic Analysis

 The world’s cuisine, served at restaurants and sometimes as the main headliner of a festival, comes from the poor and is inspired by necessity!  Working class folks who’s first survival instinct is flexibility.  That flexibility is challenged exponentially as the family grows and more sacrifices have to be made.  It is off these people’s backs that entrepreneurs can mass produce their food, exploit it, and charge 400% more than what it cost to make.  This is Capitalism at work; and, Capitalism absolutely needs an exploited workforce for it to thrive.   The Tostada cost approx $.80 to make, but you can get one at Broken Spanish in DTLA, for $13.

The Burrito.  $12.87 for the Quesarito Burrito (Chipotle secret menu). The burrito is a product of the labor force.  Poor workers would wrap meat and whatever other leftovers they had into a large tortilla (also made at home) to-go.  Without access to refrigeration and too far from the farm house for a quick trip back for lunch, the Burrito became the most efficient way to “take your lunch” with you.

Fried Chicken.  Fried chicken was introduced to the Southern States by Scottish-Irish Immigrants and that’s when African slaves made it their own.  History aside, how do you feed an entire family with one chicken?  You bread it– Increasing the calorie count and obviously flavor.  The same recipe was given to Catfish, creating a separate famous southern dish.  Chicken is one of the cheapest meats available.  Drumsticks are frequently put on sale at $.70 a pound.  At Ad Hoc,a restaurant in Yountville, CA, a full fried chicken family meal runs you up to $200—something about the “special batter”, yeah whatever.

Gumbo. The modern version of Gumbo is a result of the poor getting together trying to have a good time with everybody bringing a little something to the party and throwing it “in the pot”.  Everybody eats. This hodgepodge of a dish may include chicken, ham, bacon, oysters, crab, shrimp and beef. Again, EVERYBODY eats! Harold and Belle’s will gladly feed your entire family, at $18 a bowl.

Lobster.  Seafood is supposed to be a poorman’s food.  So as long as you have a hook and some string, you can catch and cook your own seafood.  During peak season, Lobster was approximately $3.69 a pound, in Maine. You can pay up to $16.29 for one Maine Lobster TAIL (just the tail) at Red Lobster.




Arroz Con Leche

Growing up I was always amazed at my mother’s ability to mentally retain recipes and execute them flawlessly without ever consulting her cookbook.  Nearly hopeless in the kitchen, God help me if I don’t have a paper printout of the dish with precise, step-by-step instructions.  In the past I have tried to recreate a recipe, oftentimes one that I have watched her prepare countless times, and I inevitably forget something of vast importance.  This recipe, however, is one that I have never failed to prepare properly (as long as I have my notes to glance at!)

Literally translated from Spanish as “Rice with Milk,” the main ingredients are white rice, milk, heavy cream, and sugar.  Arroz con Leche is a simple dish that can be eaten at any time during the year, but is most often consumed in the colder months.  The Latin American answer to the English Rice Pudding, this delectable concoction can be served hot or cold and is typically garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks and a sprig of mint if you want to be fancy.

Although not the most nutritious meal to consume, it is similar to other Latin dishes in that it is calorie-dense and meant to keep you full for many hours.  Rice, when paired with a hearty serving of beans, combines to make a perfect protein and can completely take the place of meat.  This is beneficial to many Mexican residents, both in the past and the present,  as the level of poverty is relatively high, especially in rural areas.  Unfortunately, the lack of portability of this dish does not allow it be served while on the go or while working out in the fields.


6 – 2 inches of a cinnamon stick

2 – 2×1 inch strip of orange rind

5 cups rice

8 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

3 cup sugar


1/4 cup raisins

Ground cinnamon, for garnish

Add cinnamon sticks, orange rind, and water to a large saucepan.  Boil for 10-15 mins to release flavor.

Add rice and return to a boil  Once the desired temperature has been reached, stir once and turn down to medium/low heat.  Simmer 20 minutes.

Plain white rice, a staple of Latin communities

Let stand for 5-10 minutes to absorb all the liquid.

Remove cinnamon sticks and orange rind.  Fluff to break up any lumps.  DO NOT mash.

Rice after it has been cooked with orange peels and cinnamon

Using a rubber spatula, stir in the milk and sugar. Be mindful to scrape the bottom of the pan to avoid burning the rice.  Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, (10 to 15 minutes.)

Add milk and stir constantly. Rice will absorb liquid

Add heavy cream.  Simmer over medium low heat, stirring frequently, (10 to 15 minutes.)  If desired, add raisins during this time.

After heavy cream is added, continue stirring

This dish can be served warm or cold, garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.

Serve and enjoy!


Argueta, Jorge, and Fernando Vilela. Arroz con leche: un poema para cocinar = Rice pudding: a cooking poem. Toronto: Groundwood , 2016. Print.

“Arroz con Leche.” Arroz con Leche Recipe | N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

“Arroz Con Leche.” Arroz Con Leche — Science Leadership Academy @ Center City. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

“Arroz con Leche – Hispanic Culture | Latino Culture | Latin American Culture.” Hispanic Culture | Latino Culture | Latin American Culture. N.p., 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

Cuevas, Dr. Marco Polo Hernández. “West Africa and the Origin of Mexican Rice Cultivation and Rice Gastronomy.” West Africa and the Origin of Mexican Rice Cultivation and Rice Gastronomy. N.p., 1970. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

“Mexican Food: An Short History.” Mexican Food: An Short History. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

“Rice: The gift of the other gods.” Rice: The gift of the other gods : Mexico Cuisine. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

“Spanish Rice Pudding (Arroz con Leche) – Spanish Recipes | don Quijote.” DonQuijote. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

“The Spanish Arroz con Leche.” United Planet Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

“What is the history of Arroz con Leche?” Reference. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.


Tacos Dorados de Papa

Tacos Dorados de Papa

My mother use to make tacos dorados de papa (fried potato tacos) a lot for us when we were children. I remember that the people from church would always ask her to make them for the parish festival or for parish food sales. She would also change it up a bit and add chicken to the potatoes or make them of ground beef. She would roll them up and called them flautas (some people call them taquitos), but I found it easier just to fold the tortilla in half and make a quesadilla shape and not have to worry about or deal with the flauta coming undone. Some people put a toothpick to make them stick, but I think that looks disgusting, plus, taking it out is not that easy and biting into one is not fun. I just make my tacos dorados stick with the melted mozzarella cheese. Although the tacos are delicious, I try not to make them too often because, for some reason, I always manage to get myself burned. After making them for so many years, you’d think I’d have it thought out by now – go figure! Another subconscious reason I may not like making flautas is because when we were kids, my mom made ground beef flautas and they were just coming out of oil and had to cool down before we could eat them. Well, I’m guessing my older brother was quite hungry because he picked one up and was trying to cool it off by blowing into it and he blew a little too hard and the hot ground beef came flying in my face! Of course, I got burned by the hot meat and I was not at all amused. It was not a pretty moment for me, but my siblings had a great laugh and I also got a glimpse of my mother trying to hold back her laughter. Even though it was not a great experience for me, we are reminded about the incident when my mom makes flautas and now we just laugh about it. My family and coworkers are fond of my tacos which makes me feel good because I don’t cook too often, but when I do, it’s big and most of the time it’s good. Over the years, I have added toppings or different seasonings to my tacos, but it all started watching my mother make her delicious flautas. This is a meal she has passed down to me and a meal I can pass on to my children.

I would like to focus on one of the main ingredients – the potato. The potato is originally from the Andean mountain region in South America – the mountains are located on the western part from top to bottom. Spanish explorers discovered it and took it to Europe. Irish immigrants brought it to the United States in the 18th century, but large scale cultivation didn’t occur until the 19th century. Today, China, Russian Federation, Poland, India, and the United States are the main producers. Potatoes are grown commercially in 30 states, but Idaho grows much more than any other state. Although China is the top producer of potatoes in the world (95,987,500 tons), the United States is above many others in fifth place (19,843,900 tons). It is considered a healthy food only when you lay off the fattening toppings, and oil. I don’t think too many Americans eat the healthy version. Although Mexico is not on the map (at least not on the list of the top 25 countries) for being know to grow potatoes, flautas are said and known to be a Mexican dish.


I present to you now, my recipe for making tacos dorados de papa. I usually make a big batch of about 30-40 and takes about an hour and a half. I begin by boiling the water for the potatoes. While the water is boiling, wash and scrub about 6 russet potatoes, stick a knife into them a couple times and then toss them in. While they are in the pot, heat up the oil in another pan and begin to crumble the cotija cheese or queso fresco and cut up the lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado into slices (or make guacamole). When the potatoes are soft, drain them (keep the skin on) and put in the mozzarella cheese (there really isn’t a ratio to the potatoes so you can use as much cheese as you like – I usually use a bit more than half of the 16oz bar or use it all if I won’t be using it for something else), mash them together into a paste (you can use the bean masher for this) and add seasoning (For this recipe, I use Malher or Maggi – Central American seasonings for chicken stew, but feel free to change it up and use what you like – salt and pepper will also work). There are recipes where the tortillas are warmed by putting them in the microwave – that’s a no no, tortillas should be warmed on a comal (flat griddle) and then the potato paste is put on one side of the tortilla, folded in half and in they go into the hot oil. Caution: Please remember that the oil has to be hot, otherwise, the taco gets soggy and will not cook very well. Also, don’t throw the tacos into the oil – you will get burned! Use the spatula to slide them into the oil. Have a plate ready with a couple paper towels over it and when the tacos are a golden-brown color on both sides, take them out and let any excess oil run off. Once they have cooled, they are ready to eat with the desired toppings. I recommend that you eat them while they are warm, otherwise they don’t taste too great. The good thing about tacos de papa is that you can reheat them on the comal or toaster oven.

My salsa verde is usually done in advance, because I make big batches and freeze the excess in Ziploc bags. Although this is a recipe for tacos dorados, I will throw in my recipe for the salsa that is drizzled on top of the tacos. This is super easy and ANYONE can do it – takes about 10 minutes on high heat. Before giving you my recipe, I would like to tell you a bit about where salsa originated. The history of Salsa (combination of chilies, tomatoes or tomatillos and other spices) can be traced to the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas as far back as 3000 BC. It was first called salsa by the Spanish priest and missionary Alonso de Molina in 1571. I move on now to my salsa recipe. I make my salsa quite spicy, so if you’re not comfortable with the heat, use different chilies. Begin by boiling the water. While the water boils, peel and wash about 15-20 tomatillos, cut off the ends of 8-10 habanero chilies, and peel a whole garlic. Toss all that into the pot of boiling water and wait until everything is boiled. You can let it cool before draining to avoid any burning, and then put all the ingredients in the blender and add salt to taste.


Although I always get burned some way or another from making these tacos dorados, I continue to make them because it reminds me of home, my childhood, and because they are very good – they’re a comfort food. If you are having a gathering, these tacos are a great meal – they are also inexpensive to make. If you are pressed for time on the day of, you can also prepare the tacos the day before and put them in the refrigerator and cook when you are ready.

Ingredients for the Tacos de Papa



Mozzarella Cheese

Vegetable Oil




Sour Cream


Avocado or Guacamole (optional)

Shredded Chicken, Ground Beef, or Ham (optional)

Grated or Fresh Cheese (optional)



Ingredients for Salsa Verde


Habaneros Chilies





Alena Bosse and Michael Boland, Kansas State University. Potato Profile. Revised April 2014 by Shannon Hoyle, AgMRC, Iowa State University AgMRC (Agriculture Marketing Center). Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.


Food Editorial Co. The yummy food guide. Accessed 19 Nov. 2016


Garcia, Edith. “Boiling Potatoes.” 2016. JPEG file.


Garcia, Edith. “Golden Brown Tacos Dorados.” 2016. JPEG file


Garcia, Edith. “Ingredients for Spicy Green Salsa.” 2016. JPEG file


Garcia, Edith. “Main Ingredients for Tacos de Papa.” 2016. JPEG file


Garcia, Edith. “Potato Paste.” 2016. JPEG file


Garcia, Edith. “Spicy Green Salsa.” 2016. JPEG file


Garcia, Edith. “Tacos Dorados de Papa.” 2016. JPEG file


Jackie@WifeLifeKitchen. Mexican Potato Tacos (Tacos de Papa). Accessed 19 Nov. 2016


Potato Pro. Top 25 Potato Producing Countries Accessed 15 Nov. 2016 The History of Salsa Sauce. Accessed 19 Nov. 2016.


The World’s Healthiest Foods – Potatoes Accessed 15 Nov. 2016

Americas’ Favorite Dessert


Graciela Martinez

November 17, 2016

California State University Dominguez Hills

IDS: 336 Food and Culture

Dr. Perez

                                                            Americas’ Favorite Desert

            Even though Gelatin has a rich history dating thousands of years; it was advertising that made it possible for Jell-O to become Americas favorite dessert.  Jell-O has evolved and transformed to appeal to a wide range of people.  From children to the elderly community, Jell-O is Americas’ dessert.  While my reason for choosing gelatin as my research paper was sentimental and very personal, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered what a rich history gelatin has.  I hope to help my fellow classmates learn a little bit about history of gelatin, why I chose gelatin for my research paper, and of course I will provide a simple family recipe.  Finally, I will write about how brilliant marketing helped raise Jell-O to the status it holds today.

            Gelatin goes all the way back to the 15th century, Denis Papin a French man discovered it.  Gelatin in its raw nature stage has no color let alone flavor.  It is made from pure protein from animal bones.  “His experiment resulted in a method of removing the glutinous material from animal bones and boiling them” (Wulffson, 1999).  Even though gelatin was first discovered by Papin, he never patented gelatin under his name.  It was not until 1897, when Pearl B. Wait improved the gelatin formula; by adding fruit syrup, it made the gelatin more appealing to a wider number of consumers. He also named his invention Jell-O. “The New business had no completion, but unfortunately, not enough people wanted to try Jell-O. Wait sold the business to Orator Francis Woodward, a neighbor, for $450” (Wulffson, 1999).  Becoming an American favorite dessert was not an easy road for gelatin.  It had more than a few struggles along the way.  Jell-O was popular for a few elite in the early 1900s, it was served as an elegant meal.  By the Great Depression in the 1930 Jell-O had become an affordable meal in most American households.  Brilliant Marketing made it possible for Kraft Foods to catapult into an afortable dessert.

            Woodward was the driving force that made Jell-O a house hold name.  He created a very successful advertising campaign. Poster, picture, and ads in magazine provided fabulous Jell-O recipes.” Over 15 million Jell-O recipes booklets were printed and distributed into American household” (What is cooking America). In the early 1900s immigrants arriving to Ellis island were greeted with a bowl of Jell-O.  This simple act of kindness provided new faithful consumers, guaranteeing Kraft Food increases sells and popularity.  In 1904 the Jell-O girl was introduced to America, in 1934, Jack Benny oversaw advertising Jell-O in the radio airwaves.   Radio jingles was a common practice, they were catchy and memorable.  In 1964, Kraft Foods came out with one of their most successful slogan “There’s always room for Jell-O” (hat is cooking America).  Kraft Food sales were profitable for the most part of the 20th century until 1974. where for the first time they started to decline.  House wives no longer wanted to buy Jell-O for their growing children.  Kraft Food needed to reinvent the company and introduce more creative advertising, for the first time they hired a public figure to promote Americas favorite dessert. 

Gelatin has a few nutritional values, which continues to appeal worldwide sales. For example, sugar free Jell-O is a healthy dessert, it has 60 calories per serving, 10 of the 60 calories are from fat. Another great benefit is that Gelatin is cholesterol free, it has 170mg of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiver, 1 gram of protein, 10% of calcium, and 4% of Iron. Strawberry Jell-O only has 250 calories in a cup, 90calories are from fat.   Strawberry Jell-O has 5mg of cholesterol, 190mg of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 190 mg of sodium, 21 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, vitamin A and C, 2% calcium, and 2% iron. Gelatin has come a long way from it early origins.  Gelatin beginning was flavorless and colorless, it was meant to be serve to a few elite. Today their Jell-O has several flavors from strawberry, lime, lemon, orange to chocolate and vanilla.  Today Jell-O is served in every household, regardless of social economic status.  Hospitals serve Jell-O to their patients after any minor or major surgery, it is a light meal.  In the United States of America Jell-O is an affordable easy to make dessert in third world countries. The sale of homemade gelatin is a source of income.  Women like my mother and my grandmother have provided food and clothes for their children by selling gelatin in local mom and pop stores.   

My love for homemade gelatins began very early in life.  One of my first childhood memories was my mother preparing a hole batch of gelatins.  She would make a few of every flavor and colors, and on very special occasions she would make gelation made with milk.  As I got older I started questioning my mother how and who had taught her how to make my favorite dessert.  As it turns out my father was the one that taught her how to make them.  My mother had to provide for her young daughters, because even though my father did provide for the family at time he felt just a little short.  He was groomed to be a machista by my grandmother and his sisters.  There was no question he cared for his young wife and girls but when he was influenced into drinking, he would waste the rent money.   By learning how to make homemade gelatins my mother found a way to bring money to the house hold.  My father learned how to make gelatins from his mother.  My grandmother is 84 years old and till this day she continues to deliver her gelatin to a few mom and pop stores.  In the afternoon, she sets up a table outside her house and sells her home-made gelatin to the neighborhoods’ kids.  She has kept her independence by continuing to sell gelatins every morning and every afternoon. 

Now a day one never stops to think how much history there is behind the food we enjoy every day.  We take it for granted, it is as just another thing one must do to stay alive.  The fact of the matter is that food has a rich history behind it.  It has different levels of nutrition and every culture appreciates food to different degrees.  Jell-O was my selection entry for my cook book, I chose it because, every time I eat Jell-O it reminds me of my lovely mother and my grandmother. I go back to my childhood in Mexico, I began to remember my mother and myself in the kitchen. I am sitting on the kitchen table watching my mother boiling the gelatin, adding sugar to it.  Poring it to another pot, adding food coloring and vanilla flavor.  Poring it to a least 100 molds, letting them set through the night.  Getting up in the morning to enjoying my favorite, milk gelatin. 

                                    My mother’s homemade milk gelatin

This recipe would make 50 eight ounces’ milk gelatins

250 grams of grenetina

1 gallon of water

1 gallon of whole milk

2 lbs. of sugar

Sticks of cinnamon

½ spoon of vanilla extract



Barksdale, Nate. “Jiggle it: The history of Gelatin, as and Jellies.” Hunry History, 5 Sept. 2014.

Buzz, Matt. “The fascinating, Untold story of Jell-O Gizmodo.” Today I found out .com, 24 Jan. 2014.

Grey, Sara. “A social history of Jell-O salad: The rise and fall of an American Icon.”, 2015.

Hallock, Betty. “The cocktail you eat.” LA times, 10 Oct. 2007.

“History of Gelatin, Gelatine, and Jell-O.” Whats cooking in, .

Polis, Carey. “The state of Jell-O salad in America.” Huffington Post, 18 Sept. 2012.

Spackman, Chris. “Mormonism’s Jell-O Mold.” Slate, Aug. 08.

 “The Jiggly history of Jell-O.” Today I found Out Feed your Brain, 24 Jan. 2014.

Wulffson, Don L. “Fascinating facts about the invention of Jell-O by Pearl B. Wait in 1897.” 1999.

Wyman, Carolyn. “In Utah, it’s good to be green (Jell-O).” LA times, 13 Feb. 2002.










Zuppa Toscana


I have a confession. I have no specialty dish that I can claim to master. I’m spoiled rotten when it comes to cooking traditional meals. I’m blessed to have both my parents and my mother law to cook our traditional Latino foods; Pozole, Menudo, Tamales, Carnitas are all made by them on holidays and special events. All I get tasked with is bringing a side dish, dessert or drinks. And even then, it’s just easier for me to buy the item than to make it. Don’t get me wrong I have a family and I cook but because I work full time and attend school full time, we go out to eat most of the week. (Don’t judge me, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

My immediate family consist of my husband, myself and our four kids. Its considered a large family by today’s standards. A night of eating out is not always the healthiest, our usual is Pizza (my picky 4-year-old child’s favorite), hamburgers or tacos. Cheap, fast and easy. Every once in a while, we splurge. One cold winter night we decided to have dinner at Olive Garden. My husband and I had been on plenty of dates to Olive Garden but never with the kids. This was a whole new experience for them. As we arrived the waiter asked how many? Under what name? As we sat for 20 minutes waiting to be called, I looked around at the décor, the grapevines decorating the restaurant, the waiter toting a wine bottle and serving. The colorful words on the chalkboard announcing the lunch and dinner specials. I could tell my 6-year-old daughter thought it was fancy. The server called my husband’s name and and then we were seated.

As we waited on the waiter to take our order, we discussed our visit to the restaurant. Sometime children like to play 21 questions and ours were no exception. We confessed to the kids this was not our first-time visiting Olive Garden. They were a little upset to find out we go to restaurants without them. I’m not sure why they were so shocked. That night we ordered the chicken fettuccine alfredo, the tour of Italy and the lasagna al forno. The entrees included a soup or salad. We all opted for soup. Chicken gnocchi or Toscana. We’re not Italian and I wasn’t sure what gnocchi was so I chose my usual Zuppa Toscana. It translates to “Tuscan Soup”.

I’d describe it like a creamy potato soup loaded with flavorful Italian sausage, kale, and bacon. It is a warm creamy soup consisting of Spicy Italian Sausage, potatoes and kale. It warms your heart and soul. It is so hearty and satisfying. Its served piping hot and every mouthful contains potatoes and Italian sausage with a hint of bacon that melts in your mouth.

As our soup came we all dug in. While we sat with our faces nearly buried in the soup bowls, devouring this soup with an endless supply of breadsticks of course. It was so good in fact, my 6-year-old daughter started choking in the middle of eating her soup. At least 3 people and the waiter ran to help. We could not believe she was choking as I stated earlier the soup melts in your mouth. My husband was about to pick her up to start the Heimlich maneuver when she said she was alright. A piece of Kale had not fully made its way down her throat. Even the waiter remarked, “Wasn’t she having soup?” That night we wrapped up dinner with a new story and a new family favorite comfort food. It’s been 7 years since that incident and we still poke fun at her about it. Who chokes on cooked mushy kale… my daughter Josie that’s who. Would Josie’s experience always come to mind when we visit Olive Garden? But most importantly would we only have our creamy, hearty Zuppa Toscana during rare visits at Olive Garden? Could I duplicate their decadent recipe at home? Everything and anything is on the internet, right? The search was on. It was 2011 and all the information in the world was in the palm of my hand.

I Googled the recipe for Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden and I got hundreds of results. I found the recipe I currently use on however I modified it a tad. It is quick and easy and I save myself a ton of money but most importantly cooking it is a breeze and my family loves it.

Zuppa Toscana

On a cold night, this soup will keep you and yours warm and cozy. It’s a guaranteed hit and best of all clean-up is a breeze because it’s a one pot meal.
Serves 4-6 people
1 lb of Italian Sausage (hot or mild, I prefer “hot” to add a tiny kick)
½ small onion diced
1 small garlic clove finely chopped
1 tbs Knoor chicken Bouillon
1 cup chopped kale
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup bacon bits
8 russet potatoes sliced width wide
Shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
Brown the Italian sausage in a large soup pot.
Mix the sausage with ½ onion and diced garlic clove, Sautee the onion.
Once the onion is transparent, add 4 cups of water.
Then add the potatoes and bacon bits.
Once the potatoes are soft add the heavy whipping cream, kale and the chicken Bouillon.
Bring to boil. Use the parmesan cheese to garnish the soup.

Enjoy, try not to choke on the Kale.

As I was researching the origin of this tasty soup, I was finding it incredibly difficult to find information. I was certain the soup was considered a “peasant” soup. A soup made by Tuscany’s poor people since Medieval Times with inexpensive ingredients. Capatti and Montanari extensively explored the subject and stated “Medieval culture was finely attuned to the differences communicated through behavioral code, among which eating habits were of primary importance. Within this scheme of things vegetables were clearly identified as the food of peasants and the impoverished.” They illustrate this point they cited a story of a monk, whom encountered an elderly pilgrim returning from Rome, travelling with a sack the stinky garlic, onions and leeks. There are countless stories during history that associate vegetables with poor or lower class.

Scholars note, throughout the centuries vegetables have gained “social success”. In the 16th Century, Italians first encountered Potato’s in the America’s and described them as tasting like “chestnuts.” The Potato would remain suspicious to the Italians. It would be another 200 years before Italians would incorporate them into their diets. This was partly due to necessity. Famine struck Italy in the 18th century and a massive propaganda campaign was launched by Public Officials that finally convinced peasants and farmers to incorporate the Potato to their daily diet and crops. Some even suggested using it as a replacement for wheat flour in baking. Potato were also used to prepare dumplings, a dish favored by many in Middle Ages. By the 19th Century the potato had reach the “high” culture. This import was now an ingredient found in many recipes for the “cultured” class.


Dickie, John. “Tuscany: Don’t Tell the Peasants.” Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food. London: Sceptre, 2007. N. page. Print.

Http:// “Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana.” Restaurant Recipes – Popular Restaurant Recipes You Can Make at Home: N.p., 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.

Capatti, Alberto, and Montanari, Massimo. Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History : Italian Cuisine : A Cultural History. New York, US: Columbia University Press, 2003. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 10 December 2016.

Weaver, William Woys, and Solomon H. Katz. Encyclopedia Of Food And Culture. New York: Gale Division of Cengage Learning Inc, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 10 Dec. 2016.

“Zuppa Toscana.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016

Christmas Shoofly Pie

Margot Lavell
Shoofly Pie

Top Layer

Bottom Layer

Pre Oven

Final Product

Piece of Pie 🙂


Shoofly Pie
Being from New York but living in California, it has become pretty normal for me to miss holidays with my family. Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday I usually end up with a friend’s family as it is pretty difficult to get back to New York during this time with work and school. But Christmas is the one holiday in my 25 years I have only missed once. Although my family does cook, we are not the most avid cookers or chef’s out there. But, there is one dish that we have every year that is one of my favorites. Every Christmas for breakfast we do the normal eggs, bacon, cinnamon rolls, grapefruit, and shoofly pie. Everything about the dish is a pretty basic breakfast dish, except for the shoofly pie. I don’t think I’ve ever had shoofly pie with any other family other than my immediate or extended family. The only Christmas morning that I have not eaten shoofly pie was the one Christmas that I missed. Every Christmas morning, we exchange gifts with one another and then we all sit down to eat breakfast. Although I have never actually made shoofly pie myself until now. Writing this paper, I realized I literally knew nothing about the origin of shoofly pie. All I knew was that it was a tradition on my father’s side of the family to make it every Christmas and that tradition was passed down. So, looking up the origin of the pie has been pretty interesting to me. I first looked up the origin of molasses which is essentially what the pie is (along with sugar, carbs, and fat) and found that it kind of holds a dark past. Cane is pressed to produce Cane Juice, then boiled until it crystallizes and forms molasses. This technique was actually used in India as far back as 500 B.C. The term molasses is English but came from a Portuguese term melaco which came from a Latin term mel which actually meant honey. The Japanese also call it Kuro Mitso (Black Honey). When traders started carrying slaves from Africa to the Caribbean they would sell humans for barrels of molasses. The molasses was then brought to England and made into rum, so this trade actually became extremely profitable. In the mid 1700’s the British Parliament added large taxes to the molasses trade to all of its’ colonies that were involved. This was a considerable livelihood for some New Englanders so they were not pleased with the tax, which would become something that was boycotted, petitioned and another thing that encouraged the Revolution.
Molasses has long been used for a sweetener and was actually a primary sweetener before sugar. Sugar was quite expensive in the 1800s and it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that people started using sugar more as it became cheaper. Molasses was used for almost anything in the United States, both by Southerners and Northerners. It was used anywhere from sweetener for drinks, marinating meat, for baking, and even to make alcohol. Now molasses is almost double the price of sugar which is probably a big reason that it isn’t used as much. Although there are specific recipes that call for molasses it seems that it is mostly some kind of sweet or baked good that molasses is used for.
After doing some research I found that Shoofly Pie is a Pennsylvanian Dutch food. In 1730 the Pennsylvania area was settled by various religious followers such as the Amish and Mennonites, and other off shoots. Many of whom emigrated from Germany and Switzerland. As far as I know, I do not have any Amish or Mennonite relatives, but my ethnic background is a mix of a few things, one being German. Many of the settlers in this area apparently had a major sweet tooth. A word that I came across a few times was actually “addicted” to sweets and baked goods, especially pies. I found this entertaining as I have such a sweet tooth and not for candy but for things like cake, cookies, and other baked goods. I guess it’s just in my blood. They would eat pies often at any time of the day either as meals or along with most of their meals.
In one of the articles I read, the author stated that the earliest recipe of Shoofly Pie that was found was in 1876. The pie was supposedly made as a result of farm wives making due with what they had in the middle of winter. Left with molasses, lard, and flour they were combined and Shoofly Pie came about. A big question is how did the name Shoofly Pie come about – as it doesn’t sound very appetizing. One story is that the pie was actually French and looked like cauliflower or “cheux-fleur” in French, which then turned into Shoofly. The probability of this being true is pretty slim especially considering that Shoofly Pie is not usually seen in French Cuisine. The more likely story is that pools of molasses would form on top of the pie as it was left to cool which would then attract flies because of its sweetness, hence the flies having to be shooed away. Shoofly Pie became a favorite of the Pennsylvanian Dutch. Although it is not seen in many bakeries across America, it is still very popular in Amish country and in a lot of restaurants in that area. There’s a few different ways the pie can be made, some being more wet at the bottom and some more dry (personally I like it dry), as well as different toppings that people put on it. Some people put whipped cream on it while others put chocolate on top. In my opinion it is fine alone or at most a little butter on top. People fear Shoofly Pie which I get because it seems like it could be really heavy, or even excessively sweet, but it’s not and an interviewee in one of the articles compared it to the sweetness of Pecan Pie which was a great comparison. Although people are a lot more health conscious then they used to be so I don’t see this ever becoming a popular dish across America, but, continuing to be well liked in the areas that it originated.
For my project, I asked my parents if they had any pictures of the pie and somehow there were none! So instead of getting pictures online I decided that it would be fun to make the pie myself and get my own pictures (I also included ingredients and directions below!). As I said before I had never made this pie, or actually even helped make it so I was a little nervous but figured that if I had a recipe for it, how could I go wrong? Although my mom makes the pie crust herself, I thought that seemed a little too ambitious as I am not the best cook and cooking the rest of the pie itself would be challenging enough for me. So, I recruited my best friend to help me. We thought it sounded like a good time. I went to the grocery store and bought the ingredients, got home and also recruited my roommate to help out. What ended up happening was them just hanging out with me while I made the pie-which I did not mind. Although I’m not the best cook, I actually really enjoy it. I find it pretty fun to grab my speakers, put on some Led Zeppelin and attempt to cook. So that’s what I did. We hung out, listened to music and I made the infamous Shoofly Pie.
As I took the pie out of the oven I realized a lot had actually spilled out all over the oven – oops. This was a lot to clean up as molasses is extremely sticky. I let the pie cool for a little then gave some to my friends to try, excited to see their reactions. They loved it! Or so I thought. I turned around to hear them giggling and realized they didn’t like the pie, they were just trying to be polite and not hurt my feelings! They actually hated it. We all got a good laugh out of it. I was pretty baffled though because it’s one of my favorite pies. I have some health issues and am supposed to stay away from sugar but, had to try the pie to see what they were talking about. It was pretty bad. I was baffled as to what I did wrong, but it was definitely a fun experience. My thought is that I didn’t mix everything in well enough because as I kept forcing them to eat more, they claimed that some bites were super “nutmegy”, some were very sweet, and some were indescribable. I have decided that when I go home for Christmas this year I am going to help my mom with the pie so I can see how it’s done correctly and maybe someday I’ll be able to make it again and actually have my friends enjoy it.

Pie Crust Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of butter or shortening
5-7 tablespoons cold water
Put the flour into the mixing bowl and add the butter. Use a pastry cutter or pastry blender to mix the flour and the butter. Add the salt and water. Mix until the dough is formed. Roll out the dough on a flat surface. Place the dough in a pie plate. Bake the dough at 375 degrees for about 15 Minutes until Brown.
Shoofly Pie Ingredients
1 Pie Shell
1 Cup Molasses
¾ Cup of Hot Water
¾ Teaspoon of Baking Soda
1 Egg Beaten
1 ½ Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Shortening
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bottom Layer (Molasses): Combine the molasses, hot water, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Stir and mix in the beaten egg. Pour into shell.

Top Layer (Crumb Topping): Combine flour and brown sugar into mixing bowl. Then add shortening. Mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbles then put on top of bottom layer. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven to 350 and continue to bake for 30 more minutes.

“A Pie Called Shoofly”. Chicago Tribune. 05 Aug. 1998. . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
Baird, Sarah. “Know Your Sweets: Shoofly Pie”. Serious Eats. Serious Eats Inc. 2016 Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
Filippone, Peggy Trowbridge. “Molasses History”. About Food. About, Inc. 07 Nov. 2016. . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
Fullerton, Elizabeth. “Homemade Pie Crust”. FOOD. . Accessed. 28 Nov. 2016
Hudson, Jeff. “Molasses’ Bittersweet History”. SF Gate. Hearst Communications, Inc. 28 Jan. 1998. . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016
Igou, Brad. “Shoofly Pie”. Amish Country News. Roncki, Inc. 21 February, 2010. . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
“Molasses”. New World Encyclopedia. 12 Nov. 2014.

http://www.newworlden . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
“Molasses”. How Products Are Made. Advameg, Inc. . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016
“Shoofly Pie History”. What’s Cooking America. . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016
Stultz, D. “My Grandma’s Shoo-Fly Pie”. All Recipes. . Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.

Avgolemono soup

Avgolemono soup

When I was younger I remember going over to my grandparent’s house every easter and after we hunted for eggs and found the chocolate bunnies we would sit down for a meal around lunchtime and eat a variety of foods. There was always one dish that constantly found itself on the table, a foamy soup. It was lemony, had chunks of chicken and carrot in the broth with little rice like noodles, they would call it Avgolemono. I never really thought about it, but I enjoyed saying the name, Avgolemono. It literally meant egg and lemon in greek. My mother explained to me and my siblings that this was a traditional Greek dish and further explained her half Greek heritage. The Greek side of my family had this tradition of roasted lamb and other greek dishes for easter, but the avgolemono soup was the only thing my Papu loved (Pa-poo or the full greek Pappous or Papouli which meant grandfather), so every year it was served. My Pappo was full Greek and he loved avgolemono soup so it was the only dish he could ever make. Unfortunately he hardly ever cooked, being raised in a time when only with women cooked and men were in charged of the grill. In my whole life I only remember eating the soup he made twice. After he died and I was a little older I began to remember the soup and looked for it every time we had gone out to dinner. Unfortunately, most, if not all restaurants served a version that was sweeter and more creamy than foamy. This kind was good but it was not the traditional dish I remembered.
Avgolemono soup is a Greco-Turkish-Arab dish that was spread mainly by Sephardic Jews, who supposedly brought lemons from Southern Europe to Italy then to Greece in about the early 1000 A.D. Avgolemono soup is best known for being a Greek dish, but it is mostly known in the United States as a creamy soup. Avgolemono soup is part of the Mediterranean diet, the best way of eating food. After traveling to so many countries and states I must say that Mediterranean food is one of the best kinds of diets I have ever eaten. I visited family in Greece and I never felt disgusted or oily after a meal. Kind of like when you eat a huge meal and an hour later you still feel heavy with processed oil, that is not the case with Greek food. After eating in Greece I always felt refreshed and full at the same time, also we got to drink wine with almost every meal. It was this kind of diet that made me feel that I had energy. This is because of the amount of healthful fresh ingredients and the lack of processed foods and sugar. If any foods call for sweetness then they utilize honey with its natural sweetness. It is only the Americanized versions of Mediterranean food that use processed food, just as a note Pizza is not part of the Mediterranean diet no matter what anyone says, sorry. But Mediterranean food is so easy to make, one does not have to go out to get Mediterranean flavors. Avgolemono soup is no exception.
The ingredients for Avgolemono soup are lemons, orzo, egg, onion, chicken, water, carrots, celery, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Orzo is a pasta that looks like small pellets. Orzo is a word that other countries associate with rice, but in Italian it means barley and in Greek it is called “kritharáki” meaning little barley. It is orzo, chicken and the lemon egg that make up the thick meaty goodness of the soup. Traditional avgolemono soup is made with egg that has been whipped into a stiff foam much like meringue, which is then incorporated into a chicken broth with lemon. Lemons, the second component of the dish, are suggested to originate from North East India. These two ingredients combine to create a favorite aspect to most Greek dishes, the lemon sauce.
Avgolemono comes from the greek word αυγολέμονο. Originally it was a lemon sauce that was put on most dishes, but it is especially delicious when made into a chicken soup. This dish is most well known for being from Greece because of the increase in American cookbooks that try to include cultural dishes. It is often represented as a creamy soup, not the foamy chicken soup that is served traditionally. It could be argued that this American type of representation of avgolemono soup is one of ignorance of other cultures, but both recipes are delicious.
I am providing both recipes so that you may sample each, or you could make the traditional then go out and buy the Americanized version. Also you can use rice instead of orzo, but it will never be the same. Also for the American version it is common to add corn starch if you want thickness, but normally the egg gives it the thickness the soup needs.

Chicken: no skin. It can be thighs or breasts,(Whatever you prefer, I like the thighs because of the darker meat) For this recipe I used 8 thighs.
1 white onion, diced into little cubes
Olive oil, the best oil
Minced garlic, about a heaping tablespoons worth
Carrots: cut into cubes or chunks, just so they are bite sized
1 celery stalk (just enough to flavor the broth)
1 ½ gallons of Water
4-5 eggs depending on how much broth is made.
2-3 lemons
Orzo: a rice sized pasta, (Warning they absorb a lot of liquid), you will need about 1 cup or less.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Broth: 1 1/2 hours
Broth can be made several ways, with bullion, or with traditional ingredients. I choose the traditional ingredients. First, in a large pot, about two gallon size, pour about two tablespoons of olive oil. Then take your chicken, and massage garlic, salt and pepper into the flesh. Then turn on the stove to medium high and heat the oil. When the oil begins to get more runny, spread the oil around the base of the pot, then gently place the chicken on the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat down to medium heat. You are not cooking the chicken all the way, you are just searing the meat. Flip the chicken to sear both sides and so that the meat is partly cooked. Remove the chicken and pour in a gallon and a half of water, or as I do, put enough water in the pot so that it is about three inches from the rim. Turn on the heat and put in the carrots, onions, and the celery.
Take your chicken and cut the meat into cubes and off the bone and set aside for later. Take the bones and put them in the pot so that they can cook and release the chicken flavors. Heat the broth so that it reaches a rolling boil. As it reaches the boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and let sit for about an hour and a half, just so the flavors can really come out of the bones and vegetables. Skim any fat from the surface, and at this point you can either save the broth for later or go right to the soup.
I personally do not care for bullion because it is made from manufactured flavors, but if you are in a rush it works. For bullion, most packages have instructions on the label, but here is the general idea of what to do. Put water in the pot and heat. Make sure to measure out the correct amount so that the bullion can be measured. Heat water to boil then add instructed bouillon powder or paste. Stir to incorporate and let simmer for a few minutes. You let it simmer so that the flavor can really come out of the bullion. After that it is ready to move on to the next step.
The Soup, traditional greek way:
So you have your broth, the fat skimmed off the top, celery and bones removed. The carrot remains in the broth. Bring the broth to a boil and add the orzo and the diced chicken. Bring the the heat down to a simmer and take out your eggs. Separate the egg whites from yolks. Save both. WIth the egg whites you want to whip them into a stiff foam. You can use the whisk settings on a mixer if you have that available. The egg yolks are to be mixed and set aside. Now take one lemon and cut it in half. Squeeze one half into the soup and mix in. As the orzo finishes cooking, squeeze the rest of the lemon into the egg yolks. Whisk the egg and lemon together so that it is well incorporated. By this time the egg whites should be stiff. Slowly fold the egg whites in with the egg yolks. Continuously stir the egg so that it does not curdle with the acid from the lemon, but try to keep the foaminess of the egg. Next, slowly temper the egg. To do this take a spoonful of broth and gently pour into bowl with egg. Gently whisk together as you continually incorporate spoonfuls of broth until the egg is about as hot as the broth. Next add salt and pepper to the soup to taste. Then slowly pour into soup, as the orzo should be cooked completely. Stir gently to spread the creamy foam throughout the soup and serve immediately. If the rest of your meal is not ready do not add the egg and remove the soup from the heat or else it will end up being a creamy noodle dish.
The soup: American easy version
Again, you have your broth and have brought it to a boil. Add the uncooked orzo and the chicken. In a separate bowl put the eggs and whisk together, adding the juice from two squeezed lemons. For thickness, create a cornstarch mixture with a little of the broth. About two teaspoons worth of cornstarch whisked into a small cup of hot broth. It needs to be hot in order for the powder to break down and dissolve easily. When the orzo is almost done put the egg and cornstarch into the soup and stir until thick and orzo is done cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at any time, just be cautious that orzo likes to absorb the broth.

There you have it, Avgolemono soup. It pairs well with some greek salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese with olive oil and red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, garnished with basil. Then drink a glass of wine and for dessert have a glass of Mavrodaphne. Cheers or Yammas!

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Photos By Emily Hartman

Christmas Feast

By Lisa Risager

By C.Levine

Dana Moors Plantains

Mennonite Board of Missions Photograph Collection. , Mission to Brazil.

Finger Lakes Community College, Costa Rica.

Christmas Feast
The smell of lip-smacking Lechon (roasted pork), filled the air each Christmas day in my family home. The smell of garlic and citrus juices together brings back a distinct memory for me. My mouth waters, when I smell it and my stomach growls till this day. The smell of sweet, slow roasted pork and the feeling of an empty stomach always helps to release my endorphins. This childhood reminiscence and tradition, my mother, bestowed upon my “American” family, will forever be embedded in my psyche. My mother’s father, had taught her, how to make this very special meal. The infamous meal in Cuba has the succulent Lechon, as its entrée with many side dishes to compliment it. Every Christmas in my house was celebrated as a “Cuban Christmas”. Conquistadores, are guilty for bringing the first pigs to Cuba. “Queen Isabella insisted that Christopher Columbus take eight pigs to Cuba in 1493” (Brand, 2016). Roasting a pig, is not only a Cuban tradition, but it is celebrated all around the world. “Pig roasting is a symbol of celebrations across the globe in many different countries. From Hawaii, to Puerto Rico, Cuba, the UK, and the Philippines and now in Other USA states and Canada pig roasts are a fun way to get people together (Admin, 2014). Roasted Pork- C. Levine
However, the Lechon (roasted pork) is consumed in many parts of the world, the sides that accompany the meal are Cuban style. The great meal consists of the Lechon (roasted pork), and the sides are: Fried platanos (fried plantains), black beans, white rice, yucca, Cuban bread, and mojo. Each side has its history of origin just as the pork does. I will give a brief history lesson of each side dish, whether they are indigenous to Cuba or not. I’ll begin with the plantain. The plantain is part of the banana family. They were brought to the island in the 1500’s. “The rapid expansion of the Bantu people of south and central Africa around 1500 A.D. is based largely on plantain trade. The plantains were traded to the Canary Islands, and from there they were introduced to Santo Domingo in the Caribbean by a Portuguese Franciscan monk around the year 1516 (Allen, 2016). I’m sure once they went to Santo Domingo, they eventually made their way to Cuba. Black Beans-Lisa Risager
Next, we have Cuban bread. I believed it was originally from the island and then brought to the United State by many Fidel exiles but, I assumed incorrectly.“The origins of “real” Cuban bread are debated, with both Miami and Tampa, Florida claiming to be the home of the best. With regards to where it originated, the earliest U.S. bakery to produce Cuban bread was most likely La Joven Francesca bakery,[1] which was established by the Sicilian-born Francisco Ferlita in 1896 in Ybor City, a thriving Cuban-Spanish-Italian community in Tampa” (Contributors, 2016). The bread is like the tortilla for Mexicans and Central Americans.
Third on my history lesson, are black beans which are a part of many Cuban dishes. “These beans date back at least 7,000 years, when they were a staple food in the diets of Central and South Americans” (Filippone, 2007).
Rice- Mennonite Church USA Archives (Archives)
Black beans and white rice need each other kind of like a marriage of food. Black beans separately (Moros y Christianos) or together which in Cuba is called Arroz Con’gri.
Fourth side is rice. Rice, is one of the first foods to be cultivated. “As far back as 2500 B.C. rice has been documented in the history books as a source of food and for tradition as well. Beginning in China and the surrounding areas, its cultivation spread throughout Sri Lanka, and India. It was then passed onto Greece and areas of the Mediterranean. Rice, spread throughout Southern Europe and to some of North Africa. From Europe rice was brought to the New World. From Portugal, it was brought into Brazil and from Spain to Central and South America” (Rost, 1997). Yucca- Modern Languages at Fingers Lakes Community College Costa Rica-2013
Cuba’s, dishes are an eclectic taste from countries, its distinct ancestry have shaped the current Cuban cuisine. “However, it was the Moors who, during their centuries of reign, most impacted Spanish gastronomy. Spain’s vast array of rice dishes, come straight from the Moors, as does the use of saffron, cinnamon, and nutmeg (Fernandez, 1989-2016). Yucca, is widely eaten with various dishes on the island. “The second major influence was Yucca, is the last side dish. African, arriving with the slaves that were brought to the island to undertake the hardest physical labor. From Africa came foods such as okra, taro root and plantains” (N/A, 2016).
Lastly, Mojo, which is an infusion of as many garlic cloves, as one can desire is fine, half a cup of olive oil or grade seed, 6 lemons bring all to a boil and there is your “Cuban Salsa”. Citrus is significant to give flavor to the meat and the mojo. “Citrus fruits were brought to America by the Spaniards (Columbus took seeds of citrus fruits with him in his second trip) and the Portuguese in their exploration trips to the New World, around year 1500. It is believed that the word “orange” originates from Sanskrit. International trade in fresh citrus fruits began almost two centuries ago. Even at its early stages, Spain played a dominant position in the Mediterranean area, supplying almost all citrus fruits shipped to United Kingdom, Germany, and France” (N/A, Citrus Fruits, 2007). The history lesson has been established, we must return to the recipe for the best meal can enjoy on Christmas.
According, to my mother we could only enjoy this meal twice a year on Christmas and Easter. On Christmas day, we were not allowed to eat until the feast was ready to be devoured. Her, theory was an empty stomach would allow you to eat all the roasted pig one could consume. If a person was to go walking through the streets of Cuba before (Christmas eve) or as it is known in Cuba Noche Buena, they would smell the streets engulfed with garlic, onions, citrus all infusing inside the Lechon. Traditionally, the meal began being prepared a day or two before. For the pig to be salty, sweet, tangy, juicy, and tender a process of patience and a bit of work would have to be put forth. Back in Cuba the pig endures a 12-hour process. The pig was roasted, with the same key ingredients we use today with the exception that it is placed underground and wrapped in banana leaves. However, in my house my mother only went out and bought the shoulder, which only required six to seven hours of slow roasting. As the days got closer to Christmas Eve or (Noche Buena) we would begin to prepare for our overly anticipated feast. I would go to the grocery store with my mother. She would advise me that only the best ingredients were to be bought for the meal. Our shopping hunt would begin heading straight for the meat section, her search was for the reddest, meatiest piece of 15-20-pound pork shoulder. After, she had acquired the best piece of pork in the store, we would beeline it over to the vegetable section. 1 pound of a bag of black beans, 1 pound of a bag of white rice1 bag of Garlic cloves, 15 limes, 15 lemons, 6 Oranges, 1 bottle of cumin, 4 white onions or red, 1 box of Goya sofrito (Cuban spice), 2 green bell peppers, a jar of bay leaves, 1 small jar of Spanish olives all of which filled the bottom of the basket. Yucca, black beans of any type are allowed, white rice, Cuban bread and olive oil were the next items to be put in the basket as side dishes which were to accompany the piglet.
Once home, my mom would instruct me on to how to begin preparations for marinating the pork. One needs to get a whole garlic break it, cut the ends off and peel it. Then get a whole onion and cut it up in tiny strips. A white, purple, or yellow onion will suffice. I like purple onions personally, to me they make they complement meats rather than the white or yellow. Those would be last they can be put in a bowl and put aside. Second step, 6 lemons, 6 oranges, 6 limes need to be cut in half. You can use a spoon to take out the juice of all the fruits. It is important that the pork is full of juice this helps the meat to break down more juice is better. The juice is going to fall to the bottom of the pan. Third, 1 table spoon of salt, 1 table spoon of cumin, 1 table spoon of sofrito is used to rub the pork down. Lastly, grab a sharp knife that has a pointy end. With the knife one must insert slits deep in the pork, this will allow the garlic cloves to sit tight inside while cooking. Get the garlic cloves and make sure that each side of the shank is entrenched with garlic. Place the shank in a deep roasting pan. Add the onion on top along with a bay leaf depending if you wish for an intense earthy flavor. Wrap it tight with aluminum foil leaving no possibility of air to seep out. During the roasting process its own moisture and juices will be absorbed. Allowing for the muscle to break down in the process. Put the pan in the refrigerator overnight. The pork is ready to be placed in the oven Christmas morning if you place it early a 15-pound shoulder, takes about six to seven hours.
Our next task, was to tackle the black beans the night before. There were only six of us eating the dinner, a pound of black beans was adequate. The black beans were to be washed, seethed through for any broken or bad beans. They were to be soaked throughout the night. The washing and soaking allows the beans to be cooked faster and allows all the gases to escape. The next morning, we would begin cooking the black beans while the pork roasted in the oven. We added 1 chopped bell pepper, 2 garlic cloves, 1 pack of sofrito, 1 bay leaf, a few Spanish olives, 1 chopped onion, and as much salt as our heart’s desired. The beans needed to be boiled 3 to 4 hours. The Yucca, needs to be peeled and cut to boil for 1 ½ hours until the starches begin to breakdown kind of like a potato. As time, would get closer to the pork being done. My mom would get 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water to boil and then she would put it on a low heat allowing the water to evaporate any pan with a lid will suffice. Once, the beans, rice, yucca are done we would peel the plantains and fry them up in a ¾ sauce pan with olive oil. The bread could be served whole or cut into halves. The mojo was the last side to be made. Finally, take out the Lechon, serve your plate and enjoy!

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