31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013

So here are last year's predictions/hopes for the new year:

Go to the ocean
Colonial Williamsburg
Explore, explore, explore 
Read more
Great homeschooling year
Camp more
Hike more
Play more

We went to the ocean and Colonial Williamsburg before leaving Virginia.  This has been one of my best exploring years, although I explored different places than I'd planned on.  I don't know if I read more though. I've finally accepted the fact that since Tokmok my current hobby is cooking, not reading, even though I still am always reading- it just doesn't dominate my life like it used to.  Food, however, does, and Mexico is the perfect place for that.

It was hard to make a reasonable list last year.  My husband had a job interview scheduled less than two weeks later that I knew could totally change everything if he got the job. And he aced the interview, got a job offer in record time (for this job), and we had moved less than three months later which was not the plan. And then we were off to Mexico 6 months later. Even at my most optimistic a year ago, I didn't think we could be in a new country by now

So this year should be much easier.  And can I point out that it will be the first year we haven't moved since I starting blogging 9 years ago?

Go to the ocean
Go to the mountains
Know where we're going next
Trip to the US or somewhere else
I suppose I should learn Spanish

Romeritos, Again

I'm really liking the romeritos here.  They're not at all wimpy in any way and there are lots of interesting ways to cook them.  Last night I just sauteed them in garlic and olive oil and they were delicious.  I wish their growing season was longer, but I'll enjoy them for another month or two, I hope.

I am having trouble getting my brain wrapped around what's in season.  I'm so used to carrots, cabbage, and potatoes in the winter, but that's not what's cheap here.  I am not used to tomatoes and avocados in the winter, but they don't cost any more than my usual winter vegetables.

28 December 2013

Sinaloa Tortillas

A few days ago I found a package of tortillas at one of the little stores that said they were Sinaloa tortillas. I couldn't pass that up. The ingredients said they were whole wheat and they had baking powder too.  But they turned out to be a little sweet and most of us didn't like them much.  I haven't been able to figure out if there are special Sinaloa style tortillas, but I don't think I'll buy that brand again.  Maybe we'll just have to plan a trip there for tortilla tasting.


We're having a lovely patch of much cooler than normal weather and even some rain this week. It was cooler on Tuesday and sprinkled a few drops, then a little warmer on Christmas, but still a bit below normal with a tiny bit of rain. Then it started to rain yesterday and it pretty much hasn't stopped.  It's just in the 50s (low 80s is normal) and I closed all the windows because we don't have any heat so there's no way to warm things up if it cools off too much.

It'll stay a little cooler for a few days, and there might be more rain next week. The conventional wisdom is that you won't see rain from November to May in Guadalajara, so I'm loving this.  There also was a spectacular thunderstorm last night which might have been the best part of the whole thing.  No, I take that back.  Snuggling under a blanket with a book is the best part.  I haven't been able to do that since we lived in Charlottesville. It's just barely cool enough to do that now.

Not surprisingly though, weather.com thinks it's 80 degrees and sunny outside, just like it did yesterday.

27 December 2013


I tried the romeritos Monday night in a Thai dish and they were surprisingly good.  I was nervous when I was washing them because they look so odd and I wasn't sure if they'd stir-fry well, but when they'd cooked a bit and were with a good sauce, they were delicious.  They have a flavor that goes well with SE Asian ingredients and I'll be getting them again since they'll be in season for a few weeks.

Corn and Zucchini in Cream

I found this recipe in on of Rick Bayless's Mexican cookbooks and we loved it.

1 lb zucchini, 1/2 inch dice
1-2 T oil
1/2 sliced onion
1 c corn (either frozen or cut off the cob)
1 poblano's worth rajas
Salt to taste

2/3 cup crema or sour cream

Fry the zucchini in the oil till just tender, then set aside, leaving the oil in the pan.  Cook the onion for a few minutes, then add the corn and rajas and cook till the onion is soft and maybe getting a little brown.  Add the crema and zucchini, stir, simmer a minute, salt, and serve.


Since we're in Mexico, we have old tortillas.  And since we have old tortillas, we make chilaquiles.  I use the jocoque sauce which isn't traditional, but it's delicious.

All you need is the jocoque sauce, some dried out tortillas, and some cheese.  If your tortillas are still soft, cut them up and put them in the oven.  They don't need to be hard, but they should at least be leathery.  Whatever you have, cut them into bite-sized pieces.  Fry them in a bit of oil, add the sauce and stir to coat the chilaquiles.  How much sauce you use depends on your taste.  You can let them sog up a bit, but we like them to have a little more texture, so we coat the tortillas liberally with sauce, let it cook for a minute, and then eat it.  Crumble on some cotija, or adobera, or oaxaca (we've done all three), or you can use cheddar or jack or mozz.

These are traditionally a breakfast thing, but we like them for dinner with some salsa and maybe some beans and avocado.


A friend of mine gave me this recipe and I'm keeping track of it here. This one is supposed to be an Azeri version, although I don't know how you tell different styles of kurabie apart since lots of people make them.

230 g butter, softened
100 g powdered sugar
1 egg
400 g flour
Jam or nuts

Preheat the oven to 175/350.  Cream butter and sugar, then add the egg and mix well.  Slowly add the flour to make a soft dough that isn't greasy or limp.  You can shape them with a cookie press and put jam in the middle, but I don't have a cookie press so I would roll them and use my thumb to make a place to put a nut. Bake about 10 minutes.

24 December 2013

Christmas Stockings

We don't have a lovely matching set of stockings that we hang up at Christmas.  Instead, we have an collection we've picked up over the years and the boys choose which stocking they'll use that year on Christmas Eve.
We got these in Kyrgyzstan the first time.

And a friend in Kyrgyzstan gave us these.

Most of these are in sets of two because we had two children for a long time.  I made these when the boys were little.  They look odd, especially because of the angles and wrinkles, but it's nice to have space at the bottom, which was the point.
We didn't have stockings with us in Kyrgyzstan, but we found these that were perfect.  You can't get much in them, but I don't care. 

This is also from Kyrgyzstan the second time and is one of my favorites.  We looked around TsUM for a long time to find an Uzbek-style stocking we liked.

23 December 2013

Christmas Shopping

Since I'm not entirely certain any of my regular stores will be open today or tomorrow, I had to buy lots of food today.  And I also went to the Monday tianguis.
 This is from my most regular store.  It costs 138 pesos or about $11, depending on the exchange rate.  I also got two half gallons of milk. The green things are a stack of nopal tortillas, there's a kilo of eggs, a liter of fresh grapefruit juice (had to get that since the fruit guy wasn't there today), and a stack of of my favorite tostadas. I'm glad I got used to buying eggs in bags in Kyrgyzstan so the only unusual thing about it here is buying them by weight instead of number. I could, of course, buy eggs in cartons at the grocery stores, or Walmart, or Costco.

 These tostadas are from the tianguis.  They were 20 pesos or about $1.50.

 This is also from the tianguis, from the nice dairy couple.  There are lots of whole wheat tortillas, hot handmade tortillas, cajeta, a block of adobera cheese, chorizo, and crema and jocoque.  The jocoque is the smaller one. This was 195 pesos or $15, which is more than usual since I bought chorizo.

This is how you buy salsa in the tianguis.  They have the salsas in cups and you choose what you want and they dump them in bags for you to take home and hope you don't make a mess.  They are 15 pesos each, or about $1.25.  I usually buy salsas at my regular store though in containers like the jocoque is in above.

And I always transfer the salsas immediately.  You also gets salsas everywhere when you buy street food, so we usually have some leftovers in the fridge too.

These are the vegetables.  They cost $8.  There's a little under two pounds each of the onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and poblanos.  The avocados are sold by the kilo instead individually like they usually are in the US.  The other green is called romerito and I haven't tried it yet. There's half a kilo.  There are a couple of traditional dishes it's used in at Christmas (and Lent, apparently), so it appeared recently.  I'm not sure if I'm up to making either of those dishes, but I've read that it's a versatile green, so I'm thinking I might be totally nontraditional and use it in this recipe.

22 December 2013

Cotija Cheese

I finally bought one of the hard Mexican cheeses a few days ago.  We keep adobera and Oaxaca in the fridge all the time, but it's a little irritating to have to buy cheddar at Costco.  Just because it's Costco.  So I wanted to see if the cotija cheese was good enough for pasta.  And it was.  Take that, Costco.  I have a cheese guy now.

21 December 2013


This is a lot like ricotta.  I've used it to fill tortillas along with onions and epazote, but I think I prefer adobera in something like this.

20 December 2013


Jocoque is a dairy product that's not always the same everywhere in Mexico.  In Jalisco, it's runny and sour and I buy it at the tianguis out of a pot.  It doesn't taste much like homemade yogurt. My favorite thing to do with it so far is to make a tomato sauce that's really good on enchilada-like things.  Just blend up 3-4 Roma tomatoes with a chunk of onion, then cook it down for a few minutes.  Put it back in the blender with about a cup or a little more of jocoque and blend again.  That's it.

So it's obviously warm here, and I'm used to living in cold places for Christmas.  But it's not the weather that's throwing me off.  It's all the light.  Guadalajara is bright and sunny, and there are hours more daylight.  One of my favorite things about all the holidays during this time of year is that they symbolically use light in so many ways, and I'm missing that right now because light just doesn't have the same meaning here as it does in Seattle or Bishkek or Moscow. I know a lot of people complain about the darkness at this time of year, and switching back to standard time, but I love it.

I'd also take some clouds during the day.

Tianguis Haul

Boring again.  This cost just under $7.  There's a kilo of tomatoes and two bunches of flor de calabaza (24 flowers total).  You can see the rest.

Since the youngest came with me, he also insisted on strawberries.  We got one kilo and they cost a little over a dollar a pound.  And there was the ever-present milk which is $2/half gallon. 

19 December 2013

So this is boring, but I'm posting it anyway.  This is a typical day's shopping on a Thursday when there isn't a tianguis and I go to the closest little grocery store.  They have most everything there if I know what to ask for.  I've learned to pay attention to what other people buy from behind the counter so I can figure out what's hiding back there.  The woman who's at the counter most mornings just tolerates me and my cluelessness, but she'll survive me.  At least she's gotten past rolling her eyes when I don't want a plastic bag and now just lets me pack up my own stuff.

Except for the fruit which I bought from the fruit guy, this cost a few cents more than $10.  There are two half gallons of milk, grapefruit, a little more than a kilo of cucumbers, a slab of cotija cheese, a stack of nopal tortillas, and a container of tomatillo salsa. The cotija, tortillas, and salsa will all come together with some tomatoes and jocoque tomorrow for some amazing and somewhat untraditional chilaquiles.

Tomorrow is a tianguis day so I'll probably post what I buy there.  Fridays are mostly just vegetables though unless something else jumps out at me.  The Wednesday tianguis is more exciting.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

I finally bought some Mexican chocolate and the youngest wouldn't leave it alone when he discovered it on the counter (it's my own fault).  So we made hot chocolate with it, and I'll try champurrado soon.  The youngest and I loved the hot chocolate, the oldest thought it was weird, and the middle was open to it.  I used the very easy system of whipping it up in the blender and it was frothy and perfect. I used Abuelita this time and I have some Ibarra to compare it with.

I keep feeling slightly annoyed that I am starting on another new list of ingredients that I love that I won't be able to find anywhere else, at least not very easily.

18 December 2013

One of the tricky things about learning to cook in another country is figuring out what all the unlabeled things are.  In the US, everything is labeled, always, everywhere, and you always know what you're getting.  But in places like Mexico and Kyrgyzstan, there are all kinds of containers and pots and vats filled with all sorts of unidentified things.

It was especially tricky in Tokmok because I did almost all my shopping at the bazaar which is obviously unlabeled paradise. But by the time I'd lived there for a few weeks and remembered some Russian, I was able to ask what things were.  It also helped that I read everything I could about Central Asian food, even though there never has been much to read about it.  And we ate some really good food in Tokmok with just what we could find in that bazaar.

It's easier here since there are so many books about Mexican food and it's a lot more likely that you're going to find unique Mexican ingredients in some stores in the US.  So the Mexican cookbooks are actually useful here too because they're not filled with substitutions.  But there still has been a lot of experimenting going on, so now I can come home from most shopping trips with little plastic bags filled with eggs, or alpiste, or requeson, or containers with lots of different salsas because we're learning which ones we like best.  Or so many other things.  Cooking in Kyrgyzstan was always a challenge and an adventure, and often fun, but here, there are so many more choices, even in December, and I'm loving it.

Empuje y Jale

I am quite certain that the reason why people generally learn languages more quickly when they're dumped into a new language is because there is so much potential for embarrassment.  Sure, you get lots of practice too, but words have a way of sticking in your head when you use them totally inappropriately.

And on that note, I now know the difference between empuje and jale.

17 December 2013

Tandyr Tortillas

I tried the tortillas in the baking stone on Thursday when the Internet was out.  Now it's back on so I can report on it.  I know from many years' experience making naan on a stone that it doesn't really replicate a tandoor, but it's better than anything else.  Since I haven't been to the right part of Oaxaca to try the real thing, I don't have anything to compare to, so I don't know how close I got.  It was also hard to get them very thick and I'm not sure I really succeeded with that part.  They were good, but not amazingly different from comal-baked thick tortillas.

12 December 2013

Tandyr Tortillas

I just made the amazing discovery that there are tandoor tortillas in Oaxaca.  I could find almost nothing about them in English, but this site has photos and some information about them. I already wanted to visit Oaxaca, but now we have to go.

The ovens are called comiscales here, but I don't know what the connection is with Central Asian ovens, or if there is one at all.  The breads which I can't really call tortillas* are about 1/4-inch thick and, as expected, are slapped on the side of the hot comiscal.  I think I'm going to try making some on  my baking stone since I have fresh masa in the fridge today.

*I don't think memela is the right word either.  Even though they're fatter, I don't think they're usually cooked in a comiscal. But I don't really know.

11 December 2013

Street Markets

Since I've had a hard time tracking down where all the different weekday tianguis are, here's a list of what I've found.  Don't think you can track me down because of this list because these aren't necessarily close to my house.  But if you're looking for a tianguis around Galerias in Zapopan, this should help. As always, if you get to any of these before 10, it'll be a little quieter.

Monday- This is on Inglaterra north of the train tracks just west of Patria.  Ingleterra unfortunately dead ends on its west end, so this one is a little inconvenient to walk to if you don't like to walk on Patria, which I don't.  You can cross the train tracks from Manni into the park if you are a little adventurous. This one doesn't have any traffic and it's an average-sized tianguis.

Tuesday- I just found this one this week after my favorite vegetable people at the Monday and Friday tianguis stuck a flyer in my bag saying they also sell at this one.  It's on Berlioz just east of Patria.  It runs along a road that has cars on it, but there wasn't much traffic.  It's also an average-sized tianguis for this area. And somehow, it felt a little different and more authentic.

Wednesday- This is the biggest tianguis around (or, at least, that I've found). Its eastern end is where Novelistas becomes Ramon Corona at Leroux.  It also doesn't have any traffic to deal with, although it can be a little crowded if you get there in the late morning.  I like to go to the western end because it feels a little more like a bazaar in Kyrgyzstan on that side.

Friday- This is a very small tianguis right on the train tracks on Enrique Gomez Carillo just east of Juan Palomar y Arias. I like this one even though most of my friends don't because of the traffic on Carillo. 

I think most of these stay open till around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, but I've never been in the afternoon since it's hot then.  Some stands aren't quite set up at 9 sometimes.  I think going between 9 and 10 is perfect because it's not too hot usually, and it's not very crowded yet, but the vendors are there.

10 December 2013


On Sunday evening our neighbors were kind enough to invite us to their Anglican church's Advent service. Mormons don't do Advent, at least not as a congregation, but I love it, and it was so nice to go to their service.  There weren't many people there and the chapel was quite small, but that doesn't matter. 

The best part of the service was when the choir sang "Los Peces en el Rio" which has long been one of my favorite Christmas songs.  Hearing it in Spanish, in Mexico, in a church, by a lovely choir was perfect.  Another great part was singing "Angels We Have Heard on High" in Spanish with our five-year-old joining in for his favorite Gloria parts. 

Homemade 100% Whole Wheat Pasta

You really can buy almost any food here (except Chinkiang vinegar), but sometimes it's expensive.  Whole wheat pasta is about $4/pound here which is way more than I'm willing to spend. The picky eater of the family prefers whole wheat pasta, and if he prefers a healthier version of something, we're going to provide it.

I've always read that making whole wheat pasta is difficult, and I've used whole wheat flour for Asian noodles before and not had much success.  But I decided to give it one more try with a food processor and pasta machine. And it finally worked!

I just have a small and wimpy food processor, so I make just a little dough at a time, but all I do is combine 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1 egg, and a pinch of salt.  Then slowly add just enough water (you won't need much) as it's processing till the dough just sticks together.  Run it through the pasta machine and you're good to go.

I can make enough pasta for 3 of us for lunch before the water boils, which was my goal.  I can't do that if all five of us are eating.  I make two batches of dough for three people and it's plenty. And I am pleased.

09 December 2013

Dear Mexico

I owe you an apology.  I wasn't very nice about you when we first found out we were coming.  I even committed the unpardonable sin of believing that Mexico wasn't a great place to be because everything about you on the news in the US was negative.  I knew I was doing it, and I knew the news was wrong, but I didn't want to come here because you are Mexico.

But then I read some good things about you and that helped, and I always knew I really love your food, and then we came and you've been wonderful in every way. You're beautiful, friendly, delicious, and endlessly interesting.  Guadalajara is such a pleasant place to live.

But.  There's still one problem, and it's the biggest one, even though it really doesn't have anything to do with you.  I'd have the same problem anywhere.  That problem is that I don't know if I can keep moving from other countries and leaving huge pieces of my heart behind. It's hard to not want to protect my heart because I know I'll leave you in just two years.

I could just barely skim along the surface here.  I could make life as much like it is in the US (and that's not hard to do here) and not let you get into my heart.  But I won't do that, because that would be even worse than loving you and leaving you.

You're so easy to love- not like Kyrgyzstan, who I was determined to love despite its being pretty hard work to love, and I succeeded completely and now I miss it so much.  You remind my husband of how much he misses Montevideo.  I still have so many times when something reminds me of Jerusalem and it hurts to not be there.

So I'm stuck with falling in love with you. I knew it would happen, even before we got here if I'm being honest, and I know I'll have to leave, and I know I'll miss you forever, and I'll wish I could just stay because Mexico will have become part of me. I'll just love you as much as I can while I'm here and try not to think too much about leaving.

08 December 2013


Rajas means strips in Spanish, but they're specifically strips of roasted and peeled poblano chiles.  I love them.

Roast a bunch of poblanos till they're black.  I just set them directly over the flame on the gas stove, or you can broil them (put them as close to the element as possible), or when I have an electric stove, I roast them in a cast iron pan over high heat. No matter what you do, turn them so they blacken evenly.  Stick the blackened peppers in a plastic bag and close it, or put them in a bowl and cover with a towel to steam for about 10 minutes.  The black skins will be easier to pull off.  Get most of the black off (you can rinse them to make it easier, but you'll lose a little flavor).  It's okay to have a little skin left on there.

Then slice them into strips and use them in recipes calling for rajas.

07 December 2013

Flor de Calabaza Quesadillas

These were so easy.

You'll need 24 squash flowers.  Pull off the stems and stamen, rinse, and chop.  Also chop one onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic, and some fresh epazote or cilantro. And you'll need 12 tortillas (I don't care what kind you use- we use three different kinds) and some cheese. 

Heat a little oil, then add the onion and cook till it's soft.  Add the garlic, cilantro, and zucchini flowers and cook for a few minutes. Add salt to taste and set aside.

Heat the first tortilla on one side, then flip it over and top with some cheese and spread on the vegetables.  I used adobera which is a type of queso fresco made in Jalisco.  You could use cheddar, or mozzarella, or really anything that sounds delicious to you.  Crumble or grate it as needed.  Top the vegetables with another tortilla, wait a minute, flip, and cook for another minute or two till the cheese is melted.

06 December 2013

Virginia Ornaments

This is Monticello and a cardinal (and I can't get rid of the second photo of it) and they're both perfect for Charlottesville.  I guess we didn't get anything for Washington DC, but we can fix that later.  The three-cornered hat is from Colonial Williamsburg.

We also seem to have a hat ornament thing since we have a kalpak and a tubeteika, this three-cornered one, and a sombrero. I guess I hope our next home has some interesting hats.

Coconut Milk

I don't know why it took me two months, but I finally clued in that I can make coconut milk here since I can buy fresh coconut.  They're young coconut, not the brown ones, but I'm not going to follow the rule that says I'm supposed to use mature coconuts.

They sell coconut water and slices of coconut at the tianguis, so I just chopped the coconut up and added some water, blended, and strained it.  Easy as can be, and it's a lot cheaper than canned coconut milk is here.  I can find coconut milk pretty easily, but it's about three dollars for a can.  This cost one dollar for a can's worth and since someone already dealt with the coconut and sliced it, I'm sold.

05 December 2013

The First Mexico Ornaments

The skeleton is from the Day of the Dead and looks so perfect on the tree.  The beaded oval is Huichol (or, at least it's done in that style).

Cooking Mexican

I told my mother a few weeks ago that I probably wouldn't make lots of new food here because it's so easy to just buy delicious food everywhere. But I lied.  One of Diana Kennedy's Mexican cookbooks was just released as an ebook and I can't help but try things out.

Mostly I'm just reading now so I know what I'm doing at the tianguis.  I went with an Italian friend yesterday who loves to cook (truly, she is amazing, and even though she doesn't speak much Spanish either, she gets a lot further with Italian than I do with Russian or English) and we poked around there for an hour.

I picked up some adobera and Oaxaca cheese, and they were also scooping up what turned out to be jocoque.  It was lovely to know what I was, so I have some in the fridge now to turn into dinner tonight.

We both got some zucchini flowers.  I think I've used them sometime, but I'm not sure.  Last night I made quesadillas with them which were delicious and I'll post the recipe later.
I also bought some nopales so I could experiment with them.  Today I got some poblanos to make rajas to go with the jocoque, and we'll have a nopales salad. 

And my friend got a mountain of potatoes because she's having a gnocchi fest in a few days.  Since my husband is a gnocchi expert after living in Uruguay, we've been enlisted to help make them. Last night we also had mohinga which is really easy to make here. I'm definitely living in the right place.

04 December 2013


Eating here has to be one of the best things about Guadalajara.  Here's just a few of the things I can eat within a five-minute walk from my house.  And I haven't even come close to exploring everything.

Rajas con queso tamales for dinner

Hot croissants at 4:30

Tortas ahogadas for lunch

Papas con arrachera

Fresh grapefruit juice in the morning

Pineapple with chile, salt and lime

Nopal tostadas (these are the most amazing things e.v.e.r.)

Ham and cheese pastries

The creamy chocolate milk thing

5 different kinds of salsa

Oaxaca cheese

Fresh corn and nopal tortillas

Tacos (although they aren't al vapor which is my favorite)


Premade masa dough so I can make my own tortillas anytime

First Mexico Nativity

I don't think this will be the only nativity we'll get there.  We picked this up in Tonala.  There were lots of nativities there, but we chose this one because we liked it, and also because it's finished using the barro brunido style which is unique to this part of Mexico. And it wasn't very expensive. And I love the way they feel.

03 December 2013


Here's something I'm thankful for. 

I am so glad I've never been pregnant or had a baby when I've lived in another country.

No one has to go to the doctor for regular appointments.  No one needs anything special that's hard to find like decent diapers or baby food.  I've never dealt with being sick or exhausted for months on top of just living. 

I've never flown overseas when pregnant.  I've never flown overseas with a baby.  I've also never flown with lots of little children on my own.

I don't care if there's construction or a parrot outside because no one needs to take a nap. 

I've never had to fend off anyone who's lecturing me about how to take care of a baby.

I've never had weird diseases while breastfeeding. 

I am thankful for this almost every day because many of my international friends here and online are pregnant or giving birth and they remind me all the time of how grateful I am.


We had visitors last week for Thanksgiving which was so much fun.  We didn't see much since my husband is the only one who really likes to drive out of the group, but we had fun and ate so much good food. But the trip was so short that we ran out of time to get tacos.  I guess they'll have to come back and eat again.

We went to Tonala after stopping off at the airport (we won't mention the detours we took getting there). Tonala is now a suburb of Guadalajara, but they've been making ceramics there for a very long time which is why we wanted to go.  We need some pots. There's a handy road from the airport zipping up to Tonala that skips most of the traffic, although it dumps you on the other side of town from where most of the pots are being sold.

So we ended up going downtown where there was a festival going on. I liked seeing the churches and it was fun to poke around a bit.  We'll go back, hopefully soon, to the shopping part of town.