Educating Youth on Food

If you’ve been following along, you know that teaching youth about cultivating their own food is very important to me. Educating kids on small-crop agriculture is just part of the idea. You bring the kids outside, teach them how to grow edible plants, and they are the ones who spend the time caring for the seed. They are the ones in the garden on a daily basis watering the small plants. They are the ones who watch it grown everyday. When it’s time to cultivate the food garden, well let’s just say you have never seen a kid so excited about lettuce before in her or his whole life. They become giddy over a radish and squeal with excitement over swiss chard. The kids worked for that moment and now that they have spent the time working for the harvest, the relationship between a person and a plant is now in direct harmony.

 

This education part is just one aspect of the food cycle. A mere relationship to one’s food cannot be overridden by the cultural weight of Coca-Cola. The battle for obesity cannot be fought alone, together we must work towards a healthier future for all generations. Jamie Oliver is a modern hero is my eyes. Sure he is a celebrity chef, and sure he makes money from the products he sells. But there is so much more to his mission than just that. He is a food advocate – he fights for clean, healthy food in American public school systems. He educates the public on how to prepare the most simple dishes in case your parents never taught you how to cook. He is the other half of the food education that was not covered in my small school garden project. Check out one of his TED Talks below!

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the video! You can choose what fuels your body. Let me know what you think about the video below in the comment section!

 

Live long and prosper!

Chelsea Beth

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Recetas: Arepas

These Latin American staples are easily replicated in Mexico, and are extremely versatile! You can top these with sauteed greens, leftovers, sunny side up eggs, ect. The options are truly endless! Adapted from Big Girls, Small Kitchens.

Arepas

Makes 2 large arepas

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups masa harina (corn flour like Maseca)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup queso oaxaca, shredded or chopped*
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil

*Stateside readers can swap for mozzerella cheese

 

Directions

  1. Combine the masa harina, queso oaxaca (or mozzerella cheese), and salt in a medium bowl. Add water, stir well to combine, and let rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large nonstick pan.
  3. Divide the dough into two balls; flatten into a disk with about a 7-inch diameter. Add to the pan.
  4. Cook on each side for 7-8 minutes, until the arepa has formed a crust that is golden in color. Be careful when flipping, as the cheese can stick to the pan.
  5. Serve warm with just about anything on hand.

 

The arepas can serve as a base for sauteed veggies or breakfast eggs. These can be used as quick pizzas or as a side for soup. Best served when fresh out of the pan.

 

¡Buen provecho!

Chels

 

 

Lugares Hermosos: Chiapas

Travelling all over the state of Chiapas was one of the best decisions we ever made. Here are just some of the incredible sights…

… stopping for a quick lake break before heading out to the campo…

 

…staying with coffee farmers in “town”…

 

…sunrise while heading to El Triunfo…

 

…real, brilliant greens are everywhere…

 

…rivers for swimming after a long day of bushwhacking…

 

…dense, beautiful vegetation of the jungle…

 

…waterfalls and top-notch tour guides…

 

…pristine, isolated beaches that go for miles…

 

…crazy family in waterfalls with rain…

 

…full, luscious waterfalls right off the highway…

 

…one of the most impressive pyramid sights in the world, Palenque…

 

…smooth as glass lakes with indigenous guides…

 

…amazing coffee art and excellent coffee taste…

 

…new regional foods that you’ve never seen before…

 

…boat tour through the National Park of Cañón del Sumidero!!

 

 

Chiapas was hands down of one the most beautiful places I have ever visited in the world. There is a little something for everybody – plenty of tamer things to do as well! Adventure is everywhere!

 

Love from Cholula,

CBJ

Lugares Hermosos: Oaxaca

Here are some reasons why you should visit Oaxaca, Oaxaca:

“Frozen” waterfalls at Hierve el Agua…

 

 

…natural infinity pools – again at Hierve el Agua…

 

 

…the local food, tlayudas – think the biggest and best quesadilla ever that’s been cooked over an open fire…

 

…historic, beautiful churches from the 1570’s….

 

 

…real cacao and chocolate products everywhere…

 

…and beautiful textiles with an incredible history.

 

We had an incredible trip to Oaxaca and can’t wait to visit the beaches next time! During our trip, we met plenty of English-speaking folks who are happy to help – just in case you want to plan a trip there. 🙂

 

Hugs and stuff,

Chelsea Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

Día de la Independencia y Pozole

Mexican Independence Day is not actually the day that Mexico was declared a free nation from Spain’s control. In fact, the date marks the anniversary of the beginning of a decade-long struggle for independence. It started with a cry of injustice from the famous priest Hidalgo (LINK) on the early morning of September 16th, 1810. He asked his countrymen to respond to the injustice of their brothers by breaking free from Spain’s control. The essential spirit of the message is:

“My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the Gachupines!”

In spite of Hidalgo’s inspiring words, Mexico was not declared an independent nation with ease. Eleven years of war and thousands of lives lost, but the Mexican voice rang throughout as it continues to do so. Mexico broke free from Spanish reign on September 28, 1821. This year, Mexico will be celebrating 192 years of freedom by listening to a cry of patriotism from the President of Mexico (LINK) which is based on the original speech from Hidalgo. Fireworks, bells, loud music, confetti, flags, and of course the national anthem will overflow from each and every main square all over Mexico and the Embassies of Mexico. The crowd will shout in a patriotic tone, ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! 

 

Join with us in celebration of this great nation’s independence by cooking one of the common dishes for this weekend: pozole. And in true Mexican nature this “recipe” prepares a lot of food, so invite a friend or 3 over to enjoy together in community. Pozole is the pho of Mexico; it is simple to make and the best part is the add-ins to your own personal bowl. It is hands’ down one of our favorite dishes of Mexico, believe it or not! No, it’s not quite Vitamin T – but we grab a bowl whenever we can. Also in true Mexican fashion, this is not really a recipe as much as it is a guideline. I included pictures below to help explain what things should look like. Experiment and see what works for you! You will likely be able to find everything you need in your local grocery story, and for the hominy just peek in the Mexican section and it should be available in cans.

 

Pozole Blanca

2 kg hominy, pre-cooked or semi-cooked

2 chicken breasts, whole, with bones

½ pound pork spine (?)

5 garlic cloves, whole

1 (or 1.5) onion, quartered

5 dried bay leaves

1 Tablespoon dried thyme

1.5 Tablespoons dried oregano leaves, not ground

3 T salt

2 cups Chili de arbol (optional)

3 additional cloves of garlic (optional)

1.5 teaspoons additional salt (optional)

Toppings: Radishes, iceberg lettuce, onion, ground oregano, homemade chili powder, avocado, and tostadas.

 

First thing is that you’re going to want to wash the hominy. It smells REALLY bad right out of the bag. Clean the hominy just as if you were cleaning dried beans. They should have no odor when they’re ready.

Then you’re going to put everything in the ingredient list into the largest pot you have in your house. No, I’m really not joking. This example wouldn’t be overdoing it. And now fill the pot with enough water to cover the ingredients and then have a good 3-ish inches more. Boil, covered at full heat for 5 hours. If you have more time, you can simmer (or crock-pot!) it for up to 10 hours on low. The longer it cooks, the better the flavor will be. In the meantime, you can prep your toppings.

 

If you’ve opted in for some pica follow these steps to make your own chili powder. The very first thing you need to do is create as much ventilation in your house as possible. I recommend using gloves when handling the chilies; you will need to cut or break off the green stems. Then, you dry roast these bad boys and this is where the ventilation becomes very important. The chilies will release their spice so if you’re highly sensitive to spicy things, this would not be a job for you! Continue to stir the chilies at medium-low heat. You’ll start coughing, but this is normal. If it becomes too much, remove from heat and take the pan outside and continue to stir to ensure that the chilies don’t burn. Breathe deeply and continue onto the next step.

Once you can breathe again, you’ll want to blend the chilies in with the additional garlic and salt. Grab a friend who will hold a kitchen towel over the lid of the blender to ensure that no spicy molecules get into the air. Blend until it is the consistency below y ya!

If you opted out of the spicy option, then you’re onto the fun toppings! Lettuce, radishes, and onion should be cut fairly small to integrate into the flavor of every delicious bite.

Once the meat is cooked, it should be removed from the soup. You will need to shred the chicken and pork into small pieces. Bones should be discarded. Put the meat back into the soup about an hour before meal time. At this time, you should begin picking out the larger pieces of onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. This is where a huge spoon comes in handy if you have one. Below is what it looks like when the soup is ready!

Dress your soup however you might like it – utilizing all or none of the toppings listed above. Enjoy with a cold beer or fresh margarita!

¡Buen provecho!

Con Amor,

Chelsea Elizabeth

Lessons Learned: August Edition

Well if you’ve been following this blog since we’ve left the USA, you will notice that we have officially come full circle. For next month’s lessons learned, we will have to start noting the titles differently to denote the differences between year one and year two. It is funny looking back on our first lessons learned post only to realize that all of those new lessons have become a part of our daily life and general understanding of Mexico. I also note a huge difference in the way we perceive Mexico by the way we report our lessons learned. Here’s to another year (+) of lessons learned!

  1. Getting a dose of Vitamin T for breakfast is simply the best.  In Mexico, a typical breakfast is most likely leftovers or anything that falls under the category of Vitamin T: tamales, tacos, tortas, tlacoyos, tortillas, tequila or any typical Mexican food that starts with a T. [For the record, I have not had any tequila with breakfast… yet!] Actually, it’s really quite difficult to find any component of a typical American breakfast in a restaurant setting. To be honest though? I will take blackberry and queso tamales any day in lieu of eggs, bacon, and pancakes.
  2. Indirect communication can be thrown to the wayside when necessary. One of the most challenging components of integration to Mexican culture has not only been learning what to communicate, but how to communicate it. First, you learn textbook Spanish and then you throw that to the wayside once you realize that Mexicans don’t speak like that at all. Then, you learn how to drop your direct questions and statements to give them a nice, indirect softening around the edges. For example, instead of saying I forgot it you would say it was forgotten by me to be a little softer on yourself. After the first three stages, you finally learn how to balance direct and indirect conversation because really, Mexicans use both but in very culturally specific ways. It really is okay to tell a street vendor a direct no after they interrupt your conversation for the third time. Phew!
  3. Roasting chilies are a vital, but painful component of Mexican cooking. So if you haven’t noticed by now, we are total foodies. Our amiga bonita, Laura taught us how to cook pozole — keep your eyes peeled for a recipe later this week! Part of the process is creating a chili powder from fresh chili de arbol where you first dry roast the suckers in a pan. Before starting, we opened up all the doors and windows to ensure proper ventilation. When the roasting starts, your nose slowly begins to burn; as the chilies begin to roast and develop in flavor, the bite of the pepper lodges its way into your throat. One little cough, another bigger cough and all of a sudden all four of us are coughing and gasping for air. That is apparently when the chilies are done being roasted. Once you regain normal breathing, you then put the roasted chilies in a blender with salt and garlic – which puts small particles of the pepper into the air. Coughing resumes, but then you have a delicious result of homemade chili powder.
  4. Protecting your financial identity is a cultural challenge. Depending on the region, we have come to understand that cash is king. People use cash to pay for everything from groceries to electricity bills. It is very rare to pay for anything online, and when you do it may be a more complicated process than paying in cash. For example when we went to the show STOMP, we purchased the tickets online and had to print a proof of purchase and bring a paper copy of our ID and debit card for their records. Another example would be that we reserved a hotel in Cuetzalan and since there was no online structure to pay in advance, they requested that we send our debit card information via e-mail. We refused on both accounts, but protecting your finances is more challenging due to the lack of infrastructure.
  5. Purchasing a small trinket from a vendor can open up a wealth of knowledge. If you’re traveling in Mexico, you are probably interested in tourist attractions at a local, mexicano price. Asking at the hotel will get you signed up for the “best” tour company in the area, which is likely 200% more expensive than the local way. Asking a street vendor how to get to Destination X without purchasing anything will only get you a shrug or two. Now if you take a Mexican approach to the situation, all you have to do is be friendly and interested in the product or food available. You can ask about the history of the place or what makes the food specific to that region or how that product was hand crafted. Not only will you gain a deeper understanding of the region, you will likely be able to get the information you need to arrive safely and cheaply to your chosen destination.
  6. Access to the best healthcare available can sometimes result in house arrest for days. Mom, Dad? Don’t be all worried. We still have access to the best healthcare available, but when we thought we had been exposed to strep, the only test available took four days to get results. We did not want to infect anyone else in case we were contagious, which meant that we were on house arrest for four days waiting for the results. The doctor called us on the fourth day when we were about to go crazy and told us the good news that we did not have strep whatsoever. The bad news was that we just stayed inside for four days without any good reason. Be thankful that the rapid strep test is available in the United States and Canada!
  7. Beauty is in finding appreciation in the small details. JournalSince we have started our service in November 2012, we have kept a journal where we record one thing/event/person that we appreciate that day. It is not a deep or complex journaling process, but it has allowed us to realize the beauty of the everyday, small details of life. Some nights we will lay in bed and laugh about the things we expressed gratitude. When the entries circle around the basics of life, you know that it was a difficult day for Team Jander. We hope to continue this practice of appreciation for years to come.
  8. Camping in Mexico ≠ Camping in the USA. We packed our backpacks with compact tents, self-inflating sleeping pads, efficient cookstoves, and all the food they’ll need to survive in the wilderness for the night. We arrived at the “campsite” to find lots of people, loud music, and plenty of beer overflowing from an awning of a restaurant. Totally shocked, we asked where were we supposed to set up our tents. They pointed to a triangular patch of grass situated right in the parking lot. So much for the wilderness! Camping in Mexico is not necessarily a time to connect with the outdoors as much as it is an opportunity to be social. We ended up going back home and camping at the house – it was definitely the better option!

We’ll be back with more lessons learned for a September Edition, round two. Until then, keep up with your own adventures and keep us posted on your lives!

Cheers,

CBJ

Lugares Hermosos: Cuetzalan

Cuetzalan, Puebla literally earns it’s name of a Puebla Magico.

There are seven significant waterfalls in the region…

…with incredibly diverse and beautiful vegetation…

…and plenty of butterflies depending on the season…

…and vendors that sell unique crafts made with local coffee and vaquito beans…

…and six different caves to explore…

…handmade, wood-fired, comal tortillas made with cariño…

…historic, old churches with pyramids peeking out…

…and of course the pyramids themselves.

We are totally captivated by this magical town; I mean, how could you not be? You can read about my friend, The Twigster, who recently took a trip here as well. Next time, we want to explore the coffee farms and more waterfalls! We are so lucky to have this little town just 3 hours from us!

Abrazitos,

Chelsea

Lessons Learned: July Edition

We are closely approaching the anniversary of our arrival in Mexico. It is very crazy to look back at our lives a year ago and remembering all the changes we were going through. We quit our jobs in the month of July and moved out of our first home together. It was difficult to vacate a space that felt like home; it was our first place together as a married couple. I remember I kept telling myself that we would be in our Mexican house longer than the Seattle apartment to try and soothe my nerves. There is so much contentment in our hearts when we think about where we are and all the incredible aspects of Mexico we have had the chance to experience so far. Here are some of our lessons learned from July…

  1. Months really fly by without any real seasons or change in weather. Okay, well there are only two real seasons in Puebla – the dry season and the wet season. In the peak of either of those seasons, there is a cold spell for two or three weeks where the low temperature plummets down to the high 40’s. All that to say that the weather is freakishly predictable, and time doesn’t quite fit with our previous understanding of seasons. Let’s just say that July didn’t really feel like July should.
  2. Having a mini-garden is quite fun, P1080615 and Mexico is keeping our plants alive. I love plants and greenery, but I have been known to kill my fair share of houseplants. Thankfully, Mexico has been nurturing our plants with sunshine, the right amount of heat, and an evening watering. Otherwise, these poor babies would probably be dead. I like to think that I am losing my black thumb (think opposite of green thumb), but in all reality I think it is agreeable Mexican climate that keeps them alive and well.
  3. Living at high altitude means very few mosquitoes. If you remember the blog posts around this time last year, you remember how I kept track of the mosquito bites I had at any given time. One of the major bonuses of living 7,000 feet above sea level is that the mosquitoes can’t seem to survive. The only evidence I have to back this up would be the lack of bites on my arms and legs.
  4. Patron saint celebrations are a major cultural celebration. 
    The biggest church in our neighborhood celebrated their patron saint this past month. We first noticed something was different when a churro truck set up shop outside the main gates of the church. The next day – vendors of tacos, hot dogs, and corn on the cob. Then, the foosball tables and arcade games showed up. The day before the actual festivities were supposed to start, fair rides like carousels, bumper cars, and kiddos first “roller coaster” set up right in the middle of the street! During the weekend, a mini market popped up selling small toys, movies, and bracelets. We ate out every night at our neighbor’s grandma’s house and got accustomed to the constant fireworks.
  5. Wikiloc.com is a great platform for sharing trails you’ve explored – just don’t always expect to arrive at your destination. We downloaded two hiking trails on our GPS on our trip to Tepozlan; we decided on one as our first pick and the other one was a back-up. As it turns out, it was nearly impossible to keep on the “trail” for our first choice. A little defeated, we headed back to the fork in the road where the other trail starts. Everything was going good – until we realized that we were always off the trail by a little bit. Neal was so determined to be on the exact trail, we hiked in the stream for awhile and realized that this was definitely a dry season hike. We didn’t necessarily arrive at any destination, but it was really fun tromping around the forest without worrying of getting lost.
  6. Corn on the cob here is year round – we don’t have to wait like y’all do for the summer to arrive. First off, corn on the cob al estilio mexicana is pierced like a popsicle, smothered in mayo, and covered with cheese & spice. At any given time, you can probably hear a loud speaker announce: Esquites y elotes, esquites y elotes, solo cinco pesos! Which means you can buy corn on the cob or corn cut off the cob for only 38¢. It’s everywhere. And if you don’t like corn on the cob for some weird odd reason, you can choose esquites instead. ¡Buen provecho!
  7. Creating momentum with a new project idea is arguably the most challenging part of project management. This is the first time we have ever worked with such freedom – our bosses are flexible and we make our own projects. As nice as that sounds, getting everyone on board with your project and getting it started can be the most challenging aspect of your whole project.
  8. Mexico is home to over 3,000 volcanoes – and apparently home to the smallest volcano in the world. We had the opportunity to listen to a lecture by Jorge Alberto Neyra Jáuregui whom specializes in the volcanoes of Mexico and photographs them. We were aware of the major volcanoes like Popo and Izta (above) but we learned that the smallest volcano in the world is apparently right here in Puebla. The Cuexcomate volcano stands just 13 meters (43 feet) tall, with a diameter of 23 meters (75 feet). It’s a teeny one!

 

I love that even after being here for a significant amount of time, we are still learning so much. Thanks for your interest in our blog and in our lives! We so appreciate all the support and love we’ve been feeling lately. Thank you for following along on this adventure of ours!

 

Con mucho amor,

ChelseaBeth