rainy season: things I'm loving

local tropical summer fruit (clockwise from top): a yellow pitaya (dragon fruit), mamay (kind of tastes like baked sweet potato, and it's great pureed in muffins), limes from the yard, sapote from a tree on our street (tastes like a soft smokey caramel pear).

the coconuts from the yard: fresh coconut water, fresh coconut meat, fresh coconut milk, rustic bowls made from the shells. next to try: coconut popsicles

mirando las tormentas. watching storms come in. and checking to see what's heading our way - and loving when the big ones veer away from here

this simple and inspiring site

cuando alguien corrige mi español - when someone corrects my Spanish :)

(both photos from Crispin - gracias por compartir!)

What are you grateful for today?

Day of the Dead Skull Cookies

Happy Día de los Muertos! Here in Mexico, November 2 is a very special day, a time to spend with family and connect with deceased relatives and friends and celebrate life. I think it's a very beautiful tradition.

Traditional treats and happy sugar skulls are part of the deal too. It's funny that up north (Canada and the US) skulls are usually portrayed as dark and evil, but down here they're often cheery and whimsical.... and sometimes very sweet too. To celebrate, C and I decorated our own little skull shortbread cookies. It was muy divertido (very fun!)

I used a couple of chilled rolls of cookie dough (from my last slice-n-bake cookie experiment) and after slicing 1/4" rounds of dough, I pinched the "chin area" and flattened them a bit more with my fingers to make a basic skull shape. No cookie cutters required - and they all turn out a little different. I threw them in the oven, and 5 minutes into baking had a good idea how to define the face. So I pulled them out of the oven and worked on half of them - leaving the other ones smooth. With a fork, I pressed down gently to make teeth. Using a chopstick, I pressed the fat tip in to make eye sockets, and the small tip to make the nose cavity. Yum. ;) Since they were already partially baked, they ended up cracking - which was actually pretty cool since skulls do have cracks and fissures. Check out my last blog entry to see how they look without the icing - they're pretty nice looking plain too.

The decorating was super fun. C got in on that action. I was inspired by these cookies, and these chocolate trees (learning that the fine lines were made using a ziplock bag as an icing bag with a tiny piece of the corner snipped off). I don't have a lot of fancy kitchen stuff here - but I do have ziplock bags! I made 3 simple icings (just squishing the ingredients right in the bags to mix):

White: 2-3 Tbps icing sugar with a few drops of rose water and just enough water to make a thick paste.

Orange/Brown: 2-3 Tbps icing sugar, ~1/4 tsp cinnamon and just enough water to make a thick paste. (mine was pretty dark because it had about 1 tsp of canela)

Dark Brown: Melted semi-sweet chocolate. (This worked very well, but I wasn't able to stack these cookies because the chocolate stuck to the other cookies. For cookies that need to be stored efficiently, I'd make an icing sugar icing like the ones above, but with vanilla and cocoa.)

Senior Skull courtesy of Crispin (Gracias!)

This was seriously my first time making "fancy" decorated cookies. (Not counting the gingerbread men from kindergarten - or my recent iBooster app cookies hehe...) I was delighted with how easy and fun it was - and how effective the ziplock baggie icing bag/tip technique was.

Making funny little decorated skull cookies for Día de los Muertos is going to be a yearly tradition for us from now on - as well as remembering our beloved deceased relatives, sharing stories about them, and celebrating life. :)

Coconut Woman

Right now it's super hot here in Mexico (like +40C with humidity, and getting hotter) so baking has taken the back burner so to speak, but that's cool because I love making all kinds of food - hello jicama salads and no-bake amaranth squares! (Ok, I did just bake a sticky red banana pudding - yum...) Now that the rainy season has started, the plants are happy again and we have quite the selection of exciting produce available, from mangos to sapotes to pitayas. I've also been super-busy with my other blog, as well as design projects, not to mention the amazing adventure that is life - it surprises me how much of my time is taken up living!

All this to say my blog posts here will be very sporadic for the next little while, but I still have time to reply to your comments and emails (which I love) and if you need a fix of healthy baked goods, there are some fabulous healthy (as well as gluten-free and vegan) recipe links from folks all over the world on Baking is Hot. :)

And what about the picture? Well, that's me posing with the fresh coconuts my sweetheart bravely retrieved from 2 different coconut palms on the lovely property we're living on this summer.  I was so enamored by these 2 beauties that I said "Quick, take a picture, I feel like Coconut Woman!" (Thanks for indulging me C, heehee.) Right after this, he hacked them both open with a machete (another brave feat, swoon...) and we enjoyed one of our favourite drinks - fresh coconut water with some fine aged rum. ¡Qué riquísimo!

Sweet Pics & Chocolate Experiments

A little something I came up with while living in the jungle: Chocolate and maseca black bean brownie mini-cakes made on the frying pan.

I've been spending so much time posting OPAPs (other people's awesome pics) on my other blog, that I've let my own photography slide a bit. I'm still baking away, having fun with the limitations I have baking here in a little town in tropical Mexico, in a little rental house with a very basic kitchen (i.e. limited access to ingredients and gear) as well as only baking on cool mornings (which are getting rare as it's starting to really heat up here). While finding, selecting, and posting awesome pics from all over the world  on Baking is Hot, I realized that I have to make an effort to take more photos of my own goods - and not just ok photos. Yes, that's tricky to do considering my semi-nomadic styles these days, but if I want to be a hot-shot designer/baker/producer then my pics have to be awesome, or at least look very delicious. :)

Here are a few photos of some of my Mexican chocolate experiments. (Not bad?) More recipes coming soon... Happy healthy baking and photo-taking!

Oh, and if you have any great-sneaky-crafty food photography tips or links, please share in the comments. :)

Fresh corn tortillas as crepes. I made a sweet chocolate spread (similar to my Noir Chocolate Spread) with local honey, cacao, coconut oil, and vanilla.

Experiments in rustic chocolate making.

For a couple of months, I was obsessed with making my own chocolate from scratch. I bought fermented beans from different produce markets, learned how to roast  them myself, ground them up and mixed in more ingredients, pressed it all into forms.... but could never get a really pronounced chocolate flavour out of my beans. What I found out after learning more about cacao quality and fermentation, is that most of the good cacao beans are exported to Europe. Sigh. My rustic chocolates were still pretty delicious. :)

Healthy Chia Banana Bars

Healthy Chia Banana Bars 3

My favorite breakfast these days: quick, easy, tasty, filling and super-healthy. All of the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to find here in Mexico. Packed with whole grains and seeds, these squares are wheat-free, gluten-free (if made with gluten-free oats), dairy-free, egg-free, low in sugar, and high in fiber. Did I mention they're delicious?

Recipe: Chia Banana Bars

In our house, we eat these so often, we call them Chia Squares. But I thought Chia Banana Bars was more descriptive. What do you think?
Healthy Chia Banana Bars 2

PS: I've been super-busy working on an exciting new baking site - more about this soon!

Baking Banana Bread in Bacalar

I've been happily mucking about in the kitchen, baking with the little gas oven in the mornings when it's cool enough to do so. (Yes, I have an oven!) It's a fun challenge to bake-up delicious wheat-free healthy goods with the ingredients I have access to here.

The very first thing I whipped-up was a classic: hearty rustic banana bread, based on my recipe for Easy Gluten-free Banana Bread. Of course, I had to make a few alterations. I used a combination of white rice flour (surprisingly easy to find here) and home-made oat flour. My banana bread also had unrefined Mexican brown cane sugar (called piloncillo - delicious!), Mexican cinnamon (I always double the amount as it's more subtle than what I use in Canada), and of course - delectable aromatic Mexican vanilla. Local bananas, eggs, and a sprinkling of fresh pepitas on top - yum!

There's no aluminum-free baking powder here, or cream of tartar (so that I can make my own). Instead, I used a combination of baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and though my cake was a bit dense, the soda+acid did the trick.

I also used a small rectangular stainless steel pan, the only pan I brought from Canada, instead of a loaf pan. Worked like a charm.

The banana bread was hearty and delicious (though I'd like to make a few tweaks before sharing the recipe...) It made a lovely breakfast, enjoyed with my sweetie and a cup of exquisite Chiapas coffee in a hammock watching the sunrise. La vida es buena. Life is good.

Thanks for the awesome pic Crispin.

Estoy en Mexico

Sugary treat from Dia de los Muertos and Laguna Bacalar

November! It's been a while. I've been all over the continent the past few months. After my cross-Canada trek, I spent a bit of time in the lovely Okanagan, enjoying  all the bounty of late summer. After that, my sweetheart and I drove down the west coast USA, then east to the Sonora dessert, then south down into Mexico - hugging the west coast all the way over to Troncones, then across the continent again (and through sprawling Mexico city) all the way over to the south eastern corner of the Yucatan, where we finally arrived in the lovely little town of Bacalar where we are settling for the next few months or more...

Our travel route - wow! Thanks for charting us Crispin.

This time we are in town (rather than the jungle), so that we can have the internet, as well as people to speak Spanish with. Todavia estoy apreniendo español. (I'm still studying Spanish. Feel free to correct me!)  We are also close to a sweet little mercado (market) with lovely ripe local tropical fruit and veggies. I even found a little shop that sells bulk fermented cacao beans! Sooo looking forward to concocting my own rustic chocolate... I will share info, tips, recipes, and pics while I'm here - but more often I'll be off swimming in the cenote, making awesome fruit salads, or studying my Spanish. :-)

Thank you for all of your comments and feedback - I'm really impressed by all the creative healthy baking going on. Since I'm back online, I can reply to comments and questions too - I love all the delicious healthy food banter you know. I've also been checking out your blogs - great stuff!

Abrazos (hugs),

Nomadic Foodie

Just can't get enough: fresh tropical fruit at the Campeche market. Photo by Crispin.

¡Hola amigos! Just wanted to let you all know where I'm at: currently in Canada, enjoying the beautiful summer produce, and then heading back down to Mexico for the winter. My posts will be super-sporadic for the next several months, as I'm in transit - traveling around the continent in a caravan of one with my sweetheart. Hoping I'll get the chance to share some travel pics and recipes while on the road... Thanks for all your comments and great feedback!

xo Patty

Almond Rice Horchata

Home-made horchata is definitely where it's at. I don't think I'll ever buy rice milk or almond milk again, as home-made almond/rice horchata is similar, but much better. I've just started making my own horchata with: almonds, rice, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, lime zest, and a pinch of salt. I would love to make this with agave syrup too, but, funnily enough, agave syrup is impossible to find in this part of Mexico. It's even possible to make "sugar-free horchata" with no sugars at all, or a little bit of stevia... I'd really love to make horchata from sprouted/germinated almonds - though I haven't been able to find any raw almonds that are still "raw" since California has been irradiating their almonds. Anyways, after several experiments, here's my new horchata recipe:

Recipe: Almond Rice Horchata

My first ever horchata in progress: almonds, rice, cinnamon, and lime zest soaking in water.

Wish you were here: A refreshing and nourishing glass of almond horchata hits the spot when it's too hot to cook. When it's +44C (with humidity) this is a good thing!

Disfruta! Enjoy! 

PS - I'm just starting another wave of traveling, so my posts will still be super-sporadic. I wish I had more time to post all the wonderful things I'm learning, but there's always mañana. ;) Next stop: Costa Maya

Me Encanta Horchata

I'm back on the grid! Living in a little Mexican town, on a tropical lake, with a lovely fresh produce market, in a sweet little casa with wifi and a gear-laden kitchen. Soy muy afortunada. The jungle was awesome, but I was ready to move on. The rainy season is just starting, which means even more bugs, and I was getting eaten alive out there. Serves me right. ;)

There's so much that I've learned, and so much I want to share...

One amazing drink I discovered is an elixir of the gods called horchata. Every now and then, I'd see vendors at the side of the street selling it, and wonder what it was. Really, I wasn't that curious because the name didn't sound that appetizing. I even noticed it in the grocery stores, as a thick white substance sold in bottles. I ignored it, since to me it looked like mayonnaise or something creamy, yuk. One day, I noticed a bottle in an otherwise empty fridge of a kitchen palapa where we were staying. I picked it up and read the ingredients, which were: rice, sugar, water, almond, cinnamon, vanilla. What?! That sounds awesome... The directions said to mix some of this syrup with water, and enjoy over ice. I tried it. ¡Fantastico!

I learned that Mexican horchata is basically a sweet aromatic rice milk, usually made with raw rice and flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla, served on ice. Originally from Spain, it's traditionally made with tigernuts (chufas), so Spanish horchata probably tastes quite different than Mexican horchata. It's also made with ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, or barley. I'd love to try all the differnet kinds.

Mexican horchata makes a great drink on it's own, or spiked with rum. I like adding horchata syrup to coffee or black tea as a dairy-free creamer/sweetener - or mixed with hot fresh ginger tea. Adding a teaspoon or two of concentrate to an agua de fruta (fruit blended with water), or smoothie is awesome too. Here is one of my favourite combos:

Recipe: Papaya Horchata Smoothie

Generally, the commercial horchata concentrates you can find here are mega-sweet, so I recommend using a lot less than the directions call for. You can find the concentrate in most grocery stores down here, the quality varies and different brands have different ingredient ratios, and some are less sweet. Of course, it's best to make your own! This rice and almond Yucatecan horchata recipe sounds awesome.

I'd eventually like to concoct my own horchatas, like: almond honey horchata, sugar-free brown rice horchata, sesame ginger horchata, chocolate spice horhchata, maple walnut horchata, agave jicama horchata... and of course, a traditional Spanish horchata de chufa.

The little bit of reasearch I did revealed some fascinating history, and that people are very passionate about this drink. I'd love to learn more - please share your horchata info, recipes and links - gracias!

Thanks for the pic Crispin!