How to Make a Día de los Muertos Nicho

Do-it-Yourself Frida Kahlo Nicho

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

October is my favorite time of year, not just because it’s autumn, (which is my favorite season), but because this is the time of year when all kinds of creative Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) crafts and products start to pop up all over the place in preparation for the November holiday.

For Día de los Muertos, many people in Latin America create an ofrenda, or altar, to honor their deceased loved ones, so I knew I wanted to create something along those lines.

While walking around Lowe’s to brainstorm ideas, I walked past the wood moulding and noticed how the crown corners looked like little houses when turned the wrong way and this reminded me of the nichos I used to make. Nichos are a beautiful Latin American folk art which incorporate mixed media in the style of a shadow box and often serve as a religious altar. Because I already keep photos of our deceased loved ones on a permanent altar of sorts, I decided to make a nicho to honor the iconic Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.

How to make a Frida Kahlo nicho

mini-papel picado,  Frida Kahlo nicho

Frida Kahlo nicho for Día de los Muertos

If you want to make a Día de los Muertos nicho, follow the directions below to get started now!

Día de los Muertos Nicho

You need:

1 large crown corner (wood moulding)
wood glue
3/8 x 4 x 24 inch pine craft board
3/4 in. x 1 in. brass hinges
2 cabinet knobs
craft paints and brushes
hand saw
small hammer
1/16 drill bit
3/16 drill bit
drill
miniature screwdrivers
measuring tape
pencil
safety glasses
sandpaper
decorations of your choosing
small photo of deceased person you’re honoring
battery operated candles

Directions:

1. Remove stickers from the wood. Lightly sand to remove stickiness if needed.

2. Carefully knock out triangular corner supports inside the corner crown.

Frida Kahlo nicho how-to

3. Sand the corner crown to remove glue and rough edges.

4. Cut the craft board so you have two 7 1/2 inch pieces. The third piece set aside for another project.

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5. One 7 1/2 inch piece will be the bottom of the nicho. The other 7 1/2 inch piece should be cut into two equal pieces measuring 3 3/4 inch – These will be the doors of the nicho. Sand these pieces.

6. Measure and pre-drill holes on doors and sides of nicho for the tiny screws that came with the hinges. (I pre-drilled these with a 1/16 bit and used my Rockwell 3RILL, which is my new favorite tool. Full disclosure: Rockwell gave the drill to me to use on my Lowe’s projects.)

Also drill holes to attach the cabinet knobs – I used a 3/16 drill bit for those.

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7. Paint pieces desired colors. Allow to dry. (Sand lightly for a slightly weathered look.)

8. Screw the knobs on the doors through the 3/16 holes you drilled. (Depending on the knobs you bought, you may prefer to find shorter bolts than the ones that came with the knob due to the width of the wood.)

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9. Use a mini-screwdriver to attach the hinges to doors and then doors to nicho where you have pre-drilled holes.

10. Use wood glue to attach the bottom piece to the bottom of the nicho. Allow to dry.

11. Place photo, battery operated candles (real candles absolutely not advised!) and other decorations inside. Display on a shelf or attach a picture hanger to the back for wall display.

Do-it-Yourself Frida Kahlo Nicho

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Savory Tamales de Calabaza y Pollo (o Pavo!)

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I asked all of you if you wanted me to make sweet pumpkin tamales or savory pumpkin tamales. The results were pretty evenly split, so after I made the sweet tamales, I began to figure out what I wanted in my savory tamales.

I began to brainstorm – Pumpkin reminds me of autumn and autumn reminds me of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving reminds me of turkey and turkey reminds me of Salvadoran panes con pavo – and that is when I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

I didn’t have any turkey on hand, but I had chicken, (and honestly that’s what we often use because it’s more affordable.) So I prepared the chicken for filling the tamales the way I do Salvadoran Pavo, complete with the savory Salvadoran salsa spiced with relajo (see the notes about relajo in the recipe below.)

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What this means is that these tamales are perfect for your Salvadoran pavo leftovers this holiday season! Even if you have only regular roast turkey leftover from Thanksgiving you could just add a little mustard, Worcestershire sauce, the salsa with relajo, and you’ll be ready to start assembling these tamales.

As for the pumpkin, I incorporated that into the masa and the flavor ends up not being very noticeable as the delicious chicken and salsa steal the show. I do think that the pumpkin lends a very pretty color and moisture to the masa though, plus it’s full of vitamins – so I will absolutely include it again next time I make these tamales.

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Warning: These are pretty amazing and the recipe below only makes about 10 regular-sized tamales. You may want to double or even triple the ingredients!

Savory Pumpkin Tamales de Calabaza y Pollo (o Pavo!)

For masa:

1 cup Maseca
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
4 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup pumpkin puree

1. In a medium-sized bowl combine the Maseca, salt and oregano, then add the pumpkin and butter. Mix to combine. Add the chicken stock and mix until completely combined. Set aside.

For filling:

3 large chicken thighs (or the equivalent dark meat turkey)
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
a few shakes Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 small onion
1 tbs. minced garlic
1 – 2 cups water

1. In a medium pot, coat the chicken or turkey pieces in mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Add water, garlic and onion. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, cover and lower to a simmer. Cook until the meat is cooked through and juices run clear. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool, remove meat from bones and shred. Discard skin, bone, onion and any liquid left in the pot – you just want the meat which you will be mixing into the salsa later.

For salsa:

1 cup diced tomato
½ tsp. fresh minced garlic
1/4 small onion, diced
1/4 small green pepper, diced
1/3 cup chicken stock
1-2 large tablespoons Salvadoran relajo spice mixture (see note below)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon achiote
salt and pepper to taste

Note – If you can’t find Salvadoran relajo spice mixture, the following can be substituted: 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, a few shakes dry oregano, 4 dry roasted peanuts, 6 dry roasted pumpkin seeds, 2 large bay leaves – crushed, 6 whole cloves and/or allspice.

1. In a blender combine all ingredients except salt and pepper. Blend until mostly smooth, about one minute. (The sesame seeds and other spices will give this salsa texture – that’s how it’s supposed to be.)

2. Pour the salsa into a small pot and simmer over medium-high heat for a few minutes, stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can remove the allspice and/or whole cloves if you like at this point.) Mix the shredded chicken into the salsa. Set aside to cool.

Assemble the tamales:

Take 10 to 12 dried corn husks and soak them in a large bowl of hot water to soften. Once softened, remove one by one and gently shake dry before using.

In the middle of each corn husk, spoon a few tablespoons of the masa and spread out with the back of a spoon, but stay towards the middle of the husk – don’t go to the edges.

In the middle of the masa, put a large spoonful of the chicken and salsa mixture.

Fold corn husk closed as described in this post. Optional: Wrap the tamales inside aluminum foil.

Stack tamales in a tamalera and steam about 2 to 3 hours. Makes about 10 regular-sized tamales.

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(Carlos eating his fourth tamal for breakfast this morning!)

Salvadoran Bento Box Lunch!

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With Back-to-school only weeks away and Día Nacional de la Herencia Salvadoreña Americana (National Salvadoran American Heritage Day) coming up on August 6th – I decided to make a Salvadoran themed bento box which would be ideal for packing for your child’s lunch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of packing traditional Salvadoran foods for my children when I get a chance. I feel that it roots the boys in their heritage and also gives them a chance to share their culture with classmates.

Although changes have been made to school lunch in the United States, I think they still have a long way to go. Making your child’s lunch gives you control over how much sodium, sugar, fat and calories they’re getting and it allows you to provide healthy foods you know your child likes. This particular bento box contains a balanced alternative to school bought lunches: Bean and cheese mini-pupusas provide plenty of fiber and protein and when cooked without oil, are lower in fat. In place of the traditional cabbage curtido and salsa we have a salad of finely chopped fresh spinach and grape tomatoes which are packed with vitamins. Potato chips are replaced with homemade baked plantain chips cooked without any oil and sprinkled lightly with salt. To drink, horchata stands in for chocolate milk – When made with skim or 1% milk, your child gets calcium for growing bones without extra calories, sugar and fat.

Ready to give this Salvadoran bento box lunch a try? Recipes are below!

Horchata

You need:

Salvadoran horchata mix (find it at your local Latino Market)
Skim or 1% milk
A thermos or bottle that seals tightly
Optional: Sweetener of your choice

Directions:

1. Put a couple tablespoons of the horchata mix into the thermos or bottle. (A funnel may make this easier.) Add a cup of milk – make sure you leave some space at the top so the drink can be shaken at lunch time.

2. Optional: Add sweetener of your choice, but depending on the mix you use, you may find it tastes great without these unneeded calories.

3. Another optional step is to pour the horchata through a sieve to remove any clumps of mix that didn’t dissolve. Otherwise, seal the bottle tightly so it doesn’t leak. At lunch time your child can give it a few shakes to make sure it’s well mixed before opening.

Mini-Pupusas de Queso y Frijol

You need:

A quarter cup softened mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup frijoles molidos or frijoles medio molidos
MASECA Instant Corn Masa Flour prepared as instructions on package indicate. (Use the proportions that yield 4 tortillas: 1/2 cup Maseca, 1/3 cup water, pinch of salt.)

Directions:

1. Mix the cheese and beans by hand until well blended. The beans you use can be molidos (completely pureed) or you can use frijoles medio molidos, (which leaves some of the beans mostly intact or slightly smashed.) I used Salvadoran frijol rojo de seda, which I prepared medio molidos.

(Need help making beans? Click here, here and here.)

2. Now just assemble the pupusas as usual, but using a smaller amount of masa and filling so that the pupusas come out mini-sized. Cook on a hot comal (griddle), flipping once. No need to use any oil on the comal. This will make about 6 mini-pupusas.

(Need pupusa-making tips? Click here.)

Homemade Sweet and Salty Plantain Chips

You need:
1 ripe plantain (yellow with black markings)
Optional: salt

Directions:

1. Cut the peel off the plantain. Slice the plantain into thin coins. Put the plantain rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (No need to add any oil!)

2. Bake at 350 F, turning once to brown on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Optional: Lightly sprinkle with salt. This makes enough for two servings.

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How To Make Paper Fiesta Flowers For Hanging

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Ready to make a festive paper flower garland for your next fiesta? Here are step-by-step directions with photos to help you make decorative paper flower pom-poms which can be hung on a string, from the ceiling, on tree branches or wherever you like! (It’s a great craft to do with your niños!)

How To Make Paper Fiesta Flowers

What you need:

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Crepe paper (Tissue paper will probably work but that isn’t what I used.)
Wire (Small children may feel more comfortable working with pipe cleaners.)
String
Scissors

Directions:

1. Cut 4 sheets of crepe paper to the same length. (Mine were about 9 1/2 inches by 22 inches.) As I mentioned above, this will probably work with tissue paper but I use crepe paper because it’s stronger, doesn’t tear as easily, and has a little added texture compared to tissue paper.

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2. With the sheets of paper lined up on top of each other, fold width-wise in 1 1/2 inch fan/accordion style folds.

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3. Secure in the middle with a length of wire about 7 inches long. Don’t secure it so tightly that you crush the paper too much. (It should now look like a bow tie.)

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4. Spread out the fan folds.

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5. Carefully separate each layer. Fluff and adjust as needed on each side so it is round in shape.

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6. Secure the wire to a long length of string. Repeat until you have the garland as long as you want it.

7. Hang up your garland of pretty pom-pom flowers and throw a fiesta!

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8 Free Papel Picado Clipart and 2 Fiesta Invites

All this available free to download below!

All this available free to download below!

I’ve begun to work on actual preparations for my son’s quince (15th birthday party.) Yesterday I created some tissue paper decorations, (fun tutorial coming soon!), bought paper plates, and designed an invitation.

This is an example of what your invitation could look like once you add text!

This is an example of what your invitation could look like once you add text!

For the invitation I wanted a colorful Latin American fiesta theme with papel picado but I wasn’t finding any free templates online that fit what I needed. I decided to design my own fiesta-style invite and papel picado clipart from scratch. I wish I could invite all of you to the party, but since I can’t, here’s the template I created – free for you to use and adapt to your own personal needs. Just click the image for the larger version, right click and download to your computer. You can print it out and hand letter the invite, or upload and edit it in a program like Picmonkey. Have fun!

Free Papel Picado Clipart and Fiesta Invites

Click for large version.

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Note: The images within this blog post are free to use and adapt for personal, non-commercial use. Please do not add these images to clipart collections on other websites or use them for commercial purposes. Other images on this website outside of this post remain protected under copyright and may not be used without prior written consent.

A Quince Party… (for my boy)

Image source: Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

Image source: Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

I briefly mentioned in a previous post that I’m planning a quinceañero party for my son, and I promised to give details at a later date – so today I’ll tell you how this all came about. Below is an excerpt of the story as I wrote it for latinamom.me, with a link to read the rest over there.

When I first suggested the possibility of a quince to my husband, whispered one night in the dark as we fell asleep, Carlos waved me off like a lost and confused moth that had mistaken a porch light for the moon. I wasn’t surprised that it took awhile for Carlos to open his mind and warm up to the idea—after all, quinceañeras are traditionally coming-of-age celebrations only for girls and Carlos is a very traditional-minded person. However, over time I explained my intentions and little by little, Carlos came to support the idea of throwing a quince for his son.

[Read the rest on latinamom.me HERE]

Would you ever consider a quince party for your son?

Tu mamá

Día de la Madre (Mother’s Day) – is fast approaching in the United States. (In Latin America, as many of you know. it’s on a different day.) Are you ready to show your love to your mami on Sunday, May 12th? If you need a little help brainstorming gift ideas, here are some great guides, crafts, and recipes other blogueras have put together.

Image source: craftingeek.me

Image source: craftingeek.me

Craftingeek has dozens of crafts you can make para tu mamá. My favorite is the album scrapbook pictured above.

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Check out latinamom.me for their Mother’s Day Gift Guide and their gallery of Stylish Accessories Para Mamá.

Coffeecake con Frambuesas - Almuerzo con Mamá // Image source: Ericka Sanchez

Coffeecake con Frambuesas – Almuerzo con Mamá // Image source: Ericka Sanchez

Almuerzo con Mamá is a beautiful, bilingual collaboration of free recipes to make for Mother’s Day from several of my favorite foodie blogueras, like the Coffeecake con Frambuesas pictured above.

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The “3 Amigas” strike again with another gift guide bien bella just in time for Día de la Madre. Check it out HERE.

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These Tissue Paper Flowers by guest contributor Lisa Renata on ModernMami.com almost look like the real thing. So pretty!

picmonkey

Online photo/image editor, PicMonkey, has some really creative ideas for gifts you can make with the help of a good printer. Check those out here on the PicMonkey blog.

How are you remembering your mami this Mother’s Day?