Gelatina de Mosaico (Mosaic Gelatin)

gelatina-de-mosaico-latinaish

A family potluck this past weekend with my side of the family seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally make my first attempt at “gelatina de mosaico” – A colorful gelatin dessert popular in Mexico and some other Latin American countries. When I told Carlos what I wanted to make, he asked, “Are you sure it isn’t going to be too weird for them?”

He didn’t believe me when I told him, although many gringos may not be familiar with “gelatina de mosaico” specifically, most older generation Americans are not strangers to creative Jell-O dishes, (and some may actually know this exact dish by the name “stained glass bars” or “mosaic dessert bars.”)

I pulled out this old Jell-O cookbook I have in the cabinet. When we moved to this house about 10 years ago, I found it in the kitchen cabinet and decided to keep it; In it are all manner of Jell-O dishes – many of which are much stranger than “gelatina de mosaico.”

joys-of-jello

Do the math: 1897 + 65 means this cookbook was printed in 1962.

Do the math: 1897 + 65 means this cookbook was printed in 1962.

Can I interest you in some shrimp Jell-O? How about some Jell-O with vegetables?

Can I interest you in some shrimp Jell-O? How about some Jell-O with vegetables?

Radishes? Cauliflower? Seems like nothing is off-limits in this Jell-O cookbook.

Radishes? Cauliflower? Seems like nothing is off-limits in this Jell-O cookbook.

South of the Border Salad. Hmmm. Should I try this one?

South of the Border Salad. Hmmm. Should I try this one?

These are called "Crown Jewel" desserts and are very similar to gelatina de mosaico.

These are called “Crown Jewel” desserts and are very similar to gelatina de mosaico.

Anyway, I ended up making the gelatina de mosaico and it turned out great. Everyone loved it, (and I saw a few people getting seconds!) … The original recipe is on the Jell-O website HERE, but here it is with my adapted step-by-step directions which include some tips to ensure it turns out right!

Gelatina de Mosaico

What you need:

5 1/2 cups boiling water
1 box JELL-O Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Lime Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Orange Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Grape Flavor Gelatin
2 envelopes KNOX Unflavored Gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
Cooking spray

Directions:

A note before you begin: As fun as this dessert is when finished, I don’t recommend allowing children to help make it because there is a lot of pouring of boiling water. Also, you will want to make this the night before you want to eat it as it takes several hours to become solid.

1. Clean your fridge! Seriously, don’t skip this step. Make space because you’re going to need it to chill 4 different containers of Jell-O.

2. Put a large pot of water on to boil. (You don’t have to measure out the 5 1/2 cups right now. Just make sure you have more than that in the pot.)

3. While waiting for the water to boil, get your supplies ready. You need 4 large glass cereal bowls. (Whatever type of bowl you use, make sure it can handle boiling hot water.) Empty each packet of flavored Jell-O into a bowl – one flavor per bowl. Strawberry in one bowl. Orange in one bowl. Lime in one bowl. Grape in one bowl. (You don’t need the unflavored gelatin yet. Don’t open it now.)

4. You need 4 rectangular shaped medium-sized containers. (I used disposable cookie sheets but these were a bit larger than needed. I will use something smaller next time.) Spray each rectangular container with cooking spray and set them near the bowls.

5. Once the water is boiling, ladle one cup of the water into a large glass measuring cup. (Leave the rest of the pot boiling while you work.)

6. Carefully pour one cup of boiling water into the bowl containing the strawberry Jell-O powder. Mix about 30 seconds until dissolved. Pour into one of the rectangular containers and put in the refrigerator to chill.

7. Repeat step 6 with the lime, grape and orange flavors. When finished, you will have 4 rectangular containers of Jell-O chilling in the fridge.

8. Turn the heat off for the boiling water, but don’t dump the water out. You’ll need to turn it back on later.

9. Wash up the dishes and then wait at least one hour for the Jell-O to become solid.

10. Put the pot of water back on to boil.

11. Spray a glass or metal baking dish (about 9×13) with cooking spray.

12. Chop the colored Jell-O into pieces. You can make uniform squares or just chop it up randomly – however you want. Put the chopped up Jell-O pieces into the greased baking dish. Set in the fridge.

Note: If you have trouble getting the colored Jell-O out of the rectangular containers so you can chop it, try running a sharp knife around the edges before turning it upside down over a clean surface.

13. In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle the contents of 2 unflavored gelatin packets over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to sit for 1 minute.

14. Ladle 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water into the large glass measuring cup. Pour the 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water into the medium-sized bowl of unflavored gelatin. Stir. Add the sweetened condensed milk. Mix well and allow to cool.

Note: If you are too impatient and don’t let it cool enough, your red-colored Jell-O will stain the white Jell-O slightly pink in the next step, which is what happened to mine. It’s still pretty, but most people aim to keep the sweetened condensed milk Jell-O mixture white.

15. Remove the pan of chopped up colored Jell-O from the refrigerator. Pour the sweetened condensed milk Jell-O mixture over the colored Jell-O. You can gently mix this a little bit to distribute the colors to your liking.

16. Put the pan back in the fridge to chill. This will take a couple hours – I left mine in overnight.

17. Once your mosaic gelatin is solid, run a knife along the sides to loosen it up, and then turn it upside down over a clean surface. Cut into bar shapes and place on a serving dish or back in the glass baking dish. Serve or keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

mosaic-jello-latinaish

Atol de Avena

atol-de-avena-latinaish

When my suegra lived with us, she used to buy oatmeal, which she called by one name and one name only – “Quacker.” This used to make me crazy because “Quacker” sounds like a nickname for a duck, but it was her mispronunciation of the brand name “Quaker Oats” – and perhaps it’s a common mispronunciation in El Salvador, the same way Corn Flakes are called “Con Fleis” – I honestly don’t know if it was a suegra thing or a Salvadoran thing.

When my suegra would make oatmeal though, she didn’t even attempt to decipher the directions on the can; the result was more like soup than anything I previously recognized as the thick, lumpy oatmeal of my childhood. I told her many times that you aren’t supposed to add that much water or milk, but she would only look at me like I was stupid and sip her oatmeal out of her favorite cumbo.

It was only years later that I found out what “atol de avena” is – and realized that my suegra had never been attempting to make American-style oatmeal in the first place. So, here is a lesson in humility, a reminder that there isn’t always one right answer, and a recipe for “atol de avena” which I am sipping right now, suegra-style.

Atol de Avena

2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick (and/or ground cinnamon)
1 cup uncooked oatmeal (I use Quaker Oats 100% Natural Whole Grain Old Fashioned)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
4 packed tablespoons brown sugar or other sweetener (see directions below)

Directions:

1. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups water, a cinnamon stick, salt, and oatmeal to a boil. (If you don’t have a cinnamon stick, you can add ground cinnamon to taste later.)

2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir continuously for about 3 minutes.

3. Add milk and stir until heated through. Remove from heat.

4. While still warm, you’ll want to add the sweetener. I usually use brown sugar, (4 packed tablespoons), but you can use piloncillo, dulce de atado, or dulce de panela. My suegra never would have added more sugar than this as she doesn’t like things overly sweet, but feel free to add more if you don’t find it sweet enough. You can also add ground cinnamon for more flavor as this recipe yields a very mild tasting atol de avena.

5. Serve warm. Makes about 4 cups.

5 Meatless Salvadoran Meals

Vegetarian Salvadoran recipes for Lent

Carlos reminded me that yesterday was Ash Wednesday. Lent (“Cuaresma” in Spanish) is not something I grew up celebrating, but I know that many people do observe various traditions this time of year, such as eating meatless meals. I checked my recipe index and there are several options to choose from that fit this criteria, but I’ve chosen 5 of my favorites to recommend to you. Whether you’re celebrating La Cuaresma or just want to explore some vegetarian Salvadoran cuisine, these are some tasty meals to consider making and enjoying with your familia!

5 Meatless Salvadoran Recipes

casamiento1-302 Casamiento is a delicious marriage of beans and rice, best served with fried plantains and rich Salvadoran cream. Get the recipe here.











desayunouni1-302 Desayuno Universitario isn’t just for hungry university students on a budget. Beans spread on toasted french bread, topped with melted cheese and fresh salsa, make a satisfying and well-balanced meal for anyone. Get the recipe here.









latinaish_pupusas1-302 Pupusas are the national food of El Salvador and many varieties are completely vegetarian-friendly. Try pupusas de queso (cheese), pupusas de queso con frijoles (bean and cheese), or pupusas stuffed with cheese and shredded zucchini. Served with curtido, (the traditional pickled cabbage slaw), and a fresh salsa, even meat lovers will be begging for more. Get the recipe here.






platotipico-302 Plato típico is a traditional breakfast in El Salvador, but breakfast for dinner can be just as delicious. Fried sweet plantains, refried beans, scrambled eggs, Salvadoran cream, and warm, thick, corn tortillas fresh off the comal are perfect washed down with a cup of coffee. Get the recipe here.








rellenosdeejotes_latinaish3-302 Rellenos de Ejotes are a must for cheese lovers. Green beans are encased in slightly salty mozzarella, then dipped in a batter and fried to a golden brown. Serve with fresh salsa and rice and you’ve got yourself a complete meal, my friend. Get the recipe here.



Do you eat vegetarian meals once in awhile? What are your favorite meatless meals?

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza (Copycat Recipe)

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza Copycat - Latinaish.com

I have a confession to make… I love Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizzas – they’re probably my favorite thing on the menu. Sometimes when I need my fix, I just make my own version at home since they’re so easy to recreate, (and it also saves Carlos from frustration at the drive thru! See the image I created below if you’re not sure what I mean.)

spanishspeakerproblem

Okay, enough funny business! Here’s the recipe, and some step-by-step photos!

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza (Copycat Recipe)

You need:

medium-sized thin flour tortillas
refried beans (canned or fresh, regular or fat free)
Mexican-style shredded cheese
taco sauce (Taco Bell brand, or other brand – your choice!)
green onions, diced
Roma tomatoes, diced

Optional: salt to taste

Method:

1. Toast the tortillas on both sides on a comal/griddle to the point that they are slightly crunchy. You will need two tortillas per Mexican pizza.

2. Place one tortilla on a baking sheet. Use the back of a spoon to spread refried beans on the top, almost to the edges.

3. Place the second tortilla on top of the beans. Use the back of a spoon to spread taco sauce on top, almost to the edges.

4. Sprinkle the taco sauce with cheese. Top with diced tomato and green onions. (Repeat steps 1 through 4 for each Mexican pizza you want to make.)

5. Place Mexican pizza(s) under a broiler for a couple minutes until cheese is melted. Optional: Add salt to taste. Serve!

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza Copycat Recipe step-by-step, from Latinaish.com

Té de Miel y Limón

honey-lemon-tea

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Últimamente parece que cada día una amiga diferente me dice que está enferma. Creo que es un buen momento para compartir mi secreto para combatir el virus del resfriado. Hace muchos años Carlos insistió que tomará un “té” de miel y limón cuando tuviera un dolor de garganta; mucha gente en El Salvador beben esto cuando están enfermos. Yo era escéptica, pero con los años descubrí que ayuda y ahora, cada vez que siento los primeros síntomas de un resfriado, empiezo a beber este té varias veces al día hasta sentirme mejor. El limón proporciona Vitamina C y la miel es un antibiótico natural, además de que sabe bien y se siente bien beberlo. Salud!

Té de Miel y Limón

Necesitas:

una rodaja de limón
una taza de agua muy caliente
miel

Instrucciones:

Exprimir el limón en el agua caliente. Añadir una o dos cucharadas de miel y revuelva. Servir.

Opcional: Últimamente también he ido añadiendo una pizca de jengibre molido que añade sabor y también tiene beneficios médicos.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Lately it seems that each day a different friend tells me she’s sick. I think it’s a good time to share my secret for combating the cold virus. Many years ago Carlos insisted I drink a “tea” made ​​from honey and lemon when I had a sore throat; many people in El Salvador drink this when they’re sick. I was skeptical, but over the years I found that it helps and now, whenever I feel the first symptoms of a cold, I start drinking this tea several times a day until I feel better. The lemon provides Vitamin C and honey is a natural antibiotic, plus it tastes good and feels good drink. To your health!

Honey Lemon Tea

You need:

a slice of lemon
a cup of very hot water
honey

Directions:

Squeeze the lemon into the hot water. Add one or two tablespoons of honey and stir. Serve.

Optional: Lately I’ve also been adding a pinch of ground ginger which adds flavor and also has medical benefits.

Arroz con Leche

arroz con leche - latinaish.com

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

A pesar de nuestras diferentes crianzas, Carlos y yo tenemos algunas cosas sorprendentes en común – arroz con leche (o “rice pudding” en inglés) es uno de ellos. Al crecer casi nunca comimos arroz en mi casa para cenar, pero de vez en cuando mi madre calentaba arroz blanco en un recipiente con leche, luego añadió la canela y el azúcar para un deleite especial. Esta es una receta antigua de mi familia, pero es algo que Carlos comió en su casa en El Salvador, también.

Arroz con Leche

1 taza de arroz cocido
3/4 taza de leche (1%)
2 1/2 cucharaditas de azúcar
canela molida
una pizca de sal

En una olla mediana, combine el arroz y la leche. Revuelva hasta que esté caliente. Agregue la sal y el azúcar. Retire del fuego. Sazone con canela al gusto y servir. Rinde 2 porciones.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Despite our different upbringings, Carlos and I have some surprising things in common – rice pudding (arroz con leche) is one of them. Growing up we almost never ate rice at my house for dinner, but occasionally my mother warmed white rice in a bowl with milk, then added cinnamon and sugar for a special treat. This is an old recipe from my family, but it’s something that Carlos ate at his home in El Salvador, too.

Arroz con Leche

(Rice Pudding)

1 cup cooked rice
3/4 cup milk (1%)
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt

In a medium pot, combine rice and milk. Stir until warm. Add salt and sugar. Remove from heat. Season with a sprinkling of cinnamon and serve. Makes 2 servings.

arroz con leche - latinaish.com

Biscochitos

biscochitos

Today we’re getting ready for the annual “galletada” with my mother, sisters and all the kids (my sons, my nephew and my niece.) We always make decorated sugar cookies but sometimes we each bring already prepared cookies of other varieties to share. This morning I decided to make biscochitos.

Biscochitos (often misspelled “bizcochitos”) are a holiday tradition passed generation to generation for many families in New Mexico where my older sister lived for a few years. One of the souvenirs she sent me back while living there were these anise seed cookies with a unique licorice-like flavor I really liked, so I looked up recipes and made them myself many times over the years even though Carlos isn’t that fond of them. (He says that anise is used as a home remedy in El Salvador so they taste medicinal to him.)

Anyway, if you want to give them a try, my recipe is below. Unlike traditional biscochitos, I use butter, even though New Mexicans will insist that to be authentic, you must use lard. My older sister is vegetarian which is why I usually use butter, but please feel free to sub lard for butter in the recipe. It will give it a slightly different texture, (which many much prefer!)

biscochitos3

Biscochitos (New Mexican Anise Seed Cookies

You need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (you can use lard)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (you can use rum)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For topping:

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method:

1. Cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl. Next beat in the egg, anise seed and vanilla extract.

2. In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture little by little until combined. Do not over mix.

3. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface. The thinner you make them, the crunchier they’ll be, so if you’d like them to be a little softer, roll them out thicker. Use a drinking glass dusted with flour or a cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles or desired shape. Carefully move the cookies to a foil-lined greased cookie sheet.

4. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ½ cup sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set aside.

5. Bake the cookies at 350 F until they’re starting to brown at the edges. Sprinkle the cookies with the cinnamon sugar mixture while still hot. Allow to cool and serve.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

biscochitos2