How to make: a Pupusería for your Nacimiento


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.

In El Salvador and many other Latin American countries, the nativity scene, or “nacimiento” is not the quiet, traditional scene most Americans are used to. In addition to Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, barnyard animals, a shepherd and three wisemen, Salvadoran nativity scenes can take up a whole room and look like an entire village complete with soccer players, musicians, and figures of favorite TV characters.

If you wanted a pupusería (restaurant that sells pupusas) for your nativity this year, you’re in luck! Here’s how you can make your own custom pupusería, either for your nacimiento or to gift to someone as a decoration.

How to make: a Pupusería for your Nacimiento

What you need:

1 primed inside corner crown moulding block
1 pack wide hobby [popsicle] sticks (found in hardware in the drawers labeled “hobby”)
hot glue gun and glue sticks
Valspar paint samples and/or craft paint in various colors
hobby-size craft paint brushes
cutting pliers
painter’s tape
newspaper (to protect the surface you’re working on)
paper towels

Optional (to make people or animal figures):
craft board (light, thin wood)



First you’re going to want to place some painter’s tape halfway up the “walls” as shown so that you’ll have a clean line when you paint. Many Salvadoran houses are painted in two colors like this, but you can paint it just one color if you wish. You will also want to paint the “roof” a brownish color so that any spots that show through won’t be obvious when you’re done with the roof tiles.


To make the traditional looking “tejas” roof tiles which are popular in parts of El Salvador, you’ll be using the wide popsicle sticks (also called “hobby sticks.) Cut as many as you need with the pliers for the first row which you’ll hot glue to the roof. Mine were about 1 1/2 inches long, but I think it would have worked better if I cut them slightly shorter.


For the corners, you may need to cut your roof tiles with the scissors so they’re beveled (see photo.)


Once you hot glue the first row, you may find it necessary to put a few layers of hot glue and allow it to harden on parts of the roof before you add the next row to give yourself a more even surface to work on.


You may also find that cutting some of the roof tiles in a “tear drop” shape, as shown, will work better in some areas.


I’m not going to lie – the roof took a long time and it was far from perfect. I’m definitely not going to be hired as a roofer anytime soon! However, once you have it all tiled, you’re ready to paint it.


I didn’t have a specific Valspar color on hand that I felt was the right shade so I ended up mixing my own color. You want sort of a dark reddish-orange. After I painted them that color, I used a dry brush in dark brown paint to add a little more detail.


Feel free to get creative with whatever details you want to add. As you can see, I painted a little potted plant on the outside wall near the entrance.

As for the figures of the woman and the dog, I just traced their shapes on craft board and cut them out with a jigsaw. Sand the edges until they’re smooth and then you can paint them as you wish.

If you look closely, you can see a little plate of pupusas inside. For that I used a wooden nickel (available in the “hobby” drawer in the Hardware department), which I painted blue. For the pupusas, I used a knife to slice a rubber cork from a wine bottle into little discs and painted them. Once dry, I hot glued the pupusas to the plate and hot glued the plate to the little triangular ledge on the inside.


When I went to paint the pupusería’s sign on a popsicle stick to hot glue to the outside wall, my younger son walked by the table. He pointed to the figure of the woman which I had already painted and he said, “Is that you?” … I decided then that it would be my pupusería. (And yes, I spelled my name the Salvadoran way!)

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Recipe: Marquesote (and some baking tips)


I’m never sure whether to call Salvadoran Marquesote a “cake” or a “bread” – It’s not quite either, but it’s kind of both. My best description of it which will give you an idea of what to expect is “very dense, less sweet, angel food cake.” It’s definitely something you want to eat along with a cup of milk or coffee or else you’ll get hiccups!

I actually posted this recipe several years ago but the recipe received recent new comments from people who were having difficulty with it. I decided to bake the marquesote again to make sure my recipe works, and it does perfectly – but I’ve added some tips this time to help ensure it turns out.

First of all, there was concern that the baking temperature of 450 F is too high and people wanted to know if you can bake the marquesote at 350 F.

While 450 F is indeed the right temperature, I decided to try the recipe at 350 F to see what happens. Here is the result:


Upon first glance it seems that both marquesotes turned out great, but if you were to touch and taste the marquesote baked at 350 F, I think you’d agree with me that it’s not as good. The texture and color of the marquesote baked at 350 F for 30 minutes is not right, in my opinion.

I prefer a crisp, brown crust like you find on angel food cake. Baking for 30 minutes at 350 F gives a lighter-colored crust which is moist – that is not what we’re going for. If you bake it longer than 30 minutes it’s possible that it might improve, but I didn’t test that, so you can try it at your own risk.

So, back to the question – can you bake the marquesote at 350 F? The answer is yes, but I don’t recommend it.

While I’ve never been to cooking school, I can provide plenty of tips and resources which will hopefully help you in future baking attempts. If your marquesote didn’t turn out at 450 F there can be several reasons for this – here are the most common:

Your oven is running hot. If your oven is running hot, then your marquesote can burn. Here’s one way to check to see if your oven temperature is accurate. Use an oven thermometer if necessary.

You walked away from the kitchen toward the end of bake time. As ovens vary, it’s important to keep an eye on whatever you’re baking and check for doneness through visual cues such as the color of whatever you’re baking – this is especially important when trying a recipe for the first time. The recommended bake time in a recipe is not necessarily an exact time. In the case of this marquesote, when it’s a nice medium brown, (not yellowish brown and not dark brown or black), on top, and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, it’s done.

You baked it too high or too low. Unless otherwise instructed, you should always bake things on the middle rack of your oven.

You didn’t beat the egg whites correctly. Egg whites should be beaten until stiff for this recipe – no more and no less. This is a really important step. If you aren’t sure if you’re doing it correctly or if you’re having trouble, read this great article: Beating Egg Whites Tips and Hints.

You beat the batter too much after flour was added. Once you add the flour, it’s important not to overbeat the batter or your cake/bread will be a tough texture.

Your yeast was dead. It’s really important to have fresh yeast. When you poured the batter into the greased Pyrex, did you see little bubbles start popping up? If you did, the yeast was good — If not, that could have contributed to the problem you experienced. Next time buy fresh yeast if yours has been sitting around a long time, or you can proof some of it to see if it’s still good. (Need to know how to proof yeast? Click here.)

You used regular flour instead of cake flour. The recipe specifically calls for cake flour because it makes for a more tender cake/bread. I do not recommend substituting other types of flour in this recipe.

Your measuring cups or measuring technique are not accurate. Some recipes are more forgiving than others, but for some it’s very important to be sure your measuring cups and spoons are accurate and that you are measuring correctly. (Here’s a good article on the topic.)

Okay, now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s bake a marquesote!


Salvadoran Marquesote


8 eggs
2 cups of cake flour
1 cup of sugar (rounded if you like it a little sweeter as I do)
2 teaspoons of quick rise yeast
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Optional: A few dashes of cinnamon


1. Mix together the yeast and cake flour in a medium bowl. (Add the cinnamon if using.)

2. Separate the eggs into two different bowls. (The whites should be in a large mixing bowl. Yolks in a small bowl.)

Tip: To separate the eggs, crack an egg in half and pour the yolk back and forth between the shells over the bowl until all the white has dropped into the bowl below. You will be left with just the yolk after a few passes back and forth. The yolk can then be dropped into a separate bowl. Make sure you don’t have any yolk in the whites.

3. Grease a 9×13 glass Pyrex, (I use Canola oil cooking spray.) Preheat the oven to 450 F.

4. With an electric mixer on high, beat the egg whites until stiff.

Tip: Not sure if the egg whites are stiff yet? Tilt the bowl – if it moves or there is any liquid, you’re not done.

5. Add the sugar little by little while continuing to use the electric mixer.

6. Add the yolks little by little while continuing to use the electric mixer. Repeat with the flour/yeast mixture. Add vanilla extract. Mix until all ingredients are combined but be careful not to overbeat the batter at this point.

7. Pour the batter into the greased Pyrex and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a medium brown color. The marquesote is finished when this color is achieved and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Serve with milk or coffee.

Recipe: Salvadoran Relajo Spice Mixture

For those of you who are unable to find Salvadoran relajo to make salsa Criolla to go with Panes con Pavo, pollo, or tamales, here is a “recipe” I came up with so you can make your own if necessary. I read the ingredients on several different brands of authentic Salvadoran relajo and most of them have these spices, (although a few don’t include cloves, peppercorns and/or cumin seeds – so including or excluding those is up to you.) Feel free to tweak it to your family’s preferences, but this should be a good place to start!


Videoblogueras Salvadoreñas

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!

Parece que cada año salen más videoblogueras de El Salvador en YouTube, enseñando como hacer las ricas recetas salvadoreñas y asegurandose que la cultura salvadoreña no se pierda, incluso para los salvadoreños en el extranjero. Hoy quiero dar un “shout out” a las mejores videoblogueras salvadoreñas.

#1. FranciscaBo

#2. LaCocina deLupita

#3. Cocinando Con Ingrid

#4. Carmen Orellana


It seems that each year there are more Salvadoran video bloggers on YouTube showing how to make delicious Salvadoran recipes and ensuring the Salvadoran culture isn’t lost, even for the Salvadorans living abroad. Today I want to give a “shout out” to the best Salvadoran video bloggers.

Relajo Giveaway!


This spice packet may have cost me less than $3 but don’t be deceived! This imported spice mixture from El Salvador is extremely valuable to anyone who doesn’t have access to it, but who longs to make Salvadoran Panes con Pavo for Thanksgiving. I decided to do this giveaway for those of you who live in parts of the United States where Salvadoran relajo is difficult or impossible to find – so just leave a comment on this post for your chance to win!

====Giveaway Closed! Congratulations to Angie!====


Prize description: One lucky winner will receive the item pictured in the photo at the very top of this post: One 3 oz. packet of Mi Canton brand Relajo seasoning.

Approximate value: $3

– How to Enter –

Just leave a comment below! (Please read official rules below before entering.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be able to provide a U.S. address for prize shipment. Your name and address will not be shared with any third party. Please no P.O. Boxes. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid email address in the email address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winner will be selected at random. Winner has 24 hours to respond. If winner does not respond within 24 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between November 11th, 2014 through November 13th, 2014. Entries received after November 13th, 2014 at 11:59 pm EST, will not be considered. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Buena suerte / Good luck!

Disclosure: I did not receive any product or payment to run this giveaway. Item for giveaway was purchased by me.

Carne Guisada

Salvadoran-style Carne Guisada

Carne Guisada (stewed beef) is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather. Versions of this dish can be found in countries throughout Latin America, but if you really think about it, most countries throughout the world will have a similar dish. There’s just something about tender pieces of meat and large chunks of vegetables in a brown sauce that has wide appeal. Served with salad and beans, plus rice and tortillas to soak up every last bite, this meal will leave everyone at the table completely satisfied.

Carne Guisada – Salvadoran-style

You need:

2 lbs. beef (chuck roast)
2 tablespoons Canola oil
¼ cup red cooking wine
¾ cup water, plus water to cover
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon achiote

1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ cup diced onion
1 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

6 large carrots, cut in large chunks
1 to 1.5 lbs. potatoes (or yucca), cut in large chunks

Optional: a few tablespoons of flour


1. Pat the chuck roast with a clean, dry paper towel to remove any excess moisture. In a stainless steel pan, heat 2 tablespoons Canola oil over high heat. Season the chuck roast with salt and pepper. When the oil is very hot and begins to smoke a little, carefully place the chuck roast in the pot. Do not move or attempt to lift the chuck roast while it’s searing. Shake the pan a little once in awhile to see if it’ll come loose on its own. When it easily comes loose on its own, that means it’s finished searing, (about 1 to 2 minutes.) There should be a nice crust on the meat. Carefully flip it over and sear the other side.

2. Remove the chuck roast to a plate while you deglaze the pan. How to deglaze the pan: Add ¾ cup water and ¼ cup red cooking wine to the pan immediately after you remove the meat. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove any bits that are stuck to it. Stir boiling 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. This “base” liquid will add a lot of flavor and we’re going to add it to the pot where we cook the meat the rest of the way.

3. Cut the meat into large chunks and put into a large pot with the “base” liquid. Add enough water to cover (for me it was 4 cups.) Add the bay leaves and achiote. Bring to a slow simmer and cover. Cook slowly on low heat for tender meat. If you cook it faster on higher heat the dish won’t be completely ruined or anything, but the meat will be much less tender, so avoid boiling. If the liquid comes to a boil, lower the heat. I cooked mine for about 2 hours and the burner was around the “2” setting on my stove. After 30 minutes to an hour, you may see that the meat is already cooked through but if you try to pull it apart with a fork, you won’t be able to – This means the meat has not cooked long enough. Trust me, cook it to around 2 hours and you will see how tender it becomes.

4. In a blender, combine tomato sauce, garlic, onion, basil, and Worcestershire sauce. Blend until combined. Add to the pot. (Don’t do this until the meat is done cooking or nearly done cooking.) Also add the carrots and potatoes to the pot. Simmer covered until vegetables are fork tender. Remove from heat. Do not cook too long after adding the vegetables as you don’t want them to get mushy. Add salt to taste.

Optional: If you prefer to thicken the sauce (I do), you can remove one cup of the liquid and whisk in a few tablespoons of flour, then add the thickened liquid back to the pot. Tip: Do not add flour directly to the pot. It must be whisked to combine properly and you can’t do that with the meat and vegetables in the way.

5. Serve with rice, beans, salad and tortillas. Serves 4.

Feliz Pupusa Day 2014!


Disclosure: has partnered with Cricket Wireless as a 2014 Blog Ambassador. All opinions are my own.

Happy National Pupusa Day, gente! To celebrate I hope you go to your favorite pupusería with your familia and enjoy one of each kind with plenty of curtido y salsa. (Or make some yourself. I’ve got several recipes here.)

If you live in the DC area there’s plenty of pupusa places to choose from. Over the years I’ve shared the names of a few of my favorites. Today I want to give a shout out to a pupusería we discovered this past year called Flor Blanca in Winchester, Virginia. It’s a small place, nothing fancy – reminds me of the comedors back in El Salvador – but they have excellent pupusas (and plenty of other super authentic Salvadoran food.) The best day to check them out is Tuesday or Thursday when they have 99 cent pupusas!

Last time we went to Flor Blanca I snapped a couple photos with my Cricket Wireless Samsung Galaxy. Ever since I’ve gotten this phone I have completely abandoned my camera – I love the photos it takes.



Need a pupusa playlist for your car ride to the pupusería? Here are some good pupusa-themed songs I found in Cricket Wireless’s Muve Music store.


Yes. I now have a Pupusa Playlist.

You can learn more about Cricket Wireless by following the #ConMiCricket hashtag and @MiCricket on Twitter.