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Strawberries, mangos, and bananas oh my! Yes, this is the ingredient trifecta for the homemade paletas I’m showcasing to kick off #PaletaWeek and the first day of summer.

I first tasted a strawberry-banana sorbet at Little Man Ice Cream in Denver about five years ago. Initially I was skeptical about the flavor combination, but after giving it a try I admit that now it’s my go-to on my many visits to Little Man with the kids these days.

Inspired by this sorbet, I added mango to the mix and turned it into a paleta. Needless to say, it’s the perfect summer trio and sugar-free treat – one that both Amado and Valentina have been enjoying on these warm days in Colorado. For more paleta inspiration, be sure to check out the full lineup of recipes and participants at lolascocina.com/paleta-week and follow the #PaletaWeek hashtag all week!

Ingredients
1 pound strawberries, stems removed
2 ripe banana, peeled
2 champagne mangos, peeled and pit removed

Method
Blend strawberries, banana, and mangos until completely smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour mixture into popsicle molds. Insert wooden sticks before freezing for at least four hours, preferably overnight.

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Lola's Cocina by Lola's Cocina - 2M ago

This Mother’s Day, spoil your madre with a breakfast made for champions by preparing a DIY tostada bar. Once the prep work is taken care of, you can relax with your familia and eat tostada after tostada to your heart’s content.

Tostadas can be tailored to each guest’s palate. My husband who is an herbivore skips the meat. I, on the other hand, eat a little bit of everything. With a tostada bar, there’s something for everyone. Since our madres are our biggest champions, it’s high time we prepare them something they remember and savor this Mother’s Day.

Here’s what I include in my tostada bar (but you can get creative!):
Tostadas (I fry the corn tortillas myself, but buying them will save you some time in the kitchen)
Chopped avocado
Chopped lettuce
Chopped tomato 
Refried beans
Scrambled eggs
Shredded or crumbled cheese
Fried weenies, chopped
Homemade salsas

To serve:
When ready to eat, serve all of your ingredients in individual plates, platters, and bowls and allow guests to build their own tostada. There’s no right or wrong way to layer ingredients, but I do suggest starting with the beans, which work as a binder for the next layer of ingredients. I like to follow with the cheese so that it melts onto the warm beans, but my mother sprinkles hers on top, before the final layer of salsa.

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I posted this hot little recipe on my Insta account and have received repeated requests to lock it down for posterity on my blog.

I first tasted these chiles at El Taco Nazo in Baldwin Park and was enamored with their depth of flavor. Since then, I’ve enjoyed them at different taquerías throughout Mexico. They’re my new favorite side dish. 

The combination of güero, serrano, and Fresno chile peppers with soy sauce and lime really spiced up my life and I know it will do the same for yours. I encourage you to prepare a large batch because let me tell you, they go down smoother than a good tequila!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons cooking oil
10 – 12 of your favorite chiles (serranos, guerritos, Fresno, and jalapeños work well)*
Soy sauce
Garlic powder
Coarse salt
Fresh limes

Preparation:
Prepare a cast-iron pan with a thin coat of oil, over medium heat. Once pan is hot, add chiles. Turn chiles occasionally until browned and blistered all around. You many have to work in batches depending on the size of your pan and how many chiles you make.

Remove from pan and place chiles in a glass dish. Sprinkle with soy sauce, garlic powder, and salt. Cover and store until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

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In 2018, I became a self-proclaimed book worm. An audiobook worm, that is. Some may consider this cheating, but I beg to differ. For a mother of two who is always on the go, this is a convenient and efficient way to feed my intellectual curiosity while preparing dinner and packing orders for Lola’s Mercadito. So don’t knock it until you try it!

On that note, I have been on a roll in my one-woman book club. Since January of last year, I’ve powered through over 20 books, already exceeding my goal of reading one book per month. And since many of my reads have been authored by women, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my bilingual reading list with you. So read on . . . (pun definitely intended).

My goal is to update this list regularly. I welcome suggestions, but after going through this list, I think you’ll see that I prefer books by or about inspiring females and people of color and am always on the hunt for good books in español (there’s definitely room for improvement in this category when it comes to audiobooks!). Oh, and I also prefer that there by an audiobook version available. Be sure to tag me on Instagram (@lolascocina) or use the hashtag #lolasbilingualbookclub if you’re reading something interesting.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Length: 19 hrs and 3 mins
Narrated by: Michelle Obama

Becoming is one of my all-time favorite books. Michelle Obama shares intimate details about her life growing up in the South Side of Chicago, managing a relationship with a politician, the challenges she and Barack faced when deciding to start a family, life in the White House, self-care, and maintaining strong relationships with her girlfriends. I laughed, I cried, I’ve recommended it to all of the women in my life!

Como agua para chocolate (in Spanish) by Laura Esquivel
Length: 5 hours and 49 minutes
Narrated by Yareli Arizmendi

I’ve read Like Water for Chocolate three times – once in English, once in Spanish, and now I listened to the audio version in Spanish. This is one of my favorite food-related books because it weaves Mexican history, food, magic realism, family dynamics, and beautiful metaphors throughout the book. Each chapter begins with a recipe, too.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Length: 12 hours and 10 minutes
Narrated by Julia Whelan

Educated was a powerful memoir by Tara Westover where readers delve into her world growing up in a survivalist family where she experiences abuse on various levels. Despite receiving no formal education until deciding to go to college, she eventually obtains a doctorate degree from Cambridge University. In order to accomplish this, it is essential that she cut ties with abusive her family.

I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
Length: 9 hours and 41 minutes
Narrated by Kyla Garcia

As someone from an immigrant background, there were several themes that resonated with me throughout this book – particularly the traditional ideals of Mexican families as they relate to women and the challenges faced when applying to college.

Malinche: A Novel by Laura Esquivel
Length: 6 hours and 48 minutes
Narrated by Maria Conchita Alonso

I’ve tried to read this book several times, once in Spanish and another time in English, and only got through the first few chapters each time. Listening to the audio version has been much easier. Laura Esquivel details Spains conquest of the Aztec empire lead by Hernán Cortez. She also highlights Cortez’s love affair with his indigenous interpreter Malinalli, “La Lengua”, during the conquest. Malinalli continues to be a controversial figure in Mexican history because of the role she played in the demise of the Aztec empire.

Mi mundo adorado: memoria (in Spanish) by Sonia Sotomayor
Length: 14 hours and 5 minutes
Narrated by Eve Ibarzábal

Sonia Sotomayor recounts her trajectory from a Bronx housing project to the U.S. Supreme Court. She shares stories about growing up with an alcoholic father and overworked mother, and how she dealt with juvenile diabetes. She also shares her experience attending Princeton and Yale Law School as one of very few minorities. Truly an inspiring story and excellent read!

Mi negro pasado (in Spanish) by Laura Esquivel
Length: 3 hours and 34 minutes
Narrated by Yareli Arizmendi

A continuation of Like Water for Chocolate, My negro pasado tells the story of María breaking free of the traditional stereotypes she experienced as a woman in Mexico, including machismo, racism, and sexism. In the process, she reconnects with her long-lost grandmother who empowers her on many different levels.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
Length: 11 hours and 40 minutes
Narrated by Bahni Turpin

Starr Carter balances being a teenager amidst two worlds – she grew up and lives in a tough, mostly black neighborhood where street smarts are essential, and the affluent white high school she attends. One evening she witnesses the fatal shooting of her friend at the hands of a police officer and she realizes that  she doesn’t quite fitt in to either of her worlds as she struggles to find her voice in them. Definitely recommend to high schoolers. The movie was good, too.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Length: 18 hours and 16 minutes
Narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell

My favorite part of this audiobook was that each character was narrated by a different person so it felt like I actually heard various perspectives. It looks into the racial inequalities of the 1960s and how decades after slavery was abolished, “the help” continues to be enslaved by white society.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn
Length: 8 hours and 48 minutes
Narrated by Marguerite Gavin

Kathleen Flinn gathered a group of volunteers intimidated by cooking in order to demystify the challenges they associated with cooking. She taught her students how to make more sound choices when grocery shopping, how to properly use knives, break down a chicken, make stocks, vinaigrettes, and everything in between all in an effort to build confidence in the kitchen. I wouldn’t mind owning a hard copy of this book because the recipes definitely sounded simple and delicious.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Length: 4 hours and 50 minutes
Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

I read this book after watching the Netflix show Tidying Up and have been on a tidying up frenzy ever since. What I found most useful about the book is that it outlined reasons why there are items we simply do not need to hold onto – like product boxes, informational brochures, conference literature, and most importantly, bills and miscellaneous paperwork. It made me feel so much better about getting rid of items I had held onto for years, without knowing why!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Sheryl Strayed
Length: 13 hours and 2 minutes
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne

I’ve always wondered how or why people go on these long-distance hikes. How do they get the time off of work? Sheryl Strayed hits rock bottom after her mother’s death, and in an effort to build herself back up again after going down the path of ill repute, she embarks on an eleven-hundred-mile hike up the Pacific Crest Trail. She wants to be alone, with her thoughts, and finds strength and resilience along the way.

What are you currently reading or what book do you hope to read in the near future? Do you prefer reading books or listening to audiobooks? I polled my Instagram followers and about one-third preferred audiobooks!

Special shoutout to my friend Justin Favela, co-host of the Latinos Who Lunch podcast for recommending the Libby app in episode 107, Listener Letters V. If you’re looking for free audiobooks, be sure to download this app and link up to your local library to access their audiobook selection with your library card. I’m linked up to three different public libraries. 

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Last weekend I had an impromptu visit from my niece Vanessa who is studying in Boston (she was homesick). I was thrilled to learn that she’d be coming to see me since I had just begun to work on my Day of the Dead altar and I wanted to share the meaning behind it with her. To be honest, I was a little homesick, too.

With the passage of time, cultural traditions die unless there is a concerted effort to keep them alive. I’ve always been drawn to my Mexican heritage because I was directly exposed to it during our annual summer excursions where we’d visit my father’s family. I’d like to think that I keep the flame alive by handing down those traditions from one generation to the next through my nieces and nephews, Amado, and now Valentina. As they grow older, it will be their responsibility to pass the torch on to their loved ones and preserve the light that illuminates our lives through our culture.

Each year, my altar is dedicated to my father who passed away 18 years ago.

Great grandparents Angelina “Angie” and Pedro “Pete”

Great grandmother Maclovia known to us as “Grandma Macky”

My altar also honors my grandma Lola, cousins, uncles, and other relatives who have passed away.

This is the first year I’ve built a mini altar!

One way for me to do this is by passing on the knowledge and traditions associated with Día de los Muertos. Amado has helped me build my altar since he was two. Now he understands the meaning behind it and builds his own little altar. He asks me about the people we are honoring and even says he misses his grandparents – whom he never met – because we’ve shared so many stories about them. We go pick out pan de muerto and pan dulce together – a few pieces for us, a few pieces for our altars – and enjoy Mexican hot chocolate as we discuss the significance of different foods associated with Day of the Dead.

Pan de muerto, sugar skulls, and salt each have significance on Día de los Muertos altars.

Water and pan dulce do, too.

This year we tried something new and had our faces painted. In some parts of Mexico, people wear skull masks for Day of the Dead and the tradition of painting faces to look like skulls is a variation of this practice. Masks have always been powerful objects in many cultures, ones that allow the wearer to get in touch with their darker, chaotic side. These “masks” allow us to put our fear of death aside for a time and get in touch with our mischievous side, all while celebrating the lives of those who have passed on before us. Here are a few pictures from our photoshoot.

“Antes muerta que sencilla.”

Vanessa, also known as “The Mamas” was channelling her inner Oaxacan warrior. 

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” — Thomas Campbell, “Hallowed..

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As my familia continues to grow I have momentarily taken a break from the blog, but couldn’t resist sharing this recipe with all of you. I recently set out to whip up a quick papas con chorizo breakfast but soon realized that I only had sweet potatoes in the pantry.

After contemplating a run to the market, I decided to improvise on my traditional recipe and add a healthful twist to it by using the sweet potatoes that had been bypassed for over a week. To my pleasant surprise, the flavor combination was spectacular and my new recipe was an immediate hit with Amado and Michael. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention and this little creation was so good that I simply had to share it.

To save time, I used pre-made sopes that simply had to be fried before enjoying them.

Fresh ingredients like cabbage and radishes add fun color, texture, and flavor.

The best part about this dish is that I prepared the toppings in advance and whipped up these flavorful sopes the next day in a snap. And like all Mexican breakfasts, they can be enjoyed morning, noon, or night.

Yields: 12 sopes

Ingredients:
4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
10 ounces soyrizo
½ cup frying oil, divided
2 cups refried beans*
12 pre-made corn sopes
¼ small purple cabbage, finely shredded
5 medium radishes, thinly sliced
¼ pound queso fresco, crumbled

Preparation:
Heat three tablespoons of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add sweet potatoes (test one to make sure it sizzles when added) and cook until slightly soft, about 10 minutes, flipping after five minutes.

Once soft, move potatoes to the edges of the pan and add soyrizo to the middle, breaking it down into smaller pieces with a wooden spatula. Allow to cook for three minutes before mixing with sweet potatoes. Add lid, lower flame to low, and cook an additional 10 minutes until sweet potatoes are soft but not mushy.

In a separate frying pan, add the remaining oil and fry sopes until golden brown, about one minute on each side. Remove from pan and drain excess oil onto a dish lined with a paper towel.

To serve, add a layer of refried beans, then sweet potato mixture. Top with shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, queso fresco, and your favorite salsa.

*Homemade Refried Beans: add 1.5 cups of Peruvian beans (or your favorite beans) to a crockpot with ½ large onion, 1 head of garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt (to taste). Cover the beans with approximately four inches of water and set crockpot on low for 8-10 hours. You can do this a day in advance. Next, in a medium pan, add 2 tablespoons frying oil. Once hot, add drained beans with ½ cup of bean broth to the pan and mash. Simmer until beans reach desired consistency and dryness, approximately 10 to 15 minutes – beans should not be watery or overly dry. Refried beans tend to dry out once cooled, so add more bean broth if this happens. Alternatively, feel free to used canned beans to make the refried beans or used simply reheat canned refried beans to save time.

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Surpise! Amado has a sister and Lola’s Cocina has a new sous chef. Baked to perfection, Valentina weighed 7 pounds 11 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. She’s absolutely perfect and we couldn’t be happier with our new little love.

I look forward to seeing Valentina grow as I pass on the family recipes and traditions that my mother, tías, abuelas, and amigas taught me and that I now share with you here on Lola’s Cocina.

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Lola's Cocina by Lola's Cocina - 1y ago

Aguas frescas are one of the most common drinks found throughout Mexico and are a budget-friendly alternative to excessively sweet soft drinks and juices. They can be made from anything including fresh fruits and vegetables to dried hibiscus flowers and even rice. 

Once it begins to heat up in Colorado, you can find me in the kitchen making a different agua fresca every other day. Since mangoes and strawberries are currently at their peak sweetness, I took the opportunity to blend both fruits for a refreshing drink that can be enjoyed all summer long. Enjoy!

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients:
4 large Manila (champagne) mangoes, peeled and pit removed
10 medium strawberries, husked
1/3 cup honey

Preparation:
Working in batches, blend mangoes, strawberries, honey, and five cups water on medium setting for 60 seconds.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher. You may need to agitate the mixture to let the concentrate through. Avoid pushing through the pulp to keep juice light in consistency. Compost pulp.

When ready to serve, divide mixture into glasses filled with plenty of ice. Garnish with strawberry halves and cubed mango if desired.

Click here for more agua fresca inspiration.

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In celebration of Independence Day and my sister Ivana’s upcoming birthday, I’m sharing a recipe for her favorite summer drink: watermelon agua fresca. This one, however, is a spin on the classic and has a spicy citrus twist.

I have been experimenting with variations of the Mexican Arnold Palmer and found that substituting tea and lemonade with other fruit flavors can reap explosive benefits for the palate. And for those of you who enjoy that spicy-sweet combo, simply rim the glass with your favorite chile-salt for a firework of flavor in your mouth.

Move over Arnold Palmer . . . there’s a new drink in town!

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients:
½ cup freshly squeezed key lime juice, from about 15 limes
8 cups seedless watermelon, from about half of a small watermelon
¾ cup agave nectar + 1 tablespoon for glass rims
6 cups water
1 tablespoon chile-lime salt

Preparation:
Working in batches, blend lime juice, watermelon, agave, and water on medium setting for 60 seconds.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher. You may need to agitate the mixture to let the concentrate through. Avoid pushing through the pulp to keep juice light in consistency. Compost pulp.

When ready to serve, rim glasses with agave syrup and then chile-lime salt. Divide mixture into glasses filled with plenty of ice. 

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Many thanks to Rumba Meats and #WeAllGrow Latina Network for sponsoring this post; recipe and opinions are my own.

With all of the buzz surrounding the world soccer tournaments, and more importantly, how equipo México is still in it to win it, I find myself inspired to make delicious platillos for the next watch party. Since we have to adapt to different time zones for the global games I must also be conscious of my fiesta menu for some of these early morning matches. Fortunately, my great grandma Angie handed down her recipe for papas con carne, which is timeless and can be served morning, noon, or night. That’s the great thing about Mexican breakfast – it knows no time constraints so regardless of when you’re watching the games, this dish can work.

One of the things I love about soccer is how it brings people together from all over the world and all facets of life, to support their favorite team. In our family, summer fútbol is a celebration of heritage, familia, and comida. And since we’re always looking for an excuse to entertain, it provides us with the perfect reason to gather around food while enjoying the partidos.

As with any Mexican fiesta that I host, I am used to preparing food for at least 25 people since our tribe is so large. I understand that for some people, hosting groups of even five can be intimidating, which is why this week I’m sharing a cherished family recipe that can be made in a large batch to eliminate some of the stresses associated with cooking for the masses.

We grew up eating papas con carne for breakfast with tortillas and frijolitos or wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla, to-go. While Grandma Angie’s original recipe calls for sirloin steak, I’ve been experimenting with different cuts of meat and found that cachete de res (beef cheek meat) also works well because it lends itself to slow cooking or braising. The longer cooking process allows for the medley of flavors to meld together and create a dish that is delicioso. ¡Buen provecho y buena suerte, Mexico! Be sure to check out @lolascocina on Instagram for a fútbol-themed giveaway.

Preparation Time: 15

Cooking Time: 1.5 hours

Serves: 8

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 pounds Rumba Meats Beef Cheek Meat, chopped into 2-inch cubes
3 pounds potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes
½ onion sliced into half rings
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
Salt, to taste

Preparation:
Heat cooking oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat. Once hot, brown meat and then add onion and garlic.

Once meat is brown and onions have become translucent, add potatoes.
Using hands, break up and squeeze whole tomatoes into the mixture before adding the rest of the juice from can.

Season with salt.

Cover and turn every 15 minutes until potatoes and meat are tender, about 1½ hours.

Serve with warm flour or corn tortillas, a fresh pot of beans, and your favorite salsa.

Rumba Meats offers fresh, high quality traditional meats that celebrate heritage, family, and food – all values with which I identify. The best part is that they’re simple to store and freeze and readily available in most supermarkets across the country. To find Rumba Meats near you, search the store locator here.

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