One of my favorite things about the holiday season is seeing the different traditions represented. There’s Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the Feast of Theophany (aka Three Kings Day). Each year, our resident Spaniard Irene Melchor (Melchor being one of the three kings) would get us all together to celebrate Three Kings Day. We would all bring a food dish and she would bring the Kings’ cake.
Inside the cake there is always a baby to represent the baby Jesus. One of the treats while eating the cake is someone would always get a small plastic baby. This was a symbol of prosperity for the rest of the year. I could care less who actually got the baby when they bit into the cake because, seriously, who wants to bite into a plastic doll when they want to enjoy a sweet treat. I did, however, want to be the one to take the baby home. Call me weird, but I collected them.
Here are some of the more interesting traditions I found while I researched Three Kings Day.
Chocolate was first cultivated by the Native Americans in Mexico and Central America around 1100 B.C. They used it for religious ceremony and celebratory purposes. But, we all know and enjoy chocolate as a sweet treat. Sometimes we reward ourselves and/or our students with a mini candy bar for all of our hard work. Sometimes we drink hot cocoa to warm us up on a snowy winter’s day. But did you know that chocolate can make a great addition to your savory dishes too? Try out this chili recipe, and let me know how much you love it! I already know you will.
Arepas are a traditional Hispanic food. They may be called by different names in different Spanish-speaking countries, but arepas are basically corn griddle cakes. When you bite into an arepa, you get a burst of the rich flavor that comes from the special corn flour used to make this tasty delight. Some arepas are stuffed with cheese or meat and cheese. No matter how you choose to eat an arepa, you have to eat one.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of making arepas at home. They think the arepa won’t be as good as the ones you buy in the Latino markets or restaurants. But I found an easy to follow recipe that will make even the non-cook seem like a master arepa maker. You’ll be sure to impress your students with this recipe. They’ll think you spent all day standing over a hot stove when you only spent about an hour.
Yields: 12 arepas
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated cotija cheese (you can also use mozzarella)
1 tablespoon honey
Vegetable or canola oil for cooking
- Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and stir in butter.
- Combine arepa flour, salt, pepper and cheese in a large bowl. Add the hot milk and honey and stir until combined. Let mixture stand until milk is absorbed enough for a soft dough to form, 1 to 2 minutes (dough will continue to stiffen).
- Form the dough into 12 balls (about 2 inches in diameter) and flatten between palms into patties (about 1/3-inch thick).
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until the oil begins to shimmer, fry 4 arepas at a time, until lightly golden brown on both sides and just cooked through about 2 to 3 minutes per side; transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
By: Andrea Roberson
No Bake Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Yields: 24 cookies
2 cups cooked rice
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup coconut
- 2 cups cocoa powder
- ½ cup flour
- 8 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Combine rice, peanut butter, coconut, 1 cup cocoa powder, flour, 4 tablespoons cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne, and brown sugar in a blender or food processor. Pulse until all the ingredients are well combined and stick to the sides of the bowl.
- Use a small scoop or a tablespoon to form the mixture into small balls.
- In a separate bowl, combine the remaining cocoa power and cinnamon. Roll the balls into cocoa powder and cinnamon.
- Place the balls on a sheet pan, two inches apart, and flatten. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
Every year, Americans around the nation get together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th through October 15th. The contributions Hispanic Americans have made to the United States are endless and inspiring, and they have had a profound and positive impact on our county.
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