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.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th- October 15th) I thought it would be a great idea to encourage your students to incorporate what we think of as traditional Hispanic foods into our everyday American diet. There are many foods that are used daily in Latino households, but many times omitted from the traditional American diet. Most of these foods are very tasty, but people, especially children, don’t try them for the fear of the unknown. It won’t hurt to add some “spice” into our lives, so what better time than the present.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of ingredient substitutes for you to give your students to try. Below you will find a list of traditional American foods and condiments. In the next column you’ll find a substitute for a traditional Hispanic food or condiment. You may want to bring in some of these items for your students to try. Most of these items are usually inexpensive. I’d love to know how your students respond to these alternatives.
Students can learn a lot about the different cultures around the Spanish-speaking world by visiting the restaurants in your community where Spanish is spoken. At the beginning of each school year, I challenged my students to find and visit these restaurants. Of course, I offered extra credit if the students brought in a receipt and wrote one paragraph essays detailing their experience, but my students were happy to learn about the culture, so they did it for their personal enjoyment and not the extra credit (at least that’s what I like to think).
Now that I look back at the extra credit I gave out, I realized the kids mostly went to Mexican restaurants. Yes, Mexican food is delicious and yes, it is a Spanish-speaking country, but we want our students to look beyond Mexico and gain some experiences from other Spanish-speaking countries. And we want to remind students that food is a great way to incorporate cultures from the Spanish-speaking world into our everyday lives.
So I think I’d like to issue another CHALLENGE:
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.