Tag Archives: Mexican food

Cinco de Mayo – The most popular celebration not celebrated in Mexico…

3 May

Ever since I lived in Chicago a few years ago, where there is a huge Mexican population, I learned that Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated in September. I remember people riding outside their car windows carrying huge Mexican flags, parading themselves with pride.

So, if this is celebrated every year in September… why does every gringo I know believes Mexican Independence day falls on Cinco de Mayo?  My belief on the popularity of Cinco de Mayo is for several reasons (and I am just speculating here):

  • It’s simple to pronounce even if your main language is English. Try saying “dieciséis de septiembre”!!!! Rolling those “r’s” can be a challenge to many.
  • May more or less signifies the beginning of warmer weather so gives people an excuse to party in shorts
  • I truly believe a beer company started this as a promotional scheme to start selling beer in May rather than waiting until June/July when it’s actually hot.


Cinco de Mayo is not really an important holiday or celebration in Mexico. I am “friends” on Facebook with Chef Marcela Valladolid. And this is her perspective, as a Mexican, on Cinco de Mayo:

Chef Marcela - Cinco de Mayo

In reality, Cinco de Mayo is the date when the Mexican army drove away the French army at a great battle in Puebla. The Mexicans were never ever expected to win and they did. And for that… we celebrate!!!!

Nonetheless, for whatever reason Cinco de Mayo got popularized in the US, we use it as an excuse to celebrate everything Mexican. I wish I had a recipe for Mole Poblano in my blog to share with you all, but in the meantime, here are a few recipes that celebrate Mexico, France and combine a little bit of both…

French Quesadilla

Cordon Bleu Quesadilla

(In México, these are called sincronizadas because they’re made on Wheat Tortilla.  True Quesadillas are made on corn tortillas)

Fried Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Poblano Pepper Rajas

Chopped Avocado Dressing

Veggie Tortilla Soup

Mexican Lasagna



Fried Quesadillas

20 Sep

I get these cravings sometimes… it could be anything, but lately it’s been of Mexican food. And not always I can get to Los Pioneros to get a fix of Tacos de Nopales. So I have to make do at home…

The easiest fix is to make quesadillas. A tortilla and cheese glorified into something special… When I visited Guadalajara and when I once traveled to NYC with my friend Guillén, I learned the best quesadillas need to be fried.

But I am trying to watch what I eat, because even when you’re vegetarian, I can add up some unwanted pounds. So I devised a way to get the feel and taste of the fried quesadilla without using lots and lots of oil.

Here’s how I make them…


4 white corn tortillas, organic preferable
8-12 thin slices of pepper jack cheese
Olive Oil
  1. Brush tortillas with a little olive oil… as little as possible. I stack the tortillas and lightly oil the first one on top on one side, flip it and oil on the other side. This will slightly oil the second tortilla… then flip the second tortilla and so on until all tortillas are slightly oiled on both sides.

2.  Warm a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. You can do this with a small skillet, but it’s easier to make these quesadillas 2 at a time if you have the larger skillet. Place 2 tortillas side by side. They will overlap slightly… but don’t worry about that. Warm them on both sides for them to become pliable and somewhat charred on both sides. They will shrink a little…

3.   When tortillas have been warmed up on both sides, place 2- 3 cheese slices on one half of tortilla and fold over the side without cheese to create a half circle/half moon. Flatten the top of the tortilla with a spatula a bit to allow the top side of the tortilla to fuse to the cheese inside. Flip once or twice until both sides are toasted/charred a bit and the cheese has melted completely.

4.  Set aside on a plate to allow to cool a bit before serving. Repeat with remaining tortillas and cheese.

These are quesadillas to eat with your hands… not with a fork and knife. The corn tortilla is heartier and it will make it challenging to cut them up. So bite into them and enjoy.

Serve them with a side salad of tomato and avocado, guacamole or a fresh tomato salsa.

Vegetarian Vegas – MESA GRILL

9 May

My sister and Brother-in-law ROCK!!!!!

At the end of last year they decided to give my mom and me their time-share because they would not use it and they didn’t want it to go to waste. We debated and debated where to use it and after a huge search we settled for Las Vegas. This would be my first time in Las Vegas… Yes, I was until last month – a Vegas Virgin. I had been to Reno, NV when I was about 14 or 15 yrs old… but it has rained quite a lot since then.

I am not into gambling. We have casinos here in Puerto Rico and that’s not something that entices me. I have played a bit, I have won some too, but usually using other people’s money… but that’s an entirely different topic. The thing is… what do you do in Las Vegas if you are not a gambler and are traveling with your mom??? We both like to have a good time, but let’s face it, traveling with your mom is not exactly the equivalent of Party Central… And because we didn’t have to spend $$ on Hotel or Airfare (I told you, my sister ROCKS!!!!!), we decided to invest in 2 things – Shows and Food.

To me, the best restaurant we went to was MESA GRILL, yes, of Bobby Flay’s fame. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting all that much, but the ambiance, the service and the food were awesome. Had we had the chance, we had eaten here again…

Mesa Grill is located at the Caesar’s Palace Resort and just like most any restaurant in Las Vegas, it’s nestled in between the casino’s slot machines and game tables. We missed it the first time around we were looking for it. We went for lunch because we were into having big lunches and smaller snacks for dinner… that way we had the chance to eat at these celebrity restaurants at a fraction of the dinner prices. Besides, coordinating show times and dinner reservations was giving me stress and we opted for this arrangement.

One thing that helps us vegetarians is when eating at these restaurants, is we usually have to pick from options in the salads and appetizers menus. The restaurant guides tell you these are $$$ or $$$$ restaurants, but because you’re not ordering from the meat-heavy entrée menu, our bill was usually less than the average price the guides said.

This is what we had at Mesa Grill, and everything we ordered we split between my mom and I:

Being that we were in a fancy Bobby Flay restaurant, I wanted to order something nice to drink. Nice but non-alcoholic, it was still 2:30PM… so the server brought his recommendation. Don’t ask me what combination it was, but it was citrusy, tangy, sweet and yummy. And pretty-looking too, no??

While we waited for our salads, we received a basket filled with breads and these cornmeal muffins. Half the muffin was yellow cornmeal and half was blue cornmeal or a combination of the two. It had corn kernels in the batter, they were spectacular. I was a bit hungry so I asked for 2 more… my apologies for not writing down what was in the butter, but we did not have just plain butter with his corn muffins… Again, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!!!


Gala Apple Salad with Maytag Blue Cheese and Ancho Chile Vinnaigrette

I could have eaten a whole salad… and even though I am a spice wimp, I could tolerate the heat in the dressing. This was scrumptious and delectable. Big adjectives here…


Cremini Mushroom Quesadilla

This was so big we almost couldn’t finish it… It’s a 3 tier quesadilla, with roasted cremini mushrooms in between 2 tortillas and melted cheeses in the other middle between tortilla 2 and 3. I can’t remember what was in the Salsa Verde, but it was not cilantro heavy and it was delicious. We ordered it without the egg on top… and even without the egg, it was delicious with the crema Mexicana squirts on top… Mmmmm.



Goat Cheese Queso Fundido with Blue Corn Tortillas

OMG!!! Que rico!!!! This was “to die” for… I can’t tell you what’s the other cheese, but the regular melted cheese mixed in with the tanginess of the goat cheese and the pepper rajas on top… perfection!!! A standing ovation to Mr. Bobby Flay… My mom and I were fighting over the pepper rajas… Again, we are chiles wimps, but these rajas were the perfect balance to all that creamy cheesiness. I ate ALL of it… ALL OF IT!!!

We didn’t get a chance to have dessert… I wanted to try the CHURROS, but they were out of them already at the lunch service. And the rest of the desserts were egg-heavy so we said PASS. Besides, we were full already… ordering dessert would have been gluttony.

I am seeking MESA GRILL the next time I travel to NYC… I certainly did not expect to eat as well as I did. I am always skeptical of places with lots of hype… And the server, when I mentioned I was vegetarian, went out of his way to point out what I could order and what I should stay away. During my next visit, I want to order the Chiles Rellenos filled with Roasted Eggplant and Manchego Cheese, part of the Entrée part of the Menu, and they sound especially appetizing – kind of like Mexico and Spain meeting in the middle.

I am so pleased big name chefs, like Bobby Flay, have vegetarian alternatives in their menus… for us vegetarians to enjoy the mastery of their cooking skills and flavor combinations. I wish more local chefs would take notes from these hi-profile chefs and be more open to vegetarian patrons.

Stay tuned, next we’ll be sharing our experience at Otto, from Mario Batali…

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