Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Jugo Verde

I like to tell people that Jugo Verde saved my life.  This is absolutely true, although you should know
I am prone to hyperbole!  In all seriousness, I am not a breakfast person even though I know it's the most important meal of the day.  I absolutely must have my coffee, but little appeals to me to eat before 10am.  However, by the time I get back to the house after dropping the kids off at school or by the time I get to my first activity of the day, I'm about to bite someone's head off from hunger and low blood sugar.  There had to be a solution, and jugo verde was it.  It's a really simple blended drink that I can throw together in literally a couple of minutes, and it fuels me for a couple of hours until I'm able to stomach more food.  Not to mention the additional health benefits and the freshness of the ingredients that I can find here in Mexico City!

I write a lot about the mercados in Mexico City.  One of my absolute favorite things to make after a trip to the market is jugo verde.  You actually can get it pre-made at all supermarkets and restaurants, but every version is different.  There are so many different recipes (just do a search on the internet!) that essentially there is no standard and any juice that's green qualifies as jugo verde.  This is generally considered a health drink, but as with everything you can't know that you're eating healthy unless you know exactly what's in it.  That's why making it on your own with fresh ingredients from the mercado is probably your best bet, to ensure there's no added sugar and that you're packing as much punch as possible.

Here's what I like to include and a quick overview of the ingredients' major health benefits:
  • Fresh-squeezed orange juice - contains only natural sugars (which still should be eaten in moderation), calcium, thiamin, folate, flavonoids and antioxidants
  • Nopal - low calorie vegetable that provides dietary/soluble fiber and calcium, along with mucilage (that sticky lowers your LDL cholesterol and aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients), Vitamin A and ß-carotene
  • Raw Spinach - fiber, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, carotenoids/antioxidants and folate
  • Parsley - folic acid, antioxidants, Vitamins K and C, volatile oils and flavonoids
  • Celery - magnesium, insoluble fiber (to aid in digestion), butylphthalide (to lower LDL cholesterol) and flavonoids
  • Chia - Omega-3s, fiber and protein, mucilage
  • Flax Seed - fiber, antioxidants and Omega-3s, mucilage

Jugo Verde
2 Servings

  • 2 Cups Orange Juice (preferably fresh-squeezed)
  • 1/4 C nopal, small dice (about 35g or one small pad/nopalito)
  • 1/2 C spinach, packed (about 22g)
  • 2 sprigs parsley, leaves and thin stems
  • 1 rib celery, coarsly chopped with leaves
  • 1/2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground flaxseed
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until completely smooth, about a minute (which helps to completely incorporate the chia and flax seeds).  Enjoy!

Alternative Ingredients:
Grapefruit or Pineapple Juice, Apple, Pineapple, Chard, Kale, Cucumber, Lime, Ginger, Spirulina, Protein Powder, etc.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mercados across Mexico City - A Map!

As a board member of the Newcomer's Club of Mexico City, I was lucky enough recently to be asked to do a short presentation on eating healthy in Mexico City.  What an honor!  I don't, however, consider myself any sort of expert on healthy eating...I was, after all, trained in restaurants where butter and salt are the dirty little secrets! But when I think about eating healthy, I think about one of my favorite authors, Michael Pollen, and his mantra on food: 

"Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."

In preparing, I thought about this guideline, along with Michael's assertion that "food" is WHOLE foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. that aren't processed or are minimally processed...what your great grandma would recognize as food).  I realized one thing I do know about eating healthy in Mexico City is where to get the freshest, most nutritious whole foods.  We are so lucky to have "mercados" (traditional markets, many outdoors) all over the city and on every day of the week.  Interestingly, mercados here are very different than the farmers' markets we're used to in the States.  The produce is generally the same as what's available in the supermarkets (with some exceptions, like specialty markets), except that is fresher and cheaper.  What a deal!  And we all know that fresher food tastes better, and is also more nutritious.

So that's what I focused on for my presentation to club members, along with some of my favorite recipes to make from what I buy at the mercado (stay tuned for my next post on Jugo Verde!).  I created a map using GoogleMaps, mapping the sites of 21 different mercados throughout the city (by zone), held on various days of the week, along with a little information about each.  I hope that all of you can use this to find a mercado that is closest or most convenient for you, and take advantage of this wonderful aspect of life in D.F. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cranberries at City Market

If you're looking for fresh cranberries they are now at City Market!! Get 'em while they last! (Remember to buy enough for Christmas, too...they freeze beautifully!)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Welcome, Aztec Readers!

If you've come to my blog after reading my Thanksgiving guide in the Aztec Calendar, welcome!  
(Or should I say, ¡Bienvenidos!)  
I really hope you enjoyed the information.  
(Click here to download it!)

The Thanksgiving Day Meal!
Are you looking for more recipes?  Please check out previous blog posts for my fantastic gravy recipe, as well as some ideas for leftovers

Me with my Turkey!
If you're interested in some information about Mercado de San Juan, please check out this blog post.

Need information on baking at altitude? Check out my Baking at Altitude post and More Details on Baking at Altitude.

Finally, below is the stuffing recipe that was included in the guide.  As always, please email me or leave a comment if you have any questions, ideas or responses!

Traditional Bread Stuffing 
Serves 6-8

"Stuffing" is traditionally the term used for bread stuffing that you put inside your turkey while it bakes, while "dressing" is traditionally the term used for bread stuffing baked outside of the bird.  Old habits die hard, though, so I refer to it all as stuffing.  I do not recommend putting this stuffing into the bird while it cooks as that is generally considered unsafe, given that it is difficult for the stuffing (which will have raw turkey juices incorporated) to reach the appropriate temperature (165 degrees F) by the time the turkey reaches the appropriate temperature and needs to be taken out of the oven.  

2 onions, small diced (or processed in the food processor)
4 stalks celery, including some leaves, small diced (or processed in the food processor)
1 stick of butter (8 Tbsp)
1-2 Tbsp bacon grease (can be rendered from cooking about 1/4 lb bacon)
1 1/2 lb (24 oz) cubes of bread or extremely coarse bread crumbs, based on your preference (either from a box/bag, like Pepperidge Farm brand, or made yourself from loaf French bread)
5 Tbsp dried sage
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 C butter (4 Tbsp)
1/4 C chicken broth (either homemade or store-bought)
4 chicken bouillon cubes
Kosher Salt, if needed

Dice or process the onions and celery.  Melt bacon grease and 1 stick butter in a large sauté pan, then add vegetables and sauté until tender.  (These tasks can be done ahead of time and the cooked vegetables can be stored in the fridge.)

If using fresh bread, cut into desired size (some people like large chunks of bread in their stuffing while others prefer extremely course bread crumbs) and allow to dry overnight or bake in a 350 degree F oven until crispy.

When ready to assemble dish, in a large bowl mix dried bread with vegetables (they do not need to be reheated).  Add sage and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, or in the microwave, heat 1/4 C butter together with chicken broth and 4 chicken bouillon cubes.  Whisk to make sure all the bouillon dissolves.  (Using bouillon cubes instead of more chicken broth allows you to have a concentrated flavor without a lot of liquid.)  Mix butter/chicken broth mixture into bread mixture.  It should not be too wet; add more bread crumbs if needed. 

Transfer to an oven safe casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes.  Serve hot.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Homemade Chicken Broth...The Easier Way...

I had an idea a few weeks ago after I roasted a chicken to make some homemade stock using the carcass.  Of course, the carcass from one chicken isn't enough to make very much stock so I decided to freeze the bones along with some of the onions, carrots, celery, and lemon I had roasted with the chicken and worry about it later.  I put all of that (once cool) in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, put it in the freezer and forgot about it.  A few nights later I used a leek and some mushrooms in a recipe for dinner, but had the green parts of the leek and the mushroom stems left over.  Hmm....I could feed these to the dog (ha!) or throw them away.............OR........wouldn't these add some great flavor to chicken stock?  So into the Ziploc bag they went with the bones and vegetables I'd frozen a few days earlier.  Over the course of a few weeks, and another roasted chicken later, I had a nice collection of bones and aromatics in my freezer bag, including some parsley stems I had decided to save as well instead of wasting.

My bones, fresh water, and all the yummy aromatics!
The beauty of the whole thing came together this afternoon when I was thinking about what to cook for dinner.  I'm going out and leaving the kids here with the nanny, so I thought, hey!  Why not make some chicken soup?  I dumped the bag of frozen ingredients into my stock pot, covered it with a bunch of fresh water, then added some crushed garlic, peppercorns, and a couple of bay leaves.  I also added some "mushroom juice", as I call it, which was just the leftover water in which I had rehydrated some dried mushrooms for another dinner this past week.  The mushrooms impart a delicious "umami" flavor into the water that's used to rehydrate them, so I'm glad I didn't throw them away, but rather incorporated that flavor into my chicken stock. 

Once all that came to a boil, I let the stock simmer as long as I could (the longer the better...up to four hours but as little as one hour), during which time I poached some chicken breasts in it, then took them out and let them cool.  I shredded them and set them aside for my soup. 

In a dutch oven, I sweated some finely chopped onion, celery and carrots.  To that I added some dried herbs, salt and pepper.  Finally I tossed in some frozen peas to cook for about a minute.  I strained my homemade chicken stock, then poured the liquid into the dutch oven with the herbed vegetables.  Once it came to a boil, I cooked some very small pasta in the broth, seasoned to taste with more salt and pepper, and added in the shredded chicken to heat up and that was dinner!  Hope you can make this idea work for you, too!

Homemade Chicken Soup
Makes 3-4 quarts stock

For your broth, you'll need:
  • At least two chicken carcasses, raw or cooked, or about 6 lbs of chicken bones
  • Assorted Aromatics, such as onions, carrots, celery (including leaves), lemon, green-parts of leeks, mushroom stems, parsley stems, chopped tomatoes, fennel fronds, etc. (try to remember to save things you might otherwise throw away that could add flavor to your stock)
  • About 1 to 1 1/2 gallons fresh cold water
  • Crushed Garlic (3-4 cloves)
  • About 10 peppercorns
  • 2 Dried Bay Leaves
For your soup, you'll need:
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, small diced
  • 1 large carrots, small diced
  • 2 celery stalks, small diced
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme (or other dried herb of choice)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Cup Frozen Peas (you can also use shelled edamame or even frozen corn)
  • 4 oz dried pasta (or substitute cooked rice, cold)
Make your broth:
  1. Put all your saved aromatics (fresh or frozen) in a large stock pot.  Cover with water.  Add garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves (plus parsley stems if they were not included in your aromatics).
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for as long as possible, up to four hours but at least one hour.
  3. If desired, place chicken breasts in simmering broth and poach until internal temperature reaches about 160 degrees F, about 15 minutes.  Remove from stock and allow to cool, then shred and hold until ready to incorporate into soup.
  4. Once stock is finished, strain through a very large strainer into a very large bowl or pot.  (I recommend placing your large bowl/pot in the kitchen sink with the strainer over it in case you spill/splash.  Be careful not to burn yourself!)
While stock simmers (or on another day), make your soup:
  1.  Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot over low heat.  Add onions, celery and carrots and sweat (without browning) until soft and aromatic, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add dried thyme, kosher salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 more minutes.
  3. Add frozen peas and cook until heated through, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour strained stock over herbed vegetables.  (You probably don't need to use all the stock you made.)  
  5. Bring the soup to a boil and add pasta or cooked rice.  If using pasta, boil for as long as the package directions instruct.  For rice, just heat up.
  6. Add pre-shredded chicken and season to taste with more salt and pepper.  Enjoy!