The taste of Mexican tradition

Celebrate the Day of the Dead with these Mexican dishes.

Tasty traditions: Celebrate the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead with these authentic recipes.

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

On Nov. 2, All Soul’s Day, Christians offer prayers and remember deceased family members and friends. This day in Mexican tradition is called the Day of the Dead. That day also celebrates and remembers deceased loved ones, and some believe that the souls of the departed return to earth to visit at this time and to give advice to family and friends. To celebrate All Soul’s Day or the Day of the Dead is really to celebrate life.

Philadelphia has a much more unfortunate early November tradition that enjoys no divine sanction. This phenomenon regularly occurs on election days here (beware next Tuesday, Nov. 7), when some constituents who have previously been laid to rest manage to cast their votes.

No need to go to Mexico City to enjoy this easy version of Chicken Tortilla Soup.

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP IN THE CROCK POT

1 can stewed or whole peeled tomatoes (15 oz.), chopped

1 can Ro-Tel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, undrained (10 oz.)

4–5 bone-in chicken thighs (about 1½ lbs.)

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1½ tsp. cumin

2 tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 bay leaf

½ cup peppers, diced (green, red, yellow or a mix)

1 cup corn

1 can black beans (10.5 oz.), drained and rinsed

4 cups chicken broth

3 Tbsp. fresh lime

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Tortilla strips

Garnishes: chopped avocado, sour cream, cheddar or Monterey Jack, extra cilantro, tortilla strips, and lime wedges

Into a crock pot, put the tomatoes, Ro-Tel tomatoes and chilies, chicken, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, bay leaf, peppers, corn, black beans and chicken broth.

Cooking Time: LOW for 8 hours and on HIGH for 4 hours or until chicken is done.

Just before serving, remove chicken pieces from crock pot. Discard bones and shred the meat by pulling it apart with two forks. Return chicken to crock pot and stir in the lime juice and cilantro.

Place some tortilla strips or a few broken tortilla chips in the bottom of each bowl and ladle soup into bowls. Top with some or all of the garnishes.

Cocadas are dome-shaped, easy-to-make Mexican confections. They are a cousin to our macaroons. Chopped almonds, mini chocolate chips or dried fruit bits can also be added to this treat.

COCADAS

2 cups grated coconut

¼ cup sweetened condensed milk

3 egg whites

2 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the foil.

In a bowl, mix well the coconut, condensed milk, egg whites, honey and extract.

Scoop out 2–3 tablespoons of the mixture, about the size of a ping-pong ball, and form into balls. Mixture will yield 12 balls.

Evenly distribute on lined, greased baking sheet and bake about 20 minutes until the tops turn a lightly golden brown.

Allow to rest a few minutes. Use a spatula to gently but firmly release the cocados from the foil while still warm. Allow to cool, then store in an airtight container.

Ah, chocolate! Good for the body and for the soul!

MEXICAN HOT COCOA

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cloves

2 tsp. Cinnamon

1/3 cup hot water

4 cups milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

cinnamon sticks, optional

In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, cloves and cinnamon.

Stir in the water. Cook and continue to whisk and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a rapid boil. Reduce heat slightly but allow to gently bubble, whisking and stirring for two minutes.

Add the milk and heat but do not boil.

Remove cocoa from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

Serve in mugs with a cinnamon stick.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

Don’t forget:

Send in your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 ShopRite gift card. Mail your recipe to Readers’ Recipes, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002. Or email your recipe to WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com. Please include name, address and telephone number.