Monthly Archives: December 2010

Choco-Cafe: Easy Mexican Chocolate Coffee Beverage

A possible Mayan chief forbids a person to tou...

Mayan image of chocolate -- a valued commodity

Stephen and I have a morning breakfast habit when we are in Oaxaca.  We are ritualistic coffee drinkers.  For the past decades (too many to mention here), I have been grinding my coffee beans daily to brew my morning beverage of choice.  When we are with Federico and Dolores and their family in Teotitlan, the morning beverage of choice is hot chocolate made with milk and the pungent taste of Oaxaca chocolate blended with chili, cinnamon, vanilla and almonds.  We decided some years back to mix the two and came up with Choco-Cafe.  Our adaptation there and at home is to put the chocolate blocks directly into our coffee and stir, since we don’t drink our coffee with milk.  It is delicious!

When we are in North Carolina, it becomes more challenging.  I just received a holiday gift from my co-worker Nancy.  Wow, does she ever know me.  A box of  Allegro Coffee Company Drinking Chocolate “Organic Mayan Spice 73” was tucked away in my goody bag.  It is Organic Fair Trade Certified dark chocolate mixed with chili, pepper and allspice.  She bought it at Whole Foods Market.

This morning, I added 1 tsp. to my coffee along with 1/2 t. of stevia and WOW!  It is so close to the real thing that I thought I was dreaming.  I highly recommend you try this for a perfect non-alcoholic holiday treat.

Christmas In Oaxaca, Mexico: Feliz Navidad

At this moment, it is snowing in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and it is cold outside. Tonight it will be 27 degrees.  Brrrr.

On the other hand, in Oaxaca de Juarez today it will reach a balmy 82 degrees Fahrenheit and drop to 47 degrees Fahrenheit — great sleeping weather.   It should be a beautiful Christmas season — as usual.  A good time to head south.  For those of you who are already there on winter vacation or plan to be there in the next week, here are some recommendations for what to do and see in the city and in the village of Teotitlan del Valle.  Have a festive holiday season! Feliz Navidad.

The article, “Christmas Vacation in Oaxaca, Mexico; Feliz Navidad,” with accompanying photos that I just published for Suite 101 includes tips and descriptions for the following:

December 23:  La Noche de los Rabanos

La Ultima Posada, Teotitlan del Valle

Christmas Eve:  Calendulas, posadas, y misas (processions and masses)

Christmas Day: Blessing of the Buses

New Year’s Eve Festivities in the City

Las Cuevitas in Teotitlan del Valle, January 2, 2011

Christmas Day Fiesta Meal

Fiesta of the Three Kings, January 6

What to Do With Green Papaya? Cook It!

Why, you ask, is Norma putting a recipe for green papaya on her blog about Oaxaca? Isn’t Green papaya found on Thai restaurant menus shredded as salad? Isn’t it part of Southeast Asian cuisine topped with curry paste? Why not Green Papaya Mexican Chili Salsa?

Papaya is native to the tropics of the Americas, including the coast of Oaxaca, Veracuz and Chiapas. It was first cultivated in Mexico several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classic cultures. It has extraordinary medicinal properties; indigenous women used it to tenderize meat and for personal use as a contraceptive.

Green papaya with spinach and tomato

Papaya is plentiful in all Oaxaca markets. Sometimes the skin is so bright pink-orange and ripe that with one squeeze you know it could open up, and you would have to eat it right then and there on the street. Papaya sprinkled with Tajin (get it in your local Mexican market) or fresh lime juice is a perfect treat.

Stir-fry green papaya in Wok on high heat

We are not so lucky in the U.S. Juicy, ripe papaya is hard to come by. Stephen, in his market comings and goings around town, arrived home with a pile of organic green papaya. These did not even have a hint of “ripe” written on them. They were nearly rock hard. “Is this food?” I asked. Then, “Let’s see what we can do with them.” The closest thing I could come up with was papaya in green curry sauce, but we had none of the traditional ingredients on hand. I had fresh spinach and cilantro, no lemongrass. I had tomatoes, no coconut milk. I had scallions, no shallots. I DID have garlic, salt, red pepper, turmeric, paprika, So I made it up as I went along. Now, I’m passing it along to you.

Prepare chili paste in food processor

Mexican Green Papaya Chili Salsa

  • 2 large green papaya, peeled, halved, seeded
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6-10 scallions, trimmed, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes or 4 tomatillos
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, washed, trimmed, leaves only
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, washed, trimmed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 t. powdered turmeric
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 t. paprika
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 c. oil for cooking
  • a Wok

Papaya preparation: cut the hard ends off the papaya halves. Cut pieces uniformly about 1/2″ x 1/4″ and put in bowl. Wash.

In food processor add: garlic, scallions, spinach, cilantro and tomatoes. Process until smooth. Add turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, and salt. Process for 30 seconds. Set bowl aside.

Add oil to Wok and heat on high burner for about 2-3 minutes until oil sizzles when you flick a bit of cold water into it. Add papaya. Keep heat on high and attend the Wok, turning the papaya every 2-3 minutes until it is browned and begins to soften. Do not walk away. After about 15 minutes, cover the Wok and let the papaya continue to cook on high heat for another 5-7 minutes. Stir the papaya once or twice during this time.

Remove the lid. Pour the spinach-cilantro mixture over the papaya and stir. Continue to cook over high heat until mixture thickens and papaya is soft.

Pour salsa over papaya, then stir

Serve with steamed rice as a vegetarian entree or accompaniment to roasted chicken. Serves 6.

Cook mixture until sauce is thick and papaya is soft


Where to Eat in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Perhaps you are doing a day-trip to Teotitlan del Valle during your stay in Oaxaca.  You’ve done your research, have the map I offer for sale, and have identified the weavers to visit who work only in natural dyes (we hope!).  You are in the village all day and, of course, want a spot to rest, have a good meal and a beer.  Here is a guide for where to eat in the village.  The full article is published on Suite 101, so click on the link below to read more.
Synopsis: Home-based restaurants offer up authentic, delicious, and affordable fare prepared by a talented cadre of multigenerational women working together. 

Read more at Suite101: Where to Eat in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Tlayuda con pollo at El Descanso

Burgers & fries al fresco after 7 p.m. year 'round on the sidewalk outside the market

Suite 101 Publishes “Is It Safe to Travel to Mexico?”

I’ve just written a comprehensive article about Mexican travel safety on the online magazine, Suite 101.  It is my continuing attempt to dispel the rumors and innuendo associated with the drug wars and fear about travel to Mexico.