I grew up as a “Yankee” by most people's standards. I lived in Southern Illinois for most of my childhood and moved to Tennessee to finish my last two years of high school. While there, I met a boy who decided to go to a community college in deep south Mississippi.
When taking him down to school, I drove past the University of Southern Mississippi and fell in love. Without having ever stepped foot on campus, I applied and was accepted. The next three years sealed my love for the south.
I did learn a few things that I now want to share with others. Here are my top three:
- The twelve days of Christmas does not lead up to Christmas but starts the day after Christmas and ends on January 6th.
- Mardi Gras is actually a holiday that intertwines Christmas and Easter; and
- Mardi Gras has significant meaning beyond boobs and beads.
The Real Story Behind the 12 Days of Christmas
I fell in love with the university but two months later – I fell even more in love with New Orleans. Yes, I went to Bourbon Street and earned some beads. It's a part of my bohemian style and desire to make memories. Maybe my desire not to live a boring life played into it as well.
A year after I saw USM, I danced in the streets of New Orleans with my new makeout buddy who is now my husband. But I fell in love with the spirit of the city. A spirit that tells the truth.
The Story Starts
You see, the twelve days of Christmas is one that starts on December 26th and ends on the 6th of January. It is told that kids leave out boots and Santa brings them little gifts.
In Mexico, this is the tradition. They have the boots set out at night and kids get a small gift the next morning. On January 6th, they have a big Christmas just as we do on the 25th.
Yet this is not a celebration of Jesus birth but a celebration of the three wise men who gave gifts to help baby Jesus and his family survive a very trying time. For Catholics, this is called Epiphany.
The King Cake
Part of the celebration includes eating a King Cake.
There are several different meanings behind the cake. For example, it is round to represent a crown for a king. The icing is in three different colors: purple, gold, and green. Each of these three colors means something. The purple represents justice, the gold represents power, and green represents faith.
Inside the cake is a plastic toy baby that represents baby Jesus. Whoever gets the baby must bring the next King cake and the tradition continues until Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) when the person who found the baby is the “king for the day”.
After our last FYI, I am going to be giving you some delicious recipes to eat on the Day of Epiphany that we used to eat at the restaurant I worked at. We would have a feast at work, with everyone bringing in something good. I truly miss that.
But before I leave this section, I need to share the traditional New Orlean's style King Cake with you. Special shout out to Barbara Bakes for coming up with her version. I like that she offers the idea of thinking outside the box with the recipe as well. I think I might go past the normal cinnamon roll style cake this year at least once!
Just FYI, Mardi Gras is not a one-day thing in New Orleans. Just like with the cake, it starts on Epiphany and goes until Fat Tuesday; however, if you want something more family friendly just head over to Mardi Gras New Orleans and find out when they are having parades around the French Quarter.
These parades are family friendly!
Recipes for a Mexican Style Epiphany
Horchata is my absolute favorite drink ever. Earlier this year, Starbucks came out with a Cinnamon Almondmilk Macchiato and I fell in love with it too. Little did I realize it was based on the Horchata.
I had students tell me at my last school that they didn't like Horchata. I told them to try my recipe. They loved it! Said it tastes like the milk at the bottom of the bowl after eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I recommend adding it to your coffee too.
My recipe is similar to this one.
2. Chile Relleno
Chile Relleno is my favorite food recipe, though even in Texas finding a good Chile Relleno at a restaurant is either hit or miss. If you get it good though, you'll know it. There is no better way to describe it but heaven on earth. Home-made is the best way to have this as far as I am concerned.
This recipe is good because it deep fries it. For a bit of change and to please the meat lover in your life, don't be afraid to add beef to the cheese. It's great both ways!
What good is a Mexican meal without queso? As far as I'm concerned, no good. Queso is almost as important as salsa. This recipe, brought to you by Becky over at The Cookie Rookie, looks delicious, though my mild-mannered mouth will stear away from the jalapenos.
4. Mexican Rice
Kristyn over at Lil' Luna wrote this recipe based on a recipe that was passed down from her mother and grandmother who are Mexican. It is super good and reminds me of the stuff my co-workers brought in a huge pan to work on days we have potlucks.
I miss those days… sounds like I am going to have to make a big bowl of this soon or get my students to make some!
5. Mexican Black Beans
Did you know that beans and rice make a complete protein? I think it is pretty neat that it does that. I think it is even neater that without even knowing it, the Mexicans before us ate these staples together. This recipe would go perfectly over a bed of rice.
Plus, I absolutely love fresh cilantro. It just makes a dish feel that much more authentic. Shout out to A Dish of Daily Life for posting the recipe, even if she had been busy before the post!
6. Cripsy Carnitas
Carnitas are something that we get on the weekends when we go to Trader's Village, a flea market that is large enough to have its own mini amusement park.
Again, I am a big fan of the cilantro but the crunch of the onions and the carnitas combined with the softness of the tortillas makes it delicious.
The only thing I disagree with is it looks like she used corn tortillas. Corn tortillas are better here… goes back to the authentic thing to me. Blame it on the flea market.
Over all though, Karina at Cafe Delights did a good job.
In case you can't tell by the picture, Champurrado is similar to Mexican hot chocolate. Only it's much thicker. Masa harina is what makes it thick. We made it in culinary arts last year and the students were not a big fan of it.
I liked it and took some to the Spanish teacher who said it was pretty good too. It tastes like a thick and runny, chocolate-y version of grits to me. Try Carissa's recipe and see if you like it for yourself!
Along with salsa and queso, I feel like guacamole is a recipe that one must have when eating Mexican food. This recipe adds in some extra goodness to the avocado, including the juice of limes.
If you have never tried guacamole because you've heard it's gross, I recommend giving it a try. I did and have been sold on the stuff for the last sixteen years.
I will be making Michelle's recipe soon!
This is another recipe that you could find at our potlucks. They would bring the shells, the meat, and the toppings in different tubs and we could pick and choose what we wanted. The tostada shells, naturally, are by the taco shells at most grocery stores.
I wanted to add this particular recipe from Dinner, Dishes, and Desserts because the author uses guacamole. This means you now have a reason to make and eat guacamole. You're welcome.
10. Chocolate Tres Leche Cake
Tres Leche is not traditionally chocolate but I figured we could branch out here a bit. You will already be having a whiter dessert with the King Cake so why not?
I'm even more sold since Taylor over at Greens and Chocolate added coffee and chocolate milk to this recipe. She also adds in some cayenne to give it a Mexican chocolate feel to it. Um, yum!
Again, all this talk of Mardi Gras and Mexican food has me thinking about my lesson plans after the holidays, when the next set of unsung holidays rolls in. I want my kids to know about all this greatness. And chocolate-yness!
11. Restaurant Style Salsa
Now I've been talking about all these great ideas for dipping sauces, including queso and guacamole. Surely, you'd have known I would bring out the salsa recipe eventually.
Without further ado, this is the five minute restaurant style salsa brought to you by Amanda at the Chunky Chef.
This salsa recipe looks delicious and reminds me a lot of the flavors that hit my mouth when I am at a Mexican restaurant. I'm now craving chips and salsa.
I'm headed to the store. Bye.
12. Street Corn
Okay, I'm back. Did you miss me? I feel much better.
And now I bring you the Mexican style street corn. One of the first weekends after we moved to Texas, my husband took us to the flea market I mentioned earlier and this is what we ordered.
I had never thought to add mayonnaise and chili powder and cilantro to my corn. Or to smoke it for that matter.
This is good stuff folks. Head over to check out Annie's recipe at The Garlic Diaries either now or closer to Epiphany.
Naturally, tamales were another regular at the potlucks and for good reason. They are good!
The recipe I recommend is by Cynthia Pineda and I recommend it for good reason. One, she is very thorough. If you have never made a tamale before, you will be a pro by the time you read her recipe. Two, she makes carnitas tamales. You should already know how to make those!
14. Corn Tortillas
So many recipes in Mexican food call for corn tortilla. When we first moved here that was a hard thing to transition to since I grew up on flour tortillas.
Now, though, I do prefer the taste of corn tortilla for many things. Like I said before, it makes it seem more authentic. At least authentic Tex Mex anyways.
This recipe is nice because it only has three ingredients, one of them being masa harina which was used for the hot chocolate, and Isabel tells you how to use a tortilla press.
15. Pupusas con Cortido
Using, yet again, the masa harina, I bring you the pupusas con cortido which is a soft corn tortilla folded and pushed together after being stuffed with cheese and your choice of meat or beans.
It is delicious and a nice softness that is not even comparable to soft tacos. It's a different feel all together. To find out more, be sure to check out Closet Cooking.
16. Mexican Fried Ice Cream
This recipe isn't truly fried but they do toast the corn flakes using butter and then roll the ice cream in the corn flakes. It looks delicious, especially with that cherry on top.
To see, and try, the recipe for yourself be sure to check out House of Yumm.
I was excited to share with you something that I feel causes a lot of confusion or is just generally unknown to many Americans.
If you are anything like me and feel that January can be a bit of a let down as the Christmas holidays are past, now you have a reason to continue celebrating!