Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now on Sale! Heart Charms - Milagro Fabric

I am pleased to inform that a small selection of my fabrics can now be purchased online at SpoonFlower! This heart fabric is called "Milagro". Milagros literally means "miracles". They are metal charms traditionally pinned to a saint's robes. Milagros come in many shapes, and are used as tokens of devotion, or as thanks for miracles performed. I think this fabric is perfect for February, the month when we celebrate love and friendship.

Fabrics at SpoonFlower are processed digitally. I am still trying to adjust the color way - the sample I got shows up more orange than red, yet I think it looks very nice against the cobalt blue background. Other fabrics for sale are my mermaid and merman fabrics, and a kid's print called "Kids with Scarves". Please take a look at my online store at SpoonFlower.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Animal Free Mexican Chocolate Drinks, Hot and Cold

Dear bloggeritos, I was unable to post for the month of January due to a busy schedule and a spotty internet connection. I'm still around and ready to share some information and ideas for chocolate drinks! It is amazing to think that almost a third of the US is blanketed in snow right now...Here in San Francisco we've been having almost Summer like weather! What could be better than a cool licuado for hot day? Or a cup of hot cocoa, for chilly weather? Read on!

Cool Chocolate Licuados.
I used to drink a heavenly chocolate licuado sold at the Tapachula market when I was a kid. It was advertised as "Choco 1000" (choco mil). It was a play on words on the popular powdered drink called Choco Milk. This drink was cleverly marketed by the super healthy and butch little Mexican boy known as Pancho Pantera. Here's Pancho, courtesy of -U! (Uriel Duran).

This licuado of my childhood was made using fresh non-pausterised milk and a raw egg. It made it really thick and rich, but it would be considered dangerous by today's standards! See the advertising? It was recommended kids drank it three times a day in order to tame tigers, stop trains on its tracks and...Garden.

Amazingly enough, ancient Mexicans blended cocoa water and spices for a chocolate drink that was naturally animal free. The word Chocolate is actually a derivative of the ancient Nahuatl for Xoco Atl, meaning bitter water, a drink that was sacred. The Spaniards turned the word "Xocolatl" into "Chocolate", the term encompassing both cocoa solids and the original frothy drink. Of course, the Aztecs didn't have electric blenders but here's some ideas for making chocolate drinks in the ancient Mexican tradition. I use unsweetened powdered cocoa by Ghirardelli.
  • Almendrado. Use two cups of almond milk, a handful of peeled slivered toasted almonds and two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Azteca. Two cups of almond milk, a handful of peeled slivered toasted almonds, two tablespoons of chia seeds, and two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Chango Marango. Two cups of coconut milk, a very ripe banana, berries of your choice, two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Abuelita's. Two cups of almond milk, a handful of peeled slivered toasted almonds, two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa, powdered cinnamon, and a tablespoon of Mexican Vanilla (I use Xanath's). Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Manicero. Use two cups of rice milk, a ripe pear, two heaping tablespoons of peanut butter, and two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Choco Chispas. Use two cups of almond milk, a scoop of soy based frozen dessert (I use the one made by So Delicous), two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa and fresh chopped mint. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend. The mint will create refreshing little "chips".

History of Hot Mexican Chocolate
The image above comes from Peaton, it shows a chocolate pyramid created for a competition in Germany. Emperor Moctezuma would finish his meal with a frothy gourd full of "Xocolatl" and a nice smoke perfumed with liquidamber resin. The drink was traditionally served cold. During colonial times the original bitter drink of the Aztecs became fermented, sweetened and seasoned with vanilla, sugar, almonds and cinnamon - what it is now known as "Mexican Chocolate" immediately caught on in Europe and became very popular. Certain convents in colonial Mexico experimented with chocolate, creating famous recipes like Mole Poblano, yet the church forbid nuns from drinking chocolate because it was considered too voluptuous for them. Here's a recipe for animal free Champurrado, a hot chocolate drink that can be enjoyed by everyone!

4 cups of Almond Milk
4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 small lumps of piloncillo (Mexican Raw Sugar)
2 sticks of Canela (Mexican Cinnamon)
1 cup of corn masa (corn dough used to make tortillas)

Heat the milk, add the cinnamon and the sugar until the lumps dissolve completely. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Add the masa and the cocoa and stir often. Use a blender to combine everything and to make sure your champurrado is nice and frothy. Process in small batches, at the slowest setting. Place a thick cloth napkin on top of the blender so you don't burn yourself. Serve in individual cups and enjoy.

Spicy Hot Chocolate
Finally, if you want your hot chocolate to be hot in more ways than one try adding some dry chiles to it. The picture above is from a spicy Venezuelan hot chocolate taken at Christopher Elbow, in San Francisco. They use a nice blend of chiles, spices and Venezuelan chocolate for this delicious drink. I've used all kinds of chiles in hot chocolate, but I think the best tasting are the raising like pasilla, robust ancho, or smoky chipotle. If you use chipotle use the dry variety - the canned chiles have added spices and salt that won't add much to the chocolate. Here's some notes on spicy Mexican hot chocolate that I served during a recent chocolatada party:

"No chocolatada can be complete without some hot chocolate. I used tablets of Chocolate Ibarra and Chocolate Abuelita and mixed them with hot low fat milk or soy milk. A little bit of the pasilla and negro chiles was added to the blender in order to make a delicious spicy and sweet drink. A little bit of Mexican vanilla also gives the chocolate a wonderful scent. Please make sure you get authentic Mexican vanilla, it really makes a big difference. One of my guests said it was the best hot chocolate she had ever tasted! You can get Ibarra and Abuelita hot chocolate tablets at MexGrocer, I get my vanilla from Xanath in San Francisco."

One last note: Most processed chocolate has milk added to it. If you want your drinks to be animal free, use powdered cocoa, and make sure to read labels carefully for commercially bought blends. Generally, the darker the chocolate, the less likely it is to contain milk. Enjoy your chocolate, and stay cool...Or warm!!