Monday, November 1, 2010

Celebrate Day of the Dead … with these spirited treats

When we were in Guatemala, Mr. Fabulous and I drove across a mountainous road to Panajachel. Colorful tombstone-like squares jutting from the hilly landscape caught my attention. “Gravesites,” our driver told us, where annual celebrations are held to commemorate the spirit of the dead.

The gravestones varied in color; aqua, sea green, pure white, sky blue, burnt orange and turquoise fill large square pieces of land like pegs in a board game. It is among these gravestones that the Day of the Dead is celebrated in all of Mexico and much of Latin America. Celebrated annually on the first and second day of November, Day of the Dead is a day to honor, to remember and celebrate the deceased.

Far from morbid, families have large picnics at the gravesite, gravestones are elaborately decorated. To celebrate the spirit, the living dance to music. It is customary to eat brightly colored candy skulls and skeletons and people eat pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread) with steaming cups of spicy hot chocolate. It is customary to eat dishes like mole, tamale and posole. This year I plan to celebrate those loved ones who have passed on and serve “Tamale” Pie, a Mexican-inspired dish that is always devoured.

After dinner I'll serve steaming cups of Spicy Hot Chocolate while popping a few candy skulls and skeletons!

Day of the Dead “Tamale” Pie

1¼ pounds lean ground chuck

2 teaspoons chili powder

One 16-ounce can condensed tomato soup

1 cup chopped peppers, any color

1 cup mild or medium salsa

½ cup water

1 recipe corn bread, recipe follows

In a medium skillet over moderate heat sauté ground chuck, add chili powder and cook until meat is brown, drain off any fat. Stir in tomato soup, peppers, salsa and water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2 inch-baking dish. Set aside while you prepare the corn bread.

Corn Bread

1½ cups fresh corn, or frozen

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup low fat sour cream

⅓ cup olive oil

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¾ cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded

One 4-ounce can chopped green chilies, optional

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine corn, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, sour cream, olive oil, eggs, cheese and chilies. Spoon mixture over tamale pie and bake for 45 minutes. Serves 6.

Spicy Hot Chocolate

This hot chocolate recipe calls for The Spice Hunter’s Winter Sippers Hot Buttered Rum blend, available from most grocery stores nationwide. It is a complementing blend of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, cloves and lemon oil and makes a delicious cup of hot chocolate.

6 cups milk

½ cup cocoa powder

½ cup Winter Sippers Hot Buttered Rum blend

In a large saucepan, warm milk over a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Whisk in cocoa and Hot Buttered Rum blend. Heat for an additional 2-3 minutes or until desired temperature. Serves 6.