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Mexico is an exceptionally diverse country with a cuisine that reflects the many different cultures that call this Latin American nation home. Interestingly, though, many of Mexico’s most interesting dishes share common ingredients (including tortillas, beans, cheese and salsa) and cooking techniques (baking and frying). These six dishes go beyond typical tacos and quesadillas to showcase the many ways that Mexican cooks put a creative local spin on their food.

Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles are one of the most iconic Mexican breakfast dishes, and a must-try on your next trip to Mexico. The base of the dish is quartered corn tortillas that have been lightly fried and then simmered in spicy red or green salsa, or traditional mole sauce. Before serving, the soupy tortilla pieces are topped with a combination of thinly-sliced onions, crumbed queso fresco, sour cream and fresh cilantro.

Flautas

Sharing a name with the Spanish word for flute, flautas are rolled, crisp-fried corn tortillas with a distinctive cylindrical shape. Common fillings include beef, chicken, beans and cheese, and flautas are often served with salsa or guacamole heaped on top. Flautas are usually larger than their common counterpart, taquitos, but may also be listed as “tacos dorados” on the menu.

Molletes

Hailing from Mexico’s far north, molletes are basically just Mexican toast. To make molletes, a fresh, crusty bun is cut in half horizontally and slightly hollowed. The inside is filled with refried pinto beans, cheese and sliced hot peppers, and then the dish is broiled until the cheese melts. It’s also possible to find molletes dulces (“sweet molletes”) which are topped with butter and sugar instead of beans and cheese.

Sopes

Originally from the city of Culiacan in central Mexico, sopes are an indulgent appetizer or street food. About the diameter of a tennis ball, sopes start with a thick base of masa (corn dough) that gets pinched at the sides (to form the perfect scoop-like shape) and thoroughly fried. The base is then topped with refried beans, cheese, salsa, lettuce and onions. The most common meat topping is chicken, although you’ll find crispy fried grasshoppers are a popular topping as you head further south. Sopes are commonly served as a plate of three or five.

Tlayudas

Exclusive to Oaxaca and its surrounding region, tlayudas are one of the healthiest tortilla-based dishes in Mexico. Every authentic tlayuda starts with a large wheat tortilla, which is baked (not fried) until it is crispy. Then, a thin layer of refried beans are spread all over the tortilla; these act as an anchor for the rest of the toppings. Fresh lettuce, salsa and cilantro are common toppings, as are grilled vegetables and meats.

Totopos

Mexico has its own unique flatbread: totopos. To make totopos, masa is treated with a process called nixtamalization, which improves its flavor, nutrition and storability. The dough is then rolled into a circle ranging from three to thirty centimeters in diameter, sprinkled with salt and decorated with small holes before being baked in a clay oven. Baked totopos can be stored for weeks and are usually eaten like crackers.

One of the best things about Mexican food is the wide range of regional dishes that can be encountered throughout the nation. If you don’t see these dishes on the menu, feel free to ask your host or server to recommend something similar.

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Make Your Winters Warm

Winter’s set in and it’s time to start thinking once again about the best methods of staying warm. No one likes to be shivering for months on end. In your own home you can only do so much to turn the heat up. What, then, are some simple solutions? What about when you want to go outside or need to take a trip into town?

The first solution is fairly simple: a warm, fuzzy sweater can help to take the bite out of the winter’s chill. Wearing wool or polyester is much more likely to keep you toasty than cotton! Dark colors are not only fashionable, they help to keep you warm as well. Heat isn’t reflected off of your clothing as much if it is dark.

Jeans are also something to consider giving up during the winter months. Try wearing a fashionable pair of slim black corduroys or even some thin wool slacks. The denim material that blue jeans are made from does little to protect against chilly weather.

Heat escapes your body very quickly through your ears so while you’re on the subject of dress it’s important to make sure you’ve got your head covered. There are plenty of different styles of hats on the market to choose from, but some are easily more warm than others. Try not to choose anything made from cotton, as mentioned above (hats to stay away from include most brimmed caps.) Wool hats are excellent but can be a bit scratchy so make sure it’s comfortable before you purchase it.

The last steps in making sure you’re dressed for any outing you may desire in the winter months are a pair of warm, comfortable boots and a heavy over-coat. Boots should not be made of rubber as these tend to be stiff and cool easily. Look for something with a thick soul that reaches midway up your shin, in case there is deep snow. As for a coat, black wool long-coats are always in fashion!

Now you’re dressing the part. Next there are some things to keep in mind for driving. If your car is not kept in a garage, you can always go outside and start the heater warming about ten minutes before you actually plan to leave. This way the car will be warmed up for you when you are ready to go. However, if you keep your car in a garage it is not safe to leave it running since the exhaust fumes that are released while it is running are toxic.

You can also heat a rice-bag before you leave and put it in your lap or behind your back while you drive to help stem off the cold.

Finally, after going out in the icy, windy cold it is time to relax at home. A wool blanket, a mug of hot cocoa or piping-hot coffee and a rice-bag to boot is a wonderful way to recover from the cold.


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