This post is sponsored by La Banderita Tortillas. All opinions are my own.
I love the transition from Summer to Fall. Outside the leaves are changing colors, evenings are cooler, and the sunsets arrive earlier. It means that the holidays are upon us, Christmas and Thanksgiving just around the corner. It marks the season of family, culture, and time to remember. Dia de los Muertos is especially enjoyable because every year, as we place beautiful candles, set pictures of our loved ones, and delicately place beautiful cempasuchil flowers around, it signifies our appreciation for precious memories of people of significance in our family. As we gather around the kitchen to prepare Nopales Guisados con Carne Ranchera, we are always reminded of the stories of my Abuela’s grandparents.
Growing up in a small pueblo in Mexico, there is a fair expectation that even the children helped in the cultivation of the family farm. Abuela was in her early teens, approximately 14 years old when she became a significant help to her parents at home. Abuela’s labor included clearing the tierra from weeds, tilling the soil by hand, and planting seeds each season. During those particular times, it was an all day event that involved the entire family; so with the anticipation of laboring under the heat of the open air, her mother would wake up en la madrugada to prepare for the day by packing essentials for lunch. In those times, all they could afford were tortillas and chiles. On special occasions, they would be able to purchase some fresh meat from their local carniceria, but those moments were rare. With their almuerzo packed, and after a brief morning cafecito, as a family they would begin their long journey up to el cerro.
From dusk until approximately midday, when the sun hung mightily over the open blue sky, Abuela’s father would signal everyone that it was time to rest. It was their reward for laboring so intensely in the tropical heat, as the clouds from the Michoacan skies began to roll in for the typical afternoon drizzle. Everyone would take cover under the large trees and tejaban, which became their temporary refuge for their lunchtime rest. They would make a fire between a couple rocks and place a metal pan over it. The crackling from the fire and the smell of freshly burnt wood filled the air. As they cleaned the prickly thorns from the cactus they had cut from just a few feet away, the pan sizzled with the meat as it seared. The sounds and smells became like a virtual melody.
Did anyone bring las tortillas?
Of course someone packed them en el moralito (satchel). Everyone would gather around the wood burning stove to enjoy the Nopales con Carne that was thoughtfully prepared. After they were finished, they rested. Resting after a good meal was required because it allowed for a moment to replenish the strength needed to continue working until the setting sun. As the sun slowly rested its face upon the distant horizon, the family packs up as it was time to end their work day. As they made their way back down from el cerro, dinner was already on their mind.
Things have not changed very much for hard working families. The days come and go quickly, and seasons pass steadily; those moments as families become more distant as we work to get through life daily. When it comes to those whose heritage is characterized by meals shared with the people that make up your familia–mealtimes become a significant part of life. In my house, I can feel the warmth of family as everyone eats, randomly different people reaching for a freshly warmed tortilla, combined with the low murmur of how everyone’s day was is shared. It is the balance of appreciation for unity as well as the gratitude for the labor of preparation, that solidifies what it means to enjoy a delicious meal together. Personally, the times spent with my family is never wasted. I especially enjoy when my mom and Abuela share stories of their youth during a meal, because it is in those moments, history comes alive–and old forgotten recipes are remembered. Somehow, our meals keep us connected to our memories of family–and those memories keep us connected to who we are.
Below you will find a simple, yet delicious variation of the meal my Abuela shared with her parents in the days of her working their Ranchito. Today, and especially in this season, we enjoy making this dish in remembrance of my great grandparents. Sitting around, telling their stories gives us a glimpse of who they were–and that is what is special about Dia de Los Muertos. While Dia de Los Muertos is a time to create altars and remember our antepasados, we find that the true altars are the ones we have placed upon our hearts, as we remember the beautiful memories of those who have passed on from this life–by enjoying the foods that remind us most about them.
We hope you enjoy this very special dish!
Saquen las tortillas!
PREP TIME: 30 Minutes
COOK TIME: 30 MINUTES
2 Pounds Flank Steak
10 Nopales Cactus
1 Medium Onion
1 Cup Cilantro
4-7 Arbol Chiles
2 Tablespoons of Chicken Flavored Bouillon
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
La Banderita Tortillas (Corn or Flour)
- Brown meat with salt and pepper to liking.
- Once meat has browned to your liking, cut into strips.
- Cut 10 noplaes into stips (Cleaned nopales).
- Boil nopales in water for about 5 minutes.
- Strain nopales and rinse.
- Cut onion into slices.
- Fry onion in oil until translucent.
- Add arbol chiles and cook together for about 1-2 minutes
- Add nopales to the onion and chile. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add meat strips.
- Add chicken flavor bouillon.
- Mix well.
You can serve as is or serve as tacos.
- Heat La Banderita tortillas (Cors or flour) on griddle.
- On top of the tortillas add 2-3 tablespoons of carne con nopales.
- Top with Cilantro and beans.