Monday, February 8, 2010

Our Little Grandma's Recipes

My Great-Grandmother, our "Little Grandma," was born and raised in Queretaro, Mexico. She married and moved with her three small children to the states, where she loved and raised them (along with a perfect garden) on a very tight budget. These are some of her family favorites.

I have never attempted all of her best dinner recipes at once, so I figured it was high time I tried. My mom and grandparents have cooked this meal to perfection for us so many times, and my sisters have already successfully tackled most of these recipes. I had been the lazy one. But after a long day of cooking, I realized it was well worth the effort. Everything tasted great! Thanks to my mom for writing down the original recipes for me to follow. I forgot to get my own picture of the rice since it finished later than the rest of the meal. So I stole a pic of what it looks like. :) The only thing missing is tamales. I promise to tackle those at a later date!

The best way to eat this food is all piled high on one plate so the flavors mingle. And don't shy away once you read that one ingredient... l-a-r-d. That is a native ingredient in many Mexican dishes and you don't need a mound to add a lot of flavor. And did you know it actually has less saturated fat than butter? My Little Grandma lived to see her 96th year and she cooked with it—a lot. So enjoy a little flavor in your life, and spice doesn't hurt either!

Another quick ingredient tidbit... She used parmesan and romano cheeses because the actual mexican queso blanco she preferred was not as available in the states then. They are very similar in texture and melting properties.

Thanks, Little Grandma, for all you taught your son (Gramps), his wife (Gram), and your grand-kids, my Mom and Uncle. You were one of the most loving and talented people our family has known. You are loved and missed. We hope these recipes live on. I think they will.

Refried Beans

6 cans pinto beans (feel free to soak dry beans overnight if you prefer!)
2 T lard
1 med onion and 3 large cloves garlic chopped
8 oz monterey jack or pepper jack cheese
crushed red pepper flakes
salt to taste

In a flat pan, large enough to hold six cans of beans, saute onions and garlic until tender. Add 5 cans of drained beans and 1 can undrained. Bring mixture to a simmer and begin mashing with a potato masher. Lower heat if needed and mash until most of the beans are crushed. Add chunks of cheese until melted and mix thoroughly. Add pinch of pepper flakes. More if you like them with a kick and salt to taste. Add a couple of tablespoons of parmesan and mix. Mixture should resemble a thick and chunky cake mix. Pour into serving bowl and sprinkle with parmesan and crushed red pepper. Do not cover or the beans will get soggy. Let set until cool.


2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1-2 T lard of shortening

Sift flour and salt together and rub fat in with fingertips until mixture resembles course bread crumbs. Gradually add up to 1/2 c water until mixes into a soft dough. Do not knead too much or it will make tortillas tough. Roll dough into a dozen portions into thin rounds about 6 inch circles. Cook on heated (ungreased) griddle 1-2 min per side until light golden color and slightly puffy. Adjust griddle heat if necessary. Stack tortillas and wrap in foil to keep warm in oven.


You can make these the night before and the flavor gets better with time!

Make your own tortillas or store bought flour tortillas are fine. I used the med. size.
This sauce recipe will make about 10 enchiladas. The flavor is amazing even without any meat or beans!

3 large onions
2 T lard (this is what MAKES this recipe!)
2 c Ramano cheese
Large can of tomato sauce (roughly 40 oz)
Chili powder
Salt to taste in sauce

In fry pan, saute onions in lard. Add enough chili powder to turn onions red. (How's that for vague!) You will need a lot of chili powder and can add more later after it cooks together for a bit. 2 t of cumin should do it.
Add tomato sauce and simmer for 10 min. Taste. If there is more of a tomato taste than chili powder than add more until there is more chili. Remove from heat.
Take each tortilla and dip into sauce one side and then the other. Place on plate and place a row of the onions from the sauce down middle of tortilla along with a good sprinkle of romano cheese. Roll up and place seam side down in a pan coated with cooking spray. Fill pan with enchiladas and then coat with remaining sauce and sprinkle of cheese. Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven for 20 min until heated through. Cover with foil until ready to serve.

Roasted Chicken (that picture above shows them in their raw state, in case you were wondering!)

Two whole chickens (for 8-10 people)
lard or butter
salt and pepper

Wash chickens with cold water and pat dry. Set breast side up in roasting pan. Rub with lard or butter and liberally coat with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 min uncovered. Turn oven down to 325 degrees. Baste every half hour. Should take about 1.5-2 hours more to cook until chickens are golden and until the leg feels like the palm of your hand by your thumb (my Little Grandma's tip!) If you touch the leg and it separates easily from the body it is done. Wrap in foil to keep warm.

Spanish Rice

1 med onion chopped
4 large garlic cloves chopped
1 large green or red pepper chopped
3 cups rice
1 small can crushed tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes
1 large can chicken broth (need 6 cups)
1 pinch saffron
Diced pepperoncini- if you like that flavor can be added after the broth.

In a dutch oven type pot saute onion, garlic, and pepper. Add rice and brown over med. heat stirring should take about 5 min. Add crushed tomatoes and stir mixture quickly until sizzling. Add 6 c broth. Add salt and pepper. Stir. Allow mixture to come to a boil. Turn heat to low and cover until broth is absorbed. Fluff rice with fork.

Add in a crisp salad with in-season veggies and there you have it.

Mangia~ Tracey


  1. Best rice ever. Nice work, T. :)

    Oh yeah, and the chicken wasn't half-bad, either!!

  2. we will need to have a tamale making party
    soon. I'm proud of you Trac.