Hey everybody! I’m Melody Mercado, the Registers Des Moines city government reporter, and I’m a “Saturday Night Live” host wannabe.
Welcome to my edition of Off Hours, a free weekly newsletter about all the entertainment from the Des Moines Register. Good holiday!
Here’s the deal: A Latino Christmas is the best type of Christmas.
I’m Puerto Rican, and if you’ve never been to a Puerto Rico party … I feel sorry for you. We know how to eat, drink and are happy. I mean even our Christmas music proves that point – with a baby Jesus thrown in here and there.
Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite holiday songs “Me Gustan las Navidades”, which is often spun in the Mercado family.
i like christmas (I love the Christmas holidays)
Tell them Puerto Rico (With a taste of Puerto Rico)
Eat cakes and suckling pig (eats cakes and fried pork)
And give me some sticks (And drinks a little bit)
Some of my favorite holiday memories include helping my mom cook. OK, my cooking was basically tasting, but don’t blame me: the aromas from that kitchen would make anyone’s stomach grumble with greed.
My mom’s most in demand dishes are rice with sun loungers, sofrito rice with pork and peas; rice porridge, a rice porridge; and coquito, our version of eggnog, but without the eggs.
Made from coconut milk, rum, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, coquito is served in a small stone glass over ice cream from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. By mixing large batches while playing merengue in the background, my mom poured the delicious concoction into empty champagne bottles and gave them as gifts during the holiday season.
If you received a bottle from my mother, you knew you made it.
Now I continue that tradition with my friends, it’s a love job that I really enjoy every year. We are not a family that has written recipes. Everything on our table is made from memory, but I have managed to get my mother to write down her coquito recipe. My mom may be over 300 miles away in Illinois, but just a sip is enough to transport me back to her kitchen. Hello!
Check out my mom’s coquito recipe below and tell me your stories about making this Puerto Rican favorite! Write to me at MMercado@registermedia.com or @melodymercadotv.
My Top 3: Food that reminds me of home on vacation
1. Cakes from El Coqui 515: If you’ve got Mexican tamales, you’ve halfway there cakes, a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas dish. The outer part of a cakes is made from different types of root vegetables instead of corn, and the filling is most often made from stewed pork, green manzanilla olives and roasted red peppers. El Coqui 515, a popular food truck and my favorite solution for all of Puerto Rico, is selling them under a small window in December. If you did not reach the cut this year, make sure you do not miss them next year.
2. Sweet tamales from Mama Laura Meals: It’s not really vacation until I fry next to my best friend’s fireplace and eat her grandmother’s homemade sweet tamales. But a close second place are the delicacies made by Mama Laura Meals. My favorite is her pineapple flavor, which just melts in your mouth. See her Instagram page for announcements, and do not sleep on her traditional tamales, tortas and birria.
3. Rice porridge from Mi Patria: Though rice porridge is a Puerto Rican favorite, Mi Patria, an Ecuadorian restaurant in West Des Moines, is the only place in the subway where I have been able to find this uniquely spicy rice porridge. Order it year round for only $ 5.
Where do you go to taste the home? Beat me up with your favorites at MMercado@registermedia.com or show me a picture on Instagram at melody_ann_mercado.
Eat it, drink it
Mac and Cheese at The Cheese Bar – $ 7 per page: When you feel snacky and you feel like spicy, The Cheese Bar has your solution. Each bite of this mac and cheese features thick rigatoni noodles topped with a béchamel sauce made with deep servings of Frisian Farms Gouda and Hooks four-year-old cheddar and topped with breadcrumbs for an extra crunch.
Get it:The cheese bar on Ingersoll Avenue is open Tuesday to Saturday at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Aloha smoothie from The Juice Co. – $ 5: It feels healthy to grab an Aloha smoothie from The Juice Co., the cute little boutique in the Roosevelt stores. The non-dairy blend combines strawberries, mangoes, bananas and pineapples for an escape from winter to the ocean waters around Hawaii.
Get it:The Juice Co. pours his smoothies, wheatgrass and juice from Monday to Friday from noon. 7.30 to 18.00 and again on weekends from kl. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
48 hours free
Friday night: If you need to get out of the house to prevent yourself from opening presents, head to the Waterbury Luminaries on Waterbury Road in Des Moines. At dusk, the residents of this western neighborhood turn on their lights and let them burn through the night, creating a brilliant flashing screen. Park and walk or drive, depending on the weather.
Saturday afternoon: Go to select theaters to see the biopic of Iowa native Kurt Warner in “American Underdog.” The film follows the former St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks progress to fame in the NFL.
Sunday morning: After one too many glasses coquito, who really wants to cook? Not me. Head to the Drake Diner, which is confirmed to be open, for a relaxing meal after Christmas. Best part? Breakfast is served all day, so take some time to get up.
From the kitchen by: Ana Market
A few years ago, I called my mom and asked her to give me the recipe coquito so I could make it for friends. And again, these would mean that you have to spend for these processes quite a big deal. Give it a try and make it as strong as you want – do not forget to taste as you go!
- 2 12-oz. cans of evaporated milk
- 2 15-oz. cans of coconut cream
- 2 13.5 oz. cans of coconut milk
- 1 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 cups of your favorite dark, spicy rum, preferably a Puerto Rican brand like Bacardi. Clear rum will make the drink a little bitter.
Combine all ingredients except rum in a blender and blend on high until well incorporated. Add rum and blend on high again. Add more rum to taste. Cool overnight.
Continue the Mercado gift tradition and pour coquito in an old wine bottle or a recyclable glass bottle like this one at Target.
Be sure to shake before serving; ingredients tend to separate. Serve in a small stone glass over ice.
Note: This recipe is written for a blender that can hold more than eight cups of liquid. If your blender is smaller, split the recipe in half.
What is your favorite holiday drink? Shoot me a line (and a recipe) at MMercado@registermedia.com.
Around the town
My day job
It’s budget season for the city of Des Moines, so check out my article on how the city of Des Moines creates its budget and how the city’s department boundaries changed along with my profile of Zuli Garcia, a person to keep an eye on to provide essential resources to the Latino community. in central Iowa through her nonprofit Knock and Drop.
Put a cross in the calendar next week to read something special from the Register’s food reporter Elle Wignall, who will set her intentions for 2022.