Sopa de Letras

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Sopa de Letras
Story and photos by Elizabeth Arredondo

Being 193 miles away from home can make one very homesick. Sometimes the only thing that can cure your homesickness is making one of your favorite childhood dishes. Ximena Mondragaon, a sophomore political science major, is no stranger to learning and working in the kitchen. She started learning how to cook at the young age of 9 years old. Her favorite dishes are soap de letras and green enchiladas. She is a daughter, sister, friend, student, and role model. She aspires to run for governor and be a political science professor in the future.
Mondragon is very involved on campus and she loves that St. Mary’s University has given her many opportunities in life. “I love the community of St. Mary’s University. Everyone has been so kind to me and really helpful. I also like all the opportunities St. Mary’s has provided me with” Mondragon says. She is a part of the Marianist Leadership Program, Kappa Delta Chi, and Mecha. She also started her own Political Science club.
The dish she prepared is called Sopa de Letras and it is one of her favorites. “The dish prepared has been passed down trough generations. This soup is the first thing the women in my family learn to cook. I learned to cook this soup when I was 9 years old. At 9 I started to learn how to cook and from there I have learned to cook many Mexican dishes. I love going home to cook with my mom and grandma because its a bonding and learning time. I will one day pass down this dish to my kids.” she says.

Sopa De Letras

Ingredients
• 1 Bag of La Moderna Alphabets/Letras
• 2 cubes of Caldo de Pollo Bouillos
• 2 Slices of chicken breasts
• 2 pieces of celery
• 2 whole carrots
• 1 Bulk of Garlic
• 2 Medium Tomatoes
• Vegetable Oil
• 1 Onion

Directions

1. Open and wash the chicken
2. Lay out 2 strips of chicken on a chopping board and chop it up into little pieces
3. Chop up carrots and celery into small pieces
4. Blend tomatoes, garlic, onion and 1250ml of water
5. Heat up a large round pot and add a dime size amount of vegetable oil
6. Put pasta into the bowl and slowly stir until golden
7. Add blended ingredients to the pot
8. Add chopped up chicken to the pot
9. Add chopped up veggies into the pot
10. Add 2 bouillons
11. Stir into boil
12. Let the pot sit for 15 minutes
13. Serve

Serves 6-8 people

Southern Fried Cabbage

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Southern Fried Cabbage
Story and Photos by Daria Flowers

A love for flavor, spices, and wholesome food is what has created Stephanie Hill’s love for cooking.

A St. Mary’ University alumna, Hill graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and is currently pursing her master’s degree in educational leadership at Schreiner University where she will graduate in May.

Outside of her studies, she currently serves as the After School Care Coordinator for SAISD.

“I really love working with children, I always have! When I was a student at St. Mary’s, I was involved in Best Buddies and I enjoyed every single minute of it.

As far as my job, the kids definitely keep me busy, but I love that! They always brighten my day and they teach me something new everyday,” Hill says.

The kitchen holds a special place in her heart. “I remember being a little girl and I would watch my mother and my grandmother in the kitchen,” she says. Hill also mentions her cooking inspiration: “My aunt is also an amazing chef!

I lived with her for a little while and she always had me in the kitchen, ‘Stephanie! Come here and cut this up, or Stephanie! Come here and taste this!’”

The dish of Southern Fried Cabbage has been in Hill’s family for as long as she can remember. “My grandma taught me how to make it when I younger. Everyone in my family loves this dish and knows how to make it, but we all put a different spin on it,” she says.

She has always had a large palette and loves ethnic food and those rich in flavor. “I am originally from Arizona and I transferred to St. Mary’s my junior year. So, something that I really regret was not studying abroad while in college,” she explains.

Since graduating in 2014, she has made the effort to travel. “One day I would like to travel to Spain or Dubai,” she says.

Hill likes to cook simple dishes with her own spin on it. “My aunt taught me that the secret in any dish that cook are the spices! She never measures the seasonings and spices that she adds to a dish. That is something that we share in common,” Hill says.

According to Hill, the secret to perfecting the perfect Southern Fried Cabbage dish is all in the seasoning. “The combination of the Cajun Seasoning, tomatoes, and spiciness of the Andouille sausage.

I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority incorporated and I made this dish once for my sorority sisters and they loved it and said the same thing!”

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cabbage heads
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 pack of Andouille sausage
  • ½ of diced yellow onion
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • ½ tablespoon of salt
  • ½ tablespoon of pepper
  • Cajun seasoning (season to taste)
  • ¼ cup of green onions

Makes 4 servings

 

Directions

Using a large sauté pan, pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add sausage to the pan. While sausage is cooking, wash and peel cabbage. After peeling the cabbage, you will cut it into smaller pieces. You will also cut the onions as well. After the sausage is cooked, remove it from the pot and place on a plate. Add butter to the pan. In addition, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped cabbage, diced tomatoes and yellow onions into the pan. Let it cook for a few minutes before adding the sausage back in. Garnish with pan with green onions and serve the dish immediately.

 

 

Meatloaf

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Meatloaf, The best kind of Comfort food.
Story and Photos by Isabel Vera

Cooking is the easiest way to bring together and feed a family. Lucia Vera, a St. Mary’s alumna, has always believed the act of cooking food was a way to provide for her family.

This notion was inherited from her mother who not only taught her how to cook but also about the significance of taking on this role.

“I like cooking all types of food from traditionally Mexican food, Chinese, Italian, American, and even Indian food,” she says.

Coming from a family of 13, she learned that cooking was an act of labor and love and that it brings people together.

“I remember watching my mother roll out tortillas and make enough for all of my brothers, sisters, dad, and herself to have every day,” Vera says.

Vera chose an American comfort food that would be quick to make and to prepare. With St. Mary’s being her alma mater.

She wanted a simple and easy dish to serve and eat. Spring time at St. Mary’s is known for Oyster Bake and that annual event is full of simple foods.

Vera wants to replicate this simplicity with a spring time dish people could enjoy quickly.

“I not only like to cook multiple types of dishes but I like many different types of food and like to infuse that in my daily meal preparations,” she says.

“There are definitely dishes that I like to cook that have cultural significance but this dish does not have any special significance other than it being a comfort food. It is just a nice simple meal to make and eat,” Vera explains.

Meatloaf has many variations such as either topping it with gravy or with a tomato-based product, or even choosing to add certain vegetables like onions.

Although it is a recipe that essentially has you “mixes meat and a few spices and vegetables,” the way the product tastes depends on preference and experience with the dish.

Vera’s advice is to add certain spices such as pepper and salt along the way and not just at one time.

She also advises to put foil on the meatloaf to control how the meatloaf cooks.

Taking off the foil at the 45 minute mark will “brown” the top half of the dish to allow for a more appetizing meatloaf.

Vera suggests to add some side dishes with meatloaf such as mashed potatoes to compliment it.

“Meatloaf by itself can be boring but adding just a simple side dish can make a huge difference. Cooking is a joy of mine that I hope to pass down to my daughters just as my mom did for me,” Vera concludes.

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs. of ground beef
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 ½ cup of oats
  • 3 tsp. garlic
  • ¾ cup of diced bell pepper
  • ¼ diced onion (optional)
  • 1 tsp. of black pepper
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • 2 (6 oz) can of tomato paste
  • 1 (8 oz) can of tomato sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dice the bell pepper and onion. In a mixing bowl mix the ground beef, eggs, oats, garlic, salt, and pepper into one raw mixture. Add in the bell pepper and onion. Mix in tomato paste and tomato sauce. Spray Pam in the pan that being used for the meatloaf. Place and press mixture firmly and evenly into pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 ½ hours. Take out of oven and let cool down. Makes 15 servings.

Crafting the art of Sushi

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Dragon Roll Sushi by Louie Anthony Cortez
Story and photos by Ricardo Reyes

St. Mary’s University has and continues to bring a diverse set of students through its doors over the years, each with their own set of skills. Louie Anthony Cortez was one of those students, skilled in writing and cooking.

Cortez graduated from St. Mary’s with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2000 and a master’s degree in English Literature and Language in 2010. For over 15 years, Cortez has served as the office coordinator at the Blume Library. His passions have always included writing and cooking. While writing is a prominent activity in his life, the skill of cooking came later.

Cortez’s love for cooking began after he graduated with his bachelor’s degree and returned to live at home with his parents.

“Cooking provided me the opportunity to foster a relationship with my mother I did not have before college. It also made me much more independent,” Cortez says.

Like many Hispanic families, food is a way of communicating and bonding. While his first dishes were traditionally Hispanic recipes like enchiladas or tamales, Cortez has also taken a fondness for Asian cuisine.

The dragon roll sushi is one of Cortez’s favorite entrees because of its simplicity and versatility in combining some of his favorite seafood: crab and shrimp.

“Not only is it delicious, but I love making this dish with friends. It is a lot of fun teaching someone how to make their own sushi,” he says.

Dragon Roll Sushi

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sushi rice
  • 4-6 nori sheets
  • 20 medium size shrimps
  • 1 cup Tempura
  • 2 Avocado
  • 2 Cucumber
  • 100gr Tobiko
  • 100gr BBQed eel or Crab

Directions

  1. First, mix the tempura with a little bit of water and stir until combined to a thick even mixture. Cut off shrimp tails, and dip the shrimps, one by one, in tempura mixture and deep fry for about 30 sec or until the outside gets golden-brownish.
  2. Slice the cucumber into long slices, and use a peeler to peal thin avocado layers.
  3. Spread the rice on the nori sheet, and flip it over the mat so that the rice is now facing upwards. Lay the avocado the cucumber sticks you have cut in advance, and line up some tempura shrimps and on top of that slices of eel. Roll it inside-out style and cut the endings, but leave the rest whole for now
  4. Elegantly, cover the top of the roll with the layers of avocado you made with the peeler, and use the bamboo mat to tighten it to the roll.
  5. Use a little spoon to carefully spread some Tobiko on the roll.

Makes 2 servings

6th Magazine Launch Party

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The sixth Taste of StMU magazine launch hosted over 85 people to try the dishes of 14 different chefs on Wednesday, April 12 in UC-A. Each chef was invited by one of the graphic design students in Brother Dennis Bautista’s graphic design course.

Bautista, professor of English and communication studies, teaches his graphic design course every other semester. Throughout the course of the semester, the students prepare for their magazines. The course begins by offering several tutorials on the programs needed to produce the magazine. After the tutorials, photojournalism tips, gathered content and much needed collaboration from classmates, a magazine is born.

This year the students each created a 12-page, full color magazine. The featured dishes at this year’s magazine launch included Sopa de Letra, Flan de Queso, Canoas, Siracha Chicken Alfredo, Southern Fried Cabbage, Cheezy Pizza Roll-Up, Quickie Chili, Bibimbap, Enchiladas Verdes, Dragon Roll Sushi, Strawberry Jelly Cake, Meatloaf, Tinga and Pizza Rolls.

Along with the graphic design students, faculty, staff and alumni, there were also five professional graphic designer judges in attendance. The five judges included Emily Harris, graphic designer at St. Mary’s; Kristen Cadena, graphic designer at St. Mary’s; Martha Dixon, alumna (B.A. in English communication arts) and founder of 50-foot Creative Design and Marketing; Amanda Rodriguez, alumna (B.A. in English communication arts) and marketing programs developer at Southwest Business Corporation; and Charles Ramirez, alumnus (B.A. in English communication arts) and graphic design coordinator or the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Each judge was invited to attend the event by Bautista. The professional designers were in charge of going through all 14 magazines and voting on the “Professionals’ Choice Award” winner. Everyone else who attended the event also had the opprotunity to cast a vote for the “People’s Choice Award” winner.

The People’s Choice award went to Madison Perales, sophomore communication studies major, and her chef, Ricardo Garcia, who is a senior psychology major. They earned a total of 81 votes from the people who attended the event.

This year, the Professionals’ Choice Award went to Xuanzi Elly Liu [see magazine], exchange student from Beihang University and current junior English major. Her chef was Jsiu Lim, student from south Korea.

Both winning chefs were presented with an appreciation apron that had the Taste of Stmu logo on it. All chefs were also presented with a $25 gift card from one of the sponsors of the event, Fratello’s Deli.

The other sponsor of the event, Henry’s Puffy Tacos, also made the event possible with their generous donations; Aramark also assisted with the event by providing all the heating equipment for the dishes being served.

Everyone enjoyed looking at the magazines, taking a break from their busy day and having a bite to eat from the 14 chefs.

 

Strawberry Jelly Cake

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Strawberry Jelly Cake
Story and Photos by Selina Rodriguez

A good challenge and spending quality time with others is something that inspired Iris Bermea, an alumna of St. Mary’s Univeristy, to choose cooking as a hobby.

Bermea graduated from St. Mary’s with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science and is currently working for Cadillac dealership.

“I enjoy the company I work for right now and plan on growing with it,” she says.

Bermea says her love of cooking and baking was inspired by her mother whom she watched cook just about every family meal since she was little.

“I remember always wanting to help my mom cook for our family and being really proud when everyone liked the meal we had prepared,” she says.

“She has taught me to cook every dish that I now know how to make and I am so grateful to her for that. I am trying to make some new dishes here and there though,” Bermea says.

In 2016, Bermea’s chili recipe won 2nd Place at the St. Mary’s inaugural chill cook-off.

“St. Mary’s was a great university to attend. I love the community-based environment; nothing compares to the friendships I made there,” she says.

“I thought I would prepare this new cake dish because I have a co-worker’s birthday coming up. I love making recipes with and for people. It’s a good and inexpensive way to make people feel special on their birthdays because they know you put in that effort for them,” she says.

“I don’t really have a favorite type of food. I truly love all kinds. I am not a picky eater at all but I love my mom’s chicken quesadillas if I had to pick,” she says.

To a fellow cook or baker, Bermea offers important advice.

“Never give up on trying to perfect a dish. It won’t always be a piece of cake, but just try to enjoy it and learn from mistakes you make. You will get better with practice and a positive attitude,” Bermea advises.

Ingredients

  • 1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix
  • 1 (3-ounce) box strawberry-flavored instant gelatin
  • 1 (15-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
  • 7 cups confectioners’ sugar

Makes 8 servings.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Then, in a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour into prepared pans, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. For the frosting: In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree and the strawberry extract. (The rest of the puree is leftover but can be used in smoothies or on ice cream for a delicious treat.) Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth. Spread frosting in between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, if desired.

 

Paleo Stuffed Avocados with Cilantro Cream Sauce

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Healthy Paleo-Diet Keeps Hall Director Motivated
Story and Photos by Paige Gandara-Valderas

As a full-time hall director in Founders Hall, Samantha Garcia enjoys cooking when she can.

Garcia, a San Antonio native, received her undergraduate degree in leadership and development from Texas A&M and a graduate degree in Seattle. She enjoys that St. Mary’s has a nice family feel to it and that everyone supports
one another.

“We all have each others backs. It’s an ‘I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine… and if you can’t scratch it back just yet, don’t worry about it’,” Garcia says.

Growing up in San Antonio, Garcia’s favorite foods are primarily Mexican. Her favorite ingredient is avocado. She uses avocados in just about anything she eats.

“You can put avocados in any dish and it goes great with Mexican food!” Garcia says. “I love avocados even in my smoothies.”

The dish that Garcia prepares is Paleo Stuffed Avocados with Cilantro Cream Sauce, a recipe from her sister.

Cassy Joy Garcia, Garcia’s sister, is a food blogger and soon-to-be published author. She runs her own website at Fedandfit.com.

The significance of  the dish was to showcase a  healthy option and also because it is one of her sister’s first dishes. Garcia’s tip on preparing the dish is to not overcook the avocados in the oven because they can burn easily and ruin the flavor.

Garcia also enjoys her yoga workouts. Yoga, for Garcia, is a great exercise.

Garcia likes to promote mental, emotional and physical health. Garcia has also done a podcast series with her sister called “Fed and Fit Podcast: College Student Series,” which is five episodes long.

“I’ve been in college for a really long time and I am able to give a lot of insight about that. Especially since I work with college students on a daily basis,” Garcia says.

There should always be that leeway according to Garcia. It’s important for her to live in a balanced lifestyle.

“It’s all about that 80-20 balance. Eighty percent should be a really healthy portion, but 20 percent is whatever you want,” Garcia says.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 5 avocados
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Chicken broth
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 4 limes for lime juice

 

Directions

Sautee 4 cloves of garlic with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil for flavor.Then, wash, dry and season the chicken tenders with a pinch of kosher salt, then sautee in extra-virgin olive oil. After that, simmer the chicken tenders in broth for about 20 minutes, then shred immideately after. Add the cumin, chili powder, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and the black pepper to the shredded chicken to taste.Halve and de-seed five avocados and lay them out on the baking sheet to bake at 400 F for 5 minutes. For the cream sauce, stir one can of full-fat coconut milk, lime juice and cilantro. After the avocados are baked, pull out of the oven and drizzle with the cream sauce to serve.