Sweet and savory Mexican treats

“Here I sit, broken hearted.
Wanted dip, but out of salsa.
It’s on sale, at the store.
Add beans and cheese, now what more?
Oh, wait... Bakery has ginger pigs.
Well now, don’t they hit the spot?”

There are times I am a very sincere and deep meaning poet, and then the comedian just can’t keep silent.

For several months, Blue Mountain Foods sold ginger pig cookies, and I have recently seen them in the bakery section at City Market in Cortez.

Ginger pigs? Why pigs? Why not cows, sheep, or horses? Pigs are not a popular stock on local farms and ranches, so what’s the attraction?

Research led me to Mexico and a popular sweet treat sold in every bakery.

A pan Dulce (or sweet bread), Cochinitos de piloncillo (also known as marranitos), cochinitos, and puerquitos (all meaning “pig” or “little pigs” in Spanish) are often referred to as “ginger pigs” or “gingerbread pigs.”

However, they typically don’t contain ginger or cinnamon, and a traditional recipe uses unsulfured molasses, which gives the cookies their dark brown color.

The origin of the cookie dates back to the 16th century, but the explorers and colonists of Spain introduced the Mesoamerican people to the addition of other ingredients such as honey and cinnamon.

In later centuries, as Mexicans traveled to the United States and brought their recipes with them, they were further introduced to baking soda, baking powder, and the addition of eggs to create puffy cookies.

Brushing with egg wash (a mixture of egg with milk or water) produces a sheen on the little piggies.

In Mexican culture, these cookies are often enjoyed for breakfast with milk or coffee. I find them to be a tasty treat for any reason.

As with gingerbread cookies, a smear of lemon curd gives the taste buds a zing! Want the zing to be all cookie? Then additions of ground ginger and cinnamon will give the desired effect.

I found a food blog called Isabel Eats, written by a first-generation Mexican American who loves to cook favorite authentic Mexican recipes, sometimes with a twist. It’s her recipe I’ll share with you.

Marranitos (Mexican Gingerbread Pigs)

(www.isabeleats.com/marranitos-mexican-gingerbread-pigs/)

Ingredients: 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened; 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed; 2 large eggs; 3/4 cup unsulfured molasses; 1/4 cup milk; 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract; 5 cups all-purpose flour; 2 tsp ground ginger; 1 1/2 tsp baking soda; 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Cream butter until smooth in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the dark brown sugar and mix until well combined. Add in one egg, molasses, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix together until smooth.

In a separate large bowl, add flour, ground ginger, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix together to combine.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients one cup at a time and mix until well combined. The dough should cleanly pull away from the mixing bowl.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 3/8 inch thickness (or a little less than half an inch). Use a pig shaped cookie cutter to cut into pigs.

Place pigs 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Crack open the remaining egg into a small bowl and whisk. Brush the beaten egg over the tops of the pigs using a pastry brush.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.

Makes approximately two dozen, dependent on size of cookie cutter used.

(Note: Want more “bite” to the cookies? Add an extra ½ tsp. of ginger and cinnamon to the recipe.)

Now back to my little poem at the beginning. Did you ever see the commercial for Velveeta cheese which adds in a jar of salsa?

Easy, cheesy salsa dip, right? I developed my own recipe that I served at Dungeons and Dragons games, and it was always a huge hit (without rolling a D20!).

Mexican Dip

Ingredients: 1 (15.5 oz.) jar mild or medium salsa, 1 (16 oz.) can refried beans

And the third ingredient: Cheese – this is the “your choice” part.

#1 – 16 oz. cubed Velveeta

#2 – 1 (15.5 oz.) jar of queso dip (yes, it has some salsa in it, but more is always better)

#3 – 1 (8 oz.) bag of shredded Mexican cheese mix

Chips for dipping (Tostitos scoops are great for this!)

Preparation:

In a microwaveable safe medium-sized bowl, mix salsa, beans, and cheese. Cover bowl and microwave on high for three minutes; stir well. Repeat microwaving and stirring.

Enjoy, and don’t be surprised to find yourself making another bowl of this.

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