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Kenia Cueto | The Balanced Mom Magazine

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Holiday Tamale

by Kenia Cueto

Can you imagine this coming holiday without your family’s traditional dish? Some would say the special occasion would lose much of its significance without the meal. Whether traditional meal items carry a religious or traditional mean- ing, foods tend to elevate the occasion to another level of significance. As music changes the ambiance of an event, so does food. Aromatic flavors travel throughout the house during the preparation stages telling us our special holiday is here. The process of diligently following the recipe is also critical in order to keep with tradition. For the sake of tradition, cultural or religious meaning, the taste must remain the same. One thing for certain, changing the recipe or neglect- ing to make your traditional dish will put you in “hot water”.

Universal traditional holiday recipes could be traced back generations while others follow more of a cultural trail. One great example is the Mexican Tamale. While the tamale is a traditional Mexican holiday menu item, it also includes distinct ingredients carried through family recipes. Abuelita’s tamales may not taste good to Johnny down the street because he is used to his own abuelita’s tamale recipe.

Aside from its provincial nuances in tastes and traditional making techniques, the tamale has evolved. With the advent of the Food Channel and Food Network shows the likes of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Chopped, Urban Rajah and Barefoot Contessa, new recent trends have given way to creative organic, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free recipes. For example, substituting olive oil or canola oils instead of using lard and adding roasted peppers, carrots, spinach and or cheese have excited even the most skeptical of eaters. Fusion of cultural tastes has also created unique diverse flavors. Adding sofrito, a Caribbean and Latin American sauce of tomatoes, chopped onions, peppers, garlic, and herbs into the filling welcomes multiethnic pride to the table. With California’s multicultural population and fusion of culinary dishes, the tamale is no longer exclusive to the Latino community, it has found its way across the U.S. border and welcomed into the homes of families from all over the world.

2 large roasting chickens
2 large onions
Salt to taste
8-10 garlic cloves
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots

Water enough to cover chicken Cut, skin, and rinse chicken before placing large pot. Add ingredients and bring to boil. Cover and lower to medium heat for approximately 20-30 minutes. Let cool and manually shred chicken. Place in large bowl and cover until ready to prepare. This process can be done one day before the party. If you decide to cook one family pack, cut the recipe in half.


2 large onions
5-6 crushed garlic cloves (to taste)
1 chopped green bell peppers
2 chopped yellow or orange
bell peppers
1 1/2- teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt to taste
1/4 cup olive oil (enough to lightly cover the pan)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers oregano and cumin. Stir until vegetables are tender, 5-6 minutes. Add crushed garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes. If you do not have a large enough pan, divide the recipe in half.


Once the sofrito is complete, add the shredded chicken and mix in the large skillet for approximately 2-3 minutes. If you feel there is too much sofrito, leave some out.

Place in a large bowl. Cool for 1 hour then refrigerate. Do this the day of or the day before the TAMALADA. Note: This filling could also be used for tacos, burritos or enchiladas.


15 large dried chilies (such as Anaheim, New Mexico, California, or pasilla)
4 -5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt to taste
Chicken broth from boiled chicken (enough to cover chiles)

Use rubber gloves to remove stems and seeds from the chile pods. Place chiles in a saucepan with 2 cups of water, garlic, cumin and salt to taste. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then remove from heat to cool. Transfer the chiles and to a blender and add chicken or pork broth and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture, stir in salt, and set aside. Shred the cooked meat and mix in enough to add color to your meat. Add chili sauce to your masa to give it a rich orange color. This gives the masa an added rich flavor.


2-3 large bags of corn husks (Latin super market)
5-6 lbs of “masa preparada” (prepared masa with lard) from local Mexican market

Soak the corn husks in kitchen sink full of warm water for about and hour.

Spread the dough thinly and evenly over the entire bottom 3/4 of the corn husks with a small spatula, spreader or spoon. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the meat or cheese filling into the center. Fold the sides of the husks in toward the center and place in a steamer. Steam for 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the amount of tamales you will be steaming.

Remove tamales from husks. Top with sour cream and salsa and serve with rice and beans.

Recommended YouTube Tips for Basics on How to Make Tamales: Homemade-Tamales/


1 lbs. pinto beans
1 Tbs. salt or to taste
3-4 large fresh garlic whole cloves
1 medium yellow or white onion (cut in fourths)
1/2 cup of freshly graded Monterrey cheese
1/4 cup of Corn or Canola oil

First Step: Double rinse the beans in colander. Place beans in large pot and add enough water to cover beans by about 2 inches. Add salt, whole garlic and onion and allow boiling in high heat. Once at a vigorous boil, make sure 2 inches of water remains in pot. If not, add more water and wait for boil. Lower heat to medium low or low and cover. The water should be slowing boiling. *You MUST check the beans every 15-20 minutes to make sure there is enough water. Keep on adding water to the 2” mark until beans are soft.

Second Step: Add oil in large frying pan. Make sure pan is covered with oil. Allow to heat before placing half or less of the amount of beans and liquid from your pot. *Be very careful, oil will begin to splatter when hot. Allow to boil briefly then lower heat to low. Add cheese and stir periodically. Watch beans thicken in consistency. Add water from pot if too dry. Once the consistency looks creamy (about 5-10 minutes) begin to mash beans with potatoes masher. Serve immediately.

Note: All ingredients are approximated amounts. Please feel free to add more or less to your recipe.

Beans can be store shelved for years making the beans hard and old. When purchasing beans make sure to go to a Latino market or a specialty store such as Whole Foods. For better freshness, purchase beans from bins instead of packages.

If feeling a bit wild, fry bacon and use oil for a great different taste. Want to get hot? Add one sliced jalapeno to the mix.

by Kenia Hernandez-Cueto

California is one of the most sought after destinations in the world for travelers. Its landscape is as diverse as the popula- tion inhabiting it. With its increasingly growing ethnic groups, California has grown to be the melting pot of the world. Families flock to vacation spots throughout the state to seek multiple cultural experiences in its diverse demographic make-up the likes of a trip around the world. They could experience the refreshing touch of the expansive California Pacific Ocean Coast, the rugged terrain and swelter- ing heat generated from the hot desert landscape, or the crisp freshness of high mountain resorts all in an amaz- ingly close proximity to one another. Newcomers are also pleasantly sur- prised to find added access to com- munities much different from their own, which share rich cultural traditions and nuances from countries miles away.

The beauty of cultural diversity and rich traditions tend to get lost in the chaos of life here in California and, for this reason, some parents take on the task to weave the teachings of cultural awareness and understanding into their every day life lessons. How can more parents expose and share diverse cultural treasures with their children that are not so hidden within our midst?

Parenting with a purpose allows one to focus on specifics they believe are important in the development of a child’s formation. Teaching and modeling values, morals, and religion are some of the fundamental building blocks that guide children toward a purposeful beginning. Within these morals and values are cultural acceptance, understanding, and respect towards human kind.

In addition, exposure to diverse experiences enhances life involvement and further exploration of ones own uniqueness. Self-awareness is enhanced and curiosity into ones own personal history and lineage becomes heightened. Making time to follow ancestral heritage allows families to recognize familial and traditional distinctions that best explains who they are. The process of self-discovery through cultural awareness could well be the motivating factor to further multicultural discoveries.

Statistics; According to the 2010 Census, 57.6% of the population claimed to be white, while 40.1% were non-Hispanic white. 13% were Asian and 6.2% Black. Other groups con- sisted of Native American, Hispanic, Latino and others. California’s multi- cultural population of 37,253,956 is the most populous in the country.

Although children are born with their own personalities, traits and individual idiosyncrasies, parents have the ability to impart purposeful teachings their children could carry throughout their lifetime.

Multicultural Experiences in California

Access to the multicultural experience in California can be within reach and free of charge. Outings to ethnic markets, cultural events and museums are bound to create a blend of curiosity, enlightenment and intrigue. Education takes its course as new cultural experiences overtake the natural learning process.

“Children don’t come with instructions, but they do come with open minds,” writes Christopher Metzler, Ph.D., an authority on issues of diversity and inclusion.

As working and stay-at-home moms find themselves hungry for new ideas on keeping their children entertained and motivated during the summer season, it is natural they search for already planned summer programs or camps that most likely require
a hefty out-of-pocket commitment. Participatory programs that welcome parent’s attendance aren’t readily available unless the parent is a volunteer, therefore, begin the search for free summer camps or events through local city community parks and recreation departments, schools, churches, clubs or organizations such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or YMCA. Many programs aren’t specifically geared to focus on teaching diversity, however; one can make a concerted effort to search for programs that carry within their mission a sense of community, service, respect, humanity and equality.

Planning and thinking out-of-the-box for free summer activities that will entertain, enhance and teach are well worth the time. Although an “all hands on deck” approach may be essential, at the end of the day, parents will find that memorable moments outweighing their exhaustion. To add multiculturalism into the experience, research into the culture and location of the event beforehand. Allow the children to share their curiosity, concerns and comments before, during and after the activity. Open conversations are a healthy way to evaluate their cultural experience.

Become a Proactive in Your Community

There are plenty of non-profit organizations and events within your community that pursue a diverse mission therefore, searching for the best fit may feel somewhat overwhelming. Membership costs and time commitments may overshadow the added benefits a family receives. Researching the pros and cons of participating in a small event versus becoming a member of an organization will pay dividends. Families may find themselves best suited in making a difference in the lives of others and also learning about the diversity within the community by participating in multiple events versus joining one or two long-term organizations. Becoming a member of an organization could also make a positive lasting change on those around you.

Understanding humanity through service allows children to learn about the needs of human kind and the diverse ways in which they live. Traditions are also rich with unique customs, foods, music, and colors. They also learn about love, sharing, giving, commitment, understanding and much more. Neglecting to educate children about multiculturalism is to literally take away their global perspective and understanding of human life therefore, finding a balance to parent with a cultural purpose is critical.

by Kenia Cueto

Planning for the Unexpected Via an Education

Life is an unpredictable journey with a dose of unexpected curve balls at every corner. It is no wonder many moms find it difficult to return to college strapped with the multifaceted duties of home and work.

Most moms take on their role as parent and family supporter with pleasure and humility, leaving behind their personal needs. Raising their families comes first while their personal goals are set on the back burner. Instinctively, the thought of change or returning to college doesn’t cross their minds until the unexpected happens. Planning on starting an education shouldn’t take place during a life-changing event but, rather, planned strategically as a long-term goal.

Three Phases of Motherhood

When a young woman becomes a mom, she plans her life according to her new family. For most women, the transition into the three phases of motherhood comes naturally. The first phase of motherhood is somewhat of a rite of passage as she embraces adulthood and is forced to mature at a more rapid pace. The new assignments she takes on involve essential steps, which are the foundation for her family formation.

As years transpire, during the second phase, she finds that the ability to complete tasks and plan projects become second nature. What was once a scary or unfamiliar chore is completed without a sweat. Her family and those around her begin to rely on her expertise, her ability to multitask and her worldly experiences. In the third phase, the role of a “mom” exudes assurance, emanates power and the title “mom” is taken on with pride as she sees her family flourish.

Self-Awareness is Crucial

Attaining self-awareness of personal future needs during these three phases of life can prove to be a challenge. Moms find creative ways to balance family but tend to lose focus on planning for their personal future stability.

The strength moms possess are potential assets that can be utilized in the workplace should she return. Multitasking, organizational skills, time management and the willingness to get work done are amazing strengths moms can transfer into a work environment. Skills alone, however, are not sufficient without a degree in hand. Therefore, creating an academic plan based on the strengths one possesses can minimize many years of guessing. For example, if a mom finds joy in volunteering for her child’s school yearbook, she may want to look into a career in graphic design, journalism, communications, photography or marketing. A volunteer mom who spends most of her time volunteering in the school office may find pleasure in majoring in administration, education or counseling. Double dipping is a great way to utilize time wisely. Finding a degree that can benefit both at home and in the workplace will allow moms to feel less guilt or apprehension when investing time on herself.

The corporate world places little to no value on the time moms spend raising their children, fundraising or volunteering. Stay-at-home moms who return to the work-force struggle to be recognized as the competent, organized, strong women they have become. The devaluation of a stay-athome mom may not seem harsh during the healthy periods of life, however, the effects are felt when times get tough.

During a sudden life change, the mom must be prepared to take on the role of the breadwinner. Self-assessment at every phase in a mom’s life should take place with serious thought of what may occur in future years.

Where to Start When There is Fear & Anxiety

In recent years, women’s traditional roles as wives and mothers have been challenged. Educational opportunities for women are expanded as an increasing number of women are entering professional occupations.

With the advent of the internet and multimedia, college and university information is easily obtained. The online format for the non-traditional student was created predominately for the adult learner (moms) and their busy lifestyle. Online learning also created a more comforting format for the returning adult learner, as they no longer are required to feel the fear and anxiety of attending class with their younger counterparts or feel the pressures of matching their academic skills. According to Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest college student loan company, students 22 and older make up 58% of the college population. The choice to select online versus traditional format has been growing in leaps and bounds giving moms the opportunity to achieve their academic goals.

Due to the growing influx of returning adult students, the reputation of online schools no longer carry a negative connotation as its status has changed. Large universities, public and private, for-profit and nonprofit, have embraced these learning styles. Finding the proper, regionally accredited colleges, which assist and guide the non-traditional student toward success, is crucial. If needed, the moms must be willing to invest time in registering for foundational courses that will allow them to build self-esteem and prepare for more demanding course work. Finding a support system at home and with other similar students will also enhance scholastic performance. Fear and anxiety are normal feelings that can hinder academic success or propel the student to their final destination.

Mothers are their children’s first teacher therefore, her child will continue to learn as she steps into the academic world to become a leader and a living example of what a dedicated, focused and goal oriented student should aspire to become.

Kenia Cueto
Profession Education & Career

Kenia is an Education Counselor/Recruiter at Vanguard University of Southern California, School for Professional Studies. Read more about Kenia here.