Mexico + Chocolate = Aztec Cake and Tequila Truffles

by Judy King 23. January 2011 22:05


After a few months away, I’m back with a long look at cooking with one of Mexico’s gifts to the world – chocolate. As you read in the last post, I was recently invited to present a program about chocolate at the Culinary Arts Society of Ajijic (CASA).

Rather than print sheaves of handouts for those who attended, I promised to publish the recipes for the goodies I took for tasting here in my blog – it served a double purpose – they get the recipes, and I’m getting back in the swing of sharing interesting facts and details of life in Mexico here again!

melangeurHave you seen a real pod of cacao? The pods (shown here, grow on trees in the southernmost states of Mexico – primarily Tabasco, Oaxaca, Vera Cruz and Chiapas – and in the countries of Central America. Each 12” pod contains from 25-40 “beans” which are fermented and then roasted and winnowed so that the viable chocolate can be separated from the fiber.

Today most chocolate is ground in simple mechanical grinders. The entire central market in Oaxaca smells like chocolate. In the back, housewives have their own favorite mixtures ground to order while they wait, choosing their favorite combination of chocolate beans, sugar, cinnamon and almonds. The mixture is heated as it is ground, to melt the chocolate and dissolve the sugar. The mixture is then shaped into disks or logs and allowed to cool for later use.

Blending Chocolate and Chile

codexOne of the chocolate specialties I made to share with the cooks at CASA was the following Chocolate Cake – it’s made with chipotle chiles. The combination of chocolate and chiles goes back to the time of the Aztecs – Moctezuma’s famous cold, unsweetened chocolate drink contained a healthy dose of chile. Chocolate even figured prominently in the notes kept by the visiting Spanish historians and in the remaining Aztec pictographs – the Codex.

This cake recipe calls for ground chipotle. I’ve seen it in stores in Guadalajara, but didn’t find it here at Lakeside, so I just removed the stems from a couple of the dried chiles, and then removed the seeds and inner veins and tossed them into the food processor and and ground them into fine powder. Be sure to use Mexican canela (cinnamon) in this recipe. The flavor of Mexican cinnamon is softer and not as bitter as that of the variety of the spice sold in the US.

Actually I made two of these cakes for the CASA folks. I baked the first a day ahead. The recipe is good and moist, so I knew it would hold well. The cake was well-covered with foil and pushed back on the kitchen counter when I headed out for Monday breakfast with friends. When I returned, I found the foil on the kitchen floor, a big Black Labrador with cake crumbs on her muzzle and a happy smile.

Please remember to not give chocolate to dogs. It’s not only bad for them, it’s downright dangerous. Thankfully Molly had only skimmed the top 1/4” from a quarter of the cake, not enough to harm a dog of her size. While I was relieved to know she was safe and healthy, I sure wasn’t pleased to be baking another cake. She wasn’t thrilled either to be in a lengthy back yard timeout.

The Sublime Aztec Flavor -- Chipotle Chocolate Cake

Remember that easy chocolate cake that was mixed all in one bowl – the liquids poured into wells made in the dry mixture? In our house we called it the “Wacky Cake.” This recipe is a Mexican version of that ridiculously easy, old-favorite. 

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa, plus extra for sprinkling on the cake
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground chipotle or grind dry chipotle chiles into a fine powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups water
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons red wine
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar and or cocoa to sprinkle on the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the chiles, water, oil, red wine and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and stir just until combined. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into an ungreased 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on rack for 10 minutes; turn out on serving tray-- if desired. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and cocoa just before slicing and serving.

What’s Better than Chocolate? Truffles

Who know that rich, luscious, expensive truffles could be so easy to make at home. There’s really only a few secrets to obtain the best results. The number one tip is to use the best dark, unsweetened or semisweet chocolate you can find and afford.

Take note, when you only have 2 or 3 ingredients in a recipe, they’d better all be top notch – each will need to shine and to combine into a high quality product.

What are your favorite flavors – peppermint, raspberry, orange, brandy, cappuccino? You can do what you love best in this basic recipe. Adjust it to suit your taste and mood.

Basic Dark ChocolateTruffles

Create your own truffles using your favorite flavors. How about chai, lavender, or rose petals just for Valentine’s Day? In this basic recipe, you can do it your way. 

1 cup heavy cream

1 pound dark chocolate, chopped

Flavoring as desired – 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon liqueur or flavorings, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom to simmer in cream, expresso powder, etc.

cocoa powder for rolling truffles – add nuts, ground cinnamon, etc to cocoa.

Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and set aside. Put cream in a heavy saucepan, and heat until the cream just starts to boil. Remove from heat, and then pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for one minute before beginning to whisk the mixture steadily but not too vigorously—you want it to be well-combined and very smooth but without air bubbles.

Cover the ganache with plastic wrap, placing the plastic directly on top of the ganache so that it is not exposed to air. Allow the ganache to set at room temperature for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight to allow the flavors to mingle and fully ripen. When your ganache is firm enough to shape, scoop teaspoonfuls onto a foil, parchment or plastic wrap-lined baking sheet. Place the truffles in the refrigerator to harden for at least an hour.

Put the rolling mixture --cocoa powder, cinnamon, cinnamon and sugar, etc. in a shallow bowl. Coat hands with cocoa powder and roll truffles between hands to round and then roll them in the cocoa-cinnamon mixture in a shallow bowl. Return finished truffles to baking sheet and chill. Store in a single layer in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before serving to allow flavor and texture to be at their best.

We can even bring those old Aztec flavors together in truffle form. In fact, this recipe was one of the big hits at the CASA meeting. To bring out the best of the orange flavor, I brought the cream, orange zest and cinnamon sticks just to scalding (cream steams and a skin forms on top). I turned off the heat and let the mixture steep for about 90 minutes, then returned the cream just to a boil before pouring it over the chocolate.

When I make this recipe next (and I will make it again) I think I’ll boost that delicious subtle orange flavor with a couple of teaspoons of orange liqueur -- Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec

Aztec Truffles

The dark chocolate is flavored with cinnamon and chile, two spices commonly paired with chocolate in Aztec culture. There is also a hint of orange to complement the fruitiness of the dark chocolate. Splurge on the best chocolate you can afford--good chocolate transforms truffles into a truly gourmet experience.

cocoa truffles2/3 cup heavy cream

12 ounces best-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated

Zest from one orange

One cinnamon stick

1/3 cup best-quality cocoa powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat the orange rind and cinnamon stick with the cream in a heavy saucepan; simmer until the cream just starts to boil. Remove from heat, strain out the zest and cinnamon and pour over chopped chocolate in a large bowl.

See method above. Roll the finished truffles in a mixture of cocoa, cinnamon and chile.

What’s Better than Truffles? Tequila Truffles!!

El Tesoro Tequila Truffles

These truffles were developed by a New York City pastry chef who traveled to Arandas, Jalisco, to make her specialty for the 70th anniversary of the Tapito/El Tesoro Tequila distillery on 7/7/07. The truffles with their sea salt bite on the shiny dark chocolate coating to match the deep tequila flavor were served at the end of the sumptuous banquet, along with the Aniversario Tequila (certified aged 7 years) which was artisan created (as are all of the company’s tequilas) by the Camarena family.

She told us that making enough truffles to serve the 500 tequila buffs from around the world attending the dinner was a feat in itself, especially in a small apartment kitchen – in July.

Among the guests of honor at the event were Ajijic’s Marilyn and Bob Denton, tequila experts who had worked with the Camarena family to create the top tequila in the prestigious El Tesoro line – El Paridiso. Others at the two-day event included large groups from San Francisco and from the Jim Beam company and marketing groups, other old tequila producing families – the Orendeins, Cuervos, etc, and aficionados from Greece, Italy, England, Scandinavia, Australia – 20 countries in all.

Tesoro Tequila Ganache

1 cup heavy cream

1 ¼ pound 55% high quality chocolate chips

1/4 cup El Tesoro del Don Carlos Tequila – reposado

Bring cream to a full boil over medium heat. Turn off heat. Add the 1 ¼ pound of chocolate chips and let sit for 3 minutes and then add tequila and whisk slowly to combine a smooth ganache.

Transfer the ganache into a chilled foil covered baking sheet and cover with plastic. Chill ganache for 45 minutes to one hour until ganache is firm. (The original recipe called for ½ cup tequila, my ganache didn’t firm up well. I’ve cut I back to ¼ cup for you.)

Line two more baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a mini ice cream scoop or two spoons, form the ganache into one-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheets. Chill in refrigerator for about ten minutes.

Tempering the Chocolate

1 pound 55% cocoa high quality chocolate chips, tempered

How the chocolate is tempered (heated and cooled) determines the final gloss and hard coating of the finished chocolate. There are many ways to do it, but the simplest is to place the pound of chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time on high power – just until the chocolate is almost completely melted. Be careful not to overheat it. The chocolate should be just slightly warmer than your bottom lip. If there are still a few lumps, don’t worry; the residual heat will melt them.

saltAs the chocolate begins to set on the sides of the bowl, mix it back into the melted chocolate. Repeat this process. To test the chocolate, dip a piece of parchment paper into the chocolate and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes. If chocolate is tempered the chocolate on the test paper will be hardened with a glossy finish. Continue to stir the chocolate every few minutes to keep it in temper.

Coating the balls

Remove balls from the refrigerator. Using one hand, dip the balls into the tempered chocolate. Roll around in your hand; allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Roll balls off of hand gently onto the lined baking sheets. While chocolate is still wet, garnish by sprinkling a few grains of sea salt on the top of each truffle. Repeat with all balls.  Store truffles in an air tight container, keep cool.

CASA FOLKS:  This Tequila recipe is that good example of “do what I say, not what I do.” Remember that I told you I misread this recipe – my ganache was too soft – with good reason, I used twice as much cream!  Follow the recipe and they will be perfect!

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Mexico Kitchen - Recipes, Foods & Restaurants

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

A Perfect Dish For The Emperor

by Judy King 16. September 2010 15:40

Chiles with doll Mexico has a traditional Independence Day dish that is worthy of intense celebration. The Mexican flag colors of chiles en nogada (stuffed poblano chiles with walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds) make the entrée beautiful enough for fireworks and parades--but there's a lot more to this patriotically-colored entrée than meets the eye.

Not many dishes can equal the historic origin of chiles en nogada. Shortly after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico's new Emperor Agustín de Iturbide unexpectedly arrived in Puebla to celebrate his September 28 birthday and the feast day of his patron saint, San Agustín, in the convent which housed the Augustinian nuns.

Just imagine the flurry of excitement in the Santa Monica convent kitchen when the shocked nuns discovered that the Emperor -- the former general who had received Spain's surrender and based the draft of the constitution on his plans for equality and freedom of religion -- was coming to dinner. Driven by the patriotic fervor sweeping the republic and a tight budget, the good sisters scurried from garden to pantries combining the colors and textures of central Mexico's seasonal foods with complex spices to create a culinary masterpiece--a work of art which transformed the colors of the new flag into sensational tastes—a dish fit to honor the Emperor of Mexico.

kitchen-2-stuffing kitchen-3-platter kitchen-5-chiles

At dinner, the nuns presented platters of poblano chiles stuffed with picadillo (chopped meats, nuts, and fruits). The deep green chiles signified the flag's green stripe—the symbol of independence and hope.

A creamy white sauce made from freshly harvested nogales (walnuts) represented the unity, purity and honesty of the white center section of the flag and the garnish of red pomegranate seeds embodied the patriotism and the blood of Mexico's heroes in the flag's red band.



Today September's favorite dish still often includes 30 or more ingredients. The carefully cooked and blended beef, pork and ham, onions, garlic and tomatoes, six or eight dried and fresh fruits mixed with a half dozen spices and herbs are stuffed into the mild chiles which, at room temperature, are topped with a sauce of blended nuts, cream, cheese, cinnamon and sherry, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. In the old days the dish could only be made when the prime ingredients, the just-mature walnuts, fresh pears, apples and papaya and red, ripe pomegranates were in season.


Chef Lorraine Russo explains, "The very scarcity of this dish is part of its great attraction—along with the delicate balance of contrasting temperatures, flavors and textures. When you eat really good chiles en nogada, each bite is an endless surprise." She added another suggestion for fully appreciating this special Mexican dish.

"If you want to understand the glorious intrigue and remarkable effect of this dish, take another look at Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel—either the book or the movie. Chiles en nogadas play a vital role in the unforgettable wedding feast scene. The guests are so overwhelmed with waves of passion evoked by the beauty, taste, and essence of the chiles en nogada that they abruptly leave the celebration in a fever of urgent clandestine mating. There's no question, those nuns in Puebla knew their way around a kitchen. This is surely one of the most elegant and exciting of all Mexican entrees."

Maybe a legend adds an extra dollop of sazon (seasoning and flavors) to homemade Mexican holiday dishes—especially when the recipe has a historical setting, a backdrop of Colonial buildings, and is topped off with the intrigue of a surprise visit from the new country's Emperor.

Want to Know More About Mexico’s Emperor Agustín de Iturbide?

CM Mayo Don’t miss the opportunity to read C. M. Mayo’s book, The Last Prince of The Mexican Empire. It’s a fascinating story of how Mexico’s last emperors – Emperor Maximillian from Austria and his wife Empress Carlotta of Spain became the foster parents of Augustin de Iturbide’s grandson – to prepare him for Mexico’s throne. The very young rulers, both members of Europe’s famed Hapsburgs, came to Mexico’s throne in the mid-1850s when they were in their early 20s. To add another layer of interest and intrigue,  after the death of Carlotta’s mother, the young girl was raised by cousins – England’s Queen Victoria and her consort, Germany’s Prince Albert – still more Hapsburg relatives.

C.M. Mayo spends part of her year in San Miguel Allende.

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

MMMMM…El Sabor de Ancient Mexico

by Judy King 22. August 2010 13:20

Many of the favorite foods and sabores (flavors) traditional in Mexican cuisine (and equally familiar in north of the border cooking) originated right here -- in this part of the new world.

The list of foods the Aztecs were enjoying long before the arrival of the Europeans reads like the contents of avocadomost US And American kitchens – especially in those who have come to love some of Mexico’s favorite vegetables.

Early reports written by the Spanish explorers describe markets full of avocados, beans, chocolate, corn, chile, jicama (crunchy, sweet, root vegetable), nopales (prickly pear cactus) pineapple, papaya, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, vanilla, and more – much more.

You’ve heard that the diet of the original residents of the Americas was based on the famed three sisters – beans, corn, and squash, with a generous seasoning of chile. Together, they created a nearly perfect nutritionally-balanced diet.

Aguacate – the Spanish name for avocados (like these on the tree in my garden) – is an Arabic word. Like many other things which originated in Mexico, the name bestowed by the Spanish reflect the history of the time. King Fernando and Queen Isabella sent their explorers out to find new riches to replenish the country’s coffers after the 700-year occupation by the Moors. 

mexican-market2  (Left:) Those are the jicamas – there in this market shot between the watermelons and the mangos, apples and (undyed) oranges.

Still other wonderful foods vital to the colonial Mexican cuisine came with the Spanish explorers, invaders and the missionary monks who taught the indigenous mestizos to plant orchards of bananas, mangos, apples and citrus fruits and to raise chickens, cattle, pigs, goats and other livestock to balance the turkey and fish available in the new world.

In the new Mexican Kitchen column, Executive Chef Lorraine Russo of La Nueva Posada joins me to share with you some easy to like, and easy to make dishes using many of Mexico’s indigenous foods as we celebrate Mexico’s 200th birthday.

Lorraine recently stumbled upon a recipe for a super simple five-ingredient salad that makes the most of the flavors of Lake Chapala and features a variation of a theme highlighting the colors of the Mexican flag.

Admittedly avocado is a paler shade of green and papaya is a little two orangey to be called red, but nothing could be more simple (or more beautiful) than the combination of the rich, delicious and nutritious avocados, cubes of the giant Mexican papaya with jicama (Mexico’s indigenous sweet and crunchy white root vegetable). All it takes to finish it off is a drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette and a little extra crunch from toasted nuts.

papayaMMMMM, now this is a great combination – a couple of tastes of this salad and you’ll be shouting “Viva Mexico” on the September 15-16 Independence Day celebration with a perfect Mexican accent.


  • 1  medium papaya, peeled and diced
  • 1  medium avocado, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup jicama, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat raspberry vinaigrette

Toss the ingredients together just before serving.

Lorraine says she’s thinking it would be just right to sprinkle a small handful of the locally grown (and inexpensive) red raspberries onto each serving – in September or October – just as soon as they come back into season and are plentiful again.

NOTE:  This article is designed to give you this great salad recipe and to tease you into reading the full-length article with recipes which will appear in the September 2010 issue of Living at Lake Chapala which celebrates Mexico Bicentennial Anniversary of the call for Independence from Spain on September 15, 1810.

Then, Part Two of this story – along with a whole army of delicious recipes using Mexico’s very traditional and indigenous ingredients will appear in Living at Lake Chapala’s November 2010 issue celebrating the Centennial Anniversary of Mexico’s Revolution which began on November 21, 1910.  You’ll want to share in the kitchen fun during both months.

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Living at Lake Chapala’s August Issue

by Judy King 1. August 2010 15:14

Wow, it’s the First Day of this year’s EIGHTH month! 
I can barely believe that this month marks the three-quarters mark of 2010. We are having another great year here at Living at Lake Chapala. In fact, nine members of our writing team has been out gathering information for our all new August issue. We've prepared a little bit of everything this month — take a look at this summary of our new articles.

image A Sailor Run Aground

Jim Tipton is introducing you to one of his very good friends in this month's Community Article. If you've not yet met Ken and Lise Clarke, you'll want to after you read about how this Lakeside couple met aboard ship and fell instantly head over heels in love. This is a love story with lasting power — when they reached dry land, they raised a family and then moved to Lakeside for retirement — and so Ken could write his story of the years at sea.

Mexico's Traditional Music

Mexico is a land of eternal music — it's part of the lifestyle — it's part of life. What's Mexico's most popular music? That, like most things in this land of contrasts, depends. There are those who would vote for orchestras playing classical music, or for classic rock and roll. More traditionally, you'd have a giant pile of votes for mariachi — that smooth blend of violins, guitars and trumpets. Earning just as much (or more) devotion from residents in central and northern Mexico would be the bandas — the groups of trumpets, trombones, clarinets, and percussion that play a type of music that sounds a little like a sharply uniformed military brass marching band colliding with The Six Fat Dutchmen Polka Band.

(Left:) A youthful group of musicians — a banda plays traditional music on the Ajijic plaza. (Right:) Bandas of all levels of fame and popularity perform in Lakeside's villages. This group came from a nearby town to play in an Ajijic club on July 17. The big name groups come to town for the annual fiesta and during mardi gras.

As Micki Wendt explains in this month's Out and About column, this isn't all about John Phillip Sousa, and it's not about Lawrence (a-one and a-two) Welk (but it helps if you were in your high school marching band and lived in the upper Midwest near a German or Polish population.) Banda music is a Mexican hybrid, and it's the love of the nation.

You may not think you know banda, but you've heard it — the bad, the ok, the good, and the really good. You're apt to hear it every time you pass a construction site or wait at a stop light behind a car with a throbbing stereo, or hear the marching band marching around town at 7 a.m. during fiesta. So far you've probably been more annoyed than in love, but give this article and the links to some professional videos a chance…you may be surprised!

Mexican banda members are snappy dressers. (Left:) This Chapala group was performing right outside the municipal building one evening — all in white and that shade of hot pink that here is called Rosa Mexicana. (Right:) Ajijic's Banda Incomparable was sporting new suits at last year's fiesta — their logo is embroidered on the back of the jackets.

Really Great Karma and  A Cookbook for a Cause

We're fixated this month on great food prepared by sets of Mexican sisters with great ideas and big hearts. First in the Mexican Kitchen, Harriet Hart is visiting a new restaurant on Calle Hidalgo in Ajijc which is owned and operated by Margarita and Rocio del Castillo. These vegetarian sisters recently moved from their home town — Guadalajara — and opened one of the cutest lunch spots in town — Buen Karma.

image image

Then former mental health professional Carol Bowman interviewed a trio of Guadalajara women — the Levy sisters — who have turned their skills in the kitchen into a cookbook (written in Spanish) and then turned the cookbook into a fundraising tool with proceeds going toward their pet project — a mental health center in Jalisco's capital city. You'll enjoy meeting the Levy sisters and learning about their favorite non-profit in this month's Health and Safety column.

The New Expat Radio Station for English Speakers

Then Judy is bringing you something very new — online radio for expats! Yep, Amigo Rodrigo is spinning American music on a 24-hour-a-day radio station — along with Mexican news and weather in English, Spanish vocabulary words and other specialty bits of information — and you can listen to it all on your computer. It couldn't be easier. Catch up with all of this in the Feature Article.

Back to School (Times Two) and Attending the Ballet 
What fun, we've devoted two slots this month to how foreigners at Lakeside get involved in the community, and take on some or all of the school expenses for slightly overwhelmed local families. While there are a dozen or more groups and organizations who are creating scholarships to pay the expenses so local kids can continue to attend classes — from Kinder through Grad School — our Cost of Living and Soul of Mexico columns tell how individuals are making a difference here at Lake Chapala.

First up Georgina Russell is back, this time in our Cost of Living slot explaining how she administers a fund for area kids. Who started this fund and this program? A trio of New York kids who were visiting their relatives at Lakeside! Now the US kids come back every year to see how the money they've raised in their home town and New York schools is being put to use here.

(Left:) One of the special joys of being a sponsor to a Lakeside student is being included in graduations, programs and special school events. (Right:) The ballet at Lake Chapala? You bet. And Scott Richards enjoyed it all – see his report in this month’s People, Places and Things.

Then long-time Lakeside resident, Phyllis Rauch explains how she and her late husband became involved in helping to educate the members of a family in their village of Nestipac. While Phyllis dreamed at first of "their kids" becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers, she reflects on how it's all worked out in real life and beautifully illustrates the Soul of Mexico piece with photos of her current (and we suspect her favorite) student Daniela.

Saving the Wild Orchids

Artist Janice Kimball delves into the world of Mexican wild orchids this month in our Homes and Lodging column. You'll enjoy her story of how she came to fall in love with these tender exotic beauties — years ago in the middle of an all-too-long Detroit winter. Now she's on a soapbox, helping us learn to protect the wild orchids from area mountains — and best of all she tells us where to find lovely, not-endangered, plants in local nurseries.

(Left:) These lavender beauties were once wild orchids in the Jalisco mountains above Lake Chapala. They've been blooming on a tree in Ajijic now for nearly 15 years. (Right:) Leave the wild orchids to bloom for another year in the mountains. Local nurseries have a lovely selection of hybrid orchids at very reasonable prices.

Planning for Singles

And to wrap up the issue, Judy is exploring some tips for singles living at Lakeside. It's just so important to form a support group and then finalize some of the necessary plans so that your friends will easily be able to help your children should you be recovering from illness or surgery and when you die. Look for this so very important information in the Getting Here space.

Are you a Living at Lake Chapala Subscriber?

That’s our rundown this month – and now, while you read these pieces we are already working on our Big Blowout Bicentennial Celebration for the September issue of Living at Lake Chapala. We’d love to have you become one of our family of subscribers and we’re betting you’ll love reading the very best online magazine about life in Mexico. Did we mention that subscribers have access to on-line support – we’re always here to answer your email questions! What a deal that is!

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

The July Edition of Living at Lake Chapala

by Judy King 5. July 2010 19:58

July’s early patriotic holidays honoring Canada (July 1) and the United States (July 4) and the associated long holiday weekend are drawing to a close.

imageNow perhaps you’ll have time to read the new July issue of Mexico Insights Living at Lake Chapala, our online magazine.

Each month our team of local residents and experts produce a full line up of 11 articles for our Living at Lake Chapala subscribers. We’re always proud of the work our writers do, take a look at what they’ve found to share with you in this month’s issue.

(Photo at Right:) When Micki Wendt made her first trip to Lakeside, she saw the area with fresh eyes — and loved a good deal of what she saw, including this Ajijic mural.

It's Summertime — Let's Hit the Road
Summertime is all about going on a great adventure — right? This issue we have four great adventures for you.

In the new July Feature Article, Herbert Piekow and his friend and photographer Victor, are sharing with us their recent trip to the Guadalajara zoo. There, through their eyes we're sure to see lions, and tigers and bears…oh my! And that's not all — there are the buffalos, llamas, flamingos, and all the fish in the aquarium.  

imageHerbert has done a great job of taking us along with him to see all the animals in the zoo — and then a whole lot more.

(Photo at Left:) Guadalajara’s famous sculptor and artist Sergio Bustamonte created this bunch of playful monkeys to line the stairway fountain and cascades near the zoo’s entrance. (Photo by Victor Morando)

Then in our Out and about Column, Jim Cook heads off searching for the Treasure of the Sierra Puebla and a wonderful Flower Festival in a very special Mexican town. He and Christopher English found a great deal more than flowers on this expedition into the mountains of Mexico.

Michael McLaughlin and his wife and photographer Anita Lee took six months last year to really get to know Mexico by spending a month in each of six locations. This month they share with us their experiences living and exploring Mexico's capitol — Mexico City. Did they find the horribly polluted, crime-ridden, gridlocked city we've all heard about? Hardly…read their story in this month's People, Places and Things.

 image  image
(Above photos:) When Michael McLaughlin and Anita Lee planned their month in Mexico City, they thought they'd have plenty of time to see all of the city's fabulous sights. As it turned out, there were far more sights than month…sounds like they'll have to go back for more. (Photos by Anita Lee)

Our fourth article describing a great travel adventure is by one of the long-time subscribers and readers of Living at Lake Chapala, Micki Wendt. This month's Getting Here article is her first piece for our pages — but she'll be back in August with another story.

When she came across her journal of her very first trip to Lakeside back in 2006, she realized that other readers would like seeing our area through her eyes. It seems strange to read her comments about making a decision about retirement here — we know she's been here now for a good long while.

image image

(Above Photos:) Micki tells us that color is the name of the game at Lake Chapala. She was smitten with the bursts of wonderful lush color everywhere she looked. (Left:) The vines only accent the color combination on this house. (Right:) Even village shops are filled with vivid color and friendly faces.

A Pillow of Diamonds, Resting Places of the Soul and Finding a Dentist
What a wonderful area Lake Chapala is and what a wonderful community we've chosen to call home. We've said it imagebefore, the most interesting people seem to find their way here. Jim Tipton is back in this issue, visiting with Margaret Van Every and her husband Bob in the new Community article. They are relatively new residents of Lakeside, but already Margaret has written and published a book of tanka poems, A Pillow Stuffed With Diamonds.

We're exploring the tradition of descansos (resting places for the souls) in this month's Soul of Mexico story. You've seen the crosses and mounds of flowers along the highways and byways of Mexico — each cross marks the spot on which a death occurred. Some believe that when death comes suddenly and violently, the soul may be confused, and instead of leaving this world, it lingers at the spot where it left the body. In recent years this tradition has become more and more popular outside of Mexico, too.

Next we've gathered some tips and ideas to help newcomers select a new Lakeside dentist. As a matter of fact, most of the information we've compiled for the Health and Safety column could also help you find the doctor and vet that best matches your needs and personality, too.

Buying Small Appliances, Locating the Fault Lines and Cooking with Salsa
We hear so often from folks asking us what they should move and what should they leave behind. This month we're trying to provide some of the information they may need to decide if they'll bring their kitchen appliances or replace them here. We've just looked locally at basic kitchen equipment, but we think you'll find the availability and pricing interesting. Check it out in our Cost of Living column.

Next, in our Homes and Lodging category, we're exploring a very important topic.Because Mexico doesn't require disclosure from either sellers or realtors, it's vital that those relocating to Lake Chapala learn as much as they can about local houses, neighborhoods and conditions. Area fault lines only affect the homes located directly on the fault — and that's a narrow band — but you don't want your home to be…the one.

image image

Above photos: Here is a good example of the need for folks at Lakeside to remember, "buyer beware." This lower Chula Vista house straddles one of the area’s  fault lines. Notice how the cracks extend from the house, through the planter, across the sidewalk and into the street. The blue house at the right is the same property but with the cracks all plastered over, the outer wall enlarged and painted up to go back on the market. The house sold a while back. The new owners have filled in those spaces in the wall. When we drove by this week we noticed that the new wall is already showing  tell-tale vertical cracks, in the very same places, again.

Not only have we described for you the type of problems in the area, and the locations of those problem areas, we're also sharing with you a way to get the only known map of the fault lines. Don't miss this piece.


Judy King and Chef Lorraine are in the Mexican Kitchen answering a reader's question. It was our Web Genius David McLaughlin who was seeking our aid and assistance. With a refrigerator full of bottles and cans of commercially produced salsas, David wants ideas of how to use up the leftovers. We've come up with a whole range of tasty dishes — for breakfast, lunch and dinner and had a good time fixing a few of the easy options for the article's pictures.

(Left:) Now this seems like an easy question…which salsa will you buy? There's good Mexican brands for $12 to $15 pesos, or the familiar US brand, Pace's, at $49 pesos. Do you suppose it is really four times as good?

Whew, isn't that a great line up of articles? Our writers just keep outdoing even their own previous best efforts.

If you are a subscriber, you can read all of this month’s articles just by going to the Mexico Insists website and then logging in with the user name and password you registered when you subscribed.

If you haven’t yet subscribed, but would like to read a sample of our work, email Editor Judy King: and I’ll send you the log in codes so you can read the May and June issues – from cover to cover – FREE of cost of obligation. Take a look at what you are missing!

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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