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Vanilla-Almond Atole {she made, ella hace}

For this edition of she made, ella hace, Leslie and I decided to make Atole.  Atole is a simple soul-warming porridge that is most often thickened with masa, but can also be made from rice, oats, fermented or ash-cooked corn, pinole (sweetened, toasted cornmeal), or even amaranth.  For a richer, thicker version use milk.  For a thinner version use water.  I usually go with half milk and half water for a great balance.  Nuts, fruit & berries, and/or chocolate can also be added (check out my Atole de Chocolate aka Champurrado).  Don't forget the vanilla, cinnamon, anise...or even chiles that can be added to the mix.

When I think atole, I usually think piloncillo (or even white sugar for some of the fruit versions).  But atole isn't always eaten sweetened, it is also made savory by incorporating chiles, epazote (pungent herb), or fresh corn.  I think it's worth mentioning that Native Americans and Aztecs also refer to toasted blue-corn meal that is ground really fine as atole, as well.  
Atole is often ladled steaming into jarros to warm you up and coat your shaking bones on cold days either for breakfast, as a snack, or even after dinner as a sort of dessert.  You can find street vendors doling it out year round, but it is very commonly made in homes during Dia de los Muertos and the Christmas "season" (las posadas and Dia de Reyes).

In our house, we drink it most often in the wintertime.   Mi esposo's favorite versions are fresa (strawberry), guayaba (guava), and vanilla.   I love champurrado (chocolate), vanilla...okay, pretty any kind.  It's nice to make it with pineapple or juicy berries, as well.  I've tasted atoles in other homes that is only slightly thickened, but personally, I like it so thick that you almost have to chew it!  Really, it's just automatic reaction when it crosses your lips...your teeth start moving it around before swallowing.  Although I'll admit, when I made during a warmer time of the year I thin it out considerably.  But in the middle of a snowy day after shoveling or sledding or ice skating or just looking out the window, nothing beats a thick, steaming mug of atole.
Vanilla-Almond Atole

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5-10 minutes
Keywords: breakfast beverage masa almonds Christmas Day of the Dead Dia de los Muertos Mexican Native American winter

Ingredients (~1 quart / 4-6 servings)
  • ½ c. masa harina
  • ½ c. almond meal
  • 2 c. warm water
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 2½ oz. piloncillo
  • pinch sea salt

Combine masa harina and almond meal with warm water in a blend and blend until smooth.

Pour into a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add those to the pot along with the scraped pod. Add remaining ingredients.

Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often. Let bubble slowly for about 5 minutes or so, whisking almost constantly. Mixture will be thick. If you prefer a thinner atole, Simply whisk in some more milk or water until you achieve your desired consistency. Enjoy warm!

If you don't have a vanilla bean, stir in ½ tsp. of pure vanilla extract after mixture is done cooking.
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*Be sure to head over and check out Leslie's Atole de Nuez, too!*
What happens when two American girls who are both married to Mexican guys find out that although one of them lives in the U.S. and one of them lives in Mexico, they both love eating the same food?  Well, naturally they decide to get "together" the only way they can and cook up the same dishes.  Or perhaps take the same ingredients and talking about them in their own voice or using them in their own way. 

Leslie and I have teamed up to occasionally cook/bake/make a our own versions of the same food.  We want to see how similar (or how different) they turn out.  Other times we will pick an ingredient and use it however we choose...or maybe just talk about it.  Good food knows no borders and we hope to share the food we love with you.  It's not a competition, it's a showcase.  We will post on the same day as each other and would love to hear your thoughts on what we've made and how you make it. 

Join me (here at girlichef) and Leslie in her kitchen (at La Cocina de Leslie) for some delicious food.
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