On Día de los Muertos, meals helps maintain household recollections alive for this Mexican-American cookbook creator

Meals and tradition blogger Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, who lives in Highlands Ranch, has written three printed cookbooks — however she didn’t all the time love cooking.

Nonetheless, she did all the time like to host gatherings of family and friends, which led to the main target of her latest ebook, “Muy Bueno: Fiestas.”

Chapter by chapter, Marquez-Sharpnack, who writes the Muy Bueno weblog, shares recipes and traditions for American and Mexican holidays, together with Día de los Muertos, which begins Nov. 1.

Rising up, she stated celebrating the vacation, which interprets to Day of the Useless, concerned going to the cemetery along with her grandparents in El Paso, Texas.

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Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack is the creator of “Could Bueno: Fiestas” and two different cookbooks.

“You set out candles, you set out meals, you set out tequila, you play mariachi music, and also you keep on the cemetery and also you simply honor the departed. You pray, you sing, you inform tales, you invite them to come back and rejoice,” she stated.

Now, in her household and past, the vacation has turn out to be extra mainstream, as mirrored in and impressed by the Disney film “Coco,” which got here out in 2017.

“There are parades, folks get in costume and gown like La Catrina, which is that this lovely Mexican sugar cranium come to life,” she stated. “It’s turn out to be a giant celebration.”

After all, Marquez-Sharpnack’s traditions for Día de los Muertos embody meals, like Mexican sizzling chocolate, which she begins by simmering giant cinnamon sticks on the range for an hour, filling up her home with the scents of her childhood. She additionally decorates an ofrenda, or altar, at residence with pictures of her father, her grandma, her great-aunts and different members of the family.


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Photographs of Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack’s members of the family nestled subsequent to marigolds and sugar skulls.

All of it displays her impeccable eye for fashion: she labored as a designer earlier than turning into a meals entrepreneur, which is obvious on her Instagram web page @muybuenocooking.

Marquez-Sharpnack spoke with Colorado Issues host Chandra Thomas Whitfield about Día de los Muertos, how she realized homestyle Mexican cooking and her secrets and techniques to good salsa.

Learn the interview

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

Chandra Thomas Whitfield: May you inform me extra about your ofrenda?

Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack: It mainly honors your departed family members. It’s a time to arrange their pictures, set out their belongings, perhaps some candles. Marigolds are very conventional for Dia de los Muertos as a result of they’ve a really sturdy aroma. It’s alleged to lure their spirit to come back and go to for a day. So there’s a variety of significance and symbolism for the weather on an altar.

What do you bear in mind about celebrating Día de los Muertos rising up?

My grandma would take me to the cemetery and we’d depart flowers for her two youngsters who handed away after they have been little. It was extra of All Souls Day, or All Saints Day, or Día de los Angelitos, which is a celebration to honor youngsters.

And because it’s advanced, it’s even turn out to be larger in Mexico. It’s advanced not simply in my household, however all through the world. It’s positively grown in recognition.


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A Monarch butterfly adorns a ceramic cup in Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack’s Highlands Ranch kitchen.

Some folks have the misperception that it’s a tragic vacation, or they might conflate it with Halloween. But it surely’s celebratory!

Sure, and that’s what we attempt to present with all the colours. The saying I all the time consider is, “Your departed are solely forgotten if you happen to overlook them.” I used to be pondering the opposite day about our personal legacies. Perhaps our kids and our kids’s youngsters will discuss us, and if we’re fortunate, a 3rd era will, too. However after that, who is aware of what’s going to be left behind. My purpose is to proceed the tales in order that even when my youngsters didn’t know my grandma like I did, they’ll nonetheless know all these tales and proceed sharing them era after era.

Is there a conventional Day of the Useless meal?

There are all types of conventional dishes, like mole or tamales. Actually, it’s all about who you’re honoring and what they liked to eat. Once I was rising up, my mother would make us Mexican sizzling chocolate within the cooler months. Each of my grandmas would all the time simply brew canela, so their homes all the time smelled like cinnamon. And you’ll simply drink cinnamon tea! There are such a lot of medicinal properties, and it’s very fragrant.

Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack’s Mexican sizzling chocolate recipe


– 3 giant cinnamon sticks
– 2 giant discs of Mexican chocolate
– 1/4 cup of cornstarch
– 1/4 cup of water
– Milk for thickening (elective)

– Brew the cinnamon sticks on the range for an hour.
– Take away the cinnamon and add the Mexican chocolate discs and a slurry combination of the cornstarch and water. Add milk if you would like it thicker.
– Use a whisk or molinillo to froth earlier than serving.

Did you study to cook dinner at residence in Texas, or throughout your travels to Mexico?

Positively at residence, in El Paso. The recipes which can be close to and expensive to my coronary heart come from the recollections that I’ve with my grandma in her kitchen. I grew up with my grandma subsequent door to me, and she or he was all the time cooking. She was all the time roasting chiles, simmering canela, which is cinnamon, to make avena, which is a Mexican oatmeal. These scents deliver me a lot pleasure, and people scents have advanced and grown into me with my culinary journey.

However touring has introduced me an entire completely different consciousness of some meals that I did not even know existed till I left El Paso. There’s all the time one thing to study; it is such an enormous delicacies. For instance, we had nopales, that are cactus paddles, rising up, however the way in which they make meals with them in, say, Oaxaca, is simply wonderful. You may have a smoked cactus salad, and it’s simply wonderful. I come residence with these inspirations and I attempt to recreate them right here. Touring conjures up me to provide you with new flavors.

Why did you wish to write a cookbook about events and celebrations?

The query that folks all the time ask me is, “What’s your favourite recipe?” That’s all the time so laborious to consider, as a result of my style and cravings depend upon the season. Proper now, within the fall, I crave fall flavors like pumpkin, so pumpkin empanadas are large in our household. Additionally Mexican pan dulce, or candy breads. So I wished to categorize the ebook with these flavors and seasonally via the vacations. That’s how I entertain, and that’s how I’m impressed to cook dinner. I’ve a backyard, and no matter’s in season is what I’m cooking.


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A couple of cloves of garlic await in a conventional Mexican molcajete for some seared serranos, jalapeños and tomatoes.

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Serranos, jalapeños and tomatoes start to sizzle on a forged iron griddle forward of Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack turning them right into a tasty salsa.

What’s the key to creating good salsa?

I make it with a molcajete, which is a mortar and pestle fabricated from lava rock. It provides salsa a really conventional, scrumptious taste. I put complete tomatoes and peppers onto a forged iron skillet, and roast them.

Whereas that roasts, I grind up a few garlic cloves with just a little little bit of salt within the molcajete, and make a paste. You do the identical course of if you happen to’re making guacamole. It simply tastes so a lot better made in a molcajete.

The odor of roasting chiles on the range is a kind of scents that was a part of my childhood. My grandma was all the time roasting chiles, on daily basis she was making recent salsa. After she roasted all of the components, she would take them in her hand and crush them up. As just a little lady, I’d all the time be there pondering, “Isn’t that going to burn her arms, and her eyes?”

However after the tomatoes and chiles roast, I add them to the molcajete, too.

I like heat salsa. I hate whenever you go to a restaurant and also you get chilly salsa. You don’t wish to put chilly salsa in your good sizzling plate of meals.


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Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, serves recent, home made salsa and corn chips at her residence workplace and studio in Highlands Ranch, Oct. 24, 2023.

We’ve talked rather a lot about loss of life. Have you considered what you wish to depart behind whenever you’re gone? Was that a part of your motivation to put in writing this cookbook and write down all these recipes and traditions?

Sure, after my grandma handed away in 2004, my daughter was just a little underneath two years outdated. That was my aha second: she wasn’t going to know my grandma, and it was time for me to step up these traditions.

It was my daughter, when she was 8 years outdated, who recommended that I write a cookbook. It was as a result of my mother was visiting rather a lot and exhibiting me methods to make these recipes, however we by no means wrote them down. Anytime I’d cook dinner one thing, I’d name my mother and ask, like, “How a lot cornstarch do I add? Or what number of discs of Mexican chocolate do I add?” When my daughter stated I ought to actually write a cookbook, I assumed, “Genius, sure, let’s do it.”

I assumed I’d simply write a easy little household cookbook. I by no means knew it was going to evolve into three printed cookbooks and my full-time enterprise. So one little concept simply was one thing larger.

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