A display of decorated clay skulls

Día de los Muertos

Do you eat and drink with your loved ones no longer with us by celebrating them during Día de los Muertos? It’s such a unique way to commemorate the people we love and miss.

In Tucson, the All Souls Procession has been woven into the fabric of our culture since 1990 when artist Susan Johnson started the procession. Last year, 150,000 participants gathered downtown for the two-mile walk ending in the ceremonial burning of a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes of the public for those who have passed. On Sunday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m., Many Mouths One Stomach, the nonprofit that runs the festivities, will live stream broadcast the finale as their way of keeping the core ceremony alive. All the details are here.

Our friends at the Presidio San Agustin del Tucson Museum are having fun family Día de los Muertos activities this Saturday and on Sunday, Nov. 8. Check it out.

I can’t think of anyone better than Chef Kyle Nottingham, a sixth generation Tucsonan, to inspire the culinary side. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, he’ll not only share special family recipes that have been lovingly handed down, but he’ll add two very special ingredients – his mom, Celina Martin, and his Nana Connie!  

On the menu: Bizcochuelos or Biscohitos, a sugar cookie packed with flavor thanks to anise and cinnamon; Arroz Con Pasa, a warm, sweet rice porridge with raisins made for special events or occasions and Champurrado, a thick, creamy hot chocolate drink that’s a traditional Día de los Muertos beverage. 

As our gift to you, the first 50 people to register will get their ingredients for free! In Tucson, you’ll pick up at either Campbell Avenue or Grant Road Prep & Pastry, and for those in Maricopa County, you’ll pick up at the Scottsdale location. Register here.

If you set up an altar and make ofrendas (offerings) to your loved ones of some of their favorite foods and drinks they enjoyed while they were alive, send me a photo – I’d love to see them. Mine to my mom will include either a martini or bellini, chocolate with hazelnuts and Italian anise cookies.

Wishing you joy in the kitchen and I look forward to virtually seeing you soon!

Anise Cookies
The recipe has been a mainstay of my Christmas cookie baking for decades and it yields a lot. It was passed down through the generations of friend Terry Modica Castellano.

4 eggs
1⅓ cups Crisco (I use the sticks)
9 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup (approximate) whole milk
7 cups (2 lbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1⅓ cups granulated sugar
1 oz. anise extract

1. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine flour, shortening and baking powder.
2. Add eggs and half of the milk and mix well.
3. Add anise and knead dough until silky.
4. Add remainder of milk as needed.
5. Roll or cut into desired shapes. I roll out a piece about 5-6 inches long, then put one edge over the other to make a wreath. I also make initials.
6. Bake at 350° F. 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges.
7. Ice and enjoy.

Confectioners’ sugar
Anise flavoring (I use Anisette)
Sprinkles (optional)

1. Combine ingredients to make an icing that isn’t too runny or thick.
2. Dip cooled cookies into the icing and top with sprinkles, if desired. Place on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan to dry.
3. You can also color the icing with gel food coloring, if desired.

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