Barrio Bites New Website!!!!

Barrio Bites New Website!!!!

Barrio Bites has moved to a new domain.  The new website for Barrio Bites is simply  It is currently still being worked on, and the posts from this site will be transitioned over to the new site within the next week. 


Thank you so much for your patience, understanding, and support!


How to Order Barrio Bites Salsa

Currently, Barrio Bites sells three salsas that are absolutely chingon within the greater Boston barrio!  Each salsa is 8 oz. and costs $4.  All are made to order.  To place an order, call me at 562-508-1192, email at, or tweet me at  To learn more about Barrio Bites, click here.

Mi Changoro – Barrio Bites take on the classic salsa roja, Mi Changoro is just like the name implies:  part playful monkey, part fiery bull.  It’ll pleasantly perk up the senses, but also pack a little punch.


Habanero Hottie – The perfect mash-up between sweet and spicy, this little number delivers the visual appeal, but it has more going for it than simply knockout good looks:  it tastes effin’ amazing!


CT3 – Last, but not least, this third Barrio Bites specialty combines the smokiness of chipotles with the mild tanginess of tomatillos.  CT3 is a versatile salsa, perfect for the upcoming summer barbecue season since it could be used on a burger or in a pasta salad just as well as a dip.


Celebrate, Good Times, C’Mon! Not Entirely . . .


These kids are awesome.  Amazing.  Incredible.  Insert any positive adjective you want here, and it would fit their profile.  There is so much more to education than multiple choice, fill-in-the-correct bubble, standardized, run-of-the-mill, bullshit testing, and these kids killed it every week even if it didn’t show up in a test score and labeled them Far Below Basic, Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Advanced.  They are so much better than any test score or grade will show.  No Child Left Behind (NCLB) will never do them justice.  The life experiences that have provided them wisdom, humor, intelligence, cunning, immaturity, boldness, joy, sensitivity, will never show up on the bottom line for schools.  They will not help a school’s API or AYP.  They will never bring in more dollars or recognition.  They will never save a teacher’s job or a school’s reputation.  But they are the lifeblood of life, those traits are the tools students can pull out and use to help themselves and help others and build something bigger than what a piece of paper might tell them or somebody else who knows nothing of their real talents.  I love these kids, and I miss them dearly.


It is with a heavy heart that I write this post.  It’s been nearly a month since I’ve last written, and I’ve struggled getting my words down.  Barrio Bites has recently relocated to the East Coast, Boston, MA.  I hope to continue to work with students out here and provide them with experiential hands-on learning, practical hard/soft skills, servant leadership, and a sense of community that I started in Barrio Logan with the students pictured above.  But it will never be with the same kids who first jumped on board to take the ride.  And even when we weren’t sure where we were going, the students pictured above (and more) were more than willing to take the journey.  They are the beating heart of Barrio Bites.  So if you see them – praise them, support them, push them because they are so very, very awesome, more awesome than even sometimes they know themselves and they need our support in any/every way possible.  They taught me more than I ever taught them, and I feel blessed to know them.



The pictures below show the kids in action on the last day of cooking, February 7.  They made a chipotle infused quinoa, adobo rubbed chicken, roasted tomatillo-avocado salsa.  They worked as a team – they cooperated, shared, laughed, messed around, cleaned, and supported one another through it all.  And the food?  Again, crushed it!


Carlos showing off the chipotle salsa he helped make for the quinoa.


Jorge working on the tomatillo-avocado salsa.


Cynthia getting every last drop fo the adobo rub.


Jose and Armando working on the chicken, while Andy works on his Blue Steel. And check out those beautiful Barrio Bites t-shirts!


The finished product.

Potatoes, Part 3 . . .There Will Be Stew!


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Last week, we continued with our January emphasis on potatoes.  We made the potato tacos with Mexican Pesto three weeks ago and roasted garlic-chipotle potato puree, steak tips, and salsa verde two weeks ago.  So last week, we decided to brew some stew (doesn’t really work, but I wanted to rhyme).

Lots of kids showed up; Barrio Bites had more participants than even the previous week.  Sometimes I feel like I”m herding cats, but it’s worth it.  I want them to be curious, I want them to try everything, I want them to make mistakes and learn from them.

The stew involved the production of vegetable broth, roasted tomatillo-arbol salsa, seitan, hominy, and a potato medley.  Yes, it was a vegan stew, through and through (damn, another rhyme!  I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it!  Oh, snap!  No wonder I get paid the big bucks to teach English!  Who wants to battle?).  The kids didn’t know this; I told them seitan was a type of ground pork, a food product they were much more familiar with. By familiar, I mean they had heard of pork and some of them even knew if came from a pig.

I adapted the dish from a righteous recipe by Aaron Sanchez that called for sausage and pumpkin instead of seitan and potatoes, but I wanted to avoid the low-nutritional value of sausage and I still had a ton of potatoes (that’s hyperbole for all you English students reading this, which is approximately . . . zero?  One?  Quien Sabes.).  So, students, if you are reading this . . . Mr. Liszanckie told a little white lie.  Lo siento.  But you know what?  You guys rocked the house on this meal and the majority of you asked for seconds.  So I know we have some future vegans in the house.  Side note:  This is not an endorsement for veganism.  Hooray for vegans!  Hooray for meat lovers!  Just know where your food comes from.  Be conscious of what you put into your body and the people you’re helping to support with your diet.

You’ll notice our stew looks a little liquidy, maybe closer to a posole.  We were running short on time and we didn’t reduce the liquid from the hominy and broth enough.  But the kids were getting hungry, and you don’t want to F with a pack of hungry middle school students especially when parents are waiting to pick them up.

Anyways, check out some of the awesomeness below and prepare to have your mind blown!IMG_1023


Jorge and Andy getting down!


Ana showing off the tomatillo-chile de arbol salsa she helped knock out of the park!


Bodacious Barrio Bites banditos and banditas!

Barrio Bites Welcomes Some New Faces!


When you work with students, you expect a certain amount of turnover.  Sometimes kids who were excited at the thought of cooking have other familial commitments, whether it’s traveling to Mexico to see family or it’s heading straight home to take care of a younger sibling.   Sometimes kids who were excited at the thought of cooking realize they’d rather play basketball on a Thursday.  Sometimes kids who were excited at the thought of cooking simply can’t stay after school because of their parents’ work schedule.  It doesn’t matter; there’s always a reason and while it can be frustrating to not have the continuity of a group, it opens the door to other students stepping in and filling the departed shoes.


It’s this “glass half full” perspective I’m trying to employ more often.  I can definitely be a bit of a curmudgeon (my word), and I originally thought the kids would be so stoked to be cooking there would be no way they wouldn’t want to be a part of Barrio Bites!  Family illness, parents’ jobs, siblings, cross-border travel?  Of course they’ll take a backseat to Barrio Bites!  So I was a little (lot) delusional, but I just really wanted the kids to have fun, learn some authentic skills, enjoy the fruits of their labor, educate themselves, and eat healthier.  What’s wrong with that?  Nothing, really, but one must temper expectations, and one must realize to not force those square pegs into those round holes.  St. Augustine said, “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”  And so it is that Barrio Bites must lay that foundation and realize along the way that it will be built by the hands of the many, not the hands of the few.  So I’m grateful for those kids who were with Barrio Bites for only one class, those who have been with us since its’ inception (Bianney, Luis, Jose G., Carolina, Latavia, Armando, Angel, Andy), and the new students who helped this past week (Stephanie, Alondra, Bryan)


The students did a great job this past week.  They made a roasted garlic-chipotle potato puree and sauteed steak tips with salsa verde.  They worked at different stations and they killed it.  One group prepped the sauce for the potato puree; they created a nice “garlic confit” in a toaster oven, pureed it with canned chipotles, cilantro, and lime zest.  While they worked on this, another station got the potatoes ready and another the salsa verde.

For the salsa verde, the students pulsed two bay leaves, a serrano, garlic cloves, white wine vinegar.  After this was pulsed up coarsley, they added the chopped cilantro and parsley as well as the extra virgin olive oil.  The salsa verde was a nice math lesson for the young cooks because they mistakenly added too much vinegar, which all the kids mentioned when they ate the finished product, so they could see what happens with a little overkill of acidity.  Some loved the bite of the final product, while others commented on it being too strong.  Regardless, they learned something about themselves.

When the potatoes were done, the students added some additional roasted garlic and milk to them.  They pureed them using hand mixers before the added the roasted garlic-chipotle sauce.  They then topped the puree with the sauteed steak tips, which were drizzled with the salsa verde.  (Note to self – Food does not photograph well on paper plates!)Imaged

All in all, another great Barrio Bites!  The kids worked hard to keep their stations clean, and they all worked as a team to create a fantastic final product.  I loved seeing the collaborative process in action, as well as the kids using their reading/math skill to decipher recipes.  They were fantastic, and I could not be prouder.

And I know, regardless of who shows up this week or any week, they will have helped lay some of the bricks to build Barrio Bites into something greater than the sum of its’ parts.  They are all blessings.



Olivewood Gardens Visits Barrio Bites

Barrio Bites #2 - Pesto (Katie)

The past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, why they’re good for us, and the seasonality of them.  We’ve touched upon the whole “organic/local/sustainable” ethos, but the important focus during our meetings is the fact we are making real food with real ingredients with a focus on the seasons and the students’ culture (primarily Mexican).  Some of the tools the students and I used can be found here:

Last week, we had a special guest visit us from Olivewood Gardens.  Kati Butler, the Chef Educator, came to visit our little community as we made a Mexican pesto with potatoes (our seasonal crop) and corn tortillas.  She got to see firsthand what we (try) to accomplish at Barrio Bites, and she got to experience the joys/frustrations of learning as you go.  You know how things go.  It’s never as easy as it seems it should be no matter the level of preparation.  Or, the road to hell is laid with the best of intentions.

Barrio Bites #3 - Pesto

Well, this wasn’t a road to hell by any means, but Kati got to experience the “charm” of being a new organization.  For example, I forgot the oil for the pesto (yes, you have the right to laugh at me).  Fortunately, Kati hooked us up and brought some in.  Then, we ran out of propane midway through the boiling of water for the potatoes.  See you later, tater!  So instead of having Mexican pesto potatoes on tortillas, the kids enjoyed Mexican pesto on tortillas with a little crumbled cotija cheese.  Not quite the same thing, but they all seemed to enjoy it.  And the kids did a great job of cutting up all the potatoes, prepping all the ingredients for the pesto, and collaborating to make the pesto.  Which, without any bias, I will say was delicioso!  And, again, the kids learned how to make a simple, versatile sauce that could be used on many other vegetables other than potatoes.  Presto pesto!


Barrio Bites bottom line – we had fun, we are all learning, we all need the support and kindness of others from time to time (Thanks, Kati), and we can all enjoy the fruits/vegetables of our labor.  As a matter of fact, the next morning I whipped up some breakfast tacos for the kids with eggs, potatoes, and the student-made pesto.  They deserved it.

Barrio BItes #1 - Pesto

Barrio Bites #4 - Pesto

Barrio BItes #5 - Pesto

The End of 2012.

It’s been difficult in many ways to offer the Barrio Bites program: we have no infrastructure for cooking (our materials are kept in cardboard boxes in my Language Arts classroom), we have only a grill for a heat source limiting certain culinary explorations, funding has consisted of my (dwindling) bank account, etc.    It’s so easy to bitch and moan; after all, it’s what teachers often do best.  But another thing teachers do well is persevere and try to find the silver lining and if there’s anything Bradley Cooper’s character has taught me it’s that I can be undiagnosed bipolar, date Jennifer Lawrence, dance my ass off, eat crabby snacks, hate on Ernest Hemingway, and . . . wait, what the hell was I writing about?  Oh, right, yeah, Barrio Bites.  And perseverance.  And teachers.  And important shit (not really, but kinda, if you think kids actually are important.  And if you don’t think they are, you’re a heartless SOB).

So since the students and I have been on break since December 6th, and we will not be back until the new year rumbles into town,  I thought it would be best to offer thanks: one can never be gracious enough (in my mind).  I will also digress a little about some hopes for the future.  Please excuse my lapses in judgement and welcome to Barrio Bites, 2013.

Thank you to all the students who participate in Barrio Bites every Thursday from 3 to 5:30.  You are amazing, talented, curious, hard-working young ladies and gentlemen who already are amazing cooks!  You help me stay young, you put a smile on my face, and you remind me why I became a teacher in the first place.  Goonies never say die!  Remember that.  Cuz down here it’s our time, it’s our time down here.  That’s all . . OK, I’ll stop.  But it never hurts to toss in a Goonies reference!  Truffle shuffle for all the awesome Barrio Bite kids!


Thank you to Ms. Cornejo, Ms. Moreno, and others at the Prep for helping provide us with some fresh, organic vegetables and cooking equipment.  We couldn’t do it without thoughtful people such as yourselves.

Thank you to Ms. Ruiz at Prep, who recently wrote a grant proposal for the NFL Play 60 Program.  Her proposal was selected, and she helped the school earn $10,000!  Some of this money will be earmarked for Barrio Bites.  To say this money will help is an understatement. To read more about this fantastic grant, click here!  I paraphrase Shakespeare for such awesomeness (and by Shakespeare, I mean the Goonies):    This grant is more amazing than the time Michael Jackson came over to my house to use the bathroom.  More amazing than the time I saved those old people from that nursing home fire.

Thank you to the Chef Ricardo Heredia at Alchemy, a great chef and mentor!  I hope the new year allows for Chef Ricardo to meet up with Barrio Bites for some culinary pedagogy.

Thank you to the San Diego Public Market (Catt White and Dale Steele) for extending an invitation to the students to come explore the market’s culinary creativity!

Thank you to Chef Chad White for reaching out to work with the students of Barrio Bites!  I look forward to the students getting the opportunity to meet you and learn from you.

Thank you to Olivewood Gardens for fighting the good fight!  If you haven’t seen all the great opportunities offered here, you need to check yo self!

Thank you to all my family and friends who offer more support and love than I could ever have asked for!

Hey, you guys!  (Sloth impression mandatory!)  A BIG thank you to Nicole, an 8th grade student who designed our kick-ass club shirt below.  I know the holidays are past, but if you’d like to purchase a shirt to support our students and club. please contact me at  C’mon, you know you want to!  Be hip! Rep Barrio Bites!

T Shirt Draft

I don’t know what the new year will bring, but that’s part of life’s excitement.  And no matter what trials and tribulations we’re going to face, Barrio Bites’ students  will slice, dice, chop, and grill their way to success.  So thank you to everyone who is making this adventure worthwhile!

Barrio Bites Fundraiser #1

Last week on November 8th, Barrio Bites held its first fundraiser to raise money for our program’s t-shirts during the Preparatory’s community night.  And we didn’t do too shabby!  Grossing $75 dollars, Barrio Bites served up some delicioso lizole, a non-traditional vegetarian/vegan pozole, to parents, students, and Prep staff under the sleeping sun/waking moon that illuminated the beautiful community gathering.

I had prepped one gallon of pozole the night before since we had limited time between the end of school (3pm) and the start of service (4:30), as well as the vegetable stock for the second gallon.  However, the students worked hard to get the second batch ready as they sanitized stations, rinsed the hominy, chopped mushrooms and limes, organized cashiers’ table ($3 per bowl), measured out condiments (oregano, feta, lemon basil, cilantro, crushed chile de arbol), and more.  And, or course, they cooked the second batch, tasting and seasoning as they went to ensure it was just as good as the first batch.  They watched the onions sweat, but not carmelize too much.  They inhaled the fragrance of freshly minced garlic.  They squeezed in just enough fresh lime juice to add a kick of acidity.  The good news?  We sold out of both gallons and we had to turn people away! A huge success for the kids; they worked hard, and they earned their money.

We will be returning to pizza-making after Thanksgiving (the kids just made their first-batch of pizza dough!).  Hopefully, we can sell some fresh pizzas, since we still need additional funds for the t-shirts.  But overall, the night perfectly encapsulated Barrio Bites – kids having fun cooking and bringing their community together with some nutritious, delicious food.

Barrio Bites: October 18, 25, 26

The first three days of Barrio Bites were a success!  I have 16 students participating, one more than I said I would allow, but I felt a little sheepish about turning away a middle school student who so obviously wanted to be a part of the program.  My reason for putting a cap on the number of kids is the simple fact I’m the only adult present, and I need to be as aware as possible about everything when it comes to the kids using knives and other kitchen equipment that could possibly cause an injury.  I felt like 15 was a good number.  Plus, have you ever worked with 15 middle-school students?  The chaos and anarchy 1 middle-school student can cause, let alone 15, is reason enough to put a cap.  Gotta love middle school!The first month of the program will be focused on pizza-making.  I got this idea from Chef Ricardo Heredia of Alchemy when I went to Olivewood.  I have a few reasons for doing so.  The ingredients for pizza dough and sauce are relatively cheap, and since I’m buying everything, there’s only so far my wallet will stretch!  Also, kids friggin’ love pizza!  Granted, it usually involves pepperoni and cheese, and that’s all good in the hood.  But it’s an awesome way to sneak in some veggies.  Finally, pizza is a form of art.  Various dough styles, sauces, and the final products all have a uniqueness to them.  Maybe you only want cheese, maybe you want tome summer squash and fresh tomatoes, maybe you’d like to get a little red onion on there.  Feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, goat cheese.  Who cares!  Pizza is like the Jackson Pollock of foods.

So my goal the first week of pizza making was to introduce them to the key ingredients involved in making dough.  Each kid received a food journal on October 18 (that was the official first class, where I introduced myself and the kids sampled 5 different apples to begin to identify flavors; we talked about how smell, texture, taste, mouthfeel).  They received a recipe and a brief overview of yeast and how it works.  After taking notes, we discussed the dough I’d prepared.  I’ll be honest – I had made pizza dough once or twice in my life back in culinary school.  It was not something I felt overly confident in making.  However, what better way to teach the kids about trying something new, seeing the results, and learning from it?  That’s part of the excitement of cooking and working with kids.  Anyways, I proofed the dough in a fridge overnight, let it rise, took it out an hour before grilling, beat it down, and let it rest.After our dough discussion, we left the classroom and we went over our outdoor “kitchen” set-up.  This consisted of a number of tables used for school lunch that we organized outside since we have no real kitchen and my classroom is the size of a shoe box.  We sanitized everything, and then we discussed set up:  our three-compartment sink, cutting boards, knives, bowls.  That’s their basic mis-en-place.  Hopefully, all the kids will have more soon, but I was running around like a madman the night before since we literally have nothing and I wanted to at least get workable stations up and functioning, so the kids could feel like it was a reality.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to raise some funds or get some donations for the equipment we’ll need moving forward, but it is what it is thus far.  Thanks to Ms. Moore, Ms. Tavizon, and Ms. Moreno for donating some supplies!After station set-up, we discussed knife skills and the kids went to work cutting some summer squash for the pizzas.  This was the most nerve-racking part; I know sooner or later, the kids WILL cut themselves.  But it didn’t happen this time!  We went over how to properly hold a chef’s knife, how to hold the squash, placement of fingers, etc.  Many of the kids seemed VERY hesitant and nervous, which I thought was a good thing.  I was worried they’d have a laissez-faire attitude, waving knives around, pretending they were ninjas or Michael Myers, thinking they were some Michelin-starred chef dicing through veggies with the speed of Dash Parr.  Nothing like that.  They were wary of the knives and vegetables, hesitant and cautious, fearful (I believe) of legitimately injuring themselves.  All of this was good.  I’d rather them be overly cautious than negligent.  I didn’t want fingers to be a topping.After knife skills, we went over to the pizza-making station and the kids rolled out dough, added sauce and veggies, and cooked up pizza.  Or so it should have played out.  You see, the only heat source we have to cook is a grill hidden behind the school (another reasons pizza-making works to start off our program).  I had tested it on Wednesday, and it reached 700 degrees.  Perfect!  On Thursday, it reached 300 degrees and no higher.  WTF.  Well, propane usually helps.  So we had to clean up all the stations and reschedule the grilling for Friday afternoon after I’d refilled the propane tank.  It turns out our school has one empty propane tank with no back-up.  Oh, well.  You live and you learn.Anyways, Friday came and we grilled pizzas.  The kids had a great time getting messy with flour, rolling and re-rolling and re-rolling dough till it fell apart.  Adding too much sauce.  Too much cheese.  Looking at vegetables with contempt.  And, above all, having fun and learning.  I would step in and help a little, provide some advice about docking the pizza dough, make sure they put some vegetables on their pizzas, and work with them at the grill.  But I wanted them to experiment, learn, be a little messy, have fun.  And I think they did!  In the next couple of weeks, the kids will make their own dough, their own sauce, and create a signature pizza with partners.  I’m then hoping we can sell some pizzas after-school to raise money for the club to purchase materials including a Barrio Bites t-shirt that’s being developed.    Until then . . .

Olivewood Gardens and Chef Ricardo of Alchemy!

Last week, I had the good fortune of helping Chef Ricardo of Alchemy work with elementary students at Olivewood Gardens in National City. These students, a combination of fourth and fifth graders, came in 3 shifts with an estimated 15 students per shift.  All in all, Chef Ricardo was able to make pizza with nearly 60 students!  The students first picked vegetables from Olivewood’s garden:  fresh summer squash, gold and red beets.  The students were able to see where food comes from and how it’s used in a delicious fashion.  The students then learned how to cut the squash, while others grated mozzarella for the pizzas.  Each class helped to make two pies:  one with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, summer squash, and red beets and the other with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, a herbed ricotta, wilted spinach, and golden beets.  Both pizzas were finished off after cooking with either fresh lemon basil or oregano. Basically, the kids loved how Ricardo talked about the history of pizza, the ingredients found in the dough, the importance of vegetables, and more.  What did I do?  Roll out the dough, fire off the pies, a little of this, a little of that.  But more than anything, the importance of a culinary education was reinforced and it was beautiful to see.  Between the beautiful grounds at Olivewood, the enthusiasm and kindness of Kati Butler (Olivewood Gardens Chef Educator, who helps to organize such events with the schools), Chef Ricardo’s obvious love for working with kids, and the awesome kids themselves, it was a deliciously fantastic day.  Here are some photos.