Mexico: Flan, Monarch Butterflies, & Aztecs
Want to know more about Mexico? Are you a lover of travel, geography teacher, homeschooling or involved parent, student, or life-long learner? In an effort to make world geography more meaningful and memorable, I've compiled all you will need to locate Mexico on a map, cook a Mexican meal, watch YouTube clips on Mexico, color the flag, create a Mexican craft, read a great book about Mexico, and more! This is part of a series of lessons I did with my family while studying various countries from around the world.
Where is Mexico?
Locate Mexico on this map of North America. Use this map of Mexico to label the capitol, Mexico City. Mark other relevant features (rivers, mountains, famous locations, etc.) if desired. If you'd like to spend a bit more time researching the country, you can add the language, currency, type of government, religion, and/or famous landmarks. Write them on the back of the map. You can easily find all this information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico.
Fun Facts about Mexico
Mexico has an incredible diversity of animal life, but none has a more astounding tale to tell than the monarch butterfly. Each winter, millions of monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles from their summering grounds the United States and Canada to nest in the mountains of the Mexican state of Michoacan.
Mexico City is built over the ruins of a great Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, which was built on a swamp. Every year the city is sinking at a rate of 6-8 inches because pumps are incessantly drawing out water for the city's growing population.
The red poinsettia (which the Aztecs called cuetlaxochitl) originated in Mexico and is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico (in the 1820s).
One unusual Mayan weapon was a "hornet bomb," which was an actual hornet's nest thrown at enemies during battle.
Prepare and serve Carne Guisada (Mexican beef stew), shredded lettuce with diced tomatoes, refried beans (from a can), guacamole (store-bought), tortillas (store-bought), flan, and hot chocolate with cinnamon.
Carne Guisada (Mexican Beef Stew)
- 2 1/2 lbs chuck roast (trimmed of fat and cut in bite-sized pieces)
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large chopped onion
- 2 minced cloves garlic
- 1 -2 seeded and minced jalapeno peppers
- 3 cups beef stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss the meat pieces with flour, and then brown them quickly in oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, beef stock, tomato paste, cumin and chili powder; bring to a simmer on the stove. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the preheated oven, baking for about 2 to 2-1/2 hours, until meat is extremely tender. Serve as is, on rice, or folded into warm tortillas. (This recipe came from food.com.)
This recipe requires many steps. If you're short on time, simply used boxed Spanish rice. Add frozen corn toward the end of the cooking time, and add fresh, chopped cilantro after taking the rice off the stove.
- 12 ounces cored very ripe tomatoes or use canned tomatoes if ripe tomatoes are not available
- 1 medium white onion
- 1 -3 medium jalapenos
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (may omit if using canned tomatoes)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro
- 1 lime
- 1/4 cup frozen corn
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Process the tomato and onion in processor or blender until pureed and thoroughly smooth. Transfer mixture to measuring cup and reserve 2 cups. Discard excess. Remove ribs and seeds from 2 jalapenos and discard. Mince flesh and set aside. Mince remaining jalapeno. Set aside. Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear- about 1 1/2 minutes. Shake rice vigorously to remove excess water. (This step removes the starch from the rice so it will not stick. IF YOU OMIT THIS STEP YOUR RICE WILL NOT BE DRY AND FLUFFY.) Heat oil in heavy bottomed oven-safe 10 or 12 inch straight-sided sautÃ© pan or Dutch oven with tight fitting lid over low-medium heat about 2 minutes. Drop a few rice grains in and if they sizzle then it is ready. Add rice and fry stirring until rice is light golden and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Be careful that the oil doesn't get too hot too fast or the oil will splatter. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and 2 minced jalapenos and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in broth, pureed mixture, tomato paste, corn and salt. Increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Cover pan and transfer pan to oven to bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30-35 minutes. Stir well after 15 minutes. Stir in cilantro, minced jalapeno to taste, and pass lime wedges separately. (This recipe came from food.com.)
Flan (Baked caramel custard)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
- sliced fruit (strawberries or other fruit) for optional garnish
- Heat sugar in a heavy skillet or saucepan, stirring constantly until it melts and turns a dark golden color. Remove from heat and immediately pour into a 4 1/2 cup metal ring mold, swish it around so it evenly coats the bottom of the ring mold. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in milk,1/2 cup sugar, vanilla and orange peel. Place caramel coated ring mold in another pan and place on an oven rack. Pour egg mixture into the ring mold and pour the hottest tap water possible around the ring mold to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 325Ffor close to l hour or until a knife comes out clean. Cool flan on a wire rack and then chill for at least 3 1/2 hours. To unmold the flan, loosen edges with a spatula, slip spatula down the sides to let air in. Place the serving platter over the mold and flip to allow the flan to slip onto the platter. Spoon the caramel that may remain in the mold on top of the flan. Pile sliced fruit in the center and serve. (This recipe came from food.com.)
Make Montezuma's headdress
Make Montezuma's headdress. Cut a white paper plate in half. Cut a small 1 -inch semi-circle out of the bottom (cut-part) of the plate. Cut out paper strips long enough to go around your head and overlap 1 inch (about 15 x 1 1/2 inches). Color the paper plate and add dots of glitter glue. Glue or tape feathers around the back of the headdress. Staple the paper strip to the headdress so you can wear it on you head. Find more Aztec activity ideas and book suggestions at http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/ponce-de-leon-aztecs-cortez-conquistadores-homeschool-lesson.
Children's Books We Read About Mexico
This is a delightful traditional Mexican tale with many similarities to the story of Cinderella, which appealed especially to my girls. It does a nice job of showing traditional Mexican culture.
This beautifully illustrated 32 page picture book tells of the people and places of Mexico. I liked it because it gave a broad overview of the many aspects of Mexico.
Me, Frida by Amy Novesky is about a famous Mexican artist, Frida. This 32 page picture book does a wonderful job of telling about her life and work. Mexico!: 40 Activities to Experience Mexico Past & Present (Kaleidoscope Kids Books (Williamson Publishing)) by Susan Milord has wonderful activity ideas and information about Mexico if you would like to spend more time and attention on the country of Mexico. We love this book series!
Pray for the people of Mexico
To find out about the religious nature of Mexico and specific ways you can pray for the country, go to operationworld.org.
Visit Mexico on YouTube
Other countries starting with the letter M
Would you prefer to study a different country? Try one of these.
Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic)
I've been to Mexico. Have you been to Mexico yet?
Where is the capital of Mexico?
Ready to visit other countries?
Go to around-the-world-in-26-letters to find links to all the countries we "visited." Each webpage features a menu, craft, books, video clips, worksheets, and more!
© 2011 Shannon