The Cantina Scene: ‘The Book of Life’ Gets a Dia De Los Muertos Feast!



The Book of Life, the animated new film by Jorge Gutierrez and Guillermo Del Toro, celebrates the power of love and the beauty of the Mexican culture. It also just happens to take place during Dia De Los Muertos. For those unfamiliar with this celebration, it occurs in Mexico (as well as various other Latin American countries) on November 2, 2014 and is a celebration of the return of our lost loved ones for one night of celebration and family. Unlike in many cultures, this celebration of life and death is a happy one. Feasting, bread and marigolds are found alongside sugar skulls and families lovingly tending the graves of their past loved ones. We at The Cantina Scene decided to follow in the footsteps of The Book of Life and celebrate Dia De Los Muertos with a few recipes of our own that both Maria and Manolo might enjoy.

“Did I also mention I learned Fencing?”- Drinks

Sugar Skull Sangria

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Though originally consumed in Spain and Portugal (and not even in the US until 1964), the blood color of Sangria makes it perfect for your Halloween or Dia De Los Muertos celebrations.

You Will Need:

  • A pitcher
  • 1 750ml bottle of Red Wine (we used a red wine blend called Dearly Beloved)
  • 1 shot of brandy of orange liquor
  • 1 apple chopped
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 2 cups club soda

In a pitcher, combine the red wine, liquor and fruit. Let sit overnight in the fridge so that all the flavors mix together. Before serving, add club soda. Pour over ice and serve with an orange slice as a garnish. The fruit is highly alcoholic, so fair warning if you decide to eat it.

“What’s with Mexican’s and Death?”- The Main Course 

Skull Corn Chips

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You Will Need:

  • A small skull cookie cutter (we found ours at Walmart)
  • 2 Cookie sheets
  • Pastry brush or a paper towel and a lot of patience
  • Corn or flour tortillas (we used 4 corn tortillas and it made about 16 chips)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Using as much of the tortillas as possible, cut out the skull shapes using the cookie cutter. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of the tortilla with vegetable oil (we did this with a paper towel doused with a little olive oil. Trust me when I say use the pastry brush).  Place the skulls on the cookie sheets and sprinkle with salt.  Place cookie sheets in the oven for 7 minutes. Remove the trays and rotate them. Bake for 7 more minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven.

Joaquin’s Garlic Guacamole

You Will Need:

  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 Avocados
  • A squeeze of lemon
  • Garlic salt to taste

Reduce heat of the oven to 375. Slice off the narrow top of the garlic bulb and place in an ovensafe dish. Put the olive oil on top of the bulb. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. In the meantime, slice avocados down the middle and remove the pit. Using a spoon, scoop out the avocado into a bowl. Mash avocado until smooth. Squeeze lemon into the avocado mash and add garlic salt to taste. When the garlic is done roasting, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool.  Take cool garlic and squeeze four of the cloves out of the garlic skin into the avocado mash. Mix together.

La Muerte’s Dia De Los Nachos

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Your Will Need:

  • Your skull tortilla chips
  • Cooked and seasoned ground beef or chicken
  • Shredded Cheese (cheddar is awesome, but we used pepperjack)
  • 1 can sliced olives
  • Salsa
  • Garlic Guacamole

Keep oven at 375 Degrees F. Layering in the bottom of an oven safe dish with the skull chips, add meat and then sprinkle with shredded cheese and olives. Place in oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted. Let sit to cool, and then top with salsa and guacamole. Devour like Chuy the pig.

“I’m allergic to dying”-Dessert

So, we could make churros, or we could make something your ancestors would love (oh and if you’re dying for churros they are actually pretty easy to make). We decided to go the traditional route with the bread below.

Pan De Los Muertos

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For the more traditional followers of Dia De Los Muertos, this bread would be something that you could leave out for your ancestors. Just make sure to make enough for you too!

You Will Need:

For the Bread

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active yeast (found in the baking aisle in little packets)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons anise seeds
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs (beaten before hand makes your life easier)
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Plastic Wrap

In a saucepan, combine the milk and butter over medium heat. After the butter melts, remove from heat and add warm water. In a bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, the yeast, salt, anise and white sugar. Stir in the milk and butter mixture. Add orange zest and eggs. Slowly start to mix in the rest of the flour until you have formed a dough. Dump this out onto a slightly floured surface and then roll the dough until it is a smooth ball. Put this ball in a slightly greased bowl and set aside for 2 hours covered in plastic wrap for it to double in size (which is actually really cool to see). After this time, punch the dough down and form another ball. Place this on a cookie sheet and form a small little ball to place on the top. We tried to make small bones as well, but rising dough likes to mock your creativity. Cover the cookie sheet with plastic wrap again and set aside for another hour. This thing is about to get massive, so make sure there is room all around the bread on the cookie sheet. After an hour, preheat the oven to 350 and then bake your bread for 30-40 minutes in the oven. Remove and set aside.

For the Glaze

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange rind
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar to sprinkle on top

In a saucepan, combine the white sugar, juice and orange rind. Mix well and bring to a boil. Allow the boil to continue for two minutes. Remove from heat and pour over, or brush on, the bread while still warm. Sprinkle the white sugar over the top to give it an added sparkle. Present the bread to your ancestors while munching on some to the side.


 Notes from the Book of Life:

  • True love conquers all, even on a budget
  • Baking your own bread is surprisingly easy
  • Baking bread bring out all the animals in your house and your normally hermit roommate
  • Nachos are a crowd pleaser and relatively cheap to make
  • Without booze, dinner was about 25$
  • Much of this feast requires pre-planning or overnight sitting, so plan accordingly
  • November 2nd is Dia De Los Muertos
  • Book of Life is in theaters now.

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