When it comes to enjoying cultural cuisines, it’s so much more than delicious food, it’s reminiscent of family and time spent together. For Veronica Garza, the Mexican American food she grew up enjoying was a reminder of her beloved abuela Alicia and growing up in the bordertown of Laredo, Texas. However when she got older she learned that she had several autoimmune conditions that caused joint pain and took a toll on her health leading her to make changes to her diet. Now the food that she grew up enjoying became a reminder of what she could no longer consume including corn and flour tortillas, a staple in Mexican food.
She noticed that there weren’t any options in stores that married her need with the foods she loves as a third-generation Mexican-American from South Texas. This realization was the impetus that led her to the kitchen to get creative and develop gluten-free/grain-free Mexican American recipes. The almond flour tortilla was born and it set them on a path to what would eventually become Siete Family Foods which she owns with her six family members in Austin, Texas. Veronica is president and co-founder alongside her brother, Miguel, who is CEO and their parents and siblings round out the team. The brand’s symbol is a heron bird in honor of their last name and it’s become a seal of approval for recipe after recipe that Veronica has developed that’s turned into a product.
“I made what would become our first product, our grain free almond flour tortillas eight years ago. My brother, Rob, suggested I try cutting out grains from my diet to see if it would help with my symptoms, and because my family does everything together, my parents and siblings joined me, too,” she tells HipLatina.
“Shortly after this diet change, we realized we felt disconnected from a major part of our Mexican-American heritage: food. We missed traditional dishes, like enchiladas and tacos, so I began experimenting in the kitchen with alternative flours to create tortillas that we could all enjoy. I was determined to make these tortillas taste just as good as the flour tortillas we’d grown up eating. I slowly introduced the tortillas to my family and a few close friends, but it wasn’t until our grandma—who made the best flour tortillas—gave my almond flour tortillas her stamp of approval that we knew we had something special.”
They started selling small batches of tortillas at the local co-op grocer and eventually debuted at local markets and now the brand is available in grocery stores, Target, Costco, and Walmarts across the country. The company is dedicated to following a low-inflammation, grain-free diet with a product line that, in addition to the tortillas that started it all, includes seasonings, sauces, chips, and cookies. This year the family released a cookbook, The Siete Table: Nourishing Mexican American Recipes From Our Kitchen featuring recipes that deliver on their mission. The book is dedicated to their Grandama Alicia who inspired their love of cooking. “I don’t use measurements, just a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” she’s quoted as saying. But when it came to working on the cookbook, Veronica’s similar style of intuitive cooking made it a little difficult.
“I found this to be equally challenging and rewarding. I spent more time in the kitchen, writing down and testing recipes until they were just right, and in the end, it was really rewarding to see all of our family recipes in writing.” Recipes like Mariachis (breakfast tacos in Laredo), carne guisada, tostadas de atún (one of her personal favorites), and even Laredo-style sushi are inspired by their youth growing up in South Texas and the recipes of their abuela.
But not every recipe they grew up with was easily converted into a dairy-free/grain-free/gluten-free option. Their Tres Leches cake, a classic Latin American milk-based dessert, has three different dairy free milks, no eggs, and grain-free flours making it one of the more challenging recipes, according to Veronica. But one thing all the recipes have in common is they align with their philosophy of “salud y sabor”. While some like the tres leches took some tweaking, others are just their variation of a traditional recipe. Mexican rice, agua fresca, and nopalito salad required few if any changes and they still deliver on “healthy and flavor”.
“Salud y sabor” is what guided and ensured that we were creating recipes and meals that are nourishing and delicious—without sacrificing texture, taste, or experience,” Veronica tells us. You can expect recipes with ingredients including cassava and almond flour, coconut sugar and aminos, apple cider vinegar and avocado oil. The book includes a breakdown of the Siete pantry and an introduction to their grain-free tortillas as well as vegan meat recipes and grain-free masa recipe, and a menu for different occasions including the holidays.
The cookbook is a testament to “embracing the hyphen” of Mexican-American culture through food: “Explaining that our culture is neither solely Mexican nor solely American, but rather the combination of both. The hyphen informs everything we do, but it especially informs the way we cook and the foods we, as a family, share with others.”
So which recipe does she believe beautifully encompasses their hyphen identity? The grain-free apple empanadas because “[it] truly represents the fusion of both cultures,” she shares. “Biting into a warm apple empanada is like biting into a warm slice of apple pie except, in this apple empanada recipe, the apple filling is wrapped in grain free masa.”
The book itself is an extension of their mission to deliver flavorful and healthy foods that still celebrate their cultura by making the recipes accessible to all and encouraging the experimentation that led Veronica on this path in the first place.
“We’d like to think that these recipes will encourage and embolden you to embrace ingredients, techniques, and recipes that you maybe haven’t tried before, or new ideas about dishes that you have had, but are different than ours—and then share those experiences with loved ones. “