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In setting out to write a cookbook, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, her sister and mother wanted their recipes to be user-friendly.

“We wanted to make sure anyone could read this and make the recipe,” Gonzalez-Smith said.

That would be someone like me, a bit of a novice when it comes to cooking Mexican food. I’ve made tacos using El Paso taco mix seasoning, and I’ve thrown some canned black beans and salsa, grated cheddar cheese and cooked chicken in a microwave-heated tortilla and called it a burrito. My one attempt at refried beans ended with most of the crusty contents being scraped into a trash can.

It was hard to pick a recipe to try from “Muy Bueno.” The colorful photos accompanying each recipe are fabulous, and I want to try them all. But I decided to start small, with one of my all-time favorites: guacamole.

Gonzalez-Smith says the key to guacamole is to use fresh ingredients. “Muy Bueno’s” recipe calls for avocados (Gonzalez-Smith recommends using Hass avocados, if available), white onion, garlic, a tomato, salt and lots of fresh lime juice. Jalapeño pepper is optional. I found that a tablespoon of salt was too much, but work colleagues who tried it thought it tasted fine. I made a second batch with less salt and it turned out great. It’s now my favorite guacamole recipe, out of a gazillion that are readily available on the Internet.

I also made the homemade chicken soup, which was easy and tasted delicious, a jazzed-up version of traditional chicken soup with tomato sauce, rice and potatoes, and four cloves of garlic, among other ingredients.

The most useful section of the book for me is the glossary of chiles. The only chile pepper I’m familiar with is the jalapeño. The book includes a picture of the authors’ favorite red and green chile peppers — from pasilla to Serrano — how hot or mild they are and instructions for how to roast chiles, an integral ingredient of many of the book’s recipes.

Since I can’t stop staring at the photo of the coconut milk cake — it looks moist, even in the picture — I might try that next.

Gonzalez-Smith came up with the coconut milk cake recipe through experimentation, whipping together evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, vanilla and rum, pouring this over a white cake pierced with a fork while the cake is warm and letting it sit in the refrigerator for two to three days.

The recipe is a variation of “tres leches” cake, or “three milks cake.”

“It’s a traditional Mexican recipe, but nobody in our family has it, so I tried lots of different recipes out there,” she said. “I tried coconut milk because I love coconut milk. I put it in, voilà! All of that milk is inside the cake.”

Gonzalez-Smith will be at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Bookmark from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday signing copies of “Muy Bueno,” reading from the cookbook and answering questions. Jeanine Thurston, whose photographs accompany all the recipes in the cookbook, will talk about working on “Muy Bueno.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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