recipe

Homemade Tamales-South Texas Style

I've eaten tamales all my life but hadn't mastered the "art" of tamale making. In Spanish, a tamalera is a an expert and this year I decided if no one else called me a tamalera, I wanted to at least give myself the title. So my mom and I put together a plan to spend a weekend making the best tamales in the neighborhood. We drew on the experiences of friends and relatives and I'm ready to share a great recipe!! This recipe makes 9-10 dozen chicken tamales. If  you choose, you can substitute pork or beef.

Ingredients:

5 lbs masa ( You can purchase this at a grocery store that services Hispanics.)

2 lbs lard ( I've heard you can use shortening instead of lard but we used the real deal.)

2  chickens, uncooked

black pepper

ground cumin

1 full pod garlic

6 oz. chile ancho (These are dried and 6 oz.=about 6-7 pods)

1 pkg corn husks

 

Do Ahead- Step One

Boil and debone chickens ( I encourage you to season your chickens with your favorite seasoning as they boil). Mince finely with a butcher knife or place in a food processor and  add 1 t black pepper, 1 t cumin and 3-5 cloves garlic. (I'm way heavy handed with the garlic.) Set chicken aside. In fact, this step can be done days or a couple of weeks in advance. I got my chicken ready a week before, seasoned it, and then placed it in the freezer until the big day.

Do Ahead -Step Two

This part of the recipe can also be done in advance and then kept in the refrigerator.

First, place chilies in a saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Soak  for 20-30 minutes until they're soft and pliable. Remove chilies from water and reserve the water. Remove stems and seeds by opening them up and rinsing repeatedly to ensure that no seeds remain. Add 2-4 cloves of garlic, salt and 1 tsp of cumin to the water. Place chilies back in the water and cook on medium until they're cooked and completely soft. Cool then  blend to make a thick paste. (This paste is the foundation of my enchilada sauce which I'll be posting in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for it.)

 

The Night Before

You'll need one large package of corn husks and, in order to work with them, they need to be soft and pliable. They need to soak at least two hours, but we placed ours in a large pot, covered with water, and then weighted them down with something heavy overnight.

 

You're Ready to Start

On the day of tamale making, you'll first prep the masa. The ultimate goal is for cooked tamales to roll out of the husk. For this to happen, you need to make sure the masa isn't too dry. Add 1-11/2 lbs of lard to the masa. Knead it well so that the lard is evenly distributed. Then  add about 1 c of the chili paste, 1 heaping T. black pepper,1 heaping T. cumin and salt to taste. Yes, I said taste. When all is mixed well, pinch the masa and give it a little taste.

If you're able to purchase seasoned masa, you can do that and skip making the chili paste altogether.

As you prepare to assemble, a team approach is best, especially if you're a novice. We laid a vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen table then divided up the duties. Some of us spread the masa on the corn husk and others filled them with chicken and rolled them up. If you're a novice spreader, you'll make a mess, like me!

 

The actual spreading of the masa can be tricky.  Rather than write a lengthy description, I'm including a quick video of  the process.Click here for video.

Once you've got them all rolled up, it's time to cook!!

1. Create a bed of corn husks in the bottom of your cooking pot. Cover a metal measuring cup or a small coffee mug with foil and place it in the center to provide stability for stacking.

2. Stack tamales, open side up, somewhat vertically. They should look like a teepee inside the cooking pot. This is the time you add water to the bottom of the pot, about 1/2"-3/4 " deep.

3. Cover with  a foil tent to keep the moisture in.

4. Place a dishtowel over the foil as the final step before cooking. (To be honest, no one we asked could identify the purpose of the dishtowel but everyone said,"That's the way my mother did it!"

How long do they take to cook?

Turn the stove on high until you know the water's boiling. When it boils, turn the temperature to medium and let them steam for 45 min. to 1 hr. This worked well for us when we cooked 3-4 dozen at a time. (We weren't very successful when we cooked about six dozen. They seemed to take forever and the ones on the inside cooked while the ones on the outside didn't.)

After about 45 min., pull one out and give it a taste test. The masa should be firm and cooked thoroughly. Allow them to cool, then wrap in foil by the dozen,  label and freeze for your next family gathering or party.

 

See Our Finished Product

At the end of our weekend, I felt successful because I'd always looked at tamale making as a feat that was beyond my capabilities and I proved myself wrong. However, the best part of  the entire process was the time I spent with my mom. Hours of planning on the phone for three weeks, the entire day of spreading and rolling, and then serving freshly made tamales to family members that evening and waiting for their approval.

Many life lessons can be learned  when the pot is boiling and ideas can be exchanged over a cutting board. A kitchen is an easy place to leave your Fingerprint on someone's life, letting them know their value and what they mean to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearty Pumpkin Pancakes

Fall and winter are the perfect time to incorporate pumpkin into your menu. Our family appreciates the versatility of this fruit ( seen by most as a vegetable) as evidenced by Pumpkin Cake which has replaced pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and Pumpkin Fluff , a low fat and low sugar appetizer served with apples and graham crackers is  recommended  and prepared by our daughter, the registered dietician. Our newest addition to the pumpkin-fest is the pumpkin pancake.  I took a delicious recipe made with white flour and tweaked and tweaked until I came up with this whole wheat version ( I'm always on a quest for healthy and yummy). This recipe makes about 8-10, 4 inch pancakes.

Ingredients:

In one bowl mix the following:

1 1/4 c whole wheat flour

1 t pumpkin pie spice

1/2 t salt

2 t baking powder

2T sugar ( or Splenda if you cut sugar whenever you can)

 

In a separate bowl, mix the following:

1 +1T milk

1 egg

1 t vanilla

2 T melted butter

7 T pumpkin

Fold liquid into bowl with dry ingredients. Using a 1/3c, pour onto a hot griddle. Flip, when top side appears somewhat dry. These pancakes are nice and dense. They stick to your ribs and hold you for several hours.

My family  loves these  because they taste good but I  love pancakes because they they're like fingerprints, no two are alike. Each one swirls just a little differently from the one sizzling just beside it.

You're fingerprint is your mark of uniqueness. No one else looks like you, laughs like you or has a birthmark in the same place as you. Your hips or the texture of your hair may not be exactly to your specifications but you can be certain that there are things about you that others admire. Are you the organizer that  scattered women can't survive without or  the one with witty sarcasm that keeps the office in stitches?

I hope the next time you cook up a pancake, you'll check out how special each one is, then think about yourself and remind yourself that your swirls are practically perfect!

Cheddar Chicken

This is a great child friendly recipe that is also sure to impress the adults at the table.  Seriously who doesn't love cheese & crackers?  

Prep Time is about 30 minutes so it's great for busy Moms, cook time is 35 minutes and it serves 3 adults comfortably.  I recommend serving with your favorite vegetables and cous cous.

Ingredients:

1 package of chicken (3 breasts)

2 gallon sized freezer bags

1 1/2 teaspoons Braggs Amino Acids OR 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 teaspoons Pinot Grigio Vinegar

1 egg

30 Ritz crackers

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons butter

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Trim your chicken and cuts the breasts in half (not filleted) and put them in a gallon sized freezer bag.

3. Add Braggs, vinegar and egg.  Seal the bag and make sure you've squeezed the air out.

4. Squish the marinade thoroughly in the bag.  Using a kitchen mallet, flatten the breasts so that they are about 3/4 of an inch thick and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

5. While the chicken marinades, fill the other plastic zippered bag with Ritz crackers.  Use a rolling pin to turn the crackers into crumbs.  Pour onto a plate, add cheese and toss with fork.

6. Dip each chicken breast into the cracker and cheese mixture and place onto a lightly sprayed pan.  The bottom doesn't need to be thickly coated, just the top.  Sprinkle remaining mixture onto the breasts.

7. Sprinkle minced garlic and pour melted butter across the breasts.

8. Bake for 35 minutes.

Serves 3

On a side note, I usually skip the butter and just spray with a little olive oil to make the crust stick but last night I treated the family to a little extra fat and boy did it go over well.  I believe my husbands response was, "Dang Baby, this is awesome!  What did you do different?"  While there are ways to "health" this recipe up, it sure is fun AS IS!

Empanadas: A Mexican Tradition

An empanada is basically a turnover. They are a classic item in the Hispanic culture and can be sweet or savory. Fillings range from fruit to meat and are a part of the holidays as well as a regular menu item in many Hispanic kitchens. Our granddaughter Ava is fortunate to have both German and Mexican heritage and we spent an afternoon keeping her connected with her 'latina side' by preparing empanadas to leave for Santa. The original recipe came from my Aunt Mercy's kitchen and I adapted it to decrease the fat content. I'm giving you both recipes so you can choose the one that best suites your taste.

Ingredients:

All Purpose flour

cream cheese

butter

cinnamon, sugar mix

your choice of fruit filling

Mercy's Marvelous Empanadas

(makes about 6 dz. mini-empanadas)

4c flour

8 oz. cream cheese

4 sticks butter or margarine

 

Yvonne's Less Fatty Empanadas

(makes about 3 dz mini-empanadas)

2c flour

1/2 c reduced fat cream cheese

1 stick butter

In a bowl, blend room-temperature cream cheese and butter together until well mixed. Next, add flour, about 1/2c  at a time until you've used all the flour. Refrigerate for 2 hours. ( This is imperative with the original recipe. It will be sticky and hard to work with if you don't refrigerate.)

Flour the rolling pin and roll the dough out like a pie crust. The stem of a wine glass made it easy for little hands

to help with the work.

 Spoon the filling ( about 1 t for a 4-5in. circle) in the center then fold over and use a fork to seal edges.( We used pineapple filling.) I recommend  you brush the bottom edge with a little water to help the dough stick and prevent bursting open when heated.

 Place in the oven @  350 ˚for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle

with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

The kitchen is the heart of the home and a perfect place to get to know each other better or iron out differences. We can share family history, build memories and if we allow ourselves, in the midst of mouth-watering aromas, make ourselves vulnerable to one another, leaving a Fingerprint in each others lives.

Practically Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite family Christmas morning traditions was waking up to the smell of fresh Cinnamon Rolls (not unlike the recipe below :).  Several years ago, my mom and her friend packed all of us kids up and took us to the mall where they watched through the glass window at the Cinnabon shop until they learned all the tricks of the trade! Every year after that we've woken up to fresh, gooey, homemade Cinnamon Rolls on Christmas morning. Now THAT makes a home.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup margarine, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
 Directions
  1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
  2. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

This recipe was taken from All Recipes website. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Cake Balls

  I don't know about you, but this time of year is when I get the itch to bake! Expecially with ingredients like pumpkin! Here is a really simple recipe I found on Heidi's Recipes that you can make for your friends and family, or even better WITH your friends and family! (Don't forget to set aside a few of these decadent treats for yourself!)

Pumpkin Spice Cake Balls

1 Spice Cake Mix
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (low-fat or regular)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Combine dry cake mix and pumpkin puree.  Beat on medium speed until fully combined.  Mixture will be thick.
  4. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and smooth surface.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is slightly browned.
  6. Cool cake completely.
  7. Crumble the cooled cake into a large mixing bowl.  Break up the cake with your hands or two forks until fine crumbs appear.  Add the softened cream cheese, mixing well with a large wooden spoon or your hands until mixture is fully combined.
  8. Roll cake and cream cheese mixture into small balls (about 1 Tablespoon per ball).  Set aside.
  9. Melt almond bark in double boiler or microwave.
  10. Using two forks, dip each ball into the melted almond bark and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  11. Adorn with sprinkles.

Got Guests? Serve Fresh Cranberry Relish

When I decided I'd share my family recipe, my husband of thirty-five years was ecstatic. "If you're going to blog about it, that means you're going to cook it before Thanksgiving!" he chimed. Hence, this afternoon there's a lovely aroma that smells like pie, but it's not. This recipe is quick , easy and lasts for weeks in the refrigerator. It's a tradition for our Thanksgiving meal but is fabulous alongside a turkey or ham sandwich or as a companion to chicken salad, turkey burger or pork loin.

Ingredients

1 lb. of fresh cranberries

1 box of brown sugar

1/2 c raisins

3/4 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

1/4 t salt

1 t minced ginger root

1/4 t cloves

1/4 c lemon juice

zest of  one orange

Throw all ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Refrigerate and serve chilled.

 

That's it! It's done and people who still serve canned cranberries for Thanksgiving

will be in awe of your culinary prowess!

** Clearly, this recipe is loaded with sugar. Today, my husband is unaware that I used Spelenda Brown Sugar Blend. Half the calories and sugar.

*** You can substitute ground ginger. However, there's nothing like the explosion when  fresh ginger hits the taste buds.

This is a great hostess gift for the holiday season.

When people visit us, I love sending them home with a little expression of  our friendship, so

I'm also keeping a few for guests who visit us during the holidays.

Brown Rice, Mexican Style

Anywhere there's Mexican food, you'll find rice. Enchiladas and rice, tacos and rice, beans and rice. My mother, grandmother and mother-in-law each prepared rice with their own twist and now I've added mine. I hope you'll try this easy, yummy recipe which takes brown rice, full of nutrients, and packs it with flavor that will fill your kitchen with a heavenly aroma.

Mexican Brown Rice

Ingredients

1 c. brown rice

2t. canola oil   

1 T. chicken boullion

2 c. water

½ t. ground cumin

2 cloves minced garlic

1/3 c chopped onion

3/4 c diced or crushed tomatoes

1c chopped vegetables –combination of any of the following: mushrooms, cooked garbanzos, chopped carrots, celery, bell pepper, frozen peas)

Cilantro (optional)

 

Pour brown rice  and canola oil into 2 qt. saucepan, stirring continually until toasty. ( This will make cooking time shorter and rice will have a wonderfully  firm texture.) When rice has browned sufficiently, add water, cumin, tomatoes and garlic. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to a simmer.  Add vegetables and cilantro after rice has been cooking for 20-25 minutes.Cook an additional 15-20 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is al dente.

Makes 4 c or 8-1/2 c. servings

Tomatillo: Do It Your Way

Tomatillo is commonly known as a green tomato ( in spanish, tomate verde). It is small and covered by an inedible  paper- textured husk and it's flavor is wonderfully tart. My non-Hispanic friends, like Jennifer and Sheri frequently order Enchiladas Verdes ( enchiladas with a green sauce)  when we eat dine at Mexican restaurants so I thought I would just figure out how to make them myself. I've created a recipe for tomatillo salsa which can be eaten with chips or used as the base for the salsa verde in my rendition of  enchiladas verdes.

Don't blink your eyes or you'll miss the  one and only direction for ...

Simply, Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients

18-20 roasted tomatillos

2 roasted Serrano peppers (seeded)

2 cloves garlic

½ t. sugar

1 t salt

½ c cilantro

2T scallions

Put all ingredients in the food processor and puree. The tomatillo has a muted color and the specks of cilantro are bright. This salsa is great looking because of the contrast.

* You can prepare the sauce on the weekend and keep refrigerated until you're ready to make the enchiladas.

Serve it with chips and watch it disappear or keep on going and treat your family to:

Enchiladas Verdes Esquisitos

(Exquisite Green Enchiladas)

Ingredients

1 doz. corn tortillas

21/2 c  cubed cooked chicken

1/2 c white wine or water

8 oz sour cream

1 T cornstarch

salt

2 c  grated white cheese of your choice (Mozarella, Monterrey Jack, pre-packaged Pizza or Italian Blend)

Reserve 1/2 c cheese

 

Heat tortillas on a hot griddle to make them soft and pliable. Fill each tortilla with 2 T chicken and 1 heaping T of cheese. Roll and line them up in a  9x13 baking dish. Cover and place in oven @ 325 while you prepare the sauce.

                                  

Sauce

Heat tomatillo sauce and add ½ c. white wine or water. When sauce is heated through, add  1 t salt. Place ¼ c  sauce into a small bowl and add 1 T cornstarch. Mix through.  Return to stove and add to saucepan  allowing  sauce to thicken and bubble. Add 8 oz. sour cream and stir until sauce is creamy. Remove from heat when it begins to bubble. Pull enchiladas out of the oven and pour sauce over them. Sprinkle remaining ½ c of cheese and serve immediately.

My family thinks these are dreamy!!

Eat the Heat: Jalapeno, Mango Salsa

Salsa comes in all intensities and there are innumerable ways to prepare a tasty one.They are low in calories, usually contain no fat and  if you eat 1/2 c. of  fresh salsa, you can check one of your daily recommended fruits or veggies off the list. This recipe asks for jalapeno which will make a mild-medium salsa. If you want more of a bite, use serrano peppers and if you live on the edge, use habanero peppers.

 

Ingredients

12 roasted tomatillos

2 medium tomatoes

2 c. fresh mango

3 lg. seeded jalapenos

1/3 c. red onion

2 T. fresh ginger root

1/8 c. lime juice

a handful of fresh mint

salt and pepper to taste

Makes 5 c. ( great for a party)

 

 

                                   

         Salsas are a great playground for a creative mind and they're simple to put together.

 

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and chop!!

 

 

 

                                                                    That's it!! The salsa is ready!!

                          

This recipe is great with chips, or as an accompaniment for baked or grilled fish or chicken.