New Years Tamales

Usually around here, we make tamales before Christmas, but this time, it got put off until New Years eve and then it didn’t make it here until now. But, I’m a firm believer if you’re willing to put in the work for tamales, they’re good any time! I will make a whole bunch of them then freeze them for later or give them away to family and friends though, I will admit, I hoard most of them for myself!

Ingredients for Filling

Bone-in Pork Butt (Mine was around 6-7 pounds)
Chili Powder
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder or Fresh Minced Garlic
Onion Powder
1 10 oz bag Red Chili Pods (I use mild, but you can use a mix of mild and medium or mild and hot depending on your level of heat you want)

 

Tools and Extras You Need

1 package of corn husks
Large tamale pot with steaming tray in bottom
Tongs
Cookie Sheet
Spoon or masa spreader

 

What I do is put my pork roast in the crock pot the day before I want to make tamales so that the meat is cooked and cooled by the time I’m ready to roll it up.

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Cooked Pork

So I take my pork roast and I make a rub with the chili powder, salt and pepper and I rub it into the meat generously. In order for your rub to stick, make sure that you dab the roast dry with paper towels before putting your rub on. After that, I put it in the crock pot, on low and I cook it for 6-8 hours or until the roast is peeling away from the bone.

 

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Shredded Pork

If you are ready to make your tamales, you’re going to need to soak your corn husks to soften them up. I have a large tupperware container I lay the husks in and fill it with water. Let them soak for about an hour, so make sure that you schedule all your steps in accordance. We’ll leave them in the water until we actually ready to fill the husks.

Once the pork roast is cooked, I let it cool and then I go in and shred it, making sure to get all the bones. You would think that big bones are all you’ll find, but in fact, I did find a couple smaller pieces which might have broken off or been shaved off when the butcher cut it, so just be thorough and careful.

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Soaked Corn Husks

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Red Chili Pods

In a medium sized pot, combine 5 cups of water (or until podsĀ are just covered) and then add 3/4 of the bag chili pods of your choosing (be they all mild or a mixture of mild and hot to get that extra spice.) I use mild because my stomach can’t handle spicy food even if I crave it! We’re going to bring the water to a low boil and we’re going to cook the chili pods until they’re nice and soft. I find that my cooking time varies depending on the chili’s. Once they start boiling, I would say it takes about 20-25 minutes respectfully and I stir my pods and turn them over just to make sure they’re cooking evenly.

 

 

I would like to make mention that there are so many ways to make tamales that you will see variations all over the place. If you don’t want to use powdered garlic and powdered onion, simply add 2 tbsp of minced garlic to your water and one whole onion, cut up, to cook with your chili’s.

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Chili Stems Removed

Once your chili’s are cooked, we’re going to remove them from the heat and fish them out to put on a plate to cool some. The reason for this is because I then pull the stems off the chili’s. Some people just blend it all up but I don’t. And if you try to pull the stems off when they’re fresh out of the water, you’re going to burn your fingers.

 

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Red Chili Sauce

Now, if you have a blender that you can put hot liquids into, we’re going to put our cooked chili pods into the blender and then pour about 3 cups of the chili water into the blender. Some people just pour out the chili water, but its got great flavor and I hate to waste it. If you’re not comfortable with working with hot liquid, just wait until it’s cool, and if your blender isn’t going to hold all the water and the chili’s, please don’t overfill it or it WILL spew out of the lid and you’ll be burned or covered in red chili sauce. Simply do it in batches.

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Pork and Chili Sauce

We’re going to puree it until it’s all nice and smooth, or as smooth as it’s going to get. Set half a cup of the red chili puree aside for your masa then pour the rest of the red chili sauce into the shredded pork meat and then mix it in together until well incorporated. Now it’s ready to be used for our tamale stuffing so it’s time to prepare our masa Dough.

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for Masa Dough

2 pounds lard
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
5 pounds masa flour
2-3 cups chicken broth

 

If you have a stand mixer, I encourage you to use it, but if you don’t, just mix it by hand, which is what I do, even though I have a stand mixer. Weird, I know! But I like the handy work that goes in to making tamales.

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Snow Cap Lard

Add 1 pound of lard to your mixer and mix it until it’s soft and fluffy. If you’re working by hand, just get a little down and dirty with a good heavy spoon and work your lard with it.

 

Next, add 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp of salt to your lard and mix them together.

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Masa Flour

Add 2.5 pounds of masa (half the bag)and mix it well with your lard. If doing it by hand, just do it like you would a bread dough, though let me warn you, our masa is going to be STICKY so you’ll have it all between your fingers.

Add 1 cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of the red chili sauce to the masa mix. If it’s dry and not the consistency of peanut butter, add a little more chicken broth (up to 1/2 a cup), until its the consistency we want.

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Mixing Masa Dough

So now we have our masa dough and our filling ready, and our corn husks have soaked, it’s time to take some husks out and rinse them off, pulling off the little corn silk bits that might be left. We’ll then get some of the extra water off by letting them drain in a colander.

 

Now we’re going to lay out our work station with our masa, our filling, our corn husks, and a cookie sheet to lay our our finished tamales.

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Spread Masa on Corn Husk

You’ll notice your corn husks are triangular in shape. Take a husk and place the wide end of it on the palm of your hand as that’s where the masa will go. Spread a couple tablespoonfuls of masa over the middle of the corn husk in your palm, but don’t take the masa all the way to the bottom of the husk or the edges as it’ll make a mess. Once your masa is spread, leaving a thin layer (just how I like to spread my peanut butter on toast), we’re going to take a

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Pork on Masa

couple tablespoons of our filling and put it down the center of our masa layer. We then fold both sides of the husk towards the middle, then bring the pointed end up against the seam. Voila! You have your first tamale. Now just repeat these steps until you’re done!

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Center Fold

I lay my tamales on the cookie sheet, folded side down to hold it shut until I’m ready to load my tamale steamer.

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Folding End to the Seam

So we’re going to fill our steamer with water to the fill line which is where it’s just below the steaming rack. Also, as a nice little trick, put a penny in the water so that when your water is getting low, the sound of the penny bouncing around will let you know that you need to add more water. To add water, I usually pour it down the side wall of the pot, as long as the water isn’t going directly into a tamale. Basically, you just find a gap to add water so we don’t burn our pot dry while cooking.

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Tamale Pot Steamer

Next, we’re going to place our tamales in, folded side down, with our seams against the side of the pot. As you load in more tamales, put your seams against the other tamales already in the pot which will keep them from unfolding.

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Tamales in the Pot

Once your pot is loaded, cover it with the lid and bring the water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn it down to a simmer and let steam for 2.5 – 3 hours. To test if the tamales are done, take one out with your tongs and lay it on a plate. Peel off the corn husk (carefully since its hot), and if it peels away clean from your masa, they’re done! If not, let them steam a little longer.

As you might have noticed in our featured picture, the tamales are actually tied shut with a little bit of corn husk. I did this because my other half can’t eat chili’s so I tied them shut to mark them as just being shredded pork and cheese.

*I just wanted to mention that the masa recipe we used is enough for two batches as there isn’t an exact science as to how much dough you’ll need or how much pork will be left over. You can mix both batches instead of just one masa batch, put the leftover masa in an airtight freezer bag and freeze it to use later.


Irresistable Pecan Pie

That’s right! We’re going DOUBLE pecan pie since I believe that pecan pie should actually have a fair amount of pecans in it and not just a bunch of custard jelly topped with a few little slivers.

I got this recipe years ago from Allrecipes and it’s written by IHART44, So thanks, IHART44, for sharing this wonderful recipe and converting a pecan pie hater into a pecan pie lover.

Ingredients

1 prepared pie shell, unbaked and thawed

3 eggs beaten

3/4 C light corn syrup

2 tbsp dark corn syrup

3/4 C light brown sugar

3 tbsp melted butter

1 pinch salt

1/2 C finely crushed pecans

1 C quartered pecans

1 C pecan halves

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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Mixing Together Filling Ingredients

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, light and dark corn syrups, brown sugar, butter, salt and finely crushed pecans. It’s pretty simple, really. I just stirred them all together with my trusty blue spatula!

 

If you’re using a frozen pie shell, make certain that you let it defrost. I poked a few holes in the bottom with a fork just to keep it from blowing up like a balloon.

Spread quartered pecans over bottom of defrosted/room temperature pie crust. I bought a big ole bag of pecan halves and just broke them into a couple pieces because we want some big chunks, not like the crushed ones we added into our corn syrup mix so don’t go poking through the store looking for pecan quarters. Just buy the halves and make them work!

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Pecan Quarters on Bottom of Pie Shell

 

Pour syrup mixture over top of pecans, then arrange pecan halves on top of pie.

 

Bake in a preheated 350 oven for one hour or until firm; let cool at least an hour before serving. Since I have a convection oven, I did mine on convect bake at 325 for about an hour and 10 minutes.

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Pecan Pie Halves On Top of Filling

You don’t want to overcook since your pecans on top will burn if you’re not careful, but you don’t want to under cook, otherwise you’ll have a jelly mess. Letting the pie cool is essential as it will set up during the cooling process. Once it has had time to cool off, slice it up and serve it. (I served mine with some butter pecan ice cream! Yum!)

 

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Our Finished Pie


Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

My dad is a true lover of oatmeal cookies and some time ago I had found a recipe for them. (I think it was off the oats container). Not to say that they weren’t pretty tasty, but I like cookie shaped, soft and chewy cookies and the ones I made, while they tasted good, weren’t the texture that I desired. So, I got a little itch of creativity and decided to fiddle around and come up with something I thought better fit my idea of what I want and these are the ones I came up with.

Ingredients

1 C butter softened
1 1/4 C packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp Watkins All Natural Pure Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 C rolled oats
1 C Sun Maid Golden Raisins
2 C boiling water

 

Please note, before you begin these cookies, I wanted to tell you that this specific batch DID NOT have raisins and you do not have to add the raisins. The reason I didn’t add them is because I made this batch for my father who was in the hospital and he just doesn’t like raisins. But I do, and I find that the golden raisins are just tastier, both in flavor and texture, then regular raisins, but you can use either!

Preheat your oven to 325.

Boil your 2 cups of water. I use my Pyrex measuring cup that holds 4 cups, put it in the microwave a couple of minutes and I’m set. You’re going to add your raisins to the water to re hydrate them so they’re nice and plump and soft. Let the raisins sit in the water while you prep your dough.

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Mixing Wet Ingredients

First, take your
Cream together your butter and your brown sugar. Add your eggs and vanilla and mix them in well until you have a nice, fluffy mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine your flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda. You can sift these together to make sure you get some of that spice in it all and to ensure that your cloves break up, since for some reason my ground cloves have a few unground lumps in them.

Now we’re going to slowly add our dry ingredients to our wet, mixing them in until incorporated. Man, it smells so good with all that butter and spices!

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Mixing Dry Ingredients

Now we’re going to add in our oats, stirring enough to make sure that there are oats in all the dough.

Lastly, we’re going to add the raisins. Over the sink and a colander or strainer, pour your raisins out to drain off all the water. Then we’re going to add them to our cookie dough, stirring them in just as we did the oats. We don’t want to completely smash them up so be gentle to keep your raisins intact.

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Cookie Dough on Parchment

Alright! Our dough is ready to be baked. Drop by spoonfuls, or by cookie scoop fulls onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. These will spread out so give them the space they need to grow!

Now we’re going to bake on 325 for about 15-18 minutes. I always say ‘about’, because everyone uses a different oven and things change. You want them to be golden around the bottom edges and just turning on the top. When you take them out of the oven they will be squishy, so let them set up on the cookie sheet otherwise they’re just going to end up falling completely apart and making a delicious mess rather than a delicious cookie!

 

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Finished Cookies


Salisbury Steak

So, this has become one of my favorite things to make which is a fairly inexpensive meal and filling and outright tasty. Especially since there’s gravy involved. I mean, who doesn’t like gravy?

There are literally hundreds of recipes for Salisbury Steak out on the internet. I’ve tried a few over 2017 and I found one that I altered slightly that was amazing. Of course, when I went back to find it, I could not, for the life of me, remember where it was, so I did what I could, from memory, with some things tweaked I’m sure, and came up with this recipe for it. I can definitely say that it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was pretty delicious.

I have realized in the past that when I make Salisbury Steak, there’s just not enough gravy for everyone to get their fill and be happy, so I made some extra gravy since, as I said before…who doesn’t like gravy!

Steak Patty Ingredients

2 lbs ground beef
3/4 c seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 c LEA & PERRINS Original Worcestershire Sauce<img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-1057″ style=”border: none !important; margin: 0!important;” src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=smalltowneats-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B000RYFQ44″ alt=”” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ />
1/8 tsp Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp McCormick Ground Mustard
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp POMPEIAN Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Gravy Ingredients

1 package mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 sweet onion, halved and sliced
4 C beef broth
1 tsp LEA & PERRINS Original Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp flour
1-2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

 

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Patty Ingredients

In a bowl, combine your ground beef, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, eggs, mustard and ketchup and knead in the bowl until well incorporated.

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Ingredients Mixed for Patties

Form into patties. Yes.. forming into patties is sometimes a little easier said than done when doing it by hand. I made mine as thin as I could, which was about 1/4 inch, and they still puffed up into thick patties, which is fine, but if you’re going for that traditional Salisbury steak LOOK, you want them to be somewhat flat. Now, I don’t have one, but this is where a burger press comes in handy. That’s basically a weight you set on top of your patties to keep them flat. This is only if you own one or are really looking to making ‘flat patties’. If you’re interested, like I am, in acquiring one for future use, I’d recommend the Cuisinart Cast Iron Grill Press.

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Cooking the Patties

In a skillet on medium to medium high heat, drizzle in your olive oil and, once it’s hot, lay your patties in it. We’re going to cook these babies up until they’re done on both sides and not pink in the middle. Some Salisbury steak recipes want you to cook them about 80% and then transfer them to the oven or put a lid on them and finish them off. IF you want to do that, this is okay! I usually, once my gravy is done, lay them in the gravy, turn the heat on the stove down low, and let them simmer/marinate in their juices.

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Cooked Onions

Once the patties are done, remove them from the pan and empty the pan of any extra grease. Now we’re going to add our sliced mushrooms to the pan, and a pat or two of butter, and cook them about 5-7 minutes on medium heat until they’re starting to get tender and slightly browned. We’re then going to add the onions and cook them together until the onions are translucent. I did mine slightly different, I cooked my onions and put my mushrooms in. So..backwards! It turned out just fine, but when I do it again, definitely cooking the mushrooms first!

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Mushrooms Going In

Next, we’re going to sprinkle the mushrooms and onions with the flour and mix them together well, cooking the flour about 2 minutes until it sticks to the veggies.

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Dusting Veggies with Flour

Now we’ll add our beef broth, ketchup, Worcestershire and mix them together, simmering it until it begins to thicken and reaches the consistency of the gravy you like. If you get it too thick, just add a little more beef broth, about 2 tbsp at a time so we don’t thin it out too much. If it’s too thin, just let it simmer, stirring frequently until it reaches the consistency you want. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Making Gravy

Now here comes the part I was talking about, where we add the patties into the gravy. I just laid them into the pan with the gravy, turned it down to low and covered it, letting it simmer for about 10-15 minutes. After that, I served them up over a bed of rice, but you can serve them over mashed potatoes, or egg noodles or just plain how they are, and spooned some of that awesome gravy over the top. YUM!

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Letting the Patties Simmer in Gravy