I don't know if I have ever run into someone that did not like tamales! I used to make them with a pork filling, which is typical Mexican cooking. Once again, I had to look for an alternative that would accomodate our new vegetarian lifestyle! These turned out so delicious, I had to share them with some friends. All the feedback I got was positive, bordering on ecstasy! Quite simply...they...are...amAZing!

I took plenty of pictures so I could post a 'tamale tutorial'. They're not hard to make...just time consuming. I put on a favorite CD, made a cup of hot tea, and made a batch of black bean corn tamales. I believe the recipe makes about 3 dozen tamales. The only ingredient you might have a little trouble finding is the corn husks used to wrap them in. My grocery doesn't always carry them, but if you look around, you'll find them. You'll need one package for the batch.

I hope you will feel confident enough to give this recipe a try. You won't be disappointed! They freeze well so you can make a batch and 'try' to spread them out over a few days! Just wrap in a paper towel and pop them in the microwave for a minute and enjoy!
3 c. water
1/2 c. oil - I used canola
2 Tb. seasoned salt ( I used 1 Tb salt, 1 Tb chili powder, 1 Tb paprika)
5 c. Masa Harina (you will find this in the Mexican aisle. It's like a flour bag and will say Masa on the bag...for tortillas, tamales, etc.)
I put all these ingredients in my mixer and beat it together.
Make your filling. I used corn, black beans, roasted poblano, chopped onion, chopped red pepper, 1/2 c. salsa, 1 pkg. Taco seasoning mix, chopped cilantro, salt. Just mix and taste until it's to your liking!


Place corn husks in a large bowl of warm water to soak. Tear strips about 1/2 inch wide to tie tamales. Set aside.
Lay one husk on a towel and with wet fingers, spread masa mixture out so it's just thick enough not to see through. You don't have to be fancy on this step!!
Place a small amount of filling in center of tamale leaving space on the sides for rolling.
Roll from one side to the other and bring one end up and tie with strip. Stand up in a soup pot.

Standing at ATTENTION! One recipe will fill the pot. Fill the pot with water about 3/4 of the way. The tamales will be standing in water up to about half. Cover with lid, bring to a boil, turn heat down to cook for 1 hour. Be sure water level is maintained.
At the end of an hour, check to see if they need additional time. You will know when they are done if the masa has firmed up a bit and it not mushy. They will be a bit wet. Remove from pan. The tamales are ready to eat at this point, or can be frozen for later.
It's like Christmas morning when you open these little packages of deliciousness!
I made the tamales for our family dinner tomorrow, and used the leftover filling for our dinner this evening. I cooked 1 1/2 cups brown rice and added it to the leftover bean corn mixture and stuffed into roasted acorn squash. So good!
 Cut sqash in half, baste with a bit of olive oil and salt. Bake at 400 for about 40 minutes on a parchment lined dish/pan,  until done and slightly browned. Fill with filling and heat to serve.
I made a side of kale to go with the stuffed acorn:  Chopped onion, garlic, chopped kale, balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 c. chopped pecans.


Can eating healthy really taste this good?? YES!
This past week, Richard came home from work one night with two new recipes that he found on the internet while on his break at work. We used to enjoy a black bean soup we had a recipe for, but it included chicken and chorizo. Now that we are not eating meat, we both missed the soup, and he took it upon himself to find a recipe we could use. He made a black bean soup for dinner on a night I worked late. It was really delicious and vegetarian. We're both happy we can now have black bean soup on our menu!  This recipe was also listed as a vegetarian black bean soup. I made it for dinner the other night and is was amazing! It seemed more like a 'stew' than a 'soup'. It was rather thick, but the recipe did say more water could be added to thin it out. I wouldn't change a thing, really!  Richard did think it was a little too spicy for his tastes, but we were both really happy with the results.
With a little effort, it's easy to find vegetarian or vegan recipes to replace some of our favorite meals that called for meat of some kind.  I think we may fall into that category "Vegan recipes for Carnivores"!!  This soup/stew is hearty, and filled with all kinds of good ingredients.  I prefer buying a 1 pound bag of dry black beans and cooking them myself. Canned beans have a lot of sodium, plus the cost for a bag of beans is about the price of 1 can of beans and once the beans are cooked, that one pound will yield about the same as 4 cans!
I cooked a bag of beans and then used them for this soup, and the rest I used for the tamales I made today, as well as the stuffing for the acorn squash we had for dinner! Wow! Three meals from that one bag of beans!
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced(I used 2 large)
1/2 tsp. ground dried chipotle pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1 diced onion
4 minced garlic cloves
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 TBSP ancho chile powder,
1 TBSP ground cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 c. water or more as needed
1 TBSP cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
pinch cayenne pepper
Toss cubed potato with 1 TBSP olive oil, chipotle pepper, salt and place on parchment lined cooking pan. Roast in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until the edges are browned.
Set aside to cool.
Cook remaining olive oil,onion, garlic, red bell pepper, jalapeno pepper,ancho chili powder, cumin, and dried oregano together in a large pot. Cook and stir until onion is soft, about 5 min.
Add tomatoes, beans, and water and bring to a simmer. Add cornmeal,salt, sugar, and cocoa powder. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
I used a quart of my home canned whole tomatoes and cut them up before adding. I also used canned chipotle instead of dried and added it to the soup instead of to the cubed potatoes before roasting. You can easily adjust the 'heat' in this soup.  I thought the heat was fine, but Richard thought it was too spicy.
One more note, don't be put off by the long list  of ingredients. It doesn't take long to make this chili and it's so delicious you'll be glad you  made the effort!
Cornbread was a perfect compliment!


 Did you know.....
Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys.  When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back.  It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow coloring and sold it to people to use in place of butter.  How do you like it?  They have come out with some clever new flavorings...
MARGAINE vs. BUTTER ... what IS the difference?
Both have the same amount of calories.  Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to 5 grams for margarine.  Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter,  according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.  Eating butter increases the absorption of many nutrients in other foods.  Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has few and only because they are added.  Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavors of other foods.  Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years.
And now it's Margaine's turn...
Very high in Trans fatty acids.  Triples risk of coronary heart disease.  Increases total cholesterol and LDL (the bad one) and lowers HDL (the good one).  Increases the risk of cancers up to five times.  Lowers quality of breast milk.  Decreases immune response.  Decreases insulin response.
Here is the MOST DISTURBING fact:
Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT.  WHAT????
We avoid margarine---anything that is hydrogenated means it has hydrogen added, which changes the molecular structure!
Leave an open tub of margaine in an open shaded area or a garage.  In just a few short days you will notice that flies and fruit flies avoid it, and it won't rot or spoil because it has no nutritional value; nothing will grow in it!
Why??? Because it is nearly plastic.  Would you melt your Tupperware and spread it on your toast?
Don't be a turkey...avoid margarine!!!



Today I tried a new recipe. Not only was the recipe new, but it included an ingredient that I had never used in my cooking before. I don't know how I've avoided edamame up to this point, but they are so delicious! They're a popular snack food and I wanted to give them a try. I had actually had them in a salad at Panera Bread and liked them and wanted to try cooking with them myself.

 I couldn't find them in the store so I had to ask for help. When I did, I also asked for already shelled edamame. The store employee that helped me assured me the ones he gave me were shelled and I didn't  check the package myself. Big mistake. I came home and found that they were still in the  So, I had to microwave them for 5 minutes-they came in a steamable bag-and then pop the beans out of the shells. It's not hard work, just time consuming. They are somewhat soft, but hold their shape and are really delicious!

This salad was just oustanding. It's one of the best salads I've made, I believe! I'll be making it again, for sure! It was such a great compliment alongside the portabello sandwich we had. I added grilled onion, lettuce, tomato slice, and mustard on a grilled bun. It was a little messy due to the juicy portabello, but packed with flavor and still very healthy!

I made the salad in the morning so that the dressing and vegetables would have time to marinate. It stayed crunchy and was perfect for dinner. Give this recipe a try...you won't be disappointed!
For the Dressing
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Srirach sauce
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
Stir all ingredients together in a bowl until peanut butter is dissolved. Set aside
(I used agave nectar instead of honey, and I only had a little over 1 Tbsp to use but the slaw was sweet enough without more than that.)
For the Slaw
4 c. shredded cabbage
2 c. shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 c. cooked and shelled edamame
2 med. scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 c chopped salter peanuts
1/2 c. loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
** Note
(I used diced red onion instead of scallions, and I have cilantro in the freezer so I used my frozen cilantro and chopped it up before adding to the slaw. The other change I made was to use almonds and cashews instead of peanuts)



This is the season that I find myself thinking about this subject and rereading one of my favorite books ~ Living More With Less.  I sometimes cringe at the idea of sharing my thoughts on this subject, because it's just not a popular subject with a lot of people! I never intend to 'convert' anyone. My passion for living simply, conscious eating, and minimalism is simply that...MY passion. It may not be yours, but in sharing my thoughts, I do want to challenge you to not only be more accepting of other views than your own, but also possibly challenge yourself to live in a more thoughtful way....thoughtful of your own health and well being, thoughtful of the world around you and it's resources, and how you treat it.
From the book:  You can either save time or money, seldom both.  Fast living is expensive living.  When we're in a hurry we buy convenience food from the most accesible store.  Because we don't want to take time to prepare meals at home, we eat in restaurants.  The food we eat in our homes is more nutritious than many commercial meals and overall cost is considerably less.

There is a lot of great information in the book pertaining to all areas of our lives. The author is Doris Janzen Longacre. I find it so interesting that it was published in 1980.  The jacket says the book was commissioned by Mennonite Central Committeein response to inequities in World resource distribution and to bring a Christian perspective to material consumption.  I believe, however, that you can read this book and get a lot of great information even if you have no religious tendency.


I like to think that if heaven has a taste, it tastes like a warm, fresh from the oven blueberry muffin!
Sheer perfection in my opinon! Give this recipe a try and see if you don't agree!

Richard's grandfather was a baker. Fortuneatly, one of his recipes has survived and it's actually one we make often.  I would rather eat whole wheat muffins, which is also a favorite family recipe, but every once in a while I crave blueberry muffins. The berries were on sale this week at the market so today after work, I stirred up a batch to have for dinner. 

Today was also our first snow of the season, so muffins seemed a perfect way to celebrate! Yes, I like snow and feel it needed to be recognized with a special celebration! Since we are watching our fat intake, I adjusted the original recipe to reflect that.  Instead of the 1/2 cup of melted shortening called for in the recipe, I added 1/2 cup of applesauce.  Otherwise I made no changes to the recipe. I probably could have eliminated the egg yolk, using only the white, but I chose not to. I guess it depends on my mood?!

This is a no fail recipe and they always turn out light and fluffy. Having a good muffin recipe is crucial this time of year, don't you think? Soup and a muffin...a perfect evening meal on a cold winter's day!

Quick White Muffins
2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
Combine above ingredients and add:
1 egg
1 c. milk
1/2 cup applesauce
Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
*Note-for blueberry muffins add 1 c. blueberries and decrease milk to 3/4 c.




This week Richard asked me to buy raisins because he was hungry for oatmeal raisin cookies. He has a sweet tooth that never seems to be satisfied!  We kept a very strict diet that last 6 months and until recently cookies were nowhere on the radar!  Occasionally, now, he will stop at his favorite donut shop and get one donut to have with his favorite cup of coffee, but it is a rare thing! 

Every evening we have a cup or two of hot tea - Earl Gray, Constant Comment Green, Jasmine Green, Stash Christmas Spice - our current choices.  One small cookie and a cup of tea are a perfect ending to a day! Today our granddaughter, Paige, came to help me decorate for Christmas and make a few crafts.  We decorated the tree and put up a lot of festive touches but I still have a lot to do to finish. While we were working, Richard made the cookies!

Here are the finished cookies! Pretty nice!