Carnitas & Cheese Tamales

Tamales For Beginners - Sweetheatchefs.com

**FIRST OFF, please bear with me on the formatting of this post, I have tried everything I know to get it to look right, but it is not working. This post should have been published a week ago! Sorry The Mystic Blue Spice Co.

I took the past week of my life to try new adventures in the kitchen, keyword adventure. From crying, laughing, cursing, to smiling; it took place here. I never knew how much was at stake when I started this blog. I want to please my readers with quality food and ingredients along with perfect pictures to match what goes on in my kitchen. This week has been all but forgiving on my sanity, from losing the cotton twine to tying my tamales (subsequently finding it a few weeks later!) to losing 58 of the pictures for all my recipes and to put the whip cream on top, my blog formatting has all gone haywire! *insert BIG SIGH*! What technology can not take from me, is my recollection of my experience and the tricks and tips I can pass on to you, which I do wholeheartedly LOVE to do.

I thought the idea of making tamales sounded not only fun, but accomplishing. I read reviews and tips and ideas on how and what to do. I got advice from my mom who had made them for my son. I personally didn’t care for them. I have had a few in my day that were ok but nothing like knocking the ball out of the park delicious. So as with anything if it isn’t really that good why bother to eat it. Well my son and daughter both love them, so I decided I should probably figure out this feat.

After researching I compiled my list of ingredients, planned the day to do it, because after all it takes all day unless you break it into 2 – 1/2 days. I got all my equipment sorted, cleaned laid out and ready. I am telling you I could not be more ready for this than I was…or so I thought. I started at 11:30 cooking the meat, and all the sauces. By 7:00 pm that night I was still…steaming…tamales! Keep  in mind, in between I am running to and from school picking kids up and dealing with a 2-year old with a short attention span!

I suppose if you grow up in a household which makes these all the time or if you do this enough times you will be a pro. A beginner, will feel like it’s your first time writing your own name…remember that? I don’t want to deter you from trying to do this, I am just forewarning you it is tedious, time-consuming, rewarding, messy, frustrating and FUN!

If you have leftover sauce, meat and or masa, freeze it and the next go round won’t be as time-consuming. The goods will keep int he freezer for about 2-3 months!!

Now for the lowdown…

Things to know about making tamales, for tamale making dummies, aka beginners!

  1. Get all your ingredients laid out before you begin.
  2. Have your meat prepared ahead of time, this will save you time when taking on this project. Make the night before and refrigerate. Then you only have sauce to make and assemble day 2.
  3. Organize a large work space for assembling the tamales and a place to put them before steaming begins.
  4. Get yourself some type of cotton ties to secure the tamales. If you are not using cheese or a sauce, you won’t need this. If you are using cheese or a sauce you will WANT these!
  5. If you are making more than 1 type; meat & cheese, green sauce meat & cheese, red sauce meat & cheese, then be sure to label them or keep them grouped together, so you know what is what when you are done.
  6. Buy the largest corn husks you can find. The small ones are useless, unless you use 2 together  but when using sauce, it creates more of a mess (in my opinion!)
  7. Keep unused corn husks soaking in water the entire tamale making adventure.
Tamales For Beginners - Sweetheatchefs.com

INGREDIENTS

Meat
  • 2# pork picnic roast
  • 1 medium red onion large chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced in half
  • 2 tbs oregano
  • 1 tbs The Mystic Blue Spice Co. tamale seasoning

Mystic Blue Spice Co - Tamale Seasoning

Masa Dough
  • 3 1/2 cups dried masa harina for tamales
  • 3 3/4 cups hot reserved pork broth or hot water
  • 10 ounces or 1 1/3 cups vegetable shortening softened
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 package dried corn husk leaves
Filling Green
  • 4 Poblano Peppers
  • 4 Anaheim Peppers
  • 4 tomatillos
  • 12 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
  • 19 oz verde enchilada sauce (mild) Las Palmas
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
Filling Red
  • 2 tbs. vegetable shortening
  • 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 ancho chiles, toasted, stemmed, seeded, soaked in very hot water for 15 minutes, and drained
  • 2 guajillo chiles, toasted, stemmed, seeded, soaked in very hot water for 15 minutes, and drained
  • 1 cups canned enchilada sauce Las Palmas
  • 1 1/2  cups (approximately) reserved pork cooking broth or lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 tbs. masa harina
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar or honey; more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp The Mystic Blue Spice Co. tamale seasoning
  • 12 oz Monterrey jack shredded cheese
DIRECTIONS

Meat
  1. In stock pot, add 8 cups water plus all ingredients.
  2. Bring to boil and continue to cook for 2 hours covered.
  3. KEEP ALL COOKING LIQUID
  4. Add meat to baking pan add 2 cups liquid and place in oven on 275 F. degrees for 1-2 hours. Check to make sure liquid does not evaporate and add more if so.
  5. When done remove from oven allow to cool and shred with fork.
Filling Green
  1. Roast the peppers under a broiler, turning occasionally until all sides are charred really well nice and dark.
  2. Place the charred peppers into a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 15 minutes to sweat and make the skin peel.
  3. In a medium stock pot, add olive oil and garlic, heat on medium heat until aromatic; about 2-3 minutes. keep heat low, do not burn garlic.
  4. Add verde enchilada sauce and bring to a boil, then simmer covered on low.
  5. While the sauce is simmering, peel the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. For the peppers remove all seeds, then roughly chop and add to verde sauce, for tomatillos, peel skin and rough chop. Add peppers and tomatillos in food processor and blend until smooth. Add to simmering sauce, cover and continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  6. When done, take off heat and set aside to cool.
Filling Red
  1. Place dried chilies in a bowl of hot pork broth or hot water for 15 minutes.
  2. When chilies are done, heat 1-1/2 tbs. of the shortening in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until beginning to brown, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the masa and stir creating a thick paste.
  4. Add in soaked chiles & broth they soaked in, enchilada sauce, sugar, oregano, tamale seasoning, and the broth.
  5. Continue simmering on medium low until the sauce has darkened in color, 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally  (The sauce may be made up to 2 days ahead; keep refrigerated.)
  6. Set aside and let cool.
  7. Once cool place in batches in the food processor until a smooth consistency. Replace in stockpot and set aside to cool.
 Masa Dough
  1. Combine the masa harina and 1.5 cups hot broth or hot water stir until mixed well.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the lard or shortening with the salt and baking powder until light in texture, about 1 minute.
  3. Continue beating as you add the masa mixture in three additions.
  4. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add additional broth or water 1/4 cup at a time and continue beating for another minute or so, until a 1/2-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water (if it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light).
  5. Beat in enough additional broth to give the mixture the consistency of soft, but not runny cake batter; it should hold its shape in a spoon.
  6. Taste the dough and season with additional salt if you think necessary.
  7. Refrigerate the batter for an hour, then use an electric mixer to beat enough additional broth to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before. About 1/2 – 3/4 cups worth.
Corn Husk Leaves
  1. Unfold the husks and place in a baking dish full of hot water, for approx 1 hr before ready to roll tamales. I placed a second dish on top to hold water and husks under water.
  2. Remove husks, a few at a time from the water, dry completely before use and set aside.
  3. Place 2-4 tbs of masa dough on the husk and work into a square or rectangular shape to lay the base for the meat and sauce mixture.
Steaming
  1. Work in batches; Use a large steamer or collapsible vegetable steamer set into a large, deep saucepan
  2. Line the steamer with leftover scraps of corn husks to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor, but make sure to leave small spaces between leaves so condensing steam can drain off.
Preparing the Tamales
  1. Lay out a corn husk
  2. Spread 2-4 tbs of masa dough over it creating a rectangle or square depending on size of husk.
  3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the meat, 1 tbs cheese, and 1 tbs sauce over the dough
  4. Roll the corn husk away from you starting with the long end and work away from you.
  5. Tuck the left skinny side of the husk under and set aside. This leaves the top open and exposed. If you have cotton or corn ties, use these to tie each end instead of tucking under. (The tie is an optional step and the tamale will cook and be perfectly fine if this step is skipped)
Steaming the Tamales
  1. Place as many tamales as you can fit into the steamer. Stand them upright so the open end is up. (If using ties the placement of ends will not apply) Once in the steamer, set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1 1/4 hours. (Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away, add more water if necessary)
  2. The tamales are done when pressed are a firm consistency. If mushy, they are not done.
  3. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up.

Tamales For Beginners - Sweetheatchefs.com

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Skinny(er) Scalloped Potatoes

Skinny(er) Scalloped Potatoes - sweetheatchefs.com

INGREDIENTS

Non stick cooking spray
10 medium peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thinly. I used my food processor attachment at 2mm
2.5 tbsp butter
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic, or if you are a garlic lover (like me) 2 cloves minced or microplaned (if you don’t have cloves, 1/2-1 tsp garlic powder)
1 cup shredded reduced fat Cheddar or Gruye cheese or a combo of both
1/4 cup large grate parmesan cheese
2 cup fat-free milk
1 bay leaf
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 tsp thyme
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 green onion, thinly sliced for garnish
 
 
sweetheatchefs.com
DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a 9″x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl add potatoes, salt, & fresh cracked pepper. Toss well so everything is coated.
  3. The placement of the potatoes will happen in 4 different batches. First batch take 1/4 of the potatoes and layer them on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add 1/4 of the cheese on top, repeat until all potatoes and cheese are in pan.
  5. In a small saucepan, bring milk, butter, dijon mustard, thyme, bay leaf and nutmeg to a boil over medium heat stirring very frequently so it does not scaldpour over potatoes (remove bay leaf)
  6. Top with the Parmesan cheese and green onions.
  7. Bake uncovered, for 40 – 50 minutes (depending on how thick your potatoes were) or until potatoes are tender. 

sweetheatchefs.com

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Turkey Skewered Meatballs with Pomegranate Sauce

sweetheatchefs.com

sweetheatchefs.com

This week in my kitchen has been a trial and tribulation week. Trial, error, success, mess, crying, laughing and doing it all over again. This recipe was no exception, including all the pictures that went with it that got erased! All I can say is if you don’t try you won’t succeed, AND make sure you read a recipe in its entirety before buying ingredients AND proceeding to make it. This recipe was adapted from one I saw recently on a blog, click here for the original version. I adapted it to fit our household and you can too. This is a healthy meal and pretty filling with just 2 meatballs served with the rice and a salad.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pomegranates (do not use pomegranate juice as it will not reduce)
  • 1 clove garlic, slightly pressed
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 lb ground turkey
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese (divided)
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup plain breadcrumbs or panko crumbs (divided)
  • 1 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts (can use pecans or walnuts instead)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped baby spinach, fine chop
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS – Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cooks for 30 minutes (or see alternate cooking method at the end)

  1. Halve the pomegranates and over a fine mesh strainer squeeze the juice into it until you get 1 cup. 
  2. In a heavy (or non-stick) saucepan or skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add a sprig of rosemary and 1 clove of garlic.When the garlic is golden brown, discard it and add wine and the pomegranate juice to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and allow to reduce over medium heat, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Chop the hazelnuts and add 2 tbs bread crumbs and 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese and set aside.
  4. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet, add the shallots and garlic and cook until translucent over low and make sure not to brown.  Dump the shallot and garlic mixture into the fine mesh strainer and let set aside to let drain and cool.
  5. Soak the bread in broth until soft, then drain by squeezing all the liquid out, and set aside.
  6. In a bowl, combine the ground turkey with the cooked shallots and garlic, the salt and pepper, spinach, drained bread, nutmeg, egg and additional breadcrumbs as needed to firm up the mixture. Mix everything together really well.
  7. Allow to rest for two minutes until it firms up, making the mixture easier to shape. 
The consistency of the mixture should be soft and wet and hold together in a ball.
  8. Shape into 1″ to 1 ½” sized meatballs.
  9. Roll the meatballs into the hazelnuts and bread crumb mixture.
  10. Line a baking tray with a sheet of foil and brush with a small amount of  olive oil.
  11. Thread the meatballs onto skewers (If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes before cooking)
  12. Arrange the meatballs on the foil in one layer and lightly drizzle the top with a little more olive oil.
  13. Bake until golden brown about 30 minutes. Drizzle pomegranate sauce over the top and serve over my coconut rice and side of salad greens.

Alternate Cooking Method

You can skewer the meatballs and place over indirect heat on the BBQ. Using a medium heat cook the meatballs for approx 25 minutes, checking frequently to make sure they don’t burn. I placed them on an old cookie sheet lined with foil and oiled generously. I turned them every 5-10 minutes to avoid one side from getting too done at a time. Mine took about 30 minutes but remember all ovens & BBQ’s vary in temperature, so your cooking time might not be the same as mine. The flavor you will get from grilling these will add that much extra to the lean protein you are working with here.

This recipe is being shown at Bobbi’s Cozy Kitchen, Manic Monday Party!

New Year, New Motto, New Me! Will you be there by my side?

Everyone has been busy making New Year’s resolutions, some being broken as we speak. Weight loss, obtaining better employment, eating healthier etc. These are all important things we need to do for ourselves and in our life, I am trying to as well, just not as a resolution. I see so many miserable and very unhappy people in the world, from the young 21 year old who felt the need to gun down innocent babies in their safe school to the pain we feel when our loved ones pass without notice, to even losing a job that we thought was stable. Life is full of twists and turns and some without notice, just a quick swift pull of the rug and we are on another turn in our lives and have to find our way, all without a handbook or instructions to get us to the next destination. Yes we can make our own destiny, yes we can turn the other cheek, but speaking frankly, not everyone is capable to do that without help or even at all. Speaking from experience I have had many down points in my life, some have felt intolerable, some have felt impossible, others have been helped along by friends and family, even social media friends and family can  make all the difference to feeling un-alone and or unappreciated. I know it is weird, to think, cyber-friends can help us, but they can, if sincere in nature. I see my blogger friends repeatedly telling each other on their pages, “hi just stopping by to say hi”, or “hope you feel better” when they are sick.

This year, even amidst my own family here at home I am making it my mission and my goal to do something that is not for me. This might sound weird and really lame, but it is something I have thought long and hard about with so many recent events being in the negative. I want to ensure people around me and strangers are happy. Does this mean I will sit around trying to make the impossible happen? No! It just means that things that are not important will be left unsaid, the little things that can make one happy, if I can do it I will. No more, “I’m too busy” to listen to you, no more, being selfish with my time. After all, if I didn’t have any time, I’d be dead right? The reality of my life now is that the only “thing” I can possibly give of myself is my cooking to my family, so I do so wholeheartedly and 200% worth. I go to school; I raise 5 kids pretty much alone as my spouse works an average of 15 hours a day, at times seeing no one but me because they are all in bed. I run around taking kids from here to there and everywhere, but at the end of the day, I want to sit back and know that I gave them my full attention, the utmost all I could to ensure they felt rewarded, heard and acknowledged.  This of course means possibly the unexpected, the admittance that, well, I could be wrong from time to time (sssshhhhhh no repeating that!) telling the hubs how important he is and how thankful I am he does what he does to support us whether it is his choice or not to work so much. Calling family and friends more frequently, even a quick hello text can make someone’s day. Strangers actually and ironically will be the easier of the two between family and them to suffice. A smile, a hug, a $1 here or there, helping with their jumper cables, cleaning trash from streams, walking an elder to their car helping with their grocery bags all things I have done, but have long since forgotten in my “busy” life. I don’t intend to be rewarded with anything other than a thank you or a smile in return. The knowledge I have in my mind and in my heart will be the reward that no one could possibly give. I will sit back with my Trudeau Barbaresco wine glass filled with Syrah, knowing my day was and is complete with all I wanted to accomplish. Should I not wake in the morning, knowing the night before I fulfilled the REALLY important things that actually matter. If we all did so, can you imagine the legacy we could leave our children with? Arming them with the information and the process on how to care for others besides just ourselves, this would be an amazing feat and a new world to look forward too. The one I see right now is so bleak and dreary. Sure there are lots of good and honorable people out there, but the reality is, there are not enough!

I am not trying to be holier than thou either, I am being 100% true and honest, and seriously if you know me you know I couldn’t be any other way anyway. Yes I have personal issues with family and some friends, but I won’t let that define who I am and who I want my kids to think and see me as.

I won’t give up and I may complain a little along the way, but this is my life, my ride and I will live it and use it to the fullest extent, WITH wine, and a little whine…and plenty of company to surround me while we get through this crazy ride, called life!

 

 

Taco Wreath

2012-12-28 17.57.39

This recipe was inspired by Spice Gals version. Click here to see their version CHUCK full of yumminess!!

INGREDIENTS

1 roll Pillsbury crescent rolls ( 8 count)
1/2 lb ground beef, turkey or pork
2 tbs. olive oil
taco seasoning
1 cup cheese (I used shredded mozzarella and provolone)
1/4 cup queso fresco
parmesan cheese for dusting
1 egg for brushing tops with

2012-12-28 17.57.50

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat and brown meat through.
  3. Add taco seasoning and a little water and let evaporate
  4. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with non stick cooking spray
  5. Line up crescent rolls in a circle pattern creating a wreath, placing the wide end toward the middle. You will overlap the edges and press to connect them.
  6. Add shredded cheese mixture across the wreath without a break for each roll, just keep it going in circle fashion
  7. Next add meat in the same manner, also spreading meat up the crescent roll toward the thin end
  8. Top with a little of the queso fresco.
  9. Fold the narrow end of the crescent roll toward the center of the wreath until all are done. I connected them together, you can tuck them under each roll too.
  10. Brush top with egg and dust with parmesan cheese
  11. Bake for 15-18 minutes (mine took 18)
  12. Remove from oven and immediately top with remaining queso fresco and let sit for 2-3 minutes.
  13. Top with sour cream, hot sauce, sliced olives and avocado!

2012-12-28 18.07.06

Loaded Bake Potato Soup Crock Pot Style

IMG_3174

INGREDIENTS

6 large baking potatoes, peeled, cut in 1/2″size
1 large onion, chopped
1 quart chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, minced 
1/4 cup butter (REAL butter)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup cream or 1 cup half-and-half cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 cup sour cream (optional)
8 slices bacon, fried & crumbled
cheese, for sprinkling

IMG_3175

DIRECTIONS

Combine first seven ingredients in a large crock pot; cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours (potato should be tender).

Mash mixture until potatoes are coarsely chopped and soup is slightly thick. If you want it thicker, add 1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes.

Stir in cream, cheese and chives.

Top with sour cream (if used), sprinkle with bacon and more cheese.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup