You don’t have to make just savory tamales… You can also make sweet, dessert versions! The masa can be corn, chick pea, or whatever else you can dream up and stuffed with all kinds of fresh or dried fruits and nuts. When I was in Santa Fe during Christmas Week one year, someone told me about their particular family’s tradition of adding some brown sugar and cinnamon to the corn masa and stuffing them with a mixture of Granny Smith apples, raisins, butter and more brown sugar.

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This is one of my favorite chili recipes because you can use it in tamales, as I’m doing this week, as a taco filling or even eaten with a salad as a main dish! The main protein source is lentils and kidney beans. The lentils are cooked down a bit to give it a creamy base and the chopped kidney beans add both nutrition an a ground meat texture.

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Even though I haven’t covered the fillings yet… Let’s take a look at how to assemble and steam traditional (wrapped in corn husk) tamales. It’s not difficult, and there are a lot of pictures here to guide you. Assembly To begin, you will need many dry corn husks, one for each tamale, plus a few extras, in case something goes awry. I buy mine in bags at the grocery store.

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Not everyone wants a corn masa for their tamales. In some part of South America, it isn’t even traditional to use corn for either the masa or the wrappers! A common alternative is to use chick peas. An alternative wrapper is banana leaves. I’ve given my version of chick pea masa an even different twist: I’ve sprouted the peas to boost the nutritional value and change the flavor profile!

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It’s Tamale Week! At the beginning of fall, I start dreaming about tamales: green corn with chili, red chili, plain smothered in tamale sauce, even sweet tamales filled with nuts, dried and fresh fruit such as apples, pineapple and cinnamon. Yum! They are a traditional ethnic holiday food. So when the weather starts cooling off, I start planing for the holiday season. Tamales can be made ahead and frozen, then reheated before serving, so they are something I can make early… ahead of the holiday rush.

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This week in our Bountiful Baskets we got Collard Greens. HUH? Collard Greens? I have no clue what to do with those! The only thing that comes to mind is that boiled, nasty, bitter Southern dish that usually also includes ham or bacon! DH says, “You said we need to eat lots of dark, leafy greens! You can probably treat it like Kale, like in quick stir fry or something.

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I made a yummy concotion for dinner that we call Aztec Stew. It is a warm, comforting stew that’s good when you want something a bit richer for dinner. It ended up with that name because most of the ingredients originated in Central and South America, although not all of them. In addition to foods you are readily familiar with, this one contains something special: Nopalitos! Nopales are the prepared pads of the prickly pear cactus.

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In the Kitchen: Jicama

Daryl: Knarly, Dude! What is that thing? Sam: I dunno. I found it in the grocery store. I thought you might know what to do with it? Daryl: Ummm… Looks like a door stop to me! OK, enough fun. This thing is a Jicama! (And it actually is gnarly, as you’ll see in a bit.) Jicama, also called a Yam Bean or Mexican Turnip, is the tuberous root of a Mexican legume vine.

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On Tuesday, MIL came over for dinner. She is a dessert-a-holic, so I always try to make something special for after the meal when she is here. On the other hand, dinner was running late due to unforeseen circumstances, so I didn’t have time to make this as an ice cream. Instead I simplified the recipe, and turned the concept into a milk shake! Happily for everyone, it turned out great!

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I have always loved green beans. I will eat them hot or cold. In a soup, in a casserole, just plain… any way I can get them! When I was a kid, I used to grab a can from the cupboard, open it and drain the liquid, rinse the beans, and pour my favorite salad dressing over them in the can and eat them for snacks. Needless to say, canned green beans aren’t very good… but that shows you how much I love them.

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