Christmas Eve Tamales

Happy holidays!  I’m here with my family in Knoxville, helping my mom cook up a storm (now you know where I get it from!). We have no Mexican blood in any of us but my mother grew up in New Mexico so we have adopted the tamale and posole on Christmas Eve tradition and have been doing it since before I was born.  Today I will give you our family’s tamale recipe!  It’s hard to find organic ingredients in Knoxville so none of the ones used here are, but I’m sure you could find them all if you really tried.

The first step is to cook the meat.  I don’t have a slow cooker but my mom does so we threw it in there and cooked it over night (about 8 hours) on low.

IMG_1454Now the real fun begins!


Before you start cooking you need to separate the corn husks and soak in a large bowl of water.


CHILE CON CARNE (Sauce & Filling)

1 3/4 pounds pork tenderloin

3-4 tablespoons bacon drippings or lard (according to Weston A Price, lard is the best oil to cook with.  The jury is still out for me but my mom uses it so it’s in the blog)

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup ground red chile (my mom makes a red chile sauce.  Some day I’ll post the recipe for that)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon oregano, or more to suit taste

2 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cups meat stock (we used the juices from the slow cooker)

1. Simmer the pork in water to cover, using medium to low heat .  Cook until tender.  (This is the slower cooker step but I put this for those who don’t have one)

2. Shred the meat.

IMG_14573. Add the flour and lard and brown it, stirring constantly.  Add the chile sauce or powder.  Stir well.

IMG_14584. Season with salt, oregano, and garlic.   Add the stock.  Cook for a few minutes until well mixed and warm.  Now you have your meat filling.

MASA (Cornmeal Mixture)

4 cups masa harina

2 1/3 cups warm water

1 1/3 cups lard

1 1/3 teaspoons salt

Corn husks

1. Add water to the masa harina.

IMG_1460Cream the lard and salt, using a mixer at medium speed.

IMG_1459Combine the lard with the masa and mix well.

IMG_14612. Spread each corn husk with about two tablespoons masa and add one generous spoon of the meat filling.  (We like out tamales meaty so we put less masa and more meat).  Fold the bottom of the husk up and role the husk over the filling like a burrito.  (In this photo you see  the Cepeda women rolling our tamales!)


IMG_1466Our completed work!

3. Steam the tamales on a rack in a large steamer for 10-15 minutes.  My mom has a steamer but I don’t so if I were doing this at my place I’d do it in a large pot with a steamer basket.


4. To serve, remove husks and serve with red chile sauce.

IMG_1472 And there you have it!  Have a very merry Christmas and lots of happy cooking!











Acorn Squash

I’m getting ready to head out of town for the holidays so I’m trying to eat all the food in my frige. I got an acorn squash in my last box so I decided to fix it for dinner last night. I LOVE squash but I usually just bake it and eat it plain and that’s too boring for a cooking blog. So this is what I came up with!

Only three ingredients! Super quick and easy!  This recipe is from


My squash was a little on the small side so I didn’t use quite as much of the ingredients.

IMG_1449I also think I over cooked it a little.  I did what the recipe said for a normal sized squash. It was still good though.

IMG_14501 medium acorn squash

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Turn acorn squash upside down onto cookie sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until it begins to soften, approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

3. Remove squash from the oven and turn onto a plate so that the flesh is facing upwards.  Place butter and brown sugar into the squash, and place remaining squash  over the other piece.  Place squash in a baking dish.

4. Place squash in the 350 degree oven and bake another 30 minutes.  Remove, spoon squash from skin and serve.

IMG_1451There you go!  Quick and easy side dish!  Happy cooking!





My favorite quick, healthy meal – Stir Fry!

This blog is about cooking when you don’t have much time  I usually cook the meals I post here on Sunday when I have more time, so what do I eat during the week?  I eat my version of stir fry at least once a week because it’s SO easy! So here I give you my all purpose recipe for those days when you only have a half hour and you don’t want to eat fast food or a frozen meal.  It’s quick, it’s easy, its yummy, and it’s perfect for one person (although you can tweak the recipe for more).  I will admit that I may have stolen the idea for this from a certain roommate I had a few years ago 🙂

IngredientsThere are four key ingredients to my all purpose stir fry:

Rice: I use brown of course and for one person I use 1/4 cup with 3/4 cup of water and cook according to the package directions

Meat: I find that chicken or shrimp work best.  I’ll use one boneless skinless chicken thigh (I like dark meat) or half a breast cut into cubes.  Or 7 or 8 peeled deveined raw shrimp.  Sausage works pretty well too.  I’ve tried beef before but wasn’t a fan.  I think you can probably use any meat you want.

Veggies: 3 different kinds.  I’m not joking when I say I’ve tried everything!  Potatoes, radishes, peppers, bok choi, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, onions of every color, broccoli, egg plant, carrots, celery, you name it and I’ve probably tried it in stir fry.

Sauce: There are a number of different stir fry sauces out there.  I’ve tried tons of them.  I tend to like the sweet and tangy sauces but there are lots of savory ones too.  Whole Foods has them all over the place, by the seafood counter, in the Asian isle, near the BBQ sauce, there are any number of sauces just waiting to be tried.  Trader Joe’s also has a variety of sauces that are pretty good.

IMG_1443The first step is to chop up your veggies. I am obsessed with Chinese eggplant right now so it’s made its way into many of my quickie meals recently.  You cant go wrong with onions and peppers of any hue are great too.

IMG_1444Saute in olive oil all your veggies starting with the ones that take longer (onions, potatoes, carrots, root veggies, etc) then gradually adding the stuff that needs less cooking.  With most meats you want to start with them then add veggies, with shrimp they take less time to cook so I add them last.  Once all is cooked through, add the sauce, coat the veggies an heat through. Serve over the rice!  Total cooking time: less than 30 minutes!

IngredientsThere you have it folks!  Happy cooking!

Sauteed Baby Bok Choi

I’ve moved! I am now a real life blog!  So this is my first blog post on WordPress.  Bear with me as I learn to use this platform.  I’m sure there will be some kinks along the way!  My first post will be a side dish that I served with the turkey recipe I posted earlier today on Tumblr.  I found this recipe in the New York Times cooking section Jan 5, 2011.The ingredientsI got these baby bok chois (is bok choi already plural?) in my CSA box this month and needed to use them before they went bad so although I’m not sure asian veggies go so well with American turkey I figured what the heck.  We live in a melting pot right?  Why not cook that way too!


2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, like canola (I used olive because I don’t like those light veggie oils)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 1/2 inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced (I used about a half teaspoon pre-minced ginger which I forgot to include in the photo)

1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste

4 bunches of baby bok choi, approximately 1 1/2 pounds, cleaned, with the ends trimmed

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon chicken stock or water

Toasted sesame oil for drizzling.

1. In a large saute pan with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer.  Add garlic, ginger and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. (Watch for flying oil drops, it hurts!)

2. Add bok choi and stir carefully to cover with oil, then cook approximately 2 minutes.  Add soy sauce, stock or water, then cover pan and cook for approximately 2 minutes more, until steam begins to escape from beneath the lid of the pan.

3. Uncover and continue to cook until liquid is close to evaporated and stalks are soft to the touch, approximately 3 minutes more.

4. Remove to warmed platter and drizzle with sesame oil.  (This was a last minute dish and I was out of sesame oil so I skipped this part).

The finished product

This was a simple but delish recipe.  I definitely recommend.  Happy cooking!