Saturday, January 12, 2013


Well, it's the weekend before classes start again. This means: filling the freezer with food to eat on busy days and nights when I have no time to even sit down for a cup of tea, let alone eat dinner. I know you are all busy too, so here's a great recipe for delicious food on the go. Tamales may take a long time to make, but future you will reap the benefits of your labor. You can freeze them and then reheat in a steamer or in the microwave. I bought the ingredients to make tamales (at least the cornhusks and masa harina) last summer with the intention of making them just for fun. That didn't happen. Don't wait to make these like I did! They're not as hard as you think, just time consuming.

I got the recipe for these is from Veganomicon and it's posted online here. I'm not sure how "authentic" it is, but I think there are probably many ways to make the traditional tamales. These are the vegan version and they're not filled with lard and cheese but trust me, they are so tasty!

Here are my changes to the original and the commenter's recipe: 

1. I doubled the entire thing. You really need a big pot and giant bowls if you want to double it but other than that it was easy.
2. I used regular beans instead of refried - I think the original calls for regular too, but you can definitely do it with refried. Keep in mind the spice and sauce mixture with the beans and veggies is pretty tangy and flavorful even with just regular beans.
3. Since I doubled the recipe, I used one can of pinto beans and 1 can of black beans, just for variety.
4. The original recipe calls for a clove of garlic, minced and can you believe I ran out of fresh garlic (I know!!!) so I used 1/2 tsp garlic powder x2 instead.
5. The original calls for 1 cup of frozen corn added to the mix. I don't love corn so I just did whatever was left in a bag I already had in the fridge - about 3/4 cup for the double batch. You can definitely omit the corn or add more if you really like it.
6. I have this weird problem where I don't want to eat something if it doesn't have any green in it. I added a handful of chopped baby spinach to the other veggies in the sauté and felt much better about the whole thing.
7. I also added a diced carrot which is in the original recipe.
8. The original calls for 3 Tbs of tomato paste which I also added (6 Tbs for the double recipe).
9. I used kitchen string for most of the tamales and tried my last one with the corn husk ties. I have a blister on my finger from tying all those strings - the corn husks were more gentle on the fingers and look pretty neat. There are many ways to tie/fold these up but since it was my first time making them I just followed what the recipe said to do, tightly securing the ends with string or strips of cornhusk.

Some tips on tamale making:

1. Be patient. Put on your favorite Pandora mix and enjoy the process. Or better yet, make them with a friend or friends! This would also be a great kid activity because you can get your hands messy.
2. Feel free to experiment with the veggie/bean mix.
3. You can probably find cornhusks, masa harina corn flour and chiles in adobo sauce at your local grocery store in Colorado, or in an ethnic or specialty store.
4. A good way to test if the tamales are done steaming is to pull one out and carefully open it (caution - very hot!) and if the masa harina mixture doesn't stick to the cornhusk then it's done. If it sticks, wrap it back up and steam a bit longer, checking again when you think they might be done.

Pictures of the process and finished products:

The masa harina mixture, ready to be put into tamales. 
The cornhusks, soaking and ready to be made into tamales.
Some of the ingredients that went into the veg/bean mixture, waiting to be made into a mixture to go in tamales.
Cooking it all up. 
Looks like it's almost ready!
All the stuff is in, ready to get rolled up and tied.
The cornhusk ties. Pretty!
These guys are almost ready to go into the steamer.
A batch of  finished tamales! Success!
I did taste test one before I put the rest in the freezer but didn't snap a picture. Sorry. It was pretty tasty though! A friend recommended this site for some good sauce ideas for serving with the tamales. Also, another friend spoke of sweet tamales - with pumpkin and spices in the mix. I think this is something I'll have to experiment with in the future. Please feel free to comment with any questions. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Blueberry oat bars

What a crazy past few weeks! I was so busy staring at my computer screen and writing, writing, writing, as the semester wound down that the last thing I wanted to do was get back on here to write something else. I'm very happy to report that I've successfully finished my first semester of my program! I'm enjoying this short and much needed break by visiting with friends and family, baking stuff for the freezer, working on a knitting project, reading the Hobbit, and basically just hanging out with Estes in my pjs.

Today I left the house to pick up some groceries and something exciting happened - blueberries were on sale at Sprouts! Four packs for $5! This was hard to pass up, even though I know blueberries aren't in season. Of course I bought them and then came home to browse the web for good blueberry recipes.  I quickly found this one and decided to make it this afternoon. I like the use of oats in the recipe because it's something that would be really good for breakfast as well as for snack or dessert. Michael and I have been trying to eat more oatmeal for breakfast and sometimes the regular bowl of oats just doesn't cut it, I get bored. This morning for example, I made Dreena Burton's "Breakfast Cookies" from Let them Eat Vegan! and they definitely covered the wholesome oatmeal breakfast I was looking for but with the shape and taste of a cookie. Yum! I'm also trying to do more oat things or less flour things so I can pass along recipes to my gluten free friends! I like these blueberry bars because there is no flour, just oats and ground up oats. If you're gluten-free just make sure the oats are certified gluten-free. Anyways, here is the link to the original recipe, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen. The nutritional facts won't stay the same for my version because I added and took away things - I tweaked the recipe based on the ingredients I had and didn't have at the house.

1 pint blueberries
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs cornstarch, mixed with enough water to make a smooth paste
3 cups oatmeal (regular, not instant), separated
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 pack apple sauce
3 Tbs olive oil (or oil of your choice - I really like the taste of olive oil in some sweet recipes. Give it a try!)
1 tsp lemon zest
6 more Tbs agave nectar
6 Tbs water
1 more tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Oil an 8x8-inch baking pan (I think mine was 9x9 because the batter was a little bit of a stretch to fit in the pan but it worked out anyways).

2. In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, agave nectar and juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, stir in the vanilla and cornstarch mixture. Continue to stair as the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Put 1 1/2 cups of the oatmeal into a food processor and grind it to a fine powder. Pour into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the remaining oatmeal, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Mix well. Stir in the apple sauce, olive oil, agave nectar, water and vanilla, and mix well.

4. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing well to cover the  bottom of the pan. Spoon the blueberry filling over the batter, and cover the blueberries with the remaining batter. I did this with spoonful drops of the batter that I spread as I went so it stayed on top of the blueberry layer.
The white in this picture is the sun shining in from the west. Another sunny day in Colorado:)
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

You can enjoy these for teatime or for breakfast and they would also make a delicious dessert with some vanilla ice cream!