Monday, May 25, 2015

Homemade Beef Tamales

When my sister was only a few years old my parents hired a live-in helper. Cheva took care of Bradi and I throughout our childhood. She cooked, she cleaned, but more importantly she became a part of our family.  Bradi is now 28 years old and lives on her own, but Cheva still lives with my parents. Like I said, she's family.

Mom and Cheva being silly

My dad is a world-class cook, so we rarely had need for anyone else to to help out in the kitchen. But every now and then Cheva would make an incredibly authentic Mexican feast. My favorite treat was her homemade tamales. She'd usually use my dad's leftover brisket or turkey. Sometimes it would be extra fancy with prime rib. She'd make dozens upon dozens and we'd store them in the freezer for rainy days.

I'm not sure why I've never attempted to make tamales before. But a few weeks ago I made a crock pot beef roast. It was really flavorful, but a little dry. It occurred to me that it would make a great filling for tamales. The next day I was off to the store gathering ingredients. Dan made the tamales and they were awesome! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Homemade Pot Roast Tamales
Original recipes from here, here and here

Crock Pot Pot Roast*
  • 2 pound boneless beef chuck shoulder roast
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2.5 tablespoons of taco seasoning (recipe below)
  • Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook for 8-10 hours on low, or until meat pulls apart with a fork.
  • Shred meat and discard carrots (or reserve and eat separately)
  • Reserve juices

Taco Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Combine all ingredients
  • Store remaining seasoning in an airtight container

Original recipe from here

  • 1 bag dried corn husks, about 18
  • 2 cups instant masa mix
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups reserved beef broth from drippings*
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • Soak dried corn husks in a bowl filled with warm water for 30 minutes to soften
  • Measure the remaining juices from your pot roast. Supplement with beef stock for a total of two cups of liquid
  • In a large bowl, combine the masa and baking powder. Pour the broth into the masa a little at a time, working it in with your fingers
  • In a small bowl, beat the vegetable shortening until fluffy. Add it to the masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture
  • Rinse, drain and dry the corn husks. Put them on a baking sheet and cover with a damp towel
  • Lay one of the husks on a plate with the smooth side up and the narrow end facing you. Spread a thin, even layer of masa over the surface of the husk with a tablespoon dipped in water
  • Add around a tablespoon of the meat to the center of the masa. Fold the narrow end up to the center and then fold both sides together to enclose the filling. Pinch the wide top closed. Use butcher's twine to tie the tamale together 
  • Stand the tamales up in a large steamer or colander with the pinched end up. Place the steamer into a large pot filled with 2 inches of water. The water should not touch the tamales
  • Lay a damp cloth over the tamales and cover with the lid. Keep the water at a low boil, checking periodically to make sure the water doesn't boil away. Steam the tamales for 40 minutes
  • The tamales are done when the inside pulls away from the husk. The tamale should be soft but not mushy

The final result isn't beautiful, but it is delicious! Can't wait to make these again soon!

*The raw pot roast and all of its ingredients can be put in a ziplock bag and frozen for up to three months. To cook, thaw in freezer the night before and cook according to directions above. Or, cook from frozen for approximately 10 hours.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It's Never Too Late for a Recap: Passover 2015

Yikes! Where has the last month gone? I have so much I want to tell you. I have house updates, new recipes, and highlights from the last two trips we've taken. I'll try and put some posts together before another month goes by.

First up, highlights from our trip to Dallas in April. I briefly mentioned that we went to Dallas for Passover when I told you about Zahara's first hair cut. It was actually a really big deal. It was the first time that all four grandparents have been together with Zahara. To be honest, I was a little worried how it would go, but it was fantastic. There was no drama, no one-upping, it was just perfect.

As you may know, Passover is one of my favorite holidays (the other one is Thanksgiving). This year was great, but a little stressful. We had both seders at my parents house, so there was a lot of prep work to be done. We all pitched in. My dad is an amazing chef and he did not disappoint. I was in charge of desserts. I made a Smitten Kitchen-inspired chocolate torte, chocolate mousse and flourless chocolate cookies that were out of this world. Crisp and meringue-y on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Dad's famous brisket

It is always great to get together with friends and family. That's a huge part of what makes this holiday so special.

Read previous Passover posts:
2014: Passover in Paris
2013: Passover Preparation; Passover Musings
2012: Happy Passover!; Road Trip

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dear Zahara: 22 Months

Dear Zahara,

Happy 22-month birthday! You are hilarious, you know that? You are so imaginative, talkative and affectionate. I love hearing your stories about fire-breathing dragons who live in castles. And I love your proud proclamations like, "I did it," "I see it," and "I know it."

Now that the weather is finally nicer, you love playing outside and going for walks around the neighborhood. Slides and swings are lots of fun, but you get so mad if anyone else is on your playground.

You're a pro at the alphabet now. You know every letter and love pointing them out. Your favorite letters are on stop signs. We can't pass one without you commenting. I love hearing you sing the alphabet song to yourself. You jumble the middle a bit, but it's a pretty good start for a 22-month-old.

In fact, you sing lots of songs now. My favorite is probably hearing you sing Old MacDonald. You make the best face as you say "E-I-E-I-O." Second favorite is Down By the Bay because you laugh at all the rhymes and say how funny they are.

Bedtimes have gotten a lot easier, for the most part. We discovered that if we ask you to show us how you go to sleep, you'll lie down on your own. It's a weird little loophole, but it seems to be working. In fact, the last few nights you've asked me to put you in your crib, cover you with a blanket and sing Hush Little Baby. I'm happy to oblige.

Your imagination is constantly on display. Whether you are having a tea party with your stuffed animals, pretending to be on a rocket ship to the moon, or hopping like a bunny, you are constantly finding new ways to entertain yourself (and mummy and daddy!). Keep it up, little girl! We love you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

First Haircut

One of the first things people always comment on when meeting Zahara for the first time is how much hair she has. She was born with a full head and it just kept on growing. Her hair is beautiful and soft with a tiny curl at the end, but it had gotten way too long. We could barely keep it out of her face; it was a struggle every morning.

A couple of weeks ago when all four grandparents were together in Dallas we took Zahara for her first haircut. It was a fun little place that specializes in kids' cuts. Zoey sat in a fun chair and watched cartoons while the stylist worked.

I wanted to be surprised by the final result, and there were so many people crowded around her already, so my dad and I sat in the waiting room up front. I'm glad I wasn't watching because the stylist took off way more hair than I anticipated. I probably would have freaked out.

The end result is amazing though. What a difference! I just can't get over what a little girl she looks like. There is just no trace of a baby in there at all.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Crock-Pot Freezer Meals

Today is my first day of work! To make the transition as easy as possible I spent last week prepping some crock-pot freezer meals that I can make for dinners over the next few weeks. I only recently learned about crock-pot freezer meals where you put all the raw ingredients into a Ziplock bag and store it in the freezer until it is time to cook; I thought I'd give it a whirl. Of course I took to Pinterest to find some good recipes.

I found a ton of great recipes from the New Leaf Wellness site. This site is the best for a beginner. The author has great tips on how to get started, delicious recipes and even shopping lists.

Here is what I made:

They were incredibly easy to make. I even made a printable label so that I what's what. Feel free to use it for your own freezer meals.

 I can't vouch for how they taste yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Update 1:
I made the honey sesame chicken and it was delicious. I thawed the bag the night before in the fridge and dumped it all in to the crockpot in the morning. It couldn't have been easier. The chicken shredded during cooking, so I just gently pulled it apart when it was done and served it over a bowl of rice. The only downside is that the dish cooks cook for around 4.5 hours, so it isn't really a dish I can make while at work. Still, it's easy and tasty and I'll definitely be making it again.

Update 2:
The pot roast was marginally successful. It was super easy. I forgot to thaw the bag the night before so I threw the whole thing in the crockpot frozen. The directions say to cook for 10-12 hours, so I started at 10.5 and decided to see how it went. The meat pulled right apart with a fork but it was a little dry. I loved the flavor though and thought they would make the perfect filling for tamales. Turns out, I was right! I will definitely make the recipe again, if only to make tamales. I'll post the recipe soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Closet Mini-Makeover and New Job

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but I recently got a new job! I've very, very excited about it, and just a little bit nervous. It's crazy to think that I have never had a full-time job and a baby. Isn't that nuts?! The last time I was working an office job was before we moved to England--a lifetime ago.

This is an amazing opportunity for me, and something that I have been working very hard to achieve since we returned. However, it will be an enormous lifestyle change. Zahara has already been in an in-home day care for several months and is absolutely thriving. We love it there. But, right now, I do a lot of house-management tasks while Dan does all the heavy-lifting by working full-time and doing all the daycare drop-offs and pick-ups. I do the laundry, pay bills, make dinners and lunches and tidy the house. Obviously, we'll have to re-adjust our responsibilities now that I won't be home during the days. It just means our weekends and evenings will be a lot more packed with chores.

So what does that have to do with a closet makeover? I'm doing everything I can to make my transition back to work as seamless as possible. My friend Dani came over one day and helped me sort through every single item of clothes in my closet to help build my new office attire. When she left, I took the opportunity to organize my side of the closet in a way that will hopefully make getting ready in the morning a breeze. Every little bit helps, right?

Hold on to your hats: here are the super amazing before and afters {slight sarcasm}:




Ok, so it may not be life-changing, but it's the little things that make me happy. Anyone else doing some spring cleaning or organizing?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Treats from Japan

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted my thoughts on Try the World? It's a company that sends you treats from around the world. Well, a friend of mine who used to live in England with me and has since moved to Japan posted a comment saying that there was no need to pay for this service when I have so many friends who live around the world. She then volunteered to send me a fun Japanese treat!

And, here's what I just got in the mail: apple pie flavored Kit Kats! Aren't my friends awesome?

So what do apple pie Kit Kats taste like? Short answer: not bad. They have a bit of a weird fake-apple taste, but I kind of like it. They remind me a lot of those caramel apple pops you get at Halloween. Dan said the Kit Kats remind him of Turkish apple tea. Either way, they are fun. Thanks so much, Kathleen!

Now who wants to help me think of something cool to send her in return?