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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas Cookies 2013

This year, things have been pretty hectic around here and for the first time in years, I almost didn't make my Christmas cookies.  So rather than not make any at all, I decided to keep it simple.  I stuck to three flavors, Gingerbread, Sugar and Cardamon Spice.  I also kept a simple color palette.  Is white and pink simple enough?

Here are some pictures of our Christmas decor.

The kitchen tree


Mateo's tree

 The main Christmas tree

Mr. Casillas' outdoor lighting

I hope you all had a blessed Christmas and I wish you all of the best in 2014.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tamale-Making Party

There is a reason that we only make tamales once a year (at Christmas)...they are labor intensive. Wow! This was the first time that I was involved in the process from beginning to end, from buying the ingredients to eating them, and now I can appreciate how much work goes into making these little packages of yummy-nes. You cook the meats, make the sauces and the salsa, prepare the masa, soak the corn husks, spread the masa on the corn husks, add the meat with sauce, wrap in wax paper, and steam for 2 hours.  Keep in mind that usually a family will make more than one kind of tamale and each kind requires a different method of preparing.  In my family, we always make pork with mole sauce, chicken picadillo (chicken in a red sauce with vegetables), and rajas (green chiles and cheese).  Some families make sweet tamales which are the dessert version of the savory kind but most members in my family, including me, don't really like them so we don't make them.

These dry chiles are used to make the mole, picadillo sauce and salsa
The tomatillos are soaked for several hours then peeled and roasted for the salsa
Roma tomatoes are boiled and used for the salsa

The master tamale-making chefs: mom and aunt Felipa.  The best!
Three generations.  I have hopes for my niece, Viviana, to keep the tradition going.  At her age, I could care less about making tamales but she is very interested in learning.

I don't know what happened to the grandchildren in this family, but they all seem very eager to learn and be part of the process.  I don't recall doing this when we were children.  I think it's beautiful and amazing that they are so interested in learning and helping.
To soften them, the corn husks are soaked for several hours, then drained
The fragrance of roasting warms the soul.

The salsa is ready to go!
The meats are cooked, the masa has been prepared, we are ready to start spreading

Of course, that is everybody's favorite task!

 Master Chef, Coco looks on as her apprentice, Valentina makes her proud

Once the tamales are wrapped in wax paper, they are placed in gallon-size baggies (a dozen at a time) and put in the freezer until you are ready to cook them.  Growing up, my mom and aunts used to go through this process and cooking the same day (on Christmas Eve).  No wonder they spent the entire day and most of the evening in the kitchen!  Now, we prepare the tamales days ahead and freeze them until we are ready to steam them. They do not have to be defrosted so it makes the job easier.

Merry Christmas!