time for a tamalada

meatless monday
notes from maggie's farm

The lights are hung, the tree is decorated, the shoppers are filling the stores, so you know what time it is, don't you?

Yeah!  Tamale Time!

Oh, you didn't know that?  Because you don't live in Texas?  And you've never heard of having tamales at Christmas?  Fair enough.  Before I became a Texan (I wasn't born here, but I got here as fast I could, as the popular bumper sticker attests), I'd never heard of 'yuletide tamales', but I'd also never heard of 'breakfast tacos',  Hippie Hollow, "Keep Austin Weird", Kinky Friedman, or the late Armadillo World Headquarters.  It's a fascinating place, Austin, Texas.

And then there was that first Christmas Eve party to which I was invited.  An intimate gathering of friends and family, I expected to bring something 'dippy' or perhaps an accompaniment to seafood gumbo, the way I'd celebrated so many years in south Louisiana.  "Oh, no!", Yvonne chimed.  "We'll have tamales and chili, of course."  

Why yes, of course.  What was I thinking?  

It is a holiday tradition to eat tamales at Christmas time, and specifically, upon the Eve of Christmas, in Texas.  Tamales can be purchased all over the area, however you'll not find these tamales in stores.  They are made by home cooks and often, around a table of happy hands, sharing stories and jokes and all of the work.  A tamalada is a joyful celebration of industry.

This season, Megan Myers invited many of us to forgo 'black friday'  (and seriously, THANK YOU, Megan.  I'm not a black friday kind of girl.  At all.) for the pleasure of good company and the promise of several dozen different, and delicious varieties to take home and keep us all in tamales throughout the coming year.  

Tamales are really quite handy.  They freeze beautifully, and gift beautifully, (and for us, at from maggie's farm, sell not too shabbily, too!  Who am I kidding?  We get scads of orders, and we spend whole days, nights, and weekends making tamales for the holiday crunch.  We've even begun shipping them to out-of-towners who want in on the tamale action.  But that's for another day.  Like Thursday.)

Sometimes, we're fortunate enough to  have a few dozen leftover tamales at the end of the season, and our personal tradition is to make a huge pot of tamale chowder to share with whomever we're lucky enough to share New Year's  Eve, around a bonfire, in the country, under the stars.  Last year, it was a very well-received green chile chicken tamale chowder shared with my sister, Wende, and her family.  This year, we're thinking of ending the year as healthily as we intend to begin the next--meatless, high fiber, full-flavored, and fully satisfying, with

black bean tamale chowder 
serves 12-16 healthy appetites

1/2 cup dry masa (alternatively flour)
1/2 cup  lard (alternatively grapeseed oil)
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2-4 large poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
3 quarts stock (we use chicken stock, for our meatless version, but vegetarians/vegans will want to use vegetable stock)
1 tablespoon, more or less (to taste) kosher salt,  and mexican oregano
2 tsp, each powdered cumin, and your favorite chili powder (we use a green chile powder, when it can be found)
3 cups frozen white corn (or golden hominy, which I love more, but find, less.)
1 dozen black bean tamales, broken (4 pieces per tamale)
1 quart fat-free half and half
garnishes:  use any, or all-- pico de gallo, salsa, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeno peppers, crema mexicana or sour cream, cotija or sharp cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, or sliced green onions

Over medium high heat, stir masa (or flour) into lard (or oil) until well combined, sizzling, and slightly browned (about 5 minutes).  Add chopped onion, celery and poblano peppers, stirring constantly until onions are transparent (this seems quite like gumbo so far, doesn't it?  fancy that!).  Add stock, corn (or hominy) and reduce to a steady simmer, cooking uncovered for 30 minutes.  Add broken tamales,  stirring in gently.  Simmer 15 minutes.  Gently stir in half and half, and remove from heat.  Correct seasonings, garnish as desired, serve.  (Remember that cornbread recipe we did a few weeks ago?  This would go perfectly...).

and for our own personal stash of tamales, and a great time with tamale-making friends, 

If you're lucky enough to have a thoughtful friend and hostess like Megan Myers, and you've made your own black bean tamales, lucky you!  If you have a special friend, (or favorite tamale-making source) who makes tamales for the holidays, lucky you! Think of all the joy that went into those tamales.  If you aren't that lucky yet, we'd love to help you out.  We'll begin taking orders soon, and we'll talk more about that later this week, because, as I mentioned.....It's

i give thanks for you

happy thanksgiving
notes from maggie's farm

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights...  James 1:17

While I sit quietly this morning with a cup of my treasured Community Coffee, I am considering all for which I am grateful in my life.  Though I often grumble about the less than perfect details of my life, I've come to discover that it are those very things that illuminate that which is beautiful, joyful, and perfect in my life.  I won't list everything I'm thankful for--we'd never get to dinner if I started that, but I will say that I am blessed to love, and be loved by a posse of great friends from all walks of life, from all ages, from all cultures, more than I could have ever imagined.  I have the love and support of a partner that I could only have imagined  years ago, once upon a time, and together, we laugh more than any two people I know.  He is more than I can find words for.

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 I am lucky to have a family that I enjoy, and who tolerates me.  I am surrounded with joy, from chickens, and goats, and cats, and dogs, and ducks.......to the delight of having fresh eggs for breakfast every day, a tomato sandwich straight off the vine, sharing homebaked bread and butter for meals just because, having a glass of wine under a sky so filled with stars it looks like a painting, or for tinkering around the home and kitchen and delighting in the details of domesticity.  For being back in school at this late date to learn everything I've ever wanted to know of the world.  For the faith that keeps me grounded, gives me hope, holds promise for a good life. For the sunset I sat and enjoyed from the back stoop last night and the promise of a sunny beautiful day, today.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~Melody Beattie

I hope you find yourselves experiencing joy with family or friends, or if by yourself, peace and tranquility today. I give thanks for each of you.  It is because you are interested and encouraging that allows me to share my passions and daily joys with you.  Many of you are friends, some are family, and some of you read without me even knowing your names or how you've come to find me.  All are appreciated and given thanks for, and remembered this Thanksgiving Day.

Thank you,
Margaret Christine

from maggie's farm

citrus-roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta and toasted cashews

thanksgiving week edition
notes from maggie's farm

Easy, quick, healthy, fresh, easily converts the most stubborn of green veggie dislikers, and leaps tall buildings with a.....okay.  I'll stop.  But this has become a family favorite, and a cook's favorite, too.  From beginning to service takes under an hour for an impressive side (and a good portion of that is just roasting itself away....).  

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for these little baby cabbages, simply because I remember my youngest daughter, after her first experience, saying "Russell's a pretty good cook".  "What, honey?", I asked, as I often had to have her repeat most of the funny stuff that came out of her 6 year-old mouth.  "Russell's Sprouts, moooom. (Mom, you are so slow) They're pretty good."  From that point forward, it was Russell's Sprouts.

If it's just me, I'm adding cracked red pepper to the mix.  Like I do to every vegetable, it seems.  But for the mainstream, leave out the cracked red, but don't go too lightly on the cracked black.

citrus roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta and toasted cashews

4 lbs brussels sprouts
1 lb pancetta
12 oz raw cashews, chopped
3 oranges
olive oil (about 2 tablespoons per baking sheet of sprouts)
2-4 cloves minced garlic (optional)
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

ingredient notes: 

brussels sprouts-  prepare by peeling away the tough first layer of outer leaves and trimming away any core to the base of the sprout.  Cut on pound in half, the second pound in quarters.

pancetta—when purchasing pancetta, have the delicatessen slice it on "#3".  This will still be fairly thin, but not paper-thin (which you will find kind of melts away).  Reserve 3 rounds for toasting cashews.  Then slice remaining rounds into thin strips, about a quarter inch thick, and then across in uniform lengths, about an inch long.  These are now lardons.  (see note below recipe for substituting american bacon)

oranges—zest all three oranges.  (if you don't have a zester, you can use the finest grater holes of a box or flat grater).  Then juice two of the oranges.  (Or juice three, and enjoy drinking the juice of one, yourself!  Yum.)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Spread brussels sprouts on two baking sheets, lined with a silicone baking pad or sprayed with silicone baking spray.  Separate sprouts cut in half and sprouts cut in quarters, to assure they cook evenly.  Drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Scatter pancetta lardons evenly over the two pans.

Roast sprouts for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small skillet render fat from pancetta (there will be only enough to coat the bottom of the pan) by slowly frying until crisp.  Remove pancetta (reserving for garnishing top of finished dish) and transfer cashews to the pan, tossing frequently, and toasting them until lightly browned.  Nuts have oils in them that facilitate their fast toasting; it should take only about 5 minutes.  See photo.  Set aside.

After sprouts have roasted the first 15 minutes, remove from oven and toss with orange zest and juice, and minced garlic, if using.  Return to oven to roast until fork tender, about another 15-20 minutes.

Remove from oven, toss both pans together, top with cashews and reserved pancetta.  
Serves 12-16

Substituting Bacon—Pancetta is the European cousin of american bacon.  Pancetta is unsmoked, and yields less fat.  I love the Pancetta in this recipe for that reason: it doesn't overpower the flavors.  However, using american bacon,  although changing the flavor ,  will make a pretty yummy side dish if you prefer the smokier flavor, or can't find pancetta easily.  (I found it at my local small town grocery, so it should be pretty easy to get, even prepackaged in the deli meats but in some areas, it's just catching on).  I would use less than a pound, say ¾ of a pound.  Slice crosswise, in ¼ to ½ " lardons.  Preroast for about 10-15 minutes, or until just beginning to brown and render fat.  Then remove from oven, add brussels sprouts and toss well.  You will probably not need the addition of olive oil, just monitor to see that the sprouts are well moistened, and add olive oil as/if necessary.  For roasting cashews, ½ slice of bacon should do.  Continue as instructed, above. 

Vegan adjustments:  Easy!  No pancetta.  Use neutral flavored oil to roast cashews (no more than it takes to lightly coat the bottom of the skillet).  Olive oil is not suggested (because of it's low smoking point).  Sunflower or grapeseed oils are ideal.  If you miss the 'meatiness' of the dish, a good substitute would be to sprinkle a parmesan substitute over that last 5 minutes of roasting.  (However most vegans don't miss 'meatiness' at all!)  One of the sausage-type crumble meat substitutes tossed with this would turn it into a satisfying main dish, too.

Smoky Cider-Stewed Beans with Apple and Chorizo and the Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries

sunday night special
notes from maggie's farm

We recently celebrated a family birthday by taking a road trip to San Benito, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, near the Mexico border.

Our visit was two-fold: to share the blessings of a sister church for their Fiesta de la Gratitud and to deliver a large basket of beans and rice that our church, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Burnet, collected in preparation for and in response to our planned trip.  We were to meet with Filiberto Pereira of Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries and deliver our offering to their Rice and Beans Project.

To celebrate our adventure-filled, successful birthday road trip, and in honor of the special time we shared with our friends in the Valley, we prepared our own little gratitude feast upon our return home.  Over recollections of a most eventful 24 hours of food, fellowship and fun from San Antonio, San Benito, South Padre Island, Weslaco, on the Border, and then back home, we celebrated with Cumin Lime-Brined ChickenChile Cheese Corn Muffins, and, the final recipe we share today,

Smoky Cider-Stewed Beans with Apple and Chorizo

serves 6 for entree or 12 for side dish

1 lb pinto or red beans
2 small or 1 medium onions, chopped
1 cup apple cider
2 medium cooking apples (see chart below for best apples with which to cook) cored and chopped
8 cups water or chicken or vegetable stock, (more or less—see recipe)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced, divided
1 smoked ham hock
8 oz spanish chorizo, sliced 1/4" thick
lime wedges
cooked white rice
1 bunch sliced scallions, with 2 tablespoons reserved for garnish
Ingredient Notes—
Onions—yellow, sweet, white, red, or whatever's on hand
Cooking Apples—see chart below for best apples with which to cook
Smoked Paprika--I used a mixture of sweet and hot smoked paprika's.  For no heat at all, use all sweet.  If you're a spicy kinda gal or guy, use all hot. To learn more, visit this link.
Spanish Chorizo is a much different product than Mexican Chorizo.  See this link to learn the difference.

Rinse and sort dried beans.  Cover with water by *double the volume.  Bring to a hard boil, then remove from heat.  Let sit, covered, for 1 hour.  (Alternatively, cover with water by double the volume of water and cover to let soak overnight) Drain, rinse, return to stock pot or dutch oven. 

Add cider, chopped onions and apples, ham hock, minced garlic, and salt (beginning with 1 T), and 1 tablespoon oregano to soaked and drained beans.  Cover with water or stock, keeping liquid level around two inches above the beans.  
Cook at medium heat (a high simmer, or low boil) covered, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours, adding water to keep covered by two inches as needed. 

Add chorizo, smoked paprika, and additional salt, if needed, and reduce to full simmer.  Cook for an additional hour. (If you like beans with a little "brothier" like I do, you will probably want to continue to add more liquid during this time.  If you like a thicker pot of beans, you can allow the liquid to become absorbed.) Stir in remaining tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano, sliced scallions and adjust smoked paprika and salt,  to taste.  Simmer for ten minutes, covered


Serve over cooked white rice, garnished with lime wedges and sliced scallion.  We used this as an accompaniment to Cumin Lime-Brined Chicken, and Chile Cheese Corn Muffins, but it would fare quite well as a main dish, served with corn muffins, and perhaps this Avocado Tomato and Corn Salad.

* if your beans are approximately 2 inches deep in the pot, add water to cover plus 2 inches more.

Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries

The Rice and Beans Project provides emergency food for the hungry in the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico. Disciples Rice was founded by the late Frank Mabee, a minister and friend of founder Feliberto Pereira. It’s a ministry that has fed hundreds of thousands of refugees, orphans, and members of impoverished communities in Texas and Mexico over the past twenty-five years. In 1992, the High Plains Area of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), located in the Texas Panhandle, initiated the Disciples Beans program, contributing funds to purchase 30,000 pounds of pinto beans—a truckload of needed protein for hungry refugees. Today, the beans and rice programs provide 90,000 pounds of these basic stables to needy families, isolated villages and orphanages and childrens' homes on both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border.

In the words of Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries:

While our ministry primarily serves political refugees who are seeking safety from persecution in their home countries, our ministry has expanded to serve the needs of the poor—from emergency food, clothing and health kits to programs for young mothers and their babies. We build small homes through our Casita Project in the colonias of Matamoros, Mexico where we also help operate the Casa Bethel orphanage. We believe in educating all of God's people, and we do so through assisting with high school and college tuition support for students and through a Bible Institute in Monterrey, Mexico.
If you wish to serve God's people in need along the Texas/Mexico border, we welcome your support and mission work. If you have never stayed with us on a mission trip, we invite you to reserve a time to join us. We welcome you!


 Cooking Apples

NAMEBest UsesFlavor Characteristic, Appearance
BraeburnSauceTart, sweet, aromatic, tall shape, bright color
CortlandPies, Sauces, Fruit SaladTart, crisp, larger than 'McIntosh'
FujiBakingSweet and juicy, firm, red skin
GalaDried, CiderMild, sweet, juicy, crisp, yellow-orange skin with red striping (resembles a peach)
Granny SmithBakingModerately sweet, crisp flesh, green skin
JonagoldPie, SauceTangy-sweet, Yellow top, red bottom
JonathanSauceTart flesh, crisp, juicy, bright red on yellow skin
McIntoshSauceJuicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh, red skin
Newton PippinPie, Sauce, CiderSweet-tart flesh, crisp, greenish-yellow skin
Rhode Island GreeningPieVery tart, distinctively flavored, grass-green skin, tending toward yellow/orange
Rome BeautyBaking, CiderMildly tart, crisp, greenish-white flesh, thick skin
WinesapSauce, Pie, CiderVery juicy, sweet-sour flavor, winey, aromatic, sturdy, red skin

variations on a theme: potage parmentier

tips for tuesday
notes from maggie's farm

The beauty of a master recipe, is that with just a flick of the wrist, or a flick of the whisk as it may be,  you've taken it to a new level, with the addition of a few key ingredients.  The suggestions below, from the original recipe from Julia Child, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child, Beck, and Bertholle, are just a beginning.  Yesterday, we began with the basics.  Today, let your imagination take over with these suggestions, and more.  

I've taken to running the original recipe through a china cap, or chinoise, a type of fine sieve, and prior to adding the cream,  freezing the base.  Without the potato solids and cream, it freezes quite well.  I've got myself a quickie soup with the addition of whatever's fresh in the garden, or the market.  Add a small salad, or a crusty piece of fresh bread, and no one need be the wiser that you haven't slaved away all day on this veritable feast for peasant and prince, alike.

Potate au Cresson (Water-cress Soup)
This simple version of water-cress soup is very good.
Serves 6 to 8 people
Ingredients are the same as for the leek and potato soup, omitting cream enrichment until later and adding ¼ lb or about 1 packed cup of water-cress leaves and tender stems.
Follow the preceding master recipe, but before puréeing the soup, stir in the water cress and simmer for 5 minutes. Then purée in a food mill and correct seasoning. Off heat and just before serving, stir in 4 to 6 Tb cream or 2 to 3 Tb butter by spoonfuls. Decorate with the optional water-cress leaves.
Vichyssoise (Cold Leek and Potato Soup)
This is an American invention based on the leek and potato soup in the preceding master recipe.
Serves 6 to 8 people
Ingredients are the same as for the leek and potato soup with the addition of 3 cups peeled and sliced potatoes, 3 cups sliced white of leek, and 1½ quarts of white stock chicken stock, or canned chicken broth.
Simmer the vegetables in stock or broth instead of water as described in the master recipe. Purée the soup either in the electric blender, or through a food mill and then through a fine sieve. Stir in ½ to 1 cup cream. Season to taste, over salting very slightly as salt loses savor in a cold dish. Chill. Serve in chilled soup cups and decorate with minced chives.
Other Variations on Leek and Potato Soup:
Using the master recipe for leek and potato soup, a cup or two of one or a combination of the following vegetables may be added as indicated. Proportions are not important here, and you can use your imagination to the full. Many of the delicious soups you eat in French homes and little restaurants are made just this way, with a leek-and-potato base to which leftover vegetables or sauces and a few fresh items are added. You can also experiment on your own combinations for cold soups, by stirring a cup or more of heavy cream into the cooked soup, chilling it, then sprinkling on fresh herbs just before serving. You may find you have invented a marvelous concoction, which you can keep as a secret of the house.
To be simmered or cooked in the pressure cooker with the potatoes and leeks or onions at the start: Sliced or diced carrots or turnips; peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes, or strained canned tomatoes; half-cooked dried beans, peas, or lentils, including their cooking liquid.
To be simmered for 10 to 15 minutes with the soup after it has been puréed: Fresh or frozen diced cauliflower, cucumbers, broccoli, Lima beans, peas, string beans, okra, or zucchini; shredded lettuce, spinach, sorrel, or cabbage.
To be heated in the soup just before serving: Diced, cooked leftovers of any of the preceding vegetables; tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and diced.

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