Tamales for everyone – make your own!

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Mariah Chavez-Vasquez is back! I debuted our Cosumnes River College students’ culinary creativity in an August article featuring her recipe for Chocolate Horchata Nice Cream. When Mariah emailed me a picture of homemade tamales a few weeks ago, I knew that with the holidays upon us, sharing her recipe would be perfect timing. Mariah grew up making tamales with her family, and was happy to tell me how important the tradition was to her. In Mariah’s words…

“Ever since I can remember, tamales were always at the table around the holidays. Whenever any of the kids would ask about presents, my mom would always say that our presents were the tamales because we got to unwrap them. During Thanksgiving or Christmas, we would have leftovers enough for 20 people, meaning that for the next 2 weeks, we would eat tamales for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I was a child, I thought that everyone’s family made and ate tamales together. Upon becoming vegan, I thought that I would not get to enjoy one of my favorite foods since we always made our tamales with either pork, chicken, or cheese. I did not want to miss out on our family tradition. Since I didn’t think that it would feel like the holidays without tamales, I decided that I needed to try and find healthy ingredients to incorporate into a recipe of my own. I wanted a tasty alternative that my whole family would try without hesitation. Since everyone already loves beans, zucchini, and corn, I thought they could make a great filling. I want to enjoy the delicious foods I used to eat, especially Mexican food. By replacing meat and cheese with heart healthy ingredients, and trying out new ideas, I am able to eat food that I love and feel better than ever! I hope that you will enjoy my spin on the traditional tamale, and find them fun to make and absolutely delectable!  Invite friends and family to join you, and if you are lucky, there might just be a few tamales leftover for the next day.”

Mariah’s Tamales
Ingredients
Makes about 2 dozen tamales
30 corn husks

For masa
3 cups masa harina (Mariah’s favorite: Bobs Red Mill Masa Harina)
3 cups warm water or vegetable broth
¾ tsp baking powder
½ Tbsp chili powder (or more)

Filling Options
Black Bean and Corn Filling
½ cup red onion, diced small
1 tsp chili powder (optional for a spicy kick)
1/2 – 1 tsp cumin, ground
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup of water or vegetable broth
3/4 cup black beans, cooked from dry or rinsed from can
3/4 cup corn

Zucchini and Corn Filling
½ cup red onion, diced small
1 tsp chili powder (optional for a spicy kick)
1/2 – 1 tsp coriander, ground
1 clove garlic, minced
1 zucchini, cut into about ½ inch cubes
3/4 cup corn

Procedure
1.     First, soak the corn husks in hot water for about 30 minutes so that they will be more flexible.
2.     Mix together the masa ingredients either by hand or with a mixer until it forms a moist and pliable dough that will spread easily onto a corn husk (not too wet or too dry).
3.     For the black bean and corn filling – Add the onion to a hot pan over medium-high, and cook for several minutes until it begins to caramelize. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and a splash of water or vegetable broth, and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, being sure not to burn the garlic. Then, add the beans and corn, and continue heating until the flavors combine.
4.     For the zucchini and corn filling- prepare the same way as for the black bean and corn filling, but add coriander in place of cumin and cook the mixture until the zucchini has softened.
5.     Preparing the tamales: Grab a corn husk and spread about ½ cup of masa, depending on the size of tamales you are making. Spread the masa from the wide side of the husk up to about halfway to ¾ of the length, leaving the sides of the husk plain, so that when wrapped, the masa  doesn’t stick. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling into the middle, then fold the left side of the husk over the top, followed by the right, finally folding up the end. You can also tie the tamales with strands of torn corn husks to keep the folding in place.
6.     To cook the tamales, steam them in a steamer or a tamale pan for about an hour and 30 minutes. To test for doneness, take one out and let it sit for about 10 minutes and check to determine if the masa is firm.
7. If you would like to make tamales ahead of time to freeze, be sure to freeze them after assembling them, waiting to cook them until the day you plan to serve them.

Timaree Hagenburger, a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health, is so thankful for the opportunities she has to work with students like Mariah, as a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College. Timaree also conducts corporate wellness work, has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV and is publishing her first cookbook – The Foodie BarTM Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. Get your copy at www.FoodieBars.com Find Timaree’s other newspaper columns and TV appearances here at www.TheNutritionProfessor.com

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