Family, Family time, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday food, Mexican Vegan food

Beginning a New Tradition with Tamales-Vegan Style!

Christmas Stars by J. De La Cruz, flickr.com cc
Christmas Stars by J. De La Cruz, flickr.com cc

Five years after my youngest became a vegan, I now have another vegan son who has a wonderful girlfriend who is also vegan.

I began cooking vegan style for the youngest some time ago. My oldest son, David and his girlfriend, Laura ‘veganize’ all sorts of foods while educating people on their YouTube site titled “Hangry Vegans.” Their videos show their adventures shopping and creating vegan dishes. Recently, they created a Wix site, you guessed it: “Hangry Vegans.”

We made five types of tamales. And, this year I wasn’t the only one making vegan tamales. David and Laura sat at the table and learned from me and his aunt about the ‘how to’s” of making the masa (dough) and filling for tamales without lard or animal products.

They tried to manipulate the butter knife, masa to oja (corn husk) ratio, and fill the tamales without making them into fat burritos. I was impressed they kept at it, smoothing and fixing the ojas, laying on the right amount of chile and ‘cheese.’

A mother is impressed when her daughter cooks, but a Latina mother is doubly surprised when her adult son tackles a medium difficult project. For the trifecta, Laura said she and David would keep up the tradition. Maybe there will be some little ‘tamales’ in their future 🙂 (I’m going to get an OMG from them, but I’m joking!).

They both did well for first timers and now know why we complain of backaches the day after tamale making.

My mother stood by and asked what type of filling we’d use. When the words “Black beans” and vegan ‘cheese’ entered the conversation she gave us the familiar nose wrinkle. This is her polite way of saying “Yuck.”

You know millennials, they video everything. Here are the steps in motion:

Vegan Black Bean Tamales:

Masa/Dough

2 cups of Maseca Tamal corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together in a large bowl and add:
1 1/3 cup of vegetable broth

In another bowl, use
2/3 cup of coconut or vegetable shortening.
Mix until fluffy. Add this to the dry ingredients and stir until batter is smooth.
Knead the dough like bread until it’s smooth and slightly sticky.

You can also buy store-bought masa at a Mexican supermarket. Ask for masa sin preparada (not prepared with lard). To this masa add the vegetable shortening and knead.

Spread a thin to medium layer of masa on the oja/corn husk, leaving 1/4 from the top clear.

Add a tablespoon or more of drained and rinsed cooked black beans, shredded vegan Monterrey style Jack cheese, and diced green chiles or strips of chile. A teaspoon of salsa verde or salsa roja can also be added.

Fold each side of oja to the middle and fold over the top of the oja. Press the open ends of the oja gently together.

Take a deep pot (tamale) which has a steamer bottom or put an overturned foil pie pan with four ventilated holes at the bottom of the pot. Add water until it reaches the rim of the pie pan.

Stack tamales into the pot about 2/3 full and around the edges, leaving a small funnel in the middle. Or, you can basketweave the tamales around the edges, also with a funnel in the middle. Water, when needed, is added in this space.

Wet and wring out a clean cotton kitchen towel. Drape it over the top of the stacked tamales, put a lid on the pot and place on the stove, at medium heat. Add water when necessary.

Set a timer for 90 minutes. Use a potholder to lift the lid and check the tamales. The masa will be cooked solid if it’s done. If the masa is mushy, set the timer for another hour.

Any vegetable filling can be used: lentils and corn, spinach and vegan cheese, peas and carrots, butternut squash are some examples.

For our sweet tamales recipes: Pineapple, Coconut; Cinnamon Raisin; and Strawberry go over to Hangry Vegans website. Check them out, they’re so cute.

I have to say that, I’m a mom.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Family

Celebrating The Past On Thanksgiving Day

Be thankful quote, sunset
Quote by Pablo, photo by Ms. Phoenix, flickr.com, cc.

 

My daughter’s eight-day visit is over. Mother’s and daughters, there’s something special about that relationship. I wonder if it’s because mother’s see a reflection of themselves in their daughter’s mannerisms for a fleeting moment. And when your kids are on their own and live in another state, every moment with them is fleeting.

The drive to LAX via the dreaded 405 freeway was so ‘unbusy’ it was like driving on another freeway in another century. Then again, many people had today off and it was 6:30 in the morning. Going back to Denver is always bittersweet for my daughter. We talk about who she got to visit, if her cat is mad at her, and wondering if it’s possible to transfer her job closer to home in California. We talk about plans for the next year, relationships, and her future.

We had fun attending the Guillermo Del Toro exhibit at LACMA. His movies are a little macabre for me (Pan’s Labrinyth, Chronos, Blade II …,) but I was willing to sacrifice my personal opinion to spend more time with my daughter. Plus, I got to see several Picasso’s at the museum. Shopping, getting Mani/Pedi’s, a haircut, and visiting with friends and relatives rounded out her visit.
Guillermo Del Toro exhibit-LACMA, Los Angeles, CA
Guillermo Del Toro exhibit-LACMA, Los Angeles, CA

Twenty of us gathered for Thanksgiving with my sister and brother-in-law. We ate almost three hours later than intended, but that will be a memory for another turkey day.

We had deep fried turkey, baked ham, and all the other fixings. My vegan son brought his own ‘turkey’ roast, gravy, rolls and pumpkin pie. Seven relatives ventured a taste of this non-meat roast and all of them gave the vegan food a thumbs up.

My sister asked me to say a prayer. I thought about that request and came up with a reflection instead:

There was a time when Thanksgiving dinner was a chicken meal, when the stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes showed up in a cardboard box on our back porch. There were no leftovers in those years but for the compassion of others, we are thankful.

Each Thanksgiving our turkey grew in size, along with the number of aunts, uncles, and cousins who shared meals with us. The size of our table expanded and we had enough to share. For our family we are thankful.

Time runs, leaving memories in its dust. Along the way, we lost loved ones, but our recollection of them is with us in our kitchens and tables as we celebrate. For those who went before us, we are thankful.

Remember the last 365 days. The days that we struggled and the days when we laughed with joy. The difficult days and the days we never wanted to end. Remember the times when someone gave us an encouraging word, a hug, or prayed for us, for it’s in those days that we learned to keep going, to keep hoping, to have faith. For the gift of love and support, we are thankful.

And now we get together here, with our mother, brother, and sisters, nieces and nephews, in-laws, friends, grandkids, and great-grandkids, still together, after all of these years sharing a Thanksgiving meal together.

And for this, let us be thankful.

A few of the grandchildren remarked “Chicken?”

Which led to the stories about when we were children and being the recipient of charity boxes on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And these stories led to other stories of post-dinner basketball games when we were young mothers and fathers. We left the table heavy with food and full of good memories.

And for that, I am thankful.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. 

Family, Latino culture, Parenting, poetry

Poetry as a Gift to Ourself

gettyimages-Fraser, Colorado
gettyimages-Fraser, Colorado

I’m really missing my kids who live in Colorado.

It’s hard to believe they are young adults making their own way, not only in another town, but another state. Sometimes I get comments about this fact, “How could you let them go so far…” For many Latino families this just isn’t done. But that’s another story, for another time.

A couple or three weeks ago, the “polar vortex” swept through Colorado. My flight was cancelled and I didn’t make it up there to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. That sucked, but better to be safe than sorry (my daughter’s words).

Last time I was there, in December, I experienced my first snowy Christmas. We took a walk. The air felt frigid, the snow crunchy, my toes had no feeling.

Inside was the best way for a Southern California resident to view the snowfall.

My journal captured some thoughts which I developed into a poem.

Outside My Window

Layers of snow cover

a multitude of sins,

which no longer hover

below the blanket of white.

Cold truths against the light,

making beautiful the wrongs to right,

softens the landscape

against the morning light,

see how things can be made right,

Cushions of snow,

light and fresh,

unmarked drifts of possibilities

to keep the wrongs right,

to begin anew,

erase the dark.

A canvas of white

illuminated against the daylight,

soon to be crushed by black stripes,

criss crossing

making sludge of white

I’m glad I recorded my thoughts. They take me back to sitting at the living room window early in the morning, looking out to the balcony and street below.

Snow layered itself over hedges, trees, and cars. Pretty soon cars started driving by, and the morning woke up.

I made the kids some vegan Mexican hot chocolate which we stirred with cinnamon sticks. The spicy fragrant drink and the heater in the apartment warmed us from the inside out.

Memories about one’s kids are one of the greatest gifts about being a parent.

Poetry is a gift to ourself.

Family

A Twist to Traditional Tamales

Tamale Making Time-alvaradofrazier.com
Tamale Making Time-alvaradofrazier.com

Last weeks tamale making party (la tamalada) included nieces, nephews, grandkids, and great grandkids. We made the traditional (Mexican) red chile with pork, green tomatillo sauce with pork, and Anaheim chiles and cheese. We added a couple of twists to the tradition this year.

This is the first time I made my own masa (dough) because I couldn’t find any prepared without lard. Turned out fine. My son is a committed Vegan and we in turn are supportive so we  made a few dozen  lentil with corn tamales and spinach, mushroom and vegan cheese tamales. The latter were incredibly delicious.

Dessert tamales are nothing new, but our family hasn’t made a successful bunch- ever- before this year. A  family friend taught us how to make strawberry tamales. I never thought we’d break tradition, but as I’ve said before we all have to branch out and try new things.

Strawberry Dessert Tamales-alvaradofrazier.com
Strawberry Dessert Tamales-alvaradofrazier.com

Oxnard, California is a coastal town and home to world famous strawberries. For a short (extremely brief) time I helped pick strawberries with my family. It wasn’t as hard as picking walnuts or tomatoes so my mom thought we (her kids) could handle this crop. We played more than picked and that was the end of that endeavor.

So it seemed apropos to make strawberry tamales. They were delicious. Perfect with a cup of champurrado or cafe.

The day after Christmas everyone is usually “tamaled out,” so the rest go into freezer bags to heat up for New Years Day.

The season comes to a close when those freezer bags go into the refrigerator, the tamale pots go back up to the attic, the aprons get washed, and the blender is put away. It is a little melancholy, mostly because the families disperse, the house is much quieter, and we have to wait a whole year to have the next tamalada.