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Praise the Lard. An Evening With Tamales

Praise the Lard. An Evening With Tamales

Ready to try making home made tamales? In today’s blog I will give you ingredients and instructions for making the best mole sauce for the best tamales you’ve ever tasted. I worked up the courage to make these a few weeks ago for my family. My husband had been traveling, so I knew having a nice home made meal would appeal to him. My mother introduced me to Cardenas the new Mexican specialty store and I was inspired. Here are my recipes for home made tamales with pork and mole sauce.

Mole Sauce for Tamales

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All this Mole goodness made in my blender

Ingredients:

1 Bag Dried Pasilla peppers (about 6) Or whichever dried pepper you prefer

1 Bag Dried Ancho peppers (about 6)

Place these peppers in a dry Le Creuset pot to heat and release oils. Then soak in 2 Cups hot water for 15-30 minutes. Then add to blender with remaining ingredients.

¼ C Sesame seeds

¼ C Almonds

1 Plantain cut into chunks.

Heat these three above ingredients in a pot on the stove until caramelized. Then add to blender.

 

6 Prunes

1 Allspice

2 Cinnamon sticks

¼ C Peanuts

1 Tablespoon White vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dried oregano

½ C Beef broth, veggie broth or chicken broth

½ C brown sugar

4 ounces Mexican chocolate melted in microwave

1.5 C Herette Chocolate Hazelnut Porter or Guinness Beer. 

Add above ingredients to blender.

 

Take 6 tomatillos, 1 white onion, 4 garlic cloves, 

2 whole tomatoes, 1 green ancho chile and roast on a sheet pan for 20 minutes.

Put all ingredients into the blender and puree until smooth. Let mole cook in a Medium size pot on the stove for 1 hour or longer until flavors are combined. Set aside.

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My Mole Negro made from scratch

Tamale filling :

Take pork leg or turkey and cook until done. I seared pork cutlets, then boiled them slowly with fresh chopped herbs oregano, thyme and parsley, a white onion, 1 celery stalk and 1 carrot covered in water until cooked through, about 1.5 hours. Remove from water and cool. Fry in peanut oil until the pork is caramelized. Set aside.

Buy a pre made tamale puree at a Mexican specialty store. I went to Cardenas in Concord California. Make sure it isn’t (pina) pineapple flavor! First big mistake.

Didn’t realize I had made pineapple flavor tamale until I tasted it for breakfast the next day with a couple of scrambled eggs. Just horrible! Too sweet and I had to throw the entire batch in the garbage. What a waste!

Tamale recipe:

2 Cups Manseca or masa harina

1 Cup Chicken or Vegetable Broth

1 teaspoon baking powder

⅔ c  Fat Works Leaf Lard melted

 

Instructions:

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until combined.

 

8 Oz dried corn Husks (soak overnight in warm water)

 

Next, make sure if you make your own tamales, you check the expiration date on the masa. It’s called Maseca and my friend picked some up for me at the store since she had a few things to pick up. After I had made and assembled more tamales,and steamed them, I tasted them. The masa tasted weird. Now I am not a tamale expert, but these had a funky taste to them. After checking the expiration, I realized my friend had gotten an expired bag of Maseca. Sad face.

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Here’s my Masa mixture for my Tamales.

In any case, my first try at this complicated meal ended twice in disaster. I’m not afraid to take the task again head on and make them again. 

If you fail, try again. Right? That is how we learn.

To assemble:

Take the soaked and dried corn husk and lay it on a cutting board or plate. Smear about 1/4 C masa mixture onto the husk which has the wider side on the bottom. Coat fried pork with mole sauce being generous. Take a tablespoon or two and drop onto masa mixture. Roll up carefully, being sure the sides of the masa meet to ensure they cook properly and they stay together while steaming. Fold larger end together and lay in a basket of boiling water making sure the water doesn’t cover the tamales. Fill basket and steam for one hour and 15 minutes on simmer making sure to refill pot of water as needed. Tamales are ready to be served!

Thank you to my Mexican friends Juanita and Silvia for giving me the courage to make these. I will give them a go again in the near future. Until then, go make something new. Give yourself time to research these Oaxacan customs and traditions and make tamales and mole for yourself and your family for the holidays. It is totally work the time and effort when you can present these yummy creations to your loved ones.

 

And thanks for letting me share my stories with you. 

 

Check out more of my previous blogs here. I’m going to make these shortbread cookies next with my apricot jam.

 

 

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You Must Be 21 in Santa Cruz California and a Fabulous Carrot Cake Recipe

You Must Be 21 in Santa Cruz California and a Fabulous Carrot Cake Recipe

Spent time in Capitola and Santa Cruz recently with my niece Jasmine. She had time off from work and needed a get away. We all need mental health days and Santa Cruz was just what the doctor ordered. Good thing we are both over 21, since a few of the places we explored required a valid drivers license if we wanted to buy the mind altering drugs which I describe below.  In today’s blog I will write about the unique stores that we found in downtown and explain what we learned along the way.

Several years back, I had been to Santa Cruz with my neighborhood book club. Our friend Rachel lived near campus and offered an overnight at her place. In the morning, we ventured into town and ate at one of the local restaurants. I had wanted to explore the area further, but we didn’t have time. So I was happy to make a trip back to the Pacific Avenue strip with Jasmine. Too bad she isn’t talking to me these days.

We started off in Capitola at Gayle’s Bakery where they have every sweet imaginable including Florentine cookies, pavlova’s and German Chocolate Cake. Yum. We spent a couple of hours eating and walking around, when we decided to move on and find this cool neighborhood that I had been to years back. We stopped at a gas station and asked a local. He knew exactly where we wanted to go and after Google map search, we made it there. Side note: My grand parents on my mother’s side Elvina and Bill lived in Santa Cruz when I was a child, so my family would take trips on the weekends and holidays at the Beach and Boardwalk. So fun!

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Grandma Elvina and Bill Caprasecca with their 1928 Chevrolet

We started off at a small shoe shop since Jasmine’s feet were killing her. I scored some Teva sandals and she found a comfy pair of sneakers. Off we went!

Next we asked about massages at the Tea House Spa, but they didn’t have any appointments available. Might have to make a special trip back just to spend time there to drink herbal tea and get a body treatment.

We walked past Mission Hill Creamery which specialized in local organic ingredients. Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Candied Ginger, and Nutty Cookie Monster were just a few of their ice cream flavors. They also served Margarita Sorbet, Strawberry Daiquiri Sorbet, Mango Sorbet, Avocado and Almond Milk and Toasted Almond plus a Blueberry Goat Cheese all perfect for vegans. We had stopped for coffee earlier at Mr. Toots Coffeehouse in Capitola, so we weren’t in the mood for these ice cream treats quite yet.

Glow Candle Lounge came next where we observed two women assembling colorful wax cubes into molds to  make candles. This looks like a fun activity when you have all day and can come back later to pick up your candle.

Melo Melo Kava Bar attracted us in with their wall of living ferns and houseplants and plush, bright, modern couches. We had no idea what was going on in there, but it looked interesting enough to take the seats at the bar. One guy was preparing a chocolate drink using Keith’s Cacao 100% Pure Ceremonial Grade Cacao. And chocolate drinks always get my attention. This was serious stuff. They serve sipping chocolate one called Midnight Mystic which is 80% cacao, vanilla bean and himalayan salt, and Global Warrior which is 65% cacao, with maca, turmeric and cardamom. We learned that raw cacao contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate. It is a mind stimulant and a great aphrodisiac. I’m a fan.

This article explains Kava’s non addictive-medicinal South Pacific root and how people are using it to calm their nerves and relieve anxiety instead of using drugs. Kava Kava Root (Piper Methysticum) relaxes the nervous tension, muscle cramps and helps to stabilize moods. It is a mild psychoactive, tastes like earth like you are licking an outside of a potato, and will numb your throat when you drink it.

The employee recommended us trying the Nak-Out 8 oz. drink of kava and to add the Rip Tide to it which is an extra boost of kava. Here was her explanation about Kava.

My niece and I were smart enough to pass on these drinks especially since we still had an hour drive home.

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Jasmine and me posing at Go Ask Alice in Santa Cruz

Go Ask Alice was another interesting place to check out. Here we found many medicinal herbs like Chaga, Ginkgo, Mullein, Borage, Calendula, Comfrey, Holy Basil, Lemon Balm, Red Reishi and many more. There was a section of herbs under an Aphrodisiacs sign like Cacao (which we learned at the previous business), Blue Lotus, Cordyceps, Damiana, Kava Kava Root, Maca, Macacao, Muira Puama, Mucunna, Oat straw, Schisandra, Shatavari Root, Tongkat Ali, and Tribulus. Weird stuff, but if it helps people then I’m all for it. They also sold CBD, Kratom and devices to smoke them with. It’s all news to me.

Under the Sleep Aids and Sedatives sign were Ashwagandha, Catnip, Hops, Mugwort, Mulungu, Night Tea, Passionflower, Skullcap, and Valerian Root. I grow Valerian, Borage, Comfrey, Mullein, Lemon Balm and Calendula and many more herbs in my garden, but I haven’t made them into tinctures for health purposes.

Go Ask Alice sold Let’s Thrive a CBD  wellness products, Melo Out Man a CBD Milk Chocolate Bar, Honu CBD Chocolate Turtles and CBD Peanut Butter Cups, Kratom Chocolates and Treometry Raw Cacao and Reishi products. These items reminded me of my trip to Portland at Electric Lettuce.

Go Ask Alice had everything from Root Remedies Kava Liquid Chill drops to Rainbow Bliss Botanicals Rooted Tea. Host Defense Primordial Chocolate Bar, Choquiero Chocolate Bars like Spicy Chipotle a 73% with cacao nibs and cayenne pepper or Mayan Rose that included a 75% cacao plus cinnamon and maca root. This place was mind blowing!

There were lots of books on Psychedelic Healing, one on The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants by Christian Ratsch, the Handbook on Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda by Bridgetta Shea, The Honey Prescription by Nathaniel Altman and many more. One could spend all day here and get all the feels that Santa Cruz has to offer.

Jasmine grabbed a couple of cookies from the Pacific Cookie Company. They had so many to choose from including Triple Chocolate, Mint Condition, Coconut Macaroon, Almond Joe, Chocolate Chip with Walnuts, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Snickerdoodle, Ginger Spice, Peanut Butter and Gluten Free varieties from Mariposa Bakery. The place smelled intoxicating and I wanted one of each, but I had already purchased and eaten a Florentine cookie earlier. I definitely want to make them. All of them looked delicious!

Retro Paradise was a clothing store with lots of colorful and erotic merchandise and reminded me of The Haight in San Francisco. Of course the Pride Parade took place last weekend, so I’m sure many folks bought their outfits from this shop.

There was plenty more to see, but we decided to drive back before it became dark. When I’m not familiar with a new neighborhood, I don’t like to be there into the evening. It looked safe enough, but we needed to get back to the care before our time ran out on our parking meter.

We made it back to San Jose in time for a drink, hot wings and chicken fingers at Smoke Eaters. Fieldwork Blackberry Parfait a Sour Ale, Jackrabbit Afterglow a Brown Ale, Hop Dogma Stout, Anderson Valley Nitro Cerveza Crema, Lagunitas Citrusinensis a Pale Ale, Knee Deep Simtra Triple IPA, Six Rivers Sasquatch Double IPA and many more were sold on draft. Or you could choose from their signature cocktails Rose Martini, Lemon Pie Martini, Black Beauty, Pisco Sour or a Prickly Pear Mez-arita. The bar was fun and lively everyone watching the hockey game hooting and hollering. I drank water since I still had another hour drive back to my house, but Jasmine had a cold pineapple cider. She taught me how to order wings by choosing a sauce like mango habanero, honey sriracha, garlic Parmesan or the extra hot inferno sauce. Eating at Smoke Eaters Restaurant was the perfect ending to our day together.

So if you are looking for an outing a little out of the ordinary, check out Santa Cruz. Whether you visit the far out kava house Melo Melo also located in Berkeley, or bother to stop off at Go Ask Alice for a mood elevator or plant sedative you will not be disappointed.  Maybe you are lucky enough to take a friend or loved one with you like I did.

Thanks for spending this time with me and reading my blog. I’m so happy I can share my treks and good eats here and give you ideas for your next vacation or day trip.

Please leave me a comment and share your Capitola and Santa Cruz experiences with me. Next I will be sharing my trip to San Francisco with my son Andrew and also share a fun beer crawl in Walnut Creek with my son Curtis. Someone has to have some fun, so it may as well be me.

Here is my famous Carrot Cake Recipe for you all to enjoy.

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Beautiful white tulips, mock orange and yellow roses from the garden

Fabulous Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

2 C. Granulated Sugar

1 C. Canola Oil (Vegetable or Grapeseed ok)

4 Eggs

Zest 1 Orange (Blend with the sugar in food processor)

1 teas Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

2 1.2 C. Unbleached All Purpose Flour (Can substitute flax seed, freshly milled bulgur, wheat bran)

2 teas Baking Powder

1 teas ground Cinnamon

1 teas ground Ginger

¼ t ground Cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 teas Baking Soda

½ teas Maldon Salt (kosher ok)

3 ½ C Grated Carrots (can substitute zucchini)

1 Grated Apple

3/4 C Chopped Toasted Walnuts (or pecans)

¼ C. Chopped Crystallized Ginger (Found at Trader Joes) Or 1 T freshly chopped ginger

½ C Flaked or Shredded Coconut(Can be toasted first)

½ C Dried Cranberries, Raisins or Currants (steep in warm brandy before adding)

Cream Cheese Frosting 

8 oz Pkg cream cheese softened

½ Cube Butter Softened

1 teas Vanilla Bean Paste

1.5 C Powdered Sugar sifted (Can use less)

1 T Heavy Cream

Premier Pastry Pride (A Non Dairy whipped cream found at Smart n Final)

Directions for Cake:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Grease 8 ½ X 12 ½  Bundt Pan with shortening then dust with flour

Or Make 2 dozen cupcakes using muffin pans and use paper or foil liners. I like CupBakes brand which are grease resistant and found in restaurant supply stores.

In a large bowl, cream together Sugar, Oil, Eggs, Orange zest and Vanilla until combined. I use my Kitchen Aid Mixer.

In a separate medium size bowl sift together all dry ingredients flour, spices, baking soda, salt, baking powder until combined.

Using a Cuisinart, grate carrots and apple. I swear by this piece of equipment and use it every day when cooking and baking.

Chop walnuts and set aside.

Starting with the dry ingredients, alternately add dry flour mixture to wet sugar, oil and egg mixture while mixer is on low. Then add some grated carrot/apple to mixer and blend. Keep adding more dry, then more carrot/apple until all ingredients are in the mixer ending with flour.

Remove bowl from Kitchen Aid, and fold in remaining ingredients: Crystallized ginger, coconut, cranberries (rehydrated with brandy) and walnuts.

Pour carrot cake mixture into prepared bundt pan or lined muffin pans. If using a Bundt pan, bake for 45-60 minutes. Cupcakes will only take 15-17 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Frost with cream cheese frosting when cake has completely cooled. 

Directions for Cream Cheese Frosting:

Place softened room temperature cream cheese, butter in a mixer and blend until smooth. Add vanilla and powdered sugar slowly while mixture is running adding heavy cream to get the right consistency.

Last and final note. I give credit to the original  recipe to Lorraine Andrew’s who is the mother of my previous coworker Cynthia. I worked with her at Dr Hunter’s office over 20 years ago. I’ve added a few extra ingredients to make it my own and love spoiling my family with this cake on special occasions.

Until next time.

Teri

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This is how I line the baking dish. It’s easier then buttering and dusting with flour.
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Filling the cake with cream cheese frosting
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Frosted Carrot Cake. Ready to decorate.

Here is the link to the white cake with strawberry jam and whipped cream frosting cake I made for Mom’s 80th.

 

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