The Evolution of a Modern-Day Farm Wife

Archive for December, 2011

Holy Tamales, Batman!

I vividly remember living in the Pueblo of Zuni in western New Mexico when I was a kid.

In reality, we didn’t live in the actual “pueblo”. We lived on the mesa near the hospital where my dad worked as the hospital’s administrator.

I remember riding in my mom’s red Honda and driving down into the pueblo to go to the post office.

I remember seeing Kachinas dancing in a Shalako ceremony (now closed to non-tribal members).

I remember riding my bike and being chased by the “Rez” dogs and having to take an alternate route home which caused me to be late, which caused my parents to call the tribal police.

Good times!

I remember my little sister, Christine, being very, very sick with a horrible fever and my very, very concerned parents driving her to another hospital in Gallup, New Mexico, during a winter storm.

I remember OshKosh B’Gosh was all the wardrobe rage in our house and Santa knew Cabbage Patch dolls were the babies of choice.

Circa 1980-something.

Memories. Oh, memories!

I also remember an old Zuni woman coming to our house and showing my mom how to make tamales. A vat of creamy, white lard in a light blue container and stacks of paper-crisp corn husks adorned the work area.

Even after we left Zuni and moved to central New Mexico, tamales were a natural part of the holiday culture–just like putting out luminarias (paper lunch sacks filled with sand and candles), baking biscochitos with real vanilla from Mexico, and buying alfalfa hay and Piñon seeds from strangers on the side of the highway.

I remember my mom would make or order tamales every year during the Christmas season. And we would gobble them up with melted cheese and chile sauce on top.

After my family moved to Missouri, it was my job to order tamales and deliver them to Missouri during my Christmas breaks from New Mexico State University.

It’s a family tradition.

Last year, because he’s a good guy, Adam singlehandedly researched tamale recipes and rounded up ingredients to help bring this tradition to our family in central Kansas. He caught some flack from me– not because Adam’s tamales were bad (because they were really good), but because they weren’t my mom’s tamales.

They weren’t my momma’s tamales!!
They weren’t authentic New Mexican tamales!!

I wanted nothing to do with them.

And after I had my freak-out session, I ate half a dozen of them!

Luckily, Adam still puts up with me.

I’ve apologized since last year’s fiasco and humbly requested we have a do-over this year, and I’d help (and take pictures).

It’s a major process to make these suckers.
But they are so worth it.  And even though it’s not my mom’s exact recipe, I don’t think I can tell the difference from our tamales and the ones I consumed every year growing up.

In fact, it’s too good not to share.

Stick with me, I promise it’s worth it…

Traditional Pork Tamales

3 1/2 pounds of pork shoulder or butt (cut up with fat trimmed off)
10 cups water
3 minced garlic cloves
1 onion
3 1/2 teaspoons of salt
3/4 cup of Crisco
6 cups of Masa
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
Approx. 50 dried corn husks
4 cups of red chile sauce

The ingredients...give or take a few items.

Red Chile Sauce

15 dried chiles (Anaheim or New Mexico)

4 or 5 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons of ground cumin

2 teaspoons of All-Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of melted shortening

Directions for the sauce:

1. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chile peppers.

Disclaimer: This is chile, people. Don't rub your eyes!

2. Throw the chile on a baking sheet and then throw in a 350 degree oven for 2 to 5 minutes (or until it smells like a sweet roasted (not burned) smell).

3. Remove the chile from the oven and soak in water that covers all chile for about 30 minutes.

4. After 30 minutes, put the chile, 2 1/2 cups of the soaking water, the garlic, cumin, and salt into a blender. Cover and blend until smooth. Be sure to save the leftover soaking water.

Grab the nearest little kid and make him push the button to blend!

5. In a 2-quart sauce pan, stir the flour and the melted shortening over medium heat until it’s browned and then stir in the blended chile mix.

6. Simmer uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes. The sauce will slightly thicken. If the sauce gets too thick for you, this is where you can add the leftover soaking water for your desired thickness.

Now, onto the meat portion…

1. Slice up your pork, quarter your onion, mince your garlic and throw it into a 5-quart Dutch oven. Go ahead and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Bring it all boil.

2. Keeping it covered, simmer the above for about 2 1/2 hours (or until the meat is super tender).

Go ahead, take the lid off and stir it occasionally. You know you want to.

3. Do the laundry, feed the cows, wash the dishes, visit the Co-op…

Or find another little kid and take some pictures of him while you wait.

4. Remove the meat from the broth. Allow both to cool in separate bowls.

5. Shred the pork.

6. Strain the broth and keep 6 cups.

7. In a large sauce pan, heat half of the red chile sauce and throw in the shredded pork. Simmer covered for 10 minutes.

You can also just mix it up in a bowl.

8. Refrigerate the leftover sauce to use on top of your tamales.

Now, onto the tamales…

1. To make your masa, beat the shortening in a large bowl on medium speed for one minute.

2. In another bowl, stir the masa, baking powder and 2 teaspoons of salt together.

3. Alternately add the masa mixture and broth into the shortening– beating well after each addition. The goal is to add just enough broth to make a thick, creamy paste.

Remember: The key is to alternate.

4. Soak the corn husks in warm water for at least 20 minutes. Be sure to remove any silks.

Clear off a table because you're going to need some space.

5. To make each tamale, spread about 2 tablespoons of the masa mix into the center of the corn husk.

Find any extra people, including husbands, and put them to work making tamales.

6. Place about a tablespoon of the meat/sauce mix in the middle of the masa.

7. Fold in the sides of the husk and then fold up the bottom.

Still don’t understand how to roll a tamale?  

Click here to see How To Wrap A Tamale.

8. Place the tamales in a steamer basket that’s been placed in a Dutch oven. The tamales need to lean in the basket, open side up.

9. Add water to the Dutch oven, just below the basket.

10. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat.

11. Cover and steam for 40 minutes– adding water if needed.

12. After 40 minutes, remove from basket, warm up your leftover chile sauce and chow down!

Disclaimer: Be sure to remove the tamales from the husks before eating.

Throw some chile sauce, cheese, or salsa on top...or just eat it plain. It's up to you.

You will have more tamales than you’ll know what to do with. You can freeze them– still in husks– and then steam them in the microwave when you’re ready to eat them.

Before I owned a microwave steamer, I’d just wrap the tamales in a wet paper towel and reheat in the microwave.

And there you have it… Traditional Pork Tamales.

Keep in mind that the more people that are available to help in all of the processes is better.  That’s why it makes making tamales so enjoyable, and a family tradition during the holidays–getting lots of people in on the action.

Wishing you many yummy tamales in 2012!


80 Miles To Christmas

About four weeks ago Adam came home with a form from our local YMCA after attending his morning class.

He held the form up in front of the bathroom door while I was applying my makeup before leaving for work.

What is it?
80 Miles To Christmas

Adam went on to inform me that it’s a chart to use to keep track of your walking/jogging/running/biking that you do up to Christmas.

I was game.

The program helps you track your mileage and provides some visual form to help you keep exercising over the holiday season.

But why 80 miles?

Mary and Joseph traveled 80 or so miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem…and we all know what happened once they got there.

No room at the Inn…
Baby Jesus.

Adam has been filling up his chart by putting some serious miles on his bike. In fact, he “arrived” in Bethlehem last Sunday.

Me, on the other hand, might get to Bethlehem by the middle of January.
If I’m lucky.
And there’s no snow.
Ok, maybe the middle of February looks better.

The dogs and I have been slowly adding up the miles. We’ll normally walk for a mile in the mornings and a mile once I get home from school. It hasn’t happened everyday, but we’ve been walking more often than not.

I’ve been bothered by the fact that I wouldn’t make it to Bethlehem by December 25th.




I’ve been visiting with a lot of people these last few weeks about their Christmas plans. Like us, a lot of people have multiple Christmas gatherings for the various sides of the family– immediate, in-laws, out-laws and every other family group in-between.

But, not everyone gets together on December 25th. I think that would be next to impossible.

We’re lucky enough to be able to celebrate with our families and see everyone at some point during the holidays. A lot of families don’t get that.

My dear friend Amy and her family didn’t get to celebrate Christmas–as well as Thanksgiving, and Easter, and other holidays, and birthdays–with her brother at all last year because he was in the Middle East. A lot of families–military or not– also experience this same reality.

So whether you will be celebrating Christmas today, next week, or next year, remember that sometimes we don’t celebrate birthdays and other events on the actual calendar day either. And that’s o.k.

Besides, I think Jesus would appreciate us recognizing and celebrating his birthday in general– regardless of it being on December 25th or not.

So maybe I’ll get to Bethlehem a little late.
I’ll still get there though, just a little later than I wanted to.
And I’m ok with that now.

Wishing you and your family a very blessed holiday season and a merry Christmas (whenever you celebrate it).


Semester Wrap-Up

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been a busy time of the year for me.  From traveling to celebrate the holidays multiple times with the families, to editing and finalizing final exams; Christmas has snuck up on me.  Again.

My semester is quickly coming to an end which means I’ve been spending some quality time in my classroom getting things ready for the end of the semester.

Quality time in one’s classroom should be banned for the month of December.  Seriously.

BUT, hopefully next week at this time I’ll be joining the students running down the halls yelling, “I’m Free!!! I’m Free!!!”

Ok, maybe a few hours after the students leave and all grades are posted I can run through the halls yelling.

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t run through the halls… or yell.

But I’ll still do it because it’ll be Christmas Break!

Yes Virginia, teachers count down the days until Christmas Break, too. 

While I’ve been busy wrapping-up this semester,  I’ve left my Nikon at home and have caught myself taking quick pictures on my cell phone a lot lately while running here and there attempting to accomplish as much as possible. 

Recently, after a long day at school– I looked outside the kitchen window and thought I was hallucinating. 

After all, it had been one of THOSE days.

What the…

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?

My crazy (er, fearless) husband climbing the tower in the yard.

One can only hope our nephews don't get any ideas. Ever.

To answer many of the same questions I had running through my mind at the time…

1.  A light bulb needed replaced.

2.  It’s at least 20 feet above the ground.

3.  No, there are no cushions on the cold, hard ground to ease the fall of a plummeting person.

4.  What’s the number to 911.  Oh yes, 9-1-1.

Yes, the light was green when it first lit up.

Now it’s normal.

Don’t ask me.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our church.

We stuck around after Sunday School recently and helped decorate the church.

I think this is my favorite detail out of all the Christmas decorations this year…

Away in a manger…

Shortly after this picture was taken the little lamb decided it would be a lot more fun to be on the roof of this scene.

I’m not saying who did or did not support the lamb’s move. 

Regardless, I fell in love with the intricate details of these carvings when I first saw them a few years ago when Adam and I were dating.

I’ve always been drawn to these pieces and love looking at them up close.

My mother-in-law told me they were carved out of olive wood and are from the Holy Land.

I think they’re pretty awesome.

Speaking of awesome…

It’s also beginning to sound a lot like Christmas at church.

We’ve been singing Christmas songs found in the hymnals these past few Sunday mornings.

I love singing Christmas songs.

We’ve also been holding Wednesday night practices for our upcoming Christmas program, too.

Jesus firmly stands behind our Christmas tree and our choir 🙂

I love Christmas.

I love that I have these reminders to look at while I run around like a madwoman trying to get so much accomplished as the semester wraps-up.

It helps me try to keep everything in perspective during this time of the year.  It helps me to breathe.

After all, we are preparing to celebrate a very important birthday.

And in this crazy-busy world–with semester finals, and grading, and traveling, and shopping, and baking, and a plethora of other things, we could all use little reminders like these to keep it all in perspective.

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