Friday, May 29, 2015

Dear Zahara: 23 months

Dear Zahara,

Happy 23 month birthday! I can't believe next month you'll be two! Where has the time gone??

We had a lot of fun this month visiting family and enjoying the beautiful weather. You were your usual, adorable, talkative self. Some new phrases have entered your lexicon that are cracking us  up. Current favorites include: "I don't care, daddy" and "that music is awful." If there's one thing you are not lacking, it's an opinion. You've got one about everything.

This month you're really into imitating. Whether you're pretending to put on make up with mummy or cooking with daddy, you love doing grown-up things. You also imitate words and phrases. Mummy will be telling daddy a story and suddenly you'll chime in with "blah blah blah," a phrase that until now mummy didn't realize she said so often.

I wish that you will always be as happy, loving and adorable as you are right now. We love you oodles of noodles! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Homemade Beef Tamales

When my sister was only a few years old my parents hired a live-in helper. Cheva took care of Bradi and I throughout our childhood. She cooked, she cleaned, but more importantly she became a part of our family.  Bradi is now 28 years old and lives on her own, but Cheva still lives with my parents. Like I said, she's family.

Mom and Cheva being silly

My dad is a world-class cook, so we rarely had need for anyone else to to help out in the kitchen. But every now and then Cheva would make an incredibly authentic Mexican feast. My favorite treat was her homemade tamales. She'd usually use my dad's leftover brisket or turkey. Sometimes it would be extra fancy with prime rib. She'd make dozens upon dozens and we'd store them in the freezer for rainy days.

I'm not sure why I've never attempted to make tamales before. But a few weeks ago I made a crock pot beef roast. It was really flavorful, but a little dry. It occurred to me that it would make a great filling for tamales. The next day I was off to the store gathering ingredients. Dan made the tamales and they were awesome! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Homemade Pot Roast Tamales
Original recipes from here, here and here

Crock Pot Pot Roast*
  • 2 pound boneless beef chuck shoulder roast
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2.5 tablespoons of taco seasoning (recipe below)
  • Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook for 8-10 hours on low, or until meat pulls apart with a fork.
  • Shred meat and discard carrots (or reserve and eat separately)
  • Reserve juices

Taco Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Combine all ingredients
  • Store remaining seasoning in an airtight container

Original recipe from here

  • 1 bag dried corn husks, about 18
  • 2 cups instant masa mix
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups reserved beef broth from drippings*
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • Soak dried corn husks in a bowl filled with warm water for 30 minutes to soften
  • Measure the remaining juices from your pot roast. Supplement with beef stock for a total of two cups of liquid
  • In a large bowl, combine the masa and baking powder. Pour the broth into the masa a little at a time, working it in with your fingers
  • In a small bowl, beat the vegetable shortening until fluffy. Add it to the masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture
  • Rinse, drain and dry the corn husks. Put them on a baking sheet and cover with a damp towel
  • Lay one of the husks on a plate with the smooth side up and the narrow end facing you. Spread a thin, even layer of masa over the surface of the husk with a tablespoon dipped in water
  • Add around a tablespoon of the meat to the center of the masa. Fold the narrow end up to the center and then fold both sides together to enclose the filling. Pinch the wide top closed. Use butcher's twine to tie the tamale together 
  • Stand the tamales up in a large steamer or colander with the pinched end up. Place the steamer into a large pot filled with 2 inches of water. The water should not touch the tamales
  • Lay a damp cloth over the tamales and cover with the lid. Keep the water at a low boil, checking periodically to make sure the water doesn't boil away. Steam the tamales for 40 minutes
  • The tamales are done when the inside pulls away from the husk. The tamale should be soft but not mushy

The final result isn't beautiful, but it is delicious! Can't wait to make these again soon!

*The raw pot roast and all of its ingredients can be put in a ziplock bag and frozen for up to three months. To cook, thaw in freezer the night before and cook according to directions above. Or, cook from frozen for approximately 10 hours.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It's Never Too Late for a Recap: Passover 2015

Yikes! Where has the last month gone? I have so much I want to tell you. I have house updates, new recipes, and highlights from the last two trips we've taken. I'll try and put some posts together before another month goes by.

First up, highlights from our trip to Dallas in April. I briefly mentioned that we went to Dallas for Passover when I told you about Zahara's first hair cut. It was actually a really big deal. It was the first time that all four grandparents have been together with Zahara. To be honest, I was a little worried how it would go, but it was fantastic. There was no drama, no one-upping, it was just perfect.

As you may know, Passover is one of my favorite holidays (the other one is Thanksgiving). This year was great, but a little stressful. We had both seders at my parents house, so there was a lot of prep work to be done. We all pitched in. My dad is an amazing chef and he did not disappoint. I was in charge of desserts. I made a Smitten Kitchen-inspired chocolate torte, chocolate mousse and flourless chocolate cookies that were out of this world. Crisp and meringue-y on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Dad's famous brisket

It is always great to get together with friends and family. That's a huge part of what makes this holiday so special.

Read previous Passover posts:
2014: Passover in Paris
2013: Passover Preparation; Passover Musings
2012: Happy Passover!; Road Trip