Hot Tamale Recipe for Christmas

here are a few of the tamales Anna made, the rest were packaged and put in the freezer to enjoy for the next few months

With Christmas coming this is a great time to make hot tamales. I learned to make tamales from my neighbor Goya Piná  when I was first married, almost 60 years ago. It is easier to learn from helping and watching than from reading a recipe. But you will learn fast, tamales are the most wonderful of all Mexican foods. My two boys learned to make them and then my daughters in law and granddaughters too. Debbie keeps them in her freezer all year long for Dan to take to work for lunch. There is something special about laying six or ten or fifteen dozen tamales out on the counter to cool and to then package up for the freezer. Such an accomplishment and what fun! (it will make your back tired)   

Buy 2  pork roast,
10 lb bag chicken hind quarters
4 lb bag of MesaCa Instant Corn Mix, (flour sections at HEB or Wal-Mart)
2 Pkg. Fiesta Brand Corn Shucks, (it will be by the Mesa Mix)
Garlic Powder (buy large bottle)
Gibharts Chili Powder
Camino or Cumin (buy large bottle)
Corn Oil
Day one
2 pork roast,
(cut into fist size chunks, cover with water and boil about 2 1/2 hours or until really tender. Take meat out of broth to cool, then shred it with your fingers, removing the fat. Save broth in refrigerator and the next day you can skim the hard fat off the broth and throw it out.
Chicken Hind Quarters
Cover with water in large pot, boil until done, about 1 1/2 hours. Then take chicken out of broth, let broth cool and put it in the refrigerator, when it is cold the fat will come off in a chunk. Remove skin from chicken, take meat off the bones, and shred. (don’t grind)
Combine both meats in large pan, and mix together, then add the seasoning (below), and thoroughly mix with your hands. This takes about 10 minutes.
1/2 c corn oil
6 T. Gibharts chili powder
3 T garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
3 T ground cumin (cumino)
1 T.(or less) black pepper or to taste, start off with about half this much pepper and then add more if you want them hotter.
1 1/2 T salt, or to taste. After you mix in the salt, keep tasting until it seems right. You might need a little more. Be careful with the salt, too much can ruin the tamales.
Mix the oil and seasoning in a small pan and warm on stove. Pour over meat and mix until it is completely distributed through meat. Keep tasting until the flavor suits you. Put the meat in the refrigerator covered until ready to make the tamales.
Day Two or Tamale Day
Mesa dough mix:
2 lbs. MesaCa instant corn mix (It comes in a 4 lb bag, use half  a bag).
Broth from the pork and chicken that has had the fat skimmed off. Have it warm.
2 c corn oil
1 1/2 T salt (it may take more salt, just taste and add more if needed, be careful with the salt)
1 T cumin, (you can also add 1 T cumin seeds if you have them)
2 T Gibharts Chili Powder
3 T garlic powder
In a large bowl mix the spices into the mesa until it is complete incorporated. Add the oil and about 2 quarts of the warm chicken /pork broth. Work with your hands to make dough, then start adding more broth and work it in. If it is too dry, you will add enough warm water to get it right for spreading. It should be about like thick peanut butter.  Shucks:   Place in warm water in the sink to soften,  for about an hour, separate them carefully~Notice! if you have left over meat, you can freeze it and make another batch of tamales on another day. It will keep in the freezer perfectly for about 3 months (when you aren’t so tired~)

Putting Tamales Together
Take some of the shucks out of water, shake water off and lay them on the counter.

it should be the about like peanut butter, it won’t hurt you to eat it raw~we tamale cooks do lots of tasting~

spread masa 2/3rds from left side, leave 1/3rd on the right side and top third clean

Lay a shuck across your palm, the small end toward your fingers, scoop up about 1/2 cup of the dough onto a spatula and smear it on the shuck (you want to cover the shuck on the left side to about 2/3rds over, leaving 1/3rd with no masa on it. Now, go to the next shuck and do the same, laying them out on the counter as you put the masa on them.

here is the chicken and pork that has been shredded, don’t chop or grind it.

put a tablespoon of meat on top of masa and roll up, then tuck the top under

When you run out of room, take some of the meat, about a tablespoon full and lay it on the masa, one inch from the left edge. Roll the tamale up like you were rolling a cigarette, then fold top of shuck over and lay it on the counter with the fold on the underside. Now, keep doing until all the shucks with the masa are rolled.  

tucking the top end under, lay them on the counter with the tucked side on the bottom until ready to put in the pot





Get more shucks and repeat the same process. You will have about 4 dozen or more. To cook the tamales, you need a large pot with something in the bottom to keep the tamales up out of the water while they steam. You can crumple up a bunch or foil in the bottom and put a cooking rack on top of that to keep up out of the water.    

tilt the pan over and start stacking tamales in until it is full, now you don’t want them packed too tightly~

 Start Stacking the tamales upright, I tilt the pan on it’s side to stack them. The open end will face upwards. Add about 3 pints of hot water, put on the lid and bring to boil, then reduce to medium heat and steam for about 2 hours. Check water level several times, you DON’T want it to boil dry, add more hot water as needed.

add three pints of hot water put lid on and steam for 2 hours. Check often to see that the water isn’t boiling dry. Add more as necessary, if water boils dry, the tamales will scorch and be ruined~

after two hours, take out one tamale, let cool on counter for 5 minutes, unwrap, the shuck should slip right off, it should be firm with no sticky or wet mas 


let the tamales cool completely before packaging them. At this point you can eat as many as you like, who will know~

After two hours, take one tamale out and lay on counter to cool for five minutes, then unwrap it it test for doneness. It should be firm with no raw or wet looking masa. When done, remove all tamales from pan and cool on the counter.

six tamales will fit nicely in a quart size freezer bag.






When completely cool, place six to a bag in quart size freezer bags.

 I usually have three pots of tamales steaming at once. You can buy nice large steaming pots at Wal Mart and they are not expensive. This will be a proud day for you if this is your first time to make tamales. You will feel rich! Your family will be thankful ~


New Zealand Oil Painting

This a re-run of a blog from this time last year. It was at a wonderful time in my life when I was getting ready for a trip to Kenya, East Africa. I will be posting the whole story over in the next few weeks since not many people were looking at my blog the first time around.  
this is a scene from New Zealand, what a beautiful and far away place~I never traveled there  I have heard wonderful things about it.


A scene from New Zealand~I would have loved to have gone there sometime. I have seen many pictures from that area and it is a beautiful and tranquil place. That is about as far away as you can get  from West Texas. I painted this picture for my brother in law, along with a fall scene from Pittsburg, they were both colorful and went well together. I have never traveled outside the states except for Canada and the many trips to Old Mexico. This is about to change when I will be going to Kenya, East Africa in in December, a trip I have been planning for a year now. Some of my family worries about me going, they are afraid I will get over there, get sick and die or something. (I told them if I die, they can just send me home in a Mason jar). It is finally going to be my turn~

The Christmas Bicycle

this was my big surprise twenty two years ago, It is just a new now as the day I got it, no accidents, dings or scratches. It still has the original white sidewall  tires~

On Christmas 1990, my kids surprised me with this beautiful new bicycle. I had seen it in ads before and thought about buying it for myself, even though it was a boy’s bicycle. It had lights on the front fender, three red reflectors on the back, and four small reflectors on either side of the back carrier, then each wheel had reflectors on the spokes. There were comfort springs under the saddle seat and springs on the front fork. It was the ‘Jet liner’, top of the line! Oh my goodness, I was SO happy.  

here are the papers that came with it. I have kept the box it came in and there is a note inside that I wrote about the thrill of getting it that year.

this is the original box it came in, I have kept the box wrapped and in the attic

No, I never got to ride it, it is a miniature and only 12 inches long. It is an exact replica of the Columbia Classic RX-5 edition, the faithful reproduction of the 1952 Five Star model. This is one of those gifts that I have enjoyed for twenty two years. I keep it on the built-ins by the fire place and walk past it many times a day. I know we are not supposed to love “things”, so I just have to say I LIKE  this little bicycle a thousand times over~ and then some~

.30 30 Rifle

.22 rifles were what most people used  for target  practice because the shells were cheap.  You can still find old rusted out cans  full of holes  in the pastures. This kid was sighting in the .30 30 Winchester.

I painted quite a few pictures with guns in them. They made the painting more interesting. Here is one of the boys sighting in a .30 30 rifle. The gun was like one my daddy owned that had belonged to his grandfather, one of the original 1894 Winchester lever action models and a good gun for deer hunting. It had a soft recoil and a range of 200 yards. It got it’s name from the shell that held 30 grains of smokeless powder. When I grew up, everyone who had a pickup truck had a gun rack above the back seat. Their rifles were within easy reach and didn’t get all scratched up,(they usually had a .22 and maybe a shotgun).  My mother loved to hunt and every deer she ever killed was with this .30 30.  She didn’t have a gun rack or a pickup but she always had that gun in the back floorboard of her car. This was back in the time when no one locked their car doors, they didn’t need to. 

Surprise Gifts

This little sewing machine was made by the Singer Company in Turkey and is a smaller version of a real antique machine~

One of the Good Gifts

I was visiting with a friend before church started and we were talking about Christmas gifts that our husbands had given us in the past. She said once hers gave her a Concho pearl on a gold chain, it looked just like a big old tooth. She did not like it!  Her little boy told her that when they went to buy it, “we got that one because it was cheaper than the other ones”. I could hardly stop laughing all through church. I have received gifts I didn’t like also. Dan would find something from the Army Surplus Store, like asbestos fire proof  gloves to protect my hands ( and up to my elbows) when I was cooking on the barbeque. Once it was a full set of silver dinnerware  in a really  ugly pattern. I finally told him  I didn’t want  gifts, I would rather buy what I needed. He did surprise me with  a Singer 10 Overlock 5 spool serger one Christmas. I had never seen one before and I don’t know how he came up with the idea, but it was an absolute dream gift. I sewed a lot and don’t know how I ever got along without it. One other time, he was in a coin shop in Midland and found something he thought I would want since I liked little things. It was a 7″ tall  miniature Singer Sewing Machine with a crank and it could really sew a chain stitch. I was so surprised and happy, I don’t think I laid down for a week. The sales slip is still in the box, it was a birthday gift in 1988. Two wins in 57 years~that must be a record~

Christmas Picture

we were getting ready to leave for church and someone grabbed the camera and took this picture.

 Another re-run from this time last year. I never get tired of Christmas stories and remembering exciting times to come.

Our family has almost always been able to be together for Christmas, it goes  on for  a week or more, some of it here and some in San Angelo. Our times together were always a special blessing for me and Dan. There was a lot of visiting, eating great meals and music. This picture is one someone took just as we were leaving for church one morning and I didn’t see it until everyone had gone home and later I had the film developed. Most of our pictures were on video and I enjoyed watching those and reliving the fun of our Christmas but this is the one I liked the most. ZZ stayed with us another week or two after the others went home, that is when we got down to serious fun. Then I would load her up with Little Sweet, Spook and Blue Boy and we would head out for New Mexico. This week I  am packing bags again, this time to go half way around the world to spend Christmas with her in Kenya. I am beyond happy!

I bought this tree at Hobby Lobby and it was easy to put up and decorate, I was even able to get it back in the big box . I never imagined  I could settle for an artificial tree, I liked it though~

Thank you Lord Jesus for being in our lives. Merry Christmas to all~

Mexican Beef Enchiladas

Mexican Enchiladas

may be the favorite of all Mexican food


1 lb. very lean ground meat
2 T. Gephardt chill powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp oregano
3 c. water
Brown meat in skillet with spices; then add water. Cover and cook on med. for about 25 minutes. Skim all the grease off.

Enchilada Sauce
2 T. Gephardt chili powder
3 T. corn oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 T. flour
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp red pepper if you like it hot
Heat together in saucepan, then add 3 cups water. Stir until thickened (like slightly thin gravy).
Soft Fried Tortillas: In a small skillet, add about 1/2 cup corn oil and, one at a time, soft fry 12 corn tortillas, just 4 or 5 seconds on each side. Drain each one on a paper towel, pat to be sure to get the grease off. Keep warm.
Shred 2 cups longhorn cheddar cheese. Chop 1 onion.
To keep it neat, assemble enchilada on a plate, then slide it onto a dinner plate.
Assembling: Dip each tortilla in enchilada sauce; lay on plate and spoon on some chili, cheese and onions. Repeat until you have a stack of 3. As you finish, put each plate in microwave for 1 minute so it will be really hot. Top each enchilada with a soft fried egg and pour remaining sauce on each stack. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.   (Chili, enchilada sauce, cheese and onions can be prepared day before.) Serves 4

Another Merry Christmas


This tree was perfect, it smelled good, it was big and it had a ‘good side.’ We had one string of lights, but some were burned out and we saved the ice cycles from year to year.

Daddy took us out to the country every year and chopped down a cedar bush and it was our Christmas tree. Then he came home and asked, “Liz, where is the Christmas tree stand?” Who knew, it had been a year, it was just two boards he crisscrossed and put a nail in the the bottom and into the tree trunk.  It had to be propped up with strings to the base boards, and a few bricks with strings up into the branches. Mother put the lights on and we decorated the rest of it. Nothing like the elaborate trees now. We got to hear the stories of who’s house burned down when Daddy was a boy, back when they used live candles on the trees. Everyone had someone in their family who died in a fire at Christmas time, and yes even Cousin Nora, (she had a twin sister named Cora). Daddy had other disturbing stories to tell his three little girls. One year he said there wasn’t going to be Christmas because Santa Claus was in a motorcycle wreck. He was a jolly old daddy~It seemed every Christmas Day, while Mother was cooking the big dinner, he would say, “Liz, what did you do with Grandpa Elder’s old razor”? (an antique safety razor that Daddy ended up with after Grandpa died). Mother just kept cooking and we all knew he was fixing to get railed up. Finally he would go in the bedroom and empty the whole top of the closet onto the floor, looking for the razor. (I hated that thing! Later I gave it to the Museum). He told us about how he got an orange or apple for Christmas every year, that really is what kids got. Since we grew up during the WW II, there wasn’t anything to buy, it all went to the war effort. So our gifts were used things mother found or bought and fixed up for us. Wonderful gifts that we loved and enjoyed. One year Mother bought a small used table radio and refinished the wooden case to make it like new. We listened to programs every night after we went to bed. There was The Shadow, Inner Sanctum~with it’s scary organ music~Everyone Loves a Mystery, George Burns & Gracie Allan, and Abbott & Costello. It was these simple things that made us happy. Getting that radio was one of the best,  just another wonderful Christmas. 

Young Mexican Girl

this young girl was selling bread at the big market in Guadalajara

We found this pretty little Mexican girl selling bread at a market in Guadalajara, Mexico. Dan took her picture, bought all of her bread, and a few weeks later when we came home, I put her on canvas. This was in the summer of 1966. Since then, she has held a special place in the study over his desk. Dan could speak Spanish well, and liked to visit with people. (I understood enough of the language to know when someone told me how pretty and clean my little boys were). We traveled in a tiny 17′ Airstream trailer, I will have more stories about that later. One of the nicest things I can think of is when we bought the trailer, I finally had my playhouse.

Homemade Chili

Chili is the bases for several Tex-Mex dishes

Chili is one of the really great foods. There are so many delicious meals you can make with it. First you need a good recipe, it is simple to make, takes only about 30 minutes from start to finish. It is just as easy to make two or three pounds as one. I  try to always keep some in the freezer, ready to use. This is the recipe,

2 lbs very lean ground meat
2 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
2 tsp tsp ground cumin
6 T Gephardt Chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground oregano
2 1/2cups  water
( 1/2 tsp black pepper if you prefer it hotter)
Brown meat in large skillet, add all the spices and stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the water, cook covered for about 25 minutes. Now spoon off ALL the grease, get as much off as possible. (grease is the heartburn kicker)
Use for enchiladas or tacos, freeze what you have left.
Chili is a main ingredient in so many Mexican Food dishes, I will have recipes  for Beef Enchiladas and RiverTacos tomorrow. You can be getting ready.

Christmas Fruit Cake

I realize that not  everyone likes fruit cakes. There are lots of jokes out there about them. My family is the exception, we love them. It may be because we had Grandmother Montgomery’s old recipe with real fruit and none of the bitter citron and dried stuff. It had canned pineapple, maraschino cherries, apple sauce, raisins and a lot of pecans. It was delicious and would stay fresh in the refrigerator until the last piece was gone. Tricia started making fruit cakes as Christmas gifts for all of us and soon she was the one we depended on. Dan especially liked them, he would cut a thin slice and have it with his coffee every afternoon. One year Tricia was going to spend Christmas with Nancy’s family and she brought my pretty package a week early.  It was heavy, of course I knew what it was and put it in the refrigerator to keep until Christmas. Then on Christmas Eve, I whipped some cream and folded in pineapple chunks to serve on the slices for everone. I opened my package and you can imagine my surprise when I found, instead of a fruit cake, a beautiful heavy cut crystal bowl~ nice and cold.

this is the large hand cut crystal serving bowl, not the Christmas fruit cake I was expecting. The cake would have been gone in a month, the bowl is forever~

 Another one of those Christmas surprises, and one that I have enjoyed all these years. It is a beautiful bowl and I always use it for fruit salads when I have company. I am hoping I get my fruit cake this year, I am hungry just writing about it.

Horned Toads


the horney toads don’t have many predators, they puff up, their eyes get blood red and they lie flat to the ground, whatever is after them gives up and leaves them alone

When I was growing up, there were lots of horned toads, those I knew about were mostly around San Angelo where my grandparents lived. The soil was sandy and I could always find them in their yard. There were lots of red ant beds and that was their favorite meal. I liked them, you could hold them in your hand and they didn’t sting or bite or try to run away, they stayed still and let you pet them. We called them horned toads or horney toads, but they are actually a kind of lizard. They lay their eggs in a hole in the sand and the babies dig themselves out when they hatch.

when they hatch, they are the size of a quarter, pale colored and ready to take care of themselves.

It seems like all of a sudden, they were gone. People caught them and kept  them for pets or shipped them off to other places as novelties.  The  tiny ones were frozen and a cast was made and turned into 18 ct. gold men’s tie tacks or pins. It took one horned toad for each pin. Then insecticides were used for killing the harvester ants so their main source of food was depleted. For whatever the reason, they are virtually gone. They are now on Texas’ Endangered Species list. I was opening the gate at my friend Pat Frye’s place not long ago and saw one beside the road. I picked him up and enjoy holding him for a few seconds then  put him down and let  him to go on his way. I thought how nice it would be if they got a new start again. Nice little creatures~

One last picture. Nature is amazing, every thing on this earth has a purpose and was made by our mighty Creator. We are all part of His plan~