It’s a New Year (and an easy Tamale Pie recipe)

The girls are back in school, Harley Guy is back to his normal work schedule, and it’s time for the last of Christmas to come down – the tree.  I love to wait until after twelfth night to take down the tree; it’s the one decoration that all by itself really says Christmas to me.  And while I do find it a little depressing (because we won’t be seeing it again for another eleven months or so) I also like that it helps put me in cleaning mode which allows me to get a jump on spring cleaning.  Plus, Valentine’s Day is only 38 days away so in another week or so I can pull out my afgans with hearts on them and put my heart wreaths on the doors (which look so bare since I took down the Christmas wreaths)… and Thing 1’s birthday is just a few days later and now that she’s older she always wants a Valentine’s theme (which makes it so much easier for me to plan).  So, I’m off and running:  putting Christmas away, Thing 2 still has practices and fittings for a friend’s quinceanera she’s performing in in about a week, Thing 2 also has a school evaluation coming up in few weeks, then we have Valentines day, Harley Boy’s and my 4’th anniversary, and Thing 1’s 17’th birthday (17!!).  That should get us through the end of February.

So now for the Tamale Pie recipe.  Unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to take pictures and get them on my website so I’ll try to do this as simply and concisely as I can.  I remember a boxed mix my mom used to buy in the ’70’s (I think it was Schilling), as I recall it had a can of corn, a package of seasoning mix, and a package of cornmeal topping mix.  I also remember that it was very salty and the seasoning was overpowering.  So here’s my version, a hearty economical dish that makes 8 to 10 serving.

First you have to make a thick cornmeal mush using 2 cups cornmeal, 6 cups cold water, and 2 teaspoons salt.  The easiest way to make it (so you can do other things while it cooks) is in a covered double boiler over medium heat – it takes about an hour, but once you’ve whisked it all together you only have to stir it every 15 minutes or so.  When it is really thick, add 1/4 cup butter or lard, whisking in well.

In a large skillet fry a pound of hamburger and drain off fat.  Add 1 large onion, chopped and 1 large bell pepper, chopped.  Cook until onion is translucent.  Add 1 1/2 cups corn, 1/2 cup chopped black olives,  and 4 cloves of garlic, minced fine.  Cook, stirring occasionally until most of the moisture has been cooked off.  Add 1 – 8 oz can hot Mexican tomato sauce (I like El Pato) and 1 – 8 oz can regular tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Season with additional chili powder, cumin, and salt to taste.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.  Spread half of cornmeal mixture in bottom of pan. Cover with 1 1/2 cup grated cheese (a blend of jack and cheddar is nice).  Pour hamburger mixture over this and spread it evenly.  Spread the rest of the cornmeal mixture on top with an offset spatula, to cover.  Bake 40 minutes.  Sprinkle additional 1 1/2 cup cheese over top and return to oven for final 5 minutes.

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