Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hot Tamales!!

Being the whitest, white girl I know, I thought I'd make tamales for our Christmas Eve celebration, as well as our McAllister family gathering.  I have always loved eating them, and I found a recipe for Mini Tamales that seemed pretty easy, so I volunteered, well, actually just decided to make them without anyone asking me!  Here is some pictures of the process, as well as the recipe.  I am pretty impressed with myself, and am maybe not as white as I seem!!  :)

I started with prepared masa and prewashed corn husks from Vallarta, a local Hispanic food store.  It has the best of the best produce and meat for all varieties of Mexican food.  I was at first intimidated to go there in Lancaster, but now that I've been a number of times, I knew they'd have what I needed!  To the masa, I added shredded chicken (off a store bought rotisserie chicken), pepper jack cheese (cut into cubes) and canned red enchilada sauce. 

Once the masa and other ingredients are all mixed, place 1 tablespoon into the center of the rinsed, damp corn husk.  The first batch I used was with the prewashed packaged corn husks from Vallarta, and they seemed to work better than the dry ones you have to soak on your own from the general grocery store. 
 The first batch I used was with the prewashed packaged corn husks from Vallarta, and they seemed to work better than the dry ones you have to soak on your own from the general grocery store.

Then, fold the corn husk so that the masa is snugly wrapped in the middle. 
 Next, with strips of the prepared corn husks, tie the wrapped tamale, close to the filling
 and snip off the access with kitchen scissors.
 Once they are tightly wrapped and prepared, steam them for about 30 min.  I don't have a "Tamale Steamer" so I just placed a cake cooling rack in a shallow skillet.  I made sure the water level was just to the bottom of the cake rack.  I put the lid on it, and let it steam, checking occasionally to make sure I didn't boil all the water away. 
 My littler helper!!  If I'm in the kitchen, he is at my feet!!
 Some of the tamales, ready to be steamed!  I love how they are all different sizes!!  :)
 The finished product, a little mini tamale...sooo good!!
A note about storing them...once cooled, I wrapped them in press'n'seal, then foil, and then in a freezer bag.  To me, there is no such thing as too much wrapping!!  Once I'm ready to eat them, I will steam them again for about 10 min if thawed, about 20 if still frozen...or until heated through.  If they are thawed, you can also microwave them for a minute (give or take 30 seconds).

Here is the recipe, if you can't find prepared masa:
2 cups masa (corn flour)
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2-2.5 cups chicken broth
1 package dried corn husks, soaked in hot water for 1 hr, drained (although, this took about 2 hrs for me, to get them as soft as they needed to be to not break when being folded)

1.  Place masa, butter, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat in enough broth to make a soft dough.
2.  Stir in desired filling ingredients.  I used 1.5 cups of shredded chicken, 1 cup of cubed pepper jack cheese and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce.
3.  Spoon about 1 tbsp of mixture into the center of each corn husk.  Roll up to enclose, and tie the ends, snipping off excess.
4.  Place in steamer basket and cook, covered for 30 min.  Remove from heat and let stand 10 min before serving. 


Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

The Holidays are here!!  YAY!!  I am so ready for this season, and ready to celebrate.  The first thing we did was decorate our house and now it is all decked out.  I often have visions of my house looking like a catalog and every inch covered, but I love what we have.  It is great to take out the boxes and relive Christmas' past.  Next up, is hoilday baking with my mom, sis, and grandma next weekend, followed by Christmas lunch with my Biola Babes and Em, and then an annual Cookie Exchange.  This year we're looking forward to some time off and relaxation.  We've been workin' and workin' and for me to take a week off between Christmas and New Year's is going to be sooo nice and necessary.  Here are some pics of our house, enjoy, and after all is said and done, I'll be sure to update!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Highlights!

I can't believe that it is already November, and that Halloween and half of the Fall is already behind us.  We are gearing up for Thanksgiving, and the Holidays, and I have a feeling it will 2011 before we know it.  We've been busy with work, school and the normal day to day stuff, and we've survived the heat wave both October and November have brought us.  We're hoping for cooler weather in the coming day.  Here are a few photos that have captured some of what we've been up to. 
Every October, we go to Lombardi Ranch, a great pumpkin patch near our house with the whole Koontz clan.  Grandpa Fireman and Grandma Linda get the grandkids pumpkins, treat them to a few attractions, and then we all go to lunch.  To me, it marks the beginning of the holiday traditions.  This year was just like the others, with the girls picking pumpkins, and Grandpa Fireman talking to the Turkey.  Here is a great shot of Leah!!

The cousins, Taylor and Leah.

Leah, playing the pumpkin drums. 

For Halloween this year, we went to Michael's sister's house for a little mini block party.  They gathered all the little girls that live on the street for dinner and then trick or treating.  Michael and I had to get into the spirit of things, and dressed up, too.  He is a 1920's gangster, and I'm a 1920's Flapper.  It was fun to really get into the spirit of Halloween.  Usually, I stay home and pass out candy.  This year was definitely better than the last few!!  

Leah as a Leopard, and Taylor as an Eskimo.

 The Saturday before Halloween, we got together with some friends and carved pumpkins.  This is Leah's (although Michael carved it!!) a really scary werewolf!!  Very cool!!

Fall has come in our neighborhood.  With the winds that have joined our heat wave it has been "raining" leaves for the past few days, so Leah decided to rake them into a pile and jump into them.  It was very cute how much she enjoyed them.  For me, seeing the innocence of such a simple way of having fun totally made the moment.  Here are a few pictures of that. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Latest...

It has been way too long since I've posted anything, and now, here it is October 2nd, and I have a lot to catch you up on.  Here are a few highlights:

-Leah is now a 2nd grader and is at the top of her class in all areas.  We had Parent-Teacher conferences last week, and I wasn't surprised about what the teacher had to say.  Mrs. Gibbs is a great teacher and has really figured out Leah, and how to make her the best student she can be.  The best part of 2nd grade is that I get to be a room-mom every Monday for a few hours.  Her teacher knows that I used to teach 2nd grade, so she has decided to utilize my talents and have me work one-on-one with kids who need a little extra attention.  It is good to be back in that role as "teacher".

-Leah and I also started Awana at our church.  Awana is a group at our church that helps kids grow up spiritually and become closer with God.  It is for kids who are 3 all the way through High School.  Leah is a Spark, and gets to memorize verses each week to earn badges and points for her group.  So far she is loving it and gets very excited about going each week.  While she is in her class, I somehow managed to become a table leader for the Cubbies, the 3 year olds!!  Holy Moly!!  They are a blast, but keep me on my toes.  Needless to stay, our Monday nights are busy, but so rewarding!

-Ever since I met Leah, I've always wanted to go apple picking in Julian or Oak Glen.  Every fall, I plan on going but run out of time.  So this year, we picked what ended up being the hottest weekend and headed to Bakersfield, to Murray Family Farms where we went to a U-Pick Orchard.  We picked pluots, a cross between apricots and plums, peaches, nectarines, pears and pomegranates.  It was great!!  No apples in the bunch but in my minds eyes, I picture it being chilly while picking apples and then sipping hot apple cider, so maybe next year we'll head to Oak Glen after all.  Here are few pictures of our day:

Leah, 4 feet tall

Me and Michael...a new favorite picture

Our Leah Love Bug

Beautiful Flowers

On a hay ride, ready to pick

Waiting for the hay ride to take us to the next orchard

The BIGGEST peaches I've ever seen, about a pound each!!


Our Loot!!

-A couple months ago, Leah told Michael that she wanted to have a business to earn money.  After a week or so of thinking about it, she decided that she wanted to buy chips and sodas and then take them to a local park and sell them to kids playing there.  She and Michael went to Smart and Final where Michael invested $24 in the goods.  She sold chips and sodas for a $1 a piece, or $1.50 for one of each.  After she found the perfect spot she easily raked in $25.  She was all set to go and spend it until Michale reminded her that he had invested $24 that she would have to pay back to him.  Not to go home without a profit, she stuck it out and sold the rest for a profit of about $15.  She was so excited that her idea paid off.  And combined with allowance she was able to buy a Pillow Pet!!  A purple unicorn she's been wanting for a long time.  Now every time she gets allowance she thinks about what she can save for instead of blowing through it at the $1 bins at Target.  We are so proud of her for setting out to make a buck all on her own!!  Can you say future CEO!!

Hopefully the next post will come a bit sooner!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

AV Fair, 2010

The Antelope Valley Fair is here yet again. This is the 4th year I've gone, but the 7th that Michael and Leah have gone. Leah has gone every year of her life. It is a highlight for us and the best way to end the summer. We went with some friends, too, and it was great to spend the day with them. Here are some pictures of the day...sorry for the bad quality, the camera I lugged out there had dead batteries, so there are from my phone!

Me and Michael in a Silly House

Michael with all of Leah's winnings from the games
A House of Mirrors!!

The end of the day entertainment for the Koontz Clan!

Bumper Cars!!
Leah and the climbing wall, the first time she made it to the top!!

On the Ferris Wheel!
Our pretty lady, having a blast!!
The love of our lives, so happy to be there!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Zoo, through the eyes of a 7 yr old

Leah started school last week, on Thursday, and since I was working all summer I felt like I wanted to do something special with her before she was a 2nd grader. This is the first summer I've worked in a long, long time and since she was in child care all summer, I felt like it would be a good idea to take a day off and do something fun. So we headed to the LA Zoo. We went right after Michael and I got married one time, but this time, I let her use an old camera so she could take pictures of whatever she wanted. She felt that it was a very important job for her to take a good picture of every animal we saw. I helped with the pictures of her and the self portraits of us, but all the animals are courtesy of the munchkin!! Enjoy!!

The Flamingo's...her favorite!!
Tried to get a legit smile...but this works, I guess!

There are lots of hill at the zoo, this is at the end of the day!

Enjoying an ice cream cone!!

We finally found the Koalas!!
A Prairie Dog!, who knew they were sooo little!
The Hippo!
The Zebra's

Some Sea Lions

One of the many Monkey's