Tamales are a clas­sic and iconic Mex­i­can dish. Warm and com­fort­ing, they are ter­rific year-​round, but par­tic­u­larly appre­ci­ated dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son.

Undoubt­edly one of the most authen­tic and tra­di­tional dishes in both Mex­i­can and Mexican-​American cook­ing, we’re ready for tamales.

They’ve become wildly pop­u­lar with those in Amer­ica who seek out a per­fect, savory out-​of-​hand food. With so many recipes and vari­a­tions out there, there is a tamale fill­ing for every­one.

A pretty basic prepa­ra­tion, tamales are made with a corn based dough mix­ture that is filled with var­i­ous meats, beans, chili pep­pers and cheese. Wrapped and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves, the husks are removed before eat­ing the tasty cooked tamale.

Good on the their own, when served with pico de gallo and a side of gua­camole and rice, it trans­forms them to being a proper meal.

Mak­ing tamales has begun a group event as assem­bly is done by hand. Many work­ing hands makes for faster pro­duc­tion and con­vivi­al­ity.

This year’s dis­tanc­ing may change up how tamales are made in large numbers.

Read more: Tamaladas →

Unless veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans out­num­ber the table at Thanks­giv­ing, turkey is usu­ally the star of the show.

This being a pan­demic year, nearly all bets are off for serv­ing a tra­di­tional hol­i­day meal.

As fam­ily and friends are lim­ited by national health guide­lines, there are no lim­its to veg­etable and fruit counts.

Veg­eta­bles are promi­nently fea­tured on the side of a typ­i­cal Thanks­giv­ing menu. In this sea­son of sur­prises and altered activ­ity, take a walk on the wild side of sides.

Uncon­ven­tional recipes step up the feast by using spices, fresh herbs, maple syrup, harissa, yogurt, cheeses and other less “pil­grimy” ingre­di­ents.

Prepa­ra­tions still ring true for roast­ing, pan fry­ing, bak­ing and mash­ing. It’s the miso, orange, pome­gran­ate, nut or honey treat­ments that liven things up.

Tried and true fam­ily favorites get bold makeovers with a sim­ple twist here and a lit­tle tweak there. Apple cider vinai­grette and pome­gran­ate molasses ele­vate Brus­sels sprouts, but­ter­nut squash and green beans.

Read more: Way Outside →

Sort­ing out the pantry leads to assess­ing which kitchen appli­ances are still rel­e­vant.

A few of these “well worn” helpers could use some love and atten­tion. Per­haps give them a deep clean­ing, or replace a dull blade or bro­ken knob.

Oth­ers are parked on a shelf in the way, way back of a cab­i­net or cup­board drawer. Neglected for some time, a dona­tion to a wor­thy recip­i­ent might be in order.

How many cof­fee (spice) grinders does one house­hold really need? When is that expen­sive fresh juicer, and all the gear that goes with, going to see some action again? Be hon­est in eval­u­at­ing future use.

The Sous Vide immer­sion gad­get sees action when that Christ­mas prime rib din­ner is on deck. It mostly remains idle through­out the year.

Stor­ing a sous vide is less cum­ber­some than say a crock pot, elec­tric skil­let, meat grinder, food proces­sor, or cap­puc­cino maker.

At least the Ital­ian cof­fee mak­ers have some char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity. Bright color choices, post-​modern shapes and inter­est­ing styles allow for coun­ter­top place­ment. Other small wares don’t have this advan­tage. Off the shelf for use and replaced once pan­cakes are fin­ished.

New “must have” elec­tri­cal gad­gets and small appli­ances become all the rage with every hol­i­day sea­son. Air pop­pers seem to be trend­ing for the 2020 wish list.

Insta Pots held the top spot the last few years. At least they have mul­ti­ple use rec­om­men­da­tions that almost jus­tify their existence.

Read more: Crowded House →

Amidst the chal­lenges of the pan­demic, we are rethink­ing not just the way we eat, but what we eat and when. Cer­tain foods are no longer rel­e­gated to spe­cific time slot assign­ments.

Under daily pres­sure, hall­marks of the COVID food cloud are resource­ful­ness and flex­i­bil­ity. Tak­ing con­trol and let­ting go teeter-​totter back-​and-​forth. Par­ents, kids and sin­gles give per­mis­sion to eat a bowl of Chee­rios for din­ner.

Strik­ing a bal­ance between health and well­ness over indul­gence, con­ve­nience and com­fort is ever present.

Opti­mum health is always the long range goal. Short­term, we’re bom­barded by daily restric­tions, lim­i­ta­tions and now food fatigue. Wait­ing in line to shop or for menu pickup takes a toll. Meal prep, time and money erode the very thing that makes us whole. Stress-​free activ­i­ties are worth pur­suit.

Wear the mask. Keep your dis­tance. Stay alert to some­one with a cough or too close con­tact. Anx­i­ety increases the desire to blur the lines. Throw­ing in the towel on meal plan­ning doesn’t mean a bowl of ice cream for break­fast.

Mac­a­roni and cheese makes more sense as a cham­pi­oned morn­ing choice. This pop­u­lar com­fort food is not shy on calo­ries. Tak­ing lib­erty with stan­dard morn­ing fare means we have time to enjoy the heat of those calo­ries through­out the day.

Read more: Blur­ring the Lines →

Novem­ber vot­ing goes well beyond polit­i­cal bal­lots. Our thoughts begin to move toward hol­i­day plan­ning.

The Thanks­giv­ing count­down is start­ing to look dif­fer­ent, like most other things in 2020.

This year, tra­di­tions might be dialed back with smaller gath­er­ings forced upon us. Even so, deli­cious pies will be part of the grand finale to what­ever meal is served.

A slice of pie makes us happy. Sure, hap­pi­ness could come from a wide slice of pizza pie, a savory pie or even chicken pot pie. In this moment, we’re talk­ing about those seri­ous Thanks­giv­ing dessert pies.

Vot­ing on just one is super dif­fi­cult. Pie brings back fond mem­o­ries shared with loved ones. Those fam­ily mem­bers or friends we like to share the hol­i­day meal. With. Maybe an aun­tie or grand­mother made our spe­cial hol­i­day pies.

There are at least twenty favorite fall pies from which to choose. Sweet potato, apple, pecan and pump­kin are in the top five.

When it comes to apple, there are so many vari­a­tions on the theme that it may make take at least eight spots on the pie charts. Dutch apple, bour­bon apple, old-​fashioned apple and caramel apple lead the hit parade.

Read more: Ready, Set, VOTE! →