New Years Day

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We started off the New Year on a good foot.  I made Glowing Green Smoothies and guess who drank one?

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I had to capture it because it might not happen again even though he secretly knows they are so delicious.

We finally finished up the last of our holiday meal that I made on New Years Day.  After Christmas, me Jayde & my mom all went shopping for some after-Christmas sales and we stopped in at Barnes & Nobles for coffee.  The time we were there, I read some home decor books and my mom was looking for a soap-making book. As we were leaving, I noticed she had a bag.  I figured it was a soap book.  She gave it to me and said, “Here, look at the book I got.”  I grabbed it and I was shocked when I saw what book it was.

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I screamed…She knows how much of a fan I am.  I have her other cookbooks plus I went to see her at a meet and greet when she came to Pearland a year of so ago.

Pioneer Woman collage

Anyhow, as always, a lot of her recipes look craze-amaze (name that commercial.)  I decided that I would try just about her entire New Years meal.  I made black eyed peas (which she calls Hoppin’ Johns), rice, collard greens and cornbread.  I’ve already made her cornbread before during Thanksgiving so I already knew it was good.

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 She shows different ways you can eat it but my favorite way is layered in a bowl with the pea-beans (is it peas or beans?), rice, collard greens and cornbread with crumbled bacon.

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Oh, my…I don’t know why I don’t make this more often.  Of course the kids want no part of it but Stephen said that the meal was excellent and I agree.  I love this and I see me making it on a regular basis.  The kids will just have to fend for themselves.

*Pioneer Woman’s Cornbread

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat shortening in an iron skillet, muffin pan, or other baking pan. Combine corn meal, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, milk, and egg. Add baking powder and baking soda. Stir. Add ¼ cup melted shortening, stirring constantly. Pour into hot pan, smoothing surface with spatula. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

p.s.

I also enjoyed this entire  bottle of champagne all to myself.  Stephen doesn’t like it and I couldn’t just let it go to waste could I?

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Christmas: A look back Part II

Our December was full of fun and I gotta say it was the best Christmas ever.

Autie checkin’ to see if she has any gifts.

M.Perfect Living_Autie by tree (1 of 1)

A nice shot of the living room.

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Jacob teasin’ Autie-Girl.

M.Perfect Living_jacob teasin autie (1 of 1)

Jayde guzzling soy nog.

jayde guzzling soy nog (1 of 1)

Wii Bowling with a pile of junk food.  It felt like we were at an actual bowling alley.  We had the game, the music goin’, the food and of course the fun!

Stephen hooked up the projector and made it super-size screen.

M.Perfect Living_wii bowling (1 of 1)

Tacos, nachos, chili cheese fries, hamburger, coke, beer…we had it all.

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 Jayde had it goin’ on in the game room.  Playin’ Sims and eating her chicken.

The boys plaing Skyrim and pigging out!kids red top Collage

The boys shooting the BB gun out back.  Jaidan also decided to get out the bow & arrows.

bb gun Collage

Jayde gets in on the action.

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The kids in thier new threads.

jayde jaidan Collage

Bonnie & Clyde having a blast with their new toy and some neck bone treats.

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Look how sweet they are.

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Stephen made his famous Egg Nog Rice Pudding.

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cooked rice pudding (1 of 1)

Also lemme mention that we consumed many cartons of these.

so co egg nog (1 of 1)

The boys built a fort and camped out.

fort Collage

christmas 2013 Collage

Christmas 2013 Collage 2

The only thing I would change is Stephen & I getting sick the last week of December.  Regardless, it was a great month.

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I’ll end this with a video clip.

December: A Look Back- Part I

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During December, I didn’t take any time out to write but one blog post because I wanted to take some time off & really enjoy the moments of the month. I knew it would fly by really fast so I made sure to take lots of pictures.

The first week:

My 2 sister-in-laws, brother in-law & my step mom-in-law came over for some games & drinks.  We also made a fire out back.

family fire collage

I also sat around the fire pit by myself a few times.

M.Perfect Living--m camo pants fire (1 of 1)

I used this thing quite a bit to make lots of pizza crusts. With Jaidan being out of school for half the month, I knew having lots of pre-made crusts would come in handy.

M.Perfect Living--breadmaker (1 of 1)

I made California Club Sliders.

M.Perfect Living--cali club sliders (1 of 1)

Jayde made Muddy Buddies.

M.Perfect Living--muddy buddies (1 of 1)

I got some new ornaments this year & incorporated some of that sea green/turquoise into the Christmas tree.

M.Perfect Living--christmas tree turq ornaments (1 of 1)

We watched The Outsiders, one of Jayde’s favorite movies.

M.Perfect Living--Outsiders (1 of 1)

Jaidan requested sausage covered pancakes a couple of times.

M.Perfect Living--sausage pancakes (1 of 1)

I made Pioneer Woman’s Pretzel Turtles.  Kinda chewy but still good.

pretzel turtles

Stephen bought some fancy cookies and the highly anticipated Animal Cookies for him & the kids. Jayde made an Animal Cookie Shakes.

Cookie assortment

We had some sushi & Shiner!

M.Perfect Living--cajun roll sushi (1 of 1)

Stephen & I hid in the room & wrapped the kids gifts.

wrapping gifts 2013

Part Duece up next!

Word of the Year

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I’ve been seeing a lot of these Word of the Years on other blogs and that got me to thinking that I’d like to have me a word as a reminder of what I can focus on all year-long.  Wait for it…..

slow

I know that doesn’t sound inspiring or motivating like some of the ones I’ve seen.  Hope, Joy, Still, Energize.  It may seem negative at first to some people since it seems that everyone is in a hurry to do it all right now, but the truth is that it is very much what I need to remember to do for 2014.

The other night on New Years Eve, about an hour before the countdown, I said something to Stephen without thinking that annoyed and irritated my husband and I can’t say that I blame him.  It’s just something that tumbled out of my mouth.  I realized a second later, what I’d done and I apologized. I’ve done it a million times but from that moment I thought to myself, I know what I need to do this year.

BE SLOW.

Out of the Amplified Bible:

Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. James 1:19

And that is where my Word of the Year comes from.  I am making every effort to be slow to speak, really think about what I say before I spew it out of my lips.  Really think about how it would make someone feel and how they will respond when I say it.  Of course the rest of the verse has some really great wisdom about being quick to listen, slow to being offended and getting angry but I really am focusing on being slow to speak. I can only foresee an abundance of peace coming from this. And that’s something we could all use.

A Mexican Christmas Tradition

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Ever since I was little I remember eating tamales during Christmastime.  I never knew where they came from, either from a family member, a friend of my dad’s, or from some co-worker of my moms.  So when I say a Mexican Christmas tradition, I mean eating tamales.

You know the saying, how life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’re gonna get?  Same for tamales.  You never know until you take that first initial bite.  Some people make em’ really skinny, other’s make em’ fat with lots of meat or lots of masa.  Some make em’ spicy, some hardly have no flavor, some just right.  It’s serious business I tell ya!

This past December, we decided to start our own little 4 generation tradition of making tamales….my mom, my grandmother, my daughter & myself but things don’t always work out, especially over here @ M.Perfect Living.  Jayde was running a fever & feeling too sick to help out, but she watched from a distance.

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   My mom had 2 huge packs of pork shoulder that she cooked & seasoned for the tamales the night before she came over.  Now I know why people only make them only once a year.  They take a full day to make.

M.Perfect Living--making homemade tamale-cooked pork (1 of 1)

We all met up here at my dining room table, had lots of laughs and chats about previous times tamales were made.  My mom has only made them 2 other times before and my grandma, she can’t even count how many.

My mom actually scoured the internet for a really good recipe/method she wanted to use so we just took direction from her and did what she told us to do.  You would think my grandma would have a tried & true recipe passed down from generations but alas…she said it was all from memory & dang…her memory aint all that it used to be.  We still love ya granny!

First we filled a sink full of warm water to soak the corn husks in.

M.Perfect Living<<<making tamales_soaking husks collage

M.Perfect Living--making homemade tamale-masa bowl (1 of 1)

Getting the masa ready.

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Mixing it thoroughly.

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Melting the lard.

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Pouring in the pork lard.

And Good Lawd was there was a ton of lard that was used.  I knew that lard was used but I didn’t know that much!  My stomach kinda churned as I thought about that…then, when they were done…not so much.  Heck, I’ve eaten for years & thought they were delicious, surely I can’t let cups upon cups of melted lard keep me from eating em’ this time.

M.Perfect Living--making homemade tamale-lard to bowl (1 of 1)

Adding broth to the masa.

M.Perfect Living--making homemade tamale-juice to masa (1 of 1)Mixing the masa like a mad grandma woman.

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This is what memories are made of.

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Spreading it thinly, but not too much.

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While we spread, mom added the meat & rolled em’ up.

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Stackin’ them malies.

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Gotta stand em’ up like this.

M.Perfect Living--making homemade tamale-stacked in pot  (1 of 1)

And then all that hard work paid off.  Can you see the lard glistenin’ off my fingers?  Ooo wee!  Look how meaty they are.

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 Not like some that Stephen bought for me the day after Thanksgiving from some guy selling em’ outside of Home Depot.  They only had a smidge of meat & mostly only masa.  At $8 a dozen…. total rip-off.

Here is the recipe we used.

Ingredients

5 to 6 lb pork shoulder, cooled and shredded in small pieces,
2 & 1/2 gal salted water (2 tsp) to cook the pork shoulder
2 large onions quarted
5 clove fresh garlic cloves smashed or chrushed
2 large bay leafs
1 tsp ground cumin
Chile Sauce
10/15 large dried ancho chiles, seeds & stems removed
1 qt water salted with (1 tsp salt) to boil the dried chiles
1 large onion peeled and quarted
5 clove fresh garlic peeled seperated
3 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 or 3 c pork broth
Masa
5 lb ground corn masa or 1 large bags (4.4 lb) maseca instant corn masa flour
2 lb pork lard
4 to/6 Tbsp salt to suit your taste
10 to 12 c pork broth
2 tsp baking powder
3 1/4 lb dried corn husks opened and soaked in hot water.
1 large tamale steamer or a very large deep pot such as a lobster or crab steamer with a lid.

Directions

The Meat: Cook pork shoulder in a deep pot covered with the water. Add the quartered onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and cumin. For added flavor, add a tsp of granulated garlic powder to the water. Bring to a boil then skim the layer off the top. Reduce heat and simmer about 4 or 5 hours. Meat must be falling off the bone tender. Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate overnight (if not using right away) shred meat with two forks. Do not remove the congealed fat from the cold broth. You will need this extra fat to make your masa tender.

The Red Chile Sauce (or red tamale sauce) to flavor the pork meat. Remove stems and all the seeds from the ancho chiles. Put the dried chiles on large baking sheet drizzled with a little olive oil. put into a preheated hot oven moderate heat for a few minutes such as 2 1/2 minutes then open oven and turn chiles on the other side and roast 2 1/2 minutes more. Be very careful not to scorch the chiles if they scorch they will turn bitter and you will have to start over. They scorch and burn very easily so you must watch them closely. This roasting step brings out the deep rich chile flavor. Remove from the oven do not leave in more the 5 minutes total time. Put the roasted chiles in a pot and cover with water add a tsp of salt to the water and add the onion and garlic. Bring the chiles to a boil reduce heat and steady simmer for fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes have passed shut off heat and let cool in their water until they are reasonably able to handle. Next in a blender add half the chiles, half the cooked onion, two cooked garlic cloves and process until the chile is throughly blended into a paste. Then add half the teaspoon of cumin powder and a little pork broth, (about a half cup) and blend on high until smooth. With a rubber spatula scrape out the chile paste and proceed with the rest of the chiles. remaining onion and garlic, cloves and the other half of cumin powder. Add a little more pork broth about half a cup and process until smooth.

Start with one cup of your red chile sauce and add it to you shredded meat mixture. You should make sure your meat is warm as it will be easier to mix rather than cold from the refrigerator. Mix your cup of chile paste with the meat and continue to add more chile paste until your meat is moist and saucy but not soupy.  If your sauce is a little dry, add a little more pork broth to it then mix well and incorporate into your meat. Your meat should look like a saucy, pulled pork consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. If you have red chile sauce left over put in small freezer bags, freeze and save for making enchilada sauce or mole. You’re meat is now ready to fill the tamales. Set aside.

The Masa: Using a large roaster deep pan now take your 4.4 pound bag of Maseca or 5 lbs of ground masa if you are lucky enough to find it. Add your Maseca to or ground masa to the deep pan add the melted pork lard should be cool enough to handle and add the pork broth by the cupful make sure it is very warm it should not be hot. You should be able to handle the mixing with your hands. (Note: for this recipe pork lard is what gives these tamales the rich delicious flavor. No amount of Crisco or other fat will accomplish the incredible flavor the pork lard gives Mexican Tamales. With that I leave you to make your decision as to what fat to use.) I like to melt my pork fat in the microwave let it cool. Add your salt and baking powder with the pork broth. Mix again. Do this by hand. It can be very tiresome so be sure to share the workload with anyone else that happens to be in the vicinity.  Clean hands only please. :) Add the broth lard salt and baking powder. If using the Maseca add cupfuls of broth one at a time until you have a nice spreadable consistency. Taste the masa to make sure it has enough salt. Your masa should have the consistency of a thick soft creamy oat meal or better yet like a think creamy polenta. Set Masa aside and prepare the corn husks.

The Corn Husks: Remove corn husks and clean and remove any dried corn silk. Fill a sink full of hot water & let soak for 15 minutes or longer. Remove a large handful and wring the water out by squeezing the husks. Lay in a tray and with a clean dish towel blot the excess water from them. Keep them covered so they do not dry out. Now you are ready for spreading the masa on the husk. Take a butter knife, back of a spoon, or any kind of flat spreader and dip in the masa and get a nice amount and spread on the husk to cover the entire bottom half leaving the top triangle part of the husk bare. Spread like if you would be spreading peanut butter on bread. About a little less than 1/4 inch thick on your husk do not spread all the way to the ends of the husk. Now take a good size tablespoon (or more if you like) of meat mixture and lay down the center of the prepared masa husk. Fold one edge of the husk over the other to form a slender tamale. The overlapping masa will help to keep the tamales together. Next fold the top half over the tamales itself and lay seam down. Do all of your tamales like this until you have enough to put and stack in a steamer pot to cook.

Cooking your tamales:  If you have a tamale steamer pot,add boiling water to the bottom half and stack the tamales standing up in a circular layers with the open side up. Then on top of those, another circular row, always standing up the open side facing up. Pour the hot water down the side when adding more water. The tamales should never be emersed in water. They cook by steaming. Cover the layers with loose tamales husks and a clean dish towel over everything and then cover with the lid. Enough water should be at the bottom to steam the tamales for 1 & 1/2 hours to ensure complete cooking.  Make sure you check on it to be sure that the water doesn’t fully evaporate.  Be sure to add more during steam time. After the time has elapsed shut off and uncover the pot let cool.  Remove with tongs as the tamales will be extremely hot. When they have cooled you can bag and freeze them.  Always leave your tamales in the husk when freezing and remove the husk to eat. You can heat in the microwave or do like I do and warm some up on a skillet & roll around till the husk gets nice & charred.  I eat mine with regular tomato sauce that I heat up and add some hot sauce to  make it kinda spicy.

Alternate method: If you don’t have a tamale steamer you can use a large regular steamer pot such as a crab pot or large lobster pot. Put a large bowl in the middle and some sort of perforated pie pan on top. Take two large aluminum pie tins and put holes in all around. Put the pie tin over the bowl so the tamales will be above the water. Then stack the tamales standing up inclining a little towards the center in a circular position. Put a large mug in the middle of the pie pan so the tamales can rest against it and work around stacking the tamales.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and make some memories of your own.

recipe adapted from:

 http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/main-course/pork/mexican-tamales-tamales-mexicanos-de-puerco.html

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