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December 2011

Vegetarian Tamale Pie Recipe

Vegetarian-tamale-pieIt is believed tamale pie dates back to the early 1900s, when women were encouraged to conserve meat. Nearly all tamale pies contain corn, cornmeal, tomatoes and beans. Some add beef, pork or chicken to the pie mixture, while others include cheese or olives.

The spiciness of tamale pies can be controlled through the use of peppers. The Jalapeno is relatively mild, whereas Habaneras boast the highest level of heat. The pepper rule of thumb is the smaller the pepper, the higher the heat.

When working with hot chili peppers, it's best to wear gloves. If this is not an option, be certain to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after removing seeds and chopping.

The following Vegetarian Tamale Pie recipe was developed by me when I worked at a health food store. This turned out to be one of the most requested dishes on the menu. I have since altered it with the addition of chile pepper and red pepper flakes. Feel free to adjust the heat by adding more or less of these ingredients.


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Serves 6
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Bake Time: 30 to 40 minutes


3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 fresh Jalapeno Pepper, seeds removed and minced
1 15-ounce can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can Refried Beans
1 15-ounce can Corn
1 15-ounce can diced Tomatoes, with juice
1 Tablespoon Chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper flakes (or Cayenne Pepper)
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Sour Cream, optional


3 cups Cornmeal
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cups Water


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2) In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno pepper. Saute until crisp tender.

3) In medium mixing bowl, combine black beans, refried beans, corn, tomatoes, spices and sautéed vegetables. Mix well.

4) In separate medium mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, honey, salt, olive oil and water. Mix until smooth.

5) Pour bean mixture into lightly greased 8-inch glass baking dish.

6) Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of bean mixture.

7) Using a large spoon, place dollops of topping on bean mixture. Spread mixture across bean mixture as if icing a cake.

8) Place inside oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the cornmeal topping comes out clean.

9) Remove from oven and serve immediately.

10) Top with sour cream, if desired.

Kung Pao Tofu Recipe

Kung pao chicken chinese food recipeKung Pao Tofu is an excellent Chinese food option for individuals who follow a Vegetarian diet. This recipe can be adapted using chicken for those who cannot stand the thought of tofu. However, before you turn up your nose, give this recipe a try. Tofu takes on the flavor of the ingredients it's cooked with. When properly cooked few people notice any difference in texture or flavor.

Use extra-firm tofu when preparing Kung Pao Tofu; otherwise the tofu will crumble when cooked. And, if you chicken out (no pun intended), instructions for preparing this popular Chinese dish with chicken are listed at the bottom of this recipe. Simply cook the chicken first, then follow the recipe below.


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Serves 4
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 5-8 minutes


2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Tamari or Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons Honey
1 teaspoon Arrowroot or Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh Ginger, minced
2 teaspoons dried Red Pepper flakes
1 green Bell Pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 red Bell Pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small yellow Onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound Extra Firm Tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup dry roasted Peanuts
4 cups cooked Rice (white, brown, Jasmine)


1) In a small bowl, mix together Balsamic vinegar, Tamari (or soy sauce), honey and sesame oil. Set aside.
2) Mix arrowroot (or cornstarch) with small amount of water until smooth. Add to sauce mixture and stir ingredients until well blended. Set aside.
3) Heat a large, heavy pan or Wok over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
4) Remove pan from heat and carefully add olive oil. Return to burner and heat oil for about 30 seconds or until it reaches the smoking point.
5) Add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 10 seconds and stir frequently.
6) Add green and red peppers and onions. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently until crisp-tender.
7) Add tofu and gently stir to incorporate with vegetables. Cook for 2 minutes.
8) Add sauce and gently stir to incorporate ingredients. Continue stirring and cook until sauce boils and thickens, about 30 seconds.
9) Add peanuts; stir to mix.
10) Remove from heat and serve over rice.


1) Replace tofu with 8-ounces of skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes.
2) In medium saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups water to boil.
3) Add chicken, stirring constantly to avoid sticking.
4) Reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken turns white and cooked through; about 2 minutes.
5) Drain chicken in colander set over a bowl. Set aside.
6) Reserve 1/4 cup of this cooking liquid and add to the vinegar, soy sauce, honey mixture.
7) Follow directions in the recipe above and replace the tofu with chicken when called for.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Patties No-Bake Recipe

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Patties No BakeDark Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Patties are one of my favorite no-bake cookie recipes. They are super easy to make and include common ingredients most of us have on hand in our pantry and refrigerator. These are a great standby when unexpected guests show up because you can whip up a batch in less than 15 minutes.

I recently updated this recipe by using dark chocolate instead of regular cocoa. If you don't care for dark chocolate, feel free to substitute with unsweetened cocoa powder. While this recipe calls for smooth peanut butter, there is no reason you can't use chunky.

These no-bake cookies are exceptionally rich, so avoid the temptation to make them larger than the instructions state. Keeping them small also helps eliminate some of the guilt. I hope you enjoy them so much that you begin your own family tradition of serving them!


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Yield: 18 cookies
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cool Time: 15 minutes


1/2 stick unsalted Butter
3/4 cup granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa (or Unsweetened Cocoa, if preferred)
1/4 cup low-fat Milk (substitute with Soy or Almond milk, if desired)
1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1-1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons quick-cooking Oats
1 teaspoon vanilla


1) In a large saucepan, combine butter, sugar, cocoa and milk.
2) Over medium-high heat, cook the mixture until it boils; stir constantly. Once this comes to a boil, it will begin to bubble. At this point, remove pan from heat.
3) Add peanut butter, vanilla and oats. Stir well to combine all ingredients.
4) Drop mixture by teaspoonful on waxed or parchment paper. Flatten with backside of spoon to create 1/4-inch patties.
5) Let cool 15 minutes and serve.

Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes Recipe

Baked-cheddar-mashed-potatoesThe other day I made these baked cheddar mashed potatoes on a whim. I had a package of instant mashed potatoes in the cupboard and decided to use them for my experiment. I would prefer making homemade, but these were actually quite tasty and I'd probably use the instant again just because it was so simple.

One the other hand, I think the baked cheddar mashed potatoes would have a better consistency with homemade. I imagine these potatoes would taste great using other kinds of cheese. I bet bleu cheese, mozzarella, or a parmesan/mozzarella blend would be great. 

I used instant Baby Red potatoes, which added a hint of color. The next time, I'm going to add bacon bits for additional flavor. This recipe takes about 15 minutes total and is a good stand-in when time is limited.


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Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time:  5 minutes


1 package instant Baby Red potatoes
Water (as per directions on potatoes)
2 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
½ teaspoon each Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, optional
½ cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
8 cupcake tins


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare potatoes according to package directions. Add butter and gently mix with water and instant potatoes. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Add cheddar cheese right before filling cupcake tins.
3. Insert cupcake tins into muffin pan. Using ice cream scoop, fill each tin ¾ full of cheddar cheese potato mixture.
4. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tops turn golden brown. Remove from oven and serve immediately.