An Old Favorite: Tamale Pie

When I first started Weight Watchers back in 2006, I was living alone and not cooking very much. I discovered Heather’s Recipe Site and started a fun cycle.

  1. Make Tamale pie
  2. Eat Tamale Pie for dinner and lunch for a week.
  3. Pick a new recipe.
  4. Eat that recipe for a week.
  5. Repeat.

I continued this cycle for some time, even after moving in with Adam. Needless to say, Adam got VERY sick of tamale pie. He pretty much outlawed tamale pie in our house. When he went out of town last year for 4 days, you can guess what I made for dinner that week! YUP! Tamale Pie!

It has been well over a year since my last tamale pie, and I finally convinced Adam to try it again. There were stipulations, one of those being that the lovely polenta crust needed to be thinner than the last time. I was SO EXCITED all day to make this for dinner, and told about 20 people about it!

There's a polenta crust, I swear!

There's a polenta crust, I swear!

Simply Filling® Tamale Pie


1 c yellow cornmeal
2.25 c cold water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 lb lean ground beef (or equal amount of veggie crumbles)
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 tsp chili powder
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
Dash pepper
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 can Ro-Tel original
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
FF or soy cheddar shreds

Preheat oven to 350*. Spray a 9 x 13″ casserole pan with Pam. Bring 2-1/4 cups water plus bouillon cube to a boil. Stir in polenta, and whisk until fairly thick and most lumps are gone (just a few minutes). Spread into bottom of casserole pan and set aside. Brown beef, onion, and green pepper. Add chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper, and mix well. Add tomato paste, Ro-Tel, corn (with juice; do not drain), and kidney beans. Spread over the cornmeal crust and top evenly with cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350*.

This was seriously just as good as I remembered! I did have a side of fat free sour cream, and will be going back for seconds!

Just a quick note before I sign off for the night: I’ve been feeling really guilty that I haven’t been commenting on many of your blogs lately, especially during the day. I’m a teacher, and therefore work in a school (duh!), and we’re at the mercy of what the district thinks is appropriate content. Unfortunately, the district thinks that all WordPress and Blogger blogs are inappropriate, so therefore I can’t see them. Some of them, I can see, but then the comment forms are blocked. I can read though, because Google reader is not blocked. So please know I am reading!!!

Be sure to check out Beadie’s Blog for this week’s BSI!!

Have a fabulous evening!



Bernie’s BBQ Sauce (With a POM Twist)

So I got this case of POM juice last week, and in my email from Janny, he asked that I try to cook with it and see what I can come up with. I was at a complete loss. Sure, I could’ve put it in oatmeal like some bloggers did, but since I do a dinner blog, it wouldn’t be featured. I could make a cocktail, but I don’t really drink… so I ran my dilemma past my best sounding board: my mom!

She suggested that I use a bottle of the POM juice in what was my grandfathers “famous” BBQ sauce. I think I said “wait, hold on, I can MAKE BBQ sauce? Doesn’t it just come in a bottle?” Of course, my mom laughed and proceeded to tell me how to make it, and where to incorporate my POM juice . Without any further adieu, for the first time on the internet, my grandfather Bernie’s BBQ sauce:

Just like Papa used to make.

Just like Papa used to make.

Papa’s BBQ Sauce


5 slices center cut bacon, diced

1 onion, diced

1/2 green pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. Worscestshire sauce

1 c. ketchup

8 oz. POM Wonderful Juice

1 Tbsp. brown sugar


Heat a large pot, and add the bacon and onions. Cook until the bacon is very crispy and the onions are near caramelized. Add the green peppers and cook ten minutes. Add ketchup, hot pepper, Worcestershire sauce, POM Wonderful juice,  chili powder. Mix well, then stir in brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook until it tastes like BBQ sauce. Puree with a stick blender, and serve with your favorite meat.  Makes at least 10 servings, only 1 Point® per serving.

Just like my mom had said, most bottled BBQ sauce has a fake smoke flavor. This one though, has the subtle smokiness of the bacon, combined with the sweet and tart flavor of the POM, and the spiciness of the pepper. I’m really glad that I have a bunch of extra servings of this, mostly to try it on other meat, and on actual outside grilled steaks! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make my own BBQ sauce… it’s hard to say if I’ll ever buy bottled again!

You couldn’t have noticed the 2 side dishes with my heavily sauced chicken. One of them was pan-roasted cauliflower and broccoli and the other was something that’s sure to be a new favorite.

dscn2037I roasted some frozen butternut squash, sprinkled it with reduced fat coconut (just found it yesterday and I’m a HUGE fan!0 and a little Splenda. SUCH a good treat! I can see how something like that could be a great breakfast as well.

My BSI Announcement was my 100th post, and I had all these plans for a cool giveaway for my 100th post… alas, you will have to wait until TOMORROW for my cool giveaway post! In the meantime, be sure to check out Beadie’s giveaway! She’s giving away a bottle of Country Bob’s all-purpose sauce… looks like good stuff!

Make sure to keep those BSI entries coming!

Food Network: Causes Bursts of Cooking!

About 2 weeks ago, Adam and I did nothing but watch Food Network for about 3 days straight. Episode after episode of Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef America, Good Eats, Unwrapped… but one show in particular caught my attention and has lingered in my mind for the whole two weeks. One particular episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay featuring the traditional Venezuelan dish, arepas.

According to Wikipedia, arepas are:

a bread made of corn originating from the northern Andes in South America (Colombia and Venezuela), and which has now spread to other areas in Latin America (e.g. the Dominican Republic, where it is now popular). It is similar to the Mesoamerican tortilla.

The word “arepa” may originate from the language of the Caracas Indians (north coast of Venezuela) that meant “maize.”

I was bound and determined to make arepas. They seemed easy enough, but I was sure there was a secret to making really good ones. I asked my Venezuelan student to tell me what her mom does when she makes them, and she said “I dunno, its just masa and water and a little salt.” (Can you tell she’s an 8th grader?) I started looking up recipes. She was right, its just masa (corn flour), and water, and a little salt! I went to the grocery store today and bought the necessary supplies, and decided on a filling.

The thing with arepas is that they can be filled with anything. Cheese, meat, vegetables, seafood… I decided on steak, cheese, avocado and sour cream. It sounds like a lot, but there was only about an ounce or two of meat, and small bits of the other stuff.

You’re getting 2 photos today (don’t you feel special?) because neither view I took gave the full effect of this Venezuelan sandwich. The arepas were about the size of a regular English muffin.

The view from the top

The view from the top



2 cups masa harina

2.5 cups warm water

1/2 tsp. salt


In a bowl, pour the 2.5 cups of water, stir the salt in, then gradually stir in the flour until it forms a smooth dough. Let the dough sit about 5 minutes, then form into 3″ patties. Heat an oven safe griddle, and pre-heat the oven to 400*. When the griddle is hot, place the arepas gently on the surface, turning once. Transfer the griddle to the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Split and stuff with filling of your choice.

Now you can see the filling!

For my WW friends: these are 6 Points® a piece!

Spicy Tomato Steak


1 lb. top sirloin, trimmed

1 can Ro-Tel or other tomatoes with chiles

1 can broth

salt to taste

1 tbsp. chili powder

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. oil

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar


In a pot or pan with a cover, heat the oil. Then add the onion and garlic. Cook until lightly browned. Lightly salt both sides of your steak, then add to the pan. Pour the can of Ro-Tel, NOT drained, vinegar, and the can of broth over the steak, then stir in the chili powder. Cook, covered, about 50 minutes until steak is tender. Remove from the pan and allow to sit a few minutes before chopping into small pieces.

I was so skeptical of this dinner. I had no idea if the arepas would come out, and no idea how the steak would turn out. I assembled the sandwiches, and warned Adam, “I have absolutely no idea how these will taste. Please be honest.” He took a bite. I waited. Then he took another bite accompanied by a “mmmm” sound. That was a good sign. I finally tried mine and I couldn’t stop “mmmm”-ing! What a great treat! This is something that will for sure be on our regular rotation! Well, some permutation of this meal… I want to try a vegetarian roasted veggie one, a chicken one, a plain cheese one… maybe arepas will be dangerous.

In any case, you must try arepas! They are: vegetarian, gluten-free, wheat-free, and DELICIOUS! I’m still basking in the truly delicious surprise that was my arepa dinner. I gave one to my stepdad when he came to drop off Stella, and he called about 5 minutes later to rave about how great it was!

Speaking of, this is Stella, my mom and stepdad’s goldendoodle!

She's really quite fluffy!

She's really quite fluffy!

A couple of blogger news bites!

  • PLEASE go bid on baked goods at Meghann’s site! All proceeds go to benefit Team in Training’s fight against Leukemia and Lymphoma.
  • Check out ZestyCook’s Grill Charms Giveaway! They’re these cool little things that go into steak or burgers so you can tell whose is whose. Cool stuff!
  • I sent my Secret Cupid gift out this weekend, so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, you might be getting mine!

I’m extremely proud of myself also. I walked 1.5 miles today in 25 minutes with my work friend. Now, for those of you that run miles upon miles, walking 1.5 miles isn’t a big deal. For me? Yeah. A big deal.

Have a great night!

Chicken Taco Soup

I have had a crazy craving for taco soup for the LONGEST time now, and I finally remembered what needed to go into it WHILE I was at the grocery store! I’d made many different taco soup recipes, and this one that I threw together was really good, and SO SIMPLE! Really, the extent of this recipe is chopping up a half an onion and opening cans. Oh, and when I say “One Can” it means the standard 15 oz. can, not the ginormous ones.

Served with sour cream, of course

Served with sour cream, of course

Mara’s Chicken Taco Soup


1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 large onion, chopped

1 small(4 oz) can chopped jalapenos

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can corn, NOT drained

2 cans low-sodium chicken broth

1 can fat free refried beans

1 can Ro-Tel or other chopped tomatoes with jalapenos

1 packet low-sodium taco seasoning

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder


In a large pot, brown the chopped onion. Add the chicken and all the cans EXCEPT the refried beans, and all seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes. Remove the chicken and shred, then return it to the pot. Add the refried beans and stir well, and simmer until soup is thickened. Serve with sour cream and/or shredded cheese. Serves 8.

It was another night of “OH this is good!” upon taking the first bite, so I’d say this recipe was a success! At only 4 Points® a bowl, its quite a healthy choice! And Heidi, don’t worry, there’s plenty left for lunch tomorrow!

Since my friend Holly is always hassling me about not eating enough vegetables (I eat plenty, just not enough green leafies), I made some roasted brussels sprouts as an after-dinner side. I’m so glad I have a ton of sprouts left because I LOVE roasted brussels sprouts!

Roasty Sprouty Goodness!

Roasty Sprouty Goodness!

One of my other Weight Watcher buddies has a FANTASTIC blog called “Hey, What’s For Dinner Mom?” and I think you should all check it out. She has great recipes and a fun writing style you’ll all love.

Enjoy your evening!

Super Sunday = Super Eats!

Happy Sunday! One thing that stinks about posting my Sunday dinner is that it means that tomorrow is already Monday… at least I get a 3 day weekend soon!!

Adam and I aren’t big into football, or the Super Bowl, so we decided to head out to the grocery store as soon as the game began! We came home to watch a bit of the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, and have spent much of the evening watching Ghost Hunters. I won’t even know who won the Super Bowl until tomorrow morning, most likely!

We did decide to do some sort of “Super Bowl Snacks” this afternoon: I made a bowl of Buffalo Chicken Dip! Last time I made it, on New Years, Adam made the observation that I never make buffalo chicken dip for us, so we decided tonight was a good night to have some.

On a baked Scoops chip... ignore the shoddy nails

On a baked Scoops chip... ignore the shoddy nails

And on celery... SO GOOD!

And on celery... SO GOOD!

Dinner was a couple hours after our dip snack (which also included hummus and carrots!) and it was so very simple and delicious, but still a twist on a classic. We had grilled cheese and tomato soup! BUT of course, this wasn’t just any tomato soup, it was Pacific Foods’ organic roasted red pepper and tomato soup

Image from Pacific Foods

Image from Pacific Foods

I fell in love with this soup about 2 years ago when I got a free sample of it at a baby fair with my friend. We were there towards the end of the day, and the Pacific foods rep gave me a whole carton of it to try at home, and it was love at first taste. This soup tastes super decadent, but only has 110 calories per serving, which is quite diet-friendly.

My grilled cheese featured Arnold’s wheat bread, low fat sharp cheddar and a sliced tomato. It came out just the way that my dad’s grilled cheese used to when I was little, and I swear that it has something to do with the amazing thing that is a cast-iron skillet!

Just like Dad used to make!

Just like Dad used to make!

I of course, have a funny grilled cheese story. In college, when I had just started to really cook for myself, I decided I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich. I got out the bread, buttered both sides like my dad used to, heated a pan, assembled my sandwich in the pan and flipped it once. The first side was great and toasty brown. The second side though, decided to burn really bad. So I threw away the sandwich and made another one. Same thing happened. Finally, I called my dad and said “Dad, I’m trying to make grilled cheese and its just burning! What am I doing wrong?” He said “Did you cover the pan?” I blushed and giggled… nope, hadn’t covered the pan, which is why it was burning before the cheese melted!

Enough rambling… on to chilling for the last few hours of the weekend! OH! And I stole Jenn‘s idea of having a cute signature!

Ah, Nostalgia…

All through college, I loved to pretend that I could cook. Wait, that’s not quite right. I used to like to pretend I could cook fancy food. In all reality though, I could make a few things very well.

  1. Pizza Chicken
  2. Ratatouille
  3. Baked pasta (made with a jarred “baked pasta” sauce)
  4. Lemon chicken w/noodles
  5. Turkey burgers

Yeah, thats about it. #4 up there was one of my favorites because it tasted a lot like something fancy (Chicken Picatta) but it was super simple. My friends all thought that it was so fancy, and asked me to make it for them all the time. Little did they know that it stemmed from a failed attempt at trying to make ACTUAL chicken picatta!

Since Adam and I had a relaxing night planned of doing a lot of nothing, I decided it was time to break out that old non-recipe for dinner tonight. I found myself sitting on the couch, watching Food Network, eating my lemon chicken and pasta, and was immediately thrown back… I was 20 again, living in the “Blue House”, getting ready for what some people would call a “lame” night. No, wait… the Blue House days were the days of drunken craft night with Ericka, involving way too many sparkly beads and hot glue!  Enough reminiscing… on to the recipe (This is for ONE serving)

Yes, my dinner was beige with beige.

Yes, my dinner was beige with beige.

Lemon Chicken With Noodles


1 chicken breast, pounded thin

1/4 c. flour

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of 1 lemon

1 c. cooked whole wheat pasta, kept hot

1 tbsp. parmesan cheese


Mix the flour and garlic powder together in a shallow dish. In a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic together. Coatboth sides of the chicken breast with the flour mixture, and place the chicken in the pan. Cook, turning once. When the chicken is almost all the way cooked through, pour the juice of the lemon into the pan. Flip the chicken once again, and add more lemon juice if needed. Stir the parmesan cheese into the hot noodles, and eat.

Sometimes, if I got really ambitious with this recipe in college, I’d add some frozen broccoli florets. Usually though, I’d just go a little more nuts with the parmesan cheese (like, 1/2 c. or so) and about double the noodles. This is why I gained weight in college!!

Enjoy the simple recipe!

Cuban-Style Chicken, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Stew

When I was on my way home from work today, I had literally, no idea what the heck to make for dinner. No idea whatsoever. I knew I had chicken, but I also have ground beef, pasta, tomato sauce, and various other veggies… when I got home, I started scrounging. I found a sweet potato… then 2 cans of black beans… then chicken broth… then I had an idea! A quick, spicy, stovetop stew was perfect for this absolutely freezing night. I decided to take a few flavors I know and love, along with a technique I learned from making Ropa Vieja: meat + vinegar + slow (ish) cooking = really tender meat.

There were some really intense flavors here!

There were some really intense flavors here!

Cuban-Style Chicken, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Quick Stew


2 large chicken breasts, cut into chunks

1 large sweet potato, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cans (15 oz) black beans, rinsed well

1 can (15 oz) chicken broth

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Sriracha to taste

salt & pepper to taste

2 c. cooked rice

sour cream (if desired)


In a skillet with a lid (or pot), heat the olive oil and garlic. Sautee until aromatic and garlic is lightly browned. Add the chicken, sweet potatoes, beans, broth, vinegar, and spices. Stir well, bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for about 35 minutes. Serve on rice with sour cream on top.

I call this “Cuban Style” because, in many of the Cuban dishes I’ve had and made, they mix a bean-based protein, a meat-based protein, and multiple starches along with intense flavors and slow cooking. Next time I make this, it’s going into the crock pot to cook for even longer. It was very satisfying with all the different flavors and textures!

Not long after finishing dinner (and our first set of thank you notes!), there was a knock at the back door, and the UPS man handed Adam a mystery package. I recognized the name of the company on the outside of the box, but definitely did not order anything from them! Then it hit me! It was the hummus I’d won from Back In Skinny Jeans‘ giveaway! Stephanie at BISJ told me that I’d won “hummus in a tube”, but when I opened the box, there was a great surprise!



I got 4 jars of Wild Garden Hummus, 2 in original flavor and 2 in Roasted Garlic. I’m so excited to try them!

OH FELLOW BLOGGERS!!! MAKE SURE you visit Lee’s blog here to sign up for our “Secret Cupid” Valentine’s Day Exchange!