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Monday, December 10, 2012

Easy Holiday Tamales, Mole, and Cookie Recipes

It wouldn't be the holidays without cookies, and in some cultures it wouldn't be the holidays without tamales. 

My food blogger group gathered together this past Saturday for our annual (you can call it that after 2 years, right?) cookie exchange and I thought I'd whip up 4 dozen tamales to help balance the sugar rush.

Tamales are a Christmas tradition in Mexican and Latin cuisine, and making "authentic" tamales is a popular occasion for family members to make mass quantities of these bundles of comfort food.  The thing is that if you make them old-school style, from scratch, we're talking about several hours of soaking, mashing, crushing, stirring, wrapping, and steaming, and that doesn't even account for the extra fillings.  But thanks to Melissa's Tamale Kits, you can cut your tamale making time down to about 1 1/2 hours, including roasting the fresh pumpkin and cipolline onions that were the main additions to my batch.

While the veggies roasted in the oven, tossed with vegetable oil, salt & pepper, and a bit of smoked paprika for about 30 minutes, I made the tamale filling by rehydrating the masa mixture with water.  Laying out the pre-soaked (this means they come this way - you don't have to do it) corn husks, I placed a generous amount of the filling in the center, placed some nicely roasted pumpkin and cipolline onion mixture on top along with a couple of leaves of fresh cilantro, wrapped the tamales up nice and snug, then placed them standing upright in a steamer pot.  45 minutes later I had delicious, steaming hot tamales ready for a quick cook mole sauce that came next.

Mole (mo-lay) is another classic dish that can take hours or even days to prepare, hardly practical for my schedule or attention span.  I found a simple recipe online, looked in my pantry and fridge, then came up with a one-hour or so version that got thumbs up from the food blogger group.

Here are the ingredients for my easy mole sauce with simple directions:

Easy Mole Sauce
vegetable oil
1 cup diced onions (I used the same cipolline onions that went in the tamales)
1 fresh yellow chile pepper, seeds removed and diced
1/4 cup diced, roasted Hatch chiles
1 dried guajillo chile, crushed
2 Tbsp. raisins
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 cups crushed tomato sauce
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

Heat a bit of vegetable oil on medium in the bottom of a stockpot until it begins to sizzle.  Add the diced onions and cook until softened and lightly browned.  Add the diced yellow chile, crushed dried chile, and roasted Hatch chiles to the pot and stir.  Add the seeds and spices, stir to combine, and cook until spices release their fragrance or about 3 minutes.  Add the crushed tomato sauce to the pot, stir again, then add the cocoa powder and stir until well blended.  Add about 3/4 cup of water to thin out the consistency to your liking, and continue cooking about 30-40 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Serve over tamales or anything else you want to taste even more amazing.

Now back to the cookie exchange.  I tweaked traditional Mexican Wedding Cookies and brought them much further north to New Mexico with the addition of roasted Hatch chiles and cinnamon:

New Mexican Wedding Cookies
2 sticks Earth Balance vegan butter or regular butter
1 cup powdered sugar, divided in half
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup diced roasted hatch chiles
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, divided in half

Preheat oven to 350.
Beat butter, vanilla, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar until creamy.
Slowly add flour, beating on low speed until well blended.
Add pecans and blend until well combined.
Shape dough into balls, about 1" in diameter, and place on parchment lined cookie trays about 1 1/2 " apart.  Bake about 15 minutes until bottom of cookies are lightly browned, then cool 5-7 minutes out of the oven..
Mix together the remaining powdered sugar and cinnamon.  Roll warm but not hot cookies in the mixture until evenly coated and place on wire racks until completely cooled.

You might also enjoy this other post about Melissa's Tamale Kits:



  1. Nancy, I LOVE mole and this one looks great! I'm so luck I got to try one of those delicious cookies, too!

    1. Thanks Valentina! I've never made mole before and think it came out really good. Use my recipe as a guide for your own creation.

  2. Thanks for posting your cookie recipe, I can't wait to try these :)

  3. All these recipes sound scrumptious! Your mole recipe looks great, much easier than most I have seen, with no need for blenders or strainers! Was wondering how you crush the guajillo chile and how fine is it?

    I love the idea of tamales with roasted pumpkin and cipolline onions. What kind of pumpkin did you use?

    1. The dried chile crushed easily by hand. I used the Pink Pumpkin that Melissa's had available in October during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Re: the mole, depending on the consistency you like, a whisk, immersion, or regular blender would be needed.