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Thursday, September 30, 2021

My Week, Making Tamales and Finding New Ways to Use Grape Leaves

the inside view of our homemade tamales, using our homegrown corn husks as wraps

Friday night I had made some stuffed grape leaves which gave me the thought that the same ingredients might also make a good soup. So on Saturday, I made a grape leaves, rice and beef soup, containing finely shredded grape leaves, onions, lots of garlic, dill weed, oregano, vegetable stock, beef bouillon, ground beef, salt and pepper. The soup differed slightly in ingredients, mostly the addition of ground beef. I really didn't know if my family would like this, but it turns out they loved it! So, the next day I harvested a bunch of medium-sized grape leaves, shredded them, and froze them in packets for soup in winter.

I made our year's supply of plum and apple chutney over the weekend, using our garden plums and apples, plus onions, vinegar, sugar, and spices. I'm looking forward to curry dishes this fall and winter. And I made sweet pickle relish using green tomatoes, green peppers, onions, vinegar, sugar, and spices. I picked over our tomato plants pretty well but didn't pull the plants out of the ground altogether. There could still be a handful of small greens ones developing which I could use to make a small batch of dill relish early next week.

We harvested our meager crop of corn for Saturday's dinner. It was tasty, but not much kernel development. I did, however, save the husks for making tamales. And I have the bonus of free corn stalks for fall decor. 

After shucking the corn on Saturday, I soaked the good parts of the husks in salt water overnight, then the next day I drained and wrapped them in a towel and refrigerated until I wanted to make the tamales. On Monday, I made chicken tamales. This was my first time ever making tamales. It wasn't as difficult or time consuming as I'd thought they might be. I followed a basic technique of making a meat, spice and olive filling plus a cornmeal dough. The meat I chose was b/s chicken breast. I simmered the breast in water, drained (but saved the liquid), then added seasonings and chopped olives. For the dough, I didn't have masa harina, so I used regular corn meal and it worked just fine. Masa harina is a grind of dried corn that is commonly used in corn tortillas. It's instantly binding and makes a good dough. Cornmeal is coarser, but when mixed with shortening and liquid from poaching the chicken breast, it held together enough to spread on the corn husks. I didn't use as large a quantity of shortening as recipes called for, yet that didn't seem to matter. BTW, I still had a pint of chicken poaching liquid leftover. I saved that for use in a pumpkin soup, along with some drained vegetable liquids after chopping green tomatoes, peppers, and onions for making relish. I save all kinds of liquids to add to the stock for homemade soup. I think saving cooking liquids and fats may be hallmarks of tightwads everywhere.

Speaking of saving oil, I don't know if you do this too, but when I use too much oil in roasting or sautéing vegetables (and it's clear there's a lot left in the pan after cooking), instead of wiping out the pan I put the oily pan in the fridge and reuse it the next day. So, after Wednesday's roasted potatoes and sautéed cole crop veggies, I put the oily baking sheet and skillet in the fridge overnight and reused them the next day. I laugh a bit because I think it would look strange to a visitor who might open my fridge and see "empty" but used baking/cooking pans. But I figure this practice is no worse than pouring the residual oil into a cup and storing in the fridge overnight. Again, I think this is just more testament to my waste-nothing mindset. Anyway, on Thursday I made a small batch of oven-roasted potatoes as a snack for us all, and the oily skillet was used for sautéing more garden greens.

I began sprouting lentils indoors again. Wednesday evening I set a 1/4 cup of dry lentils to soak over night. I drained the lentils Thursday morning, then left to do their thing in a jar on the counter. By bedtime on Thursday I could see the beginnings of sprouts emerging from the seeds. Looking good. Our garden bounty is beginning to wane a bit and I knew we'd want some cheap additional fresh veggies to add to October salads. Sprouting lentils is easy, doesn't take up very much kitchen space, and only requires the light we get through a window (for greening up the sprouts at the end of their growth). 

As I took my morning walk through the garden on Thursday, I thought more about the grape leaves. They'll be falling off the vines soon, so if I want to use more I should do so in a hurry. I picked a large handful and washed them to use with Friday's dinner. I'm planning on shredding the leaves, sautéing in some oil with garlic and onion, then tossing with cooked pasta, plain yogurt, dill, and additional minced garlic. Keeping my fingers crossed that this will be tasty.

And now here we are, back to Friday again. Tonight will be another pizza and movie night. It's my week to choose the movie and I've chosen The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. 

How was your week? Have you made tamales before? If you have, do you have any tips? 

Wishing you all a weekend of abundance!

One other post today -- Cheap & Cheerful Meals for this Last Week


  1. I have not made tamales before, but I watched my niece make dozens of them for an open house she had. It runs in the family because her mother made them as the main dish for her daughter's wedding reception. It looked like a lot of work to me, but I really enjoyed eating them. :)

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I suppose making enough tamales to feed a wedding reception of guests or open house would be a lot of work. For my own family, it was no more work than making stuffed grape leaves That's great that you got to watch as your niece made a batch. It always helps me decide if I want to try something, or even gives me some encouragement, to watch someone else do or make something.

  2. Haven't made tamales before, but they sound delicious! And good for you on the use of the grape leaves. A former boss of mine was Lebanese and made us stuffed grape leaves. I thought they were quite good. I did use some of our grape leaves in our home-canned pickles this year.

    We have eaten sweet potato leaves, and I've been feeding some to the ducks, as well. They love their fresh daily greens.

    Currently, still harvesting and preserving Hatch chiles and the fall crop of green beans. And I have about half of the sweet potatoes yet to harvest. Just planted out the fall lettuces a week or so back, and the brassicas are growing well.

    1. That was me above. Not sure why I'm not logged in.

    2. Hi Cat,
      I actually guessed that was you because of the ducks!
      I use grape leaves in home-canned dill pickles instead of alum and it seems to work well. I didn't realize sweet potato leaves were edible. That would not have occurred to me. Wow, your garden is still going gang busters. Enjoy all of your bounty!

  3. Hi Lili - you are so creative and resourceful. I have grapevines so there are a lot of leaves. Do you just pick the leaves when the grapes are ripe? Also, I few posts ago you mentioned using radish greens. Our radishes are a little too spicy for our taste - do you have any recommendations on using them in a different way in order to tone down the heat?

  4. Hi Lili - you are so creative and resourceful. I have grapevines so there are a lot of leaves. Do you just pick the leaves when the grapes are ripe? Also, I few posts ago you mentioned using radish greens. Our radishes are a little too spicy for our taste - do you have any recommendations on using them in a different way in order to tone down the heat?

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      Thank you for your kind words!
      As for grape leaves, I've been picking them all season. You want to use the most tender, small to medium-sized leaves. I haven't picked the vines bare, so I think you could pick some, here and there, and this have enough leaves for the plants to continue growing and ripening the grapes.
      For radishes or radish greens that are too spicy to eat raw, I think the best ways to use them is cooked with other ingredients, like chopped and added to soup or stew or chopped and cooked with potatoes and mashed. The other ingredients help mask the sharpness. Cheese sauce is also good over steamed radish or other sharp greens. Good luck with these, Ruthie!

      Have a wonderful weekend! I hope the weather is pleasant and sunny, there.


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