Simple Tamale Pie

Simple Tamale Pie

How have I lived on this earth for so long and not eaten (or MADE) tamale pie? I love Mexican food and tamales are one of my favorite dishes. My husband has made homemade tamales before, but I haven’t tried my hand at them. I tend to shy away from recipes that seem too labor and time intensive. When you work and taxi 2 daughters, you want dinner on the table quickly.

I found this recipe online and didn’t follow it. I’m known for tweaking recipes based on what ingredients I have on hand and what I think would be a healthier substitution. In this case, I subbed lean ground turkey for ground beef and used corn oil instead of melted butter. This cuts the fat content down. Another option to reduce the fat content is to use 2% milk shredded cheese in the tamale top. I made 1/2 of what the recipe called for, which made 1 perfect tamale pie.

In addition, I added a 1/2 cup of black beans which added fiber and texture to the dish. I didn’t have any tomatoes with green chiles on hand, so used a cup of prepared salsa. There were a handful of spices on the list including chile powder, cumin and salt. I opted to use a small packet of Goya seasoning, which covered all of the seasonings. I did toss in some oregano, because it gives dishes a little earthly flavor!

You could make this dish completely vegan by using 2 cans of black, red or kidney beans in place of the meat and leaving out the cheese or using a cheese substitute (such as Dayia). Vegetable broth may be used in place of chicken broth.  Below is my recipe. I hope you enjoy it. Ole!

Ingredients (for the base)

1 lb. ground turkey (93/7)

1/2 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup canned black beans (drained/rinsed)

1 cup prepared salsa (+ extra for serving over the pie)

1 packet Sazon Goya seasoning (with coriander and annatto)

1/2 tsp. dried oregano


For the tamale top

1 1/8 cup masa (corn flour)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup corn or canola oil

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9″ pie pan or one 8 x 8 baking dish with on-stick spray.
  2. In a large cast iron skillet or saute pan, brown the turkey then drain the fat.
  3. Add the onions and cook until they’re translucent, then add the garlic, black beans, salsa, Goya seasoning and oregano. Cook for another 5 minutes until the turkey is well seasoned.
  4. Place the turkey mixture into the prepared pan.
  5. For the topping, combine the masa, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the chicken broth, then the oil and whisk until smooth. Stir in the cheese.
  6. Spoon the corn batter evenly over the top of the meat mixture, patting it down to form a crust.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the masa top is lightly browned or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Top with additional salsa or enchilada sauce before serving.

Makes 6 servings. 



Quinoa salad with chickpeas, fresh herbs and lemon tahini dressing

Quinoa salad with chickpeas, fresh herbs and lemon tahini dressing

I adapted this salad recipe from cookieandkate.com and it’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. I’m not kidding. I did a food demo for the Cancer Support Center this past weekend. Since it’s summer, I wanted to focus on fresh herbs and what might be in someone’s garden (or could easily be picked up at the store). I’m proud to say that the basil used was from my back deck!

This salad combines the most nutrient dense foods you can find including quinoa, chick peas, spinach, fresh garlic, tahini, lemon juice and fresh herbs. Quinoa is considered a “complete protein”, although technically, it’s lower in lysine than soy. It’s still an excellent source of protein and fiber and botanically is a seed but classified as a grain in the nutrition world.

I used natural (AKA white quinoa), but red quinoa could easily be used to change up the color of the salad. This recipe called for spinach, but kale could be substituted if desired. I accidentally left out the feta cheese, but since the dressing had a creamy texture (from tahini), I really didn’t miss it. Leaving it out is fine if you want to keep the salad vegan.

Chick peas added flavor and texture to the salad as well as protein and fiber. I can see Cannellini, Great Norther or Navy beans in this salad as well. If you’ve got fresh mint on hand- toss it in! It would go well with the parsley and basil.

Toasting pumpkin seeds in the microwave toasts them more easily and prevents you from having to baby sit them at the stove. Other nuts or seeds (such as walnuts or slivered almonds) would be delicious, too. Enjoy!



  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed in a fine-mesh colander
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups ripped baby spinach
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ⅓ cup chopped green onion (green parts only)
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta (optional)
  • ⅓ cup toasted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

Lemon-tahini dressing

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 large clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Combine rinsed quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Boil quinoa over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 13 minutes until quinoa has absorbed all the water. Remove from heat, cover, and flush the quinoa. Set aside to cool.
  2. Toast pumpkin seeds in the microwave by layering them on a flat surface. Microwave for 1 minute at a time, turning the seeds until browned.
  3. For dressing: In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, salt and several twists of freshly ground pepper. Taste and add extra lemon juice and/or more pepper as desired.
  4. Add the chickpeas, spinach, parsley, basil, green onion, feta and toasted pepitas to the quinoa. Drizzle dressing over the salad, and toss to combine. Serve immediately, or let it cool and refrigerate for later. Salad keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.

Makes 8-10 servings.


Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic vinegar glaze

Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic vinegar glaze

If you’ve shunned Brussels sprouts, perhaps you’ve never tried them roasted? Roasting vegetables mellows their flavor and provides a crispy, crunchy texture and reduces the bitterness of these tiny cabbages. Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family- a powerhouse of vegetables high in vitamin C, folate, potassium and cancer-fighting nutrients including kaempferol, a nutrient found to reduce inflammation and cancer cell growth. Other cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and collard greens.

Like other green leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts also provide a hefty dose of vitamin K– the fat-soluble vitamin needed for blood clotting and bone health. Your gut bacteria also produces vitamin K, so keep eating high fiber foods to keep it alive.

With less than 50 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates per cup, Brussels sprouts are also easy on the waistline and won’t wreck your blood sugar. Below is a simple recipe to give this great veggie another chance!


20-25 fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered

2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (can sub apple cider vinegar)

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place cleaned Brussels sprouts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  3. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together to make a dressing.
  4. Drizzle the sprouts with the balsamic dressing then roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until browned and crispy.

Makes 4 servings. 


Tomato cucumber salad with balsamic dressing and basil

Tomato cucumber salad with balsamic dressing and basil

I’ll admit- I don’t have a green thumb. Give me a plant and it will likely be brown within a week. Maybe it’s because my schedule in the past was more hectic and I’d forget to water my plants. With COVID19, I’m home and enjoying my deck more often where my basil plant resides. I also have a tomato plant that’s doing quite well, thank you very much! I hope they are ripe by August to use.

Being a huge fan of Mediterranean food, I love having fresh basil to toss in pasta, salads or veggies. I had some leftover white beans from another dish as well as a few dying cucumbers and ripe tomatoes. I chopped a few things and now I have a new salad.

What’s funny about ‘salad’ is that most people assume it will just be some greens and other veggies and dressing. When you add beans, lentils, edamame or chick peas to a salad, it makes it more of a meal. All types of dried beans and legumes are high in protein and fiber, which are way more filling to eat than just romaine or spinach. These also add color and texture to your salads to make them more interesting.

Here’s a tasty salad to try:


1/2 cucumber, chopped

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 small handful fresh basil leaves, ripped

1 can white beans (Navy, Great Northern or canellinni)

1 Tbsp. feta cheese

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Dash of salt


  1. Combine the cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, beans and feta cheese in a large salad bowl.
  2. Whisk vinegar and olive oil together and drizzle over the salad.
  3. Toss salad with a dash of salt and serve cold.

Makes 4 servings.

Cinnamon dusted sweet potatoes

Cinnamon dusted sweet potatoes

While I realize it’s summer, I still have favorite foods that I incorporate in my meals all year long. Sweet potatoes are one of them. Despite their name, sweet potatoes have a slightly lower glycemic index than white potatoes, which means they don’t raise your blood sugar as quickly after eating. Eating the skin of potatoes increases fiber consumption- just be sure to scrub the skin well to remove any dirt or pesticides.

In addition to fiber, that beautiful bright orange hue of sweet potatoes is compliments of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene gets converted to vitamin A in the body, and is found in other brightly colored fruits and vegetables including carrots, cantaloupe, acorn and butternut squash, apricots, peaches, nectarines and mangoes. Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin and immunity and is best to get in your diet VS supplements.

Long term beta-carotene intake (> 18 years) from food, has been linked with improved cognition in older adults in one study of over 4,000 men. In addition, foods high in beta-carotene are protective against lung cancer and reduce the risk of macular degeneration- a disease of the eye that impacts vision. Beta-carotene is more bio-available when cooked VS raw. So, when you eat cooked carrots, your body actually absorbs more of the antioxidant.

Fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene have also been linked with cancer reduction due to their high anti-oxidant content, which help fight free radicals that damage cells and DNA in your body. Fruit and vegetable intake (in addition to not smoking, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise) is one of your best defenses in preventing cancer. Include more if your diet whenever you can (especially vegetables, which are lower in calories).

Sweet (and white) potatoes also provide potassium– an essential mineral that aids in blood pressure reduction. Potassium has recently been added to the food label because of its role in blood pressure. You can also find potassium in green leafy vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, mustard and collard greens and broccoli. I eat something green and leafy at least once a day, but typically more.

Below is the recipe for this simple side dish:


2 large sweet potatoes, cleaned and cut into 1/2″ discs, then cut in half

Non-stick cooking spray



Seasoned salt


  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Spray a large baking pan with non stick spray.
  3. Place the cut sweet potatoes on the baking pan and spread them out.
  4. Spray the potatoes with non-stick spray.
  5. Dust the potatoes with one pass of each: cinnamon, cumin, and seasoned salt.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 15 minutes until potatoes are slightly soft.

Makes 4 servings (roughly 1/2 cup each).


Sweet cabbage slaw with fresh pineapple and sunflower seeds

Sweet cabbage slaw with fresh pineapple and sunflower seeds

Looking for a deliciously different salad this spring? Try this one! I picked up a bag of cole slaw mix the other day thinking I’d sautee it with onions and serve it with egg noodles. For anyone familiar with Hungarian cuisine, this combination is called Haluska or Haluski, in some circles. It’s a popular dish served at weddings in my home town in Northeastern Ohio and is considered comfort food.

But since the temps have gotten higher, the thought of being over a hot stove cooking cabbage and boiling egg noodles was not so appealing. So I opted to make a new salad.

This salad is simple, fresh, nutritious AND delicious. My motto is, “food is for eating”. If it doesn’t taste good to you, why bother?

Cabbage is an often overlooked vegetable, but it shouldn’t be. It’s part of the cruciferous vegetable family along with broccoli and cauliflower. It’s an excellent source of vitamins K and C as well as anti-oxidants and phytochemical that help prevent disease, notably cancer. In addition, it’s low in calories and provides some folate, a B vitamin needed to protect DNA (kinda important)!

I used green grapes in this salad, but red grapes would add more color to the dish. If you don’t have poppy seed dressing you could use a honey mustard or other sweet vinaigrette. Pineapple boosts the fiber and vitamin C content of the salad as well as the texture and taste. It’s also in season now, so take advantage!

If you don’t have sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds would make a good substitute or slivered almonds would work well, too. I like to add nuts or seeds to my salads for texture, taste and heart-healthy fats.


1 (10 oz) bag cole slaw mixed or 1 head cabbage, shredded

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pineapple chunks

1/2 cup green or red grapes, cut in half

1/2 cup poppy seed dressing


  1. Place cole slaw mix in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add sunflower seeds, pineapple chunks, grapes and poppy seed dressing.
  3. Toss slaw and fruit to coat.
  4. Serve cold.

Makes 6 servings. 

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