Thanksgiving Turkey Tamales with Cranberry-Guajillo Mole

Tamales are often made at a family gathering called a tamalada. It’s a party where the women of the family get together to prepare a massive amount of tamales and spend some quality time together. It’s a great chance for multiple generations of one family to gather, the elders passing down a lot more than just the family recipe. They also get to share their family history and heritage.

We had an excellent teacher for our tamalada. Marvella showed us everything from preparing the banana leaves to steaming the tamales. She makes about 400 tamales a week at el Ponce, so she definitely knows what she’s doing. TheAnna was super helpful with translating. My sister Rosa got the place looking snazzy and a whole lot more, her business partner Jarina came up with some awesome cocktails, and Kaitlyn and Kellyi provided a whole lot of swag from Milagro tequila and Hendrick’s gin. I developed the recipe for the filling, which you can find below. Here’s a picture of our team, right before all the magic happened.

And if you are going to be a total badass and wrap your tamales in banana leaves, here’s how you get them soft enough to work with. Can you see the color changing in the second picture?


Thanksgiving Turkey Tamales

Thanksgiving Turkey Tamales

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Category: Appetizer
Thanksgiving Turkey Tamales


3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Mole Ingredients:
  • 4 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Ibarra unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, drained
  • 1 stale corn tortilla
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Masa Ingredients:
  • 3 cups maseca brand masa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup duck fat or nuetral oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Tamale Ingredients:
  • 4 cups shredded turkey
  • 24 banana leaves, corn husks or parchment paper


2 hours
1 hour, 30 minutes
Ready in
3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Start by making the mole. Heat a kettle with water and bring to a boil while you preheat a dry cast iron skillet on high heat. Remove the stems from the chiles and add the guajillo and ancho peppers to the skillet. Toast for a few moments on each side, until they start to become pliable. Place the peppers in a heat proof bowl and pour the water on top of the peppers until they are covered. Let them soak for about 45 minutes until they are completely soft, then strain them from the water.
  • In the meantime, process your banana leaves by heating them on the stove as shown in the pictures above. Cut your banana leaves about 10 inches wide and remove the thin, woody seam that runs along the bottom of the leaf. Place the rough side of the banana leaf down directly on the flame and move it as it changes color to a bright green. If you are using corn husks soak them in water instead. Toast your pecans and sesame seeds in a 325˚ oven for 15 minutes if they are not already toasted.
  • Preheat a saucepan on medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic. Cook them until they start to become tender, about 8 minutes. Next add the cranberries, cooking until they begin to burst, about 4 minutes.
  • Place all the mole ingredients in the blender and blend until well combined.
  • Preheat a saucepot to medium heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the sauce to the pot and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Make sure to really scrape the bottom and sides of the pan so the mole doesn't burn.
  • To make the masa, place the cornmeal and a pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the water in batches, mixing to form a dough with your hands, getting it to a consistency where it feels moist but doesn't stick to your hands. Next knead in the oil. Once the dough is formed you are ready to build your tamales.
  • Start by placing the cooked banana leaf in front of you. Make sure you cut off the hard edge. The lines should be running vertically, up and down. If there is a brown edge it should be facing you and the smoother surface of the tamale should be facing you. If there are any rips in your banana leaf, double it up or else the masa will seep through.
  • Grab a ball of masa about the size of a lime. Roll it into a ball and then place it in the center of the banana leaf. Slowly press it out from the center, creating a thin, round layer of masa. There should be no holes and the dough should be of even thickness, slightly more than a quarter inch.
  • Add about a quarter cup of shredded turkey and place in the center of the masa circle. Next spoon a couple tablespoons of mole onto the turkey.
  • Working quickly, fold the banana leaf to seal the filling inside the masa. Fold the banana leaf again, then tuck the sides in. Rest the tamale with the creased side down so it stays folded. Repeat with the rest of the tamales.
  • At this point you can freeze your tamales in a ziploc bag for about a month. When you are ready to cook your tamales, create a steam bath with a pot that has a lid. A broccoli steamer works pretty well for this. Just make sure your tamales aren't touching the water, but are elevated above it with a lid on top. Steam the tamales for about an hour and a half, you can check after 45 minutes to see if the masa is cooked. You'll know the masa is done when it pulls cleanly away from the banana leaf.
  • Serve hot. To enjoy, unwrap and discard the banana leaf. Eat with extra mole if desired.

Nutrition information

Here’s Marvella spreading the masa and adding the turkey.

If this post got you all hot and bothered for some tamales and you just don’t have the time to make them, Marvella has you covered! Stop on in at El Ponce and get you some.  El Ponce is located in Atlanta, Georgia at 939 Ponce de Leon Ave NE. They are open from 11 to 11 on weekdays. They open at noon on the weekends.

And be sure to follow my blog for more fun recipes. Thanks so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post!


Photo cred @visualrebel

Curried Chickpea Cakes


Curried Chickpea Cakes

These aren’t just a perfect vegetarian and gluten free weeknight dinner. They also work great on a party buffet!

Yield: 5 servings

1 can chickpeas (15 oz), drained and rinsed

1/2 cup zucchini, grated

1/2 cup squash, grated

1/2 cup carrots, grated

1/2 cup green peas, cooked

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp curry powder

1 tbsp garlic, grated on a microplane (about 3 cloves)

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp ghee or neutral oil


1 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and some stem

1 tbsp fresh mint leaves

1 tbsp green onion

1 clove garlic, grated

Sea salt to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

To make the sauce add the greek yogurt, cilantro, mint, green onion, grated garlic and buttermilk into a blender. Season with salt and pepper and puree until smooth.

To make the curry chickpea cakes assemble your food processor with your grater attachment, or using a hand held grater, grate the squash and zucchini. Set the grated veggies in a large bowl. Don’t worry about cleaning the bowl of the food processor.

After draining and rinsing the chickpeas, add them to your food processor and pulse it on and off for about 45 seconds. You want a lot of texture, the chickpeas should be starting to stick together, but you still want to see chunks of unsmashed chickpeas. You could also use a potato smasher as well as a mortar and pestle.

Add the chickpeas to the large bowl with the veggies, along with the shredded carrots, peas, chickpea flour, flaxseed, turmeric, curry powder, grated garlic, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well until combined.

Divide the mixture into 10 patties, or 20 if you would like to serve them as a small appetizer. Use your hands to shape them into cakes.

Heat a cast iron grill pan or a large sauté pan on high heat. Add enough ghee to coat the pan, and then lay the cakes in the pan in a single layer. Cook on both sides, about 5 minutes each, letting a nice golden crust form. Serve the hot cakes on a platter with the sauce in a small bowl on the side.

Pumpkin Flour Pancakes

I adapted this recipe from Nancy Cain’s “Against the Grain.” It is my go-to for gluten free, xantham gum free baking. There’s a good chance that if the house was on fire this book would get picked up on the way out the door. How’s that for a recommendation?

You separate the egg yolks and whites for this recipe, so that you can whip the whites and fold them into the batter. It sounds like hard work, I know, but the texture will be so much better. I promise.

I buy my pumpkin flour at the Freedom Park Farmer’s Market that’s held at the Carter Center here in Atlanta. The market is open every Saturday from 8-2. It’s also available online at


Pumpkin Flour Pancakes

Yield: 16 to 20 small pancakes

3 large eggs

¼ cup sour cream

3 tbsp canola oil

1 cup pumpkin flour

1 cup tapioca starch

3 tbsp coconut sugar (or granulated sugar)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cups milk

4 tbsp butter


For Garnish:

Powdered sugar

Toasted pecans

Toasted pumpkin seeds

Sliced Fruit

Maple syrup


Separate the eggs, place the whites in a stand mixer with the whip attachment. Place the yolks in a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. You should get a defined “peak” when you remove the whisk and turn it upside down.

While the whites are whipping add the sour cream and oil to the yolks. Mix well. Next add the pumpkin flour, tapioca starch, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix until it is fully blended and no lumps remain.

Gradually add the milk. Hold back ¼ cup so that you can adjust the consistency. Fully incorporate the milk into the batter.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, taking care to mix until they are just incorporated.

Heat a non stick pan or a griddle to medium heat. Try one test pancake to check for the ideal temperature and pancake consistency. Place a small amount of butter on the pan or griddle. Ladle 2 ounces of batter onto the hot surface, one pancake at a time, working in batches. Turn the pancake when bubbles begin to form on the top, about 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes only once and cooke them just until the underside is lightly browned, about a minute and a half.

Keep the pancakes warm and separated, wrapped in a clean kitchen towel on a plate. You can keep them warm in a low oven, or in a warming drawer.

Once all the pancakes are made divide them between the plates and garnish with powdered sugar, toasted pecans and pumpkin seeds, and some sliced fruit. Drizzle with maple syrup and serve.


Roasted Eggplant and Quinoa Salad


This roasted eggplant and quinoa salad tastes like a big ol’ bowl of sunshine. It’s a delicious, healthy addition to any backyard bbq, tailgate or potluck!


Quinoa and Eggplant Salad

yield: 4 servings

3/4 cup Quinoa

1 cup Chickpeas, raw or canned (if canned, rinse well and skip cooking step)

1 cup ripe yellow Tomato, diced

1 medium Eggplant, sliced ½” thick rounds

1 cup baby bell red Peppers, sliced thinly

1 bunch Basil, lightly chopped (about ½ cup)

1 cup Red onion, sliced thinly

¼ cup Sherry vinegar

1 to 2 Lemons, for juicing

1 cup Olive oil, divided by 1 teaspoon, ¼ cup, ½ cup

1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated

Salt and pepper, to taste


To cook the chickpeas place them in a pot and cover with water. Boil until tender, about 2 hours, covering with more water if necessary. Cook the quinoa by combining the ¾ cup of quinoa with 1 ½ cups water, a healthy pinch of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 18-20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. Allow the chickpeas and quinoa to cool down to room temperature.

Pickle the onion by tossing the thinly sliced onion with sherry vinegar and salt. Mix well, then allow to sit for 15 minutes. The onion will turn pinkish and become softer in flavor and in texture.

Preheat the grill, and drizzle a quarter cup of olive oil on the eggplant. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant until it chars a little on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, check for seasoning and serve right away or refrigerate. The salad will last for 2-3 days.



Gluten Free Jambalaya

One of the things I love the most about traveling is learning different cultures through their culinary traditions. And when you think of cultures filled with vibrant life and joyful traditions I bet New Orleans comes to mind. Full of flavor and love, New Orleans cuisine satisfies the tummy and the soul!

I remember the moment I found out about sweet rice flour being a substitute for flour in a traditional roux (butter and flour cooked together to thicken a sauce). I felt like the heavens had just opened back up for me! Jambalaya was attainable! Gravy was once again possible! Just make sure you use sweet rice flour and not regular rice flour. They are not interchangeable!


Yield: 8 servings

1 pound large shrimp (26-30’s), peeled and deveined, shells reserved

4 tbs + 1 tbs butter

4 tbs sweet rice flour

2 andouille sausages, cut in ½ inch thick coins

1  cup tasso, small diced (about 6 oz)

1 cup yellow onion, small diced

½ cup celery

½ cup green pepper

1 tbs tomato paste

1 tbs creole seasoning

2 qts chicken stock

1 ½ cups arborio rice

½ pound crawfish tails

½ pound crab meat, picked

salt and pepper to taste

2 lemons, zested

Place 1 quart of water in a small saucepot. Add the shrimp shells, bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Let the shells steep for 4 minutes, then strain, reserving only the liquid.

In the meantime, make the roux by placing 4 tbs of butter and 4 tbs of sweet rice flour in a small saucepan, and cook on medium heat, stirring every 2 minutes or so, until it takes on a dark color, about the shade of roasted peanut butter.

Take a large enameled dutch oven and heat up the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the andouille sausages. Cook until golden brown and then remove from the pan. Reserve.

Cook the tasso in the same pan on medium heat until the fat is rendered out, about 8 minutes. Next add the celery, green peppers and onions, stirring occasionally.. Sauté for another 8 minutes, then add the tomato paste and creole seasoning. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.

Add the chicken stock, shrimp stock and the rice. Bring to a simmer, then turn down to low heat and cover the pot with a lid, stirring occasionally. Allow to cook for about 25 minutes, or until rice is just tender. Add more liquid if desired.

To finish the jambalaya turn the heat up to medium and add the shrimp, andouille and the roux. Stir them in and allow to cook for about 3 minutes, until the shrimp are starting to turn from translucent to pink and opaque. Add the andouille, crawfish and crab meat. Season with salt, pepper and lemon zest. Serve hot or cool and refrigerate. Jambalaya will be good stored up to 3 days.