Food and taste are cyclical in a person’s life. A dish that is a hands-down favorite in your childhood may not seem so desirable as an adult. Take scrambled eggs. These were my favorite childhood breakfast, but once I was a teenager I detested their wobbly texture and thought their odor was slightly sulfuric. Then, when I was pregnant, I couldn’t seem to eat enough scrambled eggs.
So what does this have to do with tamale pie? Everything. You see tamale pie is one of those dishes many of us loved in our youth, but then either forgot about or hated once we were in our 20s. The whole casserole thing belonged to a time of culinary naiveté from the 70s and 80s, and so we tucked the thought of tamale pie away with deviled eggs and Jell-O.
But now that I’m a mom trying to find new meals for my kids to eat, I have finally come full circle. What seemed unsophisticated a few years ago now seems like a completely legitimate dinner for a family with two kids. There is nothing urbane or refined about a weekday meal crammed in between homework and Girl Scouts and a quick casserole that is full of nutritious ingredients your kids will eat without complaint is the only appeal you need. From Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole to Cheesy Enchilada Casserole, my weekday meals are relying more and more on one-dish recipes that fall into the category of comfort food and are easy on a kid’s tongue. Bring on the casseroles and pass the sour cream!
Here’s my Half-the-Meat Tamale Pie recipe. Unlike other similar casseroles, this one uses only a half-pound of meat (either beef or turkey is fine) plus two cups of whole beans. This makes it not only more heart healthy, but also incredibly inexpensive. The entire dinner for four to six people costs about $10 to make and includes fresh vegetables like Anaheim peppers and whole kernels of corn. It’s also a dish my children love, and I have to say that although I wouldn’t have made this dish in my 20s, I am rather fond of it now.
I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise's Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.