Tag Archives: tomato

Tamale Pie

tamale pie with saladWith salad or garlic bread on the side, tamale pie makes a perfect winter’s night meal. It’s a Tex-Mex type of shepherd’s pie or baked polenta with tomato sauce. My husband uses his mother’s recipe, but has adapted it.

Jim’s Tamale Pie Recipe

“Basically, you make taco filling and put corn meal on top.”

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • dash cayenne
  • 2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes (whole or diced)
  • 1 1/2 cups corn (frozen, or 1 14 oz. can)
  • 1 cup black olives
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup grated cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar)
Make sauce

Sauté garlic, onion, celery, peppers and ground beef in a frying pan. Cook until meat is lightly browned. Add seasonings, tomatoes, corn and olives. Simmer 15 minutes. Oil a deep casserole dish and transfer mixture to it. (Or, if your casserole dish is stove top safe, use it for the frying as well.)

Make corn meal topping

Mix corn meal with 1 cup cold water. Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Add salt and cornmeal mixture. Cook and tamale piestir until thickened. Reduce heat, cover pan and cook over low heat for 10 mins. Stir occasionally.

Pour over meat mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 350°F oven about an hour. Serves 4 or 5.

Marji’s recipe

tamale-pie-recipe card 2I don’t know who this recipe card originally came from. It is not in Marji’s handwriting. I think she likely adapted it much the way he has. Cut down the salt, increase the ‘heat’ with jalapeños and eliminate the fat. However, Jim says that bacon fat would make it more flavourful. You can click the images for a larger view.


An excellent medium tomato salsa. It is chunky so if you want a smoother salsa on chipsalsa, cut your veggies into smaller pieces. If you want it hotter, increase the jalapeños. To keep the veggie balance, decrease the green peppers. The tomato sauce and paste give it a nice, thick texture.

As posted by Jazze22, the recipe says 45 minutes preparation and 1¼ hours total time. Preparation – peeling and chopping – took me way longer than that. I chopped everything by hand, and maybe a food processor would be faster. I peeled and chopped long enough to start thinking longingly of supermarket shelves lined with jars of salsa. However, after finally finishing, mine tasted so good and I know exactly what is in it and what isn’t. And that’s worth a lot. Isn’t it?

(* indicates my addition to the original recipe)

Salsa Ingredients

chopped veggies

  • 8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained (4-5 lbs whole*)
  • 2 1⁄2 cups onions, chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 cups green peppers
  • 1 cup jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed*
  • 1⁄8 cup canning salt
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup vinegar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (12 ounce) can tomato pastecooked veggies


  • Mix all together and bring to a slow boil for 10 minutes (medium heat*)
  • Seal in jars and cook in hot water bath for 10 minutes

Yields 3 quarts or 6 pints. (I got 5 pints with a bit left over)

(See my Tomatoes for ways of quickly dealing with them if you’ve got lots.)

jars of salsa

TVP Pasta Sauce

TVP tomato sauce on spaghettiIf you’re vegetarian or not, TVP is your friend. ‘Textured Vegetable Protein’ is a soy product that looks like bacon bits or small cat kibble. You can buy it in most grocery stores. I found it in my local bulk store. It’s cheap and good.

Add boiling water to TVP

In case you get it without instructions, just add the same amount of boiling water to your amount of TVP and let it sit a couple minutes until the water is absorbed. That’s it cooked. For spaghetti sauce, just add the ‘cooked’ TVP to your tomato sauce and let it heat through. And you’re done.

TVP tomato sauce with grated cheeseYou can use Textured Vegetable Protein pretty much anywhere you’d use ground beef. I’ve never tried making meatloaf out of it, but you might be able to. Just make sure you use enough of a binding agent, like egg or gluten, to keep it loaf-like. It has no grease, of course, so you want to make sure it doesn’t just crumble. That’s why pasta sauces are so easy to make with it.

I made the tomato sauce pictured here using a half cup of TVP, half a jar of ready-made pasta sauce and about 2 cups of stewed fresh tomatoes. Add herbs as usual and that’s it. This has grated cheddar on top. You can also use parmesan of course. Or soy cheese if you want to keep it vegan.



bag of tomatoesFreezing is probably the easiest way to prepare a supply of tomatoes. In season, buy a large quantity of them or grow your own. At other times of the year, look in the reduced food bin for bags of tomatoes priced for quick sale.

Blanch to remove skin – or not

If you’re a purist, heat a pot of water to boiling. Keep it simmering and put the washed whole tomatoes in it for 20 seconds or so (blanching). Use a big slotted spoon to put them in and take them out. Run cold water over them to stop the blanching and cool them. Then cut the core out and use your small knife to gently peel the skin off. It should just slide off. Plum tomatoes are especially easy to peel, and make the best tomato sauce. If, like me, you’re not a purist and don’t mind pieces of tomato skin in your sauce, just wash the tomatoes and cut the core out.

Cut – or not – and cook

Cored whole tomato ready to halveThen half or quarter the tomatoes or, best for flavour retention, leave them whole and cook them. Add a tiny bit of water to your pot in order to keep the tomatoes from burning. Better yet, turn the heat on very low until they cook a bit and produce their own liquid.

You can add herbs and seasonings to the pot or just leave them so you can flavour them later when making the final product. Cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. The length of time depends on the amount of tomatoes, the size and the tomatoes cookingdegree of softness you want. Figure on an hour to an hour and a half for a large pot.

When they’re done, open a large size freezer bag and stand it on end. You can also put it in a container, like a tall milk pitcher.

Fill freezer bags

Use your large slotted spoon to carefully spoon the tomatoes into the bag. The pitcher averts spilled tomatoes all over your counter until you get the hang of spooning and holding the bag upright at the same time. Two people doing this can also avoid accidents. Fill the bag about half full. Zip it up and it should lay almost flat.

Make sure the outside of the bags are dry so they don’t freeze together, and lay them flat on top of each other in your freezer, and presto, tomatoes ready for sauce-making. Each bag is about freezer bags of tomatoesequivalent to a large can of tomatoes. At harvest prices, four bags cost about the same as one can.

You’ll have tomato-flavoured water left. You can freeze it in small containers and use it like you’d use any vegetable stock, in soups or stews.

Freeze uncooked whole tomatoes

You can freeze uncooked whole tomatoes too – blanch and peel them if you like or just pull the stem off and wash them. Put them in the freezer on cookie sheets, making sure they are not touching. After they’ve frozen, bag them up and put them back in the freezer. You won’t be able to use them as “fresh” tomatoes, like in salad, but they’re fine for cooking. The only disadvantage is they take more freezer space than cooked ones do.


Two caveats about home-made frozen tomatoes. One: the slight thickness of the liquid that is in canned tomatoes isn’t there. I don’t know what is in canned tomatoes to give that, and I like it for helping the texture of your final tomato sauce. You get the same thing from home-canned tomatoes. Maybe it’s the heat-retention from long cooking. Maybe that’s what “stewing in your own juices” means. To approximate it with frozen tomatoes, I’ve added a bit of flour or cornstarch in the final sauce. I’ve also added canned tomato soup or tomato paste thickened with a bit of flour or cornstarch. You just want something that makes your sauce less watery.

Two: I watched Chef at Home once when chef Michael Smith was talking about tomato sauces. He prefers canned tomatoes over fresh because the lag time between picking and processing is less. Canned tomatoes, he said, literally are picked in the field and canned next door, within a very short period of time. Therefore, they are at the height of ripeness and freshness.

Also he prefers canned whole whole tomatoes plum photo D Stewarttomatoes to diced. Whole tomatoes, he said, require only one cooking process in their canning whereas halved or diced tomatoes require two. In your cooking, you ‘process’ them yet again, and each time they lose nutrients. So, despite the appeal of fresh tomatoes cooked slowly into a lovely pasta sauce, you’re actually better off with a can. Who knew?

If money is as much an issue as nutrients, there is a compromise. Supplement your store-bought can with cheap fresh (or frozen or home-canned) tomatoes.