Brainless Monday Meal (TM) Southwestern Style


Once you have had a homemade tamale, you never forget it. They.Are.Lovely.

Soft, tender, fragrant, and the filling is like a wonderful little surprise.


Once you have made tamales, one after the other, over and over and over……you never forget it. Then you have to cook them, or rather, steam them. Over and over and over…….you get it.


There isn’t another but…….but there is another but! But! You too can have a tamale-esque dish. On a Monday. In August. With very little preparation. That’s right, it’s another:

Brainless Monday Meal (TM)


I really crave tamales. They are a taste from Christmas’ past. And my favorite shopping place, Trader Joes, has a great sweet corn and cheese tamale. Unfortunately, it is filled with dairy. I am not, anymore. I don’t mind giving up dairy and just having the occasional piece of cheese – or the rare shot of whipped cream on my pumpkin pie – well, actually just straight in my mouth from the Thanksgiving can of Reddi-Whip, thank you very much. But so many of my favorite things are made with dairy that I need to work on not only converting my favorite traditional recipes to gluten-free recipes but also on converting dairy-filled recipe to  dairy-free recipes. Why would anyone give up dairy? Because it makes me feel awful. Starting seconds to minutes to days and days after I consume it. So, because I love my sanity more than cheese (but only barely), I try to live dairy-free.

It’s funny though – well, not haha funny – but sadly funny how people react when you tell them you have stopped eating dairy. When my son, Artoo, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 4, we took away dairy first. He started speaking in sentences 3 days after we took it away. Sentences. Beautiful garbled little sentences. But they were sentences. Dairy messed with his mind. When I told his pediatrician that we took away gluten and dairy she was indignant – “What is he going to eat!?!” We promptly found a new pediatrician. I didn’t care if he lived off of hamburgers, bananas and chocolate rice milk for the rest of his life – he was speaking in sentences and letting us into his world. Don’t get me wrong, he actually could live off of hamburgers, bananas and chocolate rice milk. But thankfully, he doesn’t. We did encounter a lot of resistance from healthcare professionals who were convinced everyone needed cow’s milk to survive. Even family members strongly questioned how our children would grow up healthy without dairy. “They need milk!” If we are out and strangers overhear that we are dairy-free, it is inevitably met with a snort and then a look of or the actual words: “I could never do that/I could never do that to my child.” Oof. Awkward. I try to smile. I really do. If you know me, you know how hard it is for me to fake pleasantries or forced conversation with anyone. I can’t do it. I just can’t. I am genuine and what you see is what you get. A dairy-free, middle-aged, gray-haired, frazzled mother of two teenagers.

Who can make fake food. Wait…..

How about: what I can try to do is recreate favorite dishes that I thought I could no longer enjoy?

Fake tamales don’t sound right. How about faux tamales? Tamale bowl? A quick glance through a vintage cookbook and I had it – Tamale Pie! Oh, the recipes from the 1950’s for Tamale Pie were lovely! Vintage food. I had to make this!

So I did.

The main component of tamales is the lovely corn masa that coats the cornhusks that you use to encase all of the meaty goodness. Corn masa has a special taste. Like cornbread but steamed. Kind of. The meat is also important, beef or pork, usually with a little sauce in it, wrapped in the masa-filled little present. There is nothing like it, but this came close in my book. Now, tamales are naturally gluten-free but very labor intensive. So, I wanted to make this recipe as simple as possible but with as much of the taste of a tamale as I could get.

So let’s get started! It’s Saturday and you can have Monday’s meal 90% prepared tonight! What’s not to love?



  Tamale pie!

 For this recipe you will need:

Enough chili (meaty or vegetarian) for however many people you are serving. Scroll down for a quick and easy chili recipe!

2 cups Corn Flour or Corn Meal – corn flour produces nearly the exact texture of gluten-containing flour. No, I’m not kidding – use corn flour if you have it. Our local market carries Organic Bob’s Red Mill Corn Flour. I tried this with corn meal as well, and after regrinding it in my trusty coffee grinder, it gave perfectly acceptable results!

1 cup either Oat Flour or Brown Rice Flour – either will work fine here. I preferred oat flour in my recipe.I ran my rice flour through my coffee grinder as well to see how fine I could get it.

1 cup Cashew Flour or Almond Flour – again, break out the coffee grinder! Be careful and don’t grind too long or else you’ll end up with nut butter in your coffee grinder – not good in this recipe!

6 tsps. baking powder

1/3 cup oil or butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups milk substitute


That’s it! I will say that the cashew flour/oat flour/corn flour combo produced excellent results – I highly recommend this version!

♥♥Bonus – if you would like something sweet, add 1/2 cup of coconut/organic sugar to the mix and bake it for a great, tender biscuit-like bread to serve along any other dish!♥♥


*Recipe for a small pan:

1/2 cup Corn Flour

1/4 cup Oat Flour or Brown Rice Flour

1/4 cup Cashew or Almond Flour

2 tsps. baking powder

dash of salt

2 tbsp. oil

1/3-1/2 cup of milk

Follow the directions below, as written.


1. If you are making your chili from scratch, prepare it one to two days beforehand. Store in the refrigerator, of course.

2. Preheat your oven to 425. Spread our chili into a baking dish/cast-iron pan that leaves it fairly thick. For the above picture I used a 6 inch cast-iron skillet and it made enough for two generous servings. This recipe makes enough to fill an 9 inch skillet.

3. Throw all of your dry ingredients into a bowl, add the oil and milk sub and stir quickly and thoroughly. Your batter should look like very fluffy pancake batter – add more liquid if necessary. This mixture will start to rise immediately and you want to dump it over your chili mixture as quickly as possible. Do not smooth it down over your chili! Gently shake your pan from side to side if you desire to have it cover more evenly. Put the dish in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of your pan. My small pan was ready in 10 minutes, my large pan took 20 minutes. If you like, put a toothpick in the middle of your batter to test for doneness.

4. Take out, let cool slightly and serve! That’s it. Really.

5. Seriously. It is a very filling meal, full of comfort.


*The picture below is just the batter, with the additional sugar added, the pan greased, and then baked like cornbread. If you like a more “textured” cornbread, I would use corn meal instead of corn flour.

tamale bread 2



*Artoo’s Non-Juicy Quick and Easy Chili Recipe (i.e.thick chili, slightly spicy, no beans)

2 lbs ground beef or turkey

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons cumin

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 small cans tomato paste

2 cups water

1. Thoroughly cook the meat and with a spatula, chop fine to yoiur liking.

2. Add spices, tomato paste and water – stir thoroughly. I find a potato masher helps this process along nicely!

3. Simmer for 20 minutes and enjoy!


So that’s it – a very Brainless Monday Meal (TM)!












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