Kale, Apple, Ancho Chili Tamales

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The mouse is dead. I repeat, the mouse that has occupied my kitchen for the past four months has finally cycled into another existence, hopefully as a squirrel or more savory varmint far away from this address. A few nights ago Shaun and I were laying in bed, almost asleep, when we were startled by the sound of crinkling, crackling, and nibbling in the office. The office, I’m telling you, which is upstairs and about a million Shaun-sized paces from the kitchen. I jumped out of bed and barreled down the hall in my underwear, shaking my hands in the air hollering “Mark my words, this is it! (expletives) This is your last night!” I reloaded and repositioned every  trap in the living room, dining room, and kitchen with gobs of peanut butter and brie (as it was suggested, a Happyolks mouse might have advanced taste). At work the next day I got a two word text message from Shaun around 3 pm, “Got him,” two glorious day-making words, and I proceeded to gloat to every co-worker who had been following my persistent rodent woes since October. Do not cross a girl chasing a mouse in her underwear. She means business.

You see, it’s finally a new year now. 2013 started on January 17th here in Denver. I have conquered the mouse and I am quite certain that I will now be able to conquer anything that the year has in store. Broke as as joke? Psh, What else is new. Pimples and wrinkles? BRING IT. Stolen bike? These legs are good to walk, skip, and run. I went to bed that night, in a mouse-less house, struck with sudden desires to learn to drive a stick shift, take a self defense class, ask to be compensated for my work, and generally be more spontaneous and kick-butt. Heck, I thought, if I can kill the smartest mouse in the history of mice, I can probably take a stab at croissants, tamales, mole, merengue, kombucha, and other seemingly terrifying cooking projects with style. 

So… in the three days since the mouse was evicted I got a nose ring, dropped three grand on airfare to Chile, and made tamales, with kale and apples, which, for the record, are totally not hard and you should try immediately. You will feel like Joan of Arc and go on to make crazy-wonderful and empowered decisions in your day and year.

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Kale, Apple, Ancho Chili Tamales 


  • 4 cups Masa Harina
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil



  • 2 bunches lacinato (dinasaur) kale
  • 3 cups shredded mixed mexican cheese
  • 1 fuji apple, small dice
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Juice of one lime



  • 20 dried corn husks
  • Sauce from here.


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First thing is first, submerge corn husks in a deep bowl with boiling water and allow to soften for 30 minutes to 1 hour. I use a heavy jar of coconut oil to keep the husks from floating. In a large bowl combine masa, baking powder, oregano, and salt. Mix together warm water and melted coconut oil and pour over masa mixture, stirring until a dough forms. Set aside and cover.

In a large cast iron or heavy skillet, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent but not browned. Add the ancho and chipotle powders and the juice of the lime. Stir and let simmer. Remove spines of the kale and roughly tear leaves into the onion mixture on the stove. Stir in apples, fresh jalapeno and salt. Cook until the kale is wilted and apples are tender. Remove from heat, mix in cheese to melt.

For the assembly of the tamales, create an assembly line of bowls with the masa, husks, and filling. Place one softened husk on the cutting board or counter and fill with dough. I didn’t measure, but I’d estimate I used +/- a 1/2 cup of masa mixture per tamale. Press dough into the face of the husk leaving an inch or so dead space around the perimeter. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Don’t sweat it. Spoon a bit of the cheesy kale mixture into the center of the masa platform you’ve created. I think I used more like 1/3 cup of filling per tamale. None of them are the same size or shape, just go with it. Wrap like you would a book-shaped gift, fold over the right side then the left, overlapping the edges. Flip up the bottom tail and place seam-side down on a plate. Repeat until you have filled 15-20 tamales, depending on how full you stuff them.

To steam the tamales I used a large pot with the pasta-colander attachment, although I have read and heard about steaming racks that can be placed in caserole dishes and the like. I imagine you could easily use a pop-out vegetable steamer in a deep pot or even a rice cooker, too. Place all the tamales in the basin of the vessel with the seam sides down. Cook for 45 minutes.

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  1. Kathryn

    High five for dealing with the mouse – I hope it is the first of many small (and not so small) victories for you this year.


  2. Anne's Kitchen

    Oh wow these look stunning! I’ve never seen corn husks in any shops, where did you get those from?


  3. Kathy

    These are beautiful!! Thank you for the nice photos they make it much easier to follow! :)


  4. Kate

    In all seriousness, WOW. Those look so good and well, I salute you making that effort because…yeah. Wow.


  5. Maria Tadic

    Congrats on the mouse! We had one before and finally my hubby caught him with some nice almond butter. It’s nice to the have the kitchen back to yourself, I bet?!


  6. Kristina

    we love to make tamales – we love ancho chile – these sound amazing. happy new *mouseless* year!


  7. Chelsea

    You are just so darn inspiring. Delicious recipe and on point life advice, as usual.


  8. la domestique

    Yes! I feel all fired up and ready to kick butt today too! I’ve never made tamales, but now I know I must. They look so good.


  9. Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough

    Gooooood grief these tamales look scrumptious. Mmm!


  10. Lana Pribic

    Your determination to kick life in the ass when it’s kicking you is my favourite theme of your blog. You go.

    Also… Oh my god, that portrait shot of you and the sun beaming. I dieeeeee.


  11. Ashlae

    HOORAY for catching that pesky creature! HOORAY for Chile! HOORAY for tamales.


  12. Kankana

    I laughed out loud at ‘Do not cross a girl chasing a mouse in her underwear. She means business’ teehee! And those tamales looks stunning and I am loving all the shots. Beautiful work as always.


  13. Laura

    YES girl! Kill ’em all. This is my guiding mantra for 2013 :)))


  14. Courtney

    The part about chasing a mouse in underwear reminded me of something I had forgotten. My Dad did that once when we had a recurring mouse problem! Anywho, the tamales look amazing and I’m hoping to make them as soon as I find some corn husks. It’s always such an amazing feeling to successfully make something that you previously viewed as terrifying.

    Oh, and if you get a chance while you are in Chile, see if you can take a side trip to Rapa Nui (Easter Island). I was there for 6 weeks as part of my undergrad studies and fell in love with the place :)


  15. Ashley

    Tamales are only my favorite food ever and now you up the ante by adding kale and other delicious items?? My brain is about to explode. Yes, yes, yes. Beautiful photos, per usual.


  16. Abbe@This is How I Cook

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news. In my experience there is usually more than one mouse. Do not let up on the traps! On the other hand-those tamales may even tempt a mouse. They certainly have tempted me…


  17. Emily

    Yay. This makes me happy. A few years ago – actually it was exactly 4 because it was the last inauguration – I nixed January 1st as the start of the year because it had gotten off to such an inauspicious beginning, and I went for a restart on January 21st. And I, with some friends, declared it would be the best year ever (B.Y.E for short), and it really wound up working! (I’m with you on the mouse thing too – we caught 7 (7!!!!!!) in our kitchen in September. I saw one scurry across the floor in the dark one early morning, and after that I went on a rampage until the entire mouse family was evicted.)


  18. Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Oy… mice. Yeah, we’re dealing with those creatures as well. Last night we heard the snap of the trap and Maki freaked out and started barking at the dead thing. This is where I let Eric take over… he has to flush them down the toilet. One day I’m going to be stuck doing it and I won’t be happy.

    But do you know what will make me happy? These tamales. They’re going to be on my mind for months to come.


  19. Jewel @Eat.Drink.Shop.Love

    These look amazing. Can you come to my house and make these for me?


  20. sara

    yea. baby! Whatever it takes. I was feeling anxious about booking a big trip for the cost, even had family say “I thought you guys were saving for a house?”. We are both over the moon excited, I don’t care if it sets us back, travel is never regretted. ever. So excited for you guys. Tackle the world, Kelsey Brown!


  21. jessica

    For the self-defense class, try Krav Maga. I went to a class/seminar this past weekend and really liked it. It is a practical way to look at defending yourself as a woman. Real situations with instinctive responses. I did a 3hour seminar but they also do 8week classes.


  22. Sarah

    You are a boss of epic proportions.

    Consequently, how do you get that great effect in all your photos, the slightly washed out look? It’s beautiful.


  23. molly

    Ha! I actually spent this afternoon folding laundry, in our dungeon/basement, with a steady CRINKLE CRUNCH CRUNCH over. my. head., as a mouse nibbled away at the trap in the rafters. Fold Shirt *CRUNCH *Fold Pants*CRINCH*Ball Up Socks*CRRRRUNCH*Fold Towel…. No SNAP!, mind you. Just CRUNCH and MUNCH. Like I’d left him a sweet midnight snack. #*()@*#

    I’m newly empowered. Brie and PB, it is, then. And January 17, as well. Happy New Year, Kelsey.



  24. A-Man

    Pretty much the best tamale in town! SOOOOO GOOOD!!!!


  25. Keia Mastrianni

    Ooooh, I had tamales this past weekend and wondered whether I’d be brave enough to make them on my own. Thanks for the confident nudge and stunning recipe. So, 3 grand to Chile? Was that for two tickets? I was adopted from there and have never been back. My husband and I are trying to go in November. When are you headed there?


  26. Renee

    Well done – on everything!


  27. Jacqui

    I have some great memories surrounding homemade tamales. Some with my aunt and another that involves a mushroom cloud of smoke while making them with friends. Absolutely love your kale and apple version! And congrats on the ended mouse hunt!


  28. Julia

    I adore tamales and tend to stay away from them because they can be so packed with fat….but your take on tamales is so fresh and full of nutrition!! I must make these soon!


  29. Whitney @ The Newlywed Chefs

    Hi there! I’m new to this site and just love it. This recipe looks fabulous and your photography is stunning. Can’t wait to read more soon!


  30. ileana

    Love, love, love this post. Have a most awesome time in Chile! And let us know what else this newfound and bold confidence leads to!


  31. carrian

    Hi Kelsey!!!
    So, so glad that we met this weekend. I absolutely adore your site and cannot wait to keep in touch with you. Your photography is gorgeous!!! Gah, I wish we could have had more time to visit with one another. Next time!


  32. Katie@Real Food Katie's Way

    VICTORY IS YOURS!!!! I absolutely know how violated you feel when you have a little rodent occupying your house…This past fall I went CRAZY trying to find it…I almost pulled a Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic when she hears the beetle…E very. Single. Floor. Board. Being. Ripped. Up.

    Congrats on booking the airfare for Chile…I am woman hear me roar!


  33. Maria

    Love the tamales! I enjoyed meeting you at Alt! Come back to Utah soon! xo


  34. Caroline

    Hi Kelsey – you are HILARIOUS. And I’m so glad your blog is an inanimate object because I have definitely been ogling it… gorgeous. Very excited to have met you at Alt!


  35. Stephanie

    this has to be the first time i’ve read a food blog grinning from ear to ear and itching to… i don’t know what exactly, but do something! girl, i love your voice and your pictures are amazing and though i positively suck in the cuisine department, i have a feeling i’ll be coming back here, often! totally made my day discover your blog, thanks!


  36. Natalie

    Hi Kelsey! So wish we could have spent more time together at Alt! I can see why Nathan Williams noted your blog as AMAZING, it absolutely is. Your photos are lovely and, although I want to get to know you better in person, the personal notes are touching and real. Thank you for sharing at Alt and on your blog, you rock. Hope to see you in Denver next time we are there! Keep in touch.


  37. hannah

    ” Do not cross a girl chasing a mouse in her underwear. She means business.” had me falling-out-of-my-chair laughing. Hurrah for Chile! Can’t wait to hear about it.


  38. Megan

    Hahahaha! I love the bit about the mouse. Back in college we had a mouse, but my housemate was vegan and insisted on using a have-a-heart trap. We kept a tally of all the mice she caught in that trap. When the tally reached 30+ mice we realized something must be up, there’s no way we could have that many mice. So we asked where she was releasing the traps. The answer was right outside the kitchen door. It was the same mouse, over and over again for over a month. We got a kill trap, offed the mouse that night, and never had another problem.

    I also want to eat these tamales right now. I love tamales, and I love kale, but I never thought to love them together.

    P.S. It was great meeting you at ALT! Can’t wait to read more on your beautiful blog.


  39. Batya

    We had a few resident mice in our old crappy apartment back in Brooklyn. And I too chased… in my underwear. Our elderly Rottweiler did nothing for the situation (he’s decidedly less ferocious-looking in old age). But I was able to persuade my husband to get a humane mouse-trap. It took longer, but it did (eventually) work. Though once we caught said mouse, we put him outside (in Prospect Park to be exact)…and then realized that a feral cat or the inclement weather would probably do him in anyway :(
    But on to the positive: What a fantastic looking tamale. And what gorgeous photos. Have fun in Chile (check out Chiloe, Valparaiso and Lagua san Rafael in the sout) and enjoy this beautiful Colorado weather we are having! I really enjoy reading your posts…Best.


  40. Amanda @ Pretty Little Vegan

    Yum yum yum… these look fantastic. Love all your photography as well. So beautiful :)


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  43. lindsay | rosemarried

    The mouse is gone! hooray! (Isn’t it funny how one little creature can change your whole world?!)

    I’ve never been quite brave enough to attempt tamales. I don’t know what’s stopping me (as I love them dearly). This recipe is stunning, and I think I might be inspired to finally give tamales a shot.

    Thanks, Kelsey!


  44. Ceci Bean

    Hey, just found your blog through Pinterest. Your blog design and photos are really lovely. I look forward to exploring the site a bit when I have more time. Off to find the sweet potato, curry, and quinoa recipe I saw on Pinterest!


  45. Megan

    These are beautiful! We could all use some spice and nourishment in February, yes?


  46. Marie

    Hi Kelsey!!
    Just to let you know I miss your posts!! I don’t tell you this to pressure you at all, but just to let you know that I look forward to each post and the anticipation is fun and exciting!
    Hope your day is going well :)


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  48. Angy

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m in luuuurve! Thank you!!! ♥♥♥


  49. mary @ B&Gjournals

    sweet success! we have had a mouse intruder frolic-ing around our apartment at night and early hours for months—he evades all traps and gets bolder by the day, just popping out in front of us and scurrying off—so frustrating, he is such a scoundrel and we are ready to be rid of our mousey roommate too…that tricky devil


  50. Meg

    These look so dreamy.


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  53. Hannah

    Where does the cilantro come in? Add to Kale mixture?


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