Almost 18 years ago I married into the Pacheco family.  My husband was adopted by Ed Pacheco (his step father) at two years old and was raised by him until he left for college.  It's not common to see a white girl with freckles walking around with my last name, but I love that it is accompanied by rich culture and freaking good food.

As a newlywed, I was mentored in the kitchen by my mother in law.  My first lesson was a good ole pot of beans and a pan of green chile enchiladas.  As soon as I perfected that craft, I decided it was time to attempt the tamale.  My man was hopefully reluctant, but I promised him I would not let him, or our name down.

Our dear friend, {Chef Brad}, volunteered to teach us and he was confident he could turn three "gringos" into the best tamale makers in town.  Turns out, we did make a dang good tamale and we've been making them every year together for the past 5 years.

Enter Jilly and Shannon.  Shannon is one of our favorite foodies and she makes SURE we get tamale day scheduled the first part of each November.  Since she has the most gigantic kitchen island, she gets to host the event.  With our busy lives we don't get to see Shan very often so when we get to spend a whole day with her, we consider it a real treat.  We don't miss "Tamalepalooza" for nothin'!

Since she's the closest, Jilly is in charge of gathering all the groceries from Food City (a predominately Hispanic food grocery store).  With out fail , she pushes her cart packed a mile high with corn husks, masa, and lard to the check out register and waits for the looks and confused stares from the sweet little Hispanic ladies. PRICELESS! 

Shannon and I take care of the meat, green and red chili, and a few other miscellaneous items.  We start around 8:30am and it takes us about 6 hours to make 250 tamales.

I make the masa, a job I take very seriously.  Obviously.  We do cheat just a little by buying it already prepared and adding a few quality ingredients.  Don't judge.

Jilly and I spread the masa on the wet corn husks and add the meat. 

Shannon layers on the green chile and Panela cheese, wraps the tamales, and labels them to be put in freezer bags. 

We make sweet corn chicken tamales, and red chile beef tamales.  This year Jilly snuck in some sweet pork.  DISCLAIMER: Real, live Mexicans don't eat sweet pork, but I don't judge her husband who is obsessed with them, and Canadian. 

Every year we sit down together around noon for lunch.  We catch up on our lives, our kids, and mostly about how every year our tamales seem to be better than the last.

Jilly and I even get wild and share a soda.  There's just something so good about Mexican food and a bottled root beer.  Right?

I love traditions.  Someday when we're old and our hands are shaking, we hope we're still celebrating Tamalepalooza and more importantly, celebrating our friendship. 

What traditions do you share with your best girls? 

PS. If you're feelin' ready to take Mexican food to the next level, email us at meandjilly@gmail.com and I'll send you a copy of our exact tamale recipes, a shopping list, and our notes. 


  1. Whoa. Our kitchens are like twins! haha


  2. Ladies,

    It's always a great time. My in-laws came the next day to claim their tamales!

  3. So just emailed u guys :)
    Can't wait to learn how to make them!

  4. Loved reading this story! My family makes tamales every year around Christmas - it's a great way to connect with family and celebrate.

  5. I know this post is about tamales, but I think I spied a BOSCH in your kitchen, and I am soooooo jealous!

  6. It would not be Christmas without tamales in our family! My mom uses beef and pork...don't tell!

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  8. Definitely a gringo here, but I grew up in the Southwest (still live there), so I claim some of the traditions as my own. And tamales for Christmas is definitely on the list. I'm usually scrambling to find someone selling them to take wherever we're going for the holiday. Making them myself has always been beyond my imagination, but I'd love to give it a try some day.

  9. I am so excited! I live here in AZ and need an honest to goodness tamale recipe fast! If you could please send me an email to avdumb(at) yahoo.com I would be sooo grateful


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Mia & Jilly

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