Tag Archives: Fort Lewis College


Recently I reported on our meal in the student center at Fort Lewis College. The highlight was tamale pie, which of course does not contain tamales at all. The original recipe comes from the era of dumping in a can of this and a can of that plus some ground beef in order to wind up with a quick dinner meal for the family. I remember tamale pie as a great favorite during my childhood, but it has gone the way of most casseroles from the 1940s and 1950s – except in school and college cafeterias, of course.

The most amazing thing about the casserole was that the cornbread batter would sink into the very liquid filling and disappear, only to re-emerge magically as a crusty topping at the end of the baking time. The explanation for that is that the batter stays intact in the filling. It then becomes lighter as the baking soda goes to work and floats to the top. Akin to dumplings and bagels. You can minimize this phenomenon by making the filling so thick that the cornbread batter can’t sink. I prefer that, you can make your own choice by adding more liquid.

Here is my version that I cobbled together from things in the refrigerator that needed to be eaten. It seems like I am always cleaning out the fridge.


Cornbread Chorizo Tamale Pie



  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Spanish chorizo sausages, sliced thinly (Don’t use Mexican chorizo as it is too spicy and greasy)
  • 6 snacking peppers, seeded and sliced thinly
  • 1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-3 teaspoons chili powder according to how hot you want it
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano leaves, crumbled
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional)
  • salt and pepper


  1. In a dry medium sauté pan over high heat, sauté the corn kernels until they are fragrant with a light char. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat, transfer to a small bowl, and set aside.
  2. Clean the pan and return to medium heat. Add vegetable oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the chorizo and peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until the chorizo is heated through and the peppers are wilted.
  3. Add the tomatoes, water, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the charred corn and black beans. Stir and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thin for your taste, sprinkle the cornmeal over the surface, stir to completely incorporate the cornmeal and simmer an additional 10 minutes until the mixture is thickened to your liking. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.



  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • sour cream


  1. In a small bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. In another small bowl, combine the beaten egg, milk and vegetable oil.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly until well-combined


  1. Transfer the filling to a well-greased 2 quart casserole
  2. Spread the topping over the filling
  3. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 425F for 25-30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned
  4. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 5 minutes. Divide into individual servings. Top with sour cream. Serve immediately while still warm.


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Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


For the past few days we have been in Durango, Colorado for the annual meeting of the New Mexico Native Plant Society. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? The story goes that nearby Farmington, New Mexico sits in the desert and oil patch of northwest New Mexico with limited native plants. Durango feels isolated from the rest of the Colorado Native Plant Society but has an abundance of native plants. The two cities decided to merge their membership in New Mexico. On top of that, Durango lies at the base of the San Juan Mountains, arguably the most beautiful range of the Colorado Rockies. The mountains are filled with old-growth forests, spectacular wild flowers, and stunning trails. Besides, Durango is a quaint gold and silver mining town from the 1880s with a lot of beautiful Victorian buildings. It is the center for river trips down the Animas River, hub for mountain bikers, and the terminus of the famous Durango and Silverton Rail Road, a vintage narrow-gauge train that takes passengers on a scenic trip through the San Juans to another old mining town, Silverton. With all of that going on, it was not surprising that the meeting sold out well in advance.

At these annual gatherings, Susan always goes to the meetings and field trips. I never do either one. I usually strike out on my own for a private photo shoot. This year was no different except that I didn’t wander that far afield. Because of a crash of my Adobe Lightroom software, I wound up having to post some images from my iPad and iPhone. Apologies for the quality.

The first night we ate at the Mahogany Grille of the Strater Hotel. This landmark was built in 1887 and has been lovingly and beautifully preserved. We were looking forward to our experience, because the restaurant promised fine dining in an antique setting. We were not disappointed with the room, but the dining did not really fulfill the concept of fine dining. For starters, the place was jammed with tourists in short shorts, cut-offs, and flip-flops. Durango is a classic summer tourist town overwhelmed by huge extended families of  all ages, sizes, dress, and demeanor.

The host sat us at a very private booth in the back of the room, so that took care of the crowds problem. The menu sounded very interesting with bruschetta and various toppings, elk chops, lots of grilled meats, corn chowder and what sounded like tasty salads. The kitchen gave it a good effort, but my glazed salmon came out dry and a little burned on the bottom, and Susan’s Colorado trout (That should be local and straightforward) came out so dry that Susan had to ask for some melted butter as a sort of sauce. All in all, a bit of a disappointment, but still a pleasant experience in a great old hotel.

The next night was another story. We were staying in the student apartments at Fort Lewis College, located on a mesa top with the San Juans as a backdrop. A lovely, if Spartan, setting. Because of the long day of walking behind us, we decided to try the college’s “All You Can Eat Buffet” at the student center. The choices included the mashed potato bar with cheese, sour cream and bacon bits, the salad bar, pizza, and the night’s special: tamale pie with grilled chicken. I had forgotten what dorm food can taste like. This brought back memories of my youth. We did not go back for seconds. In fact, we didn’t finish firsts. But the high school and college students who were participating in summer programs seemed to love it. Of course, their favorite was the pizza.

Here are a few of my food images from our two dining-out experiences as well as some shots from my trip along the route of the D&SRR and the San Juan Mountains.


Filed under Food, Photography, Restaurants, Travel