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Mike’s Hot Spicy Food Recipes


  Pineapple Tamales

3 8-ounce packages dried corn husks

2 pounds pork lard

7 pounds masa flour

1 quart pineapple juice, room temperature

2 1/2 pounds sugar

4 16-ounce jars orange marmalade

1 24-ounce container raisins

2 pounds shredded coconut

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon yellow food coloring

6 cups fresh pineapple, diced

2 cups crushed pineapple

After soaking corn husks overnight, beat the lard until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add half the masa and mix well, then alternately add the rest of the masa and the pineapple juice, until the consistency is of a medium-thick cake batter. Add the rest of the ingredients, mixing gently.

Pat corn husks dry. Use the largest husks, or overlap two husks, to form a surface at least 6 inches across and 6 to 7 inches long. Spread about 1/4 cup mixture on each husk. Fold both sides over onto the middle, then bring up the bottom, leaving the top open. Put tamales into a steamer, standing up. Cover with a clean, damp towel.

Steam for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Makes about 50 tamales.

Approximate values per serving: 704 calories, 27 g fat, 17 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 115 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 59 mg sodium, 35 percent calories from fat.


Invite the gang; the more masa, the merrier

ATLANTA - Make some fillings. Make some salsas. Make the masa. Make the margaritas. Invite some friends in. Form an assembly line. Have a good time. There's really no sense in making just a few tamales. Make dozens. They will go faster than you think at a gathering. A dozen also makes a nice gift for foodies. Have some left over? You can freeze them - just be sure to triple-wrap them. (I wrap in plastic, then in foil, then double bag in freezer bags. That would be quadruple-wrapped, wouldn't it?)

To reheat, you can wrap in foil and gently bring back to life in a 350-degree oven. This will take a little while. You can also stick them in the steamer again - this will take only about 15 minutes, but be careful to not oversteam them. I've also found that I can pull one or two from the freezer, wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Here's all you need to know for your first tamale-making session. Do it once and you'll want to do it again.

Tamales are best served with your favorite salsas or sauces (such as a red enchilada sauce). For a complete banquet, add chips, rice and beans.

Assembling the tamales

• Preparing the corn husks: Dried corn husks are found at Hispanic markets and in some supermarkets in the ethnic food aisle. Buy more than you need, as some husks will tear. Before using, they must be soaked in hot water for at least 45 minutes (overnight is best). Weigh them down in the water with a heavy plate. Then wash the husks to remove grit and silk. Tear a few of the husks down their length into 1/4-inch strips for tying.

• Spreading the masa: Spread the masa on the smooth side of the husk; it tends to stick to the ribbed side. An offset spatula is ideal, but a spoon or wet fingers work, too. An alternate method taught at Viking Culinary Center is to form balls (you'll need a slightly stiff masa), place in the middle of the husk, place the husk on a tortilla press, cover with wax paper and press.

• Filling: Place the filling in the center of the masa. Most recipes call for 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling. For tamales that have ingredients mixed in, just put a scoop in the center of the husk and fold; no spreading required.

• Folding/tying the tamales: There are a number of ways to fold and tie a tamale - the best thing is to see what works for you. Just make sure you seal in the contents. Here are a couple of easy methods:

• Tied at both ends: Spread the masa across the center, leaving at least 1 inch at both ends and sides of the husk. Fold both sides in tightly to overlap. Twist one end of the husk and tie; repeat on the other end.

• Fold-over method: Spread the masa across the center, 1/4 inch from the wide, flat end of the husk. Fold both sides in tightly to overlap. Fold the pointed end up to meet the flat end. Secure the bundle by tying around the center.

• Steaming the tamales: Tamales are ready when they hold their shape when unwrapped. (Test one to see.) I tried steaming the tamales three ways.

First, I filled a roasting pan with about 1 inch of water and then placed the tamales on a rack. I covered the pan with foil and checked the water level every 20 minutes. (It's important to not let the water completely evaporate.) This worked fine, but it took the longest, a little more than1 hour for 2 dozen.

Next, I tried steaming the tamales in a stockpot with a large steamer/strainer basket that fit inside. This also worked well, but there wasn't a lot of room for water in the bottom of the pan, so I had to replenish. The time came in at about 50 minutes.

Finally, I have a rice cooker with two steamer baskets that sit on top. This worked best, steaming the tamales in 45 minutes without worry about the water level.

Masa Harina Mix (Dough)

Makes 12-14 cups, enough for about 3 dozen to 4 dozen tamales

Preparation time: 20 minutes

This is my adaptation of at least three recipes. But yours may differ after a little experimentation. I go half and half with the butter and lard but can say all-butter is really incredible. I go with a slightly wetter dough than some recipes call for as well. At any rate, I've yet to make a bad tamale, so have fun finding your own masa way.

If you are using a stand mixer, you'll need to work in two batches. Otherwise, use a very large bowl and a hand mixer. Masa harina can be found in Hispanic groceries and some supermarkets, either with ethnic ingredients or with the flour and cornmeal. The package will specify "for tamales and tortillas."

  • 7 to 8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 12 cups masa harina (dry corn flour)
  • 3 cups butter, lard or shortening (or a combination)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the stock until warm. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, combine 7 cups of the stock and masa harina. (You may have to do this in two batches.) With the paddle attachment on medium speed, mix until the dough holds together and the texture is like soft Play-Doh. (Add an additional cup of stock, if necessary, to soften the dough.) Remove mixture and set aside. Add the butter and/or lard, salt and baking powder to the bowl and whip at high speed for about 5 minutes. (If working in two batches, set half the butter aside.)

With the mixer running, pinch off small balls of the masa harina mixture and drop into the butter mixture. Keep doing this until all or most of the masa harina mixture has been added and the dough has reached desired consistency. I prefer a slightly softer, wetter dough; others recommend a stiffer dough. A good test is to form a small ball of the mixture and drop it in a cup of water. If it floats, the dough is stiff enough.

Per tamale (based on 3 dozen): 279 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 4 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 17 grams fat, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 869 milligrams sodium.

Roasted Red Pepper Corundas

Makes 18-24 corundas, depending on size

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Steaming time: 45 minutes-1 hour

Corunda is the name for tamale in Michoacan, Mexico. They are a great place to start because the "fillings" are mixed into the masa, so all you have to do is drop a bit on the corn husk, wrap, tie and steam.

  • 1 large or 2 small red bell peppers
  • 1 large garlic clove, unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups masa harina mix (see recipe, left)
  • 18 to 24 dried corn husks, soaked, washed and drained, plus more for ties

Roast bell pepper and garlic on a griddle or grill, using tongs to turn frequently, until charred all over. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Seed and rib the bell pepper and peel the garlic. In a food processor, process the bell pepper (with skin still on), along with the garlic, oil, salt and pepper, using the pulse button, until well-chopped. In large bowl, combine masa and pepper mixture. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. To assemble the corundas, place 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the masa mixture in the center of the smooth side of a corn husk. Fold and tie to your preference. (Corunda-style is to fold in the sides of the husk, then fold up the bottom of the husk to meet the top, and tie.) Repeat until you run out of filling or masa. Steam 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the tamales hold their shape when unwrapped.

From "Tamales 101" by Alice Guadalupe Tapp (Ten Speed Press, $19.95)

Per tamale (based on 18 tamales): 307 calories (percent of calories from fat, 57), 4 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 20 grams fat, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 837 milligrams sodium.

Traditional Sweet Tamales

Makes 3 dozen tamales

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Steaming time: 45 minutes-1 hour

This recipe comes from Alice Guadalupe Tapp's mother, whose family lived in Chihuahua, Mexico. They are a sweet treat that Tapp allows herself to enjoy only at Christmas. As with corundas, the ingredients are all mixed together, so these are quite easy to make.

  • 8 cups masa harina mix
  • 2 cups crushed pineapple, with juice
  • 3 cups granulated sugar, or less, to taste
  • 1 cup raisins, dark or golden
  • 2 tablespoons anise seed
  • 36 dried corn husks, soaked, washed and drained, plus more for ties

In a 4- to 5-quart bowl, combine the masa, pineapple, sugar, raisins and anise seed. Fold together until well-combined. Do not beat or whip.

To assemble tamales, place 1/3 cup masa in the center of the smooth side of a large corn husk. Fold the sides tightly in over the filling and tie the husks at both ends, squeezing the filling toward the center. Prick the tamale several times with a sharp knife tip to create vent holes. Repeat until you run out of filling or masa. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they are firm and hold their shape when unwrapped.

From "Tamales 101" by Alice Guadalupe Tapp (Ten Speed Press, $19.95)

Per tamale: 226 calories (percent of calories from fat, 33), 2 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams fiber, 8 grams fat, 21 milligrams cholesterol, 405 milligrams sodium.

Black Bean, Green Chile and Cheese Tamales

Makes 16-24 tamales

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Steaming time: 45-50 minutes

Start with canned black beans and these are a breeze to put together.

  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • Fine kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 cups masa harina mix
  • 24 dried corn husks, soaked, washed and drained, plus more for ties
  • 12 Anaheim chiles, roasted under broiler until blackened on all sides, peeled and seeded and cut into strips
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes

In a large bowl, combine beans and cumin, mashing slightly, and season to taste with salt and pepper. To assemble tamales, place 1/3 to 1/2 cup masa in the center of the smooth side of a large corn husk. Place 1 tablespoon beans, 1 chile strip and 1 to 2 cubes of cheese in the center of the masa. Fold the sides tightly in over the filling and tie the husks at both ends, squeezing the filling toward the center. Repeat until you run out of filling or masa. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they are firm and hold their shape when unwrapped.

- Adapted from Viking Culinary Center

Per serving: 581 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 16 grams protein, 54 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 35 grams fat, 92 milligrams cholesterol, 1,652 milligrams sodium.

Red Chile Pork and Goat Cheese Tamales

Makes 16-24 tamales

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Steaming time: 45 minutes-1 hour

Red chile pork is very traditional and Atlanta caterer Alison Lueker's standby favorite.

  • 2 pounds pork butt, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons red chile powder, preferably from New Mexico
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic (drizzled in oil in 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes), roasted, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 8 cups masa harina mix
  • 24 dried corn husks, soaked, washed and drained, plus more for ties
  • 16 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

To make the red chile pork, put the pork chunks, water, chile powder, salt, garlic and onion in a heavy saucepan and bring to a low simmer. In a dry saute pan, roast the cloves, anise seed and oregano until fragrant. In a spice mill, grind the spices to a powder and add to the pork. Add the cinnamon stick. Continue to simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours or until tender, adding water as needed. Then increase the heat and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring, until the cubes are a mahogany brown, about 5 more minutes. Set aside to cool.

Once the pork is cool, chop or shred it. To assemble tamales, place 1/3 to 1/2 cup masa in the center of the smooth side of a large corn husk. Place 2 tablespoons of the pork in the center of the masa and sprinkle with goat cheese. Fold the sides tightly in over the filling and tie the husks at both ends, squeezing the filling toward the center. Repeat until you run out of filling or masa. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they are firm and hold their shape when unwrapped. Excellent served with a roasted tomatillo salsa.

- Adapted from Alison Lueker, Cook's Warehouse instructor and owner of Sun in My Belly Catering

Per serving: 646 calories (percent of calories from fat, 58), 22 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 42 grams fat, 122 milligrams cholesterol, 1,774 milligrams sodium.

Chipotle Chicken Tamales With Pepper Jack Cheese

Makes 16-24 tamales

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Steaming time: 45 minutes-1 hour

Chipotle is such a popular flavor these days. Look for the little cans of the peppers in adobo sauce in the Hispanic food section of the grocery store.

  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 4 large chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips lengthwise
  • 4 chipotle chiles (canned in adobo), chopped
  • 2 tablespoon of the adobo sauce from the canned chiles
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed, dried, chopped
  • 16 ounces pepper Jack cheese, shredded
  • 8 cups masa harina mix
  • 24 dried corn husks, soaked, washed and drained, plus more for ties

Saute the onion and garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the onions are soft, add the chicken, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, cumin and salt and cook over medium heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. When cool, add the chopped cilantro and the pepper Jack cheese to the mixture.

To assemble the tamales, place 1/3 to 1/2 cup masa in the center of the smooth side of a large corn husk. Place about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in the center of the masa. Fold the sides tightly in over the filling and tie the husks at both ends, squeezing the filling toward the center. Repeat until you run out of filling or masa. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they are firm and hold their shape when unwrapped.

- Adapted from Alison Lueker, Cook's Warehouse instructor and owner of Sun in My Belly Catering

Per serving: 673 calories (percent of calories from fat, 56), 25 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 42 grams fat, 135 milligrams cholesterol, 1,669 milligrams sodium.


San Antonio's holiday tamales

Hundreds of thousands of orders pile up for this masa-in-a-husk treat each year.

By Clare Leschin-Hoar | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

from the December 10, 2008 edition

San Antonio - It's the aroma that Janice Flores remembers most. When she was a child, nearly two dozen of her aunts, uncles, and cousins would crowd into her grandmother's house in early December to make the family's traditional Christmas tamales. The tamalada (or tamalemaking party) would begin with drinks and snacks, followed by a turkey dinner that was set out for grazing on throughout the day.

Soon after, the women would disappear into the kitchen.

"It's a very homey feeling. You can't forget going to your grandma's house, and there's no way you can forget the smell, especially when the tamales are being made fresh," says Ms. Flores, now in her 20s.

An informal (but efficient) assembly line would form. Someone, usually Flores' grandmother or aunt, would mix the masa and lard to form the dough, which is the base of the tamale. From there it would be spread thinly onto a corn husk with wet hands and spoons and passed to the next person, who would add the pork, garlic, and chili mixture used for the filling, and then pass it down the line to be folded and wrapped. By early evening, 40 dozen tamales would have been bundled and set in the freezer in anticipation of the family's Christmas celebrations.

If at this point you're picturing a flavorless, cornmeal-heavy brick that's too far on the dry side, wrap that image back up in the corn husk it came in. The tamales Flores' and her family make aren't like that at all. They're typical of those you'll find throughout San Antonio and southern Texas: Full of flavor and shaped like a thick cigar, the masa is moist and delicate. In this region, it's the filling that's the star – be it traditional pork, a bean and jalapeño version, or even a sweet tamale made with raisins, pecans, and cinnamon.

"Everyone looks for what's inside," says Flores, now a line cook at Las Canarias restaurant. "A really good tamale, you stuff it as much as you can. You don't want more dough than filling, and they're juicier in San Antonio."

But not every family still has an abuela (grandmother) around to pass the tamale torch, or the time to set aside for a full tamalada. They have to hope they make a tamalemaker's gift list or that neighbors are selling handmade tamales door-to-door during the season.

Others count on restaurants to do the labor-intensive tamalemaking process. By early November, restaurants around San Antonio are nudging customers to place their orders so they can avoid the long lines that can snake around an eatery in the days just before Christmas. Places such as Tellez Tamales & Barbacoa, Delicious Tamales, and Mi Tierra help satisfy the city's Christmas tamale mania with a staggeringly large amount of the traditional food.

"We make over 50,000 for the holiday," says Luiz Tellez. "We have 14 people in the back making tamales until we just can't make them any more."

At fourth-generation, family-run Mi Tierra, Michael Cortez says they sell roughly 250,000 tamales between early December and New Year's Day. And while those figures seem huge, Delicious Tamales dwarfs them by churning out nearly 1.75 million for the holiday season alone, says owner Valerie Gonzalez.

At El Mirador, however, you have to be part of the family or a serious VIP customer of the restaurant to score one of the tamales handmade by 98-year-old Mary Trevino.

"It's a very private club," says owner Julian Trevino, her son. "She starts on it after Thanksgiving and has a crew of three or four who will work on them four to five hours a day. Everything is made from scratch, and she's very, very particular. There are no fats on the meats, and what make hers different are the spices."

Long a Mexican tradition, Christmas tamales have bridged all kinds of cultural lines. With variations in filling, wrappers, and shapes, tamales are an important part of the food culture in places such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and even the Philippines. Nor are they confined to a specific meal. They can be eaten at breakfast, for snacks, or as part of a bigger meal.

"The basic idea of a tamale is it's a food you eat out of hand, and the Christmas ones are for celebrations," says Linda Eckhardt, author of "The Only Texas Cookbook." "The key is, you have to make the filling the day before and let it cure overnight in the refrigerator, and you need fresh lard to make it really good. Making a tamale is an art form. It cannot be sloppy looking or lumpy."

But just as important as the tamale is to the Christmas celebration, the tamalada is also about the chisme – friendly gossip about family members and friends – which is an important part of a day spent around the kitchen table elbow-deep in masa.

"I'd be around all my aunts, and they'd tell all the embarrassing stories about what we did when we were younger," says Flores. "And my cousins and I? We'd all be turning pretty red around that table."

San Antonio Christmas Tamales

This slightly sweet, delicate version of the traditional tamale should be long and thin with a small layer of masa around the filling. This recipe is originally from San Antonio native Mary Alice Cisneros.

Pork filling

2 pounds lean, boneless pork loin cut into 2-inch chunks

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup raisins

2/3 cup finely chopped onion

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound tomatoes (2 cups), finely chopped

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 teaspoon oregano

1 (4-ounce) can green chiles, drained

Jalapeños, roasted, skinned, and seeded (to taste)

Pinch sugar

2 tablespoons lard

1 large bay leaf

Place pork in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Add salt, pepper, and raisins. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Strain and save the pork stock. Shred the meat between two forks.

Purée remaining ingredients – except lard and bay leaf – in a food processor. Heat lard in a skillet, add the purée and bay leaf, and cook about 10 minutes, stirring. Remove bay leaf. Mix with shredded meat mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes about 5 cups.

Dough for the tamales

2/3 cup fresh lard

4 cups masa harina

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 cups warm pork stock (add chicken broth if you don't have enough)

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat lard until light and fluffy. In another bowl, combine masa with salt and baking powder. Then add to the lard, about 1/4 cup at a time. Mix in 1/4 cup stock at a time.

To make the tamales: Soak 48 corn shucks in warm water until pliable. Then wet your hands and spread about 2 tablespoons masa on a corn shuck to make a large rectangle that comes to 3/4-inch from the sides of the shuck. Add about 2 tablespoons meat filling. Fold over the ends of the shucks so that the dough completely covers the filling. The finished tamale should look like a long, thin cigar.

Arrange tamales upright in a steamer with the folded ends down. When the steamer is full, add a layer of shucks on top. Fill the steamer with water, then cook for about 1-1/2 hours. To test for doneness, remove a tamale and unwrap. The masa should be thoroughly cooked and set. If it's still doughlike, put it back. Store cooked tamales in the refrigerator or freezer. Reheat them one at a time or by the batch in a steamer or microwave. Makes 48 tamales.

Variations: Mix a chicken breast with the pork or substitute dried cranberries for the raisins. You can also add chopped almonds.

– Adapted from 'The Only Texas Cookbook,' by Linda West Eckhardt.


December 11, 2008 |

Indulge in holiday treat at annual tamale festival

by Mary Beth Faller - Dec. 11, 2008 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

Every day is tamale day for Maria Figuerra, who works the tamale booth inside the Food City store at 2124 E. McDowell Road in Phoenix.

Her nimble fingers spread the masa and roll a tamal about once every 10 seconds. She makes dozens and dozens every day. At the holidays, she can barely keep up, making tens of dozens of beef, green-corn, chicken, pork, pineapple, strawberry and pumpkin tamales.

And for her own Christmas?

"When I go home, I don't want to hear about tamales," she says with a laugh.

Still, she makes them, because what is Christmas without tamales?

The little packages of steamed corn dough, usually with a luscious filling, even look like little gifts, wrapped in their corn husks. Indeed, the Aztecs offered tamales as gifts to the gods in the 12th month of their calendar. Their tamales would have been dense, since the addition of lard, brought to the continent by the Spaniards, is what gives tamales a tasty lightness.

Every family has its own recipe, but they all start with masa, a dried-corn flour, mixed with a fat (usually lard), warm water, salt and baking soda. After that, the varieties are endless.

Erlinda Garcia makes up to 600 dozen around the holidays - including 300 dozen she sells at the Food City Tamale Festival for her church, St. Clement's. She makes green-corn, red-chile and chicken varieties, and one of her secrets is to add a bit of the chile mixture to the masa dough.

"You add the lard to the masa, and you have to massage it and massage it," Garcia says, "and I add a little bit of the red chile and I massage it to make it look red."

As a tamale connoisseur, Garcia loves to attend the festival and try out other tamale recipes.

"I always go and try everybody's, because it gives you an idea what everyone puts into theirs," she says. "If a person knows their spices, they'll know right away what's in it. And my mother showed me a lot about spices."

The festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday, will feature dozens of tamale makers, who concoct the treats in their church kitchens and sell them to raise money. More than 75,000 tamales were sold at last year's event, which is free and open to the public.

Garcia learned her tamale technique from her mother, who would start making them a day or two after Thanksgiving every year. Her mother died a year and a half ago, so tamale-making is bittersweet.

"It's a little sad now that we're in the season," says Garcia, who has eight sons, none of whom has enthusiastically taken on the tamale tradition.

"I wish I had a daughter to show her my traditions and our tamales - and all the foods I make for the holidays."

Food City Tamale Festival

What: Tamale makers from throughout the Valley gather to offer their specialties.

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Cesar Chavez Plaza, 201 W. Washington St., Phoenix.

Admission: Free. Tamales will be for sale throughout the event. The tamale-tasting contest will be at 2 p.m. Sunday. There also will be entertainment and arts and crafts.



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Mike’s Hot Spicy Food Recipes