Christmas Eve Tamales

A tradition of Christmas Eve tamales is a gift that one Mexican-American family hands down, each generation to the next.

Mama Totota's Tamales

The reader: Frank Hernandez, 61, civil rights advocate, attorney, and former state judge from Dallas.

The recipe:  Mama Totota's Tamales

The history: When Frank's Mexican-born grandmother, Juanita Vidaurri, immigrated to Texas in 1911, so did the tamales that are central to his family's night-before-Christmas ritual: First, everyone attends a midnight Mass; after church, they return home to savor the tamales that were made earlier in the day. The recipe is handed down to each new generation, and Frank has proudly passed the recipe along to his three children. But that's not to say that they haven't been looking for a way to cut the fat from what he calls a lard-loaded treat. He enlisted Cooking Light to help him do some seasonal trimming.

The dilemma: When Frank's younger brother, Steve, decided to write down this favorite family recipe―which his mom passed along to him almost 50 years ago―he noticed that she didn't include any measurements for the spices. Solving that problem was easy: We looked up a few of our own tamale recipes. Solving the bigger problem―nearly 47 grams of fat and 344 calories per serving―seemed to require a holiday miracle.

The solution: Actually, some math and substitutions did the trick. Using a leaner cut of pork and eliminating 11 tablespoons of vegetable oil cut a whopping 313 calories and almost 39 grams of fat. Those changes alone reduced the fat to 19% of total calories, compared to the 64% overload in the original.

The feedback: Frank says the family tradition will go on―but lighter―into the next century.

Before | After
(Serving size: 2 tamales)  Calories per Serving
657 | 344  Fat
46.8g | 7.4g  Percent of total calories
64 | 19

To the Rescue: Do you have a favorite recipe that needs a healthful makeover? Maybe we can lighten it up. Send it to us, along with your reasons for wanting a healthier version and any interesting stories or traditions about the recipe. Include your name, address, and daytime phone number with the recipe, and e-mail it to CL_recipes@timeinc.com or mail to Lighten Up, Cooking Light, P.O. Box 1748, Birmingham, AL 35201.

We can’t lighten every recipe we -receive, but if we adapt yours, we’ll send you a Cooking Light special edition. We reserve the right to edit all recipes. Recipes submitted become the property of Cooking Light, and we may republish and use them for any purpose.

    1 of 1

    Most Popular

    1. Our Best Easter Desserts

      Find the perfect ending to your Easter feast with these light and fresh springtime desserts.
    2. Easy, Gorgeous Easter Feast
    3. Easter Menus
    4. 100 Ideas for Appetizers
    5. Easter Side Dishes