Posted at 9:01 am , on October 15, 2019
It’s that time of year again!! Every year on the first weekend of October the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque takes flight with 9 days of colorful balloons. Balloons of every shape and color imaginable fill the skies over our city. We were rookies last year and didn’t know what to expect. This year we planned ahead and everything fell into place for the best experience we’ve ever had! First, we decided to skip the weekend mass ascension and instead went on Wednesday for the Flight of the Nations event. This event recognizes the International balloons that participate in the fiesta as they carry their nations flags while lifting up into the skies. We found lighter crowds than on the weekends and almost as many balloons that took to the skies representing International countries, states, colleges, many shaped balloons plus any and all colors of the rainbow that you can imagine. We got up early and were out the door at 4:30 a.m. to head to the balloon field. We are approximately 6 miles away but you never know how traffic is going to be. We’ve heard horror stories of long lines, taking over an hour to park only to find that parking is already full. Not the case on this day. We were parked and inside the park a little after 5 a.m. Inside the park there are numerous places to get coffee, hot chocolate and breakfast burritos plus several tents filled with arts and crafts to walk through and pass the time. The “Dawn Patrol” begins between 5:45 and 6 a.m.. In the morning before dawn about a dozen balloons will begin to inflate. As they fire their burners, the balloons will appear to glow in the dark. One of the crew members told us that this year they were going to lift off in unison for the first time, normally they would go a few at a time. By accident we just happened to get to the Dawn Patrol balloons as they were laying them out on the ground. We watched them go through the process and had a front row view. I have never been to see the Dawn Patrol or a Balloon Glow evening event before. It’s hard to find the words to describe how beautiful it is as they glow and twinkle. If that were the only thing to see I would have gone away happy. But I hope you will scroll down and enjoy the rest of the morning as dawn breaks and balloons all around us ascend into the beautiful NM skies. Maybe you will be inspired to come to the balloon fiesta next year.
Posted at 8:42 am , on October 10, 2019
I set aside two jars of prickly pear juice to make jelly. It reminded me of my Mom and how she used to can everything including jellies and jams in big huge canning pots. This was a much smaller scale so I found a different method to preserve the jelly by covering the sealed jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. When they cooled you could hear the lids make that popping sound that tells you they are sealed. I found some low sugar pectin which allowed me to cut down on the sugar as well as quicken the process. In no time I had a little more than 3 jars of prickly pear jelly. I couldn’t wait to taste it so I made a batch of tea scones to go with the jelly . . . absolutely delicious!
Posted at 1:24 pm , on October 9, 2019
When making the prickly pear syrup, I must confess it took two tries. I looked up recipes on pinterest and it appeared to be a simple process of mixing the prickly pear juice with water, sugar and lime juice and cooking it down to a syrup. I tried this method and although I stirred it often, it had a burned taste as if it were scorched. I tried it in my lemonade and believe me it was awful!! So I decided that the juice was the star of the show and all it needed was to be thickened into a syrup. I tried making a simple syrup first along with the lime juice and adding the prickly pear juice at the end of the process and it tasted fruity and delicious. One cup of prickly pear juice made 2 1/2 cups of syrup. I put aside the two cups into 1/2 pint jars and saved the rest. It adds a refreshing fruity taste to any tea or lemonade.
Posted at 1:50 pm , on October 8, 2019
Joe and I first tasted prickly pear jelly and syrup at the Downtown Growers Market here in Albuquerque. They were passing out samples and I loved it at first taste. You will find prickly pear cactus plants in most neighborhoods here in Albuquerque, I thought surely I would be able to find the ripened fruit in a local fruit market but so far I haven’t found any. My niece offered me the fruit aka “tuna” off her cactus and I happily took her up on her offer. So Joe and I went over with gloves and tongs and picked two bags full. It was about 6 pounds of raw fruit and made just over 6 cups of juice. I wasn’t exactly sure how to prep them but knew that the prickly splinters aka “glochids” needed to be removed. We have a small weed burner that we used to burn off the glochids. As Joe was burning them off we noticed that the fruit reacted like a roasted chile with the fruit blistering and the outer skin separating from the fruit. At that point I decided to steam them like a chile to see if that would make peeling them easier. I placed them in 3 bowls with tight lids and refrigerated them overnight. The next morning I set up my kitchen to work up the fruit. I sliced them in half and scooped out the fruit like you would an avocado. It was so easy and in no time I had a big bowl of prickly pear fruit ready to process. I pureed the fruit in a blender and strained the pulp to remove the seeds. Then I ladled the juice into 1/2 pint jars. With this juice you can make any number of things from jelly and syrup to candy or sorbet. I’ve even found pies and cheesecakes that have been flavored with this sweet nectar. I went into this as an experiment and found it a tasty adventure. This year I made jelly and syrup but next time I may try something more adventurous.
Posted at 10:31 am , on October 4, 2019
Another unique place to visit within the Gila Wilderness is the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. Just a few miles northeast of Glenwood, NM, this area is rich in mining history when in the 1890’s an ore processing plant was built. Water was needed for the plant and a steel pipeline was built to draw water from the Whitewater Canyon. They built a walkway of wooden planks through the canyon but the processing plant only lasted about 10 years. In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps rebuilt the walkway which is used as a recreational trail today. Beyond the Catwalk are more rugged trails leading into the Gila Wilderness. We had planned to go a bit further on these trails but they were closed for renovations. Another time perhaps. However, we so enjoyed the walk along the Catwalk which was approximately a 2 mile walk round trip. It’s a beautifully hidden gem that I’ve always wanted to explore. We walked the trail in the early morning when it was relatively quiet and very few people to share the trail. It was so peaceful with the cool, comfortable temperatures with only the sounds of water flowing and the birds chirping. Fall is a wonderful time of year to explore New Mexico!
Posted at 11:27 am , on October 1, 2019
Recently Joe and I took a couple days to go hiking and see the sights in the Gila Wilderness area which is located in southwest New Mexico near Silver City. Normally one would think, southwest New Mexico, hmmm . . . hot, desert, less vegetation. In fact there are several national forest areas in this region with mountains, rolling hills and valleys dotted with various pine trees, cedar trees and wild flowers. The temperature naturally feels a bit cooler in the mountains and it makes for an enjoyable hike. Silver City was a boomtown during the 1880’s as a mining community where they mined silver, gold, copper, lead and zinc. Today Silver City is still a small community and small college town, home to Western New Mexico University. The community has renovated the downtown area with local artists showcasing their art in the little shops as well as restaurants and antique consignment shops. It’s a great place to walk and visit with the locals as well as shop for unique finds that you might not find anywhere else. On Saturday morning we headed north of Silver City to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. We began a moderate hike along a trail that leads to a cave in the distance. As you get closer can see the long standing dwelling that was believed to be built by the Anasazi or Mogollon people in or around 1280’s. It’s an astounding sight to see and gives you a sense of how the people of that time lived and survived. I found it amazing that these cliff dwellings are so well preserved after so many centuries have passed. Hope you enjoy our little hike through history.
Posted at 10:17 am , on September 20, 2019
When I made the carne adovada earlier in the week, I packaged most of it for the freezer. But I set aside just enough along with the reserved red chile sauce to make chimichangas like I had at “Little Anitas”. I promise you will love these chimi’s smothered in red and green chile with melted cheese. On the side I added some charro beans and a tamale for Joe. Every bite can only be described as a taste sensation so take time to savor every bite. This is one of those times when I wish I had a bigger stomach, but leftovers for lunch the next day was delicious! Once you have carne adovada on hand, the chimi’s are a breeze to make.
Posted at 1:59 pm , on September 17, 2019
One of my new obsessions is Carne Adovada. Carne adovada is cuts of pork that has simmered in red chile for several hours. It’s so flavorful you could eat it straight out of the bowl by itself. However, most of the time it’s used as a filling for enchiladas, tacos, burritos, chimichangas or sopaipillas. Every time Joe and I go out for Mexican food, I try both red and green chile which is referred to as “Christmas” so that I can find the best tasting red and green chile around town. One of the most memorable meals we had this summer was at Little Anitas, a family owned retaurant that’s been around for 40 years. I ordered the carne adovada chimichanga smothered with both red and green chile. I can’t say enough about how much I loved their chimi. The meat was so flavorful and tender, however it was milder than it appeared. Every bite was enhanced by the combination of red and green chile with melting cheese. I couldn’t wait to come home and jot down some notes on what I tasted and what made it taste so good. I first made a sauce with just NM red chile pods which is the traditional way but it turned out way too spicy for this girl. Then I made a sauce with half NM red chiles and half Guajillo chiles. The heat of the sauce was still a bit on the hot side but it turned out to be our sauce of choice. I think if you like red chile sauce, it’s fun to mix and match the dried chiles to get different flavors. For example I have always loved the taste of Ancho chiles and still to this day add them to some recipes. The color of the sauce will vary because of the colors of the dried chiles. Anchos are very tasty but make a very dark red, almost rusty red sauce. I made a big batch so that we could eat what we wanted and freeze the rest. Any leftover carne adovada and sauce will freeze well and make an easy meal next time those cravings kick in.
Posted at 10:06 am , on September 10, 2019
Welcome to my kitchen! After 3 1/2 month’s of demo, patience and a lot of hard work we finally have the kitchen we dreamed of. I have to give my husband Joe so much credit, he took my ideas and made it a reality. When we moved from Kansas back to New Mexico we both had our own visions of what we wanted in a home. He wanted a space to store his tools and an area for woodworking projects and I wanted an open kitchen. And we both wanted a view of the mountains. Well we got two out of three. My kitchen was big enough but wasn’t open by any means. The kitchen in Kansas was small but was organized and designed to be functional. Everything was in reach and it was easy to prepare and cook in my tiny kitchen. The kitchen in Albuquerque was not functional at all, at least not for me. I rearranged things time after time and couldn’t find a way to make it flow. So we decided to take 6 month’s to find out what worked and what didn’t work in order to design a work area with ample storage space. We started just before Memorial day and finished up on Labor day. After a few days spent moving back in and organizing things, I’m ready to get back in the kitchen!
Posted at 10:23 am , on August 28, 2019
I don’t remember a summer in recent years when I’ve done so much grilling. Good thing I love to grill because my indoor kitchen has been under construction all summer long. I’ve been making the most of it while trying out new recipes. These apricot glazed pork kabobs may be one of the tastiest meals we’ve had all summer. It’s a simple kabob with cubed pork loin and thick sliced bacon. Thick cut bacon is a must or it will char way beyond the crispy caramelized end bits that make this so tasty. I bought a pork loin and sliced it into pork steaks that I could put up in the freezer. Depending on size 2 – 3 thick sliced pork loin steaks plus 4 thick slices of bacon will make plenty for two people. Add some grilled corn, onions, zucchini, or red pepper on the side to complete the meal. Or if you prefer grilled peaches, plums or pineapple also taste great alongside apricot glazed pork.