Posted at 3:19 pm , on December 19, 2019
I can’t believe it’s mid December already with the holidays just around the corner. As the days pass by, I don’t want to be planning my holiday meal at the last minute so I decided to make some mini hand pies now. They can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen until you need them. Also, you can thaw just the number of pies needed and save the rest for later. I found a new pie crust recipe to try that includes a secret ingredient . . . vodka. I was a bit hesitant but found it to be one of the best pie crusts I’ve ever made. The dough was easy to work with and also baked light and flaky. It tasted so good with a cranberry apple filling that is perfect for the holiday season.
Posted at 3:56 pm , on December 6, 2019
Do you ever feel nostalgic around the holidays? It can bring back memories of your favorite times with friends and family, at least that happens to me. Recently I came across a folder with my old takeout menu’s that I saved from our favorite restaurants in Kansas City. One of our favorite restaurants was Frida’s, decorated in the art of Frida Kahlo, serving authentic Mexican food that was different than anything we ever tasted in New Mexico. Oh, how we loved that place! Frida’s was popular for a time but ultimately closed it’s doors in the summer of 2016. However, I saved their menu which described their dishes in great detail. I re-created their Caldo Tlapeno a few years ago which is one of my favorite soups to date. Joe’s favorite dish was the Chile en Nogada. Translation . . . it’s poblano chiles stuffed with meat, fruits and spices topped with a cream sauce and pomegranate seeds called nogada. It’s a beautiful dish with the aroma and colors of the holidays. With pomegranates in season I thought it was time to re-create this dish at home. Surprisingly it was very easy to make and captured the taste and appearance we remembered so fondly.
Posted at 2:09 pm , on December 3, 2019
Green chile is a staple here in NM with the harvest beginning in early August. Around mid September until the first frost, the chiles that are left on the plant will begin to mature and turn the most magnificent color of red. You might think they are used mainly to string chile ristras that will be dried and eventually ground into chile powder. This is true, however some of the local farms will pick the red chiles at their peak and roast them just like green chiles. They tend to have a hint of sweetness but can also taste hotter than the green chiles. As they mature their outer skin becomes thicker which can make them easier to peel or harder depending on who roasts it. I’ve had some bad experiences over the years and it’s worth it to find out who is roasting your chile and how much experience they have. I haven’t had much luck finding recipes using roasted red chiles, however I always wanted to try it with a creamy pasta. Actually it tasted better than I could have imagined. The sweet heat from the chiles compliment the creamy cheese sauce which clings to every strand of pasta. This has become one of our new comfort foods that we can’t get enough of, at least until the chile runs out . . .
Posted at 9:56 am , on October 25, 2019
There’s nothing I love more than Green Chile Sauce smothered over a favorite burrito, enchilada or navajo taco. I have been experimenting for years trying to mimic the taste found at our favorite restaurants. Here in NM you will find green chile sauce on the shelves of grocery stores, many from the restaurants that we frequently eat at. Trying to replicate that magical taste has always eluded me; until now. Nearly every recipe I find online or in cookbooks have the same basic ingredients of green chile, onion, garlic and salt with variations of spices, sometimes adding cumin or oregano. I’ve made them all and although they are good, they just don’t have that perfect taste and appearance that I’ve longed to make. When in doubt go to the ingredients listed on your favorite jar. I was surprised to find that every jar of green chile in my pantry listed lime juice and no onion. Of all the recipes I’ve tried there wasn’t a single one that added lime juice. The moment I took that first taste, it was like the genie had been let out of the bottle. Lime juice was the missing ingredient!
Posted at 1:31 pm , on October 22, 2019
Scones were the first thing that come to mind when I made prickly pear jelly. I had just found a recipe online for tea scones and thought they would be perfect with my jelly. Honestly, I could eat scones every day of the week with their slightly sweetened dough and crunchy texture. Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a biscuit and a scone. They are quite similar but a scone has an egg added to the dough while a biscuit does not. Who wouldn’t want to pry one apart and add a spoonful of your favorite jelly or jam. One thing I’ve learned since we moved to a higher altitude is that recipes with a leavening agent need to be adjusted. Here in Albuquerque we are above 5000 ft. sea level where Kansas City is below 1000 ft. sea level. My cookies and scones were expanding way too much so decreasing the baking soda or baking powder became necessary. Also I have experienced having to alter the amount of wet ingredients to dry when making a dough. Our dry climate makes it sometimes necessary to add additional liquids to bind the dough together. Something I need to remember when baking!
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!