It’s almost lavender season here in New Mexico. Normally there would be lavender festivals at Los Poblanos Farms in Albuquerque and at Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in Abiquiu over the next few week; however they will be cancelled for a second year in a row due to Covid. Luckily I live close to Los Poblanos which includes the Los Poblanos Historic Inn, Hacienda Spa and CAMPO restaurant that uses their own harvest vegetables to make up their menu. They also have a farm shop with a bakery and many lavender products including culinary lavender and lavender honey. And they make lavender lotions, soap and hand sanitizers plus many more items. Our first lavender festival experience was just after our move back to New Mexico. We went to the Purple Adobe Lavender Festival near Abiquiu. We had a wonderful time and would encourage anyone who has a chance to visit next year in late June or first of July to please check out these wonderful festivals. Earlier in the week I visited the farm shop and picked up some lavender and honey to make Blueberry Lavender Jam. It was a wonderful combination of slightly sweet blueberries with a hint of lavender flowers in the background.
May is truly my favorite time of year. The warm sunshine makes me feel so good being outdoors and enjoying nature. Whether it’s going for a walk or watching the roadrunners and quail stop by to feed in our backyard, it’s the simple things that make me happy. This month has gone by way too quickly and now the Memorial holiday is upon us signaling that summer is just around the corner. I hope you all have a festive weekend and enjoy your time relaxing with family, friends or nature. I’ve been craving something cherry and decided to make some Cherry Cheesecake Bars for the weekend. What a great dessert to cap off the weekend! It’s easy to make and a crowd pleaser for any get together!
For the past few month’s I’ve been partnering with NM Dept. of Agriculture on a campaign to promote local New Mexico products. I try to come up with creative recipes using these products in ways that may seem “outside the box”. This week I tried a soup mix from Cibolo Junction and a dressing mix from Jillipepper. With the weather turning warmer soup isn’t ideal so I used the mix to make Braised Chicken and Rice. The ingredients list is light on the details but it includes different types of chiles, cilantro and lime with rice. It sounds Southwest but Joe and I both agreed that it had a lot of Cajun flavors going on. A possibility might be because I used less liquid and the flavors were enhanced. It was quite tasty and Joe (who loves Cajun dishes) really enjoyed it. This was paired with a simple salad on the side with Jillipepper’s Dress It mix. This dressing mix was one of the best things I’ve tried yet. I used it as a marinade for chicken, a dressing for pasta salad and had a little bit left over for our salads here. The one thing I’ve found is that using good local products helps our economy and can make our meals a bit easier to prepare. Of course I will always enjoy the meals made from scratch but it’s been fun trying out new things and tasting all the local products. Some products come from our local restaurants while others are entrepreneurships that have started out of one’s garden or kitchen. I’ve found some real gems that I would buy over and over again. Even if you don’t live in NM, maybe this will inspire you to try local products from your state that give you new and innovative ideas to incorporate them into your meals.
The Bisti Badlands are located in the four corners area of New Mexico south of Farmington off of Hwy 371. The Bisti’s have been #1 on my bucket list for many years, but for different reasons we haven’t been able to go until now. You can look at photos and watch YouTube videos but there is nothing like seeing this landscape in person that makes you feel transported into another place and time. Much of the landscape appears black and white or sepia tone. It’s dry and desolate and the heat becomes a factor much of the afternoon so hiking in this area is best in the mornings. We carried several bottles of water with us knowing that there were no water stations to refill our bottles. The area is 45,000 acres and 60 square miles so unless you have an idea where to go, you could wander for hours. We did our research and decided we needed a GPS to coordinate areas and also keep track of our path because there are no trails and many of the footprints are blown away with the wind. We parked at the south parking lot and entered our coordinates into our GPS with 3 areas that we wanted to see; the Wings, Cracked Eggs and the Petrified Logs. We made it to those areas but we were also lured into other areas that we wanted to explore. There’s just so much to see, much more than we could even imagine in the few hours we were there. I hope you can imagine being transported to this enchanted land that was shaped by time and mother nature!
There’s a debate among New Mexicans whether red chile sauce tastes better made with chile powder or pods. I follow a facebook page for New Mexico recipes and learned that families love their red chile and will fiercely defend their method of making it. I’ve only made red chile with powder once before and it was gritty and I didn’t really like the texture. I’ve always preferred making a batch with pods by soaking them and then pureeing them in the blender. With pods you can strain them to remove all that pulp and peel. But after some time has gone by I’ve decided it was time to try powder again. I’m trying Tia Rita’s Home Style Enchilada Sauce that comes from Las Cruces in Southern NM. The ingredients listed are red chile, paprika, constarch, salt garlic, baking soda and oregano. That’s pretty close to the spices I would normally use so I gave it a try. The mix was quite easy and less messy. Just add water and simmer for 4 – 6 minutes. The texture was not quite as smooth as using pods but it wasn’t nearly as gritty as the powder I had used previously. We found it flavorful with just the right amount of heat for our palate. I made a plate of cheese enchiladas with beans and potatoes on the side and sopaipillas. The sopaipillas were made from the Desert Gardens Sopaipilla and Fry Bread Mix. I made fry bread for my Indian tacos and saved the rest of the dough for sopaipillas. The remaining dough made 6 sopaipillas which was perfect alongside our enchiladas. They tasted so good with a drizzle of honey. So the debate goes on whether red chile is better with powder or pods. I’d advise anyone to try both methods and decide for yourself!
I usually stay away from fried foods but when it comes to fry bread I will always make an exception. Lets face it, you just can’t make that crispy airy bread any other way. And one of the best ways to eat fry bread is to make Indian tacos aka Navajo tacos. This past year with Covid we’ve been ordering takeout instead of eating inside and I haven’t had an Indian taco from a restaurant in over a year. It tastes so much better when it’s fresh and comes out to the table warm and crisp. So I decided to make them at home and I have to say they tasted pretty darn good! The fry bread was a simple prep courtesy of Desert Gardens Fry Bread mix. Just add water, stir and let sit for 10 minutes. I used half the dough and placed the rest in the fridge to make sopaipillas the next day. For the toppings I browned ground beef and added beans and green chile. It tasted so good along with lettuce, cheese, tomato and onion. The one thing I would do is make smaller portions next time. These turned out huge and way more than we could eat but every bite was delicious!
Diablo Canyon is located in a remote area North and West of Santa Fe. It’s about a 1 1/2 hour drive from our home in Northwest Albuquerque. Joe and I drove up to the canyon on Easter Sunday and had the most amazing day! We saw many folks hiking, some biking, rock climbers and many trailers filled with ATV’s to enjoy the rough terrain. We even saw a hang glider floating in the wind. There were two trails that we hiked, this one through the Diablo Canyon and one along the Rio Grande River about 3 miles further West called Buckman. To get here we traveled a very rough dirt road called Old Buckman Road which is pure washboard for a little over 10 miles. It was like getting a vibrating massage as you travel down this dusty dirt road. We read in our guidebook that parts of the movie 3:10 to Yuma were filmed in this canyon. We got there early and enjoyed several hours before the sky started to get dark with a few clouds blowing in. When we left there wasn’t a parking place to be found. Many families had the same idea as us and wanted to enjoy the holiday outdoors where it really does feel spiritual at times with such beauty all around us.
Recently I spent a weekend roasting a chicken and pickling some radishes to make some of the tastiest Mojo tacos around. Have you seen the spatchcock chickens that everyone is grilling these days? I think they look amazing! Mojo chicken can be described as chicken that’s been marinated in orange and lime juice along with garlic and herbs. Making it spatchcock allowed the chicken to lay flat on the grill and cook evenly. The chicken turned out tender, juicy and full of flavor. A whole chicken for 2 people makes a lot of meals; there was enough chicken for tacos along with some wraps, a pot of soup and sandwiches. The tacos can have any number of toppings, I chose some picked radish mix along with cilantro, avocado and crumbled fresco cheese I splurged and picked up some street tortillas in corn and flour that are smaller but fun to eat. We enjoyed these little street tacos with salsa and chips and called it a meal. They tasted like we got them off a taco truck!
I often make pickled red onions or pickled jalapenos which are the perfect condiment to go with many dishes, especially tacos and sandwiches, nachos or burgers. Recently I’ve noticed that radishes have become popular as a pickled condiment. It made me think, why not make a mix of all three? If you love pickled veggies you’ll love this mix that adds a spicy kick. I added them to tacos and a barbeque sandwich which gave a salty spicy crunch that really elevated the taste. I’m thinking they might be good in potato salad or chicken salad too. After experimenting with pickling red onions I found I like the taste of lime juice over vinegar when it comes to pickling. I came across the lime juice method years ago from Rick Bayless and never went back. This is the perfect time of year to make a jar of spicy pickled radish mix to go with many of your favorite meals.
Breakfast tacos are easy to make and scrumptious to eat. I like to make them with creamy scrambled eggs and toppings that include cheese, bacon, avocado and tomato with a drizzle of salsa. There are so many options that might go into a breakfast taco . . . maybe some diced onion or red peppers, green chile, spinach, or herbs. When it comes to toppings it’s all up to you. What I really want to talk about is the cheesy hash browns on the side. They are fantastic. If you order hash browns at a dozen different restaurants you’ll probably get a dozen different tastes and textures. I like my hash browns crispy outside while creamy inside. That’s a rare find but I think I’ve found a way to make them at home. After testing boiled potatoes and baked potatoes, I tried using dehydrated hash browns that you find in a box. The dehydrated shredded potatoes were the one that achieved that perfect combination of crispy and creamy hash brown. The addition of flour and butter makes the potatoes crisp on the outside while the cheese and egg keeps the inside creamy. I plan on testing some other additions like sour cream or yogurt instead of cheese to see how that alters the taste and texture. I’ll update you on my findings but in the meantime enjoy some breakfast tacos with some cheesy hash browns on the side.