Here’s my debut smoked chicken in the pellet smoker. I’ve roasted chicken in the oven or charcoal grill but never like this. The chicken cooks so evenly and gives the skin a crisp texture that tastes so good. I made a spice rub mixed with red chile, spices and lime olive oil to make a paste that I rubbed all over this bird. I also loosened the outer skin around the breast, legs and thighs, then rubbed the paste between the meat and skin. I learned this trick from Chef Paul Prudhomme. Adding the spice rub under the skin absorbs into the meat as it cooks, adding flavor. We made some fajitas with chicken, roasted veggies, salsa and guacamole. I could tell you how much we enjoyed this meal, however I think the pictures will describe the deliciousness better than my words. At least I hope so!
Wow, where does the time go? Memorial weekend is upon us which signals the beginning of summer grilling, festive salads and frozen treats. This weekend I’m smoking a whole chicken, roasting vegetables and topping it off with frozen sorbet for dessert. This sorbet is easily made with lemon juice, pomegranate juice and simple syrup, that’s it. It’s tart and refreshing but has a multitude of benefits. Lemon helps with immunity, aids in digestion and provides Vitamin C which reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. And Pomegranate juice is high in antioxidants and nutrients that may help with inflammation and urinary health. Once you mix the juices with the simple syrup, pour it into an ice cream maker to freeze or pour into popsicle molds which are also fun to eat, just ask my husband!
Chaco Canyon located in the Four Corners area of New Mexico is the remains of an ancient civilization that began in the mid 800’s. Over the next 300 years, ancestral Puebloans aka Anasazi constructed several communities including single story and multi story stone buildings using techniques that were unique for the times. Every construction was like a community, some having hundreds of rooms. The architecture alone is amazing, oriented to solar, lunar and cardinal directions. By the early 1100’s, Chaco Canyon was a ceremonial and economic hub. It was considered a central place binding regional tribes together for ceremonial get togethers as well as trade. By the late 1100’s the Chacoans shifted in focus to other regional areas such as Aztec, Mesa Verde and beyond. There is evidence that water once flowed through the arroyo near Pueblo del Arroyo which may indicate that climate change could also be a factor why they dispersed to other areas. It’s amazing to see these villages that were built so long ago still standing and here for all of us to witness. Within Chaco Canyon there are many communities with ruins spread out across the canyon. Some are built with such sophistication it makes one wonder how they gained the knowledge to design and construct such precise curved walls, round kivas and multiple stories of rooms. Where did they learn the masonry techniques which still stand today? Chaco has been on my bucket list for the longest time. Our first visit was in May of 2021 touring the many ruins, walking within the walls learning the history and getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Now we’ve returned a year later to hike along the Pueblo Alto trail which overlooks the canyon to get a birds eye view of the ruins below as well as the landscape of the canyon. The architecture is stunning and takes you back in time wondering how they did it.
If you ventured along with Joe and I to the top of Pyramid Rock, you will likely enjoy our hike along the Church Rock Trail, which is also part of Red Rock Park. From the start of the trail, this majestic image has the features of a church and steeple. Church Rock trail includes two loops which resembles a figure 8. The first trail covers 2.6 miles round trip looping back when you get to the base of Church Rock. The second loop is approximately another 1.5 miles and continues around Church Rock. The trail takes you close to the rock formations with a little bit of climbing and scrambling. The perspective changes as you take a 360 degree look at all sides and angles. We found a narrow slot canyon hidden by tent rocks decorated in layers of color. We spotted a white sand dune in the distance that turned out to be a mirage; it was actually white rock that has been carved by wind and sand in the image of a dune. Oh, and if you use your imagination you might find an image of the “Mother Mary” in a rock. At least that’s what the locals told us. I’m reminded by a quote from my son Josh; “don’t look at your feet, always look ahead and upward or you’ll miss the best part”!
My heart is saddened that over the last couple of month’s our beautiful state has been ravaged by wild fires. We are under severe drought conditions and have been battling high winds which makes it so hard to contain them. Please don’t take nature for granted. If there are places you’ve dreamt of seeing, don’t put it off for tomorrow. Enjoy them now while you still can.
Last year Joe and I started exploring the northwest part of New Mexico. Since then we’ve taken several day trips or long weekends to explore the breathtaking areas that you can only experience when hiking to them. I’m biased but I think this area is one of the most beautiful parts of the state. One place in particular that we wanted to go back and explore was the Red Rock Park approximately 10 miles east of Gallup, NM. As part of the Navajo Nation, these two trails lead to Pyramid Rock and Church Rock. There is a connecting trail between the two but it’s a bit too much for Joe and I to do all in one day. They are both moderate trails approximately 3 – 4 miles roundtrip respectively that have some spectacular views. Pyramid Rock as we discovered is not only beautiful from a distance, but the trail leads all the way up to the tip top of the peak. From there you can see for miles and miles in any direction. Joe and I are not in the same shape as our grown kids but we both felt this trail was fairly easy to climb. We met many hikers that had been hiking these trails year after year. They shared with us that if we didn’t go all the way to the top we would miss out on an amazing experience. When someone stops to tell you how much you will treasure an experience; listen. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Looking from above you can see the landscape that surrounds Gallup. From the beautiful Mesa’s that are dotted with shades of green and blue to the Red Rock formations that have been sculpted by the wind and sand, this area will always be one of my most cherished places to visit!
I’ve been craving homemade ice cream, specifically something sweet and salty. After some thought I went with salted pistachios blended with honey vanilla ice cream. The sweet and salty flavors in this ice cream will tempt your taste buds. I had some leftover red and green chile pistachios that Joe and I experimented with as a spicy topper. Both flavors had a subtle spiciness but wasn’t overwhelming to the overall taste. The ice cream is a vanilla base but I replaced part of the sugar with honey. The honey gave it a distinct flavor that tasted unique. If you enjoy sweet and salty flavors, honey pistachio ice cream might be just for you!
If you haven’t noticed already, I’ve been trying out different Asian dishes, learning as I go trying new flavors and techniques. I recently came across some noodle bowls on Pinterest that resemble a brothy soup with noodles and thin sliced pork and pickled mustard stems. It reminded me of a ramen noodle bowl and it looked so tasty. After reading more about it, I just had to give it a try. I found that Zha Cai is a type of Chinese pickled vegetable that tastes sour, salty and sometimes spicy. For this particular dish pickled mustard stems are most commonly added, but alternately pickled radish can be used. It’s a simple recipe, something I thought would appeal to my youngest son Cameron who has always loved a bowl of ramen noodles. This is an easy and healthy alternative that only takes 20 minutes to make.
Have you ever had the Kung Pao Chicken at Panda Express? I’ve been searching for the perfect copycat recipe for years and finally found “the one”. It comes from Jamie at Drive Me Hungry. Seriously this recipe is as close as you’re going to get to the Kung Pao Chicken at Panda Express. I would even go so far as to say it’s better. I couldn’t wait to hunt down all the ingredients and get started. Joe has never ordered Kung Pao when we go to Panda because it has zucchini in it. But he ate every bite and said that the sauce even made zucchini taste good. I think I may add some different vegetables next time to get added veggies into our diet. There are a lot of ingredients in the sauce with some that were new to me such as Chinese black vinegar and Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp. Every time I try a new Asian dish I learn something new. This version of Kung Pao is a very aromatic dish as well as pleasing to the eye. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
I had a grand idea of making breakfast sandwiches over the weekend but it didn’t start out very well. I picked up some English muffins from the store but they were so thin; they just fell apart when I attempted to separate them. At that moment I decided it was time to make my own muffins. I found a recipe that incorporated yogurt into the recipe and was so appealing that I gave it a try. After some adjustments this recipe turned out really good. As with many dough recipes, (even the ones I made in Kansas) I’m finding that I have to adjust the ratio of liquids and dry ingredients because of our high altitude and the dry desert air of New Mexico. If you are unsure of how to adjust your recipes you might try this guide: Cooking and Baking at High Altitudes by Betty Crocker. These muffins took about 2 hours from start to finish which was perfect for our weekend brunch. Our breakfast sandwiches turned out delicious with freshly made English muffins, lightly toasted with egg, cheese and bacon. They are also good with butter and jam too!
If you’ve ever had a Frito pie, most likely it’s been served in a bag or a bowl of Fritos corn chips smothered in red chile, seasoned ground beef and beans, topped with grated cheese and onion. It’s one of our tastiest guilty pleasures and when the Fritos go on sale it’s time to make Frito pies. I often wondered how it would taste with green chile and decided to give it a try. I went to the freezer for a jar of green chile sauce and found that I had used the last jar and there was none to be found. Not to worry, I always have a backup in the pantry. A jar of 505 Flame Roasted Green Chile is my go to sauce when I don’t have homemade. I used to find in it Kansas and apparently it’s marketed in many Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco’s around the country so even if you don’t live in NM you may be able to find it in your area. The key to making a green chile Frito pie is to be generous with the green chile and add enough broth to make the texture saucy but not soupy. Pinto beans are traditionally added, however Joe isn’t going to change his ways even for tradition so I only added beans to my pie. We garnished them with lettuce, tomato, onion and grated cheese. I can’t believe I didn’t try this sooner. Green Chile Frito Pie is here to stay, we love it and I hope you will too!