Another year, another birthday pie! Every summer I make myself a peach pie, cobbler or crisp with different variations of crusts, toppings or sometimes pairing peaches with berries. A couple month’s ago I came across a recipe for “Apricot, Blue Corn and Pecan Crisp” from FarmersMarketNM.org with an amazing topping that I couldn’t resist. It reminded me of my “Peach Pie with Pecan Crumble”, that I made a few years back, but with a new twist. The most delicious peach pies starts with summer ripened peaches. In my experience, mid to late July is the best time to start finding those juicy, flavorful peaches that taste so good. And then you have to decide what kind of topping, whether it be a traditional crust or a crumble topping made with oats and flour, butter, sugar and nuts. This topping with blue corn flour has a slightly different texture; you may find it more grainy than using all purpose flour but it has a hint of saltiness in the topping that tastes so good with the sweet peaches. Add a dollop of vanilla ice cream and you will have the perfect summer dessert!
August in New Mexico means it’s green chile season! The harvesting has begun and any day now you may start seeing “Hatch” green chile in your grocery store no matter where you live. The roasters are fired up and the aroma of roasted green chile is in the air. As soon as I found them in the grocery store I picked up a dozen and roasted them myself on the grill. They had the perfect amount of heat and had so much flavor. I’m always trying to find new ways to incorporate green chile into everyday recipes and thought it might taste good in a loaded baked potato salad. Oh my goodness, this turned out better than I could have imagined. Joe isn’t a fan of traditional potato salads but he loves this version. Instead of mayo I used a low fat sour cream and seasoned it with dehydrated green chile powder, salt and garlic powder. Limiting the cheese and bacon makes for a lighter version but didn’t skimp on flavor. Adding roasted green chile was the perfect addition to the mix. Try it fresh when the potatoes are still warm enough to slightly melt the cheese. You will be amazed when you take a bite of the warm cheese and green chile combined with the creamy potatoes. It’s Muy Bueno!
After a tumultuous drought season in New Mexico with record fires, we’ve finally received some much needed rain. The monsoon season arrived in June and gave our national forests some relief. Many of our national forests, state parks and many other trails had been closed to the public due to fire safety. I am happy to say that most if not all are now open. Joe and I couldn’t be happier and anxious to get back up north where the weather is cooler amid so many beautiful hiking trails. Bandelier National Monument is an archaeological site with the remains of cliff dwellings nestled in the Frijoles Canyon. Along the Pueblo Loop trail you will see the tall cliffs that provide natural caves large enough for shelter which we were able to enter by climbing ladders. Some of these ladders are quite high and not for the faint of heart if you have a fear of heights. Halfway through the loop trail is the Alcove House which is a ceremonial cave with a reconstructed kiva. After we successfully climbed to the Alcove House we made the loop back and took the Frey Trail to the top of the Frijoles Rim Mesa where we enjoyed stunning views of the canyon and the layout of the circular remains of a pueblo village below. There are numerous trails within and surrounding the Frijoles Canyon from easy short trails to strenuous long distance trails that you can backpack with a permit. For now I hope you will enjoy our trip to Bandelier National Monument, who knows, you may want to explore it too!
Recently I cleaned out the freezer, something I do every few month’s. You know how it goes when we add things to the freezer and some things get pushed to the back and forgotten. I found a bag of vacuum sealed shrimp that I had put up a couple month’s ago. Since it’s grilling season, I immediately thought shrimp tacos would taste mighty good, especially with some mango or pineapple salsa and crunchy cabbage. I went to the store to pick up some fruit and cabbage. I found ripe mangos but the pineapple would need a few days, so it’s mango salsa tonight. This meal is a simple way to have a colorful tasty meal with little effort. I love the taste of grilled shrimp with tropical fruit. And the finely chopped cabbage adds a bit of crunch which makes these tacos look and taste like they came off a food truck.
Hummus has been the snack of choice for Joe lately. He is an early riser and about 10 am he wants a snack to get him through until lunch. I’ve been picking up hummus spread from the store to snack on with crackers during the week, however he was getting tired of the same flavors. So I asked what sounded good to him and of course he wanted chile. So the next question was red or green? He picked roasted red chile which turned out to be a great choice. Chile that is grown in New Mexico is harvested when it is green, but some are left on the vine to mature which turns red. Many of the mature red chiles will be strung together in chile ristras to dry out. Those pods when dried can be used to make red chile sauce or ground into powder for spice blends. Some farms will roast the mature red chiles at the end of the harvest and those are what I’m adding to the hummus today. Roasted red chile can sometimes be spicier than green but has a hint of sweetness which gives it a unique taste. That unique flavor works well in this hummus spread.
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!