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Friday, April 29, 2011

PieTown's New Mexican Apple Pie

Photo courtesy of Molly Boyle
PieTown is right smack on the Continental Divide, located in West-Central New Mexico, in Catron County. Tom and I drove through this dusty, two restaurant town about ten years ago, starving, on a Saturday afternoon. Pretty much all we could see were the two places to eat and nothing else. It was just a wide place on the road. 

We stopped at a place called Daily Pie because there was an assortment of cars in the parking lot, most of them with local license plates. (That's how you find good restaurants while on the road.) Saturday was special in PieTown because the only meal served that day was dinner: Your choice of beef, chicken, or ham, with mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, and of course, for dessert, pie. It was a basic, down-home meal, and everyone in the dining room was loving it: forest service workers, ranchers, sunburned bicyclists, elderly couples who probably make the drive each Saturday for diversion, and travelers like ourselves. 

The pie was excellent: I had the New Mexican apple pie and took a slice of banana cream to go. It was a decadent breakfast treat the next morning. Later, I found an article in Smithsonian magazine about PieTown's history and felt right there on the cutting edge of coolness.

This New Mexican Apple Pie is a family favorite and we've made it for the past couple Thanksgiving dinners. It's sweet and spicy at the same time. There's just a hint of green's kind of mysterious and people wonder what they are tasting. If you are in a hurry, those Pillsbury Ready Crusts work just fine. P.S. The Daily Pie Cafe has changed its name to Pie Town Cafe The Good Pie Cafe if you decide to go looking for it.

 New Mexican Apple Pie (From Daily Pie CafĂ©, Pie Town, NM)

4 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 c. sugar
4 T. flour
2 t. cinnamon
¾ t. nutmeg
2 ounces of New Mexican (Hatch) green chili, hot or mild or more! to taste (canned or frozen chiles are okay)
2 ounces of pinon (pine) nuts (I toast mine in a skillet, but you  don't have to)
1 T lemon juice

Peel, core and put apple slices into large mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients mix well.
Set aside to blend flavors while the crust is being prepared.
Pastry crust (makes four crusts)
This recipe will use two crusts.
The other two can be frozen for future use, always handy and makes for a speedy pie.

3 cups of flour
¼ t. baking powder
1 t. salt
½ c. salted butter
½ c. shortening
1 egg
1 T. white vinegar
1/2 c. ice cold water
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter and shortening to pea sized pieces with pastry knife or fork and knife(do not use your hands yet). In separate bowl, mix egg, vinegar and water. Add wet mix to flour mixture small amounts at a time and blend with spoon or pastry cutter until dry ingredients are moist and form a ball (more or less water may have to be added depending on moisture content of flour).

Roll into a ball wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour. Divide dough into four sections. Roll out one section on a floured board to fit 9” pie pan. Put crust into pan. Place apple mix , mounded in the center. Top with one rolled section of crust. Flute edges, cut vent holes into top crust. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle natural sugar on top (optional). Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, turn, then 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an one hour. Pie is done when golden brown and juices bubble thickly around the outer edge. Serve with vanilla ice cream (highly suggested).

Giveaway Winners Announced!

This blog operation is decidedly low-tech: Since there were just nine comments and one was mine, here's what I did:

1. I made slips of paper for everyone except me. Then I placed the slips into an empty gelato carton (Van Rixel Bros. Creme Brulee Vanilla Gelato made in Albuquerque--very rich. I was able to stretch this pint for two months due to extreme guilt).

2. Then I drew two numbers.Do you like my new tablecloth fabric? It's much brighter than it shows here. I may need sunglasses to eat dinner.

3. And the winners are.....Jacky and Pattie! Email me your mailing info and I will get your prizes in the mail Monday.  Congratulations, winners!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Growing Veggies in Northern New Mexico

In our area of Northern New Mexico the growing season is so short that Danny DeVito would look like a giant standing next to it. Most people plant around May 1, with fewer than 150 actual growing days. Average summer nighttime temperatures are in the upper 40's, which makes it tough for tomatoes to set. Last summer I chose cool weather, short season tomatoes and picked a few tasty fellows, but not enough to have some lasting homegrown tomato memories. But there wasn't much else to speak of.

My dad was an avid gardener and even when the folks moved to a senior citizen neighborhood with a small back yard, Earl was hard at work, growing enviable veggies in a teensy amount of space. I've always wanted to be as good a veggie grower as my dad was, but so far I am not even close. Maybe our new Growing Dome will move me up to James Earl Coots status. (An aside: Did you know that Ralph Cotton, a prolific writer of western novels, has a character named James Earl Coots in two of his novels? Named after my dad? Yup!)

Let me catch you up on the greenhouse project. I saw an article about year round harvesting in a Santa Fe paper and noticed the author had a geodesic dome greenhouse. I did my research and visited the author's greenhouse just after our worst sub-zero freeze in 30 years. In Santa Fe, she picked tomatoes until mid-February, a week that brought temps as low as -22 F.  The raised growing beds inside the dome were thriving with any kind of green leafy thing you'd ever want. The waterfall inside the dome was soothing, a warm refuge from the windy 40 degree weather outside. I was sold.

The guys from Growing Spaces arrived on a Monday afternoon and were finished Wednesday early evening. Here's a quick look at the process.

Rock foundation

Walls: We opted for 2 ft walls for more head space
Components are assembled on the ground
Triple wall polycarbonate glazing
The walls have added foam insulation, as does around the outside
Wall insulation is in
Vents open and close automatically to regulate temps in the dome. I am not looking at his butt.
A finished dome and happy crew
Later--the inside and how it all works.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday-A Mystery Quilt

Road to California is a gigantic quilt show held each January in Ontario, offering a star studded cast of quilt legends.  There are classes to take, demos to watch, quilts to admire and lectures to attend. It's four days of quilt overload! I spend way too much, but that's okay because while I am typing this, Tom is probably on ebay. Yeah, I just checked and there he is.

That's Mark with his dogbuddies
 Mark Lipinski was at Road a couple years ago, so sis-in-law Pattie and I decided to take a mystery quilt class from him. It was from 6 in the evening until the wee hours of the morning.  Some of these quilty ladies had entire quilts made in record time. It was like they were in the Bluebirds reading group and I was in the Buzzards!

Outside the meeting room a beautiful, eclectic mix of quilts was arrayed on the hallway floor like a Middle Eastern carpet bazaar. Back inside the meeting room, I plugged away at my sewing machine, just trying to get the danged quilt done.

I tried to stick it out, but when I began rotary cutting like a drunkard, I knew it was time to pack it in. Suffice it to say that around midnight I ran out of gas and went to bed.

A few weeks later I finished the quilt. Then it sat for a while longer, about six months or so, and I finally took it to the quilter.  When I got it back it was time to move and I hadn't sewn on the binding. It still isn't sewn on, but I have an incentive: I promised a charity in Mora that they could have a quilt for their silent auction and I promised it for next week. So the quilt will finally be done,  have a new home and there will be scholarships for some Mora seniors.

I like it but I don't love it, so that's why it's going to a new home.

Here's a close-up of the fabric used in the quilt. I love that flowery print, don't you? The shadow of doom is me and the camera phone. (Gotta find the real camera. Where is it?)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ms. Pearl-The Ranch Dog

Ms. Pearl is half-Labrador, half Australian shepherd and half human. She's named after an obscure 1950s song by Jimmy Wages called “Miss Pearl." When we bought her seven years ago, son Zack was into rockabilly music and that song was heavy on the playlist. So Miss Pearl it was. Recently Molly decided that Miss Pearl should aspire to a higher calling, so changed her name to Ms. Pearl. M.P. is now a feminist bitch.

Miss Pearl was the proverbial “runt of the litter.” Picked upon by her big, rowdy brothers, she ran to her owner’s porch for safety when we first met her. I said “I don’t want her----she is a fraidy-cat.”  Zack and Tom, however, fell in love right from the start, so we took her home.     

When she arrived home, she almost immediately took her first poop.

 Ms. Pearl is our second Australab,  Australian Shepherd and Labrador Retriever mixed. She has qualities of both breeds, the herding instinct and (some of the) intelligence of the Aussie and the (some of the) retrieval capabilities and amiable temperament of a Lab.

When Tom and Ms. Pearl go bird hunting, she retrieves but only returns the bird halfway. Then she drops it and that's all she wrote. A hunting friend explained this behavior:  because she is only half Labrador, she only brings it halfway back. Makes sense.

Ms. Pearl's favorite retrieval items, though, are fake ducks and Frisbees.

No animals were harmed in this photo.

Ms. P loves FAF: Frisbee Action Fun
She returns the Frisbees and fake ducks all the way back, without fail, because we are trained to throw them again. And again. And again.

Ms. P is always up for an adventure. When Tom puts on the binoculars or I put on my shoes, she's ready to go.

 Because there might be water for swimming. This is Pearlie Mae's Creek.

Or rocks to pose on.

 She's a fence inspector 

 and a supervisor for the road department.

When she hears the Ranger start up, she jumps into her "Mobile." (That's what she calls it.)

It is Her Car.
She even went out to plow the snow in -19 F weather this past winter.

 Ms. P started shivering, though, so warm blankies were necessary. Next year she gets one of those insulated dog jackets, and who knows what else? I caught her looking through the Orvis dog catalog. Now she wants “an Orvis bed.”  Since she spends most cold nights on our bed restricting our covers, we may have to get her that too.

She isn't just an action dog, though. She has a softer side.

That's my dad
She comforts aged parents.
That's Tom's dad

Gets snacks from her grandma. They are called "Grahmer Crackers."
Tom's mom, ever generous
It's all just so exhausting being a perfect dog.

It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's a Giveaway Day!

Hooray! We have a couple events to celebrate:

1. It's been little over a year since we moved to this Northern New Mexico ranchito.


2. We have hit the 1000 visitor mark in just one month! It's amazing and gratifying, all wrapped up in one bloggy package.

We are writing this blog because our family and friends wanted to know what it was like living out here in the wilds of Northern New Mexico. It also keeps us out of trouble and I haven't been arrested even once since I started writing regularly.

The fact that more of you are showing up every day is just plain fun!

This giveaway is a way to show our appreciation for you, the readers. We are using money earned from the advertisements you see on the site to pay for the prizes. Some of you may have, either on purpose or inadvertently, clicked the ads while exploring. That's what's covering the costs. So we are sharing the love. If some company actually does pay for an amazing, spectacular giveaway prize, you will know about it right up front.

Okay, okay! Get to it, you are saying. What can we win?

New Mexico Soap makes handmade quality soap right here in our state. The soap is pretty, smells good, and looks unique. They also sell shea butter, which is the only thing that makes my dry lips kissable. Just ask Ms. Pearl! (and Tom!)

We are giving away two samplers from New Mexico Soap:


Each  Kit contains five components: 

1. Save Our Soap Soap Saver in white
2. One .25 ounce jar of Shea To Go

3. Self-draining pine wood soap dish (made right there in New Mexico Soap's wood shop)
4. Bar Soap(Design and scent will vary)
5. Designer Bar (Design and scent will vary)

These are nicely presented in a forest green customized gift bag.

How can you enter?

Giveaway open through April 28, 2011(Midnight, Mountain Time)

You may enter one time by answering this question in the Comments section of this post:

 What would you like to see us write about at the Nickel and Dime?  If you are an Anonymous poster, you will need to include your name and contact information. may enter a second time if you have a blog. Mention our giveaway in a blog post with a link to the Nickel and Dime Ranch blog. In the comments section, tell that you mentioned us and include a link to your blog.

We will choose two random winners and make the big announcement this Friday, April 29.

Good luck, peeps! Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Thank You Giveaway Coming Soon

 It's been a month since we relaunched our blog. Amazingly, we have had close to 1000 page views and visitors from the United States and eight other countries. We want to thank you for visiting and getting to know us a little better.

To celebrate our 1000 visitor milestone, next week we will be having our first giveaway. All I am saying is it's something New Mexico made.

Stay tuned, and have a Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grilled Cheese and Green Chile Sandwiches

Grilled cheese sandwiches seem to be making a comeback, even going so far as to have entire lunch trucks devoted to this gooey, savory comfort food.

I don't know about your childhood, but grilled cheese and tomato soup was the go-to meal at our place if someone wanted to feel cozy and satisfied, second only to Kraft macaroni and cheese.

 Many Northern New Mexico chefs have tweaked the bland, comforting grilled cheese sandwich recipe by adding chopped green chiles, which definitely makes sense if you live in a place where the official state question is, "Red or green?"

An aside: Green chiles shouldn't be confused with jalapeno chiles. Green chiles, like those canned ones from Hatch or Ortega are what I'm talking about: fairly mild, but with a little spicy flavor. Since we moved to The Land of Red or Green, or both, I have been exposed to Bueno frozen green chiles at the supermarket and they are my favorite, for now.

Of course, you can't beat roasted chiles that you buy in the fall. People around here buy chiles from their favorite roaster guy and peel and freeze humongous amounts for use througout the year. I'm not there, yet, but maybe this fall.

Anyway, here's a grilled cheese recipe to add some spice to your life. It uses canned chiles, but if you have fresh ones in the freezer, get them out and chop-em-up. It will be chile roasting time before you know it, so make room in your freezer!

Green Chile Grilled Cheese Sandwich (This makes 2 sandwiches)

4 slices bread
4 slices American, Jack, or Cheddar cheese
2 T butter or margaring
4 oz can chopped green chiles, or to taste
suggested additions: sliced tomato, cooked bacon, sliced ham, avocado, mayo, mustard

1. Butter 2 slices of bread and place them,  buttered side down, on a comal or grill or in a pan over medium/low heat.

2. Put 2 slices of cheese on each piece of bread. Sprinkle chiles on cheese. Add your other stuff if you are customizing your sammies.

3. Top with the other slices of bread. Butter the top.

4. Grill until your bread is golden brown and the cheese is getting melty. Flip your sandwiches. Grill the other side. Don't get distracted and let it burn.

5. Cut in half to appreciate the beautiful layered, cheesy delight you have made. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday

Holy Week is important to devout Catholic New Mexicans, who attend mass most days this week. When the Spanish came to New Mexico in 1598 they brought Franciscan friars with them, making this state's Christian community older than Jamestown or Plymouth Rock.

Each little village has its church and most of them have been kept in good repair by the community members themselves. One person is often named or elected the mayordomo for the church, someone who cleans and arranges for repairs or upgrades. I had a chance to visit our local church which has had extensive repairs and improvements in the past several years spearheaded by Mayordomo Becky.

The trim is painted blue as is the custom in New Mexico. I have heard that blue around the windows keeps away evil. Some people say it brings good luck. No matter, it looks beautiful against the earthen colors of the adobe.

Notice the window? Even though it isn't real, someone thought the church needed one up there. Talented local artisans do many of the repairs.

The church's bell is protected by chicken wire to deter birds.

This is the church's real window. The cemetery surrounds the front and sides of the church and is itself a wonder to behold. In the window's reflection is the grave of a WWII veteran.

Inside, the church is full of colorful folk art, Stations of the Cross framed in punched tin, hand made altar and chairs, a Spanish style Christ on the Cross, and paintings of saints important to the area. The floor and kneelers are teal blue, an excellent decision by Becky.

This church has significance to Ernest, too, because his ancestors worshiped here and many are buried in the cemetery. Besides, Becky is his sister, so there's another link.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday-A Back Becomes a Front

At Road to California a couple of years ago, I took a class taught by Mark Lipinski, my favorite quilting guy. I ended up with way too many blocks, so when the quilt was finished, I used the leftovers as part of the quilt's backing.

After I pieced it, I realized the fabrics and colors were way too interesting to be on the back of the quilt. And a new quilt it became.

I made sure that the back of this quilt was boring as heck so I would not be tempted again. Click on the photos for a closer view.

Here's a closeup:

Quilting was done by Cotton Creations in Corona, CA

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dreaming of Green

Pounding rain on the metal roof woke me last night and when I looked out the window, there was actual moisture on the ground. Woo hoo!

The Southwest has been experiencing a drought, with New Mexico having the driest winter in sixty years. Wildfires in the eastern part of the state have kept firefighters busy and fire restrictions are in place in all but three counties. When I walk around the ranch, my footsteps crunch. It's like I'm walking on shredded wheat.

The rain today has given me hope, though, and I am dreaming of a green summer, like this:
and this:
And I want to take my shoes off and walk through this:

Cross your fingers for us here. We really miss the green.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Decorating the Nickel and Dime Ranch Headquarters

Of course, everyone has an interior decorator, at least that's how it appears in lifestyle magazines like Country Living and Real Simple. These mags appeal to those who want a simple life in the country and have the money to pay for it. If they haven't paid someone, then the man or lady of the house owns an antique store or has quit being an attorney to become a full time stay at home interior decorator.

Here at the Nickel and Dime, we have a decorator, too. He has an eye for the interesting and unique, so although I protest when I see one of his new "vignettes," I know we are on the cutting edge and any day magazine editors will be pounding down the door wanting to do a pictorial.

In the meantime I will give you a little taste of our decor, kind of like a museum and Ripley's Believe It or Not, combined.

This is Boarus, a wild boar Tom shot in California. Tom didn't want the head, so gave it to his friend, Chuck. Chuck decided it would make an excellent housewarming present and had it mounted and taxidermied. When I returned to the ranch from a visit in California, Boarus was on the kitchen wall.

It's disconcerting when you are cooking bacon and a slavering, tusked pig is watching you. So he resides above our door, instead. Besides, I kept hitting my head on Boarus' chin.

Tom likes to repurpose stuff and his history classroom was a wonder of the campus. At Open House kids would bring their parents to see Tom's classroom decor, which was floor to ceiling posters. Maps, timelines, vintage movie advertisements and other popular culture signifiers were packed onto those walls. He brought most of them home and they are being used once again.

The guest bathroom is devoted to popular culture items, including old photos, posters,  and articles from The Weekly World News , a tabloid devoted to wild conjecture, amazing stories about aliens and odd historical events that never happened.

Lots to look at while you are in "contemplation mode."

Morally depraved youth figure prominently
After you wash your hands, you can even learn a little first aid. Ernest came out of the bathroom one day and said, "How to resuscitate a lizard. I never knew that."
The guest room/office has maps and movie posters.

...and the stairway landing has an old time vignette which captures the essence of country life here at the ranch.

Have a great day, from all of us here at the Nickel and Dime Ranch.