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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recovering From Thanksgiving?

Are you recovered from Thanksgiving, yet? We had a great one, with both the kids here and lots of great fun and food. And I beat The Wordsmith at Scrabble! The old gal still has her marbles, woo hoo!

Okay, enough crowing.

Monday we took those kids to the Albuquerque Sunport (where they have a Meditation Room) and we stayed at a motel and ate Chinese takeout. That's our idea of some major fun.

While the car had its muffler fixed, I took a walk to the mall and had a little shopping fix. And I went to Barnes and Noble and drank coffee at one of their little tables and read a magazine! It's the little things, isn't it?

Today is a cleaning and Stacked Turkey Enchiladas and get the mail and plant some herbs day. Hope you have a great one!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Solar Heating the Cabin

Most of our winter days don't look like this. Snow, if we get it,  melts in a couple hours or a couple days. We let Angel Fire and Sipapu, our local ski areas have all the snow because they need it for business. Which reminds me to tell you that on my list for this season is ski biking. But that's for another day.

We are pretty lucky because the previous owners who built this cabin spent considerable time planning how to site it. They tracked the sun's path during different seasons to determine how to manage the sun's heat, so in the winter the sun comes through those three windows and warms the living room and in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky. we stay cool.

Since this area gets about 310 days of sunshine a year, using solar is a no-brainer, and the cabin, with its passive solar design, was a smart move.  Once the sun is up, we usually don't even need to use the wood stove or the propane for heat.

If it's cloudy, like in the photo below, Tom uses some of his wood supply to warm up the place, and the Airlock logs with their hollow centers act as insulation to keep it toasty inside.

Ms. Pearl and Miss Bonnie love the sun, too, and have found the perfect place to enjoy it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stacked Turkey Enchiladas, Green

Yesterday was awesome, but I was too busy to take a photo of the Thanksgiving table groaning with food. This photo will have to suffice, I guess.

If you're like I am, you will mine that leftover turkey carcass for all it's worth, and in this case, since we opted for a local Embudo Farms turkey, it was worth a lot!

That turkey still has some miles on  it, to the tune of Turkey Tortilla Soup and Turkey Stacked Enchiladas, as well as the basic reheated turkey, potatoes, gravy, etc plate you are having for breakfast.

New Mexican cooks (West Texans, too) stack their enchiladas rather than roll them. It's quicker and easier to layer the tortillas and if you are suffering from post Thanksgiving Cooking Syndrome like I am, it's minimal effort for something delicious. Some folks stack individual portions on a plate, but I am a casserole fan, so that's how this one will go.

Stacked Turkey Enchiladas, Green 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Have 9 X 9 inch oven safe dish handy.


12 corn tortillas
1 28 oz can green chile enchilada sauce, mild (I like Juanita's or Las Palmas)
2 cups shredded turkey
3/4 c sour cream
6-8 ounces of shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Salsa, more sour cream, cilantro for garnish. 


1. Pour almost all the green chile sauce into a saute pan. Save about 1/2 cup  to cover the bottom of your baking dish.

2. Heat the green chile sauce to barely simmering. Dip your corn tortillas, using tongs, one at a time, into the sauce to soften a little. (You can do this with oil, but after that giant Thanksgiving dinner do you really need more fat?) Arrange 4 tortillas over the sauced bottom of your baking dish, overlapping slightly and allowing the tortilla to climb up the sides of the dish if necessary.

3.  Sprinkle 1 cup turkey over the first layer of tortillas.  Using a spoon or ladle, pour a little of the simmering green chile sauce to moisten. Sprinkle a third of the cheese over the turkey and dot 1/4 cup sour cream over it all.

3. Dip 4 more tortillas into the simmering green chile sauce, arrange like before and repeat with remaining 1 cup turkey,  one third of  the cheese, chile sauce to moisten,  and sour cream dollops.

4. Dip the last 4 tortillas in the remaining sauce and lay them over the top of your casserole. Pour any remaining green sauce over the top. If there's a lot, use a spatula to help the sauce travel into the casserole. Sprinkle with cheese, dot with 1/4 cup sour cream.

5. Bake enchiladas for about 30 minutes, until casserole is merrily bubbling and cheese is slightly browned. Let it all set for about 5 minutes.

Garnish with salsa, more sour cream, and cilantro, if you like it.

Serves 4-6 depending on how hungry you all are.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Day To Reflect

St. Francis of Assisi Church, Taos, NM

We are grateful to you all. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Today I Wish I Had My Own Barista

I like to read Dianne Mott Davidson's Goldy mysteries not only because of the great recipes included in each book, but because Goldy is a caterer with a kitchen that includes an espresso machine. That seems to be the height of luxury. Need a pick me up? Just make a cappuccino!

But I will raise her one, because what I really want today is my own barista. He'd be a laid back surfer dude in flip flops and shorts, t-shirt optional. He wouldn't be a big conversationalist because I have work to do. His job would be to make me artistic coffee drinks like they have at Kean Coffee in Newport Beach, Martin Deidrich's little mini-coffee empire he created after Diedrich's and Gloria Jean's.

So why do I want my own barista? Well, today is a busy day since tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We will start our engines today, cooking and preparing ahead for a big feast tomorrow. I am missing a few ingredients which requires a drive to Mora. Gotta brine that turkey and where's that extra box of Kosher salt I thought I had? And how the hell did I forget onions?

So a cappuccino is in order for starters. Then an almond milk latte, and maybe some Mayan hot chocolate or an iced tea drink. I would share the surferdude barista with MBB since she is cooking, too.

Here's what's on the menu. I'm writing this to force myself to focus.

Celery and Carrots with Onion Dip
Green Salad (Starring a Survivor Lettuce from the Growing Dome)
Cider Brined and Glazed Turkey
Fig/Cranberry Compote
James Earl Coots' Famous Mashed Potatoes
Turkey Gravy
Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Sauteed Green Beans and Red Peppers with Pinenuts
New Mexican Apple Pie
Baked Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings

What's on your Thanksgiving menu?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Snow in the High Country: Northern New Mexico

For those who like to ski, Sipapu Ski Resort, just north of Mora, NM, has opened for your skiing pleasure. I do not know how to ski, but I've put snow tubing at each local ski resort on my bucket list. I'd also like to ride down a snowy hill on one of those ski bikes.

In the meantime, we will take walks in the snow. Nope, no snow here at the Nickel and Dime, but last week between Angel Fire and Taos was plenty of snow for our hiking pleasure.

It was a brilliant day, sunglasses needed.

Ms. P raced around, making figure 8's, wallowing in the snow and generally having a "isn't it great to be a dog" day.

Below in a more sedate moment:

We are hoping for more snow because it adds moisture to the soil, but so far it's just in the higher elevations. But a man and his dog can hope for more, can't they?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chickpeas With Baby Spinach (New York Times)

At this time of year I panic a little, thinking of all the food that comes with Thanksgiving and then Christmas. I don't panic about cooking holiday foods, because I like to cook, but the siren song of leftover pumpkin pie, apple cake, and the upcoming cookie deluge calls me. And I don't want to crash on those rocks!

So I act like a healthful eater in an attempt to be a healthy person. It doesn't always work, but I  feel so noble eating good-for-me stuff that sometimes that wholesome glow carries on when those sweet leftovers start calling my name.

This is a recipe from The New York Times and it's become my go-to dish for a healthy lunch or for those dinners when Tom is eating leftover spaghetti for the third time in a row. (He's easy to please. For Tom, food is just fuel.)

I don't know what it is about this combination of onions, garlic, cumin, tomato paste and broth that turns boring garbanzo beans and spinach into something ethereal and elevating, but it does.

The New York Times' Chickpeas With Baby Spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt, preferably kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, or water
Cayenne to taste
1 6-oz. bag baby spinach

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, tomato paste and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring for one to two minutes, until fragrant and the tomato paste has turned a darker color. Add the chickpeas, the stock or water, and the cayenne, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring until each addition of spinach wilts. Add salt to taste and simmer uncovered, stirring often, for five minutes. Add lots of freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt and cayenne, and serve.

You can serve this over pasta or some grain-type thing like couscous, but I like it just the way it is. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves three (but more like two)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Place: El Coyote, Mora County, New Mexico

A couple months ago we went looking for a neighbor's wayward yaks and I tagged along to take photos and to be there in case they needed an extra yak herder. The story is here if you haven't read it. This photo was taken from a neighboring ranch while we were looking for the wandering mountain bovines.

So if you're feeling stressed, thinking about upcoming holidays, or just generally feeling frazzled, here's a present for you. Feel free to use it as your personal desktop if you want to go to this happy place often.  Sit on the rock and take some time off.

Breathing helps, too. Breathe in on a count of 4. Hold it for a count of 5. Breathe out on a count of 6. Let it all out. There. You feel better now, don't you?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday: Purl Warehouse in Tustin, CA

Time for a little color therapy, folks. Last month I had a chance to visit Purl in Tustin, CA, the mail order end of Purl Soho in New York City. It's worth a visit if you are in the area, but be advised that it's a warehouse,  chock full of yarn and fabrics to look at and fondle. Here are just a few photo highlights. I used my cell phone, so quality isn't totally primo.

There were rows and rows of yarn. Pattie chose some to make a cowl. I did, too, even though I don't know how to knit one.

I just thought this looked fascinating: Goodbye, crewel world!

A solid wall of solids.

And just a little more color for you: From Pattie's kitchen, a trivet. It looks like wrapped cord, sewn together. I love the splash of color on her island top.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's All About Wood

It seems like every pickup truck bed is filled to groaning with wood nowadays, a reminder that winter is coming.

Here in Northern New Mexico most people heat with wood and a significant number use wood for cooking, too. It just makes sense: Heat the house and cook a meal at the same time.  It's not unusual to enter a kitchen and see two stoves, one for summer and another for winter. My kitchen is too small for an extra stove, but we have a wood burner in the living room, keeping us nice and toasty.

We're lucky because with trees right here, we just drive the Ranger around, cutting and collecting dead and down wood. I help somewhat, but Tom does most of the work. He says wood warms you up twice: once when it's collected and sawed, and again when the wood fire is burning merrily in the stove. (Tom doesn't say "merrily." That was me.)

Sometimes Tom does a little "Tom Sawyering" and gets innocent friends to collect wood for us.

 So we have piles of wood all over the place in different stages of preparation. That's okay because everyone else does, too, unless they buy wood already cut and split from that guy in the truck.

Yep, that's our bathtub from the old house. Next summer we will set it up in the yard for open air solar heated baths.

If you round the corner of the fence to the right, there's some more.

And if you walk along this fence, guess what?

Inside the fence next to the garage is the good stuff, all ready to burn.

 We keep wood close to the  house for easy access. I think we are set for wood now, Tom.

Uh, Tom?  Tom?

 Well, it's a sure thing we will be warm this winter. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Crab Cooker-Newport Beach, California

Okay, so I don't have a new recipe for you today, but if you're thinking about Thanksgiving and pie, you might want to look at Pie Town's New Mexican Apple Pie recipe for an interesting apple pie guaranteed to keep eaters wondering, "What is that flavor I'm tasting?"

But today is cloudy and we are going outside in a few minutes to string barbed wire. (Bob-wahr is how it's pronounced in parts of eastern New Mexico).  The fence around the dome is done, but a little barbed wire along the top will keep The Angus Boys from extending their heads over the fence to find any delicacies growing there in the future.

The cold and cloudy weather makes me think of the beach, and in particular, the warming goodness of Crab Cooker's clam chowder.

This is not too far from the original site where a 1950's girl remembers the large steaming cauldrons used for cooking crabs and lobsters outside the restaurant. As a kid I never ate there: We were too poor but I didn't know it. Instead, Mom would bring a picnic lunch and we'd eat on the beach with my dad who worked at South Coast Company, a ship builder. That building is still just behind the Crab Cooker, family historians.

Tom and I discovered Crab Cooker's clam chowder during our early married beach days. Sometimes we ate in, but because we were poor college students and then because we had little kids at the beach, we did what surfers have done for decades: I ordered hot soup and bread at the fish market counter and took it back to that same sandy beach where we used to eat lunch with my dad.

Tom likes to fill his clam chowder with the cracker balls the counter man throws into the bag.

I like mine unadulterated, daintily dipping hunks of Crab Cooker's French bread boule into the Manhattan style chowder.

I like the other seafood Crab Cooker offers as well. So did President Richard M. Nixon (R), who wanted to make a reservation to eat there. Crab Cooker doesn't do reservations, and there was usually a long line of patrons snaking out the door waiting for a table. It is said that when The President's advance staff was told the President would have to wait in line like everyone else, an incredulous staffer asked, "What kind of place do you run here?"  "This is a democracy," the staffer was informed. Hell, baby sister, even John Wayne had to wait in line.

So that's your beach lore for today, folks. Have a great weekend and Eat Lots of Soup!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quilty Pleasures-Just a Few Purchases

When we moved from Corona to our place in Northern New Mexico,  I was surprised to see how much fabric I had stashed. It wasn't just fabric, but kits I had made and other kits I had purchased. When the sample quilt in the store was cute, I just couldn't resist a kit!  Lately I have been raiding the kits for quilt projects and it doesn't bother me one bit.

All that fabric and stuff filled up a zillion boxes, so I made a promise to dig into the stash before anything else. I've done a pretty good job and boxes packed to the brim a year and a half ago are now almost empty. I actually need to consolidate.

Of course I still bought fabric for special projects requiring certain colors, or for my small solid projects, or, let's face facts, just because I just loved it!

On my consulting trip to SoCal a couple weeks ago I stopped into a couple fabric stores, just to look, and you know how that usually turns out.

At Purl, the Tustin, CA warehouse component of Purl Soho in New York City, I picked up a few items. A pot growing operation next door was busted and gave them the opportunity to expand, so there is more to see and more to buy, too!

The fabric on the top left and the fat eighths across the bottom are Liberty of London prints, so ladylike and so vintage looking. The smaller pieces will find their way into a quilt and the larger yardage will be a blouse. The birds are from Cloud9 Fabrics, called Across the Pond-Heron. I like herons, the way they just stand in one place, still, just like this fabric.

Then Pattie took me to Sewing Party, a fairly new fabric store in Laguna Hills, Ca. Lots of happy choices here induced me to buy a couple more items:

The jelly roll across the bottom is called London and seems to fit with my earlier Liberty of London purchases. There seems to be a theme here. The layer cake at the top is the complete collection of Veranda by Amanda Murphy from Robert Kaufman.

All in all, a satisfying collection, don't you think?

BUT! That's it except for 1. Store credits  2. Gift cards  3. Free stuff

AND!! I realize I have to catch up with unfinished projects, so I am not starting anything new for a while.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Ms. Pearl Digs the Ranch

While Mister is working, cutting wood or stringing fence, I have important things to do, too, you know.

Like swimmin' in the creek. It's called Coyote Creek, but Mister calls it Pearlie Mae's Creek. We don't like those crazy coyotes.

I think something's going on over here. I hear noises, gotta dig into this mystery.

Hey! This is fun! I'm not allowed to do this in the yard. I hope it's okay to dig here. I swear there's something in this hole. I'm gonna get to the bottom of this.

Yep, I'm smelling something heavenly in here. A gopher? Squirrel? (Did someone say, squirrel?)

Nothing yet. I think I'll take a little break.

Hmm. I wonder if Mom realizes it's snack time.

Uh oh. She doesn't sound like she wants to give me a snack. I wonder why?

I thought I looked just fine!

Maybe if I rub my face on the sofa she'll give me a snack. What do you think?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good

Adapted from a recipe called Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good by Dorie Greenspan

When I was a kid I found winter squash revolting. Perhaps it was because the only winter squash my mom served was frozen Birdseye babycrap yellow squash. The squash came in a frozen rectangular cube, its consistency like baby food. Mom melted it down in a sauce pan and there it was, ready to (not) eat. I ate my Girl Scout bite (about 1 spoonful) and that was it. When my mom said, "But there are starving children in China who would love to eat this!" I answered,  "Box it up and send it to them."

I eat winter squash now and usually love it, depending on how it's cooked. I even have an awesome spaghetti squash recipe I will share with you one of these days. I am a squash convert. Why? Maybe it's because I have a more grown up palate, or possibly it's because the squash I love hasn't been pureed within an inch of its life,  frozen into a cube, then reheated.

Nonetheless, last year I heard a piece on NPR, National Public Radio, with Dorie Greenspan, the baker, reported by Michelle Norris. Without even seeing the stuffed pumpkin Dorie Greenspan was baking in Michelle's Washington, D.C. kitchen, I knew I had to try this recipe. That's how enticing the story was. Forget television, listen to the food stuff on NPR!

But I digress.

My Stuffed Pumpkin: This doesn't have a lid because the pumpkin was a little soft on top when I went to cut it. The cows had the pumpkin's top for brunch.
 So the other day I made this stuffed pumpkin and it filled the house with a tempting aroma, mouthwatering to the extreme-keep checking the oven-hurryhurry-ooohhh, that smell! And it was as good as it smelled,  an 11 on my 1-10 tast-o-meter. There was just enough cheese for flavor, not too oozy. The spices,  along with the bacon, made the pumpkin and its stuffing mouth-watering savory.

What I like about this recipe is Dorie's permission to be as free form as I want when making it. Since I live in the boonies and it's not easy to jet to the store for missing ingredients, I was in serious free form mode.  My changes are in italics next to the ingredients.

Here's her recipe: (Note: The directions look long and involved, but it's because Dorie is talking and talking takes up space on the page. Think of it as your favorite cousin taking you through the recipe.)

Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good

Makes 2 very generous servings or 4 side servings

1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds (I used a pie pumpkin, not a jack o lantern one)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (I used one slice of good sourdough and one old hot dog bun-what a gourmet!)

1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyere, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (I used extra sharp Cheddar)

2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped (As far as I know the germ was still in my garlic, but I didn't see a difference.)

4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped (I used 2 strips of extra thick bacon but I am thinking cooked pancetta would be good, too)

About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions (I used regular onions, finely chopped)

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (I used 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning)

About 1/3 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that's just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot — which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn't so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I've always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I've been lucky.

Using a very sturdy knife — and caution — cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o'-lantern). It's easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot. Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper — you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure — and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled — you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little — you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (But it's hard to go wrong here.)

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after 90 minutes — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully — it's heavy, hot, and wobbly — bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.

You have choices: you can cut wedges of the pumpkin and filling; you can spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful; or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I'm a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls or wedges, it's just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

It's really best to eat this as soon as it's ready. However, if you've got leftovers, you can scoop them out of the pumpkin, mix them up, cover, and chill them; reheat them the next day.

This one is going on the Thanksgiving table and I bet that no one will want to box it up and send it to the starving Chinese children.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quilty Pleasures: Day of the Dead Fabric

In Mexico it's the second day of Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, a time to pray for and memorialize friends and members of your familia who have passed away. November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is All Souls Day, both days celebrated in many parts of the world. I remember as a kid going to mass in the dark, since Daylight Savings Time hadn't kicked in yet. We didn't do anything special on All Souls' Day except pray at church.

In Mexican households altars are built to commemorate their loved ones, complete with foods they liked, favorite drinks, sugar skulls,  and marigolds. Mexican bakeries make bread in the shape of skulls to eat for breakfast. It looks a lot more fun than just going to church.

Cemeteries are central to Day of the Dead, with families hanging out at loved ones' graves to be with the souls of their departed. In some parts of Mexico people will spend the night there.

 Here's some neato fabric I've had stashed for quite a while. Some are Alexendar Henry from the Folklorico line.  All I know is they came in a neat little fat quarter bundle and I love it!

Have a great day and remember your dearly departed loved ones. Frida is watching.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Early Snow at the Nickel and Dime

Last week while I was in Southern California wearing my consultant hat, The Nickel and Dime Ranch had an early snow. According to insiders, the first snow usually occurs around Halloween. This one was about five days early, late Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

Tom took some shots to prove it actually happened.

Full moon dome

Outside the fence looking in

Bonnie inside the house, looking out. She likes it that way.