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Monday, December 31, 2012

White Chicken Posole

We arrived at the Nickel and Dime last night at 11 p.m., road weary but happy to be back. Visiting relatives and friends in SoCal is always fun, but there's a sigh of relief as we turn onto the dirt road for the final miles to our place. I flipped off the radio so we could have some blessed silence as we made our way home. Ten hours of satellite radio will do anyone in. Just saying.

We came home to temps in the 20's, dropping into the single digits tonight and tomorrow. Today I did a little Facebook catching up and saw a friend's abuelita (grandma) making posole for New Year's. Ahh. Posole and a grandma making soup for the holidays is something special and worth memorializing anywhere. I could almost smell the chiles and the comforting broth and thought, "Dang, I want some of that!" 

Posole, sometimes spelled pozole, is a lightly spiced, hominy soup made with pork or chicken, but here I've opted for chicken. With the added garnishes, it makes a satisfying lunch or dinner and not just for the holidays.

This recipe is a quick and easy version, so you should be done cooking in about 30 minutes, which is definitely a winner. I won't be making posole tomorrow, but with these cold temps, you can bet it will be on the menu sometime soon.

Chicken Posole


1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced
1 t dried thyme
Salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
1 large onion
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (remove seeds and veins)
2 cloves minced garlic
3 small cans diced green chiles (or to taste)
4 c chicken broth
2 15 oz. cans hominy, drained

Optional garnishes: Cubed or sliced avocado, chopped radishes, chopped cilantro, salsa, lime wedges, shredded cabbage or lettuce, tortilla chips


1. Toss the diced chicken with 1/2 t thyme and some salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno and garlic and cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add chiles and the remaining thyme. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the broth, hominy and chicken to the saucepan. Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 10 minutes. Garnish to your heart's content.

And remember what your abuelita always says: "Eat your posole while it's hot!"

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's Trudy's Birthday and She Made A Gorgeous Afghan (or two)

Happy Birthday to Trudy who is 93 years old today. She's my treasured mom-in law, caregiver to husband P, mom to three, grandma to 8, great-grand to 7, and there's even one great-great granddaughter!

She's an accomplished sewist, knitter, and crocheter, tireless go-getter, and still keeps on going, like the Energizer Bunny.

The day or two after Christmas she says, "Okay, if you want me to make anything for your Christmas presents next year, you have to tell me now!" For a while T asked for two sweaters every year, and he has an amazing collection that will last him until he is 93 himself.

So we get out the books, look on the internet, and choose what we want.

Last year M and I chose the same afghan. What's nice about choosing a year ahead of time is I almost always forget what I ordered.

Christmas is about surprises, so that's what happened again this year.

Trudy used all her scrap yarn and bought more to complete two big afghans. She says it's something she likes to do while watching television in the evening. Trudy doesn't like to just watch; she has to have a project going. I can relate.

So Happy Birthday, Trudy! The Sizzler salad bar awaits.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Best Wishes For The Season!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us in New Mexico, to you, wherever in the world you are!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In-n-Out Burger December 2012

We arrived at In-n-Out burger the other day at a great time. No lines out the door, no tourist buses, just the ahhhh moment when you can go up to the counter and order the Number 1 Protein Style and they know exactly what you're talking about.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ms. Pearl Loves Snow

 When we moved here and experienced winter in Northern New Mexico and its below zero temperatures, our friends said, "Get Ms. Pearl a coat!" So we bought her a coat. The other day when it was as low as minus 10F and had finally inched up to 10F above zero, Ms. Pearl wore her coat when Tom and she went out for her morning constitutional.

Ms. Pearl looks ready for anything in her new coat, complete with reflective stripes around her middle and a collar that Tom says is reminiscent of Barnabas Collins, the classy vampire in the old soap Dark Shadows.

The problem is she isn't ready for everything. When she wears her coat it's like an invalid inhabits Ms. Pearl's body.

A cold morning at The NIckel and Dime

She doesn't want to pee or poop while wearing the coat. Ms. Pearl won't range about like she normally does during her morning walks. She prefers to sit. If coaxed, she walks toward you, holding up a paw, as if she has a sticker. But there are no stickers, just a dog that isn't sure what she should be doing while wearing clothing.

Tom took off the coat and she immediately took care of business. Then she found a Frisbee disk and decided it was time to play a bit. Running through the snow naked is her true calling.

She prefers to be unencumbered. We will keep trying the coat, though, because Pearlie is getting up there in age and needs to be coddled just a little, don't you think?

She likes her blankie, though, along with a nice, soft recliner chair.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Biscochitos-New Mexico's State Cookie

The biscochito, sometimes spelled bizcochito, is the state cookie of New Mexico and the other day when I was at Mora's Winterfest, an annual craft and baked goods fair, there were many different versions of them to choose from.

Last year I bought from each of the biscochito bakers at the Winterfest and found my favorite:  a thin, anisey cinnamony cookie, probably made with lard. It had a nice crunch and was baked to perfection. The others were good, but these cookies stood out.

This is a photo from last year's biscochito shopping trip. My favorites are in the middle, the same ones I bought at Winterfest this year. That was along with some chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and sugar cookies. Then there were the six red velvet cupcakes so gorgeously decorated a professional could have baked them and not the little girl who sold them to me. Add a couple loaves of pumpkin bread and I was good to go. (Buying local is important.)

I noticed quite a few readers looking at the biscochito post and recipe from last year, so I am sharing a link to it right here.

Some people like to dip their biscochitos in hot chocolate but I like tea with mine. Of course, I crook my pinkie finger whilst drinking.

We finally had some snow and the temp dipped to minus 10 F last night. This morning when the sun came out it was up to 10 degrees F and absolutely gorgeous.

There will be more cookie talk later, but until then, happy baking!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter Storm A-Coming

Winter weather is supposed to make its entrance any time today. The weather experts say we have a 100 percent chance of snow. The temperature outside has been dropping since early this morning.

Tom has readied the boot collection.

A lone bunny rabbit takes a few last minute nibbles of the lawn.

Looking south it appears moisty and cloudy. Let the snow begin!

A perfect day for Abuelita hot chocolate and sewing in The Quilt Cave.

Friday, December 7, 2012

December Growing Dome Update

The veggies in the Growing Dome have been lucky so far this year, with no roving cattle inside milling about wondering how the heck they got there and an extended warm weather growing season this fall. It's December in Northern New Mexico and it's been in the 60's outside and in the 80's in the dome.

Although I have removed most of the tomato plants to make room for cool season veggies, I kept the Black Cherry and Amy's Sugar Gem plants just to see what happens. Both have continued to set fruit, and, most important, the fruits continue to ripen so they have been reprieved. Once really cold weather arrives, their days will be numbered, I suspect.

The Black Cherry is gigantic. I can't believe how big it is and how many tomatoes are still hanging in there.

When I visit the dome I spend lots of time creeping around, peeking inside the plant to find ripe tomatoes.

Aha! There's one! The dead leaf in the bottom rear is from the Poona Kheera cuke plant, which is done. I was afraid to remove the plants for fear of disturbing the Black Cherry.

But I haven't been dwelling in the past season, no, indeed. We've been eating lettuce and radishes planted back in early September.

Between the rows of lettuce and radishes are slower growing beets.  If you haven't seen the video of Udgar demonstrating how to cut your lettuce for harvesting, check it out here. You cut it with scissors and it grows back! Toward the back left and back right are kale seedlings. I sowed a bunch of kale seeds in a corner and am now transplanting them here and there.

The sugar snap peas are about six inches tall and starting to twine around their supports. In the back right are some volunteer tomato babies. It has been so warm that even tomato seeds are sprouting. I will remove them, but it's pretty weird, isn't it?

That blank patch is where the Cherokee Purple tomato plant was. I've seeded some stuff there: more lettuce, chard, peas, and I don't remember what else. I took those green tomatoes off the plant. Some are ripening and others may end up as salsa.

The carrots look healthy as does the chard in the back. My radishes are erratic and there's nothing worse than an Erratic Radish. Some plants make radishes and others do not. It may have to do with how fertile the soil is. Too much good stuff makes just the tops grow. Or it may be too warm. If you have an idea, let me know.

I wish I was teeny and could go on an expedition through the carrot fronds.

What Ms. Pearl wants is an expedition to sniff out coyotes, and deer, and elk, and turkeys and bear. And bunny rabbits.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Old Town Las Vegas, New Mexico Plaza

Las Vegas, New Mexico, is the original Las Vegas, lacking the glitz and glitter of its Nevada namesake, but with plenty of grit and grace. (Okay, that's your alliteration lesson for today.)

Las Vegas is a town of around 13, 600 and it's 29 miles from the ranch to a bookstore, a fabric store, a natural foods store, Wal-Mart, and to get a fast food fix. I mean you, Sonic, and also you, Lotaburger! Las Vegas has a community college and two baccalaureate colleges, and even a movie theatre. And a drive-in movie theater during the summer.

It's actually two towns: one began in the early days of Vegas around 1835 and a newer town sprung up when in 1880 the railroad came to town about a mile from the original village. Up until fairly recently, they were two separate municipalities. The school districts are still separate.

There are even two downtowns here, but I like "Old Town" better because it's amazing how many of the old buildings are still in use and The Plaza is a central place where people gather for events like Las Fiestas during the 4th of July weekend, Cinco de Mayo, and for the Christmas Electric Light Parade. Back in 1846 it was where General Stephen Kearney stood on a roof and proclaimed to the assembled townsfolk that they were now under American rule.

Here's the plaza bandstand, all decked out for the holidays.

New Mexico Hispanic art is a big deal in the North, with a long tradition of local artisans copying the religious statues the Catholic priests brought north from Mexico and from Spain. The artists who carve these statues are called santeros and their pieces can be as small as your hand or as tall as you are.

I noticed the wood carver was finished with his first statue, begun earlier in the year. It's a Mary statue, and I noticed she looked kind of sad.

As I stepped closer to read the plaque at her feet, I realized why she looked so sad: She's Our Lady of Sorrows!

Mary had seven sorrows in her life, and this statue depicts the sorrowful Mary.'

Below is a 1455 depiction of Our Lady of Sorrows. If I compare the statue in the plaza to this painting, Our Lady in Las Vegas positively glows with happiness! It's all relative, I guess.

Don't forget to visit your local merchants and buy stuff from them. It's a tough world out there and our local folks deserve your business. Unless they don't.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Leave It To The Beavers

We are lucky to have a creek running right through the ranch. Sometimes it's dry, but usually we have water flowing, one of the few sounds out here in the boonies. Cross our fingers that we get some snow so the water keeps on chooglin'.

Beavers like the creek, too, and on the property next to us they have been busy. The first dam I saw, created from rock, was so tidy I thought humans had done it. And they have soldiered on, making a sizable pool. Those wires you see crossing the water are our fenceline.

Looking toward our neighbors' property, this is where most of the pond is spreading. That's a yak in the background and an adobe building behind the yak.

Beavers used to be considered pests, but they have become popular lately with ranchers and environmentalists because their dams cause water in the streams to soak into the surrounding grounds, in some cases causing the water table to rise. In arid climates like ours, that's a good thing.

This dam isn't stopping the water, so our "herd" of beef cattle, all two of them now, have plenty of creek water to drink.

Ms. Pearl likes the beaver pond, too. She calls it her swimming pool.

Sometimes she gives us her impression of a beaver.

We are happy to have the beavers move in. The water level in the creek has been low and fishing here has been almost nonexistent.

With deeper water, maybe trout will stay a little longer, if they don't mind sharing a pond with beavers, cattle, yaks, and dogs.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

High Altitude Baking-Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Purdy

The first chocolate chip cookies I baked here at the ranch were a dismal failure: flat, spread out, and strangely bland tasting. We live at an altitude of over 7000 ft. and I knew there were ways to change ingredients and baking times to ensure cookie success, but it was hit and miss, mostly miss.

Baking brownies was inconsistent, too, with some pans coming out perfectly and the next time a gooey mess. I used high altitude techniques, but they didn't always work.

Enter the book Pie in the Sky by Susan Purdy, a book prized by several of my quilty buddies who live up here, too.

I stumbled upon the recipes while searching the internet for an apple cake I could bake at a high altitude. I found this blog post, tried the recipe, and it worked! The cake was flavorful, had risen properly and wasn't gummy or gooey in the middle. But, and here's a big ol' but, I had used whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular white flour, so the consistency was kind of like sawdust. It wasn't the recipe's fault, just the goofball who decided to substitute a key ingredient.

So I bought the book and have tried a couple recipes so far: the Aspen Apple Cake which had been grainy made with my whole wheat substitution was moist and cake-like when the proper flour was used.

For Thanksgiving MBB made the 1-2-3-4 Cake, a white cake to which she added walnuts and chocolate frosting, and it was a hit.

Author Susan Purdy researched and experimented at various elevations while developing these recipes. I always thought high altitude baking was the same at 3000 feet as it is at 7000 feet. Nope. Purdy has recipes and directions for sea level, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000, and even 10,000 feet (ah....our Mogollon Baldy lookout job would have been muy different if this book had been there). There are tweaks of ingredients, temperatures, pan prep, equipment, even where the oven rack goes, specific to how high you are (that was a little big of a joke....sorry). Nothing has been left to chance.

In addition to cakes, there are recipes for cookies, pies, breads, souffles, quick breads and muffins: anything I might need to bake with no guesswork involved. My only quibble is about the food photos. There are not enough of them, just a few in the center of the book.  In case you wondered, I was not paid to write this review. I just liked the book.

Hmmm....this cake looks pretty good.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quilty Pleasures: Ragged But Right

That's our new rag quilt. Isn't it cozy looking? It's been washed once to get that raggy look, but I want to wash it again once I have some fabric softener in the house. The more you wash it, the softer and cuddlier it gets.

These are easy quilts to make, and the larger the squares, or even making strips, the faster it goes. I made this rag quilt in two hour bursts of sewing and it took about 6 hours total. Cutting all the 6 inch squares and the batting for the insides of each flannel sandwich seemed to take as long as the sewing. Next time I will opt for larger squares.

This is a couch quilt and about 60 inches square. Since it was 15 degrees outside this morning, I made it right on time, don't you think?

I am teaching a Rag Quilt Class at Threadbear in Las Vegas, NM, tomorrow from Noon to 5 pm, so if you are in the neighborhood, it's still not too late to sign up. Give Ann at Thread Bear a call at 575-425-6263 to sign up and to get the fabric yardage info.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu 2012

The turkey is brining, a cake has been made, the veggies are chopped, the ciabatta is now toasted bits, but I am having a hard time this year wrapping my head around what I have to do today to get a Thanksgiving dinner on the table. We don't cook the same stuff every year, so each menu is new to me.

Since I am a scatterbrain and need visuals to help me remember stuff, here's our Thanksgiving Dinner menu:

Roasted Squash with Date Relish and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Slow Roasted Green Beans with Sage
Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Maple
Alton Brown's Turkey
Italian Mother-in-Law Dressing
Mashed Potatoes
Turkey Gravy
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel

Geez Louise! I'd better get going. Thanks to all of you for taking time out of your day to read this little blog.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ms. Pearl is a Big Baby Wuss

Pearlie Mae is an intrepid hiker, but along the way she often picks up a sticker in her paw. When this happens, she limps along until someone says, "Aww, do you have a sticker?"

She stops in her tracks, lifts up the offending paw and waits patiently until someone pulls it out.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Jacquie Gering Workshop Quilt

A couple months ago two of my quilty buddies and I drove to Hip Stitch in Albuquerque for a workshop by Jacquie Gering of Tallgrass Prairie Studio fame. I had followed her blog for several years and recently bought her book, Quilting Modern. Her designs were intriguing and new, something I would like to try someday.

That someday came and the workshop was a gigantic learning experience, especially watching quilters try something that took them out of their comfort zones. Let's face it: many of us started making quilts from patterns or from diagrams and to all of a sudden be told, "Just cut a rectangle. No, don't measure it," can be downright scary.

I had been lucky to have done some free piecing-Liberated-Collaborative quilting at several Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran workshops and the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, so for me it was fun fun and a chance to dive into modern quilting once again.

I started this quilt at Jacquie's workshop and have been working on it little by little. I think I am close to final assembly

The other day at Thread Bear in Las Vegas, New Mexico, we pinned the background fabric, Moda Grunge, to the design wall and I started arranging the blocks. They are a type of log cabin, but not your grandma's log cabin, that's for sure.

This is what I have so far. I think it looks pretty balanced, but if any of you spacial relationships people want to weigh in by leaving a comment, I would appreciate any feedback you might have.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Apple Pie Two Ways

If you are like me, you've had Thanksgiving swimming in the back of your head for several weeks now, but haven't done much about it.

My mind churns over what sides to have with the turkey, what can I do differently, and what should stay the same because we just can't have Thanksgiving without (insert your favorite family dish here.)

Some of my friends have the whole event planned and foodstuffs have been prepared and frozen for the past couple weeks. I salute you and want to be you when I grow up! Is the dining table already set with a sheet over it to keep everything pristine? Well, here the dining table has three pairs of binoculars on it along with some books and a couple magazines.

But really, Thanksgiving is moving front and center today and I will take the 50 mile Taos drive to Cid's Food Store for an Embudo turkey and other freshies I don't have hanging out in the pantry or in the freezer.

What's an Embudo turkey? It's a turkey raised in Embudo, New Mexico, pasture raised in probably the best way a turkey grown for food can live. Here's a photo of Embudo turkeys in their pens, moved over to fresh organic pasture daily.

They are pricey, but it's just once a year or so, and the turkey is delish! And I can support a local small farmer at the same time.

Really, though, this post was about apple pie, so let's get to it.

The slice of apple pie at the top of the post was from a recipe I found here and it is unique because it isn't as gooey as most apple pie recipes. You cook the apples and then drain them well before piling the slices into the pie crust. I didn't use the pastry recipe, even though it looks good, because there were refrigerated crusts in the fridge and slothful laziness won out.

There is another apple pie recipe on our blog here, the famous Pietown New Mexico Apple Pie. There is a little kick to this pie because it has a secret ingredient: green chiles and also a little surprise crunch with the addition of pinon nuts. I love this pie and it will probably be served for dessert (among other goodies) after Thanksgiving dinner.

It's been a busy time, with making quilts and teaching quilting classes, but sometimes you just have to focus. (That's me giving myself a pep talk!)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cold Weather Opportunists

It's a cold day here today: 9 degrees F when I woke up this morning. So before I even had a chance to make the bed, the odd couple decided to take it over.

This is the backside of the Dashes and Patches quilt I finished recently. I decided to flip it over for a little change-up.

I didn't have the heart to kick them off.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Last Glimpses of Fall

Although today is absolutely gorgeous and we should have a high in the 60's, tomorrow comes the cold weather, in the 30's and 40's with lows in the teens.

So here is a last hurrah for fall before all the leaves freeze and fall off the trees.

Buddha Tree and Fall Sky
The Buddha waits patiently for winter. Nothing bothers the Buddha.

During these fall days the afternoon sun is warm and it's fun to sit up among the rocks, watching the traffic go by. Once there were three trucks in 15 minutes!

Lately, most of the traffic watching involves turkeys. It's hunting season, but so far they have been spared. Why, I want to know, are the turkeys in our yard? They should be hiding!

That long porch on the cabin's south side will be the go-to spot when it is cold but sunny. Already the sun is low enough to shine inside, making it so warm I need to open a window. I'm not complaining, though, because Our Mr. Sun will be helping to keep the place warm in just a few days.

I think fall is my favorite season, at least right now it is.