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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Grilled Cheese, Roasted Pepper, Tomato and Pesto Sandwich

I like to cook, but there are days when I don't want to deal with making an entire meal because  a) it's too hot to cook b) I've been busy and just want to chill and/or c) we've eaten something giant and delicious for breakfast or lunch, like a burrito from our local restaurant, The Mad Cow Calf-A, and we just don't need to eat another big meal.

That's when it's perfectly okay to assemble dinner, use one pan and that's it. Grilled cheese is one of those perfect quickie meals, and this one is not only cheesy, but juicy and savory as well. I used some shredded cheese I found in the fridge, but slices are just fine. Add some flavor punch with some purchased pesto and moistness with some jarred, roasted red peppers and a homegrown or farmers' market tomato. I used a yellow Jubilee tomato for this sandwich.

Butter or olive oil the outside of the sandwich, so when you grill it, the bread is lightly browned.

If you feel the fam needs veggies, make this salad in the morning (pictured below) so all you have to do is set it on the table along with the grilled cheese sandwiches.

Grilled Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Pesto Sandwiches

Ingredients (makes 1 sandwich)

2 slices bread
1 T prepared pesto
1 or 2 tomato slices
1 oz. cheese, your choice, sliced or shredded
2 or 3 pieces jarred roasted red peppers
butter, margarine, or olive oil


1. Heat a grill pan, griddle, or skillet over medium-low heat
2. Butter or brush some olive oil on one side of the bread slices.These will be the outside of the sandwich.
3. Assemble sandwich: pesto on the bread, then cheese, tomato, and peppers.
4. I like to add a little cheese on both sides of the juicy ingredients so when I grill the sandwich, it all sticks together.
5.  Carefully place the sandwich on the hot griddle. If you want to make it panini-style, place a piece of aluminum foil on top of the sandwich and then put an iron skillet on the foil to smash it all down. Let the bottom of the sandwich grill. Check that it isn't burning and that the cheese is melting.
6. Flip the sandwich over, replace the foil and the iron skillet if you are making a panino, and keep an eye on it. 
7. Once the cheese is melted and the bread is brown, you are finished! Enjoy!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Guadalupita/Coyote Historic District: Montoya Cemetery

Fall 2011 photo
 Almost a year ago the area where we live was approved as a State Historic District because of its historic, cultural and environmental significance. Here's what the application said:

"The Guadalupita/Coyote Historic District in Mora County is 8,140 acres of mountains and valleys dotted with small ranches, homes, mines and religious sites dating back to 1851. It was one of the last land grants in New Mexico. To this day, descendants of families that first settled there continue to use nearby natural resources and acequias that divert water from Rio Coyote to irrigate crops for their sustenance."

One site included in the district is the Montoya Cemetery, just a short walk across the pastures from our place. The newest grave that I can discern is from the early 1950's, a baby that died the year I was born. Others date back to the 1800's, people from a family who braved high altitudes, poor roads and frigid winters to make a life for themselves in a remote place often cut off from the rest of the state for months on end. The Montoya family is still around, some scattered to other parts of the state and country, but most still here living on ranches in the area on land kept in the family for generation after generation.

Family members take turns keeping the weeds at bay, straightening the markers that can be straightened and ensuring the fence around the site is in good repair since beef cattle live nearby.

The graves are marked with a variety of materials:  weather worn wooden and rusty iron crosses, flat stones, hand chiseled markers and one professionally done granite marker for the baby's resting place.

Fred Montoya

Dennis Montoya
When someone asks where where we live and I tell them, the most common response is, "Oh, that's God's Country!"

Summer 2012 photo

Yes, it is.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Moving Day: Bee Edition

Neighbor Sue, who has generously gifted me with two hives of bees, was up before the sun to help me transport the bees to their new home at the Nickel and Dime Ranch.

She helped load the girls into the back of the pickup and met me at our place. There, we carefully transferred each bar of bees into their new hives. In the photo, Sue is checking for eggs and larvae and for the queen. All looks good so far and the bees were quite calm as we made the switch.

The white netting surrounding the two hives is an electric fence connected to a solar charger. At least three bears roam this neighborhood, so the fence will remind them to keep back. Sorry, but there's no honey for Yogi or Boo Boo here. 

The hives are located away from any foot traffic, but I can keep an eye on them from the house.

When we lifted each bar of bees and comb, the combs seemed light, with little honey stored up.  I made up some bee tea,  a mixture of sugar, water, chamomile, lemon thyme, and a little mint. It tastes good! The bee tea went into some feeders and will act as a tonic and pick me up after all they have gone through: being divided from their previous hive and now moved down the road to our place. I will probably keep this up until it looks like they are making enough honey to last them through the winter. 

Will I harvest honey this year? Probably not, because the bees get to keep theirs first and all I get is the extra. But I might sneak a taste (or two) when the bees are too busy to notice.

The bees are local to our area, acclimated to the altitude and climate, and have a good temperament. Nonetheless, I need to drop by the local clinic and ask for an epipen prescription so that I have one handy if an allergic person is stung.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Late July Growing Dome Pics

Early dome photo. Love the blue sky.
The plants are growing like crazy in the dome and we are going to be having some major tomato harvests pretty soon. I have eleven tomato plants growing nicely and all but two have been setting fruit. The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen and we get a handful every couple of days.

I spaced the tomatoes about two feet apart in places, and they have overgrown what was planted beneath them. I had to remove two zucchini plants because the tomatoes were crowding out the sun, and I'm removing some green beans, too, to give the tomatoes some more room.

This is the west side of the dome where we have tomatoes, cukes, some bell pepper plants and some beans that look like they are trying to escape from the tomatoes.

I have some tomato cages in there somewhere. I may go with some type of netting next year. The plant in the far corner is confined by some poly netting and it's behaving itself. Amazingly, I haven't fertilized for a month, but when I do, I use Miracle Grow liquid organic. It's made of beets, among other things.

These are the Poona Kheera cucumbers I can't stop talking about. White and mild inside, they are good in salads or just plain. The one on the left is almost ready to pick. I have the cucumbers trained to grow up along their curly trellises and regular old twine. They seem to like the arrangement and they provide shade from the afternoon sun.

Pretty soon I will start seeds for the winter veggies. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Happy Hiker

An artfully clad hiker appeared at the Nickel and Dime Ranch.

Ms. Pearl thinks having another hiker around is just fine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Good Kitty: Stone Cold Killer

Sweet little Miss Bonnie has been on a killing spree. In the past two weeks she has dispatched two gophers and one large rat.

When she pops through the cat door and makes that otherworldly predatory feline yowl announcing that yes, indeedy, she has been a busy catty, I always blanch a bit. Will it be alive? Will she let it loose in the house? Will there be blood?

Luckily these three victims have been dead with no blood. So I say, "Good kitty!", encase my hands in old Wal Mart bags, and gather up the body for a fast fling over the fence.

Want to read more about Miss Bonnie? Click this link.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stonehenge in Northern New Mexico

The Sangre de Cristo Livestock Group had its annual picnic meeting at a beautiful ranch near a village not even labeled on Google maps.

To get there we traveled around this mountain range. The clouds built up, but it didn't rain.

We ate ranch picnic food: brisket, potato salad, green salad and pies, cakes, brownies, fruit, and cookies. Kids bounced on the trampoline and played chase, little dogs visited among the guests, while big dogs barked from their kennels.

Adults listened to a visitor from El Paso sing beautiful ballads in Spanish. And a little black cockapoo sang along.

Rocks are plentiful in this part of the country, and the ranch's owner truly knows how to utilize their artistic potential. He's made a mini Stonehenge in his back yard:

The acequia, or water ditch, has been beautified:

I like the rock bridge in the background, as well as the steps down to the water. Below, the water continues, through a waterfall, a pond, and, eventually, to the fields and pastures for irrigation.

Driving back down the old dirt road back to the highway, I looked at the old adobes in the village.

I wondered how many picnics they had seen, food shared by old and new friends, traveling balladeers with little dogs singing along, and children chasing each other through the mountain air, their small voices carrying up into the pines.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Midsummer Yard Update-Fruity and Flowery

Finally, after two years of drought conditions, it's a true monsoon season: late morning cloud buildup and then afternoon and evening thunder showers. It's like God's bowling alley up there in the clouds when the storms hit, and I sit on the sidelines and watch it all unfold. When the thunder and lightning get started, I can't help but remember the Disneyland train ride through the Grand Canyon, the coyotes howling with lightning and thunder surrounding us all.

Along with the rain, for the first time in two years we have apples. The apples have previously been victims of late frost and cold temps, but this year the weather was kind to the blossoms and there is fruit. So now I need to figure out what to do with them. Heck, I don't even know what kind of apples I have on the three trees. All I know is each tree has a different variety of apple.

The grapes are back, too. I've tasted these grapes, which are sweet, like a concord. Lots of seeds, so I am thinking grape jelly might be a good idea for these guys.

I am amazed at the lavender and how well it grows, no matter what. I will always want lavender in my yard.

I tried to get a shot of the bees who love this lavender, but they decided not to show up.

Speaking of bees, ours are still getting used to their new queens at my kind neighbor's home. Why is she so kind? She's sharing her bees with me! It was time to divide some of her hives, so we did just that. Transporting them the 5 miles here will be interesting, to say the least.

Summertime is for having fun and relaxing. Hope you find yourself a patch of grass and have a good old roll in it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday: Dia de los Muertos Flimsy

The Quilt Cave is seeing a resurgence of activity lately with a bed sized quilt finished and at the quilter's plus a wall hanging that I'm going to attempt to quilt myself. I thought I was done with this particular quilt and even started to hand quilt it, but then it floated around for months while I played around with other projects (that aren't done). Finally, after moving the little quilt for the zillionth time, I realized there was more to do if I was ever going to be satisfied with it.

I bought the Alexander Henry fabrics, Fiesta de Los Muertos and Paseo de Los Muertos, at Thread Bear, my local quilt store.

The red border was where I left off, but someone suggested some gold to brighten it up a bit and I was off like a shot!

I couldn't stop at gold, though, and decided to add one more border and some liberated stars. I am a fan of both Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran, so there are homages to both ladies: stars for Gwen and the house for Freddy.

Because the center of this medallion is so busy, the borders become incrementally calmer so they don't compete.

Below is a detail of one of the stars and also of the house where the couple lives.

When I fussy cut the skeleton couple, I included pieces of two other characters. Don't you love the fellow peeking into the right bottom corner?

I found some Christmas fabric with words for the top of the house's door.

How am I going to quilt this? Heavens, I don't know, but when it's finished, you'll see it here.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Quinoa Mixed Veggie Salad

Maybe I can blame it on having overnight guests followed by the 4th of July holiday, or maybe it was the above average temperatures. But sitting on the porch and having a snack and a drink every afternoon while dinner was cooking combined with several ice cream-eating-movie-watching evenings has made me feel a tad sluggish.

So I am putting away the sugars, beer and refined stuff for a while to get back to my energetic (hah!) self. People always say I gogogo, but really I am a slug dressed as an Olympic runner.

In the pantry was a package of quinoa, (pronounced KEEN-wah) I bought during a Santa Fe Trader Joe's expedition. Quinoa looks like a grain, but it's not really part of the cereal grain family, but more related to spinach and beets. It's full of flavanoids, antioxidants, hearth healthy fats, and I don't feel hungry right after eating it like with regular pasta or rice. Quinoa is easier to cook than rice and it's okay to make a lot of it and store it in the fridge for later.

I like this recipe because you can switch out the veggies depending on what's in your crisper or garden and if you want to add a little leftover cooked chicken, that's okay, too.

After eating this tasty, chewy and crunchy quinoa salad, I felt healthier almost immediately, ready to put on a mask and cape and fight some crime. Unfortunately, the only crime around here recently involved a fist fighting sheriff who lets drunk drivers go. But that's another story.

Quinoa Veggie Salad


1 cup quinoa

1 1/2 to 2 cups water, vegetable, or chicken broth (read your package label to determine how much liquid to use)

1/4 t salt (omit if you are using broth)

1 cup green beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas, or thinly sliced celery

2 small carrots, peeled and sliced thin

1/2 red or green pepper, sliced thin

1 fresh, ripe tomato or substitute 1/2 cup mild chunky salsa for a little more zip

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded (if you wish) and diced

1/2 cup chopped, toasted nuts (I used walnuts)


2 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 t minced garlic (optional)


1. Cook your quinoa as the package directs, using broth or water. I used chicken broth. You can do this ahead of time if you want.

2. Boil or steam the carrots and green beans 5 minutes until they are crisp tender. Drain and rinse with cold water until they aren't hot anymore.

3. Chop the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

4. Blend the dressing ingredients in a small dish or shake it up in a jar. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

5. In a large bowl combine the quinoa, veggie ingredients, nuts and dressing. Taste and add salt and pepper if it needs it.

6. Cover and chill or serve immediately.

Serves 4 and lasts for several days in the fridge.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday: American Star Quilt

This was one of my early quilts, started in January 2005 at a class about settings taught by Sharyn Craig.  I used Sharyn's book Great Sets as a reference for the quilt, the first one I made without any particular pattern. I began with a few star blocks and that was it. We had to do MATH (geometry, in particular) in order to draft the triangular settings for this quilt, which was a challenge.

I decided to make a patriotic red, white and blue quilt because a co-worker's son had recently been killed in Iraq and I couldn't stop thinking about the grieving mother wearing her plastic badge with the number of war dead, the number changing almost every day.  Here is a 2008 interview with the mom, Vickie Castro, who continues to be active in the Gold Star Mothers' organization.

 The custom quilting was by Lajuan Cotton of Cotton Creations, from Corona, CA, and is amazing for a number of reasons, among them the fact that I wasn't too good at matching seams, yet she soldiered on, using a variety of quilting motifs to really make this quilt look good.

Enjoy your 4th of July and let's get our young men and women in the Armed Forces overseas back home, like right now.

Strawberry Icebox Cake

The 4th of July is almost here and that means barbecues and food, most definitely. Do you need to take a dessert?

I shared this recipe last year, a simple dessert where you don't have to turn on the oven!  For you folks suffering in the heat, I can't give you a better 4th of July gift. Give this icebox cake about 4 hours in the fridge to allow the whipped cream and strawberries to soak into the graham crackers, making an excellent, creamycakeyfruity treat. There's also the satisfaction of returning home with an empty pan, but that satisfaction is bittersweet because you know you want one more bite.

Strawberry Icebox Cake


2 pounds of fresh strawberries
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 t vanilla
4 sleeves graham crackers (that's about 24 whole crackers)
Hershey's chocolate syrup, dark (optional)


1. Take out 4 or 5 good looking strawberries and set aside. Thinly slice the remaining strawberries.

2. Whip the whipping cream until it just starts to hold stiff peaks.(Stop the mixer, lift up the beater and if the cream peaks, that's what we're talking about here.) Add the sugar and vanilla and whip to combine. Don't overwhip or you will have butter.

3. Spread some whipped cream on the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch baking pan. Place six graham crackers on top of the whipped cream. Lightly layer another spoonful or two of whipped cream. Add a single layer of strawberries. Repeat the graham cracker layer, whipped cream layer, and strawberry layer three more times until you have four layers of graham crackers.

4. Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top and drizzle a zigzag of chocolate syrup over the whipped cream if you want to.

5. Cover the pan with some plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours. The graham crackers should have softened completely. They are supposed to be "cake-like."

Before serving, put the pretty strawberries you saved on top. This icebox cake is so yummy you should encourage everyone to eat it all because if there are leftovers in the fridge, you will find yourself spooning this strawberry goodness out of the pan in the middle of the night.

Serves 8