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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.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Quilty Pleasures-Another Finish: Day of the Dead Quilt

Today is All Saints' Day in Western Catholic culture, and connected to this Catholic holy day is Dia de los Muertos which is a day (actually two days) to celebrate, pray for and remember our dearly departed: infants and children today and older family members tomorrow. 

 Families go to cemeteries and put food, toys and other memorabilia on their loved ones' graves. It isn't a morbid time, but time to acknowledge that death is part of the life cycle. The next day, All Souls' Day, is also part of Day of the Dead, so it's a two day celebration.

I love the way the natives in Mexico incorporated their own traditions into the Holy Days the Spanish Catholics were pushing onto them. It's a lot more fun than the basic European version, where we go to church and that's about it.

Why skeletons? Some folks think it's morbid, but those skeletons are the dead coming back to visit for a day with their families still on this mortal coil. They are not to be feared, but friendly family members. Halloween skeletons are scary; these skeletons are not!

The skeletons in my Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) quilt are happy, enjoying each others' company in several ways.

 Sorry, but Ms. Pearl didn't want to move.

The couple in the center of the quilt are flirting a bit, with an onlooker on the right peeking into the frame. The center fabric is Paseo de los Muertos by Alexander Henry. The cow skull fabric is from Luana Rubin's Enchanted Desert collection. I pieced the house roof from scraps.

The surrounding black fabric is another Alexander Henry called Fiesta de los Muertos. When I see this fabric I think of my mom and dad in heaven having a great time. 

I have always been a piecer and much less a quilter, but I am learning a little at a time. Below is a detail of my novice quilting and of a liberated star. I love liberated stars!

So that quilt is almost totally finally finished. I have a lumpy spot in the binding, so will be redoing it to lay flatter. But really, it's done and I am hanging it today to remember my mom and dad on this Day of the Dead.