red or green?

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Red or Green? and, no, I’m not talking about what color holiday wrapping paper to choose from.  We’re talking chile here.  If you ever find yourself in New Mexico, the official state question is red or green, referring to the type of chile you prefer.  For those that enjoy both red and green, just say “Christmas” – you’ll get a colorful plate of both.

just say Christmas!

just say Christmas!

Me?  I like red, red smothered over a breakfast burrito, red cheese enchiladas and red pork posole. And, I like green, chile verde (green chile stew) and green chile cheeseburgers.

When it comes to red, New Mexico is split down the middle between liking Chimayo Red or Hatch Red chile. North of I-40 and you’ll be a Chimayo Red fan, anything south of the interstate and you are in Hatch territory.  Wars have been fought over which tastes better.  Families split over chile feuds.  Restaurants battled over reigning chile champs.  I-40 is New Mexico’s chile line in the sand.

However, most of New Mexico’s cuisine leans towards the green chile.  Roasted, peeled and chopped, green chile goes with everything!  From turkey to cheeseburgers to eggs to wrapped in a heated tortilla with a little butter and salt.  Green is usually considered spicier, red is said to be gentler, but more pungent.  Some say green will vary in heat, hitting speeds of extremely hot to barely mild, while red is steadier in its heat gauge.

So, red or green? What will it be? Next time you’re in New Mexico and asked this question, if you can’t decide, just ask for “Christmas”.  A chile treat worthy of the holiday!

ACAPULCO’S CRAB ENCHILADAS with SALSA CON TOMATILLOS

My father grew up on a large cattle ranch on the central coast of California.  The ranch cook was Hispanic and would serve a big Mexican Dinner for the cowboys on Christmas Eve.  Tamales, rice, beans, homemade tortillas, even natillas!  Dad carried on the tradition, abet a little more gourmet, and on Christmas Eve he would cook up a big fancy Mexican meal.  One of my favorite dishes was his crab enchiladas with green tomatillos sauce.  Merry Christmas!

Enchiladas

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • oil or lard
  • 2 cups flaked crab meat; picked over for shells
  • 1/2 minced green chiles
  • 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
  • 6 tbsp. minced onions
  • shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • ripe olives – pitted – garnish
  • avocado slices – garnish
  • Tomatoes; peeled and sliced – garnish

Salsa Con Tomatillos

  • 2 – 12 oz. can Tomatillos
  • 2 tortillas, fried
  • oil or lard
  • 4 Serrano Chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1 minced jalapeno chile
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 – 2 fresh minced garlic cloves mashed in 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. crushed cumin seeds
  • 1/24 cup chicken broth
  • green food coloring

Sour Cream Sauce

  • 1 pint Sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 4 tbsp. chopped onion (may use green onions)
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

SALSA CON TOMATILLOS:  Drain the tomatillos and reserve the liquid for later use.  Fry 2 tortillas in oil or lard until lightly browned.  Break and drop into the half of the juice of the tomatillos.  While these are soaking and getting soft, saute the onions, chiles, cilantro and garlic mashed in salt in oil/lard.  Saute until soft but not browned.  Put the tomatillos, softened tortillas with juice, saute mixture, broth,  cumin, and 3 drops of green food coloring in the blender.  Blend until smooth.  Transfer to the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Sauce may be used as is or strained for a smoother more professional presentation.

SOUR CREAM SAUCE:  Combine all of the ingredients and stir gently to blend.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready.

CRAB:  Combine the crab, onions, chiles, and 1/2 cup of cheese in a bowl.  Moisten mixture with a little of the leftover Tomatillo Sauce.

ENCHILADAS:  Heat the tortillas in the oil or lard until they are soft.  About 1 minute.  Add more oil as necessary.  Dip each tortilla in the Tomatillo Sauce.  Place 1/4 cup of crab meat in the center of each tortilla.  Spoon a little Salsa Con Tomatillos on each.  Roll the enchiladas and place them in a shallow baking pan.  Cover with the remaining Salsa.  Sprinkle generously with shredded jack cheese and bake at 400 degrees about 10 minutes or until hot and the cheese is melted.  Serve with a dollop of Sour Cream Sauce and garnish with olives, avocado, tomato slices and pieces of crab leg.

Credits:  Raymond G. Marshall, started the famous chain of Acapulco Mexican Restaurants in California.  This is the original recipe and was the house specialty.

 

puppy breath

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a bouquet of puppy breath

a bouquet of puppy breath

When told we were expecting our little litter of puppies, a dear and close friend exclaimed, “aah, I so love puppy breath!  It’s so sweet”  I thought she was plum crazy.  No dog had pleasant breath let alone a puppy.  In the following weeks, several more friends made the same comment in varying degrees.  We heard everything from, “puppy breath is so precious!” to “I just love their little breath!”  to “their breath is adorable!”  Seriously?  What planet are these people from?  It’s a dog’s breath for criss-cross sake.   I would politely smile, but under my own breath,  I would mumble “good lawd” to Malcolm, who was trying in vain to keep a straight face.

It wasn’t until the puppies were old enough to be held and played with that I started to get an inkling of what my friends meant.  With their still pink little noses, at three-n-half weeks old,  our little ones were just starting on softened puppy chow.  They were old enough to be cuddled and held up close against our necks, while we absently rubbed their soft ears.  At five to six weeks, we were bringing our herd of yipping mutts outside to their  playpen to enjoy the fresh air and the still warm fall days.  Malcolm dragged a huge wooden rocking chair into the pen so we could sit and watch the eight little blighters sniff and explore their new world.  As they tired one by one, they would all end up at our feet, ready for a little puppy nap.  Inveritably, I would end up with two or three canine belly balls in my lap, falling fast asleep in my arms, their fat round tummies gently swaying with their soft breathing.  On warm sunny days, Malcolm and I would sit in the pen for hours, enjoying the melodious sounds emitting from the puppies.  Loving the feel of their silky fur, their soft little paws pressed against our arms, their muzzle tucked under our chins.  It was during these endearing moments, that I learned the true meaning of “puppy breath”.

Truth be told, there is something sweet about little puppy’s breath!  The scent is precious, with just a hint of baby puppy.  Taking a deep breath, I smell a little puppy’s trust, I inhale the wonder and  joys of a pint-sized creature filled with faith in their caretakers.  I breathe in the love of a new friend and the loyalty of an old one.  I catch a whiff of an adoring puppy, a devoted dog, a committed canine to its custodian.  Puppy breath is a precious bouquet of entrusting love.

HUSH PUPPIES

A quick and tasty appetizer or side dish, these little guys will disappear fast so make extras.

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. beaten egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced jalapeno
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • frying oil

Mix together the first six ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk  the buttermilk, egg and jalapeño together.  Stir the dry ingredients and milk mixture together.

Add enough oil to a deep medium saucepan to at least 1 1/2 inches.  Using a deep fry thermometer, heat oil to 320F to 330F over medium heat. Working in batches, drop 4 to 5 balls of batter by the tablespoon into the oil.

Fry until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 4-5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, lift the hush puppies from the oil and place on a paper towel.

Can be made 2-3 hours ahead, leave at room temperature.  Rewarm in a pre-heated oven of 375F until crisp (12-14 minutes).  Garnish with a little chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

mud

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Dog doors are a great invention and ours was one of the better remodel decisions Malcolm and I made…

When Tiamo was still a puppy, we added a large coyote-fenced enclosure that wrapped around the back of our New Mexican styled home.  Aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood, it fit in with the landscape.  We carefully planned the gate placement, the amount of  shade provided by the Pinon trees growing around the perimeter and size of the pen around Tiamo’s needs.  The one thing we didn’t plan, was installing a dog door for entrance from the pen to the house.  Mistake number one – however a moot point since we only put Tiamo in the pen when we left for town and couldn’t bring her.  Tiamo’s new playground was over 1,800 square feet of soft sand and shade.  Made just for her – and she hated it!  She hated being left alone outside, barking excessively.  She hated being separated from us and most of all she hated knowing Thugs, our cat at the time, was indoors while she was suffering outdoors.  She dug deep holes under the gate and tunneled out to freedom, magically appearing at our back door to come inside.  She scratched, clawed and budged her way out through any opening she could find, bending the gate frame, ripping the wiring.   We added reinforcements, new gate latches, heavier gauged wire, and still Tiamo would find a way out.  One week after we christened our new dog pen addition, we abandoned it.  Tiamo happily trading the pen for all the comforts of pillows and couches found inside our home.

For two years Tiamo’s dog pen sat empty – until the puppies were born.  The pen was the perfect dog park for eight little pups to explore and discover their new life.  We would bring the kids out to the pen during the late hours of the afternoon, when the sun’s heat was less severe. Tiamo had finally accepted the pen, enjoying the fresh air as she tenderly watched over her rambunctious brood.  The little ones romped and tumbled for hours until we brought them back in to their make-shift pen set up in the garage.  Tired and exhausted, the puppies would settle into a fast sleep for the night. 

As each puppy left for their new life with their new caregivers, Malcolm and I came to the conclusion we needed to add a dog door to the pen for our remaining three; Tiamo, Amore and Dolce.  However, our careful planning of the pen placement several years past, failed to appoint a common wall for a dog door.  Mistake number two.  We concluded after a careful study of where to place the large rubber flap, to install the dog door in our bathroom’s linen closet.  I know, it sounds weird, but our thinking was (and still is) if there came a time when we needed to close off the dog door, we could re-install the linen shelves back in and the large, unsightly dog hole would  “disappear” behind bath towels and sheets.  Plus, we could close the closet door to keep the girls in or out depending on what we wanted.

Installation day was on a Friday, right around the first of July.   We wanted to have the door installed and finished before our Monsoon season started so the girls could come in out of the rain.  Training was easy.  A little nugget of ground hamburger was all it took to entice Tiamo through the opening, with Amore and Dolce  quickly following.  It wasn’t long before each dog was barreling through the flap looking for a meatball.    The girls immediately used the outdoors as they should, doing their duty discreetly outside.   No more getting up to let one of dogs out, no more waiting in the freezing cold as Dolce sniffed for the perfect spot, no more chasing after Amore as she sensed freedom.  Life was just made easier.

Five days later, the rains came. Blessed drops of liquid fell on our parched acreage.  Never lasting very long, the afternoon showers can alternate from a gentle pitter-patter to hard torments of destruction.  The dry land will soak up the moisture like a sponge, filling its cracks with water, letting the excess wash over into arroyos and gullies creating flash floods and hazards.  Not only do our summer storms bequeath us with fiery sunsets that paint the sky with vibrant colors, they also leave us with clay dirt that quickly becomes slick, clinging to our shoes, dragging your steps with the extra weight of the mud.  It was on a day such as this, that I came home from work to find mud, lots of mud, strewn from one end of the house to the other!  There were muddy paws prints in every room, every part of the house. On the sofa, on the bed, everywhere.  The girls came running to greet me, each with a wet, muddy underbelly, each filthy and dirty, mire and sledge oozing from their paws.  and each with a huge happy grin on their face.  The new dog door was a gateway to mud and muck.  Mistake number three!

Luckily, we have brick floors.  And, we have a house cleaner.

Dolce washed up after mud wrestling with Amore

Dolce washed up after mud wrestling with Amore

 

MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE

an ooey-gooey delicious mess!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 6 oz Oreo cookies
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.  

To prepare the crust:  place Oreo cookies, nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and process until fine crumbs are formed.  Add the melted butter and mix until just moistened.  Do not over process.  Press the cookie mixture over the bottom of the springform pan, pressing the mixture up the sides of the pan about 1 1/2 inches.  Cover and chill until filling is ready.

To prepare the filling:  add butter, chocolate, corn syrup in a medium sauce pan over low heat until melted together.  Let cool.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the finely chopped Macadamia nuts.  Pour filling into the chilled crust and smooth the surface.  Bake for 30 minute or until just set but still soft in the center.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Serve a room temperature with homemade whipped cream.

 

moms and meatloaf

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Growing up, I would cringe when I heard the words, “you take after your father”.  Or better yet, “you look just like your mom“.  At fifteen, I did not want to be compared to either parent.  I only saw dad as hosting a big nose and a larger belly.  And mother, well, suffice to say, I did not want to grow up to be like my mother.  Only now do I understand those words were sweet compliments full of promise of what was to come.  Their moral fiber was imprinted on me in my early years, their love and emotional support has stayed with me even with their passing years ago.  Now, at full maturity and with a clear mirror, I see a bit of both my parents in me, from sharing my father’s gift of gab to sharing my mother’s propensity to uphold her Scandinavian heritage – being a stubborn Swede on occasion.  I’ve borrowed my father’s coloring, with fair-hair and blue eyes, and copied my mom’s easy-going manner.  I find myself mimicking their mannerisms, their habits and their likes and dislikes.  And, buying only French’s mustard and Best Food’s mayo and using only real butter, cuz that’s what mother did.  Like mother, like daughter.

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like mama, like daughter

With dogs, all traits and characteristics are individual.  They might share looks, the same blaze on the forehead, the same white-capped paws, but all similarities end there.  Their personalities are all their own.  I once had a dog trainer tell me, “Dogs do not learn from other dogs, they learn from repetitive learning and rewards”.    I used to believe that, now I’m not so sure……

When Tiamo was just a puppy, she would prance a little jig as we walked her.  A special spring in her gait, unique to just her.  I’d never seen another dog with the same perky step.  Until just the other day – I noticed Dolce dancing a little jig, as we walked the loop, so like Tiamo.  Tiamo had a habit of holding her head up, tucking her muzzle in, and looking up at you with a shy, Princess Di glaze.  She was so graceful, like royalty.   Recently, I saw Amore lift her head and tuck in her muzzle, as she peered up at me.  In that instant, she looked so much like Tiamo.  Tiamo had a special spot under the table, where she would lay as we ate dinner, her front paws draped over my toes, just to let me know she was there.  Now Amore lays there, in the exact spot as Tiamo, her right paw touching my left foot,  so like Tiamo.

Is it genetics?  Is it environment? Or is it just being a dog?  Malcolm and I find ourselves saying, “Dolce acts just like Tiamo” or “She is so like her mother”, something every teenager hates to hear.   Amore has always “looked” more like Tiamo – Dolce has always behaved more like Tiamo.  Both have taken on traits only Tiamo possessed.

MEATLOAF AND LOAF

All moms have a special recipe that spells out M-O-M.  My mother’s was meatloaf.  I make it just like hers.

Mama knows best!!

  • 1 sourdough bread loaf (un-sliced) – hollowed out, saving the bread filling
  • 1  –  3 oz. can sliced mushrooms and liquids
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs from sourdough bread loaf
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine liquids, egg, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and bread crumbs.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir in ground beef, mushrooms, and onions.  Fill the sourdough bread loaf with the meatloaf mixture.  Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for one hour.

Simply irresistible!

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As puppies, Amore and Dolce were simply irresistible. And they knew it!

IMG_7091

With their little white-tipped tails wagging to and fro, their noses wrinkling as they sniffed new territory, their puppy breath as they pressed puppy kisses on us – as puppies,  they were the sweetest, cutest little things.  They were absolutely adorable, simply irresistible!

They each had their particular quirks.  Dolce would tilt her head as she was learning a new command, you could almost see the wheels turning as she was figuring out the process, her brain working out the equation.  Of the two, Dolce learned her lessons quick and fast.  She also learned she would be rewarded with a treat if she scored high on the test.  After she accomplished her task, she would sit at our feet, tilting her head to the side, patiently waiting for her gold star, her treat.  Again, you could visualize her thought process, her brain trying to figure out where her special nibble was, and when would she be getting it.  If Dolce was in High School, she would be the honors student, the one who never got in trouble, never cussed, smoked or slept around.  Teacher’s pet.

Amore on the other hand, would rise a brown-winged eyebrow, as if to question our sanity in asking her to perform the small learning task.  “You want me to do what”? she silently sassed, looking at us askew.  “Seriously?  Again?  How many times do I have to do this”?  First her ears would flick back and forth, then her two matching red-brown brows would draw together, frowning, not sure she wants to do as asked.  With a puppy pout and long drawn-out sigh, her eyebrows would twitch up and down once more before she followed the command.  If Amore was a teenager, she would be the rebellious 16-year-old, stealing a smoke behind the gym bleachers, swigging Jimmy B. out of a paper bag.  The horror student.

Between the head tilt and the brow lift, we never stood a chance.  One forty-five degree slant of the head and a five degree raise of the brow had us wrapped around every one of their paws.  It’s been that way ever since.  Four years later, Amore and Dolce are still irresistible.

SANTA FE RICE CASSEROLE

Make extra – it’s hard to resist seconds!

Mix green chili and jalapeno with sour cream.  Season cooked rice with salt and pepper.  In a 2 quart casserole, layer the ingredients with the rice, then sour cream mixture and then Monterey jack Cheese.  Repeat the layers ending with rice on the top.

Bake at 350 F degrees for 25 minutes.  cover the top with the Cheddar cheese and sprinkle with paprika.  Bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

tail thumping

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tail thumper

tail thumper

Thump. Thump. Thump-thump-thump. Thump-thump-thumpity-thump. Whack! Whack-whack! Whack! C.R.A.S.H.

Knowing the difference between a one thump tail thunk and a whackity-whack wallop can rescue dog owners from future calamity. Here are descriptive clues on what each thump and whack really mean….

The ol’ one thump is clearly an insult, the slightest lift of their head, barely acknowledging something might be happening, perhaps an arch of the brow or a twitch of the ear. The effort to investigate is not worth moving from their dog bed of lethargy. You’ve been ignored. This is good. You can return to your baking.

A two or three or four tail-thump is an improvement – they have expanded enough energy to give you several beats of interest before emitting a loooong drawn out sigh. One eye ajar, wavering between going back to snoring or exploring the new development, this tail-thumper is classified as a true put-a-pond sign of disgruntlement. Your dog really doesn’t want to get up to probe but they also don’t want to miss anything. You’re safe. You’ve got a 90% chance dog dreams are more important than rising to sniff out their curiosity. Keep doing what you were doing.

Now a thumpity-thump-thump-thump is heading into the danger zone. Tail speed is kicking up, creating 30 mph winds. Eyes alert, standing at attention, you’ve piqued their interest and you’ve got 100 pounds of torque just waiting for the secret, silent signal to move. Let the cookies burn in the oven. MOVE. You need to divert disaster before it attacks you. The odds have swiftly moved up to a solid 69% chance of rapid canine involvement (RCI). Pay attention. Do. Not. Turn. Your. Back. On. Tail.

The whackity-whack tail whack will put TSA on red alert. Whacks of this type will inevitably bring a loud, vociferous collision of canine tail and object. Beware. Tail-whacking at this velocity can literally cause annihilation of your home. This whack is a weapon of mass destruction. Decorative couch pillows have known to blow up, millions of little white chicken feathers spreading like wild-fire throughout the house. Coffee cups shattered in one swoop of a frantic tail whack. Papers, mail and file folders flown into the air, scattering like blind mice on the run. Do not call 911. You are on your own here. At this point, you’re totally screwed. If you have any cookies left that aren’t burnt, I’d start eating.

COOKIE CRUNCHIES

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg – well beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup corn flakes
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth. Sift dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture. Add oatmeal, corn flakes, coconut and nuts. Mix until blended.

Roll into small balls and place 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes.