A Word form a Different Bird

For the past several weeks we have been hearing the very distinctive cries of baby hawks.  Over the last several years there have been a number of Cooper’s hawk and Red tail hawk nests in the tall cottonwoods on our property or in the trees across the street.  I guess hawks like this area as studies have shown that even in Albuquerque there is a Cooper’s hawk nest every 1/4 to 1/3 mile.   Each year we look forward to seeing the newly fledged hawks hunting in the “wild” area of our property or perched in one of our tall pines as they enjoy their meal.  We are always so happy to see them that we don’t mind cleaning up the remains (feathers, fur, etc.) that falls to the ground as they prepare their meal. (Boz would be only to happy to take care of these leftovers but we prefer he avoid a “raw” diet!)

Unfortunately the hawks usually only make an appearance when George and I are on our own – never when we have guests.  That is until last Sunday.  We had a quest who, after finishing breakfast, decided she would like to sit out on the portal and enjoy the morning for a few minutes before she and her friend  left for the next leg of their journey.  Just as she started to walk out the door a Cooper’s hawk flew in for a quick dip in the birdbath!  The hawk stayed in the birdbath having a grand time as I and another guests came out on the portal to take in the sight.

coopers hawk cropped

 

This was a close as I could get to the bird,  I suspect from its size that it is a an adult but I’m not that much of a birder so don’t really know for sure.  Cooper, or Coopertina has been back every day this week.

And to add icing to the cake we have a ( the second one this summer) hummingbird nest in the pine tree out of the picture to the left.

Oh, and see that finch feeder hanging from the pinion tree just to the left of the birdbath.  Well that’s not seeing any action lately.  Hmmmm I wonder why?

 

 

 

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Paella de Marisco

Paella de Marisco – that sounds so much better than seafood in rice but that is exactly what it is and what we had for dinner not too long ago.  Somehow I got on the email list of an online Spanish Market.  Every week or so I get an email with featured items and two or three recipes highlighting the featured product.  A couple of weeks ago the highlighted product was Bomba paella rice and two recipes were for two different paellas.  The recipe for Paella de Marisco sounded really good and I decided to make it for a Sunday dinner.  I know I have provided a paella recipe in a previous post but this recipe is different enough to share. The aioli is a great condiment that compliments the seafood in this dish.  And after all, you can’t have too many paella recipes!

Paella de Marisco                        4 – 6 servings

  • 6 cups clam or seafood broth
  • 1 tsp thread saffron
  • 1 1/2 lbs firm fleshed fish cut into bite sized pieces – I use cod
  • 1 dz mussels
  • 12 large shrimp in shells
  • 8 oz squid, sliced into rings if whole
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbs parsley, minced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika – look for this in an international market or order from the Spanish Table.  This is a critical ingredient.  The paella won’t taste the same if you make it with Hungarian Paprika
  • 8 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato chopped, 2 cups Paella rice
  • lemon wedges
  • Aioli ( the spanish actually spell it Alioli) for dipping
  • Heat the broth in a large pot. Stir in saffron.  Pat the fish and shrimp dry.  sprinkle with sea salt and let sit 10 minutes.  Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, mash parsley, garlic, thyme and 1/8 tsp salt into a paste.  Stir in paprika; add water if necessary to form a paste.
  • Heat 6 tbl. of oil in a paella pan over medium high heat.  Brown the fish for 1 or 2 minutes. You just want to get some color on the fish – not cook it completely through. Remove the fish to a warm platter.  Add remaining 2 tbl. of oil, onion, scallions, and bell pepper to the paella pan and cook until the vegetables are slightly softened.  Raise the heat and add the tomato, cooking until it begins to break down – 2 to 5 minutes.  Pour in the hot broth and bring to a boil.  Sprinkle the rice evenly over the pan.   Boil for 3 minutes, stirring rice and rotating pan occasionally.  Add all the reserved fish (except the shrimp, mussels and squid).  Stir in the parsley paste.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.  Do not stir the pan after you have stirred in any additional seasonings.  Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  The liquid should be mostly absorbed and the rice almost cooked.   Arrange the shrimp, squid and mussels on the rice, placing the mussels in the rice so they are facing up as they open.  Cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20  minutes until rice is almost done.  Remove pan from heat and cover with foil,  Let sit 10 minutes.
  • Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with the aioli.

Remember that the crispy rice usually found in the center of the paella pan is considered to be the ‘best’ part of the dish.  It should always be offered to the honored guest.  Or you can save it for yourself – I won’t tell if you don’t!

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Apricots Are Here!

Local apricots are back in season and readily available which means my guests are experiencing broiled apricots with cranberry orange relish as the fruit course at breakfast.  They were on the menu this morning and a guest loved them so much she asked for the recipe.  I thought I had posted it on a previous blog and it turned out I did and didn’t.  I included a mention of it in the blog on my Romance package but it wasn’t really a recipe.  So Mary, this is for you!

Let’s start with the cranberry relish.  I first made this recipe for Thanksgiving in 1982 and it is the one thing the whole family insists not be changed or omitted at Thanksgiving dinner.  So you can see I’ve been making it for awhile. It was only after we bought the B&B and I was faced with a plethora of apricots that hung from the branches of our neighbor’s apricot tree that I came up with the idea of apricots and cranberry orange sauce (really more of a relish).

Cranberry Orange Relish

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • grated orange peel from one orange (small, medium or large depending on how “orangey” you like your sauce.
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 12 ounces  fresh cranberries, rinsed, drained and the mushy ones discarded (Note: I buy bags of cranberries around Thanksgiving and freeze them so I can make this relish all year long)
  •  Place the metal knife blade in your food processor.  Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and grated orange rind to processor work bowl.  Process to mix together.
  • Empty work bowl into a nonreactive saucepan and add the remaining sugar, water and orange juice.
  • Place the cranberries into the processor work bowl and process berries until finely minced, 15 to 20 seconds, stopping to scrape down the container sides as needed. Empty the contents into the saucepan.
  • Cover the pan and heat the contents until the liquid is simmering. Put lid slightly ajar and cook until the thickened, checking frequently during the cooking process to be sure the cranberries aren’t burning.  The original recipe says this should take about 15 minutes.  That’s never happened.  In the 32 (wow, I’m old!) years I’ve been making this dish it has always taken at least 30 minutes.  Just depends on the cranberries.  Transfer to a covered container an store in the refrigerator.

To complete the dish for two people

  • 4 good sized apricots
  • 2 tsp raw sugar
  • 8 tbl prepared cranberry relish
  • Heat up your broiler.
  • Cut the apricots in half along the natural seam and remove the pits.  Place in a broiler proof baking dish or pan.
  • Fill the indentations in each apricot with 1/4 tsp raw sugar.  Place the apricots under the broiler and broil until the sugar is melted.
  • Remove the apricots from the oven and arrange four apricots on each of two plates.  Top each apricot with 1 tbl of the prepared cranberry relish and serve.
Broiled Apricots with Homemade Cranberry Orange Relish

Broiled Apricots with Homemade Cranberry Orange Relish

Want to turn this into dessert?  After you have broiled the apricots place a layer of apricots in a parfait dish followed by a layer of cranberry sauce.  Complete until you have used up all the apricots. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

That’s what I call a multipurpose dish!

 

Posted in American Food, Bed and Breakfast, Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Family, Food, Fruit, Innkeeping, Recipes, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Posting al Fresco

I recently broke down and bought a new laptop.  Let’s just say my XP machine,though still functioning, was slow and, with Microsoft pulling support of XP, no longer safe to use online.  So I did some research and ended up purchasing a new laptop with Windows 8.1.  Way to much tech information for a blog that is predominately about food. The happy surprise in all of this is that the antenna on this machine is so good that I can actually connect to the internet while sitting outside on my portal. I can now blog al fresco!  This should result in a renewed frequency of blogging as I can work away outside while Boz the Wonder Dog explores the yard and I wait for George to get home from work.

With summer less than 48 hours old I have taken to adding lighter items to the menu and increasing the use of the grill.  It’s cool in the house but why heat it up when a grill is so much better.  Several weeks ago I received the new issue of Cooks Illustrated with a recipe for Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce.  We love Greek food but don’t have alot of Greek dining options close by.  So I decided I would try my hand at this recipe.  It took a bit longer than the recipe indicated – of course – but George and I both were pleased with the result and enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day.  I knew we needed something with the Souvlaki and remembered that I had downloaded an e recipe book from the Parthenon Restaurant in Chicago.  A quick look through the ebook resulted in a recipe for a great greek salad. And, as the salad does not include lettuce, leftovers are no problem.  So here’s the recipe for our Greek Feast!

Grilled Chicken Souvlaki  with Tzatziki Sauce                                     2 servings

For the Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1/2 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp grated garlic ( use a microplane)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbl plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced (should equal 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tbl minced fresh mint
  • 1/2 tbl minced fresh parsley
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Dice the cucumber, lightly salt and place in a strainer to drain for about one hour.  This will remove some of the water from the cucumber.  You can omit this step if you prefer a thinner sauce.  Whisk the lemon juice, and garlic together in a small bowl.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Stir in yogurt, cucumber, mint, parsley and salt.  Cover and set aside.  Note: I made the sauce a good two hours before we ate to give the flavors a chance to meld.

Chicken

  • 2 tbl of salt dissolved in 1 qt water (brine)
  • 12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbl minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, halved, stemmed, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 red onion peeled, halved and cut into chunks.
  • pita bread

Submerge the cut up chicken into the brine, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  While the chicken is in the brine, combine the oil, parsley, lemon juice and zest, honey, oregano, and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper in a medium bowl.  Transfer two tablespoons of the mixture to a large bowl and set aside to coat the cooked chicken and vegetables when they come off the grill.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Toss chicken with the remaining oil mixture.  Thread bell pepper, concave side up unto a skewer.  Then thread onion followed by chicken, onion and finishing with green pepper. Thread other skewers until all chicken and vegetables are on skewers.  Cover and set aside  while grill heats up.

Heat the grill to 350 degrees F.  Oil grates.  Using indirect heat, grill the skewers until the chicken is well browned on both sides and reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.  Remove meat and vegetables from skewers and place in reserved oil mixture.  Toss gently , cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.  Serve with Pita bread and Tzatziki sauce.

Village Salad with Greek Salad Dressing

Greek Salad Dressing                                          3/4 cup dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbl red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbl white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbl crumbled, dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside for a minimum of 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.  Leftovers can be stored covered in the refrigerator.

Village Salad                                                 2 servings

  • 1/4 recipe of  Greek Salad Dressing
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 small sweet onion cut into thin slivers
  • 3 roma tomatoes, halved seeded and cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges
  • 1/2 large green pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips
  • 15 Kalamata olives – more if you are like us and love them
  • 2 to 3 oz crumbled feta cheese

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for salad except the cheese  and toss gently.  Pour enough Greek Salad dressing over tossed ingredients and toss again to moisten.  Pass the cheese and remaining salad dressing at the table.

I also added some anchovies cut into one inch pieces.   The salad was perfect with the Soulvaki and just as good the next day for lunch when we ate up the leftovers! Oh, and thanks kids, for the stand to keep my Kindle upright on work surface so I could easily read the recipe!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Chicken, Cookbooks, Cooking, Family, Food, Greek, grilling, meat, Menus, Recipes, Salad, sides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Pressure

About 10 days ago I flew out to Phoenix to spend some time with my mom who recently returned home after recovering from a broken leg.  There were things to be done,  places to go, people to see and a special request from my Mom to prepare a “Thank You” dinner for a few friends who had been so helpful while her leg healed.   I knew about this in advance so I had a little time to prepare.  And having in the last year prepared a seven course dinner as part of my Dad’s memorial, I was well aware of my equipment limitations.  I did remedy the broken measuring cups and misshapen measuring spoons I had to use last summer with new ones in her Christmas stocking – though I had completely forgotten she had no slotted spoon.   Still, cooking for my mother’s friends – no pressure there!

My mom knew she wanted Roast Cornish Hens of some sort so all I had to come up with was a recipe for the hens, the salad, a starch and dessert.  After some discussion we decided on the Asparagus Salad I wrote about in a previous edition of this blog, and a strawberry mousse for dessert.  I set out on a quest for an interesting hen recipe. I wanted something that would work with an orzo; a starch that is a little more interesting than the standard mashed potato side.  Here’s the Cornish Hen recipe I found, modified and served. Note:  I cut these hens in half before I prepared the dish.  While it didn’t reduce the cooking time, it made it was easier to cut the hens before they were cooked.   To cut in half – use kitchen shears to cut down each side of the backbone, remove and save for stock.  Turn the hen over and with the flat of your hand over the breast bone,  compress the hen until the breast bone pops.  Remove the bone and cartilage and using a sharp knife, separate the two halves of the bird.

Cornish Game Hens with Mustard and Rosemary   Serves 6

  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 plus 2 tbl  cup finely chopped prosciutto
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 1 1/2-pound Cornish game hens
  • 1 1/2 cups canned chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apricot fruit spread

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine butter, 3 tablespoons prosciutto, 3 teaspoons rosemary and 2 teaspoons mustard in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Run fingers under skin over breast of each game hen, loosening skin from meat. Rub 1 tablespoon butter mixture under skin over breast of each hen. Sprinkle hens inside and out with salt and pepper.

Place hens on rack in large roasting pan. Pour 1/3 cup broth over hens. Dot each hen with 1 teaspoon butter mixture. Roast hens 30 minutes, basting with remaining broth and butter every 10 minutes. Continue roasting without basting until juices run clear when thigh is pierced at thickest part, about 30 minutes more. Remove the hens to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.  Reserve 1/4 cup pan juices.

While the hens are cooking mix the mayonnaise, apricot spread, remaining chopped prosciutto, rosemary and mustard in a small bowl.  Refrigerate until hens are done.   When ready to serve add the 1/4 cup pan juices to the mayonnaise mixture.  Place a swoosh ( thanks Nike!) on the plate and half hen on top of the sauce. Ladle a bit more sauce over the hen.  Pass the rest of the sauce separately.

So what did I do with the Orzo?  I chopped the prosciutto slices remaining in the package and fried until crispy – think bacon.  I chopped an additional 1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary and 1 teaspoon of parsley and set aside.  I cooked the orzo according to the package directions.  When the orzo had completed cooking I drained it and placed it in a large bowl.  I added the fried prosciutto, rosemary and parsley and tossed with a little olive oil.  It was a great match with the Cornish Hens.  I wasn’t as happy with the sauce; it may have been too much rosemary.  It wasn’t bad – just not perfect.  I’ll keep experimenting with it.

Oh, and the pressure I put myself under amounted to needless worrying.  Everyone must have loved the food is the clean plates were any indication!

Posted in American Food, Comfort food, Cooking, Dessert, Family, Food, Formal Meals, Kitchen tools, meat, Menus, Recipes, Roast Cornish Hens, sides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pico de Gallo

It’s almost May and I am looking forward to fresh local produce.  As a rule, I make a real effort to cook with foods that are in season in the area.  January, February, March and April are the worst months for me as almost nothing, with the exception of some root vegetables and in April, early lettuce, is available locally.   Those months I have to rely on produce shipped in from elsewhere.  Not my preferred way of cooking but a necessity when it comes to the breakfast fruit course and garnishes.

In a recent review one of our guests indicated they missed a fresh pico de gallo and that perhaps I would share a recipe.  I do make pico de gallo for guests, but only when I can get fresh tomatoes in season.  There is such a difference in taste between garden fresh tomatoes and those from the supermarket that I prefer to wait until I can provide my guests with the best pico possible.  So it will be a few more months before I will be putting that fresh salsa on the table.  Until that time you’ll have to settle for the recipe and if you’re in a part of the country or the world where tomatoes are in season in April – I envy you!

Pico de gallo, or Mexican Salsa as it is also called, is as unique as the person who making the dish.  Everyone has their own twist on this very staple condiment.  And I must admit to having a basic recipe that I modify all the time.  Sometimes I use tomatillos, sometimes I char the chiles, and I often turn it into a sweet salsa by substituting mango for the tomato and red onion for the white onion – great for desserts or pork and chicken dishes.  We like our salsa chunky so generally I just chop and stir the ingredients together.  If you like a saucier salsa you can put all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until you reach the desire consistency. You may notice there is no cilantro in my recipe.  George and I have been blessed (?) with the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap.  Not a flavor you want in your condiment.   Therefore, it is omitted from my recipes.  Here’s my cilantro -free basic recipe.  I trust you to make it your own!

Pico de Gallo ( Mexican Salsa)  Makes 2 cups

  • 1 large clove of garlic – peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos – seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 – 3 medium ( equal to about 1 lb)  large ripe round tomatoes – seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely diced small white or spanish onion
  • 1 tbl fresh lime juice or apple cider vinegar
  • salt to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for  before serving to allow the flavors to marry. Just before serving, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bed and Breakfast, Breakfast, Chicken, Cooking, Corrales, Farmers Markets, Food, Innkeeping, meat, Mexican Food, New Mexican, New Mexico, Pork, Recipes, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Tradition

Tomorrow is Easter.  And no matter how old I get or how far away my kids, I still love all the Easter traditions; Easter baskets, dyed eggs and Lamb Cake.  Every year, for the last 43 years, I have made a Lamb cake.

Finished Lamb Cake

Finished Lamb Cake

The cake is made with a pound cake mix and frosted with a standard buttercream frosting.  My grandmother made this cake when I was a child.  She covered the icing with coconut.  Neither George and I are big fans of coconut so it never made an appearance on my cakes.  This year the lamb cake took a vacation.  Mr. Bunny filled in for him.  Why would I make a change after all these years?  Well it goes back to when George’s family lived close by.  Every year I would make the lamb cake and every year my sister-in-law, who is several years younger than George, would steal the jelly bean eyes and nose from the cake.  Drove me crazy but I chalked it up to childish exuberance and just replaced the nose and eyes.

A couple of weeks ago a package arrived from Williams and Sonoma.  I opened it up and there was a mold for a bunny cake.  I was stumped, I didn’t order the mold and I know George wouldn’t have placed the order.  Turns out is was my sister-in-law.  She saw the mold, was reminded of how she used to steal the jelly bean eyes and nose, and thought I needed the mold!  So, in honor of her nimble fingers, I made a bunny cake this year.

The mold can be used to make a single cake that lies on its side or a double cake with the two sides bound together with frosting allowing it to stand upright.  The directions that came with the mold instructed me to make a batter using the Williams and Sonoma 2 pound bundt cake mix. TWO POUNDS!!!!!  How are we going to eat two pounds of cake.  I decided to improvise.  I elected to make only one side of the cake.  That decision made I searched the grocery shelves for bundt cake – and nothing.  NO bundt cake mix to be had.  So I decided to substitute pound cake batter.  After all it has worked for me for the last 43 years as a lamb cake – why not a bunny.

 

One side of Bunny mold filled with batter.

One side of Bunny mold filled with batter.

I made the batter, greased and floured the mold and poured in the batter.  Looking at the mold as the batter mixed I wondered if I would have enough batter using  a single one pound cake mix ( I had purchased two just in case) but as you can see all my fears were for naught. The batter filled the mold nicely with nothing left over.  I put it in the oven and hoped for the best.  In the past I have had problems with lamb ears that didn’t release properly from the mold, resulting in ears held on by tooth picks.  I wasn’t sure what would happen if the cake didn’t release properly.  Forty minutes later it was time to take it out of the oven.  I let the cake sit for the recommended 10 minutes before removing it from the mold.  I got the cooling rack, put it on top of the mold and, holding my breath, turned it over.  Success!! the cake came right out of the mold with the ears intact.  I’m sure the whole world heard my sigh of relief.

 

Bunny caked released form the mold

Bunny caked released form the mold

I needed to trim the baked cake to eliminate the batter that expanded over the mold during baking.   This was easily accomplished with a sharp knife.  Then it was time to decorate.  The information that came with the mold shows the bunny being dusted with powdered sugar.  I wanted to frost the bunny but had to figure out what color frosting to use.  Since it is springtime the bunnies are no longer wearing their white coats so white frosting was out.  Chocolate frosting was an option but seemed to be too dark. So I hit on the idea of combining white and chocolate to get a color closer to bunny brown.  That seemed to yield a color that was close to what we see the bunnies in our yard wearing.  Of course the tail was frosted white to keep as authentic as possible.  And, as a big fan of Peeps, I had to put a Peep along with the jelly beans in the basket that the bunny was holding.

View of frosted bunny with his little white tail showing.

View of frosted bunny with his little white tail showing.

Front view of the frosted bunny.

Front view of the frosted bunny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initially, I frosted the bunny with him standing upright.  It looked like I would be able to keep him upright even though I had only made a single side of the mold.  But after about an hour or so the bunny began to tilt to the “flat” side of the mold.  I decided to lay the bunny down on the serving plate rather than risk having a toppled bunny in the morning.  He turned out so well I am going to make him again.  My granddaughter London will love this bunny.   I’ll be sure to tell her to thank her great aunt Cheryl.  I’ll also tell her who to blame if the eyes and nose are missing!

Happy Easter!

Posted in Baking, Bed and Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Easter, Family, Food, Holidays, PEEPS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment