Another Anniversary

You never know who will check in at the B&B!

You never know who will check in at the B&B!

 

Last Thursday, March 31, 2016 I began my 14th year as an innkeeper.  14 YEARS!  Where did the time go.  I must be having a good time for these years to go by as quickly as they have.  And for those of you who aspire to being an innkeeper here’s a short summary of some of the things I have learned and you will experience:

You will meet wonderful people from around the world. I have met guests who lived on every continent except Antarctica and over a dozen different countries.   Some have become friends and I’ve watched their children grow up.

You will learn you’ve the ability to communicate at odd hours of the day and night.  I have mastered the art of the middle of the night check -in (latest was 2:30 am) and the very early morning check-out (earliest has been 3:45 am), thankfully not on the same day.

You will find that ironing bedding can be a zen like experience. But forget about folding those fitted sheets. I still don’t have it down perfectly and I’ve had plenty of experience.

You will become a more adventurous cook.  First, because you will find that making the same thing over and over again can make you crazy, and second because you never know what dietary challenges a guest can bring.  I am now able to prepare breakfasts for vegetarians, vegans, diabetics, glucose free, lactose intolerant, and my personal favorite – the all raw diet.

Your personal knowledge of your surrounding geographic area will grow.  This is a real benefit to you because while you are out at a new gallery or trying a new restaurant or discovering a new trail in the mountain you can “justify” goofing off as research for your guests! “Hey, I need to spend some time at the new mall that just opened so I can tell my guests what they can find there.”  See what I mean.

If you love the holidays you’ll love being an innkeeper.  You can decorate to your heart’s content and no one will think anything of it.  Being an innkeeper means you don’t have to justify putting up Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving!

All in all I’ve learned a lot of new things, met a lot of great people and will be ready to retire in two more years. Oh that last part, the part about retiring, I’ve been saying that for six years!  I’m an innkeeper and I love it!

 

Posted in Bed and Breakfast, Breakfast, Breakfast, Corrales, Family, Food, New Mexico, Sandhill Crane, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast, Southwestern States | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Happy Easter

I have completed all of my Easter preparations.  The eggs are hard-boiled and dyed, the Easter baskets are ready to go – including the ones I make for our guests – and I have a few hours before I need to head off to church.

Tomorrow morning our guests will start with a composed salad of Asian pear, cantaloupe, raspberries and blueberries. The breakfast entrée will be a spinach and smoked salmon frittata garnished with spring greens.

What they won’t be having is lamb cake.  I’ve made a lamb cake to celebrate every Easter since the first year I was married.  This will be cake number 46 ( I married very young!) Lamb cake 2016 is resting comfortably in the middle of the dining room table.  One year I left the lamb cake on the island for a few moments and when I returned he was missing part of his butt.  Boz obviously thought this was a very small weirdly colored lion that, as a Rhodesian ridgeback, it was his duty to chase off – or eat.

One could argue that, with no children at home I could just as easily omit this tradition but in our household everyone is a kid when holidays come around!

Lamb Cake ready for the Easter Table

Lamb Cake ready for the Easter Table

This is a labor of love for me.  I make the cake for my kids who are grown with their own lives, for my granddaughter, London, who may one day help me make the Lamb cake as her mother did, for my Mom who is celebrating with friends, for my brother and sister who will be celebrating with their families, and for George and I as we celebrate another Easter together.  I make it to celebrate the season.  Happy Easter!

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

St. Patrick’s Day – A Little Late

Today we are celebrating St. Patrick’s day; and yes, I know St. Patrick’s day was actually last Thursday.  A number of factors contributed to this tardy celebration.

St. Patrick’s Day dawned bright and sunny but not so my husband’s stomach.  He wasn’t feeling well.  And he felt worse as the day went on.  Someone who is under the weather has no interest in indulging in Guinness Beef Stew, Champ and Soda Bread.

He was back to normal on Friday but this is still the Lenten season and I am Catholic so no meat for dinner.  Plus, I was spending the weekend in Phoenix celebrating my Mom’s 86th birthday so no Irish food this weekend.  That brings us to today.

Right now the stew is simmering away on the stove, the soda bread ingredients are measured and ready to mixed.  All I have to do is peel and boil the potatoes for the champ, mix the soda dough bread and bake in the cast iron skillet, and open the Guinness.

As I have already provided my recipes for soda bread and Irish Stew, I’ll share my recipe for champ.

CHAMP 

  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • 4 oz chopped scallions
  • 5 fl oz milk
  • 2 oz butter
  • ground pepper

Peel the potatoes and cook in boiling water until fork tender. While potatoes are cooking simmer scallions in milk for 5 minutes.  Strain the potatoes and mash thoroughly.  You may elect to put the cooked potatoes through a ricer if you want a perfectly lump free mash. Add hot milk with the scallions, salt and pepper and half the butter to the mashed potatoes.  Combine well.

Champ is traditionally served mounded on a plate with a well of melted butter in the center. Using a spoon, one eats form the outside in, dipping each spoonful in the melted butter.  I mound servings in individual bowls and ladle the stew over the champ.  It may not be the most traditional way to eat champ but we like to make our own path!

Posted in Cooking, Family, Food, International Cuisines, Irish, Recipes, sides, St Patrick's Day, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Sale

I love a bargain. I have no problem buying “ugly” produce or other grocery items at reduced prices.  It may not look pretty but it tastes the same.  My grocery store has an endcap that holds nothing but a limited number of reduced price products that are canned, boxed, or bottled.  The reason an item ends up on the Manager’s Special endcap are varied; perhaps the cans are dented (I don’t touch those), perhaps the store stocked up for a special promotion and they didn’t sell all the items ( I got some great imported tomato sauce from that promotion), or the store manager decides to rotate product and items need to be cleared off the shelf to provide space for something different.  The reason doesn’t matter.  It’s a bargain.  I especially love it when I can buy something I’ve never tried before and not feel bad about spending full price if it turns out to be awful.  My latest find did not disappoint.

Last week the Manager’s Special endcap featured a product from Hidden Valley called Spicy Chipotle Cheddar Warm Dip and Appetizer Mix.

Spicy Chipotle Cheddar Warm DIp and Appetizer Mix

Spicy Chipotle Cheddar Warm Dip and Appetizer Mix

It sounded intriguing, we love chipotle chile  – seemed like a no brainer to me. And yes , I know it. may not be the healthiest thing but we aren’t going to eat it all in one sitting.

This product can be a warm dip or an appetizer spread and I opted for the spread.  The instructions called for two 8 oz packages of cream cheese mixed with the dip.  Sorry, two 8 oz packages of cream cheese are too much for us.  We’ll never finish that much before it goes bad.  But one package of cream cheese – well that’s a different story.  Easy enough to get out one 8 oz package of cream cheese – a little different story with the dip mixture. It comes in one package so dividing the seasoning requires one my favorite kitchen tools – a scale.  Using the scale I was able to accurately divide the mix in half for use in two applications.  I did modify the recipe listed on the back of the box a bit but it turned out great.  The spread has been used on wraps, with crackers and will be spread on buns when we have hamburgers. Spread thickly enough it might even make a great grilled cheese.  I’ll try that when I use the remaining spice mixture.

Here’s how I made our spread:

Spicy Chipotle Cheddar Spread  makes 8 oz.

  • 1 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 package of Hidden Valley Spicy Chipotle Cheddar Mix
  • 3 tbl milk

Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld.

Serving ideas – Spread on a tortilla and top with chicken breast and spring greens, or use as a topping on baked potatoes or…. the possibilities  are endless.

 

 

Posted in Appetizers, Comfort food, Cooking, Food, Mexican Food, New Mexican, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lent + Friday = No Meat

We are well into Lent and that means every Friday we have a meatless meal.  So far the Friday menus have included fish of some sort – Stuffed trout, Cioppino, Salmon filets – you get the drift.  Tonight I am going old school with Tuna Burgers.  While they are made with tuna, they’re not really burgers.  I can’t recall when my mom first put theses on the table but I know I have been a fan ever since.  It’s like eating  tuna fish casserole on a bun, minus the noodles.  And this is the ONLY way my husband will eat anything akin to baked tuna fish casserole.  His reason stems from our first months of marriage and my propensity to continue to cook as if 6 people were eating.  But I digress. He loves tuna burgers so tonight I get almost tuna noodle casserole and he gets no tuna noodle casserole – a happy marriage!

These are really easy to make and don’t require any special ingredients; a well stocked pantry would probably include the main ingredients of tuna and mushroom soup. It’s not gourmet, it’s not fine dining, but I sure love it!

Tuna Burgers  serves 2

  • 2 5oz cans of tuna, drained (considering how the tuna is treated I would advise not spending the money on canned albacore tuna)
  • 1/2 can of mushroom soup – more if the mixture seems too dry
  • 1 green pepper – seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 4 english muffins
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Durkees Fried Onion Pieces

Preheat the broiler on high.  In medium size sauce pot, combine the tuna, green pepper and mushroom soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Heat over medium until bubbling.  Toast the english muffins. Top the english muffins with the tuna mixture.  Place under the broiler and cook until slightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and top the tuna burgers with some Durkees Fried Onion Pieces.  Place under the broiler until the Durkees Pieces get a bit brown.  Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes – it will be molten.

I am serving this with really bad for your oven baked onion rings and cole slaw.  Another Friday night in Lent covered!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine

Even though the weather is more April like than March; we’re still not ready to give up our more traditionally winter dishes.  Tonight I am making short ribs braised in red wine. They will be served over fried egg noodles and our vegetable will be a mix of snap peas and baby carrots.

I have previously posted a recipe for short ribs that I got when attending the Santa Fe School of Cooking.  It features Mexican beer and a lot of chilies.  Not what I wanted tonight.  So I searched through a couple of cookbooks and came up with some ideas.  Pulling a little of this and a little of that from each recipe I came up with what my taste buds were looking for.  Here it is:

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine and Broth  Serves 2

  • 1 1/2 lbs short ribs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbl grapeseed oil ( canola can be substituted)
  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into a 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup red wine (I prefer Merlot)
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs rosemary,
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 300 degree F.  Heat the grapeseed oil in a dutch over medium heat.  Fry the bacon in the in the grapeseed oil until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.  Add the onion and carrot to the pot and sauté until soft.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  While the vegetables are cooking, place the flour, salt and pepper in a gallon Ziploc bag (or any plastic bag sturdy enough to hold the meat) add the meat and shake until the ribs are evenly dusted with flour.

When the vegetables are soft, remove them from the pan and set aside.  Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides.  You may need to add a bit more oil to the pot.  Make sure the oil is hot before you add the ribs.  When the ribs are brown on all four sides, remove from pan and set aside.  Add the wine and scrape up all the brown bits (frond ) from the bottom of the pan.  Return the ribs, bacon and vegetables to the dutch oven.  Add the wine, broth and herbs.  Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.

A note on the tomato paste – I found tomato paste in a tube some time ago.  Here is my preferred brand.

Mutti Tomaot Paste

Mutti Tomato Paste

Tube tomato paste is available in some grocery stores or specialty grocery store. If you can find it I strongly urge you to buy the product.  Think about this  – how often do you need one tablespoon or less of tomato paste.  Opening up a whole can for one tablespoon means that, nine times out of ten , you will end up throwing the remaining tomato paste out.  Having tomato paste in a tube is perfect for those small amount recipes.

Place the dutch oven in the preheated oven and cook for 3 hours or until the meat is tender.  You can remove the veggies or not – up to you.  The sauce can be thickened with any remaining seasoned flour used to flour the ribs.  Tonight I will serve this over fried noodles.  Another night I may serve it over mashed potatoes.  You could also serve this over grits – which would never pass my husbands lips – or polenta.   Your dish, your choice!

Posted in American Food, Comfort food, Cooking, Cooking class, Family, Food, Menus, Recipes, sides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo

Tonight I am making Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.  I was certain I had posted a recipe for my gumbo but after searching my blog I found that I reference making gumbo but only in relation to making the roux, specifically using a pre-made roux product.

This post will also be about the roux – not a from the jar pre-made, but about a roux made in the oven.  I will also provide the entire gumbo recipe.

A while back I happen to be watching an old Alton Brown Good Eats program and he was describing how to make a roux in the oven.  I’m not as skeptical about the oven made roux as I was about the roux from a jar, but I still feel, deep down inside, that I am cheating.  However today has been a busy day spent running around pricing stone for the yard, weeding the flower bed and other sundry yard duties ( did I mention is almost 70 degrees here today ?) I’ve decided I really don’t want to spend 45 minutes at the stove stirring the roux so oven roux it is.  And while this is not the fastest way to make this dish, you spend the least amount of time in front of the stove.  And after a day like today that is welcome proposition.

Here’s the recipe I use for my :

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo  Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or canola oil)
  • 2 chicken thighs, bones removed and cut into 2 inch pieces. You can leave the skin on seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • About 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup dried thyme
  • 4 oz andouille sausage (See Note)
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onions
  • hot cooked rice for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a dutch oven, whisk together the flour and the oil.  Place the dutch oven in the preheated oven and cook for 90 minutes or until the roux is a nice mahogany color.

Cut up all the chicken, sausage, onion, celery, green pepper, sausage and green onion while the roux is cooking.   When the roux is done remove the dutch oven from the oven and place on top of a burner on medium.  Add the onion, celery , and bell peppers.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft.

Add the chicken broth and stir to blend well.  Add the chicken, andouille, bay leaf and thyme.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially covered for about 30 to 40 minutes.   Taste to adjust the seasonings and add the green onion.  Serve over rice.

Here's the finished dish. Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp Gumbo.

Here’s the finished dish. Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp Gumbo.

Note: Some grocery stores carry andouille.  Please, I beg of you, unless you have some problem with pork DO NOT use chicken or turkey andouille.  It simply does not taste the same.  I have seen some recipes that say you can substitute Kielbasa – I have never done so. I once was able to buy it from a store in Taos (  who, in turn, bought it from a Louisiana transplant leaving in Colorado but that supply dried up.  Currently I am using aidells Cajun Style  Andouille Sausage which I can purchase at my local grocery store (and trust me, it’s pretty exotic for New Mexico.)  Using aidells (yes, the name is in lower case) is much cheaper than shipping andouille from New Orléans!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment