Black Friday – Sandhill Crane Style

For many of you the day after Thanksgiving is filled with what seems to be endless shopping. I know because before I became an innkeeper I was out there like everyone else.  And yes, my husband and I once stood in line before dawn at Best Buy to get a color printer for my parents.  But that was long ago and I digress.

Black Friday at the Sandhill Crane means decorating for Christmas. And I mean DECORATING.  It usually takes me about 6 hours to get everything, with the exception of the “family” tree done.

Why so long?  Let’s start with the  7.5′ Christmas tree in the entrance foyer.  It has to be assembled and decorated.  Last year we bought a new pre-lit tree so that has cut out a bit of time. Then there is decorating of the rooms.

Three trees ready for the rooms.

Three trees ready for the rooms.

Each room gets decorated with its own tabletop tree – more assembly – and themed decorations. The Mesa room features Randy Reindeer hanging out in various places.  The Meadow room has a plush santa that urges you “To Believe”  And the Bosque Suite even get renamed to the Nutcracker Suite in honor of the nutcracker selection that belongs to my son Sean.  There are so many of them that they spread out into the hall that connects the suite sitting room and the suite bedroom.

The Bosque Suite becomes the Nutcracker Suite during Christmas!

The Bosque Suite becomes the Nutcracker Suite during Christmas!

Then there are the French doors and the hall light fixtures decorated with bows.  The lamps over the dining table and our table get swags of gold and silver. And the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.  The only thing remaining to do is decorate the family tree. This year we, as I told my son, turned to the dark force of Christmas trees – an artificial tree.  The family tree has always been a real tree.  We’d buy it Thanksgiving weekend, keep it in water until just before Christmas then decorate it,  This year we decided to go forgo the real tree in favor of an artificial 7.5′ pre-lit tree.  No spending hours stringing lights, no contorting yourself in an effort to get water into the tree every day and we can put it up now and enjoy it throughout the season.  The only thing missing is the smell of a real tree but the ones we could get never seemed to have that pine smell that I recall from the trees of my childhood. So a win all the way around.

Christmas means baking and I already have the Rocks and Almond push buttons done.  Next week I will tackle the anise cookies and the gingerbread men.

If you want to see the inn in person we have dates available in December.  Just follow this link to make a reservation http://v2.reservationkey.com/1294/2802/c 

Come see how we celebrate Christmas at the Crane!

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Thanksgiving Eve

Turkey day is almost here.  And while George and I will be celebrating on our own; I still make our traditional Thanksgiving Feast, only on a slightly smaller scale.  Instead of Sweet potatoes ( I was known for my “Flaming Sweet Potatoes”), mashed potatoes and stuffing we’ll just do stuffing,  Instead of multiple vegetables and a relish tray we’ll have Brussels Sprouts with bacon and my can’t live without green bean casserole.

Cranberries are a given.  I have been making the same cranberry recipe since 1982.  Hey, you don’t mess with success.

Of course there will be pumpkin pie.  In fact I can smell the pumpkin baking as we speak.

My newest tradition is the turkey.  A few years ago, four years to be exact, I decided to through caution to the wind and make a “deconstructed turkey” a la Julie Child.  It turned out so well I will never make another turkey in the old way.  Over the last several days I have a few requests for my Deconstructed Turkey recipe.  While I could send those requesting the recipe to the search box on my blog, I decided to make it easy for them and just copy if here.

So here you go.  I will start preparing our bird after the guests are fed.  I’ll be thinking of all of you and giving thanks for my family, friends and guest who are like family and friends.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 

Here’s the recipe with my turkey.

  • one 12 – 14 lb turkey ( you can brine your turkey if you want.  I used a Butterball so brining was not recommended)
  • 3 tbl grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp minced sage
  • salt and pepper
  • wooden skewers and twine
  • your favorite dressing recipe – some things are absolutely sacred and stuffing is one of them!

Prepping the Turkey

Begin by removing the giblet packet and neck bone.  Set aside for stock.  With the turkey breast side up, cut through the skin along the leg quarter where it meets the breast.  Bend the leg back until the bone pops out of the socket.  Cut through the joint to separate the leg quarter form the turkey.  Repeat with other leg quarter.

The next step is to remove the thigh bone from the leg quarter.  Place the leg quarter skin side down on the cutting board.  Using a very sharp boning knife (or paring knife) remove the meat from the thigh bone  by slicing right next to the bone – almost as you would for frenching.  Be sure to keep the skin intact.

Removing the meat from the thigh bone

Once the meat has been separate from the bone bend the bone back to pop it out of the joint and separate the thigh bone from the leg socket.  Just  a tip – this is much easier to do on a chicken.  You will need to exert a little force.    Once the bone is out of the joint use a pair of kitchen shears to separate the two.

Removing the thigh bone

Repeat with the remaining leg quarter.  This will result in two leg quarters with the thigh bones removed.

Leg quarters with thigh bones removed.

Rub interior of each thigh with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp minced sage and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Seasoned thighs ready to be rolled

Close up the thighs by rolling together and trussing with the skewers and twine.  Use at least two skewers per thigh ( I cut my skewers in half to make them more size appropriate.  I didn’t want a ten inch skewer sticking out of the leg quarter.)

Thighs trussed and ready to be roasted

Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for up to six hours.

Next you need to separate the back from the turkey.  Cut through the ribs from tapered end of breast to wing joints.  Using your hands, bend the back away from the breast until the shoulder joint pops.  Cut through the popped joint to remove the back.  Place the breast on a plate, cover  and refrigerate for up to six hours.

While I was butchering the bird I preheated the oven to 450 degrees F .  I placed the thigh bones and back in a lightly oiled pan and placed them in the oven to brown.  I cooked them for about 20 minutes, removed them from the oven and transferred them to s stock pot with two carrots, two celery stalks, salt and pepper.  (I left the rendered fat and the fond resulting from roasting the bones in the pan. This would be the basis for my gravy. )  I put the stock pot over a low heat and let it simmer until the bones had given up all their roasted goodness – about two hours.  I removed the bones and strained the stock.  The bones and vegetables were discarded (after I picked all the meat off the bones – Boz lucks out this week!)  The stock went back on the stove to simmer until it had reduce and had reached the flavor I was looking for.  This would go into my gravy.

Make your favorite stuffing.

Cooking the Turkey

Note: The total roasting time will be from 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours twenty minutes plus time to rest, so plan accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Rub 2 tsps of oil over the breast of the turkey and place the turkey breast, skin side down in a large skillet.  Put the skillet in the oven and roast the breast for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile oil or spray the pan you intend to use to roast the bird.  Place the stuffing in the bottom of the pan and spread it out into a rectangle of even thickness.  When the 30 minutes are up, remove the breast from the oven.  The original recipe indicates you should use two wads of paper towels to take the breast out of the skillet and place it over the stuffing mix.  Paper towels weren’t going to work for me so I used my tongs.  Use whatever works for you – just get the breast over the stuffing in the roasting pan.  Remove the prepared leg quarters from the refrigerator and place in the roasting pan with the breast, covering as much as possible of stuffing not covered by the breast.

Complete bird ready for roasting. Notice the browning on the breast.

 Transfer the pan to the 425 degree F oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue roasting until the thickest part of the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh registers 175 to 180 degrees, about 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes longer.

When I pulled our bird out of the oven I was amazed!  The skin was beautifully brown and crisp.  After allowing the bird to rest for awhile George started carving.  The breast was moist, the thighs beautifully done and, I have to admit, make a nice presentation when sliced into medallions. I regret I do not have a picture of the bird as it came out of the oven. – I was busy making gravy – but I do have a picture of the thighs

Sliced thigh ready for the serving platter

I apologize that this isn’t the beauty shot I was going for.  But hey, I was getting hungry! You can see how juicy the meat is in this picture.  And this was after the bird sat for 30 minutes.

There is no doubt that this preparation takes a little longer but there is no basting, no tenting the bird, and best of all, the moistest most evenly cooked bird I have ever had.  And, for those of you who are die hard stuff the bird people – let me tell you the stuffing was as good (moist and full of turkey flavor) as any traditional inside the bird preparation.   This is a KEEPER!

Posted in American Food, Bed and Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Entree, Family, Food, Holidays, Menus, Recipes, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is how you shop in Paris

My husband I recently returned from a week in Paris; a birthday gift from my sister. We stayed in a fabulous apartment in the 7 arrondissement, just two blocks from the Eiffel Tower.

Anyone who knows me or has ever stayed with me knows I love food.  And I really love to cook.  I was in heaven.  The apartment came with a modern kitchen that included an induction range, (thankfully my mom has one in her house so I wasn’t at a complete loss) a combination microwave/convection oven and a full size refrigerator.

Obviously you don’t go to Paris to eat all of your meals in an apartment, but it was great to be able to make breakfast and an occasional meal after a full day of sightseeing.

Just around the corner from our apartment was Rue St. Dominique.  I quickly discovered where I would be buying food by following my nose as I walked down the street.

There was the boulangerie/patisserie

Boulangerie and Patisserie with fabulous breads and croissants

Boulangerie and Patisserie with fabulous breads and croissants

where we bought our baguettes and croissants.  Every morning George visited this fine shop to purchase two croissants.  And yes he ordered in French.  Our first breakfast in France consisted of croissants and sausage. And why does butter taste so much better in France?  I actually know the answer but then the real question is why can’t we make butter like that here?

Breakfast in France. Every morning.

Breakfast in France. Every morning.

The sausage came from the butcher across the street from the baker.  We bought a beautiful roasted chicken from him the day we arrived as well as homemade pepper sausage to have in the morning.

Butcher shop across from the baker.

Butcher shop across from the baker.

They cut all the meat to order.  They will even pound it flat into scallops if you so desire.  The array of cuts and prepared vs raw meats was astounding for such a small store.  But see for yourself what awaits the passerby gazing into the shop window.

More Meat

More Meat

 

Meat display in window of the butcher shop.

Meat display in window of the butcher shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ask you, when was the last time you saw meat look this good at the supermarket? It could turn anyone into a carnivore!  Ordering meat with my limited French was tricky but we muddled through.

 

You can’t go to France without eating a macaroon.  And this wonderful shop allowed us to indulge.

Chocolate and Macaron store

Chocolate and Macaron store

Also on the street, a wine store, a vegetable store  and G20.  G20 is a small grocery store that everyone uses to buy staples.  Thing like butter, eggs, pasta, household products, etc.  The one we visited was larger than a convenience store but much smaller than a grocery store here in the states.  No matter, they cram a lot into a small space and make it look appealing.

After work the street is filled with people buying things on their way home for dinner.  Our apartment included a cart that could be used when shopping. I felt right at home navigating with my cart. It is said that people in Paris shop every day.  Now I understand why. The lure of those shops was like a siren call to me.  Grocery shopping will NEVER be the same.  And if you would like to hear more about my food adventures in Paris, Book a room at the inn and I’ll be happy to share my memories with you!

 

 

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Fancy Eggs

For the last seven days I have had two guests who prefer eggs every morning.  As they were my only guests I could easily accommodate their preference.  While I love to cook I have yet to master all of the egg dishes it is said you must know to earn a toque.  I shy away from fried eggs as getting them cooked to the exact point of done for multiple guests is difficult with only one person in the kitchen. So mostly I stick to scrambled or baked.

This morning I made scrambled eggs but served them in a fancy container.  I started by preparing the puff pastry shells.  The filling consisted of scrambled eggs, diced black forest ham, cheddar cheese and sliced green onion.

After cooking the egg mixture I carefully spooned it into the pastry shells.  The stuffed shells were carefully transferred to a plate and placed atop spinach leaves.  As a final touch I “dusted” the plate with more green onion and diced tomato.

Here’s the result.

eggs in puff pastry 1 cropped

The guests loved it.

Tomorrow is their last day so they got to pick their favorite dish for a repeat.  The requested menu includes melon and peach fruit salad, asparagus omelette, bacon and english muffins and seven grain toast.

I have been an innkeeper for 15 years and I will admit you do get tired of making the same dishes.  In the last month I have added two new egg dishes to my rotation.  I am happy!

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

Fall is Upon Us

It seems like just yesterday it was in the 90’s – tho with our new foam roof you’d never know it in the house, and suddenly the nighttime temps are in the low 40’s.  We’ve even had our first freeze warnings.

The cooler temperatures trigger my cocooning gene and I am ready to start experimenting in the kitchen again.

Thursday, as I was making up the dinner menu for the week, I decided we should have fish on Friday.  I had no set dish in mind, just fish.  When I got to the fish counter at the grocery store I saw the usual suspects; salmon, trout, cod, ahi tuna and catfish.  Nothing rocked my boat.  Then I spied the shrimp.  They had 21-25 shrimp on sale so I had my fish portion of the dinner.  I know, shrimp aren’t fish, their crustaceans!

I knew I had  garlic, spinach and cherry tomatoes at home and I had a coupon for a Free(!) package of Barilla Ready Gemelli pasta so my meal was planned.  I have wanted to try this 60 second pasta for some time and this seem to be the moment.  When I got home I found a recipe that used my main ingredients, made a few modifications to the recipe, prepared and served it for dinner.  It made enough for dinner last night and lunch today.  George loved it and wants me to make it again in the next several weeks.  Funny, he’s never said that about liver and onions!

Shrimp, Spinach and Tomato Pasta      4 servings

  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 8 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you would prefer less heat)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (or more, to taste)
  • 1 tsp of Italian seasoning ( I use Penzey’s)
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 6 oz fresh spinach
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced ( you can use less – we love garlic)
  • 8 oz Gemelli pasta
  • 2 tbl Olive oil to finish the dish
  • Pecorino Romano cheese

Start your water for pasta and cooked pasta when water is ready.  Or, you can use Barilla Ready pasta which takes 60 seconds in the microwave.

Place the 2 tbl of olive oil into a large skillet over medium-low heat. Raise the heat to medium.  Add the shrimp, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper into skillet and cook until shrimp is just cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Remove the shrimp from the skillet and set aside.

Using the same skillet, add the chopped tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, spinach and garlic.  Cook on medium for 3 to 5 minutes until the spinach wilts and the tomatoes release some of their juice.  Be sure to stir this often as you don’t want the garlic to burn.  Remove from the heat, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Add the cooked (drained if you haven’t used the Ready brand of pasta) pasta to the vegetables.  Add the shrimp back to the pan and stir to combine. Plate the dish and drizzle olive oil over each serving.  Pass the Pecorino Romano cheese and grater at the table.

Those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning know that I’m not a fan of microwaved foods at dinner.  I’m a “from scratch” kind of girl.  But I am open to trying new things and this Barilla Ready pasta intrigued me.  I have to admit it was pretty good.  The pasta came out al dente.  And it did reduce the number of pots and utensils necessary to complete the dish.  I would try it again. And, as my mom pointed out, a great way to have pasta if you find a pot of boiling water and pasta are too heavy to lift and drain.

Posted in Comfort food, Cooking, Entree, fish, Food, Italian, Meatless Meals, New Mexico, Pasta, Recipes, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time Again

Another Balloon Fiesta is over and I now have more time to cook and blog.  Yesterday was the first time in over six weeks I didn’t face at least one set of sheets waiting to be ironed!

This Balloon Fiesta I also got a chance to try out a new breakfast dish.  It was met with thumbs up by all. One guest told me I could make this ” again, and again and again.” I think he liked it.

Normally I serve a continental breakfast every morning during Balloon Fiesta if there is a planned Mass Ascension.  Most people want to be at the park to see the balloons rise beginning just before dawn. This means they need to leave the house by 5am.  I provide breads, muffins, fruit, yogurt, granola bars, hard boiled eggs and a selection of beverages for them to eat while they dress or take with them to the park.

This year the weather predicted for the last Sunday of the event was marginal.  Threats of strong winds loomed large.  As a result, all of our guests elected not to make the early trek to the park.  So continental breakfast was out.  Go to plan B.  I decided to do a baked egg dish and came across a recipe for Crab Scramble.  Here it is.  With, as you guessed it, my own modification.

Crab Scramble    Serves 6

  • 2Tbl. Butter
  • 9 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 6 oz can crab meat
  • 1/tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbl. fresh dill, chopped – use less of you are using dried dill
  • spinach and cherry tomatoes for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degree, F.  In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream cheese, crab, salt and pepper.  Melt the butter in a 12″ frying pan. Pour the egg mixture over the melted butter and sprinkle with dill.  Cook on top of the stove until the eggs are mostly set.  Finish in the oven.

While the egg mixture is cooking prep the plates.  Place four nice sized spinach leaves on the plate to form a square.  Slice cherry tomatoes in half.  When the eggs are done, remove form the oven and scoop a generous portion in the center of the spinach square.  Top with the sliced tomato and sprinkle with more dill if desired.

because no one was going to the balloon launch!

Crab Scramble – served when I had to scramble because no one was going to the balloon launch!

The original recipe call for this dish to be baked but baking eggs without first setting them on the top of the stove seems to take forever at this altitude.

And while it didn’t happen on the day of the Crab Scramble.  I did scramble earlier in the week when this balloon landed in our wild area just beyond the driveway.  The guests had just finished breakfast ( it was not a mass ascension day) and we were all outside watching the balloons float over the house.  This one  – Spirit in the Sky – decided to land.  I helped crew as the balloon came down and then helped pack it up.  This isn’t the first time we’ve had people “drop in” and I am sure it won’t be the last!

The "Spirit in the Sky" balloon, piloted by Craig Pendleton, landed in our "wild" area just beyond the driveway during the 2017 Albuquerque International Balloon fiesta!

The “Spirit in the Sky” balloon, piloted by Craig Pendleton, landed in our “wild” area just beyond the driveway during the 2017 Albuquerque International Balloon fiesta!

Posted in Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, American Food, Bed and Breakfast, Breakfast, Breakfast, Corrales, Food, Innkeeping, New Mexico, Recipes, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast, Southwestern States, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Real Bargain!

Do you bake?  Well I do. ALOT. If you own a B&B you are constantly refilling the cookie jar.  As a result I have invested in heavy-duty cooking sheets and, up until recently, quality parchment paper.  Clean up is a snap and the parchment paper eliminated the need for using cooking spay on the sheet pans.

Several years ago I invested in a Silpat silicon baking sheet.  It was great but at $25 a pop I wasn’t inclined to purchase one for each of my sheet pans.

Then recently I learned about Amazon Basics.  Amazon Basics started in 2009 with tech goods but it has expanded beyond that.  Amazon watches what people are buying and comes up with its own version – usually cheaper.   And guess what they have available – yep, Amazon Basics Silicon baking sheets.  And the cost? Two for $12.95!  Two for the price of one!!! And if you are a Prime member shipping is free. I’d share the link but unfortunately it references my order.  Just Google Amazon Basics and look in the kitchen section.

I’ve had mine since the first of May so to be fair they only been in use for 6 weeks.  But so far they are performing as well as my Silpat.  I purchased two sets so I can bake four dozen cookies without having to wait for cookie sheets to cool.

Saving money and saving time – that’s my idea of winning all the way around!

And I’ll update this blog after Christmas when it is not unusual for me to make 40 dozen cookies!

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