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.

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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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A New Sous Vide Keeper

It’s been almost six months since I got my hands on my SanSaire immersion cooker and, like most of my new toys, it has seen a lot of dinner prep action.  Two weeks ago I tried a new recipe and really loved it but didn’t take pictures.  In fact, we loved it so much I decided to make it again last night – this time with pictures.

This is another take on the ubiquitous stuffed chicken breast.  Only difference is this one is juicy, tender and  altogether delicious!

Chicken Breasts with Red Pepper and Mozzarella    Serves 2

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – about 5 oz each (note: if all you can find are the REALLY big chicken breasts I have cut them in half horizontally and it works)
  • 1/2 tbl. capers – rinsed and drained
  • 3 oz roasted red pepper

    Stuffed Chicken Breast Ingredients

    Stuffed Chicken Breast Ingredients

  • 4 slices Genoa salami
  • 2 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1 tbl. torn basil leaves
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 2 tbl white wine
  • 1 tbl butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set up your sous vide (immersion cooker) in the pot and preheat the water to 149 degrees F.  While the water is preheating, roast a red pepper over an open flame until it is lightly charred.  Place in a bowl then place the bowl inside a plastic bag and let rest for about 10 minutes.  This will facilitate the removal of the pepper skin.  Remove the pepper from the bowl and, using a spoon, scrape the charred skin from the pepper.  Cut the pepper into wide ( about 2 inch) slices and set aside. If you prefer, you could use purchased roasted red pepper and eliminate this step.  We enjoy the taste of freshly roasted pepper so I don’t mind the extra step.

Tear the basil into bite size pieces and set aside.  Slice the fresh mozzarella and set aside.

Laying the chicken breast flat on a cutting surface, slice through the breasts horizontal to the cutting surface.  DO NOT slice all the way through. You want to butterfly the chicken breast.

Next, layer one half the ingredients on to one side of the butterflied breast.  I start with the salami.then the mozzarella and finally the pepper, capers and basil,

Stuffed breast ready to be closed and placed in the cooking bag.

Stuffed breast ready to be closed and placed in the cooking bag.

Close the breast and press together.  Rub outside of breast with a few drops of olive oil and place them in individual bags.  Lower the bags into the water to remove all the air. Cook the submerged bags for two hours.

About 15 minutes before the chicken is done I use my mandolin to turn a zucchini into imitation pasta.  I slice up some garlic to go with the zucchini.  Just before I remove the chicken from the water bath I heat a bit of olive oil in a sauté pan, and, over low heat, gently  fry the garlic until it begins to toast.  I add the zucchini and cook until heated through.  While it is cooking I am preheating my cast iron pan until it is smoking hot.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the bags and pat it dry.  Be very careful to preserve the liquid in the bags. Add the 1 tbl olive oil to the preheating pan and as soon as it is hot, add the chicken breasts.  Sear on both sides until golden – about 30 seconds per side.  Remove the chicken to a warm plate, cover and set aside.  Using the white wine and reserved cooking fluids, deglaze the pan scrapping up any brown bits.  Cook sauce until slightly reduced.  Add the butter and swirl until the butter melts and is incorporated into the sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate the chicken and spoon some of the sauce over the top.   Trust me – you won’t even miss the pasta!

Stuffed chicken and zucchini.

Stuffed chicken and zucchini.

Posted in appliances, Chicken, Cooking, Father's Day, Food, Italian, meat, pasta, Recipes, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, sides, Sous Vide, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Man Winter is Making a Comeback

For the last several weeks the weather here at the inn has been a beautiful – in the eighties, a bit warm for April – very little rain and not too much wind, which is a plus for us this time of the year.  The hummingbirds have started arriving, the trees are all leafed out and our apple trees have budded.

And while that little voice in my head kept reminding me it is not safe to plant here until Mother’s Day, I ignored it and got busy in the garden.  I didn’t go crazy, I planted a few bulbs, filled a couple of pots with geraniums and put an Easter Lily in the ground.

I should have listened to that little voice.  I just checked the weather service and learned that  we have a weather warning “A significant late season winter storm will hit Northern and Central New Mexico Friday through Sunday.”  In addition to the significantly colder weather we can expect “rain, thunderstorms, snow and high winds during the period.” And yes, there was mention of a possible hard freeze.

Because we are in the Valley we may see more rain than snow. But if there is a hard freeze it will find us.

Last week I considered calling my HVAC guy to come and turn off the furnace and turn on the coolers.  But another little voice told me to wait.  THAT one I listened to. It’s a good thing I did!  The trip to the Farmers Market Sunday morning may be a bit brisk!

Posted in Bed and Breakfast, Farmers Markets, Gardening, Innkeeping, New Mexico, Southwestern Gardening, Southwestern States | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Recipe That Started It All

I have always loved to cook.  Even as a young girl I would be in the kitchen mixing up some jelly filled muffins to give to my parents as breakfast in bed (my Dad hated them – I was just way ahead of my time!)  During my mom’s VERY short stint as a sales person at Sears I was responsible for making sure I got dinner started after school.  The scalloped potatoes dinner has gone down in family history as the reason for my Mom’s short stint in retail.  To this day I cannot stand scalloped potatoes!

After I married I tried mixing some new dishes into the old standbys.  For the most part this was successful, tho my experience with Quiché Lorraine was a flop that lives on.  Word to the wise – never make a Quiché Lorraine with processed cheese and cheap bacon.  My only defense is that we were newlyweds and poor!

Then once we had kids the ‘new’ dishes included such things as fondue and crepes.  Most of the time there were a success – tho why my son thought we wouldn’t see broccoli in his milk glass still baffles me! And this from a kid who was a veteran eater of cold octopus salad by the time he was in second grade!

Around the mid 80’s our kids were a little older and I decided to get a bit more serious about my cooking.  So I subscribed to Cuisine magazine.  Anyone remember this magazine?  It was ultimately bought out by Gourmet.  The very first issue I received was April, 1984.  The issue had a section devoted to recipes using fresh asparagus.  One looked particularly good, Stir Fried Asparagus and Scallops.  Stir frying was not new in our family. George already had used his knowledge of Chinese cooking gleaned from the dad of his best friend in high school to prepare some fantastic stir fried meals.  We decided to try it out.

So here we are, 33 years later, and the recipe came to mind again.  Fortunately, the fish department at my grocery store had sea scallops – not always the case – and the asparagus had been abundant for several weeks.  So tonight we go back to the old days.  I can’t wait! And a crucial point about this recipe – you must have everything ready to go next to the stove when you begin.  This recipe comes together so fast that you don’t have time to prep between additions to the pan.

Stir-Fried Asparagus and Scallops    For 2

Ingredients for Scallops and Asparagus

  • 4 oz shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 tbl soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbl. peanut oil
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped pared ginger
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops – about 1 inch in diameter
  • 1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends removed and sliced diagonally into 1 inch pieces
  • 6  radishes, rinsed, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • sea salt

Cut mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices.  Combine the mushrooms, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact.  Add the peanut oil and heat until a bit of ginger sizzles when dropped into the oil.  Add the ginger and the garlic and stir fry 10 seconds, add the scallops and stir fry 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and stir fry until crisp-tender – about 2 minutes.  Add the radishes and stir fry two minutes.  Add the mushroom mixture and stir fry for about 30 seconds.  Add the sesame oil and toss to distribute.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Serve immediately.

The completed dish finished with a sprinkling of sea salt.

The completed dish finished with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Who says you can’t go back in time!

Posted in Asian Food, Cooking, Family, fish, Food, Meatless Meals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Day After

Another Easter has come and gone. The eggs dyed and eaten, the baskets filled with candy and left by the Easter Bunny on the credenza and the Lamb Cake  baked, decorated and  ready to be devoured.

Finished Lamb Cake

Finished Lamb Cake

I have made the same lamb cake for 45 years – one year I made a bunny cake instead.  Over the years I have perfected the operation.  Using a pound cake recipe instead of a yellow cake recipe was the first major breakthrough.  The denser cake kept the head from falling off.  A tragic event – especially if it happens in front of a small child!  Then about 13 years ago I came across a commercial bakery lamb mold at an estate sale, of all places.  Prior to this I had used the mold that belonged to my grandmother.  Made of thinner aluminum it did the job but I always worried about the cake releasing from the mold – especially the ears.  It was not uncommon for the ears to be reattached with toothpicks.  Covered with frosting no one was the wiser.  Since I began using the commercial mold the ears seem to release much more cleanly and still attached to the head!

The batter recipe makes more cake than the mold can hold so the rest of the batter goes into a mini loaf pan.  It bakes  alongside the mold.  This cake has become my B and B guest cake.  After it cools I use a serrated knife to cut it into the shape of an egg – one with a flat bottom!  I frost it an decorate it with jelly beans.  Guests can help themselves to the cake while my Lamb stays intact until Easter dinner. I also set the table Easter morning with plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and malted milk eggs.  Everyone loves a surprise visit from the Easter Bunny! Join us next year for your own slice of the egg!

Here’s a few examples of my Lamb Cake, and the one Bunny cake, through the years.

Lamb Cake ready for the Easter Table

My 39th lamb cake!

My 39th lamb cake!hrough the years.

Front view of the frosted bunny.

Front view of the frosted bunny.

Finished Lamb Cake

Posted in American Food, Baking, Bed and Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Easter, Food, PEEPS, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment