Monday, February 27, 2012

Stone Totems

We drove my brother Scott up North early in the morning to catch his flight out of Albuquerque. When we returned home, we found that he had left behind some "Barringer" tribal protection! His stone totems were everywhere, strangely beautiful, like little sentries looking out for us; reminding us of his free-spirited and brotherly ways and of our own special bond. Thank you Scott.

totem |ˈtōtəm|
A stipulated ancestor of a group of people, such as a family, clan, group, lineage, or tribe.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sister Love

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.  ~Author Unknown

To the memory of my dear sister Robin, who would be celebrating her birthday today. I know you are tending the gardens of angels. I miss you bad.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dark 'n' Stormy

I have been on the hunt for the perfect ginger beer. "What's the problem?" you might ask. Well, I am hooked on a cocktail my brothers were enjoying last summer at my son's wedding in Rhode Island; the spicy, gingery rum-based "Dark 'n' Stormy". It seems this Eastern seaboard phenomena has not yet hit the Southwest so I am single-handedly educating every liquor store owner between El Paso, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico! This highball, which hails from the British Commonwealth of Bermuda is made with Goslings Black Seal Rum and ginger beer, which is nothing like ginger ale and both of which are impossible to find! This cocktail is spicy, bold, not too sweet and very refreshing. Now, to find the ingredients stocked locally...I'm working on it!

I have tried several different ginger beers, but what you are going for here is spicy not sweet, so no Vernors ginger ale! The Fever-Tree ginger beer, imported from the UK is my favorite, Fentimans is a close second Goslings brand ginger beer is third with Bundaberg last, it is nice and spicy but too will do in a pinch though!  
Dark 'n' Stormy
For one drink

2 oz Gosling's® Black Seal rum
4-6 oz ginger beer 
lime wedge

Fill an old-fashioned glass 3/4 full with ice, squeeze lime wedge over the ice. Drop the wedge into the glass. Add the ginger beer to top off the ice, then slowly drizzle the rum onto the surface so it floats. Garnish with another slice of lime. Resist the temptation to stir...and voilà! Let that stormy rum sky float to the bottom of your glass while you sit back and do the slow ginger burn, yum! Summer's around the corner! Have a Happy Weekend! Cheers!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Paella! Paella!

Paella is Spanish fusion cooking at its best. This traditional dish reflects a nation influenced by many cultures and has as many versions as there are kitchens in Spain. It is a dish I have been anxious to try...but have never quite gotten up the nerve. Well, anxious no more! My visiting brother, Scott offered to make this stunning and delicious dish for a dinner party with friends as well as school me in the way of paella.

Paella, basically a peasant dish, was a way for families to use whatever was available in the pantry. In fact the only certainty in Paella is rice...and saffron. Perhaps that is why I was hesitant, not enough structure..? That and, oh yes, the price of saffron. At $15/gram it is considered the most expensive spice in the world. Fortunately this dish only takes a "pinch" and one single gram can flavor several Paellas.

Saffron comes from the stigma of the saffron crocus and no wonder it is expensive, taking over 70,000 flowers and about 200 hours of labor to produce only 1 pound.
The best saffron is bright red, and not yellow. Throw a few threads in hot water (or other liquid) to release saffron's beautiful yellow-orange color and evocative scent and beneficial properties; both the threads and liquid go right into your dish! So much more about saffron here.

Source: via Victoria on Pinterest

Paella! Paella!
Victoria Copeland and Scott Barringer
This takes about 2 1/2 hours, with 1 hour to marinate the
chicken, 1/2 hour to prep and 1 hour to cook the paella.

This dish is traditionally prepared and served in a paella pan but you can use a large shallow sauté pan.
Click here to view/purchase the pan we used.


  • Spice Mix for chicken, recipe follows
  • 6 chicken thighs, boneless
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Spanish chorizo sausages, thickly sliced (this is a cured sausage)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • Bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, reserve some for garnish
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
  • 2 cups short grain Spanish rice you can also use Arborio (do not use reg. white rice)
  • 4 cups warmed chicken stock
  • Generous pinch saffron threads about 1/2 gram
  • 2 pound box of New Zealand Greenlip flash frozen mussels (hey, I live in the desert)
  • 1 pound uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined or not, they look cool with the tail on
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Special equipment:

  • Large paella pan or wide shallow skillet


Rub the spice mix all over the chicken and marinate chicken for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Heat oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the chorizo until slightly browned, remove and reserve. Add chicken skin-side down and brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.
In the same pan, sauté the rice to coat the grains, add to that the sofrito by sautéing the onions, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Add the saffron to the warm stock then add to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add chicken, chorizo. Add the shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al denté, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, add the greenlip mussels on top, tucking them in slightly. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it is perfect (we did have to hold this in a 200° oven for about 1/2 hour for our party).
The ideal paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat.
Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish parsley and lemon wedges.

Spice Mix for chicken:

  • 1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika (my favorite new "go to" spice)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken; marinate for 1 hour, covered.

 All but the shrimp and mussels cooking stove-top

Finished! These flash frozen mussels were great, as they are par-cooked, so we knew they were cooked well and they were so good, fat, juicy yummy!  What an impressive decorative statement as well!

Crusty bread, and a light salad (sorry Jan it didn't make my shot) and a nice Sauvignon Blanc for white wine and for a red, a Tempranillo de Rioja. In fact, I was so busy eating I forgot all about photos!

I borrowed the paella pan for this meal and went right out the next day and bought one of my own! I can't wait to experiment this summer with fresh seafood. Thanks Scott for my paella intensive! You're the best!!! xo

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Are You My Puppy?"

Our pup Guinness is a love bug, but he is definitely the one who chooses the object of his affection. He couldn't have gotten closer to my visiting brother Scott if he had been Velcro-ed to him. I took these on the sly... ;)

Guinness has been pouting ever since Scott too! Tomorrow, more foodie stuff...Paella with Scott!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I have been enjoying the company of my brother Scott. It is so seldom I can yank him out of his "city" (and who can blame him) San Francisco and get him to the desert that I vowed to totally immerse myself in his visit. I am blessed with three brothers I can also call friends. Each relationship is special and different and somehow the same. We all share a love of good food, travel and art but each of my brothers brings his own unique twist. Scott is a bit of a free spirit; traveling the globe from the moment he left home, he is street smart, worldly and fearless. I greatly admire these qualities and always look forward to hearing about his latest adventures. This visit, we shared time in the kitchen, catching up on each others lives while we cooked together, compared food finds, cooking techniques, and recipes. What a fine time it was!

  My brother Scott and husband Michael outside our home...note the low flying clouds this morning!!

Scott introduced me to the "slow-carb" breakfast...yes, this is breakfast! black beans, broccoli, scrambled eggs (mostly whites) with herbs and bacon...the idea is that after this breakfast you stay fuller and more energized throughout the day, because,  "You are maintaining a consistent blood sugar level and avoiding big spikes in blood sugar and the associated spike of insulin in your blood. When your body releases insulin, it triggers your cells to switch into energy storage mode. In other words, it triggers your body to begin storing fat. If you keep your blood sugar consistent and avoid large insulin spikes, you avoid tripping that fat storage trigger in your body and continue to burn your food for energy.” Does it work? Yes!!

Another wonderful breakfast, not quite as "slow" but close! Egg, bacon, onion, saffron rice scramble.

We made several breakfasts using the previous night's meal. Scott showed me how to make the leftovers palatable for a morning meal by using fresh herbs, seasoned salts and unusual spices like smoked paprika. These meals really kept me going, something a bowl of cereal could never do!
Click here for a link to a slow-carb website. Am I the only one on the planet that has never heard of a slow-carb diet?? I do believe I live in an information vortex!
Tomorrow...the dinners!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 2

We are experiencing one culinary delight after another with my talented brother on board this week! I am enjoying his amazing ability to create a great meal with whatever I have in my fridge and pantry! Have a look at last night's meal...pinch me, I must be dreaming!
On the Menu: Grilled Butterflied Shrimp with garlic butter, saffron Jasmine rice, fresh steamed broccoli with lemon and garlic toast. Paired with a Red Hook IPA...stunning! 

Scott and I walking the pups...trying to stay ahead of the calories! Ha!

Yum! Tune-in for more "seat of our pants" cooking! Tuesday Scott will be making Paella, a first for me!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Election Night Surprise

I worked the election polls yesterday. Have you ever done that? I highly recommend the experience as a way to connect with the good and the "not so good" aspects of a community. Mostly, I enjoy being a part of helping people exercise their right to vote and as a bonus I get to see neighbors and friends.

Election day is always a bit hectic and long. The polls open at 7am and close at 7pm which means a 14 hour day for the workers. Most often I come home, have a cup of tea and head directly to bed but last night I was greeted at the door by my brother Scott, who is visiting from California. Scott is an amazing cook. He and Michael were ready for this tired poll worker! They handed me a cocktail and directed me to the dinner table to relax and enjoy the incredible meal they had prepared. What a lovely surprise! I felt totally spoiled and pampered, lucky me!!
Scott is a natural in the kitchen. Give him an inventory of your fridge and like magic, he whips up the most amazing and delicious meals right before your eyes. Our common passion for all things food, art and travel make for having a great time together. It is a lot like taking a cooking class with your best friend; we catch up with each other, share recipes, new discoveries and great food! Can you tell I am crazy about my brother?

On the menu: New Zealand lamb chops with homemade pesto, rosemary rub; potatoes mashed with a garlic, butter and parsley sauté, and fresh asparagus sautéd with olive oil, bacon crumble and lemon pepper. Paired with a lively Carmenere from Chili.

...a bit of chocolate bar with toasted almonds and sea salt for desert...divine!  Thank you my dear brother and husband for a lovely evening!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Feed a Cold a Drink

I suppose my mother would scold me for having a "toddy" while nursing a cold...hey wait! My mother would join me, because she is a cool lady! So, here's to you Mom! Cheers! Wish you were here.
Hot White Chocolate
Amy Machnak, Sunset Magazine
  • 3/4 cup milk 
  • 2 tablespoons white chocolate chips 
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla vodka
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons miniature marshmallows
  • 1/8 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder


  1. 1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until very hot. Add white chocolate chips and whisk until melted.
  2. 2. Pour vanilla vodka into a heatproof glass, add warm milk, top with marshmallows, and dust with cocoa powder.

This was very yummy. Soothing and warming, not overly chocolate-ty and without the knock-out punch of a whiskey-based hot toddy...kinda girlie and fun! Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

While I have been stuck in the house recuperating, Michael and the pups have been enjoying the incredibly beautiful weather here in the desert. Please take note at how well our terriers are doing off leash!
 This is a canyon trail just behind our home

 Zen, the shaggy one, is a mess! He is my dirt dog!

 I don't think their noses left the ground.

 Yes, it's that brown here. Hey, it is winter!

 I love the long morning shadows.

 Ha ha, mostly we have tail-side up ;)  We always leash them during walks, as we generally walk the neighborhood, but Michael has been taking them up the canyon, which they love.

They did so well, sticking by him. I told him he was lucky...they are terriers after all! Next time he will pack some treats just in case they have an ah ha moment.
Do you walk your pets? Favorite place? Favorite time of day?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Simple Things That Make a Big Difference

I am still feeling a bit under the weather. You know how it is, feeling a bit sorry for yourself, anxious to feel better and get on with it! This sweet reminder came this morning in an email from my dear friend Jan and immediately brightened even an  "I'm feeling sorry for myself" sick day. Enjoy and have a terrific day!

ONE.  Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

TWO.  Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

THREE.  Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

FOUR.  When you say, 'I love you,' mean it.

FIVE.  When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in the eye.

SIX.  Be engaged at least six months before you get married.

SEVEN.  Believe in love at first sight.

EIGHT.  Never laugh at others dreams. People who don't have dreams don't have much.

NINE.  Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely.

TEN.   In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.

ELEVEN.  Don't judge people by their relatives.

TWELVE.  Talk slowly but think quickly.

THIRTEEN! . . .  When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, 'Why do you want to know?'

FOURTEEN.  Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

FIFTEEN.  Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze.

SIXTEEN. .  When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

SEVENTEEN.  Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.

EIGHTEEN.  Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

NINETEEN.  When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

 TWENTY.  Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

TWENTY- ONE.  Spend some time alone.

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