Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Contemplation

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.    ~Henry David Thoreau    

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sunday Contemplation

"Peace is every step."
                            - Thich Nhat Hahn

Souper EASY!

Does everyone except me know about this soup? My dear friend Susan Ryan insisted I take the recipe and make this soup. I really have been a snob about it, thinking that those ingredients couldn't possibly add up to anything tasty. What a dope. This is the easiest soup you will ever make, and bonus...your husband will love it. Try it and don't wait five years.

Three Bean Soup
-Recipe by Bobbie Miles, Mount Juliet, TN
Serves 10

2  Tablespoons olive oil
1  med. onion, chopped
1  med. green bell pepper, chopped
1  med. yellow bell pepper, chopped (mine was orange)
3  14-1/2-oz. cans chicken broth. (I used 32 oz-of Better Than Bouillon) Substitute vegetable broth for and easy Vegan meal!
1  10-oz can tomatoes with green chiles - USE Rotel
2  15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1  15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained (I used great Northern beans)
2  15-oz cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I used one red one white)

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven, then add onion, and green and yellow peppers
and cook until softened.
Stir in chicken broth, tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel) and drained beans.
Cook until thoroughly heated.
Serve with piping hot cornbread! 

Last Swim

I took my last swim in the pool today...sniff. Winter happens quickly in the desert. One day you are..ah..swimming in the pool and the next, hunting for those damn socks! Okay, I know it's not tragic...just saying, it's sad for us flip-flop wearing types. It is particularly hard for me this year, as I committed to swimming daily and now must find a way to exercise on dry land. So, today I am saying goodbye to life poolside and to the summer of 2013 in a bittersweet posting of some of my favorite images. It was a beautiful summer. Oh, and I am open to long as it doesn't involve running...or sweating.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Homemade Snickers...Really

Oh, yes I did! I took up the challenge of making candy, again. I consider this an act of bravery on my part. Let's just say my track record in the candy making department is zero wins (up until now!) This homemade version of Snickers comes from Blogger Jessica at How Sweet It is....and I encourage you to visit her blog now and secure this recipe. 

This is Michael's go-to candy so when I spotted it on Jessica's blog I saw an opportunity to surprise him with a healthier homemade version, well, at least it doesn't have all the fake coloring and binders. It is still the gooey, chocolaty, peanut butter bursting experience of the original with all sweetness and bad-for-you calories. Which is why I have to hide it from myself.

These precious little slices of the nutty goodness would be great on a Christmas buffet or packed into cute little give-away boxes(with wax paper between them!). I am currently storing this batch in my freezer with a few in the fridge (for Michael, of course) as I think they are best when chilled.

Photo: Courtesy of How Sweet It Is

The process is easy. I started one day and finished the next to make sure the layers cooled and set up  properly and I used a pan I could toss (sorry to admit) but I wasn't into cleaning up hardened caramel. It turns out you could use a regular high-sided 9 x 13 cake pan. Just butter the heck out it.

Additionally, I would recommend using regular salted peanut butter like Jiff. Also, purchase the large jar of Fluff and, if you do not make your own caramel, (you could!) use the Werther's brand soft caramels. I did end up adding some bittersweet chocolate morsels to the top layer...I just ran out of the milk chocolate....but I liked it and would do it again, as it cut the sweetness a bit.

So visit How Sweet It Is and grab this one. Jessica does a great step-by-step and I wouldn't change a thing. Thank you Jessica for sharing! 

Monday, November 4, 2013


Is there a more beautiful fruit? I think not! The lovely tree in my photo grows in Banning, CA. but soon we hope to be enjoying our very own crop. Amazingly, pomegranate trees do well here in our crazy climate. We have three (yes three!) newly planted pomegranate trees and they are growing like weeds. Now that is a hardy species!
I know it's a pain to get to the fruit, (click here to see the best way!) but worth the effort when those juicy little arils go "pop" in your mouth. I love to eat them by the handful, toss them into salads along with some toasted pine nuts, or add them into my hot cinnamon oatmeal for a sweet/sour bite.
They even work in candy, check out this chocolate/pomegranate bark I made for a party last winter. Rich dark chocolate and a juicy nod to summer, yum!
This season's craving has been for the fabulous Delicata squash salad I was fortunate enough to eat at the Dhalia Lounge during a visit to Seattle a few years back. I remember beautifully sautéed half-rounds of an unfamiliar squash atop a bed of mixed greens with spiced pecans and a simple but complimentary dressing. I had never even heard of Delicata squash before that lovely experience, but now I eagerly await it's fall arrival. This is my latest attempt at re-creating this dish.

Like all squash, the smaller Delicata is more tender, mine was medium small, and yes, you can eat the skin! No peeling. In fact, I prepared this salad at a leisurely pace throughout the day so the squash would have time to cool and then tossed everything together just before serving. I tried it with avocado and liked it, but felt this was optional to the success of the dish. The crunchiness of the romaine and cucumbers counter the soft richness of the squash and avocado, and the pop of pomegranate? Well, it's the best! This would be a great side to serve at pretty!

Delicata Squash Salad
Serves 4-6 as a side dish

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 Delicata squash, washed, sliced in 1/4-inch thick half-rounds seeds removed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
1/2 cup whole pecans, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 cups Romaine torn to bite-size
1 ripe avocado, sliced into half-rounds (optional)
1 pomegranate, arils removed
1/2 seedless cucumber, sliced into 1/4" half-rounds

The Vinaigrette

1/3 cup pomegranate juice (I used Pom)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly grated peeled ginger
1 large garlic clove, peeled and freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Slice the squash and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Add the squash to the skillet and cook until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Sprinkle with brown sugar to help caramelize, if desired.

Meanwhile: In a small dry skillet toast the pecans over very low heat, stirring and tossing as they toast. Watch them closely. They are done when you start to smell roasted pecans! Remove from heat and the pan! Toss them in a bowl and sprinkle with the pumpkin pie spice, stirring to cover evenly. Make a bit extra for snacking...yum.

Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together all ingredients except the olive oil to combine, then in a steady stream, add the olive oil, whisking constantly until the dressing comes together. Will keep for up to one week in the fridge.

Just Before Serving: Toss together the cucumber, avocado, pomegranate arils and cooled pecans and squash, arrange atop a bed of hand-torn Romaine. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Enjoy!!
We had some left-over and the romaine stood up nicely, it was still wonderful!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday Contemplation

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are all in harmony."         - Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, November 1, 2013

More Travels...Our Own Backyard

It is amazing how familiarity can dull the senses to the beauty of one's surroundings. Although I blog about the area in which we live there is nothing like experiencing it through new eyes. So when friend Joan Rybinski and my mom came from Michigan this fall for a visit Mike and I did our best to "re"vision our local favorites. With our stunning White Sands National Monument in shut-down mode....we moved on to the more available but sometimes forgotten vistas in our area.

                  Just a twenty minute drive from town we are in the pines 8,000 ft above sea level! Mother and Joan at the newly opened Trestle Vista in Cloudcroft, NM.

The Mexican Canyon Trestle Vista is brand new and very nicely done. Accessed just off Hwy 82, it marks the final chapter in the renovation of the Mexican Canyon Trestle Trail (a great hiking trail) and the old wooden train trestle. Read more about the actual trail here and the history of the train trestle here.

Oh...and you can't go to the mountains without a stop at the cute Apple Barn. Surprisingly, they grow apples and cherries in this area! Cherry juice, yum!
Photos of Old Apple Barn, High Rolls Mountain Park
This photo of Old Apple Barn is courtesy of TripAdvisor

We spent a nice time wandering through the lovely mountain village of Cloudcroft, NM and stopped by our favorite shop of wonderful things, Off the Beaten Path, to get a hug from owners and dear friends Donna Rand and Berle Van Zandt.
100 Glorietta Ave, Cloudcroft, NM 88317

             ....then we topped off the afternoon with an enjoyable lunch at The Lodge, site of the original  mountain train depot. (aka the place Cope and I got married!)
Photos of The Lodge Resort and Spa, Cloudcroft
This photo of The Lodge Resort and Spa is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The next day we headed out to visit the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. Unfortunately, the lock was on the gate. Boo.  Plan B... we traveled just up the road to visit one of our favorite churches, the sweet little Santa Niño de Aturha, a tiny white adobe church built in 1911. Our gorgeous New Mexico sky was a major attraction as well.

 Mike with pups Guinness and Zen trying to avoid the ocean of goat heads.

Santo Niño de Aturha

Years ago, I had my first encounter with Milagros in this very spot. It was fun watching Mom and Joan discover these little "folk"offerings. Milagros are little metal charms, traditionally pinned onto walls or boards inside the church as a type of "votive" or offering to ask for healing. See more examples of Milagros here.

Santa Niño de Aturha is a santos popular with Mexican and Spanish catholics. Dressed as a child pilgrim, this Christ-like figure is said to roam the countryside bringing aid, water and food to those in need, thereby, wearing out his shoes. As an offering, the parishioners often leave children's or baby's shoes near the alter. 

What a beautiful day. It had been years since Michael and I had driven out to the Three Rivers area. Only 40 minutes from home, it felt like we were hours away. This drive is going on the regular get-away rotation!!

Our Final Stop, the Cloudcroft Tunnel Vista Observation Site. Cloudcroft is the home of the ONLY tunnel in New Mexico, which would be a humorous distinction, if it were not a truly beautiful stop. Years ago while working on my art degree, I hung off this very mountain trying to capture the beauty of the canyon walls and that elusive peek at the White Sands in a plein air painting, a terrible lapse in judgment, to be sure, but for a very worthy cause. It is still one of my favorite spots the planet.

We hope you ladies had a nice visit! We loved spending time with you!

Next time we'll hit the biggies, White Sands and the Petroglyph Site, but this visit we were reminded to appreciate those little sweet spots we tend to take for granted and we thank you for that!

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