Monday, November 1, 2010

Southwestern Style Pea Soup

Strange as it may seem to those who dislike it, pea soup has always been my ultimate comfort food. The other day, after several hours spent in the chair at the dentist's office, I wanted something warm and easy to eat, and came up with this soup with a Southwestern kick.

You can use homemade pea soup if you wish. I've always loved plain old Campbell's Green Pea (no ham) soup best. It's your choice.

1 can Campbell's Green Pea Soup
1 soup can of milk
1 cup of fresh salsa

Place ingredients in blender, whir until smooth, thinning with additional milk if necessary. Heat by the cupful in the microwave. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if you wish.

Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fresh Salsa

I keep a batch of this going all the time now. Sometimes it is served almost like a side dish or vegetable with the meal, although it is also quite delicious on a turkey whole wheat sandwich. When it starts to get low, I just add more tomatoes or avocados, whichever I have on hand.

1/2 cup medium or hot salsa
1/2 sweet white onion, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 large avocado, finely chopped
6 New Mexico-type green chiles (roasted, peeled, seeded), finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Juice of one small Key lime (to taste)

Add all the finely chopped vegetables and the cilantro to the salsa. Add lime juice to taste. Keep covered and refrigerated.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

White Trash Fudge

The blogging world is a wonderful one. I have "met" people online through their blogs or their comments on mine, and have come to feel that they are friends even though I have never seen them in person.

I have, however, met Mary and her wonderful husband, Pat, for real, face to face, and they were just like family. We had first chatted online and when they came to our part of New Mexico for a visit, we all got together for a wonderful evening. You would think that strangers might have a problem finding things to talk about, but from the first hug we were friends for life. We cried when they left.

I recently got a package from Mary and Pat, who are now back in Massachusetts getting their house ready to sell so they can move out here and be our forever neighbors. In the package was some fudge, and it was oh, so delicious--addictive, even. There was also a note that was to be read only after the fudge was consumed. Here it is, word for word:

I once read on your blog, Clair, that Velveeta Cheese is only good for mixing with salsa or Rotel tomatoes to make queso.  Now that you have tasted (and hopefully approved) the fudge, I will provide the recipe.

1/2 pound Velveeta Cheese
1/2 pound margarine or butter
2 tsp. vanilla (I used almond extract as we were out of vanilla)

Mix together and melt over low heat or in microwave.

2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa

Mix together sugar and cocoa. Pour melted Velveeta mixture into sugar mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into buttered pans and refrigerate until set.


By the way, if you try this recipe and like it, let me know. You can also send along a comment to Mary, a "reluctant" blogger.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vinegar "Recipes" for Around the House

I like using simple cleaning methods. I've always heard about the many uses of vinegar and have been finding it to be very helpful around the house. I know you can find sites with probably thousands of uses, but wanted to pass on some tried and true methods I've been using and can personally vouch for.

Coffee maker: Our water here in the desert is terrible. It smells when it comes out of the hot water tank or if it stands for very long. It eats faucets and makes them all spotty (see below). Even though I use filtered water to make coffee, I figure it can't hurt to clean out the coffee maker every once in a while. Fill the reservoir with vinegar to the two-cup line, and run the coffee maker through a cycle. Dump out the vinegar (actually, save it for one of the uses below) and run through the cycle twice more with clean water. Wash and rinse the glass pot well.

Windows: Use a solution of half white vinegar and half water. Wipe on with a damp cloth, wipe off with newspapers.

Drains: Our smelly water makes for smelly drains, so this method works to make them fresher smelling. Pour into drain 1/2 cup baking soda, then follow with 1/2 cup white vinegar. Then pour in 1 cup of boiling water. Let sit for 10 minutes, then flush with lots of cold water.

Glassware: Our water makes glassware cloudy. Dip a damp cloth into white vinegar and rub the inside and outside of glasses. Wash and rinse as usual. Much better!

Faucets: Wipe with a damp cloth dipped in vinegar. Spot free!

Pergo-type floors: This is today's exciting discovery. Our kitchen floor was pretty, but all spotted up. No matter how I scrubbed, I couldn't get it to look clean. After a little Internet research, I mixed one cup of white vinegar with four cups of warm water, dipped in the mop, and wrung it out. I wiped down the floor and then skated around on a terry-cloth towel immediately to dry it completely. The results? A glowing floor, and a wonderful time for the pup!

Little Pete works hard

Finished! This pup is hard to get in focus, as he rarely pauses in his chores.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spicy Pinto Beans

3 cups dry pinto beans
Fresh cold water*

1/2 chopped onion (I like the sweet Vidalia-type)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
A tsp. of cumin

1 cup of green chile meat (yesterday's recipe)

Pick through the beans carefully, removing any little rocks. Rinse well, and cover with cold water. Soak overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse. Cover with more cold water, add chopped onion, garlic, cumin, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, cover the pan and simmer on low heat until almost tender.

Add the green chile meat, stir well, and continue to cook on low heat with the pan partially covered until the beans are tender. Add additional water as necessary.

Note: Cooking time will vary with altitude. I've seen recipes for pre-soaked beans where the cooking time is supposedly 20 minutes. Ha! Here at 4000 feet, I've found that I can cook beans for a long time before they are done--maybe a couple of hours. This just gives a chance for the flavors to soak into the beans.

Depending on the heat of your green chile meat, these beans can pack a real wallop, so you might want to serve them with some sour cream on the side to cool things down a bit.


*That's what we like to call it, here in the thirsty desert.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Green Chile Meat

For some reason, I get a kick out the name of this sauce. Never mind that--you'll want to make some and put it over most anything. It's really good on scrambled eggs with a little sour cream on the side, and it adds a good bit of kick to the pinto bean recipe that will be posted in a day or two.

The recipe comes from the book, More of the Best from New Mexico Kitchens, by Sheila Cameron and the Staff of New Mexico Magazine. (New Mexico Magazine, 1983). They got it from the world famous Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio, New Mexico.

That simmering time isn't a mistake, by the way. Simmer the sauce for at least three hours, and you'll be glad you did.

3 1/2 lbs. of hot green chile (roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped)
1 1/2 lbs. hamburger meat
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 quarts of water
Salt to taste

Brown the meat and drain off excess fat. In a large heavy saucepan, cover the chile and garlic with water and bring to the boiling point. Mix in the meat and simmer, tightly covered, for a least three hours. Add salt to taste.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pecan Cake: A Good Way to Start a Diet

Have you read the book, Julie and Julia; 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen; by Julie Powell? At one point, Julie talks about the spectacular pecan cake she makes that everyone loves. When I went to the Internet to find the recipe, I found that I was not the only one who just had to make that cake after reading about it in luscious detail.

The full name of the recipe is Paul Prudhomme's Spiced Pecan Cake. We had a dinner party for eight last night and I made the cake for dessert.

Let me tell you a bit about it. First of all, nobody needs this cake! It is incredibly rich--beyond rich, needlessly rich. The cake itself has less than a cup of butter, only 3 egg whites, and no salt. I really wish that I had stopped there. As a matter of fact, I could have divided the recipe into thirds and baked a single, unfrosted layer. I think it might have been a hit that way, especially after a filling supper.

However, the frosting calls for 8 egg yolks, an incredible cup and a half of butter, and a total of five cups of sugar. I was so far into the spirit of the thing that I actually made that frosting. A tiny skimming of it might have been tasty, but I followed the directions and ladled the darn stuff onto the three layers of the cake. I could hardly lift the plate when it was done.

I had spent a part of the three previous days cracking and chopping pecans; sometimes alone, while listening to bluegrass and blues, and sometimes with the help of a friend. Of course, I could have bought the nuts already prepared, but we do live in a pecan orchard and I had these huge bags of pecans waiting in the freezer (just under the huge bags of hot green chiles!). The recipe calls for a total of four and a half cups--we gave up after four, which turned out to be more than ample. Way more, as was everything else about this monster of a cake.

The eight of us were able to eat less than half of the thing. I sent some home with some strong and willing guests. The rest of the thing is squatting on my kitchen counter, just waiting for some unwary fool to lift the cover.

It was a great way to start a diet. I don't think I ever want to eat again.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Crock Pot Decision

Thank you all for taking the time to leave comments, recipe links, and opinions about using a crock pot.

Arija, I am sorry that you lost so much in the bush fire. I appreciated your minority opinion, which gave me a smile. When I was much younger, I was an extremely disorganized hostess. We used to tease my half sister and her husband about my lack of preparation. They would drive up to our house in New Hampshire from theirs in Massachusetts, maybe a two and a half hour drive. When they arrived, we would visit for a while, then I'd say, "Well, I'll just nip out to the garden to harvest some wheat to make the bread for supper."

It wasn't far from the truth, when describing my meal-preparation habits. Those poor people had to wait once while I made hamburger buns from scratch, and then while I ground the meat for the burgers!

I really, really wanted to show them that I could have a meal mostly prepared and ready to put on the table for them, so for their next visit I bought a crock pot and made spaghetti sauce, which simmered all night long before they came for supper one Saturday. I was so pleased with myself, but only until we tried out the sauce. It had really simmered to death, the herbs had long lost any flavor, and the consistency of the meatballs was that of canned dog food, as best I can imagine it!

This time, many years later, I am ready to try again. Thanks to all your advice, I have bought a crock pot (actually two!), and a couple of cookbooks as well. I plan to follow directions and see if the modern crock pot is all it is cracked up to be,  Arija's opinion notwithstanding!

I'll let you know how it all works out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crock Pot Questions

I have had a crock pot in the past, but never used it much and finally got rid of it. However, I keep hearing from friends about how much they like their crock pots, so I decided to put a few questions out there:

If you have a crock pot, how do you like it?

What do you make in it?

Any favorite recipes?

Any favorite crock pot recipe sites?

Please use the comments to tell me about your experiences. Based on your answers, I will decide about buying one for the kitchen in the Pecan House, and I'll let you know if I do. Thank you for your help!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Fire and Ice

After putting together the post on Beez's newest recipe for a hot and chilly dessert (pun intended) the other day--see It's Cold! No, It's Hot!--I discovered that there are other New Mexicans with reckless taste buds trying out some similar experiments.

If you are a chile aficionado, you owe it to yourself to try out Habanero Popsicles. The recipe is found here, under Hotsicles. It's found on the web site called Chile Recipes, which includes all kinds of salsas, enchiladas, sauces, soups, and even a Hot Herbal Cough Syrup.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's Cold! No, It's Hot!

A new flavor combination
My husband, Beez, adores chile. Red chile, green chile, chiles in salsa, on eggs, and in any kind of main dish. I suppose I wasn't really surprised when he found a way to have chile for dessert.

It started with a trip to Ristramnn Chile in Mesilla, just south of Las Cruces. Yes, that's the right spelling. I have the sense that it might once have been Ristra Man, and they just compressed it to "Ristramnn" for reasons of their own.

We were exploring all the back rooms at the store, looking for some big packages of red chile powder that I knew they carried, when the owner introduced us to green chile powder. He gave us a little sample, and we were sold. The pure stuff was blazing, but he said to sprinkle it over the top of food for a delicious addition to almost anything.

On the way home, we stopped at Caliche's for some of their wonderful frozen custard, and that's where I saw the look of inspiration come over Beez's happy face. Long story short, we bought a quart of frozen custard, brought it home, and Beez spooned some into a bowl and sprinkled a bit of green chile powder over the top.

Sounds odd, doesn't it? But it is the perfect combination of hot and cold, creamy and fiery. Once you try it, you'll never be the same.

It turns out that there are some other variations on this hot/cold theme. Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes

If you are traveling through Las Cruces, be sure to have some breakfast at The Shed restaurant. I can personally vouch for the oatmeal pancakes they serve! If you can't make it to southern New Mexico for breakfast, try this version that I came up with at home.

3/4 cup quick oatmeal

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs

2 tbl. vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 all purpose flour

3/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

Stir oatmeal and buttermilk together in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Stir in eggs, oil, vanilla, and brown sugar. Mix well.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix into the oatmeal mixture.

Cook pancakes on a hot greased griddle for about two minutes per side. Keep the cooked ones in a warm oven until all are ready to be served.

Serve with warm syrup, sliced bananas, or warm applesauce.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Frosted Orange Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

1 whole orange (peel and all) finely ground up
1/4 cup buttermilk

4 - 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add the ground orange and buttermilk; mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; gradually add it to the orange mixture, stirring well.

Drop by teaspoonsful onto a greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350〫for 10 to 12 minutes until the bottoms are just brown. Cool a bit on paper towels. While still slightly warm, frost with Orange Buttercream Frosting, below. Makes about 4 dozen.

Orange Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup ground orange (peel and all)
3 tbl. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar, or amount needed to make the frosting a spreadable consistency

Beat all together until creamy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Beef Enchiladas

Because Beez has been working in another part of the state, he has been doing a lot of cooking for himself and even trying out some new recipes. He loves this one and plans to make it for our company tomorrow night. You can see the original at AllRecipes.Com.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 (1.5 ounce) package dry enchilada sauce mix
  • 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium skillet over medium high heat, cook the ground beef and onion until beef is evenly browned and onion is tender.
  2. Prepare the enchilada sauce according to package directions. Pour 1/4 cup of the sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. On each flour tortilla, place an equal portion of the ground beef mixture and about 1 ounce of Cheddar cheese, reserving at least 1/2 cup of cheese. Then tightly roll the tortillas and place seam side down in the baking dish.
  4. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and olives.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is thoroughly melted.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sour Cream Spice Cake

  • 2 cups sifted cake flour, sift before measuring
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar and sour cream to make 1 cup
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Optional: Substitute nutmeg, mace, and/or cardamon for the cloves and allspice

Optional: Add 1 cup of golden raisins

Sift dry ingredients. Mix and beat well the shortening, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Mix the vinegar and sour cream together in a measuring cup; add alternately with the sifted ingredients and beat until smooth. Add nuts and/or raisins and beat all until smooth.

Bake at 375〫in layer pans for 25 to 30 minutes, or in an oblong pyrex dish for 35 to 40 minutes.

Frost with the butter cream frosting of your choice.

The original version of this recipe came from Diana's Kitchen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

These cookies are soft and taste a lot like brownies.

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

2 - 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Powdered sugar

Mix together butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and cooled chocolate. Beat well.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and stir until blended.

Chill the dough for easier handling. Form into small balls the size of a walnut. Roll each in powdered sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350〫for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on pan for another couple of minutes, then place on paper towels to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 3 dozen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Italian Sodas

How did I ever miss this delicious beverage? Does everyone know how to make these? I had my first Italian soda the other day at Zeffiro's Pizzeria Napoletana, and we've been making sodas at home ever since.

The process is simple: Just place some flavored syrup, club soda, and a little half and half in large glass filled with ice, stir gently, and sip the drink through a straw. The proportions will vary, depending on your taste. There are more complicated instructions on the Internet that will instruct you as to the order of ingredients, when and how much to stir, etc.

The fun begins when you discover a grocery store with a good variety of syrups. We found ours at Toucan Market in Las Cruces. So far, we've tried Torani Orgeat (almond) and Le Sirop de Monin Vanilla; but there are a lot more we'd like to experiment with--I remember seeing raspberry, amaretto, apricot, grenadine, pomegranate, butterscotch, chocolate almond, mango, hazelnut and lemon. There are lots of other flavors, as you will see when you visit the Monin site. You can use the syrups in a variety of tea, coffee, and smoothie concoctions, too.

Mix up your soda and sip it while sitting out on the patio in the desert winter sunshine. That's what we do!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Auntie Bucksnort's Decadent Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Bucksnort is famous for not following directions, so when she asked for my peanut butter cookie recipe, I just sat back and waited for the unexpected. The cookies she made were the best I've ever had, and I have to say, I know my cookies!

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1 43 gram Hershey milk chocolate bar, coarsely chopped
1 100 gram Toblerone chocolate/honey/nougat candy bar, coarsely chopped
1 cup white chocolate chips

Cream together butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in peanut butter. Sift dry ingredients and stir them into the peanut butter mixture. Add the chopped chocolate and the chips and stir well.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Press each down slightly with the back of the spoon.

Bake at 375〫for about 10 minutes. Makes 3-5 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them.