Sunshine on My Shoulders

photo-335I’ve been busy, and it hasn’t had anything to do with cooking.  See that picture?  That’s Rhonda and our dusty dogs – Ellie, Bella, and Leroy hiking in the high desert outside of town this week.   The temperatures have been mild – in the 30’s & 4o’s during the day – and that bright New Mexico sun hangs high warming the afternoons pretty much daily.  I have to get outside and be in that sunshine everyday or else – you know emotionality!   This week, at the Dusty Dog, the sun has dipped down behind the mountain around 3:49 every afternoon, so my opportunity to commune with the sunshine is limited – not that I’m actually monitoring the situation that closely.

But, back to hiking – the hike we did this week in the picture above was a dirt road trail that ran along the Rift Valley Trail, which is located just off the road on State Highway 68 South heading toward Santa Fe.  We kept seeing signs for the Rift Valley Trail as we made our way toward the gorge, but we didn’t seem to be on the Rift Valley Trail.  Our path was more like a two mile dirt road leading to an amazing view of the Rio Grande Gorge, which has recently been declared the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.  From where we stood approximately 800 feet above the river, we could see all the way to the bridge in Pilar.  Unfortunately, that bright New Mexico sun wasn’t cooperating with me and my Iphone’s fancy Ansel Adams-like camera setting.  Take my word for it though, the view was magnificent.

Last week, we did the West Rim Trail out by the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

photo-337That’s the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge you see there in the distance as seen from the West Rim Trail.  That snake of black under the bridge is the Rio Grande slicing through the deep canyon.

I loved both of these trails because they were easy.  I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true – I like an easy trail.  I’m the first to whine if a trail is too hard, and don’t even think about taking me on a trail where you go down first then up.  I will complain and whine a LOT, and you will not have fun.

All of that aside, both of these hikes were amazing and not what I had planned to talk to you about this week.  And now, you’ll have to wait another two weeks before I unveil my Turmeric Tonics (I know you’re on the edge of your seat) because next week, Rhonda and I are heading to Dallas for work.  I’m sure there’ll be something blog worthy that happens, so until then, make sure you get out in the sun everyday.  It’s good for you – like soup but more fun.


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Red Peas for Good Luck in the New Year

photo-329Did you eat your New Year’s Day peas?  When I was growing up, my mother made peas every New Year’s day – green, from a can.  In fact, all vegetables during my growing up years came from a can – I’m pretty sure that’s all that was available back then (insert sarcastic winking smiley face here).  I absolutely hate green peas by the way, and refuse to eat any vegetable from a can.  Why?  One key word – MUSHY!

So, I began thinking about why we eat peas on New Years and did a little research.  There are several explanations.  One suggests that eating peas dates back to about 500 C.E. and the Babylonian Talmud, which instructed Jews to eat peas on Rosh Hashana – their New Year.  The Talmud instructed the faithful to eat symbols of good luck for the New Year, which not only included black eyed peas, but also things like leeks, beets, spinach, and dates.

Another explanation for the eating of peas on New Year’s stems from the Civil War.  Black eyed peas were animal feed and not considered good for human consumption.  When the Union troops raided the Confederate troops supplies, they left the black eyed peas behind.  The Confederate troops ate those peas throughout the winter months and survived for which they felt lucky.

Another legend suggests that black eyed peas were the only food that the slaves had to eat on their first day of emancipation (January 1, 1863) and that from then on, black eyed peas were considered good luck.

I didn’t take any chances on my luck for 2014, but this year, I broke away from my 17 year tradition of making black eyed peas for New Years, and I made something new – Sea Island red peas.

IMG_5984Earlier this fall, I learned about red peas when Rhonda discovered Anson Mills an organic, heirloom grain distributer.  We have so many Anson Mills products bulging our pantry right now it’s not even right – it’s the power of internet shopping for sure.

Through the discovery of Sea Island red peas, I learned about the Hog Hammock Geechee community on Sapelo Island in Georgia .  This community is at risk of disappearing due to increasing tax rates on land they’ve owned since days of slavery.   Their Red Pea Project is one way the island residents are working to save their heritage and their land.  Next time, I make red peas I will make sure they’re from the Red Pea Project.  Check out the video here to learn more about these people and their struggle, then run out and buy some red peas preferably from the Geechee people of Sapelo Island.

Sapelo Island Red Pea Project

It’s hard to believe another year has passed and that my life has been turned upside down.  If you would have told me last year at this time, that I’d be living in the wild’s of Northern New Mexico, I would have told you that you were CRAZY.  But here I am, jumping off into this grand adventure and wondering how it will all look in another 365 days.  What will I accomplish, who will I meet, what will unfold is all a beautiful mystery.  As this year unfolds, I hope that the luck of the red peas will be on my side!  And as for you, I hope you ate some peas in some color or fashion this week.  Luck is not guaranteed – we have to do our part to ensure that good fortune prevails as we welcome another new year.  I hope you too jump off, and do something outrageous this year!!!

Red Peas

(Adapted from Bon Appetit’s online recipe for Sea Island Red Peas with Celery Leaf Salad – I didn’t make the celery leaf salad part, therefore it isn’t included here)


2 cups dried red peas soaked overnight

6 cups water

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp vegetable bouillon

3 large cloves garlic minced and rubbed into a paste

6 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup sweet yellow onion finely chopped

1/2 cup red bell pepper finely chopped

1/2 cup celery finely chopped

1 tbsp butter

Preparing the Peas:

Soak peas overnight in 6 cups of water.  If you live at a high elevation you will need to pressure cook the peas after you’ve soaked them.  Pressure cook the peas for 20 minutes.  Do not drain the peas after pressure cooking.  Remove the pressure cooker lid and add salt and bouillon to the peas and water.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat.

Heat olive oil over medium heat and add all of the remaining ingredients except the butter.  Saute over medium heat until translucent and soft – approximately 15 minutes.  Transfer all of the saute’ed vegetables to the peas.  Continue cooking for 30 minutes until all of the flavors have melded together and the peas become thicker.  Add additional water as needed.

photo-330Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and stir in the butter.  Serve alone or with a good quality cajun white rice.  And, remember to ask the peas to bring you luck in the coming year.


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photo-257When I say Christmas you probably think of sweets, sparkles, Santa, baking, gathering, sharing, and probably even yard blow-up decorations, (especially if you live in Dallas, those blow up things are EVERYWHERE).  But, if you live in New Mexico, Christmas has an entirely different meaning.  Here, where chile rules and comes on top of just about every offering on any menu in any town, Christmas means you want both green and red chile on top of the savory dish you just ordered.  Seriously, next time you’re in New Mexico, listen to the people around you ordering up their breakfast burritos or their frito pies – the ordering will go something like this:

Restaurant Patron:  “I’d like a breakfast burrito with eggs, potatoes, and cheese please.”

Waitress:  “Would you like red or green chile with that?

Restaurant Patron:  “Christmas.”

Waitress:  “You got it!”

IMG_4664No explanation needed.   Whether it’s June or December, all waiters and waitresses across the Land of Enchantment know what Christmas means.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of this concoction to tantalize you with since I don’t eat much chile myself with my tender taste buds and all.  When I do order chile on my food, I tend to stick with red chile on the side.  But, trust me, Christmas is a phenomena here in New Mexico and it’s not about the presents, the bedazzled trees, or the decadence and demands of December, it’s all about how you like your chile.


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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

IMG_5976I have a new obsession, which has led to a fantastic discovery.   With just a few days left to shop, I should be obsessed with what to get Rhonda for the holidays, but instead I’m obsessed with Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and my new favorite breakfast – lemon ricotta pancakes.

photo-123In the past, Rhonda had a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, and I was never excited about it.  There was no glitz or glam to entice me, instead the magazine has black and white sketched drawings and all those LENGTHY commentaries about their test kitchen findings (I know you might think I too have LENGTHY commentaries, but at least I’m trying to be funny).  The magazine made cooking feel like a precision science project instead of a fun experiment in the land of culinaria.

The magazine subscription went away for many years with only a monthly copy being purchased here and there from the grocery store check out line.  If we made anything from those random purchases, I don’t remember.  So I was surprised when we arrived at the Dusty Dog  on November 6th and found a package waiting for us that included – four (Yes, that’s right four) Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks – each the size of jumbo encyclopedias from my childhood.

photo-122Apparently, Rhonda felt the need to stock up on some new recipes for the daily cooking we embrace with gusto at the cabin.  The four cookbooks were:  Cooks Illustrated Cookbook, Cook’s Illustrated:  The Science of Good Cooking, Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue:  A Practical Guide for the Outdoor Cook, and Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book.  I haven’t had a chance to venture into all four of these cookbooks, but I have jumped into a swift and serious love affair with with the  Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.  In the short time we’ve been at the cabin, Ive made, assisted in making, and eaten so many recipes from this glorious tome that I can hardly keep up.

The other night I made their shrimp scampi (page 455) that popped with a beautiful citrus and garlic tang, and a couple of weeks ago, I made their hearty baked brown rice with onions and roasted red peppers (page 225), which was like a rich risotto without all the stirring.  On Thanksgiving I used their dressing recipe (page 365) as a guide, and the other night I made their saute’ed eggplant with crisped bread crumbs, (page 263) which was melt in your mouth good.  Rhonda has ventured into making their simple beef chili, (page 96) which she reserved some for me without meat, and last night she made pasta with garlic cream sauce, (page 164) which was savory, rich, and wonderful.  She’s also made their crunchy oven-fried fish, (page 441) which was just like they said – crunchy.  Every single recipe we’ve made has been delicious.  I mean not a bite left on the plate delicious.  You can see how all of this has become an obsession.  Every day, I wake up thinking about what to make for dinner.

After all of this frenzied Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook cooking, I decided to reconsider the monthly magazine.  Turns out, Rhonda has resumed her subscription via her Ipad and a couple of weeks ago she made their Herb Crusted Salmon (May/June 2013 Issue), which was so great we had it twice in one week, serving it to friends the second time around.  And then, I discovered lemon ricotta pancakes (September/October 2013).

OH MY GOD is all I have to say about these pancakes.  Ok, well really I have a little more to say about them – like how fluffy and lemony they are, and how airy and just the right amount of sweet they are, and how they sound kind of complicated with the whipping of the egg whites, but I promise if you go the extra yard for this breakfast confection you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, you will be wondering when you can make them again.

Wow, all of this over a cookbook and a magazine!  It’s a lot I know, but it’s all true – every word.  If you have a cook on your holiday list, run out and buy them a subscription to the magazine or get them a copy of the cookbook – they will love you (I mean LOVE you) for it, and you will probably reap the rewards too.  I haven’t had a chance to look at the other three cookbooks yet, but look out, for when I do, you will be sure to hear all about my latest obsession.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

from: Cook’s Illustrated (September/October 2013)



2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, separated, plus 2 additional large egg whites

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tsp grated lemon zest plus 4 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil


Making the Pancakes:

Separate the egg whites and place them in an electric mixer fitted with the wire whisk attachment.  Turn the mixer to high and whisk egg whites until peaks begin to form.  Add sugar and whisk another two to three minutes.

photo-318Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Make a well in the center and add ricotta, the two egg yolks, milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and melted butter.  Mix thoroughly with a large spoon.

photo-322Gently fold in the egg whites and mix thoroughly.

Heat oil in a nonstick pan.  Once heated, wipe away excess oil.  I like small pancakes because they are easier to flip.  I use about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, but if you are an expert pancake flipper don’t let me hold you back.    Pour 1/4 cup batter into the hot pan and allow the pancake to cook 2 to 3 minutes until you see tiny bubbles appearing and disappearing in the batter.  Gently flip the pancake and allow to cook another 2 to 3 minutes making sure not to burn them.

photo-323   While we’re on the subject of burning things, I have a confession to make.  The first time I made these pancakes, they all looked like the one AND ONLY pancake pictured throughout this post.  Each one was fluffy and light.  This time around, the pancakes gave me a fit.  What I’m trying to say is, I threw a fit because the pancakes turned out flat, and on top of that, I burned them.  The keys to making these pancakes work is wiping the pan clean of excess oil, keeping the heat on medium high NOT high, and working quickly with your ingredients.  In other words, don’t dally around taking a bunch of pictures between each step of the pancake making process.

Serve these pancakes with syrup or confectioners sugar.  Raspberries and blueberries go great with them too.  As you can see, I ate mine with some fake bacon and maple syrup.

IMG_5976Note:  The recipe made more than we could eat.  We had the left overs for dessert at dinner.  They were delicious cold and without syrup.

Makes 8 medium pancakes

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Gram’s Pumpkin Pie

IMG_5972Every year in November, I do two weird things.  First, I get out this wicker cornucopia I’ve had since Rhonda and I got together.  She always laughs about it because it is kind of funny that we actually have a wicker cornucopia.  I have no idea where it came from – probably some Michael’s or Pier One clearance shelf from the very early days of our relationship.  I love it though and every year around the first of November, I dig it out and fill it with a colorful collection of gourds and pumpkins.  It reminds me of the abundance in my life and to stop and be thankful.  Heading into this Thanksgiving week, my cornucopia runneth over.

IMG_5954This past year has held a lot of changes and challenges that have been both thrilling and scary.  I won’t go on about all of that again – you’ve read the stories and know all about the chaos of the past couple of months.  We’ve had a dream come true, and for that, I’m thankful.

The second weird thing I do in November is bake pumpkins over an open fire to make my own pumpkin puree for our Thanksgiving pies.  I’m not even sure why I decided to do this other than I wanted to feel more connected to something ancient – like the native Americans who have inhabited this land for so much longer than we have and also to honor something more recent like my pioneering ancestors.  I’m not really sure I personally have any pioneering ancestors but living in the Southwest for 17 years has made me more aware of the harshness of the environment that early American settlers faced.

Thanksgiving is the one big holiday Rhonda and I usually host.  It’s probably my favorite holiday after Halloween, which is my absolute FAVORITE.  I love the days leading up to Thanksgiving – the baking and early preparations.  And the actual whole easy day itself – the grand finale of cooking, the cocktailing, footballing, and laughing with everyone in the kitchen.  There is no obligation to do anything, but show up with your assigned dish(es).

IMG_5971This year, we are hosting our first ever Dusty Dog Thanksgiving.  No family members are making the trip, but we are having 7 friends for an evening feast.  We’ve ordered a humanely raised, Amish smoked turkey for the carnivores and a salmon florentine en croute for me and any other pescatarians.  Rhonda’s making sweet potatoes, cranberries, and corn pudding.  I’m making dressing, green bean casserole, and yes, the pumpkin pies.  Friends are bringing the rest – mashed potatoes, pecan pie, and what Thanksgiving would be complete without a jello mold.

After I bake the pumpkins over the fire, I use my Gram, Josephine Ramish’s, pumpkin pie recipe to make our pies.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to do some freaky Thanksgiving ritual over a fire to make her pumpkin pie.  Good old fashioned canned pumpkin will work – that’s what she always used.  Gram’s pie is a rich, custard-like, slightly spicey, very sweet, melt in your mouth concoction that I promise you will make again and again.

I hope this Thanksgiving finds all of you with a cornucopia overflowing with goodness, close friends and family around whatever table you find yourself, and your own quirky traditions.

Gram’s Pumpkin Pie


1- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree or 2 medium pumpkins baked in the oven or over a fire (Directions to follow)

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

4 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 eggs beaten

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup whole milk

1 single pie crust (pate’ brisee) scroll through the dialogue on the crab & cheese turnover page until you get to the directions for pate’ brisee.  Cut the recipe in half to make a single pie crust.

Baking Pumpkins:

If you wish to bake your own pumpkins – choose two medium baking pumpkins or even three small baking pumpkins.  I think the smaller the more flavorful.  I usually make three pumpkins so I have a little pumpkin left over for other things like muffins or pancakes.  You can freeze the left over puree or keep it in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days.


Today, I made three medium sized pumpkins, which yielded four cups of cooked pumpkin puree.  Cut the stem off the pumpkins then slice them in half.  Use a spoon scoop out the seeds and stringy insides.  I find using a grapefruit spoon with a serrated end works really well.

photo-302  Place the halved and cleaned pumpkins face up into a foil pan with 3 cups of water on the bottom.

IMG_5966Cover the pan with foil and place on top of hot coals in a fire.  Normally, I do this in my outdoor fire pit, but this year, my fire pit is filled with snow.  Instead, I made a fire in our fireplace early this morning allowing a lot of hot coals to build up.  When my pumpkins were ready for the fire, I moved the big logs to the side and slid all the hot coals under the grate.  I placed the covered foil pan on top of the grate and let the pumpkins cook for 45 minutes without peeking.  You will hear the water on the bottom of the pan steaming and sizzling – that’s ok, that means it’s working.

photo-306If you don’t have a fireplace, or you just don’t want to mess around with such antiquities, then place your pumpkins face up into an ovenproof baking dish, fill the bottom of the pan with 3 cups of water, cover with foil, and bake at 375° for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, remove the pumpkins from the fire or the oven and test for doneness.  Using a fork poke the inside pulp of the pumpkin – if the pulp feels soft and your fork slides into the flesh without resistance then they are done.  You may need to bake the pumpkins for another 15 to 30 minutes until the flesh is soft and easily comes off the shell of the pumpkin.


After the pumpkins are done baking, let them cool.  Once cool, use a spoon to scoop out the cooked pumpkin.  The pumpkin will easily come away from the shell.


Place the cooked pumpkin in a food processor and process until smooth.  If you don’t have a food processor use a handheld or standing mixer, and if you don’t have either of those then use a potato masher.



Prepare Pie Crust: 

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Mix the ingredients for pate’ brisee or use your favorite pie crust recipe.  Roll out your pie crust to approximately 1/8th inch thickness then place the crust in a deep pie dish.


Prepare the Pumpkin Pie Filling:

Add all dry ingredients to the pumpkin puree and mix thoroughly by hand.  If you don’t mix the dry ingredients first you could end up with lumps in your finished pumpkin filling.  I speak from experience here.  Once your dry ingredients are mixed completely, add the eggs, evaporated milk, and whole milk and incorporate all ingredients – again by hand.

photo-313Once all ingredients are completely mixed together pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared pie crust.  The pumpkin filling should not go to the top of the crust – allow about 1/2 inch of space at the top of your crust.  The filling will plump up while baking.  Cover the edges of the crust with a pie crust protector if you have one – if not, do your best to cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil, then go out and buy yourself one of these great pie crust protectors.  You won’t be sorry – I promise.

photo-311The filling will be very liquid so don’t be alarmed – it will thicken during baking.  Bake at 425° for 25 minutes then remove the pie crust protector, reduce the heat to 350° and bake for an additional 25 to 35 minutes. The pie is done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow the pie to cool and settle for at least an hour before slicing and serving.  Serve alone or with a dollop of whipped cream.


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Home & Homemade Tuscan Bean Soup

photo-294I know you’re sick of hearing me talk about unpacking boxes and sorting and organizing.  But, I’ll bet you that I’m even more sick of actually unpacking the boxes and sorting and organizing.  I have good news – I AM DONE!  There are still a few things left to hang on the wall and a couple of knick-knacks to place in the perfect spot, but overall, I AM DONE.

And here we are – home.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that word lately.  I had always considered 5501 Bryan Street (our Dallas address) to be home, and the cabin was a sacred summer and holiday retreat.  Our house in New Orleans has been the party pad and doesn’t really feel like home yet – I’ve never cooked a meal in the kitchen there, which to me makes a house feel more like a home than anything else.  I really only go into our New Orleans kitchen to mix cocktails or to pour glasses of wine.  I’m relieved to not have 5501 Bryan Street anymore (the enormous expense, the repairs it needed, and the neighbor’s constant noise pollution with their endless pursuit of perfection with their leaf blower…) but I haven’t quite grasped that the Dusty Dog is now home.  It still seems odd that there is no end date to being at the cabin looming on the horizon somewhere just past the holidays.  I keep reminding myself, this is it, this is home.  And in the morning, when I wake up and see the amazing view from my bed, I am in awe that this really is it.  I am home.

photo-301To celebrate home and being done unpacking I decided to make soup and order cable.  To me, soup is one of the definitions of home and cable means football, which also defines home.  We don’t watch any television at all, except for football.  Really, it’s true – no television at all.

On the way to the Dusty Dog, Rhonda called the cable company to get cable set up.  She ended up getting mad because of their manipulative packages and cancellation fees, so she cancelled the cable before they even finished the cable installation phone call.  She felt all righteous about rebelling against the cable company, and when the last two Sundays came, she was a really good sport (no pun intended) about following the game scores on her IPad.  I saw a golden opportunity because on our anniversary, we had agreed not to get anything for each other since we were spending A LOT of money on beginning the restoration process on our house in New Orleans.  I should know better than to believe Rhonda when she says she isn’t getting me anything for a special occasion.  On the morning of our anniversary she had not one, but three beautifully wrapped Stanley Korshak boxes for me.  Nothing shabby about Stanley Korshak – AT ALL!  She got me a leather mini skirt that ended up being too short and reminiscent of something I wore as a cheerleader and two incredible necklaces.  I was mad at myself for not getting her anything and decided the gift of football was the best thing I could give her two weeks post anniversary.

photo-296The first game we watched while eating homemade Tuscan bean soup was our beloved New Orleans Saints – Who Dat!!!

I have no idea where I got the inspiration for this Tuscan Bean Soup.  About 8 years ago, I made this soup for the first time, and then several months later wanted to make it again but couldn’t remember where I got the recipe.  I remembered the basic idea of the soup and improvised.  This recipe is the result.  It’s thick and hearty with a tangy tomato base.  It’s a meal on it’s own or with a side of salad or saute’ed spinach.  And it’s the perfect match for cold Fall days or the first snow of the season days.  The soup worked it’s magic filling the Dusty Dog with the smell of something savory cooking on the stove – it was the perfect meal to celebrate being done with ALL THOSE BOXES, the Saints winning, and arriving home.

Tuscan Bean Soup


1 – 15 ounce can cannellini beans drained or approximately 1 cup of dry cannellini beans soaked and cooked

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large sweet onion chopped

4 stalks celery diced

4 cloves garlic minced

10 cups water

4 tsp vegetable bouillon

1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (I LOVE imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp thyme

1/4 to 1/2 tsp oregeno

black pepper to taste

2 cups cooked tiny pasta – like conchigliette or ditalini

fresh shredded parmesan for garnishing

Preparing the Soup:

Heat oil in the bottom of a dutch oven.  Add the onion, celery, and garlic saute’ing until translucent – approximately 5 minutes.

photo-297Add the tomatoes, water, bouillon, thyme, oregano, and pepper.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Simmer for 2 to 3 hours on low.

photo-300Just before serving the soup, add the beans and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes.  If you prefer a really thick soup, you can add the beans about an hour or an hour and a half before you’re ready to eat.

After you’ve added the beans heat a pot of water to boiling then add your tiny pasta of choice.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  While the pasta is boiling grate the parmesan.

Assembling the Soup:

Pour the finished soup into a soup bowl, place about two tablespoons of pasta in the center and top with fresh grated parmesan.  Mangia!


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I’ve Landed

photo-158Well hello gnocchi no. 9 fans – I’ve missed you!  It’s been a whirlwind as you already know, and it’s still whirling, but not as out of control as it was before we landed back at the Dusty Dog.  I don’t want to make excuses for why I haven’t been happily cooking and documenting recipes for you, but I’m going to anyway.  Within the short span of two months and two days, we did more than seems humanly possible.  It was SO MUCH that the list deserves bullet points:

  • We sold our house and rented it back from the new owner for a couple of weeks.
  • We packed up the house, our garage apartment, and our horrifyingly over-stuffed garage (I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of that mess).
  • We orchestrated and operated a two day estate sale with the help of awesome friends, tons of laughter, and lots of beer.
  • I had a hysterectomy complete with a two week recovery that didn’t include packing any boxes.
  • A gigantic eighteen wheeler moving truck and four men showed up and hauled our things to a super sized storage unit where our treasures they will stay until the day we can take them to our house in New Orleans, which is being worked on as I type.


  • After the moving truck pulled out, Rhonda and I became gypsies minus the colorful painted wagon, flouncy shirts and long broom skirts.  In other words, when we left our eccentric old house in East Dallas for the last time, we had several weeks of traveling around facing us.  First, we rented a casita on lots of property just south of Dallas for a week.  It was great because we could have our dogs with us but not so great when Rhonda got poison ivy all over her body.


  • Then, we spent a week in New Orleans celebrating halloween and meeting with carpenters and electricians about beginning work on our old wooden house.



  • Then, we went back to the casita on lots of property near Dallas for another week of frolicking in the woods and thankfully Rhonda didn’t get poison ivy the second time around.
  • Finally, on our nine year anniversary, we left the Texas prairies and plains behind and drove to Taos to settle in to our new life.


Looking back, I can’t believe we accomplished all of this and survived without getting a divorce or without someone getting their eyes clawed out.  I was close to clawing (and kicking and screaming) several times.  I’m still having nightmares about all of that packing and the sheer chaos of it all!

So, here we are at the Dusty Dog surrounded by Rocky Mountain glory and BOXES – I forgot to mention in my bulleted litany that in mid-October, Rhonda drove a U-haul full of stuff up to the cabin.  She was only here for a couple of days and didn’t have time to do anything more than move the boxes into their proper rooms then return to Dallas for the final days of moving madness.  So now, we are unpacking and placing things in an already full space.  How is it possible that we have so much stuff after that two day estate sale extravaganza and all of the things we gave to friends and family?  And what was I thinking when I packed all of these pantry items?

photo-285 Clearly, I wasn’t thinking about my already full Dusty Dog pantry!  How much salt can two people really use?


In order to accommodate all of our “I just can’t part with this” worldly possessions, we’ve had book shelves built for our office, an entire closet reworked with double hanging rods and shelves, extra shelves built into an oversized armoire, and we’ve ordered a new bed with storage drawers underneath.  I mean between the two of us you should see the clothes we have.  And books.  And a lot of, “I just can part with this” stuff.

If you would have told me last November, or even at the beginning of last summer that I would be living at the Dusty Dog by this time in 2013, I would have told said, “You are CRAZY.”

I mean bat shit CRAZY.  But the idea to sell our Dallas house was spoken setting the whole thing into motion.  The stars lined up, the planets did a little tango and here we are.  I have no idea what this exciting adventure is going to look like, or where this new chapter in our life will lead, but I am holding on for the ride.  There is no doubt it will bring lots of adventures, twists and turns, and definitely a whole lot of cooking.  Stay tuned for a recipe later this week – I promise I’ll make something good!


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Fresh, Vitamin Rich Juice

IMG_5440I hope you aren’t going to be let down that I’m following up last weeks compelling chronicles of the past month with a boring post about juicing.  I’ll try to make juicing as gripping as possible, but really, just how gripping can juicing be?

Liquids are about the only thing being produced and consumed in this house with our move in full swing.  Every morning, I make rich Italian coffee in our French press and berry and kale laden smoothies in the Vitamix.  I try to make a fresh, vitamin rich juice once a week.  OK, you caught me, I’m exaggerating.  I’d like to make fresh, vitamin rich juice once a week, but it doesn’t always happen.  In fact, if I want to be completely honest with you, which of course I do, then I have to confess, I haven’t made fresh, vitamin rich juice since just before we left for Paris.  I mean do you honestly think my juicer is still proudly displayed on my kitchen counter which has become the newest room added to the thrift store that has taken over my house. photo-280I can hardly make coffee and smoothies in this kitchen let alone clean and chop up a bunch of fruits and vegetables for juice.

IMG_5452I mean we are in the midst of packing hell and all of our meals eaten out or ordered in.

photo-278Luckily, just prior to leaving for our European adventure in May, I made and photographed the making of fresh, vitamin rich juice because I knew I’d be needing a few posts for when I was recovering from my surgery, which was supposed to take place back in May after my return from that vacation.  What can I say, sometimes I procrastinate.

You can get creative with this recipe and take away ingredients you don’t like substituting for things you prefer.  You can also add ginger, which really shakes things up and makes it spicier.  I don’t like ginger in my  juice so much, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it for yourself.  Go ahead, toss one half to one inch of peeled ginger root into the juicer along with all the other ingredients.  You can also skip the beets and make this primarily carrot juice or leave out more of the sugar by skipping some of the fruit.  Experiment and enjoy this fresh, vitamin rich juice.

Fresh, Vitamin Rich Juice

IMG_5458Note:  You need a juicer for this recipe.  I use an Omega juicer, which is easy to operate and quick to clean.  It doesn’t get stuck very often and can handle almost anything I put in there.  It does get a little stopped up when I try to add kale or spinach, so I’ve stopped adding fibrous greens to my juice.


4 large carrots

3 medium beets

1 pear

2 apples

How to Make Juice:

Chop all of the vegetables and fruit into pieces approximately an inch to two inches in size.  No need to peel or remove seeds.  Just chop!

IMG_5453The pieces need to be small enough to fit into the feeding tube of your juicer.  Place one piece of vegetable or fruit at a time into the feeding tube of your juicer and begin the juicing process.

IMG_5454You can see the solids on one side and the liquid (juice) on the other.  Some people like to keep the solids and make nutrition bars.  I say more power to you – nothing about those solids makes me want to mix them up into a healthy, weird tasting treat for later.

IMG_5462Keep going until you have used all of the vegetables and fruit, and you’ve got a fresh, vitamin rich juice that’s sweet and delicious.

IMG_5461Bottoms up!

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We’ve Got A LOT of Catching Up to Do!


You must be worried sick about where I’ve been.  Wondering…have I been in a car accident?  Have I been kidnapped and held for ransom?  Have I thrown in my apron and abandoned the blog ship?  Calm down, it’s nothing like that.  So, just exactly where have I been?  Well grab a glass of wine, have a seat, and let me tell you all about what’s going on – it’s A LOT.

First of all, I’m back in Dallas and have been for weeks now – since September 7th to be exact.  I know it’s a really long time to be somewhere new without telling you.  I had this really great post planned about how the only thing left in my refrigerator at the end of summer at the cabin were two bags of green beans.


See the green beans?  They’re up there by the wine, above the box of left over pizza.  I know it’s a bit of an exaggeration saying the only thing left in the refrigerator were green beans, but the other stuff bumping around in that near empty fridge, didn’t really constitute anything of substance.  I mean how much can you do with Bubbies Pickles, orange juice, hummus, and yogurt?  OK, you can do a lot with yogurt, but you know what I mean.

I also had tons of garlic left from the Taos Farmer’s Market, so I was going to whip up my garlic green beans for you just before heading back to Dallas.  Obviously that never happened or you would be adding garlic green beans to your weekly round of sides to go along with dinners.  I promise to make them for you soon!

Instead of making garlic green beans, photographing the process, and writing a gripping account of the whole experience, I spent the last week at the cabin, soaking up all of the things I love about the cabin and doing a bunch of other stuff like…Hiking to the top of our mountain.


And walking around and around the path in our front yard to admire all of the beautiful wild flowers my wife planted last summer.


And celebrating our best friend’s engagement and New Mexico’s legalizing of gay marriage.



And stacking two cords of wood.



Have you ever stacked two cords of wood?  It’s A LOT of work!

And after all of that fun and manual labor, it was time to drive back to Texas and there was no time left to make garlic green beans.  So, I know you can do the math and realize that something is still missing in this equation since that drive back to the prairie happened 23 days ago.  I promise I have some good explanations for what I’ve been doing the last three weeks.

First of all, Rhonda and I made a huge, life-changing, world tilting on its axis kind of decision this summer.  We’ve sold our house here in Dallas and are moving to the cabin –  kind of.  We still have to come back to Dallas every four weeks or so because, lets face it, money does make the world go round, and we aren’t quite ready for retirement yet.  We have a booming business to run that is located here in this metropolis on the prairie so monthly business trips will ensue.  But, when we aren’t in this urban oasis, we’ll spend our time in Taos and begin working on our very rough diamond of a victorian house in New Orleans.  I cannot wait for that project to begin.  Did I mention it’s a diamond in the very roughest sense of the word.  I mean rough!

The first two weeks of being back home in Dallas, I began the agonizing chore of packing up our house, our garage, and the garage apartment.


This is not a task for the faint of heart – Rhonda has lived here for 12 years, and I joined her two years later.  We’ve been in treasure hunting and gathering mode ever since.  We can collect some junk now let me tell you!  My dining room has turned into a thrift store ready for the gigantic estate sale I’m having in October.  It frightens me to even walk in there.  In fact, at this point, I can hardly even get in there to walk.


My living room has become a store house for things going to storage until the day we can move them to New Orleans.


Yep, you got it right, those are mummies in the corner.  I told you we’re collectors of treasures.  Thankfully we’ve already sold some larger furniture items (notice the absence of dining room and living room furniture), but we are a long way from gone from this house!

So, back to the math, if I’ve been home for three weeks and packed for two, then what in the world have I been doing with myself for the past week?  Lady troubles!  Yep, you read that right, I said lady troubles.  What does that mean?  That means I had to have lady surgery – you know the one, the Big H as I’ve dubbed the entire experience.  It’s true, I wouldn’t make this stuff up.  Look, here’s proof.


I’m surprised by how happy I look in this photo considering it was just prior to being wheeled off to surgery, and I was really anxious about the whole thing.  I mean who wouldn’t be anxious about having some of their insides removed along with a fibroid tumor I named Loretta, which was the size of a small grapefruit?  By the way, I think the anesthesiologist had already begun pumping my veins full of happy juice when this photo was taken.

Anyway, the surgery was smooth sailing and “textbook” according to my gynecologist.  I won’t horrify you with a photo of the ugly, alien looking thing they took out of me, but I do have a photo thanks to my wife who asked my doctor to text it to her.  I’m surprised she didn’t ask if we could take Loretta home in a specimen jar.  Actually, I would’ve liked to add Loretta to my collection of weird possessions.  For example, she could have been displayed somewhere near our two headed taxidermy cow and our newest addition a tiny mouse deer head.

I’m a week and a day into recovery and writing to you from my “Frida bed” – it’s the name my friend Chuck and I have given to the antique murphy bed in my den.  When not being used as a bed, this hulking piece of furniture looks like an amour with a mirror on the front complete with victorian wood carving.  Here it is the minute I spotted it at Canton’s East Texas First Monday Trade Days.


But instead of opening up to a cupboard for linens and old quilts it folds down into a double bed.  It is absolute antique perfection!  We’ve nicknamed it the “Frida bed” because I feel kind of like Frida Kahlo in this ornate bed in the middle of my den receiving visitors.  It’s true – the only thing is the mirror is under me and out of sight rather than above me.  See for yourself:


Rhonda even decorated the headboard with a garland of ivy and hyacinth vine from our garden. As I said, I’m writing to you from that bed right now and awaiting my evening guests who are joining me for happy hour at six.  Who has happy hour while they’re recovering?  Well, I do – look, I feel better, I just can’t ride in a car yet, and I’m supposed to lay in bed for another week.  I thought, why not organize a party and have my friends over for some much needed drinks.  That way I can have some fun and entertainment that doesn’t involve Wife Swap or Unsolved Mysteries.  Think back to the movie about Frida – remember when her friends took her in her bed to that party?  Same thing here, only my friends are coming to me, and I’m staying in the bed!  Maybe I should have thought this through a little more and gotten flowers for my hair.

Anyway, it might be a few weeks before you actually get any recipes out of me since once this whole recovery fiasco is over I have to get back to the drudgery of packing, but I promise you’ll be hearing from me sometime soon.  Whew, I sure am glad we’re all caught up now, and you can relax knowing I haven’t abandoned the blog wagon!


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Hatch Green Chile & Cheddar Quiche


This is the time of year when I go to the grocery store, step out of my car, and the air is infused with the scent of roasting chiles.  It’s a heady, peppery smell that let’s me know it’s Hatch green chile season in New Mexico.  The local grocery stores set up chile roasters attached to oversized propane tanks, and people line up with their shopping carts laden with enormous burlap bags of green chiles.



This year those burlap bags have been replaced with boxes of chiles – I kind of liked the old world feel of those burlap sacks.


I’d never seen anything like it until we came up here for our first summer, and I couldn’t imagine what these people were going to do with all of those chiles.  It turns out they take their roasted chiles home and freeze them so they have a steady supply for the entire year.  With all those green chiles they make things like chile rellenos and green chile stew.  They add the chiles to casseroles and use them as a topping for burgers and just about anything you can imagine.

This year, I decided to join the chile craze.  I didn’t buy a boxful, but I did get a small ziplock bag of roasted chiles that they sell in most grocery stores.  It’s just the right amount of chiles to add to a recipe.


A couple of weeks ago, we decided to have a brunch for friends and neighbors, and it was just the beginning of Hatch chile season.  I thought a couple of green chile and cheddar quiches would be the perfect main dish.  As you know from my previous post on chiles, my taste buds aren’t cut out for extra hot spicy food, so I selected mild chiles.  Just because they are mild, doesn’t mean they don’t pack a slight punch.  It’s just enough kick to make me feel like I’m participating in the chile fiesta, but not so much heat that my mouth is on fire for the rest of the day.

The brunch was a huge success with 14 of us total and a gloriously sunny Sunday.  Along with the green chile and cheddar quiche, we served bacon, prosciutto, smoked salmon, boursin cheese, cantaloupe, and blueberry muffins.  To top it all off, we had mimosas and bloody marys with spicy green beans instead of olives.


These quiche were so good, I made them again this past weekend for our friends Chuck and Stan who were visiting from Dallas.  They were the perfect compliment to our first breakfast together.

Even if you’re not in New Mexico right now, I bet you can still find some Hatch green chiles wherever you are.  If you can’t find fresh chiles have no fear, look in the Mexican section of your grocery store and there you should find small cans of green chiles.  They usually come in mild, medium, or hot, and also come chopped or whole.  Don’t miss out on this year’s chile season – run, don’t walk, and get yourself some Hatch green chiles, make some quiche, and host a brunch.  And don’t forget the mimosas and bloody marys!

Hatch Green Chile & Cheddar Quiche


Make one pie crust using the recipe for yogurt tart dough or pate’ brisee (I’ve been using the yogurt tart dough recipe lately adding the olive oil instead of butter, which makes it much healthier than traditional crust, and it is perfect for quiche).


Note:  The following recipe is for one quiche.

Quiche Ingredients:

3 eggs

4 Hatch green chiles chopped or 1 small can of green chiles chopped

3/4 cup good quality sharp cheddar cheese freshly grated

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

1/4 tsp dry mustard

pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375°.  Place the eggs, heavy cream, milk, dry mustard, and pepper into a large mixing bowl and whisk until incorporated.  Fold in the shredded cheese and chopped chiles.  Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust.


If you have one of those things to cover the edges of your pie crust to keep it from burning then place that on the rim of the pie dish.  If you don’t have one of those things then place foil around the edge for the first 20 minutes of baking.  Bake for a total of 30 to 40 minutes or until the center is set and a knife comes out clean.

Makes 1 quiche that serves 6 to 8


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Posted in Breakfast, Brunch, Celebrating, Eggs, Main Dishes, Miscellaneous, Quiche, Recipes, Savory Pies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments