Monday, November 28, 2011

Buffalo Trace

I was excited to try some new bourbons last month for National Bourbon Month. I was hoping to find a less expensive “everyday” bourbon, but that was a huge FAIL as I’ve found anything less expensive than what we normally drink is undrinkable and headache inducing (something about getting older I guess, but I just can’t drink cheap liquor without getting a hangover). I do have a good lead from our friend John who is a rancher and drinker of excellent bourbon who drinks Weller Bourbon as his everyday bourbon so I’m going to have to check that out.

In the meantime, we’re sticking with Buffalo Trace as our everyday bourbon. I love the smoothness and tiny bit of sweetness.

We “discovered” Buffalo Trace two years ago at our wedding. My dad really wanted to buy John, the owner of the ranch, a bottle of bourbon to thank him for hosting the wedding. I didn’t drink bourbon back then, and I had no idea what to get so my dad took to the interwebs. He began researching and found the phone number for one of the other family ranches in Texas. He called over there and they referred him to another guy in the accounting office who said with total certainty that John’s preferred bourbon is Buffalo Trace, which, as it turned out, was easy to find and inexpensive.

So, my dad brought some Buffalo Trace down for the wedding and gave it to John. My dad was quite pleased that he had found John’s favorite bourbon. The day after the wedding, we had a great time sitting around the main house drinking bourbon with our parents, John and his wife, and the ranch manager and his wife (who was also our photographer). After a couple of glasses, John remarked that this bourbon is pretty good, and my dad was, of course, surprised. It turns out that John had never heard of Buffalo Trace before, but we all agreed that it was pretty good, and we’ve been drinking it ever since.

UPDATE: I just googled Weller Bourbon, and it turns out that it is now bottled by the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Maybe that solves the mystery as to why the accountant was so certain that John drinks Buffalo Trace. We’ll have to do a taste test comparison!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: The Ultimate Leftover Sandwich

The last of my Thanksgiving favorites - the leftovers sandwich. Andrew had this sandwich at a bakery on Bainbridge Island the day after Thanksgiving many years ago. Ever since, it is our family tradition on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Loaf of High Quality Fresh Bread, sliced
Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey
The most decadent Brie Cheese you can get your hands on, sliced
Mango Chutney
Mixed Baby Greens

Serve with a green salad, leftover sweet potatoes and stuffing and a generously poured mimosa. Yum!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: The Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie on left

We can’t have a Thanksgiving dinner at our house without the grand finale – the pumpkin pie. I’ve never been much of a pumpkin pie person. I find that often pumpkin pie is kind of boring and soggy, but when I tried Rosie’s mom’s, it changed pumpkin pie for me. I love this recipe because it is rich and creamy and the apricot jam gives it a nice kick. The crust calls for whipping cream instead of water. I use canned pumpkin because according to the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, most people can’t distinguish between fresh and canned pumpkin once it is baked in a pie. This can be made one day ahead.

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie 
(there sure are a lot of ultimates in Thanksgiving recipes)
Adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe, but I’m not sure what month or year

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
½ (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons whipping cream

¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon packed golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon (generous) salt
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
¾ cup whipping cream
½ cup sour cream
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
¼ cup apricot preserves

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend first 3 ingredients in processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cream and process until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 15 minutes.

Roll out dough on floured surface to 14-inch round. Transfer dough to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1 inch. Fold overhang under. Make cut in crust edge at ½ inch intervals. Bend alternate edge pieces inward. Freeze 15 minutes.

Line crust with foil, pressing firmly. Bake until sides are set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil. Bake crust until pale brown, about 10 minutes more. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.

Spread preserves over bottom of crust; pour in filling. Bake until filling puffs at edges and center is almost set, about 55 minutes. Cool on rack. Cover; chill until cold.

For Filling:
Using whisk, mix first 6 ingredients in bowl until no lumps remain. Blend in pumpkin, whipping cream, sour cream and eggs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I laughed when I saw this slide show on to test your gaybardar. A few weeks ago, we wanted to grab a quick drink before our dinner reservations. We stopped in for a drink at a new bar (well, I don’t really know how new it is because we don’t stroll around downtown very often anymore, but it was new to us).

After we had ordered and been served, we noticed that this is a gay bar. We took note so we can bring Andrew’s brother there in December when he’s visiting. We’ve promised him that Santa Fe is crawling with the gays, and we don’t want to disappoint. We are one of the gayest cities in America after all!

There was a family of touristos sitting near the door. From what we could tell, it was a woman and her husband and the woman’s parents. They were drinking chocolate martinis and talking loudly about the Simpsons and Glenn Close in Damages. About a half hour after we sat down, the family realized that they were at a gay bar and were obviously totally embarrassed. They high tailed it out of there pretty fast.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: The Stuffing

I love Thanksgiving stuffing and have tried many recipes over the years, but my favorite is from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, which Andrew's dad introduced me to. How can you not love a cookbook with a cover like this:

We don’t actually stuff our stuffing, but it is still awesome. It’s packed full of good stuff like dried apricots, slivered almonds, pork sausage and Grand Marnier!

Grand Marnier Apricot Stuffing
Adapted from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook

1 cup diced dried apricots
1 ½ cups Grand Marnier
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups coarsely chopped celery
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 pound herb stuffing mix (I use a box or bag from the coop or Whole Foods)
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cups homemade chicken stock
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the apricots and 1 cup of Grand Marnier in small saucepan. Heat to boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside. Melt ½ cup of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and sauté for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Cook the pork sausage in the same skillet, crumbling with a fork, until it is no longer pink. Remove from the heat and add to the celery/onion mixture. Add the stuffing mix, apricots with liquid and almonds. Heat the remaining ½ cup butter and the stock in a small saucepan just until the butter melts. Pour over the stuffing mixture and add the remaining ½ cup Grand Marnier. Stir well to moisten the stuffing. Season with the thyme and salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake stuffing, covered, 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake until cooked through and beginning to brown on top, about 20 minutes longer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Princeton 55ers

Blaine and his grandson.
Our families and closest friends live across the country, and while I do love our friends in New Mexico, it can feel a little lonely sometimes. For me, it’s so comforting to be with people who have known me for years and years through different parts of my life. That will come eventually with our friends in New Mexico, I hope, but in the meantime, I feel so honored that we’ve been welcomed into a group of lifelong friends who’ve known each other for decades.

Our friend Blaine graduated from Princeton in 1955, and every year his college roommates come out to New Mexico for a rafting trip. They’ve been doing the rafting trip for plus or minus 13 years and have rafted many of the great rivers of the Southwest. The Princeton trip also includes good friends of Blaine’s that he has met over the years rafting, and the 55ers always have family members – wives, kids, grandkids – along too. There are about 10 people who go every year, and last summer we were 30. We ranged in age from 13 to 87!

This was the year that Blaine's wife got us all matching t-shirts in the Princeton colors.

We were lucky enough to be invited on the Princeton trip for the first time a few years ago, and it is so much fun to spend a weekend on the river with this special group of people that has been doing it for years. It’s like a rafting family.

Hanging out in the river drinking beer after a day on the river.
We missed the Princeton trip this summer because of work, but there was a reunion this week. One of the 55ers passed away last year after a battle with cancer, and his wife had never met all of the rafting people. She came out to New Mexico this week to meet everyone and hear rafting stories and share a wonderful meal. (One of the best parts of rafting with Blaine is that he is an amazing cook, and we eat incredible gourmet food on the river.)

Until next summer!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey

Dog girls are always so attentive when it's time to carve the turkey!

The first year that Andrew and I spent Thanksgiving together, we house sat for some friends in Taos. I had spent weeks planning the menu and gathering all of the ingredients. We headed to Taos with no less than three big coolers filled with food.

When we arrived on Wednesday night, Andrew spent three hours cleaning the oven in preparation for the next day (our friends had warned us that the last time they used it, something had spilled and that we would probably want to clean it out first). If you’ve cleaned an oven, you know how gross it is. The next morning, he got up and finished cleaning the oven so we could start baking.

After trying to pre-heat the oven, we quickly discovered that the oven didn’t actually work. It was about 11:00 am on Thanksgiving morning in Taos, and we had a ridiculously expensive fresh turkey that needed cooking. Ack!

After all of the preparations we had done, there was no way we were going to abandon our plan. Andrew quickly got on the phone with his relatives in Memphis, and his grandmother advised that we could cook our turkey on a charcoal grill. Luckily, our friends had a big grill so we headed to town and bought all of the charcoal we could find at the gas stations that were open. I think we ended up with three or four small bags.

It was a lot of fun maneuvering that huge turkey on the grill, and even more fun because it turned out just fine. The pumpkin pie tasted a little like charcoal, but it was an awesome Thanksgiving.

It turned out pretty good, don't you think?
We’ve refined our turkey cooking over the years, and I think we have a pretty good recipe now. I use the Ultimate Turkey recipe from the November 2005 Bon Appétit as my base recipe.

Tips that I follow from this issue include:
  • Buy a fresh turkey – frozen turkeys won’t be nearly as juicy. All of that water you see when you defrost a turkey used to be in the bird.
  • Buy organic – without a doubt it will taste better. Our coop offers a variety of local turkeys so we’ve tried several types over the years. I like the gamier tasting ones.
  • Butter makes everything better – Amen!
  • Baste – don’t underestimate its value in keeping your bird moist.
  • Let the bird brown – the previous two tips will keep it moist. Don’t be afraid to let it be a nice chestnut brown.
The tips that I’ve added on my own are:
  • Use homemade chicken broth for basting - It’s super easy and tastes way way better. It’s definitely worth it! You can make your broth now and freeze it so it is all ready for Thanksgiving.
  • Set your turkey out on the counter for a few hours before you put it in the oven to get it to room temperature.
  • Use thick, good quality bacon strips to keep your bird moist.  As a bonus, you can snack on them while the turkey is being carved.

The Ultimate Turkey
8 servings
adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2005

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme plus 15 fresh thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon plus 5 large fresh tarragon sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary plus 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage plus 5 fresh sage sprigs

1 14- to 16- pound turkey
12-15 pieces thick bacon

4 cups homemade chicken broth, divided

Mix ½ cup butter and all minced herbs in small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at the neck end, slide your hand between the skin and breast meat to loosen the skin. Rub 4 tablespoons herbed butter over breast meat under the skin. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Sprinkle main cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place 4 tablespoons plain butter and all fresh herb sprigs in main cavity. Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely. Rub remaining herb butter over outside of turkey. Sprinkle turkey generously with salt and pepper. Place bacon strips over the legs, wing tips and breast.

Place turkey in oven and roast 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon remaining plain butter to roasting pan. Roast turkey 30 minutes; baste with pan juices, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Cover turkey loosely with foil. Roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh registers 175 degrees, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup of broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer. Transfer turkey to platter; let stand 30 minutes (internal temp will rise 5 to 10 degrees).

Strain pan juices into bowl; and if desired, they can be used to create the gravy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: The Fabulous Sweet Potatoes

Andrew’s family has a long-held tradition of making sweet potatoes following his grandmother’s recipe. The recipe itself is delicious and decadent, and they have a fun tradition of selecting a meaningful letter from the family to put on top with marshmallows.

An L in 2005 for the new dog girl in the family.

You can imagine how excited I was in 2006 when Andrew’s mom and her sisters used an M for Meghan.

In 2007, it was an R for Rosie who was visiting us.
looking cute

In 2008, Andrew and I did an O for Obama and our engagement (an O for the ring) – a double whammy. I sent the Obamas a copy of this picture with their invitation to the wedding.
before baking

We spent Thanksgiving with friends and family in 2009 and 2010, and I know we definitely made sweet potatoes, but I don't have any photos. I guess those letters are lost to the ages.

Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes

8 sweet potatoes (we use half yellow and half red; select potatoes that are roughly the same size)
Vegetable oil
2 sticks butter
½ cup bourbon
Brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Tin foil
Large marshmallows
Whole pecans

The night before Thanksgiving:
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Clean sweet potatoes well, prick them all over with a fork and rub with vegetable oil. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour until they soften. The skin will begin to brown and when you pierce them with a fork, they will be soft inside. Remove from oven and let cool until you can comfortably touch them. Remove skins by hand and place the insides in a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher or use a hand held electric mixture to create a puree. Mix in the butter, bourbon and spices and brown sugar to taste. Spread sweet potatoes into a 9x13 pan. Use the large marshmallows to make your chosen letter. Press the whole pecans into the top of the sweet potatoes around the marshmallows. Place toothpicks in the pan and cover with tin foil. Refrigerate overnight.

Thanksgiving Day:
Remove the pan from the fridge and let sit to warm up to room temp. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for a half hour until the marshmallows start to melt.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Last Harvest of the Season

We cleaned out the SFG this weekend and shut down our operation for the season.  This is the last of the harvest.

Hey, I love you!

Happy Birthday my sweet husband!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: The Salad

My mom and I had this salad at the Artichoke Café in Albuquerque several years ago. It was the year that Andrew and I were going to spend our first Thanksgiving together, and the first year that I could put what I had learned from Rosie’s mom to the test. I had only been cooking on my own for a little over a year at that point so I was a little lost about what sides to serve and how to plan out the menu. When we had this salad, though, we both decided it would make a good addition to Thanksgiving dinner, and I’ve been making it every year since.

I love the sweet and salty of the candied pecans and blue cheese, and the sliced pear adds a nice freshness. The original salad used pear infused olive oil, but I couldn’t find any so I went with pear infused balsamic, which I found easily at the whole foods. If you can find one or the other, definitely use it as it brings the salad to the next level and makes it a little more special for a holiday salad.

This is really more of a list of ingredients and some general guidelines. You can customize this salad to your liking.

Thanksgiving Salad with Blue Cheese, Pear, and Candied Pecans

Baby mixed greens
Blue cheese
A firm, but ripe pear, such as an Anjou, thinly sliced
Pecans (about ¼ cup)
Dried cranberries
2 tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp Water
Good quality olive oil
Pear infused balsamic vinegar
Dry mustard
Salt and Pepper
Optional: if you don't have dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds work well too

Place sugar and water in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat; stir to dissolve sugar. Add the pecans and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stirring often. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the pecans are golden and coated in the sauce. Careful not to let the pecans burn. Lay out to cool on parchment paper.

To make the dressing, mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic, add minced shallot, dash of dry mustard and sea salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Toss with greens, and top with blue cheese crumbles, pear slices, pecans and dried cranberries (or pomegranate seeds).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Goal

Fishing in the bio-preserve near Tulum on our honeymoon.
I really only have one big goal for November. I want to spend a relaxing and slow vacation with Andrew in Nicaragua. My goal this month is to be flexible, adventurous, and laid back. I have lots I want to do - I want to see Olive Ridley turtles laying their eggs on the beaches near San Juan del Sur, go deep sea fishing, kayak on Rio Istian, climb Volcan Maderas, catch bonefish from the beach, swim in Lake Nicaragua, try zip lining, and snooze on the beaches of Little Corn Island – but my goal is to just go with the flow. I know no matter what we do, it will be an amazing experience.

Cheers to embracing the Nicaraguan sentiment – Hay más tiempo que vida (there is more time than life).

We have a lot to do to finish getting ready and a big to-do list, but I know it will all get done.

Here’s how I did on my October goals:

Nica trip: Get serious and start making hotel and plane reservations. – Yes, we have reservations, plane tickets, vaccinations and a long to-do list for the rest of it.

□ Bring rest of the gravel to the neighbor’s house. – A friend has taken most of the rest of the gravel, and our yard is now almost gravel-free.
□ Start preparing raised beds for winter. - Yes
□ Clean out our plot at the community garden. – No, I think we might just let this wait until the spring.

□ Celebrate our anniversary! – Yes!
□ Go to the ranch. – Yes, we had a great time relaxing at the ranch.
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