Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Merry Little Cowgirl Christmas

Perhaps watch me neigh neigh would be a more appropriate title for this post. Tractor Supply Company, you have done it again and provided me with even more cowgirl inspiration for this holiday season.

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and the presents are all dolled up in cowgirl couture. 

Vintage cowgirl, cowhide and running horses patterned wrapping paper adorn our gifts this year.

Lassoed in burlap ribbons, of course, in natural and red tones are the perfect rustic accent on the presents.

And, handmade wooden gift tags with horsey silhouettes round out the finish.

So watch me whip - watch me neigh neigh, and have yourself a very merry little cowgirl Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

"Red and Green" Tortilla Pinwheels

These bite sized, flavor packed hors d' oeuvres give me another excuse to break out some of our 30-pound stash of New Mexico green chiles. Carefully preserved in our freezer, our chiles are ready to go when the need arises.

Not to be used in any ole recipe though, they're reserved for only those deemed worthy. And this one from New Mexico Magazine's Culinary Editor, Cheryl Alters Jamison, certainly fills the bill, much like her other creations that I've tried.

I can't think of anyone else's recipes that I would trust more than Cheryl's to use our beloved home-roasted supply in. The "green" in these savory appetizers obviously comes from chiles. And the "red" from tiny bits of pimientos. 

If you are concerned about being an official red-green Christmas combo, you could always add a dusting of red chile powder over the cream cheese before rolling.

Holiday Tortilla Pinwheels
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
4 thin flour tortillas, 9 or 10 inches in diameter
¾ cup chopped green chiles, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup pimiento-stuffed olives, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and garlic powder. Spread cream cheese mixture over tortillas. Sprinkle each tortilla with chiles, cheddar, olives and cilantro. Roll tortillas up snugly. Wrap individually in plastic and chill for at least one hour as long as overnight.

Unwrap each tortilla log, and cut crosswise into ¾-inch slices. Serve with a favorite salsa on the side, if desired.

(Recipe adapted from Cheryl Alters Jamison via New Mexico Magazine, Dec 2015)

Only four more days....

Monday, December 14, 2015

Twelve days and counting

The oddest thing about working in print media is how far ahead of the current calendar day you work on things. Why, before trick-or-treaters were picking out their costumes, we were interviewing businesses about Christmas open houses, holiday wine pairings, seasonal decorating trends, and New Year’s Eve happenings. In this world, January has already flown right on by. In fact, we’re taping a TV segment on Wednesday about Super Bowl party snacks. So that means spring is right around the corner, right?

Wrong! What happened to Christmas? Did I fall into a deep, dreamy sleep and miss it? No way - we still have 12 days to go. Twelve days of shopping, work, wrapping, work, baking, work and preparing for our loved ones’ visit. I am proud to say, though, that I am finally finished with the Christmas decorations.

 Good thing - I’ve only been working on them since September…

Stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

A (new to me) antique sled and maple syrup bucket greet visitors at our door.

My 18-year-old topiary that I revived with new ivy, lights, balls and plaid ribbon.

A rustic urn filled with pine cones and metallic balls adorns the dining room buffet.

A winter scene pillow with birds, holly and poinsettias dresses a side chair.

A wooden bowl with pine cones, fresh  greens and hand-wrapped fabric candy canes fills the
living room with a pine scent.

A stocking dedicated to our four-legged friend.

More fresh greens fill a bowl in the kitchen sitting area.

Wishing you a joyous Christmas season!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Milagro Tree

This little table-top Christmas tree is adorned with treasures that my husband and I have picked up over the years when traveling to New Mexico. From its Milagros ornaments, chile peppers, prayer cards, turquoise balls and burlap ribbons, the tree represent many of the things we love about the state.

Milagro, also known as an ex-voto, means miracle or surprise in Spanish. These tiny religious folk charms are historically used for healing purposes. You’ll find them all over New Mexico attached to altars, shrines and sacred objects in places of worship.

Chile peppers grow in abundance in New Mexico. Red, green or Christmas (red and green) are key ingredients used in the savory sauces that are ladled over many dishes in New Mexican cuisine – everything from enchiladas and tamales to cheeseburgers and pizza (yes, pizza) can be smothered in chiles and often is. 


Turquoise – who can resist the rich and calming color of turquoise stones which embellish everything from jewelry and cowboy hats to cow skulls and horse saddles.

Our prayer cards were found in an off-the-beaten-path monastery surrounded by desert and mountains.

And of course…burlap, which represents the rustic beauty of the land.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Biscochitos - New Mexico's beloved holiday cookie

Officially dedicated as New Mexico’s state cookie in 1989, Biscochitos are typically made at Christmas and are a beloved holiday tradition. Their unique flavor comes from anise seed and brandy. 

If you can’t find the seeds, anise extract is an option. And, if you must, you can use vegetable shortening, but it's the lard that gives these little cookies their light and flaky texture.

A few more holiday cookie recipes worth adding to your list like French Coconut Madeleines and Greek Finikia are featured in the December issue of Boomers and Beyond

Yield: 5 dozen

2 cups sugar, divided
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups lard or vegetable shortening
2 eggs
2 teaspoons anise seeds, toasted or ½ teaspoon anise extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup brandy

Heat the oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheets. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine ½ cup sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Cream lard until fluffy. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups sugar, eggs, and anise seeds or anise extract and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Combine with shortening mixture. Add brandy and mix thoroughly.

On a well-floured surface, roll dough out about ¼ inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Sprinkle cookies with cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to cooling racks, and when completely cooled, place in airtight containers or freeze.

(Recipe adapted from Santa Fe School of Cooking, Celebrating the Foods of New Mexico, Gibbs Smith, 2015)

Monday, November 16, 2015

What's Hot this Holiday

No...I haven't decorated my home for Christmas yet - I'm all about that late fall look for Thanksgiving. I just wanted to share some of the photos and holiday trend tips that I put together for an article in our local December Boomers and Beyond newspaper. One nice thing about writing a blog is that I can share the photos that didn't make it into the paper due to space limitations.

All of the photos in this piece were taken at Cottage on the River, a home decor boutique in Grand Rapids, Ohio. A special thanks to my friends, Karen and Erika, for opening their shop up for pre-open house photos. 

And, as I mentioned, here is what's trending in decorating this holiday season. 

Faux fur. From stockings and table runners to robes and slippers, faux fur will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy.

Personalization. Anything can be customized these days with initials, monograms and phrases that say – this is our home

Look for ornaments, tags and banners coated in chalkboard paint and fill your abode with expression.

Plaid! Pillows, garlands, wrapping paper and ribbons are showing their Scottish side in tartans, hounds tooth, checks and window pane plaids. 

Traditional green and red, bright, or pastel patterns are in abundance this season.

No Cords. No need to play the extension cord game. Unplug with cordless wreaths, garlands, swags and greenery for your outdoor decorating needs. 

Many come with remote controls so no more running outdoors to light up your display.

Non-traditional Color Combos. Mix it up with a new color combination. Try cranberry and mocha, mixed metals, or silver and frost.

Flocked Trees. Bring the outdoors in with a flocked Christmas tree that exudes that freshly fallen snow effect.

Let the countdown begin! Showcase your family's individuality and style, and create an unforgettable holiday and memories that last well into 2016.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Easy as Pie - Grand Traverse Pie Co.

On any given Saturday, or in this case Sunday, you can find me and my husband tooling around Ann Arbor, MI. While it’s not too far away, it’s just far enough to give us that get the heck out of dodge feeling. 

Each time we visit, we look for new spots to explore – the most important place, of course, is where to have lunch. In a city known as a culinary epicenter, finding something fresh and interesting is as easy as pie.

Our 45 minute drive north gives me the opportunity to peruse through my handy Ann Arbor and vicinity visitor’s guide to investigate our final dining destination. 

This week’s find was the Grand Traverse Pie Company, which has 15 locations throughout Michigan including: Traverse City, Petoskey, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and lucky for us, Ann Arbor.

Pie is their specialty, and special they are, all created from fruits grown in Michigan. 

The usual flavors looked lovely, but it was the combo pies that looked the most delightful – strawberry rhubarb; cherry peach; and the ABC pie or apple, blueberry and cherry. 

Most are available with a traditional pie crust or with a buttery crumb topping. 

And then there were the fruit bars…

Oh wait, we did go there for lunch. 

The selection of quiche, pot pies, sandwiches and salads looked almost as scrumptious as the pies, almost... 

Have a great day!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cowgirl Up

It is with great pleasure that I report that Cowgirl Couture is cropping up all around us. From fashion magazines and shopping malls to online and local retailers, southwestern-inspired clothing is in abundance this fall.

Layers of turquoise from the pages of Cowgirl magazine - December 2015

Designers such as Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel have been ramping up the trend on the runways for a few years now by blending equestrian, Native American and Ranch wear features into a wild west meets urban cowgirl panache.

Velvet jacket, broomstick skirt and Gaucho hat - Cowgirl magazine Dec. 2015

Even O.P.I. entered the game by offering its Texas line of nail polishes.

Lucky for us, these haute couture designs have brought leather, cowhide, fringe and ruffles into mainstream cowgirl chic. Just lasso some boots, broomstick skirts, shawls or ponchos, and blanket coats and you’re set for the season. The horse is optional.

Cashmere cape, cardigan and felt hat - Cowgirl magazine - Oct/Nov 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2 Cowgirls Cook Cherry Chicken Enchiladas

It’s not every day that you get an offer from a friend who has a great enchilada recipe and wants to come over and make it for you. No argument here – sounded like a great way to spice up a ho-hum Monday evening to me.

Indeed it was! Gail brought over homemade Cowboy Caviar, which was chock full of fresh veggies, beans and black-eyed peas, plus all of the ingredients for Cherry Chicken Enchiladas. My only contribution was a hunk of my 30-pound stash of Hatch green chiles and a little vino.

The recipe she brought over is from Cherry Republic, a company that creates wonderful salsas, preserves and sauces from Michigan cherries.

Alas I couldn’t possibly have let Gail do all of the work in my kitchen, so I made sure that I chopped a few things and did my best to drive her crazy by taking step-by-step pictures. All worth it – here is the recipe we used. We Cowgirls highly recommend it.

Cherry Chicken Enchiladas
16 ounces light sour cream
7 ounces diced, green chiles
1 green onion, chopped
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8, 8-inch flour tortillas
8 ounces cream cheese, sliced into 8 pieces
24 ounces of Cherry Salsa (Cherry Republic Original, if possible)

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. In a large bowl, mix sour cream, chiles, onion, cilantro and cumin.

Mix in chicken and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon about ½ cup of filling in the center of each tortilla.

Top with a slice of cream cheese. Roll up and place in pan.

Pour cherry salsa over enchiladas. Cover with foil and bake approximately 45 minutes. 

Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until cheese melts.
(Recipe adapted from cherryrepublic.com)

Here’s to cooking with friends!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Día de los Muertos - a celebration of life

Often referred to as the Mexican version of Halloween, Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is anything but scary or morose. It is instead a lively and festive occasion, one in which families and friends celebrate the lives of their loved ones who have passed and help support their spiritual journey.

While researching for an article that I wrote about the holiday for a local community newspaper, I learned about the many traditions of Día de los Muertos and some of the wonderful foods which are sometimes prepared for the celebration.

Tres Leches Cake

Pan de Muerto is a slightly sweet loaf bread shaped into a round usually decorated with more dough in the shape of bones.

Sugar Skull Cookies are simple cut-out cookies often decorated with colorful frosting by children.

Tres Leches Cake is an incredibly moist and delicious cake made with three milks for many celebrations, including birthdays.

Here is a simple Tres Leches Cake recipe that I used for the photos.


Fanciful Sugar Skull Cookies

Those who celebrate Día de los Muertos believe that death is not the end but a beginning of a journey to a final resting place. 

The holiday is sacred and very personal, but it’s kept light and jovial with images of happy and fanciful skulls (calaveras) and skeletons (calacas) as if to tell death, I'm not afraid of you.

Buenos Días!