Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cold Drinks for Hot Summer Nights

Crisp, Fruity Sangria

Nothing cools off a steamy summer evening like a refreshing, fruity pitcher of Sangria.  The drink originates from Spain and is served in many Mexican restaurants, but you can mix up a pitcher at home in just minutes.

Start with a bottle of red or white wine.  Mr. Walt Churchill helped me select a Spanish wine from his store's collection.  “With Sangria, you don’t need an expensive wine because the other flavors enhance it,” he advised.

For a sweeter Sangria, start with a sweeter wine.  Not so sweet, start with a dry wine.  For an extra kick of flavor, add a splash of brandy, rum or flavored schnapps.

Slice up some fruit - limes, oranges, apples, peaches, berries - whatever you love or whatever’s in season.  For more sweetness, stir in a few tablespoons of sugar or honey.  Feel free to experiment - there's no wrong way to make Sangria.

Chill for several hours or overnight to allow the fruit to soak in the liquid and the flavors can meld.  For a little fizz, add some club soda or sparkling water right before serving.  Pour over ice, sip and enjoy!

Peach-Blackberry Sangria
1 bottle red Spanish table wine, chilled
1 ½ cups peach puree, from fresh peaches
1 cup peach brandy
¼ cup simple syrup, chilled
1 cup fresh blackberries
2 ripe peaches, halved, pitted and sliced, plus more for garnish
Ice cubes

In a pitcher, combine the wine, peach puree, brandy, syrup, blackberries and sliced peaches.  Cover the pitcher and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Serve the sangria over ice in red wine goblets.  Garnish the goblets with sliced peaches.
(Recipe from Bobby Flay via

White Strawberry Sangria
1 bottle dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
½ cup strawberry schnapps
¼ cup sugar
2 cups sliced, fresh strawberries
Ice cubes
Whole strawberries for garnish
In a 2-quart pitcher, stir together wine, schnapps and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Add sliced strawberries. Cover and chill for 1 to 4 hours.  Serve in glasses over ice.  Garnish with whole strawberries.(Recipe from

Have a great week!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Meanwhile...Back at the Ranch

I made a promise to myself last September that I would be physically ready to hike one of the more difficult trails the next time we visited Ghost Ranch, a retreat and learning center located in Abiquiu, New Mexico, or more commonly known as Georgia O’Keeffe country. 

So our goal for the day was to hike the Box Canyon Trail, a longer and more intense trek than the Chimney Rock Trail we took on our visit back in the fall.


We headed out of Santa Fe toward Ghost Ranch early in the day, hoping to escape the incoming rain showers. 

The drive there is as much a part of the adventure as the destination with the views of the mountains changing dramatically from piñon dotted to rocky and many shades of coral.

Upon arrival at Ghost Ranch, we were greeted by a group of horses and folks prepping for a trail ride and mostly sunny skies.


Before setting out for Box Canyon, we checked in at the office (a must do so they can send the rescue squad to find you if you don’t come back) and to check the trail conditions.

We were warned that the recent heavy rains may make the trail difficult to locate at times.  

Alas, I wasn’t worried because I am married to Indiana Jones, and everyone knows that Indy has an extraordinary sense of direction and carries a lot of maps.

Along our way to the canyon,

We jumped back and forth across the creek,

Climbed over boulders,

Slithered through narrow rocks,

Encountered snakes and lizards,

And spotted an eagle’s nest perched high on a cliff.

The trail’s finale proved true to its name as we were literally “boxed in” a canyon with no other way out except to turn around.

All of this adventure and we made it back in less time than the brochure estimated it would take. 

No sweat and no rescue squad needed for Indy and his cowgirl.


Have a great day!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Original Frito Pie

Who knew that the world famous Frito Pie had such a humble beginning?

Legend has it that the first Frito Pie was created at a lunch counter in the back of a five and dime store on the Santa Fe Plaza. 

The unassuming store, formerly a Woolworth's, sells every type of souvenir trinket you could imagine, but its true claim to fame is their served-in-a-bag concoction, a favorite among locals.

Unlike the Walking Taco, Frito Pie consists of a bag of Fritos sliced open along the side, a red chile sauce and ground beef mixture, pinto beans and shredded cheddar cheese on top.

My husband and I decided to investigate this regional classic.  We were a bit nervous that the dish would be flaming-hot spicy, but heck, it was nothing that a little Pepto couldn't cure, right?  

So we ordered one to share, and I committed myself to a few bites.

While assembling our pie, the woman behind the counter explained that the store had been serving the dish since the 50s and that the red chile sauce and pinto beans are home made.  After topping it with a mound of cheddar, she handed it to us and told us to enjoy.

Surprisingly we did, and it was delicious. 

The red chile had a great flavor - it was spicy but not overly.  An interesting thing about Frito Pie is that it's on the menu at many New Mexican restaurants, each putting a different spin on the original.  

My husband ordered it at Ojo Caliente resort.  Theirs came with shredded pork instead of ground beef.  Oh, and sans the bag.

I just might use the red chile powder I bought at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market to create my own version - better call the fire department!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Along the High Road

One of the things I love the most about New Mexico (and believe me - there are many) is the spiritual ambiance that resonates throughout the region.  In this land, it is common to come across roadside shrines, historical churches and religious artwork. 

Even the names of many towns and mountains have religious denotations – the Sangre de Christo Mountains mean Blood of Christ and the state’s capital, Santa Fe, literally means Holy Faith.

There are 24 historic adobe churches (iglesias) that dot northern New Mexico and the Taos vicinity – many are the heart and soul of their communities, especially in the rural areas. 

From Española, which is approximately 30 minutes north of Santa Fe, we began our journey to locate as many churches as we could during our one-day trip.  Here are the amazing structures that we found along the High Road to Taos…  


Santa Cruz De La Cañada (Holy Cross of the Canyon) was built from 1733-1748.
Believed to have miraculous curative powers, El Santuário De Chimayó (the Sanctuary of Chimayó), was built from 1813-1816.
Nuestra Señora Del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) was built in 1760 and is located in the rural mountain town of Las Truchas.
San José De Gracia De Las Trampas (Saint Joseph) was built from 1760-1776 and is said to be “the most perfectly preserved Spanish Colonial church in the United States.”
Built in 1920, Sagrado Corazón De Jesus (Sacred Heart of Jesus) is part of the small farming community of Rio Lucero.
Nuestra Señora De San Juan De Los Lagos (Our Lady of Saint John of the Lakes) was built in 1828 and is located just a few miles from the Taos plaza.
Our final stop was the beautiful San Francisco De Asis (Saint Francis of Assisi). Built in 1810, this iglesia has served as inspiration to photographers and painters like Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe.
Driving along the High Road to Taos will definitely give you exploration and adventure, but its real gift is the powerful sense of spirituality and enchantment that only New Mexico can deliver. 
Victor's Drive-In Hamburgers

Ketchup On the Side...

Also along the High Road in Penasco is this unassuming little joint, Victor's Drive-In Hamburgers.  Victor and his wife have been serving up burgers, shakes and local specialties like Frito Pie and enchiladas since they bought the place in 1971.  Stop by for lunch and some lively conversation with the restaurant's namesake.