Category Archives: Food and Drink

Santa Fe School of Cooking

Hello Dear Readers!  Happy New Year!  Sorry for the recent hiatus, but as you could’ve guessed Christmas and the end of the year got extremely busy for us here at the Wellness Experiment.  Instead of starting the New Year with your typical “get fit” type of post, I decided that a much better topic would be delicious food!  Cooking, my friends, is surely a great way to be healthy and happy.  Without further ado . . .

The following is a guest post from Olivia Suarez. She is my sister, mother of 4 and a domestic goddess ;)

What to do when you are in a cooking rut . . .

Take a class! Several weeks ago I went to a cooking class at the world famous Santa Fe School of Cooking.  (They really are world famous; there was a couple who traveled all the way from Australia in our class!)  They proudly boast a spot in “1001 Things to do Before you Die” book.  I received the class as a gift and attended with my two sisters in law and my mother in law.  I t was a very neat experience that ended with eating the meal.  Yummy!

This class featured a Southwest brunch menu.  I watched head chef Jeremiah Shultz and sous chef Noe Cano cook up chipotle spinach and goat cheese quiche, blue corn pecan pancakes, fresh berry compote, huevos rancheros for a crowd, and chorizo cottage fried potatoes.  In addition to the menu, the chefs also gave instruction on red chile and pinto beans.  The entire class was a demonstration of the menu along with general cooking tips.  Some of the native ingredients and spices, such as canela and pinons, were passed around to smell and feel.  Questions were answered during the class as well as after.  Throughout the class I learned about the culinary history of northern NM and the influence Santa Fe has had on the culinary world.  We are very fortunate to have such a culinary destination right here in New Mexico.

The meal afterward was DELICIOUS!  The flavors were not over powering yet plentiful.  It tasted very much like the food my mother makes and grandmothers used to make for us.  The best part was taking what I learned and making the dishes at home for my family.  I was nervous that just watching the chefs wouldn’t be enough for me to be able to recreate the food but everything turned out wonderful with plenty of compliments. 

In addition to the class the school had a store full of traditional spices, ingredients and cooking supplies.  A wall full of cookbooks caught my eye and I purchased two of the school’s own books:  “The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook” and “Santa Fe School of Cooking Flavors of the Southwest.”

It was a great experience for both learning and eating.  Sometimes they offer the classes on the Groupon website for a great deal.  I am looking forward to going back for more lessons and tasting.

Thank you so much Olivia for sharing this tasty experience with us!  I’d be happy to taste test any time you want to practice your new cooking skills.

~R

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Refrigerator Case Study – The Registered Dietician

As promised, I’m taking you to my friend Stefanie’s house for a sneak peak into her refrigerator.  It’s the holidays, in other words, time for eggnog, cookies, and buttered vegetables.  However, Stefanie is a registered dietician so I’m guessing her fridge will be stocked with the good, healthy stuff too.  Let’s see if it’s true!

Stefanie keeps tahini (a type of nut butter) on hand to make fresh hummus.  Sweet, colorful peppers are also in stock for dipping into said hummus.  There are plenty of ingredients ready for New Mexican dishes (e.g. chopped green chile, red chile, corn tortillas, broth, and hamburger meat) to satisfy her husband’s penchant for all foods chile related.  Another dinner staple Stefanie relies on is pasta with meat sauce.

Drawer: cooked chicken, cheese, and spelt flour for muffins

The healthy staples are ready to eat too:  yogurt, fruit, and veggies.  Stefanie also keeps cooked chicken breast available for sandwiches and quick meals.

Stefanie keeps her refridgerator at a steady 40 degrees fahrenheit and uses a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.

The Door: Stefanie recommends keeping your fish oil supplements in the fridge.

And for a little Christmas cheer?  On the top shelf of the main fridge, you’ll see a bottle of white wine and behind the milk a bottle of Rose’s Lime juice (for vodka gimlets of course).  So, Stefanie’s fridge wasn’t all celery and soy milk.  With the New Mexican foods, cheese, Greek yogurt and fruit supply it’s a fridge I’d raid any day.

Merry Christmas dear readers!  May you have a wonderful weekend and a beautiful Christmas with your family and friends.

~R

P.S.  Stefanie often contributes to articles about food and nutrition in the Albuquerque Journal.  Most recently, she shared her recipe for slimming down your typical holiday egg nog.  Find it here.

What to do with sad, old tomatoes . . .

Give them a new life!  Many weeks ago we harvested the remaining green tomatoes on our plants before our first freeze of the fall.  To get them to ripen we wrapped them individually in small pieces of newspaper and placed them in a single layer in a cardboard box in our basement.  According to my grandfather-in-law, the ripening process happens at night; hence the strategy of wrapping in newspaper.  This is the second year in a row that we’ve done this and as far as I can tell, it works pretty well.  The only problem is that I forget about them down there and they overripen sometimes.  C’est la vie.  So, I threw out about 9 tomatoes and about 4 pounds of Black Krim and Beefsteak remain.  Now, what to do with them?

These tomatoes ripened nicely, but they did acquire wrinkly skin.

Inspiration can strike at any time.  For instance, I finally got tired of looking at the huge black canning pot staring at me from behind my kitchen sink.  What did we need to do to get rid of it, I asked T.  He reminded me about the tomatoes ripening in the basement and said that once we canned them, we could give the pot back to its rightful owner, my mother-in-law.  Not at all looking forward to canning at this time, I figured if I could use them all in one recipe that would be just as good.

Not up to the task of canning and knowing they’re not worthy of topping a fresh salad, I decided to try a tomato cobbler using a recipe from the Martha Stewart website.  Like almost every recipe I reference, I adapted it a little.  Here goes . . .

Prepping the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and cornstarch.

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Ready to go into the oven.

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Tomato Cobbler

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Yum!

Well, I’m delighted by how this turned out!  The comments on the MS website about the recipe were not exactly positive, but I really like how mine turned out.  I can see how adding some basil, garlic, or oregano to the tomatoes or drizzling the cooked dish with high quality balsamic would kick it up a bit, but I like to think that my delicious Black Krim and Beefsteak tomatoes were the trick to making this dish so tasty.  (What would life be without homegrown tomatoes?)

What sorts of recipes do you employ to “use up” your garden harvest?

~R

In the Kitchen: Butternut Squash Mash

Homemade Butternut Squash Mash

The following is a guest post from Kyle Simmons. His blog, EngageYourMoney.com, is a personal finance blog helping people invest, save, and spend confidently!  In his spare time, he also likes to cook.

Every Thanksgiving, families across the United States sit down to an overflowing meal of turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, yams, and of course, mashed potatoes. This year, my wife and I are introducing to our family something new, healthy, and delicious: Butternut Squash Mash. This stuff is so good, that you’ll throw the mashed potatoes aside just to make more room for it. We’ve been making it for a few months now, and it goes extremely well with all sorts of dishes, particularly cider-glazed chicken or grilled sausages.

The Ingredients – Serves 8

1 medium Butternut Squash (about 2 pounds)
2 large Jewel Yams (about 1.5 pounds)
2 Granny Smith apples
4 tablespoons butter
4/3 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons salt
Salt to taste

We choose Jewel Yams because they are a good split between Sweet Potatoes and Yams; sweet enough, and not fibrous. Get them at your local market. If you want to be even healthier, you can substitute out the butter and sour cream with 2/3 cups Greek yogurt.

Peel the squash, yams, and apples, and chop them into ½ inch to 1 inch pieces. (No need to get exact here!)

Put them all into a stock pot and make sure they are covered with 2 inches of water to spare. Bring them to a low boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the yams are nice and soft. (They take the longest to cook!) 

Drain vegetables and apples and put them in a food processor along with the butter, sour cream and salt. Run the processor until they are good and mashed; no buddy wants lumpy yams!  Since we have a small processor, we have to run multiple batches.

Always Use Good Ingredients!

 

Plate in a nice serving dish and voilà! easy, delicious, healthy homemade butternut squash mash! Don’t forget to add more salt to taste, as everyone will probably want a little more salt then it’s prepared with. Enjoy!

Local Retailer Highlight: NM Tea Company

*Hello Readers!  I just wanted to let you know that this isn’t a sponsored post.  I’m not being compensated for this post and I’m not related in any way to the NM Tea Company or its owners.

NM Tea Company

One of my favorite local shops is the New Mexico Tea Company located near Old Town in Albuquerque.  The owner, David Edwards, is so friendly and whenever I wander in he is usually there to chat about the various teas, explaining the health benefits and providing recommendations.  Tea is great for its health benefits, aroma, and relaxing vibes.  The shop itself is in a great location tucked in among Old Town casitas and down the street from several museums and Tiguex Park.

Organic Mother's Tea

These days I’m drinking Mother’s Tea which is a blend of various organic herbs.  It contains raspberry leaf which by itself is rather boring, but this blend includes peppermint leaf and tastes minty fresh.  T is drinking various rooibos (african red tea) blends which are rich in antioxidants and Hawthorn leaf for heart health.  NM Tea Company carries many different teas from the straightfoward like chamomile and peppermint to the exotic like Sgt. Peppers Rooibos and Thai Lemon Ginger.  They also carry medicinal teas like The Healer Tea for colds, allergies and headaches and Kidney and Bladder Detox Tea.  Some teas are imported but they also carry tea from right here in New Mexico.

Organic Hawthorn Leaf and Flower

I’m not a huge tea fanatic, but NM Tea Company affords me the opportunity to shop for something that is way more interesting in a small shop setting rather than mindlessly grabbing a box of tea based on the package design under the unsexy flourescent lights of a grocery store or big box discount chain.  I find it way more enjoyable to walk into this warm, cute shop located in a sweet, old neighborhood, breathing in each tea and sampling others before deciding what to buy.  Plus, I can buy just the amount I want without committing to a huge box of something I might not care for.

Cascadia Licorice Rooibos

I wish you could take in a deep breath and smell the wonderful scent of these teas.  It’s a beautiful bouquet of fragrant aromas.

Organic Green Rooibos

Part of the fun is examining the physical make-up of each tea:  berries, leaves, twigs, peppercorns and all.

Sergeant Peppers Rooibos

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a huge proponent of shopping local, especially during the holidays.  When I shop locally, more of every dollar that I spend stays in this community.  According to a 2004 study, for every $100 spent locally, $68 is returned to the local community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures.   A study in Austin showed that for every dollar spent at local book and music stores returned 45 cents to the community while a dollar spent at Borders returned only 13 cents to the Austin economy.  Buying local also means encouraging vibrant shopping districts, supporting retailers that know your name, and supporting stores with local character.

Organic Chopped Hibiscus Flower - T mixes this with hawthorn leaf to boost flavor.

So, have you been to NM Tea Company?  What are your favorite local shops?

~R

Making Red Chile From Scratch

Growing up, I loved both green and red chile, but I think I favored green. As an adult, I prefer red – especially homemade red chile. It’s true, there’s nothing like the convenience of red chile in the frozen foods section or jarred and ready-to-eat red chile from the “Hispanic Foods” aisle at the grocery store. (I still find that amusing that in NM grocery stores still have such an aisle.)  Thing is, I’m kind of picky.  I think frozen chile often lacks in flavor and texture and the jarred stuff can get expensive when you like to smother everything in red chile. For me, nothing beats the silky smooth texture and pure taste of red chile that’s made from scratch and ground through a food mill.

For whatever reason, it takes me practically all day to make the stuff. In the end though, it’s totally worth it. I’ll have jars of homemade ready-to-eat frozen red chile in my basement freezer just begging to be poured on top of cheesy enchiladas and fresh tacos, stirred into piping hot posole, added to shredded pork for tamales, or simply spooned over papas and a fried egg.

Of course, there are health benefits associated with red chile: the capsaicin in red chile fights inflammation, it helps to clear congestion, it’s a good source of vitamins A and C, and it may speed your metabolism, among other benefits. You can brush up on your chile terminology here.

So without further ado, here’s how I do it:

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Remove the seeds and stems

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After soaking pods in water for at least a couple of hours, puree the pods with some of the leftover chile water.

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After blending I strain the chile using a chinois and pestle to get an extra silky texture.

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After straining, I add a little bit of oregano, garlic, and salt and lightly simmer for about 20 minutes. Then the chile is poured into jars ready to be frozen.

This is a basic recipe for red chile and allows me to thicken (with flour) or add more flavor with broth or other spices when I’m ready to use the chile.  What’s your red chile recipe?

Enjoy!

~R

5 course dinner and beer pairing at Chama River Brewing Company (recap of the evening)

Dinner at Chama River Brewing Company

The night went off without a hitch!  Upon arrival we were seated in the room with the glass walls.  The employees were also dressed for the event.  When we went to check in, we were told to go and see ‘halloweenie’ (a man in a hot dog costume).  The room was tastefully decorated in honor of Halloween.  The tables were grouped together and you were assigned a table.  My husband and I had planned on having this be a ‘date night,’ but upon arrival we found that we knew many people there and that a lot of the attendees were our friends.  That changed the dynamics of our evening, but nevertheless we still had a marvelous time.  The executive chef came out to greet us and told us about the evening menu.  I must say the food was divine and the beer was yummy.  My favorite part of dinner was the roasted duck which was excellent and served with a bed of spicy arugula and delicious house made vinaigrette.  The vinegar they used was also made at Chama River and it was delicious!

we won 'best of show'

About 70% of the people who attended dressed up for the event.  There were numerous costumes and not to mention a costume contest.  I am going to brag a little here.  My husband and I took ‘best of show’ and ended up with 2 prizes that were very generous.  By looking at these photos can you guess who won ‘scariest costume?’

'scariest costume' winners

Overall the evening was wonderful and ended at nine p.m.  I definitely would give this event an A+.  I highly recommend it!

Other's enjoy the evening

having a great time

S

A Five Course Dinner with Beer and Costumes

This year I have decided to add another event to my already full Halloween schedule.  My husband and I will be taking part in the Chama River Breweing Company Halloween Dinner.  These special dinners happen every couple of months.  What is so special about these dinners?  Well, their special menu is prepared especially for the evening and is pared with their beer menu, the group is small and the setting is intimate.  Just like the seasons change so do the variety of beers being brewed at Chama.  What better way to enjoy a delicious dinner than alongside delectable beer.  My favorite part about the dinner is that you get to come dressed up in your favorite costume.  There is a costume contest and the dinner includes a five course meal which they have also paired with 5 of their award-winning brews.  The dinner takes place on Thursday, October 27th @ 6:30 p.m.  Please give Chama a call as this event is limited to its participants.  The bartender Kevin told me about it so give him credit when you call.  Here is the menu for the evening.

“Calabacitas”

Pumpkin, Onion, Baby Corn, Rajas, Cilantro, Pepitas

Paired with: Summer Ale

House-made Bacon Steak

Devilish Egg, Rocket, Ale Vinaigrette, Buttered Rusk

Paired with: Oktoberfest

Black Bean Crusted Salmon

Mexican “Fried” Rice, Blood Orange Reduction

Paired with: Simcoe Pale Ale

Spice Roasted Duck Breast

Butternut Gnudi, Cranberry Conserve, Sage Brown Butter

Paired with: Punkin Drublic Pumpkin Ale

Chestnut Mousse

Chestnut Phyllo Crisp, Cajeta Pudding, Mexican Chocolate

Paired with: Me Llamo Lodo Double Brown

$50 Per Person

Reservations Required

(505) 342 – 1800

Executive Chef ~ Stephen Shook

Sous Chef ~ Jeff Trollinger

Head Brewer ~ Justin Hamilton

Happy Haunting!

S

The Great Pumpkin Carving Party!

Our 2009 Pumpkin Carving Party

As you all know fall and Halloween hold a special place in my heart.  Every year we take a lot of time to decorate our house and get ready for our annual Halloween party.  This party is for adults and my friends are asking me in August for the date so that they can secure a sitter.  With that being said , I thought that it would be nice to have a kid friendly version of our adult party.  Last year, we invited my son’s entire Kinder class to our house for a Halloween party.  So many children and parents showed up that it was overwhelming and a bit of a free-for-all.  This year, I’m re-thinking my whole elaborate plan and keeping it simple and small, while making it family friendly.  This year we decided to have a Pumpkin Carving Party on Saturday, October 29th and here are a few tips on keeping it simple and fun.

1)  Choose a small group of people and send out the invites.  We chose to invite 6 families this year.  In an effort to keep things ‘green’  I sent out an Evite.  Here you can choose from Halloween themed pre-designed invitations.  They are professional looking and the evite website is user-friendly and free.  It sends out your invite via email and also keeps track of who is coming, provides a map to your house, and sends out a reminder email the day before your party.

2.)  Think of the mess you will have to clean up.  Pumpkin guts are sure to get everywhere so this year we will be doing it outside among the fall leaves and cool weather.  I have long tables covered in newspaper.  You could also use disposable plastic tablecloths.  I just wanted something that is quick and easy to clean up.

3.)  Spooky Music anyone?  You can’t have a pumpkin carving party without music to fit the theme of the evening.  I downloaded a bunch of Halloween music and will play it on my iPod.  Some of my music includes:   Monster Mash, Thriller, The Nightmare Before Christmas (soundtrack), and some other spooky sounds like glass breaking.  The music is fitting for the atmosphere and the kids really get excited about it too.

4.)  Pumpkin carving is fun but so is decorating.  I fill the table with kitchen tools, ice-cream scoopers, pumpkin scrapers, easy to use pumpkin saws, stencils, and candles.  This year I’m also going to add paints (nontoxic), toothpicks and vegetables to our arsenal of tools.  This is partly to get the younger children involved and the older children get to be more creative and imaginative too.  We can use paint to add stitches to our pumpkins or we can add broccoli to our pumpkins for silly hair.  You get the idea.

5.)  Last, I ask that everyone bring a small dish to share.  It helps me by not stressing about what serve and we end up with a wide array of foods.  There is usually something there to suit everyone’s palate and it keeps things simple.   Not to mention, I don’t have so many dishes to wash and the guest gets to take home the dish they brought.

our pumpkin decorating skills

We will end the evening this year with an ‘award ceremony’.  The awards will be for scariest pumpkin, most creative, most funny, etc, etc.   We will also line all of our pumpkins up and see how they look in the dark.  The kiddos get a big kick out of this!  I also send the kids home with a treat bag and thank them for coming.  This is such a fun time of year and I hope you take the time to spend it with people you enjoy!

Happy pumpkin hunting and carving!

P.S.  I also have the kids dressed in whatever costume they feel like wearing.  This gets them really excited for the big day!

S

Refrigerator Case Study

I’m always curious about what my friends and family keep in their refrigerators to satiate their appetites and satisfy their nutritional needs.  What’s for dinner?  Lunch?  Weekend breakfast?  Are they Team Butter or Team Margerine?  (Butter here.)  Soy or dairy?  (Soy for me, milk for T.)  Bacon or tofu? (Bacon!)  Fully stocked or bare shelves?  Since I’ll be asking some friends and family to allow a sneak peek in their fridge, I thought I should at least start by sharing what’s in mine.  So here you go.  Take a look.  Please don’t judge too harshly. 

It's blasphemous with tomatoes in the fridge, but they are being saved for marinara. Yes, that is a large jar of pickles (for me) and a large bag of chocolate chips (for T).

It's the fruit/tortilla/seed drawer. The seeds are for planting not eating.

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Vegetables. Broccoli, spinach and rainbow chard are in the bags.

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Lots of weird stuff here. That's chicken broth at the bottom left for adding to sauteed greens, mashed potatoes, soups, etc. The top Cervantes jar has homemade red chile but the bottom jar is real Cervantes salsa :)

So, what’s in your fridge?

~R