Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Cooking is Fun...And Easy!! Shrimp Pasta with Preserved Lemon

I have subscriptions to a couple of foodie magazines, and Bon Appetit is one of them.  They have a feature called "Family Meal" which are the more simple "weeknight" type recipes.  This month's edition was a home run...there were THREE recipes that I could see myself making and enjoying.  Tonight, I'm making Rachel Gurjar's Shrimp Pasta with Preserved Lemon.  A while back, one of my cookbook boxes had a preserved lemon kit, and I made a batch.  You can also find them online or at World Market, if you have one.  This makes 4 servings.  

1 pound medium rigatoni
Kosher salt
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup preserved lemon, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup finely grated parmesan, plus a bit more for serving
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley, plus a bit more for serving

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Drain, and reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, pat shrimp dry with paper towels, season lightly with salt.  In a heavy pot (I used my oval Dutch oven), heat oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Add garlic, preserved lemon, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until preserved lemon is soft, about 2 minutes.  Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, until shrimp are just opaque, about 2 more minutes.

Add the drained pasta, 2 tablespoons of the butter, and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook, tossing vigorously until butter is melted and sauce is thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of the parmesan, toss until melted.  Add 1/2 cup of pasta water, 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup of parmesan and stir vigorously until sauce is melted and coats the pasta, about 1 minute.  Add more of the pasta water if needed.  Turn off the heat, and mix in the lemon juice and the parsley.

Divide among shallow bowls, and sprinkle with extra parmesan and parsley.

Buen Provecho!

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Sunday Stealing -- Fall Meme


Join us here.

1. Fave fall Holiday:   Thanksgiving, definitely.  It was always the “big” holiday in my family when I was a kid.  We didn’t do the whole family getting together or anything like that, because my family is pretty darn small, but I always remember a fun day.  After dinner, we’d drive somewhere beautiful and go for a walk/hike.  These days, Thanksgiving weekend is about putting our outside Christmas display up, which I really enjoy. 

2. Best thing about fall walks:   The crisp, cold air.  Maddie thinks fall walkies are the best—no burning hot pavement!!

3. Favorite fall chore:   Aside from putting up the outside Christmas lights, my other favorite fall chore is  airing out the house.  We put all cats in their carriers in the garage and open the house up completely—every door and window.  We run big fans at the doors that pull the old air out and the new air in.  Maddie lays in the yard in the sun, lol.  We do this in the spring too.

4. Least favorite fall chore:   Hmmm…I can’t say that I have a least favorite.  Fall, in general, is my favorite time of year.

5. Best change in the home:   We can open the windows at night!!  Being in the high desert, we have dramatic temperature shifts—as much as 40 degrees between the high and low.  Yesterday’s high was 81 and last night’s low was 48.  We prefer the house to be as cold as possible at night for sleeping, so fall means not running the AC and opening up the windows!

6. Best tree in the fall:   Cottonwoods and Aspens.  The Bosque (the cottonwood forest along the Rio Grande) is stunning in the fall—a river of gold.

View of the Bosque and the Sandias in Fall from Rio Rancho

7. Fall ritual:  Soup, soup, and more soup!!  Hubs and I both love soups and stews, so we shift to a more soup-centric menu.  Green chile stew, split pea with ham, white bean chicken chili, and posole are some my favorites.  In fact, today I’m trying out a new recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for split pea and ham that uses a ham stock rather than chicken.  Stay tuned!

8. Most frustrating thing about fall:  We have a locust tree in our front yard, which is literally the first tree in the neighborhood to drop all its leaves.  The landscapers wait until ALL the various trees have dropped their leaves to come around and collect them.  It can be a mess.

9. Favorite fall decorations:  I bought a new fall wreath this year at a new home decoration store called At Home.  That place is unbelievable. 

10. Favorite clothing:   Fall clothing, I assume?  A Marmot pull-over fleece that was my Dad’s.  It’s my favorite cozy work shirt.

11. Traditional fall candy:  Not big on sweets, but I do like the mini dark chocolate snickers.  Hubs is all about the candy corn.  Uggg.

12. Favorite sound:  The crackle of my Netflix fire on the TV

13. When does fall begin for you?  When the roasters come out at the grocery stores and boxes and burlap sacks of green chile fill the produce department.  You can smell the green chile roasting as soon as you drive in the parking lot.  THAT is the beginning of Fall in New Mexico!! 

Green chile roasting--Fall in New Mexico!

14. What is your favorite aspect of fall?   Being able to sit outside and enjoy the patio during the day.  It’s just too dang hot in the summer.

15. What are your favorite fall memories?  Running through piles of leaves when I was very small in Massachusetts. 

16. What do you like to drink in the fall?  Nothing really changes—I drink iced coffee year around in the morning, and water the rest of the time. 

17. What's your favorite fall food?   As I mentioned above, soups and stews.   Green chile stew is my absolute favorite.

18. What color is fall?  Gold and red.  We drive "up the Jemez" (NM Hwy 4 runs up the Jemez Valley) every year to see the golden cottonwoods in all their splendor against the Jemez mountains.  

Cottonwoods, Jemez Springs, New Mexico

19. What does fall smell like?   Roasting green chile.

20. If you could go anywhere in the fall, where would you go?  I’d like to go to the mountains in New England.  I’ve experienced Fall a lot of places, but never there.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Cooking is Fun...And Easy!! Chicken Stock

I love chicken stock.  It is the most useful thing in a kitchen, I swear--guaranteed to add wonderful flavor to things that call for "4 cups of water" or whatever.  It is so freaking easy, and so flavorful, that I've never bought another box or can of the stuff since I learned how to make it.  As for the easy part--an InstantPot or other brand of pressure cooker makes this super easy, but you can also do this in a heavy pot, stockpot, or Dutch oven..it's that simple.

The other nice thing about stock is that you can make it without having to purchase a raw chicken and cook it.  Yep, I'm telling you, some of my best stocks have been made from the carcass of a grocery store rotisserie chicken.  Just make sure to buy one that isn't covered in all sorts of off-the-wall spices.  

Lastly, I use scraps to make my stock.  Yep, every time I cut a carrot up, or an onion, or celery, into my stock bag (a big ziplock freezer bag) goes the scraps.  Those few leftover snacking carrots that look all dried out?  Into the stock bag with you!  If you are using mushrooms, throw the stems in that stock bag.  With onions, I find the skin adds extra flavor, so throw those in there too.  I tend to stick to carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Parsnips would be good too, if I ate them, lol.  

Basic Chicken Stock

1 chicken carcass (I'm assuming you already ate all the good bits, but there's still meat on there)
Onion scraps (or 1 large onion quartered, skin left on)
Carrot scraps (or 2 carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks, including ends, unpeeled)
Celery scraps (or all the inside stalks with leaves of a bunch of celery)
2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled, and smashed
Handful of mushroom stems or whole mushrooms
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 whole dried bay leaves
Water (I use filtered from our fridge, because our water is so hard it tastes icky)

Instant Pot Method:  Put everything in a 6 quart pot, fill with water to the max fill line, put the lid on and pressure cook on high for 2 hours.  Cancel.  Leave lid on and slow cook on low for 24 hours.  Yep.  24 hours.  Using tongs, pick out the big bits and discard.  Pour the rest of it through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a large bowl.  Let sit, uncovered, until cool.  Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Skim the fat from the top.  I freeze in 4 cup portions (I happen to have these plastic bowls that work great for this) for a couple of days, then either put in a ziplock bag or, if you have a vacuum sealer, seal them up.  Keeps in the freezer for a couple of months.  Great to replace the water in soups, stews, etc.

Regular Pot Method:  Do not do this with uncooked chicken, as it will put impurities (blood and ick) into your broth.  You want to definitely use a COOKED carcass if you aren't pressure cooking.  Put everything in a big pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 4-6 hours on low heat.  The longer the simmer, the better the flavor.  Using tongs, pick out the big bits and discard.  Pour the rest of it through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a large bowl.  Let sit, uncovered, until cool.  Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Skim the fat from the top.  I freeze in 4 cup portions (I happen to have these plastic bowls that work great for this) for a couple of days, then either put in a ziplock bag or, if you have a vacuum sealer, seal them up.  Keeps in the freezer for a couple of months.  Great to replace the water in soups, stews, etc.

Believe it or not, I bought an 8 quart Instant Pot to make stock.  Yes, I did.  We make and use that much of it.  

Buen Provecho!!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Sunday Stealing--Trapped In a Room

I decided to treat myself and take a break from the side gig this weekend.  Hence, I feel like I've got time to get some blogging in.  If you'd like to join in, go here.

1. If you were trapped in a room with the person who asked this for 24 hours, what would you do? The answer cannot be romantic or sexual.

I think we’d have a grand old time talking about all sorts of things!

2. If you could learn any language instantly, what would it be?

Spanish, definitely.  It would come in handy around here (New Mexico).   

3. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

About the Book

4. Favorite song lyric?  These are the first two verses of Valerie June’s Astral Plane.  I love this song so much.

Is there a light you have inside you?
Can't touch
A looking glass can only show you so much

Follow the signs, slowly but steady
Don't rush
The day will come when you are ready
Just trust

Here--have a listen....

5. Favorite album?   

Gosh that’s a hard one.  I’d have to go with one that’s been part of my internal soundtrack for a really long time…. Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band.

6. Which time of day would you say is best for you work-wise?

I work four 10 hour shifts, and I’m blessed with an employer who let me choose hours that work for my brain.  I work 5am to 330pm with a 30 minute lunch.  I am an early-bird, morning person, whatever you want to call it.  I get the lion’s share of my work knocked out by 1:30 or so and use the last few hours to do the more rote tasks of my job that don’t require as much intense focus as the first 2/3rds of the day.

7. What do you think people assume about you from first glance?

I haven’t a clue.  I’ve given up on trying to figure out what other people think about anything.

8. Favorite city that you haven’t visited?

Arles, France or Quebec, Canada

9. If you received $10,000 but had to give it away, what would you do with it?

Give it to my favorite charity, the largest no-kill animal shelter in New Mexico, Watermelon Mountain Ranch.

10. What is one book you wish you could get all your friends to read?

Most of the people I know, other than hubs, are indifferent cooks.  Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat is wonderful memoir/basic cooking skills book that is so inspiring.  The Netflix series by the same name is a fun companion.

11. What is one movie you wish you could get all your friends to watch?

Hidden Figures is a great one.  It is a perfect movie about very inspiring people.


12. If you could create one thing, what would it be?

I wish I could master making bread at altitude.  It’s maddening. 

13. If you could play any musical instrument, what would it be?

Mandolin.  It’s my favorite sounding instrument.

14. What is your favorite item of clothing?

A pair of grey pajama pants that are baggy, soft, and comfortable.  My favorite work pants (yep, you guessed it, I work remotely)

15. What is your favorite card/board game?

We have a whole chest full of tabletop games for two players.  My favorite is a dice game called Yam Slam, sort of like Yahtzee but more fun.  A close second would be the dice version of Catan.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Cooking is Fun... And Easy!! Tom Yum Soup

Tom Yum is a wonderful Thai soup that I really love.  I decided to learn to make it, and started with Jet Tila's Thai chicken stock and went from there.  I used shrimp as the protein, but chicken would be fine also.  I made the stock ahead of time and froze it, so pulling the actual soup together took no time at all.  

Thai Chicken Stock

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up into 8 pieces, skinned;  discard carcass or save for regular stock
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 inch piece of galangal or ginger, grated (you can also use the "ginger in a tube" found in your local grocery store produce section, or jarred ginger)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, lower part only cut into 3 inch pieces and smashed  (lemongrass also comes in a tube in your produce section)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves  (these can be found in any good Asian market, or bought dried at Amazon)
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 Thai or chile de arbol, smashed (I find Thai chiles to be too hot for me.  Chile de arbol are dried, and not quite as incendiary)

Cover chicken with water, bring to rolling boil and add other ingredients, drop to a simmer, and simmer for 2 hours.  Pull chicken out with tongs and discard.  Pour into a container through a cheesecloth covered sieve (this is critical, you don't want shards of lemongrass in your stock).

To make Tom Yum:

  • 2 qts stock (above)
  • 1 can straw mushrooms, drained
  • 1 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped coarse (baby bellas or even white mushrooms will also do)
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 large white onion, sliced in half, and then sliced on the vertical (you want long thin pieces, not chunks)
  • 5 teaspoons Tha chile paste (Nam Prik Pao)--I didn't have this, but did have Three Nines Brand Vietnamese chili satay paste, which worked awesome)
  • Juice of 6 limes
  • 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp fish sauce (I use Red Boat brand, which is stronger than Squid brand--they all taste a bit different.  I recommend adding a bit at a time, tasting, and adding a bit more etc)
  • 3 Thai basil leaves (I buy these and freeze them on a sheet pan, then keep in a bag)
  • 2 chile de arbol (these are everywhere here--small dried red chiles, you can also sub red pepper flake a bit a time for heat)
  • 12 large shrimp (chicken cut in chunks would be perfectly fine, just don't use the chicken from your broth--the taste has been pulled right out of it)
  • 1/2 package Thai or Vietnamese rice stick noodles (vermicelli would also work)
  • 2 teaspoons chicken powder or chicken bouillon crystals (we love Knorr Caldo con Sabor de Pollo chicken powder for giving soups and stews an extra punch of flavor)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro
  • Lime, quartered

Bring stock to boil, add all ingredients except shrimp, bring to boil and then reduce to simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour.

Boil up a separate pot of water, and cook noodles per package directions.  Drain.

Salt to taste, add shrimp.  Turn off heat.  Soup is ready when shrimp are pink throughout. To serve, place noodles in bowl, pour soup over, and garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve with lime quarters .

Buen Provecho!!


Well, as you can tell, I've been taking a break from blogging.  I just haven't been feeling it lately, and have been doing other things with my time, like writing postcards for Postcards To Voters and sending Letters Against Isolation.  Thanks again to my blog friends, The Gal and Kwizgiver for giving me the idea for these two activities.  I really enjoy doing both... a lot.   


I am….

Reading:  Now Face to Face, by Karleen Koen.  I love this series of books, set in the 18th century.  I’ve read her first novel, Through a Glass Darkly, several times, and recently bought the prequel, Dark Angels, and the follow-up.  It’s been nice to take a break from Sci-Fi and Fantasy and read something different. 

Listening to:  Neighborhood noises—I’m sitting on the patio.  The mornings have been been so gorgeous lately—Fall is definitely here.  I can hear birds, cars in the distance, kids laughing, and the breeze through the trees.  Maddie is laying on the patio next to my feet, enjoying the outdoors as well.

Loving:  Working four 10s.  I can’t even tell you how much having an extra day off every week means to me.   This week, I spent Friday morning over at Mom’s swimming in the pool, then we met hubs for lunch in Albuquerque, and went to Jackalope, which is a neat store that has all sorts of things, and LOTS of Talavera-style pottery.  I have a collection of Talavera animals on top of my kitchen cabinets and I bought a new one Friday—a horse.  Isn’t she lovely?

Thinking:  About my daughter.  She’s having some health issues, and they are pretty scary.  She doesn’t have an answer yet, and she doesn’t want to talk to anyone, so her FB stories are all I know.  On the up side, she sent me a video yesterday of my grandson opening the third birthday gift I sent him.  That was really sweet.  She also sent several photos, one of which was a family portrait.  My ex, his wife, their daughter, my daughter and her family, and her husband’s parents.  It made me a little sad that I’ll never be included in such a picture.

Feeling:  A little sad, like I said above, and worried.  But I’m trying to stay in the moment and enjoy today, since I have to work tomorrow.

Celebrating:  the house is clean, the dishes are done, the laundry is done, and I’ve fulfilled this week’s hours on the side gig.  So today is ALL MINE. 

Grateful for:  pretty much every thing, all the time.  Gratitude, I've found, equals joy for me.

Weather:  Sunny, a few clouds in the sky, and only 79 degree at high noon here in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.  I love, love, love, this time of year.  Our monsoon season hasn’t been great—we are behind on water, and the forecast doesn’t look very positive, but hey, it’s Fall!

Enjoying:  Last night’s dinner, for lunch.  Tom Yum Soup.  I love Thai food, and really enjoy cooking it.  All the aromatics coming out of this bowl are amazing.

 A quote I want to share:

Monday, August 8, 2022

Cooking is Fun...And Easy!! Lemon-Dill Chicken Skillet (AND) August Happiness Challenge--Day 8--Cooking

Welcome to day 8 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

And cooking makes me happy.  Blogging about cooking makes me happy.  So in honor of that, here's tonight's dinner.  

Lemon-Dill Chicken Skillet (adapted from the June/July 2022 edition of Southern Living Magazine)


1-1/4 lbs small Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 tbsp canola oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (I broke down a small fryer, about 2-3/4 lbs, so used 2 breasts and 2 thighs)
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from 2 lemons) plus lemon wedges for serving (3 lemons total)
2 ounces crumbled Cotija or Feta cheese (I love the more mellow saltiness of Cotija)
Dill fronds


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pour 4 cups water into large microwaveable bowl, add potatoes, and cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 12 minutes until potatoes easily pierced with a paring knife (will not be cooked through).  Drain.

Heat oil in a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet until shimmering over medium-high.  Sprinkle chicken on both sides with 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of garlic ' powder, and the black pepper.  When oil is hot, place in skillet skin-side down and cook UNDISTURBED (no peeking!!) for 12 minutes until fat from skin is rendered and skin is golden brown.  Transfer to a plate and reserve drippings in pan.  They will not be cooked all the way through.

Add potatoes, cut side down, to the drippings in the skillet. Cook undisturbed over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until bottoms are crispy and brown.  Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and remove from heat.  Arrange chicken skin side up on top of potatoes, and drizzle with lemon juice.  Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes, or more accurately, until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of chicken reaches 165 degrees.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with cotija (or feta) cheese, a few dill fronds, and lemon wedges.  Serve with the lemon wedges.  Serves 4.

Buen Provecho!!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 7--Naps


Naps make me happy.  I take one every day--one of the perks of working at home.  For my lunch break, I put my phone on do not disturb (except for Mom and hubs, of course) and lay down for 30 minutes.  I get up, refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day.  

On the weekends, I usually work from bed on my side gig computer for about an hour, and then hubs joins us and we sleep for another hour.  The bed is Maddie's happy place, and she will start herding me there by bumping my calf with her nose every day about 1230.  It's the one place where she is calm and chill 100% of the time.  

Naps feel luxurious and special to me--they are a vital part of taking care of ME.

Viva la Nap!!

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 6--Tin Can Alley


Yesterday was a pretty mellow day.  We ran around looking for Maddie's teeth bones, which we can usually find at TJ Maxx or Marshall's, but no dice.  Amazon it is, I guess, even though they are a little pricier on there.  While we were out running around we decided to stop a new place for lunch--Tin Can Alley.  It's one of several "food halls" that have popped up in Albuquerque in the last few years.  This particular one is made of containers.  You know, those big containers that go on ships, trains, and on the backs of trucks.  Here's a view from the outside.

Inside, it's like a giant food court, with lots of tables and chairs, couches, and comfy seating.  The restaurants, instead of your usual mall food court fare, are local.  There was Amore Neopolitan Pizza, SA BBQ, Pho Kup Vietnamese, On the Flip (Burgers/Tacos/Salads), Guava Tree Sabor Latino (Caribbean), Squeezed Juice Bar, The Cozy Nook (breakfast, pastries, coffee), and Nitro Fog Creamery (ice cream).  Upstairs in Santa Fe Brewing Company and huge covered patios with misters and fans.  Here's a shot of the main floor, where we sat.

Hubs had a BBQ combo platter from SA BBQ, and I had a Cubano with Yuca Fries from Guava Tree.  The food was outstanding, the atmosphere was fun (there was even an arcade upstairs that you could borrow board games from), and the whole experience made me happy.

We recently heard that this same company is going to be building another food hall on our side of the river, about midway between our house and Mom's building.  How exciting!

Friday, August 5, 2022

August Happiness Challenge--Day 5--My Niche


Welcome to day 5 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

Interestingly, I was just looking back through last year's post, because I didn't want to repeat myself (too much).  What caught my eye was a post about my new (now old) job, and how happy I was to be leaving the old (now new, again) job.

I didn't like auditing.  I found it crazy boring, compared to utilization review, also known as UR (which is reviewing medical charts for appropriate levels of care, medical necessity, and so forth).  It was like reading the same paragraph over and over for 30 days.  Different hospitals, different charts, same paragraph.  I wanted to poke my eyes out with a Bic pen, I swear.

About the time I was wondering WTF I was going to do, my previous VP called me and begged me to come back to UR.  I realized that this was an opportunity to do some negotiating (because she was desperate), and I negotiated a nice fat raise and a change in schedule to 4-10s.  She agreed, and here I am, back in the old job, with my former co-workers, and permanently working from home.

The CFO emailed me and told me how absolutely thrilled she was that I was back, and I realized something as I was thanking her.  I have worked as a critical care RN in ICU, in operating rooms, as a director of nursing in nursing homes, and in case management for insurance companies.  NONE of those things brought me as much happiness as doing UR for hospitals.  I feel like I'm fighting for patients against the big bad insurance companies and fighting for my company (to ensure we get paid for what we do) and it is my NICHE, people.

Realizing that after 30 years of being an RN makes me pretty effin' happy.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 4--Hubs


Welcome to day 4 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

So if you didn't know, I've been married 3 times.  Yep, it took me a while to get it right.  To meet someone who loved me for who I was and not what he could make me into.  And a person who I didn't feel like I had to be someone else for.  That's hubs.  

I can be as geeky and goofy as I want, and he'll be right there with me.  He tolerates my neurodiversity, and I tolerate his.  We both need an inordinate (well, that's what the ex said) amount of personal time and space, and we give it to each other.  We had some really tough times, and some really amazing times, and managed to stay together through all of it.  

We've known each other going on 20 years, and have been married for 17.  He makes me happy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 3--Mom


Welcome to day 3 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

Today's happiness?  My Mom.  In November of 2020, my Mom decided to move to New Mexico.  The pandemic was freaking her out, as she lived out in the country, and my brother couldn't get over there much (he's almost 2 hours away).  She felt very alone and overwhelmed with the acre and a half that she and my dad used to keep beautifully landscaped.  It's a lot for one person.  We were talking one day, and she told me she was thinking of selling the house and what did I think about her moving to New Mexico?

Well, I was thrilled.  After Dad passed, I always worried about her, with me being here and knowing that my sister-in-law and brother have their hands full with her older-than-my-mom parents and so forth.  We started planning, and she put the house on the market.  It sold for significantly over asking, in less than 24 hours.  We had to push our timetable a bit, lol.

I love having my mom here.  I love showing her what I love about this state, love spending time just hanging out, shopping, exploring, and talking.  Lots of talking.  I've learned things about my mom I never knew, and I'm sure she's learned things about me too.

I feel blessed to have her 15 minutes down the road, which is the first time that has ever happened in my adult life.

She makes me happy.

At the Botanical Garden 2022

Whale Watching off Cape Ann, Massachusetts 2021

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 2--Talin Market


Welcome to day 2 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

If you've followed me for any length of time, you've heard me talk about Talin Market.  I love, love, love to cook and so does my hubs.  We especially love exploring the foods of other countries by cooking them.  But we live about 45 minutes outside of Albuquerque, NM....not a place you'd normally think of for international foods.

Oh, how wrong you'd be.  Albuquerque isn't just a mecca for great New Mexican cuisine, but also has a very robust International community.   And the center of that community is an amazing grocery store called Talin Market.  Somewhere between the size of a Costco and a regular grocery store, Talin is divided into aisles denoted by a city in the country that the food on that aisle comes from.  It carries, Caribbean food (Havana), Indian food (New Delhi and Bombay), Korean (Busan and Seoul), Philippines (Manila), Japan (Osaka and Tokyo), China (Beijing and Taiwan), Middle Eastern (Beirut), Vietnam (Saigon), the US (New Orleans), Great Britain, and those are just the ones off the top of my head.  

Image Credit

In the corner is our favorite restaurant in Albuquerque, Pop-Up Dumpling House, where dumplings and soups made by a Chinese couple are made to order.  Another corner is fresh seafood and meat.  I love that they have meats cut for certain cuisines, like galbi (Korean beef) for example.

There are fresh and frozen foods, kimchi, quails eggs, sausages from every corner of the world, every kind of noodle you can think of, spices galore, and a whole utensils section.  The produce section is wondrous.  Seriously.

Every time we go, it makes me so happy.  It's about an hour from our house, but we make a day out of it.  We plan meals, hit up our recipes, and get cooking.  It's just a fun, happy time.

Monday, August 1, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 1--Happiness in a Dog Shaped Package

I'm super glad this came up just now, because I have been having a devil of a time blogging right now.  Thanks to The Gal Herself for this great challenge!  

Here's a brief explanation of the Challenge: "Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world."

You're invited to join me. Visit me with a link to your daily happy, and I'll come read it. I've found that experiencing other peoples' everyday pleasures is a great moodlifter.

It helps if your Happiness Challenge posts are marked with an icon. Just something that means "happy" to you.

This year's icon is another picture of our Texas Heeler (Australian Shepherd/Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog cross), Maddie.  She just makes me happy every single day.  I lost my Dad and my beloved dog, Ginger 1 day apart in March 2019.  I was in SC, and Joe was here.  It was the most crushing one-two punch ever.  Two weeks later, we went to Watermelon Mountain Ranch, our local no-kill shelter looking for a dog.  They didn't have any at the Ranch, but showed us a picture of "Noelle" who was in foster care.  We made arrangements to meet her the following Saturday at an event at PetSmart.  

We walked up to the foster mom, and Maddie took one look at us, and we at her and she came and sat at our feet, and looked up at us with a face similar to the one in this picture.  LOVE ME, it said.  And we did.  From that moment.  Maddie has had her challenges--she was starving when found, had been mistreated, and has severe anxiety about just about everything, especially noise.  She developed a seizure disorder.  Between her behavioral vet, training, meds for anxiety and noise aversion, and the regular vet, we've spent thousands.  WORTH EVERY PENNY and I'd do it all over again and twice on Sunday.

She is a sweetheart, and a good canine citizen who's living her best life.  When I think of her starving, out in the desert, with 8 puppies, I want to cry.  Then I look at her, and the sun comes out.  She's happiness in a doggy package.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Cooking is Fun...And Easy!! Boriqueño Baked Potatoes


Hi friends!!  If you've been following this page awhile, you'll know that my hubs is Puerto Rican.  Puerto Ricans proudly refer to themselves as Boricua...a person from Puerto Rico or of Puerto Rican heritage.  Hubs also proudly refers to himself as a Nuyorican--because he was born in the Bronx.  His mom came to the Bronx as a toddler from Puerto Rico.  Anyhow....one of our favorite dishes from his Mami' is the Nuyorican version of Picadillo.  This is a dish common throughout the Caribbean.  We originally learned to make empanadas (large fried dumplings or meat pies) with it, but found that it is FABULOUS over baked potatoes.  Enjoy!!


3/4 jar Goya Pitted Alcaparrado (order from Amazon here).  This is a jarred mix of green olives, pimentos, and capers).  Drain liquid into a bowl, put 3/4 of the jar on a cutting board or into a food processor and coarse chop.  Add leftover liquid back into the jar and keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.

1 pound ground chuck

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large garlic gloves, minced

4 heaping kitchen tablespoons of Goya Recaito (order from Amazon here).  This is a jarred green sauce made from Culantro, Green Pepper, Garlic, and Onion

2 large Russet baking potatoes


Salt and Pepper

Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place racks on the the low and medium setting.  Heat a large skillet, and add ground chuck, onion, and garlic.  Lightly salt and pepper.  LIGHTLY.  Cook over medium high heat until burger is cooked, stirring every so often.  Add Alcapurrado and Recaito and stir in well.  Cook until the liquid is mostly cooked off.  Taste and salt if needed (highly unlikely).  Turn off until time to serve, leave on stove.

Wash Russet potatoes, pierce with a fork or paring knife twice on each site, and rub with a little oil, then salt and pepper.  Place directly on oven rack and put a piece of foil or a cookie sheet below them to catch any drips.  Cook for 1 hour, turning 1/2 turn halfway through.  Will be ready when fork tines slide in easily.  At this point, turn the heat on the Picadillo to medium and heat up.

To serve:  Place potato in bowl or on plate.  Cut longwise, and then crosswise and squeeze the side till the lovely potato fluffs out.  Sprinkle with cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, and pile warmed Picadillo on top.

Buen Provecho!!

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Cooking is Fun... And Easy!! Chorizo Tagine with Lentils and Fenugreek

I love Middle Eastern, Moroccan, and Mediterranean food, and got a wild hair the other day and decided I had to have a tagine.  I got a preserved lemon kit in one of my cookbook boxes a few months ago and I've been researching what to do with said preserved lemons, and turns out, they are very popular in tagines  A tagine is the cooking vessel, and also the name of the dish cooked in it.  I bought this one from Amazon, because the bottom is cast iron and it's not as "delicate" as the traditional clay ones.  The top is clay, however.  

Of course, I had to get a cookbook.  This recipe is from The Modern Tagine:  Delicious Recipes for Moroccan One-Pot Meals by Ghillie Basan.

It serves 4-6.

I'll bet you are wondering how a tagine works.  Here's a great explanation from thekitchn.com:

"The tagine’s conical shape makes a uniquely moist, hot environment for the dish being cooked. The base is wide and shallow, and the tall lid fits snugly inside. As the food cooks, steam rises into the cone, condenses, and then trickles down the sides back into the dish."

Hot tip--you don't have to have a tagine to cook with this book.  A cast iron dutch oven with a well fitting lid will work!

Chorizo Tagine with Lentils and Fenugreek


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound of Spanish chorizo or Merguez sausage, thickly sliced (about 1/2 inch slices).  This is “dry” chorizo, do not sub the Mexican kind, it won’t work.  I used Puerto Rican (Goya Brand) chorizo, because I had some in the freezer.  
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground fenugreek
1-1/4 cups dried brown lentils
1 15 oz can fire-roasted chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar (I used Splenda, because we don't keep sugar around)
Chicken broth or water to cover lentils (just)
1/4 cup plus a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Warmed flatbreads or French bread slices and natural whole milk plain greek yogurt to serve


Step 1.  Heat the oil in the tagine base or a cast iron dutch oven.  When shimmering, add the onions and garlic and saute until they begin to color.  Toss in the chorizo slices and saute for 1-2 minutes just to flavor the oil.  Stir in the turmeric and fenugreek and add the lentils stirring well to make sure they are covered in the spices.

Step 2.  Stir in the tomatoes and sugar, and then pour in chicken broth or water to just cover the lentils mixture.  Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low simmer, and put the lid on the tagine or dutch oven and cook gently for about 25 minutes, adding more water/chicken broth if necessary, until the lentils are tender but not mushy.  (I make my own chicken broth, and I'm of the mind that chicken broth makes EVERYTHING taste more rich and tasty)

Step 3.  Toss in 1/4 cup cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Scatter the rest of the cilantro across the top, and serve with warmed flatbread or French bread slices and natural yogurt.

Sunday Stealing -- Hodgepodge


Join us here.

1. What's something you've recently accomplished solo? 

Finishing a Masters in Nursing and a dual Masters in Business and Healthcare Management in 2 years.  I busted my ass on that, and it was all ME.

2.  What's one product you use that never ever fails?

Dawn Powerwash.  The best cleaner ever.

3. Have you found your place in the world? Where is it?

Right here, in New Mexico.  I’m happy to be back doing Utilization Review instead of auditing—I missed it a lot, and enjoy it much more than auditing.

4.  Worst movie you ever saw?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.  I literally turned it off about 5 minutes in.  I don’t watch horror movies anymore.

5. What's the last fun thing you did?

Took Maddie to the dog park this morning.  There were no dogs, which is what she prefers, and it’s always fun to watch her sniffing around and exploring.

6. What's your favorite Italian dish?

Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Broccolini from the America’s Test Kitchen Mediterranean Instant Pot cookbook.  YUM!

7. Have you ever been to France? Any desire to visit there, and if so what would site or city would you most want to see?

No, I haven’t.  I’d love to go to Provence and see the various Roman cities and ruins there.

8. Have you ever been to Disney, any of the parks at all? Are you a Disney superfan or something less than that? They're open right now so tell us, would you go if you had the time/money/a free trip?

I’ve been and have no interesting ever going.  Not really a fan.

9. Your favorite place to go when you want to be quiet as a church mouse? Would those who know you well describe you as more church mouse or perhaps more like mighty mouse?

Mighty Mouse, I think.  But my favorite quiet spot is out here on the patio, or in my office on the couch.

10. Do you bake your own bread? Last time you had hot out-of-the-oven homemade bread? What's your favorite kind of bread?

Nope.  We’ve tried, and the altitude (we are higher than Denver, believe it or not) gets us every time.  We really need to do some research into high altitude baking.

11. What's something you might say is 'the greatest thing since sliced bread'?


12.  Share with us five little things you're grateful for today. Small blessings. One catch-they all must start with the letter T.

Tea (Iced).  I love Tetley’s Decaf made into iced tea.  Not dehydrating and tasty!
Trade.  I love my job as an RN, and have for over 30 years now. 
Tribe.  My family, friends, and other people I have things in common with.
Turf.  My home, my town, and my state.
Thesaurus.  How I figured all the above words out, lol.  Also very handy for writing papers.

13. Tell us where you were and something about what life was like when you were 20- 21.

I was married to my first husband and working at a big shipyard in Virginia.  We didn’t have much, and life was tough.  We weren’t suited for one another at ALL, and divorced after three years.

14. What's on the menu at your house this week?

Ooooo, I got a new cookbook and cooking thing so tonight I’m making my first Tagine.  Stay tuned for a Cooking is Fun and Easy post!   Hubs made Japanese Kara-Age (fried chicken) last night.  On the menu is chili, fish fillets, something with shrimp, and a pork roast.  We’ll use the leftovers to make Cuban Sandwiches and pulled pork sandwiches.

15.Something you recently purchased where a coupon was involved? Do you regularly shop with coupons?

Nope, can’t stand ‘em.  I want to buy what I like.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Saturday 9 -- Diamonds

Join us here.

Saturday 9: Diamonds (2012)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) In this song, Rihanna sings that when she looks at her lover, she sees the light in his eyes. The internet is filled with makeup tips for making your eyes look brighter. Drugstores sell eye drops that promise to get the red out. Are you bright-eyed this morning?

I’m pretty much always bright-eyed, since I’m an early bird by nature.  This morning was no exception.

2) She likens him to a shooting star. Astronomers tell us that shooting stars aren't that rare at all. They occur when dust, asteroids or comets enter the earth's atmosphere, and are often visible on clear, pollution-free nights. Have you ever seen a shooting star?

Yes, many.  Especially on trips in Alaska, the Great Basin, and Canyonlands.  No light pollution.  The sky was AMAZING.

3) In ancient Rome, shooting stars were considered good luck, especially for those going into battle, while some tribes in East Africa believed shooting stars were a harbinger of doom. Are you superstitious?

Not so much.  I’m more a believer in Karma (both good and bad), than I am anything else.

4) The singer of "Diamonds" hosted a lavish Diamond Ball to raise funds for education programs in Malawi, Senegal, and the country of her birth, Barbados. Rhianna named her charity initiative the Clara Lionel Foundation after her grandparents. If you were to name your foundation after your grandparents, what would it be called? What would you ideally like to do in their honor?

The Elfriede Helmut Society.  I would like to provide services for new immigrants to the United States who were displaced from their country of origin by war.  When my mother emigrated to the United States in 1952 as a displaced person after WWII, her family was basically dropped off in a shack on a cranberry bog.  No services, they didn’t speak English, and had little money.  The local elementary school principal took pity on my Mom (who was 12) and would drive out to the boonies where they lived to give her lessons in English.  It shouldn’t be that hard.  They had already walked across Europe, endured refugee camps, death, and destruction.  A little help when they got here would have been nice.

5) Rhianna recently had her first baby, a boy. According to the Social Security Administration, the top names for baby boys in 2021 were Liam and Noah. Is there a Liam or Noah in your life?

Nope.  I see lots of very interesting baby names in my job though—I do chart review on babies in our hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.  People can be very….. creative.

6) When she was still in her teens, Rhianna entered a beauty pageant on a dare, and won! Can you recall a time you acted on a dare?

Not a dare specifically, but I’ve done a lot of stupid shit in my time.  I seem to have gotten smarter or wiser as I’ve gotten older.

7) While on tour, she likes to sneak out into the audience, just to get the vibe from out there. To disguise herself, Rhianna slips on a black oversized hoodie. Are hoodies a staple of your wardrobe?

My hospital system is one of the biggest sponsors of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, and we can buy limited edition hoodies every year.  I always get one, they are perfect when the house is a little cooler in the winter.

8) In 2012, the year this song topped the charts, London hosted the Olympic Games. If you won a trip to London, what would you like to see?

The National Gallery first.  I love portraits. 

9) Random question: Did either or both your parents go to college?

My father did not.  He went in the Navy Submarine Service.  My mother started, then left to raise me, then my brother.  When she was in her 40s, she completed her bachelors degree in business at Augusta College.