Blue Iris

I work part time in my home in New Mexico. My granddaughters, ten and eleven, come over after school. My Corgi-Beagle dog Cristina always makes me smile. I love to garden.

  • Location: Rio Rancho
  • Favorite foods: Anything made with good ingredients and love. I learned a lot when my mom cooked her way thru Julia Child. At home (Pennsylvania) we gardened, canned tomatoes and applesauce and pickles, made bread every other day.
  • Last bite on earth: The very best of fruit and cheese, and a key lime pie made from the recipe in an old edition of The Joy of Cooking.

Horchata de Arroz

Thanks for the recipe! I would love to know how to treat the almonds. Grind and strain? Is the whole thing heated up before it is cooled? I know it needs to be really cold to taste best.

We love horchata from a local Mexican drive up place. I have made a fake version for the granddaughters with 1/2 whole milk, 1/2 ice water, vanilla and almond extracts, organic sugar. Not the same but pretty good.

Cinco de Mayo Poll: Mild, Medium, or Hot Salsa?

Go, Toad! Of course I make salsa when I can get decent tomatoes, but I'm not ashamed to have Pace Chunky Medium around for quick snacks and enchiladas/quesadillas made with what's on hand. That's better after school snacking than most kids get.

Keeping herbs in the fridge

I like those green bags and no wet paper towels. The green bags aren't a miracle but noticeably better than regular plastic bags.

To Bean or Not to Bean?

@Amandarama: It does work like a charm as Kitchenista says. I take it with the first bite as the instructions suggest. Have never tried taking it 30 minutes before.

To Bean or Not to Bean?

I use three kinds of beans, usually white, pinto and kidney.

@dhorst; I agree that the creamy mouth feel from well cooked beans is part of the not-Texan chili experience.

For meat, I use 'chili grind', a coarse ground beef we can get here in New Mexico.

Poll: What Kind of Cheese Do You Like on Grilled Cheese?

Cheddar on homemade sandwich bread. In summer, add a tomato slice and just a sprinkle of fresh herbs of your choice.

To save calories and time, I find that I can toast the bread (brown but still soft) and microwave the sandwich to just melt the cheese. Not quite the same but delicious and good for 'tween granddaughters after school.

Spice & Easy on FN

No blends used other than the Chinese five spice. I hate most blends -- they are often full of, guess what, salt! I also liked that she didn't use fancy appliances.

stinky watercress

I don't know the Midwest well, but watercress is common on old farms in the Northeast where it is grown in spring runs or even in really little streams. If you are in an area where there are springs, you might find watercress at a farmer's market.

Suggestions for cooking for many at the beach

You might make and freeze at home pasta sauces, soups, stews etc -- things which taste even better after the flavors "marry" in the freezer. These are often budget dishes.

If it is going to be very hot where you are going, roasted chicken to use cold in a salad or just sliced, and meats pre-marinated for the grill (as Jerzee Tomato did) might be more appropriate.

Happy Earth Day!

Apologies if you think this is off topic: compost fruit and vegetable scraps if you are able. In my tiny yard, I simply stick the stuff under any mulch.

Cook the Book: 'In The Green Kitchen'

how to have every dish ready at serving time.

Ideas For Roast Chicken Pan Dripping

Similar to dhorst's suggestion, separate the fat and use it for home fries. It's not French fries made in duck fat, but it's far better than the home fries at your favorite breakfast place. Except for the spatters, I don't mind if a little of that brown juice is in there too.

when to freeze bread dough?

About freezing the loaf, I sometimes take bread or rolls out of the oven at the stage where they are like 'brown and serve' things you can buy -- still pretty white but fully risen. I freeze them but not for long, maybe a month maximum. Thaw completely and brown at 275 - 300 degrees. I often brush them with butter during the baking. This works best when you have guests who will finish the loaf or rolls because 're-baked' bread dries out very fast.

The smell in the house is nice but not like the real thing.

there's a hole in my bread!

I make sandwich bread regularly. After I cut the dough into portions to make each loaf, I roughly form the loaf and then smack, I mean SMACK, that loaf down on the counter. Then form into a loaf and seal. Let rise in pans.

If there is still air in there, you can sometimes look at the dough in the pan and notice a high thin spot where a bubble is forming. Back to step one. Good luck!

Salad Dressing Help

I also make it one day at a time in the bowl the salad is going into. Give it a whisk and let it sit in the bottom. Toss just before serving.

You'll never buy the bottled stuff again and you'll save a lot of money even if you use fancy oils.


My daughter who became an Mickey D-ite as soon as she got her own wheels is baaaack. What happened? She's pregnant and feeling queasy. "Mom, I've haven't been eating anything except fruit, salad and yogurt."

Some of it is not being able to keep greasy foods down. I hope some of it is thinking about her baby.

Cook the Book: 'Osteria'

Pork loin and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes.

Bodily Functions at Serious Eats

What bodily functions? Either they went over my head (poor choice of metaphor) or I wasn't offended. That said, we do love to laugh here and sometimes get a little crazy. In a good way. Let's move on!

My bread dough is rising too fast(?)

Like dmarina, I wonder if you had rapid rise yeast. I hate that stuff.

Will you succumb to Girl Scout Cookies?

They aren't bad for mass-produced cookies. I ducked them this year because I don't usually have cookies in the house and when they are there I eat too many too fast!

Measuring Cups - Difference between wet and dry?

@db: mumble mumble MENISCUS. Saying it is fun for the tongue.

S.O.S. (...on a shingle): Way or No Way?

WAY! When I was little (40's in Pennsylvania) "creamed hamburg" on toast was one of our standard breakfasts (creamed dried beef less often). It is one of my standard comfort foods. Just had it for dinner (actually I still call it supper) two nights ago after a tough day.

@Karencooks: this in how I make it, and how my mother made it: Crumble ground beef in a cast iron skillet. I use 80/20 chuck for good flavor. As soon as it loses its red color sprinkle with flour (I use Wondra these days) and stir it until you see no flour. Keeping stirring to brown the flour a bit but don't burn. Add whole milk and let simmer for about 10 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add salt and lots of ground pepper. Serve on toast on a warmed plate.

With the dried beef, I use the kind from the jar, torn into bits. Because it is fairly lean, melt some butter in the skillet first. At the end be careful with the salt as the beef is pretty salty.

I never heard the SOS name until I was grown even though my dad had a foul mouth. Maybe that name came out of the military.

Relish Tray: Way or No Way?

I sometimes use mine on hot summer nights for various cut veggies with one pickle section. Serve with, say, crackers and cheese, or chicken salad, and sweet tea. And a forties floral tablecloth. My granddaughters find it very exotic and elegant.

Seal the Deal Meals

Homemade bread did it with my ex. The bread is a better deal than he was!

What are your everyday breads?

I make a half bread flour/half whole wheat bread and use it mostly for toast. Sometimes I add kamut (posts about that last fall), leftover oatmeal, cooked cracked wheat. Once in a while I make dinner rolls, the soft buttery kind for fancy dinners, more rustic ones for stews and soups.

You guys who don't make bread should give it a try, machine or no. The house smells so good. Just follow a good recipe to start. It doesn't take a lot of time but there are several steps separated by an hour or more, so do it on a day when you will be home anyway.

I taste a new supply of _________ before cooking with it

OK. A few months ago I ruined a batch of green chili stew by following my regular recipe but using from a new bottle of ground cloves. Someone who used to cook professionally said always taste new supplies before using them. So glad I remembered! On Sunday I was making meatloaf and had new horseradish (the little glass bottle found near the cold cuts). Phew-eeee! I don't think anything has dared come near my sinuses since.

Obviously some ingredients, Hellman's mayo for instance, are very consistent. Other ingredients like herbs and spices vary because they are less processed. That's part of their charm as long as they don't sneak up on us.

What groceries do you taste first when you get a new supply?

"Favorites" Broken?

I really like the new Favorites feature but it seems to be broken today. Maybe it's my @#$%^&* dial up connection.

I hope our great administrators are having a holiday, but will check when they are back. Thanks and Happy New Year.

Chiffonade's Turkey Soup

If you cook a turkey for Christmas, you may want to look at a delicious recipe therealchiffonade posted on 11/28/08 under "T-Giving Turkey Soup".

It is the very best and I will make a vat of it on Saturday.

Merry Christmas to all! Thank you, Chiff!

Pork and sauerkraut

I need comfort food today. For me, that's pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes. I see that Jerzee Tomato and PerkyMac named pork and sauerkraut as their traditional New Year's food last year.

So, how do you cook it? Years ago I started sauteeing the pork (bony ribs, neck bones) with onions before adding a little water and the sauerkraut. I know some people add caraway seeds. Other suggestions? I could eat this stuff once a week in winter. Thanks, guys.

Romanesco broccoli !!!

I found some beautiful romanesco broccoli in my local organic market just before Thanksgiving. It is so great/strange-looking you could just sit and stare at it. If you haven't seen it, look it up on Google Images.

I cooked it for Thanksgiving -- microwaved the florets in a covered dish with a bit of water and some butter. Delicious. Tastes just like broccoflower to me.

We noticed how much the individual florets look like Christmas trees, much the way regular broccoli florets look like regular trees. This would make a great dipper for a Christmas party, and would be fun to serve to little kids.

Help! OD on Ground Cloves!

Yesterday I saw both ground beef and pork loin on sale in the market. I got three pounds each plus all the other ingredients and made eleven honking quarts of green chili stew to freeze for a family party at Christmas/New Year's. Problem: I had a new jar of ground cloves which was much stronger than my old jar. (The old one's possible age is embarassing to consider.) The stew is way too clove-y.
Any ideas except make another batch and mix them? If I do that I'll have to try to find freezer space at a friend's.
Moral: use new spices carefully.

New Ways to Cook Zucchini ?

I don't grow any myself, but somehow low-flying stealth zucchinis keep entering my life. Tonight I pulled out Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison and found her recipe for Sauteed Zucchini with Garlic and Lemon.

I can't find it on the internet to give you a link, but it is sauteed garlic and diced zucchini with miscellaneous chopped fresh herbs and lemon zest added at the end. The lemon zest makes all the difference. We had it with corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes. Very summery. My granddaughters, 8 and 9, ate every bite.

As I probably won't get thru the weekend without adopting another zucchini, have you had other zucchini revelations this summer?

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon....."

I'm probably the last person on earth to receive a chain email called "Instructions for Life from the Dalai Lama". Ahem. Looks like it's NOT really from the Dalai Lama.

Anyway, the whimsical last line of a set of rather solemn instructions is "Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." I like it, regardless of who really wrote it.

So here's to all of us who try new recipes and ingredients, measure by handfuls and share our love and fun!

A Good Cookbook for Kids

We have not tested it thoroughly but I think we hit on a great kids' cookbook! Last weekend we made guacamole, macaroni and cheese, and corn chowder. All were ‘from scratch’ and tasty. I would have served any to family and friends.

The girls (eight and nine) were comfortable doing everything except draining the pasta. The younger one even made a respectable white sauce with help from Wondra. They diced onion for the guacamole wearing their swimming goggles!

I have seen too many kids' cookbooks full of things like clown faces made from Rice Krispies and marshmallows -- nothing wrong with that once in a while but it’s hardly cooking.

The book is "The Everything Kids' Cookbook" by Sandra K. Nissenberg, Adams Media, paperback. My sister, a children’s' librarian, says "Everything..." is a popular series and most libraries are likely to have them.

Glass containers for leftovers

Many have touched recently on health and ecological reasons to store leftovers in glass rather than plastic. Also to freeze liquids in glass.

There are lots of nice, and fairly expensive, products out there. And you can find nice jars in some thrift stores. But I had an aha moment today when I came on a display of canning jars and discovered they now sell sturdy, screw-on lids for the wide-mouth (wide-mouth equals straight-sided) jars. As most of you know the straight-sided jars come in sizes from 1/2 pint to 1 quart.

I got a dozen pint jars (with bands and canning lids as usual) and also eight plastic lids for about $12. If you like this idea, get moving because canning jars are in most stores only during the summer.

Nigella Lawson on NPR

If you are a Nigella fan and did not hear her on National Public Radio this morning -- she was discussing outdoor summer parties -- you can listen and print recipes at

Apricot Preserves

I think I hit on a keeper this morning. Albuquerque is overrun with apricots this year. Because Chinese five-spice is my "new toy", and I knew five-spice and apricots get used together in Chinese recipes for chicken and pork, I decided to try them in a jam. What I used:

6 cups of apricots, pitted and quartered
2 tsp. five-spice powder
1-1/2 cups of sugar
a sprinkle of salt

A neighbor who grew up on Southern cooking tasted it straight from the pot and declared it "like peach pie made in heaven."

On the other hand, ahem, I am still in the process of making an apricot chutney from a conglomeration of internet recipes. Not sure it is too great but it may be better after a few days of "marriage".

I would love comments and recipes for most any apricot preserve. My sister's tree is dropping about five buckets a day and even though we are drying a bunch we are still having trouble staying ahead of the ants.

Thanks to all. Love this site.

Pickles Redux

With food prices so high, I am remembering an old trick my mother used to feed her brood of eight in the fifties:
Pickle juice can be reused to make refrigerator pickles right in the same jar. Sometimes my mom would simply put carrot sticks, for example, in the pickle juice and let it sit a few days in the fridge.
I sometimes put the leftover pickle juice in a saucepan and add veggies (carrot sticks or minis, green beans, zucchini or cucumber slices, onion slices and so on) and possibly herbs and maybe vinegar or water. Bring just to a boil and then put back in the same jar (which has been heated up with some real hot water so it won't break). Then back in the fridge. Tastes better after a day or so.
Everyone appreciates the cold crunch of pickles on a hot day. And it's a good way to get veggies into the kids. We are now working on a jar of mini carrots which went into some bread-and-butter pickle juice along with the tough stalks of my dill which I needed to cut back. It's quite good.
Other ideas for pickle juice?

Cooking by Sound -- Anyone?

Years ago I asked a sweet lady in her eighties to show me how she cooked the best fried chicken you can imagine. In the process she gave me probably the best cooking advice I ever got -- LISTEN. She would say "Now, honey, you don't want that pan yellin' at you, and you don't want it whispering either. You get it so it just chatters at you."

I am wondering whether anyone ever was taught this by a good cook, in a class or just among friends or family. I have never heard it except once I think I heard someone on Iron Chef tell one of their assistants that something didn't SOUND right.

Mint: Love It or Hate It?

I just saw Chiff0nade post jokingly for the second time about how she detests (Is that the right word, Chiff?) mint.
To me, living in the desert Southwest, mint is a luxury. I do grow some quite nicely on the north side of my house where the hose drips but don't have as much as I would like.
Where I grew up in Pennsylvania we called mint plants "tea" and that's what we usually made our iced tea from: straight up mint, a big handful of stalks steeped in a gallon of boiling water. I also knew a loveable old eccentric who reported taking "mint wallows" on very hot nights. His had a spring house and the spring run was full of mint. It must have been a funny sight....
Anyway, how do you use mint? Does mint bring out such strong love it or hate it feelings as does cilantro?

Does Where You Live Affect What You Like To Eat?

Have others had the experience of moving to a new climate or region and finding some of the local specialities disgusting? Then after a few months or years in that place you become the biggest muncher of those same local foods you thought you hated?

Keeping Cilantro: Science Experiment Results

I am the one who started "Buying Produce for One" last week. My special problem was with cilantro. Well, did I ever learn a lot!

After all your great comments, I set up my experiment and all three methods below work great! The cilantro looks like it was just purchased.

#1 is in a mug with an inch of water and loosely covered with a plastic produce bag.

#2 is in a fast food drink cup with an inch of water, lid on and holes in the sides to imitate the Preserva Herb Savor. Thanks, renzata.

#3 is washed in the salad spinner and in an air-fillled ziplock bag with a paper towel in the vegatable drawer. Thanks, chiffOnade.

I think my biggest mistake was not cutting off enough of the stem. I cut about 1-1/2 inches this time. A florist tells me that when a stem is cut the cells start to deteriorate up from the bottom and you need to take a pretty good chunk off to get back to the healthy cells further up the stem.

Buying Produce for One

How I wish I could get six stalks of cilantro, one quarter of a cabbage, three stalks of celery and so on. I read advice to try buying from a salad bar but that stuff is really expensive and pretty wilted. I am hoping some of you from really trendy locations will tell me that some ahead-of-the-curve green grocer is just laying stuff out, unbundled, and charging by the pound. Or is that just my pipe dream?

Faux pho for kids

As a grandma and gardener I have come up with this Vietnamese-inspired recipe/activity which my granddaughters love:
I make a soup of chicken stock and noodles.
A little meat is optional, as is starting with sauteed onions/garlic.
As the soup heats, the kids run outside and collect their own herbs to add to the soup. There are lots of possibilites: I happen to have chives, thyme, dill, sorrel, mint and sunflower sprouts if the birdfeeder has been busy.
While the kids are washing their selections (and splashing and squealing), I set out lettuce, sliced radishes, sprouts, bits of a mild jalapeno, whatever is on hand.
They add whatever greenery they want in whatever order they want. Empty bowl guaranteed, and a little plant knowlege gained along the way.
A good activity for spring and fun to eat on the porch in summer.

What to Do with Sunchoke?

I got sunchokes in my CSA share this week. What should I do with them? (also got spinach, purple kale, cabbage too, incorporating those is a plus!) Thanks!... More

hot wintertime comfort drinks

It's late afternoon/evening/whenever, you just drove home in heavy traffic through sleet and freezing rain, your feet are cold, you're cranky, and think you might be coming down with a cold and just want to sit under a blanket and... More

what's your favorite "get back on track" food?

i'm assuming that by monday, we'll all get back in our usual routines once again.... now that we've finished (hopefully) the holiday goodies.... what's your "back on track" foods? mine: huge salads with either a piece of chicken, fish or... More