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Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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Everything posted by Nancy in Pátzcuaro

  1. Gardening: (2016 – 2017)

    Host's note: this conversation is continued from Gardening: 2016 (midyear). After the banana plant produces fruit the "mother" plant dies. So do not remove any new shoots, which will provide fruit the next time around. Producing this much fruit completely depletes the plant and the new shoots grow dramatically after the death of the "mother" plant. Kind of a creepy metaphor, don't you think? I see in your photo that there are 3 new shoots. Each of them will produce a fruiting plant but you should probably remove at least one of the small ones, probably both, leaving the largest shoot. It can get pretty crowded if all three are left. Our altitude here in Pátzcuaro is too high for fruiting bananas but we can grow the "ornamental" kind. The same thing happens with this variety, and though there's a flower beloved by bees there's no actual fruit. I'm not a fan of bananas--never have been--but I love the plant. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  2. Cooking while Primitive Camping

    I would encourage you to take seriously Lisa's advice about protecting your food (and yourself) from bears while camping. We spent many years car camping and backpacking in the Colorado mountains and securing food was always a high priority. It's a lot harder when backpacking--you have to rig up a rope around the food container and haul it up between 2 trees--but it was possible to do without too much trouble. Put all your food back in the cooler and put it in your car at the end of the day. Take your garbage to the campground dumpster, which should be bear-proof, every night. Don't leave any food lying around your campsite while you're off hiking. Not only might it encourage a passing bear to come back later but it could attract dogs or other critters who would have no shame in snatching that bag of potato chips off the picnic table. That said, unless there are bears who have become accustomed to raiding trash cans in the area, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. In fact we've never actually seen a bear in a campground or back country site. We now camp, princess style, in a small RV so we aren't as rigorous about this as we used to be. As I told my husband, I'm too old to sleep on the ground anymore. Have fun with this. It is wonderful to get away from the lights and sounds of the city. I assume you'll be doing this when the weather warms up. Winter camping is not for the faint of heart--we only did it once and did not enjoy it. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  3. Menus for Christmas Dinner 2017

    We are going to our Catalan friend's house for paella. Not traditional but I'm sure it will be wonderful. We are at a disadvantage here, being inland and at the mercy of frozen seafood, but I'm sure Louis will rise to occasion. By the way, he's 95. I can only hope to be anywhere near as competent as he is when I get old. He says his mother lived to be 105 so we will have him for quite a few more years. I think a New Year's Eve dinner with salt cod would be appropriate. I do love salt cod. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  4. Back in the late 1960s I flew from time to time from Denver to Albuquerque to visit Santa Fe. The meals were unmemorable--some sort of mystery meat mostly--but each time peas were served as the vegetable. Now flying north-south along the Rockies is bumpy at the best of times and alarming once in a while. When we landed at ABQ the cabin was littered with peas that had gotten away from diners because of the turbulence. It was hard not to squash them as we exited the aircraft. I sympathized with the cleaning crew. This was Western Airlines--"the ONLY way to fly!" Long gone, as are so many of them. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  5. Hospital Time

    You know, I was unable to finish reading the whole list of your meals--my mind just couldn't stand it. My late parents were in assisted living (first) and then a nursing home, and they routinely complained about the food. Now, I have to say that dietary restrictions (low salt, low fat) make cooking edible food a bit challenging, but surely the use of herbs and other flavor-boosters could be incorporated into the food to make it more appealing. But the kitchen has to care about it and have the training to implement better techniques and ideally decent quality ingredients. My husband had back surgery a year ago June (successfully, thank goodness), at a major hospital in Morelia, and I have to say the food was actually edible and arrived at the proper temperature. Before each meal a young woman with a clipboard, dressed in an immaculate white coat, asked him what he wanted to eat. Breakfast choices included chilequiles, huevos mexicanos (eggs with tomato, chile and onion, named "mexicanos" due to the 3 colors of the Mexican flag), pancakes, french toast. Other meals he was offered a choice of chicken, pork , beef or fish, each with the appropriate accompanying side dishes, like steamed fresh vegetables, rice, etc. And tortillas, of course. It's not a meal without tortillas. Now this is a major institution with many beds, so it can be done on a large scale. I was completely astonished that the fish was cooked properly--i.e., not dried out or overcooked--even though it was tilapia. He was only there for 2 nights, so we didn't have a chance to experience their complete repertory. Included in his room cost was one meal a day for me as well, so I can vouch for the food. I'm very sorry, Thanks for the Crepes, that your traumatic experience--falling, surgery, recovery and rehab--was not improved by decent food. Was it possible for someone to sneak in something edible? How can these institutions provide better food? I think it starts with the administration, but someone has to make the commitment to do something about the dreadful food and then hire the right people to implement it. Possibly it would cost too much, which is always the excuse. Glad you're out of their clutches, even though cooking for yourself is difficult. How much longer in the wheelchair? Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  6. A Small NYC Kitchen Reno 2017

    I don't think you can over-oil a board, especially if you live in a dry climate. We brought a 3 x 5 Boos countertop for an island counter in our kitchen when we moved down here, and I find I have to oil it frequently during the dry season. Of course I use it as a big cutting board and prep area which beats it up a little bit, so I keep a bottle of mineral oil around for touch ups. And when we go away for a day or 2 we oil it heavily before we leave. I think you'll find that you'll need to oil it periodically to keep it looking as beautiful as it does now. It is a gorgeous hunk of wood, isn't it? And my sympathies for your remodeling woes. There's nothing quite so disheartening as looking at the mess of tools and materials lying around your kitchen. You're fortunate to have access to another apartment while yours is in ruins. Fingers crossed that you'll be finished enough by the end of the year to move back in. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  7. The Soup Topic (2013–)

    Where have I been? I've just read the entire thread and realized that I'd missed it completely. I rarely use a recipe for soup--just look in the fridge to see what's there and wing it. But I do have a wonderful recipe for a tomato red lentil soup that can raise the dead, or at least cure the unwell. I cut this out of a cooking magazine a zillion years ago so I can't give an attribution, but here it is-- Spicy Tomato Soup 1-3/4 pounds ripe tomatoes or 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes 2 Tbs. vegetable oil 1 tsp. mustard seeds 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 tsp. ground cumin 1/2 tsp. ground coriander 1/4 tsp. turmeric 2 dried red chiles 3/4 c. red lentils 6 c. water kosher salt to taste Peel and mince the tomatoes (or open the can). Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the mustard seeds. Cover and cook over high heat until they begin to pop and then reduce the heat to low. When the popping stops add the onion and cook, uncovered, until softened. Add the cumin, coriander, tumeric and chiles and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the red lentils, tomatoes and water, add salt, and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the lentils are falling apart, 45 minutes to an hour. 6 servings. I can vouch for the restorative qualities of this soup, especially with a sour tummy. It has an Indian subcontinent tone so I suspect it came from that part of the world. By the way, I've been reducing my stock to the "jelly" stage so that I can freeze it in ice cube trays and pop the cubes into a ziplock bag. Why should I freeze all that water when I can add it later when I make soup? I essentially make frozen bouillon cubes. Saves a lot of space in the freezer, which is always at a premium. One cube makes about a cup of strong stock. I have a new supply from the Thanksgiving turkeys and that should last me until next Thanksgiving. I save chicken bones in the freezer but generally use fresh vegetables--what I call The Usual Suspects, carrots, celery and onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf--to make a pot of stock in between turkeys. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  8. Looking for Breadmachine recipes

    I've relied for many years on "Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine," by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts (1995). Most of the recipes use the bread machine to mix and knead the bread and then you take it out to form it as you want. Wonderful recipes of all types, including an extensive chapter on sweet and holiday breads. There's a spiffy recipe for rye bread that I like very much. I'll bet you can find the book on Amazon. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  9. Scratch Guacamole - Labor Intensive

    Here's another option: Last night as we were returning from a concert in Morelia we stopped for gas across the highway from what we'd heard was an avocado packing facility. While chatting with the guy pumping gas we learned that it will produce canned avocado puree. I'm assuming this won't be the chunky style most of us prefer for guacamole, but evidently this produces a product that is shelf stable and available all year when avocado production is in one of its low cycles. I don't know if this appeals to you, but it's an option. Clearly there's automation involved--I can't really see hundreds of people with knives and spoons processing tons of avocados, despite labor being pretty inexpensive around here. The facility is huge--easily twice as long as a football field and equally wide. We've watched it being built for the past couple of years. The first clue that something important was being built was the massive stone wall around it and the secure entry system in front. I also have a nifty avocado ice cream recipe that is dairy free and vegan, and stupid easy to make, if you want add it to your menu. The puree would be ideal for this. Nancy in Pátzcuaro (in the middle of avocado production in Michoacán)
  10. Scratch Guacamole - Labor Intensive

    There's a restaurant in Zihuatanejo that prepares salsa at the table, and one can specify how spicy it will be, what other ingredients other than tomato and chile, etc. It's always a hit. The wait staff gets a chance to show off a little, make it a bit of a performance, and get a bigger tip as a result. The Zihua restaurant has a young woman whose only job is to make the salsa, so you might consider dedicating one person for the guacamole. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  11. Scratch Guacamole - Labor Intensive

    I don't know if there's any way to make as much guacamole that you do and still produce it quickly without just dumping it in a blender. If you make it in a molcajete and take it to the table that way it could be a selling point. It's compelling to have someone mash avocados for your own personal guacamole--I'm sure your customers would love it. But if you're using 70+ avocados every day I don't think you'd have enough molcajetes to go around. This is not a problem that most of us have. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  12. Lasagna Wars

    For me it's the CI lasagne bolonese. No spinach, no ricotta, no mushrooms (alas), no mozzarella--just a good bolognese sauce, no boil noodles, bechamel and parmesan. Classic, a little boring, but always wonderful. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  13. All Things Mushroom

    Has anyone figured out how to judge when to go out in search of mushrooms? In Colorado the season is late summer into the fall, but the real question is whether they flush after a soaking rain, and if so, how long after the rain? After a heavy snow year to saturate the ground, with occasional rain to keep it moist? It's the hardest part about mushrooming--when to start looking. Nothing quite so disappointing as finding lots of porcini that are flabby and wormy because we should have been out there a couple of days earlier. I suppose mycologists have their theories. By the way, did you see the story in the food section of the New York Times about amanita muscaria? I thought it made a relatively poisonous mushroom sound a little too attractive to neophytes. Plus the author said that they can be mistaken for other members of the family, like Destroying Angel (amanita virosa), which is nonsense. Amanita virosa is an elegant white mushroom--amanita muscaria is chunky and crude in comparison, with what we call cottage cheese all over the red cap. Nothing else looks like that. However our experience is that porcini grow in the same places as the amanita muscaria, so when we find a patch we look closely for porcini. So they're not entirely useless! Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  14. Apples and Pesticides

    Here in México we use Microdyne, which is colloidal silver. I'm definitely trying the baking soda wash, though I don't know how to evaluate how well it works without a lab test. If anyone has any information about the effectiveness of Microdyne vs. baking soda, I'd like to hear about it. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  15. Thanksgiving Side Dishes

    I don't have a specific recipe--it's different every time. Constants are shredded red cabbage, slivered red onion, a little garlic, a generous amount of red wine, cooked slowly for as long as it takes to get soft and jammy. I've added grated nutmeg, vanilla, dried cherries or cranberries, orange juice, a pinch of cinnamon, a little honey if it seems too tart--not all at the same time, of course. My German grandmother was famous for her sweet and sour red cabbage, so sometimes as an homage I've stirred in a little vinegar and brown sugar. But I much prefer it on the savory side. Salt and pepper, of course. I like the idea of apple juice too--gives it a nice fruit overtone. Allspice--hmm--gotta try that this TG. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  16. Thanksgiving Side Dishes

    Braised red cabbage Cauliflower gratin Creamed spinach Glazed carrots Roasted root vegetables Corn pudding I'm sure I'll think of more--but this will start the conversation. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  17. All Things Mushroom

    When I cook chanterelles I put them in a dry pan at fairly high heat. Liquid comes out in great quantity, and I cook them until the moisture is pulled back into the mushroom. No fat, no salt, no herbs--at least before I use them in the final dish. This is how I prepare them for freezing. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  18. All Things Mushroom

    We've been foraging for mushrooms in Colorado for years; long ago we decided that we didn't need to know every mushroom in the forest, just the ones we want to eat. Those are boletus edulis (porcini), chanterelles, oyster, and one or 2 other minor species. However when we went out to restock our supply 2 summers ago we found that drought and insect infestations had destroyed the entire habitat. Miles and miles of dead coniferous trees meant that there was too much sun and not enough water. I'm still working through our stash of porcini (they are best dried and reconstituted, IMO) and frozen chanterelles. I have no idea if the habitat will recover in our lifetimes. Sad, but "así es la vida." I've been led to believe that morels grow best on ground that has burned in the past, so there might be at least something good coming out of the horrible fires in California this summer. As far as I'm concerned, chanterelles and bacon were made for each other. Jane Grigson has a wonderful recipe for chanterelles, bacon and potatoes, and my husband especially loves risotto with bacon and chanterelles. We don't have a story to compare with the long underwear, but some years ago we did come upon a massive quantity of perfect boletus edulis at the entrance to the Wheeler Geologic Area in SW Colorado near Creede. In those days (I don't know if it's still true) you had a 7-mile hike in to the entrance and then another 7 miles out again because the jeep road was often impassable. We always carried old 5-pound onion sacks in our packs in case we came upon mushrooms, so we harvested a lot--and I mean a LOT--of mushrooms that we had to haul 7 miles to the car. We put as much in our packs as possible and then carried the remainder in onion bags. (This is what's known as "mushroom greed.") Unfortunately the sky looked ominous so we started back before we could really do justice to the quantity of mushrooms available. As the sky got darker and darker we started walking faster and faster across the huge open meadow between the Wheeler and the car, to the point that we were jogging at the end. We made it without further incident, and later found that we'd harvested over 30 pounds. It's rare to come upon an area with that many prime mushrooms that have just flushed a day or 2 before and weren't full of worms, probably caused by cattle grazing. No cattle in the Wheeler, however. This story makes me want to get out in the forest. We have some good ones that show up in the mercado, and we've harvested some agaricus species here that are much better than the button mushrooms you buy in the grocery store, but no porcini or chanterelles yet. Maybe we can train our new puppy? Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  19. Worst Halloween candy

    And now for something completely different (and disgusting). This showed up in my inbox this morning-- http://www.coastalliving.com/food/entertaining/halloween-candy-wine-pairings You'll be happy to know that Prosecco is the wine of choice with candy corn. Don't say I didn't warn you! Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  20. Worst Halloween candy

    Sorry to have wandered off into the weeds-- The question was--worst Halloween candy. I've already admitted that as a child I craved candy corn, but of the other choices it would have to be anonymous hard candies or very old (dry) caramels. Tooth breakers, all of them. OK--what do you all hand out at Halloween? I think we've established that candy corn is the winner in the "Worst Candy" division, with Tootsie Rolls a distant second. I admit to being ignorant of current candy choices, so what other horrible options are left that we haven't identified? Nancy in Patzcuaro .
  21. Worst Halloween candy

    Halloween has come to Mexico, although we call it Dia de los Muertos. Several days before Muertos kids are circulating with their "calabacitas," which are either plastic pumpkins or actual hollowed out squash. Candy is appreciated but what they really want is a couple of pesos. In fact many of the squash have holes too small to push in real candy, so clearly they prefer pesos. I circulate around town with candy and pesos in my pocket just in case. Kids don't go door to door here, though that may change when kids come back from the US and the custom changes. As to favorite candy--I have to confess that as a child I loved candy corn. As an adult, not so much, though if you showed up at my door right now I would snatch it out of your hand. Give me chocolate any time, though. I learned early on, when we lived in Boulder and kids would show up at the door, that most didn't really care. Tootsie Roll pops were always a good choice given that candy apples and other homemade treats were off limits. But that was in the early 1970s before Boulder became "Boulder" and possibly things have changed since then. When we moved to the country and our closest neighbors moved away we had no takers at the door. I also learned that for the sake of our waistlines we should always choose candy that we didn't like, because the leftovers would be less attractive. One of the things that we've appreciated is how the customs from one country--the US--gets morphed in another country. Children, who are the most adaptable of us, can convert one custom--Muertos--into some else--Halloween. And in both cases they get candy. What could be bad? Nancy in Patzcuaro
  22. Vanilla sticker shock

    I just recalled that a friend asked if we could find imitation vanilla here in México because his wife makes a certain cake that just doesn't taste "right" with real vanilla. She couldn't find it in her local grocery store--though it's available in many forms online--so we found a bottle and sent it to her (via a friend going north who could mail it in the US). I think I'll buy a small bottle and test that theory myself. I still have a supply of the real stuff, but this thread has me worried about the price when I have to buy a new bottle. This way I could stretch my supply. Plus I'm not a serious baker. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  23. Vanilla sticker shock

    Several years ago, when we were exploring a move to México, my husband and I were fantasizing about growing vanilla as a cash crop. When we found out what a major pain-in-the-you-know-what the process involved we concluded that there were better ways to use our time. The flowers (they're orchids) need to be pollinated by hand, the flowers only last one day, and when the beans are harvested they have to be spread out to dry on the ground but also moved under cover at night so the overnight moisture doesn't undo the drying process of the day before. As wages in vanilla-growing countries rise it's understandable that the price of the finished product will rise as well. That, and the vagaries of climate, seem to have contributed to the higher cost. It doesn't help with sticker shock, however. I have heard, however, that artificial vanilla is a better product to use when baking because the volatile oils of the real vanilla evaporate (or boil off, or whatever) during the high heat of the oven. Does anyone have experience with artificial vanilla? I'm speaking of vanilla extract, of course. Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  24. Stuffed Poblano Pepper

    Thanks, Smithy, for rounding up that post. Reading it again made me hungry for those chiles rellenos. Got to go to the mercado for the ingredients! Nancy in Pátzcuaro
  25. Stuffed Poblano Pepper

    I wrote a recipe for chiles rellenos for RecipeGullet many months ago, titled "My Spanish Teacher's Chiles Rellenos." Stuffed with queso fresco, battered and fried and then cooked to finish in a thin tomato broth that then is used as a sauce with a bed of white rice. Rub the poblanos (or anaheims) lightly with oil before you toast them over the grill or gas flame--that pops the skin off much faster and you're less likely to overcook the flesh. Rub a little flour on the filled chiles before dipping them in the batter--the batter seems to adhere better that way. Separate the eggs and fold the beaten whites into the batter to lighten it. Rick Bayliss has a wonderful recipe for chiles rellenos with a picadillo made with salt cod--page 360 in Mexican Kitchen. I've also eaten them stuffed with shrimp and crab (and cheese, though as a rule I don't care for fish and cheese together). And of course there's Chiles en Nogado, the famous dish celebrating Mexican independence in the fall when the new walnut crop is ready and the pomegranates are ripe. These are stuffed with picadillo, not cheese, and are served at room temperature (as is the Bayliss dish). Hope this helps--Nancy in Pátzcuaro
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