Sunday, January 6, 2013

With or without a Clay Bean Pot

I have recently been reminded how much I love beans… not the steamed green kind, or soupy sweet baked variety – but a good ol’ wholesome, creamy, garlicky, cumin-y pot of Mexican beans.  Whenever I make them I think of friends @Betsy McNair and @Sonia Banuelos de Sigenza, who I’m quite certain are the queens of beans – theirs simmering in a traditional clay bean pot.

I ordered some with breakfast in Williams, AZ at the Pine Country restaurant a few days ago.  Seemed the right accompaniment with scrambled chorizo and eggs – they came with a hot, flour tortilla and an ounce of fresh salsa – had forgotten how good that they could be!

First breakfast in my new neighborhood was a trip to the Omelet and Waffle Shop with my uncle, Norm.  He feasted on fab waffles and griddled spicy Italian sausage, while I had my “usual” – corned beef hash (by which most breakfast place benchmarks are set – and an homage to friend @Rob Gale), scrambled eggs with cheddar and a side of beans… since I could.  Soooo tasty!

Laying in supplies for the coming week left me meal planning as I shopped. I wanted to cook things that were healthy, easily reheated and comforting.  A roasted chicken was a must – and why not add a pot o’ beans to the mix?!  Pink Pintos, boiled and soaked for an hour or so to tenderize, then drained; sautéed a bit of onion, garlic & carrot, added the beans back in along with more water to cook fully.  Halfway through I added some cumin and a bit of sea salt and pepper. (waiting until the beans are mostly cooked before adding the salt ensures that they won’t harden or end up tough).  I let them simmer for a while longer until creamy.  This is a vegetarian version – but adding some kind of pork would up the flavor quotient…

This morning’s breakfast featured the beans, sans eggs (but with chicken!), topped with queso fresco, fresh salsa and a sprinkle of cilantro.  PERFECTION! 

Stopped at two bowls, but it wasn't easy.  These beans will reappear during the week in a tortilla with cheddar for lunch, as a side dish with dinner or even a midday snack as I learn a new skill and need some brain food to keep going.  Flexible, cheap and easy.

So, whether you’re in southern California; Puebla, MX; Santa Cruz in the Bay area or New England, make a pot of beans. Ideal for a wet, cold, snowy day – even without the clay pot!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Almost there!

My last two stops - Santa Fe, NM and Flagstaff, AZ were exactly what I had hoped.  From Amarillo, straight (and I mean straight/flat) across West Texas, to the land of mesas, gulches, arroyos, Tejano, nopales and jackalopes - Santa Fe, (which I hadn't visited in over 10 year).  A soak at one of my most favorite spas, Ten Thousand Waves and dinner at Pasqual's. The former, a hot tub under the stars in bitter cold and an altitude of 7,000+ feet - heaven; the latter, sharing a community table with interesting dining companions from Denver, New Orleans, Sarasota and Oklahoma City. Incredibly enjoyable - and a bit raucous.

A quick stop at Baja Taco for a breakfast burrito the next morning, shared with friends in the know via text (and a tradition,  in my opinion, that can only be beat by the ones eaten at sunrise at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque), a zip with Emmy around the Plaza and then in the car to Flagstaff.

Quite the drive, that. Twelve to fifteen miles between exits, freight trains with containers stacked two-high, 60-70 cars long winding their way west; the opportunity to "save 50% on meteorites" and crossing the Colorado River.  Best sighting?  An American Bald Eagle - sitting at the top of a tree as I drove by!  Incredible to be as close as I was...

Had a great visit with Alison Mitkowski,  Ethan and their five-year-old son, Grant (along with Bo, a yellow lab who loved Emmy so much he practically licked  her fur off,  and a ginger kitty - who spent alot of time at the top of the draped and whose name seems to change daily.)  Nice to be welcomed into a home of friends after many nights in a hotel, around strangers. Alison and Ethan relocated from the East Coast almost four years ago. They had visited often and  realized it was where they were happiest.  Fast forward to consulting work for A and a position with the Sherrif's department for E.  I learned alot about their take on area and culture during our conversation.  Thanks for the hospitality!

Day Seven - anxious to arrive, and grateful to have had the opportunity of the past week to travel as I did.  After a quick stop in the historic town of Williams and a tasty breakfast at the Pine Country Restaurant, I was ready to hit the road, once last time, finally leaving bitter cold (and many inches of snow in AZ) for the warmer climes of California.

Down, down, down - towards sea level again!  Fleeced peeled off and windows open we headed southwest to our final destination, the South Bay area of Los Angeles.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


It's morning in Amarillo, Texas and we're regrouping.  A mere four hours from our next destination - Santa Fe, New Mexico - we're taking an hour or two to reset the car, pay some bills, finish Emmy's "Paw-di-cure" and pull out more socks.

It's been COLD, the entire trip.  For those of you who thought "oh!  you're headed south, it's gonna be warm", look at your map.  While I am taking one of the southern routes, it's through the northern parts of the states where winter, as us New Englanders know it, still exists.   It hasn't been above 35 degrees since I left Connecticut in the snow - and that wind, "sweepin' down the plains" in Oklahoma?  Frigid.  The next two days have us heading up the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona  - increased elevation = chillier weather.  The high in Santa Fe upon our arrival is predicted to be 27, with a low of 5!!  So no sitting by the pool for me...

Yesterday we made a stop in Oklahoma City.  As a Connecticut resident, I wanted to pay my respects and represent Newtown citizens at the Memorial.  Not sure what I expected, but it was really lovely.  So well-done - makes me think that Sandy Hook school could be a similar site.  A place of memory and reflection.

As we continued across the plains, it was a challenge to keep driving without stopping - Mel Tillis at the Sugar Creek Casino!  Cherokee Trading Post - see live Buffalo!! (for the record, from the highway, it looks like a convenience store with a huge fake Teepee in front) But one of the coolest thing we saw was windmills! 15-20 of some of the biggest propellers I've ever seen - had to be 200' in the air, with blades half that size... and then I saw another set in the distance on the opposite side of the road.  Really cool!!

Coming from the Northeast, I forget how much space there is in the rest of the country... miles and miles of open land, dotted with cattle and the occasional llama.  Was wishing it was night so I could enjoy the wide open sky filled with stars.

Landing at our La Quinta for the night meant dinner.  Decided to "ask the locals" and ended up half a mile down the road at the Country Barn, replete with its own "Big Tex" for great brisket and ribs... even the few bites of  white bread Texas toast tasted good!

Next stop?  New Mexico!  Santa Fe,  we're comin' for ya!