Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Little of This and Little of That


This was a recent post on FB. Thanks Christine for sharing.  
What a lovely surprise! I got a beautiful infinity scarf as a Random Act of Kindness. On the back of the card it said, “Thank you for sharing your colorful spirit.” Wow! Many thanks to the sweet, anonymous gift giver. Now to pay it forward馃槉
Perhaps Christine's unexpected gift will give you an idea. Yes, kindness truly is contagious.

Out and About
Snow sightings in Madera Canyon. Due to the snowfall last week several trails were still closed to hikers as well as part of the the main road. But we did find snow once again in Arizona.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a 98-acre  zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history museum, and art gallery founded in 1952. Located just west of Tucson it features two miles of walking paths that meander through desert landscape. It is one of the most visited attractions in the area.  The museum is home to more than 230 animal species and 1,200 varieties of plants. You need to set aside at least three hours to cover the area. Go early as it can be very warm by afternoon. Today it was 77 and that seemed hot when in the middle of the desert with no shade. 
There are always new discoveries no matter how many times you visit the Desert Museum. 
Take for instance discovering new cacti called rainbow cactus. 


and devil cactus.
and one of my more favorite desert scenes which displays a huge variety of cacti. 

There were some pops of color but it's a little too early for the desert flowering season which promises to be quite spectacular with all the moisture they've had in the region.
One of the outdoor demonstrations was called Free Flights. Several Harris Hawks were released and the crowd couldn't get enough photos of these 4 hawks. .







While my husband was able to capture this magnificent Hawk pose  I got up close and personal with this brightly colored snake. 
We tried our best to get a javelina photo but they were hidden in the brush. 
We enjoyed sharing the sights in the area with our Up North neighbors here for a short visit.   
UP NEXT FOR MARCH 2
Get involved! NEA’s Read Across America Day is a nationwide reading celebration that takes place annually on March 2—Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books, and you can too! Find your favorite Dr. Seuss book and share.
Check back tomorrow for some delicious treats and party ideas for Dr. Seuss fans. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Loaded Nacho Chicken Tostada

Healthy Loaded Nacho Chicken  Tostada
Cook's Notes: A great way to take nachos and turn them into a main dish. They are easy and loaded with chicken, black beans, topped with cheese, tomatoes, fresh avocado and under 300 calories. Recipe makes 4 tostadas and adapted from skinnytaste.com
Ingredients:
  • 4 tostada shells
  • 3/4 cup reduced fat shredded Mexican blend cheese (I used Sargento)
  • 1 large avocado. peeled and diced 
  • 1 medium lime, halved
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 TB. chopped cilantro
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced or cubed
  • 3 TB. your favorite salsa 
  • 1/3 cup canned drained black beans, rinsed
  • 1 jalalpeno, sliced thin
  • 2 TB. sliced black olives
Directions: 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • In a bowl, combine avocado, juice from half the lime, and a pinch of salt. Set aside. 
  • Mix chicken with salsa and add in tomatoes, black beans, onion, cilantro,  ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper, to taste.
  • Divide mixture among 4 tostadas. Add avocado mixture and sprinkle with cheese. 
  • Place on baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until warmed and cheese is melted. 
  •  Top each with jalapeno and black olives. 
Bring back the lost art of handwritten notes and send someone a note of gratitude. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Healthy Sweet Potato Black Bean Taco

Here are three random acts of kindness ideas (catching up for Saturday, Sunday and Monday )
Positive reinforcement should be shared.
Consumers take reviews very seriously, so local businesses rely on members of their community to share the love online! Whether it’s a tasty restaurant in town, awesome hair salon or cool new service, there are plenty of businesses you can help thrive with a simple review.

If you’re not prepared to make the leap of adopting a pet, give fostering a try! There are so many animals waiting to be placed, and your kindness can help a lot.
Leave a surprise in your mailbox for your mail carrier. It could be anything from treats to an approved gift certificate to a simple note that says, “thank you."
Sweet Potato Black Bean Taco with Honey and Lime

A tasty vegetarian taco with a great blend of flavors and no one will even miss the meat. Loaded with roasted sweet potatoes, hearty black beans, and finished off with lime and honey perfect for lunch or dinner. 

Cook's Notes: Note in the photo above I left the toppings off on the right taco to give you a better idea of what the main ingredients will look like on the tortilla shell. I used corn tortillas but flour ones would too, Another idea is make them smaller using the appetizer size (4 inches). Recipe makes 4 tacos 
Recipe adapted from cookingclassy.com

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups diced 1/2 inch cubes sweet potatoes
  • 2 TB. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. each cumin, paprika, ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed and drained
  • 3 TB. honey
  • 3 TB. fresh lime juice
  • Optional 2 TB. chopped fresh cilantro
  • Corn or flour tortillas
Suggested toppings: sliced avocado, romaine lettuce, cotija or feta cheese, for serving 

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. 
  • Mix spices in a small bowl. In another bowl place sweet potatoes, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle with spices. 
  • Roast for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Set aside. 
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat remaining 1 TB. olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot add onion and saute until caramelized (golden brown on edges and tender), about 3-4 minutes, adding in garlic during last 30 seconds of sauteing. 
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, add in drained black beans, corn, honey and lime juice. Heat until warmed through. Toss in roasted sweet potatoes and cilantro.
  • Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.  
  • Line a baking sheet with a clean piece of parchment paper and spread out 4 tortillas. Divide sweet potato and bean mixture among them.
  • Bake 5 minutes.  
Nutrition Facts
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos (with Honey and Lime)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 326 Calories from Fat 99
Healthy Loaded Nacho Chicken Tostada

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Lights of Cimarr贸n

My love is true, it shines for you like The Lights of Cimarr贸n
  lyric from the song The Lights of Cimarr贸n

Spur Award winning author Jim Jones is a popular western writer whose five novels are set in Northern New Mexico in the late 1880's during the time period of the Colfax County Wars. These land dispute range wars occurred between the settlers and the new owners of the Maxwell Land Grant. Several of the same characters make appearances throughout Jones's books adding continuity to the story line. Jones has previously written the Jared Delany Series, starting with Rustler's Moon, followed by Colorado Moon and Waning Moon. The Big Empty is the first book in a spin off series with Sheriff Tommy Stallings, who continues his prominent role in Jones's 's newest book The Lights of Cimarr贸n. The book is scheduled for publication April 17th by Five Star Publishing. 
A rancher's murder and his son with missing livestock jump start the action bringing Sheriff Stallings quickly into the investigation in Cimarr贸n. Sherriff Stallings suspects the culprits are members of a gang called the White Caps. They are from nearby San Miguel County led by Felipe Alvarado who uses his job as a reputable saloon owner as a cover up. Rusty, Tommy's cousin from Texas, emerges into the action. Sheriff Stallings enlists the help of his cousin to help track down the desperadoes who steal cattle and horses from unsuspecting ranchers and then murder them. In exchange for his help Rusty asks Tommy to return to Texas with him to help out his family that has been plagued with rustlers. Nathan Averill, former sheriff of Cimarr贸n, comes out of retirement to assist in their efforts to stop the White Caps reign of terror. They locate the gang's hideout in the canyons north of Cimarr贸n. but their investigation is quickly interrupted. Corrupt politicians insist Sheriff Stallings move his office to the nearby town of Springer, the county seat. They hope this demand to move quickly will thwart Sheriff Stallings's investigation tracking down these deadly hombres. Obstacles seem to mount at every turn for Tommy, especially contending with an accusation that he took a bribe to look the other way as the unremorseful murderous White Caps gang seem to be unstoppable. Added to Sherriff Stallings's woes his wife Mollie refuses to move to Springer to leave her school teaching job behind. 

The Old West has always held a strong fascination for readers who enjoy this type of genre. Jones takes advantage of the historical context of what was happening during the time period of late 1880's by incorporating factual details into his books. It's obvious Jones spent a lot of scholarly research as well as consultation with those who have first hand knowledge of this historical time period to maintain accuracy in his writing. Jones who lives in the Albuquerque area is familiar with the landscape of New Mexico, the towns of Springer and Cimarr贸n, as well as the aspects of cowboys and ranching which lend credibility to his writing. 

Jones wisely incorporates the many popular elements of a western novel with characters who are cowboys, ranchers, homesteaders, gunfighters, sheriffs, rangers and frontiersmen against the backdrop of a harsh but beautiful land. Jones is committed to writing a good story with compelling characters. He uses dialogue to move the action of the story along rather than employing lengthy descriptions of place. First person narrative voice often switches several times within a chapter requiring careful reading. The strength of Jones's novel is character development. His characters are resourceful, tough and resilient. Some lack morals while other demonstrate strong convictions. Most of the characters are men. Women play a secondary role to the story line. There are times during the story when a character (the narrator) will digress from the story line with an introspective comment or two on lessons learned. 

Readers will find the book an easy read holding their attention right down to the last line as they figure out if these desperadoes will be caught and if caught how will it happen. But note the book's ending does not tie up all loose ends leaving the story line open for characters to continue their adventures into subsequent books where loose ends will be tied up. 
 
Jim Jones is the Western Music Association’s 2014 Male Performer of the Year and winner of both the Academy of Western Artists 2016 Western Song of the Year and Western Writers of America 2013 and 2017 Spur Awards for Best Western Song.  Jones is a storyteller whose songs and books are all about the allure of the Old West. It's interesting to note that Jones's music has had a direct correlation with his writing. His first book Rustler's Moon grew out of a song he wrote a few years ago. Jones felt the characters in that song seemed to need a bigger platform to tell their stories. All of his books except for The Big Empty have songs associated with them. He often performs music when doing book presentations. 

Check out Jim Jones's website https://jimjoneswestern.com/bio-jim-jones/ for more information on books, his performance schedule, preorder his newest book  and topical articles. 
Author input was available for parts of this review.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weekend Round-UP

A Night at the Oscars
Appetizers to celebrate the big night 
(left to right) Chicken and Parsley Hummus Toast, Egg and Parsley Hummus Toast, Smoked Salmon with Red Onion and Lemon Juice Hummus Toast 
Cook's Notes: Depending on the size of bread you might want to halve or cut into thirds to serve.

Move over Avocado Toast 
there's a new toast in town Hummus Toast-and the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!  
The main ingredients in Hummus Toast are easy. You simply need: 
  • Hummus: Pick up your favorite variety at the store. I used Roasted Red Pepper for these appetizers pictured above.
  • Bread: Any firm kind will do, toasted to your desired level of crispiness.
  • Toppings-use your creativity
Directions: 
  • Toast up your bread: Either in the toaster or toaster oven, if you’re making a small batch. Or if you happen to be making a large batch of hummus toast for a party, you can arrange slices of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them up in the oven.
  • Then comes the fun part — toppings- taking Hummus Toasts to  a new level 

Avocado Hummus Toast-fresh avocado, fresh cilantro, squeeze lime juice, crushed red pepper flakes
Elote Hummus Toast-(Mexican Street Corn) roasted corn, queso, fresh cilantro, diced red onion, squeeze lime juice, chili powder
Tomato Basil Hummus Toast-fresh sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, balsamic glaze
Lox Hummus Toast-smoked salmon, diced red onion,lemon juice, fresh dill, salt and pepper to taste, sea salt
Fried (or Poached) Egg Hummus Toast
Mediterranean Hummus Toast-chopped cucumber, chopped olives, fresh parsley, feta cheese crumbles, salt and pepper to taste
Banana Honey Hummus Toast-bananas, honey or maple syrup, sprinkle of cinnamon

Corn Salsa

It's fresh, tasty, healthy and addictive. Thanks Deb for the recipe.
Ingredients:
  • 16 oz. frozen white and yellow corn, do not thaw
  • 1 medium diced red pepper
  • 1/2 of a red onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, diced 
  • 1 small can of olives, drained and diced
  • 3-4 firm avocados,diced 
Dressing
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 TB. cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano or 1 TB. fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
  • In a large bowl mix salsa ingredients except the dressing.
  • In a blender mix dressing ingredients and toss with salsa ingredients. Serve with Scoop style Tortilla Chips.
Cook's Notes: You will find all of these appetizer Oscar Worthy and how did your Oscar ballot shape up predicting winners?


Friday, February 22, 2019

Snow Day in Arizona

If you thought the weather in Arizona couldn’t get any stranger, Mother Nature threw out one more curveball. Snow reached southeastern Arizona early Friday, reaching towns including Benson and Tucson. Flagstaff set a record snowfall over 3 feet. By Saturday at noon Tucson almost 2 inches and here in Green Valley 3 inches so far as the elevation is higher. And it is still snowing. Lucky my winter gear is still available as I sure need it today.



I am wondering what effect all of this will have on desert vegetation with temps hovering 32-34 and heavy wet snow. So today I did what I would probably do if at home in Minnesota on a snow day-bake cookies. 
Chocolate Mexican Crinkle Cookies
Cook's Notes: DID YOU KNOW
There is a difference between natural baking cocoa powder e.g Hershey's
and Dutch process cocoa? And can you use either one when baking. The answer: it depends on what you're baking, but no matter what, the two varieties don't taste the same. Although all cocoa powders can vary in color from light reddish brown to a richer dark brown, the Dutch process gives the powder a noticeably darker hue.
Dutch process cocoa has a smoother, more mellow flavor that's often associated with earthy, woodsy notes. There are also heavily Dutched "black" cocoa powders that bring the cocoa powder to an alkaline level of 8. This the kind of bittersweet cocoa you'll find in Oreo cookies.

Since Dutch process cocoa isn't acidic, it doesn't react with alkaline leaveners like baking soda to produce carbon dioxide. That's why recipes that use Dutch process cocoa are usually leavened by baking powder, which has a neutral pH and do not use baking soda.
My grocery shopping has some limitations here so I had to go to Trader Joes to purchase this but I am sure more readily available in your areas. 
The subtle flavor of cinnamon with just a hint of cayenne pepper spice up this traditional chocolate crinkle cookie using Dutch Process Cocoa. They are absolutely delicious and a  winner in my book.
Recipe adapted slightly from aclassictwist.com  and makes about 15 cookies.
Ingredients:
  • 1- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground Saigon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 
  • Optional a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1- ¼ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
Directions:
  • In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Reduce speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Beat until well combined. Let dough chill in freezer 25 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
I left one cookie dough not rolled in confectioners sugar to give you an idea of the process.
  • Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough, roll into balls and then toss in confectioner’s sugarcoating heavily. Arrange 2-inches apart on baking sheets. Bake cookies until crackly and puffed, about 9 minutes.










Sharing cookies with a friend would be a nice random act of kindness.
 Lastly, today is National Margarita Day
Share one with a friend 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Pan-Roasted Pear Salad

And these kind words served with a Pan Roasted Pear Salad makes for  a winning combination. The many layers of textures and flavors are like a 'marriage made in heaven' and absolutely delicious. There are several steps involved in this salad but well worth the effort. The salad serves 4 and was adapted from Cook's Country October/November 2018
Some helpful cooking tips include making the salad early in the day, then assemble right before serving.
  • For the best texture try to buy pears slightly under ripe they should yield slightly when pressed. 
  • Make dressing and refrigerate. 
  • Fry bacon ahead, crumble and set aside.
  • Prepare the pears according the recipe directions, set aside
Salad Ingredients:
  • 3 Bosc pears, leave skin on
  • 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut into strips
  • 1 TB. butter
  • Romaine lettuce, chopped or mixed greens
  • Blue cheese or Feta crumbles
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup crumbled pecan
  • 1 tsp. sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • Optional 1/4 cup chives, diced
Dressing Ingredients:
  • 1/4  cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 TB. olive oil
  • 4 TB maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. apple pie spice 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp. set aside on a paper towel lined plate. Wipe pan free of grease.
Wash and dry pears, leave skin on. Slice lengthwise each pear in half.
Halve each half to make quarters.
Then cut again lengthwise. Place in a bowl  and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. 
 In fry pan melt butter. Turn heat to medium. Use tongs and sear the quartered pears in pan until well browned on the cut sides, 2-4 minutes per side, redistribute as needed for even browning. Transfer pears to large plate, cool completely 30 minutes.  
Dressing Directions:
Add all ingredients to blender and mix well.

Assembly
Greens
Pears
Cranberries and Pecans
Bacon
Feta or Blue Cheese Crumbles

A small gesture of kindness hung on someone's doorknob.
SPRINKLE KINDNESS EVERYWHERE









Strawberry Shortcakes with Macerated Strawberries

Savor the unofficial beginning of summer with a traditional summer dessert Strawberry Shortcakes with Macerated Chocolate Balsamic Straw...