Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blue Corn Meal

Hopi Women Grinding Corn in Arizona*

The December 2007 issue of New Mexico Magazine had an article on blue cornmeal recipes called “Holiday Blues” which was beautifully illustrated with a photo of a blue and white china bowl filled with blue corn atole topped with plump blueberries. Atole is, as they explained, a gruel that is served as a porridge or a drink. They made it sound like such a wonderful cold weather breakfast dish that we went shopping around Clovis for some blue corn meal of our own. We found some at the S & S Supermarket on 2204 N. Main Street. This little market, by the way, was delightful because of its “just right” size—not too big, not too small—and the friendliness of the staff, who even helped unload our cart onto the checkout counter for us.
I couldn’t find the New Mexico Magazine article reprinted online, so you may have to search out a print copy of the issue if you want to read it. In the meantime, the Foodways of the Rio Grande web site has some wonderful photographs and tells us: “…blue corn meal is used in the making of atole, a hot breakfast gruel; chaqueque, a moist blue corn bread; and special blue corn tortillas, a type of flat bread made from a watery batter and poured over a hot griddle. Atole is also given to anyone who is ill and it was frequently a dying person's last meal.” If you are interested in reading about blue corn production in New Mexico, take a look at New Mexico State University's article on Blue Corn Production in New Mexico.

Blue Cornmeal Recipes
Traditional Native American Recipes Includes recipes for blue corn atole and blue corn porridge.

According to the High Beam Encyclopedia, which quotes an article from Sunset Magazine: “In a time when food ideas and supplies seem to leap from one part of the country to another almost overnight, blue corn has kept pretty much to its native terrain--you've generally had to travel to New Mexico to get a supply.” Luckily for you, the Internet provides some alternatives. You can order blue corn meal online from these sources.

Santa Ana Pueblo

NM Pinon Coffee Co. (on the Seasonings and Mixes page)
*The photograph above (LC-USZ62-56416) is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. The LC believes that there are no restrictions on the use of this photo. If you know of any, please contact me via the comments section on this blog.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Great News for the Obama Campaign

My friend Gail with her friend Barack Obama on his campaign bus in New Hampshire (photo taken by another friend)

The Obama campaign has received some big endorsements in the last day or two. Carolyn Kennedy, in her op-ed piece for the New York Times, said "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans. " See "A President Like My Father."

Voice of America: [Senator Ted] "Kennedy Endorses Obama for U.S. President"

Time Magazine: "Why the Kennedys Went for Obama"

For some background on the Obama campaign, read the December 2007 Atlantic Monthly article entitled "Teacher and Apprentice," which was recommended by my son. The Atlantic tagline reads: "Hillary Clinton tried to teach Barack Obama about power, but then he got ideas of his own. A story of nasty surprises, dueling war rooms, and the Drudge Report."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pinto Beans

Photo: “Bill Stagg, homesteader, with pinto beans, Pie Town, New Mexico" by Russell Lee, 1940.*

You know you’re in New Mexico when you find pinto beans in bulk in the produce section of your grocery store. You just scoop them up and buy them by the pound, or you can opt for some very large prepackaged bags of twenty pounds or so.

Here are a few pinto bean facts, in case you are interested. Come on, you know you are.

~The Legumes web site , which has a lot of other bean information as well, tells us that the pinto bean is the “most common bean eaten in the US with a consumption rate of almost 45% of all the beans eaten. Part of the reason for this is they are generally the cheapest bean you can purchase. But that doesn't mean they are cheap in nutrition or flavor. The nutrition in pinto beans compares favorably with their higher priced cousins and they have a pleasant, earthy flavor and powdery texture that blends with many other foods.”

~Chile and pinto beans are New Mexico’s State Vegetables

~Moriarty, New Mexico (the Pinto Bean Capital) has an annual Pinto Bean Festival, held on the 2nd Saturday of each October.

Long ago, I used to try to make something called "beans and cheese" for a friend who remembered his mother making the dish. Unfortunately, he had no idea what went into it, so we would just put together some pinto beans and some cheese and a bit of margarine, as I recall. We could eat a pot of that stuff and keep the whole week's supper budget under two dollars, cheese included.

Over the years I have refined my approach somewhat, resulting in the following recipe for Refried Beans. You should know that refried beans in general are neither fried, nor are they refried, but that they do sometimes contain large amounts of shortening or lard. I just can’t bring myself to put great slabs of white fat into a dish that is meant to be consumed, so I add a little bit of butter, which is bad enough. As a matter of fact, you might bypass (nice word, in this context) this recipe altogether, in favor of my healthier Pinto Bean recipe which I’ll also put down below.

Refried Beans
1 lb. dried pinto beans (pick through, wash, soak overnight and drain, or bring cleaned beans to a boil in a little cold water to cover, boil one minute, turn off and cover, let soak for an hour, and drain). Add one quart salted water, simmer covered for 20-45 minutes—only until just cooked but not mushy. You might have to add some cooking time if you’re at a high altitude.

In the meantime, pan fry ½ lb. chorizo, or sausage, or ground beef (if you are a meat-eater) and set aside.

Sauté 3 cloves chopped garlic, 1 large onion, 1 tsp. cumin seeds.

Drain the cooked beans, save the liquid.

Mash the beans; add them to the meat and the onion mixture.

Add ¼ cup chopped fresh coriander, ¼ cup fresh lard (this is optional—you can use a bit of butter instead or skip it altogether), 1 cup grated jack cheese, and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Add a little of the reserved liquid until it’s the consistency you like, simmer while stirring for a few minutes.

For a healthier alternative, see the recipe for Pinto Beans.

Pinto Beans
2 cups dried pinto beans (pick through, wash, soak overnight and drain, or bring cleaned beans to a boil in a little cold water to cover, boil one minute, turn off and cover, let soak for an hour, and drain).

Add one quart salted water, 2 cloves of garlic, minced, ½ tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. cumin, simmer covered for 20-45 minutes—only until just cooked but not mushy.

*This photograph is in the Public Domain and the Library of Congress believes that there are no known restrictions on its use. If you know of any restrictions, please let me know via the comment section of this post.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Honey Spreads

When I wrote about resources for local honey, the product descriptions got me to thinking about honey spreads. One of my favorites from back east, which we can’t find here in New Mexico, is a blended Honey Maple Spread from Maple Grove Farms in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Fain’s Honey in Llano, Texas lists Pecan-Honey Butter, Almond Honey Butter, Amaretto-Pecan Honey Butter, Lemon Honey Spread, Cinnamon Honey Spread, and Creamed Honey, all of which sound scrumptious and any of which you could buy from them by going to their web site at It’s worth the visit to see the web site’s honey bee cursor.

Since we’re all about local food sources here, you could make your own, although I wouldn’t add anything to many of the wonderful-sounding local honeys, like the “rich-flavored, almost chocolaty” honey from Star G. However, here are some great-sounding recipes I found online.

Amalou, or Moroccan Honey Spread

Basic Honey Butter Spread

Fig and Honey Spread

Honey Blueberry Butter Spread

Honey Butter Recipes, including Almond Honey Butter and Chocolate Honey Butter

Honey-Cinnamon Cream Cheese Spread

Honey Dijon Spread

Honey Pumpkin Butter

Nut and Honey Cream Cheese Spread

Orange Honey Butter

Peach Honey Butter

Whipped Honey Nut Spread

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Search for Local Honey

I wanted to test out the somewhat controversial theory that locally produced honey acts as an immunity booster for allergies caused by the pollen in local plants. Even if honey has no impact on allergies, I like to try to support local food sources. I asked the people on the New Mexico City-Data Forum at where to find honey produced on the high plains of New Mexico or reasonably close by. Although this led to a few awful honey puns—Did you say you were looking for a local honey, as in the personal ads? Bee-hive yourself!—the good people on the forum soon sent in suggestions about New Mexican honey.

I’ll list their local honey sources below, along with a few more I found in my research. First I’d like to quote, with permission, a delicious commentary on honey varieties produced by Star G Honey. It includes a great description of the beekeeper, whom I must presume is a very close friend of the writer.

“Native Son” writes: Star G Honey in Mosquero produces 6-8 different varieties of honey each year... ranging in color from white White Sweetclover through very dark amber Desert Wildflowers, and including very light amber Spring Wildflowers and Yellow Sweetclover, light amber Summer Mountain Wildflowers, amber Mesquite & Cactus Flowers and Autumn Mountain Wildflowers. Some of the darker honeys are very rich-flavored, almost chocolatey, while the White Sweetclover and Spring Wildflowers honeys are delicately mild-flavored.

Star G Honey has sponsored supplemental premium and ribbon awards for amateur beekeepers at the New Mexico State Fair for the past 15 years, to foster and encourage beginning and amateur beekeepers.You can find their honey at the natural food store in Las Vegas and at the mercantile store in Gladstone. They also ship honey to all the 50 states. Or you can get it directly from the beekeeper at the honeyhouse in downtown Mosquero. But it's always best to call in advance before planning to visit, because the beekeeper is often many miles away in a canyon, the mountains, or somewhere out in the vast and beautiful high plains of northeastern NM. They're listed in the phone book.

The beekeeper at Star G Honey has been practicing the 'gentle craft' of beekeeping for 38 years... 37 of them here in northeastern New Mexico. He's usually a pretty nice guy, and extremely knowledgeable about honeybees and, in general, the flora and fauna and natural history of New Mexico and the greater Southwest. But he can sometimes be an irascible old codger and doesn't always suffer fools with any of the patience with which he keeps and tends his honeybees.

According to other members of the forum:

Star G Honey has a pretty extensive operation in Mosquero, NM, about 35 miles NW of Logan, 110 from Clovis. Star G sells at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market and provides bulk honey sold at most Northern NM Food Coops and organic food grocery stores.
Star G Honey
25 Main St.
Mosquero, NM 87733

There's also Tule Creek Apiary outside of Tulia, TX... their honey is usually available at Lowe's/Super Save groceries in NM.
Tule Creek Apiary
HCR 4, Box 14E
Tulia, TX 79088
Contact: Mr. Kenneth PattonTelephone: (806) 668-4414

While searching the Texas Food Directory, I found:
Fain’s Honey
HC 09, Box 14
Llano, TX 78643
Products include: Pecan-Honey Butter, Almond Honey Butter, Amaretta-Pecan Honey Butter, Lemon Honey Spread, Cinamon Honey Spread, Creamed Honey.

The New Mexico Specialty Food Retail Directory lists:
A-Bee Honey Farms
P. O Box 903
Edgewood, NM 87015
Phone: (505) 286-4843
Fax: (505) 286-8735

Zia Queenbee Company
277 CR 63 Apodaca
Dixon, NM 87527
Phone: (505) 579-4552
Fax: Same
Web Site:
Varietal NM honey from northern to southern NM.
See a listing and description of their varietal honeys at

Mimbres Valley Honey
104 San Tomas Rd.
San Lorenzo, NM 88041
Phone: (575) 536-9772
Fax: (575) 536-9772
Web Site:
Raw honey & bee pollen.
For information about their products:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Images from Winters Past

Buried Bug

Back in New Hampshire where the snowfall is serious stuff, we misplaced our VW Bug one winter. We really love the "snow" here in Clovis--especially when we hear that some people clear off their sidewalks using a hair dryer! The buried bug photo just made Photo of the Day on the Clovis News Journal's online edition at Too bad, it was just there the one day and I can't find a way to get to the photo archives, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Find the VW Cabrio

Snow up to the second floor!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Hampshire Primary

When we lived in New Hampshire, we hosted house parties to organize early campaign strategies in the last election for governor. That, together with the fact that my husband once ran for the state legislature, put us on all kinds of mailing lists. We were invited to "meet the candidate" house parties, big dinners for the party faithful, and picnics and rallies all over the state. Of course, we were also invited to contribute either time or money to the campaign of our choice.

This is such an exciting time for people who live in New Hampshire. Yes, I'm sure plenty of them will be relieved when the media rushes away tomorrow in the early hours and life starts getting back to normal. However, I don't think that there is any other place in America where regular people get to take part in politics in such a personal way. Every person there has a chance to meet the candidates--in a living room, a school gym, or a restaurant.

My friend Francine had the opportunity to introduce Hillary Clinton to the crowd in Dover, NH yesterday. Here are some photos commemorating that occasion that were taken by friends in the crowd. Sorry they are blurry, but they were the best that could be captured at the moment. Right now Francine is out doing what so many in New Hampshire are doing today--standing up for the candidate of her choice, shaking hands, and holding signs. Stay warm, Francine.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Melting the Mainframes

Obama Girl: "The Sleeping Giant in This Election"

I Got a Crush…On Obama:

Debate ’08: Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl:

Obama Girl Returns:

Obama Wins! Obama Girl Reacts!:

Obama Girl: Behind the Sweat:

Wikipedia article on Obama Girl and the making of the videos:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Magic Wave Hits Clovis?

Ah, the retired life. Things are easy, things are slow. There's plenty of time to think things over, to look at the news, and to draw some conclusions. This morning's Clovis News Journal (there is an online edition) has a couple of interesting ads in the Lost and Found section. I see that someone has lost a black handbag. The very next ad tells us that someone else has found a white rabbit...

For some very real magic, take a moment to watch Barack Obama's victory speech after the Iowa caucus. It's all about change we can believe in.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Page Turners

It's time for another mass collaboration book list, only this time I'm asking for books that are on your curl-up-by-the-fire-and-read-a-real-page-turner list. Not those challenging books we listed last time. I really am working my way through my challenge list, but have to take a little break. I was reading Black Swan; The Impact of the Highly Improbable when the author used the word "empirical" for the third time. That was it for me--time for a little wintertime "beach" reading.

Here, I'll start us off with my list of really great to read books. I'm currently reading my way through several series, each featuring a crime-solving protagonist and all having a strong sense of place.

Barr, Nevada: The Anna Pigeon books, all starring a National Park Ranger who works all over the country. The first is Track of the Cat.

Burke, James Lee: The Dave Robicheaux books, all of which are set in the area surrounding New Orleans. Burke's descriptions will fill your senses, and make you crave a Dr. Pepper with crushed ice, cherries, orange slices, and mint leaves--really. Start with Neon Rain.

Hillerman, Tony: Wonderful mysteries set in Navajo country. The first with Joe Leaphorn is The Blessing Way; Hillerman's other main character, Jim Chee, is introduced in the fourth book of the series, People of Darkness. There is a nicely annotated list at Dancing

Jance, J.A.: Books featuring Joanna Brady, sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, starting with Desert Heat. We stayed in Bisbee, AZ, where the fictional sheriff has her office.

McGarrity, Michael: The Kevin Kerney books, starting with Tularosa. All take place in various settings around New Mexico.

Stabenow, Dana: This series is set in Alaska in an unnamed national park, and stars memorable heroine Kate Shugak, Aleut detective and former FBI agent. The first in the series is (I believe) A Cold Day for Murder. The series gets better as it goes along and as Stabenow matures as a writer.

Ready? Send me your lists of the books you like to read. Just put them into the comments section of the blog so we can all share. Thanks for collaborating!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Knit for Kids Sweater Chart

When knitting sweaters using the Knit for Kids 10th Anniversary pattern, I ran into trouble a couple of times. There were no problems with the simple pattern itself, but I sometimes transposed numbers and occasionally ended up with some odd proportions, which meant ripping out some rows. So, I made a chart with large print and different font colors for each size for quick reference, to be used along with the complete directions. My copy is printed out and enclosed in a plastic page protector so I can keep it with my current project in my basket of yarn.

Please note that in the "Cast on" column, the "x 2" refers to the way I knit the pattern on round needles--for size 2, I cast on 61 x 2 (122) stitches with markers to separate the front and back, then knit round up to the yoke. Then half the stitches go on a stitch holder, and I add on and knit for the front yoke/sleeves per the original directions, and then repeat for the back yoke/sleeves. If you are knitting one side of the sweater at a time on straight needles, you should just cast on 61 stitches for size 2, 65 for size 4, etc.

To print out your own chart, click on the one below, enlarge it if you wish, and print. Remember, this is the 10th Anniversary pattern, not the basic pattern that Knit for Kids started out with. As they say, they "resized the traditional pattern to better fit slender children and added longer sleeves for greater warmth. The sweater now fits snugly at the bottom with a ribbing stitch."