Chocolate Maven

I went to the Chocolate Maven for breakfast this morning. It's a perennial favorite in Santa Fe. I love the German chocolate cake here! I didn't have my camera with me today so the photos below are taken with my phone. 

Today the chef's special was a crab cake sandwiched in poached eggs with grilled artichokes. The presentation was beautiful, but I don't think I'll order it again. It was salty and not as tasty as the crab cakes in Baltimore.
It's a fun place to go! There's a big plate glass window in front of the bakery and you can watch the bakers roll the dough into these delicate shell-like creations. Or you can go up the spiral staircase and sit upstairs.

His hands moved so quickly. It's like having an individual sculpture made just for you! 

Yum, have a croissant. Try an almond, chocolate, plain or sun dried tomato one.


Friday Fave Five (F3)

This week was mercurial in terms of the weather. It snowed on Tuesday and was so cold and miserable that walking my dog Aster was the last thing on my mind, but I did it anyway. This week's Friday Fave Five is an ode to the plants I'm thankful for that didn't die in the garden this winter.
Friday Fave Five (F3)

  1. Thymus "Pink Chintz"
  2. Bearded Iris (cultivar unknown)
  3. Papaver Antlanticum 'Flore Pleno'
  4. Mirabilis Multiflora
  5. Paeonia Lactiflora

Thymus "Pink Chintz"
This is some of the thyme that I planted in my spiral garden feature. It looks like cascades of tiny flowers close up. 
Bearded Iris
More irises from my friend Lori. I planted them in a flower bed that I can't seem to cultivate. I've tried amending the soil and nothing but the irises and a butterfly bush grow in it. 
Papaver Atlanticum 'Flore Pleno' (Moroccan/Spanish Poppy)
This Flore Pleno was the new poppy that I tried last year. I can't wait to see it flower. Two of the three I planted started coming up this spring, but one of the many intermittent spring frosts killed the second one. Alas, I only have one left. I've read that it's supposed to reseed profusely!
Mirabilis Multiflora (Desert Four O'clock)
I was glad to see the desert four o'clock leaf out. I had forgotten I'd planted it and couldn't figure out why there weren't any plants near some of the drippers. 
Paeonia Lactiflora
I planted three peonies last summer and all three of them came back! One of them looks a little haggard and not as sprightly as the others. Hope it makes it through the next few weeks. 


Chicken Curry and Dal

I had my friends, Nancy and Bob, over for dinner tonight. Nancy was born in India where her parents were missionaries. So the menu this evening was influenced by the flavors of India (insofar as I could capture them).
Lentils that I used for the dal and chicken curry.

Some cucumber salad to cool down the curry.

My new favorite dessert. Berries and mango sorbet. Tart, tangy, and slightly sweet.


Friday Fave Five (F3)

Penstomania! Part 1

I've been gardening in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the last 10 years, maybe more. Initially, it was more misses than hits. I'm from the South where there can be more rain in a day than there is in a whole year here. No kidding! One day it rained 14 inches in New Orleans! Lawns are so dense it feels like walking on a cushion.

Therefore, I didn't realize the intricacies of gardening in the high desert.  Not sure if it had to do with being a new gardener or if I hadn't learned to adapt to the aridity. When I first moved into my house, I would just dig a hole, add some gravel, plant, refill the hole, and water. No wonder my plants didn't do well. I tried planting a rose garden. That didn't work out at all. I finally stumbled upon products to amend the soil, which changed the gardening landscape for me (literally).

However, in the last few years, I started growing native plants, which have worked out better.  Many of them are xeric and don't require lots of water. Among my favorite native plants are penstemons (also known as beardtongues). My five favorite penstemon are:

Friday Fave Five (F3)
  1. Barbatus (Schooley's Coral) 
  2. Pseudospectabilis (Desert Beardtongue)
  3. Strictus (Rocky Mountain)
  4. Palmeri (Palmer's/Pink Wild Snapdragon)
  5. Digitalis (Husker Red)

Penstemon Barbatus (Schooley's Coral)
My favorite penstemon is Schooley's coral. It hasn't been long lived in my garden. I replaced three of them last year. Come back in the summer to see their amazing color!

Penstemon Pseudospectabilis (Desert Beardtongue)

I think I just like saying pseudospectabilis and find interest in how the leaves are variegated. They're my first penstemon to bloom.

Penstemon Strictus (Rocky Mountain)
Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain) are the easiest to grow and don't require lots of attention. They have reseeded themselves through two layers of landscape cloth and a couple of inches of gravel in the "patio" area of my yard. I always seem to be looking for friends who might be interested in taking a few off my hands. 

Penstemon Palmeri (Palmer's/Pink Wild Snapdragon)
The palmeri are tall and regal. I look forward to seeing them grow wild around Santa Fe. 
Unfortunately, the penstemon digitalis (Husker Red) did not come back this year. I bought three small plants at K-mart one year before I discovered local nurseries and had the resources to frequent them. Dr. Dale Lindgren at the University of Nebraska propagated them and they are named after the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Not sure if I will replant. They are not drought tolerant and require more water. 


Spring Forward

I've been envious for weeks, seeing photos of wisteria, roses and lots of flowering delights on gardening blogs in other climes. This weekend I was rewarded while visiting a friend for coffee with an explosion of fruit blossoms on trees that lined her driveway. It's still almost a month away before the last frost date in Santa Fe, but let the blooming continue!



I found these beautiful miniature heirloom tomatoes at Trader Joe's last week. I'm not sure what made them so charming. Unfortunately, some of the them turned out to be not quite ripe. 
But in they went anyway! It's a Southwestern version of mozzarella and tomato salad with black beans, red onions and ciliegine (cherry) mozzarella.


Friday Fave Five (F3)

I think we all have our favorite blogging meme. Some of us participate in "Wordless Wednesday. For me it's the "Friday Fave Five" or F3. This week's F3 is devoted to coffee.

Back in the day -  before barista became a part of the urban lexicon, I worked at a coffee shop with three locations. On weekdays, it opened at 7:00 am. The patrons would line up outside for their morning fix in the humid dampness of pre-Katrina New Orleans. At 6:00 am, a pair of us would start brewing the coffee, a medium roast, a dark roast and decaf. Initially, we brewed the coffee in glass carafes, one carafe at a time. Then make freshly brewed iced tea. And turn on the Gaggia, the Italian cappuccino machine. Drinking coffee is a simple pleasure that anyone can enjoy and my five favorite coffee accoutrements are:

Friday Fave Five (F3)
  1. Toddy Maker (aka cold-drip coffee maker)
  2. Tassimo (almost instantaneous coffee for one without being instant coffee)
  3. Aerolatte Milk Frother
  4. Filtered Water
  5. Bodum Santos stovetop coffee maker (my first coffee maker)

Cold drip coffee never touches hot water. Not using hot water eliminates the bitterness. (I learned that in coffee school!) I purchased my cold drip coffee (toddy) maker at a bodega down the street from where I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was on clearance for $15. Before I got my toddy maker, I would make iced coffee in old one gallon glass pickle jars.  

Iced Coffee Recipe (Without Toddy Maker)
1 lb coffee, ground coarsely 
(finely ground coffee will not go through the filter)
2 tsp vanilla extract (or more to taste)
filtered water

Put coffee in one gallon jar or sun tea brewer. Fill jar to the top with filtered water and let it steep for at least 12 to 16 hours. After steeping, pour coffee through a mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth or a drip coffee filter into a carafe or pitcher. Add vanilla. The coffee is now a concentrate. Prior to serving, mix one part coffee with one part filtered water. If the coffee is too strong, add more water. Serve over ice with milk and sweeten to taste.   

Fun Facts
  1. When in New Orleans, have café au lait and beignets at Café Du Monde.
  2. When I was a barista my brothers called me Mrs. Olson of Folger’s coffee fame because I always smelled of coffee.
  3. A great article on coffee from The New York Times.  
  4. Kaldi, a goatherd, discovered coffee in Ethiopia in the 9th century.
  5. Jack Kerouac taught me how to make hobo coffee in On the Road
Photo Credits
Coffee Beans (courtesy of Mark Sweep, Wikipedia Commons)
Iced Coffee (Girl Sprout NM)


Irises From Lori

A few years ago, my friend Lori gave me some bearded irises from her Mom's garden. They suffered from benign neglect. I'm not sure if it was the lack of moisture this winter or other factors. But wow they look like fireworks! Thanks Lori for thinking of me!  

Dividing Bearded Irises


Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Aspens 2010
A few years ago, I planted a stand of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) trees because I love the way the leaves shimmer in the sunlight. The rustling of the leaves sing a song to me. I couldn't contain my excitement when I first got the trees. The first few years, they would sway uncontrollably in the spring winds. I didn't understand how to anchor them. My knowledge of planting trees was and still remains limited. 

Poplar Twig Gall Fly
One day, I noticed spherical protrusions coming out of the leaves. I don't recall ever seeing these bulbous growths on aspens in the Santa Fe National Forest.  It makes me sad to learn that the growths are caused by an insect called, the poplar twiggall fly (aka twig gall).

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a non-toxic way to eliminate the pests. Please post a comment if you have any ideas. 


The Sheltering Sky

Spring is manifesting itself slowly. But the sky put on a big show.
The Sheltering Sky
Reach for the Sky

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