Friday, March 30, 2012


Mexican Fudge 

You will need:

A square 8”X8” glass pan or pie plate
A heavy, medium-size saucepan
A wooden spoon to stir the mixture


2-cups sugar
1-cup evaporated milk
3-tablespoons unsalted butter
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon (the secret ingredient)
½-teaspoon salt

Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat and stir constantly while boiling for six minutes.

Turn off!

Add to cooked mixture:

1/2-cup miniature marshmallows
1 and ½-cup chocolate chips
1-teaspoon vanilla

Stir until well blended. Put in a greased, glass pan. Cool for about six hours before cutting into squares. Squares should be small as this is very rich.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


De La Ristra…              

So…you couldn’t resist buying that gorgeous icon of the southwest, the red chile ristra, AND you think you want to make red chile sauce from scratch.

It is not easy!

Having given this disclaimer, I must sing the praises of fresh red chile sauce as there is nothing that tastes more authentic or more subtlety delicious than the real thing.

Once made, it can be used as enchilada sauce or to make red chile stew. Add some cubed cooked chicken or browned cubed beef to the sauce and let it simmer in the slow cooker for a few hours. Serve the stew in a bowl with quesadillas or fresh flour tortillas.

When you get authentic chile at a chili cook off, this is what you’re getting. No beans.

Red Chile Sauce (The gravy you make from the chiles)

Set aside an entire day.

Pull off the fresh chiles from your ristra. They are easier to handle and have better flavor if you let them dry out on the ristra.  Please know that if you use the whole ristra the sauce will freeze perfectly and you won’t let the other chiles get moldy and rot. The thought of going through all that work again is dreadful.

Put on gloves. And, if you happen to use your bare hands, don’t wipe your eyes or nose. Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible.

Cut a slit down one side of the chile to open it. Remove as many of the stems, seeds and veins from each chile as you can.

Heat a little oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Lay the chiles in the skillet to heat them a few seconds on each side, turning once. This brings out more flavor than skipping this step. Don’t burn them. This should be a gentle process.

Put them in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, turn down the heat and let them simmer for 1 hour.

When they are floppy and soft, drain them, saving the liquid. Put the chiles in a blender or food processor, adding some of the cooking liquid, garlic, salt, a capful of vinegar and a little sugar. Process into a pulp.

You will then need to strain out any tough bits of skin or seeds that remain in the pulp. This can be done with a sieve and wooden pestle or with a metal strainer. This is the most difficult part of the process for me but makes such a difference.

Once you have pureed and strained all of the chiles, you have the paste. Freeze it or use part and freeze the rest.

To make the red chile sauce to use for stew, enchilada sauce, etc. , you will need the following:

The basic recipe:

2 tablespoons lard
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups red chile sauce that you made
3-4 cups liquid with 2 Knorr beef or chicken bouillon cubes (the secret ingredient).
(It seems like every time I make this I use different amounts of broth. Strive for the consistency of a perfect gravy…thinner for enchilada sauce.)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves minced garlic
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican dried oregano


Heat the lard or oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven.
Add the flour as if making a rue or gravy. 
Slowly brown the flour in the lard 7-9 minutes. This is a most important step. You are cooking the flour and this is what makes the chile sauce have the delicate flavor and consistency you are after. If you brown it too much you have to throw it out and start over. If you don’t brown it enough the sauce will taste like uncooked flour.

As the flour and lard mixture turns golden brown and is breaking apart, slowly add some of the liquid from cooking the chiles, whisking constantly as you keep adding more liquid.

As the mixture starts to absorb the liquid and is not so thick, add the red chile sauce and the water or broth.

A few notes:

“Chile” is the New Mexico accepted spelling for the vegetable and the products of the vegetable.

“Chili” usually means a hearty soup with beans. In Arizona, this spelling is often seen referring to a paste or powder made from the red chiles as in the Santa Cruz brands.

Broth: I use some of the liquid from cooking the chiles and always add the bouillon to the chile cooking liquid or to water, which ever I have.

May I suggest buying Santa Cruz Red Chili Paste or Santa Cruz Red Chili Powder instead of making the paste from the ristra?

The recipes are on the jar or box. It is made in Tumacacori, AZ and it is available in a few Arizona supermarkets or you may order it online. It is mostly available in the smaller neighborhood markets that offer a good selection of Mexican spices and ingredients.

For the finished product, cook a beef pot roast in the slow cooker on low over night with some chopped onions under it and some garlic on top of it. Add a cup of water, cover and forget it until the next morning.

Take the meat out of the slow cooker and set aside to cool.

Strain the liquid from the slow cooker and save in a glass measuring cup.

When it's cooled off, cut the roast into cubes. 

Shake the beef cubes in some seasoned (just salt and pepper) flour in a plastic bag.

Brown the meat in some bacon grease in a heavy dutch oven or deep skillet while using a spatula to loosen the savory bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Add the red chile sauce to the browned beef cubes.

Heat it on the stove to make sure it is the right consistency by adding some broth or liquid from cooking the roast.

Put the whole thing into the slow cooker on low. 

Time to eat? 

Make burros, top fried eggs for breakfast, serve it in a bowl as red chile stew with some tortillas or quesadillas on the side...or just eat it right out of the pot. You will be glad that you gave it the time and effort it requires.

So will everyone who is invited to enjoy it.

Viva La Ristra y Feliz Navidad


Friday, March 16, 2012


Let's talk about the underestimated and misunderstood avocado. 

It is a fruit and it grows on a tree. It has been referred to as the "alligator pear" because of its shape and its thick dark skin.

Having lived in Arizona USA for 45 years, I have had many tasting experiences of the avocado sauce called guacamole.

It appears on the appetizer menu as a dip in all Mexican restaurants and it is a condiment to add to your burro, chimichanga, taco, tostado, “cheese crisp”, quesadilla, nachos, or taco salad. It is included with the “sides” and is usually the most expensive addition you can add to your food selection. It is not a “freebie” like mustard, ketchup or mayonnaise.

The health benefits are so huge that it should be added regularly to all meals. It is stated on a website I read recently, , that “Persin, a natural toxin found in avocados, appears to be so effective at killing breast cancer cells that it is being considered as a chemotherapy agent”.

Cut some chunks of avocado for your dinner salad. Add a few slices to your favorite sandwich…or make some guacamole to use as a topping or condiment.

This is such a simple recipe and easy to make. People who eat this particular guacamole concoction always comment how good it is. I think that is because most guacamole is too complicated and has too many ingredients; the best cooks add such things as tomatoes, green chile, sour cream, cottage cheese, and/or onion. Because avocados tend to be expensive, by adding some extra ingredients you can make it feed more people.

I think it is better to have a small portion of delicious guacamole than a large quantity of “OK” guacamole. Call me extravagant.


        5 avocados (mashed)
        2 tablespoons lime juice (This helps preserve the color of the avocados)
        2 teaspoons garlic salt
        1/8 teaspoon Tabasco
        ½ teaspoon Worcestershire
        1/8-teaspoon cayenne


        The most difficult part of this whole recipe is buying the avocados at the right stage of ripeness.

They shouldn’t be too soft or too hard. As you slightly squeeze the avocados, feel for just a few soft spots in them. They should be “easy” to the touch. If they are hard like an apple they won’t work. If they are too soft the pulp will be dark and mushy and you will have wasted your money.

A good avocado is similar in feel to a perfectly ripe tomato.

Slice them length-wise. Remove the seed and squeeze the pulp into a small bowl. If all of the pulp doesn’t come out, use a spoon to get the rest.

Smash the avocado with a fork until it is smooth.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Pretty isn't it!

Monday, March 12, 2012


“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
~ From Walden by Henry David Thoreau


Or else what? Or else you end up like so many people who are dissatisfied with their careers because life got in the way and they had to make a living. 

What is that passion “they” say we should follow? I remember reading somewhere that if there is something you enjoy doing and you enjoy it so much you forget to eat or sleep, you have found “it”. 

I interpret that to mean that your passion and how you make a living should be the same thing.

What if you are passionate about doing something that doesn’t have a paying job associated with it?

Create one.

I know more than a few people who shoved their dreams down deep inside themselves and have never visited them again. They didn’t know how they could make a living and support a family doing what they loved to do…what they were born to do.

“An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pays him for it or not.

The inefficient offer their inefficiency to the highest bidder,
And are forever expecting to be put in office.”

~ from Life without Principle by Henry David Thoreau

My dad always wanted to return to Arizona after his service in the war. He had trained for the U.S. Army Air Corps at Williams Air Force Base in 1941 and became completely enamored with our diverse and fascinating state. He was a Life Member of The Mighty Eighth and The Eighth Air Force Historical Society.

He also attend Arizona State University but duty called and he was never able to finish college. One of his life regrets.  

We recently purchased an engraved memorial brick in his honor for the Lt. Charles L. Williams Memorial Park at Phoenix-Gateway Airport. Our brick is situated at the memorial park around the T-38 aircraft.


I hope he knows we did this for him. I think he would approve.

After returning to his small hometown in the Midwest following his service in WW II, Mr. Bunting gave him an opportunity to work as a clerk in his finance company. It seems that Dad learned how to run a business. He left Mr. Bunting’s employment and opened his own insurance business.

I don’t think he ever enjoyed a minute of it.

He also worked tirelessly volunteering with different organizations to improve his hometown. He was recognized as Citizen of the Year before he died so he must have known he was appreciated. He died in his early 70s. He was much too young to “go” with dreams unfulfilled. Certainly, he could have had an insurance business in Arizona or something else. His unselfish community work would have been rewarded here as well.

Maybe his passion was volunteering…not a high-paying job is it?

Just one story.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~ from the “Conclusion” to Walden by Henry David Thoreau

The other side of the “follow your passion” story is an artist who has recognized his passion and spends his days living his dream.

Well, that is, except for the constant interruptions that I provide.

A few years before he retired from 30 years in the newspaper business, he signed up for an art class. A spark must have been ignited and left smoldering from an “accidental” art class he attended in college.

The spark caught fire.

His more recent “formal” art education didn’t last long either. But his diligent, patient study of landscape oil painting did. Today, he is a professional landscape oil painter…mostly self-taught. That takes passion.

He is a member of Oil Painters of America and has paintings in homes and offices all over the world.

Recently, I asked him if he was ever passionate about journalism.
His immediate response was “No”.

In that final year in high school, we are all faced with the unsettling reality that we are soon to be “kicked out” of our comfort zone and the safety net of our parents support.

In pondering what his life path would be he figured that since he loved the study of English grammar his Freshman year in high school…and liked writing…and “was good at it”…he would pursue a career along those lines.

He received two national awards for his writing. One he received just months after graduating from college. He was “good at it”!

As a former high school English teacher myself, I can assure you that no one I ever taught “liked” the study of English grammar. It could have been my lack of passion in teaching the subject, of course. Diagramming sentences as a pastime? Never.

Another interesting tidbit from the artist’s childhood that influenced him was the constant accumulation of newspapers to be read in his home and his grandparent’s home.

Newspapers, newspapers everywhere. He remembers stacks of them being around and that his father read all of them…as did he.

“Just the comics, your horoscope and Dear Abby, right?”

He responded with a grin, “No, I read the news.”

That’s not passion? I call that Passion with a capital “P”.

This artist went on to university to study journalism.

One year, in registering for that year’s courses, a journalism class he needed was filled. What to take? His first ever art class took the spot.

After having this discussion I have decided that the artist was also passionate about journalism…and still is. He has all of the news services in his “Favorites” and reads them everyday.

Then he paints.

I watch him in amazement as he creates beautiful paintings. One after the other…day in, day out. 

He is not painting paintings to sell. He is painting western landscapes to reflect the stirrings of his soul and his love of Nature, the Arizona desert, mountains, rivers, and ancient artifacts.

“I, too, had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture,
but I had not made it worth anyone’s while to buy them.
Yet, not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.” ~from “Economy” in Walden by Henry David Thoreau

If it weren’t for the auspicious event of marrying me, Peter would have led a life of monastic asceticism.

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” ~ from “Economy” in Walden by Henry David Thoreau

He is content with few worldly goods. He is a quiet man. He dreams and prays and takes walks. He reads. He studies. He writes and paints.

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” ~”Where I Lived and What I Lived For” in Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Please Note: The artist and journalist has given permission to this blogger to post the windows to some of his “baskets”.

His books are available at

From Swamp Yankee to Desert Rat: A Hodgepodge Memoir

by Peter M. Pegnam
Stu! Your Hair’s On Fire! Why A Newspaper Lived—And Died
By Paul L. Allen and Peter M. Pegnam

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


"Worries go down better with soup." ~Jewish Proverb

Make the meatballs first and set aside.
To make the meatballs, mix the following ingredients together in a medium-size bowl:
        1-pound ground beef
        1 whole egg
        1 egg yolk
        1/3-cup bread crumbs (I’ve quit using these and the meatballs are just as good.)
        ½-teaspoon garlic salt
        ½-teaspoon onion salt
        1/8-teaspoon pepper
        2-sprigs of fresh, finely chopped parsley

Mix everything together with both hands.
Scoop a generous tablespoon of meat mixture into your hands and form a meatball about the size of a walnut.
Place it on a dinner plate.

Continue making meatballs until you’ve used all of the meat mixture.
Put the plate with the meatballs, covered with foil, in the refrigerator until you’re ready to add them to the soup.

To make the soup you will need:
        3-tablespoons oil (Olive Oil or Canola Oil)
        1 medium chopped onion
        1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes or five peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes
        ¼-cup white long grain rice ( Low-Carb? No rice)
        8 cups water
        1 8-ounce can tomato sauce ( I use a 7 ¾-ounce can of El Pato tomato sauce    because it has more flavor and Pedro likes it better.)
        ½-teaspoon garlic salt
        ½-teaspoon onion salt
        ½-bunch fresh Cilantro, chopped fine
3 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped fine

Cutting fresh mint from my mint patch.
In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Add the rice to the hot oil. As the rice starts to brown slightly, add the tomatoes with juice and the chopped onion. Cook until vegetables are soft and transparent, stirring frequently.

Add 8 cups water all at once.
Add tomato sauce
Add garlic salt
Add onion salt

When contents of the pot start to boil, add the cilantro and mint.
Lastly, add the meatballs.

When the pot starts to boil again, lower the heat to simmer and put a lid on the pot.

It should simmer about 45 minutes before serving to make sure the meatballs are completely cooked.

Albondigas should be served with Quesadillas, not saltine crackers. The easiest ones to make are these:

You will need a cookie sheet, corn tortillas and shredded Mexican cheese.

Preheat your oven broiler to high.
Raise the top rack to within about 3 1/2  inches of the broiler element.
Put about five corn tortillas spread out on a cookie sheet. 
Sprinkle your favorite Mexican cheese on top of each tortilla. 
Put the cookie sheet on the rack and keep an eye on it. 
When the cheese is completely melted, they are ready. 
Take them out and fold each one in half, pressing the halves together so that they are held together with the cheese.
Serve with soup.

If you have leftover soup, store it in a glass bowl in the refrigerator. An orange layer of fat will form on top. Don’t throw that away. Heat it with the soup…it has lots of flavor in it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


“La major salsa del mundo es el hambre.”
(Hunger is the best sauce in the world.)
~Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

This salsa recipe has always been the most popular with everyone who has tried it. The simplicity if it, the mild yet fragrant aroma and the slightly processed texture make it pleasing to all. it is not hot. if you want hot, throw in a jalapeno.

It makes a great Christmas gift, as well.

My Tucson family taught me to make this and we still serve it exactly the same way for all family occasions.


2 14.5-ounce cans of whole or diced tomatoes ( 1 28-ounce can or 5 fresh,  medium-large, peeled and chopped tomatoes can be used)
1 4-ounce can of diced green chile
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
1 capful of white vinegar
Garlic salt
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped fine. We love the fresh smell and taste of cilantro.


Mix all of the ingredients, except garlic salt, together in a medium-size bowl.

Sprinkle garlic salt evenly over the top of the ingredients in the bowl until it looks like it’s moldy.

Most important! "Squish" everything in the bowl with both hands to release all of the juices. In the Mexican tradition, this method is called "al mano". there is no substitute for this process.

Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Note: Some people prefer smooth salsa over chunky salsa. If you squish it with your hands enough it becomes smooth. I now use my food processor. I put all of the ingredients in the large work bowl and pulse several times. This is much better as it still has texture but not chunks. If you don’t have a food processor, try a blender...or not. 

Friday, March 2, 2012


“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” ~Mark Twain

I have tried many different types of eating styles. After decades of experience and research and doctors’ advice, I can say with some degree of confidence, that the “no sugar, no flour” style is the one magic bullet to stop chronic disease, weight gain and the other plagues of our lives that are results of abundance and excess.

We are fortunate to be able to make these choices.

The low-carbohydrate, caveman, and blood type diets seem to make the most sense. The word “diet” should mean a permanent solution to a health problem, not a temporary one. These are the eating styles that are compatible with our DNA.

There are unlimited testimonials out there from those who have suffered with different illnesses and have taken medications to relieve their symptoms. Eating good food and eliminating the “white stuff” has cured them. As important, they are able to throw their medicine away.

Caveat: The following information might help some readers who have no one to ask about how to shop for the foods that can change, even possibly save, their lives. My life experience always seems to lead me to those people. To all of you who know how to shop, I apologize for giving you a tour of the grocery store. If I have learned something that I think is important, I think it is my moral obligation to pass the information on to those who want it.

Where do we purchase these foods? You don’t purchase anything. You hunt and kill and butcher…and fish and clean the fish…and gather whatever nuts and berries and roots are available.

So, you want to “hunt and gather” at your favorite supermarket?

We shop for different things at different markets. It is no different or any more time-consuming than shopping with coupons. My favorite store is a small market that advertises "serious food at silly prices". I also like a big box store and a membership warehouse store.

Here’s what to do:

·       Shop mainly on the outside aisles of the supermarket.

·     Notice fresh flowers are usually the first item that catches your eye when you enter the store. No, you don’t eat them. You buy them for someone else or for yourself to enjoy. Put them in your cart and enjoy them while you shop.

·        After “picking” some fresh flowers, meander around the fresh vegetable and fruit department. Select a few items that you will eat soon.

“ There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

·        Visit the butcher counter for fresh meat and fish that you will cook today or tomorrow.

“I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.” ~Anonymous

I tried being a vegetarian in the late 60s. I found that it gave me mental and spiritual calm. However, my cravings for meat caused me to abandon that. I do have meatless meals every now and then. My favorite is a guacamole taco with some refried beans on the side.

A son-in-law of ours also tried being a vegetarian. He began feeling weak and experienced fatigue. On a visit to his doctor he received this advice; “You are a spirit having a human experience…eat meat!”

·        Take a detour and go to the canned fruits, vegetables, soups, and meats. Check the labels and the expiration dates. You are looking for cans that contain the item in the picture on the can with maybe some water and salt added. Sometimes they sneak in some sugar and/or citric acid too.

Soups are challenging. They throw all kinds of things into a can of soup. I like Amy’s Organic soups.

Recently I did a comparison of two cans of “sweet corn” that I had purchased in two different stores. The ingredients on one well-known brand were corn, water, sugar, and salt. The other can was purchased in one of those big warehouse grocery stores. Its ingredients were corn, water, and sea salt. Why sugar? It makes it taste better. They are deceiving us.

·        “Gather” some eggs. Locally hatched are the best tasting and the freshest.

·        Pick(up) some tree nuts like walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, or pecans. Peanuts are not tree nuts. They are from the bean family.

·        Stop by the “vineyard” for a nice bottle of wine.

“ A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let a fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts will never do.”  ~P.J.O’Rourke

·        On to the frozen food section where you will shop for fruits and vegetables again. Check that they have no ingredients except for the vegetable or fruit itself. Steam-Fresh vegetables are available now and have the least processing. That is my opinion. I rarely know anything for sure. I think they are the EZest to prepare in the microwave with no pan or steamer to wash. Follow the directions on the package.

·        “Flash” frozen fish is usually available in supermarkets. It is easy to cook and very nutritious. You can bake it in the oven from the frozen state. Follow the directions on the package. Use a small cookie sheet or a glass pie plate to bake it. It is expensive but not as expensive as eating in a “fast food” restaurant. Avoid Tilapia. It has the wrong kind of Omegas. Buy wild caught Alaska Salmon, Tuna, Mahi, Ono, Halibut, and Cod. A true indulgence in the fish department is Barramundi. It is a delicate whitefish. Very good.

·         Find a good source that you like of canned chicken breast, turkey, roast beef, salmon, and tuna. Always read the label to make sure that’s what’s in the can.

Granddaughter AJ would always request some unusual snacks when she would come to our house after school; she wanted canned salmon and Edamame. She wanted the salmon on a plate straight from the can and the Edamame steamed and chilled. This is the same child who loves Sushi. Training is important.

I recently asked her brother, HM, if he liked tuna. He looked at me wide-eyed and surprised that I would ask...then replied, " Of course, Nana, I love tuna."

I offered to open a can and make him a tuna sandwich. He informed me that he doesn't eat tuna from a can, only fresh in Sushi.

For AJ's graduation from Kindergarten I asked her where she would like to go for lunch. “Red Lobster for Snow Crab!” was her reply. We had quite a feast.

Emerson was onto something about how to buy a pear.

Recently I have discovered in doing research for this blog that the “newest to me” school of thought is that canned fruits and vegetables are safer than fresh. We don’t know where the fresh produce comes from and how long it has taken it to get to our supermarkets…or how long it has been sitting on the shelf. The theory is that canned vegetables have been picked and immediately preserved through the canning process so that they last a long time.

Canning was invented so that fruits and vegetables are available all year, not just when they’re in season. I have a good friend who cans elk meat.

We have seen so much publicity in the past several years telling us not to eat cantaloupe, fresh spinach, Romaine lettuce, and other fresh produce as it has caused illness.

I think we all know that the “fresh” roasted piping hot chickens we pick up from the supermarket deli for dinner are the chickens that are about to expire (or have) and they can’t sell them in the fresh meat section.

How can we be sure our food is safe?

Unfortunately, the answer is obvious. Grow it yourself.      

Next best choice, check expiration dates on everything you buy.

I know that this is common knowledge with our younger family members. It must be taught in schools these days. Our grandson, DV, arrived home from school one day a few years ago and started going through the refrigerator and pantry in his house, pulling out all expired items. His mother was aghast!

Plant a garden. It’s an education and “homegrown” food is fresh and delicious. DV is doing this also. He has been drawn to tending the garden since he was a little shaver.

You can plant vegetables in pots on a porch or an apartment balcony if you don’t have a yard. Lettuce is easy to grow from seed and is one thing you can’t buy frozen or in a can.

Have you seen the container tomato plants?

“It is difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” ~Lewis Grizzard

The quest for knowledge is an on-going one and something new is learned everyday.

To Life! Hallelujah!!