Archive for May, 2010

Yuccas in the Moonlight

May 28th, 2010 by pattiebell

Yucca in the Moonlight

Close-up of Yucca blossoms

Biscochitos

May 18th, 2010 by pattiebell

After tasting these great cookies in Taos, NM, where they are the official state cookie, I set out to find a recipe and prepare them for my guests here at the Ranch House. Traditionally they are made with lard, but I found a good approach using butter instead. This recipe is a redux of a few I considered, combining the best elements: plenty of anise seed, orange zest, layering the dough a bit, and dusting with cinnamon sugar.

Pulse in food processor until mixed:  2 C. flour, 3/4 C. sugar, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/8 t. salt, and 1 T. ground anise seed. Add 12 T. cold butter cut into bits and pulse until mixture resembles course meal. Add 1 large egg,  1 t. vanilla, 2 T. ice water, the zest of 1 orange and pulse until ball starts to form. Remove to floured surface and knead a few times. Roll dough out with rolling pin, folding over and lightly re-rolling a few times.  Form into disc, wrap in film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Roll out on floured surface to 1/4 in. thickness and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets, sprinkle tops of cookies with 1/2 t. cinnamon mixed with 2 T. sugar and place in freezer for 15 minutes.  Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes until set, slightly colored on edges but not brown. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

I love that New Mexico has a State Cookie. That is a state with it’s priorities straight!

Datura Bloom

May 11th, 2010 by pattiebell

Datura Bloom

Datura are herbaceous, leafy annuals and short-lived perennials which can reach up to 2 meters in height. The leaves are alternate, with a lobed or toothed margin. The flowers are erect or spreading, trumpet-shaped, and colors vary from white to yellow, pink, and pale purple. The fruit is a spiny capsule, splitting open when ripe to release the numerous seeds. The seeds disperse freely over pastures, fields and even wasteland locations.

Datura belongs to the classic “witches’ weeds,” along with deadly nightshade. Most parts of the plants contain toxic hallucinogens, and Datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death. It was well known as an essential ingredient of love potions and witches’ brews.

Common names include Thorn Apple, Pricklyburr, Jimson Weed, Moonflower, Hell’s Bells, Devil’s Weed, Devil’s Cucumber, and Devil’s Trumpet. Nathaniel Hawthorne refers to one type in The Scarlet Letter as Apple-Peru.

They are a very common sight in Southern Arizona, and this one cropped up right beside El Rancho Merlita’s  fire pit.

Visit from the Javelina

May 11th, 2010 by pattiebell

Visit form the Javelina

Javelina are peccaries – medium-sized animals, with a strong superficial resemblance to pigs.  Their preferred food consists of roots, grass, seeds, and fruit.  When they visit El Rancho Merlita they are particularly attracted to our quail seed block. They can wreak quite a bit of havoc in the hummingbird bed I planted earlier in the spring. This particular morning our guests had almost as much fun watching their innkeeper try to scare them out of said bed as they did seeing the javelina themselves. These 2 were part of a group of 4 who passed through during the breakfast hour.

1924 North Corte El Rancho Merlita, Tucson, AZ 85751-1017
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