Food Finds of the Southwest

Back home, finally! We were on vacation, in Pueblo, Colorado, Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico for over a week, and I just didn't have the inclination to blog. I had computer access, but there was so much to do and see, great food to eat and people to visit, I felt that working at the computer would be just that, work. Now I'm faced with the task of uploading over 500 photos, sorting through them and putting them in some sort of narrative, as well as trying to recapture and journal all about our trip. There just isn't any easy way to recap the amazing sights we saw and all the fun things we did during our 8 days in the Southwest. I could, and would like to, do a blog a day about the meals and the experiences alone! Without further ado - here's a small sampling of some of the great food ideas I encountered - I figure if I dish up a helping, we will all feel satisfied!

Best of the Mexican Food Finds - Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon served Fajita Style. Not a Weight Watchers recommended meal! This dinner alone helped me put on the four pounds I gained during my trip. It was as simple as it sounds. Medium to large sized shrimp were wrapped in bacon and seasoned with pepper and lime juice, pan seared or grilled, served with onions and peppers, and topped with Jack Cheese. Oh yeah, it's not kosher either! I guess I won't be making this for my next Community Shabbat Dinner at BZBI!
Mexican Cabbage Salad with Salsa: It's kind of like a combination healthy coleslaw and fresh chunky salsa. Finely chopped green cabbage with diced tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, garlic, lime juice, cilantro and salt and pepper. It could be another variation on the healthy slaw I blogged about a few entries ago. I'd add lime zest to give it an extra bit of lime punch.
Seven Layer Mexican Dip - homemade guacamole, salsa, smashed or refried black beans, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, Jack or Cheddar Cheeses. This one was Liz's grandfather's recipe. He makes his own amazing fresh salsa and guacamole, both easy enough to make, but confounding if you don't have the mixtures diced or smooth enough. The secret to both is lots of lime, garlic and cilantro. To make it diet or Weight Watcher's friendly, I'd use less guacamole, light or non-fat sour cream, light or non-fat cheese, and try to cut the guacamole with a puree of peas or cauliflower - as directed in my favorite cookbook, Deceptively Delicious.

The Best of Taos: Variation on fruit salad: Cantaloupe, Nectarines, Orange or Tangerine Segments and Pitted Cherries. In a bowl, gorgeous and fantastic. I get sick of the same old versions of fruit salad, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapples, strawberries and grapes. It's what you can buy at the various fruit salad stands all over the city from Spring through the end of the summer. We had this delicious fruit salad in Taos, New Mexico, at a cafe/art gallery. The cafe was in a renovated adobe space, done up in pure Scandinavian Modern Style. Clean white walls and low ceilings, with rustic wooden beams. The floors were blond wood and the tables were simple low-slung plank tables. The chairs were sort of Ikea-esque, but not as cheap, more like something you could find at Design within Reach.
Polenta Pizza: Rectangle of Polenta, topped with roasted or grilled onions, peppers and eggplant, lightly covered with Asiago or Provolone Cheese. To make this easier at home, buy the pre-made polenta rolls in the produce aisle. Cut the roll into rounds and top each round with a puree or finely chopped medley of roasted veggies, ala ratatouille. Lightly sprinkle with grated light, fat-free Cheddar Cheese or freshly grated Parmesan Cheese. Serve warm, not pipping hot, so the polenta retains its texture and shape.

Fish Tacos - anywhere they are served that doesn't bread and deep fry the white fish. The best ones I had were in Taos, at Orlando's. They were served in Soft Blue Corn Tortillas, with cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro and slathered with a Tartar Sauce. At home, I'd skip the Tartar Sauce and make a low-fat/non-fat version with Fat-Free Greek Yogurt, mixed with minced cucumbers, lime zest & juice, celery seed, and minced garlic and a dash of onion powder, salt and freshly ground pepper. Make the yogurt dip ahead of time to allow the flavors to develop.

Dining in Santa Fe - Osteria d'Assisi - A bit of Umbrian Style Cuisine amidst all the great Mexican and Southwestern food choices. We splurged on a fancy evening out with friends, Donald and Lisa, both of whom are working in Santa Fe for the summer at the Santa Fe Choral and Santa Fe Opera, respectively. Marinated Artichoke salad, with fresh tomatoes, orange segments, basil and a light citrus dressing, topped with shaved Parmesan cheese. MMM! For dinner, I indulged in a thin, crispy brick oven baked pizza with Fungi e Tartuffo - Shitake Mushrooms, Baby Bella Mushrooms, and Drizzled with Truffle Oil. Well worth the points splurge. There is no reasonable way to make this points optional, except maybe by making the pizza crust with whole wheat, rolling it out a bit thinner and being sparing with the cheese and truffle oil. Nah, why bother?!

Pueblo, Colorado - Best Damn Hot Dog that tastes like a Slim Jim! Grilled Buffalo Hot Dogs. Snappy, spicy, sizzling goodness on a whole wheat bun. I skipped the bun since I had a deluxe gourmet hamburger (from Sam's Club) on a whole wheat bun. Dipped the hot dog in mustard and relish and enjoyed it just the same.

Tuaca and Red Bull - a sweet liqueur, with vanilla and citrus flavors, paired with the swift kick of the bull. A drink to rev you up and keep you going! Liz's cousin, Callie Dawn, was favoring these at Red's Alibi Bar, during Tuesday Night Karaoke. Had I had more than a sip, I think I would have definitely gone up to the microphone and belted at a rendition of Nine to Five, the one song I kept thinking I would sing to please Aunt Pat! Luckily, I drank Corona's and Liz's brother, Matt, did the family right by singing to the crowd. Way to Go Matty B! (Alibi Karaoke Video to follow eventually!)

Farmer's Markets - Great one's are all around. We visited the Tuesday morning farmer's market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It's not as densely populated on Tuesday's, unlike the Sunday Market, but what we saw was fairly wonderful. Little six year-old boy playing the Violin in the Suzki Method. Liz, Donald and I thought the family was shilling their kid, but it was sweet. Great organic coffee from the 815 Early Cafe. Liz and I both scarfed down apple rhubarb bread and jalapeno cheddar bread. And that was the end of the Weight Watchers Diet for the Week. Actually, it ended the minute we landed in Denver! When I came home this past weekend, I went to our Sunday Market at Head House Square, at 3rd & Lombard Streets. The main difference, other than space, location and layout, is that my fellow Philadelphians have no sense of manners! Yikes! Double wide strollers do not fit in a narrow passageway of the Shambles at Head House. Enough already with bringing your cute, but nervous, dog to the market. No one wants to see poochie among the organic carrots and zucchini blossoms. I discovered a connection to Santa Fe's Farmer's Market though. My old acquaintance, David O'Neil, from my Reading Company and Reading Terminal Days, was at the Head House Market. We got to talking and as it turns out, David helped organize the Santa Fe Market. Mr. O'Neil - you are the Market Guru for the ages. Cool!

Zucchini Blossoms - One vendor at the Santa Fe Market had a big beautiful basket full of squash blossoms, perfect as an edible floral arrangement and even better as a tasty sauteed veggie. These remind me of Italy - we ate many last summer in Spoleto. The ones in Italy were stuffed with cheese, battered and fried, or just battered in a simple flour and water mixture, in the vein of fritto misto, and fried. After I began Weight Watchers last August (61 pounds, put back on 4 - at 57 pounds and losing!) I discovered that a quick light saute was just as scrumptious. Last night's Sunday supper consisted of whole wheat thin spaghetti, with lightly sauteed summer squashes, sauteed onions and garlic in a minimal amount of olive oil. For additional protein power, I sauteed chick peas and flavored them with Picantisimo Seasoning that I still have from Italy - basically a red pepper, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper seasoning. To this I reduced white wine and tightened the sauce up with some of the pasta cooking water - starchy and full of flavor. I bought a few blossoms and sauteed them, and served them on top of my pasta and squash medley. Finished the dish with fresh basil chiffonade and freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese. Bravisimo!

And this was only a recap of some of the great meals and food finds. I did more than just eat too! We hiked, visited with family, saw so many landscapes it boggles the mind that they all existed in only the span of 2 states and 500 miles. I can't wait to upload the photos and write about more adventures.

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