Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pork with smoky tomato sauce, potatoes and avocado

I wish I had a better picture of this stew to share, but last night on the time we were ready to eat, it was late and we still had to drive about 10 miles out of town with all the food to Kevin's brothers house, so we were in a bit of a hurry. Yesterday was just one of those days, where if one thing goes wrong, five things go wrong. Rick Bayless and this stew, made it so much better.

We are still in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan visiting Kevin's brother and his wife... I wanted to join in the cooking club this week and I hope to be able to join in as often as possible while we are on the road to Alaska (once we are there it will be a lot easier) so I offered to make Mexican food last night for everyone. No big deal right? I decided it would be best if I cooked most of it in our camper, since I know I have everything I need... This is Kevin's brothers second home here and they don't have all the kitchen supplies I need as I found out while cooking chicken and dumplings the night before. I brought half my kitchen, so I'm pretty well equipped in here. But so far, I've only cooked pork fried rice in this kitchen. So I'm still figuring it out and getting organized.

So we bought the food I needed and Kevin dropped me off at the camper so I could start cooking, and he ran to the hospital - he had cut his arm and it was starting to look like yet another staph infection starting, so he wanted to get it looked at so he could get on the antibiotics right away if he needed them. As soon as he left, I realized somehow I had forgotten to put chorizo on the list I worked for over an hour making. No problem, I'll call him on his cell phone... well he didn't answer. So I texted him - and while I was typing about the sausage, the phone told me no, you can't being doing this - and then shut off. I spent the next hour trying to figure out what was wrong with it (new to the phones) and when I decided I should take the case off so I could check the battery, I couldn't get that open without breaking it. It was driving me nuts. So I gave up, figured he'd be back soon anyway and just kept cooking. Since I've never used my propane oven in here before, I couldn't figure out how to light that - it's similar to the one I had in my smaller camper but I couldn't find the pilot to get it lit in this one. It took a while, but finally I figured it out so I could roast my jalapenos and tomatoes for salsa. 

Eventually the woman who runs the campground we are staying at showed up worried because Kevin called her... she assumed because he was in the hospital, it was bad. I went up to the office and called him and he had been held up because he needed to know what medication he could take - and he couldn't get a hold of me to find out. 

So we got all that solved, fixed the phones later that night and thanks to Rick Bayless (and a margarita) calmed the nerves.

When I read this recipe I had this horrible feeling that this pork would not turn out tender... you know when you read a recipe and think "this isn't going to work?" I had that feeling. But Rick has never let me down with any recipe of his so I did as he said. Which obviously is always the correct thing to do - because Rick Bayless is always right. 

This is warm, comforting, spicy, and just about perfect. The chorizo makes it, combined with the pork and chipotles it's a match made in heaven. We enjoyed this with some fresh homemade Guacamole, homemade roasted salsa, tortillas and I also made Rick's mushroom Queso Fundido which I've made twice now because it's so quick and so delicious to go along with it. And to top it off, some fresh Queso fresco and Chihuahua cheese. 

Pork with smoky tomato sauce, potatoes and avocado
from Authentic Mexican, by Rick Bayless

1 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs (such as marjoram and thyme)
3 bay leaves
 2-3 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large medium ripe tomatoes, roasted or boiled, peeled and cored
4 ounces Chorizo sausage, removed from it's casings
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 canned chipotles chillies in adobo, seeded and thinly sliced
4 tsps of the adobo sauce from the can of chilies
salt, about 1/2 tsp
sugar, about 1/2 tsp

for the garnish
1 ripe medium avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
optional, fresh Guacamole 
 Mexican Queso fresco

 In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the pork, bring back to a
boil and skim the foam that rises to the surface. Stir in the mixed dried
herbs and the bay leaves, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered,
until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. If there is time, let the meat cool
in the broth.

  Remove the cubes of pork from the broth. Strain the broth and skim
off any fat that rises to the surface. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the broth for
this dish and the rest for another use. When the meat is cool enough to
handle, dry it on paper towels and pull the meat apart with your hands.

  Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan of salted water. Bring to a boil
and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.

  In a large, deep frying pan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add
the chorizo and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove
with a slotted spoon. Raise the heat to moderately high. Add the chopped onions and the pork to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer.

  Add the tomatoes, oregano and chorizo and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in
the potatoes, reserved broth, chipotles, adobo sauce, salt and sugar.
Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Just before serving, top with sliced avocado, some fresh onions, Queso fresco, or some fresh Guacamole. 

 Rick Bayless @IHCC button rounded

Friday, May 25, 2012

In Michigan

We left home Tuesday morning and began the first part of our journey to Sault Ste. Marie Michigan which is 536 miles NW of our farm. It was our first time driving the 5th wheel other than the 10 miles into town, so it was a big test. We got better gas mileage than we expected, which was a welcome surprise, for now. It will go down dramatically as soon as we get up in the mountains. 

It took us 12 hours to get to the Soo. It was a long days drive, but it was without incident, thankfully.

 riding in my lap in the truck

The boys were so happy to be in the truck and on the road, they have been anxiously waiting to go camping for weeks as they have been watching me pack the 5th wheel. They were pretty worried we'd try and leave without them, so as soon as they got in the truck, the happiness set in knowing they were going with us for sure. 

happy Pug relaxing

 our campground in the Soo

Since we've been in the Soo we've mostly been relaxing and stocking up on supplies. It's a good thing we came here and decided to lay over for a while - we are finding out all the things that are wrong with this 5th wheel that we didn't know about since we've never used it, and there are a ton of them. Mostly small things, but all things that need repairing. 

Our campground is on the St. Mary's river, below the locks and we can watch the freighters passing by from our big window, it's really neat. They are just so huge. The dogs have decided they just love this new, bigger, camper. They are in full vacation mode - just completely relaxing.

Douglas having his morning coffee in the camper

Norman waiting for his breakfast

 lying on the couch watching the seagulls

Last night we went and stuffed ourselves with whitefish - I dream about this fish all winter long, it's so good. I ate it all too - all the fish, I avoid all other food, fries, coleslaw, because I know I won't have room for it all, so I just focus on over stuffing myself with the whitefish. I had my fill last night, but now, I'm completely ready to eat it again. 

It's been quite warm here, today the wind is up which is typical for the Soo, but it's still a nice day.  We'll stay here through the weekend visiting with Kevin's brother and leave Tuesday. We don't want to leave on Monday because it's a holiday and the traffic won't be pretty. 

We head West from here across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and across Northern Wisconsin.

My mission now is to find out where I can buy some smoked whitefish around here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

North to Alaska

our property is on the right , this is before it was cleaned up

Today is our final day of packing, fixing machinery, and getting things ready for our trip North. I'm packing the last of the things in the camper, and we are hooking the 5th wheel up. We are hoping to leave here at about 6 AM tomorrow morning. We'll be driving from our farm to Sault Ste. Marie Michigan first, where we'll spend a few days visiting Kevin's brother and stuffing ourselves with whitefish... with our truck camper it takes about 10 hours to get there from the farm. With the 5th wheel - we have no idea how long it will take us. Since we've never driven it (the 5th wheel) anywhere before, we don't really know what to expect. We've been estimating our mileage at 6, 8, and 10... we are not yet sure just how bad it's going to be! We figure if we leave early enough, maybe we'll make it in one day, which would save us having to risk whether or not we'll find a campground along the way that will accommodate our 5th wheel - most of the campgrounds are not built for such large machines along this particular stretch of road.

One of my blog readers asked if I would write a bit about why we are heading North to Alaska, since a lot of my readers might not know about our second home there.

Not every year, but most years, we travel the 4,000 miles (from our farm in Eastern Ontario) to Tok Alaska. Two years ago, we finally bought 10 acres of our own land there, as a retreat, a haven in the spruce forest with the Alaska range looking over us.

Why Alaska and why more specifically a small town in the interior of it? Tok is a small bush town, 90 miles from the Alaska/Yukon border. There isn't a heck of a lot there... a couple of restaurants, campgrounds, a grocery store, and a few places to fuel up. Anyone driving into Alaska, has to pass through Tok, and a lot of people spend their first night in Alaska there, but then excited to start their Alaskan adventure, quickly pass through. I would have been one of those people who just saw Tok as a small bush town where I only spent one night in, if it had not been for Kevin.

Kevin lived in Tok, in the eighties. He spent 12 years in Alaska with the Coast Guard, most of it on Kodiak, but a couple of years in Tok. When I went to Alaska for the first time in 2006 with him, we stopped in Tok, went into the Husky Lounge and met a few of the people he knew from his time there, local business owners mostly, who had no idea we were coming and had not seen Kevin in many years. They were very happy to see him, and one of the first things one them, Dale, who runs the best gas station in town (wink, wink), said to me, having never met me before was, "welcome home." Which meant a tremendous amount to me.

From the time I was about eleven years old, when I first saw pictures of Alaska, of the glaciers, the mountains, the wildlife, I knew I had to go there. It's difficult to explain but when I looked at pictures of the mountains of Alaska, it was like looking at pictures of my home. There was a feeling in my heart of comfort, of security, of knowing... this feeling like I'd been there before. Which of course I hadn't - I'd never even seen a mountain.

As a child I told everyone of my dream. One day, when I could drive, I would pack my dog in my car and we would drive to Alaska together. I dreamed at night of driving on the Alaska highway and seeing the big mountains of the Kluane range in the Yukon coming into view...

As I've mentioned before, my mother was sick for a long time. She battled cancer for five years before she passed away when I was sixteen. I went to every doctors appointment with her, and was very involved for a child with what was happening. I wanted it that way. But it was difficult. She asked to die at home, which was kinder on her, but maybe not so on us. It was, put simply, brutal. There was a long time before she passed that she stopped talking, she just wasn't able to anymore. But the night before she died, I told her through my near hysterical tears how much I loved her, and I told her all the things I could think of that I wanted to, knowing it would be my last chance. She never moved, her eyes closed through my whole speech. As I got up to leave and walk away, she pulled on my hand, and I turned around to face her. Her eyes were still closed but she spoke to me and although it took a great deal of energy to get anything out, she told me she loved me. Then she said, "Whatever you do. Go to Alaska."

That was it. My mother never had much of a chance to fulfill her dreams in life. She was a single mother, her relationships had been difficult in life, and she struggled a lot. She took care of her children and that was that. She was a good mother, but as an adult I realized, so many of her dreams had to be put aside because of it. I don't think she was bitter about it, but she instilled in me that dreams were important - and also to always strive to fulfill them when possible, at least the most important ones.

Many years went by before I got to Alaska, although I did manage to get there a lot earlier in my life than expected. A year or so after Kevin and I had been together on a complete whim, we hopped in the truck and went with a couple of days notice. We had animals then, Llamas, chickens, a horse. I thought we'd never find anyone to watch them for a month while we were gone, but we did. Everything fell into place and away we went. It was completely crazy, but I thought it would be my only chance to see Alaska.

 I didn't have my dog with me, as I'd always imagined, but I had my dwarf rabbit Nibs - who had been with me for many years, and I had my mothers ashes. I left part of her on the Matanuska glacier, between Glenallen and Palmer, which we were able to walk out on. It was an incredible thing to share with Kevin and with my mom - we both made it to Alaska. I also had my cats ashes with me. You know, we all had to go one way or another!

Alaska is a magical place, I'm sure a lot of people would agree, although a lot of people cannot handle the ruggedness of it, the wildness of it... the very things that make my heart skip a beat when I think about them. The Yukon is much the same way, the people are tough but good hearted... it takes a very determined and strong person to live in the bush, to make do, to survive. I managed to see 23 bears just on our first trip up and that never gets old, nor does seeing Moose, Elk, Caribou, or the Stone Sheep whom I'll share more about with all of you on our trip.

So, back to Tok. The reason we keep going back to Tok is the people. The old friends of Kevin's acted liked he never left and they accepted me as if they'd always known me, and I felt the same way about them, like I'd known them all my life. Tok just feels like home - like the farm does. We don't feel out of place, away from things, or at risk. There is a sense of comfort, of security there. Alaska is a wonderful place, all of it.... but Tok is home.

So after our first trip, we just kept going back. Again and again, and again. I thought I was lucky enough to get to Alaska once and never imaged we'd now be making our 5th trip back there (well my fifth trip, Kevin has made the trip a dozen times). This will be Norman (the Chihuahua's) fourth time going North, Douglas second time. We considered moving there several times, but we love this farm. We have 700 acres here, that's hard to match anywhere else. The U.S. border is currently closed to goats and sheep. It's very often seventy below in Tok in the winter, and it's known as the coldest place in North America. There are a few problems.

As with most things in our lives that are our meant to be though, things have just fallen into place to allow us to travel there. We first saw the piece of land we ended up buying in 2010 in person in 2009 - but we didn't think much of it at the time. The price was too high, it's out of town, which is good and bad, there was nothing there, no sewer, no well, no power. We decided we'd just keep waiting for the right thing to happen. In 2010 it did... that same piece of land dropped in price tremendously, and we realized, why do we need power, sewer, a well? We bid on it, and got it.

In Tok - there are no taxes. If you buy property there, you pay for it, you own it and that's it. So once your land is paid for, there is no cost. Not like most anywhere else where whether you live there or visit once and a while, you are going to pay property taxes. The cost of living there isn't really high - food costs more as it's trucked in, but really it's very comparable and often times less than it costs to live here in Eastern Ontario. The nearest place to buy stuff (major supplies, clothes, etc) is in Fairbanks and it's 200 miles away. It suits us fine. On our land we won't have power (except for our generator) or water, but we'll bring water in a barrel to the 5th wheel, and we don't need much. It costs us money in fuel to get up there - but we save that money by not doing a lot of other things the rest of the year... we don't have a lot of money, we just use what we have to suit our lifestyle and we make it fit when we can. When we can't - we don't go! A lot of people think we must have a lot of money to go to Alaska so often, but a lot of people think of a trip like that in a different way than is reality to us. We are camping, we spend little on food, not that much on camping (since we are usually off grid, and in way sides and the like), the real cost is only in the fuel.

Summer in Alaska is gorgeous, the temperature is usually between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is good for Kevin because he cannot handle the heat or sun, he's been sick for years with a condition that causes him to have major skin and systemic problems - many things set it off, so he always feels better in the Northern Climate.

It's daylight all the time -so you don't need lights! :)

But the main reason we go really aside from the wildlife, the mountains, the good weather, the amazing fishing, is the amazing people. They are worth the 4,000 mile drive.

With the amount of animals we have - and the level of care some of them need, finding a farm sitter is pretty much impossible. We've been truly lucky and blessed that a good friend of mine, whom I've known for about 8 years now, stays at our farm and watches the place while we are gone. The animals all know him well, and he cares for them as they are family and keeps everything here going, so we can leave for a while and live a bit of a different life, while everything here is taken care of.

The last time we were in Alaska in 2010, I was pretty sick, and I didn't get to enjoy it as much as I usually do, there were a lot of things I physically wasn't able to do that I wanted to, like even go fishing. So I'm really looking forward to us being able to get out in the bush more this time, and fishing.

Kevin as happy as can be, grilling on the back of our friend Buddy's boat out in Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound

humpback whale passing by the boat in Prince William Sound

feeding the reindeer near Palmer - trust me, I've tried to bring some home! 

Douglas passed out on our land in Tok - the forest is covered with soft moss which Doug thinks is a big pillow... he also found a moose bone so he was pretty pleased with himself

I can't wait not just to be in Tok again, but just to be up North. Once we get in Alberta we know we are getting closer to home, and especially when we start up the Alcan highway, it feels like home... You never know what you'll see every single day, it's something new...

We do miss the farm when we are gone, and I miss my animals terribly at times... but I am a firm believer that you must always keep yourself open to things, travel is very important to me, to both of us, and we love the North. We are lucky to be able to enjoy our farm and the North both, for now.

Usually when we hit the road and head to Alaska I rarely get online - but that won't be the case this year. I'll be able to update the blog frequently, and I will have updates from the farm as well from our caretaker Jim... he always sends pictures. I really look forward to being able to share our trip, but also some of the special parts of the journey to Alaska and in Alaska, like the wildlife, the sheep, the goats, the mountains, with all of you.

I also look forward to traveling North this time with a bigger camper and a Pug who is potty trained, he was still a puppy last time and it was a big trip for him (and lets be honest, a lot of cleaning up for me.) But he's a well seasoned camper now and he's packed and ready to go!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Planting and packing

Kevin and Jim got the wine grapes planted this morning! Which was a huge accomplishment. All of our Chardonnay, Riesling, and Merlot vines are in the ground and watered. They are doing well right now, so hopefully they continue to do well throughout this summer.

We were also very happy to see that some of our blueberries have made it... several in fact... they are still quite small but they are growing. We thought we had lost them all, so it was pretty exciting to find out some of them had survived. 

After they got the grape vines planted, the guys got the oil changed in the mule and tractor and also did all the needed repair work on the machines, which was pretty much the end of the farm work projects left.

I worked for a while in the camper. We've been packing for a while now and putting things away as we go. It's easy to fill the camper up with stuff, but then securing it so it doesn't all get smashed to pieces is a whole other chore. Plus packing for multiple seasons... I've been caught without a hat or mittens before up North and I won't ever let that happen again!  Now that Kevin is done with most of his farm chore list, he can also focus on the camper - getting things installed and fixed.

It kind of looks like a bomb went off in there right now as we've been putting stuff in the camper just to get it out there - and then putting it away as we go.

 Douglas took some time out to rest
 Norman says "I'm ganna get up there too"

Doug, come on, help me up

after he got up there, he felt pretty tired and thought maybe a nap was in order

Douglas found that some of his toys that had went missing from the house, were in the camper! I've been slowly moving them out - leaving only his two favorites in the house, so we won't forget them...

I've been looking for this!

The three of us decided to all take a break

all this packing really wears you out

 As I figured he would, when we bought this 5th wheel, Norman likes to sleep on top of the couch... I put our (mine and Norman's) favorite blanket up there for the trip. Norman climbed over all the stuff that's piled up on the couch to get comfortable...

  He's pretty worn out... he's been following me back and forth from the house to the 5th wheel a hundred times a day. It's exhausting. He's ready for us to finish up all this packing stuff and just hit the road!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the boys at the lake

The other night, me, the boys, and Jim, went down to the lake to relax for a bit after a busy day. Douglas loves to swim but the water was still too cold even for toe dipping... trust me, I tried. I loved the picture I got of Douglas with his reflection in the lake... it didn't come out as clearly as I would have liked but I'm glad I managed to get a picture at all, since he stands in one spot for all of 2 seconds.

I'm packing today. It looks like we'll be leaving on the weekend or more likely early next week. As of yesterday the reports said the Alcan (Alaska highway) was snow covered from Whitehorse to Beaver Creek in the Yukon. Brrr. Thankfully we are 2+ weeks away from that part of the highway.

Douglas says "I am so, so, happy we are here!"

"why can't we go swimming now?" 

"oh come on! lets go swimming, who cares if it's cold!"

Amazingly, two Loons who were out in the middle of the lake started swimming towards us and actually came very close to where we were sitting, even with the dogs running around like crazy things. The Loons kept coming closer and began fishing by the dock, before slowly moving off. I've never seen a Loon come this close before in this lake... I see them almost every time I'm at the lake, but they certainly don't come over to have a look at me! It was really incredible. 

Norman, completely relaxing

 Happy Doug

ah... not sure if I want to go over there... 

Happy Jim taking pictures with his nephew, Norman

me and the boys

 what is that Douglas sees?

a beaver! luckily Douglas thought better of jumping in and chasing him

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shredded pork with mushroom gravy and corn cakes

The inspiration for this dish? Leftovers. I didn't have a lot of energy to give to making dinner tonight, but I did have some leftover pork and some corn starring at me from the fridge. 

I used leftover shredded pork that I cooked with lots of garlic and chilies... any leftover pork would work in this. I cooked my pork in the crock pot with blended hot chilies and a little stock, for about 6 hours, until it was fall apart tender. The chilies in my pork added to the spice of this dish, which I loved... but I also used a roasted jalapeno which gives off plenty of spice, if you want more, feel free to add more jalapenos or any chili of your liking, or omit them all together. You could also sub with a little bit of crushed red pepper flakes.

I made this dish without measuring or thinking, and I really had to sit down and think hard about what I put in it, even after I'd just eaten it. You know when you get cooking, and just add a little of this, a little of that... but I'm going to try my best and share a real recipe with you! 

Shredded pork with mushroom gravy and corn cakes

3 or 4 cups of cooked shredded pork 
1/2 stick of butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/2 cup finely diced potato
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt, pepper, and thyme to taste
1 roasted and seeded jalapeno pepper, finely diced 
3 + cups vegetable stock (I used close to 4)

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour 
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used mozzarella because it's what I had, but Queso would be awesome in these, and Havarti, or maybe a Gouda)
2 cups corn (canned, frozen, or from the cob, which is what I used)
3/4 to 1 cup water
vegetable oil, for frying

Start by adding your butter, mushrooms, potato, onion, and jalapeno to a pan. Cook over medium heat until your vegetables are nice and tender. Your potatoes will cook slower, so I cooked them until they were half done, and then you can let them cook the rest of the way in the completed gravy.

Add your flour to your butter and vegetable mix and mix well. Let that cook for about a minute, or until it starts to smell nice and nutty. Don't let it burn of course! Slowly, start adding your vegetable stock, whisking as you add it. I used 3 cups of stock and a little more here and there - you want a nice thick sauce, but not too thick. So add more stock as you need it to get the sauce to the right consistency. Add in your shredded pork, and season the gravy to taste with the salt, pepper, and thyme. I used garlic powder in this, you could of course use fresh garlic if you'd like. Turn the heat down to low, and let the gravy cook with the pork in it until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, toss all the ingredients for your corn cakes into a bowl - except for the water. Mix well. Add the water 1/4 cup at a time, just until your mixture comes together so you can work with it.

Form the corn mixture into patties with your hands, and fry them about 4 minutes each side, until nicely browned, in the vegetable oil - you don't really need a lot of oil, just enough to coat the bottom of your pan. 

Remove the cakes from the frying pan and place them on paper towels to drain. 

To finish it, place a corn cake on the plate with some pork and gravy over top of it. Garnish with a little parsley, and voila! A simple and fun way to use up some leftovers.

*After this meal tonight - there were no leftovers! :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunshine and Horchatas


Today it was really sunny and warm outside and for the first time this spring, the Prairie dogs were able to experience lying in the sunshine on the porch. It was PD heaven. Lots of of sun bathing and relaxing going on in dog town.


Handsome Hector

Roman caught about to roll over on his back to sun his tummy

smiling Hector

 This week at IHCC's, the theme is, for mom. My mom passed away many years ago, when I was sixteen. It's taken many years (who am I kidding, it took almost a decade) for me to be able to remember her without feeling pain. She was sick for five years before passing, so a good deal of my childhood memories of her, are of when she was sick. For a while, it was difficult to remember all the important things that you want to remember about the people you love when they leave us... for a while, we can only remember the really hard, and painful stuff. But time does heal, and it does help us focus more on the good memories, and the things we want to remember, happy memories and important things, for me, things like, the way she laughed, her smile, and the smell of her cooking cabbage rolls and how happy she was when she was doing it. I would rather have one more chance to make her laugh, than all the tea in China, or all the money in the world.

The thing that is frustrating to me most as a grown woman now is that there are so many things I wish I could share with her, things I wasn't able to as a child.... ideas, conversations, meals, good wine. I think there is a very special relationship we can have with our parents as adults, one that not every one experiences but there is a form of friendship there that sometimes can grow, that is different than any other.

So with it being Mother's day, and also my mom's Birthday, I thought to myself, what is something I would want to make with her, and share with her, if she were here with me right now. Horchata, a fun to make and popular Mexican drink fit the bill. I drank it in the sunshine while thinking of her, and taking a moment to be grateful for the time I did have her in my life. For many years I wrote letters to her at this time of year, telling her all the things that were happening in my life and that I wished I could share with her. 

Now, I feel like she already knows, and I share them with her every day. 

This drink reminded me of rice pudding, something she loved and made like I will never be able to, no matter how hard I try... I also tried Rick Bayless Coconut Horchata "Colada" using the Coconut Horchata I made, and it was a lot of fun! Just add some fresh diced pineapple, some more ice, and some run to the blender with about 3 cups of the Coconut Horchata, and voila! You've got Coladas.

Coconut Horchata 
from, Fiesta at Rick's by Rick Bayless

6 Tbs raw white rice
One 14 ounce can, Coconut milk (I used fresh) 
a 2 inch Cinnamon stick 
3/4 cup of sugar
Ice cubes
5 cups of water 

Step 1: Soak the rice. In a medium sized bowl, combine the rice, cinnamon stick, and 2 1/2 cups of water. Stir, then cover and let stand at least 8 hours but preferably, overnight. 

Step 2: Scrape the mixture into a blender and blend for several minutes, until a drop rubbed between your fingers, no longer feels gritty. Add 2 cups of water, then blend another minute. Set a medium mesh strainer or large colander over a bowl, and line it with two layers of dampened cheesecloth. A cup or two at a time, pour in the rice mixture, gently stirring to help the liquid pass through. When all the liquid has passed through, gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and twist them together to trap the dregs inside. Squeeze the package firmly to extract any remaining liquid. 

Step 3: Add 1/2 cup of water and your Coconut milk to the strained mixture. Stir in the sugar. 

I strained it again into glasses filled with lots of ice. It's good with pineapple and rum, but also on it's own. Rick says if you make the Coconut version of this instead of another version, like almond, you can switch up the cinnamon stick with lime zest, which would be nice, but my favorite part about this was the cinnamon. 

Happy Mother's day to all the Mother's out there, both here and on the other side. Amazingly although none of my children can speak in human language or have any money, somehow they did manage to buy me flowers... Is it crazy that I have this image of Sammy the goat and Douglas the Pug at the store, asking for the purple flowers in my head? :)
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