Thursday, July 26, 2012

S'mores in the Pecos

Despite it having been just about one and a half weeks since my last post, it feels like ages. It has been so busy lately that I haven't had the time to keep up with the world of the interweb. But now I have a lot of catching up to do! There are a variety of exciting posts lined up, so stay tuned :)

Last week was fast paced. I occupied my time with work, phone interviews, and preparing for a weekend trip to the Pecos for my mom's birthday. But it was all worth it when we finally arrived at a little mountain cabin nestled in the heart of the pine tree forest. I think sometimes I am so preoccupied with fantasies of beautiful far flung destination spots that I fail to realize that there are some pretty incredible places just a couple hour's drive from my own home.

So here I enclose a condensed (I tried my best, but I apologize for the length of this post) summary/ photo log of our little trip.

Friday evening we arrived at the cabin after a drive through the lovely Pecos mountain area. We wandered down to the river valley and followed a path through a meadow alongside a gently flowing river. There was an amazing abundance of current bushes, raspberry bushes and wildflowers, so naturally I had to make a bouquet to take back to the cabin.

I must also note the abundance of hummingbirds (which I have yet to master photographing) who were very fond of the sugar water on the cabin porch and bouquet on the lawn table :)

For dinner we had a very "New Mexican" calabacita enchilada casserole dish I had prepared the night before (layers of blue corn tortillas, sharp cheddar, squash, corn, green chile, tomatoes and onions) as well as a salad of baby greens, avocado, blackberries, pumpkin seeds, lemon juice and olive oil.

Saturday morning as we sat on the lawn for breakfast, two deer came to graze on a nearby hill. They were close enough to snap some good photos.

We drove away midmorning to nearby Cowles (which I pictured as a quirky little town, but is really a parking lot acting as a hub for trailheads and campgrounds in the area). We chose to hike Cave's Creek trail which starts along the creek amongst grass, low green foliage and wildflowers, then rises to rockier vanilla smelling ponderosa forests, through meadow clearings with purple aster, black eyed Susans and aspens, falls back down to the water's edge, until the creek empties into several dark caves in the rocky mountainside. It was such a beautiful hike.

 After the hike we returned to the cabin and that evening we decided to walk down in the river valley once again. We followed the path until it ended near a pool where trout swam, raspberry bushes were starting to show red berries, and a rusty ancient car was overgrown with green.

 For dinner we had a more "Italian inspired" antipasto/ cheese platter and minestrone soup. The three cheeses (Blueberry Wesleyan, Argentine Parmisan Reggiano, and an Italian Provolone) were served with cherry honey, blackberry jalapeno jam, a variety of marinated olives and peppers, marcona almonds and gluten free crackers :) The soup was full of Swiss chard, fennel, leek, snap peas, mint, cannellini beans and gluten free pasta, topped with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of parmesan. It was perfect for a cool evening in the mountains.

The next morning we left the cabin and stopped at our final hiking destination before heading home. The trail, beginning at Holy Ghost campground, was unbelievably pretty. We were prompted to go there only because we had heard that we could find an endangered variety of orchid, but we did not know that the scenery itself would be so incredible.

While we did not see any orchids :(  (wrong season?) we did enjoy following the creek through even more flowery meadows, more aspen groves, more current and raspberry bushes, and more greenery. The trail climbed more than we expected, rising into a much different woodland environment. Along the way we saw lots of colorful butterflies, a family of brown grouse, a turkey, lots of chipmunks, and a Western tanager. The lighting was also incredible, and the blue sky was dolloped with the fluffiest white clouds.

And what would a wilderness trip be without s'mores? Before we left to go to the Pecos I baked gluten free graham crackers, and was very pleased with my discovery of vegetarian marshmallows. There is not much else like roasting marshmallows under the millions of stars and shooting stars in the fresh, cool mountain night air. The graham crackers are darker brown and nuttier that the store bought kind because they contain molasses. I really liked them, so I am including the recipe below.

I hope everyone else is having some great outdoor adventures this summer.

Graham Crackers (GF)
makes about 30 square crackers

1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
4 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons GF Artisan Flour blend (see raspberry scone post)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter, cold

1. Whisk together the honey, molasses, milk, and vanilla until thorougly combined. Set aside.
2. Place the flour blend, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined.
3. Cut the butter into the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
4. Add the pre-mixed liquid ingredients to the food processor and pulse just until a dough begins to form.
5. Dump the contents of the food processor out onto a floured surface and form into a rectangle. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until firm, preferably overnight.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
7. Once chilled work with the dough in two batches, keeping one batch in the refrigerator while working with the other. Roll the dough out thinly on a floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out squares your desired size (About 3 in. by 3 in.) and place each on the baking sheet about an inch apart. Prick the surface of each cracker a few times with a fork. Chill the baking sheet for 25-30 minutes.
8. Bake the crackers in the oven for about 18-20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. Remove from the oven when the crackers have turned brown and are slightly firm to the touch. Let cool completely.

Recipe slightly adapted from Stephanie Shih of Desserts For Breakfast

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