A trip to the desert

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I recently took a trip to Tucson with my sister Meg. When we were younger we had gone to Tucson to a ranch over spring break and I remembered how much I liked the landscape. We stayed at the JW Marriott Starr Pass which is a fabulous hotel. It is located in Tucson proper and in a park of amazing cacti-saguaros, chollas and ocotillos! The desert landscape is so quiet and serene. The morning sunrises were beautiful. The hotel has a few swimming pools and four different restaurants. The food is delicious Southwestern-fresh guacamole, salsas, even nachos! There is an excellent  Italian restaurant called Primo, run by Melissa Kelly, a fantastic chef who used to work in Denver. She also has a Primo at the Orlando JW Marriott and in her home town of Rockland, Maine.

Desert

We relaxed by the pool and even had lunch pool side one day. The cocktails were amazing-all sorts of great combinations. One of my favorites was at Primo-a cosmopolitan with passion fruit puree.

JW Marriott Tucson

Every morning there was a desert hike at 6:30. We walked the Bowen Trail loop the first morning, about 1.5  miles. It is a beautiful landscape and so different.

At 7:30 am, a Navaho shaman led a prayer around the fire pit and we made white sage bundles to throw into the fire with our prayers.

Salud, is the open air tequila bar that has the hugest patio of all, overlooking the city of Tucson, was our favorite. There are chimeas and lots of couches and seating. At 5:30 every night, they pass out shots of tequila and toast to Pancho Villa and a funny story about him trying to convince his future father in law to let him marry his daughter.

Nachos

This resort is great for families or for someone like me just wanting to relax and enjoy. I would go back here in a heartbeat!

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Vermont Maple Pecan Cookies

From Relish magazine, these are super healthy and delicious! I have made them with and without the cinnamon and think I like them best without it.  Makes about 30 cookies.

Vermont Maple Pecan Cookies

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon maple or vanilla extract
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 300F and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine oats, coconut, flour, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar in a large bowl; whisk to blend.
  3. Combine butter, maple syrup and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally; remove from heat.
  4. Combine baking soda and boiling water, stirring to dissolve. (I advise you to be near a sink for this next step as the first time I made these, the butter was too warm and the whole thing exploded!) Add to maple syrup mixture, stirring well. Add maple extract. Stir into dry ingredients. Add pecans; stir well.
  5. Place 1/4-cup size balls of dough on baking sheets, 3 inches apart. Flatten slightly.
  6. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and set, rotating positions halfway through the baking process. Cool on the baking sheets 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

New England corned beef, cabbage and vegetables

This recipe is from the LA Times and is delicious!! The horseradish sauce is the best ever!

Corned Beef

CABBAGE AND VEGETABLES

1 head cabbage, washed, cored and cut into 6 wedges

4 large shallots, peeled

4 carrots, cut into thirds, or 20 baby carrots

4 small turnips, peeled and quartered

4 baking potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 celery root, peeled and quartered

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

* Bring cabbage, shallots, carrots, turnips, potatoes, celery root and salt and pepper to taste to boil in water to cover. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

HORSERADISH MUSTARD CREAM

2/3 cup whipping cream, whipped

3 tablespoons horseradish

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

* Combine whipped cream, horseradish, mustard and mayonnaise in small bowl. Taste and adjust horseradish and mustard as needed. Refrigerate until chilled.

 CORNED BEEF

1 (3-pound) corned beef

1 teaspoon peppercorns

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 bay leaves

2 onions, each studded with 1 clove

* Put corned beef, peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves and onions in large pot. Cover with hot water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender, about 3 hours. Skim surface occasionally and add hot water as needed to keep beef covered.

* Transfer meat to cutting board, cover with foil and weigh down with heavy pot.

* Strain cooking liquid, reserving stock and discarding everything else. If making ahead, refrigerate stock and corned beef separately. Before using, bring stock to boil, then reduce to simmer. Unwrap meat and warm in liquid for 5 minutes.

* Transfer Cabbage and Vegetables to warm platter. Cut beef across grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange on platter. Spoon reserved stock over beef and vegetables to moisten. Serve hot with pitcher of warm stock and Horseradish Mustard Cream.