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Monday, December 31, 2012

Green Chile Sauce, Finally!

I have lived in New Mexico for a year and a half, I have worked in green chile fields, I have roasted green chiles, and I have added them to many recipes, but until last night, I had yet to try to make my own green chile sauce. As I sit here eating eggs with rice and green chile sauce, I am so glad that I finally took the initiative and pulled out a bag of frozen green chiles from the freezer. I let it defrost all day and when it was finally time to make dinner, I opened up the zip-lock freezer bag and the aroma of roasting green chiles came rushing out. I was immediately nostalgic for days spent packing freshly roasted green chiles into 1 lb. freezer lock bags. I even thought fondly of harvest days spent hunched over chile plants, though significantly less so than roasting days.

I used a recipe I found online as guidance during my first green chile sauce attempt ("Traditional-Style New Mexico Green Chile Sauce" from, but I made several deliberate changes and a couple based on available ingredients. I diced a huge clove of elephant garlic and put aside a tablespoon for the rest of the dinner. I put the majority of the garlic clove (this clove was seriously giant) in a medium sauce pan with olive oil over medium heat and cooked the garlic until it was soft. I then added two table spoons of whole wheat flour, a teaspoon of cumin, and sprinkled in a lot of salt and pepper (I accidentally added quite a bit more salt than I intended to). I continued to cook these ingredients for about two minutes. Next, I added 2 cups of water and a vegan boullion cube. I stirred the ingredients, encouraging the boullion to dissolve, brought the mixture up to a boil and then lowered it to a simmer. While the broth was simmering, I peeled the skin from the chiles and removed the stems. At first, this task was rather unpleasant since the skin kept sticking to me and the chiles, but then I pulled the skin from chiles under a a light stream of warm water and suddenly it was easy. Once all the chiles were stemless and skinless, I sliced them into thin rings and dropped them into the broth with some "Italian Seasoning," which is essentially thyme and oregano. The whole sauce simmered for about ten more minutes. The major deviations from the "traditional recipe" were: no onions, 4x as much cumin, veggie boullion instead of pork stock, and Italian Seasoning instead of just oregano.

We ate the green chile sauce over chorizo with elephant garlic, spinach, and white rice. I have to say that the green chile sauce was the best part. It was so good, I literally ate the sauce with a spoon. Later in the evening when we were watching Breaking Bad (it was a very New Mexico evening), I was craving the chile sauce so badly I had to grab another spoonful as a snack. This morning, I piled it on my eggs and rice. I think this homemade sauce is going to replace sriracha in my life (at least for a while). I only have 1.5 lb. of green chile left in the freezer and so many green chile dishes I would still love to try. Green chile really is a treasure.

Green Chile Sauce on Toast and Green Tea, on my new Fika set.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Important! Salam Academy Kids!

Hey Kids!

I wanted to get this information to you earlier, but traveling and holiday activities have kept me quite busy. Here's the low-down on science fair: If you have approval on your project (everyone except Mahmmud and Odey) and you are allowed to do it at home (everyone except Layla), you should be experimenting all break! Remember to record data in data tables in your LAB NOTEBOOK; write down the date and time everytime you work on the project and write down EXACTLY what you do. Have the data tables drawn before you write in the data. Make sure that experiments are done more than once. Results MUST be repeatable.

In addition to experimenting, you will write two sections of your research paper: the introduction and the methods. The intrpduction is the "research" part of the paper. You will have to read about your topic and learn as much as you can. Then, write a 2 page esay "introducing" your topic, which should include the history of the topic, general background knowledge and informatiion, and a description of why your specific project is interesting, why other people should care about your project, and how your project will help people or advance science. Your methods section is like a procedure, but is written in paragraphs instead of as a list. The methods are written in the past tense, since you should have done the experiment already. It should sound like this: "one hundred mL of water was added to 50mL of olive oil and allowed to settle. Two drops of food coloring were dropped into the oil/water mixture and was observed for two minutes. Observations were recorded every 30 seconds for the 2 minute period." If you use sources that were not on your original References list, please make a new reference list. The introduction and methods sections will be typed in 12pt font and double spaced and printed so that I can mark it.

On the fist day after break I will collect your introduction, methods, and your lab notebook. I will grade these three things and they will count as a separate "project grade" and will therefore have a large effect on your overall grade. Please work very hard on this assignment and take it seriously!
I'd love to see Salam Academy send students to States again this year! And, I know you would love to have sonme extra cash and glory :)

Mrs. Brisbin

Some Vacation Pics!  We went on a Christmas Eve hike on part of the Appalachian Trail near Harper's Ferry Maryland. It started snowing when we reached this overlook and it was really incredibly beautiful! Pauly, the Brisbins' giant golden retriever likes his gentle leader about as much as Gnasher does and he was rubbing his face all over the rocks trying to get the leader off his nose.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

This time of year...

I'm not really sure why I am a bah-humbug about the winter holidays, but I do have some hypotheses. For a while, I thought that I was just bitter because my Christmas budget was smaller than other peoples. I remember going back to school after the holiday break and hearing the fanciful stories of Christmas loot. Some kids got trampolines or TV's or gaming consoles, coach bags, and Seven for All Mankind jeans. My Christmas's were not nearly as fanciful, and sometimes I would make up stories about presents that I had "received." Just like my dad was "away on business" when I had sleepovers. Looking back on these Christmas's, I am grateful that my mom did not spoil me rotten. I learned the value of hard work and while I was materialistic for a long time (and still am, a little) at least I worked for my fancy things and really appreciate them. So, I don't think my residual feelings of inadequacy from elementary school or high school are what contribute to me being a bah-humbug.

I do have some nice Christmas memories. My mom took me into Manhattan to see Macy's Santa Land and we went to see the tree in Rockefeller Center and the Christmas windows on 5th Ave every year. I loved this tradition, even if it did leave me with a life long fear of elevators after being suffocated in the overcrowded direct lifts to Santa Land. And, we drove to Florida to see my grandparents almost every year. I literally went to Disney World just about every December for 14 years. As a child, I knew my way around The Magic Kingdom like it was the 4th of July Carnival at the local Volunteer Fire Station. I had some amazing Christmas gifts that I will never forget, like my American Girl Doll. I do have some awful memories, too, like the year we went to my father's house for Christmas and he took us to his in-laws, where my brother and I were ignored and neglected all day. But in general, my Christmas's were mostly pleasant and fun-filled.

So why do I feel a deep annoyance whenever this time of year rolls around? I hate walking into a store and being blasted by Christmas music. I hate driving down my street and seeing Christmas lights. I hate those stupid blow-up dolls people put on their front yards. I hate the expectation of giving and receiving gifts. It all drives me crazy. I think that deep down, the thing that really angers me is the assumption that everybody in America is so, so happy to max out their credit cards and consume like crazy. Not everybody loves Christmas and a huge portion of the country doesn't even celebrate the holiday! When Jamie told me that our neighborhood was having a Christmas Decoration Contest, I felt really compelled to buy a Menorah and put it in our window. Now that would be unexpected! I was raised Christian and I still feel affronted by the Christmas takeover of the world every December. I am really not sure how it feels to be raised in another faith tradition and be drowned in Christmas every year, but I would suspect that others may be even more annoyed than I am. Despite my ranting, I don't see the overpowering, exaggerated, and pompous parading of Christmas merchandise and decoration dwindling in the years to come. I suppose I will go on sneering at Christmas decorations and dreading Christmas shopping and worrying about my checking account.

Although the Christmas hull-a-balloo disgusts me, I am looking forward to spending the holiday with my in-laws in Virginia. Jamie's family is so warm and inviting and fun to be around that I enjoy any time spent with them, even if I do have to endure holiday flying. There is a certain feeling of wholesomeness, acceptance, and love that accompany the holidays with the Brisbins, which I think is what all the decorations and gifts and lights are hopelessly trying to create in the Wal-Marts and Shopping Malls. It happens naturally at their house and I wish for everyone that future Christmas delight can be created organically and that eventually we will no longer be subjected to the trashy tinsel and candy canes. I know it is a big wish, but I think that if we examine our values, anyone can have the best Christmas ever. Here's to the best Christmas ever (if only I could initiate it by popping my neighbor's singing-waving-light up-inflated Santa and reindeer)!

These are my only Christmas decorations...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Foster Pup

A couple weeks ago, a teacher friend of mine noticed that the pit bull puppy that was living under a portable classroom building was getting much skinnier as the weather cooled. She decided that the dog really couldn't stay there and called animal control. This was a hard decision, because stray pits generally meet a pretty deadly end when animal control picks them up. Luckily, an amazing organization, Second Chance Shelter, took the pup in. This shelter is run completely by volunteers and donations and helps older dogs and unwanted breeds find homes and gives them enough time to find the best home, unlike other shelters. My friend posted pictures of this pit bull pup looking for foster parents or a permanent home for the puppy. She was absolutely adorable, and she got a full time home almost immediately with one of the other teachers at the school, but it made me think about fostering.

My biological father and I don't have a relationship anymore. When my parents started their divorce, I was in kindergarten. We all lived in the same house for two more years, until my mom finally took us and moved to a rental house an hour away from my dad and the house I grew up in. Promptly after we moved out, my dad's mistress moved in, with her chihuahuas and her marmosets. Yes, my future step mother had several monkeys. Which, obviously made her pretty cool in my kindergarten head. She was also about 27 (I think?), wore trendy clothing, and was a cyclist and raced with my dad. I always had an obsession with animals and owning them. I fantasized endlessly about having a farm or living in Africa with giraffes in my backyard or having a dolphin best-friend. My mother hated animals and had no interest in having them in our house. She tolerated a house cat, but we would never have a dog or a monkey. As my mother got older, she developed a debilitating fear of dogs and literally freaks out when a dog comes near her. This divide between my parents in their attitudes towards animals played a large influence in which parent I preferred. I preferred my dad. I wanted his attention and I wanted to hang at his house, which was steadily turning into a zoo. My stepmother purchased a breeding pair of marmosets and a golden tamarin. My dad built a menagerie for the growing monkey population at our house.

Then, they started fostering litters of puppies that were too young to be adopted yet. There were actual baby puppies at my dad's house. The weekend could not come fast enough! The first litter was german shepherd puppies and My dad ended up keeping one of them- Shelby. They waited until Shelby was full grown before they fostered another litter, but this litter was even cuter, if not pure breeds. Again, my dad kept one of the puppies. I thought that this charitable act that supplied me with a constant houseful of puppies was the most amazing thing on the planet. I begged my mom to foster puppies, too, but she could not even consider the idea.

When I finally reached high school, I still loved puppies, but I also loved driving around with my friends on the weekends, cheerleading, football games, and working in the restaurant where I bussed tables. I began skipping weekends at my dads house and our relationship was beginning to unravel. At the same time, my step-mom had her second daughter and began pushing much more aggressively for my father to sever ties with my brother and I. I think she was bitter about being a second wife and resentful towards my father's previous life. She certainly wanted her family to be the first family and for all of my father's resources to directed towards her children. She began telling me that her family was going to move to California and that I would never see my father again. They never moved to California, but I haven't seen my father since high school. At some point my dad came up with the idea that my minor acts of rebellion in high school meant that I was a disgrace to the family. He stopped calling and I was no longer invited to their house.

For the last year of high school, I felt that my impeccable grades and my extracurricular activities while holding down a job and paying my own car insurance would surely convince my dad that I was not a disgrace. I hoped he would find out that I was ranked 9th in my class of 300 or that I received a full academic scholarship to the university I was accepted into. My mom still talked to him about financial things and whenever she did, I was always curious if he asked about me or if he seemed impressed that my college bills were so low. I finished my first year of college with a 4.0 and volunteered with St. Vincent de Paul Society, was a Big Sister, a mentor, and visited a children's hospital weekly. Maybe this would convince my dad I was worthwhile? My brother and I called him on Christmas and left him a voicemail wishing him happy holidays and letting him know that we missed him. We never heard back. Despite this, I continued to do things with the hope that my dad would hear about them and think that I was not a failure. Oh, Maggi finished graduate school? Oh, Maggi traveled the world? Oh, Maggi got married? Surely he would hear these things, change his mind about me, and reach out to me. We would have a tearful reunion and forgive each other and have a wonderful relationship for ever more.

When I saw the puppy on my friends facebook page, looking adorable and needing a place to stay, the part of me that wants to convince my father that I am a worthwhile human being woke up. I thought, my dad would be so proud to know that now that I am an adult, I am fostering pups too. I also have a very soft spot for pit bulls and know that they can be the absolute sweetest, despite their reputation. I really did actually want to help the dog. I contacted the woman running the shelter and let her know Jamie and I were interested in helping. Soon after, she came by the house with two potential foster dogs to meet Gnasher. One, Charlie (a brown and white pit), really stuck out as sweet and special. She was so nervous to come in our house and was scared of Gnash at first. Gnash barked in her face, like he does to all dogs that won't play with him, and she cowered and hid behind the daughter of the shelter volunteer. Then all of a sudden, she relaxed and started playing with Gnash. They wrestled and played and seemed to get on magically. Charlie stayed at our house that night and in the morning we took her to the vet to get a shot for her tapeworms. She pooped out tapeworms for the rest of the day, but remained sweet, gentle, and tolerant of Gnasher's constant harassing. We took her to the dogpark yesterday and she acted rather aggressively, which was unnerving, but not all dogs are dog park dogs. Overall, she has been a pleasure to have these last couple days and I think we will all miss her in our own ways when she finds a permanent home. I will however, be grateful to only have one dog again. I certainly didn't expect it to be so much extra work to have an extra dog. And, I miss the way Gnash behaves when it is just us.

Today, Jamie and I had a SCUBA class that lasted all day. We didn't want to leave the dogs crated for as long as we knew we were going to be out of the house, so we left Gnash inside, and we left Charlie in our small, but bigger than a crate, backyard. When we got home, Charlie was gone. Apparently she had jumped our 6' fence, jumped into a neighbor's yard (same fence), and jumped back out of the neighbor's yard. Eventually, someone thankfully took her in and did not call the pound. These nice people were so smitten by her, they may actually adopt her. The thought of her leaving makes me a little sad, but it would certainly be nice if she was only 2 houses down and we could still see her from time to time. When I walked into the house and realized she was gone, my heart dropped and I felt like I had let her down as well as the shelter, myself, jamie, and in some weird twisted way, my dad. I know that my dad will never know about my efforts to help this dog, nor would he care. As much as this experience has taught me that one dog really is enough, it has also been another lesson in having honest motives and truly doing things for the right reason. Someday, I will grow out of trying to impress my father, but probably not for some time yet.