My daughter and her family have been visiting us from their home in Los Angeles. As usual, we have had a lot of activities planned, along with a list of restaurants to visit. This was the first time they have come to Santa Fe in over a year, so it was a special occasion.
On the list of places to visit was Bandelier National Monument, a special place protecting an ancient Native American community that was occupied from about 1100 to 1600 and then abandoned. The ruins are extremely well preserved, and the scenery is beautiful. Unfortunately, huge forest fires during the last 15 years have damaged outlying areas of the reserve so that visitors must ride a shuttle bus to the Visitors Center. Once there, however, there is an abundance of hiking trails, ladders to climb into well-preserved structures built in hollows of the volcanic cliffs, birds, wildflowers, and a variety of wildlife. Kids always enjoy the outing.
Our trip got rained out. (Actually, we were glad to see the rain as it has helped our years-long drought.) I had hoped to have some photos of our visit, but instead I am including images from a photo shoot several years ago at the Tsankawi Unit of the monument. Those ruins are on top of a bare mesa, and the trail is a long, hot walk. The site is special, though, because much of the trail is in a layer of hardened volcanic ash (tufa) so soft that the path has been worn into a two-foot-deep groove by countless feet.
During the visit, we also went to several of our favorite restaurants. Still, the highlight has been spending time with family. That includes cooking with my grandson who always enjoys a day in the kitchen with Grandma and Grandpa. This time we made sugar cookies filled with Nutella. We also participated in a big kitchen blunder. I thought that French toast layered with apricot jam and baked in a waffle iron would be easy and delicious. The apricot jam ran out of the middle to two slices of bread and necessitated a clean-up of the waffle iron After the clean-up, we made unfilled French toast waffles. They were good with lots of maple syrup and without the mess.
Nutella Sugar Cookie Sandwiches
- 3 cups flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
- In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In thee bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter until it is light and fluffy with the consistency of mayonnaise.
- Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is soft but still “sandy”. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
- Add the eggs and vanilla, and continue to beat for about 1 minute.
- Add the flour mixture and beat for another minute on low speed.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- Place half of the chilled dough on a well-floured work surface.
- With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a circle, working from the center, until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick.
- With a floured cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes, transfer to an ungreased cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart.
- Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for 5 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
- Transfer the baked cookies to rack to cool completely
- To form sandwiches, spread half of the cookies with Nutella and top with the remaining cookies. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
French Toast Waffles
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 16 slices whole wheat sandwich bread
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs until well-blended
- Stir in the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg.
- Pour some of the mixture in a shallow pan, and dip 8 slices of bread into the mixture, turning to soak both sides. Replenish the egg mixture in the shallow pan as needed.
- Arrange two slices of the soaked bread on each square of a 4 x 4 waffle iron that has been pre-heated.
- Bake the bread slices until lightly browned.
- Repeat with the remaining 8 slices of bread
- Serve while still warm with butter and maple syrup.