Places to Visit in New Mexico – Down by the Bosque

Herbfest by the Bosque

One of the things I love best about New Mexico is going down to the bosque. I feel very New Mexican and fit right in the more I say the word, “bosque!” The bosque is the enviroment on the banks and in the immediate vicinity of a river. Bosque is pronounced like this. The word itself, in Spanish, means “woods” or “forest.”

The Rio Grande runs through our state on its way to the Gulf and there is plenty of bosque area to explore. We recently visited the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park where they were featuring an Herbfest!

We saw examples of many herbs native to New Mexico plus numerous flowering cacti.

We saw examples of many herbs native to New Mexico plus numerous flowering cacti.

There were vendors, potted herbs for sale, and musical performances. There were trails both along the Rio Grande and through other parts of the bosque which were mostly well-marked but we found it very easy to get off the trail onto some other path and no doubt you could walk around on those paths for hours on end. And that was okay with us for a little while!

See the branches to the right with the sage green leaves? Those are Russion Olive trees and they have the most enchanting aroma! Around here you can smell them for at least a month. We love that smell!

See the branches with the sage green leaves? Those are Russion Olive trees and they have the most enchanting aroma! Around here you can smell them for at least a month. We love that smell!

Russion Olive trees close up. See the little yellow blossoms on that branch to the right?

Russion Olive trees close up. See the little yellow blossoms?

I saw a sign near a vendor’s table that said “Solar Ovens” so of course I had to check that out right away.

The solar oven was made of hinged pieces of reflective metal and can heat up to about 310 degrees. The inventors said they can make bread, pizza, roasts and all kinds of things. Here they are cooking potatoes. Unfortunately I can't find their business card with their contact information on it, but there are lots of solar ovens on the Internet and even instructions on how to make one.

The solar oven was made of hinged pieces of reflective metal and can heat up to about 310 degrees. The inventors said they can make bread, pizza, roasts and all kinds of things. Here they are cooking potatoes. Unfortunately I can’t find their business card with their contact information on it, but there are lots of solar ovens on the Internet and you can find instructions on how to make one, too.

Speaking of solor, these big columns of water inside the Nature Center Educational Building create passive heat for this building in winter time when the sun shines on them.

Speaking of solar, these big columns of water inside the Nature Center Educational Building create passive heat for this building in winter time when the sun shines on them.

When I saw there was going to be an Herbfest at the Nature Center, I was hoping that my favorite herbal salve people would be there, Sweetwater Herbals, from Jemez Pueblo. Jemez Pueblo is about an hour north of Albuquerque in the middle of the Santa Fe National Forest and has legendary hot springs baths. I’ll be sure to show you when I go there.

Sweetwater was at the Herbfest and they had “Relax” salve that I was looking for. Great for tense muscles and even helps relieves muscle cramping. It also has a wonderful aroma!   I appreciate that it is local to my area.

This is a selection of Sweetwater Herbals salves and body oils. Next weekend they will be at the Celtic Festival and the weekend after that at a Wine Festival-- both at Balloon Fiesta Park.

This is a selection of Sweetwater Herbals salves and body oils. Next weekend they will be at the Celtic Festival and the weekend after that at a Wine Festival– both at Balloon Fiesta Park. If you visit their booth, you can get a free neck massage!

I think a place starts feeling like home when you are out and about and actually run into people you know. We’ve only been in New Mexico about 3 1/2 years and we are getting to know folks. Ran into artist and friend Michele Hardy at the Nature Center!

Michele makes a lot of beaded jewelry and her work is unique---not the same thing you see everywhere around here. But you know me, I was drawn to the little pots and especially the little beaded ear of corn in the bowl!

Michele makes a lot of beaded jewelry and her work is unique—not the same thing you see everywhere around here. But you know me, I was drawn to the little pots and especially the little beaded ear of corn in the bowl! Michele also works with gourds and she will accept custom orders and she teaches lessons. She gives her email address as her contact: hardyboys3@q.com.

The Rio Grande Nature Center is also the home of Wildlife Rescue Inc. where orphaned or injured wildlife is reared or restored to health and then returned to the wild. The volunteer staff take care of about 2,000 wild birds and mammals every year.

This is a Swainson's Hawk. He is wild but didn't seem to mind people and cameras. The volunteer told me they do not name the animals because they maintain the intention of their remaining completely wild.

This is a Swainson’s Hawk. He is wild but didn’t seem to mind people and cameras. The volunteer told me they do not name the animals because they maintain the intention that their charges remain completely wild.

Hey little cutie! Look over here! How in the world do you turn your head around like that?

Hey little cutie! Look over here! How in the world do you turn your head around like that?

Hello there, Little Owl! He only has one good eye.

Hello there, Little Owl! He only has one good eye.

It was a lovely New Mexican day!

Sunday Stroll Through the Bosque and February’s Dark Chocolate Mousse

Here in New Mexico we had our first really sunny, warm weekend of the year. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an early spring, but my oh my! Today was a teaser!

The family decided to take a stroll through the bosque (pronunciation here) at Rio Grande State Park. When I first arrived in New Mexico I had no idea what a bosque was. “Bosque” is derived from the Spanish word for “woodlands.” It is defined as the areas of forest and clumps of trees found along the flood plains of a stream or river bank in the southwestern United States.

We walked along the river. At first the trees and grasses on the bosque seem dry, drab and lifeless–not ready to emerge for spring yet. But on closer look I was amazed at the color and beauty I could find.

Click on the images to get the full impact of color!

Geese on the Rio

Geese on the Rio

Mistress Moon accompanied the bright Sun.

Mistress Moon accompanied the bright Sun.

Golden grasses

Golden grasses

The gnarly trees said, "Hello!"

The gnarly trees said, “Hello!”

Shadow-kissing on a lazy Sunday at the bosque.

Shadow-kissing on a lazy Sunday at the bosque.

Hungry from our wanderings, we had an early supper. I decided now is the time for a quick and easy Dark Chocolate Mousse for February.

Renegade cook that I am, with only one mousse under my belt so far this year, I decided to create my own adaptation combining several ideas I had found. While January’s mousse was very rich and thick, my February mousse was very light yet very chocolaty!

This mousse literally took only about 10 minutes to make.

Easy to Make, Easy on the Waistline Dark Chocolate Mousse

  • 4 egg whites
  • 130 grams 70% dark chocolate pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • Strawberries and black raspberries (or any available berries)

Beat the egg whites in a very clean, dry bowl until they make stiff peaks. You can test if they’re beaten enough by turning the bowl upside down and finding they don’t fall out. This is a courageous thing to do if you’re not sure you’ve beaten the egg whites enough but I know you can handle it.

Put a bowl or pan over a pot of simmering water. Don’t let the top bowl/pan touch the water below. Chocolate doesn’t like to be treated harshly. Put your chocolate pieces in the upper bowl and stir as it melts. It will become really smooth and shiny when it’s done and it will be stinky and ruined if you burn it so don’t run off do to something else while your chocolate melts.

Remove the melted chocolate and let it cool down a little so that when you add it to your egg whites the whites don’t curdle. Just add a little chocolate into the whites and fold them in. Let the egg white and chocolate get used to each other before you put all the chocolate in. Folding is easy to do with a spatula. Cut down the center of the whites with the edge of the spatula and fold the mixture over. Turn the bowl and repeat. You want to keep the air in the beaten egg whites as much as possible.

When the chocolate and egg whites are combined, add some cinnamon. You won’t taste cinnamon, but it will brighten the chocolate flavor. Add the orange liqueur and you’re ready to assemble a lovely dessert.

I chilled my glasses for this and put black raspberries and strawberry halves in the bottom. In went the mousse and then more berries on top.

Voila! A very chocolaty flavor in a very light mousse. No added sugar, no cream, no butter, no egg yolks. It was delicious and it is already gone!

Chocolate goodness without the guilt

Chocolate goodness without the guilt

A beautiful end to a beautiful day!

A beautiful end to a beautiful day!