Art+Tea with Rachel Preston Prinz

Rachel Preston Prinz defies easy definition; she is an architectural historian, a designer, a writer, a film producer and a compassionate advocate for making the world a better place.

Rachel believes that the natural and built environments surrounding us play an integral part in the formation of our lives.  Her work investigates traditional and modern approaches to architecture, agriculture, culture, and landscape to address how we might not only survive, but also thrive, and to do so, sustainably.

For our Art+Tea conversation and in the spirit of natural living, Rachel took us into the earth of an ancient underground dwelling called a ‘pit-house’. These simple and efficient homes found throughout the southwest were built and inhabited by native americans who lived here almost a thousand years ago.

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Hacking the Earthship, by Rachel Preston Prinz
Michael Reynold’s Earthship designs have become a Taos phenomenon spreading throughout the world. The popularity and fascination with these beautiful and quirky homes begs some important questions about the future of sustainable design.  In her book, Hacking the Earthship: In search of an earth-shelter that works for everybody, Rachel takes a critical look at Earthship design and ‘hacks’ Earthship concepts to provide practical knowledge for everyone to build natural and sustainable homes appropriate to their local climate and environment.


The Phoenix Earthship. Photo by Rachel Preston Prinz.
Rachel served as the host for the 2014 UNM-Taos Sustainability Institute Humanitarian Design Seminar organized by Mark Goldman. The Seminar included an Earthship day with a tour of the gorgeous Phoenix Earthship located in the Greater World community north of Taos, NM. Photo by Rachel Preston Prinz.


Acoma Pueblo, NM planning shots for the 2015 documentary
Rachel scopes out scenes in her directorial debut for the new documentary Emergence: Sky City Cultural Center. Emergence tells the story of how the Haak’ume people of Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico were faced with a challenge when their visitor center burned down in 2000: How would they reconstruct a place that welcomed both their own people and Pueblo visitors? Could this new center serve as a bridge between cultural and ‘green’ interpretations of sustainability?


The pit-house provided a unique location for our Art+Tea conversation. We were enveloped in an earthy aroma seemly secluded from the world above. Thanks to Rachel for sharing her experiences with us! The pit-house provided a unique location for our Art+Tea conversation. We were enveloped in an earthy aroma seemly secluded from the world above. Enjoy learning more about Rachel by listening to our conversation on the podcast. Thanks to Rachel for sharing her experiences with us!

Cranberry, Almond, & Caramel Tarts
Recipe and Commentary
By David Costanza

It’s Holiday-Time & that means my local grocery store stocks up on fresh cranberries, mmmm. My best (found) recipe (I don’t make up anything!) for fresh cranberries is a Cranberry, Caramel & Almond Tart from Maury Rubin’s City Bakery, a detailed recipe is in his Book of Tarts. Buy it tart lovers, & it will introduce you to a number of not-too-difficult, usable, tart recipes & the indispensable flan ring! Bake On!

Photo of the tarts.

First things first, we need to have tart dough & for this I have kicked Maury’s recipe to the curb & instead reached for my TARTINE cookbook, sorry Maury! I like the super-basic, bullet-proof varieties. In our first episode we made the ‘flaky tart’ dough, today we make ‘sweet tart’ dough, the cookie-style version (or pâte sablée.)

Quick & easy, the only problem being you will wish you made it yesterday if you want to make these tarts today:  “what’s done is done?” is “what’s not done” is something better left to ponder while these are in the oven.

Sweet Tart Dough

Cream 1 cup + 2 TBS room-temp. butter with 1 cup sugar & 1/4 tsp salt
add: 2 large eggs (also room-temp) & 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

I mix all of this with the paddle attachment in a kitchen-aid mixer at medium speed until just combined & the dough comes off the sides of the bowl. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 2 hours.)

I rolled out the dough & lined 6 3” flan-rings & par-baked them at 350º, about 8 minutes. until they looked like the photo below.

Lightly baked sweet tart crusts.

Then I got started on the caramel:

1 cup sugar in a pan with a decent weight bottom at medium heat.
At the same time I took 5/8 cup heavy cream & heated that up–

Cream heating on the stove.

Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over like mine did:

David made a mess by letting the cream boil over. Doh!

I include this to show how something can always go wrong! (right?) I just guessed that I lost a 1/4 cup & replaced it & then kept the temperature extra low! You will want the cream to be heated before you add it to the sugar so the sugar doesn’t crystalize & get a bunch of hard chunks.

Caramel cooking.

This is the sugar melting. Slow & steady! & when it gets as thick as maple syrup it is ready for the cream. This will boil up quite a bit, it is good to have a pan with some room for expansion. Lower the temperature to ‘almost off.’

After a few minutes the melted sugar/cream mixture will start to calm down. Stir until it is combined & looks like caramel, right!

Adding cream to the caramel makes it bubbly.

Combine 1 bag of fresh cranberries & 6 oz sliced almonds.

Cranberry and almond mixture.

Pour the finished caramel mixture over mixture & stir it up. Then put a scoop into each of the par-baked tart shells.

Tarts ready for the oven.

Bake these for 20 minutes at 350º until the cranberries pop & the tart is all juicy. I use a set of tongs & lift the flan rings off while the caramel is still molten & isn’t stuck to the tarts, This is a recipe where flan-rings are essential because the fluted style are really a pain to get apart at the end.

The tarts are ready for the pit-house teaparty.

And here they are ready to eat in the pit-house. Good Luck!

Merry holidays and Happy New Year!

Featured photo by Rachel Preston Prinz of Acoma Pueblo.

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