Chunky Guacamole

Guacamole is one of my favorite foods and I’ve enjoyed it countless times – both at restaurants and my own. Yesterday realizing that I had everything I needed to make up a batch, I made (possibly the best) chunky guacamole I’ve ever had. Seriously, it was so good that I wrote down EXACTLY what I’d done with the hopes of capturing the magic in the future.

Chunky Guacamole

  • 3 ripe avocados 
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 large or 2 small jalapeños
  • 1 large or 2 medium/small garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 shallot
  • 1-1 1/2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3-4 t sea salt

Halve avocados, remove pits setting them aside for later, scoop each avocado half into a large bowl. Halve the tomatoes, seed and then coarsely chop them – place into a second bowl. To that bowl add the jalapeño first removing the seeds and ribs and finely chopping. Mince the garlic and add to the second bowl with the shallot after dicing it.  Add the sea salt to the second bowl and toss the mixture together.  Add second bowl to the avocados, followed by the lemon juice and half the lime juice. Used a hand chopper, do a coarse chop over all ingredients and stir to blend. Chop again until it’s the chunkiness you desire.  Add chopped cilantro, stir to blend.  

Now for the tip:  In the bowl which you are using to serve or store, push the avocado pits into the guacamole. Drizzle the last of the lime juice over the top and press plastic wrap over the guacamole, touching it to the surface rather than the bowl.  Remove the pits just before serving. These steps keep the guacamole from turning brown, I deliberately waited 24 hours to take the photos and it’s still a vibrant green.   

A perfect light meal of Chunky Guacamole, warm corn tortilla chips and a hearty red wine. Living the dream!

Baking Bread

I have often said that I could live on bread, cheese and wine (if need be). I’ve been hesitant about baking bread, in particular because I’ve had little experience with yeast.

During the bitter cold, windy and icy winter days, I spent time on Pinterest and discovered several recipes that looked interesting. Today I gathered all the ingredients and decided to go for it. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? If it’s inedible, I can throw it out…..

Using this recipe, https://bakerbettie.com/easy-no-knead-skillet-bread/ I added garlic powder and poppy seeds to the top just before baking. The rosemary called for in the recipe was easy as I grow and dry it at the end of each summer. While Bettie’s recipe used a round cast iron skillet, mine is square and I went in the direction of a foccacia. The whole house was filled with the aroma of baking bread – reward enough for my effort.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

As mentioned in an earlier post, I deliberately make extra stuffing at Thanksgiving, follow this link for my recipe.

While at the market yesterday I saw this pretty little acorn squash and thought…”hmm, this would be delicious filled with my leftover, unbaked stuffing”. I was right – here’s how I did it:

Stuffed Acorn Squash  serves 2

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Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the squash in half and scoop out seeds.

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Brush the edges of the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, place face down into a baking dish for  30 minutes.

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I used a bowl to tightly pack 1 1/2 cups unbaked stuffing per half squash. Remove the squash from the oven, flip it, scoop  packed stuffing into the cavity  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until squash is softened.

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Add a glass of red wine, enjoy every bite.

 

Stuffin’ Muffins – a kitchen hack

Thanksgiving is hands-down my most anticipated meal of the year.  My Roasted Chesnut Apple & Sausage Stuffing is hands down, my favorite part of the meal and I purposely make more than I’ll need.  It freezes beautifully and this year I remembered a kitchen hack from Rachael Ray from early in her 30 Minute Meals days – Stuffin Muffins.

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, pack the cups with unbaked stuffing and freeze for three hours.  Take them out of the muffin tin and place in a single layer into a large freezer Ziploc bag.  When you need a single-serving and savory side dish with chicken, turkey or pork simply pop out one or more and bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes until they’re crunchy on top.

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Devoting a day to Basil (includes a bonus recipe)

As a retiree, it’s good to have a plan each day.  It’s also good to be able to pivot when plans change.

Yesterday I’d planned to run errands only to be foiled when the team who was to seal my driveway on Saturday instead showed up two days early.  With my car held hostage in the garage, I decided to devote a day to harvesting my basil before the imminent first frost which spells disaster for this tender herb.

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2018 was a banner year for basil.

Surrounded by the sweet fragrance of fresh cut herbal goodness, I set about the tedious task of stemming and picking only the good leaves.

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There’s about 8 cups of basil here. Now what???

Luckily the sheer volume from my harvest inspired my creative side.  First up I made a basil/walnut/parmesano regianno pesto then a beautiful basil oil and basil paste.

Feeling accomplished I quickly realized I’d used only half of the harvest.  I love compound butters (check out my recipe for my Thanksgiving Fresh Picked Herb Compound Butter) so I made a luscious Basil Butter –  add 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil to a stick of room temperature butter – blend together (I use a fork).  Place on a piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log shape and refrigerate, that’s it! Easy right?

Still facing down a sizable pile of basil, I decided to make another style pesto with basil/almond/lemon pesto which yielded 2 more jars of basil goodness.

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Realizing that it was nearing dinner time, it made sense to use the remaining basil in some way.  I created a delicious herb-centric pasta dish that was so good I had to share it.

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(Not shown pine nuts and crumbled feta)

Fresh Herb Fusilli

  • 1/2 lb fusilli
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 T chopped red onion
  • red pepper flakes
  • coarse ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 t anchovy paste (optional but highly recommended – this is the salt component)
  • 2 garlic cloves – rough chopped
  • 6 T of chopped mixed herbs (basil, thyme and italian parsley)
  • 1 T pine nuts
  • 1/2 lemon – juiced
  • crumbled feta

Cook the pasta as directed and drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan with a good drizzle of olive oil and add the onion.  Saute for 3-4 minutes, adding the anchovy paste, red pepper flakes and pepper and stir to combine.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the pasta to the saute pan and mix with the onion and garlic.  Add pine nuts and the fresh herbs and stir together for another 1-2 minutes.  Take pan off the heat, drizzle the juice from the lemon over the top.  Serve in a bowl and top with feta.

Savory Spinach Quiche

Ever have a day when you wake up with a craving for something savory? In a quick perusal of my fridge I realized I had all the makings of a quiche. Here’s what I created!

Savory Spinach Quiche

  • 1 pie crust
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 c half and half
  • 5 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 c fresh baby spinach
  • 1 T chopped Vidalia onion
  • 1 1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 t thyme
  • 1 t seasoned salt
  • 1 t cracked black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Using a 9 inch pie plate unroll the pie crust and press into place. Layer the spinach, covering the bottom of the crust, scatter the onion, bacon and tomatoes over the top, followed by the cheese. In a large bowl add the eggs, half and half, thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, mix together thoroughly (I used my immersion blender). Pour the egg mixture over the filling. Bake on the lowest rack of your oven for 30-35 minutes until set. Rest for 10 minutes and serve.

 

Prosciutto, Brie & Apricot Flatbread

My latest flatbread creation, using ingredients I had on hand. And it may be my new favorite dinner for one!

Prosciutto, Brie & Apricot Flatbread

  • 1 flatbread
  • 2 oz cubed Brie
  • 1-2 t fresh thyme
  • 2 slices prosciutto, rolled and sliced into ribbons
  • 6-8 chopped dried apricots, cut into 3-4 pieces
  • Garlic Aioli (see below)
  • Crunchy onions, crumbled
  • Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush flatbread on both sides with olive oil and place into a skillet then into the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and top with a light spread of the garlic aioli, followed by the apricots, brie, thyme and prosciutto. Return to the oven for 6-8 minutes. Remove and add the crunchy onions and parsley. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

Garlic Aioli

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 T mayonnaise
  • 1/4 t lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Using a micro plane, grate the garlic clove over the mayonnaise, stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. This is delicious on any number of sandwiches and burgers as well as a base for the flatbread recipe above and is even better made a day or two ahead!

Caprese-Style Chicken Flatbread

Having just created a new twist on my flatbread-for-one recipes, I wanted to share it with my followers.

Caprese-Style Chicken Flatbread

  • 1 flatbread
  • 1/2 c chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 1/4 c spiced ricotta (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 c chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • fresh basil and parsley leaves – torn
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c shredded mozarella
  • aged balsamic vinegar – to drizzle

Heat oven to 400. I use my cast iron skillet and like to preheat it for 5 minutes while prepping the flatbread and toppings.* Brush the bottom of the flatbread with a little olive oil. Place it into the skillet and bake for 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven and spread the ricotta, followed by the chicken and tomatoes, basil, parsley and mozzarella.  Drizzle balsamic over the top and return to the oven for 5-6 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

*Flatbreads can be done on a grill pan – or right on the grill.

Spicy Ricotta – enough for 4 flatbreads

  • 1 c ricotta
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • red pepper flakes – to taste
  • 1/4 t Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Seasoning
  • 2 t olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together. Refrigerate for an hour….overnight (even better).

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

Lately I’m a bit obsessed with flatbreads. Often its a challenge – what to make for a delicious dinner….for one person. Enter flatbreads, something I frequently order off appetizer menus and my recent love-fest with HelloFresh has only intensified my obsession and imagination.

Today I raided the fridge for ingredients. I’d had company for several days during which I cooked great meals that left me with some amazing leftovers….this is what I created.

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

  • 1/2-3/4 c chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 1 flatbread
  • 2-3 T herbed, garlic ricotta (see recipe below)
  • Grape tomatoes 6-8 sliced in half
  • 1/3 c Italian shredded cheese blend
  • Barbecue sauce
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • Italian parsley

Heat oven to 400. I used my cast iron skillet and like to preheat it for 5 minutes while prepping the flatbread and toppings. Brush the bottom of the flatbread with a little olive oil. Spread the ricotta, followed by the chicken and tomatoes. Drizzle barbecue sauce over the top, add red pepper flakes and cheese. Place into hot skillet and bake 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with Italian parsley. After 5 minutes, cut into wedges and serve.

Herbed garlic ricotta (enough for several flatbreads)

  • 1 c ricotta
  • 1-2 t garlic powder
  • fresh herbs – I used chopped chives and thyme
  • 1-2 t olive oil

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate. I like to make this at least a few hours or the night before I use it.

Shrimp and White Beans over Angel Hair Pasta

Tonight I turned to my fridge, freezer, pantry and herb garden for inspiration and made this delicious meal for one. It was so tasty I wanted to share it here.

Shrimp and White Beans over Angel Hair Pasta 

serves 1

  • 15-20 cooked shrimp
  • 8 oz white beans
  • 8 oz heirloom grape & cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 4 oz angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 c toasted panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 T chopped shallot
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T dry white wine
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t oregano
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 T toasted pine nuts
  • red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste

Mix toasted panko bread crumbs with oregano.Chiffonade fresh basil.  Cook angel hair pasta as directed on packaging. In a large skillet add olive oil, garlic and shallots and saute for 3-4 minutes at a medium heat,  Add red pepper flakes, shrimp and white beans..  After 2-3 minutes, add tomatoes, lemon juice and wine, lower heat and allow to simmer for 3 minutes, add butter, salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl, layer pasta then add shrimp and bean mixture. Top with pine nuts, panko and basil and serve immediately.