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!

Festive Winter Fruit Salad

My lifelong BFF put together a Winter Solstice Meditation for a small group of women.  We’ll start with a delicious dinner (she is an amazing cook) and I’ve offered to bring a salad.  At least three of the women there are vegan and I wanted to honor that so that everyone can enjoy it. As I thought about the holidays, I shopped for ingredients that would be both delicious and look festive.  This recipe is what I came up with…what do you think?

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Festive Winter Fruit Salad

  • organic baby greens
  • baby spinach
  • shredded purple cabbage
  • Belgian Endive
  • thin sliced red onion
  • sliced strawberries
  • raspberries
  • blueberries
  • pomegranate seeds

Toss the greens, spinach and cabbage together, place the endive around the edges.  Top with the onion, then berries.  Finish topping with the pomegranate seeds.   Chill and serve.  I’m bringing toasted walnut halves and Boars Head crumbled blue cheese – on the side – for those that want to add them.

This is the dressing I made for the salad…

Dressing

  • 1/2 c white strawberry & peach balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 c good extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 T dijon mustard

Place ingredients in a large mason jar, stir to blend and put top on tight.  Shake vigorously to blend, allowing the mustard to emulsify.

My Famous Cran-Orange Relish, just in time for Thanksgiving

 Cran-Orange Relish
Cran-Orange Relish

  • 2 12 oz bags of fresh cranberries
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 1 T raspberry or strawberry jam
  • 2-3 T sugar
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 T Grand Marnier liqueur

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Assembly Line

I use a dutch oven pan to create more surface area for warming the berries. Place cranberries, sugar, jam and vinegar in the pan on a low to medium setting, stir. Zest one navel orange and then juice that orange, adding both juice and zest to berry mixture. Stir again

Using a veggie peeler or small sharp knife, remove about 1/2 the peel from the second orange, careful not to go beneath the “orange” peel (avoiding the bitter white part). Chop the peel fine (see below) until you have 1 tablespoon. You may use more peel if you end up with more or freeze it for later use.

Add peel to berry mixture. Cut the second orange in half and then section it, adding the sections to the berry mixture. Squeeze any residual juice from the second orange into the pan.

Looks pretty, smells tart and citrusy
Looks pretty, smells tart and citrusy

You will start to hear little pops from the pan, those are the cranberries bursting. Give it a stir, put a lid on the pan, reduce the heat to low. Check back every 15 -20 minutes for another stir, letting it simmer.. After 45 minutes, stir in the Grand Marnier, the berry mixture should be breaking down like a chutney. Continue to cook for 15-20 minutes more. Cool and serve. Makes 2-3 cups of relish. This can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to two weeks and freezes beautifully, simply thaw and serve.

This is delicious as to serve not only with your Thanksgiving dinner but with chicken, pork or even seared scallops (trust me). For a festive appetizer, make a charcuterie platter  with cheeses like brie or a spreadable goat cheese or camembert, manchego, sharp white cheddar, cornichons and marcona almonds with sliced baguettes! Get creative…..and always, enjoy!

Looking for other Thanksgiving or Holiday recipes? Here’s links to a few of my best recipes:

Chestnut, Apple and Sausage Stuffing

Roasting Chestnuts – a Labor of Love

As I’m making my 2016 batch today, I decided to re-publish this recipe in hopes that it might be helpful to someone this Thanksgiving!  

Super Cole Slaw

If you are new to Spence’s Girl you may not be aware of my love of cooking. I come by it naturally as I’m from a family of wonderful cooks and grew up learning first by watching, then participating. One of my family mentors was my Grandpa Fox who retired in his 40’s and became passionate about cooking, taking over nearly 100% of their meals from shopping to preparation. I cherish those memories. I’ve been feeling nostalgic for recipes I grew up with lately and I hope you’ll want to try this one, my Grandpa’s cole slaw recipe.  It’s light and refreshing on these dog days of summer and a change-up from the usual creamy cole slaw.

SUPER COLE SLAW   

serves 12                 Weight Watchers Smart Points 3

For the dressing:

1/2 t coarse ground black pepper
1 t dry mustard
2 t celery seed
4 T sugar
2 t salt
6 T salad oil
2/3 c vinegar

Mix well, pour over:

5-7 c chopped cabbage
2 T chopped red pepper (or pimento)
1/4 c chopped green pepper
1/4 c grated onion

While you could make this and serve it the same day, it is increasingly better with 24 hours (or longer) to marinate.  And it’s a great dish for a potluck as it travels well. Enjoy!

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Oven-Roasted Smashed Potatoes with Gremolata Topping

For an easy side-dish, great for entertaining, try my new favorite potato dish.

Oven-Roasted Smashed Potatoes with Gremolata       serves 4-6

  • 1 dozen new potatoes (you could also use redskin potatoes)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, whole & peeled
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • olive oil

Fill a large pot with water and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of sea salt, bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and reduce heat to medium.  Cook until tender – use a sharp knife to test.  Drain and cool them for 5 minutes.

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Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil. On a cutting board, place each potato under a spatula (or lunch plate would work), I use a heavy meat tenderizer from Williams Sonoma. Press down with even pressure – gently – smashing but not pulverizing.

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My heavy-duty potato smasher.

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Place each smashed potato on the foil-lined baking sheet.

Drizzle the potatoes generously with olive oil, sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over them. (I also put the garlic cloves that boiled with the potatoes on the sheet pan)

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Heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake the potatoes for 18-20 minutes, remove, flip each one. Drizzle with more olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Bake for another 18-20 minutes. Remove the pan from oven, turn off heat. Top the potatoes with Gremolata (see recipe below) and place the pan back in the oven for 5 minutes and serve.

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Enjoy!

Gremolata

  • Zest from 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 lime
  • 1-2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 t coarse black pepper
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup chopped parsley

I use a mezzaluna given to me by my lifelong BFF, to chop the parsley and garlic, having first place the citrus zest, salt and pepper under the parsley and garlic. Cover until ready to serve.

This is what is looks like:

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Gremolata – delicious!

Ceviche

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Two of my passions are travel and food.  I’m always intrigued by the cuisine of the country or region I’m visiting and love to discover those spots that the locals frequent.

Spence discovered Costa Rica twenty years ago. Retired, he decided to escape Michigan, spending winters there instead. Still working, I’d take two weeks of vacation to visit him.  That first year, he’d gotten the lay of the land and sought out a local haunt and a dish we’d never heard of….ceviche. Knowing me as well as he does, he didn’t need to run it by me – I love all food.  Knowing him as well as I do, I trusted I was in for a treat.

From the house he’d rented in a little barrio near Quepos, we walked a mile into town.  Inside a small, congested bus station, we wound our way through the locals and vendor stands until Spence motioned me towards the tiny Ceviche stand where we deftly snagged two of the five stools.

“Dos Ceviche con Camarones, por favor” Spence expertly articulated to the woman behind the counter. I perused the short menu on the wall, still unaware what ceviche was but with my limited Spanish, knew shrimp were involved while other varieties featured fish, calamari or octopus.

As we waited, the husband handed us tiny napkins, forks and a couple of 8 packs of saltine crackers, setting a bottle of hot sauce between us.  The ceviche arrived, in an oval, pyrex-type vessel, vibrant and appealing.  Served very cold, it was not only refreshing but incredibly delicious – the tang of citrus, the crunch of the veggies, the sweetness of the tender shrimp.  I was over the moon.  Spence simply smiled, having anticipated my enthusiastic reaction.

In the years that followed, we made many trips to this area and specifically to that bus station.  Having sampled ceviche in countless places, all with more ambiance (and higher prices), I can say without question, none were better than what we found at the bus station.

After much research, here is my recipe which tastes as close to my memory of that Ceviche.

CEVICHE 

serves 8-12        Weight Watchers Smart Points  1 point per 1 cup serving

  • 1 lb fresh, uncooked shrimp
  • 1 c lime juice
  • 1 c medium red onion – finely diced
  • 2 c medium tomatoes-diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper – seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 c green bell pepper -diced
  • 2-3 T chopped cilantro (more or less to taste)
  • 3 T fresh orange juice
  • 1 t salt

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Peel and clean the shrimp, removing the tails. Chop the raw shrimp into small pieces. Add the finely minced jalapeño, remove the seeds and ribs if you wish to keep the heat in check.

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Add the green pepper and red onion next.

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Juice your limes and pour over these ingredients.

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Now add the tomatoes, orange juice, cilantro and salt. Stir and refrigerate for four hours (stirring periodically to insure that the citrus “cooks” the shrimp evenly.

Ready to
Ready to “cook”

Ready to serve, notice the shrimp are now white and opaque.
Ready to serve, notice the shrimp are now white and opaque.

Serve and enjoy!

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Chef’s Notes:  You can substitute the shrimp with grouper or sea bass, just cut it into uniform small pieces.  Substitute a sweet white onion for the red.  I’ve seen recipes that add cucumber and/or celery diced as well as avocado and if fresh tomatoes are in season, you could add more. While I’ve served this as an appetizer to guests, Spence and I find it a refreshing, chilled entree on a hot night. 

 

Five Bean Salad, my way

Five Bean Salad
Five Bean Salad, my way

I LOVE FIVE BEAN SALAD.  So great to take to a potluck or picnic (no mayo), it’s a favorite of ours to have as our salad or veggie side with any number of meals year round. It makes a lot and only gets better each subsequent day.  It keeps for up to two weeks in the fridge but never  lasts that long!  I use my mom’s recipe but tweak it in my own way to give it a bit more pizazz!

Five Bean Salad, my way

serves 15                      Weight Watchers Smart Points 7

1 can garbanzo beans (or chickpeas as they’re also known)
1 can great northern or navy beans
1 can cut green beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can wax beans
2 large shallots finely minced or red onion finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4-5 finely chopped peppadew peppers (these come in a jar) or substitute 1 tablespoon chopped pimento
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeños (first removing ribs and seeds) or green pepper if you can’t take the heat.

Drain and rinse beans and put into a large serving bowl. Add the shallots, peppadew peppers and jalapeño, stir taking care not to break the beans.

Marinade:

3/4 c red wine or champagne vinegar
3/4 c vegetable oil (canola or olive oil)
1/2 c sugar
1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Mix this together well – making sure that the sugar has “melted” into the marinade. Pour over the beans and stir together. Refrigerate. Stir every 30-60 minutes to further distribute the marinade. This is best made at least 8 hours prior to serving.